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"Notes on the German Infantry Division" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on the organization of the German infantry division during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 34, September 23, 1943.

[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. General

The organization of the German infantry division has remained fairly constant since the conclusion of the Polish campaign. While individual infantry divisions may differ from what is generally considered as standard organization, this difference may be attributed to improvisations due to losses, tactical considerations in specific theaters as dictated by terrain, the availability of material, opposition, or simply experimental shifts in organization.

The strength of the normal infantry division, counting the divisional supply troops, is approximately 17,000 officers and men. This figure can be considered as being maximum for the organic component parts of the division. When in combat, a division up to full strength, with added GHQ troops, will exceed this figure.

The infantry division relies mainly on animal transport for moving supplies and equipment within the combat units. Units requiring mobility for tactical reasons, such as the antitank battalion and infantry antitank companies, are motorized. The supply troops are equipped with motor transport since the hauling of supplies covers great distances when an attack moves forward. Often the supply vehicles of the division are pressed into service as motor transport for the main combat elements of the division if this does not interfere with the primary duties of the vehicles.

b. Infantry Regiment

Three infantry regiments compose the infantry element of the division. Each infantry regiment is composed of a headquarters, headquarters company, three infantry battalions, an infantry howitzer company, an antitank company, and a light infantry column. There are four companies in each battalion and they are consecutively numbered. Companies 1, 2, 3, 4, form the first battalion; 5, 6, 7, 8 form the second battalion; 9, 10, 11, 12 form the third battalion. The infantry howitzer company is the 13th company while the antitank company is the 14th company.

(1) Headquarters Company

This consists of a headquarters, a communications platoon, a mounted platoon and an engineer platoon. The usual trains (combat-ration-baggage) are included. The communications platoon has a telephone and a radio section; the mounted platoon consists of three squads of horse-mounted infantrymen for reconnaissance purposes; the engineer platoon consists of three identical sections of two squads each, and has three light machine guns for armament.

(2) Infantry Battalion

The battalion consists of a headquarters, a communications section, three rifle companies, and a machine-gun company. Each rifle company consists of a headquarters, antitank rifle section, three rifle platoons and the usual trains. A fuller description of these trains will be found at the end of this article. The antitank rifle section is armed with three antitank rifles (Panzerbüchse 39). Each rifle platoon is composed of a headquarters, four rifle squads, and a light mortar (50-mm) squad. In addition to the three antitank rifles in the rifle company there are 12 light machine guns, one per rifle squad, (caliber .31 model 34 or 42), three light (50-mm) mortars (model 36) one per rifle platoon, and 16 submachine guns (Schmeisser 38 or 40), (.35 caliber), carried by the four officers of the rifle company, and the 12 squad leaders (Gruppenfuhrer). The battalion machine-gun company consists of a headquarters, three heavy machine-gun platoons and a heavy mortar (81-mm) platoon. The total weapons are 12 heavy machine guns and six heavy (81-mm) mortars. The heavy machine gun is a light machine gun which has been mounted on a cradle-type tripod mount.

(3) Infantry Howitzer Company

The infantry howitzer company (13th company) consists of a headquarters, communications section, three light (75-mm) infantry howitzer platoons and a heavy (150-mm) infantry howitzer platoon. The company has six 75-mm infantry howitzers and two 150-mm infantry howitzers. The howitzers are all horse-drawn.

(4) Antitank Company

The antitank company of the infantry regiment (14th company) varies frequently insofar as weapons are concerned. The company originally consisted of a headquarters and four antitank platoons of three antitank squads and a light machine-gun squad each. This gave a total of twelve 37-mm antitank guns and four light machine guns. The general organization appears at present to be as follows: The company has a headquarters, three antitank platoons of three 37-mm AT guns and one light machine gun each and one platoon of two 50-mm antitank guns and one light machine gun. One additional machine gun is at company headquarters. Future organizational changes will probably show additional 50-mm antitank guns and a decrease in the number of the less effective 37-mm antitank guns.

(5) Light Infantry

The column carries the reserve of ammunition and supplies as well as equipment, and, as a rule, consists of 39 two-horsed wagons with several motor vehicles and motorcycles. Vehicles and wagons are often picked up in the combat zone and theater of operations. The column operates between the division distribution points, and battalion and company distribution points. The light infantry column receives its supplies from the division transport columns (trains). The organization varies considerably and is kept extremely flexible.

c. Artillery Regiment

The regimental commander commands the divisional artillery unless GHQ artillery is attached. When GHQ artillery is allotted to a division, then a special commander with his own staff usually is attached from Corps to take command of the entire artillery within the division. A GHQ observation battalion is attached to each infantry division and functions in conjunction with the artillery.

