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"Organization and Identification of German Artillery Units" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German WWII artillery units was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 7, Sept. 10, 1942.

[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.]


In the German Army, all artillery, apart from the relatively small divisional allotment, belongs to the GHQ pool (Heerestruppen). From this pool, units are allotted to army groups or armies according to the estimated needs. They may be suballotted, for shorter or longer periods, to divisions or corps, in both cases normally being placed under the immediate control of special artillery commanders and staffs, also provided from the GHQ pool.

With the exception of artillery commanders and staffs, and artillery observation units, no two artillery units, regardless of type, bear the same number. The following brief notes will indicate the possible variations in composition and allocation of artillery.

(a) Division Artillery -- The division artillery regiment varies in composition according to the type and manner of employment of the division, as follows:

(1) Panzer divisions -- The artillery regiment consists of three battalions ("I" and "II" equipped with 105-mm gun-howitzers, and "III" with 150-mm howitzers). In some cases, III Battalion was previously an independent battalion in the GHQ pool, carrying a number in the series 401-450 or 601-650. Documents from the battalion files may therefore sometimes lead to an obsolete identification. In a task force, the artillery regiment may be reinforced by one or more units of GHQ artillery or other arms, such as army antiaircraft or smoke units.

(2) Motorized divisions -- The artillery regiment is organized on the same lines as that in the Panzer division, and in a task force may be reinforced in the same manner.

(3) Light divisions -- The organization of the artillery in the light division is believed to be still in the experimental stage, and cannot, therefore, be detailed as yet.

(4) Mountain divisions -- The artillery regiment is organized in four battalions: I, II, and III equipped with 75-mm mountain howitzers, and IV with 105-mm mountain howitzers. In a task force, it may be reinforced from the GHQ pool.

(5) Infantry divisions -- The artillery regiment consists of four battalions: I, II, and III equipped with 105-mm gun-howitzers, and IV with 150-mm howitzers. Those infantry divisions, however, which formed part of Germany's peacetime army received their medium battalions, on mobilization, from the peacetime medium regiments, which consisted of the horse-drawn I Battalion and the motorized II Battalion. In most cases the motorized battalion and regimental headquarters were withdrawn to the GHQ artillery pool. The horse-drawn battalion was incorporated into the divisional light artillery regiment, but retained its original battalion and regimental numbers. In the 1st through 36th Infantry Divisions, the medium regiments were designated by a number equivalent to the sum of 36 plus the number designating the division; in the 44th, 45th, and 46th Infantry Divisions the medium regiments were designated by a number one higher than that of the light artillery regiment. The number designating the light artillery regiment was the same as the number of the division in the 1st through 36th Infantry Divisions; in the 44th, 45th, and 46th divisions, however, the number did not so correspond. Thus, after mobilization the artillery regiment of the peacetime 33rd Infantry Division was the 33rd Artillery Regiment, consisting of three light battalions and one medium battalion" designated respectively "I, II, and III Battalions, 33rd Artillery Regiment," and "I Battalion, 69th (i.e., 33 plus 36) Artillery Regiment."

In a task force, the division artillery regiment may be reinforced from the GHQ pool.

(6) Infantry divisions in defensive sectors -- A division responsible for the defense of a sector (e.g., on the Channel Coast) may have its artillery modified to suit the local conditions. For example, part of the division regiment may be transferred elsewhere, for service in the field; equally, one or more units of coast defense or railway artillery from the GHQ pool may be incorporated (for the period of their tour of duty in that sector) in the division. In such cases, the units concerned retain their original numbers, but come under the ban against display of division numbers. Their shoulder straps and vehicles, therefore, will no longer serve to identify the unit.

(b) Artillery commanders -- When the division artillery regiment is not reinforced from the GHQ pool, its commander is known as Artillerieführer (Arfü); he is also the division artillery commander. Whenever GHQ artillery units are attached to the division -- in effect, whenever it is attacking -- the Arfü is sometimes subordinated to an artillery commander (Artilleriekommandeur, abbreviated Arko), whose small special staff is supplemented in action by the larger staff of the organic artillery regiment. An Arko may also be assigned to command an allotment of artillery to corps. In this case a GHQ artillery regimental staff and an artillery observation unit are regularly included in the allotment. The following grades in the chain of artillery command have been identified:

(1) At GHQ -- The artillery general at GHQ (OKH/Gen. d. Art.) is the principal adviser on the employment of artillery, and units from the GHQ pool are probably allotted to army groups and armies on his recommendations.

