1.Organization and Strength of the Regiment for the Campaign
By the beginning ofJanuary 1940, the regiment had been brought tip to its TO&E authorized strengths
of 1 March 1939 in tanks as the result of new issues and repairs. For the start of the campaign in the West on 10 May 1940, there are no data available concerning the actual on-hand strength for the regiment, although there are data available for the 3. Panzer-Brigade.'
Therefore, the following should be considered only as an approximation of the strength of the regiment on 10 May:
According to this, a number of Panzer III's were issued from the beginning of the year to the beginning of May, even if only in modest numbers. This is as a consequence of a special TO&E dated 21 February 1940 (below) that was designed for light tank companies.2
Despite that, the tank regiments of the 3. PanzerDivision, as well as those of the 4. Panzer-Division (Panzer-Regiment 35 and Panzer-Regiment 36) were still primarily equipped with Panzer Is and Panzer II's. The other armor divisions had a large proportion of Panzerlll's and PanzerIT"s.3
The regiment was still under the command of OberstFreiherrvon Funck at the start of the campaign. The 1st Battalion had its 1st, 2nd and 4th Companies, while the 2nd Battalion retained the 5th, 6th and 8th Companies. The regiment also had its organic maintenance company. The Panzer-I ehr-Abteilung was no longer attached to the regiment, having been sent to the 9. Panzer-Division instead.
In accordance with orders issued on 26 October 1939, the large white crosses disappeared as national
identity markers and were replaced by black Balkenkreuze ("beam crosses") with white outlines. They were placed on the hull sides and rear.'
Based on the experiences of the campaign in Poland, the early-model Panzer III's-A to D-were upgraded to the model E and Fvariants from February to April. The primary feature of the upgrade was the bolting on of 2-centimeter armor plates to the hull and turret front.' The armor on the PanzerIlwas also reinforced with 2-centimeter plating on the hull and turret front.
The divisions were identifiable by markers that were placed on the vehicles. For the armor divisions, the newly designed insignia were painted in yellow. It is believed the design for the 3. Panzer-Division was loosely based on the Brandenburger Torfor the Berlinbased division. The insignia is illustrated below.
The regiment proper did not have its own insignia, using instead the divisional one. A PanzerlVof the regiment during the campaign in the West. The divisional insignia can plainly be seen next to the Balkenkreuz.
2. Conduct of Operations from 10 May to 25 June 1940
German forces crossed the borders of Luxembourg, Holland, Belgium and France on the morning of 10 May 1940 in accordance with "Case Yellow," the operations order. HeeresgruppeB, under the command of Generaloberstvon Bock, was employed on the right wing. It had three armor divisions reporting to it. The 3. Panzer-Division, along with the 29. InfanterieDivision (mot) and the 4. Panzer-Division were part of the Xi'L Aimee-Korps (mot) of General der Kavallerie Hoepner, which initially was allocated to the 6. Armee of Generaloberstvon Reichenau. The 3. Panzer-Division was directed to advance as rapidly as possible across the Meuse River and west of Maastricht to the Albert Canal, opening the way for the 6. Armee to continue the advance in the direction of Brussels. The division was reinforced by MG-Bataillon 7, the IL/Flak--Lehr- Regiment and the 11 /Artilierie-Regiment 49.°
The approach march of the division started around 1000 hours on 10 May. The division initially moved in two march groups from the area around Krefeld to the southwest in the direction of Aachen. This time, in contrast to the campaign in Poland, the division was not in the first wave. It followed the 4. Panzer-Division. OberstKuhn, the commander of the 3. Panzer-Brigade, was in command of one of the march groups, which marched in the following sequence: Panzerjkger-Abteiluug 39, divisional headquarters, Nachrichten-Abteilung 39, headquarters of the 3. Panzer-Brigade, Panzer-Regiment 6, Panzer-regiment 5, the 3./Panzer-Pionier-Bataillon 39, one battery of the II./Flak-Lehr-regiment and one and one half fuel columns. The forces spent the night in assembly areas and billets along the Erkelenz-Linnich road.
On 11 May, the march continued in the direction of the German-Dutch border. The blown-up bridges
over the Meuse continued to cause traffic stoppages, since the formations employed up front could not be funneled across the provisional bridges very quickly. The lead elements of the division reached the Dutch border around 1500 hours on 11 May. The lead columns moved through Maastricht late in the afternoon and crossed the Meuse on a pontoon bridge. During the night of 11-12 May, the first elements of the division reached the Albert Canal and entered Belgium.
