Organized and trained during 1943, the 10th SS Panzer Division saw its first action in the spring of 1944 during the attempt to relieve an encircled German army on the Eastern Front. Several months later, Hitler ordered the 10th SS west to Normandy, where by mid-June 1944 German defenses against the Allied offensive were crumbling. Here the division engaged in a series of armored attacks and counterattacks against British and American forces. The 10th SS briefly held off a few enemy thrusts but gradually had to fall back to Falaise, where the division escaped the Allied encirclement with no tanks and only a fraction of its men. The 10th SS Panzer Division next defended against the Allied parachute assault during Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Depleted and now a division in name only, the 10th SS fought in Alsace before Hitler sent it to the Eastern Front again. There, east of Berlin, the division participated in the final, futile battles against the Red Army before escaping to Czechoslovakia to surrender to the U.S. Army.
Dieter Stenger is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and has worked in the museum field for two decades, including stints at the Marine Corps Air-Ground Museum, the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, the National Museum of the Marine Corps, and the U.S. Army Center of Military History, where he is senior arms curator. He lives in Virginia.