KVA B - 18 LUFTWAFFENFELDDIVISION

 

1. History and Operations

 

The 18 Luftwaffenfelddivision was established at the end of 1942 as part of the Luftwaffe ground troops with Fliegerregiment 52 as its core unit. Between January and April 1943 it was stationed in Rochefort, France under Armeeoberkommando 1. In April 1943 it moved to the Armeeoberkommando 15 in the Dunkirk area, where it replaced the 282 Infanteriedivision.

Initially, it had only two regiments: Jägerregiment 35 and Jägerregiment 36. The former was responsible for he Küstenverteidigungsunterabschnitt Dünkirchen, while the latter guarded the Küstenverteidigungsunterabschnitt Gravelines, the boundary between the two being the line St.Pol - Petite Synthe - Mille Brugghe - Steene. In April 1943 the division was organised as follows:

 

Küstenverteidigungsabschnitt B
18 Luftwaffenfelddivision (HQ in Mille Brugghe)
Küstenverteidigingsunterabschnitt Dünkirchen Küstenverteidigingsunterabschnitt
Gravelines
Jägerregiment 35
(HQ in Coudekerque Branche)
(Stützpunkt Distel)
(Oberst Drewes)
Jägerregiment 36
(HQ in Gravelines)

(Oberst Reinshagen)
I/JR35
(HQ in Bergues)(Res.)
II/JR 35
(HQ in Rosendael)
III/JR35
(HQ in Ghyvelde)
I/JR36
(HQ in Loon-Plage)
II/JR36
(HQ in Gravelines)
III/JR36
(HQ in Oye-Plage)

 

A Kriegsgliederung of 6 April 1943 mentions the most important commanding officers of the major sub-units: Oberst Drewes of the Jägerregiment 35, Oberst Kempchen of the Jägerregiment 36 (notice the difference with the table above), Oberstleutnant Kolb for the Artillerieregiment 18, Hauptmann Speiser for the Panzerjägerabteilung 18, Hauptmann Giessmann for the Pionierbataillon 18 and Hauptmann Behrend for the Divisionstruppen 18.

The same document also mentioned that the division was static and that mobility of artillery, heavy weapons and support troops could only be provided by the 9. leichte Fahrkolonne, and even then only in several runs. Also we learn that the 1, 5 and 9 companies were each equipped with 115 bicycles from the pool of the AOK1.

 

The division also had its own reserve forces. They are listed in the table below:

 

Divisionsreserven

I/JR35 (Bergues)
Luftwaffepionierbatallion 18 (Bergues und Umgebung) (nicht eingesetzte Teile)
Radfahrkompanie (Luftwaffefüselierbatallion 18?) (Bourbourg)
Uffz-St.Kp (Bourbourg)
Luftwaffepanzerjägerabteilung 18 (ohne 1 Kp) (Wormhout)
Alarmeinheiten aus Teilen Divisionsstab, Ln-Kompanie, Versorgungstruppen
9+10 Batterie/Artillerieregiment 18

 

Special mention also needs to be made of the Verteidigungsbereich Dünkirchen. In May 1943 this was actually a Kriegsmarine command headed by Fregattenkapitän Schneider. However, his command was tactically subordinated to Jägerregiment 35.

On 1 November 1943 the division acquired Jägerregiment 48 and was taken over by the Heer as bodenständige Division  and redesignated 18 Felddivision(L). The composition of the division was significantly changed, as each regiment was reduced to just two batallions instead of three. It was now organized as follows:

 

Küstenverteidigungsabschnitt B

18 Luftwaffenfelddivision (HQ in Socx)

Jägerregiment 35

(HQ in Ghyvelde) (Stützpunkt Arnika)

Jägerregiment 48

(HQ in Loon-Plage) (Stützpunkt Holunder)

Jägerregiment 36

(HQ in Gravelines)

