The goal of this article is to help understand the German Army's system of documenting the organization and equipment of their unit types.

To illustrate the document types, a leichte Panzer-Aufklärungskompanie (gepanzert) (freie Gliederung) (light, armored, armor reconnaissance company without non-combat sections) is used as an example throughout. Note that the examples are from different dates (1 July 1944, 1 November 1944, and 1 April 1944 respectively) so there are some differences in the numbers.

Only parts of the documents are shown, as they are only intended as illustrations of the structure of the documents. Note that armored armor is not a writing error, but rather refers to it being a reconnaissance unit that is allocated to an armored parent unit (such as a tank division), and that the reconnaissance unit itself is equipped with armored vehicles.

Document Format

Because modern computers did not exist at the time, documentation within the German armed forces during the Second World War were largely based on the A4 paper standard size (210 by 297 millimeters, slightly shorter than the US Legal paper size). Larger paper sizes did exist, but other than for printed maps, they were impractical for field use. Most documents were written on standard typewriters, which were unable to fit paper sizes larger than the A4 size. As a result, document folders, binders and boxes were also designed around that format.

Documentation of organization and equipment followed the same format, to allow them to be typed up on a typewriter and to be stored easily. Due to this format limitation, the information in the tables had to be condensed. This meant using both abbreviations and notation standards that are not always explained on each document. The documents can therefore be difficult to understand without knowing a lot of information in advance, and even then, can be tricky to fully decipher.

While pre-printed templates were sometimes used, especially early in the war, the contents of the documents was almost always filled out on a typewriter. This naturally created variations due to spelling errors and different ways of writing by different typists.

Document Types and Use

German unit types were documented using three types of documents:

Gliederung (structure)
A very overall drawing of the unit structure and its combat capability.
Stärkenachweisung (strength allocation)
Detailed list of the personnel of the unit, as well as all weapons and vehicles.
Ausrüstungsnachweisung (equipment allocation)
Full list of all the weapons, equipment, and ammunition of the unit.

During wartime, the documents had Krieg (war) added to their names, i.e., Kriegsgliederung, Kriegsstärkenachweisung (K St N), and Kriegsausrüstungsnachweisung (KAN). In peacetime, the Stärkenachweisung instead had the word Frieden (peace) in front, i.e., Friedenstärkenachweisung.

Unit modularity

The standard unit types were usually at company or platoon level. These standard units could then be used to design larger units, such as a battalion, a regiment, or a division. This allowed the same standard unit, such as a reconnaissance or maintenance company, to be used in multiple battalions and divisions.

Naming standard

Each Kriegsstärkenachweisung and Kriegsausrüstungsnachweisung had a three- or four-digit number, a date, and a name. These numbers, dates, and names were identical, to easily associate them with each other.

Number

The numbers were roughly grouped according to branch. For example, most armored units had numbers in the range 1100 to 1200.

In addition to the number, different variants of a unit type often existed at the same time. These variants would typically be units with slightly different personnel size or different major core equipment. This could for example be whether a reconnaissance company had wheeled, half-tracked or tracked reconnaissance vehicles. These variations received different lower-case letters after their numbers, starting with a.

While a majority of the standard units could function independently, some were designed to be even smaller building blocks. These units were referred to as Teileinheit (T.E.) (component units), which was added to the front of their number.

As the war progressed and Germany was facing manpower shortages, many units had their organization adjusted to increase the overall fighting strength of the German Army. These units were given the header Kriegsetat 44. In addition, many company-sized units had their non-combat support sections, such as the maintenance section, combat train, and baggage train, removed. This allowed non-combat personnel to be transferred to combat units. These units were referred to as having freie Gliederung (f.G.) (free structure), which was appended to their number.

Date

In addition to the number, a date was always mentioned with the number. This allowed the same number to be used as new equipment became available, while still making it clear which version was being referred to. The date was not necessarily the exact date at which the unit organization table was officially published, and many related unit organization tables typically had the same date.

Example of Unit Design

This example shows how the reconnaissance battalion of a 1944 tank division is designed using a number of standard sub-units:

List of valid K St N and KAN for Panzer-Division 44, Status 1 August 1944

Applying to K St N KAN
[…]
Armored, armor reconnaissance battalion
Staff and staff company of an armored, armor reconnaissance battalion without non-combat support sections 1109 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1109 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Armored car company c without non-combat support sections 1162 c (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1162 c (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Light, armored, armor reconnaissance company without non-combat support sections 1113 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1113 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Armored, armor infantry company c without non-combat support sections
or
Armored, armor reconnaissance company without non-combat support sections
1114 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 July 1944
1114 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 July 1944
Component unit: Heavy, armored, motorized command company a without non-combat support sections 1121 a (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1121 a (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Component unit: Heavy, armored 75 mm gun platoon without non-combat support sections 1125 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1125 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Component unit: Armored 80 mm mortar platoon (6 mortars) without non-combat support sections 1126 a (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1126 a (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Component unit: Armored engineer platoon a without non-combat support sections 1124 a (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1124 a (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
Support company for an armored, armor reconnaissance battalion without non-combat support sections 1180 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
1180 (gp.) (f.G.)
from 1 April 1944
[…]

