The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man… Thomas Robert MALTHUS


15th Panzer Division Germany…

The 33rd Infantry Division (later 15th Panzer Division and 15th Panzergrenadier Division) was a unit in the German Army during World War II.



This unit was created as the 33rd Infantry Division in 1936, and mobilized in 1939, but it did not take part in the invasion of Poland. In 1940 it participated in the invasions of Belgiumand France. It was then reorganized as the 15th Panzer Division in August 1940 at Darmstadt and Landau by incorporating the 8th Panzer Regiment from the 10th Panzer Division and giving up its 110th Infantry Regiment to the 112th Infantry Division.

In April 1941 the division began transport to Libya, joining General Erwin Rommel’s Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK) with the 21st Panzer Division and the 90th Light Division. By June 15th the division was deployed in reserve to the south of Bardia, and fought in the successful defense during Operation Battleaxe at Halfaya Pass.

On November 18 British forces began Operation Crusader with the objective of relieving the besieged forces at Tobruk. The 15th was situated to the east of Tobruk, and by November 20 they joined the 21st Panzer Division to battle the armored forces of the British XXX Corps.

With the XXX Corps situated on the approaches to Tobruk, Erwin Rommel sent his panzer divisions on a rapid advance to the east, threatening the British rear. However the British continued to advance on Tobruk and by November 27 they had linked up with the fortress. The Axis forces were forced to withdraw.

By December 31, 1941, Rommel’s forces halted at the line at El Agheila for refitting his depleted forces. By January 21 he was ready to advance again, and the DAK and Italian forces began another march to the east.

The British Eighth Army had drawn up in mine-fortified positions on the coastal town of Gazala, to the west of Tobruk. The 15th Panzer was deployed with the other Axis armor on their southern flank, with infantry divisions holding the northern part of the line.

The Axis began their attack on May 26, with the DAK sweeping around the southern end of the British line. They were met by the armoured forces of the British, and took losses in tanks. Without a supply line, the Germans had to withdraw into a „Cauldron” position along the front until supplies could be moved through the minefields.

On June 11 they began their breakout, advancing to the east and threatening to encircle the British. The Eighth Army was forced to withdraw, leaving Tobruk once more encircled. This time, however, the Tobruk fortifications were weaker, and an attack on June 20, which included 15th Panzer, captured the town and the garrison.

The Axis forces now began a rapid advance to the east. Much of XXX Corps’ armour had been destroyed at Gazala, so a stand at Mersa Matruh on June 26 was quickly broken. In this battle the 15th Panzer was held up by the British 1st Armoured Division, but the remainder of the DAK broke through to the north.

At the beginning of July the Eighth Army had reached their final defensive position before Alexandria at the railroad junction of El Alamein. The DAK was understrength from its recent battles, but Rommel attempted an attack along Ruweisat with the 15th Panzer and the remainder of the corps. Only minor progress was made, and British counterattacks and mounting losses caused Rommel to call off the attack on July 22.

Another attack was attempted by Rommel on August 30, with his armoured forces attacking the southern flank. The 15th Panzer Division reached as far as the Alam Halfa ridge on September 1, but failed to break through the British defenses.

At this point Rommel went on to the defensive and began to build a deep defensive position with deep minefields. The 15th Panzer Division formed the reserve in the northern part of the front, and the 21st Panzer in the south.

With the able General Bernard Montgomery taking charge of the Allied forces, the Eighth Army now underwent a long, steady buildup that the Axis forces couldn’t, or wouldn’t, match. By October 23, Monty’s forces were ready and they began a breakthrough attack in the northern front. Counterattacks by 15th Panzer failed to halt the advance, and by November 4 the British tanks achieved a breakout.

Now began a period of steady British advance to the west, combined with Allied landings in French North Africa on November 8. The remains of the 15th Panzer Division, and the remainder of the Axis forces, were continually forced to withdraw. The British XXX Corps reached and flanked the line at El Agheila on December 17, then took Tripoli on January 23, 1943.

By February 18 XXX Corps reached the defensive line at Mareth in Tunisia, and were forced to halt. The 21st Panzer Division was drawn away to the Kasserine Pass operation on February 22, so the 15th Panzer held the Mareth Line with the remaining Italian forces.

On March 6, with the 21st Panzer having returned, the DAK counterattacked the Eighth Army at Medenine, but were repulsed. On the 20th, the British 50th Infantry Division breached the defensive position, but they were contained by the 15th Panzer Division. However the Axis position was flanked in the west, and by March 27th they were forced to withdraw northward.

The Axis forces in North Africa were now forced back to their final defensive position in north Tunisia. Hitler chose this time to heavily reinforce his forces in this theater; forces that would have been far more beneficial a year earlier. But by now it was too late, and the US First and British Eighth Armies now relentlessly ground through the enemy defenses.

By May 12, 1943, all German and Italian forces in Tunisia surrendered, including the 15th Panzer Division.

