German commando frogmen
This article is about Germany's commando frogmen. See also Minentaucher
Minentaucher are particularly trained military divers of the German Navy. Their operational areas are:-*Searching, identifying, and removing or salvaging underwater weapons such as mines or explosives in the water....

For other nations' commando frogmen, and information about frogmen in general, see Frogman
A frogman is someone who is trained to scuba diving or swim underwater in a military capacity which can include combat. Such personnel are also known by the more formal names of combat diver or combatant diver or combat swimmer....


Germany's postwar
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...

In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...

Amphibious warfare
Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

 force are called the Kampfschwimmer ("Combat Swimmers") or Verwendungsgruppe 3402 (Usage Group 3402). They are the only special-purpose force of the German Navy
German Navy
The German Navy is the navy of Germany and is part of the unified Bundeswehr .The German Navy traces its roots back to the Imperial Fleet of the revolutionary era of 1848 – 52 and more directly to the Prussian Navy, which later evolved into the Northern German Federal Navy...

. The Kampfschwimmer were set up when Germany joined NATO in 1958.

During the GDR (East Germany), the People's Navy of the GDR also had a commando frogman force, which was stationed in Kühlungsborn
Kühlungsborn is a Seebad town in the Rostock district, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the Baltic Sea coast, 11 km northwest of Bad Doberan, and 25 km northwest of Rostock....

. They trained at 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...

1942 - 1943
  • 1942 onwards: The amateur diver Alfred von Wurzian tested breathing apparatus
    Scuba set
    A scuba set is an independent breathing set that provides a scuba diver with the breathing gas necessary to breathe underwater during scuba diving. It is much used for sport diving and some sorts of work diving....

    es for 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...

  • 1943: Admiral
    Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

     Karl Dönitz
    Karl Dönitz
    Karl Dönitz was a German naval commander during World War II. He started his career in the German Navy during World War I. In 1918, while he was in command of , the submarine was sunk by British forces and Dönitz was taken prisoner...

     orders vice-admiral Hellmuth Heye
    Hellmuth Heye
    Hellmuth Guido Alexander Heye was born on August 9th, 1895, son of father, August Wilhelm Heye, and mother Else Karcher Heye. Hellmuth was a German admiral in World War II and politician in post-war Germany. He was also a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross...

     to create a special unit. One gives him the name of Kleinkampfmittelverband (= Small ordnance association) but it is better known under the name of K-Verband. Its first men, including von Wurzian, were trained by Italian Decima Flottiglia MAS
    Decima Flottiglia MAS
    The Decima Flottiglia MAS was an Italian commando frogman unit of the Regia Marina created during the Fascist regime.The acronym MAS also refers to various light torpedo boats used by the Regia Marina during World...

     men, who already had much experience. (The German SS
    The Schutzstaffel |Sig runes]]) was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party. Built upon the Nazi ideology, the SS under Heinrich Himmler's command was responsible for many of the crimes against humanity during World War II...

     also had a frogman section.)

  • 1944 June: Three German frogman units called MEK = Marine Einsatzkommando become active. Each unit had one officer and 22 men. But they were not ready for D-Day
    D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

  • 1944 June 23: German naval frogmen blow up two bridges on the Orne
    Orne is a department in the northwest of France, named after the river Orne.- History :Orne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Normandy and Perche.- Geography :Orne is in the region of...

     river, using two torpedoes of 800 kg.
  • 1944 July: There were several attacks by German Neger craft
    Neger was a German torpedo-carrying craft generally described as a human torpedo which could not submerge, but was difficult to see during night operations. The vessel was used by the Kriegsmarine between 1943 and 1945...

     in the English Channel
    English Channel
    The English Channel , often referred to simply as the Channel, is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France, and joins the North Sea to the Atlantic. It is about long and varies in width from at its widest to in the Strait of Dover...

    , setting off from Villers sur Mer. On July 8, these attacks badly damaged the cruiser ORP Dragon
    HMS Dragon (D46)
    HMS Dragon, also known in Polish service as ORP Dragon , was a D- or Danae-class cruiser built for the Royal Navy. She was launched in Glasgow, in December 1917, and scuttled in July 1944 off the Normandy beaches as part of the Arromanches Breakwater.-Pre World War II:One of the fastest-built ships...

     (which was scuttled on July 20), and sunk the destroyer HMS Isis
    HMS Isis (D87)
    HMS Isis was an I-class destroyer laid down by the Yarrow and Company, at Scotstoun in Glasgow on 6 February 1936, launched on 12 November 1936 and commissioned on 2 June 1937.-World War II:...

