[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — 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.]
CHAPTER II. ORGANIZATION OF THE FIELD FORCES
Section V. DIVISIONS
1. Comparative Charts
The main types of German divisions, their German designations, and strengths are listed in the first two columns of Figure 5. The remaining columns on the upper part of that chart show the main components for the first 13 types of divisions. Figure 6 shows the type distribution of weapons and equipment in the first 13 types of divisions mentioned above.
The following paragraphs of this section cover the more important types of German divisions and Sections VI and VII include the components of these divisions as well as General Headquarters troops listed together in accordance with their arm or service. These sections cover in great detail the three most numerous types of German divisions: the Infantry Division, 1944 Type; the Volks Grenadier Division; and the Armored Division, as well as the other types of divisions with their most important components only.
Most of this information is based on factual evidence, and wherever such was not available the best possible estimates have been made. This refers particularly to the strength figures of the division staffs controlling various units (lower part of Figure 5), as such staffs may be temporarily in charge of much smaller or much larger numbers of men in accordance with tactical and local conditions.
2. Infantry Divisions
Despite the important role which has been played by specialized branches of the German Army, the infantry has been and remains today the foundation for most German operations.
a. INFANTRY DIVISION, OLD TYPE (Infanteriedivision) (THREE REGIMENTS OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH). Contrary to the American conception of a completely motorized infantry division, the German infantry divisions mostly have relied on horse-drawn vehicles for their transportation. In recent reorganizations the proportion of motorization in these types of divisions has decreased even more. Except for the reorganization of the infantry platoon from three to four squads after the Polish campaign in 1939, and the temporary increase in the number of horses in the divisions employed in Russia from 1941 to 1943, the German three-regiment, nine-battalion division remained unchanged for all practical purposes until the fall of 1943. This type of division probably will not be encountered any more; however, as it has been the basic type of German infantry division for a period of about 4 years, it is shown in Figures 7 and 8 and designated for explanatory purposes as the Infantry Division, Old Type.
b. INFANTRY DIVISION, 1944 TYPE (Infanteriedivision n.A later Kriegestat 44) (THREE REGIMENTS OF Two BATTALIONS EACH). In October 1943 the Germans reorganized radically their infantry divisions in reducing the infantry regiments from three to two battalions, and the other divisional components were revised accordingly. In the remaining six infantry battalions the number of squads per rifle platoon was reduced from four to three, but without having much effect on the fire power of the division since the caliber of the mortars and antitank guns has been increased, and the number of machine guns kept unchanged. This type of division was designated Infantry Division, New Type (Infanteriedivision n.A.). This type of infantry division will not be discussed further here, as it soon was designated the Infantry Division, 1944 Type (Infanteriedivision Kriegestat 44). This redesignation took place in May 1944 after the following additional economies were put into effect. The strength of the squad was reduced from ten to nine, the number of light machine guns per rifle company from 16 to 13, and the strength of the trains on all levels was reduced sharply. Figures 9 and 10 show the Infantry Division, 1944 Type, but newest regulations point towards a further reduction of the components of that type of division by approximately 10 per cent and the redesignation of the thus reorganized division as Infantry Division, Type 1945 (Infanteriedivisions 45). It has just been learned that all German infantry divisions are to be reorganized on the basis of the Infantry Division, Type 45, and that the organization and strength of that division are almost identical with those of the Volks Grenadier Division. (See subparagraph d below and Section VI, paragraph 2, subparagraph a (5).)
c. INFANTRY DIVISION, Two REGIMENT TYPE (Infanteriedivision) (TWO REGIMENTS OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH). Independent of the various stages of organization of the three regiment infantry divisions, the Germans have formed, since the spring of 1941, a number of two-regiment, six-battalion, infantry divisions with weaker components and over-all reduced strength and fire power. The number of this type of divisions recently has been reduced by the reorganization of several into three-regiment divisions. We refer to this type of division as Infantry Division, Two-Regiment Type.
