|Grossdeutschland Campaign Pt. 1: The Verdun of 1940|
|by Travis Petkovits|
There are no desperate situations; there are only desperate people.
- General Heinz Guderian
The Infanterie-Regiment Grossdeutschland (Greater Germany) was formed on 1 Oct 39 from the Wachregiment Berlin, II Bat. 92nd I.R. and elements of the Infanterie-Lehrregiment. Unlike most Wehrmacht regiments, this elite force was composed of volunteer troops from all regions of the Reich. Due to the reorganization of the regiment during the Polish campaign. The I.R. Grossdeutschland would not see combat until the attack against the West was launched in May 1940.
Operation Fall Gelb, the German codename for the planned attack against France and the Low Countries had initially been very similar to the Schlieffen plan they had used a generation ago in 1914. However the Allies came into possession of a copy of the plan after a plane containing two German officers crashed in Belgium.
Hitler now needed a new plan that would take advantage of the Allies supposed knowledge of German intentions. Although General von Manstein’s idea of a mechanized attack through the rough terrain of the Ardennes had intially seemed unwise. There existed the potential for it to punch through the weakly held Allied center. If the Germans could force the Meuse and breach the left flank of the Maginot line near Sedan, the path to the channel coast would lay wide open.
The Germans initiated the attack by occupying Luxembourg during the evening of 9 May. The following morning Army Group B launched feint attacks against Belgium and the Netherlands. The Allied response was immediate. The BEF, and many of the best French units moved into Belgium and Holland to blunt the perceived German onslaught.
For the last two days I.R. Grossdeutschland had been the spearhead of XIX Panzer Corps as they have forced the Meuse and penetrated the extended portions of the Maginot line. Now the regiment has been assigned to hold the left flank of the Corps, as 1st and 2nd Panzer Divisions race towards the channel coast. 10th Panzer Division is also operating on the German left flank.
Realizing a day too late that his flanks are not in danger. General Huntzinger, commander of the French 2nd Army orders an immediate counterattack by the 3rd Armored Division, and 3rd Mot. Infantry Division against the German bridgehead at Sedan.
The Stonne Highlands are the dominant terrain feature overlooking the Meuse river valley and on a clear day, the river can be seen from the village. The 1st and 4th Battalions of I.R. Grossdeutschland have been assigned the task of attacking the village, currently occupied by scattered units of the 205th Inf. Reg. The German plan was to use Stonne as the anchor point of their left flank. Prompted by the attack, the French armored counterattacks fell upon I.R. Grossdeutschland.
The 1st Battalion of I.R. Grossdeutschland was able to occupy Stonne by 0700 on the 15th. Although for some time confusion reigned amongst the intermixed companies as French troops sniped from the village water tower. The 14th Co. was called up to Stonne just in time to deal with the first French counterattack. By midmorning the pressure had grown too great, and the badly mauled I.R. Grossdeutschland was pulled out of the village by 1100. Throughout the rest of the day and the next, the battle continued. With possession of the village changing hands seventeen times, as each side threw new units into the fight. Finally due to lack of support the French Infantry battalions withdrew. A critical chance for the French to blunt the German blitzkrieg had been lost.