- Army Group Vistula
Army Group Vistula ( _de. "Heeresgruppe Weichsel") was an Army Group of the "
Wehrmacht", formed on January 24 1945. It was put together from elements of Army Group A(shattered in the Soviet Vistula-Oder Offensive), Army Group Centre(similarly largely destroyed in the East Prussian Offensive), and a variety of new or ad-hoc formations. It was formed to protect Berlinfrom the Soviet armies advancing from the Vistula River.
Establishment and history
Heinz Guderianhad originally urged the creation of a new army group as an essentially defensive measure to fill the gap opening in German defences between the lower Vistulaand the lower Oder.Duffy, p.176]
The new Army Group Vistula was duly formed from an assortment of rebuilt, new and existing units. Guderian intended to propose Field-Marshal
Maximilian von Weichsas commander.Duffy, p.177] However, in a reflection of Hitler's desire to transfer control of the conflict from the "Wehrmacht" to the SS, Heinrich Himmlerwas appointed.Beevor, p.52] Himmler, who lacked any real military knowledge, proved inadequate to the task; General Gotthard Heinricireplaced Himmler as commander of Army Group Vistula on 20 March, subsequent to its participation in the German offensive codenamed Operation Solsticeand the following defence against the Soviet East Pomeranian Offensive.
Other than Operation Solstice, the Army Group's only offensive action was a disastrous attept to relieve the fortress of
Kustrinlate in March 1945, during which the subordinate XXXIX Panzer Corpstook heavy casualties.
Under the command of Heinrici, parts of the army group fought through the
Battle of Berlinand Battle of Halbe, with some of its elements not surrendering until the end of the war in Europe on 8 May 1945. Army Group Vistula's strength was in the region of 500,000 troops;Duffy, p.177, who states that German sources give the group's size as 32-34 divisions, while a "good Soviet source" identifies it as having 450,000 troops.] in general, the army group was poorly equipped, many of its units being little more than the 'paper' formations typical of the German military at the end of World War II. Indeed, when first set up it was found that the army group lacked many essential facilities, such as proper maps or a headquarters signals detachment - the sole means of communication being Himmler's private telephone.Beevor, p.54]
The Army Group was originally formed from:
*The Ninth Army of General
Theodor Busse, which had previously been part of Army Group Aand had been shattered around Warsawduring the Vistula-Oder Offensive. This now held lines on the Oderand was progressively rebuilt.
*The Second Army of Colonel-General
Walter Weiss, which as part of Army Group Centrehad been defending the line of the Narewriver on the borders of East Prussia. The East Prussian Offensivehad cut it off from the remnants of its parent formation, and by late January it defended a long sector from Elbingin the east running westwards through Pomerania. It therefore formed the new army group's northern and eastern flank.
Eleventh SS Panzer Armywas a 'new' formation which had been assembled in western Pomerania. Soon after its formation it received the staff of the Third Panzer Army, which had been largely destroyed in East Prussia, and was redesignated as Third Panzer Army.
East Pomeranian Offensive, the Second Army was finally cut off from the remainder of the army group and withdrew into Danzig, where it was eventually destroyed. The rest of Army Group Vistula was forced west of the Oder, though the Third Panzer Army retained a small bridgehead at Altdammuntil the middle of March.
Towards the end of April, the Twenty-First Army (itself formed around the remnants of the Fourth Army, which had been destroyed in the
Heiligenbeil Cauldron) was added to Army Group Vistula.
Order of Battle during Soviet Berlin Offensive
German Third Panzer Army( Hasso-Eccard von Manteuffelfrom 9 March 1945to 8 May 1945)
III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps( Felix Steiner) (later transferred to Twenty-First Army, below)
**CI Corps (later transferred to Twenty-First Army, see below)
**XXVII Corps (later transferred to Twenty-First Army, see below)
**XXXXVI Panzer Corps
* German Twenty-First Army (
Kurt von Tippelskirch)
III (Germanic) SS Panzer Corps
German Ninth Army( Theodor Bussefrom 20 January 1945to 2 May 1945)
** CI Corps (to mid-April)
LVI Panzer Corps( Helmuth Weidlingfrom 12 April 1945to 23 April 1945)
XI SS Panzer Corps
V SS Mountain Corps
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler- 28 January 1945to 20 March
* Colonel General ("
Generaloberst") Gotthard Heinrici- 20 Marchto 28 April
* Infantry General ("General der Infanterie")
Kurt von Tippelskirch- 28 Aprilto 29 April
* Colonel General ("Generaloberst")
Kurt Student- 29 Aprilto 8 May 1945
Battle for Berlin
*Beevor, A. "Berlin: The Downfall 1945", Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5
*Duffy, C. "Red Storm on the Reich: The Soviet March on Germany, 1945" Routledge 1991 ISBN 0-415-22829-8
*Hastings, M. "Armageddon. The Battle for Germany 1944-45", Macmillan, London
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