I/JR 35
(HQ in Rosendael)
II/JR 35
(HQ in Zuydcoote)
I/JR 48
(HQ in Mardyck)
II/JR 48
(HQ in Petite-Synthe)
I/JR36
(HQ in Oye-Plage)
II/JR36
(HQ in Gravelines)

 

 

In August 1944 the division withdrew from the coast and fought under Panzerarmee 5 in defence of Paris before retreating to Belgium (see below). The division was destroyed in the fighting around Mons in September 1944 and its remaining elements were used to establish the 18 Volksgrenadierdivision. The latter was created in Denmark on 2 September 1944 by renaming the 571 Volksgrenadierdivision bases there. The division remained stationed in Denmark for a short while, but found itself fighting in the Ardennes between November 1944 and January 1945. It served in the Eifel region in February and March, and finished the war in the Kassel area.

 

2. Commanders

 

Generalmajor Ferdinand Freiherr von Stein-Liebenstein zu Barchfeld ? /12/1942 -  01/04/1943
Generalleutnant Wolfgang Erdman 01/04/1943 - 26/08/1943
Generalmajor Fritz Reinshagen 26/08/1943 - 27/10/1943
Generalleutnant Wilhelm Rupprecht 27/10/1943 - 01/02/1944
Generalleutnant Joachim von Tresckow
(Ia: Obersleutnant i.G. Hobusch)
01/02/1944 - ?  /10/1944

 

3. Troop numbers and weapons

 

Following is a listing of weapons in the division on 1/7/44. Bodenständige weapons are not included, unless otherwise indicated:

 

505 Maschinegewehren
32 Flammenwerfer (bodenständig?)
14 Flammenwerfer (4 bodenständig?)
60 Granatwerfer (m)
60 Panzerbüchse
4 Infanteriegeschütze
18 Panzerabwehrkanone (teilweise motorisiert)
12 Panzerabwehrkanone (motorisiert)
3 Sturmgeschütze (11 am 1/8/44)
9 37mm Flak (motorisiert)
9x 20mm Flak (motorisiert)
12 7,62 cm FH
24 15,5 cm FH

 

It is interesting to note that not all units were at full strength. On 1/7/44 actual strengths in the infantry batallions ranged between 85 and 98%. On 1/8/1944 the situation had deteriorated with the highest percentage in the infantry batallions being 91.5%. The Füselierbatallion and the Feldgendarmerietrupp were even more understrength, 85% and 80%, respectively. However, worst of were the newly formed 14 (Panzerjäger) Kompanien, which were not able to muster more than 70%.

 

4. Subordinate units (1/6/44)

 

5. Flugmeldedienst im KVA B

A German document of 12 June 1944 offers us as an overview of the Flugmeldedienst in KVA B. This service, run by the Luftwaffe, but also involving Heer strongpoints and communication centres, was an important addition to the radar stations of the Luftwaffe, as it offered a visual identification of numbers, types, and directions of overflying allied aircraft. Together with information from radar stations, this information was reported to higher Luftwaffe headquarters. The organisation of the Flugmeldedienst was rather complicated, as is shown by the mindmap below, which is based on the German document. Even though the Flugmeldedienst was essentially a Luftwaffe affair, it used Heer strongpoints and communication centres in the entire KVA B. Of interest here is especially the right-hand side of the mindmap (the left-hand side showing the pure Luftwaffe channels of communication).

6. Fallschirmjagdkommandos im KVA B

Gradually the Germans troops occupying the coasts of France became aware of the acute threat of allied paratroopers landing behind the coastline, either for raiding purposes or for accompanyinga seaborne assault. In order to deal with such threats, Fallschirmjagdkommandos were formed in each Küstenverteidigungsabschnitt. The following PDF-document offers an overview of such units in KVA B. It is based on a German document of 12/13 June 1944:

Interestingly, about a month later the situation has changed considerably. The number of regions, strongpoints, and troops affected has increased substantially, no doubt reflecting the anxiety of the German troops after the D-Day landings. The overview below is based on a German document of 8 July 1944: