The divisional insignia of the 17. SS-Panzergrendierdivision
17. SS-Panzer-grenadierdivision
Götz von Berlichingen

The 17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision was ordered to be formed near Poitiers, France in October 1943. Many of the recruits were Volksdeutch (ethnic Germans) from Romania. The process began on 15 November 1943. The division was granted the title “Götz von Berlichingen” after the 15th century German knight and mercenary Gottfried von Berlichingen (c. 1480 – 1562) from Hornberg in Württemberg.
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Above Left: The divisional insignia of the 17. SS-Panzergrendierdivision.

Berlichingen was made famous by writer and poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) who wrote a play based on his life. The divisional symbol was an iron fist in a shield, taken from Berlichingen’s iron prosthetic forearm, which he wore after losing his original during a siege.

The formation of the division was overseen by Obersturmbannführer Otto Binge, though final command fell to SS-Brigadeführer Werner Ostendorff in January 1944. The division was placed under the LXXX Armee Korps

As training continued into 1944, the division still lack sufficient vehicles. In February, the division was ordered to collect as many civilian vehicles as they could to maintain the motorisation of key units. By March, they had motorised several units, but not all the panzergrenadier battalions had motor transport and the third battalions of each regiment were bicycle mounted. The Panzerabteilung was equipped with StuG IV assault guns rather than more usual Panzer IV tanks.

Right: The
17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision cuff title.

Below: 17. SS StuG IV assault guns in the bocage.

The 17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision cuff title
17. SS StuG IV assault guns in the bocage
After the D-Day landings on 6 June, the 17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision was ordered from their garrison in Thouars, France to Normandy with orders to face the invasion. The first unit of the division to enter combat was the Aufklärungsabteilung who engaged US paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division near Carentan on 11 June. By 13 June, the US forces had secured the town and were pushing south.

von Ostendorf and von der Heydte discuss Carentan
Above: 17. SS commander Werner von Ostendorf (left) plans the attack on Carentan with Fallschirmjager commander Friedrich August
Freiherr von der Heydte (centre).

A Kampfgruppe consisting of the division’s 37. SS-Panzergrenadierregiment, 17. SS-Panzerabteilung and Von der Heydte’s 6. Fallschirmjägerregiment counterattacked the advancing US paratroopers. A furious battle ensued and several US parachute companies were routed before the timely arrival of Combat Command A of the US 2nd Armored Division, which halted the German thrust. During these operations SS-Brigadeführer Ostendorff was wounded and on 16 June SS-Oberführer Eduard Diesenhoffer was appointed the new division commander.

For the next month the 17. SS-Panzergrenadier-division was involved in fighting in the bocage country around St. Lô and Coutances, with the division suffering heavy loses.

At the start of Operation Cobra, the division stood in the line of the American advance. 

They fought to hold off the US offensive, but they were partially surrounded in the Coutances Pocket. They broke out without considerable loss of equipment or men.

During August, some elements of the division were withdrawn for refitting, while the remainder of the 17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision was attached to the 2. SS-Panzerdivision ‘Das Reich’ for the counterattack on Mortain (Operation Luttich). After this counteroffensive was repulsed by superior Allied airpower, the division was then split into four kampfgruppen under commanders Braune, Gunter, Fick and Wahl. All four kampfgruppen escaped entrapment in the Falaise Pocket. Despite this, they remained in constant contact with pursuing US forces until the end of August. The remains of the kampfgruppen were finally withdrawn to Metz in September to join the rebuilding division.

Right: Men of the Waffen-SS and Fallschirmjäger look after the wounded.

Men of the Waffen-SS and Fallschirmjäger look after the wounded

Men of the Waffen-SS prepare to go into action

Fielding the 17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision in Flames Of War
Lists Included in the Briefing:

  • SS-Panzerkompanie armed with StuG IV Assault Guns.
  • SS-Panzergrenadierkompanie.
  • SS-Pionierkompanie.
  • SS-Aufklärungsschwadron.
  • Divisional Support and Field Fortifications sections.

Download a PDF version of the Götz von Berlichingen: The 17. SS-Panzergrenadierdivision in Normandy briefing here...


Last Updated On Monday, March 19, 2012 by Wayne at Battlefront