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                                    The German Soldier in World War I
                                          The final "Argument of Kings"
                                                    R.H.Keller/ 2009

                              Organization and Service in the German Army

      In Germany, by the constitution of April 16, 1871, every male
    was liable for military service, from his 17th to 45th birthday,
    commencing with the "class" of the year of his 20th birthday.
    The 17-20 year olds within this category were classified as
    Landsturm 1st Ban for "volunteer" purposes, home defense, or, as
    in time of war, to fill active duty needs, and, in peacetime,
    were only required to register.
      On January 1st of each year, the Ersatz Commission, by public
    notice, called for all eligible males to report to the Muster
    District Office for registration on a specific date.  Rosters
    were prepared and a muster date with location was posted for the
    "class".  At the muster, physicals were preformed, after which
    inquiries were held for excusing or accepting an individual based
    upon personal hardships, etc.  There was no substitution in
    effect, and the only exceptions for military service were members
    of reigning houses, those deprived by court sentences of their
    civil rights, and those in jail!
      Active military service was 3 years in the cavalry or mounted
    artillery, and 2 years in all other branches, followed by 4 or 5
    years in the Reserve, the Landwher for 11 years, then finally (in
    the year they reached their 39th birthday) the Landsturm 2nd Ban
    for 7 years.  During the "Reserve" status, each man could be
    called out for two annual training sessions called "Kaiser
    Maneuvers", only being free from that duty when passing to
    Landsturm 2nd Ban.  This Landsturm 2nd ban seldom saw front line
    active service, but still provided valuable services that freed
    up military fit personnel.
      If one chose to "volunteer" for active service before their
    class was due, they had the advantage of choosing their unit of
    service, and every opportunity was afforded to meet their
    requests, thus a household could follow a family tradition of
    service in a noted unit. Crown Prince Wilhelm of Prussia
    commented in his memoirs that while commanding the 2nd Company of
    the 1st Garde Regiment of Foot in 1902-1904, a number of his
    soldiers were the fourth successive generation to serve in the
    2nd Company of that regiment.
      Another class of "one year volunteers" had to meet stringent
    requirements of education and character, as well as pay for their
    own uniforms, equipment, quarters, and rations.  Many of these
    men had completed higher professional educations, and became
    officers upon completion of their active duty.  Many professional
    men, whose skills were required outside of active service, opted
    for this service, and sometimes were required to serve only six
    months. In opposite to serving less time, they could choose,
    after 1 year, to transfer to the Reserves for two years active
    duty, after which time they could become a Reserve officer,
    liable for an annual  4-8 week training session for three years.
    officers who retire from the Army with less than 18 years
    service, pass into the Reserve or Landwher, according to age
    bracket.  The 1913 Army List contained 23,000 Reserve officers
    and 11,000 Landwher officers, all trained and capable of quick
    recall if war is declared.  The Landsturm 2nd ban officers would
    follow immediately.
      If a soldier proved proficient enough in his active service,
    and wished to pursue military life, they could, upon acceptance
    by a unit, become "Kapitulanten", or regular professional
      For the peacetime average German male, obligated military
    service did not start until age 20, and was usually done in the
    Spring with medical examinations, with actual training beginning
    in the Fall of that year for the chosen few.  The annual recruit
    class was comprised of all men who attained the age of 20 in that
    recruiting year.  That "class" also contained men who were "put
    back" for various reasons in previous musters of 1 or 2 years,
    men who had postponed their muster for various reasons, and
    "volunteers" of younger than age 20 men who wished to adopt the
    army for their career.
      Of this "class", during peacetime, not all would be accepted
    for active service.  Due to the huge number of men offering
    service, the army could be very selective in nature, and if one
    had a good enough excuse not to serve, they were usually passed
    over or "put back".    In addition, if one became qualified for
    muster, the Ersatz Commission tentatively recommended men for
    assignment to various branches of service based upon their
    civilian occupation, special skills, and physical size.
      At age 22, and not be accepted for service, you were
    automatically put into the Untrained Landsturm or Ersatz Reserve
    until age 45.  A typical 1913 Army class, of which 305,000 had
    been required (a figure increased by the German "Peace Strength
    Law of 1912" to be effective by October 1915 even if war had not
    broken out) is listed as:

                                  20 year olds:      587,888
                                  21 year olds:      380,331
                                  22 year olds:      305,619
                                  older & younger    54,181

