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"German Infantry Regiment" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on the organization and weapons of the German infantry regiment in WWII was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 42, January 13, 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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.]


a. Introduction

Originally the infantry regiment of most armies was a force of ten 100-man companies, with a total firepower of about 1,000 muskets, capable of delivering five volleys per minute with highly trained men. From this force the regiment has developed into a miniature division. This is particularly true of the German infantry regiment, which was to a considerable extent, the model of our own.

The underlying principle of German organization is that each infantry unit, from the smallest (squad) to the largest regiment), must be so armed and equipped as to be tactically self-sufficient in combat. The tactical self-sufficiency of the German infantry regiment is best illustrated by comparison with the German infantry division, as follows:

    Unit       Infantry Regiment       Infantry Division
1 Command Regimental Headquarters Division Headquarters
2 Reconnaissance Mounted Platoon Reconnaissance Battalion
3 Communication Communication Platoon Signal Battalion
4 Engineers Engineer Platoon Engineer Battalion
5 Tactical Units Three Infantry Battalions Three Infantry Regiments
6 Supporting Unit Infantry Howitzer Company Artillery Regiment
7 Antitank Unit Antitank Company Antitank Battalion
8 Supply Unit Light Column Division Supply Force

Note from the above that every unit shown under the infantry regiment belongs to the regiment organically and is composed of infantrymen. Also that the infantry regiment is but one of the three infantry regiments shown under the infantry division.

b. Infantry Regiment

(1) Composition

The regiment consists basically of regimental headquarters, headquarters company (mounted, communication, and engineer platoons), three infantry battalions as above, an infantry howitzer company, an antitank company and a light column. Numbers and minor details are subject to constant change and to the circumstances of war, altered requirements, and losses.

[German Infantry Regiment]

The mounted platoon and communication platoon of headquarters company are armed with rifles and pistols. The engineer platoon of headquarters company is armed with seven submachine guns and three light machine guns in addition to rifles and pistols.

Weapons of infantry battalions are discussed hereafter.

The infantry howitzer (13th) company has six light 75-mm and two heavy 150-mm infantry howitzers. The personnel is armed with rifles and pistols. The 75-mm infantry howitzer fires a 12-pound, while 150-mm infantry howitzer fires an 85-pound projectile.

The antitank company may have either 37-mm, 50-mm or 75-mm antitank guns or mixtures of 37's and 50's or 50's and 75's. The 37-mm antitank gun penetrates two inches of armor at 400 yards at 90-degree angle. Special armor-piercing projectile "AP 40" penetrates 2 1/4 inches at same range. The 50-mm antitank gun penetrates just over three inches of armor at 500 yards at a 90-degree angle. 75-mm antitank gun penetrates 4 1/2 inches of armor at 500 yards at a 90 degree angle.

The light column personnel is armed with rifles and pistols. Two light machine guns may be provided for local and antiaircraft protection.

[Weapons and Characteristics of Weapons of German Infantry Regiment]

c. Special Companies and Units

(1) Headquarters Company:

The German infantry regiment has gone even farther than ours in some respects. Their headquarters company contains, like ours, a communication platoon (telephone and radio) and a reconnaissance platoon (mounted platoon). Unlike ours, the German reconnaissance platoon may be mounted on horses, or in some regiments on bicycles or motorcycles. Although it consists of infantrymen, this platoon is in effect, a platoon of cavalry.

Moreover there is a unit which the American regiment does not possess -- a strong engineer platoon of one officer and 66 men (10 additional men for transportation).

(2) Howitzer Company:

The infantry howitzer company is the 13th company of the regiment. This company consists of infantrymen and should not be confused with artillery even though the company functions as artillery. Need for this type of company in the infantry regiment was brought out in World War I. The company has six light (75-mm) and two heavy (150-mm) infantry howitzers. This mixed company has some advantage over our own 105's, particularly in difficult or forest-covered country where ranges are relatively short. The 150-mm infantry howitzer projectile has about three times the power of our 33-pound 105-mm projectile. (Both German howitzers have a maximum elevation of over 70 degrees). In more open country our motorized 105's would have the advantage due to their greater range and mobility.

