The 5th Panzer Army, also known as Panzer Group West and Panzer Group Eberbach (German: 5.Panzer-Armee, Panzergruppe West, Panzergruppe Eberbach) was a panzer army which saw action in the Western front and North Africa. The remnants of the army surrendered in the Ruhr pocket in 1945.
The 5th Panzer Army was created on 8 December 1942 as a command formation for armoured units forming to defend Tunisia against Allied attacks which threatened after the success of the Allied Operation Torch landings in Algeria and Morocco. The army fought alongside the Italian First Army as a part of Army Group Afrika. The army capitulated on 13 May 1943, along with its commander Hans-Jürgen von Arnim. The army was officially disbanded on 30 June 1943.
The army was reformed on 24 January 1944 as Panzer Group West, the armoured reserve for OB West. The new army was placed under the command of Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg. The method of employment of Panzer Group West in the event of an allied invasion was the subject of much controversy, with OB West commander Gerd von Rundstedt and Army Group B commander Erwin Rommel favouring different methods. Rundstedt believed that the panzer group should be held in reserve some distance from the front, to counterattack Allied penetrations. However, Rommel was convinced that Allied airpower and artillery would not allow the Germans the freedom to move large formations, and so insisted that the panzers should be deployed much closer to the frontline. In the event, Hitler refused to allow his commanders to commit the panzer group without his explicit authorisation, and so when the Allied Invasion began on 6 June 1944, Panzer Group West remained immobile. By June 8 Geyr had been able to rush three panzer divisions northward to defend Caen against British and Canadian forces advancing on that city from their beachheads. Geyr planned to launch these divisions in a full-scale counterattack that would drive the British and Canadians back into the sea. On June 10, Schweppenburg was wounded in an air raid on his field headquarters. Geyr’s reinforced tank units managed to prevent the British advance for another month, but he was nevertheless relieved of his command on July 2, after seconding Rundstedt’s request that Adolf Hitler authorize a strategic withdrawal from Caen. On July 2, he was replaced by Heinrich Eberbach.
The panzer group fought against the Allied forces in Normandy, suffering heavy losses and eventually finding many of its divisions trapped in the Falaise Pocket. After the shattered remnants of the panzer group escaped from Falaise, it began a retreat towards the German border.
Retreat - Ardennes
In August, the remaining elements of Panzer Group West were reorganized as Fifth Panzer Army, with a combat formation remaining in action under the title Panzer Group Eberbach. After a brief period under Sepp Dietrich, command of the army passed to Hasso von Manteuffel. The army saw heavy combat on the German border against Allied forces, the panzer divisions suffering heavily from Allied ground attack aircraft.
In November, the 5th Panzer Army began forming up in the Ardennes, alongside the newly formed 6th SS Panzer Army under Dietrich. Both formations took part in the Battle of the Bulge, the Fifth Panzer Army suffering heavy losses in battles around Bastogne and in the armour battles around Celles and Dinant, the furthest-west points of advance. After the offensive was cancelled, it continued its fighting withdrawal to the German border. In March, it was involved in efforts to eliminate the American bridgehead over the Rhine at the Ludendorff Bridge in Remagen. The 5th Panzer Army was encircled and trapped in the Ruhr Pocket, and surrendered on 17 April 1945.
Fifth Panzer Army (North Africa)
- General of Artillery (General der Artillerie) Heinz Ziegler (3 Dec 1942 - 20 Feb 1943)
- Colonel-General (Generaloberst) Hans-Jürgen von Arnim (20 Feb 1943 - 28 Feb 1943)
- General of Panzer Troops (General der Panzertruppen) Gustav von Vaerst (28 Feb 1943 - 9 May 1943)
Panzer Group West
- General of Panzer Troops Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg (19 Nov 1943 - 2 July 1944)
- General of Panzer Troops Heinrich Eberbach (2 July 1944 - 9 Aug 1944)
Panzer Group Eberbach
- Heinrich Eberbach (10 Aug 1944 - 21 Aug 1944)
Fifth Panzer Army (France)
- Heinrich Eberbach (2 July 1944 - 9 Aug 1944)
- SS-Oberstgruppenführer Sepp Dietrich (9 Aug 1944 - 9 Sept 1944)
- General of Panzer Troops Hasso von Manteuffel (9 Sept 1944 - 8 Mar 1945)
- Colonel-General Josef Harpe (8 Mar 1945 - 17 Apr 1945)
- Pipes, Jason. "5.Panzer-Armee".
- Wendel, Markus (2004). "5. Panzer-Armee".
- "Panzergruppe West / 5. Panzerarmee". German language article at www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de. Retrieved May 12, 2005.
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