(Document Source) Are official translations of briefs of the war experiences of (ex) SS-Oberstgruppenführer Josef Sepp Dietrich, wartime CG of the 6.Panzer-Army, and (ex) SS-Obersturmbannführer Joachim Peiper, wartime CO of the Kampfgruppe Peiper, 1.SS-Panzer-Regiment, 1.SS-Panzer-Division LSSAH), 1.SS Panzer-Corps, written by then for Col Burton F. Ellis, trial judge advocate, while they were awaiting trial for the Malmédy Massacre.

Schwäbisch Hall

Highly esteemed Colonel Ellis,

According to your wishes, I have tried to make up a report about the war years 1939-1945, as I have joined, participated in and seen them. I cannot pass judgment on the outer or inner economic and political events as it did not belong to my field of interest or work, and for seven years I was nearly always at the front outside of Germany. In the hope to have made this report according to your wishes, I remain Yours respectfully and faithfully.

/s/ Sepp Dietrich

Poland

At the outbreak of the war with Poland, the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler under my leadership as Regimental Commander was assigned to the Wehrmacht becoming a part of the army of Generalfeldmarshall Maximilian von Weichs. The Regiment was committed to the Bzdura sector to the surrounding of Kuhno and the Modlin fortress. With the capitulation of Warsaw, the campaign with Poland was at an end. The troops of both the warring states are to be judged as of the same quality. For this short campaign the equipment and training were quite suitable.

1940, Campaign in the West

By continuous utilization of the Polish campaign experiences with the troops from Autum 1939 to Spring 1940 they succeeded to train the German Army for attack or defense, and to make preparation for a long war. The completion, improvement and the armament of the Westwall were completed and powerfully manned. The War Economy was put into gear. An improvement in weapons could be expected. The weapons in the hands of the troops did not show any substantial improvements or advantages since the last World War. Also in the field of the motorization of the troops was not much useful materiel at hand. The tanks II and III only partly satisfied the demands of the troops. The Ordnance Department of the Army and Industry did not find a useful solution for a long time.

On May 8, 1940, the Fuehrer’s Headquarters ordered the attack on Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands and France. The soldiers fell in at 5 o’clock in the morning of May 10, 1940. The General Staff had made careful plans for the attack and further operations. The German Army, though not quite up to its full strength at that time, was strong enough to make the attack with success. Lower and medium command of the troops was well trained. The supplier with ammunition, fuel, spare parts for weapons and food was prepared and guaranteed.

The leadership as also the troops knew that a hard fight was ahead of them. Had not, indeed, a part of the officers participated in the first World War in the West, 1914-1918. The French as also the British soldiers were hard fighters and also, at that time already, superior in materials. Therefore only a good prepared surprise attack, almost worked out taking to the last minute and the last out of the troops, could lead to a success. The Netherlands were quickly overrun. The Belgian Army surprised was forced into capitulation. By a quick push to the channel the French troops got separated from the British and forced into a withdrawal. Italy entered the war which did not help Germany but only brought a burden. Not only material but also military aid had to be given (Africa Corps). The Western Campaign 1940 came to an end with the capitulation of France. The success was great but did not bring peace.

An immediate pursuit of the British Army into England was, according to the Luftwaffe and the Kriegsmarine, not possible. The necessary shipping space for this was not available. The Luftwaffe, as also the Kriegsmarine, were not capable to furnish the army with the necessary protection for a landing in England. The British navy still untouched and in full fighting strength had to be calculated into the risk of this undertaking. The German General Staff had given up the plan for a channel crossing and landing in England and our troops became not anymore offensive but defensive. The losses of men and material was replaced, new divisions were ordered to be set up. My regiment got transferred to Metz, reorganized into a motorized infantry division and trained.

Italy had to suffer reverses in Greece and Germany had to send aid. At the end February 1941 the army of Generalfeldmarschall Wilhelm List to which also my division belonged got transported by way of Hungary, Rumania and Bulgaria into Greece to aid Italy. In the middle of March 1941 after the necessary preparations for the offensive were taken, we lined up for the attack. My division was the right wing of the army and received the order to open up the gate to Greece. After a ten hotfight the Klidipass, the entrance gate into Greece, was in German hands. On April 20, the Greek General of the High Commander asked for an armistice and offered the capitulation of the army, which I signed at 7 o’clock in the evening. The Greek army had free passage, the officers kept their arms.

