The 12th SS Panzer Division Hitler Youth was formed in early 1943 following the German disaster at Stalingrad in Russia, and was trumpeted by German propaganda as a symbol of the willingness of German youth to make the ultimate sacrifice for Fuhrer und Vaterland. Most of the division s soldiers were born in 1926, and averaged barely eighteen years of age when they underwent their baptism of fire among the verdant fields and hedgerows of Normandy on 7 June 1944. Anchoring the eastern flank of the Normandy front, these young SS soldiers successfully defended the strategically vital town of Caen against British and Canadian forces until finally overwhelmed a month later by the Allies enormous superiority in men and materiel. Although the Hitler Youth Division was largely annihilated in the process, it won the grudging respect of Allied forces as the finest German division faced in Normandy. The author s account of its history is based largely on primary source materials, including extensive archival holdings, published memoirs, official histories, and numerous interviews with former division members.