Section I. GENERAL TACTICAL DOCTRINES
1. Basic Doctrines
An outstanding characteristic of the German nation is its fondness for everything connected with militarism. This is based not only on traditional sentiment but also on long-range and intense education that glorifies the military spirit. This gives the German military leaders the essential foundation for aggressive military operations.
The Germans believe that only the offensive can achieve success on the field, particularly when combined with the element of surprise. German military literature, for the past century, has emphasized the need for aggressiveness in all military operations.
The Germans have been thoroughly aware of the psychological component in warfare and have developed systematic terrorization to a high degree.
At the same time they have placed considerable reliance on novel and sensational weapons such as the mass use of armor, the robot bomb, and the super-heavy tank. Their principal weaknesses in this regard have been their failure to integrate these new techniques with established arms and tactics--German field artillery, for example, did not maintain pace with German armor--and their devotion to automatic weapons at the expense of accuracy.
A highly trained officer corps and a thoroughly disciplined army are the necessary elements to implement this aggressive philosophy. German tactical doctrines stress the responsibility and the initiative of subordinates. The belief of former years that the German Army was inflexible and lacking in initiative has been completely destroyed in this war, in which aggressive and daring leadership has been responsible for many bold decisions. Yet, while the Germans have many excellent tacticians, they tend to repeat the same type of maneuvers, a fact which has been fully exploited by Allied commanders.
The German specialization in particular types of warfare such as mountain, desert, winter, or the attack on fortified positions, showed thorough preparation and ingenuity. At the same time the Germans had been quite willing to learn from their opponents and on numerous occasions have copied Allied tactics and weapons.
2. Recent Tactical Trends
From the time when the German Army wasforced on the defensive by the Allied armies, German tactical doctrines have undergone modifications such as renunciation (except in unstated instances) of air support, and the substitution of linear defense for elastic offensive defense.
The primary goal of Germany today is to gain time and to achieve victory in a political sense, since the Germans are no longer capable of a military victory. Of necessity their military operations now supplement this effort and have become a large-scale delaying action.
3. Exercise of Command
The U.S. and German doctrines applied in exercise of the command are virtually identical. The Germans stress the necessity of the staff in assisting the commander to evaluate the situation and in preparing and disseminating orders to the lower units. They emphasize that the commander should be well forward with his units not only for the purpose of facilitating communication, but also because his presence has a salutary effect on the troops.
Section II. RECONNAISSANCE
a. PURPOSE. The purpose of reconnaissance and the types of units employed to obtain information are similar in the U.S. and the German Armies. German tactical principles of reconnaissance, however, diverge somewhat from those of the U.S. The Germans stress aggressiveness, attempt to obtain superiority in the area to be reconnoitred, and strive for continuous observation of the enemy. They believe in employing reconnaissance units in force as a rule. They expect and are prepared to fight to obtain the desired information. Often they assign supplementary tasks to their reconnaissance units, such as sabotage behind enemy lines, harassment, or counter-reconnaissance.
b. TECHNIQUE. Only enough reconnaissance troops are sent on a mission to assure superiority in the area to be reconnoitred. Reserves are kept on hand to be committed when the reconnaissance must be intensified, when the original force meets strong enemy opposition, or when the direction and area to be reconnoitred are changed. The Germans encourage aggressive action against enemy security forces. When their reconnaissance units meet superior enemy forces, they fight a delaying action while other units attempt to flank the enemy.
c. CLASSIFICATION. Reconnaissance is classified by the Germans as operational, tactical, and battle reconnaissance--corresponding to the U.S. distant, close, and battle reconnaissance.
2. Operational Reconnaissance (Operative Aufklarung)
Operational reconnaissance, penetrating over a large area in great depth, provides the basis for strategic planning and action. This type of reconnaissance is intended to determine the location and activities of enemy forces, particularly localities of rail concentrations, forward or rearward displacements of personnel, loading or unloading areas of army elements, the construction of field or permanent fortifications, and hostile air force concentrations. Identification of large enemy motorized elements, especially on an open flank, is important. Operational reconnaissance is carried out by the Air Force and by motorized units. Aerial photography units operate at altitudes of 16,500 to 26,500 feet. Since missions assigned to operational air reconnaissance units are generally limited to the observation of important roads and railroads, reconnaissance sectors and areas normally are not assigned. The motorized units employed for operational reconnaissance have only directions and objectives assigned.
3. Tactical Reconnaissance (Taktische Aufklarung)
a. PURPOSE. Tactical reconnaissance, carried out in the area behind the operational reconnaissance, provides the basis for the commitment of troops. Its mission embraces identification of the enemy's organization, disposition, strength, and antiaircraft defense; determination of the enemy's reinforcement capabilities; and terrain reconnaissance of advanced sectors. Air Force reconnaissance units and motorized and mounted reconnaissance battalions are employed for tactical reconnaissance. Their direction and radius of employment are based upon the results of the operational reconnaissance.
b. AIR RECONNAISSANCE. Tactical air reconnaissance is normally made from altitudes of 6,500 to 16,000 feet. As a rule, air reconnaissance units are assigned specific reconnaissance areas, the boundaries of which normally do not coincide with sectors assigned to ground units. Reconnaissance planes generally are employed singly.
c. GROUND RECONNAISSANCE. Sectors of responsibility are assigned to ground tactical reconnaissance battalions. In order to make them independent or to facilitate their change of direction, battalions may be assigned only reconnaissance objectives. In such instances, boundary lines separate adjacent units. The Germans avoid using main roads as boundary lines, defining the sectors in such a way that main roads fall within the reconnaissance sectors. The width of a sector is determined by the situation, the type and strength of the reconnaissance battalion, the road net, and the terrain. In general, the width of a sector assigned to a motorized reconnaissance battalion does not exceed 30 miles.
d. ORDERS FOR TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE. Orders issued to a reconnaissance battalion or its patrols normally contain, in addition to the mission, the following:
- Line of departure.
- Information concerning adjacent reconnaissance units.
- Sector boundaries or direction of operation.
- Phase lines.
- Instructions for transmission of reports.
- Location of immediate objectives whose attainment is to be reported.
- Instructions regarding air-ground liaison.
- Time of departure, route, and objective of the main force.
e. TACTICAL RECONNAISSANCE PROCEDURES. When a motorized reconnaissance column expects contact with the enemy, it advances by bounds. The length of bounds depends on the cover the terrain offers as well as on the road net. As the distance from the enemy decreases, the bounds are shortened. The Germans utilize roads as long as possible and usually use different routes for the advance and the return.
The reconnaissance battalion commander normally sends out patrols which advance by bounds. Their distance in front of the battalion depends on the situation, the terrain, and the range of the signal equipment, but as a rule they are not more than an hour's traveling distance (about 25 miles) ahead of the battalion. The battalion serves as the reserve for the patrols and as an advance message center (Meldekopf), collecting the messages and relaying them to the rear. Armored reconnaissance cars, armored half-tracks, or motorcycles compose the motorized reconnaissance patrols, whose exact composition depends on their mission and on the situation. Motorcycles are used to fill in gaps and intervals, thereby thickening the reconnaissance net.
When the proximity of the enemy does not permit profitable employment of the motorized reconnaissance battalion, it is withdrawn and the motorized elements of the divisional reconnaissance battalion take over.
Divisional reconnaissance battalions seldom operate more than one day's march (18 miles) in front of the division, covering an area approximately 6 miles wide.
4. Battle Reconnaissance (Gefechtsaufklarung)
a. GENERAL. Battle reconnaissance as a rule is begun when the opposing forces begin to deploy. All troops participating in battle carry out battle reconnaissance through patrols, artillery observation posts, observation battalions, and air reconnaissance units. The information obtained on the organization and strength of the enemy provides the basis for the conduct of the battle.
b. ARMORED CAR PATROLS. The Panzer division dispatches armored reconnaissance units equipped with armored vehicles and numerousautomatic weapons. The armored reconnaissance unit is fast and has a wide radius of action.
Armored car patrols normally are composed of three armored reconnaissance cars, one of which is equipped with radio. An artillery observer often accompanies the patrol so that in an emergency fire can be brought down quickly. This type of patrol usually is organized for missions lasting one to two days. Tasks are defined clearly, and nothing is allowed to interfere with the patrol's main objective. If enemy forces are met, action is avoided unless the force is so weak that it can be destroyed without diverting the patrol from its main task. If enemy action is anticipated, the patrol is reinforced with self-propelled guns and occasionally with tanks. Engineers and motorcyclists are often attached to the patrol to deal with road blocks and demolitions.
While scouting a woods, a favorite German ruse is to drive the leading car toward its edge, halt briefly to observe, and then drive off rapidly, hoping to draw fire that will disclose the enemy positions.
At road blocks, the leading car opens fire. If fire is not returned, men dismount and go forward to attach tow ropes to the road block. If necessary, the patrol dismounts and proceeds with machine guns to reconnoiter on foot.
A patrol is never split up, but in open country distances between cars may be as much as 200 to 300 yards.
c. OBSERVATION BATTALION AND AIR RECONNAISSANCE. The German observation battalion locates enemy artillery and heavy weapons positions by sound and flash ranging and evaluated aerial photographs. The Air Force assists in battle reconnaissance by observing the distribution of the enemy's forces, his artillery, bivouac and movements, reserves, tank assemblies, and any other special occurrences behind the front. In general, air battle reconnaissance is executed under 6,000 feet.
d. BATTLE RECONNAISSANCE PATROLS (Spähtruppen). The Germans send out reconnaissance patrols, consisting of a noncommissioned officer and three or four men, to get such information as the location of enemy positions and minefields. They generally avoid contact and retreat when fired on.
e. COMBAT PATROLS (Gefechtsspähtruppen or Stosstruppen). These consist of at least one noncommissioned officer and eight men, but are usually much stronger. As a rule the combatpatrol is commanded by a sergeant who has under him 15 to 20 men, organized in two equal sections, each commanded by a section leader. These are raiding patrols, and their mission often includes bringing back prisoners of war. Since Allied air supremacy has neutralized German air reconnaissance to a great extent, the Germans have placed increased importance on prisoners of war, especially officers, as a source of information on enemy strength, dispositions, and intentions.
Combat or other types of patrols are often sent out to test the strength of enemy outposts. If an outpost proves to be weakly held, the patrol attacks, occupies the position, and remains there until relieved by troops from the rear. If the patrol is strongly garrisoned, the patrol attempts to return with a prisoner of war.
f. SPECIAL PATROLS (Spähtruppen mit besonderen Aufgaben). These vary in strength in accordance with their special mission. Special patrols are sent out to carry out such tasks as demolitions, engaging of enemy patrols that have penetrated German positions, and ambushing enemy supply columns.
g. MISCELLANEOUS PATROLS. Engineer patrols are employed to reconnoiter approaches to fortified areas, defiles, or rivers. Artillery patrols, usually consisting of an officer and a few mounted men, reconnoiter routes of approach, observation posts, and firing positions.
h. TERRAIN RECONNAISSANCE (Geländeerkundung). The Germans place great emphasis on terrain reconnaissance, realizing the influence terrain has upon the conduct of operations. Most of their usual reconnaissance missions include terrain reconnaissance tasks. Terrain may be so important at times as to require reconnaissance by special units. Ground and air reconnaissance units give special attention to the road net--its density, condition, road blocks, mines, and demolitions--as well as to the terrain itself, particularly tank country.
i. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPORT. The Germans equip their ground battle-reconnaissance patrols with machine pistols and one or two light machine guns that are used to cover the patrol's approach or withdrawal. Engineers often are attached to guide a patrol through German minefields and to clear a way through enemy wire or mines. Artillery support is given in the form of harassing fire put down just before the patrol reaches its objective. Sometimes the artillery fires into adjacent sectors to mislead the enemy as to the actual area to be reconnoitred. In other instances, artillery and mortars that have registered during the previous day shell during the night the area to be reconnoitred. As soon as the barrage is lifted, the patrol advances under cover of machine-gun fire from flanking positions.
Section III. MARCHES
The formations and the organizations of the march column in day or night advances are the same in the German Army as in the U.S. Army and are governed by the same principles. For a smooth functioning of the march the Germans stress: systematic training and practice; attention to physical welfare; care of vehicles and equipment; previous reconnaissance of routes; warning orders; and the issue of detailed march orders.
2. Organization and Control of the March Column
In order to secure the march column against enemy attacks, the Germans divide the column in the same manner as U.S. doctrine prescribes, namely into Advance Guard (Vorhut), Main Body (Gros), and Rear Guard (Nachhut). German equivalents for the U.S. terms are:
Advance Guard Spitze Point Sptizenkompanie Advance party Vortrupp Support Haupttrupp Reserve Rear Guard Nachspitze Rear point Nachspitzenkompanie Rear party Nachtrupp Support Haupttrupp Reserve
The issue of orders for march and traffic control is the responsibility of the higher command. Movement by road of formations from battalion strength upwards is carried out in the Zone of the Interior at the orders of the Army High Command (OKH) or a headquarters acting on the orders of the Army High Command. In the Theater of War such movements are controlled by Army Headquarters, which issues orders in accordance with instructions from Army High Command or the Army Group. Movements in the areas of military commanders of line-of-communication
areas are controlled by orders of the commanders of such areas.
Orders for movement are issued to the formations of fighting troops by the operations group of headquarters; those to supply services and units in the line-of-communication area emanate from the supply and administrative group.
The Germans set up a well organized traffic control service which is under the orders of the operations group. All traffic control services usually wear orange-red brassards, while the members of the military police are distinguished by metal gorgets.
The Germans allot to each front-line division its own road or sector of advance, usually marked by advance parties. General Headquarters or any other troops directed simultaneously on the same roads, are subordinated to the division for the duration of the move. All-weather roads usually are allotted to motorized or armored divisions, while subsidiary roads are assigned to infantry divisions.
3. Conduct of the March
When a German infantry division advances along several routes, an infantry element normally forms the head of each main body. The commander of the main body usually marches at or near the head of the main body. The motorized elements of the division, unless employed on reconnaissance or security missions, are organized into one or more motor echelons which follow the march column by bounds, or move in a column along a separate road. Before the march begins, the division signal battalion lays a trunk telephone line as far forward as the situation permits and extends this line while the march proceeds. The leading signal unit usually marches with the support of the advance guard and establishes telephone stations at important points. In a march along several roads the trunk line normally is laid along the route of the division commander and his staff. In addition to the construction of the trunk line, the Germans stress radio communications to the rear and flanks, as well as the use of messengers mounted on horses, bicycles, or motorcycles.
4. Security of March Columns
As a rule the Germans allot motorized units for the protection of the flanks and rear of march columns. However, a smaller unit, such as a battalion, may advance without flank security detachments.
The Germans are very much concerned about antiaircraft protective measures and often march in open columns (Fliegermarschtiefe); an advance in deployed formation (Fliegermarschbreite) is seldom practical. Antiaircraft defense is concentrated at important terrain features, such as bridges, crossroads, and defiles. Because of Allied air supremacy the Germans now instruct their troops to conduct movements and the transport of supplies only at night, and without lights. They also order their troops to leave burned out vehicles standing on the road to attract fresh attacks by enemy aircraft.
Section IV. OFFENSIVE
The fundamental principle of German offensive doctrine is to encircle and destroy the enemy. The objective of the combined arms in attack is to bring the armored forces and the infantry into decisive action against the enemy with sufficient fire power and shock. Superiority in force and fire power, the employment of armored forces, as well as the surprise element, play a great part in the offensive.
