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ROBERT C. STERN, illustrated by DON GREER and RON VOLSTAD
The lull that followed the successful containment of the first Russian counteroffensive brings to a close the first hectic period of Waffen-SS development. Starting this period with a strength of three loosely connected standarten, the Waffen SS had grown to a nominal complement of six divisions [SS-Division "Nord" being added in early 1941, never fully motorized] and a brigade, while a seventh division [Freiwilligen-Gebirgs-Division, later to become Prinz Eugen] was forming. Four of the divisions were motorized, but not one of them was at strength and LAH and Reich in particular had been decimated in the Winter fighting. The time had come for the units of the Waffen-SS to begin their next transformation.
The SS drives into France, mounted on Kfz 15 Mercedes-Benz 230 medium cars. Above can be seen a lineup of Leibstandarte 230s, each towing a trailer.
A similar column of SS-V vehicles is halted in the center of a French town. The two lead cars are 230s, but the two visible to the right are Kfz 15 Horch medium cross-country cars each towing a 7.5 cm IIG 18 Infantry Gun. [Bundesarchiv]
LAH. "Dietrich" [Key]
An interesting shot of Leibstandarte motorcyclists showing the beginnings of the unit's insignia. Barely visible on the front fender of the righthand BMW R75 is the key symbol that would become associated with LAH. The key was chosen in honor of the regiment's commander Josef "Sepp" Dietrich [dietrich is the German word for key]. The diversity in Leibstandarte markings during the French Campaign reflects in part some of the suppression seen during the Polish Campaign and in part the fact that these markings appear to have evolved from the bottom up rather than having been decreed by regimental command. Also the markings that were used varied considerably from the key alone to a key inside a narrow tilted shield as seen on some Pkws. [Scott Van Ness]
Three views of the motorized troops of SS-V in France.
Four members of Headquarters SS-Standarte Deutschland are seen here riding in a Kfz 15 Mercedes-Benz 230 decorated with a swastika on the hood for air recognition. The soldiers are wearing transitional style uniforms. Three wear the costly, early Dark Green collared feldbluse, while the driver wears the later all Field Grey model. Note that none have collar insignia, as during this period the old style "SS1" collar tabs of Deutschland were being suppressed in favor of the universal "SS" pattern, though the lack of rank tab on the left collar is harder to explain. The regiment can still be identified, however, by the cufftitles visible on the nearer soldiers. [National Archives]
Three troopers also from Deutschland [they still have the "SS1" collar tabs] wearily sitting in a 230 halted by the side of the road, pass the time reading. As opposed to the HQ troops above, these are combat soldiers and wear the camouflage smock over their feldbluse and cover for the helmet. [Bundesarchiv]
The inevitable end result of mobile warfare, exhaustion overtakes two Sanis [Sanitäter = Corpsman] of the Pioneer Battalion.