The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

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Rob - wssob2
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The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 18 Aug 2014 06:40

You make an interesting point 'JKeenan' and one that as a newbie to this world I would like to know more about. I have read many posts which are highly critical of the W-SS in relation to their negative points (too many to list) on the forum, I am now converse in these, so on the other side of the coin my 'cat among the pigeons' question is 'What were their positive military achievements - if any'.? This can be a small fighting unit up to a Division strength military success.

This should obviously be split off to another thread as it is not relevant to this one, save for this last post.

My wish would be that any examples should not be from a WSS source i.e. a Vet or a known promoter - and that they are non biased and non-opinionated (meaning, that it doesn't get bogged down in emotional twaddle) obviously in this case, references are a must! :wink: I know there are many very well-read members on the forum who have an interest in this subject, hopefully you all will post something of relevance.

If this can't be split,I'll start a new thread.
Hi Seaburn -

I think it's best to break it down on a campaign/front level, and then talk about the performance of specific units within that time frame.


I. Poland 1939

II. France 1940

III: Yugoslavia/Greece 1941

IV. Barbarossa (June - Oct1941)

V. Operation Typhoon/Eastern Front Defensive Battles (Nov 41 - March 1942)

VI. The Demjansk Pocket

VII. The 1942 Summer Offensive

VIII. The Recapture of Kharkov (Jan-March 1943)

IX. The Kursk Offensive (July 1943)

X. Antipartisan Operations in the Balkans 1941-43

XI. The Italian Campaign 1943-44

XII. The Zhitomir Winter Counterattack

XIII. Leningrad/Baltics Front 1942-44

XIV. The Normandy Campaign June -Aug 1944

XV. Arnhem Sept 1944

XVI. The Defense of Budapest Nov 1944 - Jan 1945

XVII. The Pomeranian Battles Jan - March 1945

XVIII. The Konrad Offensives (Jan-March 1945)

XIX. The Battle of the Bulge (Dec 1944 - Jan 1945)

XX. Operation Northwind (Jan 45)

XXI. The Defense of Austria (April 1945)

XXII. The Battle of Berlin (April - May 1945)

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ViKinG
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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by ViKinG » 18 Aug 2014 10:09

Rob, I think we should also add the Cherkassy pocket to that as well, unless I'm not seeing it in the list, after all it is 3:00am...

Rob - wssob2
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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by Rob - wssob2 » 20 Aug 2014 03:36

Rob, I think we should also add the Cherkassy pocket to that as well, unless I'm not seeing it in the list, after all it is 3:00am...
Hi Viking,

As much as Korsun/Cherkassy has been labeled a "defensive victory" in Waffen-SS history books, having studied the battle, I'd argue it was an unmitigated disaster for the German XLII Corps. The Army and SS troops were forced to retreat as a completely disorganized mob, running pell-mell to the banks of the Gniloy Tikich River, abandoning all their arms and equipment and then swimming across the freezing river. The Waffen-SS survivors that managed to make it across the river had to walk further westward because the lead elements of the III Panzer Corps had no extra rations or clothing to give them.

Wiking was essentially destroyed and had to be rebuilt between Feb - May 1944, with its elements reconstituted unit by unit and fed individually back to the front. An estimated 40,000 German troops managed to escape (a figure disputed by Soviet accounts of the battle, BTW) but they were in no shape to fight.

If one were to replace the nationalities of the combatants with "Blue Team" and "Red Team" - one would say the "Red Team" won. But when we replace "Blue Team" with "Waffen-SS," suddenly a catastrophe become a heroic defensive victory. Go figure.


As a postscript and perhaps an interesting example of Hitler's favoritism of the Waffen-SS, he had 5th SS Div CO Gille take over "Fortress Kovel" on March 20, 1944, replacing von-dem Bach. Gile commanded the encircled Army, SS and Police forces at Kovel until the encirclement was broken on April 6th. Gille took all the credit for the successful defense of the city (aided no doubt by the 5th SS Division's battalion of armor and battalion of panzergrenadiers that launched a counterattack on March 30) but the kudos given to Gille didn't sit well with Von dem Bach and his Army staff officers, who had managed to hold the city from Jan-March but didn't get any of the credit.

