|Waffen SS Part I
Birth of the Elite: A Brief Summary of the Development of the Waffen SS
by Major James T. McGhee
On September 1, 1939, 1.8 million German troops invaded Poland, initiating the
beginning of World War II in Europe. Two German Army Groups consisting of 35
standard infantry divisions, four motorized infantry divisions, five panzer
divisions, four light infantry divisions, and three mountain divisions were
formed to attack Poland from three fronts. In addition to the traditional
Army divisions, there were three obscure military formations listed as part of
the Wehrmacht order of battle. They were the SS Verfugungstruppe Regiments Deutschland,
Germania, and the Leibstandarte "Adolf Hitler" . These
formations, together not equaling an entire division, would receive their
baptism of fire in Poland, overcome the harsh criticism of the German Army
leadership, and emerge as an organization that would eventually grow into the
"fourth branch of the Wehrmacht," the Waffen SS.
The SS formations were unique in that the Reich leadership did not originally
consider them front line combat formations. As early as 1936, the Reichsfuhrer
SS, Heinrich Himmler described the mission of the SS, "The task of the SS is to
guarantee the security of Germany from the interior, just as the Wehrmacht
guarantees the safety of the honor, the greatness, and the peace of the Reich
from the exterior." However, while Adolf Hitler described the Waffen SS as
first and foremost, "an elite police, capable of crushing any adversary," he
further recognized that his political army had to prove itself in combat in
order to maintain its prestige.
The contributions of the SS Regiments during the Polish Campaign were minimal
compared to those of the Army, but not inconsequential. Assigned to larger army
groups and serving under the command of the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW),
the SS Regiments were assigned some difficult missions resulting in moderate
casualties. However, their accomplishments did not immediately earn them
respect from Army leadership. Army commanders such as General Walther von
Brauchitsch, the Wehrmacht Commander in Chief, commented that the Leibstandarte
for example was, "untrained for battle and had no knowledge of strategy and had
to pay the price for being policemen dressed up in army uniforms."
Despite the negative views of the generals of the OKW, Hitler authorized an
expansion of the Waffen SS resulting in the establishment of three divisions by
the end of November 1939, including the Verfugungsdivision, Totenkopfdivision,
Polizeidivision , and an expanded Leibstandarte into a motorized rifle
regiment. By the time the 1940 campaign began, the Waffen SS strength had
increased to 125,000 men under arms.
From the beginning, these formations were different compared to their Wehrmacht
brethren. The Waffen SS formations were formed as elite organizations whose
members saw themselves as more physically fit, motivated, and in general,
better than their army counterparts. SS Grenadier Friedrich-Karl Wacker
remembers this feeling of superiority, "Our confidence was overwhelming. We had
an arrogant pride in our selves, an immense esprit de corps. I always felt
better than any Wehrmacht soldier. I wasn't, of course, but I felt that I
For many of the volunteers joining the Waffen SS, just being selected justified
their elite status. Every young man who was accepted into the Waffen-SS,
according to Heinze Kohne, a grenadier with the SS Leibstandarte ,
"was very proud of this achievement. In my muster group were some 500 young men
who were prepared to volunteer for this elite force, but only 28 were of a
suitable caliber. Merely being accepted was already a great honor, because the
selection procedure was so rigorous."
The elite esprit de corps so commonly found in the Waffen SS compared to other
Wehrmacht units was as much a product of leadership as selection. The
relationship between officers and enlisted men in the Waffen SS differed
greatly from the class separation found within the German Army. In the
Wehrmacht, less than two percent of the officers were of ‘peasant stock',
whereas 90% of the Waffen SS commanders had been brought up on the land.
Waffen SS officers deliberately fostered a close relationship between
themselves and their men. Expected to rise from the ranks, Waffen SS officers
earned the respect and loyalty of their men by leading from the front and never
asking them to do anything that they would not do themselves. For many, this
bond between brothers in arms was the most memorable aspect of serving as part
of the Waffen SS. "My most enduring memory of the Waffen-SS", according to SS
Veteran Gerd Rommel, "was the spirit with which we were all filled. We were all
just around 18 years old, and our officers just 20 to 30 years old. Our
Divisional commander, SS-Brigadefuhrer Heinz Harmel was then just 38 years old.
