Leichte Divisionen vs. ACR

A quote from "Panzertruppen: The Complete Guide to the Creation & Combat Employment of Germany's Tank Force 1933-1942" edited by Thomas L. Jentz (on page 27) has caught my attention:

In August 1936, the Generalstab des Heeres wrote to the Kommando der Panzertruppe on the subject of light units:
Instead of creating Panzer-Divisions, the Oberkommando des Heeres intends to create a light motorized unit in the Fall of 1937. The Oberkommando des Heeres requests that the Kommando der Panzertruppe review the intended organization for this unit under consideration and take a position on the following opinions:

The employment of the leichte Division is like the former army cavalry with the exception of decisive battles. The following tasks are planned for the leichte Division:

# Reconnaissance beyond the front lines,
# As a motorized unit under army control, reconnaissance attacks against enemy reconnaissance units or advanced troops,
# Screen the front and flanks
# Conduct delaying actions
# Close gaps
# Quickly occupy important sectors
# Pursue and overtake retreating enemy forces

As compared to Panzer-Divisions, which are planned for employment in decisive battles and breaking through enemy defenses.
American readers will probably recognize this as being the recipe for an Armoured Cavalry Regiment without the helicopter fetish.

Such Leichte Divisionen were eventually formed, disappointed in the Poland campaign in September 1939 and were finally reformed into armour divisions before the campaign against France in 1940.


P.S.: It's really not difficult to provide a source for a long quote ... ;-)


  1. Testing testing:

    I'm wondering if we could place a light-medium brigades (or battalions) with generally the same properties of this grouping using AFV's (denuded of the infantry functions entirely to make a smaller, better armored and faster/ longer ranged version of MAFV) and quick moving Stryker type vehicles (or some other medium-but fast weapons) for recon-behind-lines for entire divisions or even army groups, or would that function now be taken by UAV's and SatCommand?

    I'm thinking back to WWII and your suggestion of buying 12,000 PzH 251's: with both types of warships no longer purchased (why did you concentrated on the cheaper pair, anyway?), we could place, say, 4,500 StuG's of newer type (say, 15-25 kph faster and 100-125km longer range in a 2.0 model) into a mix of long-range light motorized battalions along with medium-light bats and even entire divs, built around mixed Panzer, PzH 251, and StuG's: any number of mix possibilities with 14-15,000 extra PzH 251's and 4-5,000 Stug's.

    Ooops, I guess that's a dog's breakfast of suggestions. Sorry.

  2. For the '35-'45 period I'd say
    * normal infantry divisions with moderate motorization,
    * light infantry brigades (mountain & glider landing qualified, one battalion each para qualified)
    * armour brigades (2 armour Bn, 2 mech/mot infantry Bns, 1 mot mortar Bn)
    * mech infantry brigades (1 smaller armour Bn, 3 mech/mot infantry Bns, 1 mot arty Bn)

    That's all formations you need.
    The infantry divisions establish, hold or push forward the line.
    Armour Bdes are the spearheads and very fast-moving cores of armour corps (avoiding the tactical defence or very infantry-favouring terrain).
    Mech Infantry brigades are the versatile (attack+defence, open+closed terrain) fast formations of armour corps.
    Light infantry brigades serve in niches (mountains, swamps, extended forests, amphibious landings) and can be assigned to army corps on a as-needed basis.

    The normal army corps (3 infantry divisions each) get an additional long-range (20+ km) arty detachment and a AT-capable assault gun company.

    The armour corps get each one to three battalion-sized vanguard reconnaissance groups.

    A brigade-sized reconnaissance element makes no sense. it'll be mis-used as combat formation and it'd be too expensive for being available in sufficient numbers. The few available ones would rarely be at the right time in the right place to fill their niche.

    Motorized force in division size don't make much sense. A German motorized infantry division on the march on one road with 50 m spacing between vehicles would have stretched over about 150 km! It needed to split up anyway, and so should its organisation (into brigades).

  3. Hi Sven,

    RE "Such Leichte Divisionen were eventually formed, disappointed in the Poland campaign in September 1939 and were finally reformed into armour divisions before the campaign against France in 1940"
    - Rommel was in that campaign
    - did he not enter Afri(c)ka later, at the the head of the 5th Light?

    Cheers, ACC

  4. The 5th leichte Division was an improvisation of early '41 that did not meet the old TO&E of leichte Panzerdivisionen. This short-lived interim formation was likely named as it was to represent its weak composition (a surprising absence of bluff!).