Coordination between the combined arms under a strong unified command is, the Germans emphasize, an absolute requisite to the success of these shock tactics. This has become more and more true as the Allies have developed effective antitank weapons and have adopted deeper defenses, limiting the self-sufficiency of German tanks. To counter these measures, the Germans have increased the mobility and armor protection of their motor-borne infantry, and have mounted a large proportion of both their direct and indirect heavy support weapons on self-propelled carriages.
In attempting thoroughly to paralyze the defender up to the moment of the tank-infantry assault, the Germans realize that even the most formidable forces are never sufficient for overwhelming superiority on the entire front. They therefore select a point of main effort (Schwerpunkt) for a breakthrough, allotting narrow sectors of attack (Gefechtsstreifen) to the troops committed at the decisive locality. There they also mass the bulk of their heavy weapons and reserves. The other sectors of the front are engaged by weaker, diversionary forces. In selecting the point of main effort, the Germans consider weaknesses in the
enemy's defensive position; suitability of the terrain, especially for tanks and for cooperation of all arms; approach routes; and possibilities for supporting fire, especially artillery. Although the Germans select a point of main effort in all attacks, they usually also make plans for shifting their main effort if they meet unexpected success elsewhere. To allow such shifts, sufficient reserves and a strong, unified command are organized.
An attack on a narrow front, according to German doctrine, must have sufficient forces at its disposal to widen the penetration while maintaining its impetus, and to protect the flanks of the penetration. Once the attack is launched, it must drive straight to its objective, regardless of opposition.
2. Types of Attack
a. FLANK ATTACK (Flankenangriff). The Germans consider that the most effective attack is against the enemy's flank. The flank attack develops either from the approach march--sometimes through a turning movement--or from flank marches. It attempts to surprise the enemy and permit him no time for counter-measures. Since mobility and the deception of the enemy at other positions are required, the flank attack is most successfully mounted from a distance; the troop movements necessary for the maneuver can be executed in close proximity to the enemy only with unusually favorable terrain or at night. Attacks are launched on both flanks only when the Germans consider their forces clearly superior.
b. ENVELOPMENT (Umfassungsangriff). The envelopment is a combination flank-and-frontal attack especially favored by the Germans. The envelopment may be directed on either or both the enemy's flanks, and is accompanied by a simultaneous frontal attack to fix the enemy's forces. The deeper the envelopment goes into the enemy's flanks, the greater becomes the danger of being enveloped oneself. The Germans therefore emphasize the necessity of strong reserves and organization of the enveloping forces in depth. Success of the envelopment depends on the extent to which the enemy is able to dispose his forces in the threatened direction.
c. ENCIRCLEMENT (Einkreisung). An encirclement, the Germans think, is a particularly decisive form of attack, but usually more difficult to execute than a flank attack or an envelopment. In an encirclement, the enemy is not attacked at all in front, or is attacked in front only by light forces, while the main attacking force passes entirely around him, with the objective of maneuvering him out of position. This requires extreme mobility and deception.
d. FRONTAL ATTACK (Frontalangriff). The Germans consider the frontal attack the most difficult of execution. It strikes the enemy at his strongest point, and therefore requires superiority of men and materiel. A frontal attack should be made only at a point where the infantry can break through into favorable terrain in the depth of the enemy position. The frontage of the attack should be wider than the actual area (Schwerpunkt) chosen for penetration, in order to tie down the enemy on the flanks of the breakthrough. Adequate reserves must be held ready to counter the employment of the enemy's reserves.
Figure 1.--Forms of attack.
e. WING ATTACK (Flügelangriff). An attack directed at one or both of the enemy's wings has, the Germans teach, a better chance of success than a central frontal attack, since only a part of the enemy's weapons are faced, and only one flank
of the attacking force or forces is exposed to enemy fire. Bending back one wing may give an opportunity for a flank attack, or for a single or double envelopment.
f. PENETRATION (Einbruch) AND BREAKTHROUGH (Durchbruch). These are not separate forms of attack, but rather the exploitation of a successful attack on the enemy's front, wing, or flank. The penetration destroys the continuity of the hostile front. The broader the penetration, the deeper can the penetration wedge be driven. Strong reserves throw back enemy counterattacks against the flanks of the penetration. German units are trained to exploit a penetration to the maximum so that it may develop into a complete breakthrough before hostile counter-measures can be launched on an effective scale. The deeper the attacker penetrates, the more effectively can he envelop and frustrate the attempts of the enemy to close his front again by withdrawal to the rear. The attacking forces attempt to reduce individual enemy positions by encircling and isolating them. The Germans do not consider a breakthrough successful until they overcome the enemy's artillery positions, which usually is the special task of tanks. Reserve units roll up the enemy's front from the newly created flanks.
The Germans often refer to this maneuver as "Keil und Kessel".
3. Organization of the Attack
a. ATTACK ORDER. The attack order (Angriffsbefehl) generally contains the objective of the attack, the disposition of the infantry, unit sectors and boundaries, disposition and support missions of the artillery, location of reserves, and the time of attack. The order is not drawn up in accordance with any stereotyped form, but as a rule follows this pattern:
- Estimate of the situation (disposition of hostile and friendly troops).
- Assembly areas for the forward companies; objective; sector boundaries; orders for the continuation of combat reconnaissance.
- Instructions for the preparation of the heavy-weapons fire support, especially for massed fire.
- Orders to the artillery for fire preparation and coordination.
- Assembly areas for the reserves.
- Time of attack.
- Instructions for rear services (medical service and supplies).
- Location of command posts.
b. SECTORS OF ATTACK. The width of a sector assigned to an infantry unit in the attack depends on the unit's mission and battle strength, on terrain conditions, on the available fire support of all arms, and on the probable strength of enemy resistance. Normally the sector assigned to a platoon is between 165 and 220 yards. A company attack sector is about 330 to 550 yards. A battalion sector is 440 to 1,100 yards, while a division sector may be 4,400 to 5,500 yards. These sectors also provide the boundaries for the other arms, especially for the artillery in support of the infantry, although the artillery may utilize favorable observation positions in neighboring sectors. This also applies to the heavy infantry weapons.
For large units the sectors are determined from the map; for smaller units, from the terrain. These sectors extend as deep into enemy territory as the plan of battle may require. As the situation develops, changes are frequently made. Important points always lie within units' sectors, unless they are to be attacked by several units. The Germans do not consider it necessary to occupy the whole width of the sector with troops. Open flanks ordinarily are not bounded.
c. FIRE PLAN. Fire superiority is achieved through coordination of the infantry and artillery weapons. The basis for the fire plan (Feuerplan)
Figure 3.--Attack sectors and objective.
is the regulation of the commitment of all weapons.
The fire plan includes the following:
- Assignment of combat missions.
- Distribution of observation sectors and fields of fire for the infantry and the artillery.
- An estimate of capabilities of the artillery for effective execution of the combat mission.
- Orders for the commencement of fire and fire schedules.
- Orders for the preparation for massed fire.
- Instructions for ammunition supply. The Germans stress the coordination of flat and high trajectory weapons so that all dead spaces are covered by fire. Lack of signal equipment, however, often hinders the application of this principle.
4. Conduct of the Attack
a. GENERAL. Most of the German successes in the present war have been achieved with armored formations. Years of secret training and equipping were devoted to the development of the Panzer division. The original German Blitzkrieg tactics were based on the belief in the irresistible power of tank formations operating independently with the support of dive-bombers. Considerable modifications have taken place in this theory over the past few years. At the present time, the offensive tactics of the Germans are less spectacularly bold than they were in 1939, but the fundamental theory behind them has changed remarkably little, though in their armored tactics they stress more tank-infantry coordination since unlimited air support is no longer at their command.
The main weight of all major German attacks since 1939 was borne by the Panzer division. Where infantry divisions have been employed, they were limited to local attacks on a comparatively minor scale or to mopping up in rear of the Panzer divisions. The Germans never envisaged a full-scale attack by infantry formations on fixed defenses. German tactics have been to outflank or encircle the main area of the enemy defenses with tank formations and to have the infantry roll up the defenses from the rear, or to break frontally through the enemy defenses with massed tanks and develop the famous "Keil und Kessel" maneuver.
The Germans learned at heavy cost the futility of charging a hostile antitank defense with tank concentrations and of engaging in tank-versus-tank combat without having superiority in range and armament. They have learned that large formations of tanks cannot achieve a breakthrough, opposed by an effective screen of antitank guns, without the assistance of other arms. Therefore attention has to be given to the combined tactics of tanks and Panzer Grenadiers, the mechanized or motorized infantry who accompany the tanks.
Great emphasis in German offensive theory is laid on the role of the artillery, but in practice the artillery-support role has devolved to an ever-increasing degree on the tanks and assault guns. Nevertheless, the principle that the supporting fire should be concentrated on a narrow frontage where the tanks and infantry are most likely to achieve a breakthrough has been retained.
The fact that a part of the enemy resistance is likely to remain undisclosed until the attack has already begun has caused the Germans permanently to decentralize a portion of the field artillery. This tendency has led to the emergence and continual development of the assault guns, whose main function is the close support of infantry and tanks in the attack. Their armor and mobility allow them to operate much farther forward than the field artillery.
The tendency to detach field artillery battalions from their field artillery regiment remains strong. In fact, this tendency is so prevalent that a concentration of massed artillery preceding an attack seldom is achieved, necessitating, as it does, a great degree of centralized control. The Germans, however, replace the massed artillery fire to a large extent with the fire of multi-barreled mortars and rocket projectors, though these latter have not the accuracy of the former.
The Germans make a clear distinction between an attack made from movement and an attack from a prepared position, which is the more common of the two.
b. ATTACK BY MECHANIZED AND MOTORIZED FORCES. (1) The attack. In armored-force operations, the Germans stress the need for the concentrated employment, at the decisive place and time, of the entire combined command of tanks and other arms, less necessary reserves. The tanks constitute the striking force of such a command and normally advance as the first echelon of the attack. Their primary mission is to break through and attack the enemy artillery, rather than to seek out and destroy enemy tanks, which can be more effectively engaged by antitank units. The mission of the other arms is to assist the
Figure 3.--Attack sectors and objective.
Figure 4.--German tank formation, battalion in "Blunt Wedge".
Figure 5.--German tank formation, company in "Blunt Wedge".
tanks in their advance, and particularly to eliminate antitank weapons. The smallest combat unit in such a force of combined arms is the company.
The basic formation for the tank platoon, company, and battalion are file, double file, wedge, and blunt wedge. The type of formation used for a specific task depends to a large extent on terrain conditions and the strength of enemy opposition. A German tank platoon normally consists of one command tank and two tank squads of two tanks each.
The tank regiment normally attacks in waves, in either of the following manners:
The tank regiment is echeloned in depth, one tank battalion following the other. The regimental commander's location is between the two battalions. This formation has the advantages of a sufficiently wide front (about 1,100 yards), and close contact by the commander of his units in the conduct of the attack. The normal depth of such a formation is about 3,000 yards. This is the usual form of the tank attack. When two tank battalions are attacking, one behind the other, it takes them about half an hour to pass their own infantry.
When the two-battalions-abreast formation is employed, it is almost essential that another tank regiment form the following wave. This formation usually has the disadvantage of being too wide. The regimental commander cannot observe his units, and he has no units of his own behind him which he can commit in a decisive moment. The attack normally proceeds in three waves.
The first wave thrusts to the enemy's antitank defense and artillery positions.
The second wave provides covering fire for the first wave, and then attacks the enemy's infantry positions, preceded, accompanied, or followed by part of the Panzer Grenadiers, who dismount as close as possible to the point where they must engage the enemy. The objectives of the second wave are the remaining antitank positions, positions of heavy infantry-support weapons, and machine-gun emplacements which hold up the advance of the infantry.
The third wave, accompanied by the remainder of the Panzer Grenadiers, mops up.
These three waves now often are telescoped into two, the first wave speeding through the enemy's position as far as his gun positions, the second crushing the enemy's forward positions in detail and mopping up the opposition not dealt with by the first wave or which has revived since the first wave passed through.
A typical attack formation of this type might be divided up among the Panzer division's units as follows: the first wave, on a frontage of about 2,000 to 3,000 yards, might consist of one tank battalion, two companies forward, supported on the flanks by elements of the assault gun battalion. Close to the rear of the first wave usually follow one or two Panzer Grenadier companies in armored half-tracks. About 150 yards to the rear of the first wave moves the second wave, formed of the second tank battalion in the same formation, closely followed by the remainder of the armored Panzer Grenadiers, who are in turn followed at some distance by the motorized Panzer Grenadiers. The flanks are protected by antitank guns which normally operate by platoons, moving by bounds. The artillery forward observer travels in his armored vehicles with the first wave, while the artillery commander of the supporting artillery units usually travels with the tank commander. Assault guns normally also accompany the second wave.
The tanks help each other forward by fire and movement, medium or heavy tanks taking up hull-down firing positions and giving covering fire while the faster tanks advance to the next commanding feature. Then the latter give covering fire to the former moving forward to their next bound.
Once the first wave has reached the rear of the enemy's forward defenses, it pushes straight on to attack the enemy's artillery. As soon as these positions have been neutralized, the tanks reform beyond the artillery positions and either prepare to exploit the attack or form an all-round defensive position on suitable ground.
The tank unit commander, as the leader of the strongest unit, is in most cases in command of the combat team, and all the other participating arms (Panzer Grenadiers, artillery, engineers, and antitank units) are placed under him. The Germans realize that a strong and unified command is an essential feature of any military operation. For certain missions, however, tank units are attached to another arm, in which case the tank commander is consulted before the final plans for the operations are made.
(2) Infantry-tank cooperation. When the enemy has well prepared positions with natural or constructed tank obstacles, the German infantry attacks before the tanks and clears the way. The
objective of the infantry is to penetrate into the enemy position and destroy enemy antitank weapons to the limit of its strength and the fire power of its own support weapons, augmented by additional support and covering fire from the tanks and self-propelled weapons sited in their rear.
Only after the destruction of the enemy antitank defense can the tanks be employed on the battle line to the fullest advantage.
When the tank obstacles in front of the enemy position already are destroyed, and no additional tank obstacles are expected in the depth of the enemy's main defensive position, the infantry breaks through simultaneously with the tank unit. The infantry attack is conducted in the same manner as it would be without the cooperation of tanks. Heavy infantry weapons are kept in readiness to fire at possible newly discovered antitank positions. Of particular importance is protection of the open flanks by echeloning the flank units and employing heavy weapons at the flanks.
In most cases, the infantry follows the tanks closely, taking advantage of the fire power and paralyzing effect of the tanks upon the enemy's defense. The Germans normally transport the infantry to the line of departure on tanks or troop-carrying vehicles in order to protect the infantry and to increase its speed. The infantry leaves the vehicles at the last possible moment, and goes into action mainly with light automatic weapons.
The tanks advance by bounds from cover to cover, reconnoitering the terrain ahead and providing protective fire for the dismounted Panzer Grenadiers. The tanks do not slow their advance to enable the infantry to keep continuous pace with them, but advance alone and wait under cover until the infantry catches up with the advance. Terrain that does not offer sufficient cover is crossed with the greatest possible speed.
The infantry attacks in small formations also by bounds under the fire cover of its own heavy weapons and of the tanks, staying away from individual tanks because they draw the strongest enemy fire.