The troops never addressed him as ‘Herr General', just as ‘Brigadefuhrer'. It
was this spirit of equality which made us all feel so proud."
The professional quality of many prewar Waffen SS officers was, according to
author George Stein, "not on a par with that of their Army colleagues."
However, many of the most senior officers had served with great distinction
during World War I. Influential men such as Paul Hausser and Felix Steiner both
served in the highly mobile, super-fit, and well-armed Stosstruppen (shock
troops) during the First World War. Many of the same tactics utilized by these
formations were therefore adopted as part of a rigorous SS training program
that emphasized sport, physical fitness, and above all, field craft. Author
Rupert Bulter goes further in acknowledging that, "Under the influence of
Hausser's cadet schools the Waffen-SS was to develop the most efficient of all
the military training systems of the Second World War."
The leadership within the Waffen SS used the time between the end of
hostilities in Poland and the beginning of the war in the West to train new
recruits within its expanded ranks and acquire the arms and machinery necessary
to equip "elite" motorized forces. Acquiring the necessary equipment proved to
be a formidable challenge for Waffen SS organizations during this time period.
The Waffen SS units were supported by a Wehrmacht supply system that routinely
denied Waffen SS units significant quantities of weapons and equipment.
Aggressive leadership however, by such SS officers as Theodore Eicke, Commander
of the SS Totenkopf Division, managed to overcome many of the
shortfalls. Eicke's scrounging ability earned him a "reputation as the most
original, resourceful – and successful – stealer of weapons, supplies, and
equipment in the SS." A large percentage of the weapons and equipment
provided to the SS Totenkopf and the SS Polizei Divisions for
example were of Czech manufacture. But the most significant shortage was in the
acquisition of heavy artillery guns to outfit the division artillery units.
Equipment shortfalls plagued the Waffen SS units throughout the winter as they
conducted training for the upcoming campaign in the West. It was not until
April 1940 that the SS Totenkopf received its full allocation of heavy
field artillery and prime movers along with German equipment to replace that of
Czech manufacture. The SS Polizei was forced to make due with its
Czech manufactured equipment and horse drawn artillery. In terms of priority of
arms and equipment, the Waffen SS remained secondary to other Army units.
Operation Fall Gelb, the invasion of France and the Low Countries
began on 10 May 1940. Three Army Groups consisting of 136 divisions were
deployed for this offensive. At a time when only seven of the 157 divisions in
the German Army were motorized, the OKW had little choice but to deploy the
fully motorized Waffen SS divisions. The SS Leibstandarte and the SS
Verfugungsdivision were both deployed as part Army Group B whose
mission was to break through Dutch defenses and occupy Holland. Although the SS
Totenkopf and the Polizei Divisions were initially deployed
as part of the reserve, both were eventually engaged in the battles for France.
The 1940 campaign marked the first time that SS units fought under the command
of their own officers.
The German blitzkrieg through May and June 1940 was an astounding
success. The new panzer divisions moved rapidly through the countryside
splitting the allied armies in two. The motorized SS units, able to keep up
with the panzer divisions, were quickly ordered to engage the enemy at critical
points such as defending against the British counter attack near Arras.
Throughout the campaign through the Low Countries and France the Waffen SS
Divisions displayed a reckless aggressiveness, which resulted in great success
along with a high casualty rate, especially among officers. The courage and
success of these formations however was overshadowed by the actions of the SS
Leibstandarte at Wormhoudt and the SS Totenkopf at Le Paradis
where members of these SS formations executed allied prisoners of war. The
Western Campaign of 1940 demonstrated the hallmarks of Waffen SS behavior;
reckless aggressiveness in the assault, fanatical defense against enemy
attacks, and a reputation for committing savage atrocities.
