Jäger (military)

Jäger (military)

: "For other uses, see Jäger."Jäger (plural also "Jäger", pronounced|ˈjɛːgɐ ( _ru. егерь; yeger) was adopted in the Enlightenment era in German-speaking states and others influenced by German military practice to describe a kind of light infantry, and it has continued in that use since then. [citebook|title=The Evolution Of Operational Art, 1740-1813|author=Claus Telp|year=2005|publisher=Routledge|id=ISBN 0714657220]

Literally, "Jäger" is a German word for "hunter". In English it is often written with the ("double") plural "Jägers", or as "jaeger" (pl. "jaegers") or incorrectly "jager" (pl. "jagers") to avoid the umlaut.

In modern times it has also been adopted in the original sense of "hunter" for compound terms such as Panzerjäger, "tank destroyer" (literally "tank hunter"). The military police of the German Bundeswehr are called "Feldjäger", and interceptor and fighter aircraft are also called "Jäger" in German (the prefix "Jagd-", meaning "hunt" or "hunting", is also used for fighter units such as "Jagdgeschwader", or fighter wing, and in the word "Jagdbomber", meaning fighter-bomber).

Age of Enlightenment

Jäger were at first recruited in the mid-eighteenth century amongst huntsmen and foresters in certain German states. They were often of "middle class" backgrounds, or belonged to the lesser nobility. These troops were primarily used for reconnaissance, skirmishing or screening bodies of heavier troops. Since they owned their own weapons they could (in principle) fill a crucial defensive role as militia in case of surprise assaults before any mobilization had been ordered, or as organizers of partisan warfare after an occupation. Jäger were not just skilled riflemen, they were also able to handle and maintain delicate, accurate rifles in an age when very few people had any mechanical skill.

Jäger were often excellent snipers able to inflict heavy casualties among enemy officers. Their ability to lay exceptionally accurate rifle fire also made them good for providing covering fire for other more vulnerable troop types such as sappers or engineers constructing forward trenches.

For fights in close quarters the Jäger carried a straight-bladed small hunting sword called a "Hirschfänger" (literally "deer catcher"), a short sabre or a falchion.

The Napoleonic Era

Jäger became a popular troop type during the Napoleonic Wars, when volunteers from a bourgeois background were organized to resist Napoleon's invasion and occupation of the German-speaking areas of Europe. The Imperial Russian Army, which was heavily influenced by the Prussian and Austrian military systems, included fifty Jäger or Yeger regiments in its organisation by 1812. Continuing the earlier traditions, in Prussia these Jägers were patriotic volunteers, bearing the cost of their weapons and uniforms at their own expense or with the help of contributions from friends and neighbours, and often organizing themselves into clubs and leagues. The resistance against Napoleon exacted a high toll of military casualties, especially among the officers, leading to many promotions within the ranks. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars most of the lower-ranking officers in the Germanic states' armies were Jäger who had been promoted.

Prior to World War I

Imperial Germany

By the early twentieth century Jäger units were part of the Imperial German, Austro-Hungarian, Swedish, Dutch and Norwegian armies. They corresponded to the rifles, light infantry, "chasseur" or "cacciatori" units of the British, French, Italian and other armies. While such units still enjoyed considerable prestige and high "esprit de corps", their training, equipment and tactical roles had for the most part become aligned with those of the line infantry of their respective armies.

Best known were the German Jäger units who were distinguished by their peace-time wear of dark green tunics and shakos (in contrast to the dark blue tunics and spiked helmets of most German infantry).

In the peacetime Prussian Army, the main component of the Imperial German Army, there were one Imperial Guard Jäger battalion, the "Garde-Jäger-Bataillon", and twelve line Jäger battalions. One Jäger battalion, the "Großherzoglich Mecklenburgisches Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 14", was from the grand duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Another, "Westfälisches Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 7", known as the "Bückeburg Jägers", was raised in the principality of Schaumburg-Lippe (whose capital was Bückeburg). The other ten were from Prussian lands. In addition, another Prussian Guard unit, the "Garde-Schützen-Bataillon", though not designated Jäger, was a Jäger formation. Its origins were in a French "chasseur" battalion of the Napoleonic era, and its troops wore the shako and green tunic of Jäger.

The army of the Kingdom of Saxony added two Jäger battalions, which were included in the Imperial German Army order of battle as "Kgl. Sächsisches 1. Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 12" and "Kgl. Sächsisches 2. Jäger-Bataillon Nr. 13". The Saxon Jäger had a number of dress distinctions - notably tunics of a darker green than the Prussian colour, black facings instead of red and a black buffalo-hair plume buckled to the side of the shako. The autonomous Royal Bavarian Army provided a further two Jäger battalions, "Kgl. Bayerisches 1. Jäger-Bataillon" and "Kgl. Bayerisches 2. Jäger-Bataillon", who wore the light blue of Bavarian infantry with green facings.

