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German 7th Panzer Division
7th Panzer Division logo.svg
Active 18 October 1939 – 8 May 1945
Country Nazi Germany Deutsches Reich
Branch Heer
Type Division
Role Panzer
Nickname(s) "Gespensterdivision"
Engagements World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Georg Stumme
Erwin Rommel
Hasso von Manteuffel
Insignia
1940 7th Panzer Division logo.svg
1941–1945 7th Panzer Division logo 2.svg
at Kursk 7th Panzer Division logo 3.svg

The 7th Panzer Division was a German elite armored formation which participated in the Battle of France where it was involved in numerous atrocities. General Erwin Rommel commanded the division, which was nicknamed the "Ghost Division" because of its speed and independent movement, which even the German High Command had difficulty following. After service in France, the division served mainly on the Eastern Front, ending its days in the defense of Germany and surrendering to the British army northwest of Berlin in 1945.

The 7th Panzer Division in France[]

After the successful completion of the invasion of Poland, the panzer corps was expanded and four of the light divisions were expanded to full panzer divisions. 7th Panzer was formed from the 2nd Light Division.[1] Hitler asked Erwin Rommel, an infantry officer who had been chosen by Hitler to lead his personal guard unit, what command he would want in the upcoming battle for France. Although Rommel had no practical experience in tank warfare, he asked for a panzer division and on 15 February 1940 he received command of the 7th Panzer Division. In preparation for the invasion of the low countries, the 7th Panzer Division became part of the 15th Panzer Corps under the command of General Hoth.

"Ghost Division"[]

The 7th Panzer Division moved with great speed through France and covered vast distances. During the Battle of France, the 7th Panzer Division earned the name of the Ghost Division (German:"Gespensterdivision") because its rapid movements led to few knowing exactly where the division was, including the German High Command. Rommel had a "lead from the front" attitude and often commanded from the turret of a tank, thus driving the unit at a pace faster than what a commander issuing orders from his headquarters could achieve.[2][N 1] He believed the best place for a commander was near the point of action. In addition, he would sometimes deliberately 'lose' communications with the High Command if he felt it necessary. His fearless command of the 7th Panzer Division showed his confidence and understanding of blitzkrieg concepts. The success they experienced and his favor with Hitler prevented any repercussions from the High Command, some of whom criticized Rommel for being difficult to contact and locate. Rommel described the French Campaign in his letters to his wife as "a lightning Tour de France".[4] During the fight in France the division alongside troops from 5th Panzer division committed numerous atrocities against colonial French troops including mass murder of 50 surrendering Non-commissioned officers and men at Quesnoy and Airaines [5][6] The division is considered by Raffael Scheck to be also responsible for execution of PoW's in Hangest-sur-Somme while too far to be involved in massacre at Aiains[7]

Timeline - 7th Panzer Division in Belgium and France[]

  • 10 May 1940 - Fall Gelb, the invasion of France, is launched. 7th Panzer advances through the Ardennes.
  • 12 May 1940 - 7th Panzer Division reaches Dinant on the Meuse.
  • 13 May 1940 - Crosses River Meuse after heavy fighting.
  • 15 May 1940 - Reaches Philippeville and continues Westward passing Avesnes and Le Cateau.
  • 21 May 1940 - Reaches Arras where counterattacked by 2 British Tank Regiments. British tank advance stopped by feared Flak 88 "Tank Killers".
  • 5 June 1940 - Positioned near Abbeville.
  • 8 June 1940 - Reaches outskirts of Rouen.
  • 10 June 1940 - Reaches English Channel West of Dieppe.
  • 17 June 1940 - Reaches Southern outskirts of Cherbourg.
  • 19 June 1940 - Garrison of Cherbourg surrenders to Rommel.
  • 25 June 1940 - Fighting ends for 7th Panzer Division in France.

Organization / Order of Battle[]

Campaign map used by reconnaissance battalion commander Hans von Luck of the 7th Panzer during approach north of Moscow.

