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|Luftwaffe Ground Troops
Various types of Infantry troops within the German Air Force
The German Luftwaffe (Air Force) used troops in various ground roles. This was especially true after the Allied air forces gained supremacy of the skies. I've divided these into four groups and some of these were very specialized troops. All four types saw service in Italy.
The most common of the non-flying Luftwaffe troops was the Anti-aircraft units, of course. This page describes the other types of air force personnel used in combat asin Italy infantry .
In Paul Schultz's book, "The 85th Division in WW2", it mentions that the US 85th Division took a few prisoners in August of 1944 near Florence that included members of a 20th Luftwaffe Field Division and the 4th Parachute Division.
|Paratroopers - Fallschrimjager
The German paratroopers were organized from a cadre of troops of the Herman Goring Regiment who had been trained to use parachutes. The paratrooper units were enlarged and grew. The climax of the German paratrooper was during the campaign to take control of Crete. Here the paratroopers were successfully used but their casualties were heavy due to anti-aircraft fire. Many aicraft where shot down. Paratroopers were used to strengthen their defenses of Sicily. Sicily was the site of a unique "first"--this was the first time paratroopers of opposing forces, this case it was German and US, to jump into the same battle at the same time.
After their tremendous losses and after the decline of the German air forces, and especially the loss of their larger troop-carrying aircraft, the German paratroopers were relegated to fighting as light infantrymen---however well trained and motivated infantrymen. By June of 1944, there were 150,000 paratroopers but only 30,000 were jump trained.
Part of the reason the paratroopers were not deployed more was because of their poor equipemtn. The German used the Ruckenpackung Zwangauslosung RZ-16 or RZ-20 parachute. Its risers connected at four points, two at the hips and two at the shoulders. This caused the paratrooper to land in a face-down position, which required elbow and knee pads for protection. The parachute was hard to control, especially in cross-winds and limited the amount of equipment that could be carried.
Battle of the Bulge - Operation Stoesser(Falcon) - The last large use of German paratroopers in an airborne assault was on December 17, 1944. The 3rd Parachute Division, consisting of the 5th, 8th, and 9th Parachute Regiments, were used in the Ardene offensive. They were led by Major August van der Heydte. Their drop zone was 11km north of Malmedy and their objective was a cross-road junction. The assault began with 112 Ju-52 troop carriers that also carried 300 straw dummies. However, only 10 aircraft made it to the drop zone. Some paratroopers landed 50 miles behind German lines and some landed in Holland. Remember this was in the middle of winter and the area was blanketed by a low cloud cover. Only 125 made it to the drop zone; about 1/10 the original force. If they can claim any success it was in the fact that the paratroopers and the German spys dressed as Americans created confusion and expenditure of resources to guard the rear areas.
units in Italy Two
of the 15 paratrooper
divisions served in Italy.
1ST PARACHUTE CORPS
The 4th Parachute Division was formed from the 2nd Parachute Division and the Italian paratroopers.
4TH PARACHUTE DIVISION Generalleutnant HeinrichTrettner
The 1st Parachute Division served at Sicily, July 1943 - Sept 1943. It served under LI Mountain Corps from Sept 1943 - May 1945.
1ST PARACHUTE DIVISION General der Fallschirmtruppe Richard Heidrich
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Herman Goring Panzer Division
Originally a small police battalion organized by the then Secretary of Interior, Herman Goring, it grew in size to a regiment. The primary function of the regiment at the beginning of the war was a flak unit and later grew to a armored troops. Its designation became Fallschrimjager PanzerKorps Herman Goring, which translates to a puzzleing name of "Parachutist Armor Corps". Here is a short history.
In February 1933, Hermann Goring as Minister of Interior created the Police Battalion Wecke. By 1935 it had become the "General Goring State Police Group" and began to adapt military training. This resulted in it being assigned to the Luftwaffe as the "General Goring Regiment". By 1938 the role of the regiment consisted primarily of flak batteries and searchlight battalions but still retained a motorcycle company and a guard battalion. These special guards were used at Goring's forrest estate at Karinhall and on special occasions such as Air Force day and Richtohofen's Memorial parades.
The statistics indicate that 60,000 soldiers served with the HG Division during its life-span. After the surrender in 1945, only 15,000 survivors remained. An estimated 90% of the soldiers who fought on the Eastern Front were casualties.
Hermann Göring Panzer Division (Lt-Gen. Schmalz)
HG (Oberst Roth)
Tank Strength :
Regiment HG 1 (Oberst Kluge)
Regiment HG 2 (Oberst von Necker)
Abteilung HG (Hauptman Bittig)
A Brief History of the 19th and 20th Luftwaffe Field Divisions - the two divisions that served in Italy.
The 19th and 20th Luftwaffe Field Divisions(LFD) were part of the 3rd wave of infantry divisions formed from air force personel in France in March 1943. Recruits and officers came from the XIII FliegerKorps. Flieger-Regiment 23 was a training unit for pilots and ground personel in Russia and it was absorbed into the 20 LFD. As they were forming, some units were transferred over to the 44th Infantry Division and 24th Panzer Division. In June 1943, the 19th LFD was moved to Holland and the 20th LFD to Denmark to act as occupation forces.Axis Europa Publications, copyright 2002. ISBN 1891227408.
