German Unit Strength Definitions
By Christian Ankerstjerne
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. To understand 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.
Sollstärke (authorized strength)
The Sollstärke, usually written as Soll (should be; target), was the number of personnel that a unit was authorized to have according to its Kriegsstärkenachweisungen (tables of organization and equipment). The number included any Hilfswilligen (foreign auxiliary volunteers) with the unit.
This number would be constant unless the organization of the unit was changed.
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 sich in the past eight weeks.
The difference between the Soll and the Ist was referred to as Fehlstellen (unfilled positions), usually written as Fehl. If a unit was overstrength, it was referred to as über Soll (in excess of authorized strength). It could be possible for a unit to have one section that had unfilled positions and another that was overstrength, but the Fehl only counted the net difference.
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 (fighting strength)
The Gefechtssstärke 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 (combat 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.
In addition to the terms above was also the term Verpflegungsstärke. This was not used when reporting combat strength. Instead, it was an administrative term to determine the number of persons with a unit for supply purposes.
|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||Military police units|
|Gefechtssstärke (fighting strength)|
|Minus||Drivers of non-combat vehicles|
|Minus||Staff of artillery and mortar regiments|
|Minus||Staff of tank destroyer and engineer battalions|
|Minus||Signal personnel not working with combat units|
|Kampfstärke (combat strength)|
Example of Use
The numbers below are the strengths reported by Heeresgruppe H (Army Group H) on 1 November 1944:
|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|
|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%|
|Gefechtssstärke||8 631||5 212||60%|
|Kampfstärke||6 410||4 254||66%|
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.
- Aufgeschlüsselte Meldung von Iststärke, Tagesstärke, Gefechtsstärke und Kampfstärke der Div. der OKW-Kriegsschauplätze. (Stand 1.11.44.). Berlin : Organisationsabteilung, 1944. 7 p. GenStdH/Org.Abt. - Nr. I/20 961/44 g.Kdos.. NARA T78 R432.
- Festlegen der Stärkebegriffe. Berlin : Organisationsabteilung, 1944. 8 p. GenStdH/Org.Abt. - Nr. I/2000/44 geh.. NARA T78 R432.
- Berechung der Gefechts-und Kampfstärke der Volks-Gren.Div.. 1944. 1 p. T78 R432.