Little is known about these peculiar and obscure divisions that fought for Germany during World War Two. They were hastily thrown together to help bolster the manpower shortages that Germany was feeling after the invasion of Russia had gone into its second year. The Luftwaffe Field Divisions were considered to be somewhat of a military failure but this can hardly be blamed on the soldier that fought in them. Personnel originally assigned to servicing Heinkels and Dorniers, suddenly found themselves on the front line enduring the most brutal warfare known to man. The Luftwaffe Field Divisions suffered from poor organization, poor training, and an incredibly confused command structure. Furthermore, these divisions suffered from acute shortages of weapons and equipment. When equipment was issued it was usually outdated or second-rate.
n late 1941, Hitler realized that Germany was desperately short of military vehicles and manpower to wage total war. Hitler scoured Germany and occupied Europe looking for extra troops and spare vehicles to replace the huge losses incurred in Russia. In looking for a solution to Germany’s shortages, Hitler allocated a large number of Luftwaffe personnel for ground combat in Russia. These personnel were used to create seven, separate Luftwaffe Field Regiments - Feldregimenter der Luftwaffe 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 14, and 21, which were organized during the first few months of 1942. These regiments rarely served together and were usually scattered throughout the front were a hole in the line needed to be filled. In the early summer, General Meindl was able to form the Division Meindl using Field Regiments 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. Division Meindl covered a sector of nearly 90km from Kholm to the Demjansk pocket. Despite limitations of his command, Meindl was able to instill spirit in his troops, which fought in numerous actions and cleared the rear area of partisans during the summer of 1942. Division Meindl was sited in a dispatched issued by the German High Command on 23 June 1942, which stated: ‘In the terrible winter battles on the Eastern
Front, Luftwaffe Field Battalions in ground combat bravely defended the seriously threatened front lines. With units of the army, these units are now involved in other operations. The Division Meindl has particularly distinguished itself in battle in the impassable swamps.
As the Division Meindl was engaged in operations, the Luftwaffe was organizing ten complete divisions for ground combat on the Eastern Front. Hitler wanted Göring to release additional troops for transfer into the dwindling manpower of the Army. A jealous and power hungry Göring, did not want to turn over these troops to the Army so an agreement was made allowing these additional troops to be allocated to form his own divisions under Luftwaffe command and control. So the seeds were sewn for the failure of the Luftwaffe Field Divisions. A total of twenty-one Luftwaffe-Feld Divisonen were created (1-21).
The 17. Luftwaffe Feld Division was formed in Germany in December of 1942 and was sent to France as an occupation force in January of 1943. From the very beginning the division was designed to be one of eight “bodenstandig” (Static) divisions that were to serve as occupational forces in France. The OKW or “Oberkommando der Wehrmacht” (Armed Forces High Command) listed the 16th, 17th, and 18th Luftwaffen Felddivisionen, as well as the Army 343rd, 344th, 346th, 347th, and 348th Infantry Divisions as bondenstandig.