TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. — Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



1. General

The role of the Air Force in the conduct of the war, and to a certain extent in particular operations, is determined by the High Command of the Armed Forces (Oberkommando der Wehrmacht). The chain of command is from the Supreme Commander (Hitler), through the OKW to the Commander-in-Chief of the Air Force (Goering). The latter directs the actual employment of the Air Force through the Air Ministry and through his subordinate commanders of air combat units. However, when Air Force units are used in conjunction with Army or Navy units, all the forces involved come under a single operational control, in accordance with the German doctrine of unity of command. In such circumstances, a commanding officer is chosen from whichever of the three branches predominates in the operation, and he becomes directly responsible to the OKW.

2. Luftflotte

All Air Force units are organized into tactical and territorial air commands known as Luftflotten. Each Luftflotte is assigned a particular command area, although this assignment is not necessarily permanent, for an entire Luftflotte at any time may be moved from one area to another at the direction of the Air Ministry. Within its area, however, each Luftflotte not only controls all operations of the flying units, but also supervises the activities of all ground service units. Thus, in addition to a large operations department, each Luftflotte has its own adjutant, legal, administration, signal, and supply departments. All commands and formations subordinate to the Luftflotte are either essentially operational (Fliegerkorps, Jagdkorps, Geschwader, Gruppen, and Staffeln) or administrative (Luftgaue). Thus the administrative and operational commands meet at the Luftflotte headquarters, where their respective activities are coordinated.

3. Fliegerkorps

Operational units within the Luftflotte command area are organized into subordinate operational commands known as Fliegerkorps. Through these Fliegerkorps, the Luftflotten execute the operational directives received from the Air Ministry. Each Fliegerkorps is a composite, mobile command with its own geographical area of control and operations. A Luftflotte may command one or several Fliegerkorps, depending upon the size of the command area and the nature of operations. A Fliegerkorps may be detached at any time for operations in another Luftflotte area. The make-up of a Fliegerkorps is very elastic, both as to number and type of aircraft. It may consist of several bomber Geschwader, several fighter Geschwader, in addition to a varying number of short- and long-range reconnaissance Gruppen. On occasion it may be limited to one function such as that of a bomber command. The most important department of the Fliegerkorps command is that of operations. Although the Fliegerkorps also has adjutant, legal, administration, signal, and supply departments, it depends almost entirely upon the Luftgau for administrative and supply services. The Fliegerkorps are numbered nonconsecutively in Roman numerals.

4. Jagdkorps

A Jagdkorps is an operational command, similar to a Fliegerkorps but whose function is limited to that of a fighter command.

5. Fliegerdivision

A Fliegerdivision is an operational command similar to but of less importance than a Fliegerkorps. Most of the Fliegerdivisionen which existed prior to the war were replaced by Fliegerkorps. Several Fliegerdivisionen still exist on the Eastern Front.

6. Jagddivision

A Jagddivision is a command subordinate to a Jagdkorps.

7. Lehrdivision

This division is unnumbered and is known simply as the Lehrdivision. Its primary function was to test the latest types of aircraft, antiaircraft defenses, and air signals equipment from a tactical and operational point of view. Lehr units are incorporated directly into the combat commands and function as a part of the command's operational strength. Lehr personnel are supposed to have had previous combat experience. This system, by giving the Lehr units an operational status, enables them to experiment in actual combat operations, rather than under simulated conditions. The Lehrdivision was organized into a variety of formations and commands. There were two Lehrgeschwader composed of bomber, fighter, and reconnaissance Lehrgruppen. Recently, however, only a few bomber Lehr units have been operational and they no longer appear concerned with experimentation. There are also two Lehrregimenter, one concerned with antiaircraft defenses and the other with signal developments. Lehr units are not to be confused with experimental units whose duties are of a technical nature, such as the testing of prototype aircraft.