Careful preparations led also in Greece to quick success. Right after the termination of the war with Greece my division was recalled, transferred to the training camp at Brun, and refitted for front line duty. In the meantime war with Russia had broken out. Not ready yet for offensive employment the division was moved in the middle of June to Russia and attached to the 3.Panzer-Korps. At this time, the German Army had grown to its full power and strength.

During the attack on Russia the German armies had encountered very strong resistance. After a battle of several days great breaks into the Russian lines could be accomplished. The left wing of the 1.Panzer-Army of Generalfeldmarschall Ludwig Ewald von kleist has reached Kiev and with this opened up the Ukraine for the army group south under the command of Generalfeldmarschall Gerd von Rundstedt. The Stalin line was penetrated and had to be abandoned after a battle of several days. The advance of the Krim and the Black Sea did not bring any stiff battles. The Russian Army had detached itself and offered only delaying resistance.

The army groups Middle and North were also successful and were advancing. Until October 1941 we could advance in the North as far as before Petrograd, in the middle before Moscow; and in the south before Rostov. In November the mud season in the whole of Russia started which made an advance nearly impossible. The materiel, already much used, had to be employed more than before. The first difficulties in the far supply route of spare parts for vehicles and fuel appeared. In the end of November 1941 further advance had to be halted because of a complete stoppage of fuel.

The very harsh winter of 1941-1942 brought great difficulties for the Germans in all spheres of supply. Through this, the whole Eastern front came to a standstill and we had to go over to the defensive. The preparation of positions without timber gave us great anxiety. The ground, frozen down to 1,1-M and the cold to minus 45 degrees very much deteriorated the health of the troops who were without winter equipment. An improvement of the supply was not possible on account of the bad railroad connections.

70% of all vehicles were frozen and only 10% could be kept ready to move on account of the bad fuel supply. The Russian armies in their own land could make good use of the time the German armies were immobilized. They could reorganize their troops, and put thorn in readiness for the spring to oppose a new movement of the German troops.

The German spring offensive started with an attack on the Krim. Sebastopol and the peninsula of Korth were taken. The second attack through Rostov at the Kaukasus was also progressing and was to secure the fuel for the further conduct of the war, but the Russian army attacked strongly on the left flank and affected a withdrawal. The Kaukasus got lost. Dom and Rostov had to be abandoned, which meant a groat loss for the further conduct of the war. The Russian troops followed right at the heels of the withdrawing Germans. Stalingrad became encircled and had to be abandoned later. With this the 6.Army with 200.000 men, officers, and the total equipment became lost.

This meant for the Eastern front a very hard blow, from which they never could recover. Also the left flank of the Army Group South was strongly attacked and thrown back. Italy and Hungary could not stop the Russian assault. Along the total southern front no enemy had broken in and pressed the German troops back. Here Charkov became lost. The second winter, even if not as harsh as the first one, gave great anxiety to the high command. Equipment and men were used to the extreme.

From the west the halting of the Russian advance in the winter 1942-1943 succeeded only by the quickly bringing up of divisions. The German Armament industry was again always able to meet the demands of the troops. Improved and now weapons Panzer IV, assault guns and anti-tank guns arrived. In the field of motorization in cross-country vehicles, great progress had been made.

The supplies by rail had improved quite a bit during the second winter. Only the worries about the fuel did not become much less. The great losses of men and officers became very noticeable. The reserves who arrived was not sufficient at all to replenish the losses. The divisions remained far below their normal strength. At the Army Groups North and Middle the situation was not much better. The Luftwaffe was presented with the same worries. The Stalingrad and Jasma pockets brought the Luftwaffe the greatest losses of pilot and machines.

Without regards the supply of the encircled troops had to be carried through. On May 6 1943, the left wing of Army Group South together with the right wing of Army Group Center was ordered to take offensive action and to close the Belserod-Orel pocket. This attack was intercepted and repulsed by the Russians on the 5th day of the battle. The taken ground had to be evaluated under great losses.The enemy prepared for a counter attack with very strong tank forces, and the front could not be held. Many men and equipment got lost at this time.