Kriegsgliederung

This representation used tactical symbols, usually at the company level. The representation showed the main equipment, such as vehicles, guns, and machine guns. This equipment was defined very broadly, showing only its tactical capability, such as chassis and gun type for tanks, caliber and gun length for anti-tank guns, weight capacity of transport units, etc.

Visual unit structure of a light, armored reconnaissance company without non-combat support unit.

In this example, the information that can be identified from the drawing is:

  • It is a company-sized unit (the wider left-side edge of the large rectangle)
  • It is a reconnaissance unit (the half-circle at the top)
  • The unit is half-tracked (the circle and rounded rectangle at the bottom)
  • The unit has two medium mortars (the number 2 below the angled shape with the lower-case m)
  • The unit has two 75 mm howitzers (the number 2 below the the arrow with the 7,5)
  • The unit has 44 light machine guns (the number 44 below the line with the dots)

To a field commander, this would sufficient information to determine the missions for which the unit could be used, without having to go through detailed unit descriptions.

Kriegsstärkenachweisung (K St N)

These were the most commonly used documents to identify the composition of manpower and equipment of a unit.

The equipment listed only specified as much as was needed to identify their use. It did not differentiate between, for example, an MG 34 or an MG 42.

For cars and trucks, the document would usually specify the weight class (light, medium, or heavy), whether it could drive cross-country, and, for trucks, the cargo capacity in tons.

Prime movers and armored vehicles were referred to specifically by type and variant, but not by Ausführung (model).

The columns depended on the unit type. For example, units with horses had columns identifying the number and types of horses and their wagons. The columns also changed during the war. The columns in the example below can be divided into these groups:

1: Line number
Used together with the page letter to identify a specific item.
2: Stellengruppe (rank group)
A single letter identifying the rank level of the person. Note that the levels below do not mean that the person had command of a unit, but only refer to the rank level. For example, a regimental staff officer could have rank level K, and a field medic could have rank level G.
  • A: Army and army group level officers
  • F: Army corps level officers
  • D: Division command level officers
  • J: Brigade command level officers
  • R: Regiment command level officers
  • B: Batallion command level officers
  • K: Company command level officers
  • Z: Platoon command level officers
  • O: Higher non-commissioned officers
  • G: Lower non-commissioned officers
  • M: Enlisted
3: Main column
This was a text description of the line, such as the role of the soldier or the type of equipment.
4 to 7: Person count
The number of officers, Beamte (civil servants or administrators), non-commissioned officers, and enlisted.
8 to 11: Weapons
All weapons of the unit, including both personal weapons and weapons towed and mounted on vehicles.
12 to 17: Weapons
All vehicles of the unit.

In several columns, rounded and square brackets are used to differentiate between subtypes within that category. Note that there was no J column, and I and J were used synonymously in German at the time.

K St N example

This snippet shows 8 lines from a two-page document with a total of 65 lines.

Line number Rank group leichte Panzer-Aufklärungskompanie (gepanzert) (freie Gliederung) Person count Weapons Vehicles
Officers Beamte Non-commissioned officers Enlisted Rifles, carbines Pistols (sub-machine guns) Heavy machine guns (light machine guns) Horse-drawn (not horse-drawn) guns and mortars Horse-drawn (not horse-drawn) vehicles [water vehicles] Motorcycles (motorcycles with sidecars) [tracked motorcycles] Cars (Trucks) [Tracked trucks] Prime movers (fully tracked prime movers) [wheeled prime movers] Armored fully-tracked vehicles (armored half-tracks) [armored cars] Bicycles (trailers) [railroad vehicles]
Main column a b c d e f g h i k l m n o
[…]
10 f) (Cannon) squad
11 G Vehicle commander, Squad leader (also gun commander and voice radio operator) . . 1 . . (1) . . . . . . . .
12 G Vehicle commander (also gun commander and voice radio operator) . . 1 . . (1) . . . . . . . .
13 M Gunner (2 also ammunition carriers, 1 also vehicle commander and voice radio operator) . . . 4 2 2 . . . . . . . .
14 M Motor vehicle driver for prime mover . . . 3 . . . . . . . . . .
15 leichte Schützenpanzrwagen (7,5 cm Kan) (Sd Kfz 250/8) . . . . . (2) . (2) . . . . (2) .
16 leichte Schützenpanzrwagen (Sd Kfz 250/1) . . . . . (1) (1) . . . . . (1) .
17 Total for f) (Cannon) squad . . 2 7 2 2
(5)
(1) (2) . . . . (3) .
18 Total
19 a) Unit command 1 . 7 9 9 2
(1)
(2) . . [3] 2 . (2) .
20 b) 1st platoon 1 . 8 32 22 7
(12)
(13) . . . . . (7) .
21 c) 2nd platoon 1 . 8 32 22 7
(12)
(13) . . . . . (7) .
22 d) 3rd platoon . . 9 32 22 7
(12)
(13) . . . . . (7) .
23 e) (Mortar) squad . . 4 13 4 8
(5)
(1) (2) . . . . (4) .
24 f) (Cannon) squad . . 2 7 2 2
(5)
(1) (2) . . . . (3) .
25 Total strength for le.Panz.Aufk.Kp.(gp)(fG) 3 . 38 125 81 33
(52)
(43) (4) . [3] 2 . (30) .

