Basic Organization of Panzer/Panzergrenadier-Brigade
Table 1. Panzer-Brigade in 1944
Table 2. Panzer-Brigade in 1944 (Rearrangement)
Table 3. Firepower of Panzergrenadier-Bataillon
Table 4. Panzer-Brigade in 1944 (Reorganization)
Table 5. Firepower of Panzergrenadier-Bataillon (Reorganization)
Table 6. Panzer-Brigade in 1944 (Last Organization)
On 22 Jun 1944, just three years after the Operation Barbarossa began, the Red Army launched their summer offensive against the German lines, especially the Heeresgruppe Mitte. On 2 July, while considering current situation, Hitler stated that the small, mobile, fast and armored Kampfgruppe could be useful during this situation and such Kampfgruppe could quickly be sent into action to meet the attacking enemy armored spearhead. He thought that the appropriate organization for these Kampfgruppe should be one SPW-Bataillon, one Panzer-Gruppe with thirty to forty panzers, one Pak-Kompanie and several Flak-Wagon. He also requested about twelve of such Kampfgruppe, named as Brigaden. A new order dated 11 Jul 1944 from OKH was issued to create ten Panzer-Brigaden, designated Panzer-Brigade 101 to 110, they were also called as Panzergrenadier-Brigade occasionally. Personnel of these Panzer-Brigade were contributed mainly by Ersatz-Heeres or refitted Panzer and Panzergrenadier-Divisions. Each Panzer-Brigade had one Panzer-Abteilung with three Panther companies and one Panzer Jaeger-Kompanie; one Panzergrenadier-Bataillon with four companies (Table 1).
Panzer-Brigade in 1944
|4. Panzer Jaeger-Kompanie|
Table 1. Basic organization of Panzer-Brigade issued on 11 Jul 1944.
The strength of the entire brigade was in fact only at regiment level. If we rearrange the major combat components and the Stab-Kompanie of the brigade and battalion (Table 2), we will find the brigade now can field three Panther companies, three Panzergrenadier companies and other supportive units such as an anti-tank company (from 4. Kompanie of the Panzer-Abteilung), an engineer company (from 4. Kompanie of the Panzergrenadier-Bataillon), a recon platoon (from Panzer-Brigade Stab-Kompanie) and an anti-aircraft platoon (from Panzer-Abteilung Stab-Kompanie). As compare to the "Type 43 Panzer-Division" the brigade was almost a scaled down Panzer-Division except it lacked proper artillery support. The ratio between panzer and panzergrenadier arms in Panzer-Brigade was 3 : 3 at the company level. Although it was a good balance between the two main strike forces, the overall strength was too weak to meet their enemies.
Panzer-Brigade in 1944 (Rearrangement)
Table 2. Rearrangement of major combat components of Panzer-Brigade in 1944
The Panzergrenadier-Bataillon contained four companies, only two of them were Panzergrenadier, one of them was heavy company as supportive firepower and the last one was engineer company. The whole battalion was equipped with half-tracked SdKfz 251 SPW and its variants in these companies. Thus they increased not only the field mobility but also the overall firepower (Table 3).
Firepower of Panzergrenadier-Bataillon
|LMG/HMG||2 cm Flak/FT||7.5 cm IG||8 cm/12 cm Mortar|
Table 3. Firepower distribution of Panzergrenadier-Bataillon in Panzer-Brigade issued on 11 Jul 1944. LMG: light machine gun, HMG: heavy machine gun, FT: flame thrower, IG: infantry gun.
On 6 Aug 1944, a new order came from OKH to reorganize Panzer-Brigade 105 to 110 (Table 4). This new organization did not affect the Panzer-Abteilung. The Pioniere-Kompanie was detached from the Panzergrenadier-Bataillon and put under the brigade command. The Panzergrenadier-Bataillon was expanded to five companies but still only three of them were Panzergrenadier-Kompanie, the other two were supportive companies (Table 5). Reorganization of Panzer-Brigade 101 to 104 was planned to occur at later time.
Panzer-Brigade in 1944 (Reorganization)
|4. Panzer Jaeger-Kompanie|
Table 4. Basic organization of Panzer-Brigade issued on 6 Aug 1944.
Firepower of Panzergrenadier-Bataillon (Reorganization)
|LMG||2 cm Flak||7.5 cm IG||8 cm/12 cm Mortar|
Table 5. Firepower distribution of Panzergrenadier-Bataillon in Panzer-Brigade issued on 6 Aug 1944. LMG: light machine gun, IG: infantry gun.
As compare to Table 3, the number of light machine gun was reduced and the heavy machine gun of the battalion was totally replaced by the more powerful 2 cm Flak. This reflects the serious shortage of manpower which required new combination of techniques and organization be adopted to keep the the firepower at the same level. The firepower of the Panzer Pioniere-Kompanie was also reduced to only 37 light machine guns and six flame throwers.
Three additional Heeres Panzer-Brigade, numbered 111, 112, and 113, were created in early September 1944. The organization of these three brigade was quite different from that of previous ones (Table 6). The Panzer-Abteilung was equipped with Panzer IV and the Panzergrenadier component of the brigade was expanded to a full regiment with two battalions, but the detail composition of the regiment was unclear. The other supportive components included one Panzer Aufklaerung-Kompanie, one Panzer Pioniere-Kompanie and one Sturmgeschuetz-Kompanie. The strength of these brigades was further reinforced by one Panther-Abteilung which had been previously created for a Panzer-Division. Thus these brigades could field two Panzer and two Panzergrenadier battalions.
Panzer-Brigade in 1944 (Last Organization)
|Panzer- Abteilung||1. Kompanie|
Table 6. Basic organization of Panzer-Brigade issued on 4 Sep 1944.
With few exceptions, the Heeres Panzer-Brigades were only short-lived. They were disbanded by absorbing their elements into the already existing Panzer and Panzergrenadier-Divisions since Sep 1944. The last Panzer-Brigade was ordered to create on 4 Nov 1944. The Panzer-Brigade 150 "Rabenhuegel" was designed to fool American troops with captured or disguised equipments and therefore to perform their special missions in capturing important bridges and crossroads during the famous "Battle of the Bulge". It had a different organization and equipments for it.
The idea of Heeres Panzer-Brigade was first brought by Hitler on 2 Jul 1944 and it was largely based on the previously successful experiences of temporally organized Kampfgruppe to meet special crisis, such as the famous schwere Panzer-Regiment Baeke. The idea seemed to be practical in the view of organization by combining the two main striking forces in a balance way plus some supportive units and all of them were highly mobile and armored. But these brigades finally failed to prove success. Why? Only few documents mention about these brigades and the reasons why they failed remain to open discussion in the near future.
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