The Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring (1st Paratroop Panzer Division Hermann Göring – abbreviated Fallschirm-Panzer-Div 1 HG) was an elite German Luftwaffe armoured division. The HG saw action in North Africa, Sicily, Italy and on the Eastern Front. The division was the creation of ReichsmarschallHermann Göring and increased in size throughout the war from an Abteilung (battalion) to a Panzer corps.
Creation and early history
When Adolf Hitler‘s NSDAP swept to power in Germany in 1933, World War I fighter ace Hermann Göring was appointed as Prussian Minister of the Interior. In this capacity, all Police units in Prussia came under Göring’s control.
On 24 February 1933, with the intention of creating a police unit of unswerving loyalty to the NSDAP regime, Göring authorized the creation of Polizeiabteilung z.b.V. Wecke (“Police Battalion for special purposesWecke“). The unit was named after its commander, Prussian World War I veteran and early NSDAP member Major der Schutzpolizei Walther Wecke. The Abteilung was based in the Berlin-Kreuzbergneighbourhood, and quickly began to build a reputation as a ruthless and brutal Nazi enforcement unit. Working in conjunction with Göring’s secret police, the Gestapo, the unit was involved in many attacks againstCommunists and Social democrats, and was responsible for the capture and arrest of many of those opposed to the Nazis.
In June 1933, Göring expanded the Abteilung and transferred control of the unit from the Berlin Polizei to the newly reformed Landespolizei (State Police). The unit was correspondigly renamed Landespolizeigruppe Wecke z.b.V..
In January 1934, under pressure from Hitler and Himmler, Göring gave Himmler’s SS control of the Gestapo. To reinforce the position of his remaining unit, Göring increased its size and created the requirement that all members must pass a military training program. The reformed unit was called Landespolizeigruppe General Göring (“State Police Group General Goering“). When Ernst Röhm‘s SA began to make demands to the NSDAP leadership, Hitler ordered Göring’s LPG Wecke and Himmler’s Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler to take action. During the Night of the Long Knives, LPG Wecke and the Leibstandarte executed many major SA leaders, removing the formation as a threat to the NSDAP.
Luftwaffe control – early campaigns
In 1935, Göring was promoted to command of the Luftwaffe. Unwilling to leave his favourite unit behind, he ordered it transferred to the Luftwaffe, renaming the unit Regiment General Göring in September 1935.
The unit was now sent for re-training and re-equipping as a Luftwaffe unit. During this period, the I.Jäger-Bataillon and 15. Pionier-Kompanie were sent to Döberitz for parachute training. These units were separated from the regiment in March 1938 and redesignated I./ Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 1, the first of the Fallschirmjäger (airborne) units.
By early 1936, the regiment was again ready for action. By this time, all organised resistance to the NSDAP had either been crushed or left Germany, and so the regiment was put to work as a personal bodyguard for Göring and providing flak protection for Hitler’s Headquarters.
When Germany annexed Austria in the Anschluss of March 1938, the regiment was one of the first units to cross the border. Similarly, during the invasion of the Sudetenland in October 1938 and the occupation ofPrague in March 1939, the General Göring was among the first units in the German occupation force.
During the invasion of Poland, only a small part of the regiment was involved in the fighting. The majority of the unit was to stay in Berlin to continue their duties providing flak protection and guards for Göring and the NSDAP leadership. During the invasions of Denmark and Norway, elements of the regiment (a guard battalion, a motorcycle company and a flak component) took part in the campaign and acquitted themselves well.
The main body of the regiment had been moved west to the German-Dutch border using the cover designations FlaK-Regiment 101 and FlaK-Regiment 103. During Fall Gelb, this force took part in the invasion of the Netherlands and Belgium. The imposing fortress of Eben Emael was captured and neutralised by Fallschirmjäger, many of whom had previously served in the General Göring.
