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"Notes on German Paratroops--New Type 105-mm Mortar" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A short report on Luftwaffe parachute troops serving in the Africa Corps and a reported new 105-mm mortar, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 24, May 6, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


The Africa Korps parachute troops, according to a very recent unofficial source, but one considered quite trustworthy, are armed with the best weapons and they constitute the crack unit of the special troops of the Africa Korps. Considered the bravest in the army, they are used as shock troops only. When possible, they are kept no longer than five months at the front, then sent home for instruction to correct faults noted in the last operation. To acquire full and complete confidence in his equipment, the German paratrooper makes six jumps before he is sent to the front line, and not till then does he receive his insignia. (On the other hand, a pilot of a Ju-87, Ju-88 or Me-109 makes no trial jumps, so that he will not acquire the feeling that the parachute is to be depended on. Therefore, in case a forced landing is necessary, he will do his utmost to reach his own lines.)

Attached to the paratrooper's uniform, called a "bone-sack" (Knochensack) are potato-masher and egg grenades. Cartridges for pistol and rifle are carried in the pockets. Part of the equipment is a curious cleaver-like weapon or implement with a blade of from five to six inches long. How it is used was not reported--perhaps to cut free from tangled shrouds. Air-borne troops are not jumpers. The infantry land in airplanes or gliders where the paratroopers have taken an airfield. The air-borne infantry supports the paratroopers.

Before the jump, the rip-cord is fastened to the jumping apparatus so that the parachute can open itself. This occurs safely 99 out of 100 times. As the men are reported to jump from heights of only from 50 to 75 meters, little chance is left to open a reserve 'chute, if one is worn. The 'chute is supposed to open after a 12-meter fall. Troopers are trained to use enemy weapons. Rations, extra ammunition, machine guns and other weapons are, of course, dropped in containers by parachutes.

A paratroop battalion is organized, in general, as follows:

        Battalion staff
        Communications platoon
        Four parachute companies.

The light weapons which the paratroopers carry during the jump are:

        .08 Model automatic pistol, .36 in (9 mm)
        .98 Model rifle, .312 in (7.9 mm)
        Light machine gun
        Potato masher and egg grenades.

The heavy weapons, dropped in containers, are:

        Heavy machine gun, 7.9 mm
        Heavy mortars, 3.2 in (80 mm)
        Light mortars, 1.96 in (50 mm)
        New-type mortar, 4 in (105 mm).

On the paratroop motor vehicle is painted the organizations' designations--for example:

        R - means, Col. Ramke, (commander)
        R.B. - means, under command of Ramke, Maj. Burckhardt* battalion
        R. Hv - means Ramke, Capt. von der Heide's battalion.

The "new-type mortar" referred to above has not, as far as known, been previously reported. As yet, no technical description of this weapon is available but the accompanying sketch and description is believed to give a fair, general idea of its characteristics and appearance.

[German 105-mm Mortar for Luftwaffe Paratroopers]

The following numbers and items have reference to the accompanying sketch.

        1. Shell (percussion fuze), cal 105 mm
        2. Barrel, smooth bore
        3. Dust protector, placed in the rear (3 A) when not in use
        4. Wood or composition block, placed at base for the breech (holds firing pin)
        5. Powder charge
        6. Percussion cap--fastened in center of powder ring--and firing pin
        7. Steel reinforcement
        8. Tripod
        9. Barrel--binder lock--the barrel is fastened to this
        10. Joint by which the barrel is moved
        11. Sight mechanism, optical device with crank
        12. Adjustable legs
        13. Bubble sight
        14. Carriage--similar to that of a 37-mm antitank gun, but smaller
        15. Barrel fastener
        16. Split trail

*A well-known paratroop officer, now prisoner in British hands.


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