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Heer (Army)

An extensive program to house the growing active Army was begun in 1935 and in the course of the next two years a large number of barracks were built. These barracks were usually designed to house a battalion or regiment, and were of brick or stone construction. Workshop and indoor training facilities were excellent. Firing ranges for small arms, and open fields and wooded areas for limited field exercises were usually situated within a few miles of the barracks proper. Accommodations at the large training areas were improved and expanded.

By October 1937 the active Army had 500,000-600,000 men under arms, and its tactical force consisted of 4 group commands and 14 corps, with 39 active divisions, including 4 motorized infantry and 3 Panzer (armored) divisions.13 The cavalry divisions had been deactivated. One cavalry brigade was retained, but most of the cavalry regiments were reassigned as corps troops and some of the personnel transferred to the new Panzer force. Twenty-nine reserve divisions had been organized and could be called into service onJ mobilization. The number of reserve divisions would increase as men were released from the active Army upon completion of their period of compulsory training.

The number of Wehrkreise had been increased increased to 13 in the process of Army expansion. The status of the Wehrkreis was also raised. The relationship between the tactical corps and Wehrkreis of the Wehrmacht was similar to that which had obtained the tactical division and Wehrkreis of the Reichswehr. The corps commander functioned in a dual capacity as Wehrkreis commander in garrison, but relinquished his territorial functions to a deputy when he took his corps into the field. The XIV Corps had no corresponding Wehrkreis organization, since it was formed to control the motorized divisions throughout the Reich and had no territorial responsibility. The Wehrkreise were responsible directly to the commander in chief of the Army. In the tactical chain of command, the corps headquarters were subordinated to the Heeresgruppenkommandos, which in turn were responsible to the Army's commander in chief.

The expansion of the active Army beyond the level of 12 corps and 36 divisions established by Hitler was ordered in the annual mobilization plan, which directed the creation of additional active and reserve units year by year. The creation of reserve divisions that could be mobilized on short notice increased the combat potential of the Army considerably and kept the trained manpower at a fair state of proficiency by participation in annual maneuvers and special troop exercises.

Two group commands and seven corps headquarters were activated in 1938. Three of the corps were frontier commands, with no territorial responsibilities aside from security, i. e. they had no corresponding Wehrkreis organization. All three were assigned to Germany's western def en ses. These headquarters bore no numerical designations, but were known as Frontier Commands Eifel, Saarpfalz, and Oberrhein, for the Ardennes, Saar, and Upper Rhine frontier areas, respectively.14 Of the other four corps headquarters, the XV and XVI Corps were formed to control the light and Panzer divisions, and the XVII and XVIII Corps became the tactical corps in Austria. Neither the XV nor XVI Corps had a corresponding Wehrkreis organization or territorial responsibilities. The commanders of the XVII and XVIII Corps, however, had a dual function as area commanders for the two Wehrkreise into which Austria was divided. Other active units organized included three infantry divisions, two Panzer divisions, four light divisions (small motorized infantry divisions, with an organic tank battalion), and three mountain divisions. Provision was also made for the organization of an additional 22 reserve divisions.

It was planned to convert the light divisions to Panzer divisions in the autumn of 1939 as sufficient materiel became available. The mountain division was an adaptation of the infantry division, equipped and trained for operations in mountainous areas and deep snow. The increase in the number of active divisions in 1938 can be attributed partially to the annexation of Austria in March, and the absorption of the Austrian Army into the Wehrmacht. The Austrian Army was reorganized to form one light, one panzer, two infantry, and two of the mountain divisions organized by the Wehrmacht that year.

The Sudetenland was incorporated into several existing Wehrkreise for military administration following its annexation to Germany in October 1938, and conscripts at first were absorbed into units being formed by those Wehrkreise. One of the infantry divisions formed in 1938 was also composed largely of Sudetenland inhabitants.

As of March 1939 the Army had a total of 102 active and reserve divisions and 1 active cavalry brigade. The 51 active divisions, on the whole, were maintained close to full strength, and required only certain supply, medical, and transportation services to take the field. The total strength of the active Army was approximately 730,000: that of the reserve, about l,100,000.15 The variance in strength figures for an equal number of active and reserve divisions can be explained by the diversion of a large part of the reserve to form support, security, and training units, or to staff administrative headquarters, in the event of mobilization, i.e. a large proportion of reserve personnel would not be assigned to field divisions. Other reserve personnel would not be called up immediately upon mobilization because of employment in critical war industries. The 51 reserve divisions were all infantry divisions; their organization was similar to that of the active infantry divisions, though they lacked some items of equipment, armament in short supply, and certain units.

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Page last modified: 31-10-2016 18:55:40 ZULU