In comparison with the Wehrmacht units, the presence of the fledgling Waffen SS
units had a very limited impact on the overall success of the either the Polish
or the Western Campaigns. The differences however, between regular German Army
units and Waffen SS units in regards to leadership, training, personnel,
morale, and equipment was to become of notable significance throughout the
further expansion and development of the Waffen SS formations during the Second
The Rise and Fall of the Elite in the East
On June 22, 1941, exactly one year after the French surrender in 1940, Hitler
ordered the commencement of "Operation Barbarossa", the invasion of the Soviet
Union. For this enormous undertaking against "Jewish Bolshevism", Hitler and
his Nazi ideology's archenemy, the German high command concentrated 129
divisions comprised of over three million soldiers. They were divided into
three Army Groups; North, Center, and South. The now expanded Waffen SS
organizations, consisting of only five divisions and just over 160,000 men,
were divided among the different army groups. Placed under the command of the Wehrmacht
, these units were once again considered as secondary by many army commanders.
However, by the end of November 1941, the Waffen SS had suffered 411 officers
and 8055 men killed and 829 officers and 27, 122 men wounded or missing.
Their steadfastness in battle now demanded respect from their critics and had
established their growing reputation as elite combat formations.
For the Waffen SS, the year between the surrender of France and the attack to
the East saw a major reorganization and expansion. Five divisions were
established to include the SS Leibstandarte, SS Das Reich, SS
Totenkopf, SS Polizeidivision, and SS Wiking. With
the expansion came the requirement for more trained personnel and equipment.
Units such as the Leibstandarte and Das Reich received
additional operational experience during operations in the Balkans and Greece,
while other units such as the Totenkopfdivision used its time wisely
to train for the challenges of fighting in Russia. According to Sydnor, "The
main emphasis in the new training was on mobile warfare over much broader and
more open expanses of territory. Special drills included assaulting fortified
positions, fighting in villages and heavily wooded areas, and the practice in
developing camouflage techniques for long distance moves through open
The colossal war in the East is often divided by scholars into three distinct
phases. The first phase consists of the initial German blitzkrieg in
the summer of 1941 that ended with the assault on Moscow, the subsequent Soviet
winter counteroffensives, and the German defensive operations. During this
period, the Waffen SS divisions continued to serve as separate divisions under
the command of different Army Groups. The Totenkopfdivision attacked
as part of Army Group North, Das Reich served as part of Army Group Center, the
Leibstandarte and the Wiking divisions were part of the Army
Group South, while the Polezeidivision was kept in reserve.
As part of Army Group North, the Totenkopfdivision fought desperate
engagements south of Leningrad. Trapped in the Demyansk Pocket from January –
October 1942, the Totenkopfdivision was, "the nucleus of a mixed force
of surrounded army and waffen SS formations that hung onto the Valdai Hills,
prevented a major Russian breakthrough, and stabilized the weakened right flank
of Army Group North." When they pulled out in October 1942 they had the
combat strength of a battalion.
The Das Reich Division began the war in the East driving with Army
Group Center towards Moscow. During the bitter fighting outside of Moscow
against the Soviet counteroffensive, the Das Reich was virtually
destroyed. During a meeting between a regimental commander of Das Reich
and General Model, Model asked, "What is your regimental strength at the
moment?" The commander replied, "‘General, my entire regiment is paraded
outside.' There in the snow stood thirty-five men. They were the remnant of a
regiment which had gone into battle more than two thousand strong."
The Leibstandarte and the Wiking divisions faired little
better as part of Army Group South. The net result of the first year of
fighting in Russia was two fold. First, the heavy casualties among veterans
meant that replacements had to be found. Often, these replacements who,
according to Theodore Eicke were, "Markedly inferior soldiers to those whose
places they filled". This had dramatic effects on the recruiting efforts
within the Waffen SS organization. A shortage of manpower within the Reich
forced the Waffen SS to relax the once stringent selection process and recruit
from volksdeutsche , people of German heritage living within the
Greater Reich, and eventually from non-Germanic races.