When a tank company attacks with infantry, there are normally two platoons on the line, one platoon back, and the fourth platoon in reserve. The interval between tanks is usually 100 to 120 yards. The tank's machine guns usually engage
Figure 6.--Attack against an enemy pillbox.
infantry targets at about 1,000 yards range and under, while the tank guns engage targets at 2,000 to 2,500 yards.
The coordination between tanks and Panzer Grenadiers moving into combat on armored halftracks is similar to the technique employed in a purely armored formation, since the armored halftracks are not only troop-carrying vehicles but also combat vehicles. When the terrain is favorable for tank warfare, the Panzer Grenadiers in their armored half-tracks follow immediately with the second wave, after the first tank wave has overrun the opponent's position. A deep and narrow formation is employed. After the penetration, the main mission of the Panzer Grenadiers is to overcome the enemy positions which survived the first wave.
In attacking enemy pillboxes the Germans use combat groups consisting of tanks, infantry, and engineers, assisted by artillery. The normal composition of a combat group attacking one bunker is one platoon of tanks and one platoon of infantry reinforced by one squad of engineers. Before the combat group is committed against the enemy pillbox, artillery fires high explosives and smoke shells at the neighboring pillboxes to isolate them, shells the terrain between pillboxes, and conducts counter-battery fire. Under the protection of this fire, the combat group advances close to the pillbox while other infantry units attack the enemy in the terrain between the pillboxes.
One tank squad covers the advances of the other tank squads and the infantry platoon by direct fire against the pillbox, particularly against the observation and weapons' openings. The first tank squad halts under cover whenever possible and covers the advance of the second tank squad.
Figure 7.--Artillery support during a tank attack.
When the combat group reaches a barbed wire obstacle surrounding the pillbox, the two tank squads have different missions. One tank squad remains in front of the pillbox, and its tanks are driven into a position from which they can overlook the terrain, and watch out for antitank guns and machine gun emplacements, while the other tank squad (the pillbox tank squad) rolls across the obstacle to enable the infantry and engineers to get close to the pillbox. The pillbox tank squad then fires on the pillbox at close range. The infantry squad meanwhile takes the surrounding terrain and covers the engineers who blast the entrance of the pillbox with TNT.
(3) Artillery-tank coordination. Artillery support is of decisive importance for the preparation and the successful conduct of a tank attack. A unified command for the entire artillery controls the artillery fire as long as the infantry and tank units are fighting on the same line. When the tanks break through the enemy forward defense lines, the self-propelled artillery or any other artillery battalion designated for the support of the tank unit is placed under the command of the tank unit commander.
The Germans believe that the artillery fire must not check the momentum of the attack. Consequently the heaviest fire must fall well ahead of the tanks or outside their sector.
The mission of the artillery preparation before the attack is to destroy, or at least to neutralize, the opponent's antitank defense in the area between the line of contact and the regimental reserve line. Continuous counter-battery fire prevents the enemy from shelling the tank assembly area and from breaking up the preparation of the tank attack.
The artillery has the following missions before the tank attack:
Counter-battery fire on enemy artillery located in positions which command the ground over which the tank attack is to be made.
Concentrations on enemy tanks in assembly areas.
Harassing fire on all areas in which the antitank units are located or suspected. Fire is heaviest on areas in which tanks cannot operate but from which they can be engaged effectively.
Adjusting fire with high explosives on probable enemy observation posts commanding the sector to be attacked. These observation posts are blinded with smoke as soon as the attack begins.
Experience has taught the Germans that the flanks of a tank attack are vulnerable. Therefore they assign to the artillery and the rocket projector units the task of protecting flanks by barrages using high explosives and smoke shells.
The artillery has the following missions during the tank attack:
Blinding enemy observation posts.
As the attack progresses, engaging successive lines of antitank defense, especially areas to the rear and flanks of the sector attacked.
Screening the flanks of the attack with smoke and neutralizing the enemy's infantry and rear areas.
Delaying the movement and deployment of enemy reserves, particularly tanks.
The Germans stress that this wide variety of tasks must not lead to the wholesale dispersal of effort. The main task of the artillery is at all times the destruction of the enemy's antitank weapons, tanks, and artillery.
Liaison between artillery and tanks during the attack is established by the commanding officers and the artillery liaison group, which normally moves with the first wave. Artillery forward observers, if possible in armored observation posts, ride with the most forward elements. A German field expedient is for the tank unit to take along a forward observer in one of its tanks. It often happens that the tankman himself has to take over the observation for the artillery. He himself can request artillery fire and shift concentrations when the situation requires such changes. Figure 10 represents a map with superimposed coordinate system and artillery reference points used by tank commanders to help them in this task.
c. THE INFANTRY DIVISION IN THE ATTACK. (1) General principles for employment. German teaching envisages infantry divisions being employed to make a penetration in the enemy defensive positions through which armored and mechanized formations can pass. During the course of this war, however, no major attack has been carried out by infantry divisions without the support of Panzer divisions. In fact, more major attacks have been carried out by Panzer divisions, with only a minimum of ordinary infantry elements. Infantry divisions have been employed almost entirely in a role of consolidation, following up the armored and mechanized formations, systematically eliminating centers of resistance by-passed by the latter, or exploiting the latter's
Figure 8.--Map with superimposed coordinate system and artillery reference points used by tank commanders.
Figure 9.--Deployment of a German infantry battalion (1st stage).
Figure 10.--Deployment of a German infantry battalion (2nd stage).
success by mopping up demoralized enemy defenses to the flanks of the armored breakthrough--in short, consolidating and holding the ground won by the mechanized formations.
In view of the unspectacular role allotted to the infantry division it is difficult to give information about other than minor infantry tactics, such as attacks on a small scale.
(2) Preparation for the attack. The method of forming up for an infantry assault on a prepared position is similar to that employed by the Panzer division. While the infantry is in assembly positions, the artillery makes all preparations for the support of the attack. It draws out hostile artillery fire and executes counter-battery fire against known enemy batteries. Large troop concentrations and especially important targets are taken under fire at great ranges. In order not to betray their full strength and intentions, the Germans withhold a portion of their batteries from these missions. They also try to deceive the enemy as to their intentions by covering other sectors simultaneously with fire. When possible, preparation for an attack is avoided during the clay in order to prevent Allied observation. Occasionally, to obtain a success by surprise, the Germans launch attacks without artillery preparation. Surprise attacks also are launched under cover of darkness or fog.
The Germans normally occupy their line of departure by means of infiltration in order to avoid losses. Their orders direct what actions have to be taken when companies run into enemy defenses; when enemy fire is opened from the flank; when an enemy counterattack is launched; when objectives are reached; when companies appear to be getting dispersed; when part of a company pushes too far ahead of neighboring units or is held up.
The heavy machine guns of the rearward company and some of the mortars and heavy mortars are assigned to deal with enemy flanking fire.
The commander of the heavy company is normally at the battalion headquarters, from which he can control the fire of the infantry heavy support weapons.
(3) Deployment. (a) First stage. The Germans carry out deployment in two stages. They call the first stage Entfaltung or "shaking out", which is equivalent to the development of a march column according to U.S. procedure. In the first stage (Figure 9), an infantry regiment normally deploys down to battalions, although the procedure may go down to companies if a high state of preparedness is necessary. Features of the first stage of deployment are as follows:
Companies retain their combat vehicles until their weapons and equipment arrive at the off-carrier position, which is located as far forward as the situation permits.The Germans often place only one company forward, the main strength of the battalion being kept under control of the battalion commander as long as possible so that he may employ it in the most advantageous direction for attack.
If the condition of the terrain and enemy fire cause a change of intervals between units, the normal intervals are resumed as soon as possible.
Support weapons are used to cover the "shaking out" phase of deployment and the subsequent advance, the weapons being kept within the march column between the companies or behind the battalion.
After the first stage of deployment has been carried out, the leading elements of the battalion may be ordered to seize important tactical features.
When deploying by night or in woods, a careful reconnaissance is made, routes are marked, and strong protection is placed forward. Intervals between units are shorter.
After the first stage of deployment has been completed, the battalion commander marches with the leading elements and normally will send reconnaissance patrols ahead or reconnoiter the enemy position himself. The commanders of support weapons accompany him, reconnoitering for firing positions.
(b) Second stage. The second stage (Figure 10), called Entwicklung (development), is deployment in detail, which is the final action of the company extending itself down to platoons and squads. Features of the second stage of deployment are as follows:
The companies deploy in depth as soon as they come within range of artillery fire. An advance in columns of files is considered desirable because it affords a small target and the company is easier to control, but before adopting this formation the danger of enfilade fire is weighed.
If enemy fire and difficult terrain necessitate further deployment, the companies disperse in depth by sections. Reserves and support weapons also adopt open formations, but they remain
far enough behind to avoid coming under the fire directed at the leading elements.
When the rifle companies are deployed, they exploit all possible cover as they advance, employing column-of-file formations with irregular distances. The leading elements are not extended until they are to engage in a fire fight. The elements that follow continue advancing in file.
In determining when to deploy, the Germans take into consideration additional physical strain placed on men when they march cross-country.
(4) Technique of attack. The infantry attack on prepared positions is made in the same sequence as that of the Panzer division, namely penetration, breakthrough, exploitation by the reserves. In the infantry attack, however, the first phase is a series of local attacks by so-called assault detachments (Stosstrupps) with the aim of overcoming key points in the enemy defenses, so that wedges into the enemy's forward positions can be established from which the attack can be driven forward into the depth of the enemy position, or rolling up the positions on either flank of the wedge.
Assault detachments normally are composed of infantry with engineers attached. A typical assault detachment consists of the following: one officer; obstacle clearing party, consisting of two to six men for each lane to be cleared, equipped with small arms, wire-cutters, and bangalore torpedoes and other explosives; embrasure-blasting party consisting of three or four men equipped with grenades and demolition or pole charges. This party may also include, though it may work independently, a flame-thrower party, consisting normally of two men; covering parties, normally two or three parties of varying size from three men with one light machine gun to full platoons; smoke party consisting of two or three men equipped with smoke candles or grenades; supply party, carrying reserves of equipment and ammunition, their strength depending on the size of the assault detachment.
Attacks most often are made at dawn, and are preceded normally by heavy artillery preparation, one purpose of which is to make shell holes which afford cover for the advancing assault detachments as they move forward. When the latter reach the wire obstacles surrounding the enemy position, Very signals are fired, calling for available artillery fire to be brought on the position to seal it off from flanking positions. If, by reason of proximity of the assault detachment to the artillery's danger zone, the former cannot be protected by covering fire, the smoke party may lay a smoke screen. The obstacle-clearing party then cuts one or more lanes through the wire, using wire cutters or bangalore torpedoes. The embrasure-blasting party passes through and attacks the embrasures. Flame throwers, if employed, are not intended by themselves to cause the surrender of the position, but to cover the advance of the embrasure-blasting party with its explosive charges which are considered the decisive weapon.
Antitank guns may be used to give close support to the embrasure-blasting party, being manhandled from cover to cover. They will attack the embrasure with armor-piercing ammunition and also give protection against possible tank-supported counterattacks.
It is probable that several such operations will be in progress on any one sector at any one time before an attack, in the first place to probe for weak spots, and in the second place to keep the enemy in uncertainty as to the final point of main effort of the attack. German feint attacks have often been delivered in such strength or with such violence as to be indistinguishable from the main attack.
Once a wedge has been firmly established in the enemy positions, the second phase of the attack begins. Troops so far held in their assembly area, or slowly making headway under cover of the artillery fire supporting the first phase of the attack, advance to cut the enemy position in two and to roll up the positions flanking the wedge.
Because the Germans anticipate enemy defenses organized in depth, and because these are unlikely to be fully disclosed until after the beginning of the attack, they do not make detailed plans for close-support covering fire, which would be hard to work out in advance, but tend to decentralize their support weapons and artillery for the second phase of the assault, in which reinforced battalions, companies, or platoons fight their own way forward, independently of their flanking units, until they have gained their final objective.
Attack on lightly defended positions is more similar to the conduct of the attack by the Panzer division. The first phase is likely to be a deployed attack on a two-regiment front, the third regiment in reserve.
The Germans believe that in the advance extended
formation of units is advantageous because it forces the enemy to scatter his fire.
To counteract the overwhelming Allied superiority in artillery and planes which frequently knock out the attack before it is under way, the Germans have been known to use the following method. Small groups of less than platoon size infiltrate mainly at night over a period of three to four days into the hostile battle position or at least well behind the advanced positions. During the day the infiltrated groups conceal themselves, but if caught pass themselves off as ordinary patrols to avoid raising suspicion. When the actual attack is launched these units try to give the impression that the defender is surrounded and often cause great confusion.
When the Germans go over from the attack to the defense, even if only temporarily, they concentrate the supporting weapons around the commander of the unit that is to be supported, so that he can control the fire plan.
(5) Infantry-assault gun coordination. The assault guns are organized in assault gun battalions and are under the control of the division commander.
The Germans regard their self-propelled assault guns as decisive weapons to be employed particularly at the point of main effort. In cooperation with infantry they facilitate the penetration and breakthrough. These weapons, the Germans believe, complement artillery fire by their ability to follow the infantry right up to an objective. Their use for small actions before an attack is forbidden so as not to betray their presence. Surprise is sought by bringing them into position by night and camouflaging their assembly area. Used primarily to neutralize enemy support weapons at short ranges over open sights, assault guns are preferably employed in concentrations; to employ them singly or in comparatively small number is frowned upon by the Germans.
German assault guns advance with or just behind the infantry; they never go ahead of the infantry. When an objective is reached, the assault guns do not remain with the infantry while the position is being consolidated but retire about 1,000 yards to await further assignment.
In close combat the assault guns are rather helpless and therefore it is the task of the infantry to keep the enemy away from the assault guns. Newly-organized assault-gun escort batteries have the same task.
(6) Artillery. The Germans employ their field artillery in general support (Allgemeine Unterstützung) or in direct support (Unmittelbare Unterstützung), in the same manner as the U.S. Army. The Germans consider the battalion as the firing unit. Splitting up an artillery battalion into batteries and placing batteries under an infantry battalion is the exception justified only when the infantry battalion has an independent mission (for example, flank protection) or when the terrain does not permit unified fire control by artillery battalion commanders. Single commitment of guns is against German tactical doctrine. Various recent reports, however, describe deviations from the prescribed practice. Normally the Germans do not employ single field artillery pieces for direct fire, as, for instance, the Russians do. But much use is made of roving guns (Arbeitsgeschutz), and of guns firing from alternate positions to make identification more difficult. Standing German orders call for the preparation of alternate firing positions, which, however, are used now only in cases of very heavy counter-battery fire, as the gasoline shortage keeps all movements to a minimum. The Germans often designate the number two piece as the roving gun, and, unlike the other pieces, it normally is not dug in. It frequently changes its position, which is about 250 to 300 yards from the rest of the battery.
The German artillery often engages a target from a lateral position. This deception, particularly identified with longer range weapons, is extended by employing another gun, often of lighter caliber, in a carefully coordinated attack on the same target. Flash simulators also increase the difficulty of visual location of active guns.
The first step to obtain infantry-artillery coordination is taken in the attack order and is assured by direct contact between the commanders, artillery liaison units (Artillerieverbindungskommando), and direct contact between artillery observers and infantry units.