On mobilization in August 1914, each of these Prussian, Saxon and Bavarian Jäger battalions raised a reserve Jäger battalion. In September 1914, an additional 12 reserve Jäger battalions were raised (10 Prussian and 2 Saxon). In May 1915, the German Army began joining the Jäger battalions to form Jäger regiments, and in late 1917, the "Deutsche Jäger-Division" was formed.

During the early stages of World War I the German Jäger maintained their traditional role as skirmishers and scouts, often in conjunction with cavalry units. With the advent of trench warfare they were committed to an ordinary infantry role, integrated into divisions and losing their status as independent units. Cyclist Jäger served in the Balkan and Russian theatres of war while Wurttemberg and Bavaria raised Ski-Jäger during the winter of 1914-15. Another specialist formation was the Jäger Storm Companies, serving as trench raiders during 1917-1918.


The Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914 included four regiments of Tiroler Kaiserjäger, descended from a unit first raised in 1801. There were also 29 battalions of Feldjäger recruited from different regions across the Empire (including 7 Hungarian, 5 Bohemian and 4 Galician battalions) and one Bosnian-Herzegovinian Feldjäger Battalion ("Bosnisch-hercegovinisches Feldjägerbataillon"). All wore pike grey uniforms faced in green, with a form of bowler hat carrying a distinctive plume of dark green feathers. The exception was the Bosnian-Herzegovinian Feldjäger Battalion which wore the fez. Later, an additional three Feldjäger battalions and seven Bosnian-Herzegovinian Feldjäger Battalions were formed.

World War II Germany

After World War I, the Jäger units of the Imperial German Army were disbanded, but their traditions were carried by infantry regiments of the 100,000-man Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic. After the Nazis came to power in 1933 and the rearmament of Germany began, the new Wehrmacht revived the name "Jäger" for various types of units:

* In 1935, the first specialized mountain infantry units were formed, and their regiments and battalions were designated "Gebirgsjäger" ("mountain infantry" — "Gebirge" is German for "mountain range"). More specialized units, such as the "Hochgebirgs-Jäger-Bataillone", for use in high-Alpine conditions, were also developed. The Waffen SS also raised a "KarstJäger" Division.

* When the Luftwaffe began forming parachute units in the late-1930s, the first parachute regiment was designated "Fallschirm-Jäger-Regiment 1". German paratroopers became known as "Fallschirmjäger" ("Fallschirm" is German for "parachute"). At first, Fallschirmjäger was applied only to genuine airborne-qualified troops, but the term was retained for Fallschirmjäger regiments and divisions even after they began operating as regular infantry. A number of "Luftwaffe Feld-Divisionen" ("field divisions"), regular ground combat units raised by the Luftwaffe, also used the term "Luftwaffen-Jäger-Regiment" for their infantry regiments. Many of these were later taken over by the army but retained the name "Jäger-Regiment".

* Two Skijäger regiments were formed in 1943 as part of "Skijäger-Brigade" (later a "Skijäger-Division")

* Certain infantry divisions were raised as "light infantry divisions" ("leichte Infanterie-Divisionen") in late 1940 or were renamed "light divisions" ("leichte Divisionen") in late 1941. They were raised to operate in rough terrain, espeically in southeastern Europe. Their infantry regiments were called "Jäger-Regimenter", and in 1942 the light and light infantry divisions were renamed Jäger divisions.

* The antitank units of German divisions, originally called "Panzer-Abwehr-Abteilungen" ("anti-tank battalions"), began in 1940 to be resignated as "Panzerjäger-Abteilungen", (literally "tank hunter battalions"). These were equipped with towed or self-propelled guns (often the ad hoc mounting of an antitank gun on a captured or obsolete tank chassis). As the war progressed, some Panzerjäger-Abteilungen were fully equipped with specialized tank destroyers known as "Jagdpanzer" ("hunting tank") or "Panzerjäger".

* The military police of the Wehrmacht was known as the "Feldgendarmerie". In December 1943, a new force of military police, directly subordinated to the Armed Forces High Command, was formed. Its units were designated "Feldjäger-Kommandos" with subordinated Feldjäger battalions and regiments. These were known collectively as the "Feldjägerkorps". The name was taken from the "Reitendes Feldjägerkorps", a Prussian Army military police-type unit directly under the General Staff.