                                  Total                  1,328,019

    Of this lot, 118,300 were posted to the Landsturm, 86,911 to the
    Ersatz Reserve, and only 305,675 to the ACTIVE units(or about 1/4
    of those in the class).  The remaining 700,000+ not included in
    these figures were "put back" for any reason imaginable.(called
    "Restanten"), and were not required to serve ONLY in peacetime.
    Rejected men, which ran no more than 5 or 6 per cent, were liable
    for no service.  These again could be reexamined should war be
    declared.  Ersatz Reserve men were usually those who were fit for
    duty but were excused for economical or minor physical defects.
    This group would comprise those who would fill the ranks quickly
    in time of war.  They were liable for 12 years in this status,
    and could be called up for 3 annual training sessions.  Only a
    small portion of these troops underwent any training.  At the end
    of twelve years, they went into the Landsturm 2nd Ban(39-45 years
    old).  IF mobilized, these Ersatz Reserves could amount to over 1
    million men between ages of 20 and 32.  The purpose was to have a
    pool of fit men that could be trained and put into the field in
    less than 3 months.    In 1914, Germany could mobilize about 4.9
    million men(of which 4 million were mobilized and carried the
    Army through 1917) from a population of about 67 million.  In
    wartime, the term "Ersatz" means quite simply "Reinforcement or
    Supplemental" troops. In peacetime, it often was applied o
    Depot raised troops.
          In the period of 1914-1919, about 400,000-500,000 men became
    eligible each year for duty. Before that time, the figure was
    higher, however, when war was declared, many men joined early.
      At declaration of war, all transfers from one category to
    another ceases except for those wounded or incapacitated.  The
    military machine quite simply stops and gets re-examined as time
    permits. Men are not released until age 45.  Men previously
    rejected are re-examined under less stringent conditions to
    obtain a huge pool of fit men.  A new "class" is now called of
    the 17-20  year old "Landsturm 1st Ban", medical exams are given,
    and status is applied with a new set of criteria based upon the
    numbers needed to fulfill the military requirements.  Active duty
    now includes the incorporation of all of the various reservists
    who now join the class.  Classes are sorted into "fit for
    duty(sent to depot field units for outfitting and training)",
    "fit for garrison duty in Germany or on lines of communications
    in the field(sent to a Landsturm formation)", "fit for labor
    use(also Landsturm)", or "unfit".  Remembering that the "unfit"
    pool is usually only about 5% (and even these "unfit" were often
    re-examined and put into some sort of depot job), one can see the
    wisdom of this very proficient, flexible and fluid system that
    gave Germany a huge resource of manpower to run munitions
    factories, depots, training centers, hospitals, etc.  Only a
    request from an employer could exempt a man from duty, and these
    requests were often automatically re-evaluated each year as
    wartime conditions changed.  Bearing in mind that Germany had the
    supplies need to put these men in the field, one can imagine the
    awesome fright which France and England felt toward the German
    War machine.
      In 1914, huge numbers of volunteers of all ages came forward
    and were accepted.  1915 did not produce as many, simply because
    they had volunteered in 1914. After that, only about 5% of
    eligible males volunteered.
      At declaration of war, all Reserve and Landwher troops were
    absorbed by the expansion of the wartime army in new "Reserve
    Divisions".    The 1914 class call-up was spread over a 3 month
    period due to the huge influx of Ersatz Reservist and volunteers
    who would have normally been excused from duty during peacetime.
    All of the 1914 class was sent to the front after 3-4 months
    training, giving the organizations in the field much needed
    replacements and new reserve formations (Reserve Divisions 75-82,
    and the 8th Bavarian).
      After the class of 1914 was absorbed, the Landsturm 2nd Ban
    classes were successively called up(39-45 age) through 1915 to
    fill the losses of the winter campaigns.  The 1915 class was
    called up in April, May, and June of 1915, followed by the 1916
    class in August and November of the same year, with the 1915
    class sent to the front after 4 month's training, the 1916 after
    an average of 4-5 months. Even this huge influx of men could not
    offset the losses of 1915, so many "unfit" men were  re-examined
    under relaxed conditions, then the agricultural and industrial
    labor forces were tapped with "quotas", which even extended into
    the munitions factories.
      The 1917 class was called up in January and May of 1916, 18
    months early, but was used up quickly due mainly to the Verdun
    and Somme battles. Part of this class received only 3 months
      The 1918 class was called in September, 1916, and January,
    1917, two years early. The September group was in the front by
    January, 1917, with the remainder completely used by July, 1917,
    due to heavy losses at the front.  This class comprised the new
    "high" numbered infantry regiments of 442 and beyond(231-242, and
    15th in Bavaria).
      A small portion of the 1919 class was called up in January and
    February, 1917, with the remainder in May-June of 1917, 2-1/2
    years before its due date. Most of these troops went to the
    somewhat quiet Eastern Russian front in order to release veterans
    to the Western front to replace the Fall, 1917 losses.
      The class of 1920 was called up in the Spring of 1918, again,
    2-1/2 years before due date.
      Prior to January 1915, all recruits to the Army went directly
    to their regimental depot to join their comrades in the field.
    Since February, 1916, recruits, after a 1-3 month training
    session, were sent to field recruit depots behind the front lines
    for additional or specialized training.  All returning wounded
    soldiers spent time at these depots to catch up on the latest
    trench warfare innovations.  Recruits could spend as little as
    2-3 weeks at these training centers, depending upon their needs
    at the front.  Being only a few miles from the front, these
    Depots could service Divisions or Corps with fresh troops at a
    rapid pace, or serve as a quick "training" camp for special
    assault operations.  In some instances, these depot troops
    garrisoned quiet sectors of front lines as part of their training
    duties, and on several occasions(Cambrai and Somme), they were
    caught up in the actual fighting.  Wounded NCO's/officers, whose
    training was valuable, were used for instruction at these camps,
    and would be rotated forward again when fit for front line duty.
    The average size of these units were about 1 battalion per
    Division, or about 1200 men.  Most men are drawn from the area in
    which their home depot is located, but as the war progressed, it
    became necessary to send men from other areas to fill
    requirements.  The Germans tried very hard to maintain a
    companion "Esprit de Corps" within these Recruit Depots, thus
    creating a brotherly bond of local fellow countrymen, many of
    whom were family and friends.  The depots traveled with their
    Division when moved, with only borrowed "instructors" remaining
    behind, or being "exchanged/traded" to stay with the unit as
    allowed. Unfortunately, it was not always possible to send the
    newly graduated recruits to companion units, so many of them
    became distributed throughout the army as they left the recruit
    depot.  In many ways, this practice reduced heavy losses for
    certain localities within Germany.  The British learned the same
    hard lesson with their "pals" Battalions.
      As with any army, permanent "specialty" schools and divisional
    training camps existed throughout the German empire and in
    occupied territories(Belgium and Poland) and many new divisions
    were assembled and trained at these camps.  In addition, the
    German Army had specialized training units that trained men in
    the line.
      A "Jugenwher"(youth Corp) was established in a local towns
    throughout Germany trained boys 14-17 years of age in the use of
    rifle and machine-gun, preparing them in basic military
    discipline for their future role as soldiers.  You might say it
    was the "military" boy scouts!