    . 12 attack boats were used in attacks in the mouth of the Orne
    Orne is a department in the northwest of France, named after the river Orne.- History :Orne is one of the original 83 departments created during the French Revolution, on March 4, 1790. It was created from parts of the former provinces of Normandy and Perche.- Geography :Orne is in the region of...

  • 1944 September 16: By this time the Allies had taken Antwerp. 2 teams of 5 German frogmen left Rotterdam
    Rotterdam is the second-largest city in the Netherlands and one of the largest ports in the world. Starting as a dam on the Rotte river, Rotterdam has grown into a major international commercial centre...

     on two attack boats, to attack Antwerp docks. When they were stopped by defence nets, the teams continued by swimming, each towing a torpedo with a ton
    The ton is a unit of measure. It has a long history and has acquired a number of meanings and uses over the years. It is used principally as a unit of weight, and as a unit of volume. It can also be used as a measure of energy, for truck classification, or as a colloquial term.It is derived from...

     of explosive. One team placed its torpedo on the main canal lock in Antwerp. The lock was out of use for 3 months.
  • 1944, night of September 28–29: By now the Allies
    In everyday English usage, allies are people, groups, or nations that have joined together in an association for mutual benefit or to achieve some common purpose, whether or not explicit agreement has been worked out between them...

     had taken intact a road bridge at Nijmegen and a railway bridge at Moerdijk
    Moerdijk is a municipality and a town in the South of the Netherlands, in the province of North Brabant.- History :The municipality of Moerdijk was founded in 1997 following the merger of the municipalities of Fijnaart en Heijningen, Klundert, Standdaarbuiten, Willemstad and Zevenbergen. At that...

    , and had immediately installed a strong anti-aircraft defence there.
    3 groups of 4 German frogmen set off from 10 km upstream from the bridges. They were to place explosives under the bridges and then to continue with the river current 24 km further to return to their lines. The railway bridge was blown up. The road bridge was only slightly damaged because the mine had been badly placed. Of the 12 men, 3 were killed, 7 were captured, and 2 returned to their lines.
  • 1944 December: German frogman operations in the Vistula
    The Vistula is the longest and the most important river in Poland, at 1,047 km in length. The watershed area of the Vistula is , of which lies within Poland ....

  • After Italy changed sides, the German frogman unit MEK71 based in Jugoslavia made numerous attacks against liberated Italy
    Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

    , using two-man canoe
    A canoe or Canadian canoe is a small narrow boat, typically human-powered, though it may also be powered by sails or small electric or gas motors. Canoes are usually pointed at both bow and stern and are normally open on top, but can be decked over A canoe (North American English) or Canadian...


Craft developed by Germany during World War II

  • The "lentil". It is a fast silent boat carrying 300 kg of explosive The pilot directs it and then jumps in the sea and is collected by another boat.
  • A "chariot" copied from that of the British who copied it from the Italian maiale. The Italians never transmitted to the Germans the plans of their maiale.
  • The "Neger" (German for "negro
    The word Negro is used in the English-speaking world to refer to a person of black ancestry or appearance, whether of African descent or not...

    "), a single-seat torpedo sailing awash at 4 knots. Its pilot leaves it before precipitating it on the objective.
  • Creation of pocket submarines (one-seater and two-seater).

Incompletely planned operations

  • Plan to attack the underwater oil pipeline PLUTO
    Operation Pluto
    Operation Pluto was a World War II operation by British scientists, oil companies and armed forces to construct undersea oil pipelines under the English Channel between England and France. The scheme was developed by Arthur Hartley, chief engineer with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company...

  • Plan to block the Suez Canal
    Suez Canal
    The Suez Canal , also known by the nickname "The Highway to India", is an artificial sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. Opened in November 1869 after 10 years of construction work, it allows water transportation between Europe and Asia without navigation...

     by sinking boats in it.

Post World War II

This section was translated from :de:Kampfschwimmer (Bundeswehr); refer back there in case of query about the translation.

The Kampfschwimmer were set up particularly because Germany joined NATO and there was felt to be risk of war with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. A unit was needed which could help to secure the Baltic Sea exits through the Danish Straits
Danish straits
The Danish straits are the three channels connecting the Baltic Sea to the North Sea through the Kattegat and Skagerrak. They transect Denmark, and are not to be confused with the Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland...

. On 1 August 1958, Group 3402, as these commando frogmen were called by the navy, was set up. It consisted of men without a Nazi
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 past, who had served in 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...

 in the small combat forces and the naval employment commands.

