Fighting to stave off the massed assaults of the Allies on the Eastern and Western Fronts, these battle- hardened German soldiers are armed with the deadly Sturmgewehr 44 assault rifle. Providing dogged resistance from hedgerows and shattered towns, they fight for every inch of land conquered by the Third Reich…
Germany’s aggressive campaigns of conquest ensured that her armies would fight in many countries far from the fatherland and in starkly contrasting terrain and weather conditions. German soldiers were well-equipped for their venture into Europe, and later North Africa, but found themselves ill-prepared for the bleak, freezing and unforgiving Eastern Front. When the Russian armies failed to collapse, the Wehrmacht found itself caught out on the Russian plains, freezing, literally in many cases, to death.
Specialist training bred hardened fighters and the Gebirgsjäger (mountain infantry) were regarded as elite alongside Fallschirmjager. Gebirgsjäger originated from the Alpenkorps of WWI, where they were used to defend the mountain passes from their Italian equivalent, Alpini.
As Hitler’s military machine unleashed their devastating assault on Poland in 1939, the SS were still in the process of transitioning from political to military organisation, becoming the Waffen-SS (armed SS) and the military wing of the Nazi party.
They played a vital part in Greece campaign – most notably during Operation Mercury, the invasion of Crete. This pyrrhic victory would be the last time the Fallschirmjäger dropped from the skies en masse – Hitler forbade such actions after the horrific losses they incurred taking the island.
After the the initial spectacular success of the German invasion of Russia in 1941 the invasion slowed to a crawl as the weather and hard fighting ground down their formations. Desperate to shore up the front seven regiments were formed of non-flying personnel taken from the German air force, the Luftwaffe. These regiments were equipped with standard infantry weapons, and sent to quieter areas of the front to gain experience.
The men of the Kriegsmarine were often asked to do more than serve at sea. U-Boat and ship crews could be found in land actions in many theatres, wearing their trademark blue sailor’s uniforms or the grey-blue U-Boat leathers as they took the fight to the enemy.
The Panzer Lehr Division (armoured training division) was built in 1943 from the veterans of the North Africa, Sicily and Italy campaigns. These highly experienced troops formed the core of this training and demonstration unit and as such was considered an elite formation from its inception.
The German soldier was a formidable opponent in World War II. Tough, well-trained and politically indoctrinated they fought on all fronts achieving great feats of arms that only the best trained and motivated troops can accomplish. Daring in attack and stubborn in defence the average German Landser was a dangerous foe for the Allied armies to face.
The world’s first paratroopers to be used in large numbers, the German Fallschirmjager were at the tip of the spear when war broke out in 1939. They led daring assaults on strategic targets, such as the fortress at Eben Emael, enabling the following panzers to overrun Europe.