German Army manpower in the Autumn of 1939



In August 1939 Germany had 40 million men that were available to fight in the forthcoming conflict. Of course a lot were too young, old or unfit whilst a large number worked in reserve occupations. Those that were available for service were in three groups as listed below:

Aktive Truppe

The aktive truppe were those men who were fully trained soldiers equipped to fight a ‘modern war.’ The aktive truppe was made up of regular soldiers, who had joined the army as a profession, and usually held NCO posts (though there were exceptions. There were men between the ages of 21 and 23 who had completed two years national service between 1935 and 1939 and had since returned to their civilian occupations but were reservists. Finally there were the men between the ages of 18 and 21 who were still doing their national service on the outbreak of war.

The aktive truppe made up some 33% of available German manpower in the autumn of 1939.

“Weiße” Jahrgänge

These were men between 24 and 39 who came of military age between World Wars one and two. i.e.;  they were too young for the first war and too old to be called up for national service when it was introduced in March 1935. These men were called up in waves after September 1939. They were given a few weeks basic training before joining their regiments.

In August 1939 the ‘weiße’ jahrgänge' made up almost 33% of manpower available to the German Army.

Der Reservisten

These were men who had trained prior to, or during World War One. Most had seen combat during that war. When national service was reintroduced in 1935 those under 45 years old were placed on the reserve list. Reservists were called up in August 1939 and most returned with their previous ranks and were quickly promoted to NCO positions.

Der Reservisten made about  33% of the manpower available to the German Army in 1939

As the war dragged on  and the tide began to turn against Germany the ages of those eligible for military service changed. Older and older veterans were called up. Also the age at which younger men could be called up was reduced..

In 1939 the percentage of trained manpower available to the German army (including lightly trained troops) was about equal between the aktive truppe, the ‘weiße’ jahrgänge and der reservisten. However, as the war went on and the casualties became increased, the ‘weiße’ jahrgänge would take over and make up around 50% of fighting soldiers, while der reservisten and aktive truppe would dwindle to 25% each. During World War Two the average age of the German soldier was 35 compared to 23 for the British Army and 21 for the United States Army.


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