The first Kampfschwimmer were trained first with the Nageurs de combat
French commando frogmen
France has a large commando frogman tradition. Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a naval officer in World War II and helped much to set up France's commando frogmen...

in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. France had developed the role of the commando frogmen further in the Indochina
The Indochinese peninsula, is a region in Southeast Asia. It lies roughly southwest of China, and east of India. The name has its origins in the French, Indochine, as a combination of the names of "China" and "India", and was adopted when French colonizers in Vietnam began expanding their territory...

 war, to the modern single fighter.

The Kampfschwimmer should carry out their tasks both in the water and ashore, like German commando frogmen did in World War II. But now a new dimension was added: Air. This three-role concept of the French became the basis of the commando frogmen of the German navy.

On 1 April 1964, the Kampfschwimmer appeared for the first time as an independent body. In the following years they extended their tasks, but lacked money. Thus e.g. they had to buy their own drysuit undersuit
An undersuit is a garment worn under a diver's drysuit or under a spacesuit....



In the Gulf War
Gulf War
The Persian Gulf War , commonly referred to as simply the Gulf War, was a war waged by a U.N.-authorized coalition force from 34 nations led by the United States, against Iraq in response to Iraq's invasion and annexation of Kuwait.The war is also known under other names, such as the First Gulf...

 in 1991, the whole company was used for security missions on the German ships involved in the Persian Gulf
Persian Gulf
The Persian Gulf, in Southwest Asia, is an extension of the Indian Ocean located between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula.The Persian Gulf was the focus of the 1980–1988 Iran-Iraq War, in which each side attacked the other's oil tankers...


As a boarding party they were involved in embargo
An embargo is the partial or complete prohibition of commerce and trade with a particular country, in order to isolate it. Embargoes are considered strong diplomatic measures imposed in an effort, by the imposing country, to elicit a given national-interest result from the country on which it is...

 control against the remainder of FR Yugoslavia in the Adriatic Sea
Adriatic Sea
The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula, and the system of the Apennine Mountains from that of the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges...


According to rumours they were involved in Operation Enduring Freedom in the horn of Africa
Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa is a peninsula in East Africa that juts hundreds of kilometers into the Arabian Sea and lies along the southern side of the Gulf of Aden. It is the easternmost projection of the African continent...

 as a boarding party, and they are also in Afghanistan (ISAF and Operation enduring freedom) In 2009 German newspaper websites circulated claims that German Kampfscwimmer had seized the cargo vessel Arctic Sea in Swedish territorial waters in July of that year. Allegedly, the vessel was brought through the Kiel canal where illegal weapons were secretly unloaded and seized by German authorities.


Since 1974 the Kampfschwimmer have been stationed in the naval base at Eckernförde
Eckernförde is a German city in Schleswig-Holstein, Kreis Rendsburg-Eckernförde at the Baltic Sea near Kiel. The population is about 23,000.All German submarines are stationed in Eckernförde....

 near Kiel
Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

. In October 1994 they were subordinate to the Flotilla of Mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 Warfare. In Eckernförde a combat frogman group was set up, it consists of a mine clearance diver company and a commando frogmen company. Allegedly the weapon diver group has 250 men. The commando frogmen company had, according to strength and equipment records, 3 groups, each with 16 men. Of it, approximately 40 men are actively operational.

In 2001 the Waffentauchergruppe ("Armed Diver Group") became the Bataillon Spezialisierter Kräfte ("Specialised Forces Battalion").

By a transformation in 2003 the :de:Spezialisierte Einsatzkräfte Marine ("Specialised Task Forces of the Navy") was formed. The SEK M was divided further into the Combat Swimmer Company, a mine
Naval mine
A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, an enemy vessel...

 clearance diver company, and two naval companies for special employments (e.g. to board ships), a training inspection group, and further support elements.

Conditions for entry

These minimum requirements must be fulfilled by all candidates, to become certified for training:
  • Applicants must be German citizens in the sense of the article 116 Grundgesetz (constitution).
  • They must be at least 17 years old and less than 25 years old.
  • They possess a Realschulabschluss school qualification (10 years), or equivalent
  • They were successfully educated at a high school or equivalent, with favorable exam passes.
  • 1000m swim in less than 23 minutes
  • 5000m run in less than 24 minutes
  • 30m distance swim underwater without equipment
  • Stay underwater without breathing for at least 60 seconds
  • Sport test with at least 20 points; at least 3 points for each exercise
  • Must be an active duty soldier who has served at least 6 months. After training, one must enlist for 4 years.
  • Diving fitness is examined by the Schifffahrtsmedizinisches Institut (naval medical institute) of the navy.
  • Parachute
    A parachute is a device used to slow the motion of an object through an atmosphere by creating drag, or in the case of ram-air parachutes, aerodynamic lift. Parachutes are usually made out of light, strong cloth, originally silk, now most commonly nylon...

     jump fitness is examined by the same institute.


