Land Forces of the National People's Army

Land Forces of the National People's Army
Landstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee
Active 1 March 1956 – 2. October 1990
Country  East Germany
Allegiance Warsaw Pact

105.850 nominal, peacetime, 1990

394.350 nominal, wartime, 1990[1]
Part of Kommando Landstreitkraefte
(since 1972)
Headquarters Geltow, Potsdam-Mittelmark
Parading Land Forces of the National People's Army

The Land Forces of the National People's Army[2] (German: Landstreitkräfte der Nationalen Volksarmee - LaSK), was the ground based military branch of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) National People's Army (NPA). The Land Forces Command, located at Geltow was established on 1 December 1972 as a management body created for the land forces. The NPA itself was created on March 1, 1956 from the Kasernierte Volkspolizei (Barracked People's Police).


Peacetime organisation in 1986

The LaSK had a peacetime organisation since 1972 under the command of the Kommando Landstreitkraefte (Kdo. LaSK). Its largest formations between 1956 and 1990 were the Military Districts III and V, which generally consisted of three active divisions each, plus training-, combat support and logistic units. The 1. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division was additionally attached to the Military District V, but was designated to leave that formation in wartime to play a key role in the assault on West-Berlin. The 6. motorisierte Schützendivision existed only for two years (1956-1958) as an active formation.

While the two districts held the bulk of the GDR´s land forces, additional artillery- and support elements, as well as the paratroopers of the 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon (upgraded to Luftsturmregiment 40 in 1986) were under direct command of the Kdo. LaSK.

In wartime both military districts would have been transformed into Armies. The 3rd Army in the South, reinforced by the GDR reserve divisions 10., 6. and 17., and the 5th Army in the North, reinforced by the soviet 94th Guards Motor Rifle Division and the independent tank regiments 138. and 221. of the Red Army. Both armies would have been commanded by the Soviet high-command, while the Kommando Landstreitkräfte was to focus on the military supply chain, medical services, internal security and assist in the capture of West-Berlin.[3]

The order of battle of the ground forces (1980–90):

Military District V (North)

The headquarters of the northern district was in Neubrandenburg.

1. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Potsdam)

8. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Schwerin)

9. Panzerdivision (Eggesin)

Military District III (South)

The headquarters of the southern district was in Leipzig.

4. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Erfurt)

7. Panzerdivision (Dresden)

11. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Halle)

Second line divisions

In the event of a full-scale mobilisation, the six regular divisions of the NVA would have been supplemented by three mobilisation divisions and two reserve divisions.[4] All five divisions would be mobilised on M+2. The cadre of each mobilisation/reserve division remained on hand as the regular staff of training centers/non-commissioned officer (NCO) schools. The five second line divisions were the 6th Motor Rifle Division (Königswartha), the 10th Motor Rifle Division (Ronneburg), the 17th Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (HQ Petersroda), the 19th Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (HQ Wulkow, which was not based on a training centre), and the 20th Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (HQ Bredenfelde).

Mobilization Divisions - command of the Military District III of land forces (Leipzig)

6. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Königswartha)

10. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Ronneburg)

17. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Petersroda)

Reserve divisions - command of the Military District V of land forces (Neubrandenburg)

19. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Wulkow)

20. Motorisierte-Schützen-Division (Bredenfelde)

Other units

The Kommando Landstreitkräfte also contained some specially trained units - like the 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger (later Luftsturmregiment 40 Willi Sänger). The structure and equipment was mostly of Soviet design, and the NVA operated in close collaboration with the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany. There were also reports of a special NVA diversionary battalion in south Germany equipped with M-48s and M-113s, able to cause confusion amongst NATO forces if war came (thus emulating and improving on the example of Otto Skorzeny's Panzerbrigade 150 during the Ardennes Offensive). However more recent reports throw doubt on the existence of any such unit.[5]

Types of units






Small Arms:

Name Country of origin Type Quantity Notes
Makarov PM  Soviet Union
 East Germany
Semi-automatic pistol
Nagant M1895[6]  Soviet Union Revolver Imported in small numbers and saw little use
PPSh-41  Soviet Union Submachine gun
Mauser Kar98k  Nazi Germany Bolt-action rifle In use by the Combat Groups of the Working Class and remained in standard use until the 1960s and continued its service in limited circumstances
Mosin–Nagant  Soviet Union Bolt Action Rifle In use by the Combat Groups of the Working Class and in remained standard use until the 1960s and continued its service in limited circumstances
STG44  Nazi Germany Assault rifle Left over from World War Two, used until the early 1960s
SKS  Soviet Union Semi-automatic carbine
AKM  Soviet Union
 East Germany
Assault rifle Manufactured by the state arsenal as the MPi-KM (fixed stock, later variants were distinctive stippled plastic) and MPi-KMS-72 (AKMS) with a single strut "coathanger" side-folding stock.
AK-74  Soviet Union
 East Germany
Assault rifle MPi-AK-74N, MPi-AKS-74N, MPi-AKS-74NK variants made by the state arsenal for a short period of time starting in 1983 (withdrawn from service after German reunification)
RPD  Soviet Union
Light machine gun
RPK  Soviet Union Light machine gun
PKM  Soviet Union General-purpose machine gun
Dragunov SVD  Soviet Union Designated marksman rifle
RPG-7D  Soviet Union light AT-weapon
RPG-18  Soviet Union light AT-weapon

Armored Vehicles:

Name Country of origin Type Quantity Notes
BMP-1  Soviet Union
Infantry fighting vehicle
BMP-2  Soviet Union
Infantry Fighting Vehicle (tracked IFVs in first-line Panzergrenadier units)
BRDM-1  Soviet Union Amphibious armoured patrol car
BRDM-2  Soviet Union Amphibious armoured patrol car
BTR-40  Soviet Union Armoured personnel carrier
BTR-50  Soviet Union Amphibious armored personnel carrier
BTR-60  Soviet Union Armoured personnel carrier
BTR-70  Soviet Union
 East Germany
Armoured personnel carrier (wheeled APCs in mechanized and motorized units)
BTR-152  Soviet Union Armoured personnel carrier
PT-76  Soviet Union Amphibious light tank
T-34  Soviet Union
 East Germany
Medium tank (only in modified recovery/engineering versions)
T-54  Soviet Union
Main battle tank (reserve)
T-55  Soviet Union
Main battle tank (upgraded to T-55AM standard)
T-72  Soviet Union
Main battle tank (in first-line Panzer units)


  1. Theodor Hoffmann: "Das letzte Kommando", Mittler, 1993, ISBN 3-8132-0420-0, p. 320
  2. Deutsches Institut für Militärgeschichte, Militärgeschichte, Vol. XI, Deutscher Militärverlag. 1972.
  3. Rüdiger Wenzke:Die Streitkräfte der DDR und Polens in der Operationsplanung des Warschauer Paktes, Militärgeschichtliches Forschungsamt, 2010, ISBN 978-3941571099
  4. Shawn Bohannon Mobilmachungsdivisionen / Reservedivisionen, Axis History Forum, accessed May 2010
  5. Steven J. Zaloga and James Loop, Soviet Bloc Elite Forces, Osprey Publishing, 1998, had the initial report of the battalion, more recent critical commentary is at Tanknet > NVA Special Units
  6. "M1895 Nagant Revolver". Retrieved 2016-04-26.

Further reading

External links

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