The German Army used several different terms for reporting the strength of units. These were used both to determine the theoretical strength of a fully-manned unit and to report on the actual strength of field units. As Germany's manpower situation deteriorated, the definitions and reporting standards also became more elaborate. To understand German strength reports, and thereby the actual strength of a German Army unit in the field, it is important to know what these different terms mean.

General Terms

Throughout the war, three general terms were used when reporting on both personnel and equipment:

  • Soll (authorized) or Sollstärke (authorized strength)
  • Ist (actual) or Iststärke (actual strength)
  • Fehl (missing) or Fehlstellen (unfilled positions)

Soll (authorized)

Soll (should be; target) is the authorized strength. When referring to personnel this number was was specified in the Kriegsstärkenachweisung (table of organization).

Ist (actual)

Ist (is) is the actual strength at the time of reporting.

Fehl (missing)

Fehl (failure; shortfall) is the difference between the Soll (authorized) and Ist (actual) numbers.

If the actual strength was greater than the authorized strength, it would be referred to at über Soll (in excess of authorized strength). Depending on the level of detail in a report, such a situation could be both for a unit as a whole, or for only specific categories. For example, a unit could have an excess of officers but a shortfall of non-commissioned officers. If the numbers were later to be summarized for higher-level reporting, only the overall net difference would be reported.

Early-War Definitions

At the beginning of the war, units were required to submit a strength report on the 1st, 11th, and 21th of every month. This report used two categories:

  • Gefechtsstärke (battle strength)
  • Verpflegungsstärke (ration strength)

Both categories were further divided into five classes:

  • Officers
  • Civil servants
  • Non-commissioned officers
  • Enlisted
  • Horses

Gefechtsstärke (battle strength)

The template used for reporting defined the term to not include:

  • Regimental-level staffs and above
  • Medical personnel
  • Stretcher bearers
  • Baggage train personnel

Verpflegungsstärke (ration strength)

This included both personnel and horses of the German armed forces that were subordinated to the unit at the day of reporting. This included both those on vacation and those for whom the unit was otherwise financially responsible for supporting.

Mid-War Definitions

In a 13 October 1942 order, the German High Command issued an order to standardize the terms used by units to report their strength. The stated goal of these definitions was to give the higher command units an overview of the combat strength of their units. The two terms described above, Gefechtsstärke (battle strength) and Verpflegungsstärke (ration strength), were clarified. In addition, the Iststärke (actual strength) was to be reported as before.

The order contains a note to discontinue the use of other terms, such as Kampfstärke (fighting strength), Grabenstärke (trench strength), and Einsatzstärke (mission strength).

Gefechtsstärke (battle strength)

The Gefechtsstärke was described in the order as those in a unit who were directly involved in combat and those immediately assisting them in combat. The term excluded:

  • Regimental-level staffs and above
  • Non-German auxiliary volunteers
  • Combat, supply, and baggage trains
  • Supply and maintenance troops, including those with the individual units
  • Tactically subordinated units (were to be reported separately)
  • Personnel temporarily assigned to other units (were to be reported by those units)

The Gefechtsstärke definition applied regardless of whether the unit was employed in combat at the time of reporting.

Verpflegungsstärke (ration strength)

The Verpflegungsstärke was an administrative term to determine the number of persons with a unit for ration purposes. In the 13 October 1942 order, the number was defined as follows:

Included
  • Unit personnel
  • Wehrmacht representatives
  • Non-German auxiliary volunteers
  • Prisoners of war
  • Temporarily assigned individual persons
Not included
  • Temporarily assigned units (were to be reported separately)
  • Personnel on vacation
  • Personnel temporarily assigned to other units

Late-War Definitions

On 25 April 1944, the German High Command issued two orders that defined a new set of definitions. These definitions further elaborated and expanded upon those in the 1942 order. They took effect on 15 May 1944. The orders also elaborated on the Ist and Fehl terms, and specified six new templates to be used for Army-level reporting.