After the capitulation of the Netherlands, the regiment was broken up into several small Kampfgruppen and these were attached to the Panzer divisions spearheading the advance. The regiment again acquitted itself well, especially the flak troops, who often operated in an anti-armour capacity. In an engagement at Mormal Wood, heavy 8.8 cm FlaK 18s engaged French tanks at ranges of only a few metres. During this battle, the regiment gained a reputation for steadfastness under fire.
After the surrender of France, the regiment was stationed on the Channel coast, before being moved back to Paris to provide flak protection for the city. Late in 1940, the regiment was moved back to Berlin to resume its former duties as honour guards and flak protection.
Barbarossa and North Africa
In early 1941, the regiment was reorganized as a motorized regiment. During this time, it was redesignated Regiment (mot) Hermann Göring, as Göring had been promoted to Reichsmarschall. After this restructuring, the regiment was moved east to take part in the invasion of the Soviet Union.
When Benito Mussolini‘s disastrous invasion of Greece caused the delay of Barbarossa and the German invasion of the Balkans and Greece, the regiment was stationed in the Romanian oilfields near Ploieşti to provide flak protection.
Barbarossa got underway on 22 June 1941, and during the campaign, the regiment was attached to the 11.Panzer-Division, a part of Army Group South. The regiment saw action around the areas of Radziechów, Kiev and Brjansk, destroying many Soviet tanks with their 8.8 cm flak guns. At the end of 1941, the regiment was returned to Germany for rest and refit, having suffered moderate casualties in the campaign. The Schützen-Bataillon Hermann Göring remained at the front until May 1942.
In July 1942 the regiment was upgraded to brigade status and redesignated Brigade Hermann Göring. In October 1942, while the brigade was still being restructured, it was decided to further upgrade the status of the Hermann Göring to a full division. The division would be organized along the lines of a Heer Panzer division. Göring arranged for veteran Heer panzer crewmen to be transferred to his division, and brought the mechanized infantry component up to strength with the addition of the 5. Fallschirmjäger-Regiment.
While the division was in formation, the Second Battle of El Alamein had forced Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel‘s Afrika Korps to retreat from the Egyptian–Libyan border back towards Tunisia. Still not fully formed, the Hermann Göring, under the banner of Kampfgruppe Schmid, under the command of Generalmajor Joseph Schmid, was sent to Tunisia piecemeal in an attempt to bolster Rommel’s force. KG Schmid surrendered along with the rest of Panzer Army Africa. With this action, the division lost all of its combat units and many of its command units. Göring immediately ordered the division to be reformed.
Panzer Division – Sicily – Italy
Several units of the Hermann Göring Division which had been completing training or awaiting transfer to Tunisia were to be used for the basis for a reformed Division. The division was to be designated Panzer-Division Hermann Göring. By mid-June, the new division was ready for combat, and was shipped to Sicily to defend against the expected Allied invasion. When the Allied invasion of Sicilywas launched on 10 July 1943, Hermann Göring was in place to defend the island. The division was engaged at the Amphibious Battle of Gela, at Priolo Gargallo and at Centuripe, but heavy Allied air and naval superiority forced the German divisions to retreat to Messina. During Operation Lehrgang, the German evacuation of Sicily, the Hermann Göring formed part of the rearguard, being one of the last units to leave Sicily for the mainland.
When the Italian government agreed an armistice with the Allies, the division took part in the operations to disarm Italian troops. When the Allies landed at Salerno on 9 September, the division, being stationed in the Salerno area, was thrown into the fight. When the German defence began to yield, the division executed a fighting withdrawal towards the Volturno–Termoli line. After holding the line for as long as possible, the division fell back to the Gustav Line, where it was finally pulled out of the line for rest and refit.
Transfer to the east
In April 1944, the division was pulled out of the line to the area around Toscana to be reorganized as Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring (1st Parachute-Panzer-Division Hermann Göring). The change resulted in no major change in the organization of the division, however during this time away from the front the division was refitted and received replacement troops and vehicles, bringing it back up to strength after over 8 months of continual combat. Arrangements were made for the division to be shipped to France to prepare for the expected allied invasion.
