Average age of German combat soldiers?

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Average age of German combat soldiers?

Postby Jake » Tue Mar 29, 2005 4:18 am

Hello everyone

Does anyone know the average age of the soldiers in the combat elements of the infantry and panzer divisions of the Army and Waffen SS? Specifically for the period 1939-1941, and then the average age through WW2 as a whole (excluding Volkssturm)? I'm interested in whatever info anyone may have, however detailed or otherwise.

Thanks in advance for any replies

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Postby Uli » Sat Apr 02, 2005 11:36 am

Hello, Jake:

Many years ago, I read that, in preparation for Operation "Gelb," Altmann ("Steel" Group), Witzig ("Granite" Group) and Koch--in concert with General Student's thinking--sought to leaven their Eben Emael assault force with as many 26-33 year old Fallschirmjaeger as could be produced. And period photos indeed seem to offer physical evidence suggesting that many of these Fallschirmjaeger were somewhat older than, say, 19-22. If I can resource empirical evidence of this, I'll certainly bring it forth as soon as possible.

Sorry I can't speak for Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS.
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Postby Jake » Sat Apr 02, 2005 1:32 pm

Hi Uli

Thanks for your post. Interesting to hear about the ideal paratrooper being as 'old' as 26-33 at that time. I read once (in a not very reliable source) that before the war the Leibstandarte took no one under 23 into its ranks. It may be that the actual average ages of the combat soldiers in WW2, especially the German, has not been collated in any great detail (some of us might remember the Paul Hardcastle track '19' saying the average age of - presumably American - combat soldiers in WW2 was 26).

But the average age of the German fighting man at various times in the war does interest me, especially in the years of the 'great adventure' of 39-41, and then what changes took place in the years of the great calamity. For example, to what extent was the 'conquering' Wehrmacht composed of very young men all at a similar age to each other, and to what extent was the hard-pressed Wehrmacht of later years composed of units containing much broader age ranges? I'm interested in the psychological and emotional insights that might exist in this information, if it's available anywhere. And of course, any age-related info you may care to share about the Fallschirmjaeger is most appreciated!

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Postby Helmut » Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:27 pm

Servus,
Some German friends of mine in that served in the W-SS were in theri late teens in the '39-'41 timeframe when they volunteered. My Grandfather, a Volksdeutscher who was inducted into the PE Div in 1942 was 40 years old. Just offered as a basis of comparison. Admittedly he as not in a combat formation but rather in the PFERDELAZARETT. He was a farmer and had cared for horses all his life so its seem the military establishmnet was capable of matching skills to positions>

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Postby Jake » Fri Apr 08, 2005 12:57 pm

Hi Helmut

Thanks for your post, I appreciate your information. To be honest, I thought I was asking a pretty basic question in this thread, but not many replies. Maybe little or no actual statistical data on the average ages of the German combat soldiers exists after all. Surprising.

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Postby Dr. Beat » Sat Apr 09, 2005 12:24 pm

Ditto to all of you.

Since there was consription, the average age would be teens-twenties.

My thoughts at least.
---Dr. Beat

"Mein Ehre heisst Treue"
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Postby gerhard2 » Sat Apr 09, 2005 3:59 pm

Hi Jake:
I don't think you will get a satisfactory answer to your question. Also it very much depends of the time during the war. The only time I can talk about is my own time 1943 on. Likely by that time there were not too many of conscription age left.
We, after having had visits of Luftwaffe, Marine, Heer and Waffen SS at school and a final talk by our principal, a invalided Waffenn SS officer. The entire class volunteered to the Waffen SS. That was early 1943, our class consisted of 16-17 year olds of the 1926/25 years.
At the training Abteilung, as far as I knew we were ear marked for the 13th Division. As I understand the entire Division was made up of guys my age (17-18 and the NCOs and officers being veterans from the Eastern front.
In my case, lucky me with a batterie went as replacements East to the 2nd Division. There very few were over 25 or so.
If this is average or usual I don't know, just what I saw.
Gerhard

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Postby sid guttridge » Sat Apr 09, 2005 11:54 pm

Hi Guys,

I think it would be quite difficult to pin down this figure. An average age for the German Army throughout the war might be achievable, but the average age of the teeth arms would probably be difficult to isolate, beyond that it was certainly below the over all average age.

