List of German divisions in World War II

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This article lists divisions of the Wehrmacht (German armed forces), including the Heer, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine, active during World War II.

Upgrades and reorganizations are shown only to identify the variant names for what is notionally a single unit; other upgrades and reorganizations are deferred to the individual articles. Due to the scope of this list pre-war changes are not shown, nor are upgrades from units smaller than a division. Most of these divisions trained in Berlin which is also where new military technology was kept and tested.

Name elements not usually translated[edit]

Grenadier
A traditional term for heavy infantry.
Jäger
A traditional term for light infantry (Translated "Hunter").
Gebirgsjäger
Traditional term for mountain and ski troops.
Lehr
A demonstration/training unit (Translated "Teach").
Nummer
"Number" (See description in Infantry Series Divisions, below).
Panzer
Armored (Translated "Armored").
Sturm
"Storm" or "Assault" (Translated "Storm").
Volks
"of the People" (Translated "People's").
zbV
Abbreviation for "zur besonderen Verwendung" Meaning "Special Purpose" (Translated "For Special Employment").

Volks, Sturm, and Grenadier were sometimes used simply as morale-building adjectives, often without any significance to a unit's organization or capabilities.

Army "Heer"[edit]

Panzer divisions[edit]

see also Panzer Division

Numbered panzer divisions[edit]

Named panzer divisions[edit]

Light divisions[edit]

The designation "Light" (leichte) had various meanings in the German Army of World War II. There was a series of 5 Light divisions; the first four were pre-war mechanized formations organized for use as mechanized cavalry, and the fifth was an ad hoc collection of mechanized elements rushed to Africa to help the Italians and organized into a division once there. All five were eventually converted to ordinary Panzer divisions.

Various other divisions were dubbed "Light" for other reasons, and are listed among the Infantry Series Divisions.

Infantry series divisions[edit]

GermanWW2-1939

Types of division in the series[edit]

The backbone of the Wehrmacht Heer (Germany's Army) was the infantry division. Of the 154 divisions deployed against Soviet Union in 1941, including reserves, there were 100 infantry, 19 panzer (tank), 11 motorised, 9 security, 5 Waffen-SS, 4 "light", 4 mountain, 1 SS police, and 1 cavalry. A typical infantry division in June 1941 had 17,734 men organized into the following sub-units:[1]

  • three infantry regiments with staff, communications units
    • three battalions with:
      • three Infantry companies
      • one heavy weapons company
    • one PAK company (mot.)
    • one artillery company
    • one reconnaissance unit
  • one Panzerjager battalion with:
    • three companies (each with twelve 3.7 cm guns)
  • one artillery regiment
    • three battalions
      • three batteries
  • one pioneer battalion
  • one communications unit
  • one field replacement battalion
  • Supply, medical, veterinary, mail, and police

German infantry divisions had a variety of designations and specializations, though numbered in a single series. The major variations are as follows:

Fortress (Festung)
Divisions of non-standard organization used to garrison critical sites. The smaller ones might consist of only two or three battalions.
Grenadier
A morale-building honorific usually indicative of reduced strength when used alone.
Light, Jäger
Provided with partial horse or motor transport and usually lighter artillery, and reduced in size compared to an ordinary infantry division. Some of these were essentially identical to mountain divisions, and these were referred to as Gebirgsjäger ("Mountain Light Infantry") divisions.
  • This description does not apply to the Light divisions in Africa (5th, 90th, 164th, 999th), nor to the five Light mechanized divisions listed in their own subsection.
Motorized
Provided with full motor transport for all infantry and weapons systems. Usually reduced in size compared to an ordinary infantry division. Motorized infantry divisions were renamed Panzergrenadier (armored infantry) divisions in 1943.
Division Nummer
A sort of placeholder division, with a number (Nummer) and staff but few if any combat assets. These divisions started out without any type in their name (e.g., Division Nr. 179), though some acquired a type later on (e.g., Panzer Division Nr. 179).
Panzergrenadier
As motorized, but with more self-propelled weapons and an added battalion of tanks or fully armored assault guns. What motorized divisions were referred to from 1943 forward.
Static (bodenständige)
Deficient in transport, even enough to move its own artillery. Many of these were divisions that had been mauled on the Russian Front and were sent west to serve as coastal defense garrisons until sufficient resources were available to rehabilitate them.
Volksgrenadier
A late-war reorganization with reduced size and increased short-range firepower. Many previously destroyed or badly mauled infantry divisions were reconstituted as Volksgrenadier divisions, and new ones were raised as well. Their fighting worth varied widely depending on unit experience and equipment. Not to be confused with Volkssturm a national militia in which units were supposed to be organized by local Nazi party leaders; trained by the SS; and come under Wehrmacht command in combat.
zbV
("zbV" is an abbreviation meaning "for special employment") An ad hoc division created to meet a special requirement. (E.g., Division zbV Afrika)

Most of the size reductions listed above were by about a third, either by the removal of an infantry regiment or the removal of one infantry battalion from each of the three regiments.

Infantry divisions were raised in waves, sets of divisions with a standardized table of organization and equipment. In general the later waves (i.e., the higher-numbered divisions) were of lower quality than the earlier ones.

Numbered divisions[edit]

1st to 99th[edit]
100th to 199th[edit]
201st to 999th[edit]

Named divisions[edit]

Mountain divisions[edit]

Ski division[edit]

Cavalry divisions[edit]

According to Davies, the Cavalry divisions were mounted infantry and the Cossack divisions were "true cavalry", modelled on the Russian cavalry divisions.

Landwehr divisions[edit]

Artillery divisions[edit]

Named fortress divisions[edit]

Named training divisions[edit]

Field replacement divisions[edit]

Navy "Kriegsmarine"[edit]

Naval infantry divisions[edit]

Air Force "Luftwaffe"[edit]

Hermann Göring divisions[edit]

The Hermann Göring formations grew from a single police detachment to an entire armored corps over the course of the war. The later epithet Fallschirm ("parachute") was purely honorific.

Airborne divisions[edit]

To keep its existence secret, the first German airborne division was named as if a Flieger ("flier") division in the series of Luftwaffe divisions that controlled air assets rather than ground troops-named 7th Flieger Division (often translated 7th Air Division - which see: 1st Parachute Division (Germany)) The division was later reorganized to start a series of nominally airborne divisions. Though named Fallschirmjäger ("paratrooper") divisions, only some of them participated in airdrops in the early part of the war, and in practice most operated as ordinary infantry throughout their existence. The lower-numbered ones earned and maintained an élite status, but quality generally declined among the higher-numbered divisions.

Field divisions[edit]

Luftwaffe Field Divisions were ordinary infantry divisions organized from Luftwaffe personnel made available after mid-war due to the manpower crunch. They were originally Luftwaffe units but were later handed over to the Heer, retaining their numbering but with Luftwaffe attached to distinguish them from similarly numbered divisions already existing in the Heer.

Training divisions[edit]

Anti-Aircraft divisions[edit]

These were headquarters for controlling aggregates of flak ("anti-aircraft artillery") assets rather than ordinary combined arms divisions organized for ground combat.

Waffen-SS divisions[edit]

Main article: Waffen-SS divisions

All divisions in the Waffen-SS were ordered in a single series up to 38th, regardless of type. Those tagged with nationalities were at least nominally recruited from those nationalities. Many of the higher-numbered units were small battlegroups (Kampfgruppen), i.e. divisions in name only.

Also Panzer Division Kempf, a temporary unit of mixed Heer and Waffen-SS components.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mueller-Hillebrand B., Das Heer, 1933-1945. vol. II, E.S. Mittler & Sohn, 1969, pp. 161-162.