The allied offensive towards Rome that began on 12 May meant that these plans were canceled and the Hermann Göring was thrown back into the line. Executing a fighting withdrawal towards Rome, the division held off the allied forces while the last German troops were evacuated, and on 4 June fell back behind the Italian capital, which fell on that same day. The Hermann Göring settled in, defending against allied probing attacks towards Florence. On 16 July the division was ordered out of the line to prepare for transport to the Eastern Front.
During this period, several veteran cadres were drawn from the division for the formation of Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Division 2. Hermann Göring, the division’s sister formation currently being formed in Radom. Also, the majority of the division’s supply units were removed, as were many of its staff officers. These units were to go towards the creation of Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring, under which the twoHermann Göring divisions were to operate.
The division arrived at the Vistula front in late-July and was immediately thrown into action, fighting alongside the veteran 5th SS Panzer-Division Wiking and the 19th Panzer Division on the Vistula River between Modlin and Warsaw. In August, its counter-attack against the Magnaszew bridgehead, defended by the 8th Guards Army, failed after many days of heavy fighting. The advent of the Warsaw Uprising brought the Soviet offensive to a halt (probably intentionally on Stalin’s order for the rising to fail), and relative peace fell on the front line as the underground Armia Krajowa defended the town alone against German forces throughout August and September 1944. In this period the division was notorious for using captured Polish non-combatant civilians as human shields when attacking the insurgents’ positions in Warsaw. Following the destruction of the town, the division was attached to the newly formed Army Group Vistula formed 24 January 1945, defending the ruins of Warsaw in what Hitler termed “Festung Warschau“, or Fortress Warsaw.
East Prussia – defeat
The Fallschirm-Panzerkorps Hermann Göring was activated in early October 1944, and the Hermann Göring Panzer Division, along with its sister Panzergrenadier division, was transferred to the command of the corps. The Panzerkorps was then transferred to the East Prussia–Kurland region to halt the Soviet offensive which had already achieved the isolation of Army Group North in the Kurland Pocket and was now aimed at the capture of East Prussia. The Panzerkorps was involved in heavy defensive fighting near Gumbinnen, and when the Soviet assault petered out in late November, the Panzerkorps set up static defensive lines.
The massive Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive trapped the Hermann Göring Panzerkorps in the Heiligenbeil Pocket along with the rest of the 4th Army. In February, the Heer’s élite Großdeutschland Panzergrenadier Division was attached to the corps.
Despite several breakout attempts, the Panzerkorps had to be evacuated by sea to Swinemünde in Pomerania. Upon landing, it was thrown back into combat, defending the Oder-Neisse line against Soviet attacks through mid-March. To bolster the corps’ strength, the elite Brandenburg Panzergrenadier Division was attached to the unit.
In April, the remnants of the Hermann Göring Panzerkorps was sent to Silesia, and in heavy fighting was slowly pushed back into Saxony. On April 22, the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1. Hermann Göring was one of two divisions that broke through the inter-army boundary of the Polish 2nd Army (Polish People’s Army or LWP) and the Soviet 52nd Army, in an action near Bautzen, destroying parts of their communications and logistics trains and severely damaging the Polish (LWP) 5th Infantry Division and 16th Tank Brigade before being stopped two days later.
By early May, the Panzerkorps was positioned near the Saxon capitol of Dresden. The remains of the corps began breakout attempts to the west, in order to surrender to the Americans who were currently halted on the Elbe. Despite valiant breakout attempts, the corps was encircled, and although several small groups successfully made it through to the west, the majority of the corps surrendered to the Soviets on 8 May 1945.
Information from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fallschirm-Panzer_Division_1_Hermann_G%C3%B6ring