Division (military)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Tactical symbol of a NATO infantry division

A division is a major military organization that can be composed differently in the various branches of the armed forces and in different states. A division usually consists of around 10,000 to 30,000 soldiers. Among Provides Division combat troops brigades and independent divisions battalions or regiments of the combat support troops , logistics troops and lead troops . Divisions are usually led by a division commander in the rank of major general , in Switzerland a divisional officer . The next higher management level in the land forces is the corps , unless divisions are led by another command authority.


Basically, the term division is used for a large unit of land forces . Air force divisions are based on the size of an army division - several squadrons are subordinate to them. Notwithstanding this, there are also significantly different organizational forms in the naval forces with the designation division ( see below ) such as a ship division, which corresponds to a department.


A division in the army is a large military unit made up of several regiments or brigades as well as various division support troops.

A division is a major operational unit of the land forces that is capable of combined arms combat . In the world wars with their armies of millions, they were often given purely tactical tasks . Typical is a structure with two to three regiments or brigades with infantry , cavalry or armored troops , one regiment or brigade of artillery , as well as various combat support troops such as engineers , paramedics , logistics troops , anti-tank troops , led by a division staff with a division commander in the general rank . The typical nominal strength of a division is between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers , in some cases, such as in the US Army during the First World War , even more.



The term division originally referred to a part of a unit of any size. During the Seven Years' War , Duke Ferdinand von Braunschweig led a "division" made up of the contingents of the allies of Prussia , which consisted of all branches of service. Until the end of the 18th century, “division” was a fixed term used to describe a sub-unit of a battalion .

In 1757, in his Rêveries , the French Marshal Moritz von Sachsen considered the usefulness of tactical formations made up of infantry, cavalry and artillery, which he called Legion . An organizational structure standing between brigades / regiments and the "army" as a large association in the sense of a division today was first created in France during the Seven Years' War. However, these were pure marching formations that no longer fulfilled a tactical function after the formation of the line formation. Their only task was to speed up and order the transition from the marching formation in line after a French army had been defeated by an outnumbered Prussian army during this maneuver in Rossbach .

Provisionally formed, freely maneuvering, mixed Prussian formations in the Battle of Freiberg and the Battle of Vellinghausen had a tactical function, but no administrative permanence. They broke the strict pattern of linear tactics , but remained exceptional phenomena with no further effect in the Prussian army. Such formations found their way into contemporary military theory in Guibert's Essai général de tactique from 1770 and Pierre Joseph de Bourcet's Principes de la Guerre de Montagnes from 1775, which indicated the further development of large tactical units in the Revolutionary Wars: columns of cavalry, infantry and artillery who, centrally guided by a staff, advanced on several lines of operations in order to achieve a common operational goal. From a technical point of view, the reform of the French artillery by Gribeauval improved the possibility of cooperation between field artillery and the other branches of arms.

Originated in the coalition wars

Divisions in the current sense, both as a permanent administrative association and as an independently operating unit of an army, emerged as a result of the French Revolution under the influence of the First Coalition War . Because of the great expansion of the French armed forces by volunteers and the levée en masse to over 1 million soldiers, as well as the inexperience of many military leaders, a level of leadership between the army commanders and the regiments became necessary. This was created with the significant participation of Lazare Nicolas Marguerite Carnot by decree of the National Convention and the Welfare Committee February 21, 1793. At least on paper, the armed forces of the republic were now divided into divisions, brigades and half-brigades . The infantry regiments were disbanded. The divisions consisted of two infantry brigades and two half-brigades, each with three battalions, a cavalry regiment and 32 field guns . Cavalry divisions with mounted artillery were also formed. So it was about associations of combined arms , which as part of a larger armed force could perform their own combat tasks independently. This simplified the management of larger armed forces and increased their flexibility, since the divisions could be assigned partial tasks. The possibility of having the entire armed forces march apart in divisional columns also proved to be advantageous, since this way the " supply from the country " could take place and the need for large, obstructive trains decreased.

An example of how the new structure had a positive influence on the operation of larger units is the battle of Wattignies near Maubeuge on October 15 and 16, 1793, in which the French commander Jean-Baptiste Jourdan succeeded after a rapid advance on a broad front and a first failed attack to quickly regroup his troops, outmaneuver and defeat the Austrian troops. Such expertise in dealing with the newly created associations was, however, rather rare until the end of the first coalition war. In many cases, the cooperation between the individual divisions of a commander was neglected, so that the coalition forces managed to break up divisions individually. For this reason, this innovation was for a long time attributed to Napoléon Bonaparte , who once again decisively improved it by creating a new large operational unit in the form of the army corps .