On 12 May, the lead elements made their first enemy contact and were located outside of Hannut by evening. The French forces, for their part, had also advanced into Belgium in an effort to interdict the German attack. Facing the XI'L Armee-Korps (mot) were 90 Somua and 140 Hotchkiss tanks.7
On 13 May 1940, the first large-scale tank engagement of World War II started. The divisions from the capitals of Germany and France faced each other-the 3. Panzer-Division of Berlin and the 3rd Mechanized Division of Paris. The 3. Panzer-Brigade moved into its attack positions around 1230 hours, while Ju 87.s-the feared Stuka-attacked identified enemy positions. Panzer-Regiment 5 was reinforced by elements of the divisional antitank battalion. The brigade moved out and won the high ground along the Gette River around 1300 hours. Panzer-Regiment 5 eliminated an enemy antitank-gun belt and crossed the Gette around 1430 hours on a provisional bridge. The brigade was attacked in the left flank by French tanks from the south and in the right flank from the northwest in the vicinity of Orp le Grand. The Panzer I's and II's were held back, while the Panzer III's and IL's took up the firefight with the enemy. The German tanks were employed doctrinally, that is, as platoons and companies and formed kill zones capable of firing quickly. By contrast, the French tanks were employed piecemeal and became involved in individual engagements. Consequently, they were knocked out or forced to pull back. By 1600 hours, the fighting had been decided, and the two tank regiments could continue the attack west, effectively supported by the fires of Artillerie-Regiment 75 and the IL/Artillerie-Regiment 49.
Destroyed bridge over the Meuse near Maastricht (Holland).
13 May 1940: Knocked-out Somua after the tank engagement at Hannut. The soldier on the left wears the insignia on his right sleeve indicating he is a standard bearer for the battalion (in this case, the 2nd Battalion). Normally, this insignia was not worn in the field.
A knocked-out Panzer II of the regiment after the engagement at Hannut on 13 May. The supplemental armor around the driver's compartment and on the front side of the turret can be seen to good advantage. The divisional insignia is also visible on the side of the hull above the antenna stowage rail.
The regiment advanced past Orp le Grand to the south and pursued the withdrawing 3rd Mechanized Division into the night of 13-14 May. The French had lost some 30 Somua and 70 Hotchkiss tanks that day. The 6. Armee intended to continue the attack in the direction of Nivelles.
Around 0900 hours on 14 May, the 3. PanzerDivision moved out again, with the 3. Panzer-brigade in the lead. The French initially conducted a delaying action, with the result that the attack made good progress. As the attack spearheads neared the French Dyle Position (named after the river) in the Ernage area, the resistance began to stiffen. The commanding general of the XVL Armee-Korps (mot), General Hoepner, ordered an attack at 0900 hours on 15 May with both the 3. Panzer-Division and the 4. Panzer-Division on line to break through the Dyle Position on both sides of Ernage.s The 3. Panzer-Division was facing elements of three French divisions (3rd Mechanized, 1st Moroccan and 1st Infantry) and elements of two Belgian divisions (2nd and 7th Infantry).
By the evening of 15 May, the 3. Panzer-Brigade, together with the 3. Schutzen-Brigade, was able to penetrate the French positions west of Ernage, albeit with heavy losses. On 16 May, the attack was continued, transitioning to a pursuit of the defeated enemy.
At 0100 hours on 17 May, the division formed an advance guard, spearheaded by the reconnaissance battalion, to take the crossings over the Canel-de- Bruxelles which ran north-south west of Nivelles. The rest of the division followed in three march groups. After the crossings were forced, the division advanced southwest in the direction of Charleroi. This was followed by a short break in offensive operations, while the division was switched to the 4. Armee of Generaloberstvon Kluge.
On the morning of 20 May, the lead elements of the division crossed the French border in the vicinity of Maubeuge. The advance guard made first contact with the enemy around 1140 hours at the northeast corner of the Mormal Woods. The division was given the mission to go around the woods to the north so as to screen the northern flank of the XVI. ArmeeKorps (mot) in the Valenciennes area. To accomplish that, a line of enemy bunkers on the northwestern edge of the Mormal Woods had to be taken first.
The regiment, together with Panzer-Regiment 6, started its attack around 0630 hours on 21 May, reinforced by motorized riflemen, artillery, Flak, engineers and antitank elements. It succeeded in breaking through the line of bunkers by that evening and advancing to the area south of Valenciennes.
On 22 May, the corps was pulled out of the line in that sector and then continued its attack to the southwest in the direction of Cambrai. The division's former sector was assumed by the Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, Hitler's elite bodyguard formation that was roughly the size of a regiment. Marching at night, the 3. Panzer-Division covered nearly 60 kilometers without enemy contact and reached the area east of Bapaume.