                                                A SOLDIER"S LIFE

        In peacetime, training for a German recruit began in October
    of the year of their class, having been examined and accepted in
    the Spring muster.
        In the infantry, assignment to a specific company was based
    upon height. The tallest men were assigned to the 1st, 5th, and
    9th companies of each regiment, the shortest to the last company
    in each Battalion, the 4th, 8th, and 12th.  Issuing of uniforms
    was from the battalion supply depot, which drew upon the
    regimental depot.
        After several weeks of basic preparatory discipline and drill,
    the imposing and solemn ceremony of the administering of the oath
    was accomplished by 3 or 4 recruits at a time, who, in time
    honored tradition, placed his left hand on the staff of the
    colors and raised their right hand for God and the Fatherland,
    after which the regiment was formed and addressed by the
    regimental officer or a representative from Berlin, quite often
    the Kaiser or some other member of the royal family, or possibly
    the "honorary chef" after which the unit was named.  This very
    personalized ceremony made an everlasting impression upon every
    new recruit who participated, and the solemn weight of
    responsibility and duty that descended upon each man's conscience
    was never taken lightly or easily forgotten, even under the most
    trying of circumstances.
        Their quarters consisted of large brick or stone barracks,
    with guard rooms for 10 to 20 men.  Each man had a wooden wall
    locker for storage of uniforms and equipment, with rifles being
    locked away in an arms rack. Bunks were wooden doubled decked,
    with straw mattresses.
      These brick wall enclosed military "Kasernes" were off limits
    to all civilian and unauthorized personnel. Special approval had
    to be granted by the Kaiser for any foreign officer to enter the
    compound.  There were usually three barracks buildings for an
    infantry regiment, one for each battalion, with other
    outbuildings providing two mess halls, 4 toilet buildings, a
    drill building for inclement weather, and a number of other
    buildings used for various fatigue duties, storage, and cleaning
      Within each of the three 4 or 5 story barracks buildings was a
    number of wash and storage rooms, equipment cleaning rooms, sick
    room, detention room, officer administrative rooms, and a few
    training officer/NCO rooms. Heat was provided by steam, or
    individual stoves of tile or cast iron.  Our large city US
    National guard buildings would be comparable to these facilities.
      The mess hall was next to the barracks where in most cases, the
    soldiers ate their meals, with only a few instances of soldiers
    eating in their rooms.  In this mess hall was the battalion
    barber shop, tailor shop, shoe/bootmaker, armorer shop, and
    canteen, making it a hub of activity for the new recruits.
      Meals were prepared in the kitchens by those who held
    comparable jobs in civilian life.  This rule of using qualified
    technical personnel held true for each specialized service within
    the compound.  In some cases, their pay was slightly higher to
    compensate their skill level.
      Breakfast was usually coffee w/milk and rye bread with whatever
    toppings were available through various sources.
      The substantial noon meal was usually a cooked one with some
    sort of stew(beef, mutton, or pork) prepared in large kettles.
    The light supper meal was tea, coffee, or chocolate and bread.
    Soup was served on occasions.  Fruits and desserts were not
    provided. The subsistence was meager, but it taught the soldier
    frugality and endurance which would prove useful in the front.
    The soldier was expected to add to his meal from his own pocket,
    particularly breakfast and supper.  The meager rations forced
    families to send food, money and creature comforts to their loved
    ones, thus greatly reducing the expenses of the government.  In
    addition, the families of the soldiers were forced to become a
    part of the military machine by playing a very important role in
    the subsistence and comfort of each of "their" soldiers.  This
    carefully crafted idea was not an accident, and it worked quite
    well throughout the war.  In the American Army, anything sent
    from home was a luxury, but in the German Army it was viewed as a
      The day of a soldier began with the awakening of the training
    NCO at 0445 by the barracks guard, after which the men were
    awakened and did their morning washing, shaving, and barracks
    cleaning and tidying up.  At about 0545, the training
    Unterofficers formed squads under arms in the barracks for
    personal inspection.  Ten minutes later the squads were formed by
    the training First Sgt. and the corporals reported their squads.
    The training lieutenants arrived at 0600 and the Sgt. reported
    the company to the senior Lt. present.  Officers then inspected
    their respective platoons and the senior Lt. reported to the
    commanding officer upon his arrival.  First Sergeants then
    reported all discrepancies, leaves, and company matters with the
    commanding officer. The company commander handed out punishments,
    made decisions of leaves, etc., then marched the men to the drill
    field, returning at about 1115 hours for noon meal.  At 1200 noon
    the first Sgt received the next days orders from battalion
    headquarters, which he reported to the to the company commander
    and received instructions for the company.  In the afternoon, the
    troops were drilled on the parade ground, put through physical
    exercises, or participated in other unit activities.  Upon
    completion of the assigned daily routine, troops returned to the
    barracks and prepared for the evening meal, after which they were
    free to visit the canteen where 5 pfennings bought half a litre
    of beer and 1 pfenning a pipe of tobacco.
      Actual individual barracks training, aside from the normal
    drill, consisted of hygiene, physical training, bayonet drill,
    and rifle manual of arms accompanied by practice sighting and dry
    fire.  The German soldier was probably more proficient with the
    rifle than most armies on continental Europe.  At about their
    11-12th week of training, recruits began live fire exercises.
    Meanwhile, weekly trips to the field with full packs increased
    their stamina, with loads being increased to maximum 59-1/2
    pounds by training's end. By the first week of February, the unit
    was ready for inspection by the commanding officer, who judged
    their proficiency and assigned those who passed the test to a
    permanent position within the company.  The new recruits then
    went on to company level training which lasted 6 weeks, after
    which they were expected to perform all aspects of company level
    maneuvers and drills.  Upon satisfactory completion of this
    phase, the company went on to Battalion drill for two weeks,
    after which they were reviewed and inspected by the Regimental
    commander and other dignitaries such as General Staff officers.
      Summer field exercise training began in May to prepare for
    regimental inspection in August.  Divisional exercises then
    followed, and in September, each fall Corps maneuvers took place.
    The famous "Kaisermaneuvers", or yearly mock engagements to which
    many foreign heads of states and other dignitaries were invited,
    involved 3 or 4 designated Army Corps. Winston S. Churchill
    attended the 1906 & 1909 maneuvers, and Theodore Roosevelt was
    the Kaiser's guest in 1910.    A unit could win the coveted Army
    Corps "Kaiserschiessabzeichen" (straight sided crown for Prussian
    Army Corps), or "Konigschiessabzeichen"(swelled sided crown for
    Bavarian, Saxon, or Wurttemberg Army Corps) if they excelled in
    marksmanship and tactical maneuvering on a specially prepared
    combat shooting course set up in the countryside with silhouette
    targets.  Machine gun units competed every other year. There were
    also individual shooting "cords" to be won for marksmanship
    within each regiment.  September was an ideal month since the
    weather was usually good, crops had been harvested, and the
    soldiers due for discharge were in their last month of duty.
    After these maneuvers, the units returned to garrison, those due
    for discharge were released, and new recruits inducted.
      The pay for a German soldier in 1904 was not high to US
    standards, but very equal in European standards.  The German
    soldier was paid on the 1st, 11th, and 21st of each month.  In
    1904, the private received an equivalent of $1.65 at each payday.
    The NEW pay scale, according to the April 1918 German Army
    Handbook, lists the DAILY pay rates as follows (in "marks", with
    one mark being equal to about 1 English shilling, or $.24 US):


