are German
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

Paratroopers are soldiers trained in parachuting and generally operate as part of an airborne force.Paratroopers are used for tactical advantage as they can be inserted into the battlefield from the air, thereby allowing them to be positioned in areas not accessible by land...

s. Together with the Gebirgsjäger
Gebirgsjäger, in English Mountain Riflemen, is the German designation for mountain infantry. The word Jäger is the traditional German term for rifleman...

 they are perceived as the elite infantry units of the German Army
German Army
The German Army is the land component of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Germany. Following the disbanding of the Wehrmacht after World War II, it was re-established in 1955 as the Bundesheer, part of the newly formed West German Bundeswehr along with the Navy and the Air Force...


German Fallschirmjäger in World War II
Fallschirmjäger (World War II)
The Fallschirmjäger of Nazi Germany were the first German paratroopers to be committed in large-scale airborne operations. They came to be known as the "green devils" by the Allied forces they fought against during World War II...

 were the first paratroopers to be committed in large-scale airborne operations. They came to be known as the "green devils" by the Allied forces they fought against, as well as for their uniquely distinct Esprit de corps.


The word Fallschirmjäger is from the German
German language
German is a West Germanic language, related to and classified alongside English and Dutch. With an estimated 90 – 98 million native speakers, German is one of the world's major languages and is the most widely-spoken first language in the European Union....

 Fallschirm, "parachute", and Jäger", (military)|"Hunter"]], the light elite infantry of the Prussian army
Prussian Army
The Royal Prussian Army was the army of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was vital to the development of Brandenburg-Prussia as a European power.The Prussian Army had its roots in the meager mercenary forces of Brandenburg during the Thirty Years' War...



In the 1930s Hermann Göring
Hermann Göring
Hermann Wilhelm Göring, was a German politician, military leader, and a leading member of the Nazi Party. He was a veteran of World War I as an ace fighter pilot, and a recipient of the coveted Pour le Mérite, also known as "The Blue Max"...

, after having observed Soviet airborne infantry maneuvers, became committed to the creation of Germany's airborne infantry. He ordered the formation of a specialist police unit in 1933, devoted to protecting Nazi party officials. The unit carried out conventional police duties for the next two years, but in 1935, Göring transformed it into Germany's first dedicated airborne regiment. The unit was incorporated into the newly-formed Luftwaffe later that year and training commenced. Göring also ordered that a group of volunteers be drawn for parachute training. These volunteers would form a cadre for a future Fallschirmtruppe ("parachute troops"). In January 1936, 600 men and officers formed a Jäger and an engineer company. Germany's parachute arm was officially inaugurated in 1936 with a call for recruits for a parachute training school. The school was open to Luftwaffe personnel, who were required to successfully complete six jumps in order to receive the Luftwaffe Parachutist's Badge.

World War II

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the German Air Force (Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

) raised a variety of airborne light infantry (Fallschirmjäger) units. The Luftwaffe built up a division-sized
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 unit of three Fallschirmjäger regiment
A regiment is a major tactical military unit, composed of variable numbers of batteries, squadrons or battalions, commanded by a colonel or lieutenant colonel...

s plus supporting arms and air assets, known as the 7th Flieger Division
1st Parachute Division (Germany)
The German 1st Parachute Division was a German elite military parachute-landing Division that fought during World War II. A division of paratroopers was termed a Fallschirmjäger Division...


Fallschirmjäger participated in many of the famous battles of World War II and in many theatres. As elite troops they were frequently deployed at the vanguard
Vanguard (military tactics)
The vanguard is the leading part of an advancing military formation. It has a number of functions, including seeking out the enemy and securing ground in advance of the main force.- Medieval origins :...

 of attacks and as the bulwark
Bulwark may refer to:*A bastion or fortifications in general*In naval terminology, an extension of a ship's sides above deck level*HMS Bulwark, any of several Royal Navy ships*USS Bulwark, any of several US Navy ships...

 of a defence. They would see action in the Norway and Denmark
Operation Weserübung
Operation Weserübung was the code name for Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War and the opening operation of the Norwegian Campaign...

 campaign and in Belgium
Battle of Belgium
The Battle of Belgium or Belgian Campaign formed part of the greater Battle of France, an offensive campaign by Germany during the Second World War...