Iststärke (actual strength)

The Iststärke, usually written as Ist (is), was the actual number of personnel supported by the unit, regardless of their status. This included personnel on leave, lend out to other units, and those wounded or fallen sick in the past eight weeks. Higher command units were to report the Iststärke and Fehlstellen in six categories:

  • Major combat units and their supply trains
    Included
    • Infantry divisions
    • Luftwaffe field divisions
    • Mountain infantry divisions
    • Jäger divisions
    • Tank divisions
    • Armored infantry divisions
    • Immobile infantry divisions
    • Brigades
    Reported seperately
    • Luftwaffe units
    • Field training divisions
    • SS units
    • Non-German units (except for German soldiers serving in those units)
  • Army-level combat units (such as independent Tiger and assault gun battalions)
  • Security units, including security divisions
  • Army-level supply units and supply units assigned to higher command units
  • Miscellaneous combat units (to be specified in the report)
  • Immobile service posts and command units at corps level and higher
  • Everything not included in the other categories

In each category, the numbers were further to be broken down into:

  • Officers
  • Clerks
  • Non-commissioned officers
  • Enlisted
  • Non-German auxiliary volunteers

For divisions, the Ist strength of the field replacement battalion was to be reported seperately.

Tagesstärke (strength of the day)

The Tagesstärke was the number of personnel physically available for service with the unit on the day of reporting. This excluded on personnel on leave and those wounded or sick.

The number also excluded those lent out to other units, but included those lent from other units. This ensured that no personnel would be double-counted or left out due to temporary personnel allocations.

Gefechtsstärke (battle strength)

The Gefechtsstärke was the strength of the subunits who would be involved in the actual fighting, except for their combat, baggage, rationing, and supply trains or their maintenance sections. The number included non-combat personnel directly supporting the combat, such as drivers and co-drivers of combat vehicles (tanks, assault guns, armored cars, half-tracks, and self-propelled guns) and ammunition carriers.

Kampfstärke (fighting strength)

The Kampfstärke was the strength of the personnel available for actual combat. This excluded the drivers of all non-combat vehicles, horse keepers, administrative personnel, staff of artillery and mortar regiments, and staff of tank destroyer and engineer battalions. Excluded was also signal personnel that did not work either directly alongside, or received signals from, units that were part of the combat strength.

The number included the staff companies at the regimental level and below, messengers, field replacement units, as well as field medical personnel.

Schematic Summary

Sollstärke (authorized strength)
Minus Fehlstellen (unfilled positions)
Plus Über Soll (personnel in excess of authorized strength)
Iststärke (actual strength)
Minus Personnel on leave
Minus Personnel wounded or fallen sick within the past eight weeks
Minus Personnel allocated to other units
Plus Personnel allocated from other units
Tagesstärke (strength of the day)
Minus Unit staff, except for the Ia-Staffel (combat command section)
Minus Unit band
Minus Map section
Minus Military police units
Minus Combat train
Minus Baggage train
Minus Rationing train
Minus Supply train
Minus Maintenance section
Minus Rationing units
Gefechtsstärke (battle strength)
Minus Drivers of non-combat vehicles
Minus Horse keepers
Minus Administrative personnel
Minus Staff of artillery and mortar regiments
Minus Staff of tank destroyer and engineer battalions
Minus Signal personnel not working with combat units
Kampfstärke (fighting strength)

Infantry division strength overview

To supplement the 25 April 1944 order, a number of tables were created in October 1944 to compare the Sollstärke (authorized strength), Gefechtsstärke (battle strength), and Kampfstärke of different German infantry divisions organizations.

Comparison of infantry division types

Unit Authorized Gefechtsstärke Kampfstärke
Count Ratio Count Ratio
1942 infantry division 16 792 12 016 71.0% 8 030 47.8%
Infanterie-Division 1944 12 407 9 130 74.0% 6 708 54.0%
Volks-Grenadier-Division 11 197 8 631 77.0% 6 410 58.0%

Infanterie-Division 1944 breakdown

Section Authorized Gefechtsstärke Kampfstärke
Count Ratio Count Ratio
Division command 176 6 3.4% - 0.0%
Infantry regiments 5 955 5 109 85.6% 4 264 71.7%
Light infantry battalion 708 615 86.6% 515 72.5%
Anti-tank battalion 512 426 83.0% 309 60.6%
Artillery regiment 2 013 1 304 65.0% 938 46.6%
Engineer battalion 620 493 79.7% 455 73%
Signals battalion 379 330 87.0% 227 60.0%
Field replacement battalion 925 848 91.0% - 0.0%
Other sections 1 119 - 0.0% - 0.0%
Total 12 407 9 131 74.0% 6 708 54.0%