8. Geschwader

a. GENERAL. The Geschwader is the largest mobile, homogeneous formation in the Air Force, and is used for long-range bombers, ground attack units, and both single- and twin-engine fighters. It normally consists of about 100 aircraft, organized into three Gruppen. A fourth and, in a few instances, a fifth Gruppe have been added to several single-engine fighter Geschwader. [These fourth and fifth Gruppen are not to be confused with the Erganzungsgruppen, which are devoted to operational training as discussed in Section VII.] Apparently the original intention was to have each Geschwader operate as a unit by stationing all three Gruppen at adjacent airdromes. However, although all Gruppen are now usually found on the same battlefront, all three of them are unlikely to operate from neighboring fields. In fact, it is not uncommon at present for the Air Force to withdraw one or two Gruppen for rest or re-equipment and subsequently return them to operations in another theater.

b. COMMAND. A Geschwader is generally commanded by an Oberst or Oberstleutnant known as the Geschwaderkommodore. He has a small staff of officers for the adjutant, operations, organization, technical, signal, navigation, meteorological, and intelligence branches. Some staffs also have a photographic officer. The staff has its own headquarters flight (Stabs-Schwärm) of three to six aircraft of the same type as those which make up the Geschwader. This Geschwader staff is always maintained, even when the subordinate Gruppen are separated for operations on different fronts.

c. TYPES. There are several types of Geschwader, known according to aircraft complement and/or operational employment as follows:

German title Aircraft type Abbre-
Kampfgeschwader  . . . . .   Bomber  . . . . .   K.G.
Schlachtgeschwader  [Sturzkampfgeschwader (Dive bomber) and Schnellkampfgeschwader (Ground attack) have been incorporated into, or superseded by the Schlachtgeschwadern.]  . . . . .   Ground attack and antitank  . . . . .   S.G.
Jagdgeschwader  . . . . .   Single-engine fighter  . . . . .   J.G.
Zerstörergeschwader  . . . . .   Twin-engine fighter  . . . . .   Z.G.
Nachtjagdgeschwader  . . . . .   Night fighter  . . . . .   N.J.G.
Lehrgeschwader  . . . . .   Tactical experimental  . . . . .   L.G.

Each Geschwader is designated by its abbreviation followed by an Arabic numeral: for example, K.G.77, N.J.G.26, Z.G.111, etc. The numerals are not necessarily in consecutive order.

d. EQUIPMENT. Although all Gruppen in a Geschwader specialize in similar air tactics and are equipped with the same type of plane, the make and model may differ among the Gruppen. This variation is most prevalent in fighter Geschwader, but also occurs in a few of the bomber Geschwader. Thus a Kampfgeschwader may have one Gruppe equipped with the Dornier 217 and the other two Gruppen with the Heinkel 111, Junkers 88, or the Focke-Wulf 200. Or the entire Geschwader may be equipped with the same make of plane, such as the Messerschmitt 109, although one Gruppe may have a newer model while the other Gruppen have earlier ones.

9. Gruppe

a. GENERAL. The Gruppe is the basic combat unit of the Air Force for both administrative and operational purposes. It is a mobile homogeneous unit which is largely self-contained and which may be detached from its parent Geschwader for operations in any command area. In fact, directives for the movement of flying units are almost always issued in terms of Gruppen. Usually the entire Gruppe is based at the same airdrome.

b. COMMAND. The Gruppe normally is commanded by a major or captain known as the Gruppenkommandeur. He has a small staff, consisting of the adjutant, operations officer, technical officer, and medical officer. There apparently is no special intelligence officer, since prisoners are sent directly to interrogation centers. Each Gruppe also has its own air signal platoon (Luftnachrichtenzug), known as a Technical Ground Station, and a staff flight (Stabs-Kette) of three aircraft generally of the same type with which the Gruppe is equipped.

c. EQUIPMENT. The Gruppen are organized into three Staffeln, with the exception of single-engine fighter Geschwadern which recently have been organized into four Staffeln. Thus, most Gruppen are considered to have a table of organization of 27 aircraft each (exclusive of the three aircraft of the Gruppen-Stab) and Jagdgruppen a table of organization of 36 aircraft (also exclusive of the Gruppen-Stab). Actual strength, however, is likely to differ substantially from authorized strength; on many occasions it has been found well below or above such figures. Gruppen attached to a Geschwader are numbered in Roman numerals in consecutive order. Thus I/K.G.77, II/K.G.77, and III/K.G.77 are the first, second, and third Gruppen, respectively, of long-range bomber Geschwader 77.

