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The 3. Panzer-Division was a panzer division that served under Germany during World War II. It was first formed in October of 1935 in the capital city of Berlin. First fighting during the Invasion of Poland, it was the most powerful panzer division in the Early Campaigns of 1939-1940. The 3. Division continued to fight throughout the war, largely on the Eastern Front, participating here in the Caucasus campaign and the Battle of Kursk before surrendering to American troops in 1945. 

Commanders

The first commander of the 3. Panzer-Division was General Ernst Feßmann who commanded from the group's creation in 1935 to late 1937.[1] Replacing him would be Leo Geyr von Schweppenburg, himself keeping command until mid-1939, losing command just before the start of the war. Major General Horst Stumpff would be the one to lead the division until late 1940. Though he was replaced from his command for a short while before once again returning to command. Next would be the not yet famous Walter Model, who would command until late 1941. The final four commanders of the division were in order, Hermann Breith (1941-1942), Franz Westoven (1942-1943), Fritz Bayerlein (1943-1944), and Wilhelm Philipp (1944-1945) with several commanders taking command for 1-2 months in between them.[2]

Unit History

Following its creation, the 3. Division was first sent into minor combat in Spain as part of the Condor Legion ground troops and later during the occupation of the Sudatenland. However, its first real combat operation came with the invasion Poland where it was the largest Panzer division to see combat, with nearly 400 tanks at its disposal. After a couple weeks of fierce combat in Poland, the division was moved to France to continue the German push west. The 3. finally got a respite from the combat in early 1941 as preparation for Operation Barbarossa. As such, when the artillery began firing, 3. Panzer began its march east, pushing as far as the Caucasus by 1942. However, like the rest of the German Wehrmacht, the 3. was pushed back before taking part in the massive Battle of Kursk. Here, the division was one of the most successful, repelling Soviet troops and taking a good amount of ground. When the Soviets successfully counterattacked however, the division was scrambling back west, first attempting to hold Kharkov before being moved to Hungary in late 1944/1945. Following its transfer to Austria, the division promptly surrendered the American troops now liberating the country. 

References

  1. http://www.feldgrau.com/heer3p.html
  2. http://www.axishistory.com/axis-nations/3950-3-panzer-division

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