Stormtroopers (in German Stoßtruppen, "shock troops") were specialist soldiers of the German Army in World War I. In the last years of the war, Stoßtruppen were trained to fight with "infiltration tactics", part of the Germans' new method of attack on enemy trenches. Men trained in these methods were known in Germany as Sturmmann (literally "storm man" but usually translated as "stormtrooper"), formed into companies of Sturmtruppen ("assault troops", more often and less exactly "storm troops"). The infiltration tactics of the stormtroopers are still in use today, in one form or another. Other armies have also used the term "assault troops", "shock troops" or fireteams for specialist soldiers who perform the infiltration tasks of stormtroopers.
The innovative new German stormtrooper tactics of 1918 were very successful and foreshadowed the blitzkrieg tactics of the Second World War, but their very success contributed to German defeat.
The Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, with Russia defeated, allowed Germany to concentrate on the Western Front. Ludendorff, the co-dictator of Germany and supreme military commander, insisted on occupying Russia. Over one million troops were tied up in Russia and Romania. Another million troops and 3,000 artillery pieces were shipped to the western front. From November 1917 to March 1918, German strength on the Western Front increased from 150 to 208 divisions and included 13, 832 artillery pieces. (Terraine 45)
At this time in the war, military formations of the belligerents were similar. German divisions consisted of about 10,600 men, British 12,000, and French 13,000. The newly arriving American divisions were over twice as large at 28,105 men.