As announced last week, Second Wave, the upcoming Division Pack for Steel Division: Normandy 44, will allow you to take control of 4 new divisions: The American 4th Armored Division, the British 1st Special Service Brigade, the German 9. Panzerdivision and the 16. Luftwaffen-Felddivision. We also revealed the Content Roadmap for the game, don’t hesitate to take a look to know what’s coming for you in the coming months. For those who still don’t have the game, you can get 33% off Steel Division: Normandy 44 in the Paradox official store.
Let’s focus today on Austria’s main contribution to the battle of Normandy: the 9. Panzer.
(A suggestion of background music while reading this blog)
9. Panzer traces its ancestry back to the Austrian Schnelle Division (“fast division”), the Bundesheer‘s pre-war only mechanized division, regrouping all the Austrian Army’s armors & cavalry. When Austria was annexed to the Third Reich, following the Anschluss in March 1938, the division was integrated into the German Wehrmacht as the 4. Leichte Division, retaining its Austrian commander Generalmajor Alfred von Hubicki, who would later rise to corps command within the German Army
The division took part in the campaign of Poland in 1939, distinguishing itself, before returning to Vienna to be converted into the 9. Panzerdivision during the Winter of 1939-1940. The new armored division received its baptism of fire soon afterward, in the Netherlands (May 1940), before taking part in the invasion of France, contributing in trapping British & French troops in the Dunkirk pocket. Following Operation Dynamo (the British evacuation of the pocket), the German Army resumed its offensive against the remaining French troops in Southern France. When France surrendered, 9. Panzer was in Lyon in the Rhône Valley, having covered more ground in this campaign than any other German division.
Back to Vienna in July 1940 to refit, the division was committed in the Balkans & Greece in the Spring of 1941 to throw the Commonwealth expeditionary forces back to the sea, spearheading the 12. Armee‘s offensive from Romania. Once this threat was dealt with, 9. Panzer prepared for the invasion of the USSR.When German troops invaded the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941, 9. Panzer was among them, and would remain in this country for the next three years. It took part in most major operations in the East, from the drive to Moscow in 1941 to the battle of Kursk in 1943. It was at the end of this latter battle that Generalmajor Erwin Jollasse took command of the division after its predecessor had been wounded in the fighting.
By early 1944, the division was spent and needed rest. From late March, it was pulled out from the front line to be refitted, although a Kampfgruppe built around Panzergrenadier-Regiment 11 remained in the East and would join the division only after the Allied invasion of Normandy.
WESTERN FRONT & NORMANDY
But this time, the division wasn’t sent back home in Vienna, but instead in Nîmes (Southern France). There, it amalgamated reserve troops, brought new recruits, received new equipment and tanks, and resumed training. It was soon shaping back into a powerful Panzerdivision, but not yet combat-ready when the Allies landed in Normandy less than two months later. Therefore, 9. Panzer wasn’t ordered to move to this theater until July 27th, and even then, it was still missing some of its components:
- Its Panther battalion (II./Panzerregiment 33) was on its way to Nîmes from Northern France when the division moved toward Normandy. It would have to retrain to be shipped back to Normandy, where it never joined 9. Panzer, being attached to 116. Panzer
for the Mortain counter-offensive and remaining with it afterward. (ERRATA: it was the I./PzRgt. 24, from 24. Panzerdivision, which was attached to the 116. Panzerdivision that way; II./PzRgt. 33 only briefly fought in Normandy, from August 10th to 15th, yet still with 116. Panzerdivision)
- Panzergrenadier-Regiment 11, retained in Russia, only joined the division directly in Normandy.
- The division’s Jagdpanzer IV were only shipped to Nîmes after the division had moved to Normandy, and would take weeks to catch up with it.
Yet, there was one thing 9. Panzer had which no other unit in Normandy, and even on the Western Front, had: Panzer II L “Luchs” tanks. Although the Panzer II was an old and completely obsolete design by 1944, the Luchs was a modern variant, reliable and up-armored, designed for reconnaissance in force.Assigned to LVIII. Panzerkorps in early August, 9. Panzer received the mission to protect the army’s left flank near Alençon. An impossible mission for a single division, especially one missing several battalions to cover such an area and in the wake of Operation Cobra, while Patton’s Third Army was descending upon it. Directly on the path of the French 2e DB, the 9. Panzer would never be able to establish a strong defensive line, being constantly outflanked, and bypassed through gaps in its line by Leclerc’s men. So often were the two opposite divisions skirmishing every day, that the French officers asked news about “notre 9e Panzer” (“our 9. Panzer“) at daily briefings as they would about a relative. Deprived of its Panthers, the 9. Panzer was at least able to count on the brief support of some Tigers during the defense of the Ecouves Forrest, where two of those “big cats” stopped the 2e DB for hours, inflicting heavy tank losses while blocking the only way through the forest. But the mad charge of two RBFM‘s TD M10 destroyed one and forced the other to retreat.
By August 9th, the division had only 15 operational Panzer IV left and was being pushed back east. In a way, it saved it from the fate of the rest of the German army, trapped in the Falaise pocket. On 16th August, the 9. Panzer was regrouping South of Paris in a much better shape than most other Panzerdivisionen back from Normandy, having only lost about 3.500 men.
The division retreated to Germany, behind the Siegfried Line, which it contributed defending against the Americans, especially around Aachen, where it was selected to participate in the Ardennes offensive of Christmas 1944, with the addition of a Tiger battalion. Although 9. Panzer once again advanced fast and far at first, it was soon brought to a halt and suffered terrible losses in the American counteroffensive. It was still fighting in the area in early 1945 when it was ordered to attack the Remagen bridge over the Rhine, which the American had captured. Not only did it failed to recapture the bridge, it was also decimated in the process.
Nevertheless, the 9. Panzer was ordered to take part into a counterattack near Cologne, where it finally broke down: its commander (then Harald von Elverfeldt) was killed in action, and his men surrendered or were pushed in the Ruhr pocket, only to surrender later. Although a few elements remained at large, the 9. Panzer had ceased to exist as a unit …
THE 9. PANZERDIVISION INGAME
9. Panzer may lack Panthers, but thanks to a good Phase A income, it can field a LOT of Panzer II L ‘Luchs‘ light tanks early in the game. Backed by its parent LVIII. Reserve Korps‘ special Panzer I C recon battalion, the “Schnelle Division” can push very aggressively from the start, and will be quite a match for Stuarts or half-track-heavy divisions. Having lost or left all its heavy Flak guns in Russia, the division’s AA tab is restricted to mono-20mm guns in early game.
From Phase B, 9. Panzer starts fielding more regular equipment for a Panzerdivision. Being in the process of refitting when it was ordered to Normandy, it fields both old vehicles which its veterans are well familiarized with, such as StuG III F/8, Marder III, Panzer IV or command SdKfz 263, and more modern ones its men aren’t as used to, such as SPW 234 armored recon. And as mentioned previously, the division’s Panther having been attached to 116. Panzer, the “Schnelle Division” still has none …
In phase C, 9. Panzer‘s economy remains as it was in Phase B. Its missing elite Panzergrenadier are finally joining the division straight from Russia, while 9. Panzer receives the welcome support of two elite Tigers.