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by Halle » 20 Aug 2014 13:08

I think it was just to include the Cherkassy pocket in the list of actions , not wether it was a success or not - the OP asked for small unit up to Divisional level successes , so maybe within that action , a success could well be found .

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by dshaday » 20 Aug 2014 13:45

Rob - wssob2 wrote:
As a postscript and perhaps an interesting example of Hitler's favoritism of the Waffen-SS, he had 5th SS Div CO Gille take over "Fortress Kovel" on March 20, 1944, replacing von-dem Bach. Gile commanded the encircled Army, SS and Police forces at Kovel until the encirclement was broken on April 6th. Gille took all the credit for the successful defense of the city (aided no doubt by the 5th SS Division's battalion of armor and battalion of panzergrenadiers that launched a counterattack on March 30) but the kudos given to Gille didn't sit well with Von dem Bach and his Army staff officers, who had managed to hold the city from Jan-March but didn't get any of the credit.
As I uderstand it, Eric von-dem Bach was not a member of the Waffen SS during the Kovel siege, he was an SS Obergruppenfuhrer in the Higher SS and Police. Also, Bach-Zelewski's staff was a mix of army and SS officers. As were his available forces.

In "Hitler’s Bandit Hunters", by By Philip W. Blood it says that "Hitler almost certainly held Bach-Zelewski in disdain for leaving Kovel on the spurious grounds of ill health". In spite of earlier medical complaints he had been medically passed as fit in December 1943 (despite bowel and hemorrhoid complaints). He was again examined on 22 March (after his replacement from Kovel) and found to have a return of his earlier bowel problems. Bach-Zelewski was relieved by Gille on health grounds shortly after 12 March.

Waffen SS Gruppenfuhrer Gille and his Waffen SS staff were to go on and defend Kovel until the Soviet encirclement was broken by Waffen SS and army forces (and the garrison evacuated).

I have to agree that SS Obergruppenfuhrer Bach-Zelewski got a raw deal for the skilled work he did at Kovel. Gille got the Diamonds to his Knights Cross for his 22 days at Kovel's defence. Bach-Zelewski just got the Anti-partisan badge in bronze.

Regards

Dennis

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by seaburn » 20 Aug 2014 16:27

Hi Rob, I only saw that this was split by you now - Thanks for that. It seems there would be a shed load of actions to rake through if you went down that list one by one! From common knowledge I know generally what the first 12 Divisions were up to, but not much about many of the ones after that. Would there be anything of 'positive' worth to report in the Divisions from the 13th up ? I know most of them were only raised latterly and therefore I presume most of their 'actions' would have been defensive - but as already mentioned, some of the these defences could be considered valiant and would have been lauded as 'victories' back in the day. How do the present day military experts/authors analyse their positive contribution (if any) to Germany's war effort.
Last edited by seaburn on 20 Aug 2014 22:53, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by dshaday » 20 Aug 2014 17:21

ViKinG wrote:Rob, I think we should also add the Cherkassy pocket to that as well, unless I'm not seeing it in the list, after all it is 3:00am...
If we broaden Point XII to become: XIIa The Zhitomir Winter Counterattack to include the whole winter/spring Soviet offensive. That way Cherkassy is covered.

We can also add XIIb Soviet Summer 1944 Offensive. This will include the Brody pocket etc.

Strictly speaking, if we're only talking about Waffen SS successes then I would have to agree that most of the tail end of the list should be removed. If we're analysing whether all Waffen SS military operations were successful (or not) then that is another discussion that could use Points XIIa and XIIb.

Regards

Dennis

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Karelia
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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by Karelia » 20 Aug 2014 22:46

Can I already suggest a success? To XIII I'd like to add the Battle of Tannenberg Line on 25th July - 10 August 1944 in North-Eastern Estonia, which resulted to German (not that many actually were German) tactical victory and stopping of a major soviet attack.