At 0900 on 23 May, the division received the mission from the corps to take bridges over the La Bassee Canal at Robecq as a prerequisite for the breakthrough of the corps to the English Channel.' The forced crossing was completed by 26 May in the face of tough resistance from British forces. On 26 May, the division was temporarily attached to the XXXXI. Armee-Korps (mot) of Generalleutnant Reinhardt. Reinhardt's corps ordered the division to conduct an attack across the Lys Canal in the direction of Merville-Bailleul on 27 May.10 The attack was launched at 0800 hours, with dismounted motorized riflemen leading the way and following a short artillery preparation. After a bridgehead across the canal had been established, the 3. Panzer-Brigade was brought forward to take the hotly contested Merville. For the fighting, the 2nd Battalion of Panzer-Regiment 6was attached to the regiment.
This line of bunkers at the northwest corner of the Mormal Woods was broken by the regiment on 21 May.
The attack did not initially succeed and was called off that night. It was continued the next day under stormy and rainy weather. Merville fell in the course of the day. That evening, 28 May, the division was attached back to the XI'L Armee-Korps (mot).
Around 1100 hours on 29 May, with the motorized rifle brigade reinforced by tanks in the lead, the division continued its attack. In the area around Bailleul, the lead elements had to be held up, however, since the 6. Armeewas already advancing north to the east of them. By the evening of 29 May, the forward outposts of the 3. Panzer-Division were 6 kilometers south of the French-Belgian border and 15 kilometers outside ofYpern, the bitterly contested battlefield of the First World War.
The forces of the division began occupying rest position during the night of 30 May-1 June in the area west of the La Bassee Canal. The regiment used the time primarily to maintain and repair tanks and materiel. On 1 June, orders were received to move the division to the Somme. The march started at 2100 hours on 2June and proceeded via St. Pol, Arras and Bapaume to the south. The 3. Panzer-Brigade
occupied assembly areas in the Peronne area. This signaled the end of the first phase of the Campaign in the West.
On 4 June, Oberst Kuhn, the commander of the 3. Panzer-Brigade, wrote the following after-action report:
1. Tank-versus-tank combat
The brigade was able to hold its own in numerous engagements against enemy tanks, including the major engagement on 13 May against the French 3rd Mechanized Division.
In all, 87 "kills" have been confirmed. The brigade encountered French R 35's, D 2's, Hotchkiss's and Somua's and British carriers and Carden Lloyd 1938's. There was no contact with the French B 2.
A. Effectiveness of friendly weapons against enemy armor
The only effective German weapon against French tanks is the 7.5-centimeter tank main gun with its antitank round. The 3.7-centimeter antitank round is ineffective against the Somua and the D 2 at normal combat ranges. In general, the 3.7-centimeter antitank round penetrates at ranges less than 300 meters, if the round strikes horizontally. The 3.7-centimeter antitank round has not met expectations and is considered inadequate in combat operations against modern enemy armor.
Direct hits with the 7.5-centimeter highexplosive round at distances between 600 and 800 meters showed no effect against the Somua with either impact or delayed fuses.
The 2-centimeter antitank round was ineffective against all French tanks in terms of penetrating ability and had only a moral effect. Both of the British vehicles, on the other hand, were penetrated by the 2-centimeter round at all combat distances.
The considerable consumption of ammunition in combating enemy armor can be traced back to the insufficient ability to penetrate with the 2- and 3.7-centimeter ammunition. For example, during the major engagement on 13 May, nearly 100 percent of the 7.5- and 3.7-centimeter rounds were fired. The brigade had to take on more ammunition before it could continue the attack.
The outfitting of German turrets in terms of traversing mechanisms, weapons cradles and sighting devices was completely successful. It is vastly superior to that of the French. That made it possible for the Germans to enjoy superior firepower.
B. The effectiveness of enemy weapons against friendly tanks
The effectiveness of enemy weapons against our tanks was negligible due to the targeting and aiming devices of the French tanks. In contrast, the effectiveness of the French 4.7-centimeter antitank gun was very good. That cannon penetrated all German armor at every location up to a distance of 600 meters.
The short 3.7-centimeter antitank gun was worthless. The French turret arrangements were primitive compared to the German ones. The main gun could not fire on the move and had only a limited rate of fire while stationary. Aiming at moving targets is more difficult than in German tanks.