10. Staffel

a. GENERAL. The Staffel is the smallest Air Force operational unit, and is generally commanded by a captain or lieutenant known as the Staffelkapitän. One officer serves as adjutant; the signal, technical, and navigation branches are supervised by the flying personnel in their spare time.

b. EQUIPMENT. A Staffel is considered to have a table of organization of nine aircraft. Its actual strength, however, may be as low as five or six aircraft or as much as 18 or 20 aircraft. For tactical purposes, it may be subdivided into Schwärme of five planes; into Ketten of three planes; or into Rotten of two planes. Each Staffel usually will have its own mobile repair shop for minor repairs in the dispersal areas; other motor vehicles must be drawn from the organization of the parent Gruppe.

c. NUMBERING. All Staffeln in the Geschwader are numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals. Thus, in all but Jagdgeschwader, the first, second, and third Staffeln constitute Gruppe I; the fourth, fifth and sixth Staffeln, Gruppe II; and the seventh, eighth, and ninth Staffeln, Gruppe III. Where a fourth or fifth Gruppe exists, the Staffeln will be numbered 10, 11, and 12, or 13, 14, and 15, respectively. In Jagdgeschwadern having four Staffeln, the Gruppe I thus will contain Staffeln 1, 2, 3, and 4; Gruppe II, Staffeln 5, 6, 7, and 8; Gruppe III, Staffeln 9, 10, 11, and 12, etc. In unit designations, the Gruppe numeral is omitted whenever the Staffel number is indicated. Thus the fourth Staffel of K.G.77 is known as 4/K.G.77, and no other reference to its position in Gruppe II of K.G.77 is necessary.

11. Semiautonomous Units

a. GENERAL. Reconnaissance and Army cooperation aircraft operate and are organized as semiautonomous units, as Staffeln or Gruppen. These semiautonomous units fall into three general categories, all of which are numbered non-consecutively in Arabic numerals of one, two or three digits.

b. LONG-RANGE RECONNAISSANCE. Long-range reconnaissance aircraft are organized into Fernaufklärungsgruppen, which are known as (F) or FAG units. Thus 3(F)123 is the third Staffel of Fernaufklärungsgruppe 123.

c. SHORT-RANGE RECONNAISSANCE. Short-range reconnaissance and Army cooperation aircraft are organized into Nahaufklärungsgruppen, which are known as NAGr or (H) units (due to former name of Heeresaufklärungsgruppen). Under the old nomenclature still applying to some units, the first Staffel of Nahaufklärungsgruppe 32 is therefore 1(H)32. Under the more recent Gruppen organization and numbering, the third Staffel of Nahaufklärungsgruppe 1 for instance, is 3/NAGr 1.

d. COASTAL RECONNAISSANCE. Coastal reconnaissance and naval cooperation aircraft were originally organized into Küstenfliegergruppen (abbreviated K.F.Gr.). They are now known as Seeaufklärungsgruppen (abbreviated SAGr.). Thus the third Staffel of Seeaufklärungsgruppe 196 is known as 3/SAGr. 196.

e. MISCELLANEOUS UNITS. Miscellaneous units also are similarly organized and operated.

(1) Nachtschlachtgruppen (Night Harassing) represent the relatively recent grouping of previously loosely organized Staffeln. Most of them are equipped with obsolete aircraft, although coincidentally with their reorganization in Gruppen, these units have been modernized to some extent. Though some units in the East still have such aircraft as Arado 66, GO145, HE50, etc., those in the West are equipped with modern JU87 and FW190. These Nachtschlachtgruppen are numbered in Arabic numbers and thus abbreviated—NS1, NS2, NS3, etc.

