by Eric Queen
Layout by Sebastián Bianchi
On January 29th 1936, it was determined that volunteers from I./RGG ( 1st Batl. Regiment "General Göring" ) would make up the cadre of the first paratrooper training class. Later, in March of that year, the Luftwaffe opened its first jump school at Stendal (Borstel) under Capt. Immans. The first training course consisted of 24 volunteers, and lasted for two months (May 4th to July 3rd). The first jump licenses (Fallschirmschützenschein) were awarded the day after the course was completed (July 4th, 1936), with Major Bruno Bräuer receiving license number one (1). The first paratrooper badges (Fallschirmschützenabzeichen (Luftwaffe)) would not be awarded until November 5th of that year.
Click on images to enlarge throughout this article
|The first training class, also know as Ausbildungskommando Immans, prior to the commencement of the first course on May 3rd, 1936.|
|Members of one of the first
Luftwaffe paratrooper training classes from August, 1936. Notice the
first model ( M36 ) jump smocks and the straight bar ( predicessor to
the gull ) rank insignia on the sleeve.
Copyright Eric Queen Collection 2004
|One of the very first
paratrooper qualification badge documents awarded to Oskar Holzwarth in
December of 1936 ( just weeks after the badge was officially instituted
). This document, as well as the Army paratrooper badge document,
were in the large DIN-A4 format. Holzwarth attached his photo to
the upper left corner of the docment. Notice the white tabs and piping
of RGG (Regiment "General Göring" )
Copyright Bob Queen Collection 2004
On October 4, 1936 the Army ordered the institution of its own parachute company, a Fallschirm Infanterie Kompanie. The call went out for volunteers in early March 1937, and on April 1st men who had passed both the psychological and physical exams (only 7 out of each 30 volunteers passed) began arriving at the "Albrecht der Bär" barracks in Stendal. The army did not have a training facility of its own, thus they utilized the already established Luftwaffe facility at Stendal/Borstel (under Olt. Bassange) exclusively. Actual jump training commenced in early June 1937, and only 3 out of each 7 trainees passed the jump course.
Above is group 9 at the Stendal/Borstel training barracks in June of 1937. Notice that at this time, the Army did not have paratrooper equipment of its own and thus were issued helmets, smocks, etc. from existing Luftwaffe stocks. The men in this photo are wearing the 1st model M36 (double zipper) Luftwaffe jump smocks, as well as both M36 (2 reinforced slots per side) and M37 (1 non-reinforced slot per side) Luftwaffe helmets. Of note also is the wear of the very rare 1st model jump pants (with 3 snaps) clearly visible on the man seated at far left. Walter Ruemmler is seated at far right. Copyright Eric Queen Collection 2004
Members of the Fallschirm Infanterie Kompanie prior to a training jump in early 1938. Notice the Luftwaffe instructor checking their parachutes.
On June 1st, 1938, the Fallschirm Infanterie Kompanie was officially expanded (per order HM38 No.286 dated March 15th 1938) to the Fallschim Infanterie Batallion. In addition to the Nachrichten Zug and the Pionier Zug, there were 4 infantry companies (the 4th being "heavy" (machine guns and mortars)) under Major Heidrich and Capt. Prager. 1st Company (under Olt. von Brandis), 2nd Company (under Olt. Huebner), 3nd Company (under Lt. Pagels) and 4th Company (under Olt. Pelz ). On November 4th, 1938, the Fallschirm Infanterie Batallion moved from Stendal to their new barracks (the Rosalies Kaserne) in Braunschweig.
On September 1st, 1937, Generaloberst Frhr. von Fritsch, Commander-in-Chief of the Army, authorized the Army paratrooper qualification badge ( Fallschirmschützenabzeichen (Heer) ) for members of the Fallschirm Infanterie Kompanie. The first badges were awarded later that month, in the afternoon of September 10th, by Hauptmann Zahn and Olt.Pelz during the fall maneuvers at Mecklenburg. A little over 170 badges were awarded on this day, and Generalleutnant Roese (who signed the badge award documents) personally awarded badges to Hauptmann Zahn and Olt.Pelz.
Members of the Fallschirm Infanterie Bataillon continued to wear their original issue Army paratrooper badges after the transfer to the Luftwaffe on 1.1.39. On December 18th 1943 all former members of the Fallschirm Infanterie Bataillon were officially awarded the Luftwaffe version of the paratrooper badge, but very few opted to wear it in place of their original Army badges.
|Studio portrait of a former Army paratrooper (now member of II./FJR1) taken at "Gordon Studios" in Den Haag (where II./FJR 1 were quartered in private houses right after the taking of the rail and road bridges at Moerdijk, on May 10, 1940) This photo is dated May 30th, 1940 (Mei 30, 1940) and was taken a short time after the Iron Crosses were awarded for this operation.|
|Another studio portrait of a former Army paratrooper still wearing his original issue Army paratrooper badge on his Luftwaffe 2nd model Fliegerbluse. Circa 1941/42.|
|Portrait of former army paratrooper taken on May 24, 1940, in a studio in Den Haag. He is wearing the EKII which he was just awarded for the Moerdijk operation.|
The Badge - First Pattern
The first Army Paratrooper badge produced by CE Juncker of Berlin was what is referred to today as the 1st pattern badge with cut out talon. The badge was die struck in aluminum and had an anodized finish. Unique features of original 1st pattern badges are the absence ( in nearly all cases ) of the flat die plate ( or beard ) under the Wehrmachtadlers beak and the existence (in all cases) of the early CE Juncker stamp on the reverse of the diving eagle.