A second outcome of these difficult battles of attrition was the added prestige
and confidence that senior Army officers such as General Manstein bestowed upon
the Waffen SS for their excellent performance in combat. For example, General
Eberhard von Mackensen, commander of the IIIrd panzer Corps, wrote of the Leibstandarte,
"Every division wishes it had the Leibstandarte as its neighbor. They are a
genuine elite formation that I am happy and proud to have under my
command." The Waffen SS divisions had indeed achieved the goals set by
their Fuhrer. They had proven themselves in combat and gained the prestige and
confidence of the German Army. In view of this, the Leibstandarte, the Totenkopfdivision,
Wiking and the Das Reich were reorganized into panzer
grenadier divisions, complete with tank battalions. Hitler also authorized the
creation of more SS divisions and the SS Panzer Corps. As the tide began to
turn against Hitler, with the fall of Stalingrad and the loss of North Africa,
he placed a greater demand upon the men of the SS who where, "an extraordinary
body of men, devoted to an idea, loyal unto death."
In March 1943 the 1st SS Panzer Corps did not let their Fuhrer down.
Spearheading an operation to recapture the city of Kharkov, the SS divisions, Leibstandarte,
Totenkopf and Das Reich, achieved one of the most spectacular
victories of the war by recapturing this key city and bringing the Soviet
offensive to a halt. With his faith in his SS formations now vindicated, Hitler
ensured that the SS divisions to include the newly forming SS Hohenstauffen,
Frundesberg, and Hitlerjugend divisions no longer had to
fight the German Army for resources and received a priority of both men and
materials to include the recently developed heavy tanks and the latest
The second half of 1943 would not go as well for the elite SS divisions.
Despite the Stalingrad victory, the Soviets in the summer of 1943 went on the
strategic defensive in anticipation of a German attack against the Kursk
Salient. The SS divisions were again asked to spearhead another offensive. It
was hoped by the senior German leadership that a summer offensive would break
the Soviet's offensive capabilities and provide the Furher with a much needed
victory in the face of defeats in Africa and Sicily. The results of "Operation
Citadel" were a disaster for the Wehrmacht and the SS divisions taking part.
Between the 5th and the 18th of July, the divisions of the SS Panzer Corps, Leibstandarte,
Das Reich, and Totenkopf made substantial gains in terms of
the distance of their advance but in turn lost over 50% of their personnel and
equipment included their many of their tanks at the battle of Prokharovka.
Hitler's last chance to win a limited strategic victory in 1943 was lost.
With the German defeat at Kursk, the Soviets gained the strategic initiative
for good. The subsequent Soviet offensive during the summer of 1943 proved
devastating for the Wehrmacht . During the retreat, the SS formations
became the "fire brigades" in the East. As motorized divisions, they were
routinely rushed to the critical points on the front to seal a breach in the
German lines or slow down the Soviet onslaught long enough for other formations
to escape. They had in the words of General Wohler, commander of the 8th Army,
"stood like a rock in the Army, while the enemy broke through in neighboring
"The Waffen SS during the early stages of the war in Russia was fit, cocky and
supremely confident of attaining ultimate victory." By the end of 1943, the
SS formations were a shadow of their former strength and confidence. By 10
December 1943 for example, "the battalions of the Das Reich had almost been
bled to death. The SS soldiers had fought from Kharkov in the spring, through
the summer offensive at Kursk and into the fighting retreat of autumn and early
winter. They had been in action, almost without pause or let up, committed to
unceasing, murderous battle for nearly ten months." The elite volunteers,
the veterans who survived these trying times were few. Replacements, including
a large number of draftees, continued to fill the ranks but there level of
training and experience was negligible.
However, on paper the Waffen SS was more robust than ever, possessing seven of
the thirty panzer divisions and six of the seventeen panzer grenadier divisions
in the Wehrmacht . The total personnel strength of the Waffen SS had
doubled since the beginning of the year and the total number of SS divisions
had risen to thirty-eight.
Six of the elite SS panzer divisions were transferred to France in 1944 in
order to receive replacements, new equipment, and prepare for the Allied
invasion of France. (See part 3) As these divisions fought the Allies through
Normandy, Holland and Belgium, the other divisions such as the Totenkopf
and Wiking Divisions remained in the East fighting a brutal war of
attrition with an enemy that had grown vastly superior in terms of both
manpower and equipment.