It is probably easiest to establish the age of the Welle 1 divisions at the outbreak of war. They were about 80% composed of active conscripts, which would give 4/5 of the manpower of these divisions (and especially the typical infantryman) an average age of about 22. However, thereafter much of their manpower was sent to provide cadres for new divisions, and casualties began to mount, so the situation probably altered considerably within a couple of years as replacements arrived.

The average age of the front line German soldier probably varied considerably during the war, but tended to rise.

I think conscription was originally at about 21, but fell during the war as manpower shortages forced the premature call-up of younger age groups.(The Waffen-SS was initially heavily restricted in the amount of Reich manpower it could conscript, and so concentrated heavily on recruiting volunteers from below the Army's conscription age. Thus the age profile of the Reich-raised W-SS divisions was probably well below that of the Army.)

The Army also had even larger pressures in the opposite direction. Between 1919 and the mid-1930s there were several million men who received no military training due to the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles - the so-called "white years" named because they appeared as blank spaces on Army bar graphs of trained manpower availability. They were between about their mid twenties and 40-ish at the outbreak of war. They were called up and gradually trained during the war. (I suspect that the W-SS didn't have a high proportion of this age group.)

Finally, from mid-1944 the German Army was calling up men over 40 in considerable numbers for combat service. They had previously served in rear area security roles, such as occupying Poland during the French Campaign, but not in front line combat roles in any number.

Sorry not to be of much use.

Cheers,

Sid.
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Postby Jake » Sun Apr 10, 2005 10:24 am

Hi guys

Thanks for your information, much appreciated. You HAVE been helpful. If detailed statistical info on the average age of the German combat soldier throughout the war existed, then I was very curious to know what it was. But if it doesn't actually exist, then you've answered my question anyway. Thanks!

But as a general idea, the picture I'm forming is that the teeth elements in '39-'41 had a rough age range that fell quite tightly in the early twenties, with an average age of about 22 as Sid says. After that the age range seems to have gone from about 17 or 18 to about 40 or 45. Depending on exactly where the weight of numbers actually fell, it looks like the average overall age '42-'45 would have been somewhere in the late twenties or even early thirties. Again it would be interesting to know how this was actually represented within the individual combat units, if some tended to be younger and others older, or if the age range was spread more or less evenly throughout. Gerhard's 13th and 2nd Divisions sound very young for '43 onwards.

But it points to a unique aspect of the German experience of WW2 (in Europe). The USSR, USA and Britain seem to have finished the war with the same basic recruitment procedures they began it with, in other words the ever-larger mobilisation of the same demographic (almost every able body in the USSR's case, and staying within the twenties for the Western Allies). But for Germany the social burden of the war changed drastically from '42 onwards, which I suppose was a necessary result of having started the war but not being able to finish it successfully. It's as if Germany was engaged upon a series of strictly military campaigns '39-'41, all carried out by a very young and highly professional army. It wasn't 'war' as such, though it was to Germany's enemies right from the start, as it had to be. Only when the final victory proved elusive did the war really begin for Germany. I wonder how much resentment, if any, those called up later on had for the 'proud and arrogant' young men who'd gotten them into all this. Conversely, I read once of the contempt some POWs from the Afrika Korps of the early days had for later groups of POWs who'd 'f*cked it all up' as they saw it. If Gerhard or anyone can shed some light on that, I'd be very interested.

Thanks again for your posts.

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Jake
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Postby sid guttridge » Mon Apr 11, 2005 12:53 am

Hi Jake,

One has to wonder what right men who were early prisoners had to tell later prisoners that the latter had cocked it all up. Surely, by the simple fact of having already got themselves captured, it was the former who had been first to cock it up?

Cheers,

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Postby Jake » Mon Apr 11, 2005 2:44 am

Hi Sid

I checked where I read that and found it was in 'Through Hell For Hitler' by Henry Mettelman. Mettelman made exactly the same point you make.

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Postby gerhard2 » Mon Apr 11, 2005 9:17 am

Hi Jake
I understand the men of the Afrika Korps went as POWs to the States so I never met any as I was taken prisoner at wars end, May the 8th or 9th 1945.
Resentment, not really just contempt for those who did not pull their weight, especially the ones who discarded their weapons.
Looking back it may well have been the intolerance of the young, certainly not loyalty to Hitler. Our loyalty was to each other. It was the same in both batteries I served.
My experience and what I saw.
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Postby Jake » Mon Apr 11, 2005 11:45 am

Thank you very much for your comments, Gerhard.
Best wishes.

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