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252nd Infantry Division
Active August 1939–May 1945
Country  Nazi Germany
Branch Army
Type Infantry
Size Division

World War II

  • Walter Melzer
  • The 252nd Infantry Division (German language: 252. Infanterie-Division) was an infantry division of the German Heer during World War II.

    History[edit | edit source]

    Mobilization, 1939[edit | edit source]

    The 252nd Infantry Division was formed on 26 August 1939, the day of German general mobilization, as a division of the fourth Aufstellungswelle. Its initial personnel was formed using supplementary formations from Wehrkreis VIII:[1]

    • Infantry Regiment 452 was formed using the Supplement Battalions 28 Leobschütz, 38 Freiwaldau, and 84 Cosel.
    • Infantry Regiment 461 was formed using the Supplement Battalions 7 Jauer, 49 Wohlau, and 83 Jauer.
    • Infantry Regiment 472 was formed using the Supplement Battalions 30 Görlitz, 51 Freystadt, and 54 Glogau.

    Furthermore, the 252nd Infantry Division was equipped with Artillery Regiment 252.[1]

    The initial divisional commander of the 252nd Infantry Division was Diether von Boehm-Bezing.[2]

    Invasion of Poland, 1939[edit | edit source]

    After mobilization, the 252nd Infantry Division was assigned to the reserves of Gerd von Rundstedt's Army Group South, which oversaw the 8th, 10th, and 14th Armies during the Invasion of Poland.[1] The 252nd Infantry Division did not see combat in Poland, and was only of note for temporary occupation duty in the country.[2]

    Western border, 1939 – 1940[edit | edit source]

    After service in Poland, the 252nd Infantry Division took position in the Saarpfalz region during the Phoney War.[2]

    On 1 February 1940, the division passed two battalions and an artillery battery to divisions of the eighth Aufstellungswelle. The division later passed about a third of the division's strength to the newly formed 134th Infantry Division of the eleventh Aufstellungswelle on 8 October 1940. The formations lost to the 134th Division were later replaced within the 252nd Division by fresh units.[1]

    France, 1940[edit | edit source]

    During the Battle of France, the 252nd Infantry Division remained with Army Group C, which oversaw the static Wehrmacht formations that were to continue to oppose the Maginot Line and to not take part in the war of movement. After other German formations broke the Allied flank in the north, the 252nd Infantry Division served with some distinction in the attacks against the Maginot defenses.[2]

    In July 1940, the 252nd Infantry Division was deployed east, towards the demarcation line with the Soviet Union.[1]

    Eastern Front, 1941 – 1945[edit | edit source]

    1941[edit | edit source]

    The 252nd Infantry Division served under the XXXXIII Army Corps of the 4th Army during the beginning phase of Operation Barbarossa. It subsequently advanced via the Białystok area in July, was pulled into the reserves of Army Group Center until September, then put into the line once more under XXXXVI Corps at Vyazma. The 252nd Infantry Division subsequently participated in the Battle of Moscow.[1]

    On 1 November 1941, the divsion stood halfway between Vyazma and Mozhaysk, remaining in the second line behind the German forward positions.[3] Parts of the 252nd Infantry Division were put into the line near the VII Army Corps by 5 November, opposite the 5th and 33rd Soviet Armies to the left and right, respectively.[4] The forward formations of the 252nd Infantry Divisions were shifted north by 13 November, moving behind the 10th Panzer Division to a position now directly opposite the Soviet 5th Army, as the 10th Panzer Division operated against both the Soviet 5th Army and the 16th Army, the 5th Army's right neighbor. Between the two Soviet armies was Istra, some 40 kilometers northwest of Moscow.[5]

    On 11 November 1941, Infantry Regiment 452 was dissolved and replaced by Infantry Regiment 7, which had previously served in the 28th Infantry Division but had become unnecessary as the 28th Division was restructured into a Jäger Division.[1]

    The Soviet 16th Army was dislodged from its positions and forced northeast by 16 November. By now, the entire 252nd Infantry Division had been called into the line to assist its superior formation, the IX Army Corps.[6] Istra itself was taken by the 26 November, and the 16th, 5th, and 33rd Soviet Armies (right to left from the Soviet perspective) were forced into a tight defensive ring around Moscow's urban core. The German advance died between Istra and Moscow in the first week of December 1941, and Istra's recapture by the Soviet forces on 11 December signalled the beginning of the Soviet counterattack.[7]

    1942[edit | edit source]

    From January 1942 to January 1943, the 252nd Infantry Division held a sector near Gzhatsk.[1][2] On 5 February 1942, Hans Schaefer became the new divisional commander.[2]

    1943[edit | edit source]

    On 23 January 1943, Walter Melzer replaced Hans Schaefer as divisional commander.[2]

    On 25 February 1943, Grenadier Regiment 472 (formerly: Infantry Regiment 472) was dissolved and its two battalions given to Grenadier Regiments 7 and 461. As a result, the 252nd Infantry Division became a binary division with a total of six infantry battalions.[1] From February to October 1943, the 252nd Infantry Division fought defensive battles in the Yelnya area.[1][2]

