While the name of Hermann Göring will forever be associated with the Luftwaffe (the German Air Force of the Third Reich), it is also associated with a ground unit that originated from when Hermann Göring held the position of Minister of the Interior for Prussia. Much like the Grossdeutschland formation of the German Army (Heer), this unit grew from a small detachment of men to become a panzer corps. It was but one way in which Hermann Göring sought to have the Luftwaffe assert an influence on the fighting on land as well as in the air, the others include being an integral part of blitzkrieg, the formation of the Fallschirmjäger and later in the war, the Luftwaffe Field Divisions.
The evolution of the Herman Göring formation from a small Berlin police detachment to a fully-fledged panzer corps is a complex one. It was formed by the then Prussian Minister of the Interior Hermann Göring on 23 February 1933 as Polizeiabteilung z.b.V. Wecke (roughly translated as Special Purpose Police Detachment ‘Wecke’) with the intention that the unit be utterly loyal to the new regime (this was less than a month after Adolf Hitler has assumed the Chancellorship). It was originally composed of
Police Detachment HQ
3 x Police Squads
Police Motorcycle Platoon
Police Signals Platoon
2 x Special Vehicles
Each squad had a complement of four officers and 106 sergeants, while the motorcycle platoon had one officer and thirty-eight sergeants, the signals platoon had one officer and twenty-five sergeants and the HQ had six officers, three administrative officers and twelve sergeants. The majority of the detachment's personnel came from the Greater Berlin City Police. It was initially stationed in the former barracks of the Königin-Augusta-Garde-Grenadier-Regiment (Queen Augusta Grenadier Guards Regiment) Nr. 4 in the Kreuzbvert Quarter, but later transferred to the former barracks of the Königin-Elizabeth-Garde-Grenadier-Regiment (Queen Elizabeth Grenadier Guards Regiment) Nr. 3 in Charlottenburg. It had a number of confrontations with the German Communist Movement and was used in operations against Communist strongholds around Berlin as well as being used as an honour guard at public events.
The unit quickly expanded with an additional squad being added in March 1933 and a support weapons detachment being added in April. The training became more military in style and very soon, the unit was being used exclusively for guard and ceremonial duties. With the ever-increasing number of duties it had to perform, the unit expanded again and was redesignated Landspolizeigruppe Wecke z.b.V. (Special Purpose State Police Group 'Wecke') on 17 July 1933 under the direct control of the Prussian Ministry of the Interior, becoming Germany's first state police unit. It now consisted of:
Police Group HQ
2 x Police Detachment HQs
8 x Police Squads
Each squad had 1 x mounted platoon, 1 x motorcycle platoon, 1 x motorised detachment and 1 x signals platoon. On 13 September 1933 the unit was presented with its first flag, along with the "Blood Flag of the Movement" and the flag of the Guards Rifle Battalion. By now, Göring had already told those closest to him that he intended to build up his own military units. On 22 December 1933 the unit was redesignated as Landespolizeigruppe General Göring and its training would follow that of the infantry. On 15 May 1934 the unit was placed under the command of the Headquarters, Chief of State Police and the detachments retitled Jäger battalions. Oberstleutnant Friedrich Jakoby, Göring's former ministerial adjutant, assumed command of the unit on 22 June 1934.
The unit, along with elements of the SS and Gestapo, took part in the 'Night of the Long Knives' at the end of June 1934 that consolidated Hitler's hold on power by eliminating or imprisoning a number of political rivals, critics and opponents, including Ernst Röhm, the head of the SA. General conscription and the expansion of the Wehrmacht began on 16 March 1935, and so the unit quickly became fully motorised and restructured itself so that it was identical to an army infantry regiment. As a result, on 1 April 1935, the Landespolizei General Göring adopted the more military designation of Regiment General Göring.
