|Country Nazi Germany|
Type Panzer corps
Role Armoured warfare
|Active 27 July 1943 – 8 May 1945|
The I SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler or I SS Panzer Corps (German: I.SS-Panzerkorps) was an armoured corps of the Waffen-SS. It saw action on both the Western and Eastern Fronts during World War II.
Formation and training
The corps was raised on 26 July 1943 in Berlin-Lichterfeld, with initial mustering taking place on the Truppenübungsplatz at Beverloo, in occupied Belgium. SS-Obergruppenführer Josef "Sepp" Dietrich, previously in charge of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler, was the corps' first commander. The Leibstandarte division's symbol was a skeleton key, in honour of Dietrich (Dietrich is German for skeleton key or lock pick), and it was retained and modified to serve as the corps' symbol. The shield and oak leaves were the same, with an addition of "two crossed keys" with the bottom of each one reversed.
In August 1943, the corps was transferred to Meran in Italy, where it took part in operations to disarm Italian troops. After this, the corps continued its training, being sporadically engaged in anti-partisan operations in northern Italy. By December 1943, the corps was fully formed and deemed ready for action, with its HQ being set up in Brussels in early 1944.
Western Front: Normandy
In April 1944, the corps was moved to Septeuil, to the west of Paris, where it was assigned the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte, 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend, Panzer Lehr Division and the 17th SS Panzergrenadier Division Götz von Berlichingen. The corps was attached to 5th Panzer Army, the Western theatre's armoured reserve. During this time, the corps was granted the honorary title 1st SS Panzer Corps Leibstandarte.
With the launch of Operation Overlord, the allied invasion of France on 6 June 1944, the corps was ordered to Falaise. The Hitlerjugend engaged British and Canadian troops to the north of Caen on 8 June. The corps was tasked with holding the area of Caen and saw heavy fighting around the villages of Authie, Buron and the airport at Carpiquet.
After the launch of the American Operation Cobra, which destroyed the Panzer Lehr, the corps was ordered to take part in Operation Lüttich, the abortive counter-offensive towards Avranches. The corps was caught in the Falaise Pocket, where they fought to maintain a corridor for the trapped German forces, losing all their armour and materiel in the process. After the general collapse of the front, the corps retreated to the Franco-German border.
Battle of the Bulge
In early October 1944, the corps was pulled back from the front line for rest and refit in Westfalen. Refitting was complete by early December, and it was ordered to the Ardennes region to join Sepp Dietrich's Sixth SS Panzer Army, in preparation for an offensive codenamed Wacht Am Rhein, and the ensuing Battle of the Bulge. The corps played a major role in the battle with Kampfgruppe Peiper of the Leibstandarte division forming a mobile spearhead. After several weeks heavy fighting with severely limited fuel supplies, and heavy allied air attacks, the corps was exhausted. The offensive had to be called off. Kampfgruppe Peiper became infamous during the battle for the murder of U.S. prisoners of war at the crossroads in what became known as the Malmedy massacre. In the wake of the defeat, the corps along with the remainder of Dietrich's Army, was moved to Hungary.
Hungary – Austria
The Germans launched a pincer movement north and south of Lake Balaton as part of Operation Spring Awakening on 6 March 1945. This area included some of the last oil reserves still available to the Axis. The attack was spearheaded by the 6th SS Panzer Army and included the corps, made up of elite units such as the LSSAH and 12th SS divisions. Dietrich's army made "good progress" at first, but as they drew near the Danube, the combination of the muddy terrain and strong Soviet resistance ground them to a halt. On 16 March, the Soviets forces counterattacked in strength, which forced the entire southern front to retreat towards Vienna. The German forces, including the LSSAH and 12th SS could not hold Vienna, which fell to the Soviet forces on 13 April. The Germans then retreated into Hungary. Thereafter, the bulk of the LSSAH division surrendered to US forces near Steyr and the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend surrendered to US troops near the town of Enns, Austria on 8 May 1945.
Orders of battle
6 June 1944 (Normandy)
16 December 1944 (Battle of the Bulge)
6 March 1945 (Operation Spring Awakening)