d. Volks Grenadier DIVISION (Volksgrenadierdivision) (THREE REGIMENTS OF TWO BATTALIONS EACH). In September 1944, after Heinrich Himmler, the Chief of the SS, the Police and the Minister of the Interior had become also the Chief of Army Equipment and Commander of the Replacement Training Army, a new type of infantry division, the "Peoples Infantry Division" (Volks Grenadier Division) was created. The political significance of this type of division lies in designating it: "the Peoples," and thus stressing the emergency of the Fatherland. As the members of the Volks Grenadier Division are reported to be interchangeable with the members of the SS divisions, it is believed that through their creation the influence of the SS on the Army has been strengthened. To increase the Esprit de Corps of its members, supporting General Headquarters units also have been designated Volks Artillery Corps, Volks Engineer Brigades, and Volks Rocket Projector Brigades, all of which will be discussed in Section VII.
From the organization point of view, the significance of the Volks Grenadier Division
lies in its decrease of personnel and increase of small automatic weapons, particularly
submachine guns. Also company and battalion trains have been merged into battalion supply
platoons, thus freeing the company commander from all duties other than operational
and facilitating a more even distribution of all types of supplies with less
personnel. Bazookas replace all antitank guns in the infantry regiments; the
artillery regiment is organized in batteries of six guns instead of four, with one
battalion of eighteen
e. SS INFANTRY DIVISION (SS Grenadierdivisionen) (THREE SS REGIMENTS OF TWO BATTALIONS EACH). The great majority of German infantry divisions are army infantry divisions. However, there are also several SS infantry divisions (SS-Grenadierdivisionen) which have been formed by the armed SS (Waffen-SS). This type of division is organized similarly to the Infantry Division, 1944 Type, but it has slightly stronger components and includes an organic anti-aircraft battalion.
3. Mountain and Light Divisions
a. ARMY MOUNTAIN DIVISION (Gebirgsdivision) (TWO MOUNTAIN INFANTRY REGIMENTS
OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH.). German Army Mountain divisions are organized and specially
equipped for mountain warfare as well as for warfare in difficult terrain. Their means
of transportation therefore will vary from a large number of pack horses and mules in
higher mountains to a fair proportion of motorization in flat country. The principle of
decentralizing heavy weapons is particularly adapted to the relatively independent
mountain infantry battalions which are as administratively and tactically self-sufficient
as possible. The German army mountain division consists of two mountain infantry regiments
with a total of six battalions; and a mountain artillery
b. ARMY LIGHT DIVISION (Jägerdivision) (TWO LIGHT INFANTRY REGIMENTS OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH). The Army Light Division is organized similarly to the Army Mountain Division but is believed to have more motorization and less mountain equipment.
c. SS MOUNTAIN DIVISION (SS Gebirgsdivision) (TWO SS MOUNTAIN INFANTRY REGIMENTS OF FOUR BATTALIONS EACH). The SS Mountain Division is organized similarly to the Army Mountain Division, but it has stronger components and includes an antiaircraft battalion. The SS Mountain Infantry Regiment may have in addition to three mountain infantry battalions a fourth mountain infantry battalion or several regimental companies.
4. Motorized Divisions
a. ARMY MOTORIZED DIVISION (Panzergrenadierdivision) (TWO MOTORIZED INFANTRY REGIMENTS OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH). The Army Motorized Division has two motorized infantry regiments of three battalions each but otherwise is organized similarly to the Army Armored Division except that it has a tank or assault gun battalion instead of a tank regiment. The motorized infantry battalions originally were organized exactly as the normal infantry battalions, except they used trucks as means of transportation. During the year 1944, however, the components of the motorized infantry battalion have been reorganized along the lines of the Panzer Grenadier battalions in armored divisions. The two infantry regiments are usually designated (Infanterieregiment-(mot)), but in some divisions they officially adopted the designation of Panzer Grenadier regiment.
b. SS MOTORIZED DIVISION (SS-Panzergrenadierdivision) (TWO SS MOTORIZED INFANTRY REGIMENTS OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH). The SS Motorized Division is organized similarly to the Army Motorized Division, except that its infantry regiments include additional regimental companies, and the tank battalion has a greater strength and a larger number of tanks. The SS motorized infantry regiments are designated SS Panzer Grenadier regiments.
