German commando frogmen

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This article is about Germany's commando frogmen. See also Minentaucher.
For other nations' commando frogmen, and information about frogmen in general, see Frogman.
Kampfschwimmer
KpfSchwKp.jpg
Current Unit Patch
Active 1958–present
Country Germany Germany (Marine)
Branch German Navy
Type Special Operations
Role Naval Special Forces
Size 250 men
Garrison/HQ Eckernförde
Motto Lerne leiden, ohne zu klagen! (Learn to suffer without complaint!)
Engagements Gulf War
FR Yugoslavia
Operation Enduring Freedom

German Navy
Deutsche Marine
German Naval Ensign
Components
Organization
Ships
Naval Air Arm
Kampfschwimmer
Command
Fleet Command
Marineamt
Equipment
Ship Classes
History and Traditions
Prussian Navy
Norddeutsche Bundesmarine
Imperial German Navy
Reichsmarine
Kriegsmarine
Volksmarine
Awards, Decorations and Badges
Badge of Honour of the Bundeswehr
Military Proficiency Badge
Badge of Marksmanship
Deployment Medal
Flood Service Medal
NATO military symbol for the Kampfschwimmer

Germany's postwar commando frogman force are called the Kampfschwimmer ("Combat Swimmers") or Verwendungsgruppe 3402 (Usage Group 3402). They are the only special-purpose force of the German Navy. The Kampfschwimmer were set up when Germany joined NATO in 1958.

During the existence of the GDR (East Germany), the People's Navy of the GDR also had a commando frogman force, which was stationed in Kühlungsborn. They trained at Prora on Rügen.[citation needed]

History[edit]

The first German frogman commando unit was formed under the direction of Alfred Von Wurzian during World War Two. Wurzian was initially an artilleryman. He was also an Olympic swimmer. He was originally from Austria. He had to overcome a lot of hurdles to form this specialized unit as many brass types could not buy into the concept of such a specialized unit. The unit's name was Küstenjäger-Abteilung "Brandenburg".

World War II timeline[edit]

History of operations[edit]

1942 – 1943[edit]
1944[edit]
  • 1944 June: Three German frogman units called MEK = Marine Einsatzkommando become active. Each unit had one officer and 22 men. But they were not ready for D-Day.
  • 1944 June 23: German naval frogmen blow up two bridges on the Orne river, using two torpedoes of 800 kg.
  • 1944 July: There were several attacks by German Neger craft in the English Channel, setting off from Villers sur Mer. On July 8, these attacks badly damaged the cruiser ORP Dragon (which was scuttled on July 20), and sunk the destroyer HMS Isis. 12 attack boats were used in attacks in the mouth of the Orne river.
  • 1944 September 16: By this time the Allies had taken Antwerp. Two teams of five German frogmen left Rotterdam on two attack boats, to attack Antwerp docks. When they were stopped by defence nets, the teams continued by swimming, each towing a torpedo with a ton of explosive. One team placed its torpedo on the main canal lock in Antwerp. The lock was out of use for three months.
  • 1944, night of September 28–29: By now the Allies had taken intact a road bridge at Nijmegen and a railway bridge at Moerdijk, and had immediately installed a strong anti-aircraft defence there. Three groups of four German frogmen set off from 10 km upstream from the bridges. They were to place explosives under the bridges and then to continue with the river current 24 km further to return to their lines. The railway bridge was blown up. The road bridge was only slightly damaged because the mine had been badly placed. Of the 12 men, three were killed, seven were captured, and two returned to their lines.
  • 1944 December: German frogman operations in the Vistula river.
  • After Italy changed sides, the German frogman unit MEK71 based in Jugoslavia made numerous attacks against liberated Italy, using two-man canoes.
1945[edit]
  • 1945 February : German frogmen operations in the Oder river.

Craft developed by Germany during World War II[edit]

  • The "lentil". It is a fast silent boat carrying 300 kg of explosive The pilot directs it and then jumps in the sea and is collected by another boat.
  • A "chariot" copied from that of the British who copied it from the Italian maiale. The Italians never transmitted to the Germans the plans of their maiale.
  • The "Neger" (German for "negro"), a single-seat torpedo sailing awash at four knots. Its pilot leaves it before precipitating it on the objective.
  • Creation of pocket submarines (one-seater and two-seater).

Incompletely planned operations[edit]

  • Plan to attack the underwater oil pipeline PLUTO.
  • Plan to block the Suez Canal by sinking boats in it.

Post World War II[edit]

This section was translated from de:Kampfschwimmer (Bundeswehr); refer back there in case of query about the translation.