C. Tactical lessons
The tank-versus-tank engagement was conducted by the Panzer Ifs, III's and IV's. The Panzer IV bore the main burden, since it was only hits from its antitank rounds that penetrated with certainty. The Panzerlllhad to close to short range for its 3.7-centimeter main gun to penetrate.
Although the 2-centimeter main gun never succeeded in penetrating the armor of a French tank, hits from the bursting rounds of the 2-centimeter main gun frequently led to the enemy crews waving a white flag or bailing out and giving up the fight.
In general, engagements were conducted from a stationary position during a firing halt. The unbelievably bad capability of the French tanks to aim and hit targets, made it possible for our tanks to approach closely in a zigzag maneuver to good firing range and thus carry the attack forward.
The French tank crews had had fighting morale. In contrast to the German tanks, they never sought out tank-versus-tank engagements. The German tank crews possessed a feeling of absolute superiority against the French armored forces.
II. Tanks versus antitank guns
A. Effectiveness of enemy antitank guns against friendly tanks
The aiming accuracy of the antitank guns: The French 4.7-centimeter antitank gun is good; the French 2.5-centimeter antitank gun is very good and the British 4-centimeter antitank gun is terrific.
Penetrating capability of enemy antitank guns against all German tanks at a good strike angle: The French 4.7-centimeter antitank gun is very good up to a distance of 600 meters; the French 2.5-centimeter antitank gun is very good up to a distance of 400 meters. (The frontal armor of a Panzer III was cleanly penetrated by a 2.5-centimeter antitank gun. Tests conducted against captured tanks have shown that the 2.5-centimeter antitank gun is superior to the 3.7-centimeter German gun.)
The British 4-centimeter antitank gun is terrific (better and more effective than the French 4.7-centimeter antitank gun) up to a distance of 800 meters. The British antitank rifle can most likely only penetrate a Panzerl or Panzer hat close range (little experience).
Oberst Kuhn, seen here as a general officer, was the commander of the 3. PanzerBrigade during the campaign in the West. For the breakthrough of the Weygand Line, he was awarded the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross on 4July.
B. The effectiveness of tanks against antitank guns
By far, the most effective weapon against antitank guns is the 7.5-centimeter main gun with high-explosive rounds.
The 2-centimeter main gun has shown itself to be particularly effective against antitank guns. The magazines were loaded in a 1-to-1 ratio of armor-piercing to high-explosive rounds. Smoke rounds were not used.
III. Tanks against motorized infantry
In operations against motorized infantry, tanks have proven their absolute superiority. As long as [the enemy] had no antitank guns available, the enemy infantry was shot to pieces by them.
The drum magazine and the fixed mount of the MG 34 caused constant stoppages-an unsuitable weapon of war.
IV. Armored engagements in special situations
Tanks are not suited for fighting in built-up areas or woods. The street fighting in the city of Merville demonstrated clearly that antitank guns emplaced in rooms behind windows on ground level cannot be localized. Tanks did not have a chance against weapons employed in that manner in street fighting.
The 7.5-centimeter high-explosive round was the most effective in defeating the enemy in builtup areas. The machine guns and 2-centimeter main guns were practically worthless. It appears that a flamethrower tank is necessary for combating pockets of resistance in basements and houses.
The following is based on the previously cited lessons learned:
The mounting of a more effective weapon (4.7-centimeter or 5-centimeter) in the Panzer III in place of the 3.7-centimeter main gun is urgently needed. In comparison to the remaining requests, this one has the highest priority and urgency.
Due to its constant stoppages, the MG 34 in its current form with drum magazines and fixed mount is unusable for combat A solution is necessary.
The outfitting of the Panzer n' with three machine guns (as in the Panzer III) is desirable. The mounting of a rangefinder in the PanzerlVis likewise desirable.
The mounting of a machine gun or a submachine gun in a ball mount for close-in defense oriented to the rear is desirable.
The large command and control armored vehicle in its current form-without effective weapons-cannot be tolerated. It was been shown that the vehicle needs a main gun for self defense in tank engagements, as well as when it encounters antitank guns. It is recommended that a Panzer III be converted to a command and control armored vehicle by the installation of [additional] radio sets. The extendable antenna mast can be mounted outside the tank instead of on the inside.
The armor protection on the Panzer III and especially the Panzer fl is insufficient. The Panzer III was penetrated on the front slope by the terrific French 2.5-centimeter antitank gun. That gun is difficult to make out due to the lack of a muzzle flash.
The additional armor on the Panzer II proved effective. The main gun mantlet was penetrated several times; reinforcement is necessary.
