The Second Battle of Kharkov

Gen. Maj. Hans Valentin Hube Divisional HQ

12–28 May 1942

The Second Battle of Kharkov was one of the costliest battles for Soviet forces during the war, with almost 300,000 casualties suffered. A Soviet army group, cut off inside the Barvenkovo pocket, was exterminated from all sides by German firepower.

In early 1942, after the German defeat at Moscow, the Soviet High Command pressured Marshal Semyon Timoshenko, commander of the South-Western Front, to recapture Kharkov, which had fallen to the German Sixth Army on 24 October 1941. At the start of the war, Kharkov was the fourth-largest city in the Soviet Union, with a population of 833,000. It was also the industrial centre of the Ukraine and an important rail transportation hub.

On 1 January 1942, Timoshenko had launched an offensive with four armies to conduct a double envelopment of Kharkov from the north and south. Over several weeks of brutal fighting, this had managed to tear a great hole in Army Group South’s front. For the next two months, Army Group South was forced to fight a desperate battle to contain the Soviet breakthrough. Following reinforcement, Timoshenko’s offensive made further progress and created the Barvenkovo salient. However, by mid-February, it was clear that Timoshenko’s forces were nearly spent and Army Group South was finally able to establish a very thin defence around the Barvenkovo salient. After a final, unsuccessful Soviet push, less intense fighting continued around the salient throughout March and April 1942, before the spring thaw imposed an operational pause upon both sides. When the weather cleared, both the Red Army and the Wehrmacht intended to launch a major offensive that would decide the issue at Kharkov.

Soviet offensive planning for May 1942 was based on the three armies from South-Western Front conducting a dual pincer attack, from the Barvenkovo salient and from the Staryi Saltov bridgehead, bludgeoning their way through the German defences towards Kharkov. Timoshenko optimistically hoped to complete the encirclement of Kharkov and the German Sixth Army within 15 days of the beginning of the offensive. However, Stalin’s impatience for action resulted in another hastily planned attack with inadequately trained and supplied forces, and the plan lacked unity of command.

One of the operational prerequisites in the German planning for May 1942 was the destruction of Timoshenko’s armies in the Barvenkovo salient. This was known as Operation Fridericus, and comprised a classic pincer attack against the base of the Barvenkovo salient, using assault groups from Sixth Army and Army Group von Kleist. However, Army Group South’s strained logistical situation made planning for a large-scale offensive difficult. Operation Fridericus would also have to share resources with Operation Trappenjagd in the Kerch Peninsula in the Crimea. Yet Army Group South’s commander Field Marshal Fedor von Bock was in no rush: he would only attack when he had the best prospects for victory.

The Soviet offensive, one of the largest Soviet set-piece offensives of the war to date, was launched on 12 May 1942 with a dual pincer movement from the Volchansk and Barvenkovo salients. The Soviets achieved a successful breakthrough, and had advanced 10km by the end of the first day. The Soviet 28th Army captured Peremoga and encircled Group Grüner in Ternovaya on the 13th, but was shattered two days later by a counter-attack from the German 3rd Panzer Division. The Soviet 21st Army encircled Murom, and heavy fighting also took place around Efremovka.

However, by 14 May the Luftwaffe’s IV Air Corps had gained air superiority over the Kharkov sector, and aviation support had been drafted in from the Crimea. The Soviet offensive began to grind to a halt in the face of withering close-air support attacks, while Luftwaffe air supply missions helped hard-pressed German units to hold out.

The German counter-offensive, Operation Fridericus, was launched at 5.00am on 17 May. A well-planned artillery preparation was followed by devastating Luftwaffe raids and then III Army Corps’ ground attack, which tore a hole in the Soviet 9th Army’s front. The 3rd Panzer Division fought its way through to Ternovaya to relieve Group Grüner on the opening day, and the following day von Kleist’s Panzers reached the southern part of Izyum. On 19 May, the Soviet 21st Army at Murom was forced to retreat by Kampfgruppe Gollwitzer’s advance. As the Soviets were forced back, the Luftwaffe targeted the bridges over the Donets River to hamper retreating Soviet forces.

On 19 May, Timoshenko regrouped his forces into Army Group Kostenko inside the Barvenkovo salient. The following day, he halted Sixth Army’s northern offensive, realizing that his forces within the Barvenkovo salient were in dire peril as the German Sixth Army reoriented itself to defeat the pocket. By 22 May, von Kleist’s Panzers had linked up with LI Army Corps, cutting off Army Group Kostenko. Over the following days, the 3rd and 23rd Panzer Divisions attacked the northern side of the Soviet Barvenkovo pocket, and were joined on the 24th by German VIII Army Corps and Romanian VI Corps. The remnants of Army Group Kostenko, desperately attempting to fight their way out, were now pulverized by German artillery and air attacks. By 28 May, organized resistance within the pocket ended, prompting Timoshenko to order all other forces in the South-Western and Southern Fronts to shift to the defence. Operation Fridericus had been a complete success.

Timoshenko’s South-Western Front had suffered a catastrophic defeat at Kharkov. All told, 16 rifle divisions, six cavalry divisions and four tank brigades were annihilated. Another dozen divisions were badly mauled and needed to be pulled out of the line for rebuilding. Of the 765,000 Soviet troops committed to the May 1942 operation, a total of 277,190 became casualties – a 36 per cent loss rate. The Germans claim to have captured 239,000 prisoners. Perhaps the most shocking thing about the Kharkov debacle was the loss of vital command cadre. In contrast to other encircled Soviet armies in 1941–42, the collapse of the Barvenkovo pocket was so rapid that virtually no senior commanders escaped.

Axis personnel losses during the Kharkov Campaign were nearly 30,000, including at least 5,853 dead and 2,912 missing. Friedrich Paulus’ Sixth Army suffered 45 per cent of the total casualties.

16. Panzer-Division: Kharkov 1942

Commanders: Gen. Maj. Hans Valentin Hube (1. VI. 1940-14. IX. 1942), Gen. Maj. Günther Angern (15. IX. 1942-2.11.1943), Oösffi. Burkhart Müller-Hildebrand (3-28.11.1943, m. d. F. b.), Oberst (Gen. Maj.) Rudolf Sieckenius(5. lll.-31. X. 1943), Oberst (Gen. Maj.) Hans Ulrich Back (1. XI. 1943-14. VIII. 1944), Oberst (Gen. Maj.) Dietrich von Müller (15. VIII. 1944-18. IV. 1945), Oberst Kurt Treuhaupt (19. IV.-V. 1945).

16. Pz. Div. was raised on 1 November 1940 from 16. lnf. Div.(mot.). It was given Pz. Rgt. 2, drawn from 1. Pz. Div. The general staff of its 16. Schützen-Brigade was disbanded in November 1942.

In December 1940, the division set off for Rumania. Codenamed Lehrstab-R II, it was subordinated to the German military mission at Bucharest and trained the Rumanian army. It was held in reserve (as part of L. A. K., 12. Armee) during the invasion of the Balkans in April 1941. In June 1941, it took part in the invasion of the Soviet Union as part of XIV. and XXXXVIII. A. K. (mot.) (Pz. Gr. 1, Army Group “Süd”). It fought in the Ukraine, took part in the battle of Uman, captured Nikolaiev and was later engaged at Kiev. It was on the Mius at the launching of the Soviet counter-offensive of the winter of 1941-42. In the spring of 1942, it took part in the offensive on the Don and the Volga (Operation “Blau”) with XIV. Pz. K. attached to 6. Armee.

A German account describes action on 18 May 1942:

‘With the Donets line gained, 257th Infantry Division and 101st Light Infantry Division took over the eastern flank cover for the deep thrust by the armoured striking groups, a thrust aimed at the creation of a pocket. The 16th Panzer Division, acting as the spearhead of Lieutenant-General Hube’s striking force, drove through the Russian positions with three combat groups [Kampfgruppen] under von Witzleben, Krumpen and Sieckenius. They then drove on, straight through, into the suburbs of Izyum. At 12.30 hours on 18 May, tanks and motorcyclists of the Westphalian 16th Armoured Division were covering the only major east-west road crossing the Donets at Donetskiy. Combat group Sieckenius, the mainstay of which was 2nd Battalion, 2nd Panzer Regiment, turned left and drove on westward, straight into the pocket. The main blow of Operation ‘Friderikus’, however, was to be dealt by General of Cavalry von Mackensen with his III Panzer Corps. He attacked with 14th Panzer Division from Dresden in the centre and with the Viennese 100th Light Division and the Bavarian 1st Mountain Division on the right and left respectively. The Russians were taken by surprise and routed in the swampy Sukhoy Torets river. Barvenkovo was taken. A bridge was built. The 14th Panzer Division crossed over and pushed on toward the north. Eddying clouds of dust veiled the tanks. The fine black earth made the men look like chimney-sweeps.

The 14th Panzer Division took Protopopovka on the 20th 1942, which reduced the mouth of the bulge between there and Balakleya to twelve miles. The bridgehead was then 8 miles wide but only a mile or two across. The III Panzer Corps main force, still on the westward orientation, gained almost twelve miles, however, with disappointing results. The object was to smash Fifty-seventh Army in the western end of the bulge, but the outer ring of the front there was held by Romanian divisions and they showed little determination and less enthusiasm. One of the Romanian division commanders had sent himself home on leave when he heard the attack was about to start. Having an alternative that he also preferred, Kleist began turning the 16th Panzer Division, 60th Motorised Division and 1st Mountain Division around after dark and sending them into the Bereka bridgehead behind 14th Panzer Division. On Bock’s urging, Paulus agreed to shift the 3rd and 23rd Panzer Divisions south from the Volchansk salient and thus partially to reconstitute his former ‘Friderikus’ force. Bock observes, ” . . . tonight, I have given orders aimed at completely sealing off the Izyum bulge. Now everything will turn out well after all!”

On 21 May the Germans began to transfer 23rd and 3rd Panzer Divisions from Kharkov to deliver an attack from the Andreevka region against Chervonyi Donets and link up with Group Kleist. At the same time, having concentrated two Panzer divisions (14th and 16th), one motorised division (60th) and two infantry divisions (389th and 384th) in the Petrovskaia, Krasnyi Liman and Novonikolaevka region, the Germans attacked powerfully to the north. By the close of the day, German infantry and tanks had succeeded in seizing Marevka and joined battle for Protopopovka. 6th Army units repelled German attempts to penetrate to Dmitrievka and Katerinovka.

On 22 May the enemy delivered his main attacks – to the north against Chepel using formations from Group Kleist and to the south from the Chuguev salient employing units of 23rd and 3rd Panzer Divisions – in order to link up with Group Kleist so that both of these groups would reach the lines of communication of our forces operating in the Barvenkovo salient. Having concentrated up to 230 tanks of 14th and 16th Panzer Divisions in the Protopopovka and Zagorodnoe region on the night of 22 May, the Germans renewed their offensive on the morning of 22 May in the general direction of Chepel and Volobuevka. By the close of the day, having penetrated deeply into our forces, the Germans reached a front running from Chepel through Volobuevka, Gusarovka, Shevelevka, Aseevka, Novopavlovka, Zapolnyi and Krasnaia Balka to Marevka.

A German account cryptically recorded the day’s actions and correctly identified the perilous consequences for Timoshenko’s command:

‘In co-operation with the Panzer companies of Combat Group Sieckenius, the Bereka River was crossed. Soviet armoured thrusts were successfully repulsed. In the afternoon of 22 May, 14th Panzer Division reached Bayrak [south of Balakleia] on the northern Donets bend.

‘This was the turning point. For across the river, on the far bank, were the spearheads of Sixth Army – companies of the Viennese 44th Infantry Division, the “Hock-und-Deutschmeister”. With this link-up, the Izyum bulge was pierced and Timoshenko’s armies, which had driven on far westward, were cut off. The pocket was closed.

Too late did Timoshenko realise his danger. He had not expected this kind of reply to his offensive. Now he had no choice but to call off his promising advance to the west, turn his divisions about, and attempt to break out of the pocket in an easterly direction, with reversed fronts. Would the thin German sides of the pocket stand up to such an attempt? The decisive phase of the battle was beginning.’

On 23 and 24 May, fierce battles continued in the Barvenkovo bridgehead. The German command strove to widen the corridor which cut off Soviet forces operating in the Barvenkovo salient from the crossings over the Northern Donets River.

What the German command had to do was clear. The only question remaining on 23 May was, ‘Could they do it?’ Again, a German source recounts the German command’s challenge:

‘Colonel-General von Kleist was faced with the task of making his encircling front strong enough to resist both the Soviet breakout attempts from the west and their relief attempts mounted across the Donets from the east. Once more it was a race against time. With brilliant tactical skill, General von Mackensen grouped all infantry and motorised divisions under his command like a fan around the axis of 14th Panzer Division. The 16th Panzer Division was first wheeled west and then moved north towards Andreyevka on the Donets. The 60th Motorised Infantry Division, the 389th Infantry Division, the 384th Infantry Division and the 100th Light Infantry Division fanned out toward the west and formed the pocket front against Timoshenko’s armies as they flooded back east.