Kriegsausrüstungsnachweisung (KAN)

These documents listed all the equipment managed by a unit. They not only included combat equipment such and weapons and combat vehicles, but also other equipment such as compasses, wrist watches for the artillery observers, first aid kits, and field rations.

Personal equipment, such as uniforms, helmets, gas mask canisters, etc., were not included in the list, as these would be carried with the soldier when they were re-assigned.

While these documents always accompanied the Kriegsstärkenachweisung, far fewer have survived today.

KAN example

These two snippets are from a ten-page document with 131 different types of equipment and ammunition.

Appendix to equipment allocation Requisition category and number Item Number
1. Handguns
J 11 J (see appendix) Rifle 65
J 11 J (see appendix) Pistols 511
J 11 J (see appendix) Submachine guns 51
N 2811 N 4029 Signal gun with accessories (1 in each of 1 company headquarters, 3 infantry platoons, 1 mortar squad, and 1 gun squad) 6
J 23 1-7133 J 800 Rifle grenade launcher (1 in each of 9 infantry squads) 9
[…]
13. Ammunition
For handguns
- J - Rifle rounds (1500:48) 4 875
- J - Pistol rounds (4160:60) 816
- J - Pistol rounds (for submachine guns) (4160:60) 52 224
For rifle grenade launcher
- J - Rifle high explosive grenade (0.35) 270
- J - Large rifle armor piercing grenade (0.387) 180
- J - or rifle armor piercing grenade (0.27) (270)
[…]

1) Personal pistols taken into account

Changes After Publication

Minor changes were frequently made after the initial publication. These changes were distributed through the German Army news bulletin, specifying the exact page and item to be updated, leaving it up to the individual units to update their records, for example:

Line number Item number Designation and changes
[…]
483 1113 (gp.)

Panz. Aufkl. Kp. (gp.) from 1 November 1943

The unit gains the headline Kriegsetat 44 with the following changes:

Is removed: 1 armored vehicle radio mechanic (page c line 4).

Add after weapons sergeant helper (page c line 19): (1 also secondary truck driver).

The riflemen (page b line 7) receive 18 rifles and 6 pistols. Change accordingly the sums of the 3 platoons to 30 rifles and 10 pistols. Total strength is 139 rifles and 42 pistols.

[…]

Sources

  1. Allgemeine Heeresmitteilungen : Elfter Jahrgang 1944. Berlin : Oberkommando des Heeres, 1944. BArch RH 1/167.
  2. leichte Panzer-Aufklärungskompanie (gepanzert) (freie Gliederung) (Panz.Aufkl.Kp.(gp.)(fG)). Berlin : Allgemeines Heeresamt, 1944. 2 p. K St N 1113 (gp)(fG), 1.11.1944. NARA T78 R393.
  3. leichte Panzer-Aufklärungskompanie ( gepanzert ) ( freie Gliederung ). Berlin : Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, 1944. 10 p. KAN Nr. 1113 (gp)(f.G.) v. 1.4.44. DIH 500-12451-0144.
  4. Gültigkeitsliste der Kriegsstärke- und Ausrüstungsnachweisungen - Kartei - Stand: 15.7.44. Berlin : Organizationsabteilung, 1944. 139 p. NARA T78 R391.
  5. Stärkeberechnung der Panz.Div.44. Berlin : Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen, 1944. 15 p. Gen. Insp. d. Pz. Tr. Abt. Org. Nr. I/2500/44 g.Kdos.. NARA T78 R410.