In "The Battle for Stalingrad," Russia's Vasily Chuikov wrote that to the extent possible, Russian guerrillas and snipers tried to avoid "duels" with enemy fighting men, instead seeking out "soft" targets like the following:

Favorite targets included men carrying food and water to others (and therefore no arms). Killing or wounding one of them meant depriving other German soldiers of this nourishment. In one instance, Russian patrols captured a telephone "lineman" who was able to hook them up to staff headquarters, allowing the Russians to eavesdrop.

What kind of class were these troops? Were they regular soldiers on "special" duty, or were they specialized logistical troops that were spared from "normal" fighting. If a German division had say, 12,000 men, would these kinds of men be counted among a division's 12,000 strength, or would they be accounted for separately?

  • What "Class" of soldier were who? The snipers? The linemen? the victims of the snipers? I'm not sure what you're asking.
    – MCW
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 2:09
  • He is asking about the runners, ration carriers and linesmen; hungry, uninformed enemies are less effective. He is asking if they counted towards the count of battle ready soldiers. I don't think his question is unclear. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 11:04
  • @MarkC.Wallace: I was saying that Russian snipers targeted "unarmed" Germans with "special" functions that lacked the weapons (and possibly the skill) to fight back. So were these "special function" German men counted as soldiers in the order of battle, or treated separately.
    – Tom Au
    Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 18:10
  • @TomAu This morning I shot a tiger in my pajamas. When I nod my head, hit it with a hammer. Some funny grimmer in your Q. Commented Mar 1, 2019 at 20:56
  • Try to google for "tooth to tail". Somebody quotes a figure of 64% for German WW2 infantry, ie 36% runners and carriers (as well as the staff and stuff).
    – Tomas By
    Commented Mar 2, 2019 at 16:04

2 Answers 2


Soldiers had different specialties, but they were all part of the military

First of all, you need to understand that, similar to all other armies, German WW2 divisions were not composed only on infantry, and German panzer divisions didn't include only panzer units. Instead, they contained their own artillery, anti-tank units, FlaK and of course logistical and communication elements. You could find Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) for various German units on Internet, I will put just two sources: this, because it includes TO&E for various types of units, and this because it shows even very small logistical details, parts of German infantry battalion.

While various military specialties trained and were expected to perform different roles in combat (and everyday soldierly life) , all of them were members of Wehrmacht (or Waffen SS) and all of them were armed, i.e. issued rifle, submachine gun, pistol ...etc. This included even lowly cooks, because even them would sometime find themselves in the middle of the combat. For example, this German training film shows that even rear area troops could sometime experience Soviet tank attack, and were expected to stop them .

Considering your question, "soft targets" or soldiers that were not specialized for infantry combat, could be considered easier targets for snipers, simply because they had to move around instead of sitting in trenches or lying down in cover. Of course, training would also influence outcome, although those carrying food and water could simply be riflemen temporarily assigned for the duty.

  • your 3rd reference show that each batallion and company had a small number of soldiers assigned to "battle train" and "ration train". Probably this is the direct answer, these guys would be the "professional" runners and carriers... Never seen a TO&E with such level of detail, very nice.
    – Luiz
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 19:24
  • @Luiz I don't know, I think they were probably professional cooks :D In other words, they were probably serving food and issuing supplies while battalion was not engaged in combat. But during the fight, each platoon or squad would simply send one of their own to the field kitchen to fetch food for everyone.
    – rs.29
    Commented Mar 6, 2019 at 20:46
  • lonesentry.com/articles/ttt09/german-infantry-regiment.html The world 'train' also may mean 'baggage' in some languages (including XIX and early XX century portuguese) and the link above confirm that 'ration train' are food carriers and battle trains is probably whaht the link above calls 'battalion baggage trains'. AND, the same guys who carry food for the regiment also may cook it. But you are correct, they carry food for the unit and not specifically for the subunits, may be the subunits would send guys to pick their share from the train
    – Luiz
    Commented Mar 7, 2019 at 18:00

It was complicated, particularly at Stalingrad, where the Germans employed a large number of Russian "Hiwis," (willing helpers).

From Beevor's "Stalingrad" (and other sources), a captured Hiwi explained to his Red Army interrogators: "Russians in the German Army can be divided into three categories. Firstly, soldiers mobilized by the Germans, the so-called Cossack sections [from elsewhere in the Soviet Union.] Secondly, local Hilfeswillige made up of local people or prisoners of war who volunteer, or those Red Army soldiers who desert to join the Germans... Thirdly, there are Russian prisoners who do the dirty jobs, kitchen, stables, etc."

All the ethnic Germans in the above "auxiliary" roles were part of the regular German army (and formed part of the "tail," in the "tail to tooth ratio). So, too, were Russians bearing arms in the German service who did the above jobs. But a number of the Hiwis were laborers "in the kitchen, stables, etc." who did not bear arms, and these were NOT part of the regular German army.

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