TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces

[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.]



21. Miscellaneous Combat Units

a. FORMATION OF TASK FORCES. It is the purpose of this section to explain briefly how the various elements of the German Armed Forces are combined to form effective combat teams. Figures 1-4 should be consulted in conjunction with this text.

The Navy, the Air Force, and the Armed SS (Waffen-SS), like the Army, are composed of many different types of units. The Navy includes battalions of coast artillery, naval antiaircraft artillery, naval aviation units, and the various types of combat fleet units. In addition to its regular aviation units the German Air Force has different types of antiaircraft units; aircraft warning service organizations; and communications, engineer, balloon barrage, and administrative units.

All types of units in the German Army, Navy, Air Force, and Armed SS may be considered as groups or pools. Unit organizations are withdrawn from these pools to form task forces, which then function as teams for specific missions.

Normally the commander is selected from the service which predominates in the task force or whose interests are paramount.

Since missions and circumstances vary, each task force is likely to be composed differently from any other. German organizations above the division should be regarded as basic command frameworks, with a minimum of organically assigned combat and administrative units; task forces are formed around these frameworks.

An effort always is made to retain a maximum number of combat units in the various types of General Headquarters pools. Consequently, when a large German unit, such as a corps or a division, is engaged in combat it almost always will be reinforced by units from the General Headquarters pools. When the amount of reinforcement is large, additional commanders and staffs also will be attached. The great influence which General Headquarters reinforcements can have on the combat power of a standard organization, such as a division, should not be overlooked.

The German system as thus outlined is both rigid and flexible. It is rigid in the sense that all the units in any single pool are as nearly alike as possible; it is flexible because the principle of combining units from the various pools is utilized to obtain any sort of combat organization which may be required for a given purpose.

Every German task force assigned to a mission is tactically and administratively an independent and self-contained organization. Coordination with other units is arranged in advance. The force never is required to depend on other units to carry out its mission.

The German system of organization for combat is both economical and effective. It enables the commanders to concentrate combat power at the most vulnerable points without changing basic dispositions. The method also is deceptive to the enemy, as it prevents an easy estimate of German strength in any particular situation.

The administrative organization for supply and evacuation is arranged in a manner similar to that of the combat organization and is employed in conformity with the principle that the administrative plan must support the tactical or strategical plan. Like the tactical organization, the German administrative organizations differ with the situation.

One of the outstanding characteristics of the German military system is unity of command. All units engaged on a single mission are under one commander, who is charged by one authority with responsibility for the success of the mission. As a corollary, two or more German commands never are assigned the same mission simultaneously. Units from the Air Force, the Navy, the Army, and the Armed SS all serve together under a commander chosen from any of the four branches. Likewise, in basic training great emphasis is placed on cooperation among the services and among different branches of the same service.

To sum up, it always should be borne in mind when confronting any situation involving German forces that the predominating note in all German military thought is the combination of all arms and services necessary for any specific mission into a task force (or combat team) under a single commander.

This holds true for all German task forces from the highest echelons down to the reinforced regiments, battalions, and companies. (See Figures 155 to 163.)

b. THE ARMORED BRIGADES (Panzerbrigaden). These were formed in the summer of 1943 with the following components:

Brigade headquarters.

Brigade headquarters company.

Tank battalion.

Panzer Grenadier Division (armored).

Armored engineer company.

Sixty-ton column.

Medium maintenance platoon.

Several armored brigades, however, were encountered in the field with two Panzer Grenadier battalions and two tank battalions. Almost all armored brigades located on the Western Front have been incorporated into armored divisions, which were badly in need of replacements.

c. ARMORED TRAINS (Eisenbahnpanzerzuge). Armored trains have been employed by the Germans successfully since the outbreak of the war with the objective of surprising the enemy by the sudden occupation of a strategically located railroad station or to protect vital lines of communication against partisan and guerrilla attacks. Armored train, Type EP-42, consists of six armored, infantry, artillery, and antiaircraft railway cars. The train is armed with two 105-mm gun-howitzers mounted on special cars; two antiaircraft cars, each with one four-barrelled, 20-mm antiaircraft gun, one 76.2-mm Russian gun; and two infantry railway cars with two 81-mm mortars, one heavy machine gun, and 22 light machine guns. The total strength of that armored train is about 113.

d. MILITIA (Volkssturm) UNITS. In October, 1944 a decree was issued by Hitler calling up all able-bodied German men between the ages of 16 and 60 for the defense of the Fatherland. That decree calls for the creation of a people's militia (Volkssturm) under the leadership of Himmler in his function as Commander-in-Chief of the Replacement Training Army.

It is believed that the Party in general, and the Storm Troop Organization (SA) and the National Socialist Motor Corps (NSKK) in particular, have been charged with the part time training of these men who are to remain on their jobs until a direct threat endangers their area. In such an emergency they will be called to the ranks, come under the command of the army, and be issued weapons, brassards with the inscription "Deutscher Volkssturm Wehrmacht" and identification papers as members of the German Armed Forces. Their employment probably is limited to defensive fighting in trenches, woods, and streets, since their units are equipped with small automatic weapons, machine guns, and bazookas only, but it is possible that light and medium mortars will be added later.

It is difficult to determine definitely the tables of organization for militia units as these will vary greatly in accordance with local conditions and the manpower and weapons available, but indications from the front lines point toward the following average tables of organization for the basic militia unit, the Militia Battalion. (See Figures 164 to 167.)

In some cases several militia battalions may be combined in a militia regiment.


[Back] Back to Table of Contents

Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Contact:
Copyright 2003-2005, All Rights Reserved.