The Germans also employ forward observers (Vorgeschobene Beobachter), who have the same task as their U.S. counterpart.
The signal equipment necessary for communication between units, liaison units, and observers is only partly organic. The Germans keep most of the signal equipment centralized in the division signal battalion, which allots equipment as needed to the various units.
In the attack the greater part of the artillery
supports the main effort. The remainder of the artillery is assigned the mission of flank protection against possible enemy counterattacks.
5. Meeting Engagement (Begegnungsgefecht)
In the meeting engagement the Germans believe that the advantage lies with the side which succeeds first in making effective preparation for the attack and thereby deprives the enemy of his freedom of action. When both adversaries attack immediately from march columns, the decisive factors are the initiative of the junior officers and the efficiency of the troops. The senior commander quickly coordinates the functions of the various officers, while the advance guard secures for him freedom of action and the opportunity for a speedy deployment of his troops.
U.S. and German tactical doctrines on pursuit are very much alike. Pursuit begins when the enemy is no longer able to maintain his position and abandons the combat area with the bulk of his forces. The object of the pursuit is the complete annihilation of the retreating or routed enemy. Effective pursuit requires great initiative from commanders of all echelons of command, who must not hesitate to start pursuit immediately, even when their troops are exhausted. The enemy must be given no time to pause to reorganize his forces and reconstitute his defense.
The pursuit is conducted on a broad front by means of fire and movement. When making for distant objectives every effort is made to get around the enemy's flanks and effect a surprise attack in his rear. However, care must be taken that enemy attack on one's own flank does not cause deflection from the original direction.
Fast-moving troops are used in the pursuit. These troops often are organized into pursuit or advance sections. The infantry scatters the enemy and by-passes resisting enemy strongpoints, leaving their destruction to units following in the rear. Part of the artillery places concentrations at the avenues of retreat, while the remainder displaces forward in echelon, providing continuous support for the units in front. The Germans emphasize that a pursuit without the necessary artillery support may lead to disaster. Assault guns travel well forward with the rapidly advancing infantry, their comparatively heavy armament enabling them to crush quickly and decisively any enemy forces attempting to make a stand. Combat aviation bombs routes of retreat and strafes the hostile forces in direct support of the ground attack. Combat engineers repair damaged roads, facilitating the continuous flow of supply and troops.
Pursuit, after a successful breakthrough, is regarded by the Germans as an ideal mission for the Panzer division. Panzer Grenadiers in armored half-tracks or in unarmored vehicles and tanks supplement each other in pursuing the enemy. During the advance on roads, the tanks form the point. However, through wooded areas or larger villages the Panzer Grenadiers take over the point. Tanks and Panzer Grenadiers stay close together so that either, according to the situation, can be committed as soon as enemy resistance is encountered. Tanks are normally not used in units of less than company strength.
Section V. DEFENSIVE
In German doctrine the object of the defense (Verteidigung, or Abwehr) is to halt the hostile attack, or to gain time pending development of a more favorable situation for resumption of the offensive. Thus German and U.S. doctrine are essentially the same: only the offensive leads to decisive successes.
In the last two years German defensive operations have become increasingly passive in nature. The Germans formerly placed the greatest stress on immediate and violent counterattacks as effective means of destroying the attacking enemy. This required great mobility and large reserves. At present more emphasis is placed on the construction of defensive positions, and counterattacks are frequently local in character. It is most likely that this passive type of defense is only an expedient due to German shortages of mobile equipment and manpower.
2. Organization for Defense
a. GENERAL. The Germans attempt to break a hostile attack in front of the main line of resistance (Hauptkampflinie), at the forward limit of the battle position (Hauptkampffeld), or to force the enemy to abandon his attack.
As in U.S. practice, the commander usually determines from the map the main battlefield and assigns a general line as guide for the location of the main line of resistance, to ensure continuity
of the defensive position. Lower echelon commanders fix the main line of resistance on the ground, since only on the terrain, after thorough reconnaissance, can the details of the defense be decided. A recent official German directive states, however, that reconnaissance must not delay the construction of defensive positions.
Organization of the defensive position follows a conventional pattern and includes an advanced position (Vorgeschobene Stellung), and an outpost position (Gefechtsvorposten), both of which usually are under immediate command of the area commander. A reserve position may also be provided.
The width and depth of a German defense area depend upon the terrain and the proportional strength of friendly and hostile forces. In general, however, the width of a defensive sector assigned to a unit is approximately twice the width of the sector when the same unit attacks. Normal sectors are: platoon, 220 to 550 yards; company, 440 to 1,100 yards; battalion, 880 to 2,200 yards; regiment, 2,200 to 3,300 yards; division, 6,600 to 11,000 yards.
b. ADVANCED POSITION. The Germans organize the advanced position 5,000 to 7,000 yards in front of the main line of resistance, within the range of their medium artillery. A position is selected which will prevent seizure by the enemy of important terrain features, provide good observation points for friendly artillery, and, if possible, deceive the enemy as to the location of the main line of resistance. Troops manning these positions attempt to make the enemy deploy his forces prematurely and, if possible, in the wrong direction.
The forces in the advanced position are usually reconnaissance detachments, which include machine-gun, armored-car, and antitank-gun units, the fire power and mobility of which make them suitable for this type of employment. In general they occupy important features, such as railroads, river crossings, cross-roads, and commanding ground. Forces in advanced positions are not expected to hold at all cost; in the face of superior enemy fire they retire along predetermined routes under over of their medium artillery.
c. OUTPOST POSITIONS. Outpost positions normally are established 2,000 to 5,000 yards in front of the main line of resistance. When the fronts are stabilized, the outpost position is the only position forward of the main line of resistance. The location, which depends upon the terrain, is always within range of friendly light artillery.
German outpost positions are occupied in strength varying from platoons to companies, depending upon the mission, terrain, width of the sector, and the number of troops available. Often they are only weakly occupied as long as the advanced positions are in front of them. Ordinarily outposts are established by infantry units drawn from the main battle position, supported by the fire of close-support weapons, such as mortars and infantry guns. Antitank guns often are attached to these outpost units to repel hostile armored reconnaissance units. The main weapon, however, is the light machine gun which opens fire at ranges of about 1,300 yards, while riflemen commence fire at about 850 yards.
Firing positions are selected by the Germans to facilitate unobserved withdrawal of the outposts to the main battle position when hostile pressure becomes too strong. Several alternate positions are prepared for each weapon, and shifts are made by day and night to make it difficult for the opponent to detect and dislodge the Outpost troops. Positions normally are selected at the edges of woods, villages, hedgerows, or hills. A good field of fire is considered mandatory, and the organization of firing positions is simple. Numerous dummy positions are constructed, including knee-deep trenches filled with leaves to simulate depth and occupancy. During the day, positions are manned by guards; at night, advanced listening posts, particularly alert at dusk and dawn, warn the troops of the enemy's approach. Small, prepared attacks with limited objectives under the protection of the outposts are utilized to interfere with the hostile preparations and secure information.
Withdrawal of the outposts is conducted so as not to hinder the fire of the main battle position. After the outposts are abandoned, they are likely to be covered by carefully registered fire of heavy weapons in order to prevent their occupation by the enemy.
d. MAIN LINE OF RESISTANCE. The Germans organize their battle position in depth, with individual strongpoints connected to form an uninterrupted belt. The strongpoints, constructed for all-around defense, and surrounded by barbed-wire obstacles and mine belts, contain one or more heavy weapons supplemented by machine guns, mortars, and riflemen. The smallest strong-point is occupied by a reinforced squad. Squad
Figure 11.--Typical layout of a reinforced battalion strongpoint.
Figure 12.--Typical layout of a reinforced squad strongpoint.
strongpoints normally are incorporated into platoon strongpoints, and the latter into company strongpoints, etc.
The Germans make the maximum use of reverse slopes in their defensive positions. Forward-slope positions are usually avoided as they are detected too early by the enemy and are likely to be destroyed by massed fire. Since organization of a position in woods requires much time and labor, and strong occupation is requisite to compensate for poor observation, the Germans also avoid woods when time is short and labor scarce. Battle positions are laid out so that woods are neither in, nor directly in front or in rear of, defense installations. The Germans believe, however, that when it is possible to establish a well prepared position in a woods, a position so located offers the same advantages as a reverse slope.
When the Germans decide to construct defensive positions on terrain divided by a stream, they organize bridgeheads on the bank on the hostile side where the terrain facilitates crossings. Where the river forms a re-entrant bend into enemy-held terrain, a second position is constructed at the base of the bend. On narrow rivers and creeks, the entire German main line of resistance is on the hostile side of the river, and the stream becomes the tank obstacle of the position. (See antimechanized defense.) When the friendly side of the river consists of swampland, it is used as an obstacle, and the hostile bank is not included in the defense system.
The Germans endeavor to provide all parts of their position with strong support from artillery and heavy infantry weapons. A detailed fire plan is prepared in advance by the infantry and coordinated with the artillery plan. Provision is made for fire in front of the forward limit of the battle position, which is partly protected by minefields and other obstacles. Alternate positions are dug so that support weapons may be shifted and fired rapidly. The mass of the artillery lays concentrated fire both close to and well in front of the main line of resistance, and is sited to cover the spaces between the effective fire zones of front-line units.
The Germans in general adhere to the principle of "effect before cover" in determining priorities for constructing the various installations in a defense position. First they build combat trenches; erect infantry obstacles such as barbed-wire fences; and construct machine-gun positions, dugouts, foxholes, and antitank positions. They clear fields of fire by careful cutting of underbrush but try to avoid cutting down trees in order to preserve concealment of the position. The underbrush is left in front of the position as far as 1 to 3 yards. They organize observation posts for artillery and heavy infantry weapons, increase the depth of the battle position, dig communication trenches and emplacements for the heavy infantry weapons, and build command posts. Finally, they construct emplacements for the artillery, dig antitank ditches within the battle position, and build dummy positions.
The Germans insist on thorough camouflage. Whenever practicable, trenches and wire obstacles are placed along natural terrain lines such as rows of brush or edges of fields. Trenches are dug zig-zag at obtuse angles, 330 to 660 yards long, depending on the terrain. Machine-guns are em-placed in trenches 1 to 3 yards in length. To avoid silhouettes, the Germans heap more earth behind the trenches than in front. Dugouts for riflemen and for machine-gun positions normally provide sufficient protection against enemy artillery and mortar fire. Whenever possible, three layers of logs and earth are used as cover.
e. RESERVE POSITION. Occasionally a reserve position is organized and troops in the main battle position retire to it, but only under heavy pressure. This reserve position is constructed far enough to the rear to compel hostile artillery to displace forward in order to bring it under fire. Motorized reserve units normally are kept there for counterattacks which are planned in advance.
f. ANTIMECHANIZED DEFENSE. In constructing a defensive position the Germans stress construction of obstacles and antitank defenses. If possible they select tank-proof terrain, and natural tank obstacles, such as steep slopes, are improved. Very steep forward slopes are made at least 8 yards deep, while uphill slopes are made 2 to 3 yards high. Originally the Germans constructed antitank ditches well forward of the main line of resistance, but experience taught them that such ditches offered favorable jumping-off positions for hostile infantry and also revealed the location of the main line of resistance. At the present time, therefore, antitank ditches normally are dug in the area between the main line of resistance and the artillery positions. They are built in an uninterrupted line to avoid leaving passages that can be exploited by the enemy.
All crossings essential to assure the maneuverability
Figure 13.--German company in a defensive position.
of friendly troops are built so that they can be blown up on the shortest notice.
The Germans are aware that obstacles of any kind are effective only when covered by fire from various weapons. Consequently, there usually are trenches behind the antitank ditches from which machine-gun and antitank-gun fire can cover the entire length of the tank obstacle.
The Germans learned that dense minefields in front of their positions were an inadequate tank obstacle, because the enemy usually neutralized them by massed artillery fire or by concentrated air bombardment before launching a large-scale attack. Now German minefields normally are laid within the main battle position, and only single mines are dispersed in pattern at wide intervals in front of the main line of resistance. Particular stress is placed on the mining of roads. Routes of withdrawal which have to be left open are prepared for mining, and, if time does not permit placing of actual mines, dummy mines are installed.
The Germans employ many kinds of tank obstacles. They recently have used static flame throwers dug into the ground. Usually sited in pairs and in conjunction with other tank obstacles, they are fired by well concealed personnel as soon as hostile tanks come within range.
German antitank guns are disposed in depth, with some well forward. They often are dug in and carefully concealed to prevent the enemy from discovering the location and strength of the antitank defenses prior to attack. In emplacing antitank guns, the Germans prefer positions in enfilade or on reverse slopes. They normally employ two to three antitank guns in each position, protecting them from infantry attacks with light machine guns. Ranges at which the Germans open fire upon hostile tanks vary according to the caliber of the gun and its position. Although single antitank guns sometimes engage enemy tanks at ranges up to 1,000 yards, main antitank defenses usually hold their fire until the range is reduced to about 150 to 300 yards. The employment of close-combat antitank teams supplements the antitank defense. When the hostile tank attack is repulsed, the antitank guns move to alternate positions.
The Germans emphasize that the use of smoke can be of great assistance in defeating enemy tank attacks. Smoke shells are fired into the attacking formation about one-third the distance back from the leading echelon. Thus the Germans avoid blinding their own antitank gunners, and leading hostile tanks not only are left without adequate support but are silhouetted against the smoke. The Germans also rely on the smoke being sucked into the tanks and forcing the crews to dismount.
3. Conduct of the Defense
German defense of a position, whether hastily prepared or complete in all details, is conducted on the same principles. Unless they are compelled by manpower and materiel shortages to rely on the strength of their positions, the Germans prefer heavy concentrations of fire and powerful, coordinated counterattacks by mobile reserves of all arms. They apply the principle of selecting a point of main effort (Schwerpunkt) to the defense as well as to the attack. This principle necessarily is applied in reverse order in the defensive, the main effort being made opposite the point where the enemy is making his main attack.
German artillery attempts to disrupt a hostile attack before it reaches the defensive positions. The Germans state that it is invaluable to install observation posts simultaneously in the main line of resistance, in the advanced position, and in the immediate vicinity of the gun position. Thus they try to keep a hostile force constantly under observation and fire even when it achieves a penetration. The artillery regiment commander controls the fire as long as possible, although requests for artillery barrages may be made by unit commanders as low as platoon leaders. Capabilities of German heavy mortars, which like all other support weapons usually are sited on reverse slopes, are exploited, with a present trend toward mortar-fire concentration.
When a part of the battle position is lost, the area is taken under artillery fire to annihilate enemy forces which have penetrated it. The Germans normally organize reserve units, even when only relatively few troops are available. Immediate local counter-thrusts by infantry elements and support weapons near the penetration endeavor to hurl back the enemy before he has an opportunity to establish himself. These small counter-thrusts, which normally closely follow the artillery fire, preferably are directed at the flanks of the penetrations.
When the enemy succeeds in making a large penetration or breakthrough, the German higher echelon commander decides whether a general counterattack should be launched to restore the position or whether the main battle position
should be reestablished farther to the rear. The counterattack is directed against the hostile flank, where possible, and is prepared thoroughly. Assembly area, time, objective, zone, artillery support, and employment of tanks, self-propelled artillery, assault guns, and air units are controlled by one commander.