Normally, each battalion in the front line will be supported by two light (75-mm) infantry howitzers. The remaining howitzers are used at points where they can support the main effort in the attack or in the defense; they are placed in positions where the main effort is anticipated.

(3) Antitank Company:

Originally the German antitank company, which is organically a part of the infantry regiment, had 12, 37-mm antitank guns and four light machine guns. The 37-mm antitank gun has been the model on which our own 37-mm gun was based. The German gun, besides firing high explosive and armor piercing shells, also fires a stick bomb with an armor-piercing hollow charge in the head of the bomb and vanes at the end to guide the projectile. It is inaccurate at ranges over 150 yards. The stick bomb relies on hollow-charge, focused, blast effect for penetration of armor rather than muzzle velocity.

At present the trend is toward 50-mm antitank guns and even 75-mm antitank guns for the infantry. Therefore there are varied organizational differences between antitank companies. Some companies have nine 37-mm antitank guns and two 50-mm antitank guns while others have only the 50-mm antitank gun of which there are nine in a company. Still other companies have a proportion of 50-mm and 75-mm antitank guns on a basis of 6 and 3, or 3 and 6.

(4) Light Column:

Unlike the American regiment, the German regiment has its own organic, mixed horse-drawn and/or motorized supply unit. This unit, known as the "light infantry column" furnishes the regiment with all supplies except rations which are carried by the ration trains II of the battalions. The light column carries a reserve of all types of ammunition used by the regiment. The first reserve of ammunition is carried within each company. Ammunition, equipment and supplies are received by the light column from the transport columns of division (part of the division supply force). The light column, after receiving ammunition, equipment and supplies at distribution points, usually proceeds to designated points where the transport of the individual companies will receive the ammunition, etc. Thus the light column is the connecting link between the companies and division.

(5) Medical Service

The medical detachment comprises a force of about fifty enlisted men, with a major or captain at regimental headquarters, a captain and a lieutenant, or two lieutenants, with each battalion, and a medical NCO per rifle company, assisted by one stretcher-bearer leader at company headquarters and one each with the three rifle platoons. The medical organization of the special companies such as the antitank, is not exactly known. Division ambulances go direct to battalion dressing stations.


One noticeable feature of the organization of the German infantry regiment is the lack of an antiaircraft weapon like our .50 caliber machine gun. The German have a 20-mm gun which serves both as an antiaircraft and antitank weapon and can be used also as a heavy machine gun. However this weapon is not included in the infantry regiment. For antiaircraft protection the Germans use their machine guns. A special antiaircraft tripod is provided for the light machine guns on the scale of three per rifle company and these offer good possibilities for antiaircraft fire. Each machine gun company has three special mounts which are set on wagons which take two machine guns each in a twin mount and thus serve as a dual antiaircraft machine gun while on the march.

The Germans also do not have any weapon which approximates our "bazooka" (rocket launcher AT). Wide use is made of antitank rifle grenades and stick bombs may be fired from the 37-mm antitank gun. Both types of infantry howitzers fire hollow-charge ammunition.

d. Infantry Battalion:

The infantry battalion consists of a battalion headquarters with communication section, three rifle companies and one machine gun company as above. The battalion has also the trains mentioned previously.

(1) General Description

Battalion receives support from the regimental units such as howitzer company, antitank company, engineer platoon etc.

Each of the three infantry battalions within the infantry regiment is a miniature regiment. The battalion is likewise organized on the principle of tactical self sufficiency. It consists of a headquarters with communication section, three rifle companies of three platoons each and a machine-gun company containing 12 machine guns on the heavy mount, together with six 81-mm mortars.

[German Infantry Battalion]

Each rifle company has 12 light machine guns, about 135 rifles, three antitank rifles, three light (50-mm) mortars, 16 submachine guns and a number of pistols. As mentioned previously, the company is composed of three platoons. Each platoon has four rifle squads with one light machine gun each and a light mortar squad with one 50-mm mortar. The antitank rifles are with the company headquarters. One man in each squad is equipped with a rifle grenade discharger which fires both anti-personnel and armor piercing grenades. Thus, in the platoon, there are both flat-trajectory weapons (rifles and machine guns) and high-trajectory weapons (light mortars and anti-personnel grenades fired from rifle-grenade dischargers). Each squad leader, platoon leader and company commander of rifle companies carries a submachine gun.

