Luftwaffenfelddivision, German Airforce Ground Troops, 1941–1945

Luftwaffe light infantry and heavy FlaK deployed for action

Luftwaffe Jägers provide infantry cover for an 8,8 cm FlaK 36 deployed in an anti-tank role. The Luftwaffe committed non-specialist troops to ground combat as early as 1941, when Partizans threatened German airfields and supply lines in Russia. These ad hoc infantry units were called Alarmeinheiten, due to the nature of their deployment. The costly 1941 campaign in Russia led to a severe manpower shortage. Infantry replacements were sought by the army, and the large pool of non-specialist Luftwaffe personnel looked like a good source. In order to keep these men in the airforce, even if they were fighting as infantry, the Luftwaffe raised infantry regiments of its own which were attached to army divisions engaged at Volkhov, Demyansk, and Kholm in 1942. The defenders of Kholm distinguished themselves under the command of General Meindl (Luftwaffe), and they set an unfortunate precedent for the establishment of Luftwaffe Field Divisions. In September of 1942, Luftwaffe high command issued a call for volunteers to join one of 22 new Luftwaffe Field Divisions to be formed on the Eastern Front. It was an attempt to keep army recruiters away from Luftwaffe manpower, and it turned out to be a serious mistake.

The cadre of these new formations consisted of Fallschirmjägers and other Luftwaffe ground troops with previous combat experience. The combat strength of a Luftwaffe Field Division (LwFD) only compared to an army infantry brigade, but they received new vehicles and equipment which might have been used to return depleted army division to nearly full strength. The LwFDs were short on transport, artillery, anti-tank guns and other divisional support elements, they lacked training and ground combat experience, yet they were routinely expected to defend divisional sectors of the front line. Not surprisingly, when these sectors were attacked in strength, they could not be held for long. Imminent breakthroughs forced adjacent army divisions to pull back in order to avoid encirclement and destruction.

Due to their poor combat performance, the Luftwaffe Field Divisions were finally transferred to the army in November of 1943. Most of the Luftwaffe officers were replaced by army infantry officers, and the formations were redesignated as Field Divisions (Luftwaffe). Beginning in November of 1943, the Field Divisions (L) were reorganized under the new 1944 infantry division establishment.

Miniatures

  • Luftwaffe Infantry in Smock & Field Cap, 20 mm IT Figures
    • LMG Team, 20 mm IT Figures LUFT.9
    • Anti-Tank Gun Crew, 20 mm IT Figures LUFT.14
  • Luftwaffe Infantry wearing Zeltbahn, 20 mm Britannia Miniatures
    • Light Mortar and 2 Crew, 20 mm Britannia Miniatures LUFT.20
    • Anti-Tank Gun Crew, 3 Figures, 20 mm Britannia Miniatures LUFT.21

Bibliography

Historical Employment

  • Eastern Front
  • Greece (Leros), 1943
  • Macedonia and Yugoslavia, 1944
  • Italy, 1944
  • France, Low Countries, and Germany, 1944-1945
  • Norway, 1945

Possible Conversions

  • Luftwaffe ground troops wearing the Zeltbahn or camouflage smocks may be painted as German army troops.

Wargamers will find the Luftwaffe Field Regiment interesting to simulate, because if its unusual composition of light infantry and FlaK at the battalion levels. Separate battalions may be attached to army formations fighting on the Eastern Front.

Frequently Asked Questions

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