The 1. Fallschirmjäger-Division was an elite airborne division which served under Nazi Germany during World War II. 1. Fallschirmjäger was formed largely from remnants of the earlier 7. Flieger-Division which had served in the airborne operations in the low countries and in Crete.
In order of their taking command of the unit, the following are all the commanders in charge of the 1. Fallshirmjäger-Division at one time or another:
- General der Fallschirmtruppe Richard Heidrich (May 1943)
- Generalmajor Hans Korte (January 4, 1944)
- General der Fallschirmtruppe Richard Heidrich (February 21, 1944)
- Generalmajor Karl-Lothar Schulz (November 18, 1944)
As a Fallschirmjäger division, 1. Fallschirmjäger possessed the following order of battle:
- Fallschirmjäger Regiment 1
- Fallschirmjäger Regiment 3
- Fallschirmjäger Regiment 4
- 1. Fallschirmjäger-Panzerjäger Abteilung 1
- 1. Fallschirmjäger-Flak Abteilung
- 1. Fallschirmjäger-Pionier Abteilung
- 1. Fallschirmjäger Maschinengewehr-Bataillon 1
- 1. Fallschirmjäger Sanitäts-Bataillon
- 1. Fallschirmjäger Artillerie-Regiment
The 1. Fallschirmjäger division was formed in May 1943 in Southern France. Following training, the division was sent to Avignon, France in preparation for possible Allied landings in the Mediterranean. The division was then mobilized on July 11, 1943 in response to Allied landings in Sicily. On July 12, paratroopers of 1. Fallschirmjäger jumped south of Catania. Further paradrops to deploy the rest of the division including the engineer, anti-tank, and machine gun groups were carried out over the course of the next two weeks. However, it was not long before the division was forced to retreat.
As fighting intensified on the island of Sicily, so too did the casualties of 1. Fallschirmjäger. One such instance was the defense of the German retreat to Messina by the men of Fallschirmjäger Regiment 3, resulting in the regiment's destruction, though a successful retreat for the rest of the German forces. German forces completely left Sicily for the mainland by August 17, 1943, with 1. Fallschirmjäger being the last to leave. 1. Fallschirmjäger was given the new assignment to defend Apulia, though left to engage British troops landing in Calabria. The division was once again reassigned to fight the American 5th Army which had landed in Salerno on September 9. German forces treated once again on September 18, 1. Fallschirmjäger being sent to a quiet sector of the front in Abruzzo to reorganize itself. To prevent the destruction of numerous relics located in Monte Cassino, 1. Fallschirmjäger was tasked with transporting many such pieces from the monastery to the Vatican. Beginning with the Allied bombardments of Monte Cassino in January, 1. Fallshirmjäger would fight for many weeks defending the ruins of the monastery.
Much of 1. Fallschirmjäger's attention was focused on the defense of a strategic location known as Mount Cavalry, a position next to Monte Cassino in the Liri Valley. Though the division was successful in repulsing every Allied attack in the region, on May 17, 1944, they were ordered to join the German retreat to the center of Italy following news of the American breakout from Anzio and French breakthrough to the rear of Monte Cassino.
1. Fallschirmjäger was moved to the Adriatic coast by November 1944 where it would stay until April 1945. On April 9, it was forced to retreat following a bombardment of over 1,500 British artillery pieces. Elements of 1. Fallschirmjäger began leaving Italy for Germany on April 12, 1945. They surrendered alongside other German forces in Germany while those still left in Italy surrendered by May 2, 1945.
1. Fallschirmjäger Division was named as one of several German divisions responsible for severe reprisals against partisans in Italy during World War II in British Exhibit UK-66 shown at the Nuremberg Trials in 1945.
- Haupt, Werner. Elite German Divisions in World War II. Schiffer Publishing (2001), Page 83