40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger
was the only airborne
Airborne forces are military units, usually light infantry, set up to be moved by aircraft and 'dropped' into battle. Thus they can be placed behind enemy lines, and have an ability to deploy almost anywhere with little warning...
Infantrymen are soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are the backbone of armies...
formation of the East German National People’s Army (German: Nationale Volksarmee or NVA). The battalion
A battalion is a military unit of around 300–1,200 soldiers usually consisting of between two and seven companies and typically commanded by either a Lieutenant Colonel or a Colonel...
was based in Prora
Prora is a beach resort on the island of Rügen, Germany, known especially for its colossal Nazi-planned touristic structures. The massive building complex was built between 1936 and 1939 as a Kraft durch Freude project. The eight buildings are identical, and while they were planned as a holiday...
Rügen is Germany's largest island. Located in the Baltic Sea, it is part of the Vorpommern-Rügen district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.- Geography :Rügen is located off the north-eastern coast of Germany in the Baltic Sea...
island (1962-82) and later near Potsdam
Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg and part of the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region. It is situated on the River Havel, southwest of Berlin city centre....
(1982-90). It had a complement of approximately 400 to 500 men.
In 1960, four years after the founding of the East German Army, the first paratrooper unit was formed from the 5th Motorized Rifle Battalion (German: Motorschützenbataillons 5; MSB 5). On February 28, 1962, it was renamed as the 5th Paratrooper Battalion (German: Fallschirmjägerbataillon 5; FJB 5). The Number 5 identified the affiliation with the 5th Military District with headquarters in Neubrandenburg
Neubrandenburg is a city in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is located in the southeastern part of the state, on the shore of a lake called the Tollensesee ....
. The paratroopers were the smallest organization assigned to the land forces. The unit was seen in public for the first time on the occasion of the 1964 May Day parade in East Berlin.
In 1969 the battalion was bestowed with the tradition-based name of "Willi Sänger" an anti-Nazi resistance fighter and workers' sports devotee.
In 1971 the battalion was renamed as the 2nd Paratrooper Battalion (German: Fallschirmjägerbataillon 2; FJB 2) and then on November 8, 1972, it was renamed then 40th Paratrooper Battalion (German: Fallschirmjägerbataillon 40; FJB 40), under the direct command of the Headquarters Land Forces, based in Potsdam.
Starting in 1981, a company of paratroopers from the Battalion began guarding the headquarters of the Minister for National Defense in Strausberg
Strausberg is a city in Brandenburg, Germany, located 30 km east of Berlin. With a population of 26,206 in 2010 it is the largest town in the district of Märkisch-Oderland.-History:...
In 1986 this unit was expanded to form the Luftsturmregiment 40
Luftsturmregiment 40 LSTR-40 was the 40th Air Assault Regiment of the East German National People's Army . It was formed in 1986 by expanding the existing parachute battalion 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger with additional air assault companies and support capability...
(English: 40th Air Assault Regiment.)
In time of war the battalion would be used as a commando
In English, the term commando means a specific kind of individual soldier or military unit. In contemporary usage, commando usually means elite light infantry and/or special operations forces units, specializing in amphibious landings, parachuting, rappelling and similar techniques, to conduct and...
strike unit to infiltrate and sabotage NATO
command structures and supply routes. Paratroopers were to be employed to eliminate nuclear weapons carriers, enemy command posts, to prevent the resupply of enemy forces, or to occupy important objects until their own forces have arrived
All of the battalion's personnel were volunteers who had to pass many selective tests before being channeled for further training. Every year a few hundred young NVA-soldiers volunteered for a place in the unit, only 8-10% passed.
The following basic prerequisites were necessary:
- Completion of the tenth grade of the general education-providing pyrotechnical advanced school.
- The making of at least twelve parachute jumps in the Society for Sport and Technology.
- Proof of physical performance passing an "Eight-Event Test."
Since this unit required a long-term commitment, the service period of a paratrooper was generally at least 3 years.