‘In the centre, like a spider in its web, was Gen Lanz’s 1st Mountain Division; it had been detached from the front by von Mackensen to be available as a fire brigade.

This precaution finally decided the battle. For Timoshenko’s army commanders were driving their divisions against the German pocket front with ferocious determination. They concentrated their efforts in an attempt to punch a hole into the German front, regardless of the cost, in order to save themselves by reaching the Donets front only 25 miles away.’

It fought at Stalingrad with XI. A. K. Encircled along with all the rest of 6. Armee, it was wiped out in January 1943. Its commanding officer, Generalmajor Günther Angern, committed suicide on 2 February.

In March 1943, a second 16. Pz. Div. was formed in France in the Vitré-Mayenne-Laval sector from the remnants of the division reinforced by verst. Gren. Rgt. (mot.) 890. It was dispatched to Italy in the Taranto sector (June 1943) then placed in the reserve in the Sienna sector until September. It later moved on to the Salerno sector just before the American landing in Sicily. It took the brunt of the American attack, inflicting heavy losses on the attackers, meanwhile losing two thirds of its own strength during the fighting. The division continued to fight to the north of Naples until the end of the year 1943, when it set off for the southern sector of the Eastern front. It arrived in the Bobruisk sector in December 1943 and took part in the defensive battles in the Parichi area. It was involved in the counter-thrust west of Kiev, a battle in which it was severely tested. It then retreated to the Baranov sector on the Vistula. During the summer of 1944, it fell back across Poland. In October, it was stationed at Kielce where it was reformed. In January, it was sent back to the Baranov sector where it fought hard until it was pushed back to Lauban (March 1945) then Pilsen (Plzen) and Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) (April 1945). It was then assigned to LIX. A. K. (1. Pz. Armee, Army Group “Mitte”), by which time it was down to the size of a Kampfgruppe. One part of this Kampfgruppe surrendered to the Russians, the other to the Americans…

From 1941 to 1945, 16. Pz. Div. produced 33 Knights of the Iron Cross (including 10 from Pz. Rgt. 2), 3 with Oak Leaves and one with Swords (Dietrich von Müller, divisional commander, on 20 February 1945, n° 134).

The German Oasis Companies

Attack on the Omar Forts, 7 Indian brigade, 22 November

A much misunderstood set of units, the German Oasis Companies and their theoretically controlling Battalion Staff (BtlStab zbV 300).

On 10April 1941, a batch of Oasen companies were raised using men that had lived, or worked, in Africa. (Tessin lists the numbers 2, 6, 10, 12, 13, the numbers indicating the raising Wehrkreis, and that possibly 13 were raised, numbering 1 – 13). Also on 10.04.41, the Bataillonstab z.b.V. 300 was raised. It was a small staff consisting of about 10 officers to provide control for the Oasis companies. It was dissolved in 1942.

The Oasen companies occupied and guarded not only isolated oasis, but also wells, road junctions, etc., and were specially trained and equipped for water collection and treatment operations. Each infantry regiment in North Africa was supposed to have received one company in 1941. Five not so assigned were found directly under the DAK.

 Controlled by BtlStab zvB 300, the companies were specially equipped and trained (for example, they could capture water vapor from the air to generate drinkable water). In the summer and early fall of 1941, each German infantry regiment in Africa received one Oasis Company.  The remaining five companies (2, 6, 10, 12, 13) were put under direct DAK HQ control.  The 300 Battalion Staff was just that, a staff of under 10 officers and men (no troops of its own) and it was absorbed by the DAK HQ staff in the fall of 1941. This staff was officially disbanded in mid-1942.  All the Oasis Companies had limited motorization and no heavy weapons.

• 2-300 Oasis Co

• 6-300 Oasis Co

• 10-300 Oasis Co

• 12-300 Oasis Co

• 13-300 Oasis Co

Stab Divisions Kommando zbV Afrika

On 26 June 1941 the OKH had ordered the creation of the Stab Divisions Kommando zbV Afrika, which was formed in Germany by mid-July. However, since DAK’s requests of late July were rejected by the OKH, it was soon clear this HQ was not needed to create the motorized infantry division deemed necessary to support the other two. Therefore, it fell well down in the transportation list and was only sent to North Africa between late August and late September 1941, when it took over command in the Sollum area. The first units were attached on 15 October 1941, initially for training purposes only, and were III./IR 347 and Bataillon zbV 300 ‘Oasen’. Two weeks later 21.Panzer’s I./Schutzen Regiment 104 (temporarily subordinated to the Afrika Division itself) replaced it at Sollum. On 20 October more units, formerly corps troops, followed: Schutzen Regiment 155, III./IR 255, Pionier Bataillon 900 and Panzerjager Abteilung 605. Afrika Regiment 361 was also subordinated to the division. This unit, which was composed of former French Foreign Legion veterans (and was not considered completely reliable), had been formed in Germany on 15 June and arrived in North Africa between 20 October and mid-November. It was immediately deployed at Belhamed along with SR 155 while, at the same time, both III./IR 255 and III./IR 347 moved to Bardia to complete their training. At this point, Rommel decided that Afrika Division zbV (as it was known then) was to lead the planned attack against the fortress of Tobruk and ordered its redeployment to Bardia. On 2 November all the above-listed units (with the exception of Panzerjager Abteilung 605) were subordinated to the Stab Divisions Kommando zbV Afrika, followed a week later by the Stab and II Abteilung of AR 155, ll.(IG)/SR 104 and Aufklarungs Kompanie 580, all temporarily attached like I./SR 104. On 15 November 1941 Rommel ordered that Afrika Division zbV was to replace the Italian division ‘Bologna’ east of Tobruk and that all the units not yet in the Belhamed area had to be moved there by the 20th. Two days before, the British had launched Operation Crusader. Finally, on 28 November, the division was renamed 90.Leichte Afrika Division.

Heavy losses were suffered during Operation Crusader. As a consequence, some units were completely lost (III./IR 255, Bataillon zbV 300 ‘Oasen’ and I./SR 104, which surrendered at Sollum in January 1942), while others were badly mauled.

Sollum had been occupied by the Germans since November 21, 1941, and was now now defended by the 10th Oasis Company, the HQ of 300th Special Purpose Oasis Battalion, and the remnants of 12 Oasis Company.

Arado Ar 234 bomber/recce

In was decided in May of 1944 that the experienced Maj. Robert Kowalewski’s KG 76 would be the first Luftwaffe unit to receive the jet-powered Ar 234 bomber now starting to come out of the Arado factory. The only operation of the 234 in the summer of 1944 was as a high-performance camera carrying reconnaissance aircraft. Flying as Kommando Sperling the Staffel-sized unit demonstrated the dramatic capabilities of the B-series aircraft in several spectacular reconnaissance missions over the Allied invaders in August and later in the fall. After months of complete inability to gather aerial reconnaissance Kommando Sperling gave the Luftwaffe ability to scout Allied rear positions freely at will. The plane was a tremendous success.

But the III/KG 76 under Hptm. Dieter Lukesch would be the first unit to be equipped with the revolutionary bomber. Lukesch first flew the plane in July; it was love at first sight. It was very fast, easy to control and with the bubble glass nose possessed excellent visibility. On August 26th the first two bombers were delivered to the unit. Conversion training from their Ju-88A4s beginning almost immediately near Magdeburg. All the pilots chosen had extensive experience and Lukesch found that training went smoothly, although some had trouble with horizontal stability since the pilot was so far forward that there were no engines or wings to look at to help keep one’s bearings.

Helmut Rast was one of the chosen pilots. Rast had been a 19-year old student at Munich Technical School when the war broke out and soon became a flight instructor. However, he was bored with student flying and in 1943 obtained a transfer to the Luftwaffe’s major proving center at Rechlin as a test pilot. There he tested the very latest products of German genius, many of which were extremely dangerous in the test phase. But his personal favorite was the new Arado 234B the “Blitz” then in preparation for its assignment to the Luftwaffe as a reconnaissance aircraft. Rast found the jet a thing of beauty. The bubble-nosed bird handled smoothly and was exceptionally fast. Rast’s reputation flying the 234 rose quickly, being enlisted to conduct a mock combat with a Fw-190A, at the time one of the leading German piston powered aircraft. Rast’s 234 easily outpaced the Focke Wulf in level flight and was faster in climb and descent. One performance limitation was the 234’s turning radius which was very wide relative to the piston-powered fighter. But the major weakness was acceleration; the throttles of the Junkers Jumo 004Bs could not be changed rapidly during takeoff and landings. Vulnerable to attack, the low speed on approach or takeoff could not be changed quickly enough to execute defensive maneuver. Regardless, Rast’s superiors were greatly impressed by his mock combat. He was promoted to Unterfeldwebel and was eagerly assigned to the post of the first combat unit to use the 234, III Gruppe of KG 76. At Burg the pilots trained in earnest with their new craft.

There were problems with the bird, however, which had not really completed flight testing. “Hardly any aircraft arrived without defects,” and Lukesch remembered they “were caused by hasty completion and shortage of skilled labor at the factories.” Training continued throughout the fall, hampered by the slowly accumulating number of aircraft and a variety of accidents associated with the new type.

Two methods of aiming the 3,000 lb bomb load were developed. The first was to drop the bombs during a shallow dive with special periscope sight and a trajectory calculator; the second involved putting the jet on automatic pilot at high altitude and then using the Lotke 7K bombsight to release the bombs automatically after the target was centered in the crosshairs. This advanced technique had considerable safety advantages since high-speed, high-altitude flight could be maintained where the Ar 234 was nearly invulnerable to slower Allied fighters. However, Lukesch felt the method impractical since the Allies quickly learned to attempt attacks on the speedy jets from above with the faster piston types particularly the Tempests, and having one’s hands on the control and able to see behind the aircraft was vital to survive such assaults. Installation of the technically advanced autopilot also slowed the delivery of the aircraft to the unit and it was the end of October before III/KG 76 had 44 Ar 234s available.

Training conversion continued in earnest for the fledgling jet unit in November, although plagued by accidents. Some problems, such as getting used to the tricycle landing gear, were due to differences with the Ju-88, but a variety of troubles arose from the machines themselves. One unexpected problem was that the two Jumo 004 engines were too powerful for their own good and an unladen Ar 234 could easily approach the speed of sound where Chuck Yeager’s demon lived. A good example is the experience of Uffz. Ludwig Rieffel who was hurt when he mysteriously lost control of his Ar 234 near Burg on November 19th:

“The effects of nearing the sound barrier were virtually unknown to us at this time, the high speed of the aircraft sometimes surprising its victims. Rieffel was practicing a gliding attack when he experienced a reversal of the controls at Mach 1. He bailed out successfully, but the shock of the parachute opening at that speed ripped three of its sections from top to bottom. A freshly plowed field prevented him from being seriously injured. This happened later to Oblt. Heinkebut he was unable to escape from the aircraft which crashed into the ground in a vertical dive”

At the end of November KG 76 was reaching its operational strength with 68 Ar 234s on hand. On December 1st, the famous bomber ace and veteran of some 620 operational sorties, Maj. Hans-Georg Bätcher, took command of III/KG 76 to take the jet bombers into action. With so many bomber units now disbanded, Bätcher had the pick of the German bomber pilots. Pilots with the unit included Hptm. Diether Lukesch, holder of the Ritterkreuz with Oak Leaves and veteran of some 372 missions, as well as Hptm. Josef Regler, a veteran with 279 operational sorties under his belt. Unlike the fighter pilots, where the attrition and demand for pilots often meant low skill levels, the pilots with the Gruppe all had extensive flying experience.

Regardless of the minor danger posed by these small groups of German planes, the Allies had a phobia about them and kept their bases at Achmer, Hesepe and Rheine under constant surveillance. Only the profusion of 20mm flak around the bases and a standing guard of German piston-powered planes allowed the jets to get off the ground or land without being shot down during the vulnerable portion of their flight. Still the German bases harboring the jets received much unwelcome attention. A carpet-bombing raid on the Rheine base on November 13th killed many members of KG 51.

The Arado Ar 234 Blitz (Lightning) was the Luftwaffe’s second operational jet, the other being the Messerschmitt Me 262, and it was the first operational jet bomber and long-range, high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft. Problems with engine development and landing gear configuration design, along with fuel and material shortages, delayed production until late in World War II, and too few became operational to change the war’s final outcome. Approximately 234 B and C variants were completed at Lönnewitz from December 1944 to early 1945.

DESIGN

Initial development began with Arado Flugzeugwerke engineers Walter Blume and Hans Rebeski submitting a technical proposal to the German Air Ministry. The proposal was accepted and a design team was established, led by T. Rüdiger Kosin. The aircraft was unlike any under development by the Allied Powers at the time and featured a slender fuselage, and high-wing design, with two Junkers Jumo 109-0004 turbojets housed in nacelles under the wings; these features gave it a maximum top speed of 456 miles per hour (735 kilometers per hour), outperforming any conventional radial or inline fighter. Another unusual design feature was the cockpit, which was located in the nose with a large glazed canopy affording the crew a wide viewing area. With a required combat range of some 1,300 miles (807 kilometers), the designers had to include internal tanks behind the cockpit.