Examples of Use

Heeresgruppe H (Armor Group H), 1 November 1944

The full reporting standards were not always used. The example below is the strength reported by the divisions of Heeresgruppe H (Army Group H) on 1 November 1944:

Iststärke Tagesstärke Gefechtsstärke Kampfstärke
59. Infanterie-Division 4 797 5 277 2 369 2 240
84. Infanterie-Division 7 030 6 342 3 871 2 684
85. Infanterie-Division 2 534 2 465 1 128 895
190. Infanterie-Division 10 787 7 394 4 653 4 073
256. Infanterie-Division 7 629 5 096 3 599 2 996
331. Infanterie-Division 1 793 1 778 925 566
346. Infanterie-Division 5 114 4 823 2 708 2 027
347. Infanterie-Division 809 796 661 405
711. Infanterie-Division 3 987 3 825 2 318 1 767
712. Infanterie-Division 2 269 2 921 1 767 1 347
719. Infanterie-Division 4 630 4 303 2 095 1 393
363. Volks-Grenadier-Division 9 230 8 055 5 212 4 254
Kampfgruppe Katzmann 2 413 2 261 1 934 1 934
Total 63 022 55 336 33 240 27 581

The ratio of Iststärke to Kampfstärke of the divisions vary significantly, ranging from 30 to 59 percent. For example, while 719. Infanterie-Division had an Iststärke close to the average of all the divisions, its Kampfstärke reveal that its combat capabilities were considerably less.

The strength can also be compared to the authorized strength, for example:

Full Volks-Grenadier-Division 363. Volks-Grenadier-Division Percentage
Full division 11 197 9 230 82%
Gefechtsstärke 8 631 5 212 60%
Kampfstärke 6 410 4 254 66%
Kampfstärke ratio 57% 46% -

As can be seen, the shortfall in fighting strength and combat strength compared to the authorized strengths is greater than for the full division. This is generally to be expected, as combat personnel is more likely to be wounded than rear area personnel.

Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South), 1 September 1944

The numbers below are based on the reports of Heeresgruppe Süd (Army Group South) submitted 1 September 1944. The report included the strength of 6. Armee (6th Army) and 8. Armee (8th Army), as well as army group units, but does not include the following units:

Intended to be reported later:
20. Panzer-Division
Kampfgruppe Winkler
Parts of army-level artillery
Not directly subordinated as of 1 September
23. Panzer-Division
4. SS-Polizei-Panzergrenadier-Division
8. SS-Kavallerie-Division combat team

The table below is an abbreviated version of the full report to demonstrate the principles of the report. The full report spanned six tabled with a total of 120 distinct columns. Note that the numbers do not align completely. It is not clear whether this is because the report does not take into account personnel allocated to and from other units, or if it is due to some other reason.

Unit Major combat units and supply trains Army-level combat units Other Total
German Auxiliaries Replacements German Auxiliaries German Auxiliaries German Auxiliaries
Soll (authorized)
H Gr A 4 239 - 8 154 630 NA 33 832 6 835 46 225 7 465
AOK 6 44 348 5 810 NA 4 829 586 20 458 5 823 69 635 12 219
AOK 8 40 574 6 152 NA 13 288 896 28 348 4 453
Total 89 161 11 962 NA 26 271 2 112 82 638 17 111 198 070 31 185
Fehlstellen (unfilled positions)
H Gr A 312 - NA 744 53 4 106 1 547 5 162 1 600
AOK 6 2 161 1 875 NA 1 036 238 4 412 2 489 7 609 4 602
AOK 8 837 3 199 NA 2 216 367 6 465 1 191 9 518 4 757
Total 3 310 5 074 NA 3 996 658 14 983 5 227 22 289 10 959
Iststärke (actual strength)
H Gr A 3 927 - - 7 410 577 29 726 5 288 41 063 5 865
AOK 6 42 187 3 935 750 3 793 348 16 046 3 334 62 026 7 617
AOK 8 39 737 2 953 1 266 11 072 529 21 883 3 262 72 692 6 744
Total 85 851 6 888 2 016 22 275 1 454 67 655 11 884 175 781 20 226
On leave
H Gr A - NA NA 98 NA NA NA 98 NA
AOK 6 - NA NA 22 NA NA NA 22 NA
AOK 8 287 NA NA 114 NA NA NA 401 NA
Total 287 NA NA 234 NA NA NA 521 NA
Wounded or fallen sick in past eight weeks
H Gr A - NA NA 242 NA NA NA 242 NA
AOK 6 - NA NA 143 NA NA NA 143 NA
AOK 8 3 376 NA NA 553 NA NA NA 3 929 NA
Total 3 376 NA NA 938 NA NA NA 4 314 NA
Tagesstärke (strength of the day)
H Gr A - NA NA 8 728 NA NA NA 8 728 NA
AOK 6 10 729 NA NA 3 202 NA NA NA 13 931 NA
AOK 8 37 579 NA NA 9 948 NA NA NA 47 527 NA
Total 48 308 NA NA 21 878 NA NA NA 70 186 NA
Gefechtsstärke (battle strength)
H Gr A - NA NA 7 154 NA NA NA 7 154 NA
AOK 6 8 181 NA NA 2 458 NA NA NA 10 639 NA
AOK 8 23 100 NA NA 4 398 NA NA NA 27 498 NA
Total 31 281 NA NA 14 010 NA NA NA 45 291 NA
Kampfstärke (fighting strength)
H Gr A - NA NA 1 356 NA NA NA 1 356 NA
AOK 6 6 097 NA NA 2 136 NA NA NA 8 233 NA
AOK 8 17 655 NA NA 2 816 NA NA NA 20 471 NA
Total 23 752 NA NA 6 308 NA NA NA 30 060 NA