The speed of the German tanks proved to be extremely effective. In the future, emphasis should be placed on maintaining a minimum speed of 30 kilometers an hour in normal terrain. French tank crews and antitank gun crews taken prisoner reported that the main problem in hitting German tanks was their speed.
In summary, the tactical fundamentals for the employment of armored forces proved themselves.
The feeling of superiority on the part of our armored forces with regard to the enemy is primarily based in our better fighting morale and, secondly, in our superior ability to fire. The armor on the German tanks and the number of armored vehicles with [heavy] guns are worse or less than in the French armored forces. Improvements in that area are necessary.
During the course of the campaign, the Tank Assault Badge in Silver (Panzerkampfabzeichen) was awarded for the first time to crewmembers of the regiment. The award had been created on 20 December 1939 at the same time as the Infantry Assault Badge by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army, Generaloberst Brauchitsch. The award was regulated as follows:`
The Tank Assault Badge in Silver can be awarded to officers, noncommissioned officers and enlisted personnel of tank units, who, effective 1 January 1940, have participated in a minimum of three separate engagements on three different days as a tank or armored command & control vehicle commander, armored crewman, armored driver or armored radio operator, whereby the tank crew had to participate actively in the fighting.
The Tank Assault Badge is worn on the left breast... in and out of duty.
The badge was designed by the artist and illustrator, Wilhelm Ernst Peekhaus, in Berlin.
Up until September 1942, the division commander had approval authority. Following that date, the regimental commander was authorized to present the award. The regiment was responsible for maintaining a list of qualifying engagements. The company commanders then determined which soldiers met the conditions and assembled their names on lists. The request for the award was then forwarded with the company commander's signature, once the requisite number of days had been obtained. The awardee was given a certificate in addition to the badge.
The Tank Assault Badge in Silver
On 1 June 1940, the Commander-in-Chief of the Army instituted a similar award in bronze for members of the motorized rifle regiments-renamed Panzergrenadiere in the fall of 1942-the motorcycle infantry battalions and the armored reconnaissance formations of the divisions. The award conditions were the same as those of the badge in silver.
For the regiment, the second phase of the campaign in the West started on 5 June with the attack on the Weygand Line southwest of Peronne.
The attack started at 0530 hours after an artillery preparation consisting of 384 tubes and sorties by the Luftwaffe. Despite strong enemy artillery fire, the division's two tank regiments advanced as far as the Hallu area, some 30 kilometers southwest of Peronne, by 0900 hours. The motorized riflemen earmarked to follow were held up by the villages along the Weygand Line, which had been transformed into strongpoints. As a result, the 3. Panzer-Brigade was all by itself far in front of the division at noon. In the attack, Panzer-Regiment 6 had lost 30 tanks. During the night of 5-6 June, the brigade had to fend off strong enemy counterattacks in the Hallu area, with no sign of the infantry. The tanks started to suffer from a lack of fuel and ammunition.
Werner Trodler in 1943 wearing the black Panzer uniform with the Tank Assault Badge in Silver.
Award caption: Trodler's award certificate for service in the 6th Company. The award was presented during the campaign in North Africa and signed by the division commander at the time, Generalmajorvon Radow.
On the morning of 6 June, the motorized infantry succeeded in breaking through to the tanks. That signified the decisive breakthrough of the defensive position upon which the French had pinned their hopes. The brigade commander would later receive the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross for that operation. That afternoon, the 3. PanzerBrigade formed up under hot temperatures and cloudless skies to pursue the enemy to the south in the direction of the Avre, which was crossed that evening, despite enemy air attacks.
The attack was successfully continued from 7 to 9 June as far as the Roye area. At that point, the division was pulled out of the front lines and moved back to Peronne. The troop elements of the division were able to rest for two days there. The XVI. Armee-Korps (mot) then assembled in the St. Quentin-Soissons area on the right wing of the 9. Artnee of General der Infanterie Straull.
The Marne is crossed east of Chateau-Thierry on 12 June.
In rainy weather, the spearhead of the division, the 3. Panzer-Brigade, crossed the Marne east of Chateau-Thierry around 1400 hours on 12 June. Despite the onset of darkness, the attack made good progress forward.
On 13 June, the regiment succeeded in taking a bridge over the Grand Morin south of Montmirail intact. The tanks continued the assault in the direction of the Seine. The regiment formed the division's main effort for the thrust in the direction of Nogent. For that operation, the 2nd Battalion of Schutzen-Regiment 3was attached to it.
The French strongpoint resistance was quickly broken. During the night of 13-14 June, the bridges over the seine at Nogent were taken by surprise by Major Ritter Edler von Peter's 2nd Battalion, along with supporting motorized riflemen and engineers. Nogent was captured and numerous prisoners taken.
