following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter
& was done so with permission of the publisher.
We would like to thank him for his generosity as well
as thank all those who have contributed to this
article. It is with their efforts, we are able
to share this valuable research with the rest of you.
The nine-man squad...
Almost every piece of detailed
information pertaining to the German Infantry squad is
based around a unit which is 10 men strong. One
of our first indications that this may not have been
the standard, especially in 1944, came during an
interview with Alfred
Becker, an ex-Gefreiter of the 326th
Volksgrenadier Division. When asked to explain
the duties of the 10 men in a German Gruppe, he
don't remember 10 men (in the fall of 1944).
I can't remember what we had in France, but
when I came back, I know we had only 9 men
in a Gruppe. I was a Stellvertretende
Gruppenführer, or the assistant
commander of the Gruppe. I had a
Karabiner and a smoke grenade. Later
when I commanded the Gruppe, I had the
Machinenpistole. Our Gruppenführer
was an Obergefreiter and had a
Maschinenpistole and a pair of binoculars.
He also had some colored ground-flags to
make the American planes think we were on
their side, because the American soldiers
used them to mark their Stellungs.
These he wanted me to carry, and I threw
them away later. There was a machine
gun soldier and his two helpers. The
two helpers carried metal boxes with the
machine-gun Gurt (MG belts) in them.
Then there was four Schützen with
Karabiners. I was supposed to use
these four guys to protect the machine-gun.
This made 9 men in all, we never had 10.
After the first battle you wouldn't even
have 9, maybe 6 or so because you would lose
some. We might get new guys from other
Gruppen that had lost their machine-gun.
You never wanted to lose your machine-gun.
If you did, they would divide the survivors
up and put them into other Gruppen that
still had their gun. Of course we
wanted to stay together, but after enough of
the original gang was gone, it didn't really
an interview dated Jan. 12, 1989)
have recently received even better information from
Mr. Vince Milano, who developed some remarkable
correspondence with a number of veterans, one of whom
was an ex-Hauptman in the 916th Grenadier Regiment (of
Normandy fame). This veteran, Hans Heinze,
provided some details regarding squad organization
during the Normandy campaign:
strengths had been re-adjusted from the time
I was an enlisted man from 10 per Gruppe
down to 9 but with an increase in
fire-power... First was the Gruppenführer,
usually an Unteroffizier, who carried an MP.
The MG 1 and 2: the light machine-gun team
armed with the MG 42 without the tripod.
This team was directed by the Gruppenführer.
One man with a Schießbecher, the
grenade launching rifle. Another man,
the assistant Gruppenführer with a
self-loading rifle (semi-auto) with the rank
of Obergefreiter who also commanded the
other four men who were armed with carbines.
This, on paper, was a very effective
fighting unit but we did not always have
what was on paper. Many times,
especially in combat, the Gruppen were only
about 5-6 men including the MG team,
commanded by an Obergefreiter or Gefreiter.
Each man was required to carry an additional
200 rounds in belts for the MG, exclusive of
what the 1 and 2 were carrying was 1400
rounds. We tried to recover all of the
MGs and other weapons that would give us
more fire-power against the Amis (G.I.s).
Of course everyone carried as many grenades
as he could, very important in hedgerow
fighting, and when we could get them
from correspondence from H. Heinze dated
March 21, 1986, and included in a letter
from V. Milano to E. Tobey dated Feb. 4,
communication with Mr. Milano provided the following
information: That the self-loading rifle
referred to was usually the G/K-43, or (more rarely)
the G-41. The grenade launcher was generally
given to the most experienced Grenadier in the rifle
team. The reason for this last custom was
because the Schießbecher was a rather difficult
weapon to master.
differences in the equipment as recalled by these two
veterans may have been due to several factors.
One may have been supply difficulties experienced by
the 326th late in the war. A more likely
explanation would have been in the level of training
the two units had. The 352nd Division (of which
GR 916 was a part) was recognized as a well-trained,
motivated, and effective combat unit prior to its
commitment in Normandy. The 326th, on the other
hand, (in the words of Al Becker) "...were so
poorly taught that some of the men had only ever fired
a half-dozen live rounds in their Karabiners in
training..." It only makes sense,
therefore, given Mr. Milano's comments on the
experience level needed to operate a weapon like the
Schießbecher, that the 326th was to ill-trained to
justify the issue of weapons like the G-43 and grenade
rather humorous commentary on the other extreme of
German squad organization was provided by Ferdinand
(Fred) Pleschik who was a member of Landesschützen
Battalion 856 during 1943 and 1944:
machines guns? We had, mein Gott, I
dunno, maybe 6 men in our group. Our
leader was a big fat Unteroffizier who had a
revolver that burned his hand every time he
shoot it. He hated to shoot the thing.
Good thing for us maybe because he had
glasses thick as portholes. He
probably would have plinked one of us.
We all had these Russian guns, still had the
star on the metal. These guns were big
and clumsy, about as much a precision
instrument as a sledge hammer. But
simple, just the type of thing you would
want to issue to some dumb Ivan who needs
training just to use a spoon.
Grenades? Ha ha ha. If we had
them, old Papa Strohman probably wouldn't be
here talking to you today... we did have a
few of the kind with a handle on them... we
weren't exactly one of the best units, you
an interview dated August 10th, 1990)
would der Erste Zug's impressions fit into this range
of organization? Well, since most of the time we
do not portray units of "Papa Strohman's"
quality, we will follow the Gruppe setup described by
Becker & Heinze.