These numbers highlight the importance of distinguising between the full actual strength and the fighting strength: Out of an actual strength of 175 781, only 30 060 were directly available for combat operations (though the previously mentioned missing reports from some combat units would likely disproportionately have increased the fighting strength).

Weekly reports

On 15 June 1944 German High Command, all divisions, brigades, and Tiger battalions employed in combat were ordered to start submitting a strength report to their corps every Saturday between 12:00 and 24:00, starting 1 July. This report was to include:

Kampfkraft (battle force)

For infantry, the Kampfkraft was stated per battalion according to the Kampfstärke of the battalion. The reconnaissance battalion was included as an infantry battalion, while the field replacement battalion was reported seperately.

Kampfstärke Term
Over 400 Starkes Bataillon (strong battalion)
301 to 400 Mittelstarkes Bataillon (medium strong battalion)
201 to 300 Durchschnitliches Bataillon (average battalion)
101 to 200 Schwaches Bataillon (weak battalion)
100 or below Abgekämpftes Bataillon (exhausted battalion)

For artillery, the number of combat ready light and heavy batteries were reported.

If battalions from other units were assigned to the division, these were reported seperately with their Kampfkraft and their originating unit. If battalions from the division were assigned to another unit, they were reported seperately without stating their Kampfkraft.

Kampfwert (battle value)

The Kampfwert rated the combat capability of the unit as a whole on a scale from one to four:

  1. Kampfwert I: Suitable for all offensive operations
  2. Kampfwert II: Conditionally suitable for offensive operations
  3. Kampfwert III: Suitable for defense
  4. Kampfwert IV: Conditionally suitable for defense

Weekly report example

This example is used in the original order, translating and restructuring for clarity while retaining the contents:

8. Infanterie-Division

  • a) Battalions
    • 1 strong,
    • 1 medium strong,
    • 1 weak,
    • 1 exhausted,
    • 1 field replacement battalion (staff personnel only),
    • Subordinated:
      • 1 average from 36. Infanterie-Division,
    • Assigned
      • 5 battalions to 5. Panzer-Division.
  • b) Heavy anti-tank guns: 10.
  • c) Artillery:
    • 6 light batteries,
    • 3 heavy batteries.
    • Subordinated:
      • 2 light batteries from 6. Infanterie-Division.
  • d) Mobility:
    • Horse drawn: 70%,
    • Motorized: 30%
  • e) Battle value: III

Beweglichkeit (mobility)

The Beweglichkeit defined the degree to which units were mobile, and how they moved. A number of categories were defined in a 1 January 1945 German High Command document, as shown below. These definitions were related to the authorized strength and mobility of the unit, not the actual mobility.