Africa was given up and got lost. Italy did not keep up her promises and treaties. With the armies in dissolution, the navy went over to the enemy. This was a hard blow for the German conduct of the war. Thus, the troops who had been destined for the East had to be sent to the South. Day and night the enemy air forces flew over Germany in greater and greater concentration and destroyed industry, traffic network, and cities. Re-shifting had to take place to a great extent, which resulted in the loss of thousands of working hours. The supply of the front with weapons and fuel decreased more and more. All efforts of human endeavor to hold the fronts were of no avail. The new formation of Volkgrenadier divisions, of briefly and badly trained reserves for the front produced more worries than help. The West according to all indications and preparations of the enemy an invasion and to be expected. Indications for this were the continuous attacks on bridges, traffic notworks and industry.
Preparations for an immediate repulse of an invasion were inadequate, the troops earmarked for this in no account sufficient. The supply route to the troops for fuel and ammunition was much too long and continuously surprised by aircraft. 50% of the allocated quantity got shot down and destroyed on the transport. All routes of approach were continuously under control from the air. It was nearly impossible to move on the road by daylight. The bringing up of troops and equipment could only take place at nighttime, and also that only during a few hours as it was summertime. At the invasion front neither the Luftwaffe nor the Kriegsmarine gave the army any support. It was impossible for the army alone to stop the invasion with the troops available. All efforts and commitments were unsuccessful. We had to back up the defense, for which the tanks forces were the least suitable. As we could not rely on more troops and the enemy brought up reinforcements of troops and equipment continuously we had to count with a break through the invasion front. Men and equipment of our own troops were not all or only in a small measure replaced. Reports and cries for help were not heard by the G.H.Q. of the Fuehrer but, if yes then it was always too late.

After the hard fighting of 64 days duration, the invasion front collapsed, and the German troops, although delaying the enemy, had to fall back to the Westwall. Sabotage on roads and communications lines impeded the withdrawal. A lot of men and equipment was lost at this time. Insufficient preparations and not enough available troops caused the collapse of the invasion front. Success could not be denied to the far superior enemy materiel and the young and fresh troops. Only our last effort we succeeded to build up a defensive position to the west. The last reserves has to be brought up. Now the total war was started at the Propaganda ministry, probably overlooked that it was too late already because the German people were at the end of their strength. Only the figure-jugglers and the inventors of God’s miracle weapons had the vigor to win the war.

The winter of 1943-1944 brought along the whole front heavy defeats which could not be made good in any way. Though Panzer V Panther and VI Tiger I and II had started rolling, they only reached the troops very slowly on account of the continuous air attacks. The German Luftwaffe had in no way recuperated from the heavy losses sustained in the winter of 1943, and could therefore only give limited protection to Germany proper.

Finland and Romania got evacuated and the troops transported back only under the most difficult circumstances. In the East and West the enemy had reached and crossed the German borders. Germany got covered with the heaviest bombs and attacked with low flying aircraft day and night, which made the industry and traffic road nets almost useless. The supply of the front line and also of Germany proper could no maintained only with uttermost effort. Coal, coke and also the electricity supply for the industrial economy were everywhere extremely scarce. All this pressed the German people more and more to the ground, and in any case was not conducive to lift the morale at the front line. In the East a new offensive menaced us and in the West a bitter fight at the Westwall and a penetration of the Ruhr district. Once again the German army had to fall in for the battle in the West. Hitler himself tried to convince his generals that there was no other way but order an attack this winter and become the attacker again. Everything still there was to be put at disposal : tanks, planes, ammunition and fuel. Only the soldiers were the old divisions already so often beaten down, and the reserves, badly trained on account of lack of time and fuel; thus violating basic principle for the success of a battle. No preliminary conferences, map studies, or reconnaissance of the terrain was allowed to take place. Strictest secrecy was ordered. Even though the surprise attack succeeded, it could not be of long duration. The ground, the season, insufficient supply of ammunition and fuel were no ideal answer for Panzer armies, but an ambition for far-reaching aims. The last ounce of strength Germany still possessed was expended. Precipitation and bad preparation lead in the battle of the Ardennes, too to no success.

/s/ Sepp Dietrich

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