      Feldwebel                                                                                      5.00
      Vizefeldwebel                                                                              2.53
      Sgt/Unteroffizier(after 5-1/2 years)                                2.25
      Unteroffizier                                                                              1.60
      Gefreiter (dismounted)                                                              .75
      Private(Musketier)                                                                      .70

      A private in the German Army made about $5.10 US per month(30-
    day month), whereas a US soldier made 30.00/month w/an extra
    $6.00 if on "foreign" service.  This was comparable to other
    European Army pay, and it taught the soldier to spend his money
    on necessities and hardened them for tough times in the field.
      Promotions were reserved for the career soldiers.  Seldom did a
    two year recruit receive any rank.  The unit commander made all
    recommendations for promotions when a vacancy appeared, which was
    then approved by the regimental commanders.  One year volunteers
    with excellent records and at least 9 months service could be


                                      Organization in the Field

      At the outbreak of WWI, Army strength stood at 30,037 officers,
    106,477 NCO's, and 647,811 enlisted men(of which about 18,000 one
    year volunteers).  The Army also maintained about 40,000
    administrative personnel.
        The Kaiser was Commander in Chief of all Imperial German
    Armies, except the Bavarian Army, which came under his control
    only in time of war.  All kingdoms and municipalities followed
    the lead of the Prussian Armies, with minor distinctive uniform
    designs and headgear helmet plate variations.  The Armies and
    units of states that had opposed Prussia in the Austro-Prussian
    War of 1866, other than Bavaria, Saxony, and Wurttemburg, had
    been absorbed or annexed to Prussia.  Others more fortunate only
    signed over their military rights.  All contingents, except
    Bavaria, were absorbed into the Prussian military machine.
    Bavaria survived intact due to its close friendly ties with
    France, with whom Prussia was on good terms at that time and that
    careful balance could not be upset quite yet(until the Franco
    -Prussian war of 1870).
      A typical 1914 Army corps (of which there were 24) was
    comprised of 2 infantry divisions, and 2 each artillery and
    cavalry divisions.  Each of these three types of divisions had
    two brigades of two regiments each, thus within an Army Corps
    there were 24 infantry Battalions, 20 cavalry squadrons, and 32
    field artillery batteries.  In addition, each Corps had a Jaeger,
    pioneer, and train battalion, along with some other small
    detachments of support for their troops.
      The peacetime infantry regiment (and Jaeger Batln.) had a
    machine gun company with 6 Heavy sled mount MG08 Maxim machine
    guns(HMG) and one spare.  In 1915/16, there was a need for
    additional firepower, so special supplementary machine gun
    sections consisting of 30-40 men with 3 or 4 guns were created.
    These sections were attached as required to the infantry
    regiments, and in many cases were immediately absorbed to create
    a 2nd machine gun company per regiment, so that by the end of
    1915, several regiments had two machine gun companies. During the
    winter of 1915-16, after initial successes of the machine gun on
    the battlefield, a new "Machine Gun Marksman Sections"(MGSS) were
    organized and trained to fully exploit the full potential of that
    weapon.  These men underwent a 4 to 5 week school that
    specialized in the use of the machine gun in an attack.  These
    newly formed 200 units were specially allotted to infantry
    regiments engaged in offensive maneuvers or holding very
    difficult sections of front line.  They were first used at Verdun
    in March, 1916.