Category Abbreviation Possible types of movement Description
Vollbeweglich (fully mobile)
Bespannt (horse drawn) besp Horses
  • Soldiers marching on foot
  • Equipment drawn by horses
Teilmotorisiert (partially motorized) tmot Horses and motor vehicles
  • Soldiers marching on foot or partially in motor vehicles
  • Equipment drawn by horses or motor vehicles
Only some vehicles
  • Soldiers marching on foot or partially in motor vehicles
  • Equipment drawn by motor vehicles
Motorisiert (motorized) mot Motor vehicles
  • Soldiers in motor vehicles
  • Equipment drawn by motor vehicles
Selbstfahrlafette (self-propelled) Sf Tracked carriages and motor vehicles
  • Soldiers and equipment on tracked carriages and motor vehicles
  • Weapons on tracked carriages
Gepanzert (armored) gp
  • Equipment and combat soldiers in armored vehicles
  • Supply troops in motor vehicles and partially in armored vehicles
Panzer (tank) Pz Tanks, armored vehicles, and motor vehicles
  • Equipment and combat sections in tanks
  • Other parts in motor vehicles and armored vehicles
Fahrradbeweglich or auf Fahrrädern (bicycles) fdbew Bicycles
  • Soldiers on bicycles
  • Equipment on bicycles
Bicycles and motor vehicles
  • Soldiers on bicycles
  • Equipment drawn by bicycles
Bicycles and horses
  • Soldiers on bicycles
  • Equipment drawn by horses
Bicycles, horses, and motor vehicles
  • Soldiers on bicycles
  • Equipment drawn by horses and motor vehicles
Teilweis beweglich (partially mobile)
Teilbeweglich (partially mobile) tbew Horses
  • Soldiers marching on foot
  • Equipment partially drawn by horses in only some sub-units
Horses and some motor vehicles
  • Soldiers marching on foot
  • Equipment partially drawn by motor vehicles or horses in only some sub-units
Teilbeweglich motorisiert (partially motor mobile) tbew mot Motor vehicles
  • Soldiers partially in motor vehicles in only some sub-units
  • Equipment partially drawn by motor vehicles in only some sub-units
Bodenständig (immobile)
Bodenständig (immobile) Bo Single horses and motor vehicles Tied to duties in specific cities. Were to be assigned vehicles if relocated. Some limited ability to draw heavy weapons may have been available.

Sources

  1. Gen. Kdo. XVI. A.K., Ia - Kriegstagebuch Nr. 2 : 8.10.39 - 31.1.40. XVI. Armeekorps, 1940. 68 p. NARA T314 R569.
  2. Gefechts- und Verpflegungsstärke. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1942. 2 p. Gen St d H/Org Abt (I) - Nr. 25 865/42 geh. NARA T78 R398.
  3. Berechung der Gefechts-und Kampfstärke der Inf.Div.(a.Art.)(9 Batl)(Stand 1942). 1944. 1 p. NARA T78 R432.
  4. Festlegen der Stärkebegriffe. Berlin : Organisationsabteilung, 1944. 8 p. Gen St d H/Org Abt - Nr. I/2000/44 geh.. NARA T78 R432.
  5. Berechung der Gefechts- und Kampfstärke der I.D. 44. 1944. 1 p. NARA T78 R432.
  6. Berechung der Gefechts-und Kampfstärke der Volks-Gren.Div.. 1944. 1 p. NARA T78 R432.
  7. Stärkemeldungen. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1944. 10 p. Gen St d H/Org Abt - Nr. I/16 500/444 g.Kdos. NARA T78 R398.
  8. Wochenmeldungen. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1944. 4 p. Gen St d H/Org Abt - Nr. IZ/45 100/44 geh. NARA T78 R398.
  9. Heeres Gr. Sued Ia - KTB Anlagen : Nr. 6855-6938. Heeresgruppe Süd, 1944. 524 p. NARA T311 R165.
  10. Berechung der Gefechts-und Kampfstärke der J.D.44 getrennt nach Waffengattungen. 1944. 1 p. NARA T78 R432.
  11. Aufgeschlüsselte Meldung von Iststärke, Tagesstärke, Gefechtsstärke und Kampfstärke der Div. der OKW-Kriegsschauplätze. (Stand 1.11.44.). Berlin : Organisationsabteilung, 1944. 7 p. Gen St d H/Org Abt - Nr. I/20 961/44 g.Kdos.. NARA T78 R432.
  12. Übersicht über Beweglichkeitsgrade von Einheiten mit Begriffserläuterungen. Oberkommando des Heeres, 1945. 2 p. Gen St d H/Org Abt - Nr. I/20050/45 geh. NARA T78 R398.