II SS Panzer Corps


II SS Panzer Corps

The II.SS-Panzerkorps was a German Waffen-SS armoured corps which saw action on both the Eastern and Western Fronts during World War II.

Formation - Kharkov

The II.SS-Panzerkorps was formed from II SS Panzer Division "Das Reich" and IX SS Panzer Division "Hohenstaufen" in July 1942 in Bergen in The Netherlands as "SS-Panzer-Generalkommando". The corps served as a skeletal formation, overseeing the reorganisation and restructure of Waffen SS combat divisions in the area of Toulon, France. In early February 1943, the corps was ordered to join "Generalfeldmarschall" Manstein's Army Group South in Ukraine where it was to become known as "SS-Panzerkorps". "SS-Gruppenführer" Paul Hausser, the brilliant ex-commander of 2.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Das Reich", was placed in charge of the corps, and was tasked with defending the strategic city of Kharkov. After defending the city for as long as possible, Hausser disobeyed Hitler's orders and told his troops to abandon the city to avoid encirclement. In the remaining weeks of February, the corps was almost entirely responsible for the destruction of Mobile Group Popov, the major Soviet attacking force. The destruction of Mobile Group Popov halted the Soviet offensive which followed the Battle of Stalingrad and stabilised Manstein's front. After regrouping, the SS-Panzerkorps became the Schwerpunkt of Manstein's counter-offensive and distinguished itself in the fighting to recapture the city and surrounding area, advancing as far as Belgorod.

Kursk - Italy

The corps was renamed as II.SS-Panzerkorps in June 1943. In July 1943, the corps took part in the failed Operation Citadel, spearheading "Generaloberst" Hoth's 4.Panzer Armee attack on the southern pincer aimed at reducing the Kursk salient. The corps three SS panzergrenadier division were involved in mammoth tank battles around Prokhorovka, pushing deeper into the salient than any other unit. After the operation was cancelled, the corps was ordered to the Italian front. The coup which deposed Italian dictator Mussolini caused much confusion, and only one division, the 1.SS-Panzer-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler" ended up being transferred, along with the corps personnel. The remaining combat divisions remained on the Eastern front. The "Leibstandarte" took part in operations to disarm Italian troops. After the completion of this, it was involved in anti-partisan operations in northern Italy. In November, 1943, the "Leibstandarte" returned to Russia, with the corps remaining in Northern Italy.

In January 1944, the corps was ordered to France to refit, before being sent back into action on the Eastern Front. It took part in the efforts to relieve "Generaloberst" Hube's encircled 1.Panzer-Armee, the corps two combat divisions, the 9.SS-Panzer-Division "Hohenstaufen" and 10.SS-Panzer-Division "Frundsberg", providing the spearhead for the operation and being first to effect a linkup with Hube's forces.

Normandy - Arnhem

In June 1944, the corps was ordered west to take part in the defence of Normandy. It was involved in heavy fighting against Field Marshal Montgomery's British 21st Army Group in the area around Caen. During this period, "SS-Obergruppenführer" Wilhelm Bittrich, veteran commander of the "Hohenstaufen", was placed in command of the corps.

After the launch of Operation Totalize and the forming of the Falaise pocket, the corps managed to escape encirclement and took part in operations to hold open the escape route for other divisions trapped in the "kessel".

The corps executed a fighting withdrawal across France, engaging in several fierce rearguard actions. In early September, the corps was pulled out of the line to rest and refit near Arnhem in the Netherlands. On 17 September, 1944, the allies launched Operation Market Garden, an airborne offensive aimed at capturing the Rhine bridge at Arnhem. The corps was put into action and was involved in heavy fighting against the British 1st Airborne Division in Arnhem and also against the US 82nd Airborne Division and British XXX Corps in Nijmegen. The corps played a decisive role in the defeat of the allied offensive.

Ardennes - Hungary

After refitting in October and November, the corps was placed in reserve for "SS-Oberstgruppenführer" Dietrich's 6.SS-Panzer-Armee, which was preparing for the in the Ardennes. Only minor corps units involved in the initial assault. The corps was committed to major action near St. Vith on 21 December 1944. After the northern assault stalled, the corps was transferred south to take part in the attack on Bastogne. The corps' combat divisions suffered heavy losses in the battles against the US 101st Airborne Division. After the failure of the offensive, the corps returned to the defensive, seeing action against US forces in the Eifel region.

In February 1945, the corps was ordered to Hungary to take part in an offensive to recapture Budapest and the Hungarian oilfields. After a brief period of rest and reforming in Germany, the corps arrived near Stuhlweißenburg near Lake Balaton. After the remainder of Dietrich's 6.SS-Panzer-Armee had assembled, the corps took part in Operation Frülingserwachen, launched on 6 March 1945. In terrible conditions and against fierce Soviet resistance, the corps managed to advance only a few kilometers. After the failure of the offensive, the corps was involved in defensive battles alongside the I.SS and IV.SS-Panzerkorps, executing a fighting withdrawal towards Vienna. After the Soviets captured the city, the corps broke up and individual units attempted to break out to the American forces to the west. The survivors of the combat divisions, along with the majority of the corps personnel, managed to surrender to the Americans on 8 May 1945.

Commanders

*SS-Obergruppenführer Paul Hausser (1 June 1942 - 28 June 1944)
*SS-Obergruppenführer Wilhelm Bittrich (10 July 1944 - 9 May 1945)

Orders of Battle


= July, 1943 - Operation Citadel =

* Stab der Korps
** SS-Nachrichten-Abteilung 102
** SS-Werfer-Abteilung 102
** SS-Sanitäts-Abteilung 102
** SS-Nachschubtruppen 102
* 1.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler"
* 2.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Das Reich"
* 3.SS-Panzergrenadier-Division "Totenkopf"
* Elements of 167.Infanterie-Division

September, 1944 - Operation Market Garden

* Stab der Korps
** SS-Nachrichten-Abteilung 102
** Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 102
** SS-Werfer-Abteilung 102
** SS-Sanitäts-Abteilung 102
** SS-Nachschubtruppen 102
* 9.SS-Panzer-Division "Hohenstaufen"
* 10.SS-Panzer-Division "Frundsberg"

March, 1945 - Operation Frühlingserwachen

* Stab der Korps
** SS-Nachrichten-Abteilung 102
** Schwere SS-Panzer-Abteilung 502
** SS-Werfer-Abteilung 102
** SS-Sanitäts-Abteilung 102
** SS-Nachschubtruppen 102
* 9.SS-Panzer-Division "Hohenstaufen"
* 2.SS-Panzer-Division "Das Reich"
* (44.) Reichsgrenadier-Division "Hoch- und Deutschmeister"
* 23.Panzer-Division

References

* Reynolds, Michael - Sons of the Reich: The History of II SS Panzer Corps
* Tieke, Wilhelm - In the Firestorm of the Last Years of the War, II. SS-Panzerkorps with the 9. and 10. SS-Divisions "Hohenstaufen" and "Frundsberg"
* [http://www.dasreich.ca Das Reich Homepage]
* [http://www.axishistory.com Axis History Factbook]
* [http://www.feldgrau.com Feldgrau.com - The German Armed Forces 1919-1945]


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