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.
Hitler was confident of a short campaign as his German army crashed over the Russian border in 1941. Heroic defence by the massive Soviet armies slowed the Nazi advance. The brave, solid, and loyal Soviet soldiers endured dreadful battle conditions and their equipment was unsophisticated but functional, much like the troops themselves. What they lacked in quality they made up for the sheer numbers in their troops and equipment available to them – as Josef Stalin famously said “Quantity has a quality all of its own.”
Adolf Hitler’s aggressive campaign across the world ensured his troops would face the enemy in all environments and climates. None were more unforgiving than the harsh winters on the Eastern Front or in the Italian hills and mountains. The resourceful German Lander often had to make do with little more than their standard-issue woollen greatcoat gloves, scarves and a steely determination to not stave off only the cold, but also be able to fight and win.