The Wehrmacht, German Armed Forces, manpower topped out in 1944 with more than 53% serving in the Heer, German Army. September 25, 1944, saw the establishment of the Volkssturm allowing conscription of all males between 16 and 60 years of age. Volkssturm enlistees were often trained in the use of panzerfaust antitank weapons. 1944 also saw Luftwaffe manpower drop by 200,000 while the Waffen SS grew by one third to 600,000. In 1945 all Wehrmacht branches lost manpower except for the Waffen SS which surged by another 230,000 to 830,000.
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The 1930s German army had three lower ranks – the lower, non-commissioned, and senior non-commissioned ranks*. The lower ranks included Soldat (Private) and Gefreiter (Senior Private) and were typically filled by young men aged 18 to 20 who had completed basic education. Enlistment required passing a physical fitness test, and training focused on basic military skills such as marksmanship, drill, and physical fitness.
* Note each rank – Private, Corporal, and Sergeant had several special designation ranks dependent on assignment.
Non-commissioned ranks included Unteroffizier (Corporal), Feldwebel (Sergeant), and Oberfeldwebel (Technical Sergeant), and age generally ranged from 20 to 25 years. Physical fitness standards were high, and training was more specialized, focusing on leadership skills, tactical knowledge, and military strategy.
Senior non-commissioned ranks included Stabsfeldwebel (Master Sergeant) and, and age generally ranged from 25 to 30 years. Physical fitness standards were high, and training focused on advanced leadership skills, strategic planning, and military tactics.
Early War Enlistees – 1940-41
The German WW2 enlistees of 1940 and 1941 were typically young men who were conscripted into the military with enlistment age ranging from 18 to 45 years old. Physical fitness was an important aspect of enlistment, and enlistees were required to pass a physical fitness test before being accepted into the military.
Training was more extensive and rigorous than later years, focused on basic military skills, specialized training for non-commissioned and senior non-commissioned ranks, and less emphasis on Nazi ideology and propaganda. Overall, the German WW2 enlistees of 1940 and 1941 were typically young men who were physically fit and received extensive training in military skills and discipline with less emphasis on Nazi ideology and propaganda compared to later years.
Mid War Enlistees – 1942-43
The German WW2 enlistees in 1942 and 1943 were typically young men who were conscripted into the military with enlistment age ranging from 18 to 45 years old. Physical fitness was an important aspect of enlistment, and enlistees were required to pass a physical fitness test before being accepted into the military. Training was extensive and rigorous, focused on basic military skills such as marksmanship, drill, and physical fitness, as well as specialized training for non-commissioned and senior non-commissioned ranks.
The training emphasized the importance of Nazi ideology and propaganda, aimed at boosting morale among the troops and included the indoctrination of Nazi beliefs and the view of themselves as superior to other races and nationalities, with an emphasis on fighting for their Fatherland.
Later War Enlistees – 1944
The German enlistees of 1944 faced significant demand for soldiers due to ongoing war. This resulted in a significant shift in the demographic of enlistees, with many being much younger than in previous years. Physical fitness standards were lowered due to their age, although some enlistees were older, with enlistment age ranging from 17 to 45 years old.
Physical fitness remained an important aspect of enlistment, with enlistees required to pass a physical fitness test before being accepted into the military. However, due to the significant demand for soldiers, some enlistees were not as physically fit as in previous years. Training was also more rushed and less intensive than in previous years, with a focus on basic military skills such as marksmanship, drill, and physical fitness.
The training of German enlistees in 1944 increasingly emphasized the importance of Nazi ideology and propaganda. Enlistees were indoctrinated with Nazi beliefs and encouraged to view themselves as superior to other races and nationalities. This was a significant shift from the training of German enlistees in previous years, which focused primarily on military skills and discipline.
Overall, the German enlistees of 1944 were a diverse group facing significant demand for soldiers, resulting in a shift in the demographic of enlistees. Physical fitness and training standards varied, with an increasing emphasis on Nazi ideology and propaganda.
End of War – The Volkssturm – 1945
The Volkssturm was a German national militia formed during the final phase of World War II in September 1944. It was made up of men from all walks of life and was intended to be a last-ditch effort to defend Germany against the advancing Allied forces. The members of the Volkssturm were often poorly trained and equipped, and they were organized into local units responsible for the defense of specific areas.
Despite the challenges, the Volkssturm fought fiercely in the final days of the war with outdated or captured weapons, but they were outmatched by better-equipped and better-trained Allied forces. The Volkssturm suffered significant losses in the final days of the war, and their efforts were ultimately unsuccessful in halting the Allied advance.
German Armed Forces Manpower by Year Data
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|1||Wehrmacht (Armed Forces)||4,722,000||6,600,000||8,154,000||9,580,000||11,280,000||12,070,000||9,701,000|
|3||Luftwaffe (Air Force)||400,000||1,200,000||1,680,000||1,700,000||1,700,000||1,500,000||1,000,000|
Source: Feldgrau German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945. “WW2 Germany Population, Statistics, and Numbers.” https://www.feldgrau.com/WW2-Germany-Statistics-and-Numbers/. Data accessed on June 26, 2022
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