The history of Luftwaffe field divisions is not well documented. Their role in
the German Order of Battle was fairly limited. The first Luftwaffe field
divisions were organized in the autumn of 1942 as a result of the depletion of
German ground forces on the Eastern Front. Because of these shortages in the
East, Reichsmarshall Herman Göring was faced with the dilemma of transferring
Luftwaffe flight personnel to the Army (Heer). Instead he chose to establish his
own army under air force commanders.
Twenty two divisions were planned
ultimately by the OKW and the Luftwaffe Air Ministry. The first ten of these
divisions were organized in September of 1942 and completed training by the end
of that year. Having received only minimal training in combat, these divisions
were dispatched to the Eastern Front. By order of Reichsmarshall Göring, these
divisions were only to be involved in defensive actions along quiet sectors of
the Front. There were not to be split up and were to be committed to combat only
as a single fighting force. This was never implemented. Further, although, they
were to be under the tactical command of the Heer, the divisions were to remain
under Luftwaffe control for all other purposes.
The remaining twelve
Luftwaffe field divisions were formed in 1943 and later. They were dispatched to
the various theatres of operation as replacement troops and to fill gaps in the
defensive lines. These divisions suffered from the same lack of proper training
and leadership as their predecessors.
Luftwaffe field divisions were
approximately half the size of their Heer infantry counterparts. Even these
numbers were never reached in most instances as the Luftwaffe field divisions
suffered chronic shortages of men, competent field commanders, fighting
equipment and supplies.
For all of these reasons, the Luftwaffe field
divisions proved to be ineffective fighting forces and were labeled as
"Luftwaffen-Fehlkonstruktions-Divisionen" or "mistakenly constructed air force
divisions" by members of the Heer. After much debate regarding the future of
these divisions, beginning in the Fall of 1943, the complete command of the
Luftwaffe field divisions was assumed by the Heer.
Only 14.Feld Division
(Lw) survived the war. Remnants of three other divisions (11., 12. and 21.)
filled the ranks of the remaining Wehrmacht divisions in the East. Despite their
poor performance, no less than 18 among their ranks were awarded the Knight's
18.Feld Division (Lw)
The 18.Feld Division (Lw)
was one of five Luftwaffe field divisions positioned along the Atlantic Wall in
June of 1944 as part of the 15.Armee. Its zone stretched from the beaches of
Dunkirk to Calais. Besides the units anti-tank battalion, all other means of
mobility were provided by horses. The division was ordered into combat on 14
August 1944. It departed from Dunkirk with orders to engage the allies and drive
them back across the Seine River. Despite initial success and much needed
support from the 17.Feld Divison (Lw), relentless allied attacks and brutal air
raids split the division and forced it to conduct a orderly, fighting retreat.
Nearly encircled near Mons, the division launched a breakout movement in early
September. Divided into groups of forty or less, the remnants of the division
succeeded in crossing Belgium and reaching the Fatherland. Despite having no
vehicles to use and being pursued by allied troops and partisans, its members
moved over 230 miles in 17 days to reach their homeland. Upon entry into
Germany, the remnants of the division were consolidated with other units to form
the 18.Volksgrenadier Division. As part of the 18.Volksgrenadier Division, the
survivors of 18.Feld Division (Lw) took part in the assault and capture of St.
Vith during the Battle of the Bulge.
Follow this link to the Order of
Battle for 18.Feld Division (Lw).
our intention to portray one of the fragments of the destroyed 18.Feld Division
(Lw) after its brief, but brutal, encounter with the overwhelming allied forces
deployed in France in 1944. We do not represent a division, battalion, regiment
or company. We represent a few German soldiers trying to escape capture or death
and return to their homeland to fight another day. We continue the brave fight.
We lose some along the way to the continued pressure of the ever-advancing
allies and their partisan compatriots. We portray the tired, battle-worn soldier
thrown back into the conflict in a last gasp hope of delaying the inevitable.
Finally, we represent the desperation of what was the once mighty Wehrmacht
after having fought the good fight.
Sources and Credits
Information is at best sketchy directly relating to Luftwaffe field
divisions. The above information was compiled from the following sources:
Uniforms & Traditions of the Luftwaffe, Volume 3, by John R. Angolia
and Adolf Schlicht, copyright 1998, R. James Bender Publishing, ISBN
Luftwaffe Field Divisions, 1941-45, by Kevin Conley
Ruffner and Ron Volstad, copyright 1997, Osprey Publications, ISBN 1-85532-100-9
Luftwaffe Airborne and Field Units, by Martin Windrow, copyright 1972,
Osprey Publications, ISBN 1-58097-022-2
Hitler's Army: The Evolution and
Structure of German Forces, 1933-1945, by the editors of Command Magazine,
copyright 2000, Combined Publishing, ISBN 1-58097-022-2
The Armies of
Rommel, by George Forty, copyright 1997, Arms and Armour Publishing, ISBN
Göring’s Grenadiers, The Luftwaffe Field Divisions, 1942 -
1945, by Antonio J. Munoz, copyright 2002, Axis Europa Publications, ISBN