The German Army reconnaissance units, which were partly motorized, with the golden yellow service arm color, were a remarkably mixed group. They did not exist in peacetime and were formed only upon mobilization in 1939, out of the thirteen cavalry regiments that were subordinated to the army corps at that time. At the end of the war, every cavalry regiment provided some three to five divisional reconnaissance units and one cavalry replacement unit, which at first remained at their peacetime garrisons. The cavalry regiments had thus ceased to exist, though they were partially reformed later.
The mission of the German reconnaissance unit, also known as the "eyes" of the division, was to reconnoiter in advance and protect the division from surprises. For this it was often necessary in moving warfare to win superiority over enemy reconnaissance and securing forces in the reconnaissance area first, or at times to give way before superior enemy forces and seek success in another place. The units were also capable of securing open flanks in particular situations. During fast advances, they were applied along with individual engineer companies, batteries and Panzerjägers units as so-called advance units, in order to gain quick control of important points and sectors such as bridges, traffic intersections, dominating heights, etc.
The reconnaissance units of the infantry divisions, having been formed of disbanded cavalry regiments (and thus retaining terminology like "Rittmeister" and "Squadron"), were sufficiently suited for these short-term tasks in the first years of the war, but such a manifold type of fighting demanded a high degree of decisiveness and responsibility from all officers and leaders. It was also not easy to lead the whole of such a mixed unit, partly motorized, mounted or on bicycles. Infantry divisions that were organized later generally were given a reconnaissance unit without a mounted squadron, and received a separate mounted squadron. The armored scout troops were replaced by reconnaissance units using motorcycles and motor vehicles.
Each of the reconnaissance units had a total complement of 19 officers, two administrators, 90 non-commissioned officers and 512 enlisted men, making a total of 623 men. Their weapons consisted of: 25 light machine guns, 3 light grenade launchers, 2 heavy machine guns, 3 antitank guns and 3 armored scout cars. The available vehicles were: 7 horse-drawn HF wagons, 29 cars, 20 trucks, 50 motorcycles (28 of them with sidecars). Their horses, including those of the mounted squadron, numbered 260, but in fact well over 300 horses were on hand.