(2) The Luftbeobachter Staffeln (Air Observers).

(3) A number of specialized units such as mine-sweeping Staffeln, etc.

12. Special Commands

a. Jagdführer. Separate fighter commands known as Jagdführer, or more commonly as Jafü, have been established in each Luftflotte since the outbreak of war. At first a Jafü was concerned primarily with matters of policy and controlled operations only on specific occasions. Yet, for a period, the Jafüs in France and Germany appeared to have had an overriding authority in directing all defensive fighter operations. Lately, however, it is believed that their functions have become virtually administrative.

b. Fliegerführer. Highly specialized operations on certain fronts have been put under the control of special commanders known as Fliegerführer. These Fliegerführer control operations in a particular area only and are directly responsible to the Luftflotte commander in whose area they operate. For instance, the three Fliegerführer (3, 4, 5) in Luftflotte V, although primarily concerned with antishipping operations and weather recomnaissance, controlled all types of combat aircraft in their area of operations.

13. Luftgau

a. GENERAL. The Luftgaue are the actual administrative and supply organizations of the Luftwaffe. They are stationary or immobile commands whose authority is limited to certain well defined and permanently fixed geographical areas. A Luftgau commander is usually a General der Flieger or General der Flakartillerie, and theoretically is responsible to the Luftflotte commander within whose command area the Luftgau lies. In actual practice, however, the Luftgau commanders receive most of their instructions direct from the Air Ministry, and the Luftflottenchefs interfere little with Luftgau administration. The Luftgaue permanently established in Germany are numbered non-consecutively by Roman numerals; those in occupied countries are generally designated by their location: for example, Luftgau Norwegen.

b. FUNCTIONS. Each Luftgau is responsible for the following services within its command area:

(1) Administration, supply, and maintenance of all flying units.

(2) Active and passive defense against air attack.

(3) Operations of signal units.

(4) All training other than that of auxiliary units.

(5) Recruitment, mobilization, and training of reserve personnel.

c. SECTIONS. Each Luftgau has its own operations, adjutant, legal, administration, signal, and supply sections. It also has a department for prohibited and restricted flying areas which has no known counterpart in the Luftflotte or Fliegerkorps headquarters. All training within the Luftgau area is directed by a Higher Commander of Training. This officer is usually a Generalmajor and is subordinate only to the Luftgau commander. All other Luftgau services are maintained through subordinate section commands which are designated by Arabic numerals preceding the Luftgau unit designation. Thus 4/VIII is the fourth section command in Luftgau VIII.

d. AIRDROME COMMANDS. The main channels through which the flying units draw on the services of the Luftgaue are the airdrome commands. Each Luftgau area is divided into about five airdrome regional commands (Flughafenbereichkommandanturen). The regional commands are in turn subdivided into five or more operational airdrome commands (Einsatzhafenkommandanturen). The regional command is essentially administrative and is not necessarily located at an airfield. The operational airdrome command, however, exists only to serve the flying units at their stations and is thus always found at an airdrome. The manner in which the Luftgau has decentralized its authority through these commands is as follows:

(1) The airdrome regional commands are charged with the Luftgau's responsibility for sup-ply and maintenance of supplies and equipment within their respective areas; meeting the physical needs of the flying units; defense of aircraft, equipment, and motor transport against air attack; airdrome development; and air movements. These duties are discharged by specialized units which the Luftgau allots to the regional command and which the regional command then redistributes among the operational commands. For example, the Field Works Office (Feldbauamt) at the regional command handles airdrome maintenance through its subsidiary Works Superintendent's Offices which are stationed at the airdromes. Similarly, the Air Signal Company at each regional command is divided into platoons which are stationed at the operational commands. A senior technical officer supervises aircraft maintenance in the region through his subordinate technical officers at the operational commands. The airdrome regional command is thus largely self-contained and calls on the Luftgau for assistance only when the units already assigned prove inadequate.

