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The military history of the SS-Division 'Wiking'

SS-Division 'WIKING' was equipped and manned in December 1940. Initially it was called 'GERMANIA', but at the end of the same month this proved to be too complicated because one of the regiments went by the same name. At the end of December 1940 the name 'WIKING' (referring to the Nordic Vikings) was therefore chosen. The new division was trained and prepared for battle at the Truppen-Ubungsplatz Heuberg. In April 1941, the unit was found to be combat ready and the German high command could include another Waffen-SS division in their 'Barbarossa' plans.

On June 29th 1941 'WIKING' saw action for the first time. As a part of the Heeresgruppe 'C' (Süd) the division was ordered to attack Tarnopol and Lemberg in the Ukraine. After this, 'WIKING' marched on to the river Dnjepr. Here, the division successfully established a bridgehead on the eastern bank. Attempts to take Dnjepropetrovsk and Rostov in August 1941 were also successful, although 'WIKING' suffered heavy losses. During the winter of 1941-1942 'WIKING' dug in behind the river Mius for strategic reasons. The spring of 1942 brought new German offensives and in the early summer the giant summer offensive was launched. 'WIKING' managed to reach the Caucasus and proved to be a superb combat formation. The Division was forced to pull back in the Spring of 1943.

In 1943 the Regiment SS-Standarte 'Nordland' and the Finnish Battalion left the Division. Himmler had decided to build a new European volunteer Division and the Scandinavian 'Wiking' units were to be the backbone of the new 11.SS-Freiwilligen-Panzer-Grenadier-Division 'Nordland'. The motorised SS-Sturmbrigade 'Wallonien' commanded by Ostubaf. Lippert replaced the 'Nordland' Regiment late in 1943. Although 'Wallonien' consisted of only four infantry companies, it was equipped with Flak, Pak (anti-tank guns), infantry guns, a number of StuGs (mechanised anti-tank guns) and a Pionier (engineer) unit. The 2000 man strong 'Wallonien' was therefore very much welcomed in the Division.

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October 1943 brought yet another change. The Division was strengthened by a complete Panzer Regiment and was now called 5.SS-Panzer-Division 'Wiking'. The Division now had the most modern tanks and Sturmgeschütze at its disposal and these changes soon proved to be vital. 'Wiking' was involved in defensive operations in the vicinity of Charkov and the Dnjepr for the rest of the year. In the winter of 1943-1944 the Red Army launched a large offensive against the Heeresgruppe Mitte (Army Group Centre). The attack was successful on several fronts and the German lines collapsed. The Stalingrad formula had worked once again.

The Red Army now had surrounded about 54.000 men including the 'Wiking' Division in an area of 7 km by 8 km. The battles that followed became well known as the battles of the Tsjerkassy / Korsun Kessel (pocket). The surrounded German units fought their way westwards but were not able to break out because the relief units (the III.Panzer Korps: 16. and 17. Panzerdivision, the 1.SS-Panzerdivision 'Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler', 1.Panzerdivision, and the Schwere Panzer Regiment Bäke), who had to attack the Red Army from the west, were not ready yet. On February the 16th 1944 the attempt to break out started after the III.Panzerkorps had finished their job in the west. 'Wiking', the only surrounded division with tanks, led the attack. The operation succeeded, although many soldiers were killed (or drowned in the Gniloi Tikitsch), and all the armoured vehicles were either destroyed or left behind. In the end 34.000 men reached the German lines.

ready to attack

The survivors were placed in a Kampfgruppe and transferred to Poland where the Division was again rebuilt. In the period of rebuilding the Red Army reached Warsaw. Together with 3.SS-Panzer-Division 'Totenkopf' and the 19.Panzerdivision, 'Wiking' had to defend the area. In a number of battles 'Wiking' succeeded to drive the Red Army back across the river Vistula. There the front stabilised until January 1945.

In the meantime, 'Wiking' was transferred to Hungary. The Soviet-Russians had surrounded Budapest and 'Wiking', together with the notorious 3.SS-Panzer-Division 'Totenkopf', were ordered to liberate the 45.000 surrounded Germans. Although the IV.SS-Panzerkorps (in which both were incorporated) made progress for a period of two weeks, they were not able to defeat the Red Army around Budapest.

After the final failure of the operation, 'Wiking' ended up west of Budapest where further defensive operations were planned. Again the division had to retreat, this time all the way into Czechoslovakia. After 'Wiking' had spotted the Americans they surrendered in May 1945 and were lucky to escape the wrath of the Red Army soldiers.

The 'Wiking' Division had been a special division in several ways. First of all, they were one of the best Waffen-SS divisions in the war that proved to be a deadly obstacle for many Red Army Divisions even when they were in retreat. The multinational composition was another aspect that made 'Wiking' such a special unit, making it living proof that many different nationalities could serve effectively within one combat unit.

3.41 Wehrkreis VII - - Ausbildungslager
4.41 XXIV 11. Armee C Ausbildungslager
5.41 Wehrkreis V 2. Panzergruppe - Ausbildungslager
6.41 - 8.41 XIV 1. Panzergruppe Süd Tarnopol, Kiev
9.41 - 10.41 III 1. Panzergruppe Süd Kiev, Rostov
11.41 - 5.42 XIV 1. Pz. Armee Süd Mius (Taganrog)
6.42 XIV - Süd Mius (Taganrog)
7.42 LVII - Süd Southern-Russia
8.42 LVII 1. Pz. Armee A Caucasus
9.42 LVII 17. Armee A Caucasus
10.42 - 11.42 LII 1. Pz. Armee A Caucasus
12.42 III 1. Pz. Armee A Caucasus
1.43 - 2.43 LVII 4. Pz. Armee Don Manytsch
3.43 - 5.43 XXXX 1. Pz. Armee Süd Isyum, Charkov
6.43 XXIV 1. Pz. Armee Süd Isyum, Charkov
7.43 Reserve 1. Pz. Armee Süd Isyum, Charkov
8.43 XXXX and LVII 1. Pz. Armee Süd Isyum, Charkov
9.43 - 12.43 III 8. Armee Süd Dnjepr
1.44 - 3.44 XI 8. Armee Süd Tsjerkassy
4.44 LVI 2. Armee Mitte Kovel
5.44 - 7.44 Heropbouw - Mitte Heidelager
8.44 - 12.44 IV. SS 9. Armee Mitte Warschau/Modlin, Polen
1.45 Reserve 6. Armee Süd Budapest, Hungary
2.45 - 4.45 IV. SS 6. Armee Süd Budapest, Hungary
5.45 IV. SS - Ostmark Graz, Austria

Sources: (read literature for title specifications) Klietmann, Waffen-SS, eine Dokumentation; Strassner, Europäische Freiwillige; Steiner, Die Freiwilligen; Stein, Geschichte der Waffen-SS; In 't Veld, De SS en Nederland; Feldgrau.Com of Jason Pipes; Carell, Verbrannte Erde; Armando, de SS'ers ; Hoehne, The order of the Deathshead; Vincx and Schotanius, Pantserdivisie 'Wiking'.

  Text: EM © 2000 - 2004    Translations by: FvB © 2003
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