The SS-units involved were

III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps - SS-Gruppenführer Felix Steiner

11th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Division "Nordland" - SS-Brigadeführer Joachim Ziegler
SS Panzergenadier Regiment 23 "Norge" - SS-Obersturmbannführer Fritz Knöchlein
SS Panzergrenadier Regiment 24 "Danmark" - SS-Sturmbannführer Albrecht Krügel

20th Waffen Grenadier Division of the SS (1st Estonian) - SS-Brigadeführer Franz Augsberger
Waffen Grenadier Regiment 45 - Waffen-Obersturmbannführer Harald Riipalu
Waffen Grenadier Regiment 46 - Waffen-Standartenführer Juhan Tuuling
Waffen Grenadier Regiment 47 - Waffen-Obersturmbannführer Paul Vent
Artillery Regiment - Waffen-Obersturmbannführer Aleksandr Sobolev

4th SS Volunteer Panzergrenadier Brigade "Nederland" - SS-Brigadeführer Jürgen Wagner
4th SS Panzergrenadier Regiment "De Ruyter" - SS-Hauptsturmführer Helmut Scholz
5th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade "Wallonien" - SS-Sturmbannführer Léon Degrelle
6th SS Volunteer Sturmbrigade "Langemarck" - SS-Sturmbannführer Georg D`Haese

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tannenberg_Line
Last edited by Karelia on 21 Aug 2014 00:30, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by histan » 20 Aug 2014 23:59

Rob

I think you are going to get a number of these "tactical defensive victories" which in practice made little or no difference to the operational and strategic outcomes of campaigns.

If you read the start and end of the Wikipedia article you find:
"The strategic aim of the Soviet Estonian Operation was to reoccupy Estonia"
and
"After much argument, Adolf Hitler finally agreed to allow the evacuation of all the troops in Estonia"

Whatever happened in between a clear strategic Soviet success.

It's the same with the SS formations in Normandy.

So, lots of "tactical defensive victories" at the end of which the heavily depleted formations retreat 200 to 300 miles sums up the Waffen SS contribution in 1944 and 1945.

Regards

John

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Karelia
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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by Karelia » 21 Aug 2014 00:40

Of course John is correct there. However Rob was asking for successes of divisions or smaller units - not strategic victories.

For Finland the outcome of the Battle of Tannenberg Line was strategically very important. If the soviets had been able to occupy Estonia earlier, the Finnish situation would have been much more difficult. The soviets would have been able to attack Finland from Estonia too and cut the supply route from Germany.

Now, because of the Tannenberg Line success, Finland got time to fight and stop all soviet attacks and have a non-suicidal peace treaty. Naturally that was not what the Germans had in their minds.

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by ViKinG » 21 Aug 2014 10:05

I agree with you 100% Rob! The entire Cherkassy situation was a complete catastrophe for the Germans. What I should have written was that the Waffen-SS helped create a break out situation for the encircled units. Perhaps had they not been there, the pocket would have been reduced by the Soviets and the 40 000 or so that did escape would have also been captured. So in my eyes it can be seen as a small victory in the face of defeat.

Luc

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by LWD » 21 Aug 2014 12:40

Had equivalant Heer units been used would the result have likely been that different?

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by ViKinG » 21 Aug 2014 21:57

Probably not, I'm just saying they were present and since this thread is about the Waffen-SS successes I figured I'd mention it =)

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by Cult Icon » 31 Aug 2014 15:57

Cherkassy mostly involved the regular army. Only 5th SS and 1SSLAH were involved.

As for Kharkov- their greatest 'victory', the SS Panzer units outside of 2nd SS were late comers and really were there just for the counterstroke. The context for the counterstroke was established by Army units, which already damaged, substantially, the soviet forces like the 3rd Tank Army (Gallop/Star). There really isn't such thing as a 'ss battle' IMO.

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Re: The Military Successes of the Waffen-SS

Post by j keenan » 31 Aug 2014 18:18

Panzer grenadier units Das Reich,Leibstandarte were there together with the Army unit Großdeutschland defending Kharkov with Totenkopf joining later.The SS units were in a better condition then there Army counter parts so were there for used as the cutting edge for the counterattack.Which they performed very well at bringing about a stabilisation of the front 3.43.
Which is seen as there last hurrraaa by some people ending positively ?

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