(2) The airdrome regional command also acts as the intermediary between the Luftgau headquarters and the operational airdrome command. All orders, requests, reports, etc., traveling between the two must pass through the regional command staff. This staff numbers from 50 to 150 officers and enlisted men and is headed by a commandant who usually holds the rank of Generalmajor.

(3) The airdrome regional command's primary practical task is that of transporting supplies and equipment from the depots to its subordinate operational commands. For this purpose it is generally assigned a supply company (Nachschubkompanie) composed of a supply column staff (Nachschubkolonnenstab), some four transport columns (Transportkolonnen), and two or three fuel columns (Flugbetriebsstoffkolonnen).

(4) The commander of the operational airdrome command normally holds the rank of major, captain, or first lieutenant. His adjutant handles personnel matters. The personnel complement of an operational command numbers about 350 officers and enlisted men, and the motor transport allotment is between 50 and 100 vehicles.

(5) Airdrome maintenance at each operational command is handled by a Works Superintendent's Office (Bauleitung), subordinate to the Field Works Office at the regional command. The Bauleitung has charge of most of the construction done at the airdrome (buildings, dispersal areas, defense works, camouflage, etc.), as well as the laying of runways, extension of landing grounds, and installation of lighting systems. Reports on serviceability and bomb damage are radioed through the regional command to the Luftgau, and thence to the Air Ministry for broadcast over the Air Force Safety Service network. The Bauleitung personnel is composed of civil servants and technical staffs. Any other specialized construction units which may be attached to the airdromes to repair bomb damage or enlarge facilities are also directed by the Bauleitung.

(6) The operational airdrome command is also responsible for defense against air attack, for which it has both heavy and light Flak units. These guns and other aerial defense units are commanded by the airdrome commander only when there is no flying unit stationed at the field. Otherwise, defense is controlled by the commander of that flying unit which is occupying the airdrome.

(7) The telephone, teleprinter, and radio at each operational airdrome command are operated by an air signal platoon (Fliegerhorst-Luftnachrichtenzug) and commanded by a signal officer who is subordinate to the senior signal officer at the airdrome regional command. The signal platoon also transmits the meteorological and airdrome serviceability reports and operates the Air Movements Control. This control directs only nonoperational flying. Signal communications with aircraft in operations are controlled by the tactical ground station attached to the flying unit.

(8) Aircraft maintenance at the operational airdrome command—except for servicing and minor repairs which are performed by the ground staff of the flying unit—is the responsibility of a technical officer. This officer not only handles overhauls and major repairs, but also is responsible for maintenance of motor vehicles; for bomb, fuel, and other supply stores; and for equipment stores and the armory. He is subordinate to the senior technical officer at the airdrome regional command.

(9) The requests by the operational airdrome command for equipment and spare parts reach the regional command through the technical officer. Requisitions for bombs, fuel, and ammunition are made by the supply section. The operational command also has an administrative section which handles clothing, food, pay, billeting, and other accommodations; a record office; a photographic section; a medical section; and a welfare section.

(10) Luftgaustäbe z. b. V. During campaigns the Luftgaue provide the advancing air formation with supplies and services through a system of subordinate commands known as Luftgaustäbe zur besonderer Verwendung (Luftgau staffs for special duty) or, simply, Luftgaustäbe z. b. V. units. These units may be designated by an Arabic numeral (Luftgaustäb z. b. V. 3) or by their location (Luftgaustäb Kiev). They are sent into the forward battle areas by their controlling Luftgau and are normally responsible for all services in an area occupied by a Fliegerkorps. After conditions have become relatively stabilized—for example, when operational airdrome commands have been established and supply stations and fuel and ammunition field depots have been set up—the Luftgaustäb z. b. V. unit is withdrawn and the parent Luftgau assumes direct command.


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