Post-World War II

The German "Bundeswehr" rejected the term "Feldgendarmerie" and instead kept the term "Feldjäger" for its military police units. To emphasize the traditional connection with the Prussian "Reitendes Feldjägerkorps", rather than the "Wehrmacht" military police units, the "Feldjäger" of the "Bundeswehr" wear a red beret with star badge (the "Gardestern") of the Order of the Black Eagle, Prussia's highest chivalric order. The "Reitendes Feldjägerkorps" had been granted the right to wear the "Gardestern" in 1847.

In addition, at certain periods, light infantry units of the "Bundeswehr" were designated as Jäger, and wore a green beret with a beret badge patterned after the Jäger sleeve patch of "Wehrmacht" Jäger units. Also, Fallschirmjäger, Gebirgsjäger, and Panzerjäger were retained for airborne, mountain and anti-tank troops (the latter being not infantry but armoured troops).

The modern Jäger-type infantry units are distinguished as follows:
* Jäger - "Rangers" - light infantry for rugged terrain, where APCs of mechanized infantry is useless. Also employed as elite commando troops for protection of Electronic Warfare units and for protection and transport of nuclear weapons that were under the control of SACEUR (Supreme Allied Command Europe. Wear a green beret with badge as described above.
* Fallschirmjäger - "Airborne Rangers" - paratroopers, mainly for air-mobile operations. Wear a Bordeaux beret with unique badge.
* Gebirgsjäger - "Alpine Rangers" - light infantry for highlands, rugged terrain and mountains, with special equipment for winter warfare. Each battalion has a "heavy company" of Wiesel weapon-carriers equipped with 20 mm cannon, TOW launchers or 120 mm mortars (on MTW M113 or in the future Wiesel 2). Wear no beret but the grey "Bergmütze" (mountain cap, a type of stiff forage cap) with Edelweiss insignia.

With the restructurization of the German Army, only one battalion and one regiment of regular Jäger are retained. On the other hand, the Fallschirmjäger become the most important infantry type, due to their versatility and the nature of modern-day peacekeeping missions abroad.
Jäger is also the entrance rank for all of these three infantry branches (the German Army has a number of different entrance ranks by troop type, like Grenadier, Kanonier, and so forth).

In the Austrian "Bundesheer", Jäger is used as the generic term for most infantry soldiers (armored infantrymen are known as "Panzergrenadiere", as in the German "Bundeswehr").

Finnish infantry units are also known as Jäger (Finnish pl. "Jääkärit", Swedish pl. "Jägarna"), a legacy of a Finnish volunteer Jäger battalion formed in Germany during World War I to fight for the liberation of Finland from Russia.

Cognate terms in other Germanic languages for Jäger include "jæger" in Danish, "jager" in Dutch, "jeger" in Norwegian and "jägare" in Swedish. The Danish Army's special forces unit is known as Jægerkorpset, the Jäger or Hunter Corps. Certain Netherlands Army infantry units, such as the "Regiment Limburgse Jagers", use the term. The Norwegian Army's special forces unit is known as the Hærens Jegerkommando, usually translated as "Army Ranger Command", and another unit based in northern Norway is known as the Jegerkompaniet, usually translated as "Ranger Company". Over time, various Swedish infantry regiments were designated "Jägare". In addition, Lithuania's special operations battalion has been known since 1995 as the Vytautas the Great Jaeger Battalion (Lithuanian: "Vytauto Didžiojo jėgerių batalionas"). [http://www.kam.lt/index.php/en/71072/]

ee also

* Light infantry
* Chasseur
* Ranger
* Rifleman
* Schützen
* Finnish Jäger troops
* Jægerkorpset
* Hærens Jegerkommando
* Marinejegerkommandoen
* Jegerkompaniet
* Army
* Military history
* Military science


Further reading

* Hartwig Busche, "Formationsgeschichte der deutschen Infanterie im Ersten Weltkrieg 1914-1918" (1998)
* H. Kinna and D.A. Moss, "Jäger & Schützen - Dress and Distinctions 1910-1914" ISBN 0 85242 497 3

External links

* [http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/infdev.htm "Austro-Hungarian Infantry 1914-1918"] , from [http://www.austro-hungarian-army.co.uk/index.htm "Austro-Hungarian Land Forces 1848-1918"]
* [http://www.kaisersbunker.com/dunkelblau/tunics/dbt06.htm Preußen Jäger Battalion 4 NCO Waffenrock] , an example of a Jäger uniform from [http://www.kaisersbunker.com/ Kaiser's Bunker] , a non-commercial reference site for Imperial German uniforms.
* [http://www.lexikon-der-wehrmacht.de/ Lexikon der Wehrmacht] , for detailed information on types of Wehrmacht units.

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