The Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler
" We are the best, because the best is expected of us "
Beginning as the personal bodyguard to Adolf Hitler the SS was a very important element of the National Socialist organization. In the early 1920's some 200 men were recruited to form the " Stosstruppe Adolf Hitler " which was responsible for Hitlers personal safety and to keep order during public meetings. This group was later expanded to become the " Schutz Staffell " ( Protection squad ) or the SS which in 1929 came under the command of Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler. ln 1933 with the growing threat to Adolf Hitlers life a new form of "Elite" bodyguard was created and was given the title SS LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER or SS LAH. Originally consisting of 120 handpicked pure "Aryan" men the recruits swore themselves body and soul to their Führer. Their commander was one of Adolf Hitler's best friends and one time personal bodyguard Josef "Sepp" Dietrich.
The SS LAH were the only SS unit to wear white leatherwork during parades and as much of their training consisted of parade ground drill they were nick named " The Asphalt Soldiers ", a term which was soon proved to be misjudged as their intense training made them fearless in combat. As General Eberhard von Mackensen wrote : " Every division wishes it had the Leibstandarte as its neighbour, as much during the attack as the defence. Its inner discipline, its cool daredevilry, its cheerful enterprise, its unshakeable firmness in a crisis ... its exemplary toughness, its camaraderie ( which deserves special praise ) , all these are outstanding and cannot be surpassed ". By 1936 the SS LAH had developed into 2 fully armed regiments and by 1939 had 3700 trained men. In the same year they took part in the invasion of Poland and after the Dutch and French campaigns of 1940 the Leibstandarte was expanded to Brigade strength and its title was slightly altered to LEIBSTANDARTE SS ADOLF HITLER. After taking part in the Balkan campaign ( April 1941 ) the unit was officially designated SS DIVISION LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER. In July 1941 the LSSAH took part in the invasion of Russia and it was during this campaign that the Waffen SS (Armed or fighting SS )and in particular the LSSAH earned their reputation for their ferocity during battle. The eagerness of the Waffen SS for combat coupled with their fanaticism bordered on the reckless and during the opening stages of World War II many Waffen SS were killed in action.
The Leibstandarte became known as " The Führers Fire Brigade ", plugging gaps and routing the enemy where the normal German army divisions failed to hold. In 1942 Hitler decreed that his guard should receive the title " SS PANZER GRENADIER DIVISION LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER ". After a short rest and refit in France the Leibstandarte returned to Russia in the spring of 1943 where it took part in the great tank battle at Kursk. After once again suffering heavy casualties the Division was sent to Northern Italy where it helped disarm the Italian army. It was during 1943 that the Division was given its final title"I. SS Pz. Div. LEIBSTANDARTE ADOLF HITLER". From November 1943 until April 1944 the Leibstandarte continued to fight In Russia where it suffered appalling losses when it broke out of encirclement at Skala. ln 1944 the Division was resting and refitting in Belgium when, in June, the Western Allies landed at Normandy. The Leibstandarte was sent to France where it saw heavy action in the Caen sector and was once again surrounded, this time at Falaise. Before it broke out and returned to Northern Germany the Division was reduced to an armoured strength of only thirty tanks.
In December 1944 the Leibstandarte, fighting as part of the Sixth SS Panzer Army, took part in Germany's last great offensive, the Ardennes campaign " Wacht am Rhein " (better known as the Battle of the Bulge). Due to lack of fuel, Allied air superiority and unfavorable weather conditions the offensive, although giving the Allies a bloody nose, failed. In March 1945 the division was transferred to Hungary to stem the tidal wave of Russian armies sweeping in from the East. The Leibstandarte, fighting with desperation to defend the soil of greater Germany, finally capitulated to American forces at Steyr in Austria, May 1945.
Some interesting facts about the LSSAH:
The LSSAH were the only SS unit to wear white leatherwork during parades.
LSSAH Panzer NCO's wore Silver tress (Litzen) on their tank uniforms. No other SS tank unit did this.
The LSSAH were never issued with or wore "'44 Dot/Pea Dot" uniforms (The SBG only wear them when portraying other units I.e. an Arnhem scenario)