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Remembered Today:

Sturmtruppen & Stosstruppen


Guest mariebuchel
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Guest mariebuchel

My first post, so apologies if this subjec has been covered before.

These last months I've spent a bit of time studying the reorganisation of the German Army during the winter 1917-1918 (btw I'm not a specialist at all!) and a few things I learnt are still a bit obscure and/or confusing. It would be great if you could confirm some of my learnings.

From what I understand the reorganisation for the Operation Michaël divided the divisions between Angriffdivisionen and Stellungdivisionen (basically the youngest and more performing soldiers who underwent a special 3 weeks training and the other who were used as positional units).

It seems that the soldiers of these Angriffdivisionen used to be called Stusstruppen, at least I've often see them refered by that name. What I'm still asking myself is the relationship between these 'new' Stusstruppen and the original 17 batallions of Sturmtruppen. IRC, these batallions continued to exist as some of their companies/support weapons were despatched between the Angriffdivisionen prior to the Kaiserschlacht.

So, some questions

- it seems that this reorganisation only really affected the divisions for the Operation Mikaël. I guess that almost all other frontline divisions became de facto Stellungdivisionen.

- Any clue on how the Sturmbatallions were used after the failure of the March offensive?

- Did this reorganisation remain til November or did the army revert to its previous organisation?

- I think that between 1916-1917 the names of Stuss and Sturm-truppen have been used indistinctly but in 1918 did had a new meaning (ie. Stusstruppen would indicate soldiers of the Angriffdivisionen meanwhile Sturmtruppen would name the soldiers of the 17 Sturmbatallions)?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

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My first post, so apologies if this subjec has been covered before.

These last months I've spent a bit of time studying the reorganisation of the German Army during the winter 1917-1918 (btw I'm not a specialist at all!) and a few things I learnt are still a bit obscure and/or confusing. It would be great if you could confirm some of my learnings.

From what I understand the reorganisation for the Operation Michaël divided the divisions between Angriffdivisionen and Stellungdivisionen (basically the youngest and more performing soldiers who underwent a special 3 weeks training and the other who were used as positional units).

It seems that the soldiers of these Angriffdivisionen used to be called Stusstruppen, at least I've often see them refered by that name. What I'm still asking myself is the relationship between these 'new' Stusstruppen and the original 17 batallions of Sturmtruppen. IRC, these batallions continued to exist as some of their companies/support weapons were despatched between the Angriffdivisionen prior to the Kaiserschlacht.

So, some questions

- it seems that this reorganisation only really affected the divisions for the Operation Mikaël. I guess that almost all other frontline divisions became de facto Stellungdivisionen.

- Any clue on how the Sturmbatallions were used after the failure of the March offensive?

- Did this reorganisation remain til November or did the army revert to its previous organisation?

- I think that between 1916-1917 the names of Stuss and Sturm-truppen have been used indistinctly but in 1918 did had a new meaning (ie. Stusstruppen would indicate soldiers of the Angriffdivisionen meanwhile Sturmtruppen would name the soldiers of the 17 Sturmbatallions)?

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks

Welcome to the GWF!

I will not try to answer all of your questions now, but start the discussion.

First of all, you spelled Stosstruppen correctly in your title, but then spelled it Stusstruppen in the text of your post, a word that to my imperfect knowledge of German really does not mean anything. The term Stosstruppen reportedly was coined during the war by Major der Landwehr Dr. Bernard Reddemann, the founder and CO of Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer) (Incidentally my father's unit for most of WK I). The term Sturmtruppen is much older. In the writings and documents in this area the terms seem to be used interchangably.

The theory was for the storm battalions, once the bulk of the troops had been trained in the new storm techniques, to sort of whither away, and in fact some were cut back in size toward the end of the war. The term Sturmtruppen was often also applied to ordinary but usually elite battalions selected for a given attack, but I don't think the term was applied to entire divisions.

Also, many regular units were encouraged to set up their own storm units, often company-sized; some of these were permament, some just assembled for a given attack or campaign.

A full discussion of your other questions could result in a book-length response. (I am writing three or four books on these and related topics, if you have a few years.)

I hope the above response is not off-putting; I am a bit foggy at the moment.

Bob Lembke

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It is important to distinguish between two uses of the terms Stoss- and Sturm-. Both concepts can be, and were, used to describe the general concept of assualting or storming the enemy. Thus, British infantry were referred to as Sturmtruppen in some German accounts of British attacks. Infantry in Angriffdivisionen were trained in assault tactics, and could be described as assault troops in the generic sense. As Bob points out, however, the specialist Stosstruppen were typically identified separately, either by wearing the different 'uniform' (eg the knee and elbow patches) if they had been trained but remained in their parent infantry unit (Renn describes this in his book 'War'), or by being in a separate unit eg Sturmabteilung within a division, or by being in a specialist unit that was separate from the divisions. The latter units were often attached to specific divisions, being split up to spread their expertise around several divisions. This process was used for and after Operation Michael, in the other major attacks in the German offensives.

If you are interested in more details, I would recommend:

'Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-18' by Bruce Gudmundsson

'German Assault Troops of the First World War' by Stephen Bull

Robert

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If you are interested in more details, I would recommend:

'Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-18' by Bruce Gudmundsson

'German Assault Troops of the First World War' by Stephen Bull

Robert

I would recomend Bruce's book without reservation. It is masterly. I have not read Stephen Bull's book, but he has a good reputation.

The classic storm batalions were raised and attached to individual army corps, with two of them being double-sized to also have resources to train other German troops and even foreign storm formations; e.g., the Sturm=Bataillon Nr. 5 (Rohr) (A unit that my father was repeatedly attached to at Verdun for flame support) sent a detachment to Bulgaria, to train Bulgarian and Turkish storm formations, for so long that when they returned to France the detachment was addressed as "our Bulgarian brothers" by the rest of the battalion.

For the great 1918 spring offensive a number of storm battalions were detached from their respective army corps and sent to the sectors of attack to maximize the strength of the great effort.

There were strong ties between the storm battalions (especially Rohr) and the small German tank forces, three detachments of German A7Vs and six detachments of captured British Mark IVs, and they were trained by S=B Rohr in combined arms tactics.

Do you read German or French? (Your time zone seems rather east.) I might suggest other sources.

Bob Lembke

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Welcome to the Forum, Alex!

The question that you posed is an inherently difficult one. To begin with the specialized assault units of the German Army of the First World War went by many different names. (Sturmtrupps, Stosstrupps, Sturmschulen, and Jagdkommandos are the ones that come most readily to mind.) This was largely a function of the fact that these units were usually formed as a result of local initiatives. That is to say, with the exception of the 'proper' assault battalions, which were formed by order of the Supreme Army Command (Oberste Heeresleitung), the assault units were formed 'out of hide' on the authority of the commanders of units and formations in the field.

The 'local' character of specialized assault units also meant that they there is no simple pattern to their formation or dissolution. In some cases, they were formed for particular undertakings (i.e. specific raids or attacks). In others, they existed for relatively long periods of time. (This seems to have been particularly true in 'quiet' sectors, where second-line formations tended to concentrate their younger, more aggressive men into assault units of various sorts.)

To further complicated matters, the German practice of capitalizing all nouns makes it very difficult to distinguish between common nouns used for descriptive purposes and the formal names of units. Thus, for example, a Sturmbataillon might be a specialized assault unit (such as the famous Sturmbataillon Rohr) or (as both Robert Dunlop and Bob Lembke pointed out) an ordinary battalion that is taking part in an attack.

As far as the effect of the Spring Offensives of 1918 goes, I am also hard pressed to find a clear pattern. The new 'Training Manual for Foot Troops' (Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Fußtruppen) laid out the ideal that all infantry units be trained in both Stosstrupp tactics and the techniques of open warfare. This may have caused some formations to dissolve their specialized assault units. At the same time, it may have encouraged others to form such units in order to provide a means of disseminating knowledge of Stosstrupp tactics. (This would make sense for formations that had recently been transferred from the Eastern Front, or which had recently received large drafts of men from the East.)

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Guest mariebuchel

Thanks all for your replies. This brings some lights to this (fascinating) subject.

BTW,I'm French and living in Strasbourg (with all my wife's family living in Verdun but this has no relation with my fascination for the Great War... well not too much) so I read German as well (though I discovered recently that it was really rusty when I dwelved in some books on this subject).

Fantastic forum here!

Alex, who used his wife e-mail account ('cause he always forget every single password he chooses...)

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Alex;

I have been studying a German storm attack at Verdun for several years, and I probably have enough material to write about 30 hopefully very interesting pages. It is of particular interest to me as in it my father suffered his worst wound, and I still have a piece of his left upper arm bone that he was given by the military surgeon after the first of 20-30 operations, mostly quite minor, and mostly without anethsethea (sp?).

It is interesting how the principal attacking regiment formed itself into a storm formation for the attack. About half the regiment was chosen for the storm (probably the most fit or aggressive), forming three or four storm detachments. Flammenwerfer (FW) from my father's company were assigned to each of these detachments. A copy of the French positions was constructed and the men trained on it for several days. I cannot remember off-hand, but in these situations, non-FW Pioniere were often added to attack formations like this, often one Zug (large platoon) per company. Aside from elite assault personel, they brought a variety of special weapons, especially a variety of demolition devices, such as Brandrohren u. geballtne Ladungen.

The attack was successful. In the course of it my father saved the life of an officer who had his hand blown off, applying a tourniquet and taking him to the rear for care. At least two published books describe this, and I have an original letter from my father from hospital describing this to his father, a staff officer, and giving the name (misspelled) and regiment (correct) of the officer. I have four letters from my father describing the attack, the second from hospital being quite long, as he had a lot of time on his hands. He was able to write a letter on the eve of the attack ( guess that it was embargoed till after the attack), and it accurately described the whole plan of the attack, which shows that as a private he had the whole plan of the attack, even the timing, fully disclosed to him when preparing for the attack.

Minutes after saving the officer, a French shell struck near my father's Flamm=Trupp, and every man was wounded. My father, the worse wounded, had to be left in a captured French dugout, where he was for three days, having a fascinating experience with French soldiers, before being found and rescued.

I have a photo of the officer that he rescued from 1918, concealing his missing hand from the camera.

Aside from the personal stuff, the details of the preparations for the attack are quite interesting. Unfortunately, I have good reason to not reveal full detail on this attack and other FW actions that I have posted about.

Bob Lembke

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