The designers initially could not solve how to fit conventional landing gear due the Ar 234’s high-wing design. During takeoff, the early prototypes—Ar 234V-1 to V-5 (Ar 234A series)—employed a reusable tricycle trolley that was jettisoned upon becoming airborne, while landing skis fitted to the aft fuselage and wings were lowered for landing. The first prototype was completed and flight-tested in June 1943, followed by two more in September; the prototypes were initially ready by the end of 1941, but engine development and production became problematic, thus delaying testing and production by two years.

The Jumo 109-0004 powered both the Ar 234 and the Me 262; because the Me 262 took precedence, supplying the engines in adequate numbers was impossible. The powerplant also required a rebuild after only ten operational hours and was known for flameouts. Prototypes Ar 234V-6 to V-8 retained the carriage ski configuration but were powered by lower-thrust BMW 1009-003-A1 engines as an alternative to the -0004. Those three aircraft went into the development of the Ar 234C, in which fewer than half of the 14 produced were fitted with engines before the war ended.

A redesign requested by the Air Ministry consisted of enlarging the mid-fuselage, along with removal of a fuel tank to accommodate a tricycle landing gear, and installation of a recessed bomb bay in the fuselage and a periscopic optical sight above the cockpit for rearward viewing. The pilot-bombardier during a bomb run switched on the Patin PDS autopilot and then swung the control column away to use the Lotfe 7K bombsight. A maximum external and internal bomb load capacity of over 3,300 pounds (1,497 kilograms) reduced the maximum speed to 415 miles per hour (668 kilometers per hour). The three prototypes built in this fashion were designated Ar 234V-9 to V-11 (Ar 234B series) with the first test flight occurring in March 1944. Production units were designated Ar 234B.

Several of the trolley and ski prototypes and B-1 and B-2 airframes were modified as recon platforms, with the rear fuselage housing two to three vertical and oblique cameras: the Reihenbilder (Rb) 50/30, Rb 75/30, Rb 20/30 series. Two recon variants in development, consisting of the Ar 234C-1 and the two-man Ar 234D, were not completed.

Erich Sommer.

RECONNAISSANCE OPERATIONS

V-5 and V-7 prototypes, equipped with rocket-assisted takeoff (RATO) were sent to I./Versuchsverband Oberbefehlshaber der Luftwaffe in July 1944 for operational evaluation. The first reconnaissance mission was conducted of the Allied landing areas in Normandy by Erich Summer, piloting the V-5 prototype on 2 August 1944. For this mission, two Rb50/30 cameras were mounted on the back of the fuselage, inclined at twelve degrees on either side of the aircraft, allowing photographs to be taken in a 10km band around the trajectory of the aircraft. On the same day, the plane was joined by the other prototype and between them they carried out other similar missions over the following three weeks. In September, the two planes were withdrawn from operations and replaced by the first Ar 234Bs. From October, this aircraft would perform its reconnaissance role, even flying over England in order to determine whether or not a new invasion was being prepared for the Netherland’s coast. It was only on 21 November that a training escort of P-51Bs saw the Luftwaffe’s jet aeroplane for the first time. Realising they’d been seen, the Arados were able to evade the Mustangs, thanks to their quicker speeds and ability to fly at greater altitude.

Special Unit Sonderkommando (SdKdo) Götz operated four Ar 234B-1s near Rheine in Westphalia, Germany, and ran reconnaissance missions over Allied-held territory and the British Isles beginning in October 1944. SdKdo Hecht and Sperling were activated in November 1944 but deactivated and replaced by I./Fernaufklärungsgruppe (FAGr) in January 1945. SdKdo Summer operated three Ar 234B1s at Udine in northern Italy, while I./FAGr 123, based in Germany and Norway, and I./FAGr 33 flew missions over Germany and Denmark.

Arado Ar 234B-2 "Nachtigall"

This particular aircraft (WNr 140146) was flown by Hauptmann Kurt Bonow based in Oranienburg during March 1945. It seems that during the last weeks of the War he managed to engage some RAF Mosquito night fighters although he failed to down any of them. Some references mention that a cramped radar compartment in the aft fuselage section (that normally contained aerial cameras) hosted a radar operator to help to zero on enemy aircraft.

The Ar 234 was also flown by Kommando Bonow, an experiment night-fighter unit which operated until the end of the war under the control of Luftflotte Reich.

On 11 November 1944, a test command under Hauptmann Bisign was established. Production was ordered to begin again. On 23 February 1945, Hauptman Bising and his radar operator have an accident on takeoff. On 26, March 1945, Hauptman Kurt Bonow, from Kommando 288, take command of the unit that was to be re-designated Erprobungskommando Bonow, based in Oranienburg. Bonow flew Wrk.Nr. 140146 plane. In the winter 1944-45 a single-seat Ar 234 B-1 was also converted and tested for night fighter rôle operating with Bonow’s Kommando. This plane was also armed with a WB weapon holder holding two MG 151 20 mm guns. This plane was successful for its pilot, a Oberfeldwebel, because it shot down in several occasions R.A.F. four powered bombers.”

“It is also known from photographic records that the prototype V-15 (Wrk.Nr. 130015 PH+SY) -originally used to test a configuration of four BMW 003A-1engine engines- was converted to Ar 234B-2/N standards and re-powered with Jumo 109-004B-1. This plane was the mount of Kap. Bisping from EKD N 234 during the last months of the conflict. That plane kept its original day-time camouflage scheme in colors RLM 70/65.”

Josef Bisping Arado Ar 234B-2/N V15 WrkNr.140145 SM+FE flown with Hptm. ALbert Vogel for 3./Versuchsverband OKL, Oranienburg – Berlin 1945.

Arado Ar 234B-2/N WrkNr.140150, SM+FJ flown for Kommando Bonow, Oranienburg – Berlin 1945.

Kurt Bonow Arado Ar 234B-2/N V15 WrkNr.140146 SM+FF flown with Ofw. Marchetti for Kommando Bonow, Oranienburg – Berlin 1945.

Sonderkommando Bonow

    Kommandeure:

        * Hptm Bisping, 11.44 – 13.2.45

        * Maj Kurt Bonow, 13.2.45 – 4.45

    Formed 11.44 in Oranienburg as Sonderkommando Bisping, with Ar 234B, as an experimental nightfighter unit. It is not known if the unit operated any aircraft before 2.45.

    On 13.2.45 redesignated Sonderkommando Bonow. Operated with at least 2 Ar 234B. Disbanded 4.45(?)

    The sonderkommando was also known as Erprobungskommando 234.

The only jet-night-fighter unit was 10/NJG 11 (Kdo Welter) with max.12 Me 262 B-2 in 4-5/ 45.

The Kdo Bonow had 3 (known) Ar 234 B-2 NF for trial in 3-4/ 45.

Sonderkommando Bonow (Sd Kdo. Bonow)

Raised from Sd Kdo. Bisping in March 1945 following the death of Hauptmann Josef Bisping.

Continued the operational testing of the Ar 234B as a nightfighter under the command of Hauptmann Kurt Bonow.(13.2.45 – 4.45)

Bonow was the commander and sole operational pilot of the unit which flew two converted Ar 234B-2s. These aircraft had nose mounted radar and a belly pack containing two MG151/20 cannon.

This unit was controlled by Luflotte Reich.

The sonderkommando was also known as Erprobungskommando 234

Sonderkommando Bisping (Sd Kdo. Bisping)

On 12.12.1944, the Oberkommando der Luftwaffe organised the establishment of two jet nightfighter Kommandos at Oranienburg – Welter (Me 262) and Bisping (Ar 234). The intention was that Lt Kurt Welter’s command would be equipped with three Me 262s and that of Hptm. Joseph Bisping should also have an equal complement of Ar 234 nightfighters.

Raised as an experimental nightfighter unit in late 1944 using the Ar 234B, after Kurt Welter had tested both the Ar 234 and the Me 262 and recommended that the Ar 234 was not suitable for nightfighting.

IBetween the 11th and 17th of December 1944 two flights in Ar 234B-2/N 140145 took place to test onboard systems. This machine is not reported again until another flight of barely 15 minutes duration followed in the middle of January 1945.

Commanded by Hauptmann Josef Bisping until his death in a take-off accident on 13 Feb 1945.

Command of this experimental unit then passed to Kurt Bonow (see Kdo. Bonow)

Ar 234B-2/N (Wkr Nr 140 145) SM+FE   Taken on charge by Kdo Bisping at an unknown date, crashed 13 Feb 1945 (Hptm Bisping and Hptm Vogl). This crash was during a night take-off and the cause was later identified as a servicing error. (According to a statement made by Hptm. Bonow.)

In the bomber version of the Ar234 B-2 the periscope housed also a PV1B shallow-dive-attack sighting head. In 1945, during the last weeks of the war, a handful of Ar234 B “Blitz” modified bombers were operative for the night defense rôle in the Berlin area. It was the Arado 234 B-2/N Nachtigall (nightingale). On July 1944, Arado worked on the development of Ar234 as a two-seater night fighter. Arado received the order to produce 30 planes at first. The design placed a second crew radar operator in the rear fuselage. On 20 September 1944, at Warneuchen and Oranienburg, began the conversion of the first Ar234 B-2/N. It was reequipped with FuG216 Neptun V or FuG 218 radar system and aerials, and the WB 151 weapon holder, known as “Magirus Bombe, placed on the central bomb bay of the aeroplane holding two 20 mm MG151 with 200 r.p.g each. RLM stopped the reequipping to deliver the jet bomber version for the units of KG 76 which desperately needed reinforcements.

It is also known from photographic records that the prototype V-15 (Wrk.Nr. 130015 PH+SY) -originally used to test a configuration of four BMW 003A-1engine engines- was converted to Ar234B-2/N standards and re-powered with Jumo109-004B-1. This plane was the mount of Kap. Bisping from EKD N 234 during the last months of the conflict. That plane kept its original day-time camouflage scheme in colors RLM 70/65.

On 11 November 1944, a test command under Hauptmann Bisign was established. Production was ordered to begin again. On 23 February 1945, Hauptman Bising and his radar operator have an accident on takeoff. On 26, March 1945, Hauptman Kurt Bonow, from Kommando 288, take command of the unit that was to be re-designated Erprobungskommando Bonow, based in Oranienburg. Bonow flew Wrk.Nr. 140146 plane. In the winter 1944-45 a single-seat Ar234 B-1 was also converted and tested for night fighter operating with Bonow’s Kommando. This plane was also armed with a WB weapon holder holding two MG151 20 mm guns. This plane was successful for its pilot, a Oberfeldwebel, because it shot down in several occasions R.A.F. four powered bombers.

Further Projects based on the Ar234

Other projects parallel to the Nachtigall were the Ar234 C-3N and C-7, scheduled for mid-’45 as high performance fighters and night-fighters in many configurations armed with two extra forward-firing MG151 mounted in the nose.

The P-1 to P-5 series were to be develop for the series night fighter production. The P night fighter featured a better armament with a more aerodynamic weapon holder in the belly, two nose-mounted MG151 and Schräge Musik on the back. A Bremen radar plate would be mounted in the nose. P-series projects were powered by Hirth-Heinkel HeS 011 engines.

Werner Streib By the end of war 65 was his final score of victories. 

Ar 234C-3/N

Proposed two-seat night-fighter with two forward firing 20 mm MG 151/20 and two 30 mm MK 108 cannon, using FuG 218 Neptun V radar.

Ar 234C-7

Night fighter similar to C-3/N, but with crew side-by-side and enhanced FuG 245 Bremen 0 centimetric radar.

Ar 234P

Projected night fighter series.

Specifications (Arado Ar 234B-2 Blitz “Lightning”)

Type: Single Seat Reconnaissance Bomber

Design: Waiter Blume and Hans Rebeski

Manufacturer: Arado Flugzeugwerke GmbH

Powerplant: (B Series) Two 1,984 lbs (900 kW / 8.825 kN) thrust Junkers Jumo 109-004B-1/2/3 Orkan axial flow turbojet engines and provision for two 1,102 lbs (822 kW / 4.90 kN) Walter HWK 109-500 (R1-202b) RATO units with a 30 second burn duration. (C Series) Four 1,764 lbs (800 kg / 7.85 kN) thrust BMW 109-003A-1 turbojet engines in paired nacelles.

Performance: (B Series) Maximum speed (clean) 461 mph (742 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); service ceiling 32,820 ft (10000 m); climb to service ceiling in 12 minutes 48 seconds with a 1,102 lbs (500 kg) bomb load or 17 minutes 30 seconds with a 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) bomb load. (C Series) Maximum speed (clean) 531 mph (855 km/h) at 19,685 ft (6000 m); service ceiling 36,090 ft (11000 m).

Range: (B Series) Clean 1013 miles (1630 km) or 684 miles (1100 km) with 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) of bombs. (C Series) 765 miles (1230 km) with a 4,409 lbs (2000 kg) of bombs.

Weight: (B Series) Empty equipped 11,464 lbs (5200 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 21,715 lbs (9850 kg). (C Series) Empty equipped 11,464 lbs (5200 kg) with a maximum take-off weight of 24,250 lbs (11000 kg).