5. Armored Divisions
a. ARMY ARMORED DIVISION (Panzerdivision) (TWO Panzer Grenadier REGIMENTS OF TWO BATTALIONS EACH). Every German large-scale attack and counterattack in this war was spearheaded by armored (Panzer) divisions. These thrusting attacks account for the great importance the armored divisions play within the German armed forces and for the especially well trained personnel and newest types of weapons and equipment in the armored division. In order to keep the weapons and equipment in accordance with the newest development at all times, the reorganizations within that type of division have been continuous since the outbreak of the war and are still continuing.
In 1939 the German armored divisions which spearheaded the attack into Poland consisted of a tank brigade of two tank regiments, a Panzer Grenadier brigade of two regiments, and the supporting elements. The tank brigade consisted of about 400 light and medium tanks, about two-thirds of which were Pz. Kpfw. I and II and one-third were Pz. Kpfw. III and IV. During the winter of 1940 the Germans formed additional armored divisions and reduced the tank components of each to one regiment of approximately 200 tanks. When these divisions went into action in the French campaign, the bulk of the tanks were Pz. Kpfw. III and IV. In 1941 and 1942 the number of tanks per regiment was further reduced, the Pz. Kpfw. I were withdrawn, and the Pz. Kpfw. II were used mainly for reconnaissance purposes. In the fall of 1943 the German High Command issued a new table of organization for the armored division specifying a total number of about 200 tanks of the Pz. Kpfw. IV and V type exclusively. This planned strength, however, remained only a theory, as no armored division encountered had more than 150 tanks, and most of the divisions had approximately 100 only. Early in 1944 the German High Command issued an order that all companies and battalion trains in the tank regiment, in the Panzer Grenadier regiments, and in the armored reconnaissance battalion should be reduced in strength and merged into supply companies on the battalion level, thus freeing the company commanders from all duties other than operational and facilitating a more even distribution of all types of supplies with curtailed personnel. The most important changes which occurred in the organization of other components of the armored division will be covered under the appropriate branches of arms or services in Sections VI and VII.
While the last known tables of organization of the army armored division
still specify 17 tanks for each of the four companies in the tank battalion, current
front reports indicate that a new set of tables of organization is being issued
specifying the components as shown in
b. SS ARMORED DIVISION (SS-Panzerdivision) (TWO Panzer Grenadier REGIMENTS
OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH). The SS Armored Division is organized similarly
to the Army Armored Division except that it has stronger components. The tank regiment
has a larger number of tanks, each of the Panzer Grenadier regiments has
a Panzer Grenadier battalion and an antiaircraft company, the armored
artillery regiment has one more armored artillery battalion (
In accordance with the above, the SS Armored Division may be considered the strongest type of division in the German armed forces. Only the Air Force Parachute Armored Division, Herman Goering, and the Army Armored divisions, Panzer Lehr and Grossdeutschland, are believed to be of equal strength.
