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CASE: RONCEY JULY 1944: KAMPFGRUPPE LANGANKE 

 A beautiful example of the emergence and later dissolution of a Kampfgruppe comes from Normandy, 1944. Fritz Langanke, the commander of a company of Panthertanks, of which only two were operational, was ordered on the evening of 28 July to fight with a Kampfgruppe his way from the pocket at Roncey towards the southeast to cross the Seine at La Baleine.  He could not get his unit on the road through the chaos that night and was awaiting his chance on the 29th for the next night under constant bombing of Allied planes. In the evening of the 29th his Kampfgruppe set itself in motion with Panzer Grenadiere on the left flank and 50 to 60 parachutists on the right flank to protect the tanks against opponents with bazookas. Behind it followed the two StuG's and some trucks, the mechanized artillery of the infantry and several pieces of mobile Flak guns. At the rear of the column was a second Panther tank and a PzKpfw IV. Just after the departure at 22.00 the Panther of Langanke destroyed his first Sherman tank, followed shortly by an American anti-tank gun.

 

When they met somewhet later two other Shermans, Langanke gave the somewhat hesitant StuG's the
order to attack; the two tanks were easily destroyed. The Kampfgruppe now raced through the night and next hit a column of American halftracks. The rear vehicle was set alight by a tank grenade and the other halftracks were clearly visible set against the light of the flames by the subsequent fire. Several other were hit and the Americans fled in panic. The vehicles quickly changed ownership and when the Kampfgruppe reached Lengronne at the dawn of the day it was doubled in size: 300 German soldiers who had been spread out in small isolated groups en route had joined her so that Langanke could dispose of 600 men of various units. This now formidable combat group fought its way to the damaged bridge at La Baleine to cross the Seine. It was success-fully conquered and crossed and on the southern bank of the Seine the Kampfgruppe arrived in an area that was firmly in German hands, signs indicated where the various ‘mother’ divisions were. The men went on their way to their own units and Kampfgruppe Langanke dissolved within an hour. On August 27, 1944, Langanke recei-ved the Knights Cross (Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes) for this successful mission