Dimensions: Span 46 ft 3 1/2 in (14.11 m); length 41 ft 5 1/2 in (12.64 m); height 14 ft 1 1/4 in (4.30 m); wing area 284.18 sq ft (26.40 sq m).

Armament: (B-1) unarmed reconnaissance version. (B-2) Two fixed MG 151/20 20 mm cannon in rear fuselage, firing to rear and sighted by periscope and various combinations of bombs slung under fuselage and/or engine nacelles up to 3,307 lbs (1500 kg) using ETC 503 bomb racks. (C-3) Same as B Series but with the addition of two MG 151/20 20 mm cannon under the nose. (C-3/N) Two forward firing MG 151/20 20 mm cannon and two MK 108 30 mm cannon.

Variants: E.370 (initial design project), Ar 234V-1/2/3, V-9 (initial design prototypes), Ar 234B-0 (20 examples used for evaluation), Ar 234B-1 (reconnaissance), Ar 234B-2 (bomber), Ar 234C (four engine version), Ar 234C-1/2/3/4/5/6/7/8, Ar 234D, Ar 234D-1/2, Ar 234P, Ar 234P-1/2/3/4/5.

History: First flight (Ar 234V-1) 15 June 1943, (Ar 234V-9 with landing gear) March 1944, (Ar 234B-0 pre-production) 8 June 1944, operational delivery September 1944.

Operators: Germany.

10th SS Panzer Division at the Arnhem Battles I

The high-level command decision provides evidence that the OKW did not anticipate any large-scale Allied airborne operations in Holland. Army Group B approved a request by the II SS Panzer Corps for Heinz Harmel to travel to Bad Saarow one day before the Allied airborne operation began. Harmel personally met with the chief of the main SS office in order to speed the refreshment of the 10th SS. Referring to the orders that his division received from the OB of the Army Group and II SS Panzer Corps, he discussed the need for additional speedy replacements of personnel and materiel. In particular, the commander emphasized the speedy allocation of the 1st Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment, to the division. The main SS office concurred with the extensive request for support and ordered the immediate activation of 1,500 replacements to the division. In the afternoon on 17 September, a telegraph arrived with orders for Harmel to return to his unit. It should be noted that the Germans received information about the impending airborne operations from the Dutch double-agent Christian Lindemans, also known as “King Kong.”

Meanwhile, the 2nd Battery, 10th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment attached to the Kampfgruppe Walther. The 2nd Battery consisted of only fifty-two men (they were ninety-four at full strength), and four towed 105mm howitzers lFH 18 that were recovered earlier at the rail yard at Cambrai. The battery prime movers, former field kitchen vehicles, were brought out of the encirclement of Falaise. The cook, when necessary, served as a cannonier or telephone operator, depending on the situation. The battery communications equipment consisted of two field telephones, no radios, and only a few rolls of wire. Approximately eighty rounds of ammunition were available. Kampfgruppe Walther, comprised of a Fallschirmjäger Regiment, covered the area south of the line Valkenswaard-Achel-Hamont-Bree. The 2nd Battery assumed positions along the Dutch and Belgian border, east of the small village of Schaft and about 5 km south of Valkenswaard. The terrain consisted primarily of fields, mixed with high broom and juniper. The limber position was about 400 meters to the west, and the vehicles were concealed in the village of Schaft.

The battery attempted to establish contact with an infantry unit, located 2 km south of the battery position along the northern bank of a canal near a secondary village. No activity suggested the infantry unit was not in position, although their task was to cover the southern road leading to Valkeswaard.

On Sunday 17 September, after 1200 hours, men from the 2nd Battery prepared a birthday cake for the battery commander. As Godau marveled over the decorated cake, the sound of approaching aircraft engines broke up the party and forced them back to the battery positions. Overhead, dozens of Allied aircraft towed transport gliders to the north and low-altitude fighter aircraft fired into the village of Schaft. After two additional fighters flew over the battery without firing a shot, the commotion ended as fast as it began. However, after several minutes, activity on the road sprang to life. A Sherman tank appeared moving at high speed to the north. From the battery, a solitary cry gave coordinates: “Tank from the right! Eight hundred meters!”

The cannoniers lowered the barrels and traversed the guns, but only two batteries in the right-side platoon could engage. As additional tanks followed, Karl Godau withheld the order to open fire. Nine Sherman tanks had already passed by and none stopped to offer a good shot. With only two rounds of armor-piercing ammunition per gun, Godau counted a total of twenty-seven tanks moving in the direction of Valkenswaard. Godau reported the tanks to the battalion and received orders to fall back and change the position of the battery at the next best opportunity.

The battery rear guard, used to protect against pursuing Allied forces, recovered their vehicles. Allied aircraft managed to puncture several vehicle tires, but no losses to personnel were recorded. By 1600 hours, the battery had completed preparations and had begun movement toward the battalion area when darkness fell.

British paratroopers also surprised SS-Obersturmführer Gottlob Ellwanger. At his battery command post in front of a guesthouse in Ede, Ellwanger observed a massive armada of C-47 transport aircraft, some towing gliders, flying in the direction of Arnhem, as paratroopers descended from the sky. The antiaircraft battalion commander, SS-Sturmbannführer Rudolf Schrembs, was not present, so command of the battalion fell to Ellwanger.

In accordance with orders received from SS-Sturmbannführer Otto Paetsch, the temporary commander, the battery conducted reconnaissance during the evening to determine the location of the enemy. In the process, the 1st Platoon gun crew chief SS-Unterscharführer van Duellen and Walter Bunzel were killed in action. The platoon leader SS-Scharführer Behm received head wounds. SS-Obersturmführer Karl Ruedele immediately went into action, providing air defense along the lower Rhine with 20mm machine-gun batteries of the 5th Battery, and shot down seven transport aircraft towing glider transport aircraft.

Ellwanger subordinated Ruedele under his command. The 4th Battery, reinforced by the 20mm antiaircraft machine guns from the grenadier regiments, as well as the 37mm antiaircraft guns on the Pz.Kpfw.IV chassis from the tank regiment, assumed the responsibility of air defense for the ferry service across the Pannerdens Canal. Moreover, the battery was responsible for defending against landed airborne troops in the greater area around Pannerden-Loo-Angeren. In the process, three British aircraft were shot down. The supply section, 4th Battery, was in the school at Didam, while the battery command post was situated in Zevenaar.

The battalion adjutant, during the middle of September, was SS-Untersturmführer Otto Stolzenburg. When Stolzenburg transferred to the 3rd Battery, SS-Untersturmführer Karl Funk filled the billet as the battalion adjutant.

American and British airborne operations had begun over Holland. By mid-August, a new combined Allied airborne headquarters, the First Allied Airborne Army, planned for airborne operations deep behind enemy lines. The objective, by providing momentum to bring the Allies across the Rhine River, included avoiding potential logistical delays and denying the Germans time to fortify behind the Rhine. Field Marshal Montgomery’s Operation Market Garden combined two plans. Operation Market employed three and a half airborne divisions to drop in the vicinity of Grave, Nijmegen, and Arnhem to seize bridges over several canals and the Meuse, Waal (Rhine), and Neder Rijn Rivers. Their objective included opening a corridor more than 50 miles long leading from Eindhoven northward. An air portable division was to be flown in as reinforcement. Operation Garden, using ground troops of the Second British Army, would push from the Dutch-Belgian border to the IJsselmeer (Zuider Zee), a total distance of 99 miles. XXX Corps provided the main effort of the ground attack from a bridgehead across the Meuse-Escaut Canal a few miles south of Eindhoven on the Dutch-Belgian frontier. On either flank the VII and XII Corps were to launch supporting attacks.

The U.S. 101st Airborne Division landed in the area of Eindhoven-Veghel, the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division landed in the area of Grave-Nijmegen, and the British 1st Airborne Division landed at Arnhem. At approximately the same time, British armored forces attacked north from out of the bridgehead at Neerpelt. One of the greatest battles in history, around the area of Arnhem-Nijmegen, unfolded for the II SS Panzer Corps.

The story of Karl Schneider, who did not become a member of the division until 22 September 1944, is an excellent example of how the division acquired new personnel, in a less conventional manner. Karl Schneider was born on 19 July 1925 in Rhinebishofsheim. On 5 October 1942, at the age of seventeen, he entered the RAD. His basic army training was completed at the Lorette Barracks, in Karlsruhe, with the 4th Company, 111th Training and Replacement Grenadier Regiment. He received additional training in Rambervillers, France, before departing to the Eastern Front. After the middle of December 1943, Schneider joined the 4th Heavy Machine Gun Company, 1st Battalion, 111th infantry Regiment, 35th infantry Division, as part of Army Group Center. He held the rank of Private 1st Class.

Fragments from a hand grenade wounded his left leg and foot on 2 March 1944. Schneider arrived at the field hospital in Thorn, West Prussia, and later transferred to the Military Hospital in Brussels, Belgium. In the middle of June 1944, Schneider returned to duty with the Rehabilitation Company of the 111th Grenadier Replacement Battalion, stationed in Vlissingen, Walcheren. After the Allied landings at Normandy and breakout from the bridgehead into France, the Rehabilitation Company, commanded by 1st Lieutenant Gebauer, was called into action at the beginning of August with other Army units against British armored spearheads west of Antwerp. The Rehabilitation Company was almost completely annihilated during the fighting at Beveren and Antwerp. Wounded a second time by a fragment that stuck in his left knee, Schneider managed, with the help of his comrades, to fight his way to safety across the Schelde River. As a straggler crossing the Waal River aboard a ferry at Gorinchem, Holland, he was absorbed on 26 August 1944, along with others retreating out of France, into the 4th SS Police Training and Replacement Battalion. The Auffangskommando or Collections Detachment on the ferry wore the SS Police Division cuff bands. Schneider thought them to belong to the Feldgendarmerie. The battalion established a collection point in Gorinchem, and a command post in a nearby sugar factory.

An SS-Scharführer escorted Schneider and others from various service branches to the sugar factory to determine their unit origination. in the factory on 26 August 1944, the Waffen-SS absorbed Schneider into their ranks. He received a field gray uniform jacket with SS collar tabs and the rank of SS-Rottenführer. The entry in his service book read, “Collected on 26.08.1944 and issued to the 6th Company, 4th SS-Panzergrenadier Training and Replacement Battion (Police).” His Army rank as Private 1st Class was crossed out and replaced with SS-Rottenfuehrer. With the stroke of a pencil, he was made a member of the Waffen-SS. The tattoo commonly applied to all SS soldiers under the left arm, which indicated their blood type, was not administered to Schneider on that day since he was underway to Utrecht as the driver for the one-armed and oneeyed company commander, SS-Untersturmführer Puder. As a vehicle driver for the 4th SS Training and Replacement Battalion, Schneider was quartered at the sugar factory at Gorinchem.

Around noon on Sunday 17 September 1944, Karl Schneider observed Allied fighters protecting hundreds of transport aircraft flying in the direction of Germany and towing airborne gliders. Everyone knew that something big was underway. By 1400 hours, the alarm sounded with reports of Allied airborne landings at Arnhem and Nijmegen. British paratroopers were reported to have established a toehold west of Arnhem.

Orders arrived in Gorinchem for all combat-capable troops to close with the enemy immediately in motorized march. The 6th Company, under the command of Puder, deployed as part of elements from the 4th SS Training and Replacement Battalion, under the command of SS-Hauptsturmführer Mattusch. All available vehicles were fueled and loaded with weapons and ammunition. By 1600 hours, units began departing. Schneider drove a Ford V-8 truck, loaded with two groups of men. Despite several attacks by Allied fighter aircraft, the convoy arrived at 1800 hours in Wageningen, where all units were directed further onto Rekumer-Heide.

Upon arrival, Schneider could hear clearly the sound of combat in the landing zone of the British 1st Airborne Division. The handicapped company commander issued orders to attack, and they encountered the enemy a few minutes north of Heelsum. The exchange of fire continued throughout the night. Bitter individual close combat developed using pistols, submachine guns, and hand grenades. The front lines were everywhere where there was gunfire. Flares continuously lit up the night, but it was impossible to determine friend or foe.

Under the cover of darkness, during a moonless night, British airborne forces opposing the 4th SS Police Training and Replacement Battalion withdrew in the direction of Wolfheze, where they regrouped with other airborne forces.

The experience of Karl Schneider was very similar to that of Rudi Trapp and his comrades. Enjoying a bite to eat during a beautiful late summer afternoon, they observed an armada of aircraft passing overhead. Alarm!

Rudi Trapp was born on 27 July 1925 in Iserlohn. A member of the division since it organized in 1943, he was the Schütze 1 or first gunner, in the Machine Gun Platoon, 3rd Company, Half-track Battalion Laubscher, 1st Battalion, 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment. SS-Obersturmführer Ernst Vogel, who left the battalion shortly after its organization in 1943, returned to command the battalion. Around the Dutch village of Deventer, the battalion assembled to reorganize with replacements that arrived from the 9th SS Panzer Division and the 10th SS Training and Replacement Battalion, from Brünn.