On 23 September 1935, the regiment was transferred to the Luftwaffe and reorganised during November. It consisted of:
Regiment HQ (with a signals platoon, motorcycle rifle Company, pioneer company and cavalry platoon)
2 x Jäger Battalions (each with a headquarters and signals platoon, three rifle companies and one machinegun company)
Flak Battalion (with a headquarters and signals platoon, three flak batteries (two with 20mm and one with 37mm guns)
The 1st Jäger Battalion underwent parachute training at Döberitz in January 1936 and eventually become the cadre for the German parachute force, being redesignated 1st Battalion, 1st Fallschirmjäger Regiment on 1 April 1938. Meanwhile, October 1937 saw the creation of a Guard Battalion while the 2nd Jäger Battalion was expanded into a heavy flak battalion. The regiment now consisted of:
Heavy Flak Battalion
Light Flak Battalion
Parachute Rifle Battalion
In November 1938, the regiment was reorganised again, this time expanding its anti-aircraft capability. It was composed of:
I Heavy Flak Battalion
II Light Flak Battalion
III Searchlight Battalion
IV Light Flak Battalion
During this time the regiment took part in the Anschluss between Germany and Austria (March 1938), the annexation of the Sudetenland (October 1938) and eventual occupation of Czechoslovakia (March 1939). With war imminent, the regiment expanded again in August 1939 with the addition of the 14th (Heavy) Railway Flak Battery (105mm), the Reserve Searchlight Battalion and a Replacement Battalion.
The initial period of World War II was relatively quiet for the regiment, with only a few elements taking part in the invasion of Poland (September 1939), with most of the unit remaining in Berlin acting in an anti-aircraft capacity and guarding Göring's headquarters. Once again, only certain elements took part in the invasions of both Denmark and Norway (a guard company, a Kradschützen company and some flak troops) while most of the regiment was stationed on the German-Dutch border. It took part in the German advance into the Netherlands and Belgium and was stationed on the French coast and in Paris before moving back to Berlin in late 1940. During the Balkan campaign of early 1941, it was sent to Romania to help guard the oilfields before taking part in Operation Barbarossa (the invasion of the USSR) fighting at Radziechow, Kiev and Bryansk.
The regiment was expanded and reorganised during early 1942, being redesignated as Brigade Hermann Göring in June of that year. The brigade now consisted of:
Infantry Regiment HG (I and II Battalions, each of 4 x infantry companies, III Battalion with a kradschützen company, panzer pioneer company, a tank hunter company and a tank repair workshop)
Flak Regiment HG (I, II, III and IV Flak Battalions)
Brigade HG Support Units
Brigade HG Replacement Units
Very soon afterwards, in October 1942, the brigade was redesignated as Division Hermann Göring and expanded with the addition of 5,000 (volunteer) Luftwaffe personnel and the 5th Fallschirmjäger Regiment, which itself was an amalgamation of three separate Fallschirmjäger units that had fought on Crete and the Eastern Front. The division consisted of:
Grenadier Regiment 1 HG
Grenadier Regiment 2 HG
Jäger Regiment HG
Panzer Regiment HG
Flak Regiment HG
Artillery Regiment HG
Reconnaissance Battalion HG
Panzer Pioneer Battalion HG
Panzer Signals Detachment HG
Medical Detachment HG
Divisional Support and Replacement Units
During the division's formation, the British victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein, quickly followed by Operation Torch (the Allied landings in French North Africa) had forced Generalfeldmarschal Erwin Rommel's forces to retreat westwards. The division was transferred to Tunisia piecemeal (November 1942 – March 1943) where it fought with distinction but was forced to surrender with the remainder of Panzerarmee Afrika in May 1943. The division was quickly reformed that same month and designated Panzer-Division Hermann Göring (PDHG). It consisted of:
Panzergrenadier Brigade (z.b.V.) HG
Panzergrenadier Regiment 1 HG
Panzergrenadier Regiment 2 HG
Panzer Regiment HG
Flak Regiment HG
Panzer Artillery Regiment HG
Panzer Pioneer Battalion HG
Panzer Signals Battalion HG
Guard Battalion HG (later Guard Regiment HG)
Divisional Support and Supply Units
Divisional Replacement and Training Units
It was transferred to Sicily to defend against the imminent Allied invasion (Operation Husky) which took place on 10 July 1943. Most of the Italian units surrendered soon after the landings and so the division was one of the few active Axis formations that remained. It fought at Gela and Priolo but Allied pressure forced it to retreat and after covering the withdrawal of German units back to the mainland (Operation Lehrgang) it was evacuated. The division was stationed in the area of Salerno and when the Italian Government surrendered to the Allies, it disarmed the Italian troops in the area. With the Salerno Landings (Operation Avalanche) taking place on 9 September 1943, the division was once again forced to conduct a fighting withdrawal, also engaging the Allies near Naples and on the Volturno-Termoli Line in October, eventually ending up on the Gustav Line, where it was eventually replaced and moved into reserve.
