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German Combat Tactics

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1939 - 1942' started by JCFalkenbergIII, Aug 1, 2008.

  1. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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    Source: U.S. War Department "Handbook On German Military Forces" (Mar'45)
    Officially released from restricted status by the U.S. Army Center For Military History.


    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 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 are then 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 reoccupation 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, blocked, 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 classic 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 German, 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 the 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 communications with the combat-team headquarters.

    The climatic 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 into 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 caliber 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 advance 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 advance 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 leave 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 of ascent or 550 yards of 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, while 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.


    4. 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 troops are organized to guard the flanks. Sleighs are added for the support 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

    Note: As this file concerns itself only with German tactics the majority of this section which deals with Allied partisan activities has been omitted. This includes sections "a" through "e".

    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 SS 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 signs by church bells, drums, or bugles are arranged for alarming the German mobile reserves 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 more 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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  2. marc780

    marc780 Member

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    thats pretty good detailed information on their actual tactics, that i've never read anyplace else.

    One important thing i read about was the Germans' use of defilade fire for their machine guns. That is, they would often try to place their machine guns so they fired at the oncoming enemy at an angle rather than straight in front of them. Say their enemy is advancing toward 12 o' clock orientation, the Germans would place their machine guns at 10 o' clock or 2 o' clock in relation to their enemy.
    The reason they did this was to confuse the enemy as to what direction the mg was firing from. They knew most people assume the fire is coming straight at them, (like in the movies) and when fired on would act accordingly. While the enemy is busy firing away at the non-existent enemy in front of them the other Germans in the unit could advance closer and try to wipe them out.
     
  3. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    Well, there are books on the subject but...

    Well what do you know, it's even written in (gasp!) French! :D

    [​IMG]

    For your enlightnment: this a pretty much standard technique, all armies used it, so big deal!

    And I had used this image elsewhere a couple of days ago. Don't you read the forum?
     
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  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    German tactics generally favoured manouver over firepower, the idea was to infiltrate your units through a weakly defended point and establish a position that would force the enemy to abbandon it's strong defensive position or give up his defensive advantage by attempting to dislodge you. This principle also worked at the operational level, classic examples are the sichelschnitt plan in France 1940 or Rommell's habit of "going round the south flank" of the British's position in the desert. The idea behind this is that a defender forced to move will loose cohesion faster than the attacker will and so will break sooner. So generally German forces will try to use manouver rather than shock (soviets) or firepower (western allies).
    This doctrine is risky, it requires strong leadership skills at all levels as the commander on the spot must be able to redict the attack on meeting strong resistance and avoid finding himself isolated by a swift enemy reaction as happened to Peiper. It also cannot be used where there is no room for manouver like at Stalingrad and is not very effective against troops who will just sit in place even when threatened with encirclement.
     
  5. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    Like most armies in the 30ies the Germans accepted the link between firepower and manouvre. With no fire there will be no manouvre.

    Hmmm. I find it hard to beleive that you have studied Soviet operational concepts. Not to mention American and British battles.

    Let us look at the second battle of El Alamein. The success criteria for the 8th Army.

    1. Tactical surprise. (op. Bertram)
    2. Indirect apporach. (hit the itallians rather than the germans)
    3. Concentrate own forces for the main effort. (XXX Corps break in, X Corps break out)
    4. Unbalance Rommel (Draw out his reserves)
    5. Encircle the Axis forces and destroy them in penny packets.

    How about the genious battle in Normandy?

    Draw out the reserves in the east and pin them down there, release the best cavalry man in the west to encircle the german army. Voila. Manouvre.

    The German cry of machinslacht by the allies is bollocks. From 1942 they were out thought outfought and outmanouvred on all fronts.

    What doctrine might that be? From the 1920 the British army decided to use a combined arms doctrine. A few years down the road the Germans followed suit.

    As for unsuitable in Stalingrad.... Stalingrad is the epitome of how the Germans wanted to fight. It's just that they got the boot on the other foot. The Kesselslacht/Vernichtungsgedanke aims at encircle the opponent. That was why Paulus 6th Army lost the morale. They knew they were in a Kessel.

    What the Germans did get right was the aufdragstaktik. This was devised by Scharnhorst and Gneisnau after the Prussian army got a proper licking in Jena. By setting up mission command the germans managed to get a proper command style that brought about initiative. That fostered speed. In addition the fog of war did less harm as every german knew the intention (absicht) of their commander. Even if the situation changed they knew what the goal was so they could act accordingly.

    This was the strength of the German army. Couple that with having a homogenous army and there are the advantages they had.
     
  6. Za Rodinu

    Za Rodinu Aquila non capit muscas

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    From the horse's mouth. :)
     
  7. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    Mule's mouth more likely...
     