      In the beginning of 1916, the quantity of machine guns had
    increased from 1600 in peacetime to over 8,000.  Use of the
    weapon had designated it an extremely important instrument both
    in defense and attack.  Machine gun production in 1916 rose to
    about 3000 per month, with a figure of 14,400 per month reached
    by Fall of 1917.  By July of 1916, over 11,000 machine guns were
    employed and would rise to 16,000 by the end of the year, a
    figure which included many captured enemy weapons.  September
    1916 saw every infantry regiment with 3 machine gun companies of
    6 guns each (1st, 2nd, 3rd), one for each battalion.  The 2nd and
    3rd MG companies were formed from all of the supplemental units
    on the field.  In addition, the MGSS sections were converted into
    companies identical to the other MG companies.  These companies
    were then organized into an MGSS detachment of 3 companies each,
    and acted as a reserve, usually for a Division engaged in active
    operations. They proudly wore on their left sleeve a metal badge
    of an MG08 heavy machine gun surrounded by a belt of cartridges.
      By 1917, the number of guns per company was raised from 6 to
    12. In addition, the new MG08/15 light machine gun (LMG)
    introduced in 1916, was issued to all infantry battalions. By the
    end of 1917, every infantry company on the Western front had
    received  3 LMG, and some with 6, the number intended per
    company.  The units themselves provided personnel and training
    for these guns, thus no extra personnel were needed.
      At the beginning of 1918, each active division was expected to
    have 3 LMG per company, 12 HMG per Battalion, and 36 HMG in a
    marksman detachment, for a total of 108 LMG, and 144 heavy MG.
    The total number of machine guns in use by January 1918 was an
    incredible 32,000 HMG, and 37,000 LMG.

      The Maxim MG08 heavy machine gun had a sight limit of 2,200
    yards, muzzle velocity of 2821 fps, extreme range of 4,400 yards,
    and could fire 400-500 rounds per minute.  The 250 round belt
    weighed 16 pounds and could be carried in single or double cans.
    Weight of entire gun assembled was 140 pounds with 7 pints of
    water.  The ammunition used was ordinary ball (S.), armor
    piercing (S.m.K) for use against tanks, loophole plates and
    tracer (L.S.) at 1 to 10 rounds.  Explosive bullets saw limited
    use against aircraft, but was not in widespread use, being almost
    entirely dropped by the end of the war as being ineffective as
      Issuing of the MG08/15 LMG, a scaled down shoulder fired
    version of the MG08 HMG design, began in March 1917 as a counter
    measure to the .303 British Lewis LMG.  With great determination
    it can be fired by one man, but through experience and use, it is
    somewhat impractical, however, it did fill a slot for a much
    needed lighter assault type machine gun without a total redesign
    and tooling process.  It weighed 43 pounds with bipod and held 5
    pints of water, and had all of the characteristics of the MG08
    except in lighter form.  Some internal parts are interchangeable
    with the MG08 for simplification of production.  Although
    destined to take a side mounted spindle type magazine, it could
    also be used with all standard belts and boxes of the HMG.

      Both the MG08/15 LMG and the MG08 HMG guns were of the usual
    high quality German craftsmanship, with all parts serial numbered
    to their respective guns, including all spare parts.  Both
    weapons required great skill and care to keep them in functioning
    order, and it was not unusual, after extensive initial front line
    use, to have only 2 out of every 3 guns in operation at any one
    time.  Barrel accuracy was about 10,000 round for ordinary ammo,
    even less for special ammo.  It was not unusual for a gun to go
    through 50,000 rounds during a major engagement, a usage that
    does extreme damage to the fine-tuned parts within the gun.
      Spring of 1918 saw the introduction of a light 9mm
    submachinegun called the MP18 Bergmann, but only about 32,000
    were produced, and they were issued out only to special assault
    teams, with their full potential never really studied or expanded
    upon before the war ended.



    This information was complied mostly from government sources, but
    the one source that I must credit most is "Regimental Steins" by
    Major John L. Harrell, Ret., 1983. Long out of print, my copy is
    worn and falling apart from use. If you can obtain a copy - do
    so. His information in the beginning of the book is the best I
    have encountered on understanding the German soldier prior to
    WWI.  His information was most valuable to compile the story. I
    have told him this in person. Do not be fooled, the book covers
    more than just "German Steins" and I use it at least once a week
    for quick German Unit reference material.