(2) At army-group and army Hq -- The artillery general at army-group or army Hq (Stoart--artillery staff officer), or in a coastal sector (General der Küstenartillerie, advises the commander on all artillery matters, and recommends the suballotment of GHQ artillery units to lower units.

(3) Within army group and army -- It is believed that each army group has one senior artillery commander (Höherer Artilleriekommandeur, abbreviated Höh. Arko) and staff, available to exercise command over GHQ artillery units operating in an area larger than that of a single army corps.

(4) Under corps -- An Arko (with staff) acts as the equivalent of an artillery commander whenever necessary, but a corps which is not in action may merely have a relatively junior artillery staff officer (Stoart) at corps Hq.

(5) Under division -- An Arko (with staff) acts as the equivalent of a division artillery officer when assigned to a division in action.

(6) The Höh. Arko staffs carry numbers in the series 301 and upwards; the Arko staffs carry numbers in two series, 1-44, and 101 and upwards. There is no apparent connection between one of these numbers and that of the unit with which the commander concerned is for the moment operating.

(c) GHQ artillery -- The heading Artillerie covers, in addition to the special commanders and staffs detailed under (b) (3)-(5) above, the following organizations, all of which wear the distinctive red piping of the artillery:

(1) Artillery regimental staffs -- These include the staffs of the peacetime division medium regiments (Nos. 37-72, 97, 99 and 115 -- it is not known if the whole series was ever filled), and special staffs formed on or after mobilization (carrying numbers above 500). Most of the latter are independent staffs, with no battalions carrying the same number. Apart from coast-defense staffs, all GHQ artillery regimental staffs are fully motorized.

(2) Battalion staffs -- There are a number of independent battalion staffs, the function of which is to administer and control independent GHQ medium, heavy, or superheavy batteries (motorized or railway) or coast defense batteries.

(3) Battalions and batteries -- These include light, medium, heavy, and superheavy units, and may be horse-drawn, motorized, tractor-drawn, self-propelled, railway, or fixed artillery. The numbers allotted to them have no necessary connection with their particular type, though certain groups of coast defense artillery batteries which are equipped with weapons of the same type carry adjacent numbers (e.g., 996-998, coast defense batteries equipped with French 155-mm guns). The motorized II Battalion of the peacetime medium regiment invariably consists of three four-gun batteries, but many of the battalions formed on or after mobilization may have three-gun batteries, and heavy or superheavy batteries may include two guns only, or even one.

(4) Armored assault artillery -- Armored assault artillery battalions are assigned vacant numbers in the series 151-250, and independent armored assault artillery batteries carry numbers above 650. The battalion consists of an unnumbered Hq (Stabsbatterie) and three four-gun batteries. It is equipped with the 75-mm assault gun (Sturmgeschütz) on a self-propelled mount (see Article No. 5, this issue).

(5) Artillery observation battalions -- The artillery observation battalions (Beobachtungsabteilung) are part of the GHQ pool. However, an armored artillery observation battery (Pz. Boeb. Battr.) is normally organically assigned to the division artillery regiment of the Panzer division. These batteries carry numbers in the series 320-350, which have no apparent relation to the regiment to which the battery is assigned.

(d) Other units -- During the course of a given operation, the artillery commander may control units other than artillery proper. They will be classified on organization charts under the following headings:

(1) Panzerjäger -- Tank destroyer units are usually an independent command, but some units such as a battalion, company, or platoon of GHQ antitank troops may be found under an Arko.

(2) Nebeltruppen -- A regiment, or a regimental staff and one or more battalions of smoke troops, will regularly be found with a corps operating in the spearhead of an attack.

(3) Heeresflak -- As a general term, Heeresflak designates: (a) Fla-Bataillone -- antiaircraft battalions which belong to the infantry, and are therefore organically part of the ground forces and wear white piping; and (b) Heeresflakabteilungen -- antiaircraft battalions which belong to the artillery and are therefore part of the ground forces and wear red piping. A Fla battalion or company, or a Heeresflak battery, may be under the command of the Arko.

(4) Luftwaffe -- German air force antiaircraft units may provide additional antiaircraft reinforcement. It is Luftwaffe antiaircraft units which comprise the main German antiaircraft arm. Their total strength has been estimated at 1,000,000 men, whereas the Heeresflak units mentioned above consist of a relatively few independent battalions.


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