Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung Großdeutschland - Part 2
Notable StuG.Abt.GD personalities
Leutnant Peter Frantz
By the time Frantz commanded what was formerly the battery 640 element of the 16th Company Grossdeutschland in France he’d already gained some considerable experience from his campaigning during the Polish invasion with Panzer Artillery Regiment 74 earning him the Iron Cross II class in the process. By the end of hostilities in France he’d further earned the Iron Cross I Class and a field promotion to Oberleutnant. The first six months of hard fighting on the Russian front earned him further accolades and honours including the German Cross in gold by year’s end. Frantz also became the second soldier in GD’s history to be awarded the Knights Cross when fighting around the Lutchessa Valley area, the 16th Company under his command destroyed 15 enemy tanks in single engagement, 46 in total in defensive battles around Tula in December.
Whilst StuG.Abt. GD was commanded by Major Hans-Joachim Schepers during
the better part of 1942. Hauptmann Frantz continued to command 1./batterie
for the rest of 1942 finally succeeding Hauptmann Helmuth Adam in command
of the battalion (StuG.Abt.GD) on January the 3rd 1943 after Adam was
killed in action earlier on in December 1942.
On the 14th of March 1943 Frantz now with the rank of Hauptmann led a group of assault guns in battle, destroying a reported 43 T-34 tanks, for this action alone he was decorated with the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross personally by Adolf Hitler in Berlin the following month.
Frantz continued to serve with great distinction until January 1944, when he was finally transferred to the Staff Academy for general staff training no doubt with the aim to pass on his knowledge and fighting skills to more junior officers in the Corps. August 1944 saw him being appointed Major of the General Staff. His last days of the war were spent at corps headquarters fighting in the west against allied forces resulting in his capture in May 1945 by the Americans who held him in captivity until his release in April 1946.
Above: This famous colour photo of Peter Frantz appeared in Signal Magazine along with the announcement that Frantz had been awarded the Knight's Cross. At the time of publication Frantz’s family had no idea he’d been awarded such an honour.
Hauptmann Diddo Diddens
Diddens is another legendary GD StuG Commander and as Leutnant his first command was with II. Zug II StuG Abt 185. Awarded the Knights Cross in March of 1942 for his actions during the winter campaign 1941-42 were he knocked out 35 soviet tanks. In the spring of 1942 Diddens transferred to ‘StuG Abt GD’ and took command of a batterie following GD on campaign all the way to Voronezh on the Don and by the end of 1942 Diddens was taking part in the bitter defensive battles around Rzhev. 1943 brought new campaigns for Diddens in the form of Kharkov, Kursk salient and the retreat to the Dneiper River which the by now Oberleutnant Diddens had built up a stern reputation as a formidable and skilful tank killer.
By April 1944 Diddens was now in command of 1./StuG.Abt. GD and involved
in the heavy fighting for Romania. Supporting attacks by II and III Pz.Gr.Rgt.
GD in the woods between Barbatetsi and Vascani, north of Targul-Frumos,
Didden’s 1./ Batterie knocked out 23 anti-tank guns and when confronted
by a large amount of soviet tanks forming up in an assembly area, Diddens,
while making a tactical withdrawal destroyed a further 2 anti tank guns
and 3 tanks, earning himself a mention in the Wehrmacht communiqué on
27th April 1944. During early May Diddens continued to distinguish himself,
but unselfishly and charismatically declaring that everyman in his unit
had also earned the same recognition as he did and in so doing had all
their names mentioned in the ‘order of the day’.
23rd of May saw elements Stug.Abt. GD pounded north of Zahorna by renewed Soviet tank attacks supported by Il-2 Stumovoks to which 1./StuG.Bde. GD moved to counter and retake Zahorna in an attack lead by Diddens & Rittmeister Gerhard Schroeder’s Pz. A.A GD in support and only managing to take Zahorna for a short period before a decisive counter attack by the Soviets thwarted the assault on point 181 and in the process seriously wounding both Diddens and Schroeder. Diddens almost died in the attack having lost his leg and on June the 15th whilst near deaths door at a military hospital he was awarded the oak leaves to his knights cross for his actions. Diddens was held in great admiration by his men and superiors and fortunately made a good recovery from his wounds, enough to eventually return to light duties in his local defence area.
Hauptmann ‘Hanns’ Magold
As a 21-year old Oberleutnant on the Russian front, Magold was wounded in the left thigh by enemy machine gun fire on August 5, 1942, seriously enough to be sent back to Germany for a five month convalescence and returning to active duty in late January 1943.