Juncker made a reconfiguration to the die in an attempt to reinforce the fragile talon (which tended to sheer off during the die strike process) This reconfiguration achieved its initial goal, but was short lived due to the fact that the resulting product was esthetically unacceptable. Copyright ©2004 Eric Queen Collection
Upon realization that the die of the 1st pattern badge could not be successfully reconfigured, a new die was designed and produced. The talons on the diving eagle were now slightly enlarged and held close to its body (not extended like the first pattern) thus greatly reducing the likelihood that they would be sheered off during the strike process. Another new feature was the existence of the flat die plate (or beard) which extended from the Wehrmachtadlers beak to its right shoulder. It is assumed that this measure was taken to reinforce the beak area, and perhaps to save the time needed to do the delicate tooling to this area after the strike. The 2nd pattern, just like the 1st, featured only an anodized finish.
The major noticeable difference when looking at the reverse of the 2nd pattern badge in comparison to the 1st pattern) is the lack of a makers mark. In nearly all cases these badges were not marked (as of the writing of this article, the author has only seen one (1) 2nd pattern badge with the CE Juncker stamp thought to be original) Other features (barrel hinge, "C" form catch from round stock wire, domed rivets remain the same) 2nd pattern badges were produced with both pointed and rounded tip pins. Dimensions of these badges were approximately 55mm x 42mm and weighed approximately 12.5 grams.
Below - original presentation box for the army paratrooper badge. All originals, still in the hands of the surviving recipients, observed by the author have been exactly the same ( wording, texture/color of cloth). Presentation cases with the wording "Fallschirmschuetzenabzeichen des Heeres" are pure fantasy in the opinion of the author.
Eric Queen Collection
Members of the Fallschirm Infanterie had the option of purchasing a badge in 800 fine silver from local jewelers. These badge were also manufactured by CE Juncker of Berlin, and were of extremely high quality and detail. Both FIK (struck from the 1st pattern (reinforced talon) die) and FIB (from the 2nd pattern die) were produced. After the order was placed (with the jeweler), the jeweler would send the persons details to Juncker with the order. The reverse typically had the persons Name, Rank and Unit engraved on the reverse, along with a number. These numbers corresponded to the control number on the paratrooper badge award document, OR the control number on the paratrooper license.
Johannes Schilling ( # 154 ) placed his order for this badge with a jeweler in Braunlage ( near the Harz Mountains ) in late 1937. Notice the only marking which should be found on the reverse in the 800 ( 800 parts genuine silver 200 parts alloying agents ) stamp. Notice also the tapering of the pin and the placement of the "C" form catch.
The FIB version badges (struck from the 2nd pattern aluminum dies) were slightly heavier than the FIK version (weighing 35 grams compared to the 30 grams of the FIK version). Neither version of the badge featured the flat die plate (or beard) under the Wehrmachtadlers beak.
Fallschirmfunker Uffz.Willmann was a member of the Nachrichten Zug (communications platoon) of the Fallschirm Infanterie Bataillon.
Pictured below is a 1937 cloth badge machine embroidered on dark blue/green oval. As of this writing, photographic evidence of this badge being worn by members of the FIK/FIB does not exist. The author is making the tentative assumption that these were produced prewar based on two things. 1. Interviews with surviving members of the FIK/FIB. 2. The existence of one of these badges glued into a prewar photo album.
Original examples have been observed with both black and light brown backing material.
Below - 1937/38 model badge in cloth in unissued condition
Eric Queen Collection
Click on image to enlarge this used example;
The Army Paratroopers Badge (now called Fallschirmschutzenabzeichen des Heeres) was re-instituted on June 01, 1943 with the formation of the 15th ( Fallschirmjager ) Kompanie of Brandenburg Regiment 4 ( on April 01, 1943 ). The badge was produced Feinzink by CE Juncker of Berlin with the same dies used to manufacturer the 2nd model badge in aluminum. Dimensions were the same as the 2nd pattern badge in aluminum and the weight was approximately 29.5 grams.
Notice that the 1943 pattern badge, like the 2nd model aluminum, was also unmarked. There were some differences, however. Both the barrel hinge and "C" form catch were first affixed to a flat plate ( oblong for the barrel hinge and circular for the "C" form catch ) then adhered to the reverse of the wreath ( not to the reverse of the wreath directly as with the aluminum badges ). The finish used on these post reinstatement badges was an "economy wash", similar to what was used on other mid-war badges. Notice the "bubbling" on the reverse of the diving eagle, which is characteristic of know originals
Credit: John Garcia Collection.
|Soldbuch issued to (BRANDENBURGER) Uffz.GEIER. Notice he is wearing the 1943 pattern badge
in the photograph.
Credit: Private Collection
|1943 Pattern badges were
produced with "C" form catches made from both round and flat
Credit: Bob Hritz Collection
Administrator note - Eric Queen is the Author of "RED SHINES THE SUN: A Pictorial History of the Fallschirm-Infanterie" (240 pages, 600 photos). The book is available now from Bender Publishing with a 20% discount to Association Members.
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