The bridgehead was expanded until noon on 14 June and reconnaissance conducted towards the south. The corps was already far behind the French front. The German forces were ordered to pursue the French forces vigorously. KampfgruppeKuhn, of which the regiment was a part, advanced past endlessly long columns of French refugees and against only weak enemy resistance into the evening of 14 June, reaching the St. Florentin area.
Breakthrough through the Weygand Line on 5 June 1940
The French Army increasingly showed signs of dissolution. During the night of 14-15 June, Major Hohmann's 1st Battalion reinforced Schiitzen- Regiment 3 in the capture of St. Florentin. A fuel depot was captured with more than 6 million liters of fuel, and the constant fuel problems of the tankers were solved for a short while.
The division moved out around 1400 hours on 15 June to advance in the direction of Auxerre. Following the reconnaissance battalion, the 3. PanzerBrigade formed the vanguard of the division.
Moving through Auxerre, Avalon was reached early in the morning of 16June without encountering appreciable enemy resistance. Because of the un
expectedly rapid advance, the tanks were forced to use commercial road maps in lieu of military maps. The French were surprised whenever the German tankers appeared.
By the afternoon of 16 June, the 3. Panzer-Brigade was already outside of Saulieu. There it was hit in the left flank by Hotchkiss tanks. The enemy tanks belonged to those troop elements that had previously been positioned along the Maginot Line and which were then attempting to withdraw to the west. The enemy attack was turned back and the Saulieu taken. There was no longer any sign of unified command and control among the enemy forces.
Major Hohmann, the commander of the 1st Battalion. He is seen in the cupola of a Panzer] 17, which has been christened the Prinz Eugen.
A kleinerPanzerbefehlswagen of the headquarters of the 1st Battalion. On the rear deck in a field-gray tunic is the future Major and Knight's Cross recipient Hans Sandrock.
The division then advanced along good improved roads straight through the fertile Burgundy region with its meadows, grain fields and vineyards. By the evening of 16 June, Arnay le Duc was taken, albeit only after casualty-intensive house-to-house fighting. Beaune was taken the next day, and the division was placed under the command and control of the 12. Amwe of Generaloberst List.
By noon on 18 June, a bridgehead over the Saone was established. From that point forward, the division no longer encountered any serious resistance. That same day, the Doubs near Chaussin was also crossed.
19 June was a day of rest and nice weather for the division. Once again, maintenance on the vehicles and equipment took precedence. Only the divisional
reconnaissance battalion was employed, and it was able to advance as far as Champagnole without encountering any enemy resistance. That meant that the lead elements of the division were only 15 kilometers from the Swiss border that evening. After the French field army in Alsace had become encircled, the division was given a new avenue of advance: downstream along the Rhone.
The German Army High Command announced that the limit of forward advance for the ground forces was a line defined by Lyon in the east and Bordeaux in the west. The division, as part of the XVL Aimee-Korps (mot), followed the XIV Aimee-Korps (mot) in the direction of Lyon on 20June. The enemy was no longer capable of offering any substantive resistance.
The lead elements of the regiment outside of Lyon on 20 June.
On 21 June, the division reached Lyon and took up billets in numerous small villages around the city in the days that followed. The purchase of fruit and everyday items was a welcome change-of-pace for the soldiers.
The next mission for the division was to attack east in the direction of Grenoble to protect the left flank of the corps and, if possible, establish contact with the Italian forces. In the fortified area between the Mediterranean and Montblanc, there were still eight enemy divisions and three fortress brigades employed. Since most of those forces had not been involved in the fighting up to that point, it was believed they would offer stiff resistance. There was bleak and rainy weather on 23 June. The division moved out in the morning with a northern and
southern arm for the advance east. The regiment was part of the southern group under the command of Oberst Kuhn. At the entry to Grenoble Valley, the battle group ran into abatis that were guarded by antitank guns. Even after the obstacles and guard force were eliminated, the continued march proved difficult because of the steep mountain roads. The French defended effectively from antitank-gun and machine-gun positions, supported by artillery and mortars. After arduously working its way forward, the southern battle group reached Voreppe by the afternoon.
The lead tanks of the regiment started to receive artillery fire as they approached the Isere Canal and were held up by obstacles in the road. Oberst Kuhn ordered Schutzen-Regiment 3 to move forward, but its attack stalled in the face of casualties taken under heavy enemy fire. The division ordered the attack to be temporarily cancelled at 1900 hours.
