In military history and military slang, the German term Kampfgruppe (pl. Kampfgruppen; abbrev. KG) can refer to a combat formation of any kind, but most usually to that employed by the German Wehrmacht and its allies during World War II and, to a lesser extent, in World War I.
The Kampfgruppe was an ad-hoc combined arms
formation, usually employing combination of tanks
, and artillery
) elements, generally organised for a particular task or operation.
A Kampfgruppe could range in size from a corps
to a company
, but the most common was an Abteilung
)-sized formation. Kampfgruppen were generally referred to by either their commanding officer's name or the parent division.
First World War
(in German Stoßtruppen
, shock troops
) were specialist military troops which were formed in the last years of World War I
as the German army developed new methods of attacking enemy trenches, called "infiltration tactics
". Men trained in these methods were known in German as Sturmmann
(literally "assault man" but usually translated as Stormtrooper), formed into companies of Sturmtruppen
(Storm Troops). Other armies have also used the term "assault troops", "shock troops
" or fire teams
for specialist soldiers who perform the infiltration tasks of stormtroopers.
Second World War
With respect to their ad-hoc nature and Objective
-oriented strategy, Finnish ski troops employed during the Soviet
-Finnish Winter War
of 1939-1940 could, in principle, be considered to be an equivalent to Kampfgruppen. However, given the poor equipment of the Finnish forces, the combined-arms aspect of the Kampfgruppen could not have been applied.
German allies fighting alongside the German army also applied the concept of Kampfgruppe, either involuntarily (while being attached to German units), or on their own. Examples include Kampfgruppe Szücs (Hungarian) within the Hungarian Third Army.
While the original concept of Kampfgruppe is usually reserved to the land warfare
, some of the German tacticians
applied it also for naval warfare
. The most obvious change was the design (units were usually earmarked for operation in advance instead of being organized ad-hoc) and the type of units involved (instead of combined arms, different classes of naval vessels were employed). The examples include German Kampfgruppe 5
employed during Operation Weserübung
. This unit consisted of the heavy cruiser Blücher
, the heavy cruiser Lützow
, the light cruiser Emden
, 3 torpedo boats and 8 minesweepers
carrying 2,000 troops to Oslo
During the course of the Second World War, Kampfgeschwader bomber units consisted of several Kampfgruppen, which in terms of size were situated somewhere between squadrons and groups of Anglo-American air forces.
Currently, the formation closest in use is US Army Task force
or the battlegroup
formation used by several NATO
countries, notably the UK.
Hundreds of Kampfgruppen are documented to have taken part in operations ranging from a few days to over a year during the war. They left a significant impact in the popular culture and the picture of the Second World War. Famous examples include:
- Kampfgruppen der Arbeiterklasse, (KdA) or in English "Combat Groups of the Working Class" a paramilitary organisation in East Germany, founded in 1953 and abolished in 1990. It numbered about 400,000 "volunteers" for much of its existence.
Notes and references