Again, on 22 June, this time in 1944, it was the Soviets who went on the
offensive launching "Operation Bagration". This surprise offensive completely
destroyed Army Group Center and erased 350,000 men and 28 German divisions from
the Wermacht order of battle. It was through this inferno and the
"great retreat" which followed that the SS divisions that remained on the
Eastern Front waged their idealistic war to slow the Soviet jugernaught.
It wasn't until the early months of 1945 that the SS formations would finally
cease to exist as combat formations. The last battles of the elite SS divisions
occurred not in the Fatherland but on the plains of Hungary. The final
offensives on the Eastern Front conducted by the SS divisions occurred during
operations to relieve the siege of Budapest and protect the Reich's last fuel
reserves, the Hungarian oil fields. The reconstituted "elite" SS divisions,
consisting primarily of draftees combined with untrained and inexperienced
former Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine personnel, were completely
destroyed and ceased to exist as effective combat formations. The survivors
were captured by the Soviets or fought their way through vengeful partisan
groups to reach American lines in order to surrender. A description of the Totenkopfdivision's
performance provides a brief conclusion for those individuals serving in the
Waffen SS on the Eastern Front:
"The SS man's ability to remain calm in the face of disaster, his willingness
to fight on against impossible odds, his lust for killing Russians, and most
important, his readiness to perish rather than retreat and appear weaker than
his racial enemy were all qualities that proved crucial throughout the war in
retrieving hopeless situations; they became hallmarks of the Totenkopfdivisions's
performance wherever it fought."
The war in the East was very different from that in the West. The Soviet
soldiers displayed comparable suicidal aggressiveness, fanatical defense and
courage as the soldiers of the Waffen SS. Against this enemy, the Waffen SS
formations earned their legendary reputation. Through it all, the Waffen SS
divisions maintained an extremely high level of esprit de corps ,
morale, and a deep trust in their officers. This combined with the most
advanced weapons of warfare available made the Waffen SS formations formidable
Attrition in the West
On June 6 1944, Allied forces began 'Operation Overlord', the invasion of
France, and opened the long awaited second front against Germany in Western
Europe. Facing the overwhelming military might and the complete air superiority
of the Allies, Hitler once again relied on his trusted and powerful Waffen SS
divisions to defeat the Allied armies, first in the brutal fighting in
Normandy, and then in the dense forests of the Ardennes. During these decisive
battles, the soldiers of the Waffen SS repeatedly demonstrated their elite esprit
de corps and aggressive fighting spirit, but in the end were unable to
win the victories Hitler desired.
Hitler directed that six Waffen SS panzer divisions be sent to France to thwart
the expected Allied invasion against his Atlantic Wall. These included the Leibstandarte,
Das Reich, Hitlerjungend, Hohenstauffen, Frundesberg,
and Gotz von Berlichingen divisions. In terms of equipment, personnel
strength, and veteran leadership, they were among the most powerful divisions
in the German army at the time and constituted 50% of the panzer formations in
France. They were a far more formidable force with a much greater
responsibility placed on them than their earlier battles in France in 1940.
However, units such as the Leibstandarte and Das Reich were
struggling to rebuild their shattered divisions, which had been decimated in
1943 during difficult fighting on the Eastern Front. The Leibstandarte
for example was critically short of NCOs and officers. In June 1944, most
replacements had been with the division for only a few weeks and were
relatively untrained. Much of their new equipment also had only recently
arrived, allowing the soldiers very little time to familiarize themselves with
their equipment much less become proficient with its use.
For the Waffen SS formations, the days of having to compete with the Wehrmacht
for the latest equipment were gone. A Fuhrer order dated 3 May ensured the
requisition of weapons for his favored Leibstandarte division. The
equipment being sent to the elite Waffen SS panzer divisions was the best
available. The German soldier was well equipped with excellent panzers such as
the much feared Tiger and Panther tanks. He also possessed what may be
considered the best machine gun produced at the time, the MG42. What the
grenadiers of the Waffen SS lacked was protection against the Allied air forces
and a method to counter the overwhelming Allied advantages in artillery and
naval gunfire support.
