15. Panzer-Division

pz-15-logo


The 15. Panzer-Division was formed in November 1940 from the 33. Infanterie-Division. It was sent to Libya in February 1941 and took part in the fighting in North Africa.
The signals battalion (Panzer-Divisions-Nachrichten-Abteilung 33) was lost enroute to North Africa and was replaced by Panzer-Divisions-Nachrichten-Abteilung 78.
It surrendered in Tunisia on 13 May 1943 with the rest of the Axis forces in Africa.

The elements of the divisions not in Africa was used to form Division Sizilien and it was also briefly known as 15. Panzer-Division.

Commanders

Generalmajor Friedrich Kühn (01 Nov 1940 - 22 Mar 1941)
Generalmajor Heinrich von Prittwitz und Gaffron (22 Mar 1941 - 10 Apr 1941) (1)
Oberst Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck (13 Apr 1941 - 15 Apr 1941) m.d.F.b.
Generalmajor Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck (15 Apr 1941 - 13 May 1941) (2)
Oberst Max von Herff (13 May 1941 - 25 May 1941) m.d.F.b.
Generalmajor Walter Neumann-Silkow (26 May 1941 - 06 Dec 1941) (3)
Oberst Erwin Menny (06 Dec 1941 - 08 Dec 1941) m.d.F.b.
Generalmajor Gustav von Vaerst (09 Dec 1941 - 26 May 1942) (4)
Oberst Eduard Crasemann (26 May 1942 - 14 July 1942) m.d.F.b.
Generalmajor Heinz von Randow (15 July 1942 - 25 Aug 1942)
Generalmajor Gustav von Vaerst (25 Aug 1942 - 10 Nov 1942) (5)
Oberst Eduard Crasemann (11 Nov 1942 - 17 Nov 1942) m.d.F.b.
Oberst Willibald Borowitz (18 Nov 1942 - 31 Dec 1942) m.d.F.b.
Generalleutnant Willibald Borowitz (01 Jan 1943 - 10 May 1943)

Area of operations

Germany (Nov 1940 - Feb 1941)
North Africa (Feb 1941 - May 1943)

Holders of high awards

Holders of the Commendation Certificate of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army (3)
- Meder, Albert, 15.10.1941 (429), Oberleutnant, Ord.Offz. Stab/Pz.Jäg.Abt. 33 (Note: For bravery before the beginning of the war with the Soviet Union; action on 23./24 April 1941 at Capuzzo)
- Muntau, Gottfried, 05.09.1942 (1181), Hauptmann, Btl.Fhr. I./Pz.Gren.Rgt. 115
- Reske, Alfons, 07.01.1943 (1457), Leutnant, 9./Pz.Art.Rgt. 33
Holders of the German Cross in Gold (54)
Holders of the Honor Roll Clasp of the Heer (10)
Holders of the Knight's Cross (23)
Holders of the Romanian Order of Michael the Brave, 3rd Class (Orden “Michael der Tapfere” III. Klasse) (1)
- Stehle, Georg, Königlichen Dekrets Nr. 2517 / 13.09.1943, Oberleutnant, Pz.Gren.Rgt. 115

Order of battle (26 March 1941)

HQ
- Mapping Detachment (mot)
- Motorcycle Platoon
8. Panzer Regiment
- 2 x Battalion
15. Schützen Brigade (mot)
- 2 x Regiment
15. Motorcycle Battalion
- 3 x Motorcycle Company
- Motorcycle Machine Gun Company
- Support Company
33. Reconnaissance Battalion
- Armored Car Company
- Motorcycle Company
- Heavy Weapons Company
33. Artillery Regiment
- Regimental Staff
- 3 x Battalion
- Observation Company (mot)
33. Panzerjäger Battalion
- Panzerjäger Platoon
- 3 x Panzerjäger Company (mot)
33. Pioneer Battalion
- Pioneer Company (half-track)
- Pioneer Company (mot)
- Light Pioneer Supply Column (mot)
33. Signals Battalion
- Signals Company (mot)
- Radio Company (mot)
- Light Signals Supply Column (mot)
Support & Supply Column

Order of battle (23 October 1942)