German antiaircraft defense, which is unable to give adequate protection everywhere because of Allied air supremacy, is concentrated at important points. The main mission of the light and medium antiaircraft artillery is the protection of roads. Accuracy of Allied air reconnaissance compels the German antiaircraft artillery to change positions from day to day, the changeover being made during the night. The Germans also enforce a preliminary two-hour fire silence in the new position to try to trap enemy fighter-bombers. Searchlights often are placed parallel to a protected road to prevent enemy aircraft from illuminating the road by flares. This is particularly important since the Germans normally bring forward their relief troops, rations, and ammunition during the night.
4. Defense of Towns
The Germans regard towns and villages as excellent strongpoints, particularly if the buildings are of masonry. Towns also are regarded as excellent antitank positions because of the considerable infantry-artillery effort necessary to neutralize them.
In defending a town or village, the Germans locate their main line of resistance well within the built-up portion; the edges of the town, which provide easy targets for artillery fire, are believed to be too vulnerable. The main line of resistance is laid out irregularly in order to develop flanking fire, and every effort is made to conceal its location until the last possible moment. Minor strongpoints are maintained forward of the line in order to break up attacks and provide additional flanking fire. Cul-de-sacs are organized and attempts made to trap attacking forces in them for destruction by counterattacking mobile reserves. These reserves are kept in readiness within the town itself, but other reserve forces are held outside the town to prevent hostile flanking maneuvers.
Both occupied and unoccupied buildings are booby-trapped in organizing the defended positions. Entrances to buildings are blocked, and all windows opened so as not to disclose those from which fire is maintained. Rooms are darkened, and passages are cut in the walls between buildings. To avoid detection, the Germans fire from the middle of the rooms, and frequently change their positions, while communication is maintained through cellars and over roofs. Machine guns are sited low, usually in basements, to provide better grazing fire. Chimneys and cornices are used as cover for men on roofs; tiles may be removed to provide loopholes. Searchlights are mounted to illuminate fields of fire; in their absence vehicle headlights may be used as substitutes. When houses collapse, the defense is carried on from cellars, and rubble heaps of destroyed areas are organized into strongpoints.
Tanks are considered to be ineffective within a defended town, although the Germans have used them in static, dug-in positions at cross-roads and squares. As a result of their experiences on the Eastern Front, the Germans believe single tanks are too vulnerable to Molotov cocktails, magnetic mines, and explosive charges. When the Germans themselves use these antitank weapons, they employ them from foxholes dug outside the perimeter of the town. Efforts are made to destroy enemy tanks immobilized by antitank action, either within or outside the town, in order to prevent their recovery or use as artillery observation posts and machine-gun nests. Antipersonnel mines are interspersed in antitank minefields because the attacking infantry are considered the chief menace.
Assault guns may provide direct defensive support fire if attacking forces break through and disorganize the German position. To secure the added protection afforded by masonry walls, the Germans may locate assault guns or tanks within buildings and use them against hostile armored vehicles and infantry. Counterattacks, supported by assault guns or tanks, will not be withheld until the situation has become desperate; indeed, surprise counterattacks may be launched at any time.
For the defense of village strongpoints special battle commandants (Kampfkommandanten) are appointed. The battle commandant is usually the senior officer and the tactical commander of all military forces, emergency units, and civil organizations in his area. He has the disciplinary power of a regimental commander.
In the case of fairly small villages, consolidation of the place itself is usually deemed sufficient. For larger localities an outer defense
Figure 14.--Strongpoint manned by an infantry battalion.
system is constructed in addition to the inner defenses.
The inner defense system consists of a number of concentric positions which are broken down into perimeter positions, intermediate positions, and the inner ring position. The inner defense system is divided into sectors, each forming a strongpoint system in itself, with the strongpoints protected by all-around antitank and infantry obstacles and connected with each other by trenches.
The perimeter ring position is the most important part of the inner defenses and consists of one or more continuous trench systems, each with a deep main battle zone. The forward edge often is beyond the outskirts of the village, unless this creates unfavorable conditions for the antitank defense, in which case it is within the village itself. Artillery and heavy support weapons are employed as whole units in support of the perimeter ring position, although single guns may be detached for the defense of strongpoints and roads. The nearer the fighting approaches the inner ring, the more likely it will be that the Germans will split up the support weapons units for close cooperation with infantry assault groups.
The outer defense system likewise consists of a number of concentric positions, approximately 4 to 6 miles apart, so as to force the enemy artillery to displace to engage each one. For defense of larger towns the Germans organize the outside ring about 121/2 to 181/2 miles beyond the outskirts whenever feasible. Beyond this outside defense ring, about 2,200 yards forward, are the advanced positions, with covering units still further forward on main roads and railways.
Patrols of all types, including motorized and cyclist patrols, give early warning of the enemy's approach and keep him under continuous observation. Non-military outposts, such as police sentries, party officials, and local farmers also are used for these duties.
Sector boundaries for companies and battalions are defined from the outside defense ring to the center of the town or village. Usually they do not coincide with vital main roads, which always are defended by entire companies or battalions. Every strongpoint, defense block (combined adjacent buildings), and sector has local reserves; mobile reserves, consisting of combat groups comprised of infantry, tanks, assault and self-propelled guns, are employed for counterattacks of a larger scale.
In addition to regular military units the Germans employ emergency units, organized from personnel of Army, Navy, and Air Force in town defense. Besides these regularly organized emergency units, improvised emergency units are formed from stragglers, remnants of formations, and units in process of reorganization. Utilization of emergency units is only temporary. Their main tasks, of local nature, are protection of headquarters, supply points, airfields, etc., and garrison service in fortifications.
5. Doctrine of Westwall System
The Germans consider economy of force the fundamental principle in planning zones of permanent fortifications. They originally built the West-wall as a protective barrier along the French frontier to permit commitment of maximum forces offensively in the East. Thus, in 1939, they were able to hold in the West with approximately 20 divisions, while employing 40 to 50 divisions against Poland.
When Westwall construction ceased in 1940, German strategy in the West was offensive, envisioning an invasion of France by a wide envelopment, with the bulk of the German forces in the North, where the Westwall defenses were relatively weak. The pivot of maneuver was south of the Moselle River, where the Westwall defenses were strongest.
The Germans never have discarded the principle that offensive action is the best protection. When their armies were forced back to the West-wall in 1944, they used this defensive system as a base for offensive operations in selected areas, as in the Saar and the Eifel. Advantage also was taken of this protected zone for the free lateral movement of troops; shelters were utilized for the cover and concealment of reserve forces, weapons, and supplies.
German Westwall tactics are based on a stubborn defense of individual fortifications, local counterattacks against areas of penetration, and counterattack by general mobile reserves against areas of deep penetration. German troops are not permitted to develop a static-defense complex which might foster the idea that a position once surrounded is lost. Bunker garrisons are taught to continue resistance even though surrounded, because their perseverance impedes the attackers' advance and facilitates counterattacks. Troops are trained in the principle that the decision usually is achieved by the infantry in the open between bunkers. Organic heavy infantry weapons and artillery are the backbone of German defense
Figure 15.--Antitank defense of an artillery battery firing position.
Figure 16.--Defense of a community.
in the Westwall, just as in mobile warfare. Reserves habitually are left under cover until the time for counterattack arrives.
Surprise is always attempted. For example, bunkers and heavy weapons frequently are sited on reverse slopes, not only for concealment and protection in defilade, but also to open fire suddenly upon the unwary attacker crossing the crest or moving around the nose of a hill. The attacker penetrating the Westwall defense system must be prepared to cope with unexpected resistance flaring up in his rear areas, surprise by accurate flanking and enfilade fire at short and medium ranges, sudden counterattacks by forces not known to be in the areas, and counterattacks in increasing strength as the penetration progresses.
German doctrine prescribes that the intact portion of the defenses must continue the battle, regardless of the situation at the penetrated area, until the appropriate command orders a readjustment of the line. Penetrations normally are dealt with as follows: by mobile reserves which seal them off frontally; by counterattack or counter-offensive from protected flanks to threaten the rear areas of the penetrating force; or by both, as in the Aachen area. At any rate, the Germans will attempt to destroy the penetration before the attacker has reorganized and consolidated his gains. Here again the principle of economy of force is generally followed. German troops may be taken from strongly protected and little threatened areas in order to concentrate on adequate counterattacking or counter-offensive force. Hence the attacker should have sufficient strength to ward off strong counter-measures and at the same time exploit the advantages gained by a penetration.
Section VI. RETROGRADE MOVEMENTS
1. Withdrawal from Action (Abbrechen des Gefechts)
a. GENERAL. The Germans break off an engagement for one or more of the following reasons: when it has served its purpose; when conditions require the employment of the troops, or part of them, on another front; when a continuation of the battle gives no promise of success; or when defeat is imminent.
When an attack exhausts itself without attaining its objective, the Germans assume the defensive as the first step in withdrawing from action. If the defense must be continued in a rearward position, the breaking of contact, the retirement, and the resumption of the defense are carefully planned beforehand. Positions in the rear are prepared for the reception of the troops, particularly if they have been engaged in heavy fighting. The retirement is made in conjunction with that of adjacent units, and stress is placed on maintaining the cohesiveness of the retiring forces.
By maintaining the usual fire of all arms, the Germans try to deceive their enemy as long as possible as to the continued occupation in force of their original position.
In view of the severe losses inflicted by Allied planes and armored forces on German troops during daylight disengagements, the Germans try to await darkness before withdrawing from action. At night they break off combat on a wide front and move back along routes as nearly perpendicular as possible to terrain features suitable for fighting delaying actions. When the situation forces them to withdraw during daylight, they do so by unit sectors, coordinating the movements of adjacent units.
b. ORDERS. The German company commander follows this outline in drafting his orders for breaking off an engagement:
General instructions. Rearward movement of supplies, ammunition-carrying vehicles, and equipment.
Reconnaissance and marking of routes of withdrawal.
Detailed instructions. Combat orders for the covering forces (reconnaissance units, heavy support weapons, medical personnel, infantry combat wagons, and infantry engineers).
Type, time, and march order for the withdrawal of the rifle platoons and heavy weapons.
Location of the company commander.
2. Retreat (Ruckzug)
a. GENERAL. Retreat is a forced retirement which is ordered by the Germans only when all possibilities for success are exhausted. The objective is to place enough distance between friendly and hostile forces to enable the former to conduct an orderly withdrawal and to occupy new positions to the rear.
b. COVERING FORCES. The German usually organize covering forces from troops in closest contact with the enemy--either whole tactical units or elements from several. These forces attempt to make the enemy believe that the position is still fully occupied. Engineers prepare additional obstacles,
minefields, and booby traps forward of and within the positions to be held. A portion of the artillery and heavy infantry weapons support the covering forces. They maintain as long as possible their former fire activity to deceive the enemy, even when fulfilment of their mission means the loss of individual guns. The sector assigned to a covering force is usually too wide to be under effective control of a single commander, but the actions of the various commanders are closely coordinated. Orders specify whether the covering forces are to remain in contact with the hostile forces until they begin to advance, or to follow the main body after a specified interval.
c. REAR GUARD (Nachhut). (1) As the distance from the enemy increases, the retiring troops form march columns. Where possible, a division's retirement takes place along two parallel routes. The freshest troops available are used as rear guards. Since the rear guard cannot expect support from the retreating main body, it must be relatively strong. It is composed of infantry units. Generally the divisional field artillery retires with the main body, none being assigned to the rear guard. Self-propelled and heavy infantry-support guns, and even howitzers, are frequently attached to the rear guard. Tanks also may be assigned. A typical rear guard for each route in a division retirement is one infantry battalion to which are attached elements of the reconnaissance unit, to protect the flanks, and of the engineer unit, to prepare demolitions.
(2) The rear guard infantry battalion normally employs only one of its rifle companies on active rear guard tasks. The three rifle companies perform this function in turn as long as their strength remains approximately even. If the terrain demands it, two companies are employed at a time. Two or more antitank guns and half of the self-propelled or heavy infantry guns allotted to the full rear guard support the rearmost rifle company or companies. When pressure becomes too strong, the single rifle company is withdrawn through the two remaining rifle companies which are supported by the remainder of the attached weapons. Variations of this leapfrogging progress are repeated until darkness, when a general disengagement takes place and the original formation is resumed.
(3) Rear guards withdraw by bounds to selected but not prepared positions. The extent to which positions eventually can be prepared depends on the proximity of the pursuing forces, the length of time each particular position is likely to be held, and the decision of the individual company and platoon commanders. During each stage of the retreat, the commander of the rear company can order a withdrawal to the main rear guard position, but withdrawal from each main rear guard position is ordered by the commander of the main body. Frequently the speed of withdrawal is based on a time-distance schedule. During the withdrawal from a certain town, rear guards were instructed to retire not more than 3,000 yards a day.
(4) Experience has shown that in certain types of country a reinforced rear guard company generally can hold up very superior forces on a front as wide as three miles. In one instance of a withdrawal from a defensive position along a river line, a German Panzer division, which had one Panzer Grenadier battalion and attached elements as its rear guard, was covered by one rifle company reinforced by a company of tanks, four infantry guns (including two self-propelled), and a battery of medium howitzers. The tanks were mainly used to cover the withdrawal of the rifle elements. On another occasion a similar rear party had a number of heavy mortars attached. These covered the infantry withdrawal with the help of four tanks, which also carried the mortars back to the next bound.
(5) Particularly suited for rear guard tasks, because of its armor and high fire power, is the armored reconnaissance battalion of the Panzer division. When employing the armored reconnaissance battalion in terrain that affords cover, the Germans site well camouflaged, armored halftracks in wooded areas, flat reverse slopes, or high grain fields, and open fire with all weapons at very close range. The armored half-tracks then penetrate into the confused enemy and, after repulsing him, retreat to previously organized alternate positions.
3. Delaying Action
a. BASIC PRINCIPLES. The Germans make a distinction between "delaying engagements" (Hinhaltendes Gefecht) and "delaying action" (Hinhaltender Widerstand). A delaying engagement is primarily the general plan of the higher commander for holding back the enemy. Delaying actions are the measures taken by lower units to carry out the higher commander's plan.
The purpose of delaying actions is to enable the main German force to disengage itself from battle, retire in order, and establish a new defensive
position. Delaying actions therefore seek to deceive the enemy as to German strength, dispositions, and intentions; to prevent the enemy from committing the main German forces; and to prevent close pursuit of the main forces by the enemy. These measures are accomplished by rear guards, special battle groups, and strongpoints, all of which are characterized by high automatic fire power, mobility, and economy in numerical strength.
Delaying actions are organized not in a main defensive belt, but on lines of resistance (Widerstandslinien). The distance between such lines is great enough to prevent the enemy from engaging two of them from the same artillery position. He is compelled to displace and move up his artillery to engage each line. These lines of resistance are normally established along forward slopes to facilitate disengagement and withdrawal under cover. The delaying actions are fought forward of the lines of resistance with mobile forces. Furthermore, battle outposts are organized forward of each line.
The main delaying weapons are machine guns, mortars, and self-propelled weapons. Tanks are used in small groups.
Maintenance of contact is a most conspicuous principle in the Germans' conduct of a withdrawal and delaying action. The size, composition, direction, and intention of the attacking enemy force are observed at all times.
b. CONDUCT OF THE DELAYING ACTION. During a delaying action, wide sectors are covered by artillery units widely deployed--guns are sited by sections if necessary--and by widely distributed infantry-support weapons. The defense is then further organized by establishing strongpoints manned by small groups.
