In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe (pl. Kampfgruppen; abbrev. KG, or KGr in Luftwaffe usage during World War II) can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I. It also referred to bomber groups in Luftwaffe usage, which themselves consisted of three or four Staffeln (squadrons), and existed within Kampfgeschwader bomber wings of three or four Kampfgruppen per wing.
The Kampfgruppe was an ad hoc combined arms formation, usually employing combination of tanks, infantry, and artillery (including anti-tank) elements, generally organised for a particular task or operation. A Kampfgruppe could range in size from a corps to a company, but the most common was an Abteilung (battalion)-sized formation. Kampfgruppen were generally referred to by either their commanding officer's name or the parent division.
First World War
The Stormtroopers (in German Stoßtruppen, shock troops, literally punch/push troops) were specialist military troops which were formed in the last years of World War I as the German army developed new methods of attacking enemy trenches, called "infiltration tactics". Men trained in these methods were known in German as Sturmmann (literally "assault man" but usually translated as Stormtrooper), formed into companies of Sturmtruppen (Storm Troops). Other armies have also used the term "assault troops", "shock troops" or fire teams for specialist soldiers who perform the infiltration tasks of stormtroopers.
Second World War
With respect to their ad hoc nature and objective-oriented strategy, Finnish ski troops employed during the Soviet-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 could, in principle, be considered to be an equivalent to Kampfgruppen. However, given the poor equipment of the Finnish forces, the combined-arms aspect of the Kampfgruppen could not have been applied.
German allies fighting alongside the German army also applied the concept of Kampfgruppe, either involuntarily (while being attached to German units), or on their own. Examples include Kampfgruppe Szücs (Hungarian) within the Hungarian Third Army.
While the original concept of Kampfgruppe is usually reserved to the land warfare, some of the German tacticians and strategist applied it also for naval warfare. The most obvious change was the design (units were usually earmarked for operation in advance instead of being organized ad hoc) and the type of units involved (instead of combined arms, different classes of naval vessels were employed). The examples include German Kampfgruppe 5 employed during Operation Weserübung. This unit consisted of the heavy cruiser Blücher, the heavy cruiser Lützow, the light cruiser Emden, 3 torpedo boats and 8 minesweepers carrying 2,000 troops to Oslo.
During the course of the Second World War Luftwaffe, Kampfgeschwader bomber units consisted of several Kampfgruppen, which in terms of size were situated somewhere between squadrons and groups of Anglo-American air forces.
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Hundreds of Kampfgruppen are documented to have taken part in operations ranging from a few days to over a year during the war. They left a significant impact in the popular culture and the picture of the Second World War. Famous examples include:
- Kampfgruppe Peiper was a mechanised brigade-sized formation formed under the command of SS-Standartenführer Joachim Peiper which took part in the 1944 Battle of the Bulge. KG Peiper was to be the striking arm of the 1st SS Panzer Division Leibstandarte SS Adolf Hitler.
- Kampfgruppe Das Reich was a regiment-sized formation formed from the remaining combat-ready elements of the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich which was encircled in the Kamenets-Podolsky Pocket in early 1944.
- Kampfgruppe 1001 Nacht was a German kampfgruppe formed on the Oder front during the final German offensive of the Second World War. The formation is most notable for its unusual title, referring to the medieval Persian book of 1001 Nights, a collection of tales and fables.
- During the Allied invasion of France Major Hans von Luck took command of the 125th Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 21st Panzer Division, stationed near Caen, France.
- Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse, (KdA) or in English "Combat Groups of the Working Class" a paramilitary organisation in East Germany, founded in 1953 and abolished in 1990. It numbered about 400,000 "volunteers" for much of its existence.
- Task Force
- Battlegroup (army)
Notes and references
- While the word Kampfgruppe in German literally refers to any battle group, the modern usage in the English-speaking world is restricted to World War II. Kampfgruppen in World War I lacked the panzer component and as such were closer to the original meaning of the word.
- House, Jonathan M. (2002). Toward Combined Arms Warfare: A Survey of 20th-Century Tactics, Doctrine, and Organization. Us: University Press of the Pacific (also Available online).
- Trotter, William R (1991). A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940 (also published as The Winter War). UK: Aurum Press Ltd. ISBN 1-85410-932-4.
- Lucas, J. (2004). Battle Group!: German Kampfgruppen Action in World War Two. USA: Rigel Publications.