Trapp and his comrades Adolf Lochbrunner and Jupp Wagner, all of whom attended divisional combat school together, oversaw individual group combat training for the new replacements. Of the original 3rd Company, only twelve men survived along with few weapons, including several MG-42s.

From the staff quarters in Doetinchem, the ii SS Panzer Corps, after receiving the first reports of Allied airborne landings, alerted the 10th SS Panzer Division and remaining elements of the 9th SS Panzer Division. The commander of the 10th SS Panzer Division, located at the main SS office in Bad Saarow, was ordered by telegram to return to his troops. Around 1600 hours, the II SS Panzer Corps ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division to proceed immediately via Arnhem to Nijmegen, occupy both bridges over the Waal River, and establish and hold a bridgehead south of the city. All applicable German troops near Nijmegen were attached to the division.

The 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, commanded by SS-Untersturmführer Viktor-Eberhard Gräbner, consisting of approximately thirty armored half-tracks and scouting vehicles, attached to the 10th SS Panzer Division to reconnoiter from Arnhem to Nijmegen. In exchange, the 10th SS Panzer Division released their reconnaissance battalion, commanded by Brinkmann, to the Kampfgruppe 9th SS Panzer Division.

Conflicting reports exist regarding the assignment of the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion on 17 September. According to Bittrich, the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion received orders to reconnoiter to the west over Arnhem to Nijmegen, and seize and hold open the bridges assigned to the 9th SS that lay closer to Allied drop zones. Later, when the 10th SS Panzer Division arrived at Nijmegen, the 10th SS was to attach itself to the reconnaissance battalion of the 9th SS already on location. On the other hand, Harmel maintained the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion was attached to the 10th SS from the very beginning, which accounted for the detachment of the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion.

Considering the circumstances and in order to save time, it was more practical to employ the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion instead of the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, the latter of which was located 50 aerial kilometers from Nijmegen. The immediate subordination of the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion to the 10th SS is not plausible in light of the fact it reconnoitered to the west of Arnhem as well. Bittrich’s version of events seems more credible. The fact that the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion went into action at the Arnhem bridge, as part of the 9th SS, was not foreseen when orders were issued in the afternoon on 17 September.

At approximately 1800 hours, the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion arrived at the city of Arnhem, broke through weak defenses at the bridge crossing the lower Rhine, and continued in the direction of Nijmegen.

The 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion reconnoitered toward Arnhem and continued over Emmerich against Nijmegen. Heading in the direction of Wesel, Allied airborne drops were reported. Around 1900, the 1st Scout Company made reconnaissance toward Arnhem and reported the bridge at Arnhem, and reinforcement thereof, to be in Allied hands. The acting divisional commander Paetsch was en route from Ruurlo to Velp with elements of the command staff. The Allies controlled antiaircraft bunkers next to the bridge and gained considerable strength. Soon thereafter, additional elements of the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion arrived in Arnhem. Brinkmann, the commander of the reconnaissance battalion, received orders to attack with the attached Kampfgruppe 9th SS, commanded by SS-Obersturmbannführer Harzer, and destroy the enemy at the northern approach to the bridge with the objective to open the divisional route of advance on Nijmegen. In this respect, the section was placed under orders of Kampfgruppe Spindler, of the 9th SS Panzer Division.

The 5th Battalion, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment, commanded by the former member of the SS Polizei Division, SS-Hauptsturmführer Oskar Schwappacher, situated the staff, Staff Battery, and the 21st Heavy Howitzers Battery east of Oosterhout. The forward observers were on the northern banks of the Waal southwest of Oosterhout and 1 km west of Neerbosch. The 19th Light Howitzer Battery relocated from Zaltbommel to join the staff throughout 19 and 20 September. To improve observation on the bridge at Arnhem and within the center of the city, Schwappacher placed the forward observers of the 21st Battery southwest of Oosterhout. Both batteries provided effective rifle and cannon fire from four 20mm antiaircraft guns of the 21st Battery against low-flying aircraft. The staff and 21st Battery succeeded in shooting down two planes.

By the evening on 17 September, Paetsch ordered the formation of Kampfgruppe Reinhold. Paetsch intended the task force to follow the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion into Nijmegen. The very able and experienced SS-Sturmbannführer Leo Reinhold, commander of the 2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment, commanded Kampfgruppe Reinhold.

Leo Reinhold was born on 22 February 1906 in the East Prussian capital city of Königsberg. In 1928, Reinhold joined the police as a candidate and transferred to the Wehrmacht in 1935. As a first lieutenant in the Army protective police, he returned to the municipal police force in January 1939, only to return to active military duty one month later, as an antitank company commander in the 4th SS Polizei Division. in June 1940, during the campaign in the west, Reinhold earned the Iron Cross 2nd Class. In the east, in September 1941, he received the Iron Cross 1st Class and qualified to wear the wound badge in silver. On 10 March 1943, Reinhold transferred to the Frundsberg Division as a battalion commander in the 10th SS Panzer Regiment. On 17 September, Reinhold was awarded the German Cross in Gold for his exploits in the east at Buczacz and Pilwa, in the west at Hill 112, Esquay, and Hill 188.

The Kampfgruppe consisted of the SS-Panzergrenadier Battalion Euling, which was released several days earlier from the 9th SS, the 2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment, made up of sixteen to twenty Pz.Kpfw.IV, a light howitzer battalion of the 10th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment, and one company of the 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion.

After Battalion Euling departed from Rheden in the late evening and arrived in the hard-fought section of the city, the armored scouting vehicles of the forward-most elements joined in the fight alongside the reconnaissance battalion. The bulk of Battalion Euling closed on Arnhem directly southeast of the city.

The 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion and forward elements of Battalion Euling engaged together in fierce street and house-to-house fighting against a determined and experienced opponent. The German attack was broken off after only nominal gains. From positions around Oosterbeek along the northern banks of the lower Rhine, the Allies reinforced the bridge at Arnhem with heavy and antitank weapons. By midnight it was apparent that clearing the bridge of Allied forces would require a planned advance and more time. Portions of the 10th SS Panzer Division following the Battalion Euling were intercepted and brought to rest east of Velp.

10th SS Panzer Division at the Arnhem Battles II

After the first reports of Allied airborne landings in the southern sector of the city, Colonel Henke of the 1st Parachute Training Staff, located at the Nebo Monastery south of the city, sounded the alarm for all ground units quartered in Nijmegen. With men from the homeland defense units, permanent personnel of the training staff, men from the railroad security guard, and stragglers from fragmented units, Henke secured the southern rim of the city and occupied a bridgehead across the Waal. His mission was to keep open both bridges along the northern riverbanks to the north of the city, with his left and right flank leaned against the rim of the village of Lent.

Allied parachute and airborne glider troops had already landed around Arnhem when orders arrived directing the 3rd Company, 1st Battalion, 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment into action. The mission was to attack forward toward the Rhine and the bridge at Arnhem. Lacking vehicles, the men acquired bicycles from the general population. Trapp encountered several Army stragglers fleeing the city, many yelling, “Run away! The Tommies have landed!”

At the outskirts of the village, the men abandoned their bicycles and proceeded forward in a tactical column. Close to the front of the houses, the 3rd Company, 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment, moved ever closer to the bridge. The civilian population was nowhere to be seen, and the homes seemed abandoned.

After crossing several streets, the machine-gun company approached individual British airborne supply canisters that littered the road. The search of nearby houses began immediately when small arms fire erupted from all sides. Lacking weapons, the Germans recovered weapons and ammunition from dead British soldiers. The process of ferreting out British paratroopers, hiding in the compartmentalized alleyways of the inner city, proved very difficult. House-to-house close combat became a necessity, and several entryways were found mined with improvised explosive devices. Slowly, the German perimeter around the paratroopers tightened. When German troops reached the Rhine River by the evening, the Arnhem Bridge was in view. British defensive fire intensified and the fighting continued throughout the night, from house to house. No soldier thought about sleep.

As the German troops pressed forward, Rudi Trapp emplaced his heavy machine gun tactically to provide covering fire at various street corners. British paratroopers tried evading the encirclement and ran from one house to another. Wounded British shared Trapp’s position. One British soldier had been hit in the testicle and was in severe pain. Trapp and other SS men evacuated wounded British from the front lines and brought them to the rear for medical attention. The Germans recovered Dutch civilians, also wounded during the fighting. Among the Dutch was a severely injured woman. Civilians hiding in the cellars were forced out into the open when many homes caught fire during the fighting.

Supplies arrived during the night for Trapp and his comrades. They received Panzerfausts, ammunition, and assault rifles. However, basic food provisions were not included. The men looted food stocks from nearby abandoned cellars, which primarily consisted of pickled fruit. A chocolate warehouse was located along the Rhine River road, but no trace of chocolate was found. A three-wheel bicycle found in a warehouse was impounded and used to carry weapons, ammunition, and heavy guns to and from the front lines.

Luftwaffe forward observers arrived amidst the rubble and sketched out the terrain where Trapp and his company were located. These sketches were given to Stuka divebomber squadrons to guide them in precision bombing sorties. In the end the Stukas never came. Actually, Trapp was very happy the Stukas did not come, considering he was the recipient of the botched close air support during the fighting at Buczacz.

Instead, ground support arrived in the form of an Army field howitzer. The gun provided direct fire support, from the Rhine road, for the attacks. The gun effectively placed preparatory assault fire on several houses, which were later overrun by Trapp and his company. Many of the British defenders were killed in their fighting holes from falling debris.

Kampfgruppe Henke was not equipped or trained well enough to engage in battle. The Kampfgruppe consisted of approximately 750 primarily older men, and a number of antiaircraft batteries to protect the bridge and provide antitank defenses. Kampfgruppe Henke was organized in the following manner:

HQ Henke Parachute Training Regiment

6 Replacement Battalions (consisting of 3 companies)

Herman Göring Company Runge

NCO School Company

Railway Guards/Police Reservists (consisting of 2 companies)

Antiaircraft Battery (88mm & 20mm guns, dispersed)

Nijmegen remained free of Allied forces until dark. However, during the night on 18 September, the Allies managed to push German security forces back into the inner city.

In the evening on 17 September, forward scouts of the 9th SS Reconnaissance Battalion reported back to the battalion that Nijmegen and both bridges were in German hands. Moreover, no Allied attacks against the bridges were reported. The battalion commander Gräbner foresaw a threat by Allied forces and ordered it to return to Arnhem, rather than scouting against Nijmegen. South of Elst, Gräbner permitted scouts to contact the Kampfgruppe at Nijmegen. Portions of the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion returned to Arnhem during the night on 18 September. Heavy casualties were suffered on the Rhine Bridge. Burning armored half-tracks littered the entire width of the road. The residual elements remained on the southern banks and sealed off the bridge along a front, facing north, barring the Allies from advancing from the south. The small contingency prevented the Allies from capturing the southern approach to the bridge.

Around midnight, the 10th SS Panzer Division received superseding orders from the II SS Panzer Corps that diverted the division from their original route of march over Arnhem. Instead, they were directed to travel southeast of Arnhem over the lower Rhine and utilize a ferry service. From there, the division was to capture Nijmegen and establish a bridgehead on the southern bank of the Waal; both bridges were to be prepared for demolition.

Immediately, the division placed the Kampfgruppe Reinhold in march over Zevenaar and then on to Pannerden. The 1st Company of the 10th Pioneer Battalion assumed the lead at the point. The objective was to propel the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion, forward against Nijmegen, after crossing the lower Rhine (Pannerdian Canal) at the ferry cross-over points with rubber assault boats and other acquired boats. Together with the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, expected to arrive at any moment, the pioneer company was to be attached to the local unit and facilitate ejecting the Allies, who had infiltrated the city during the night. Moreover, the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion, was tasked with the preparation for the demolition of both Waal bridges. Army Group B reserved the right to rescind the order to blow up the bridges.

The decisive task around Nijmegen fell to the 10th SS Panzer Division: to prevent the American 82nd Airborne Division from making contact with the British 1st Airborne Division at Arnhem. Nonetheless, while the entire division knew of the objective, Kampfgruppe Reinhold was responsible for preventing a link before the bulk of the division arrived at the battlefield.

Considering the pioneer and antiaircraft battalions that were detached earlier but particularly needed at the crossing-points west of Pannerden, the bulk of the 10th SS Panzer Division redirected over Doesburg and Doetinchem.

During the first morning hours on 18 September, the Allies attempted to expand their bridgehead north of the Arnhem Bridge. Battalion Euling engaged the attackers and thwarted the Allied attempt. Around 0400 hours, Battalion Knaust, a training and replacement battalion, arrived with four weak companies, consisting of wounded or disabled soldiers, and ten older tanks along the northeastern fringe of Arnhem. Bittrich ordered the Battalion Knaust attached to the Kampfgruppe Brinkmann. The battalion replaced Battalion Euling, squad for squad, to allow the latter to resume its mission as part of Kampfgruppe Reinhold. However, the relief took longer than expected as individual groups from the battalion engaged in close combat.