In Novermber, the General Staff had begun to make plans to absorb the Luftwaffe Field Divisions into the Army but Hitler blocked this change. Instead, he designated the 20 LFD as a mobile formation. The Army transferred some Cavalry officers and NCOs into this unit. Since trucks were not available, the division formed into bicycle("radfahr") regiments and the artillery regiments were fully mobilized. The flak and artillery battalions were armed with Soviet and Polish guns after having to give up their assault guns to units at the Russian front. Just before their transfer the Luftwaffe field divisions were renamed as Luftwaffe-Strum Divisionen or Airforce Assault Divisions, probably to decieve the Allies and give the units more prestige.
In June 1944, the 19th LFD was ordered to move to Italy, where it entered defense duty at Livorno(Leghorn) under the XIV Panzer Corps. The 19th & 20th LFD were placed in the FRIEDA Line on the right flank of the XIV Army near Piombino. The 19th LFD fought fierce rear-guard battles near Castagneto and Monteverdi. The US 36th "Texas" Infantry DIvision launched an attack on 24 June that crossed the Ombrone River and advanced to Montepescali. The 19 LFD escaped along the coastal Hiway 1. On June 25th, the US 34th "Red Bull" Infantry Division replaced the 36th ID and continued to advance 15 miles to Hiway 68. ( See map of Allied advance on Leghonr, July 1944: Map )
The 19 LFD escaped from Piombino area and set-up a defensive position behind the Cecina River at the town of Cecina that featured a massive stone castle. The US 34th Division was strengthened by the US 1st Armored Division, as General Senger moved the 26th Panzer Division in to support the 19th LFD. The German front consisted of the 19 LFD next to the coast, then the 26 Panzer Division and next to it the 20 LFD. On July 3rd, the American 6th Corps launched a ferocious attack. The 19 LFD fought holding actions as it fell back to the coastal town of Rosignano-Solvay. They held off the Americans for a week with several fierce counter-attacks, but they were outflanked by the US 135th Infantry Regiment. The remnants of the 19 LFD witdrew to Livorno under pursuit by the US 133rd & 135th Regiments. By July 19th, the German line had retreated north of Livorno. The 19th Luftwaffee Field Division was ordered to disband late in July 1944. Much of the division was ordered back to Denmark where it was absorved into the 19th Volksgrenadier Division.
The 20th LFD arrived in Italy in May 1944. By July it was providing coastal defense and anti-partisan force at Lucca with the bulk of the forces between Viareggio and La Spezia. On 12th of September, commander Major-General Wilhelm Crisolli was killed by partisans. Colonel Kasper Volcker assummed command but 2 months later he was captured. Soon after that the division was ordered to the X Army at the Adriatic coast where its 39th and 40th Jager Regiments were assigned to the 26 Panzer Division and the supporting units divided among the 29 & 90th Panzer Grenadier Divisions. On November 8, 1944, the order was given to disband the division. Many of the units transferred into the 155th Field Training Division. The 20th Anti-Tank Battalion became the 1048 A-T Battalion of the 148 Infantry Division. Two batteries of the 20th Artillery Regiment became part of 142nd Artillery Regiment of the 42nd Jaeger Division.
Generalmajor Wilhelm Crisolli was the Commander of the 20th Luftwaffe Field Division. He was killed in a partisan ambush near Bologna on September 12, 1944. This was a few weeks before the Germans launched a massive anti-partisan assault in the Bologna area, which became known as the Monte Sole massacre or the Massacre of Marzabotta. Reference Monte Sole Massacre, south of Bologna Sept 29- Oct 2. It is interesting that some units of the Herman Goring Division participated in this "mopping-up" action--sending Luftwaffe troops to take retribution for the killing of a Luftwaffe officer.
Reference: Göring’s Grenadiers, The Luftwaffe Field Divisions, 1942 - 1945, by Antonio J. Munoz,
Description of US 36th Infantry Division's encounter in June 1944, near Civitavecchia north of Rome.
"The 1st Battalion
of the 142nd Regiment had run into one of the most curious combat units
ever devised. This enemy force consisted of 3 depleted companies
of the 39th Grenadier Regiment* of the 20th Luftwaffe
Division—200 air force ground troops without artillery, mortar or
support, but equipped with bicycles, lots of bicycles. The men
left Denmark only ten days earlier and had been give the
of preparing this ground for defense but had barely completed a
They were easily overrun.
See Death Cards for an example of a memorial card of a member of a Luftwaffee unit.Return to Top Menu
Luftwaffe troops were used to man the anti-aircraft gun positions. This made up a large amount of troops around the cities of Germany. The flak units were organized into 7 different Corps. The flak units wore the standard field uniform with the Luftwaffee rank and insignia, but with red piping on the uniform and hats to signify the branch of service of artillery or anti-aircraft. My brother and I once owned a Luftwaffee visor cap with red piping of the flak troops
I. Flakkorps was redesignated Luftwaffenbefhelshaber Mitte Mar 1941 and reformed Apr 1941. It was redesignated Luftwaffen-Kommando Kaukasus Nov 1942 and reformed Feb 1943.
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See also Examples of German Death Cards .
Return to 328th Field Artillery Battalion Top Menu.
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