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ROBERT C. STERN, illustrated by DON GREER and RON VOLSTAD
Manstein rallied the German forces that were forced out of Kharkov. In a series of brilliant maneuvers, led by the SS-Panzer-Korps, the enemy thrusts into German positions were destroyed and Kharkov and Belgorod were taken back from the Russians.
Two Leibstandarte vehicles are seen during the recapture of Kegichevka, a town near Kharkov, in early February 1943. A PzKpfw IV ausf G leading a Kfz 15 Horch is surrounded by grenadiers with thin White camouflage coats over their reversible parkas. The tank has been snow camouflaged while the Horch has not, indicating priorities in the use of short supply items, such as White paint.
Another PzKpfw IV ausf G of Leibstandarte, this one from the seventh company of the Panzer regiment. Of interest is the repetition of the cross on the superstructure side, the White outline fading into the camouflage leaving only the Black center visible. Against the snow and a White building, the camouflage is reasonably effective. [Bundesarchiv]
Advancing down the main street of a Russian town, a PzKpfw III ausf J followed by a PzKpfw II ausf F, both of Leibstandarte, keeps a wary eye out for remaining pockets of enemy resistance. On the rear of both vehicles the national and divisional insignias have been left visible through the camouflage. Note that the wreath with LAH's shield and key emblem has been reduced in extent. This was to be the "definitive" style. [Bundesarchiv]
Passing in front of a field artillery battery, this "Stummel" of Leibstandarte makes an excellent study of the futility of temporary snow camouflage, wearing off almost completely where the engine or gun heat would melt snow or where the dismounting of the crew would rub it off. The Stummel [officially an SdKfz 251/9 mounting the 7.5 cm L/24 Kwk], a brand new vehicle at this time, was extremely popular because it brought massive firepower to individual panzergrenadier companies. In the background are a pair of 10.5 cm IFH/18 Field Howitzers and a single SdKfz 11 three ton halftrack support vehicle. [National Archives]
Two shots of similar vehicles during the Manstein Offensive showing the deterioration of the water soluble Winter camouflage.
A PzBefWg III ausf K of Totenkopf's first Panzer-Abteilung's headquarters company shows a pristine new coat of White paint at the beginning of operations. There is an even coat of camouflage over the whole vehicle, covering even the national insignia, leaving only a part of the driver's plate and the turret side unpainted to expose the divisional sign and turret numbers. [Bundesarchiv]
An identical command tank, this time from Totenkopf's second tank battalion and seen a month or so later. The White paint is now wearing off in many areas leaving the original Panzer Grey to show through. Note the additional track shoes added on to the glacis and driver's plates for extra protection. [Bundesarchiv]
Having left Kharkov with considerable official disfavor, the units of the SS-Panzer-Korps were understandably proud of their recapture of the city. Leibstandarte, being the first into the city, was quick to rename the city's central Red Square as "Platz der LAH". As the offensive moved North to Belgorod, many support services were left based in Kharkov. The above signs, as well as showing the new name for the main square, point to the Field Hospitals [Feldlazarett] of all three divisions and give particularly clear examples of their divisional markings.