The divisional artillery regiment of the infantry division is horse-drawn. If a battery of 105-mm guns is present, then this battery may be either horse-drawn or motor-drawn. The regiment consists of a headquarters, headquarters battery, three light artillery battalions and a medium artillery battalion.

(1) Headquarters Battery

Consists of a headquarters, a communication platoon, a meteorological section and a map printing section.

(2) Light Artillery Battalion

Consists of a headquarters, communications platoon, a survey section (these may be incorporated into a Bn Hq Btry) and three firing batteries. Each firing battery has four 105-mm gun howitzers and two light machine guns.

(3) Medium Artillery Battalion

The organization is identical with the light artillery battalion. In some cases the first battery of the battalion will have 105-mm guns in place of the 150-mm howitzers. This battery may be either horse or motor drawn. The three firing batteries in the battalion have four 150-mm howitzers* and two light machine guns each.

(4) Motorized Ammunition Columns

For hauling artillery ammunition these columns are attached from the division transport columns as soon as combat becomes imminent.

d. Reconnaissance Battalion

The reconnaissance battalion of the infantry division consists of a headquarters, a communications platoon, a horse troop, a bicycle troop and a heavy weapons company.

(1) Horse Troop

The horse troop consists of a headquarters, three platoons of three squads each and a heavy machine-gun section. Weapons are nine light machine guns and two heavy machine guns.

(2) Bicycle Troop

The bicycle troop is organized along the same lines as the horse troop. Weapons are nine light machine guns, three light mortars and two heavy machine guns. The troop contains a proportion of motorcycles.

(3) Heavy Weapons Company

The heavy weapons company consists of a headquarters, an antitank platoon of three 37-mm (or 50-mm) antitank guns and one light machine gun, an engineer platoon with three light machine guns, a heavy machine-gun platoon with four heavy machine guns, an infantry howitzer platoon with two 75-mm infantry howitzers and an armored car platoon with three light (Horch type)** armored cars. A section of heavy mortars may be added (three 81-mm mortars).

The original reconnaissance battalions of the peace-time standing army were organized from existing corps cavalry regiments upon mobilization.

In some cases the horse troop has been replaced by a bicycle troop.

e. Antitank Battalion

The antitank battalions have undergone frequent changes insofar as weapons are concerned. The battalion consists of a headquarters, a communications platoon and three antitank companies. Originally each antitank company had twelve 37-mm antitank guns and four light machine guns. Subsequently, the organization of the companies was changed to eight 37-mm antitank guns, three 50-mm antitank guns and six light machine guns. The next reorganization saw six 50-mm antitank guns, four 37-mm. antitank guns and six light machine guns in each company. This seems to be the most widely used organization at present. There are many battalions that have variations in each company with at least one company equipped with nine 50-mm antitank guns, six light machine guns and no 37-mm antitank guns. The trend is shifting towards the company with nine 50-mm AT guns. The development of a stick-bomb which can be fired from a 37-mm AT gun and is effective against heavier tanks has kept the 37-mm from becoming totally obsolete.

A newer and heavier antitank gun is in existence, namely, the 75-mm (Pak 40) antitank gun. This weapon has been used frequently but no table of allowances is known regarding this weapon. A complete company of this type of antitank gun consists of seven to nine guns; if motor-drawn, nine guns, if self propelled, seven. It is believed that these weapons will be issued to armored divisions first and as more become available they will appear in infantry divisions.

f. Engineer Battalion

The engineer battalion consists of a headquarters, a communications section, two partially motorized companies, a heavy motorized company, a bridge column, and a light engineer column. The bridge column is not always found organically but may be assigned from the Army GHQ engineer pool.

(1) Partially Motorized Company

The partially motorized companies are organized into a headquarters, three platoons of three squads each and their trains. Nine light machine guns are found in each partially motorized company, as well as three AT rifles and 13 sub-machine guns.

(2) Heavy Motorized Company

The heavy motorized company is organized the same way as the partially motorized company but is fully motorized, and contains an organic motor-maintenance section. The armament is the same as that of the partially motorized company.