The heavy machine guns of the machine-gun company are the same caliber as the light machine guns of the rifle companies. The guns are identical except that a bipod mount is used with the light machine gun whereas a tripod mount is used with the heavy machine gun. Thus the machine gun company is the supporting unit of the infantry battalion. Each rifle company receives heavy machine gun and mortar support from the machine gun company.

The communication section with the battalion has telephones, radios and blinker lamps.

The battalion, as well as the companies within the battalion, has trains which form the supply units of the battalion and companies. Thus the battalion has a combat train, ration train I, ration train II and a baggage train whereas the companies have the same trains with the exception of ration train II. The company combat train always has the field kitchen and several other wagons for equipment, etc. The ration trains (except ration train II) haul rations for the field kitchens of the battalion, headquarters personnel and the companies. The ration train II hauls rations from a division distribution point and distributes these rations to the ration train I and the ration trains of the companies. The baggage trains of the battalion and companies haul the extra baggage of these units. This means such extra baggage as clothing, extra individual equipment, administrative equipment, etc.

The battalion discussed is one of the three battalions in the regiment. The first battalion consists of companies 1 - 2 - 3 and 4. The second consists of companies 5 - 6 - 7 and 8 while the third battalion consists of companies 9 - 10 - 11 and 12. Companies 4, 8 and 12 are the machine-gun companies with the other nine companies being rifle companies.

(2) Rifle Company:

The rifle company consists of a company headquarters, three rifle platoons and antitank rifle section and the combat, ration and baggage trains.

[German Rifle Company]

The company commander is armed with submachine gun. The total armament includes 16 submachine guns, 12 light machine guns, three light mortars and three AT rifles in the company.

The antitank-rifle section has three antitank rifles (.31 caliber) capable of penetrating 1.3 inches of hardened armor at 100 yards. The new, modified antitank rifle is a grenade-firing rifle which fires both armor-piercing and anti-personnel grenades. Heavy AP grenade will penetrate 2 inches of armor.

The combat train contains a field kitchen and two wagons for the men's packs, etc. The ration train consists of one ration wagon while the baggage train consists of one truck.

(3) Rifle Platoon:

This platoon has four squads as above, and a light mortar squad as well as a platoon headquarters. The platoon leader is armed with submachine gun. The light mortar squad has one light (50-mm) mortar firing two-pound projectiles to a maximum range of 550 yards. The platoon is served by one wagon (composed of two carts) for transportating heavier weapons and equipment on the march.

[German Infantry Rifle Platoon]

(4) Rifle Squad:

The basic weapon of the rifle squad is one light machine gun (.31 caliber). The squad leader is armed with a submachine gun (.35 caliber) while the other men are armed with rifles or pistols. (The rifle is .31 caliber; the pistol, .35 caliber). One man per squad has a rifle-grenade discharger firing both anti-personnel and armor-piercing grenades. Hand grenades are issued when necessary (egg type, standard potato-masher type and smoke hand grenade).

[German Infantry Rifle Squad]

(5) Machine Gun Company

This consists of a company headquarters, three heavy machine-gun platoons (four heavy machine guns each) and a mortar platoon (six 81-mm mortars) as well as a combat and ration train. The baggage is hauled by battalion baggage train.

[German Machine Gun Company]

The heavy machine gun is same caliber as light machine gun, with a high cyclic rate of fire (900 rpm with model 34 and 1,150 rpm with model 42). Because it is air cooled, the practical rate of fire is 300 to 350 rounds per minute.

The heavy mortar fires a 7.75-pound projectile, HE or smoke.

The machine gun company supports three rifle companies. Heavy machine guns are attached to rifle companies by platoons (four guns) or sections (two guns). Heavy mortars are attached to rifle companies by sections (two mortars).


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