Around the same time, the commander of the division Heinz Harmel returned from Bad Saarow and arrived at the forward divisional combat command post at Velp. After a short orientation by the 1st General Staff officer, Harmel made his way to the entrenched Kampfgruppe Brinkmann, located near the bridge along the outskirts of the city. Every house and every floor was bitterly contested. Harmel ordered the employment of a divisional light howitzer battery in the gardens along the road approaching the bridge; the houses on the opposite side were taken under direct fire. Shortly thereafter, Harmel reported to the commanding general of the II SS Panzer Corps (within the immediate vicinity) and assumed command of the battle around the Arnhem Bridge.

In terms of additional armored assistance, only a single company of old Army Tigers were available to support combat operations of the 10th SS on 19 September. The veteran Army captain Hans Hummel commanded the company of Tigers, which gained experience during the fighting in Sicily, at which time Hummel was wounded when he commanded the 2nd Company, 504th Heavy Panzer Battalion. The company organized as an alarm unit in early July 1944, for which Hummel gathered members of his former company from the Wehrkreiskommando Münster, the Wehrmacht District IV. The company, christened Heavy Panzer Company Hummel, was specifically organized to support the coup d’état against Hitler on 20 July.

The Heavy Panzer Company Hummel received the alarm and activated on 18 September at Sennelager. The company unloaded at the train station at Bocholt. From the station, they traveled 80 km, but only two Tigers, those belonging to Lieutenant Knack and Sergeant Barneki, reached Arnhem. The remaining tanks suffered from mechanical failures but arrived in Arnhem shortly thereafter.

Meanwhile, in accordance with the OKH directive of 15 August 1944, the 506th Heavy Panzer Battalion was refitted and freely organized in Ohrdruf with King Tigers or Tiger IIs. Under the new organization, the staff and tank companies reassigned the supply and service units into a supply company. The battalion staff and staff companies were amalgamated with the flak platoons. Under the command of Army Major Lange, forty-five King Tigers were allocated to the battalion between 20 August and 12 September. During the training that emphasized contending with aerial threats, several vehicles caught on fire. The fuel-line linkages on many tanks were not completely sealed and the fuel reservoir access ports were located too close to the very hot exhaust pipes. Despite inspections by members of the Heereswaffenamtes or Army Ordnance Department, the deficiencies were never adequately corrected.

Upon the arrival of two Tigers from the Heavy Tank Company Hummel, Kampfgruppe Brinkmann and all its elements returned under the control of the 10th SS Panzer Division. According to Harmel, Field Marshal Model ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division to fight to open a line of communication to Nijmegen, and ensure for the speedy resupply of all German units in that area.

The commander of the 10th SS Panzer Division personally led the attack against the bridge throughout the entire day and night of 19 September. The divisional combat command post was moved throughout 18 September from Velp to Pannerden.

Army Major Hans-Peter Knaust, commanding Battalion Bocholt, led by example and with a wooden prosthetic leg. The battalion displayed its worth during the attack against the bridge by ensnarling the enemy, from house to house, in close combat for hours. The defending soldiers of the British 1st Airborne Division fought courageously but at a great cost. According to Heinz Harmel, the fighting spirit and skill of the British airborne equaled his own division; Harmel considered them honorable and just in battle.

On Monday morning, 18 September, additional Allied paratroopers landed on the opposite side of the river. Trapp and his few remaining comrades were surrounded. Trapp mounted the heavy machine gun on a tripod, for better targeting. However, he was out of ammunition.

A half-track arrived in order to recover the men killed in action from between the opposing two lines of battle. Trapp manned the two vehicle machine guns and provided cover fire as the vehicle descended into the fight. One soldier was killed when hit in the heart after a projectile traveled through his Soldbuch or soldier’s pay book. He was barely nineteen years old.

The 3rd Machine Gun Company retained the half-track; it was the only vehicle in the sector between the church tower and the ramp to the river bridge. Using the half-track, Trapp and two other SS troopers were selected to establish contact with the adjacent Kampfgruppe, locked in combat beyond the ramp of the bridge. To achieve their objective, they had to pass under the ramp. The remaining company machine guns were to suppress the British antitank gun emplaced along the bridge, which had excellent observation across the roads along the riverbanks. Bernd Schulz, a farmer from Sendenhorst near Münster, was one of the last of the old fighters and was assigned as a driver. During the situation briefing, Schulz began to cry and had a bad feeling about the mission. Despite his misgivings, the men carefully stuffed their camouflage jacket pockets full of egg hand grenades and belts of ammunition for the MG-42.

No sooner had the half-track sped across the intersection when an antitank projectile hit the driverside of the vehicle. The half-track lurched to a stop; Schulz was killed instantly when the projectile hit him. The two remaining men exited the vehicle and darted into a demolished house, which was between two Allied defensive positions. In order to escape their predicament, Trapp provided suppressing machine-gun fire as his comrade ran across the street. As Trapp prepared to cross, several British soldiers suddenly surrounded Trapp. Using hand grenades to keep the British at bay, Trapp escaped across the street and jumped over a river wall and into the Rhine. After removing his wet clothing on the back of a half-sunken dredge, he swam toward friendly lines in his undergarments, armed only with a pistol. Shortly thereafter, Trapp reached his unit and received replacement clothing and equipment from fallen comrades. For Trapp, the fighting continued until he was wounded in Elst, when a bullet hit his knee. He was evacuated to the rear in a half-track, along with the commander of the Kampfgruppe Knaust. The major showed Trapp his wooden leg and commented, “Don’t worry. I was able to walk again.”

SS-Hauptsturmführer Schwappacher personally made several reconnaissance excursions into the area around Nijmegen earlier that morning to clarify the situation, which allowed him to place heavy artillery fire on Allied troop concentrations around Berg en Dal. Around 1000 hours Allied forces moving north toward the city were subjected to observed artillery, as well as on the main approaches east of the city. Around noon, Allied troops attacking northward that reached the road-triangle at the southern rim of the bridge were stopped by artillery fire from batteries of the 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment. Additional artillery fire allowed infantry from the Herman Göring Company Runge and the forward observers to relocate to the northeast along the railroad line. Schwappacher managed to gain considerable advantages with a single heavy artillery battery that gained fire control over the entire area of operations.

The 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion, crossed the lower Rhine at Pannerden first and reached the bridge at Nijmegen, on 18 September, in vehicles and bicycles. However, the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion had yet to arrive at their forward position at the Nijmegen Bridge. Both German and British forces engaged in costly street fighting in the center of the city. Members of the Dutch underground also participated in the fighting.

Around midday on 18 September, the commander of Kampfgruppe Reinhold arrived from Pannerden-Bemmel at the Waal River Bridge. Located south of Lent, Reinhold arrived with Battalion Euling, but missing those elements that could not be disengaged in time from the fighting at Arnhem. The timely arrival of Euling allowed nearby homeland defense units and the 2nd SS Pioneers to provide the additional energy needed to ward off several Allied attacks against the Waal bridges. Shortly thereafter, the half-track company and battalion staff of Battalion Euling rolled across the bridge at full speed. The bridge was under fire by Allied artillery. The remainder of the battalion arrived throughout the afternoon in trucks and on bicycles. However, due to the increase of artillery fire, only portions of the battalion managed to cross the bridge. Other portions of the battalion crossed the river upstream in rubber rafts. SS-Hauptsturmführer Euling established his combat command post in the city citadel, between the two bridges of Nijmegen. Local troops fighting under the command of Major Ahlborn were subordinated to Battalion Euling. The 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion reported the bulk of the battalion to be located at Elst and, according to rumor, designated as the division reserve. According to Harmel, the Kampfgruppe 9th SS Panzer Division requested the return of the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion to the II SS Panzer Corps. Sensing a certain lack of dependability, Harmel ordered the battalion to secure their lines south of Elst, launch an attack to stop an Allied advance from Nijmegen to the north, and reconnoiter points of opportunity against new airborne landings south of Arnhem.

10th SS Panzer Division at the Arnhem Battles III

Around 2000 hours on 18 September, stray Allied machine-gun fire damaged the radio belonging to SS-Cannonier Albrecht, 21st Battery, 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment. Participating in an infantry counterattack, Albrecht managed to climb onto a Sherman tank and knocked out the vehicle by dropping a hand grenade into the open turret.

Late in the morning on 19 September, Battery Godau, of the Blocking Unit Heinke, relocated from their positions west of Budel. The battery relocated south of Weert. Moreover, the bridge across the Zuid-Willemsvaart was prepared for demolition.

Despite the lack of a German unit command structure west of Arnhem, the Allied landing zones at Oosterbeek were contained and Allied movement was constricted as Kampfgruppe Brinkmann slowly managed to gain ground. The road leading to the bridge lay only several hundred meters before the Kampfgruppe. The Allies formed a formidable and tough defensive group around the city church. The German center of gravity shifted for the attack to gain access to the defenders.

At Pannerden, the 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion built a 70-ton pontoon ferry that enabled tanks from the 2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment to reinforce Kampfgruppe Reinhold. Wary of Allied aerial reconnaissance, the first tanks did not cross until after nightfall.

During the afternoon on 19 September, the Allies launched a concerted attack at Nijmegen and employed heavy tanks for the first time. This provided evidence that the Allied armored forces, the British Guards Armoured Division of XXX Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General B. G. Horrocks, which attacked on 17 September to the north out of the bridgehead at Neerpelt, had linked with the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. Moreover, heavy artillery fire supported and preceded the attack. At the onset, heavy Allied flanking machine-gun fire was placed on the Waal bridges from the west that threatened German communications and resupply traffic. However, the Allied attack against the bridgehead was thwarted with the help of the timely arrival of elements of the 10th SS. Bitter street fighting caused fires to break out in the northern sectors of the city. The poor weather that had dominated the last several days prevented any additional airborne landings.

Between 17 and 19 September, and in response to the Allied airborne operations, K. Mahler drove a small detachment of men from the 6th Company, 10th SS Panzer Regiment, into action at Arnhem. The majority of the 6th Company was either in Germany undergoing training or looking for tanks.

Late in the morning on 19 September the main line of battle remained relatively quiet; however, the 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment, combated Allied assembly points at the southern rim of Nijmegen and tank concentrations along the road leading from Nijmegen to the southwest. SS-Scharführer Hotop of the 21st Battery placed well-observed fire against troops on the road and disabled two Sherman tanks operating near the railroad line. A second Allied attack against the bridge around 1400 hours also received well-observed artillery fire from the 21st Battery, called by the commander of the main forward observation post, SS-Hauptsturmführer Horst Krüger. One Allied tank was knocked out by an antitank gun, and projectiles from the 21st Battery landed 300 meters south of the bridge, forcing the remaining Allied tanks to break off the attack. Moreover, SS-Scharführer Hotop succeeded that evening in disrupting two tank assembly areas west of the railroad and, through the application of short combat fire sets, beat off a closed tank assault.

After heavy night fighting at the Arnhem Bridge, Kampfgruppe Brinkmann, reinforced by the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion and Battalion Knaust, began operations on 20 September, in close combat with flamethrowers and Panzerfausts, to eliminate individual nests of resistance. A portion of the group of houses that lay near the church caught on fire, whereby plumes of smoke reduced Allied observation. As a result, the Kampfgruppe managed to shorten the distance to the bridge. In the process, a number of severely wounded Allied soldiers were taken prisoner. In the afternoon, an Allied prisoner divulged the fact that the Allied fighting spirit had wavered and the situation had become hopeless. Consequently, the Allied commander of the defensive bridgehead was asked to surrender. He did not concede and the fight for the bridge continued, without result, throughout the entire night.

West of Arnhem, Kampfgruppe Harzer of the 9th SS further compressed the Allies and eliminated any possibilities of relief or reinforcement in Arnhem.

On the same day in Nijmegen, the Allies renewed their attacks from the east against the northern sector of the city after additional forces, consisting of tanks, artillery, and engineers, were brought forward. Battalion Euling, reinforced by the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion, and other local ground units, mounted a bitter defense. Batteries from the 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment, placed well-observed artillery fire directed by SS-Hauptsturmführer Krüger onto the road, which slowed their advance. The German bridgehead reached 1 km in width but only 300 meters in depth. The right boundary ended along the railroad line whereas the left boundary ran approximately 100 meters east of the bridge road. German artillery repeatedly beat off Allied attempts to attack the position. Krüger’s forward observation post brought artillery fire to bear against the Allies within 100 meters of the German position.

Allied Typhoons bombed and strafed the northern banks of the Waal while British preparatory artillery and tank fire, along with heavy white phosphorus smoke, allowed the first of two battalions from the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment of Brigadier General James M. Gavin’s “All American” 82nd Airborne Division to conduct a diversionary assault across the Waal, west of the city, and secure a foothold on the northern bank.