Oberleutnant Magold led his battery throughout the fluctuating fighting around the Kharkov area during February 1943. Noted in the battalion battle reports Magold’s batterie passed through the village of Grigorovka and destroyed numerous enemy sled-columns packed with troops and supplies on Hill 188 and reached as far as Alexandrovska where subsequently Soviet tanks appeared. During this engagement Magold personally accounted for five of the seven T-34´s that his batterie destroyed. In an attack on the village of Stanovoye on the 14th of March 1943, Magold achieved the remarkable feat of destroying 14 out of 15 Soviet tanks that his batterie encountered. Oberleutnant Magold was recommended for the award of the Ritterkreuz, which was bestowed on him on April 3, 1943 and soon afterwards, Magold was promoted to the rank of Hauptmann.
On January 16th 1944, Hauptmann ‘Hanns’ Magold took over command of StuG.Abt. GD from Major Frantz. However Magold would not see the year out and on September 15, 1944, OKH announced that Hauptmann ‘Hanns’ Magold had fallen in action at the head of his brigade at Luzagora near the Dukla Pass in Poland. His brigade buried him with full military honors at the German military cemetery outside Garlice, near Warsaw.
Leutnant Wilhelm Wegener
Wegener also severed Sturmgeschütz Battery 640 during the invasion of France and in July of 1940 was awarded the Iron Cross second class for his actions and transferred to Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland before the French campaign had even concluded. In 1941 Wachtmeister Wegener crossed the Soviet border with Infantry Regiment GD and after heavy fighting around Yelnya was awarded the Iron Cross first class after notable engagements with the enemy. However Wegener was wounded in the autumn, but fortunately made a good recovery and by year’s end held the rank of Oberwachtmeister.
In June of 1943 he was awarded the Knights Cross to the Iron Cross for his daring exploits during the counter attack at Kharkov in March of that year. After heavy fighting to take the villages of Scherustow and Iskrowka, Wegener being the 1st batterie commander took the initiative after the lead vehicle was destroyed and inflicted heavy losses for the Soviets by destroying three 122mm Howitzers, a 76mm anti-tank gun and two 45mm light anti-tank guns. Fighting on to Alexandrowka, he accounted for a further four enemy tanks, two 122mm guns, eight 76 mm guns, and six 45mm anti-tank guns at Stanowje, and when the GD StuG unit ran into heavy Soviet opposition, twelve tanks were personally destroyed by Wegener and his crew. Fighting to the last shell, Wegener hurried to the rear, rearmed and refuelled, and then returned to take on forty more enemy tanks and continuing the fighting until relieved by Tiger tanks in the evening.
Wegener spent the remaining months of 1944 in Munich for officer training before being commissioned to the rank of Leutnant and returning to the field with 3rd batterie of StuG.Bde.GD however within a few short months at the start of 1945 Wegener was seriously wounded during the bitter defensive fighting around Poland and East Prussia and spent the remainder of the war recovering from his wounds.
StuG Units Organisational Timeline
Sturmartillerie Batteries 640, 659, 660 and 665. Equipped with the first 24 StuG III Ausf A’s. Each battery had six assault guns in three platoons.
|4th April 1940||
Infantry Regiment Grossdeutschland are assigned their own Sturmgeschütz support company with the creation of 16.Sturmartillerie/Inf.Reg. GD from Sturmartillerie Batterie 640.
Sturmartillerie units were reorganized into Abteilungen (battalions) with 18 assault guns in three batteries.
February - Battalions renamed to Sturmgeschütz Abteilungen and batteries to Sturmgeschütz Batteries. Each Abteilung still consisted of three batteries of six guns each. (StuG.Abt).
16.Sturmartillerie/Inf.Reg. GD is expanded up to battalion strength to create StuG.Abt.GD.
Sturmgeschütz Batteries; number of StuG’s increased to seven vehicles.
‘Sturmgeschütz Abteilungen’ increased to 28 StuG’s per battalion. Each battalion had three batteries with the number of assault guns in each platoons increased to three.
‘Sturmgeschütz Abteilungen’ increased to 31 StuG’s per battalion with three additional assault guns for battery commanders. This type of organization often referred to as ‘Sturmgeschütz Brigade’ and remained in use until the end of the war.
Re-assigned ‘Sturmartillerie Brigade’ with 45 assault guns, (including 33 StuG III/IV and 12 StuH 42). The brigade had three batteries with two StuG III’s for each battery command, while each battery had two platoons of four StuG III’s and one of four StuH 42s.
StuG.Abt.GD is expanded up to brigade strength to create StuG.Bde.GD.
StuG.Bde.GD is transferred from Pz.Gren.Div.GD to Pz.Gren.Div.Brandenburg as part of the creation of Pz.Korp.GD this stayed in effect untill the end of the war.