The division of the army into divisions was soon taken over by other armed forces, under the influence of Napoleon's military successes. In 1805 the entire Prussian Army was divided into divisions at the suggestion of Scharnhorst . However, the entire cavalry was also assigned to the individual infantry divisions, which thereby lost the opportunity to massively bring about a decision at the focus of the battle.

German Confederation

In the Federal Army of the German Confederation , the divisions were structured differently depending on the troop-contributing states.
An infantry division of the Württemberg Army existed in peacetime

  • two infantry brigades to two infantry regiments.

In the German War of 1866, the 1st (Royal Württemberg) Division in the VIII Federal Army Corps was made up

In 1830 a reserve division was formed from the contingents of the small federal states, which should strengthen the federal fortresses in the event of a conflict.

The German Imperium

In the army of the German Empire 1871–1918, an (infantry) division consisted of:

  • two infantry brigades, each with two infantry (grenadier / fusilier) regiments
  • one cavalry brigade to two cavalry regiments
  • a field artillery brigade to two field artillery regiments

Division troops there, unlike some other armies, not yet - pioneers, hunters , foot artillery and Train were instead the parent Corps as corps troops assumed.

During the mobilization for World War I , reservists were formed into an equal number of reserve divisions according to the same pattern. The divisional cavalry of the infantry divisions was reduced to one regiment, and a total of ten cavalry divisions of six regiments each were formed from the cavalry regiments that had become vacant. The only cavalry division existing in peacetime was the Prussian Guards Cavalry Division .

From 1915 most of the divisions were reclassified. From then on they consisted of:

  • one infantry brigade to three infantry regiments
  • a field artillery regiment
  • a cavalry squadron
  • Division troops (telephone department, flak train, engineer battalion, mine thrower company, medical company, field hospitals, division motor vehicle column, horse hospital)

The previously two-part infantry brigades and artillery regiments became tripartite in compensation.

Austro-Hungarian Army

In the armed forces of Austria-Hungary, this major unit level was referred to as the troop division (cavalry troop division / infantry troop division). The designation division as such was reserved for associations of battalion strength. (Train Division / Haubitz Division). The troop division was led by a field marshal lieutenant .

The Austro-Hungarian cavalry was also called a division until 1860 . A regiment of the cavalry originally consisted of three to four (exceptionally more) divisions. A division in battalion strength was referred to here. Each division had three squadrons , each of which consisted of two companies . The number of riders in the individual sub-units fluctuated, but was usually around 80 riders per company or 160 riders per squadron.

The individual divisions were named after their formal leaders within the regiment:

  • the 1st division was the colonel division
  • the 2nd division was the lieutenant colonel (lieutenant colonel) division
  • the 3rd division was the majors division
  • the 4th division was the 2nd majors division
  • the 5th division (if any) was the 3rd majors division

See also: List of large units of the Austro-Hungarian Army


In the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic , a division (without any further addition in the name) was an infantry division. The second type of division in the Reichswehr was the cavalry division.


Stand of the commander of a German division, 1933–1945

The armed forces of the Wehrmacht had the following types of divisions:

The divisions of the Wehrmacht were usually subordinate to two to three regiments of the respective military type as combat units with and and (combat) support units.

Within the above-mentioned division types, there were different breakdowns depending on the year of establishment or the order of establishment ( see wave of compilation ). The infantry branch had the largest number, some of which were motorized. After the formation of tank divisions, these infantry divisions were called the motorized Panzergrenadier division. The main difference between the Jäger Division and an infantry division was that it only consisted of two Jäger regiments - in contrast to the three infantry regiments of the Infantry Division. In the course of other waves of formation, this also applied to other divisions due to the war.

The structure of a normal infantry division of the 1st wave is shown below. An infantry division of the 1st wave of formation had a target population of 534 officers, 2701 NCOs, 14,397 men and 102 officials. By 1945 the nominal strength of a German infantry division was reduced to 11,909 men, including 352 officers, 1947 NCOs, 9581 men and 29 officials. However, the target strength was almost never reached towards the end of the war.

National Peoples Army

The land forces of the East German NVA had six active and five mobilization divisions . There were two types:

The NVA Air Force had the following divisions:

Bundeswehr 1956–1990

Stand of the commander of an armored division of the Bundeswehr

In the Armed forces army the Bundeswehr there were different types Division.

In the Army structures II (1959 to 1970) to V (1990 to 1992) existed

  • a tank division made up of 2 tank brigades and one tank grenadier brigade
  • an Panzergrenadierdivision made up of 2 Panzergrenadierbrigades and one tank brigade
  • as well as division troops in regimental or battalion strength

besides there was

As part of the troop reduction, both divisions were dissolved.

