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"The German Light Division" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on the German light division was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 5, August 13, 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.]


A recent report and a number of isolated pieces of information from various sources seem to provide a suitable opportunity for a short study of the German light division. (In issue No. 3 of Tactical and Technical Trends a report on the reorganization of the 90th German Light Division explained the several features and organization of this unit.)

This study must be regarded as tentative only, since detailed information is lacking and there is reason to believe that the light division has not yet emerged from the experimental stage.

First origins.

Light divisions were first reported in action in the summer of 1941 on the Russian front, when von Reichenau's Sixth and Seventeenth Armies constantly employed them in the spearhead of the attack; at times, they were the only spearhead divisions at the head of a thrust by one or the other of these two armies. There seems little doubt, in view of this employment, that the type was an experimental one, entrusted to the commanders mainly responsible for it.

It is thought that the four light divisions which at first emerged on the Russian front represented two separate types. Both were based on a two-regiment organization, but in one case the two infantry regiments were each reinforced by an artillery battalion, whereas in the other there was an independent artillery regiment.

The Libyan development.

It is believed that the 90th Light Division was originally intended to be based on the two-regiment organization. However, its development, both present and contemplated, has been governed by the particular requirements of the operations in North Africa.

In the form now aimed at the 90th Light Division is to revert to a basis of three regiments. These are described as light infantry regiments, and consist of two battalions of four companies with a regimental headquarters company. In addition, there is an artillery regiment of two battalions only; a tank battalion is to be added; the other divisional units all depart to a greater or lesser extent from the organization met with in any other type of division.

The European development.

No definite information is available as to any change in structure which the four original light divisions employed on the Russian front may have undergone. However during the period November 1941 to March 1942, three infantry divisions, which had suffered heavy casualties in Russia, and therefore had to be withdrawn from the front to reform, were transferred to eastern France and there reorganized as light divisions.

The first of these three divisions to complete conversion discarded one of its three infantry regiments, and the two other regiments were reorganized as "Jaeger" regiments, which may be compared with the crack rifle battalions of the old Imperial Army. The converted regiments each consisted of three battalions of 5 companies (3 rifle companies, 1 machine-gun company, 1 "heavy" company) and a regimental antitank company. The artillery regiment and all other divisional units were motorized, but the infantry regiments were not; it must be assumed that motor transport for them would be provided, when necessary, from the G.H.Q. pool.

The second of these divisions was given the same infantry structure of two "Jaeger" regiments, but its artillery and other divisional units remained on a horse basis. The third division also is believed not to have been motorized.

The progress of the experiment.

It appears, therefore, that the light division is still in the experimental stage. For European warfare, the two-regiment organization has been approved, but it seems probable that the reinforced regiment has been found less satisfactory than the "normal" infantry regiment with a separate artillery regiment. As regards motorization, however, it seems that a final decision has still to be taken.

The significance of the experiment.

The reason for the creation of the light division is apparently based on the principle of fluidity in the employment of special troops (an outstanding characteristic of the modern German Army), and on an increasing preference for the two-regiment division in the spearhead force.

The Panzer, motorized, mountain, and light divisions are all based on the same two-regiment structure. It follows that a spearhead force drawn exclusively from these types will be far simpler to control than one which contains a number of three-regiment infantry divisions. At the same time, tank regiments drawn from the G.H.Q. pool can more easily cooperate with regiments, the basic structure of which is the same as the infantry regiment of the Panzer division, and the motorized division, which regularly works in close cooperation with tank units.

The light division is apparently not fully motorized, because the special motor transport battalions of the G.H.Q. pool can transport the "Jaeger" regiments whenever necessary, and there is no need to tie up motor transport by a permanent allotment.


It is concluded, therefore, that the light division is the new type which may in time supersede both motorized and "normal" infantry divisions. It is as flexible and has as great striking power as the motorized division, but is less expensive to maintain. Just as the Germans effect great economy by reducing the divisional allotment of artillery by using the G.H.Q. pool to reinforce this division or that as the occasion requires, so likewise they would be able to economize in motor transport. They would also have a uniform structure in their attacking divisions, so that all are equally adapted for cooperating with tanks; and it may well be that the tank regiments, too may be largely transferred to the G.H.Q. pool with similar economy.


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