The positions from which delaying actions are fought are characterized by very slight depth. As a general rule, a unit is responsible for double the front normally allocated in defensive fighting. A company sector is 650 to 1,300 yards; a battalion sector 1,750 to 4,400 yards; a regimental sector 4,400 to 6,600 yards; and a division sector 13,000 to 22,000 yards.
In leaving a line of resistance, German covering forces attempt to disengage by night. If that is not possible, their actions are governed by the following principle: the enemy is not allowed to come closer to them than they are from their next line of resistance. The troops must be able to reach the new position before the enemy reaches the old one, or their losses will be excessive.
The troops therefore do not retire in the face of enemy patrols--every effort is made to destroy such patrols--but only when the enemy mounts an attack. If it can be ascertained that the enemy is preparing for a massed attack, the Germans make a timely withdrawal to avoid exposing the troops to enemy artillery concentrations. Advance elements employ smoke to enable them to make a getaway in a critical situation. Riflemen cover the disengagement of heavy weapons, which move back by bounds. Every opportunity is taken to make limited counterattacks in order to inflict casualties on an enemy who advances recklessly.
Fire is opened at extreme ranges on an enemy advancing for a major attack. Enemy reconnaissance forces are allowed to approach, however, and then an effort is made to destroy them.
Counterattacks on a large scale are avoided, except when the enemy threatens to penetrate the line of resistance. When that occurs, the Germans counterattack with the main forces of the rear guard and seek to restore the situation in order that the program of staged withdrawal may be continued. Local counterattacks are made for the protection or retention of some feature essential to the safe conduct of the main withdrawal, or to gain time for the preparation of the line of resistance or phase line.
The area between the lines of resistance is called the intermediate area (Zwischenfeld). Explicit orders are given as to whether the intermediate area is to be covered in one bound or is to be fought over. The latter necessity arises especially when the next line of resistance has not been fully prepared and time must be gained. Detachments must reach the line of resistance early enough to insure that all the main positions are occupied in time.
The supply of ammunition is carefully organized. A great deal of ammunition is required for delaying actions because a few weapons on a broad front must do as much as or even more than the normal number of guns in a defensive position. When ammunition is scarce, the Germans specify, down to sections if necessary, the quantity of ammunition that may be used at each position. Every commander maintains a supply of ammunition for emergencies.
The Germans stress the importance of deceiving the enemy by every means. Artillery and
heavy weapons are moved continually to give an impression of greater strength. Dummy positions and camouflage are also widely used.
So that isolated groups may be adequately directed, signal communication receives special attention.
In delaying actions in mountainous terrain, the Germans make greater use of their reconnaissance and engineer units than of any other component. Reconnaissance units are almost continuously in contact with advance and flanking enemy elements, and participate in most rear-guard and battle-group engagements.
c. STRONGPOINTS IN DELAYING ACTION. The Germans cover the rear guard's resistance or phase lines by a system of strongpoints or defended localities. Just as it is a function of the rear guards to prevent a pursuing force from making contact with the main body while it is on the move, so it is the function of strongpoints to prevent the penetration of resistance or phase lines until the main body has withdrawn to its next position.
In manning strongpoints, the Germans show the same economy of force they show in forming rear guards. Typical fire power of a strongpoint in close country is one or two self-propelled guns, two heavy mortars, and up to six machine guns. In open country, one self-propelled gun is normally employed, supplemented by three tanks and a small party of infantry with mortars and machine guns in armored half-tracks.
Strongpoints generally are organized on the hedgehog principle. Provision is made for all-around fire, but the strongpoints are not necessarily mutually self-supporting. They are normally located on commanding features, and sometimes on the forward edges of villages or hamlets if these dominate road or terrain bottlenecks. In flat country, however, villages usually are not occupied except by snipers, but positions are occupied in the rear of the villages to engage enemy vanguards debouching from them. Weapons are not dug in, and positions are frequently changed. Counter-battery fire thereby is rendered very difficult as there are no prepared positions to be spotted from the air. The Germans thus force their enemy to launch a full-scale attack supported by artillery to dislodge the garrison of the strongpoint, which normally withdraws just before the attack can materialize. Approaches to strongpoints which cannot be covered by fire are frequently mined. Extensive minefields are frequently laid at the heads of re-entrants in hilly terrain.
d. BATTLE GROUPS IN DELAYING ACTION. Battle groups normally are organized for the execution of some specific task in the withdrawal, such as a local counterattack or the defense of some particular feature whose retention is necessary for the security of the main withdrawal.
Battle groups, which the Germans employ for offensive and defensive as well as delaying missions, vary in size from a company or two, with attached close support weapons, to a regiment or several battalions reinforced with tanks, artillery, antiaircraft, engineer, and reconnaissance elements. In all cases the Germans seek to make them as self-sufficient as possible in combat. In actual practice, however, the composition of German battle groups appears often to have been dictated less by the theory of what units should be put together to form a self-sufficient combat force, than by the demands of an emergency situation which commanders have been forced to meet with the insufficient and normally disassociated units at their disposal.
German battle groups may be organized for short, long, or changing missions. They are usually known by the name of their commander.
e. DEMOLITIONS AND OBSTACLES. To prevent the pursuing enemy columns from approaching close enough to engage even their rear guard elements, the Germans continually employ demolitions and obstacles of all kinds. The thoroughness with which engineer operations have been carried out has increased steadily throughout the war. Culverts and bridges are completely destroyed. Roads and all natural detours are mined, cratered, or blocked by felled trees; in streets and villages, streets are blocked by the wreckage of buildings. Vertical rail obstacles are placed to obstruct main routes; mines often are laid for 30 yards around the edge of the obstacle. Wooden box mines are used to a large extent as demolition charges, and aerial bombs and artillery shells are sometimes similarly employed.
Frequently rear parties are committed to a delaying engagement in order to cover the preparation of demolitions immediately behind them. During static periods in the general withdrawal, when the Germans occupy their line of resistance or phase line, engineer units prepare demolitions in the rear. After the withdrawal, these demolitions are covered by sniper fire, machine guns, and self-propelled weapons as long as possible.
Section VII. MINEFIELDS
The Germans make extensive use of mines which they consider a most effective defensive weapon. Minefields are utilized chiefly to cover defensive actions and retreats, although limited use is made of them in offensive actions for flank protection. In a static situation the Germans regard minefields as an element of the front-line position, laid out according to an over-all mine plan developed in close conjunction with that for the fields of fire of all weapons. Within recent months, standard German doctrine for minefield location has been modified. Instead of laying dense minefields in front of the main line of resistance, dispersed mines are laid there, while the minefields proper are sited within the main battle position.
2. Surveying of Minefields
The Germans consider it necessary to survey the location of minefields and individual mines within the minefields. German engineers are instructed to choose reference points (Festpunkte or FP) for minefields which easily can be identified. At a grade crossing, at the intersection of two improved roads, at the edge of a village, or some such favorable location, this can be done without any difficulty. In some instances, however, the Germans are forced to use "guide wire" and auxiliary fixed points (Vermessungspunkte or VP). A type of auxiliary fixed point that has proved practicable is the center of an equilateral triangle with sides 15 to 25 feet long. The corner points and the fixed point itself may be stakes, rails, or concrete or steel girders about 3 feet in length connected with barbed wire. Such a fixed point can be reestablished easily because even heavy shelling will rarely destroy more than one or two stakes.
A minefield is limited by the four corner points A1, A2, A3, and A4. The corner points are marked clockwise, A1 and A2 forming the base line on the German side. The survey of the field refers to one or both points of the base line. Auxiliary fixed points, called "mine stakes" (Minenpfähle), are used if necessary. Fixed points may be reference points found on the map or auxiliary fixed points established by the troops. Distances are measured in meters; azimuth readings are taken on the German issue compass--divided into 6,400 mils like the U.S. compass but read counterclockwise, and marked with the letters KZ (Kompasszahl). The new-type compass called "march compass" has clockwise graduation and is indicated with the letters MKZ. The Germans use the magnetic azimuth and always proceed in their survey from the friendly toward the enemy side.
The Germans believe that it is advantageous to lay a continuous chain of reference points 600 to 900 feet apart, through a division sector. This chain can be used to determine the location of ditches, trenches, obstacles, and pillboxes, as well as minefields. Individual points are designated with Roman numerals, starting on the right flank of the division sector.
3. Laying of Minefields
a. PATTERNS. To assure the greatest possible effect, minefields normally are laid out in definite patterns. The Germans make an exception to this practice, however, in sectors where they do not intend to undertake offensive actions. There they disperse the mines irregularly in the areas between defensive positions.
The main belts of a major antitank minefield laid in uniform pattern normally consist of antitank mines with a sprinkling of antipersonnel mines in the forward edge of the field. Both types may be fitted with anti-lifting devices, and some of the antipersonnel mines have trip wires attached. In some instances, these mines are placed in the intervals between the diagonal wires of a double-apron fence, with trip wires fastened to the diagonals.
A number of antitank mines are laid in the forward edge of antipersonnel minefields to prevent armored vehicles from detonating the main belt of antipersonnel mines. The forward edges of minefields of all types often are sown with explosive charges placed in wooden boxes fitted with pressure fuzes. These act as both antitank and antipersonnel mines, and discourage the use of detectors to locate the mines.
Forward of most regular fields, and particularly in front of lanes, mines may be found widely spaced or scattered at random in unmarked groups. Mines also are laid in spaces running out at right angles from the forward edge of the minefield to damage vehicles moving along the field in search of lanes.
All pressure-type antitank and antipersonnel mines are laid in lines. For measuring distances and spaces, the troops use a mine-measuring wire (Minenmessdraht) which they themselves make
Figure 17.--Mine Measuring Wire and Minefield Patterns.
from old telephone wire. (See Figure 15.) The mine-measuring wire is 24 meters (about 25 yards) long, and every meter (3 feet 3 inches) is marked with a piece of wood. The rings on the ends are about 5 inches in diameter. The measuring wire, in addition to measuring the distance between fixed points, serves to lay out right angles by staking out a triangle with sides of 6, 8, and 10 meters respectively. Spaces between mines are determined by reference to the marks on wire; the four rings on one end are used to offset the rows.
Figure 18.--Minefield Patterns.
Type of Mine How Laid Interval between Mines Number
1 Meter of Front
T-Mine 35 Buried 4 m (4.4 yds) 8
Laid on surface 4 m (4.4 yds) 8
Buried 2 m (2.2 yds) 4
R-Mine 43 Buried or
laid on surface
4 m (4.4 yds)
S-Mine 35 Buried 4 m (4.4 yds) 4
2 m (2.2 yds) 2
Schti-Mine 42 Buried 1 m (1. 1 yds) 1
1/2 m (0.55 yd) 1
The density of a minefield depends upon the interval between mines and the number of rows. The table above represents the density.
Mine lanes are left open for patrols, and passage lanes for assault troops. For permanent patrols new lanes are made from time to time, and the old ones closed. A mine-free safety strip is provided on the Germans' side.
The Germans normally lay mine belts in individual sections 80 by 105 feet. The sections usually are staggered, and, for extensive mine belts, they are combined in units of three or four to form forward or reverse arrowheads, or echelons. Minefields arranged in echelon are surveyed by using corner posts on the hostile side of intermediate minefields as survey points.
The Germans emphasize that minefields must be covered by fire, although during a hasty withdrawal they often do not follow this principle. It is common for a regular minefield to have a listening post with two men at the rearward edge; about 70 or 80 yards farther to the rear there usually is a covering party of four or five men armed with one or two light machine guns.
When the Germans are in hasty withdrawal, they usually lay a large number of small nuisance minefields. These fields contain many different types of mines, which often are unmarked and show every evidence of hurried laying. The consequent lack of pattern uniformity makes their detection and clearance a laborious and dangerous task. Though no consistency is noted in layout and types of mines used in such fields, the Germans show certain preferences in their choice of sites for them.
b. LOCATION. In general, mines are laid either close to, or on, roads; on airfields and railways; and along telegraph routes. Surfaced portions of roads usually are avoided by the hasty mine layer, but khaki-painted T-Mines sometimes are placed on the surface at dips in the road, in the hope that drivers will be unable to check their vehicles in time to avoid them. The Germans also place mines along the shoulders of the road opposite narrow places where drivers have to detour to pass, and at the entrances to defiles where they have to pull off the road to wait for vehicles moving in the opposite direction. Other places usually sown with antitank mines are turnouts, sharp bends, the unsurfaced islands sometimes found at crossroads, berms, and well worn wheel ruts.
c. CONCEALMENT. The Germans, with great ingenuity, attempt to make their mines difficult
to detect. They bury them as much as 24 inches below the surface where they explode only after passage of a number of vehicles has compacted the earth cover sufficiently to operate the fuze. They put explosives in wooden boxes to prevent the effective operation of ordinary mine detectors, and mark tire prints in the earth on top of the mine by drawing a detached axle and wheels over it.
The Germans also show considerable ingenuity in siting random antipersonnel mines on the line of the hostile advance. Road demolitions are plentifully sown with S-Mines, and kilometer posts at points where vehicular drivers have to dismount to read directions are similarly treated. S-Mines also are placed in ditches, often close to to the trip-wire peg of another mine.
Nuisance fields on lines of communication generally are closely spaced, occasionally so closely as to cause sympathetic detonation. This is particularly possible when mines are laid with their pressure plates almost flush with the surface of the ground and only lightly covered with earth.
German dummy minefields take various forms. In some cases a trip wire is laid to give the appearance of a minefield perimeter wire, with the usual lanes, and the ground is disturbed at regular intervals. Scrap metal, often dispersed with real mines, is placed in shallow holes to cause a reaction in the mine detector. Dummy mines often are wired in and connected with booby traps.
4. Marking of Minefields
The Germans stress the marking of minefields and attempt to mark them in such a manner that they cannot be recognized by the enemy but can easily be found by their own troops. Their methods of marking minefields are not uniform. The front edge of a field often is unmarked and unwired; the rear edge seldom so. Some fields have been found unmarked, but because of many accidents caused by their own minefields, the Germans issued orders within recent months making proper marking obligatory.
The following are typical examples of markings by the Germans, the type used depending on the situation and terrain: corner-post marking stakes; double-apron fence on the enemy side and a single trip wire on the friendly side, or the reverse; single knee-high wires; cattle fencing; empty mine crates; and signs.
The length of marking stakes varies with the terrain. They are flattened on one side for a length of about 8 inches. The flat surface is painted red, with the letter M (Minen) in black.
Figure 19.--Minefield signs.
Figure 20.--German mine plan.
Figure 21.--German mine plan.
Such stakes are used only on the friendly edges of minefields.
Signs are painted in red and white on boards or pieces of sheet metal, and fastened to two stakes. The edges of minefields are marked with signs showing horizontal stripes. Edges of lane? through the fields are shown by vertically divided signs with the white portion on the side of the lane, and the red portion on the side of the minefield (danger). The reverse side of the signs (the side toward the enemy) is painted olive drab. If red paint is not available, the Germans substitute black-and-white signs. They are painted with the following words:
Gasse or Gassen--for mine lanes
Entimint--for an area cleared of mines.
Minefields are marked with vertical lettering, dummy minefields with slanting letters. This distinction, however, is supposed to be made known only to the German engineer troops because other troops may divulge the location of dummy minefields by crossing them.