During the training, it is less about the physical load than the psychological load, which causes many applicants to give up. The physical achievement can be trained, but overcoming the fear is the most important goal of the training. The training includes but is not limited to swimming, diving
Diving is the sport of jumping or falling into water from a platform or springboard, sometimes while performing acrobatics. Diving is an internationally-recognized sport that is part of the Olympic Games. In addition, unstructured and non-competitive diving is a recreational pastime.Diving is one...

, navigation
Navigation is the process of monitoring and controlling the movement of a craft or vehicle from one place to another. It is also the term of art used for the specialized knowledge used by navigators to perform navigation tasks...

, close combat
Close combat
*Close combat is a generic term for both Close Quarters Battle and Hand to hand combat.*Mêlée generally refers to disorganized close combat.*CQB is an acronym for Close Quarters Battle, such as that which occurs in urban warfare....

, weapons handling, and parachuting
Parachuting, also known as skydiving, is the action of exiting an aircraft and returning to earth with the aid of a parachute. It may or may not involve a certain amount of free-fall, a time during which the parachute has not been deployed and the body gradually accelerates to terminal...

. In the special conclusion exercise their ability and hardness are equally demanded, before they join the circle of the commando frogmen. In further training sections they are trained as team leaders or specialists.

Introductory training

First there are four weeks of introductory training. In this time the applicants are pushed hard physically and psychologically by fixed exercises. All exercises have the goal to take away the fear of water and to make the applicant feel safe in the water. One of the exercises is called gefesseltes Schwimmen (= the bound swimming). The applicant is placed on the starting block in the full combat suit, with his hands tied behind his back and his feet tied together, and then pushed in the swimming pool. He must stay for 30 seconds alone clearly; afterwards a safety diver pulls him back up.

In the so-called "hate week" the trainees are deprived of sleep. Between the night exercises, there are night runs. Meanwhile the normal routine of the day continues: swimming, diving, and push-ups.

They also have to train to exit a submarine through a torpedo tube and must re-enter it through there.
At the final examination they have to swim about 30 KM with full equipment in the baltic sea to reach the beach after being discharged at the sea.

See also

  • 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...

  • SEAL Team Six
  • US Navy SEAL
  • Special Boat Service
    Special Boat Service
    The Special Boat Service is the special forces unit of the British Royal Navy. Together with the Special Air Service, Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group they form the United Kingdom Special Forces and come under joint control of the same Director Special...

  • GSG 9
    GSG 9
    The GSG 9 der Bundespolizei , is the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police.-History and name:...

    Hostage Rescue Team
    The FBI Hostage Rescue Team is the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation's counter-terrorism paramilitary tactical team. The HRT is trained to rescue U.S. citizens and allies who are held by a hostile force, either terrorist or criminal...

  • Spezialeinsatzkommando
    Spezialeinsatzkommandos are the special response units of the German state police forces. German SEKs are full-time units whose members do not perform any other duties, and are essentially the equivalent of American SWAT Teams...

  • CIA Special Activities Division
    Special Activities Division
    The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

  • Marine Force Recon
  • Zentrale Unterstützungsgruppe Zoll
    Zentrale Unterstützungsgruppe Zoll
    The Zentrale Unterstützungsgruppe Zoll is the SWAT unit of the German Customs Service and subordinate to the German Customs Investigation Bureau .-History:...

    -Sports:* Dayton Marcos, Negro League baseball team from Dayton, Ohio * Nélson Marcos, Portuguese footballer* Marcos Ambrose, Australian racing driver currently competing in NASCAR* Marcos Baghdatis, Cypriot tennis player...

  • Shayetet 13
    Shayetet 13
    Shayetet 13 is the elite naval commando unit of the Israeli Navy. The unit is considered one of the primary Special Forces units of the Israel Defense Forces . S'13 specializes in sea-to-land incursions, counter-terrorism, sabotage, maritime intelligence gathering, maritime hostage rescue, and...

External links

  • (in German)
  • Seiten der Marine (in German).
  • Book: Probst, Wilhelm: Kampfschwimmer der Bundesmarine. Innenansichten einer Elitetruppe, October 2001, ISBN 3-613-02148-X
  • -- the German/English spoken Minentaucher website
  • -- the German/English spoken Kampfschwimmer website
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