The 21st Heavy Howitzer Battery of the 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment, fired against tank and troop assemblies without respite from its location in Nijmegen, but also provided effective blocking fire on the main roads. All available guns fired onto a main artery. The 19th Light Howitzer Battery fired against Allied landings on the northern and southern banks of the Waal. The 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment, provided observation and fire direction for the 19th Battery that subjected American troops crossing the Waal to 250 rounds of sustained destructive fire, as well as thirty minutes of slow harassing fire that hit several landing boats and caused high numbers of casualties. The Alarm Platoon, led by SS-Untersturmführer Friedrich Brandsch, dispatched to the area around Valburg to combat Allied paratroopers. However, Schwappacher recalled the Alarm Platoon in order to provide patrols and secure the area of operations of the 5th Battalion. SS-Untersturmführer Alfons Büttner received orders to defend against advancing Allied troops moving north and northwest. His mission was to hold the Damn Road south of Oosterhout. With vehicle drivers and members of the staff, they fought Allied troops with rifle and machine-gun fire. During the most critical period shortly after 1500 hours, many of the men that held the defensive line along the Damn Road, including Fallschirmjägers, members of the RAD, as well as antiaircraft batteries, suddenly withdrew in order to obtain ammunition. Schwappacher, who went to great effort to establish a defensive line during the night 19–20 September, was left only with fifteen men, including drivers and the battalion staff that held the line. Schwappacher ordered forming a defensive hedgehog position with the 21st and Staff Batteries.

Around 1700 hours, following the decoy crossing further upstream, Allied armored forces attacked both bridges at Nijmegen after artillery fire and smoke landed on both banks of the Waal River, northeast of Lent. Portions of the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion, which were engaged at the southern approaches to the bridge, immobilized several Allied tanks with close-quarter weapons. Nevertheless, large numbers of additional tanks at high speeds, supported by armored halftracks, could not be prevented from crossing the bridge. While the Army Group B remained in control of the bridge, approval to blow up the bridge could not be obtained soon enough before the Allies rolled across and as far as Lent.

One hour later the 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment formed a hedgehog position and continuously sent scouting patrols that maintained contact with the enemy with small arms fire. The small contingency of men holding the Damn Road were withdrawn to the northwestern portion of Oosterhout, after Schwappacher personally led a diversionary counterattack around 1900 hours with two assault groups against the road, south of Oosterhout. While the assault groups managed to take control of the center and southern exits of Oosterhout, they were unable to capture the Damn Road entirely. The cost of the counterattack included one dead and two wounded.

Heinz Harmel was in Lent when he received the news of the Allied crossing and ordered the bridge blown up. However, the demolition failed. Apparently, shrapnel or small arms fire had damaged the detonation cable.

After a brief respite from Allied preparatory fire along the southern outskirts of Lent, Allied tanks infiltrated the village and broke the resistance of the poorly armed and trained Home Defense units and elements of the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion. The Allies pushed through Lent and north, but slowed and moved forward cautiously after sustaining losses from the effects of their own smoke. Harmel drove back from Lent to Bremmel to the combat command post of Kampfgruppe Reinhold, where he ordered portions of the 2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment, and one battalion of the 22nd SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment arriving from Pannerden, to counterattack immediately. Bringing forward the expected arriving elements of the 9th SS Reconnaissance Battalion, south of Elst, was stymied when only scouting teams of the battalion were available. Moreover, the counterattack lacked the necessary fire support. Kampfgruppe Reinhold lacked heavy weapons as a result of the limited ferry traffic, and the light field howitzer battalion had only a single battery that was moving into position east of Flieren.

On 20 September, the railroad bridge at Nijmegen fell into Allied hands. Despite being completely cut off and surrounded, SS-Hauptsturmführer Euling, with approximately sixty men from his battalion and Major Ahlborn, commanding a group of Fallschirmjäger from the 1st Fallschirmjäger Training Staff, continued to hold the citadel of the city. The stubborn defense of Kampfgruppe Euling and 1st Fallschirmjäger Training Staff accounted for one Sherman tank destroyed and approximately thirty British killed or wounded. The artillery battery firing positions of Blocking unit Heinke, renamed to Blocking unit Roestel, were positioned in the south near Weert, Heelen Meijel, and Helden.

At dusk, approximately 1 km north of Lent, a small contingent of Horrocks’ Guards tanks were stopped and they withdrew to the south. Kampfgruppe Reinhold occupied and secured a new defensive line during the counterattack. The renewed commitment of the Landesschützen or Local Security Forces of Kampfgruppe Hartung bolstered the new line developed on the morning of 21 September that ran from the crossroads 1.8 km west-southwest of Ressen (south of village) and passing south of Bemmel. When Allied tanks managed to cross the bridge at Lent around 1900 hours, contact between the 5th Company, SS Artillery Training and Replacement Regiment and Nijmegen was lost. until 1930 hours, SS-Hauptsturmführer Krüger directed fire for the 21st Battery using signal flares. SS-Scharführer Meckler assumed fire direction from the intermediate post when SS Senior NCO Nowak received orders from SS-Sturmbannführer Reinhold to form a defensive line along the northern banks of the Waal, west of the bridge. The defensive line consisted of fragmented infantry and a construction company that inflicted casualties on the advancing Allies. SS-Oberscharführer Riese assumed command of the defensive line. When the radio of the forward observation post became inoperable from a direct hit, SS-Unterscharführer Hotop and his men joined in the hard fighting with Company Runge in southwest Lent. Krüger and the main observation post remained completely cut off when it was overrun and they engaged in close combat with the enemy. According to the eyewitness accounts of two members of Krüger’s main observation post, SS-Rottenführer Köhler and Private Burgstaller, SS-Hauptsturmführer Krüger personally rallied fragmented members from all service branches amidst the chaos to hold the defensive line:

The trenches held in close combat until the last cartridge around 2030 hours. Previously wounded around 1800 hours, Krüger continued to direct fire for the batteries when he was wounded a second time in the back by three submachine gun rounds. He was evacuated to the first aid bunker only after being wounded a third time, when a tank projectile hit his thigh. Once the defenders in the trenches depleted their ammunition, the Allies fired smoke and phosphor projectiles into the trenches that forced roughly twelve surviving men out of the trenches.

When SS-Rottenführer Köhler and SS-Mann Burgstaller exited the trenches, they were immediately captured by American troops under the command of an American officer. However, they managed to escape and made their way to Battalion Euling. As they fled, SS-Mann Burgstaller witnessed the shooting of SS-Unterscharführers Lindenthaler and Beissmann, as well as an unknown Fallschirmjäger. SS-Hauptsturmführer Krüger, together with several severely wounded German soldiers, and two medical orderlies, were also captured in the first aid bunker.

Southwest of Lent, around 1930 hours SS-Cannonier Albrecht and Army Staff Sergeant Piebeck knocked out a Sherman tank with a Panzerfaust. Shortly thereafter, Albrecht and an SS-Unterscharführer undertook a special scouting patrol into Nijmegen to rescue and extract Army Captain Runge. The two-man team made it across the Waal in a boat but the senior corporal was killed by rifle fire. Albrecht, joined by a Fallschirmjäger, made it to the command post of Company Runge, where they met Army Lieutenant Schulz, who guided them to the northern banks of the Waal. At the bridge, Albrecht and Schulz examined Germans who appeared to have been wounded earlier but were mutilated, displaying signs of stabbing wounds to the head, neck, and heart. A full report was filed with the nearest higher command post.

Around 2200 hours Schwappacher personally relocated the Staff and 21st Battery in the hedgehog position at Oosterhout into a defensive island that repulsed advancing Allied scouts. Around 2230 hours, an Army battery, commanded by First Lieutenant Bock, which operated some 400 meters north of the hedgehog position, relocated with a prime mover and the remainder of a RAD battalion into the hedgehog position. At midnight, General of infantry Hans von Tettau, chief of the Command and Training Staff Netherlands, received a radio message that the position at Oosterhout would hold until the last man. At the same time, Army Captain Krüger, commanding an antiaircraft battalion, promised Schwappacher additional infantry reinforcements to Oosterhout. As the situation became more acute and the hedgehog position ran out of illumination flares to protect against attacks, five houses near the town exit were set on fire.

Around 0400 hours, von Tettau radioed a message to withdraw to Elst. Schwappacher immediately dispatched a staff officer to reconnoiter positions at Elst. At 0500 hours Schwappacher directed the heavy artillery and prime mover to exit Oosterhout. The individual security groups—positioned in the south, southwest, and southeast—repeatedly parried Allied mortar-supported infantry attacks when Kampfgruppe Knaust arrived. Schwappacher quickly oriented Knaust and provided fire support for Knaust from the 21st Heavy Howitzer Battery, located in Huis Reed, some 2.5 km south of Elst. The continued fire direction for the battery was then provided by the forward observer SS-Untersturmführer Haase, from an armored scout car. For the combat achievements of the 5th Company, SS Training and Replacement Regiment, Schwappacher received the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

In the early morning on 21 September and in anticipation of a general Allied advance in the direction of Elst, the commanding general of the II SS Panzer Corps ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division to concentrate its strength, moving forward from Pannerden, and attack the southern flank of the Allied spearhead, thereby throwing the Allies back across the Waal. When the combat command post of the 10th SS, located in Pannerden, received heavy Allied artillery fire in the night on 21 September, it relocated to Didam. However, the forward command post remained in Doornenburg. The following units remained available for the attack on 21 September 1944:

22nd SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment (approx. 1-1/2 Btl.),

Kampfgruppe Hartung (Landesschützen),

2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment (approx. 16 Pz.Kpfw.IV),

1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion,

2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment in position east of Flieren, and two supporting battalions of the 10th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment (positioned on the east bank of the Pannerden’schen canal).

10th SS Panzer Division at the Arnhem Battles IV

SS-Standartenführer Heinz Harmel, Regimentskommandeur in der SS-Panzer-Grenadier-Division “Das Reich” erhielt vom Führer als 296. Soldat der deutschen Wehrmacht das Eichenlaub zum Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes verliehen. (12.9.1943). SS-PK-Aufn.Kriegsber. Zschäckl-Atl. 13.9.1943 [Herausgabedatum]

On or about 21 September, SS-Hauptsturmführer Büthe relinquished the duties of the divisional 1st General Staff officer to SS-Sturmbannführer Hans Stolley, who came to the division from the II SS Panzer Corps and with ample experience. Born on 21 November 1914 in Kiel, Hans-Jochim Stolley first received a commission as an SS-Untersturmführer on 20 April 1937. Serving as a platoon commander in the 1st Battalion, SS Death’s Head Regiment “Oberbayern,” he participated in the French campaign and for heroism was awarded the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class simultaneously on 30 June 1940. Stolley served from 3 March 1941 until 1 June 1943 in the SS Leibstandarte Regiment “Adolf Hitler,” the SS Mountain Division “Nord,” as well as the 6th SS Mountain infantry Replacement Regiment. Having distinguished himself while holding the billets of company commander, regimental adjutant, the divisional 1st ordnance officer (OI), and the quartermaster officer (Ib) while assigned to the SS Division “Nord,” he received orders during the same period from 1 December 1942 to 1 June 1943 to attend the General Staff Academy. Graduating from the academy, he posted as the 1st General Staff officer (Ia) to the II SS Panzer Corps and was credited with refreshing the 3rd Panzer Division, overseeing the completion of the defenses surrounding Charkow, and working tirelessly during offensive and defensive operations in July 1943 between Bjelgorod and Obojan. In August 1943, after the corps relocated to northern Italy, Stolley was instrumental in foiling the Anglo-American landings along the coast after extensively reconnoitering and studying the terrain. Stolley made the greatest contributions in Russia as the aid to the commander of the General Staff, and planning for three major offensives in the areas of Göritz-Udine, Istrine and Fiume, and Slovenia, which brought about the capture of some 11,000 resistance fighters as well as weapons and supplies. Stolley also gained experience with the II SS Panzer Corps at Buczacz and around the end of July during the defensive battles in Normandy.

Meanwhile, the 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment, consisting of approximately one and a half battalions, did not arrive east of Haalderen until the afternoon due to poor ferry service. In the face of mounting Allied strength and artillery effectiveness north of the Waal, and without the presence of the regiment, the corps could not achieve a decisive success. Nevertheless, numerous Allied attacks to the north were repulsed and the advance of Battalion Knaust at Elst prevented a speedy Allied breakthrough. In the evening on 21 September, the line from the southern fringe of Elst to the western fringe of Bemmel Altwasser south of Bemmel lay firmly secured in the hands of the 10th SS Panzer Division. The 3rd Battalion of the regimental artillery, under the command of SS-Sturmbannführer Fritz Haas, was credited with a significant contribution to the division’s success.

As an SS-Hauptsturmführer, Fritz Haas assumed command of the 1st Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Artillery Regiment on 3 February 1943. As an SS-Sturmbannführer he then took command of the 3rd Battalion on 10 March 1944. Haas gained combat experience in the West, in the Balkans, and on the Eastern Front. His decorations included the Iron Cross 2nd and 1st Class, the Panzer Assault Badge, the Eastern Medal, and the Wound Badge in Black. He commanded the 3rd Battalion, 3rd SS Death’s Head Artillery Regiment, until the end of 1943 when he transferred to the Training Group A of the 2nd Artillery School, at Beneschau, Bohemia. The commander of the Artillery School, SS-Sturmbannführer Karl Schlamelcher, considered Haas to be a well-read and widely knowledgeable commander, but criticized Haas as “later losing his way in the details that compromised the clear and continuous line of the officer training group.”