The training proficiency of the SS grenadiers in Normandy varied within each
division. The Leibstandarte and Das Reich divisions again
needed more time to train new replacements. The Hitlerjugend along
with the Frundesberg and Hohenstauffen divisions were newer
formations, which had received more time to train together but lacked the
combat experience of the older SS divisions. All of the Waffen SS divisions
would have to rely heavily on their battle-hardened veteran NCOs, many of whom
had been fighting since 1939. "We knew that we were quick, agile, and
confident, remarked a grenadier of the Hitlerjugend . We trusted our
officers and NCOs who had been hardened in battle. We had known them since the
beginning of the training. During combat training with live ammunition we had
enjoyed seeing them in the mud together with us, with steel helmet and sub
machine-gun." Among these veterans, such as, Kurt 'Panzer' Meyer, Michael
Wittmann, and Josef Peiper, the old arrogance and recklessness remained. These
charismatic leaders instilled in the new replacements and young volunteers the
same confidence representative of a soldier of the Waffen SS.
The bitter fighting in Normandy was very different for the Waffen SS divisions
compared to what many had experienced on the Eastern Front. They faced many new
challenges such as the complete and overwhelming air superiority of the Allies.
Formations were forced to move as much as possible during the hours of darkness
in order to avoid constant attack from Allied fighter-bombers. A panzer
commander remembers the Allied air attacks, "Like eagles, they fell out of the
sky, dropped their loads of bombs, pulled up, and climbed away again. They came
at us like a swarm of hostile hornets and covered us with a hail of
medium-heavy bombs." The air attacks caused many delays, and frustrating
losses in both men and equipment. Unable to move quickly and maintain unit
cohesion, the SS divisions were forced to counterattack the Allies before they
could properly consolidate all of their combat forces resulting in piecemeal
attacks and heavy casualties among the SS formations.
The bitter battles that took place in the Normandy countryside, much of which
was crisscrossed with hedges, fields, and sunken roads, forced fighting to
occur over short distances with limited visibility, reducing the German
advantages in combined infantry and armor maneuver warfare. Large-scale
combined arms maneuver operations were replaced by small unit actions of
infantry and individual panzers.
Throughout these bitter battles, Waffen SS formations were called upon to
spearhead offensive operations and to fanatically defend against Allied
offensives. The Waffen SS divisions were always the lead elements during the
critical battles in Normandy such as those around the city of Caen, the German
counterattack towards Avranches to close the Allied breakout of "Operation
Cobra" and the struggle to hold open the Falaise Gap.
The Waffen SS divisions were once again nearly bled white during these terrible
battles. They were unable to stop the advancing tide of the Allies overwhelming
personnel and materiel superiority. What they did accomplish was to
significantly delay the Allied advance. It is doubtful that the German defenses
in France would have held as long as they did without the courage,
determination, and overall combat power of the Waffen SS divisions. General
Eisenhower remarked that, "while the SS elements as usual fought to
annihilation, the ordinary German infantry gave themselves up in
ever-increasing numbers." This reckless fanaticism in the face of defeat
was exactly what Hitler needed from the troops who were to execute his planned
counter offensive in the West.
Code-named operation 'Wacht am Rhine', the planned offensive was for
three German Armies to conduct a surprise offensive through the rugged, heavily
forested Ardennes region. The SS Leibstandarte, Das Reich, Hitlerjugend
and Hohenstauffen divisions were organized into the 6th SS Panzer Army
in order to spearhead this operation. This formation, commanded by SS veteran Obergrouppenfuhrer
Sepp Dietrich, was the most powerful German Army in the West.
The reconstitution of the Waffen SS formations following their near complete
annihilation in Normandy was nothing short of a miracle. The loss of both men
and materiel had been enormous. By September for example, the combat strength
of the Hitlerjugend consisted of only 600 men and no tanks.
Replacements were sent to bring the divisions back up to strength but they
consisted mostly of untrained naval and Luftwaffe personnel and there
was no time to train them as true elites. To illustrate, the Das Reich
pulled out of the line in late October, received new replacements and by 11
November was on the move to take part in 'Wacht am Rhein'. 