1940[]

  • 25 Panzer Regiment
    • I.Battalion
    • II.Battalion
  • 66 Panzer Battalion
  • 7 Motorcycle Battalion
  • 6 Motorized Infantry Regiment
    • I.Battalion
    • II.Battalion
  • 7 Motorized Infantry Regiment
    • I.Battalion
    • II.Battalion
  • 37 Reconnaissance Battalion
  • 78 Motorized Artillery Regiment
    • I.Battalion
    • II.Battalion
  • 58 Motorized Combat Engineer Battalion
  • 42 Antitank Battalion

7th Panzer Division on the Eastern Front - Feb 1941 to May 1942[]

During Operation Barbarossa, units of 7th Panzer Division crossed the Moscow-Volga Canal to the north of Moscow, and held a bridgehead across the canal for about a month, before having to withdraw with the onset of winter.[8]

7th Panzer Division in France - May 1942 to Feb 1943[]

7th Panzer Division on the Eastern Front - Feb 1943 to Aug 1944[]

7th Panzer Division in the Kurland - Aug 1944 to Nov 1944[]

7th Panzer Division in Germany - Nov 1944 to May 1945[]

Commanding officers[]

  • Generalmajor Georg Stumme (18 October 1939 – 5 February 1940)
  • Generalmajor Erwin Rommel (5 February 1940 – 14 February 1941)
  • Generalmajor Hans Freiherr von Funck (15 February 1941 – 17 August 1943)
  • Oberst Wolfgang Gläsemer (17 August 1943 – 20 August 1943)
  • Generalmajor Hasso von Manteuffel (20 August 1943 – 1 January 1944)
  • Generalmajor Adelbert Schulz (1 January 1944 – 28 January 1944)
  • Oberst Wolfgang Gläsemer (28 January 1944 – 30 January 1944)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (30 January 1944 – 2 May 1944)
  • Generalmajor Gerhard Schmidhuber (2 May 1944 – 9 September 1944)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (9 September 1944 – 31 October 1944)
  • Generalmajor Hellmuth Mäder (31 October 1944 – 30 November 1944)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (30 November 1944 – 5 January 1945)
  • Generalmajor Max Lemke (5 January 1945 – 23 January 1945)
  • Generalmajor Dr. Karl Mauss (23 January 1945 – 25 March 1945)
  • Oberst Hans Christern (26 March 1945 – 8 May 1945)

Popular culture[]

Swedish Heavy Metal group Sabaton have a song on their 2008 album The Art of War titled "Ghost Division", which is about the 7th Panzer Division's advance into France in 1940.

References[]

Notes
  1. Quote from Rommel: "A tight combat control west of the Meuse, and flexibility to meet the changing situation, were only made possible by the fact that the divisional commander with his signals troop kept on the move and was able to give orders direct to the regimental commanders in the forward line. Wireless alone - due to the necessity for encoding - would have taken too long, first to get the situation reports back to Division and then for Division to issue its orders. Continuous wireless contact was maintained with the division's operations staff, which remained in the rear, and a detailed exchange of views took place early each morning and each afternoon between the divisional commander and his Ia. This method of command proved extremely effective."[3]
Citations
  1. Luck 1989, p. 34.
  2. Lewin pp. 14-15
  3. Lewin pp. 14-15
  4. Liddell Hart, B.H. (1953). The Rommel Papers. Collins. pp. 545. 
  5. How Fighting Ends: A Martin Alexander ‘French surrenders in 1940: soldiers, commanders, civilians’, in Hew Strachan and Holger Afflerbach (eds.), How Fighting Ends. A History of Surrender (Oxford University Press 2012, page 332 Indeed, the soldiers of the 'Ghost Division' and its partner in crime, 5th Panzer Division, committed numerous atrocities against French colonial troops in 1940, murdering fifty surrendered non-commissioned officers and men at Airaines
  6. David Stone "Hitler's Army: The Men, Machines, and Organization: 1939-1945" MBI Publishing Company 2009 page 103, "On 7 June, a number of soldiers of 53eme Regiment d'Infanterie Coloniale were shot, probably by troops of the 5th Panzer Division, following their surrender after a spirited defense in the area of Airaines, near Le Quesnoy. Similar acts had also been perpetrated by soldiers of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division on 5 June against the defenders of Le Quesnoy. Rommel noted in his own account that "any enemy troops were either wiped out or forced to withdraw"; at the same time he also provided the disparaging (but possibly somewhat contradictory in light of his first note) observation that "many of the prisoners taken were hopelessly drunk."
  7. Hitler's African Victims: The German Army Massacres of Black French Soldiers in 1940: The German Army Massacres of 1940 Raffael Scheck - 2006 page 26 20 In Hangest-sur-Somme, some captured Tirailleurs and a French second lieutenant were shot by Germans in black uniforms, most likely members of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division
  8. Luck 1989, p. 78.
Bibliography

External links[]

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