In July 1943 a new 15th Panzergrenadier Division, commanded by General-Lieutenant Eberhard Rodt was formed by redesignating the Sicily Division and incorporated remnants of the former 15th Panzer Division. It was not long before they again saw action, this time in Sicily. As they retreated from western Sicily as a result of Allied invasion, code namedOperation Husky, they halted and began setting up defenses in the vicinity of the town of Troina along Highway 120, perched high on the hilltops. This was to become a linchpin of theEtna Line. In pursuit was the U.S. 1st Infantry Division, nicknamed „The Big Red One”, commanded by Major General Terry Allen. A six-day battle ensued from August 1-6, 1943 at the end of which, fearing encirclement the 15th Panzergrenadier retreated down Highway 120 toward Cesaro and later Messina to be evacuated from the island of Sicily.

By August 17, 1943 the 15th Panzergrenadier along with the 29th Infantry Division, German 1st Parachute Division and Hermann Goring Division would escape across the Straight of Messina to later participate in the Italian Campaign. Beginning September 9, 1943 the Allied invasion of mainland Italy, code named Operation Avalanche, at Salerno and along the beaches to the southeast, found the 15th Panzergrenadier among the principle defenders. On September 11, elements of the British 46th Infantry Division found stiff resistance from the15th Panzergrenadier and Hermann Goring Division around Salerno itself and to the east.

By mid-November 1943, the 15th Panzergrenadier Division had fallen back to help defend the Bernhardt Line in the vicinity of Mignano along Highway 6. On December 7, 1943, two battalions of the 15th Panzergrenadier, commanded by Captain Helmut Meitzel, held strong defensive positions in the town of San Pietro Infine and on the vitally important and stategicMonte Lungo to the southwest. Elements of the 71st Panzergrenadier Division held the German left flank on the heights of Monte Sammucro to the north, while the 29th Panzergrendier Division held the rear near the town of San Vittore, two miles to the northwest. The 36th Infantry Division of the National Guard, commanded by Major General Fred L. Walker, launched flanking attacks on their right right while the 1st Italian Motorized Group attacked the left up Monte Lungo. The Battle of San Pietro Infine ensued. After 10 days of intense attacks and counter-attacks, the Allies finally succeeded in gaining the high ground on both flanks. With the advantage lost, in the early morning hours of December 17th, the 15th Panzergrenadierand their supporting units fell back to defensive positions the vicinity of San Vittore, of which they would hold for the next three weeks.

From January 20-22, 1944 two battalions of the 15th Panzergrenadier repulsed an ill-conceived assault by the U.S. 36th Infantry Division, led by Major General Fred L. Walker when the Allies were attempting to establish a bridgehead in the vicinity of the town of Sant’ Angelo, to launch attacks on the Gustav Line near Monte Cassino.

On May 11, 1943 the Allies launched Operation Diadem which finally resulted in the collapse of the Gustav Line and the capitulation of the German defenses along the Winter Line. From May 15-19, the 15th Panzergrenadier fought a retreating battle through the Aurunci Mountains against the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division and 4th Moroccan Mountain Division of the French Expeditionary Corps, commanded by General Alphonse Juin.

The 15th Panzergrenadier fought the rest of the war in Italy and on the Western Front, surrendering to the British at war’s end.


Date Commander
March 1 1938 Generalleutnant Hermann Ritter von Speck
April 29, 1940 Generalleutnant Rudolf Sintzenich
November 1, 1940 General Friedrich Kühn
March 22, 1941 Generalleutnant Heinrich von Prittwitz und Gaffron
April 13, 1941 General Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck
May 26, 1941 General-Lieutenant Walter Neumann-Silkow
December 6, 1941 General-Lieutenant Erwin Menny
December 9, 1941 General Gustav von Vaerst
May 26, 1941 General-Lieutenant Eduard Crasemann
July 15, 1942 General-Lieutenant Heinz von Randow
August 25, 1942 General Gustav von Vaerst
November 11, 1942 General-Lieutenant Willibald Borowietz
1 July 1943 General-Lieutenant Eberhard Rodt
October 1943 General-Lieutenant Ernst-Günther Baade
20 November 1943 General-Lieutenant Rudolf Sperl
5 September 1944 Colonel Karl-Theodor Simon
9 October 1944 General-Major Hans-Joachim Deckert
28 January 1945 Colonel Wolfgang Maucke



  • 15th Panzer Division
    • 8th Panzer Regiment
    • 104th Panzergrenadier Regiment
    • 115th Panzergrenadier Regiment
    • 33rd Artillery Regiment
    • 15th Motorcycle Battalion
    • 115th Reconnaissance Battalion
    • 33rd Engineering Battalion
    • 33rd Anti-Tank Battalion

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  1. Pingback: LIST of GERMAN DIVISIONS in WORLD WAR II – (G.15th.P.D) - Ziarul

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