                                    The German Storm Trooper of 1917-18
                                                    By Richard H.Keller

    I believe I wrote this for On The Wire many years ago. Anyway,
    here it is agin for the readers enjoyment. Pardon the text
    arrangement - our old computer in which this was written - Q & A
    MS DOS - so in the transfer process into the newer language it
    comes out differently. I just do not have time to fine tune it.

      The December 1917 armistice with Russia released over 400,000
    German troops to bolster the Western front in Spring 1918.  This
    was the largest and last supply of Fresh troops that Germany
    could muster. It was their last chance for an all out Spring
    offensive in 1918, hopefully before the American contingents
    could be of any real use to the Allies.  The newly trained and
    battle tested "storm" troops would play an important part in the
    Germany's last chance to either break the stalemate, or force
    France and England, by sheer military strength, into an armistice
    in Germany's favor.
      The "Strosstruppen", or storm troops were created by order as
    early as March 1915, with recruiting by mostly voluntary basis
    only until late 1917.  It's main purpose was to test new weapons,
    both on and off of the battlefield, that might break the deadlock
    of trench warfare.  Most of these troops were drawn from pioneer
    units, whose training included use of special weapons and tactics
    to cut through enemy defense, creating a hole that the main
    forces could utilize for a breakthrough.  These early "special
    forces" were the first to test the new steel helmet at Verdun in
    1916, and later the body armor, trench shields, light machine
    guns, and various small trench mortars, grenade launchers, and
    specialized cannon designed for close quarter combat in tight
        After a series of successes and failures in late 1915 and
    early 1916, the new storm troop tactics begin to yield successes,
    especially in trench raids and special assaults, and every Army
    on the Western front was ordered to send a contingent of officers
    and NCO's to be trained in the new tactics, which they eventually
    could carry back to their command an teach it a front line level.
    By October 1916, the success of the operation was such that
    General Ludendorf ordered all German armies to train and maintain
    a battalion of storm troops.  The concept of specialized forces
    was not a new one among the existing Armies, as many units had
    already organized their own form of "storm troops" to deal with
    special weapons and tactics on their particular front, so the
    ground work had been laid to aid in the formation of these
    special units into the newly conceived Strosstruppen formations.
        The new soldiers of these special units began to take on a new
    appearance.  Each soldier was left to distribute and carry his
    equipment in the most comfortable fashion affordable, thus was
    born the new lightweight "assault" pack to replace the standard
    German fur back pack.  They were the first to adopt the new steel
    helmet as a standard part of their gear, much to the envy of
    other troops who were still wearing the spiked helmet, and many a
    Storm Trooper lost his new helmet to those men if not guarded
    constantly.  The 14" high boots gave way to shoes and leg wraps,
    which was better for support and climbing. Their tactics included
    a wide use of grenades, requiring them to carry a large supply
    onto the field, usually in special double "grenade" bags made of
    burlap sand bags slung under around the neck and under each arm.
    Uniforms were re-enforced with leather patches at spots most
    likely to wear while maneuvering on the field.  Carbines,
    pistols, trench clubs and grenades were standard armament for
    these men. The MG08/15 light machine gun played a key role in
    their operations to block off re-enforcements to positions they
    had taken. Use of the Granatenwerfer (light bomb thrower) and cup
    launchers could prepare an area for assault or pin down an enemy
    force that was a threat to the operation.  A platoon of 4-8
    flamethrowers was usually attached to each storm battalion, but
    their action was usually of short duration on the initial
        The early years of the strosstruppen was relatively low key,
    being that of special assaults on enemy lines to gain vital
    information through booty and prisoners, or countering trench
    raids conducted by the Allies.  This period of training and
    development was key to the part yet to come in the Spring of
    1918.  Only the British attack on Cambrai in 1917, and the
    resulting successful counterattack led by the strosstruppen, gave
    any indication of just how effective these new formations were
    becoming, and the Allied intelligence communities were making
    every effort to assess and counter this newly arrived threat with
    tactics of their own.  The Allies were well aware that 1918 would
    be a crucial year, and their tactics had to be redesigned to meet
    this new threat.
        One of the major changes in storm troop techniques was the
    training and resulting ability of NCO's to make tactical
    decisions on the field.  This often proved the difference between
    success and failure of an attack.  By 1917, training of new
    recruits became focused on the new techniques.  The usual
    "drilling" of men was regarded as depriving them of their
    individualism and pride in personal accomplishments which now
    needed to take precedence over all other mindless training.
    Those already in the front lines were rotated back to training
    depots to rest and retrain in the latest tactics, with new skills
    being taught by these new "stormtroop" instructors.  Specific
    objectives were often rehearsed on full scale models, with every
    possible piece of enemy intelligence at their disposal to aid
    their plan.
          By 1918, every soldier was expected to be a small piece of
    the "stormtroop" tactical advantage, and all were anxious to
    practice their new skills.  The prime tactical unit was now the
    infantry squad, with 18 squads in a company, each one trained in
    a specific task during an assault, 6 of them being machine-gun.
    Moral became high among the actual "stormtroop" battalion as they
    were no longer limited to sitting in the mud and taking whatever
    was being thrown their direction.  These highly respected men
    were always a welcome addition to any offensive and were usually
    in the midst of the hottest action or indirectly supporting a
    major engagement with the newest weapons at their disposal.  Most
    engagements in which they participated were carried out at night,
    with the force being withdrawn and out of danger by morning.
    Their successes, no matter how small, were publicized from the
    homefront to the front line newspapers, feeding a new spirit of
    accomplishment and hope into a worried and anxious populace.
    They soon became a romantic figure and Germany's last hope to
    instill fighting spirit into it's last reserve of 1918 recruits,
    with the ultimate hope that these new "supermen" could somehow
    pull off the miracle that would break the stalemate of the
    Western front.
      The Ludendorf offensive Spring 1918 saw the greatest and last
    offensive that it's armed forces could muster.  The infantry
    assaults were now based on the stormtroop principal of light,
    fast moving small tactical units, or squads, to accomplish
    flanking and infiltrating tactics designed to fragment and
    isolate the opponents, leaving "mop-up" operations to the
    following waves of infantry who could take advantage of their
    sheer weight of numbers to demoralize and overwhelm those pockets
    of resistance left behind.  Their orders were to stop for
    nothing, to advance regardless of the cost, counting on each
    flanking unit to secure their respective goals.  This led to
    extremely heavy losses in the early attacks, with the rapid
    advance often putting the attacking forces beyond the reach of
    supporting heavy artillery needed to penetrate the heavier
    fortifications behind the thinner front line resistance.  Through
    June of 1918, the Stormtroops hammered at the Allied defenses,
    achieving limited victories but being unable to capitalize upon
    those successes in the grand scale needed to break the deadlock.
    The fresh supplies of non-essential material captured by the
    Germans was so overwhelming that they begin to see the
    hopelessness of their situation, as Germany was being starved
    into demoralization, both at home and at the front, with no hope
    in sight for relief.  Of paramount importance was the realization
    that the Allies were not on the brink of destruction as their war
    ministers had preached, but were well supplied and prepared for
    an all out offensive in 1918-1919 that would be unstoppable.  The
    last crushing shock was the undeniable truth that the great
    tactical advantage of the Stormtroops was being hopelessly wasted
    on the battlefield against an undefeatable foe to better position
    themselves at the bargaining table and at a great cost in the
    blood of Germany's youth.  The plan of negotiating a peace
    through victories on the battlefield did not match the stark
    reality that the Allies were not on verge of defeat, thus the
    great Spring Offensive ground to a halt, with moral at an all
    time low.
        The frontline stalemate, although altered in some ways,
    remained unchanged, and the German troops went on a defensive
    that would only delay the inevitable defeat to come.  To their
    credit, they continued to fight to the bitter end, organizing a
    fluid in depth defensive system that cost the Allies dearly in
    men and material, but through it all, the realization was driven
    home to every soldier that their politicians had wasted needless
    lives to achieve the resulting hollow victory.  The Army, never
    intending to give up on the battlefield nor negotiate in good
    faith with the Allies, eventually turned Germany over to the
    politicians to work out a surrender, thus setting the stage for
    the military arm, which never actually surrendered, to place the
    blame of a catastrophic defeat in the hands of the politicians
    and not the Army.  In doing thus, Germany was ripe for a new
    birth of military patriotism to sweep it into a second world war,
    and to eventually have happen what should have happened in 1918,
    the total destruction of the German war machine along with the
    mentality of the invincibility of its armed forces that made both
    wars possible.