HQ
- Mapping Detachment (mot)
8. Panzer Regiment
- Regimental Staff
- Panzer Maintenance Company
- 2 x Battalion
115. Panzergrenadier Regiment
- Regimental Staff
- Support Company (mot)
- 3 x Battalion (mot)
- Flak Company
- Infantry Gun Company (mot)
33. Artillery Regiment
- Regimental Staff
- 3 x Battalion (mot)
- Battalion (self-propelled)
I/33. Flak Regiment (mot)
- 4 x Battery (mot)
33. Pioneer Battalion (mot)
- 3 x Pioneer Company (half-track)
- Light Pioneer Supply Column (mot)
33. Panzerjäger Battalion
- Signals Platoon (mot)
- Panzerjäger Company (mot)
- Panzerjäger Company (self-propelled)
33. Reconnaissance Battalion
- Armored Car Company
- Infantry Company (half-track)
- Support Company (mot)
- Light Armroed Car Supply Column
- Light Howitzer Battery (mot)
- Light Reconnaissance Supply Column
33. Signals Battalion
- Telephone Company (mot)
- Radio Company (mot)
- Light Signals Supply Column (mot)
33. Feldersatz Battalion
- 4 x Company
Supply & Support Units

Notable members

Hans-Karl Freiherr von Esebeck (Active in the resistance against Hitler)
Maximilian von Herff (Transferred to the Waffen-SS in 1941 and ended the war as SS-Obergruppenführer)
Roland von Hößlin (Active in the resistance against Hitler and executed after the failure of the July 20 Plot)

General Erwin Rommel visiting the 15. Panzer Division in a Hanomag Kfz 15 between Tobruk and Sidi Omar, Libya
pzdiv-15-rommel
(Courtesy of U.S. National Archives)

Panzer III formerly of 15. Panzer-Division in Norwegian use post-war as Stridsvogn KW-III
pzdiv-15-pz3-norway
(Courtesy of Varyag)

Footnotes

1. GM Heinrich von Prittwitz und Gaffron was killed 10 April 1941 by British anti-tank fire near Tobruk.
2. GM Hans-Karl Freiherrvon Esebeck wounded and evacuated.
3. GM Walter Neumann-Silkow wounded by artillery near Bir el Gobi, dies 3 days later in hospital.
4. GM Gustav von Vaerst wounded and hospitalized.
5. GM Gustav von Vaerst taken ill.

Sources used

Microfilm Publication A-3356, German Officer Personnel files, NARA
RKT & DKiGT karteikarten, BA/MA
Dermot Bradley, Karl-Friedrich Hildebrand, Markus Rövekamp - Die Generale des Heeres 1921-1945
François de Lannoy & Josef Charita - Panzertruppen: German armored troops 1935-1945
Wolf Keilig - Die Generale des Heeres
Andris Kursietis - Die Wehrmacht at War 1939-1945
French Maclean - Quiet Flows the Rhine: German General Officer Casualties in World War II
Kurt Mehner - Die Deutsche Wehrmacht 1939-1945: Führung und Truppe
Samuel W. Mitcham Jr - The Panzer Legions: A guide to the German Army Tank Divisions of WWII and Their Commanders
George F. Nafziger - The Afrika Korps: An organizational history 1941-1943
Peter Schmitz, Klaus-Jürgen Thies, Günter Wegmann & Christian Zweng - Die deutschen Divisionen 1939-1945 (4 Vol)
Georg Tessin - Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht 1933-1945
Günther Wegmann - Die Ritterkreuzträger der Deutschen Wehrmacht, Teil VIII a: Panzertruppe, Band 1
Günter Wegmann & Christian Zweng - Formationsgeschichte u. Stellenbesetzung der deutschen Streitkräfte, 1815-1990, Teile IV, Abt. 1:  Die Dienststellen, Kommandobehörden u. Truppenteile des Heeres, Oct.35-May.45

Reference material on this unit

Heinrich Felix Beckmann - Panzerkampf in zwei Kontinenten am Beispiel des Panzerregiments 8, o.O. 1994
Gerhard Fiebig & Johannes Keller - Pz.Aufkl.Abt. 33 in Nordafrika
Kevin Fish - Panzer Regiment 8 in World War Ii: Poland-France-North Africa
George Gaertner - Hitler's Last Soldier in America
Axel Urbanke & Hans Becker - Als Panzermann in Afrika und Italien 1942-45: Panzer Regiment 8 und schwere Panzer-Abt. 508

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