(3) Bridge Column

The bridge column carries the necessary bridging equipment. This includes the pontons, decking, motorboats, etc.

The battalion has approximately 72 pneumatic boats, 15 pontons, 2 motorboats, etc. A platoon of assault boats may be added. The bridge column as previously noted may be withdrawn to GHQ if the division is engaged in terrain where its special equipment would not be necessary.

g. Signal Battalion

The signal battalion consists of a headquarters, a telephone company and a radio company. The battalion has the duty of laying a communications network to the headquarters of the various regiments and battalions within the division and also with the division on the right flank. The battalion has 4 light machine guns.

h. Division Supply Troops

The division supply troops consist of the administrative troops, division supply columns (trains), medical battalion, veterinary company, military police and the postal service (field post office).

(1) Administrative Troops

These consist of a bakery company and a slaughter platoon plus the administrative personnel to handle all administrative matters pertaining to supply. The motor transport of this unit is used to haul rations to distribution points.

(2) Division Supply Columns (Trains)

The trains consist of 8 motor transport columns each with a capacity of 30 tons. In addition there is a motor repair shop and workshop which does the necessary repair work on wagons, vehicles and arms. A supply company, and a light and a heavy fuel and oil column are also included. The supply company furnishes the personnel necessary for loading and reloading of supplies.

(3) Medical Battalion

This consists of a horse-drawn and a motorized medical company, a field hospital and two ambulance platoons, and is equivalent to about a battalion in strength.

(4) Veterinary Company

This is approximately a company in strength, responsible for evacuation and care of animals, and keeps a number of extra horses on hand for immediate replacement.

(5) Military Police

This is approximately the size of a large platoon, equipped with motorcycles for traffic supervision in the combat zone and the theater of operations.

(6) Field Post Office

Handles mail for division.


a. Supply Wagons

The German trains (Trosse) usually consist of three parts, namely the Gefechtstross (combat train), Verpflegungstross (ration train) and Gepacktross (baggage train).

These three units are found in organizations of company, battery or troop strength. The transportation of these three trains belongs organically to the company. Taking the normal German rifle company as an example we find the following:

          Combat train:    Two wagons, each drawn by two horses
                           One field kitchen drawn by four horses

          Ration train:    One wagon drawn by two horses

          Baggage train:   One truck usually three-ton
                           One motorcycle.

b. Combat Wagons

In addition to the three trains there are combat wagons which stay with the company in combat while the trains are normally in rear positions. The combat wagons or Gefechtsfahrzeuge consist of three platoon carts and one company wagon for ammunition. Each platoon cart is drawn by one horse and consists of two infantry carts coupled together. These carts carry the machine guns and mortar of the platoon when combat is not imminent. Ammunition, tools and camouflage equipment axe also carried. The company wagon for ammunition carries a reserve of ammunition, explosives, grenades, wire, camouflage material, the antitank rifles etc.

c. Load Distribution

The wagons in the trains carry the following:

Two wagons of combat train carry packs of the men, reserve ammunition which may be on hand; oats for horses may be carried. The field kitchen of the combat train carries iron rations and current rations. The ration wagon of the ration train carries rations and reserve iron rations. The baggage truck of baggage train carries spare baggage of company.

d. Chain of Supply

Normally the trains receive ammunition and equipment from the light infantry column of the regiment. The ration train receives rations from ration train II of the battalion.

The light infantry column of the regiment and ration train II of the battalion receive their supplies from division (the division trains and the butchery and bakery units).

e. General

Units other than foot infantry, such as motorized company trains are the same (combat, ration and baggage) but have motorized vehicles. Some companies which are motorized, as is the case in the engineers, have a combined ration and baggage train (1 truck).

In general, it may be said that companies which engage in combat will have the three-part trains and the necessary combat wagons to accompany the troops.

The senior NCO of the company (Hauptfeldwebel) is responsible for the wagons of the trains. There is also a leader of the combat wagons and a leader of the combat train.

*When marching, these guns are broken down into two parts. This will be noted in the schematic drawing of the German infantry division, where the barrel and recoil mechanism are shown in two parts, each part drawn separately by its own gun team.
**The standard German light armored car Sd.Kfz 222, three ton, 4-wheel drive and mounting one 20-mm, and one 7.92 MG coaxially.


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