Welcome to DECODED, a blog site for those interested in the period of history between the end of the Second World War and the final reunification of Berlin, Germany. This site is maintained by a Cold War history enthusiast, for other Cold War history enthusiasts and will be a source of information from both sides of the Cold War for history enthusiasts, political science fans, researchers, military history collectors and military veterans alike. Please visit the site regularly for updates. This site by no means is to represent or endorse any political agenda or ideology, information contained within is strictly used for the purpose of education and preservation of history for future generations. Thank you for visiting my blog, and welcome to the brink...

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Soldiers and the People are One: The Landstreitkräfte der NVA

The Landstreitkräfte der NVA was the land component effectively the ground forces of the East German National People's Army. The Land Forces Command was officially located at Geltow and was established on 1 December 1972 as a management body created for the land forces. The Nationale Volksarmee having been itself was created on March 1, 1956 from varying units of the Kasernierte Volkspolizei which were specialized units of the police. Prior to 1956, the Soviet authorities in East Germany had been secretly rearming the eastern zone and providing oversight and training for a new armed body politically reliable to Moscow.

The Landstreitkräfte was envisioned as an all motorized infantry force tasked with conducting defensive or offensive actions to protect East Germany and her Soviet allies, or to attack Western Europe in conjunction with a larger combined Soviet offensive. It maintained a personnel strength of about 120,000 troops of which about roughly 60% were draftees performing their obligatory military service. The Landstreitkräfte maintained a force of 2 armored divisions, 4 motor rifle divisions, 2 surface-to-surface missile brigades, 10 artillery regiments, 1 dedicated anti-aircraft regiment, 8 air defense regiments, 1 airborne regiment, 2 anti-tank battalions, and various other support units. Most of the equipment supplied to the Landstreitkräfte was of Soviet design and origin, although some items in its inventory came from Czechoslovakia or elsewhere within the Warsaw Pact.

Uniforms worn by the Landstreitkräfte varied by period; early tunics were similar to those worn by the predecessor organization, the defeated Wehrmacht during World War II. From the mid-1970s through to 1990, officers and career personnel wore stone-grey gabardine tunics complete with white-piping around the collars and sleeves, also along trouser seams; although riding breeches which were used for parade were unpiped. These uniforms were inspired by the traditional Prussian influence of German history. Non Career NCO's and other enlisted men, including draftees performing their military service requirement wore wool stone-grey tunics, with unpiped grey wool trousers. From the inception of the Landstreitkräfte  in 1956 up until 1982 parade tunics were worn complete with decorative cuff bars on the sleeves.

There were two main patterns of field uniforms worn by the Landstreitkräfte and these varied according to period. These were:

The Leaf (or Splotch) known as Blumentarn Pattern Camouflage battle dress was a two-piece field uniform worn up until the mid-1960s when it was replaced by the Strichtarn pattern uniform.
The Rain (or Splinter) known as Strichtarn Pattern Camouflage battle dress was a two-piece field uniform worn from the mid-1960 up until the end of East Germany in 1990. Up until 1986 a system of subdued shoulderboards were worn on the uniform but after 1986, a system of rectangular rank patches replaced the shoulderboard system.

The Landstreitkräfte maintained a number of specialized units each one equipped with its own distinctive specialized cuff title which was worn on the left sleeve of their service tunic. Landstreitkräfte cuff titles are distinguishable for have white lettering on a stone-grey base with the exception of the "Erich Weinert Ensemble" Of these specialized units include:

  • The "Wachregiment Friedrich Engels" was the best known and most visible of the three Guard units of the Landstreitkräfte.  The Wachregiment Friedrich Engels was specifically charged with performing ceremonial and elite duties in East Berlin, including the "Changing of the Guard" ceremony at the Neue Wache.
  • The "NVA-Wachregiment" or Wachregiment Hugo Eberlein was the oldest Guard unit in the Landstreitkräfte having been officially established in 1962. Prior to that time the unit had ties to the Wachregiment der Hauptverwaltung Ausbildung which was a training unit formed with the establishment of the Nationale Volksarmee itself in 1956. The Wachregiment Hugo Eberlein was charged with security duties rather than ceremonial duties unlike its Wachregiment Friedrich Engels counterpart.
  • The "Erich Weinert Ensemble" was the military band of the Landstreitkräfte formed as the elite armed forces entertainment group. The Erich Weinert Ensemble wore distinctive cuff titles of white and red on stone-grey base for Army soldiers or a dark blue base in the case of soldiers assigned to the Navy.
  • Militärmusikschüler or Military Music School Student, these were soldiers assigned as musicians completing the 3 year bandsmen program.

 Other special units of the Landstreitkräfte included:

  • The 40.Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger or more commonly known as the Fallschirmjäger Willi Sänger was a unit of highly elite Paratroopers whose mission was to provide the Nationale Volksarmee with an airborne assault capability.The first airborne unit of the East German armed forces was established in 1960 from elements of the Motorschützenbataillon 5 the 5th Motorized Rifle Battalion. On 28 February 1962, the unit was renamed Fallschirmjägerbataillon 5, the 5 aligning it with the 5th Military District headquartered in Neubrandenburg. Throughout its existence the unit would remain the smallest unit in the Landstreitkräfte. The unit was not bestowed a name identifier until 1969, when it received the title ‘Willi Sänger’ in tradition of Communist doctrine to name units in honor of persons who excelled in promoting the Socialist cause. In 1971, the unit was again renamed Fallschirmjägerbataillon 2 and then it was changed yet again on 8 November 1972 when it was reorganized as the Fallschirmjägerbataillon 40. From 1962 up until 1980, the unit was stationed in Prora on Rügen Island before being relocated near Potsdam in 1982 where it would remain until the end of the GDR in 1990. From 1981, a company sized unit of paratroopers guarded the Minister of National Defense. It's troops wore standard white-piped NVA stone-grey tunics, both gabardine and wool, worn with special tapered pants, berets, and other apparel unique to their status as airborne troops.
  • Bausoldaten or Construction Troops were established in response to the growing demand for an alternative to military service for conscientious objectors. It was created to provide a labor service as required by the armed forces. The majority of soldiers in the Construction units were conscientious objectors who refused to serve in the regular armed forces. Service in the Bausoldaten unit was equivalent to a form of punishment. They wore standard white-piped NVA wool tunics, worn with Soldat/Private olive-piped shoulderboards but no other rank or insignia. 

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