5. Mine Plans, Sketches, and Reports
A German mine plan shows one or more fields in all necessary technical details. A German mine map, on the other hand, shows all mine obstacles within one front sector and their tactical significance, but without technical details.
The Germans use a number of different forms for their reports and sketches, although all are based on the same principle. Figure 17 shows a very commonly used form. The upper third of the mine map form provides space for written specifications and a small situation sketch. The drawing is made on the blank space provided. It is the engineers responsibility to draw up mine maps, and to keep them up to date. Additional remarks sometimes are placed on the back of the sheet.
a. DETAILS OF MINE MAP.
The German mine map usually shows the following details:
(1) Name of the obstacle and designation of the unit which laid it.
(2) Name of the area in which the obstacle is located.
(3) Grid reference and particulars of the map sheet referred to.
(4) Obstacle shown in the little sketch in red.
(5) Date minefield was laid.
(6) Name and rank of officer or noncommissioned officer in charge of laying field.
(7) Day of survey and instrument used (old or new compass--German issue).
(8) Name and rank of officer or noncommissioned officer in charge of survey.
b. MINE DATA IN MAP. The following data are given on the mines:
(1) Number, type and igniter. (Example: 72 T-Mine with T-Mi.Z. 42, booby-trapped.)
(2) Whether or not the mines are dug in.
(3) Number of rows, and number of mines per row.
(4) Fence (Example: warning fence on friendly side.)
(5) Special features (Example: destroyed enemy tank in center, on enemy side.)
c. MINEFIELD-TYPE IDENTIFICATION IN MAP. Colored lines drawn diagonally across the upper right-hand field of the mine map identify the type of the minefield as follows:
(1) A red diagonal line designates fields which cannot be cleared because some or all mines are booby-trapped.
(2) A yellow diagonal line designates fields which can be cleared by using data from mine document.
(3) A green diagonal line designates dummy minefields.
(4) Mines taken up or exploded are marked in red.
The number of the minefield plan and unit designation appears on the upper right-hand corner of the sheet. Battalion, regiment, and division engineers make their notes in the space provided for them.
For S-Mines laid 50 meters (55 yards) from the German lines, a note is made in red letters: VORSICHT, NUR 50 METER ABSTAND! (Caution, only 50 meters distance!)
In case electrical ignition is provided, a note is made showing how the igniters will be disposed of, if the unit which has laid the minefield is relieved.
d. INFORMATION IN MINEFIELD DRAWING. The drawing of the minefield is made in the blank space on the lower part of the sheet. The scale is from 1:500 to 1:2,000 whenever possible. The following information is included:
(1) Shape and size of minefield.
(3) Location of booby-trapped mines.
(4) Location of survey points with azimuth and distances.
(5) Type and location of warning fence.
Figure 22.--German mine sketch.
Conventional signs for mine maps.
(6) Location of the front lines and fortifications.
(7) Neighboring minefields, mine lanes, terrain features, special features.
The Germans believe that it is not necessary to mark on the minefield drawing the location of every single mine, if a partial drawing is sufficient. The German mine plans contain the detail symbols shown in Figure 18, while simple tactical signs are sufficient for minefield maps.
The Germans complete their mine plans at company or battalion command posts, based on sketches and data compiled while the field is being laid out. They make five copies of all mine plans and distribute them as follows,: One for engineer company which is in charge of the minefield; two for division; one for army; one for central file in Dessau-Rosslau.
Changes in the minefield are recorded on the back of the mine plan. After three changes a new mine plan is drawn.
A mine sketch is a simplified mine plan used to transmit information on a minefield as rapidly as possible. It is not drawn to scale, and is drawn whenever the tactical situation, bad weather, or other circumstances prevent the preparation of mine plans.
Front-line troops receive from the engineers instructions or sketches showing the approximate location and extent of the minefield. These sketches, as a rule, do not contain details on types of mines or igniters, pattern, and survey points.
Engineer units in charge of minefields keep records of changes in minefields under their care and keep these records with their units, while mine plans are turned over to the relieving units.
e. MINE REPORTS. Armies generally designate certain areas for fields of scattered mines. In this case mine reports take the place of mine plans. Normally, mine reports contain:
(1) Number of the order authorizing scattering of mines.
(2) Designation of units scattering the mines.
(3) Name and number of field containing scattered mines.
(4) Map location of scattered minefield.
(5) Number of mines scattered, subdivided by types and igniters.
(6) Number and type of booby-trapped mines, kind of booby trap.
Section VIII. SPECIAL OPERATIONS
1. Town and Street Fighting
In attacking a town or village, the Germans employ flanking and encircling tactics. They attempt to cut off water, electricity, gas, and other utilities. While carrying out the flanking maneuver, they pin down the defenders with heavy artillery fire and aerial bombardment. When it is necessary to make a direct assault, the Germans concentrate all available heavy weapons, including artillery and air units, on one target. They favor as targets for their massed fire the forward edges of the community, especially detached groups of buildings and isolated houses. During the fire concentration the infantry assembles and attacks the objective immediately upon termination of artillery fire. Tanks and assault guns accompany the infantry, and with their fire immobilize any new enemy forces which may appear. They also support the infantry in sweeping away barricades, blasting passages through walls, and crushing wire obstacles. Guns and mortars are used against concealed positions, and antitank guns cover side streets against possible flanking operations. Machine guns engage snipers on roofs.
The immediate objective of the Germans is to divide the area occupied by the enemy. These areas then are isolated into as many smaller areas as possible, in order to deny the enemy freedom of movement.
Another form of attack employed by the Germans is to drive through a community and establish good positions beyond the town to block the retreat of the defender. Then they try to annihilate the enemy within the community.
The assaulting troops are divided into a number of columns and make a series of coordinated parallel attacks. Attacks from opposite directions and conflicting angles are avoided, since they lead to confusion and to firing on friendly troops. The columns are sub-divided into assault and mop-up groups. Assault detachments of engineers, equipped with demolition equipment, flame throwers, and grenades, accompany the infantry. Where possible, the Germans blast holes through the walls of rows of buildings along the route of advance in order to provide the infantry with covered approaches. These passages afford protection for bringing up supplies and evacuating casualties. Houses are cleared of defenders by small-arms fire. Streets are avoided as much as possible by the Germans who infiltrate simultaneously through back yards and over roofs. They attempt to further the advance by seizing high buildings which offer dominating positions and wide fields of fire.
When compelled to advance through streets, the Germans move in two files, one on each side of the thoroughfare. The left side is preferred as it is more advantageous for firing right-handed from doorways. Consideration is given to the problem of fighting against defenders organized not only in depth but in height. Consequently the men receive specific assignments to watch the rooms, the various floors of buildings, and cellar windows. Side streets are immediately blocked, and at night searchlights are kept ready to illuminate roofs.
As soon as a building is occupied, the Germans organize it into a strongpoint. Windows and other openings are converted into loopholes and embrasures. Cellars and attics are occupied first in organizing for defense.
Even buildings which have been completely destroyed are kept under constant observation to prevent their re-occupation by the enemy. From occupied buildings the Germans deliver continuous machine-gun and rifle fire with the object of denying the enemy the opportunity to occupy alternate positions.
Underground corridors and sewers, which provide excellent cover for defenders, are attacked with determination. When immediate clearance or smoking-out is not possible, the entrances are barricaded, blasted, or guarded.
Aware that their tanks and assault guns are vulnerable to attacks by tank-hunting units, the Germans assign infantry to protect them. Barricades and obstacles are cleared by infantry and engineers. All able-bodied civilians, regardless of danger, are summoned to clear the streets of debris.
When a section of a town is occupied, the Germans close up all side streets leading from the occupied area, block all exits of houses, and then begin a house-to-house search with details assigned to special tasks, such as mopping up roofs, attics, basements, courtyards, and staircases.
2. Attack on Fortified Positions
The Germans realize the difficulty of attacking a strongly fortified enemy position and prepare such an attack well in advance of the actual operation. Before attacking a large and intricately
fortified position covering a large area--a classical example was the assault on the Belgian Fortress Eben Emael--the Germans attempt to secure, in addition to information obtained through normal reconnaissance, its exact plan by the employment of agents and fifth columnists. When time permits, they construct a duplicate of the fortification on similar terrain well in the interior of Germany, as they did with Eben Emael. In building such installations for intensive rehearsal training of specially-organized combat teams, the Germans spare neither labor nor expense. These special combat teams usually consist of combat engineers, reinforced by infantry, antitank, and chemical warfare units.
The attack on the fortress usually is preceded by an intensive dive-bomber bombardment and long-range heavy-artillery fire. The purpose of these bombardments is to destroy obstacles and minefields, and to create bomb craters which not only provide cover for assaulting troops but also may be converted into firing positions. Often paratroopers land in close proximity to the fortification just prior to the assault, immediately establishing radio communication with the combat-team headquarters.
The climactic phase of the operation is the assault. Its primary objective is to get the engineers forward to certain selected works. During the approach, and until the engineers reach the fortifications, the artillery delivers fire of maximum intensity. Antitank guns lay direct fire against the embrasures, and chemical-warfare units employ smoke to blind forts and adjacent supporting works. The infantry covers the embrasures with rifle and machine-gun fire and remains in readiness to move forward and consolidate any success the engineers may gain. Engineers crawl forward, utilizing shell holes for cover. They are equipped with hand grenades, blocks of TNT, and submachine guns. Some groups use bangalore torpedoes, some pole-charges, while still others are armed with heavy flame throwers. With TNT and pole charges, they attempt to demolish systematically the weaker works, such as embrasures, ports, turrets, joints, and doors.
3. Combat in Woods
When attacking in woods, the Germans usually divide the area into company sectors. The Germans stress constant reconnaissance to discover the most weakly manned enemy position. This reconnaissance is carried out, even though company strength becomes temporarily reduced. Reconnaissance patrols usually move clockwise from their original position. The company commander reviews the reconnaissance reports in detail with his platoon and section leaders.
The company usually deploys in wedge formation when advancing. In order to achieve surprise, the Germans often leave the roads and advance cross-country.
As soon as the point of the wedge of the company is in sight of the enemy, the Germans creep forward to close-combat range, always keeping contact with adjacent and supporting units. The company then storms the enemy's position, using the greatest possible number of hand grenades, pole charges, and close-combat weapons. The advance elements attempt to break into the hostile position as deeply as possible, the body of the wedge widening the penetration on both sides. The company commander then decides whether to roll up the enemy position on the more important flank or to hold the ground until reinforcements arrive before continuing the attack.
Each platoon details at least one observer, armed with an automatic weapon, to neutralize enemy treetop snipers. The Germans believe that bursts of fire, rather than single shots, are necessary to deal effectively with such snipers.
The Germans consider fighting in wooded areas as the primary task of riflemen and machine gunners, since the employment of heavy-support weapons often is impossible. The Germans occasionally dismount heavy machine guns and use them as light machine guns. Antitank guns of small caliber and light infantry howitzers sometimes are brought forward manually, and when indirect fire is not possible they engage targets directly. Light mortars are employed individually. From Finnish troops, the Germans learned a successful method of using mortars in woods. The mortar observers, accompanied by a telephone operator, move with the advanced element. The line back to the mortar crew is exactly 200 yards long. One man is detailed to see that the line does not get hung on the way and as far as possible runs in a straight line. When the advanced element contacts the enemy, the observer judges the distance from himself to the target and adds the 200 yards to the mortar range. Bracketing of fire for adjustment is considered too dangerous because of the close proximity of friend and foe.
When the Germans leave a woods or have to cross a large clearing within the wooded area, the troops work themselves close to the edge of the woods. Then all the men l eave the woods simultaneously, rushing at least 100 yards before seeking cover.
4. Combat in Mountains
a. GENERAL. The German principles of combat in mountain areas correspond in general to those employed on level terrain. The peculiarities of mountain terrain, such as limited routes, extreme weather conditions, and difficult communications, necessitate additional considerations in the tactics employed. The greatest differences occur in the higher mountains, where the Germans utilize specially trained mountain troops, which include the renowned Tyrolean and Bavarian mountaineers.
The Germans emphasize that all operations will be of longer duration in mountainous country than in lowlands, and therefore make proper allowance for the factors of time and space. For every 330 yards ascent or 550 yards descent they add 1 hour to the time estimate for covering a given distance on the map. Movements, command, and supply in mountain areas represent sources of difficulty, according to the Germans.
b. TACTICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF MOUNTAIN WARFARE. The Germans divide their units into numerous marching groups, which normally consist of a reinforced infantry company, an artillery battery, and an engineer platoon. In this manner the Germans counteract the danger of ambush, since each group is able to fight independently. The Germans locate their engineer units well forward with the advance guard so that they may assist in road repairs. The Germans realize that small enemy forces can retard the advance of a whole column and therefore they have single guns sited well forward. They also organize stationary and mobile patrols for flank protection.
The skill and leadership of junior commanders are severely tested in mountain warfare, as forces generally are split into small groups, the efficient command of which requires a high standard of training and discipline. Columns often are separated by large areas and impassable country, and since lateral communication is often very difficult, command of deployed units becomes much more complicated than over level terrain.
Normally supplies are organized in two echelons, the mountain and valley echelon.
The Germans make extensive use of high-trajectory weapons in mountain fighting, although antitank guns and heavy machine guns are used for covering road blocks. The effectiveness of the mountain artillery depends on carefully selected observation posts which are in communication with the single gun positions.
Radio is the primary means of communication, since the laying of telephone wire is not considered feasible.
c. MOUNTAIN TACTICS. Attacks across mountains are made to protect the flanks of the main attack, to work around the enemy rear, or to provide flanking fire for the main attack. The Germans attempt to seize commanding heights and mountain passes.
The Germans select their assembly areas as close to the enemy as possible to make possible a short assault. Supporting weapons are attached to companies, and where feasible, to platoons.
In defense, the Germans organize their advance positions on the forward slope, w hile the main battle position with heavy-support weapons is located on the reverse slope. The greater part of a unit often is held in reserve. This necessitates the organization of relatively narrow sectors, which, however, results in an organization of ground favorable for counterattacks.
5. Winter Warfare
Many of the techniques of German winter warfare were developed from those of the mountain troops, which were adapted easily to conditions of extreme cold.
Ski patrols are the chief means of reconnaissance in snow-covered terrain. As a rule, the strength of the patrol is a squad, reinforced by infantry soldiers trained as engineers, artillery observers, and a communication detachment. In addition to normal reconnaissance missions, patrols obtain information as to the depth of the snow, load capacity of ice surfaces, and danger of avalanches. These ski patrols normally blaze trails by marking trees or rocks and by erecting poles or flags. Stakes are used to indicate the extremities of roads.
Under winter conditions, German units keep support weapons and artillery well forward while on the march. Their antitank weapons are distributed throughout the entire column. Ski
Figure 23.--Typical German winter position along a river in Karelia.
troops are organized to guard the flanks. Sleighs are added for the transport of weapons and supplies.
The Germans assign to trail units the task of cutting tracks for the formations that follow. The strength of the trail unit of a company is one or two squads; that of a battalion up to two platoons. In difficult terrain their strength may be doubled. Trail units are divided into a number of trail detachments consisting of six to ten men, echeloned behind the first of the trail units. The march formation of ski troops is generally single file; usually parallel trails are used to reduce the length of the column.