6. Air Force Parachute Division (Fallschirmjagerdivision) (THREE PARACHUTE RIFLE REGIMENTS OF THREE BATTALIONS EACH)
As the abovementioned SS Armored Division may be considered the strongest type
of division in the German armed forces, the German Air Force Parachute Division is
believed to be the strongest type of the various infantry divisions. While in the
course of this war small German parachute units have been employed successfully as
airborne troops in various campaigns, in the West, in the Balkans, in Crete
and Sicily, one generally may consider the present Air Force Parachute divisions
as especially carefully selected, well trained, and equipped crack infantry
divisions, with only a small percentage of their personnel having received training
as parachutists in the American sense of the word. The significant organizational
difference between the parachute division and the army infantry division is that
each of the three parachute rifle regiments has three battalions and a larger
allotment of machine guns than the corresponding army units. The parachute artillery
regiment has only three battalions (two light and one medium), but the division
includes a parachute antiaircraft battalion and a parachute
7. Air Force Field Division (Luftwaffenfelddivision (THREE INFANTRY REGIMENTS OF Two BATTALIONS EACH)
The Air Force Field Divisions were formed in the later part of 1942 from surplus personnel of the antiaircraft artillery, the air signal troops, the ground crews of the flying troops, and administrative units, as well as a certain number of recruits and foreigners. Most of these divisions were sent to the Russian front in the winter of 1942-1943 but some also were encountered on the Italian front and in France. The organization of this type of division varied, but it is believed that the basic pattern was originally a two-regiment, three-battalion division, with normal supporting units and an additional antiaircraft battalion. In the fall of 1943 the Air Force Field divisions were absorbed by the Army. Many of them had suffered heavy losses and were disbanded in 1943 and 1944, and the remaining few were reorganized along the lines of the Infantry Division, 1944 Type.
8. Cavalry Division (Kavallariedivision) (FOUR CAVALRY REGIMENTS OF TWO BATTALIONS EACH)
The only army cavalry division identified is the Cossack Division which consists of Don, Kuban, and Terek Cossacks; some German officers and noncommissioned officers; and possibly elements of other nationalities.
The Waffen-SS is believed to have two cavalry divisions.
All three of these cavalry divisions are organized similarly and consist of two cavalry brigades of two regiments each, a weak artillery regiment, a reconnaissance battalion, a signal battalion, an engineer battalion, and the divisional services.
9. Line of Communication Division (Sicherungsdivision)
Designed for mopping-up duties in the rear areas, such a division may consist of two reinforced regiments or of a number of independent battalions.
10. Coast Defense Division (Kustenverteidigungsdivision)
This consists of a division staff controlling fortress battalions and coast artillery units in a coastal sector.
11. Assault Division (Sturmdivision)
This is an honorary title for some divisions with reduced infantry personnel and a concentration of heavy firepower and automatic weapons.
12. Frontier Guard Division (Grenzwachdivision)
This consists of a division staff controlling certain frontier guard units.
13. Special Administrative Division Staff (Divisionskommando z.b.V.)
This consists of a division staff controlling Landesschützen Battalions and General Headquarters troops stationed in a corps area in Germany.
14. Replacement Division Staff (Div. Nr. . . .)
This is a division staff within a corps area in Germany to supervise the induction of personnel and replacements for field units.
15. Reserve Division (Reservedivision)
This controls reserve units for training, occupation, and defensive duties. This type of division is organized similarly to field infantry divisions; it has a preponderance of infantry, engineers, and static artillery, but the other elements are believed to be very much under strength. In spite of that, several reserve divisions have been redesignated combat divisions (Kampfdivisionen) and went into action on short notice.
16. Field Training Division (Feldausbildungsdivision)
This controls field training regiments in the rear of the Eastern Front. It is believed to be organized similarly to the Reserve Division and therefore may be encountered in the field.
17. Antiaircraft Division (Flakdivision)
Under the German system, antiaircraft defense is in the main the responsibility of the German Air Force, although the German Army also has a large number of antiaircraft units of its own. While the composition and equipment of antiaircraft batteries generally are standardized, the formation of these into battalions, regiments, divisions, or units of equivalent size, however, is subject to more variations than in any other of the German arms. The average non-motorized, air force, antiaircraft division, which is shown in the following figure, usually is located in the Zone of the Interior. It has a large number of trailers but very little motorization, and depends for mobility on separate transportation units. As pointed out above, many other combinations of the units shown as divisional components may be encountered frequently,
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