Edited By James S. Corum, Olaf Mertelsmann and Kaarel Piirimäe
The 15th Division of the Latvian Legion in the Fight on the Velikaya River (1 March–14 April 1944): A Case Study in Maintaining Fighting Power
The chapter is a case study of one German Army Waffen SS division in a period of intensive combat on the Eastern Front. The division in question is the 15th Latvian SS Volunteer Division (hereinafter – the 15th Division), which was formally a part of the Waffen SS, but its formation, motivation and battle performance was different from what is usually known as the Waffen SS elite division. The 15th Division was composed of Latvian volunteers who fought less for Germany than against the Soviet Union. The 15th Division found itself in intensive combat in the northeastern sector of the Eastern Front in March and April 1944. The 15th Division was one of several dozen divisions of the Wehrmacht that were manned by non-German nationals. The combat effectiveness of these non-German divisions varied widely – from exceptional battle performance to thoroughly unfit to fight. Because the non-German formations were such a large part of the Wehrmacht’s personnel, especially in the last two years of World War II, an understanding of the dynamics of such units and what made them effective in battle – or not effective – is important to gain a balanced picture of the Wehrmacht in those years.
The question of what makes units effective or ineffective in combat is one that is central to the subject of military history. An understanding of combat effectiveness, and how combat effectiveness is maintained, requires the examination of many factors. Leadership and training play a key role....
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