In Army Structure III, the 2nd and 4th Panzer Grenadier Divisions became one

  • Jägerdivision

renamed: An armored infantry brigade were each reclassified into a fighter brigade. With Army Structure IV, this was reversed and renamed at the same time.

Today's organization of army divisions

Germany since 1990

With the Army Structure V (N) (1993 to 1997) the Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions were integrated into one

  • mechanized division with 3 equally structured brigades, but kept their previous name for reasons of tradition, as did the brigades.

Exemplary the structure of a modern mechanized division:

In the army structure "New Army for New Tasks" (1997 to 2001) the


With the structure of the Army of the Future (2001 to 2006) as part of the transformation of the Bundeswehr , the


At the same time, the army was categorized into intervention , stabilization and support forces and thus a further classification of the remaining divisions with normal numbers.

After the realignment of the Bundeswehr was implemented in 2016, there are still three divisions with seven German and two Dutch brigades:


After the Second World War , the Austrian Armed Forces temporarily had two divisions. One was the mechanized 1st Panzer Grenadier Division based in Baden and the Aircraft Division based in Hörsching and Langenlebarn. Both divisions have since been dissolved. It was temporarily planned to set up a hunter division made up of three fighter brigades. But that never happened.

The 1st Panzer Grenadier Division was established with the army regrouping in 1975. It consisted of three mixed brigades (3rd 4th and 9th Panzer Grenadier Brigade) and had a target strength of around 20,000 men in the event of mobilization. The three brigades had changing formations but the basic structure was as follows:

  • 1 tank battalion of 4 companies of 13 battle tanks each,
  • 1 armored infantry battalion with 4 armored infantry companies and one tank destroyer company,
  • 1 tank artillery battalion with 3 batteries,
  • 1 armored staff battalion with various support units, mostly 1 reconnaissance company, 1 tank engineer company, 1 anti-aircraft company, 1 field ambulance and 1 staff company with additional support forces.

Sometimes a reconnaissance battalion (3rd Brigade alternating) and a tank destroyer battalion (4th and 9th Brigade) were assigned. These last troops, however, often changed their subordination.

With the reorganization in 1991, the Panzergrenadierdivision was abolished and the three, later (1998) two remaining Panzergrenadierbrigaden were directly subordinate to the Armed Forces Command. The 9th Panzer Grenadier Brigade (Götzendorf) has since been disbanded and the remaining brigades (3rd Mautern and 4th Linz / Ebelsberg) have been greatly reduced in size.


The Swiss Army had up to 12 divisions ( Army 61 ), during the Second World War up to 15, each of which was led by a (Colonel) general. Their use was limited to defending Switzerland's territory in the event of a defense. With the reduction of the stocks by the Army XXI , the divisions were abolished in 2003. With the implementation of the further development of the army , the territorial regions were renamed Territorial Divisions on January 1, 2018.

See also



In the German navies, the concept of division existed on three different levels.

First, there were divisions as organizational units at the divisional level, such as in the Air Force. At times there were three divisions in the German Navy :

This form of organization no longer exists in today's German Navy .

Division stand as a command symbol for a ship or boat division

Furthermore, the sub-units of a squadron are referred to as divisions. According to the drill regulations for the Imperial Navy of January 12, 1886, squadrons of more than four ships were divided into divisions of up to four ships. On January 16, 1893, the drill regulations were changed. According to this, a squadron consisted of at least two to four divisions with a total of at least six ships, with a division consisting of at least two and at most four ships. This regulation remained in force until 1914. In the battleship squadrons of the Imperial Navy there was a fixed division into two divisions with four ships each, these were abolished in the second half of the First World War and squadrons with only 4-5 ships in total were formed, for example with the Albion company .

Third, the ship and boat crews were divided into divisions until the 1980s. The division with the subdivision form of the corporal body was a form of troop service organization, while the crew was technically divided into main sections and sections . Because these two forms of organization were essentially the same, the division structure was abolished.

In historical German navies such as the Prussian and Imperial Navy, the designation division was also used for training units that were about battalion strength and can be compared with today's teaching groups. At each naval station there was a sailor division for the training of seamanship and weapons personnel and a shipyard division in which the ship technicians were trained.

Usage today

The German Navy only uses the term division to divide into boat squadrons, which are used as a tactical unit. As a rule, the squadron commander leads the first division of his squadron and the S3 staff officer and deputy head the second division, each consisting of two to five boats. In exceptional cases, an experienced boat commander can be assigned to lead a third division.

Some other navies know divisions as the structure of ship units. Even today there are B. in the Japanese Sea Self-Defense Forces divisions as an organizational unit.

Air Force

Wehrmacht Air Force

In the Wehrmacht Air Force , the paratroopers were divided into divisions. There were a total of 14 divisions: 1st , 2nd , 3rd , 4th , 5th , 6th , 7th , 8th , 9th , 10th , 11th , 20th and 21st Paratrooper Divisions and the Paratroopers -Division Erdmann .