In winter warfare, attacks with limited objectives are the rule. The Germans attempt wherever possible to combine frontal and flank attacks under conditions of extreme cold and snow. They employ support weapons as far forward as practicable. Attacks often are made by ski troops; because of the difficulty of transporting artillery, ski troops frequently have to dispense with artillery support. For this reason the Germans consider it all the more necessary to concentrate heavy and light infantry weapons at points of main effort and to coordinate high and flat trajectory weapons. When pack howitzers are available, they can be dismantled and brought forward on sledges. Assault guns can effectively support ski troops in snow under 16 inches deep. They either accompany the attack as far as road conditions allow or move into positions at effective range, not exceeding 3,500 yards, on specially cleared paths away from roads. They occupy their positions just before the attack. As a rule attached assault guns are employed in platoon and company strength; single commitment is avoided. Tank units are attached only in exceptional circumstances.
Organization of a defensive position in deep snow or on frozen ground takes considerable time, for it is necessary to move weapons into position, lay out foot paths and roads, and build strong outposts and strongpoints with all-around defense. Camouflage is particularly stressed under such conditions. Since normal units used as reserves in deep snow have only limited mobility, the Germans employ ski troops for reserves wherever possible. These ski units are used for immediate counterattacks which are directed, where possible, against the flank of the attacking enemy. The Germans also use the ski troops as raiding parties to harass the enemy's front and rear.
6. Partisan Warfare
a. GENERAL. In order to understand German anti-partisan measures, it is necessary to discuss briefly the characteristics of Allied partisan organizations and their fighting techniques. The following discussion is based entirely on official German sources. The principles involved may be accepted by the Germans and find their way into actual practice in the near future.
b. TASKS OF PARTISAN WARFARE. The Germans Consider that the strategic mission of the Allied partisans Was to inflict maximum injury on the German Armies of Occupation. Means employed to accomplish this task were as follows:
Raids on individual drivers, resting places, troop and supply trains, headquarters, airfields, and ammunition and supply dumps.
Demolition of bridges, roads, and railway tracks.
Destruction of wire communications and railway systems.
Destruction of industrial installations and crops.
Terrorization of collaborators.
Undermining the morale of locally recruited auxiliary troops.
c. ORGANIZATION OF PARTISANS.(1) General. Allied partisan forces were organized partly prior to German occupation and partly during the occupation when dispersed army personnel and civilians rallied around a common leader. The Germans list the following elements as sources for the recruitment of Allied partisan units:
Remnants of Allied units which escaped destruction during military operations.
Smaller units or individual members of Allied forces who infiltrated through the German lines.
Escaped prisoners of war.
Deserters from locally recruited auxiliary services.
Women, who may be employed either as combatants or auxiliaries in the supply, medical, or signal services.
(2) Russian partisan units. The Germans outline the composition of Russian partisan units as follows:
Diversion groups of three to ten men.
Combat units of 75 to 100 men, divided into
two or three companies, each of two or three platoons.
Regiments, consisting of several battalions.
Brigades of several hundred men.
Units of several thousand men, of varying composition and fighting value.
Divisional headquarters in command of operational groups.
Corps headquarters controlling a certain number of brigades or regiments.
Scouting and reconnaissance detachments.
Higher intelligence headquarters.
In addition the Russians had signal organizations and special formations for demolition works and bridging, mounted detachments, and in some cases even artillery and antitank guns. A special ground organization was set up to serve the air forces which supplied the partisans.
(3) French partisan units. The composition of the French partisan forces, according to the Germans, is:
The squad consisted of four or five men.
The platoon consisted of approximately 30 men.
The company had approximately 100 men.
A battalion consisted of three or four companies.
(4) Weapons.The weapons of the partisans included rifles, light machine guns, light mortars, pistols, machine pistols, hand grenades, explosives and incendiary material. Battle units also had heavy machine guns, heavy mortars, and guns.
(5) Uniforms. Partisans had no standard uniform. They wore civilian dress and the most diverse uniforms of their own and enemy forces. Stocks of uniforms were maintained by raiding German supply depots.
(6) Camps. The partisans located their camping areas in inaccessible terrain such as dense forests, marshes, wooded mountains, and caves. The camps usually were fortified with field works, dugouts, tree platforms, and minefields. Normally a number of camps were set up in adjacent areas with alternate camp sites prepared. The camps were complete with dumps, slaughtering facilities, bakeries, dressing stations, and weapon repair shops. These camps were well guarded, the personnel of the guard being composed of partisans or of volunteers from nearby communities.
d. PARTISAN TACTICS. (1) General. Higher headquarters would issue directives of a general nature, and the leader of the smaller detachments would determine the method of execution. In accordance with their strategic function, partisans almost always avoided pitched battles. If trapped and forced to fight, they would follow different courses according to their strength. Large bands would fight it out, whereas smaller units endeavored to disperse by small groups, infiltrating through the lines of the attackers or disguising themselves as harmless and peaceful civilians. Defensively, partisans fought with determination, even ferocity, from behind well fortified and camouflaged positions, allowing the attackers to approach to close range and then delivering concentrated surprise fire. In Warsaw, Polish partisans fought in building areas for weeks with much skill, inflicting considerable losses on the Germans.
(2) Fighting methods. The partisans carried out guerrilla operations by conducting surprise raids against headquarters, camps, and weapon depots of the occupation army or by ambushing military transportation facilities, columns, or convoys.
When raiding columns, the partisans constructed obstacles along the route and then destroyed the first and last vehicle of the column. Railway trains were destroyed by exploding the roadbed or removing trackage. Troops trying to escape from trucks or trains were taken under fire. Before an attack partisans usually destroyed all telephone communications.
Partisan bands often changed their field of operations in order to carry out a given task, to secure supplies, or to evade discovery and prevent encirclement. Strict discipline on the march was maintained. Marches were generally at night, by routes known only to the local population. Partisan bands have marched 40 to 45 miles daily.
A common ruse was to give the appearance of greater strength by disseminating false information concerning partisan strength and armament. Partisans frequently used military uniforms of the occupation army for purposes of reconnaissance and requisitioning.
For successful operation the partisans needed secret agents who could be found in almost every village. The intelligence service of the partisans, of necessity, employed large numbers of women and children. In addition to collecting information, they were used as messengers between various partisan groups. (Local civilian populations
usually were summoned to give assistance to the partisans.)
e. GERMAN ANTI-PARTISAN MEASURES. (1) General. The Germans divide the measures to be adopted against partisans into offensive action and passive defense measures. Both constitute specialized types of activity, brought about by the particular methods employed by the opponent. Since the partisans are inferior in armament, regular troops are inclined to underrate them and to act without due care and precaution. According to German doctrine, dealing with partisans demands increased vigilance, boldness, and aggressiveness in order to meet their extraordinary cunning and cruelty. In addition, the Germans considered that special training was necessary for their own troops in order to overcome difficult types of terrain such as woods, marshes, mountains, and built-up areas as well as for fighting at night or under winter conditions. Experience taught the Germans that the success of their anti-partisan measures depended on proper coordination between the German Armed Forces, police, and the civil administration, ignoring, when necessary, territorial boundaries.
(2) Offensive action. The Germans centralized the command and control of their anti-partisan measures and made arrangements in regard to the fields of responsibility between the supreme command of the armed forces, the SS Reichsführer and the Chief of Police. While in 1942-1943 the responsibility for the organization and direction of these measures rested with the supreme command in operational areas and with the SS Reichsführer in the so-called Reichskommissariat, the latter, upon acquiring increased powers, assumed complete responsibility.
Subordinate to the SS Reichsführer were the Chief in Command of Anti-partisan Formations (Chef der Bandenkämpfverbande) and the senior SS and police commanders, under whose command Army and Air Force units occasionally are attached.
All German troops and, in emergency, civilian establishments were prepared to engage partisans. The Germans employed the following army units in combat against partisans: divisions, independent task forces, cavalry units, motorized units, armored trains, service troops, emergency units, and locally recruited units. In addition to these organizations, the Germans employed Navy and Air Force units, as well as SS and police formations, including the security service (Sicherheitsdienst) and Secret Field Police (Geheime Feldpolizei) .
The Germans emphasized the equipping of their anti-partisan units with easily transportable and quick-firing weapons, such as small arms, machine pistols, automatic rifles, rifles with telescopic sights, light and heavy machine guns, light and medium antitank guns, light infantry guns, light antiaircraft guns, and light flame throwers. Heavier artillery, antitank and anti-aircraft guns, tanks, and armored cars, although they effectively strengthened the forces, could not be employed in all situations and terrain.
Clothing and equipage were designed to enable the unit to operate in all types of terrain and under all weather conditions.
The Germans realized the necessity of intensive intelligence work for successful anti-partisan measures. Higher commanders kept situation maps based on information concerning the partisans transmitted by all headquarters and units of the armed forces, and by civilian establishments. Systematic observations were made by security branches, such as the security service, the secret field police, and the military intelligence (Abwehr); information was disseminated and exchanged by adjacent establishments.
To provide all the necessary data for the tactical employment of anti-partisan forces, the Germans conducted intensive reconnaissance preceding their operations. This was carried out by collaborators, by mobile patrols, or by reconnaissance aircraft. Collaborators were the only means of reconnaissance employed when the projected operation had to be kept absolutely secret. The interrogation of prisoners was considered one of the best sources of information. The Germans therefore abandoned their original practice of shooting captured partisans on the spot.
When the Germans had adequate forces available they attempted to encircle and annihilate partisan units. The planning for this operation included the determination of the ground to be encircled, usually limited to the area actually known to be held by partisans. The assembly area was well removed from the areas to be encircled and was occupied in such a manner that the offensive intention was not disclosed. All forces taking part in the operation moved from the assembly area so that they reached the encircling lines at the same time. Lines were chosen which could be defended easily, such as lines of hills or forest paths across the direction of the advance.
The Germans normally kept sufficient local and mobile reserves armed with heavy support weapons. The consolidation of the encircling line was considered decisive for the outcome of the operation, because partisan fighting patrols tested the German lines with the object of breaking out through weak spots. The consolidation of the encircling line followed the usual principles for defense, such as disposing forward battle outposts, drawing up fire plans for light and heavy support weapons, fortifying strongpoints for all-around defense, and keeping mobile reserves in readiness. The precise method by which the encircled partisans were annihilated depended on the forces the Germans had available, on the terrain, and on the reaction of the trapped unit. One method employed was the gradual compressing of the encircled pocket, possible only in restricted areas, because in large areas the encircling forces could not advance at the same rate, thus creating gaps through which partisans could escape. Another method employed was to exert pressure from one side of the pocket while the troops on the opposite side confined themselves to defense. This method was used when the partisans held ground easy to defend, such as a river course, a ridge of hills, or edges of woods. The Germans also utilized powerful wedges and split up the defense pocket into several smaller pockets which were mopped up separately. Another method was to attack from the encircling line by strong assault groups formed from reserves, in cases where battle reconnaissance indicated that the partisans intended to defend their center position.
When time and forces for an encirclement were not available, the Germans attempted to defeat partisan bands by surprise attacks, intending to pursue and wipe out single detached groups. This method proved to be of value where a partisan formation had not been able to consolidate its position. The German actions therefore were dependent on the methods adopted by the partisans. When they committed their forces for battle, the German attack was carried out systematically with concentrated forces and fire. When the partisans attempted to avoid contact, the Germans pursued them frontally, while other units carried out enveloping movements. When the partisan formation dissolved, however, the Germans had to undertake reconnaissance to locate their new assembly area before a new action could begin. The primary target in such actions was the leader of the partisans, and the Germans usually placed a premium on the head of the leader to encourage his capture or death.
The Germans employed large numbers of heavy support weapons, tanks, assault guns, self-propelled antitank guns and heavy howitzers, when fighting the partisans in communities, and concentrated all available heavy weapons against a single objective. The tactics employed followed the German combat methods for street fighting and combat in towns.
The Germans also employed combat patrols against the partisans, copying the latter's methods with the object of harassing the bands and hindering their assembly and supply. Areas which were used regularly by the partisans for food requisitioning, or which they crossed on raids or sabotage expeditions, offered good opportunities for the deployment of German combat patrols. These patrols consisted of hand-picked, tough, well trained "Partisan Hunters", of platoon to company strength. They often wore civilian clothes or partisan uniforms.
(3) Protection measures. Offensive anti-partisan operations were supplemented by vigilant protective measures designed to safeguard troops; road, rail, and waterway communications and traffic; industrial, administrative, and signal installations; and growing crops and forest preserves.
The Germans designated the security of troops as a command responsibility. As a rule the Germans did not billet units of less then company strength in lonely districts. All billets and camps were organized for all-around defense, and all guard rooms were made into strongpoints. Maps showing the local partisan situation were consulted before the march.
To protect railway installations the Germans organized special protection forces whose task included patrolling in addition to the protection of communication centers. Strongpoints were constructed inside all installations and often along the tracks.
The Germans also organized special forces for the protection of roads and waterways. These forces, "Sicherungstruppen", were supplemented by military police detachments on the roads and water police on the waterways.
The ruthless methods employed by the Germans to maintain law and order are too well known to be discussed in this book. From the killing of individual suspects to the wholesale
slaughter of whole communities and the burning of villages there is one long line of German atrocities and brutality.
f. GERMAN PREPARATION FOR PARTISAN WARFARE. Beyond doubt the Germans prepared and are still preparing fanatical members of the National Socialist Party, SS, and armed forces for partisan activities as the territory occupied by the Allies increases. One of Heinrich Himmler's main duties as commander-in-chief of the Home Army is supervising the establishment of partisan organizations and stay-behind agents in areas about to be occupied by the Allies. The Germans have built up large stores of ammunition and supplies, particularly in the mountainous areas of the country, and have established at various localities training centers for future German Partisans. Women are included in this training program. As to the methods which the Germans are most likely to employ, no definite information can be revealed at this time. However, it is recommended that a study of the Allied partisan combat methods be made to obtain an approximate conception of possible German partisan activities.
7. Anti-Airborne Operations
The Germans consider the use of mines and wire obstacles particularly effective against enemy airborne operations. They block landing fields and areas where landings might be made with S-mines, stakes, ditches, piled earth, stone, and wood, nondescript vehicles without wheels, and other barricades. They also construct minefields and dummy minefields.
For the protection of important installations against airborne attack, the Germans organize an all-around defense, giving particular attention to covering avenues of approach with machine guns. Observation posts are set up on high points, such as church towers and terrain features to give early warning of hostile landings. Such posts are located also in rear areas, and are especially important in thinly populated localities, since wire communications are particular targets of enemy airborne troops. Special signals by church bells, drums, or bugles are arranged for alarming the German mobile reserve units. These units, specially organized for the task of counteracting enemy airborne invasions and partisan activities usually consist of motorized troops with machine guns and antitank guns mounted on their vehicles. Although the Germans consider it an error to delay in committing these units, they stress that care should be used to avoid enemy deceptive maneuvers such as the dropping of dummy parachutists.
The Germans usually withhold rifle fire until descending parachutists are at close range, using machine-gun fire at greater distance. They believe that fire is most effective immediately upon the landing of the hostile force, before a consolidation of position has been made. Enemy transport planes are considered particularly good targets since they must reduce speed just prior to the jump of the troops.
The Germans appreciate the importance of immediate action against airborne troops and when no alternative is possible they will commit inferior forces to combat the hostile aerial invasion, hoping to delay the attack until reserves can be brought up.
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