, Holland
Battle of the Netherlands
The Battle of the Netherlands was part of Case Yellow , the German invasion of the Low Countries and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until 14 May 1940 when the main Dutch forces surrendered...

 and France
Battle of France
In the Second World War, the Battle of France was the German invasion of France and the Low Countries, beginning on 10 May 1940, which ended the Phoney War. The battle consisted of two main operations. In the first, Fall Gelb , German armoured units pushed through the Ardennes, to cut off and...

 in 1940. Major actions in the Balkans Campaign, Crete
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur...

, Italy
Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the...

, and on both the Eastern Front
Eastern Front (World War II)
The Eastern Front of World War II was a theatre of World War II between the European Axis powers and co-belligerent Finland against the Soviet Union, Poland, and some other Allies which encompassed Northern, Southern and Eastern Europe from 22 June 1941 to 9 May 1945...

 and later the Western Front
Western Front (World War II)
The Western Front of the European Theatre of World War II encompassed, Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, and West Germany. The Western Front was marked by two phases of large-scale ground combat operations...

 would follow.

The skillful airborne seizure of Fort Eben-Emael
Battle of Fort Eben-Emael
The Battle of Fort Eben-Emael was a battle between Belgian and German forces that took place between 10 May and 11 May 1940, and was part of the Battle of the Netherlands, Battle of Belgium and Fall Gelb, the German invasion of the Low Countries and France...

 permitted the early capture of Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

 and, alongside successful operations in Holland
Battle of the Netherlands
The Battle of the Netherlands was part of Case Yellow , the German invasion of the Low Countries and France during World War II. The battle lasted from 10 May 1940 until 14 May 1940 when the main Dutch forces surrendered...

, was crucial for the speed of the German victories in 1940. The major airdrops in Norway and Denmark
Operation Weserübung
Operation Weserübung was the code name for Germany's assault on Denmark and Norway during the Second World War and the opening operation of the Norwegian Campaign...

 in May 1940 was also vital to the success of the campaign there.

The Battle of Crete
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur...

 in 1941 saw large-scale airdrops in which the entire 7th Air Division was deployed with the German 5th Mountain Division
German 5th Mountain Division
The German 5th Mountain Division was established in the Austrian Tirol in October 1940, out of regiments taken from the 1. Gebirgs-Division and the 10. Infanterie Division. Its first action was in the 1941 Balkans Campaign, when it took part in Operations Marita and Merkur ; in the latter it was...

 as the follow-up. Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 was captured, along with many enemy troops and weapons, but the high casualties suffered by the Fallschirmjäger as they parachuted in convinced Hitler that such mass airdrops were no longer feasible.

In the Battle of Monte Cassino
Battle of Monte Cassino
The Battle of Monte Cassino was a costly series of four battles during World War II, fought by the Allies against Germans and Italians with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome.In the beginning of 1944, the western half of the Winter Line was being anchored by Germans...

, a Fallschirmjäger division held the ground near the Monastery of Monte Cassino. After the monastery had been bombed by the Allies, the Germans moved into protected positions among the bricks and cellars. The Fallschirmjäger held out for months against repeated assaults and heavy bombardment. Here they gained the nickname "Green Devils" from the Allied forces for their distinctive jackets and their tenacious defence. Inflicting huge losses on the allied forces, they ultimately retreated from their positions only to avoid being outflanked.

Fallschirmjäger also played a key role defending positions in France against much larger forces in 1944.

After mid-1944, Fallschirmjäger were no longer trained as paratroops due to the strategic situation. Near the end of the war, the series of new Fallschirmjäger divisions extended to more than 12, with a reduction in quality in the later units. The last parachute division to be raised by Germany during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 was destroyed during the Battle of Berlin
Battle of Berlin
The Battle of Berlin, designated the Berlin Strategic Offensive Operation by the Soviet Union, was the final major offensive of the European Theatre of World War II....

 in April 1945.

Throughout World War II, the Fallschirmjäger commander was Kurt Student
Kurt Student
Kurt Student was a German Luftwaffe general who fought as a fighter pilot during the First World War and as the commander of German Fallschirmjäger during the Second World War.-Biography:...


Thousands of German paratroops were killed in action
Killed in action
Killed in action is a casualty classification generally used by militaries to describe the deaths of their own forces at the hands of hostile forces. The United States Department of Defense, for example, says that those declared KIA need not have fired their weapons but have been killed due to...

. Fallschirmjäger were awarded a total of 134 Knight's Crosses
Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross
The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was a grade of the 1939 version of the 1813 created Iron Cross . The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross was the highest award of Germany to recognize extreme battlefield bravery or successful military leadership during World War II...

 between 1940 and 1945.