Training took place in the unit in accordance with the requirements of commando operations similar to US Army Rangers and Special Forces. Training was rigorous as possible with physical combat and weapons drills to the point of complete exhaustion and the most rigorous kind of athletic training. At the same time paratroopers were instilled with a marked consciousness of belonging to an elite fighting unit.
The training was tailored particularly for employment in the enemy's rear area. It was intended to produce a brave, strong, persevering and independent thinking fighter.
Special training include the following subjects:
- Daytime and night-time combat training.
- Day-time and night-time parachute jumping under the most difficult terrain and weather conditions.
- Handling of explosive and incendiary devices.
- Mountain climbing, skiing,swimming and diving.
- Military physical training with 15-kilometer runs and interval training.
- Forced marches while wearing protective masks and 100-km marches with a complete set of equipment.
- Close-combat training with passing the judo test for the Yellow Belt. Additionally, karate is practiced.
- Radio operations.
- Urban Combat operations.
- Marksmanship training.
- Survival training.
- Foreign languages.
The training of non-commissioned officers took place during the first 6 months of their service period at a non-commissioned officer school for the career category "Noncommissioned Officers for Motorized Infantry Units," after which they performed their duties in their unit for the first time.
Prior to their assignment to the unit, officers received their normal officer training in the "Commanders of Motorized Infantry Units" section of the "Ernst Thaelmann" Officer Academy for the ground forces in Loebau/Zittau and then they get their additional special training in the unit.
The 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon was modeled after the "Rejdoviki," the Soviet special-purpose paratrooper units which are intended to be used for commando operations and for subversion and long-range reconnaissance missions.
The basic structure of the Battalion was four Parachute Companies, a Signal Company and a Transportation Company. In combat the companies of the battalion were to be split up into five or six man teams to lower its operational profile. As a force with special capabilities it remained under the direct command of the Kommando Landstreitkräfte
(KdoLaSK) - the NVA high command.
Uniform and weapons
The battalion used the same 'raindrop' camouflage
Camouflage is a method of concealment that allows an otherwise visible animal, military vehicle, or other object to remain unnoticed, by blending with its environment. Examples include a leopard's spotted coat, the battledress of a modern soldier and a leaf-mimic butterfly...
as regular NVA ground troops, but the battle dress
Battle Dress was the specific title of a military uniform adopted by the British Army in the late 1930s and worn until the 1960s. Several other nations also introduced variants of Battle Dress during the Second World War, including Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa, and the...
was specially made to meet the demands of the unit's needs. There was also a specialised equipment items such as the large rucksack, paratrooper knife, combat vest, rain coat, jump-boots and helmet. The paratroopers arm-of-service color was orange which was displayed on their collar, shoulder boards and beret
A beret is a soft, round, flat-crowned hat, designated a "cap", usually of woven, hand-knitted wool, crocheted cotton, or wool felt, or acrylic fiber....
. In the field they wore a grey beret.
The paratroopers used practically the same weapons as the rest of the army (Landstreitkräfte
- Makarov PM
The PM is a semi-automatic pistol design. Under the project leadership of Nikolay Fyodorovich Makarov, it became the Soviet Union's standard military side arm from 1951-1991.-Development:...
The AK-74 is an assault rifle developed in the early 1970s in the Soviet Union as the replacement for the earlier AKM...
- RPD light machinegun
The PK is a 7.62 mm general-purpose machine gun designed in the Soviet Union and currently in production in Russia. The PK machine gun was introduced in the 1960s and replaced the SGM and RPD machine guns in Soviet service...
- Dragunov SVD semi-automatic sniper rifle
The RPG-7 is a widely-produced, portable, unguided, shoulder-launched, anti-tank rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Originally the RPG-7 and its predecessor, the RPG-2, were designed by the Soviet Union, and now manufactured by the Bazalt company...
D light AT-weapon specially made for airborne use
The battalion had just a few vehicles such as jeeps and motorcycles. As an airborne unit, they parachuted from transport planes or were airlifted by helicopters to their target.