Orders of Battle – Mountain Troops plus Ski Division / Aufträge der Schlacht – Gebirgsjager plus Skijäger-Division
Gebirgsjäger – Mountain Troops
The mountain infantry of Austria have their roots in the three Landesschützen regiments of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The mountain infantry of Germany carry on certain traditions of the Alpenkorps (Alpine corps) of World War I. Both countries’ mountain infantry share the Edelweiß insignia. It was established in 1907 as a symbol of the Austro-Hungarian Landesschützen regiments by Emperor Franz Joseph I. These troops wore their edelweiss on the collar of their uniforms. When the Alpenkorps came to aid the Landesschützen in defending Austria-Hungary’s southern frontier against the Italian attack in May 1915, the grateful Landesschützen honoured the men of the Alpenkorps by awarding them their own insignia: the edelweiss. Together with the Fallschirmjäger (Paratroopers) they are perceived as the elite infantry units of the German Army.
Third Reich Era
During World War II, the Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS raised a number of mountain infantry units.
An entire corps was formed in Norway by 1941. Its divisions were lightly equipped, with much of the transport provided by mules. These mountain infantry were equipped with fewer automatic weapons than regular infantry, however the MG 34 or MG 42 machine gunners were provided with more ammunition than their regular infantry counterparts. Mountain infantry were identified by the edelweiss insignia worn on their sleeves and their caps.
Mountain infantry participated in many battles, including Operation Weserübung, Operation Silver Fox, Operation Platinum Fox and Operation Arctic Fox, the operations in the Caucasus, the Gothic Line, the invasion of Crete and the battles in the Vosges region of France. Special equipment was made for them including the G33/40 mauser rifle based on the VZ.33 rifle.
Heer (Army) Mountain Units
1st Mountain Division later 1st Volksgebirgs Division.
13th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Handschar – 1st Croatian.
21st Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Skanderbeg – 1st Albanian.
23rd Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Kama – 2nd Croatian.
24th Waffen Mountain Division of the SS Karstjäger
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A wartime Agfa color slide of a Gebirgsjäger Hauptmann eating some bread ration.
MG 08 and accessories in donkey by Gebirgsjäger.
A reconnaisance patrol of the Gebirgsjäger above the snowy mountain.
Gebirgsjäger on the cover of “Die Woche” magazine.
Gebirgsjäger with his climbing equipment.
Gebirgsjäger in their spare time.
This postcard shows a pre-war Gebirgsjäger, and probably pre-issue (1938) of the standard sleeve and cap Edelweiss. The stemless Edelweiss on his cap is a World War I Alpenkorps Edelweiss. As you noted, his waffenfarbe is for Gebirgsartillerie. The machine gun he is using is the Austrian MG-30
Jäger with his girlfriend.
Jäger with his girlfriend.
Modern Day Photos
Cap badge of the Gebirgsjäger.
Black and White Photos
Mountain troops prior to their transfer to Crete.
Mountain Troop Sani
The German Sniper Matthäus Hetzenauer with his Kar98k, with a riflescope with six times magnification. From July 1944 to May 1945, he shot 345 Soviet Soldiers. (confirmed kills)
A Gebirgsjäger with his StG 44.
Gebirgsjäger with his Karabiner98k rifle. It looks as he cleans the front lens with his finger.