    On 6 August 1943, the 252nd Infantry Division was attacked simultaneously by nine Soviet divisions and two armored brigades. The 252nd Infantry Division, numbering around 10,000 at the time, was shelled by over 50,000 projectiles in a window of 150 minutes. Ultimately, the Soviet attack was repelled with severe Red Army casualties, including thousands of soldiers and almost 100 tanks, but German losses too were severe. Between 6 August 1943 and the end of the year, Grenadier Regiment 7 lost 37 of its 40 officers dead or wounded, and all three of the regiment's battalion commanders of August were killed in action before the end of the year.[2]

    In November 1943, the 252nd Infantry Division was transferred to the 3rd Panzer Army.[1][2]

    1944[edit | edit source]

    On 4 April 1944, the 252nd Infantry Division underwent major restructuring. Its heavily battered infantry formations were consolidated into Grenadier Regiment 7, and the 461st and 472nd Regiments were subsequently disbanded. As replacement, the division was refreshed with Grenadier Regiment 70 and Grenadier Regiment 544. These two regiments were the consolidated remnants of the severely damaged 73rd Infantry Division and 389th Infantry Division, respectively.[2]

    Starting on 23 June 1944, the Soviet Red Army launched a massive summer offensive, Operation Bagration. The newly reinforced 252nd Infantry Division was employed in the German defensive operations against Bagration and received commendations from the German high command for its conduct during these operations.[2]

    On 7 July 1944, the Grenadier Regiment 472 was redeployed and staffed with one battalion from each of the other regiments. The Grenadier Regiments 70 and 544 were dissolved and the old Grenadier Regiment 461 was restored.[2] As a result, the 252nd Infantry Division was fully returned to a ternary model, but the total number of battalions within the division did not actually change.[1]

    On 9 October 1944, Paul Drekmann became divisional commander.[2]

    On 18 October 1944, the division was strengthened by Grenadier Regiment 1072 and Combat March Battalion 1039.[1]

    In late 1944, the 252nd Infantry Division participated in the retreat across Lithuania and Poland, and was eventually trapped in Danzig and on the Hel peninsula.[2]

    1945[edit | edit source]

    On 30 March 1945, large parts of the 252nd Infantry Division were captured when the Red Army captured besieged Danzig as part of the Soviet East Pomeranian Offensive. Small parts of the division's personnel had been successfully evacuated to Bornholm, but the division itself stopped existing as a functional military formation.[1] The remnants of the divisions trapped on the Hel peninsula surrendered to the Red Army on 8 May 1945. The last commanding officer of the division was Oberst Georg von Unold.[2]

    Superior formations[edit | edit source]

    Operational chart of the 252nd Infantry Division[1]
    Year Month Army Corps Army Army Group Area
    1939 September Army Group reserves Army Group South Poland
    December XII 1st Army Army Group C Saar/Palatinate
    1940 January
    May – June XXIV
    July – August XXXXIV 18th Army None Poland
    September – December 4th Army Army Group B
    1941 January – April
    May XXXV
    June XXXXIII Army Group Center
    July XIII Białystok
    August – September Army Group reserves Central Russia
    October XXXXVI 4th Panzer Group Vyazma
    November Army reserves Moscow
    December IX
    1942 January – April 4th Panzer Army Gzhatsk
    May – December 3rd Panzer Army
    1943 January
    February – October 4th Army Yelnya
    November Army reserves 3rd Panzer Army Orsha
    December IX Nevel
    1944 January – June
    July – September Lithuania
    October – December XX 2nd Army Narew
    1945 January XXVII
    February – March XXIII Army Group Vistula West Prussia
    April Army East Prussia None

    Noteworthy individuals[edit | edit source]

    • Diether von Boehm-Bezing, divisional commander of the 252nd Infantry Division (26 August 1939 – 5 February 1942).
    • Hans Schaefer, divisional commander of the 252nd Infantry Division (5 February 1942 – 23 January 1943).
    • Walter Melzer, divisional commander of the 252nd Infantry Division (23 January 1943 – 9 October 1944).
    • Paul Drekmann, divisional commander of the 252nd Infantry Division (9 October 1944 – 24 March 1945).
    • Georg von Unold, divisional commander of the 252nd Infantry Division (post assumed 24 March 1945).

    References[edit | edit source]

    1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 Tessin, Georg (1973). "252" (in German). Die Landstreitkräfte 201–280. Verbände und Truppen der deutschen Wehrmacht und Waffen-SS im Zweiten Weltkrieg 1939-1945. 8. Osnabrück: Biblio Verlag. pp. 218–222. ISBN 3764808721. 
    2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 Mitcham, Samuel W. (2007). "252nd Infantry Division". German Order of Battle. Volume One. 1st-290th Infantry Divisions in World War II. Stackpole Books. pp. 297–299. ISBN 9780811734165. 
    3. Stahel, David (2015). The Battle for Moscow. Cambridge University Press. pp. 57. ISBN 9781107087606. 
    4. Stahel, David (2015). The Battle for Moscow. Cambridge University Press. pp. 70. ISBN 9781107087606. 
    5. Stahel, David (2015). The Battle for Moscow. Cambridge University Press. pp. 122. ISBN 9781107087606. 
    6. Stahel, David (2015). The Battle for Moscow. Cambridge University Press. pp. 145. ISBN 9781107087606. 
    7. Stahel, David (2015). The Battle for Moscow. Cambridge University Press. pp. 220. ISBN 9781107087606. 

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