A Panzer III of the 3. Panzer-Division in Isere Valley in the foothills to the Alps.
On 24June, Kiihn forces also made no progress. The fires being received from the area in front of the Grenoble fortress prevented the division from entering the French West Alps. The northern battle group of the division was able to advance as far as Les Echelles in heavy rain, however. On the evening of 24 June, the division called off all further attacks since it was expected that a ceasefire was to be announced shortly, and it wanted to avoid unnecessary losses. A message was received from the corps a short while later that the ceasefire would go into effect at 0125 hours on 25 June.12
The division initially remained in its forward positions, with outposts maintaining contact with the enemy. The last dead of the division were laid to rest, signaling the end of the campaign in the West.
The division, the brigade and the regiment had been in the thick of things from the very beginning, had participated in all of the decisive fighting, had made considerable sacrifices and had achieved noteworthy success. The division covered some 4,950 kilometers in fighting and marching its way across the Low Countries and France.13 The prerequisites for that success were due in no small measures to the logistics forces as well, who performed their duties in a quiet and modest fashion, but conscientiously and loyally. They tirelessly brought fuel and ammunition forward, repaired disabled vehicles as quickly as possible and took care of the wounded.
On 29 June, the division received orders to start its march back to Germany on 1 July.
The tracked elements of the regiment are rail loaded for home. Here: vehicles of the 8th Company.
July 1940 in the General-LutzKaserne in Wiinsdorf. A view from a window in the billets of the 5th Company, with the 2nd Battalion's Fighting Vehicle Memorial in the foreground.
The movement started around 0700 hours on the designated day. The tracked elements were loaded on trains, while the wheeled elements road-marched. The route led through Lyon, Bourg, Beaune, Dijon, Langres and Chaumont to the borders of the Reich, which was crossed by the brigade on 5 July.
On 7 July, the division marched from Saarbriicken through Kaiserslautern and then on to Mainz, where a parade was conducted for the division commanders and high military dignitaries."
The tracked vehicles were loaded the same day and reached their peacetime garrisons over the next two days. The local populace greeted the troops enthusiastically and showered the soldiers with flowers, baked goods, drinks and cigarettes.
The units and formations conducted yet another pass-in-review for their commanders before maintenance and recovery for vehicles, weapons and equipment topped the list of priorities.
Oberst Freiherr von Funck, shown here as a general officer, led the regiment during the campaign in the West.
He was born in Aachen on 23 December 1891, took part in the Great War and then served in the Reichswehr. Promoted to Oberst on 1 December 1938, he was the military attache in Lisbon starting on I January 1939. On 15 October 1935, he assumed command of the regiment.
On 13 October 1940, he succeeded Oberst Kiihn in command of the 3. Panzer-Brigade. Promoted to Generalvzajor, he assumed command of the 7. PanzerDivision on 15 February 1941. It was in that capacity that he was awarded the Knight's Cross to the Iron Cross on 15 July 1941 and the Oak Leaves to the Knight's Cross on 22 August 1943.
On 1 March 1944, he was promoted to General der Panzertruppen, assuming command of the XXXXVII. Panzer-Korps on 5 march of the same year.
He passed away in Viersen on 14 February 1979.
13. Lessons Learned
The winter of 1939-1940 and the following spring were used by the Panzertruppe to translate the lessons learned from the campaign in Poland into reality, at least as far as training was concerned. By contrast, the weapons had not changed much from 1939, since the time was much too short for that. Among the German leadership, the maxims of Guderian had been taken to heart: "Smash, don't slap!" and "A ticket to the final destination!" The operational idea for the campaign in the West came from the Chief-ofStaff of HeeresgruppeA, Generalleutnantvon Manstein.15 The operations plan called for a breakthrough by fast armored forces across apparently tank-proof terrain all the way to the English Channel, so as to cut the Allied armies in two and then destroy them piecemeal. Close cooperation between the Panzertruppeand the other branches was necessary, as was demonstrated in the organization of the armor divisions. Although the French and the English were numerically superior in France, their equipment,
organization, training and doctrinal principles were not. It was especially the French who saw the tanks as primarily just a support weapon for the infantry.
After the first phase of the campaign plan had turned out in favor of the Germans, the decisive battle for France was initiated with two armored groups attacking south. The armored wedge brought with it renewed success. Once again, a military victory was achieved in a short time just six weeks-that has few equivalents in the history of warfare.
Decisively participating in that success were the 10 armored divisions. Approximately 2,500 German tanks, some of which were inferior to their English and French counterparts, had achieved success over 4,800 of their opponents by means of better leadership, tactics, combined-arms employment and training. The first large-scale tank engagements of the war demonstrated as their most pressing need the mounting of more effective weapons in the German tanks. In addition, reinforcement of the armor plating was also urgently needed.
