Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
- For other uses, see Jäger.
Jäger (plural also Jäger, both pronounced as the surname Yeager) is a German word for "hunter". In English it is often written with the plural Jägers, or as jaeger (pl. jeagers) or jager (pl. jagers) to avoid the umlaut.
In the Enlightenment era the word was adopted to describe a kind of light infantry, and it has continued in that use since then. More recently it has also been adopted in the original sense of "hunter" for compound terms such as Panzerjäger, "tank destroyer" (literally "tank hunter").
Jägers were at first recruited from among huntsmen and foresters. They were often of "middle class" backgrounds, or belonged belonging to the lesser nobility. They 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.
Jägers were often excellent snipers able to inflict heavy casualties among enemy officers. Their ability to lay exceptionally accurate rifle fire also made them a good for providing covering fire for other more vulnerable troop types such as sappers or engineers constructing forward trenches.
The Napoleonic Era
Jägers became a popular troop type during the Napoleonic Wars, when volunteers from a bourgeois background were organized to resist Napoleon's occupation of the German-speaking areas of Europe. Continuing the earlier traditions, 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 resistence against Napoleon exacted a high toll of military casualties, especially among the officers, leading to many promotions with the ranks. By the end of the Napoleonic Wars most of the lower-ranking officers in the Germanic states were Jägers who had been promoted.
World War II
During World War II the German armed forces revived the name Jäger for various types of light troops:
- Units of light infantry, particularly a series of divisions raised to operate in the rough terrain of southeastern Europe.
- Gebirgsjäger ("mountain infantry" — Gebirgs refers to mountain troops) was sometimes applied to their mountain troops, and to the light infantry type described above.
- Fallschirmjäger ("paratroopers" — Fallschirm is "parachute") was at first applied only to genuine airborne troops, but was retained for their Parachute Infantry units even after they began operating as heavy motorized infantry.
- Panzerjäger, for tank destroyers and anti-tank units equipped with them.
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