In addition, a total of 22 air force field divisions were set up in 1942/43 . These were divisions of the Luftwaffe that were used in ground combat. On September 20, 1943, Adolf Hitler issued an order that the Luftwaffe field divisions were to be incorporated into the army under the name Felddivision (L). The air force soldiers became army soldiers.

Air force / air defense of the NVA

The Air Force / Air Defense of the NVA possessed with the 1st Air Defense Division (1st LVD) and third LVD two major units that already exist in peace in the duty officer system of air defense and war under the leadership of the Air Defense Command Air Forces / for combat tasks were provided. In another division equivalent, the executive body of the front and army aviation forces (FO FAFK) set up in 1981 , from which the executive body front u. Military Transport Air Force (FO FMTFK) emerged , the air strike, air reconnaissance and air transport forces were combined. These associations would have changed their subordination relationship during the war, the FO FMTFK would not have been assigned a leadership role.

see main article: Air Forces of the National People's Army

Bundeswehr Air Force

In the Bundeswehr , air force divisions have no mandate to conduct combat independently. Rather, they are used to organize units ( squadron , regiment , area) and offices .

Web links

Wiktionary: Division  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  • The campaign of 1866 in Germany. System tape. Edited by the War History Department of the Great General Staff. Mittler, Berlin 1867, Annex 28.
  • Hein: The little book of the German Army. A manual and reference book for instruction on the German military power. Processed according to the latest regulations. Lipsius & Tischer, Kiel et al. 1901, (Reprint: Weltbild-Verlag, Augsburg 1998, ISBN 3-8289-0271-5 ).
  • Histories of the two hundred and fifty-one divisions of the German Army which participated in the war (1914-1918). Compiled from records of intelligence section of the General Staff, American expeditionary forces, at general headquarters, Chaumont, France, 1919. Government Printing Office, Washington DC 1920 (Reprint. London Stamp Exchange, London 1989, ISBN 0-948130-87-3 ).
  • Hew Strachan : European Armies and the Conduct of War. Routledge, London et al. 1992, ISBN 0-415-07863-6 .
  • Christoph Rass: "Human material". German soldiers on the Eastern Front. Interior views of an infantry division 1939–1945 (= War in History. Vol. 17). Schöningh, Paderborn et al. 2003, ISBN 3-506-74486-0 (also: Aachen, Rheinisch-Westfälische Technische Hochschule, dissertation, 2001) ( online ).

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Maurice de Saxe: Mes rêveries ouvrage posthume. Amsterdam, Leipzig 1757, p. 108ff. Digitized
  2. Gerhard von Scharnhorst: Relation of the battle at Freyberg, between the Prussian Army under Prince Heinrich and the Austrian and Imperial Army under Prince von Stolberg, October 29th. 1762. In: New military journal 6 (1792), pp. 25-59. Digitized
  3. Píerre Joseph de Bourcvets: Principes de la Guerre de Montagnes. Paris 1888, esp.p. 61ff. Digitized by Guibert, Jacques Antoine Hippolyte: Essai général de tactique . 2 volumes. London 1770, 1772, esp.Volume II, pp. 169ff. Digitized
  4. ^ The campaign of 1866 in Germany , Appendix 28
  5. Günter Wegmann: The end of the war between Ems and Weser 1945. H. Th. Wenner, Osnabrück, 2000, p. 349.
  6. The Organization of the Army. Communication Defense, November 22, 2018, accessed May 29, 2019 .
  7. Exercise Regulations for the Fleet, Part 1, Chapter 1, § 1, Paragraph 2, 4. Contained in BArch, RM 3/4022, 72-136). Quoted from Heiko Herold: Imperial violence means sea violence. The cruiser squadron of the Imperial Navy as an instrument of German colonial and world politics 1885 to 1901 (Contributions to Military History, Vol. 74, also Phil. Diss. Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), Munich (Oldenbourg Verlag) 2012. ISBN 978-3- 486-71297-1 . Page 25.
  8. ^ Draft for the drill regulations for the fleet of January 16, 1893, Part 1, Chapter 1, Section 1, Paragraphs 1, 3, Page 2). Quoted from Heiko Herold: Imperial violence means sea violence. The cruiser squadron of the Imperial Navy as an instrument of German colonial and world politics 1885 to 1901 (Contributions to Military History, Vol. 74, also Phil. Diss. Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf), Munich (Oldenbourg Verlag) 2012. ISBN 978-3- 486-71297-1 . Page 25.


  1. The division into installation waves denotes different structures and equipment ( StAN ) of army divisions of the Wehrmacht.