Uniforms and Equipment

Fallschirmjäger were awarded the Fallschirmschützenabzeichen, a paratrooper insignia featuring a diving gold eagle gripping a swastika.

A special version of the German armed forces
The Wehrmacht – from , to defend and , the might/power) were the unified armed forces of Nazi Germany from 1935 to 1945. It consisted of the Heer , the Kriegsmarine and the Luftwaffe .-Origin and use of the term:...

' steel helmet was issued to Fallschirmjäger units.

The style of parachute harness used by the Fallschirmjäger in World War II is generally considered inferior to those used by the British and American paratroopers. Paratroopers had to throw themselves forward out of the aeroplane, and in the resulting face-down position when the chute opened, control was nearly impossible. The necessity of landing on knees and elbows reduced the amount of equipment the trooper could carry and increased the chance of injury. As a result, they jumped armed only with a holstered pistol and a small "gravity knife
Gravity knife
A gravity knife is a knife with a blade contained in its handle, and which opens its blade by the force of inertia or gravity. As the gravity knife requires gravity or inertia to propel the blade out of the handle, it differs fundamentally from the switchblade, which opens its spring-propelled...

". Rifles and other weapons were dropped in separate containers and, until these were recovered, the soldiers were poorly armed.

Fallschirmjäger units were usually very well equipped; they had access to the best weapons of the German military. They were among the first combat units to use assault rifle
Assault rifle
An assault rifle is a selective fire rifle that uses an intermediate cartridge and a detachable magazine. Assault rifles are the standard infantry weapons in most modern armies...

s and recoilless weapons
Recoilless rifle
A recoilless rifle or recoilless gun is a lightweight weapon that fires a heavier projectile than would be practical to fire from a recoiling weapon of comparable size. Technically, only devices that use a rifled barrel are recoilless rifles. Smoothbore variants are recoilless guns...

 in combat. Fallschirmjäger also readily employed the best of several foreign-made small arms. The FG 42
FG 42
The FG 42 was a selective fire battle rifle produced in Nazi Germany during World War II...

 automatic rifle
Automatic rifle
Automatic rifle is a term generally used to describe a semi-automatic rifle chambered for a rifle cartridge, capable of delivering both semi- and full automatic fire...

, which combined the firepower of a machine gun with the lightweight handling characteristics of a standard infantry rifle, was developed specially for the paratroopers.

Bundeswehr Fallschirmjäger (after 1945)

In the modern German Bundeswehr
The Bundeswehr consists of the unified armed forces of Germany and their civil administration and procurement authorities...

, Fallschirmjäger continue to form the core of Special Operations. The Division has two brigade equivalents and several independent companies and battalions. All told, about 10,000 troops served in that division in 2010, most of them support or logistics personnel. The Division has the following structure:
  • Special Operations Division
    • Headquarters Company (stationed in Stadtallendorf
      Stadtallendorf is a town in Marburg-Biedenkopf, Hesse, Germany, which lies about east of Marburg.- Location :Under the German system of Naturräume, Stadtallendorf lies in the West Hesse Depression Zone which is divided into basins and ridges...

    • Airborne Signal Battalion (Stadtallendorf)
    • Airborne Air Defence Missile Battery 100 (Seedorf
      Seedorf may refer to:*places in Switzerland:**Seedorf, Berne, a municipality in the Canton of Berne**Seedorf, Uri, a municipality in the Canton of Uri**Seedorf, Fribourg, a place in the municipality of Noréaz in the canton of Fribourg...

    • Long Range Reconnaissance Training Company 200 (Pfullendorf
      Pfullendorf is a small historic city in the district of Sigmaringen in Baden-Württemberg in Germany.-Geography:Its location is in the district of Sigmaringen, 25 km north of Lake Constance and south of the Danube valley and therefore on the continental divide between the watersheds of the...

    • Army Band 300 (Koblenz
      Koblenz is a German city situated on both banks of the Rhine at its confluence with the Moselle, where the Deutsches Eck and its monument are situated.As Koblenz was one of the military posts established by Drusus about 8 BC, the...

    • Airborne Brigade 26 (Saarlouis
      Saarlouis is a city in the Saarland, Germany, capital of the district of Saarlouis. In 2006, the town had a population of 38,327. Saarlouis, as the name implies, is located at the river Saar....