This unit was one of four divisions that were singled out in Exhibit UK-66, a report from the British War Crimes Section in Allied Forces Headquarters entitled 'German Reprisals for Partisan Activities in Italy' produced for the International Military Tribunal (IMT) at Nuremburg (also known as the Nuremburg Trials) which stated "Evidence has been found to show that a large number of the atrocities in Italy were committed by the Hermann Goering Parachute Panzer Division. Notable offenders were also 1 Parachute Division, 16 SS Panzer Grenadier Division and 114 Light Division."
With the Allied landings at Anzio (Operation Shingle) on 22 January 1944 in an attempt to outflank the Gustav Line, the division was one of the first to react and along with the 3rd Panzergrenadier and 4th Fallschirmjäger Divisions, the PDHG managed to pin Allied forces in the beachhead. At the same time, the Allies launched an offensive to break through the Gustav Line, which included the Battle for Monte Cassino (January to May 1944). On 15 February 1944, Allied strategic bombers attacked the abbey at Monte Cassino in the mistaken belief that the Germans were using it as a stronghold, when in fact, it was being used as a shelter for refugees. The abbey and parts of the town were devastated, with the Germans moving in only after the raids had taken place. Thankfully, two officers from the PDHG (Oberstleutnant Julius Schlegal and Hauptmann Maximilan Becker) had arranged for the archives (which contained some 1,400 irreplaceable manuscript codices, collections from the Keats-Shelley Memorial House, paintings by da Vinci, Titian and Raphael, as well as the remains of St Benedict) to be moved to the Vatican just as the battle had started. Although Schlegel spent several months in an Allied prison after the war as a suspected looter, he was freed by Field Marshal Alexander following the testimony of the Monte Cassino monks.
As the Battle for Monte Cassino was coming to an end, the division would go through two re-designations in short succession. In April 1944 it was redesignated as the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division Hermann Göring but in May 1944 was redesignated as the Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 Hermann Göring (FPD1HG). The division consisted of:
Parachute Panzergrenadier Regiment 1 HG
Parachute Panzergrenadier Regiment 2 HG
Parachute Panzer Regiment HG
Parachute Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 1 HG
Parachute Panzer Fusilier Battalion 1 HG
Parachute Panzer Artillery Regiment 1 HG
Parachute Panzer Pioneer Battalion 1 HG
Parachute Panzer Signals Battalion 1 HG
Parachute Panzer Field Replacement Battalion 1 HG
At about the same time, the division was withdrawn to rest and refit near Toscana, in preparation for a move to France, to combat the expected Allied invasion. However, it was moved to the frontlines once again as the Allies successfully broke through the Gustav Line but could not halt the Allied advance (Operation Buffalo). The situation for the German 10th Army (under General Heinrich von Vietinghoff) was becoming critical as they were in danger of being cut off but Lt General Mark Clark (US Fifth Army) ordered the main axis of advanced changed to that formulated under an alternate plan (Operation Turtle), towards Rome, which the Allies took on 5 June 1944 (Clark wanted it to be a singularly American honour and so had US military police units stationed at road junctions on the edge of the city to refuse entry by British military personnel).
