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I've read a lot of organization charts for German Panzer divisions. In most of them, they have one panzer (tank) regiment, one artillery regiment, two or three panzergrenadiere (mobile infantry) regiments, and various support batallions (AA, AT, engineer, recce, etc).

This question is about the panzergrenadiere regiments. Most charts only denote them as "mobile", and that they could be either mechanized (i.e. with armored halftrack transport) or motorized (unarmored truck transport).

Given the difference in (offensive) combat value of mechanized and motorized infantry, I'm curious about the relative amounts of them... some sources indicate that only a single battalion, or even company, was mechanized, and all the rest was motorized. Could this be true? With such a low mechanized proportion, how did they get their effectiveness and legendary status in the early stages of the war?

To a lesser extent, this question is also about the artillery regiment... how much of it was self-propelelled (e.g. Wespe/Hummel) and how much of it was simply towed?

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As a supplement to Santiago's answer, the effectiveness of the Panzer divisions early in the war was mostly based on their mobility and speed of action. It worked like this:

Their armoured regiments would break through the defensive line, if they were facing one at all -- making attacks where they weren't expected was a major part of the trick. Then, since the whole division was motorised, it could move much faster than its opposition, many of whom expected their infantry to march. This let them disrupt the opposition rear areas and hence the supplies and command-and-control of the other side.

Another part of it was that the supply units for the panzer divisions were dedicated to that job and fully motorised, so they could keep up, and supplies and fuel for several days of combat could travel with the division. The idea was that they'd have won by then.

One of the things that made it possible, if risky, to do this with relatively small numbers was that the Panzer division commanders didn't worry about maintaining a continuous front line. They were willing to be isolated inside enemy territory, provided they could remain mobile, because they reckoned that they could move faster than troops could be brought into position to fight them.

The final thing that made this trick work was the German command and control system. The commanders would travel with the Panzers, rather than staying in a distant (and safe) headquarters. This saved a great deal of time needed for communications -- radio usually had to be encrypted Morse Code at the time, handled by specialists, rather than direct speech between commanders and operations officers -- and enabled the Germans to do things much faster than their opponents' command structures could react to them.

Of course, they could not carry an elaborate headquarters with them. The way they coped with that had been an aspect of German tactics since the 19th century. Mission-type tactics consist of telling your subordinate units what you want done, but not giving them orders to do it in a specific way. This simplifies the higher headquarters, and saves the tine needed to prepare more detailed orders. It is very demanding for the junior officers, but the pre-WWII German Army had worked hard on training them, and most of those officers were still in place up to fall 1941.

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Unfortunately during the war the numbers changed a lot. So probably most of your sources are right, but they make reference to different stages of the war. Poland invasion, France invasion, Soviet Union invasion and Kursk battle were the moments where Germany made changes to distribution and technology.


Now I checked the source. During the invasion of France the distribution was two panzer regiments, one infantry regiment with three batallions of infantry (one motorcycle company, two infantry companies, one company of machine guns and one mixed company) and one with motorcycles (two motorcycles company, one company of machine guns and one mixed company), one artillery regiment (six normal batteries plus tree heavy), a recon regiment (two companies with armored cars, one company of motorcycles and one mixed company) and support batallions (engineers, AA, AT, communications, logistics).

At the beginning of the war most mobile infantry used unarmored cars, halftrack units were used or even designed later (after the invasion of the Soviet Union). During the war the numbers were each time lower.

Regarding to artillery, in the beginning of the war is was mostly towed, later on they slowly added self-propelled units.

In both cases you can check the year of design and introduction of each self-propelled gun and halftruck, and you'll realize that few designs actually existed on 1939.

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Given the difference in (offensive) combat value of mechanized and motorized infantry, I'm curious about the relative amounts of them... some sources indicate that only a single battalion, or even company, was mechanized, and all the rest was motorized. Could this be true? With such a low mechanized proportion, how did they get their effectiveness and legendary status in the early stages of the war?

The early tank divisions had a lot of tanks and not enough infantry attached. Then there were also the Motorized and Semi-motorized Infantry Division, the motorized later got renamed in Panzergrenadier Divisions. Yes, you are right that most of them only used trucks. As far as I know the difference in the denomination was in terms of "gepanzert" = "armored" in the name of the layout (Kriegsstärkenachweis basically a Table of Organziation & Equipment).

In relation to "legendary status", well, the Panzergrenadierdivision Layout for 1944 had a mere 7 "mSPW" (mittlere Schützenpanzerwagen - halftracks) assigned to them according to Keilig, Wolf: Das dt. Heer 1939-1945 - Gliederung, etc. ( 102 - I - 1). I was quite astonished myself about this low numbers, the main problem is that most books and especially documentaries often show footage of half-tracks, which is mostly propaganda footage.

A more important aspect about the mechanized infantry was that it was trained to work together with tanks or not. The Panzertruppe had quite some problems with regular infantry assigned to them, because since tanks were quite rare they didn't understood the shortcomings of tanks, this lead to quite many problems during combat. This is one of the reasons why Manstein early on insisted that the Sturmartillerie (assault artillery) units that used assault guns should be trained with the infantry units and be part of the divisions core units, e.g., contrary to "Tiger Battalions" (Heavy Tank Battalions) that were independent.

btw. there is a YouTube video out there comparing a Panzergrenadier-Division (1944) & Motorized Infantry Division (1939) since I made it myself, I am not sure if it is allowed to link here, but you should be able to find it quite easily.

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