          Casualties within the German empire during the four year
    conflict amounted to over 2,000,000 men(exact figures were never
    calculated), about 1/6th of those mobilized.  A large part,
    almost 40%, died in the Spring 1918 conflicts.  Most casualties
    on the battlefield(possibly as high as 70%), were caused by
    shards of jagged metal from high explosive shells and shrapnel
    shells loaded with hundreds of lead balls which burst over the
    soldiers heads and showered them with a deadly rain of high
    velocity pellets, much like a giant shotgun blast.  With the use
    of indirect fire, made possible by aerial observation,
    quick-firing guns of all sides could lay down a wall of shrapnel
    and steel that not even a pigeon could fly through, and maintain
    that wall for hours on end. The French counted on this to stop
    the German hordes, and it worked all too well.

            It is beyond question that Germany had the best trained and
    best uniformed army in the world in 1900.  It's weapons exports
    ranked it number one in the world, and it's military influence
    spread around the globe.  Twelve countries adopted the spiked
    helmet by direct German influence (the united States in 1872 and
    The United Kingdom in 1878).

          One can almost sum up the military madness leading up to WWI
    by reading the Latin inscription found on the barrels of the
    Model 1896 77mm cannon - ""Ultima Ratio Regis". Loosely
    translated it reads  "The final argument of Kings".  Up to WWI,
    the varied kingdoms of Europe looked at their real armies as
    nothing more than an extension of their soldiers in model war
    games, a popular pastime of the period, with their brightly
    uniformed "toy" soldiers battling on a mock landscape.  The kings
    of Europe vied with each other for the admiration of the world
    through military pomp and pageantry, dressing their real armies
    in a multitude of colorful and exotic uniforms and headdress,
    preparing for the real thing when negotiations at the tables
    failed, forgetting about how updated means of killing far
    outweighed the reality of going to war under the traditional
    tactics of parade ground maneuvers.  This mentality of playing
    "soldiers" on a grand scale was instilled in every country in
    Europe when the war started, and even after the realization that
    this was no small "king's" war, it was impossible to stop the
    monstrous war machines once unleashed.    The anticipated 3 month
    victory turned into quagmires of depression and blood that erased
    forever the idea of "playing" war without considering battlefield
    technological advances.  War now became death without actual
    contact, with no eye-to-eye meeting on the glorious field of
    battle as had been done by their ancestors and romanticized
    through European literature.  It became a harsh reality of death
    under unimaginable circumstances that would crush a soldier's
    spirit long before the shells could crush his body.  After 1914,
    the "king's" put away their old notions of war with their fancy
    toy soldiers, packing them away on a shelf, never to be looked at
    or played with again in the time-honored tradition of long past.
    Future wars would be fought with carefully planned world
    strategies and the best combined weapons technology - land, sea
    and air. World War I was truly the last argument of the royal
    houses of Europe, the last "argument of Kings".