      • Headquarters Company (Saarlouis)
      • Airborne Reconnaissance Company 260 (Zweibrücken
        Zweibrücken is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, on the Schwarzbach river.- Name :Zweibrücken appears in Latin texts as Geminus Pons and Bipontum, in French texts as Deux-Ponts. The name derives from Middle High German Zweinbrücken...

      • Airborne Engineer Company 260 (Saarlouis)
      • Fallschirmjäger Battalion 261 (Lebach
        Lebach is a town in the district of Saarlouis, in Saarland, Germany. It is situated approx. 15 km northeast of Saarlouis, and 20 km north of Saarbrücken.-External links:*...

      • Airborne Support Battalion 262 (Merzig
        Merzig is the capital of the district Merzig-Wadern, in Saarland, Germany. It is situated on the river Saar, approx. 35 km south of Trier, and 35 km northwest of Saarbrücken.-Municipalities:...

      • Fallschirmjäger Battalion 263 (Zweibrücken)
    • Airborne Brigade 31 (Oldenburg
      Oldenburg is an independent city in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated in the western part of the state between the cities of Bremen and Groningen, Netherlands, at the Hunte river. It has a population of 160,279 which makes it the fourth biggest city in Lower Saxony after Hanover, Braunschweig...

      • Headquarters Company (Oldenburg)
      • Airborne Reconnaissance Company 310 (Seedorf)
      • Airborne Engineer Company 270 (Seedorf)
      • Fallschirmjäger Battalion 313 (Seedorf)
      • Fallschirmjäger Battalion 373 (Seedorf)
      • Airborne Support Battalion 272 (Oldenburg, Seedorf)
    • Special Forces Command (KSK
      Kommando Spezialkräfte
      The KSK Kommando Spezialkräfte is an elite military unit composed of Special Operations soldiers from the ranks of Germany’s Bundeswehr and organized as such under the Division Spezielle Operationen . The unit has received many decorations and awards from both NATO and its affiliates...

      ) (Calw
      Calw is a municipality in the middle of Baden-Württemberg in the south of Germany, capital of the district Calw. It is located in the northern Black Forest.-History:...


The vast majority of division members is deployable by parachute, and all of it is at least air mobile. Almost all vehicles and heavy equipment are transportable by helicopter, including special lightly armored Wiesel fighting vehicles adopted for this purpose. In addition to the Special Operations Division, Germany is also setting up an air mobile or air assault regiment.

National People's Army (East Germany)

  • 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger
    40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger
    40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger was the only airborne infantry formation of the East German National People’s Army . The battalion was based in Prora on Rügen island and later near Potsdam...

     was the only airborne
    Airborne forces
    Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning...

    Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...

     formation of the Nationale Volksarmee (NVA). The battalion
    A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...

     and its airborne-commando school were based in Prora
    Prora is a beach resort on the island of Rügen, Germany, known especially for its colossal Nazi-planned touristic structures. The massive building complex was built between 1936 and 1939 as a Kraft durch Freude project. The eight buildings are identical, and while they were planned as a holiday...

     on Rügen
    Rügen is Germany's largest island. Located in the Baltic Sea, it is part of the Vorpommern-Rügen district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.- Geography :Rügen is located off the north-eastern coast of Germany in the Baltic Sea...

     (1961–82) and near Potsdam
    Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....

     (1982–90). Officially, the battalion was an airborne unit organized as an NVA light infantry
    Light infantry
    Traditionally light infantry were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Light infantry was distinct from medium, heavy or line infantry. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight...

     battalion, but in reality it was considered a commando
    Special Force
    Special Force is a first-person shooter military video game, published by Hezbollah, created using the Genesis 3D engine. The game is set in a 3D environment, in which the player takes the role of a Hezbollah combatant fighting the IDF...

     unit. On mission, the companies of the battalion were to be split up into teams of five or six men. As a force with special capabilities, it remained under the direct command of the army high command (Kommando Landstreitkräfte, KdoLaSK).
  • The reconnaissance company of the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guard Regiment (German: Wachregiment "Feliks E. Dzierzynski"), an elite motorized rifle regiment of the Ministry for State Security
    Ministry for State Security
    Ministry for State Security or Ministry of State Security may refer to several state security ministries:*Ministry of State Security of the People's Republic of China*Ministry for State Security *Ministry for State Security...

     of the German Democratic Republic
    German Democratic Republic
    The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

    (GDR), was a parachute-trained unit.
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