The 353rd Infanterie Division was formed Nov. 5, 1943 in Brittany, France as part of the 21st wave of recruitment. It was typical of most mid-late war divisions in that it was created with veteran soldiers pulled from various companies of older divisions that were mauled in fighting in Russia (371st, 328th, 137th, 306th and 389th Infantry Divisions) and Italy (334th Infantry). These vets acted as mentors for the new, green troops who had never seen combat before, who were used to fill the rest of the unit's ranks. The division included more than 1,700 Ost troops (Russian volunteers) who served under German commanders. The division also had a sizable number of Carpathian Volkdeutsch (ethnic Germans who lived the the Carpathian region of Hungary and Romania.
(ONLY KNOWN PHOTO OF 353RD VETERANS)
The infantry regiments were formed as follows:
Feldgendarmerie Trupp 306 arrived with:
0% Horses and vehicles
1.San.Komp 328 Arrived from the Ostfront with:
60% of their horses
2.San.Komp. 306 Arrived from the Ostfront with:
Most likely these units retained their titles (1.SanKomp et al) though modified for 353.
1.SanKomp was horsedrawn
2.SanKomp was motorized.
Each SanKomp was divided into 3 Zug.
1.Zug - stretcher bearers
2.Zug - Hauptverbandplatz (Main Bandaging Station)
3.Zug - Ersatz/ HVP
The 941st Infantry Regiment was created with cadre from the part of the 548th Grenadier Regiment of the 328th Infantry Division (which was smashed at Kursk). Other cadre came from the 2nd Batl., Grenadier Regt. 754 of the 334th Inf. Div. The 334th was originally created from survivors from the Afrika Korps in 1943 and was sent to Italy, where it was mauled on the Gothic Line.
The 942nd Regt. Took cadre from the ist and 2nd battalions from the 581st Grenadier Regt., 306th Inf. Div. and the 3rd Batl. of the 671st Gren. Regt., 371st Inf. Div. Both the 306th and 371st served in Russia. The 306th was part of the failed relief effort for Stalingrad. The original 371st was destroyed at Stalingrad and a second division with the same number was raised later in Italy, saw action in Croatia and the on the Russian Front.
The 943st Inf. Regt. was formed with cadre from 3rd Batl./755th Gren. Regt. from the 371st Inf. Div., and the 1st and 3rd battalions of the 569th Gren. Regt. of the 328th Inf. Div. The 943rd Served as a bicycle regiment, which arrived in the Normandy fighting a couple days before the rest of the division and fought with the 352nd Inf Div. near Omaha Beach for the duration of the battle.
The 371st Inf. Div. also gave up its entire reconnaissance battalion to form the 353rd's new Fusilier battalion (which combined an infantry/recon company on bicycle with two motorized anti-tank companies).
The 353rd Artillery Regiment was created with Cadre from the parts of the 328th Art. Regt and the 3rd Batl./334th Art. Regt. from the infantry divisions of the same numbers.
The 328th and 306 were destroyed at Kursk. The 328 was dissolved with portions (Division Rahmen) being sent to the 353, while the balance went to reconstitute the 306. Both units donated a medical company and the 306 also gave up it's Feldgendarmerie.
The 353rd trained and performed guard duty in France until D-Day in June , 1944. It was ordered to Normandy, but the unit took more than a week to get there because of Allied air attacks, arriving June 18. Near St. Lo, they helped support the badly mauled 77th Infantry division in hedgerow fighting against elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne, 90th, 8th, 79th, and 9th Infantry divisions. The unit was forced south during Operation Cobra and was caught in the Falais Pocket in Aug. 1944.
The unit managed to escape somewhat intact and rebuilt its forces by absorbing the XX Luftwaffe Fortress Battalion,the Garten Battalion, 313th Ersatz und Ausbildungs Regiment,the 547th Security Battalion, and the the 2/12th Landschutzen Ausbildungs (national guard training) Regiment. Most of these men were very young, or older men in their 40s and 50s who were not fit for front line units. The division was again fighting in Luxembourg and at the defenses of Aachen in October 1944.
The 353rd was badly mauled and remnents of its combat force were absorbed by a neighboring unit. However, its headquarters staff remained intact and was used to rebuilt the unit as the 353rd Volksgrenadier Division in November and December 1944, but probably never reached full strength due to equipment and man-power shortages. It was again involved in fighting near the town of Duren, Germany in January 1945. It later fought in the Roer River battles and the Battle of Cologne in March. The Division opposed the Rhine River crossing in March and fought daily until May, when it was forced to surrender to the Americans along with the rest of the German units surrounded in the Ruhr Pocket.