A common grave for some of the last to fall in the campaign in the West: Leutnant Schwandt (Headquarters of the 2nd Battalion), Gefreiter Irrgang (8th Company) and Obergefreiter Schlatholt (Headquarters of the 2nd Battalion). The average age of those killed in France was 23. This gravesite was erected on 23 June 1940 at Voreppe, near Grenoble.
Beginning of May 1940: The regiment forms up for moving out for the campaign in the West.
13 May 1940: The first major tank engagement of the Second World War is conducted on the high ground near Hannut.
A Panzer II of the regimental headquarters during a break in the action. The vehicle appears to have become "domesticated" for the campaign. Note also the fascines carried to facilitate the crossing of ditches and soft ground and the rifle slung across the gun mantlet. One of the crew prepares a snack.
Regimental headquarters tanks in the vicinity of Orp le Grand.
Pursuing the beaten enemy.
APanzer Illfrom a neighboring division has caught fire.
A dangerous opponent, the French Char B, armed with a 7.5-centimeter main gun in a limited-traverse sponson and a 4.7-centimeter main gun in a revolving turret. The most powerful and heavily armored tank on the battlefied at that time. The tank commander also served as the gunner, thus slowing down the ability of the vehicle to respond to the everchanging battlefield.
A Panzer II of the light platoon of the regimental headquarters. Gefreiter Heinrich-Gustav Schlieper, on the viewer's right, wears the beret without the crash helmet, accounting for its small, squat appearance.
The regimental commander's command and control tank has to be recovered. The "G" on the front slope stands for Guderian, who had overall command of the armored forces the regiment was part of.
Oberleutnant Hans-Engelbert Modersohn. He was killed by an antitank-gun round on 27 May 1940, while serving as the adjutant of the 1st Battalion.
Oberleutnant HansEngelbert Modersohn's gravesite in May 1940 in France
Graves for the fallen of the regiment with field-expedient crosses. As was the German custom early in the war, the crosses bear the headgear of the fallen and, in this case, the jacket of one of the soldiers.
The advance in France. A Panzerll takes temporary cover.
A Panzer I of the 6th Company in a French village. Leutnant Hennig, seen on the viewer's right, has just been awarded the Iron Cross, Second Class, since the medal was only worn on the day of its award. He is also a recipient of the Tank Assault Badge in Silver.
GefreiterHeinrich-Gustav Schlieper in front of a regimental Panzer II.
6 June 1940: The 2nd Company advances against the Weygand Line.
Crossing the Marne at Chateau-Thierry on 12 June. An 18-ton FAMO prime mover pulls a trailer across the provisional bridge.
The R 02, a kleinerPanzerbefehlswagen Iof the regimental headquarters.
On 13 June 1940 Oberfunkmeister Fritz Heister, Gefreiter Werner Borgmann and GefreiterOtto Hahn were killed in the R 02.
The gravesite for the crew of the R 02.
Preparing for operations.
A Panzer II of the 1st Company in a French village that has received a heavy artillery barrage or, more likely, a visit from the Luftwaffe.
Captured French tank factory in Auxerre. The vehicle hulls appear to be from Souma S 35s.
15 June: The attack south is continued. The tactical sign on the vehicle to the right is for a motorized infantry platoon, 8th Company.
The 5th Company in the attack.
A Panzer III of the regiment has landed in a tank trap and has to be recovered.
22 June: Tanks of the regiment in Bourgoin in the Lyon area.
Oberleutnant Hans Sandrock of the 1st Battalion Headquarters and his crew, several of whom have taken on distinctly Gallic features, wearing their berets French style and sporting goatees. The twin coaxial machine guns of the earlymodel Panzer III are seen to good advantage.
Return of the headquarters of the 1st Battalion and the regiment to the Cambrai-Kaserne on 9 July.
The 2nd Company has formed up in the Cambrai-Kaserne. Numerous soldiers have been awarded the Tank Assault Badge in Silver.
A Panzer III takes a run through a tank "bath" at the vehicle washing facilities at Wiinsdorf.
R 00 leaves the "tub." Note the apparent "kill" marks on the commander's cupola, including an aircraft.
APanzer Igoes through the same procedure.
R 03 bears a plaque commemorating Gefreiter Otto Hahn, who was killed during the campaign in the West in R 02.
R 00 bears a plaque commemorating Gefreiter Werner Borgmann, who was killed in the same vehicle.