                                Strength and Mobilization

      In 1914 each regiment contained a regimental staff of 4
    officers, 37 bandsmen, and 12 other ranks (w/16 horses and one
    wagon), three battalions of 18 Lieutenants, a medical officer
    w/assistant, paymaster, and 1054 other ranks.(commanded by
    majors),  of 4 companies each w/5 officers, 259 OR's, 10 horses
    and 4 vehicles, divided into three platoons(zugs) consisting of 4
    sections divided into two groups of 8 men each commanded by a
    gefreiter., and a 13th company (MG) added in 1913 as weapons
    became available.

              Mobilization process activated 435 regiments of infantry:
    218 regular army, 113 reserve, and 75 Landwher, the balance being
    formed by grouping the 86 Ersatz Battalions into regiments.  166
    from Prussia, 24 from Bavaria, 17 from Saxony, and 10 from

    By war's end, the number of infantry regiments had risen to 700,
    364 regular, 197 reserve, 125 Landwher, 10 ersatz, and 4 reserve

                      Other interesting WWI FACTS & FIGURES

                                    CASUALTIES and COSTS

    These figures vary from book to book, but this will give the
    reader and idea of numbers and dollars involved.

    Estimated cost of WWI in U.S.Dollars:

      Russia                    $30,000,000,000
      Britain                    56,000,000,000
      France                      32,000,000,000
      United States        40,000,000,000
      Italy                        12,000,000,000
      Rumania                    3,000,000,000
      Serbia                        3,000,000,000
      Germany                    45,000,000,000
      Austria-Hungary    25,000,000,000
      Turkey                        5,000,000,000
      Bulgaria                    2,000,000,000

    Total cost of World War One is estimated at $249,000,000,000

    The cost in MEN:
                        Mobilized        DEAD          Wounded      Missing      TOTAL

      U.S.        4,272,521      67,813      192,483      14,363        274,659
    *England  7,500,000    692,065    2,037,325    360,367    3,089,757
      France    7,500,000  1,385,300  2,675,000    446,300    4,506,600
      Italy      5,500,000      460,000      947,000  1,393,000    2,800,000
      Belgium      267,000        20,000        60,000        10,000          90,000
      Russia  12,000,000  1,700,000  4,950,000  2,500,000    9,500,000
      Japan          800,000              300              907                  3            1,210
      Rumania    750,000        200,000    120,000        80,000        400,000
      Serbia        707,343        322,000      28,000      100,000        450,000
      Montenegro  50,000            3,000      10,000          7,000          20,000
      Greece        230,000          15,000      40,000        45,000        100,000
      Portugal    100,000            4,000      15,000              200          10,000
                        -    -  -
      Total    39,676,864    4,869,478 11,075,715 4,956,233    20,892,226

                                                      CENTRAL POWERS

    Germany  11,000,000    1,611,104  3,683,143    772,522    6,066,769
    Austria-  6,500,000        800,000  3,200,000 1,211,000    5,211,000
    Bulgaria      400,000        201,224      152,399        10,825        264,448
    Turkey      1,600,000        300,000      570,000      130,000    1,000,000
                          -  -  -  -
    Total      19,500,000    2,912,328  7,605,542  2,124,347  12,542,217

    Total      59,176,864    7,176,806 18,681,257  7,080,580  33,434,443

    *Canada sent approximately 800,000 men overseas, sustained
    220,182 casualties: 60,383 dead, 155,790 wounded, 4,000
    missing/prisoners. Australia sent 336,000 men overseas, sustained
    290,191 casualties: 54,431 dead, 156,000 wounded 3,401

    Now one can see why WWII was slow to evolve. No one in the World
    wanted another war, thus Hitler was able to rise to power
    unchallenged until it was too late to stop his war machine from
    starting a Second World War.

                                          The Race with the Hun

    The first half of 1918 was a race between Germany trying to
    defeat France and England before America could rescue them. The
    following is a summary of that race which America (to Europe's
    relief) won. It is safe to say that without America's help,
    Europe would have been a different world today.

    1917                    Ships Sailed              U.S.Troops Transported

    May                                5                                      1,543
    June                            18                                    15,091
    July                            15                                    12,876
    August                        17                                    19,403
    September                  27                                    33,588
    October                      24                                    40,027
    November                    19                                    23,722
    December                    25                                    48,815


    January                      26                                    48,055
    February                    22                                    49,239
    March                          45                                    85,710
    April                          63                                  120,072
    May                            141                                  247,714
    June                          128                                  280,434
    July                          147                                  311,359
    August                      140                                  286,375
    September                129                                  259,670
    October                    127                                  184,063
    to Nov 11                  24                                    12,124
                                                                  Total 2,079,880

    Of these troops, 52% were carried by British ships but nearly 83%
    were escorted through submarine zones by U.S. Naval vessels. The
    U.S.Navy operated the transports which carried 44% of men. The
    remainder of the escorts were supplied by the British.


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