The Kampfschwimmer were set up particularly because Germany joined NATO and there was felt to be risk of war with the Soviet Union. A unit was needed which could help to secure the Baltic Sea exits through the Danish Straits. On 1 August 1958 Group 3402, as these commando frogmen were called by the navy, was set up. It consisted of men without a Nazi past, who had served in World War II in the small combat forces and the naval employment commands.

The first Kampfschwimmer were trained first with the Nageurs de combat in France. France had developed the role of the commando frogmen further in the Indochina war, to the modern single fighter.

The Kampfschwimmer should carry out their tasks both in the water and ashore, like German commando frogmen did in World War II. But now a new dimension was added: Air. This three-role concept of the French became the basis of the commando frogmen of the German navy.

On 1 April 1964, the Kampfschwimmer appeared for the first time as an independent body. In the following years they extended their tasks, but lacked money. Thus e.g. they had to buy their own drysuit undersuits.

Roles[edit]

In the Gulf War in 1991, the whole company was used for security missions on the German ships involved in the Persian Gulf.

As a boarding party they were involved in embargo control against the remainder of FR Yugoslavia in the Adriatic Sea.

Organization[edit]

Since 1974 the Kampfschwimmer have been stationed in the naval base at Eckernförde near Kiel. In October 1994 they were subordinate to the Flotilla of Mine Warfare. In Eckernförde a combat frogman group was set up, it consists of a mine clearance diver company and a commando frogmen company. Allegedly the weapon diver group has 250 men. The commando frogmen company had, according to strength and equipment records, 3 groups, each with 16 men. Of it, approximately 40 men are actively operational.

In 2001 the Waffentauchergruppe ("Armed Diver Group") became the Bataillon Spezialisierter Kräfte ("Specialised Forces Battalion").

By a transformation in 2003 the de:Spezialisierte Einsatzkräfte Marine ("Specialised Task Forces of the Navy") was formed. The SEK M was divided further into the Combat Swimmer Company, a mine clearance diver company, and two naval companies for special employments (e.g. to board ships), a training inspection group, and further support elements.

Conditions for entry[edit]

These minimum requirements must be fulfilled by all candidates, to become certified for training:

  • Applicants must be German citizens in the sense of the article 116 of the Grundgesetz (Basic Law).
  • They must be at least 17 years old and less than 25 years old.
  • Realschulabschluss or Abitur, with favorable exam passes.
  • 1000m swim in less than 23 minutes
  • 5000m run in less than 24 minutes
  • 30m distance swim underwater without equipment
  • Stay underwater without breathing for at least 60 seconds
  • Sport test with at least 20 points; at least 3 points for each exercise
  • Must be an active duty soldier who has served at least 6 months. After training, one must enlist for 4 years.
  • Diving fitness is examined by the Schifffahrtsmedizinisches Institut (naval medical institute) of the navy.
  • Parachute jump fitness is examined by the same institute.

Training[edit]

During the training, it is less about the physical load than the psychological load, which causes many applicants to give up. The physical achievement can be trained, but overcoming the fear is the most important goal of the training. The training includes but is not limited to swimming, diving, navigation, close combat, weapons handling, and parachuting. In the special conclusion exercise their ability and hardness are equally demanded, before they join the circle of the commando frogmen. In further training sections they are trained as team leaders or specialists.

Introductory training[edit]

First there are four weeks of introductory training. In this time the applicants are pushed hard physically and psychologically by fixed exercises. All exercises have the goal to take away the fear of water and to make the applicant feel safe in the water. One of the exercises is called gefesseltes Schwimmen (= the bound swimming). The applicant is placed on the starting block in the full combat suit, with his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied together, and then pushed in the swimming pool. He must stay for 30 seconds alone clearly; afterwards a safety diver pulls him back up.

In the so-called "hate week" the trainees are deprived of sleep. Between the night exercises, there are night runs. Meanwhile the normal routine of the day continues: swimming, diving, and push-ups.

They also have to train to exit a submarine through a torpedo tube and must re-enter it through there. At the final examination they have to swim about 30 km with full equipment in the baltic sea to reach the beach after being discharged at the sea.

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • German Armor and Special Units of WW2, Waldemar Trojca
  • Christin-Désirée Rudolph: Die Kampfschwimmer der Bundeswehr. Motorbuch Verlag Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-613-03647-5.
  • Probst, Wilhelm: Kampfschwimmer der Bundesmarine. Innenansichten einer Elitetruppe, October 2001, ISBN 3-613-02148-X

External links[edit]