In Northern Norway, the Norwegian 6th division, commanded by General Carl Gustav Fleischer; faced the German invasion forces at Narvik. Following the German invasion, General Fleischer assumed the position of commander-in-chief of all Norwegian forces in Northern Norway. The Norwegian counter-offensive against the Germans at Narvik was hampered by Fleischer’s decision to retain significant forces in Eastern Finnmark to guard against a possible Soviet attack in the far north. Along with the Allied landings at Åndalsnes and Namsos, aimed against Trondheim, further forces were deployed to the north of Norway and assigned the task of recapturing Narvik. Like the campaign in the south, the Narvik expedition faced numerous obstacles. One of the first problems faced by the Allies was that the command was not unified, or even truly organized. The naval forces in the area were led by Admiral of the Fleet William Boyle, 12th Earl of Cork who had been ordered to rid the area of the Germans as soon as possible. In contrast, the commander of the ground forces, Major-General Pierse Mackesy, was ordered not to land his forces in any area strongly held by the Germans and to avoid damaging populated areas. The two met on 15 April to determine the best course of action. Lord Cork argued for an immediate assault on Narvik and Mackesy countered that such a move would lead to the decimation of his attacking troops. Cork eventually conceded to Mackesy’s viewpoint. Mackesy’s force was originally codenamed Avonforce, later Rupertforce. The force consisted of the 24th Guards Brigade, led by Brigadier William Fraser, and French and Polish units led by Brigadier Antoine Béthouart. The main force began landing at Harstad, a port town on the island of Hinnøya, on 14 April. The first German air attacks on Harstad began on 16 April, but anti-aircraft defences prevented serious damage until a raid on 20 May destroyed oil tanks and civilian houses and another raid on 23 May hit Allied shipping in the harbour. On 15 April, the Allies scored a significant victory when the Royal Navy destroyers Brazen and Fearless, which were escorting the troop-carrying Convoy NP1, forced the German U-boat U-49 to surface and scuttle in the Vågsfjorden. Found floating around the sinking U-boat were documents detailing the dispositions, codes and operational orders of all U-boats in the Norwegian operational area, providing the Allies with an efficient and valuable tool when planning troop and supply convoys to the campaign in Northern Norway. After the Allied failure in Central Norway, more preparation was given to the northern forces. Air cover was provided by two squadrons of carrier-transported fighters operating from Bardufoss Air Station, the re-equipped No. 263 Squadron RAF with Gloster Gladiators and No. 46 Squadron RAF with Hawker Hurricanes. As part of the Allied counter-offensive in Northern Norway, French forces made an amphibious landing at Bjerkvik on 13 May. The naval gunfire from supporting Allied warships destroyed most of the village and killed 14 civilians before the Germans were dislodged from Bjerkvik. While the Norwegian and Allied forces were advancing at Narvik, German forces were moving swiftly northwards through Nordland to relieve Dietl’s besieged troops. The captured Værnes Air Station near Trondheim was rapidly expanded and improved to provide the Luftwaffe with a base from which to support the Narvik sector. As the German forces moved northwards, they also gained control of the basic facilities at Hattfjelldal Airfield in Hattfjelldal to support their bomber operations. In late April, ten Independent Companies had been formed in Britain, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Colin Gubbins. On 2 May, four of these companies were formed into “Scissorsforce”, under Gubbins, and dispatched to forestall the Germans at Bodø, Mo i Rana and Mosjøen. Although they ambushed the leading German units south of Mosjøen they were outmatched by the German main body and were withdrawn to Bodø, which was to be defended by the 24th Guards Brigade.
A soldier of the US Army speaks with a Captured Mountaineer (Lieutenant) of the Wehrmacht in France.
Gebirgsjäger group in late 1942 during the Battle of the Caucasus.
2. Gebirgs Division
was raised in 1938 from the former 6th Division and German mountain troops. It fought as part of Army Group South during the Invasion of Poland (1939, attacking from the territory of Slovak State), then took part in the invasion of Norway in 1940, and attempted to relieve the beleaguered 3rd Mountain Division at Narvik. In 1941 it moved into Lapland to participate in Operation Silberfuchs, the attack on the Soviet Arctic as part of Operation Barbarossa. In late 1944 it withdrew to Norway and then transferred to Denmark. In 1945, it fought on the Western Front, where it was engaged in heavy combat near Trier.
The Allies destroyed much of the division near Württemberg towards the end of the war, with survivors surrendering to the Americans.
1st Ski Division – 1. Skijäger-Division
The German 1st Ski Division (German: 1. Skijäger-Division) was an infantry unit trained to use skis for movement during winter. It was created on the Eastern Front in the autumn of 1943 in preparation for upcoming winter operations. It was enlarged into a full division in the summer of 1944. The division fought exclusively on the Eastern Front as part of Army Group Centre, including an approach to the Vistula river and during the retreat into Slovakia, southern Poland and the Czech lands (now the Czech Republic), where it surrendered to the Red Army in May 1945.
German soldaten from 1st Ski Division (1. Skijäger-Division) armed with StG 44’s in Pripyat, Ukraine.
Graves for a Gebirdsjager in the Ski Division.
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