Based on the divisional commander’s experience gained at Normandy, Harmel ensured the artillery regiment was refreshed and resupplied very carefully. Harmel’s philosophy on artillery in the attack or defense was that enough artillery was never available. Panzer grenadier regiments supported the artillery as much as possible, which included providing the necessary vehicles to tow allocated artillery batteries. During the refreshing of the division, every effort was made to organize the artillery regiment in the following manner:

1st Battalion two batteries with 6 guns lFH Pz.III (Wespen) one battery with 6 guns sFH Pz.IV (Hummel) 2nd Battalion three batteries with 6 guns lFH 3rd Battalion three batteries with 6 guns sFH 4th Battalion three batteries with 6 guns 100mm cannon Total number of guns = 72

By September, the division had not achieved its desired goal. At Nijmegen, approximately thirty to forty guns were employed to support operations. To bolster support, the artillery was augmented by 320mm rocket launchers, of which six were attached to the outer hulls of the half-track (Sd. Kfz.251/1 Ausf.C), also known as Stuka zu Fuss or Walking Stuka. The 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion and 10th SS Panzer Pioneer Battalion were each equipped with one platoon of three halftracks for an additional thirty-six guns. In an emergency situation, the antiaircraft battalion could also employ their twelve 88mm guns.

Meanwhile, at the citadel in Nijmegen, Battalion Euling and the Parachute Group Ahlborn defended the last remaining building complex still in German hands, until the roof caved in over their heads. Apparently, the Allies assumed the Kampfgruppe had been destroyed. However, around 2300 hours on the same day, SS-Sturmbannführer Euling and the defenders managed to break through Allied lines and crossed the Waal River in boats, several kilometers northeast of the bridge, and re-established contact with the 10th SS Panzer Division at Haalderen.

Support for Kampfgruppe Brinkmann during the concentrated attack of the II SS Panzer Corps against the British 1st Airborne Division in the center and west of Oosterbeek included a battalion of the 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment, King-Tigers of the 504th Heavy Tank Battalion, and 88mm antiaircraft guns. Around 1100 hours, Kampfgruppe Brinkmann captured the bitterly contested bunker on the northern approach to the bridge. The task force took possession of the bridge and opened a single path after clearing the burned wreckage of the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion. Simultaneously, remaining Allied nests of resistance were neutralized in the vicinity of the bridge. At a minimum, Allied harassing fire against the bridge was brought to an end.

Battalion Knaust, reinforced by eight vehicles including Panther tanks and assault guns, marched across the Arnhem Bridge shortly after midday on orders to proceed quickly onto Elst. The 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion neutralized the remaining pocket of resistance near the bridge and gathered freely in the southern sector of the city of Arnhem. While Arnhem remained under continued Allied artillery fire and aerial attacks on 21 September, Field Marshal Model ordered the city cleared of civilians. Around the same time, the II SS Panzer Corps ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division to place all remaining elements of the 9th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, located on the southern bank of the Lower Rhine around Elst, in march toward Elden.

Amidst the reorganization on 21 September, an unexpected message arrived in the early afternoon that Allied airborne troops had parachuted and landed near Driel. The airborne forces in question were identified as the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade. The reinforced Battalion Knaust, whose lead elements were scheduled to arrive in Elst around 1600 hours, received new orders from the Corps to deploy immediately against the new threat. However, the situation south of Elst did not allow for a change. Allied pressure moving north developed substantially throughout the course of the late morning. The Allied airborne landings at Driel served to strengthen Allied pressure. The reinforced Battalion Knaust moved through Elst in order to stop the attacking Allied spearheads. Shortly thereafter, troops of the 10th SS Panzer Division assumed a loose defense south of Elst.

Notwithstanding the presence of Battalion Knaust, the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, located in the southern portion of Arnhem, received orders from the II SS Panzer Corps, during the time of their attachment to Kampfgruppe Harzer (9th SS), to proceed forward over Elden and attack the new enemy around Driel.

The batteries of the antiaircraft Brigade Swoboda and 191st Artillery Regiment, operating in the vicinity of the 9th SS Panzer Division, received orders to provide support and moved into position around Elden. The terrain offered little to no cover, and poor driving conditions forced the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion to move forward along a narrow path. Strung out over a considerable distance from north of Elst, the reconnaissance battalion moved into positions for an attack against Driel with unfavorable conditions. Kampfgruppe Harzer unexpectedly ran into flanking fire from forward elements of the British 43rd Division shortly before the Germans reached the village. However, under the cover of darkness, Kampfgruppe Harzer changed direction and headed southeast, and transitioned to the defense on 22 September along the railroad line Arnhem-Elst, as the southern flank lay north of Elst.

The 10th SS artillery regiment’s task of providing support across a front that exceeded 20 km was complicated further by additional fire support requirements for the neighboring weak Army 191st Artillery Regiment. To better cope and meet the requirements, the commander of the artillery regiment, SS-Obersturmbannführer Hans-Georg Sonnenstuhl, strung together a seamless chain of artillery-blocking fire segments between the areas west of Arnhem and the Waal River at Nijmegen. Each segment, numbered 1 to 75, represented the effective area of fire for a single battery. A woman’s name further identified each segment. Fire missions were easily called using field phones or radios, and based on the number or name of the segment. Indeed, the entire regiment could place fire very quickly on any designated segment. Each forward observer knew his segment number or name. Instead of calling coordinates, the forward observer simply identified the segments.

Sonnenstuhl’s successful counter-battery tactics were based on calculations taken from Allied artillery muzzle flashes at night. The results provided the artillery regiment an accurate layout and the locations of Allied batteries. The combined fire from various German guns, each consisting of several fire sets, brought to bear as many as 260 projectiles per mission, which effectively destroyed Allied gun positions. Each fire set per gun consisted of six projectiles for light howitzers and five projectiles per heavy howitzer.

Throughout the period from 18 to 21 September, SS-Sturmbannführer Leo Reinhold provided leadership for the three-day defense at the bridgehead at Nijmegen. Despite very high losses and the addition of unfamiliar ad hoc troop elements, Reinhold effectively rallied the defense against superior Allied armored forces and closed several critical gaps that developed during the fighting. Reinhold’s men accounted for the close-quarter destruction of twenty-four Allied tanks. On orders to recapture the bridgehead, Reinhold contained the wavering defense and personally led a counterattack to establish a blocking line along the northern bank of the Waal. Not only did Reinhold prevent an Allied breakthrough from the bridgehead at Nijmegen to Arnhem, but he also provided the necessary time for the destruction of the Allied airborne forces at Arnhem. For his achievements, SS-Sturmbannführer Reinhold was decorated on 16 October 1944 with the Knight’s Cross to the Iron Cross.

Meanwhile, Battery Godau received orders to withdraw to the east and crossed the Wessem-Nederweert-Kanl at Kelpen. During the crossing, Allied units were in such close pursuit that the battery employed two guns at point blank range. From 22 to 24 September, the battery assumed firing positions in Panningen.

Throughout 22 September, Allied resistance from remnants of the British 1st Airborne Division sprang up, here and there, in sectors of the city to the west of the Arnhem Bridge. Kampfgruppe Harzer ordered portions of a battalion from the 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment and the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion to mop up in the city sectors. However, Allied pockets of resistance were not eliminated or captured until the next day. Considering the outcome of the previous day, especially at Elst and Driel, the II SS Panzer Corps ordered the formation of a new boundary line between the 9th SS on the right and the 10th SS on the left; the mouth of the Jissel River in the Lower Rhine (2 km northeast of Huissen)-north Elst-south Valburg. Allied attacks in the sector of the 10th SS Panzer Division were thwarted throughout the day by German counterattacks south of Elst and west of Bemmel.

Throughout the day on 23 September, portions of the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion and 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment attached to the Kampfgruppe 9th SS and eliminated the last pockets of resistance in the southern sector of the city. In the process, communications were established with the left wing of the Kampfgruppe 9th SS. Heading west from the Arnhem Bridge, the 1st Company, 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, was ordered to push forward along the northern bank to points south of Oosterbeek. Their mission was to guard portions of the river on either side of Driel and report immediately any Allied movement to the Kampfgruppe 9th SS.

The bulk of the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion, supported by the Artillery Groupe Elden, defended the railroad line against repeated attacks by Polish paratroopers between Elst and Elden.

The II SS Panzer Corps ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division to occupy the defensive front south of Elst and west of Bemmel. To that end, the Corps provided artillery and antiaircraft reinforcements in the area of Huissen, and the Fortress Machine Gun Battalion 37 was attached to the 10th SS Battalion Euling of the 21st SS-Panzergrenadier Regiment, which had recently managed to free itself in Arnhem, and traveled over Elden-Huissen to bolster the defensive front. The northern wing of the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion established contact with Kampfgruppe Gerhardt, of the 9th SS.

The consolidation of Allied bridging equipment west of Nijmegen indicated the reinforcement of Allied forces between the Waal and Lower Rhine. Sufficient stocks of ammunition allowed the artillery regiments to fire harassing fire missions from their 100mm cannon and, at times, the antiaircraft battalion. As a result, the 10th SS Panzer Division held the bridges of Nijmegen and ferry points west of the city.

In the night on 23 September, the forward-most elements of the British 43rd Division from Valburg bypassed Driel to the west and reached the southern banks of the Lower Rhine.

On the following day, the 10th SS Panzer Division and right-neighboring 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion managed to repel Allied attacks against the German defensive front. After the airborne landings by the Polish 1st Airborne Brigade at Driel, the 10th SS Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion was reinforced. As of 24 September, the reconnaissance battalion numbered nearly 500 men and consisted of three reconnaissance companies, of which one remained attached to the 10th SS divisional Kampfgruppe Walther, tank elements of the 2nd Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment (Pz.Kpfw. IV), the 102st SS Antiaircraft Battery, and the 37th Fortress Machine Gun Battalion. The numerical strength of the reinforced reconnaissance battalion included:

Weapons: 49 light MG 35 heavy MG 15 medium mortars 37mm 3 Antiaircraft Guns 20mm 8 Antiaircraft Guns 20mm 3 Tank Guns 20mm 3 Tank Guns 88mm (Tiger) 1 Antitank Gun 75mm

Between 22 and 24 September, forty-five King Tigers from the 506th Heavy Panzer Battalion traveled over Köln and Wesel to directly support the 1st Parachute Army. Near Oosterbeek and west of Arnhem, the King Tigers were attached to the 10th SS Panzer Division. One company of King Tigers detrained in Zevenaar and Elten, 5 km northwest and 8 km southeast of Pannerden. Attached to the Kampfgruppe 9th SS, the company prepared for operations in a forest 3 km north of Elten. According to Harmel, the heavy tank battalion served as a replacement for the 1st Battalion, 10th SS Panzer Regiment.

The King Tiger or Tiger II was manufactured by Henschel and weighed 68 tons. The vehicle crew numbered five and fired the awesome 88mm tank gun of 71 calibers. The main gun was sighted using the TZF9d telescopic sight, with a monocular magnification of 2.5 and a range of 3,000 meters for armor piercing and 5,000 meters for high explosive ammunition, and also fired two MG-34 machine guns. The muzzle velocity of the main gun, using armor-piercing ammunition, reached 1,130 meters per second and could penetrate 153mm of armor plate at a distance of 2,000 meters. The M4A3 Sherman tank, at its thickest point, had approximately 100mm of steel. The main guns of British Shermans, including the 76mm Firefly and 17-pounder MKs IV and VII, could penetrate 98mm and 111mm, respectively, at 2,000 meters. The King Tiger was least protected along the sides and rear with only 80mm of steel. Powered by the Maybach HL 230P30 engine, the Tiger ii had eight forward and four reverse gears that gave it a maximum speed of 35 km/h and a range of 170 kilometers.

Battalion Knaust suffered many losses on 23 September when it repelled an Allied armored attack at Lienden, west of Elst. Compounded by the lack of divisional reserves, the II SS Panzer Corps ordered the 10th SS Panzer Division on 25 September to evacuate the town of Elst. Throughout the day, the division provided security as Battalion Knaust withdrew into prepared positions south of Elden astride the two roads leading from Arnhem to Nijmegen. The Allies pursued the movement only cautiously.

While the remaining elements of the 10th SS Panzer Division held the defensive front on 25 September, strong Allied pressure continued to persist throughout the following day against the entire front of the II SS Panzer Corps, extending across a line from the railroad embankment 2 km west of Elden to approximately 1 km west and southwest of Rijkerswoerd-Vergert and to the western fringe of Bemmel-Ziegelei Groenendaal. On 26 September, the fighting of the II SS Panzer Corps against the British 1st Airborne Division was successfully brought to a close. During ten days of bitter fighting and numerous failed Allied attempts to rescue the encircled British airborne, a total of 6,450 prisoners were taken and many thousand reported dead. Thirty antitank guns, numerous weapons, and 250 vehicles were captured. Moreover, over 1,000 gliders were either destroyed or captured and over one hundred aircraft were shot down.