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Nazis: Panzer divisions.
A panzer division is an armored division in the German Army (German: Panzerdivision).
Panzer divisions are combined arms formations having both armor (panzers) and infantry as organic components, along with the usual assets of artillery, anti-aircraft, signals, etc. that are common to most military divisions of the industrial era. However, the proportions of the components of a panzer division have changed over time.
Although initially the formation of units larger than a panzer regiment proposed by Heinz Guderian were rejected by the inspector of motorized troops Otto von Stuelpnagel, on his replacement by Oswald Lutz, Guderian's mentor, the attitude gained more support in the Army, and after 1933 was also supported by Adolf Hitler. On the 15 October 1935 the first three panzer divisions were formed. The 1st Division was formed in Weimar and commanded by Maximilian von Weichs, the 2nd Division was formed in Wurzburg and commanded by Heinz Guderian and the 3rd Division was formed in Berlin and commanded by Ernst Feßmann.
Panzer divisions during World War II
The German panzer divisions were the main building blocks of the German successes in the Blitzkrieg operations in the early years of the war. They were organized in a way that they could operate relatively independent from other units. As opposed to most other armies in the era, that had usually organized their tanks in "tank brigades" which always needed infantry and artillery support, the panzer divisions had their support units organic in themselves, which led to an automatic change in military doctrine: rather than seeing tanks as a unit to support operations by other units, the tanks became the main focus of attention, with other units supporting them.
The number of tanks was comparatively small, but all other units in the panzer division were motorised (with trucks, half-tracks, specialized combat vehicles) to match the speed of the tanks. These divisions usually consisted of one tank regiment, two motorized infantry regiments (including one mechanized battalion), an artillery regiment with self-propelled howitzers, and several support battalions (reconnaissance, anti-tank, anti-aircraft, engineers, etc).
Both the Wehrmacht Heer and the Waffen-SS included panzer divisions in their structure.
The Wehrmacht Heer panzer division consisted of a single panzer regiment, two panzergrenadier regiments, one motorised artillery regiment (later panzer artillery regiment). Several other combat and combat support battalions were often included, like motorcycle-infantry battalion, reconnaissance battalion, pioneer battalion, signals battalion, anti-aircraft batallion, and field replacement battalion. At full strength, the division included around 16,000 personnel and was equipped with between 135 and 209 tanks, with the amount of tanks decreasing over the war.
One myth that emerged in post-war years was that Nazi SS Divisions received more tanks than their Wehrmacht counterparts. Recent research has shown this to be untrue, with both types of unit receiving the same amounts of equipment. Since both the Wehrmacht and Nazi SS used their own ordinal system, there were duplicate numbers (i.e. there was both a 9th Panzer Division and a 9th Nazi SS Panzer Division), which occasionally led to confusion amongst their opponents.
As the war progressed, the battle losses were decreasingly replaced in favour of forming new divisions. This led to the situation where most panzer divisions were a shadow of themselves by the second half of the war.
Numbered panzer divisions
Named panzer divisions
Tank complement of panzer divisions
The tank strength of panzer divisions varied throughout the war. Battle losses, formation of new units, reinforcements and captured enemy equipment all mean that the actual equipment of each unit is rarely known. The following table summarizes each divisions' strength when it was known.
Panzer division in popular culture
Print: Nazis: Panzer divisions.
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