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ROBERT C. STERN, illustrated by DON GREER and RON VOLSTAD
1. Panther ausf G of 1.SS-Pz-Div "LSSAH", May 1944, Paris, France.
2. Kfz 1 [VW Kubelwagen] of 12.SS-Pz- Div "Hitlerjugend", June 1944, Normandy, France.
3. SdKfz 251/1 of 5.SS-Pz-Div "Wiking", August 1944, Warsaw, Poland.
4. Panzer IV/70 of 12.SS-Pz-Div "Hitlerjugend", December 1944, Ardennes, Belgium.
5. SdKfz 250/1 of 11. SS-Freiwilligen-Pz-Gren-Div "Nordland", May 1945, Berlin, Germany.
Two views of a convoy of armored vehicles of Das Reich on a dusty road behind the Kursk front. The 15cm sIG Bison seen above is Sand Yellow with a complex overspray of Olive Green. At the left is an SdKfz 251/1 mSPW carrying a member of the division's Feldgendarmerie [Military Police]. He can be seen leaning on the edge of the APC's fighting compartment, holding his Red and White traffic control paddle. [Bundesarchiv]
On their way to the front, a Kfz 1/20 VW type 166 Schwimmwagen and a Ford V-3000 three ton truck of Das Reich pass a Kfz 1 IPKW of the Luftwaffe. Both Das Reich vehicles carry the temporary divisional insignia adopted immediately before the Kursk Offensive to confuse enemy intelligence. The Schwimmwagen bears the markings ol the division's Panzer-Regiment. [Bundesarchiv]
An interesting shot showing three mechanics working on the engine of a Das Reich SdKfz 231 eight wheel armored car. The spare tire obviously was missing before the vehicle was repainted Sand Yellow. Of interest is the plate upon which the divisional insignia has been painted. It was partly masked off during repainting, showing to good advantage the apparent difference in tone between Panzer Grey and Sand Yellow. [Bundesarchiv]
This Obersturmfährer, probably a zug [troop] commander, sits perched confidently on his tank's cupola. He is wearing the rarely seen tanker's one-piece camouflage suit. [Scott Van Ness]
A mixed company of Das Reich tanks advances against the Russians. The two vehicles in the center background are late model PzKpfw Ills, the rest being PzKpfw IV ausf Gs. All the Gs have turret schurzen, the nearest one is unusual in having side skirts as well. [Scott Van Ness]
The story of the previous year's fighting in the East had been one of just such encirclements and their attempted relief. Since the disaster at Stalingrad, the Germans had been successful each time in relieving surrounded troops and expected to be so again. On the basis of this expectation, the six divisions were told to hold their ground and await developments. But this was the largest such encirclement since Stalingrad and the Russians were determined that the same fate should befall these men as befell 6. Armee just a year before. The Germans brought up a relief force of four Panzer Divisions led by 1. Panzer-Division and LAH. It was to be strength against strength. Arriving in the area of Buzhanka on 3 February, LAH was launched immediately at the enemy-held neck of land separating the relief force from the encircled troops, specifically at the village of Shenderovka. In part because of gross miscalculation on the part of the German High Command (OKH), which caused the main attack to be misdirected for several days, and in part because four tired Panzer Divisions were simply not strong enough to break a line held in depth by two Tank and one Guards Tank Army, the attack failed. After twelve days of bitter Winter fighting the relief forces had penetrated no more than halfway through the 20 miles that separated them from the encircled divisions.