THE 78TH STURM OR ASSAULT DIVISION

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At the end of December 1941, the 78th Division, which had been a conventional infantry formation, was given a new description and a new role. From that date on it became the 78th Sturm Division, and was given a higher than normal establishment of weapons in order to increase the firepower of its three constituent infantry regiments, the 14th, 195th and 215th. Each had battalions made up of three infantry companies, a standard heavy weapons company plus another one equipped with infantry guns, a pioneer company, a troop of cavalry and a signals platoon.

During March and April 1943, there was an increase in strength, and the artillery establishment of each regiment was then made up of an HQ battery, three battalions of light field howitzers and a battalion of heavy field howitzers. The anti-tank battalion had two companies, each armed with heavy PAK on self-propelled (SP) artillery mountings. The heavy mortar battalion was motorized, and was made up of three companies, each fielding twelve mortars.

The SP battalion had an HQ, an HQ platoon and three SP batteries, each of ten guns. The flak battalion was composed of three batteries, and had a strength in guns of 18 light and 8 heavy 88-mm pieces.

The total of weapons in the divisional arsenal was: 616 light machine guns, 76 heavy machine guns, 94 medium mortars, 40 heavy mortars, 12 light flame-throwers, 61 heavy PAK guns, 14 light infantry guns, 6 heavy infantry guns and 24 projectors.

The assault division was created out of the former infantry division within the space of seven weeks, and in February 1943, while still incompletely raised, was put back into action to seal a gap that had been torn in the German front. Then, in June, it took part in the Kursk Offensive (Operation CITADEL) as part of Model’s 9th Army, and when Army Group Centre was destroyed in the summer of 1944, the 78th was among the formations lost in that debacle. The division’s losses in bayonet strength, and therefore firepower, were partly compensated for by a higher distribution of fast-firing automatic weapons, by the replacement of the 81 mm mortars by those of 12-cm calibre, and by the issue of handheld rocket launchers, such as the Panzerfaust. The anti-tank unit was also equipped with the high-velocity 7.62-cm PAK, and the SP units were grouped into a brigade to give them greater flexibility.

The westwards retreat of the German Army from the middle of 1944 took the 78th into Galicia and then into Moravia, where, at the war’s end, its remaining units passed into captivity.

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The 78. Infanterie-Division was formed on 26 August 1939 as part of the 2nd wave of division formations in Wehrkreis V (Stuttgart); the cadre came from Artillerie-Kommandeur 5 in Ulm.

It was re-named the 78. Sturm- (Assault) Division on 1 January 1943. Apparently, the distinguishing characteristics of this assault unit were that it had additional Flak, Assault Gun, and mortar battalions not found in standard infantry divisions.

In July 1944, the division was destroyed near Minsk. A division of the 29th wave that was forming was redesignated as the 78th and titled as an assault division on 27 July 1944 by Heinrich Himmler. However, the official orders of battle list the division at that time as the 78. Grenadier-Division. On 9 October 1944, the division was redesignated the 78. Volksgrenadier-Division, and then as the 78. Volks-Sturm-Division on 1 January 1945.

The division surrendered to the Russians at Deutsch-Brod in 1945.

In broad terms, the division was located in these areas during the war:

Sep 1939 – April 1941: Germany and France
May 1941: Poland
June 1941 – June 1944: With Army Group Center in Russia
Aug 1944 – Jan 1945: Galicia
Feb 1945 – Mar 1945: Upper Silesia
April 1945: Moravia
May 1945: Bohemia

78. Sturm-Division
Standort: 01.01.1943 Stuttgart Ersatzgestellung: 01.01.1943 Gren.Ers.Btl.195 Tübingen
Gliederung der 78. Sturm-Division: Stand 01.02.1943
Sturm-Reg.14 I.Btl., II./AR 178
Sturm-Reg.195 I.Btl., III./AR 178
Sturm-Reg.215 I.Btl., I./AR 178
Art.Reg.178 Stg.Abt.189, Flak.Abt.178, Nebel-Werfer-Abt.178
Div.Einh.178 Feld.Ers.Btl.178, Pz.Jg.Abt.178, Aufkl.Abt.178, Pi.Btl.178, Nachr.Abt.178, Inf.Div.Nachschubführer 178
Nachtrag:
Gliederung der 78. Sturm-Division: Stand 01.06.1943
Sturm-Reg.14 I.,II.Btl.
Sturm-Reg.195 I.,II.Btl.
Sturm-Reg.215 I.,II.Btl.
Stg.Abt.189
Heeres-Flak.Abt.293
Art.Reg.178 I.-IV.Abt.
Div.Einh.178 Feld.Ers.Btl.178, Pz.Jg.Abt.178, Aufkl.Abt.178, Pi.Btl.178, Nachr.Abt.178, Inf.Div.Nachschubführer 178
Nachtrag:
ab 01.04.1944 mit Div.Sturm-Btl.78 ,im Juli 1944 bei Minsk vernichtet, Wiederaufstellung als 78.GD

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