On 15 July, the division was moved from its location near Florence to the Vistula River on the Eastern Front, where it fought and destroyed the Red Army's III Tank Corps north of Warsaw, along with the 5th 'Viking' SS Panzer Division and 19th Panzer Division. (1)
In August, it counterattacked the Magnuszew bridgehead but failed to breakthrough. The Red Army did however slow its rate of advance as Stalin had no urge to help the Polish Home Army (Armia Krajowa) which was fighting in Warsaw by that time. On 24 September 1944, Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Divison 2 Hermann Göring (FPD2HG) started to form up in the area of Radom and was activated in October 1944. It consisted of:
Parachute Panzergrenadier Regiment 3 HG (2)
Parachute Panzergrenadier Regiment 4 HG
Parachute Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion 2 HG
Parachute Panzer Fusilier Battalion 2 HG
Parachute Panzer Artillery Regiment 2 HG
Parachute Assault Gun Battalion HG
Parachute Panzer Pioneer Battalion 2 HG
Parachute Panzer Signals Battalion 2 HG
Parachute Panzer Field Replacement Battalion 2 HG
It was subsequently joined by its sister division, forming Panzer Corps Hermann Göring in the process. The Corps was in action during the Soviet offensive into East Prussia in October 1944, especially around Gumbinnen, and was still in the frontline after the Soviet offensive had petered out in November 1944. It was attached to Army Group Vistula on 24 January 1945 and in action again near Radom during the Soviet Vistula-Oder offensive but was trapped in the Heiligenbeil Pocket along with the German 4th Army. It was evacuated by sea to Swinemünde in Pomerania but thrown back into action almost immediately, along with the Brandenburg Panzergrenadier Division. In April, the corps was sent to Silesia and then to Saxony. On 22 April 1945, the FPD1HG was one of two divisions that broke through the inter-army boundary near Bautzen between the Polish 2nd Army and the Soviet 52nd Army, where it destroyed communications and part of the logistics train, as well as badly mauling the Polish 5th Infantry Division and 16th Tank Brigade. At the end of the war, the corps was fighting near Dresden and while trying to reach the Western Allies it was surrounded by the Red Army and destroyed, with only a small number of personnel making it through to US forces on the Elbe River.
Polizeiabteilung z.b.V. Wecke
February 1933 – July 1933 Major der Schutzpolizei Walther Wecke
Landespolizeigruppe Wecke z.b.V.
July 1933 – December 1933 Oberst der Landespolizei Walther Wecke
Landespolizeigruppe General Göring
December 1933 – June 1934 Oberst der Landespolizei Walther Wecke
June 1934 – April 1935 Oberstleutnant der Landespolizei Friedrich Jakoby
Regiment General Göring
April 1935 – September 1935 Oberstleutnant der Landespolizei Friedrich Jakoby
Regiment General Göring
September 1935 – Aug 1936 Oberstleutnant Friedrich Jakoby
August 1936 – May 1940 Major Walther von Axthelm
June 1940 – July 1942 Oberst Paul Conrath
Brigade Hermann Göring
July 1942 – October 1942 Generalmajor Paul Conrath
Division Hermann Göring
October 1942 – May 1943 Generalmajor Paul Conrath
Panzer-Division Hermann Göring
May 1943 – April 1944 Generalmajor Paul Conrath
Fallschirm-Panzer-Division Hermann Göring
April 1944 Generalmajor Wilhelm Schmalz
Fallschirm-Panzer-Division 1 Hermann Göring
May 1944 – September 1944 Generalmajor Wilhelm Schmalz
October 1944 – February 1945 Generalmajor Horst von Necker
February 1945 – May 1945 Generalmajor Max Lemke
Fallschirm-Panzergrenadier-Division 2 Hermann Göring
September 1944 – Nov 1944 Generalmajor Erich Walther
November 1944 – Jan 1945 Oberst Wilhelm Söth
February 1945 – March 1945 Oberst Georg Seegers
March 1945 Oberst Helmut Hufenbach
March 1945 – May 1945 Generalmajor Erich Walther
Fallschirm-Panzer-Korps Hermann Göring
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(1) See https://www.webcitation.org/655ZByvPc?url=http://www.ess.uwe.ac.uk/genocide/partisans1.htm
(2) This was formed from Fallschirmjäger Regiment 16 of 6 Fallschirmjäger Division.