The German Infantry Division

Outwardly the 1939 infantry division had changed little from the assault divisions of 1918. Most of its transport was still horse drawn. The infantry used basically the same rifle but its machine guns and mortars were far superior. The artillery had changed little except that the 105mm howitzer had replaced the 77mm as the basic gun. Communication was vastly superior – besides telephone equipment there were hundreds of radios, numbers of which increased as the war progressed.

Basic infantry tactics had barely changed – ie. ‘follow the path of least resistance’ which was still as successful as it had been. What had changed was the use of ‘combined arms’ where the artillery, air force, infantry and armour would work together to such devastating effect in the blitzkrieg or ‘lightning war’.

The 1939 infantry division remained the pattern for all German infantry divisions until the end of the war.

The following figures and statistics are only a general guide as they do vary depending on the source used!

The Infantry division in 1939-41 averaged 16,860 men. This was made up of the following:

Officers NCOs Other ranks

Beamte (Officials)

518

2,573

13,667

102

However, only about 64% of these were actually combat troops – the rest were support elements that the division could not function without. On the ‘march’ the division took up 40 kilometres of road space. As the war turned in the Allies’ favour and German losses rose the number of men in a division was reduced.

Combat elements (men that would normally close with the enemy):

Three infantry regiments comprising of:

Officers NCOs Other ranks Beamte

75

493

2,474

7

  (Also included in this were staff and intelligence units)

Reconnaissance (Aufklarungs) Battalion

623 Officers and men

Anti-tank (Panzerjager) Battalion

550 Officers and men

Engineer (Pionier) Battalion

520 Officers and men

 

Between the front and rear lines:

Artillery (Artillerie) Regiment  

2,872 Officers and men

Light (Leichte) infantry ‘column’

30 men

Signal (Nachrichten) Battalion

474 Officers and men

 

Rear or logistical support elements:

Supply services (Versrgungsdienste)

  226 Officers and men

The above included the rations platoon, baker company, butcher platoon, Military Police and Feldpost platoon

         Logistics column / supply ‘train’         (3 motorised, 3 horse drawn)

180 Officers and men

Petrol, oil and lubricants column

35 Officers and men

Workshop company (Mechanics, carpenters etc)

102 Officers and men

Transport company

245 Officers and men

Veterinary company

235 Officers and men , 890 horses

Medical contingent*

616 Officers and men

*This consisted of 2 Medical Companies, 1 Field Hospital and 2 medical transport platoons.

Weapons:

Below is a table showing various weapons (apart from rifles, submachine guns etc) that equipped a 1939 infantry division.

Light machine guns

378

Heavy machine guns

138

Anti-tank rifles

90

50mm mortars

93

81mm mortars

54

20mm AA guns

12

37mm Anti-tank guns

75

75mm Infantry guns

20

105mm howitzers

36

150mm howitzers

18

Sources:

Dunnigan J.F. (Editor),   The Russian Front - Germany’s War in the East, AAP,1978

Kershaw R. J.   War without Garlands – Operation Barbarossa 1941/42,

Ian Allan, 2000