The SS divisions had received new replacements of both men and weapons
including tanks and guns but were severely lacking in motor transportation and
most importantly fuel. The Ardennes offensive began successfully, with the
German formations achieving complete surprise. The Waffen SS divisions made
good progress initially but were unable to achieve a breakthrough. They were
soon stalled by the difficult terrain, massed Allied artillery, and rear guard
elements left behind to defend key road junctions. Unable to mass their forces
and move forward, the SS formations were soon caught in long bottlenecks along
the narrow Ardennes roads. Supply shortages combined with the deadly appearance
of Allied airpower destroyed any possible chance of success for the German
In describing the Ardennes offensive, one grenadier remarked that, "Three years
ago we would probably have stormed forward during the night in order not to
allow the enemy any time to recover. But now after nearly five years of savage
fighting things move much more slowly . . . The men are all right but tanks and
guns need fuel and shells and it does not matter how much fighting spirit there
is, without those two things nothing much can be achieved."
Wacht am Rhein was a failure. The 6th Panzer Army was unable to meet
any of its rather optimistic objectives. The achievements of the Wehrmacht's
5th Panzer Army were greater. It was the 2nd Panzer Division, not the Waffen SS
that penetrated furthest into the Allied defenses. Hitler's elite, Sepp
Dietrich and his Waffen SS divisions had failed him, proving that in 1945 a
triumph of the will was not possible against the superior military might of the
Show Footnotes and
. Robert Kennedy, Department of the Army Pamphlet, No. 20-255, The German
Campaign in Poland (1939), (Washington D.C., U.S. Government Printing
Office, April 1956), p. 42.
. George H. Stein, Hitler's Elite Guard at War: The Waffen SS, 1939-1945,
(London: Cornell University Press, 1966), p. 15.
. Stein, 17.
. Rupert Butler, SS-Leibstandarte: The History of the First SS Division
1933-45, (St. Paul: MBI Publishing Company, 2001), 51.
. Stein, 56.
. Gordon Williamson, Loyalty is My Honor: Personal accounts from the
Waffen-SS, (London: Brown Packaging Books Ltd., 1999), 46.
. Williamson, 21.
. Butler, 29.
. Williamson, 49.
. Stein, 13.
. Williamson, 31.
. Butler, 26.
. Charles W. Sydnor Jr., Soldiers of Destruction: The Death's Head
Division, 1933-1945, (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1990),
. Sydnor, 84.
. Sydnor, 86.
. Stein, 60.
. Stein, 119.
. Williamson, 54.
. Sydnor, 142.
. Sydnor, 211.
. James Lucas, Das Reich: The Military Role of the Waffen SS ,
(London: Arms and Arnoury, 1991; reprint London: Cassell and Co., 2001), 79.
. Sydnor, 203.
. Stein, 135.
. Stein, 199.
. Stein, 207.
. Sydnor, 290.
. Stein, 216.
. Williamson, 54.
. Lucas, 120.
. Stein, 210, 211.
. Sydnor, 303.
. Sydnor, 196.
. Michael Reynolds, Steel Inferno: 1st SS Panzer Corps in Normandy
, (New York: Dell Publishing, 1997), 28.
. Reynolds, 28.
. Reynolds, 26.
. Will Fey, Armor Battles of the Waffen SS: 1943-45 , (Winnipeg:
J.J. Fedorowicz Publishing Inc., 1990), 106.
. Stein, 225.
. Stein, 229.
. Stein, 226.
. Lucas, 153.
. Lucas, 160.
Copyright © 2005 Major James T. McGhee
Written by James T. McGhee. If you have questions or comments on this
article, please contact James T. McGhee at:
About the author:
Major James T. McGhee is a native of Dexter, Missouri, and now serves in the
active Army as an Operations Officer assigned to the 101st Sustainment Brigade,
Ft. Campbell, KY. He studied history at Southeast Missouri State University, is
a graduate of the Army Command and General Staff College, and holds a Maters
Degree in Military Studies from American Military University. In his spare
time, Todd enjoys researching and writing military history with emphasis on
World War II on the Eastern Front.
Published online: 12/03/2005.
* Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily represent
those of MHO.