  8. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Actually I have, though I don't claim to be an expert on them. It may make no sense to generalize but while all combatants combined fire and manouver to some extent my impression is that army had it's own approach. My impressions are mostry derived by the evoulution of the official TOE at divisional level as well as from battle accounts.
    I believe the following statements are not myths tough they are generalizations:
    - Germany early war infantry tactics favoured the indirect appproach more than other combattants and the creation of specialized combined arms task forces was more common than with other armies. I'm not talking about just the panzers here, one example is the attacks by infantry formations against the outer works of the Maginot in 1940, the Pak 36 (theoretically an anti tank asset) were brought forward under cover of smoke and provided suppression fire so that 88mm Flak 18 (a Luftwaffe asset) could be in turn brought forward to knock out the pillboxes by direct fire.
    - Soviet tactics were less sensitive to losses than other combattants, the "multiple echelon" attack doctrine is inherently inflexible and relies on concentrating overwhelming force at one point. It also worked for them as they did get to Berlin.
    - British tactics have an inflexible trait about them, they arrived at combined arms doctrine pretty late, the early armoured formations were tank heavy by late war standards.
    - US troops learned on the go, one can only admire a system that managed to produce an effective army out of the very small pre war cadre of trained officers and NCOs, and US troops relied on firepower more than other combattants. The US reaction to opposition is more likeky to be "call in artillery" than "Let's try to go round it". As they had lots of artillery assets and superior comunications it usually worked quite well.
    - I am a nearly total ignorant on Japanese doctrine, though I believe they could not really have had a single one as what would work in China (where most of the Japanese Army was) is not likely to work against the western allies. Some operations seem to imply an even more more aggressive mindset (to the point of suicide;)) than the Germans.
    - Italians .... I have read a lot of memoirs of Italian soldiers and commanders, and found little trace of tactical doctrine so I'm beginning to suspect there was none. There are doctrinal papers but if troops are not aware of them they are just papers.


    Also "generally" the German Army was more prone to risk taking than the western allies, and they had to as, due to the differences in industrial capacity, they had to win the war by 1942 or fail. There were exceptions (Wingate, one of my favourite Allied commanders, is a brilliant example), and I'm not saying the German concept was superior, the lack of grand strategy is a major failing, , faced with some early war German successes one must wonder "how did they manage to pull it off" and this is what makes the German military so interesting to me. That they sistematically ovverreached themselves from 1942 on is true and does show an increasing loss of contact with reality so I agree with you here.

    IMHO Soviets doctrine nearly went full circle, they repudiated Tukhachevsky's ideas when he fell out of favour but the Opeational Manouver Group doctrine looks quite similar to it. Also as the purges left the soviet army partly incapable of performing complex operations for a while it's difficult to understand if some choices were dictated by circumstances or by docrine.
     
  9. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    This is called asymetrical fighting. The prime example is a Soviet Air Generals reply to a journalist when asked if a new fighter plane would be designed to counter the newly developed F-18 Hornet. "No, a T-72 on an American airfield" Using battlegroups to overcome problems was used by Brits, French and the devils grandmother by the beginning of the war. During the Norwegian campaign the Brits brought in battlegroups to fight. Much on the same basis that the germans would create kampfgruppen. Shortage of personell and equipment. The proper task forces would take some more time to develop, and became honed in combined ops and the OMG concept that the Soviets used after the war.

    Force concentration is not a bad thing. There are a few good examples of generals trying to do all at once and ending up by having a stalled front. Ike would be the godfather of such squandering of men and opportunity. As for sensetivity to losses. Ivan was an uncompromising soldier. Stalin was a pragmatic leader. He could afford to trade lives a lot easier than say the brits (who are on the other end of the ladder.) This is reflected in the general campaigning.

    What is inflexible about British tactics? What tactics are we talking about? Up until the battleschool wave came along, only the broad strokes were laid down on the tactical level. Tactics rested on surprise, force concentration and mobility. As early as 1920 the lecture at the staff school started with the question: how to win wars without casualties?

    The British decided to trade machines for manpower. The result was the combined arms doctrine. The Royal Artillery, RAC and Infantry would work as a unit. Much of this was linked to the 1919 plans. Two directions emerged, the all tank army, and the combined army (infantry and tanks). However the defence spendings and a few haphazard and untidy (thereby perfectly british) decisions were made.

    On the issue of a new service rifle, the semi automatic option was scrapped because it would slow down the mobility of the army. To use the Quartermasters generals words: If we give the troops a weapon that fires 100 rounds a minute, we need a logistical apparatus that can supply 100 rounds a minute.

    The new field guns were similary treated. Light and mobile. The 25pdr gun that they ended up with, didn't kill like the other guns, but supressed. (a feature that was enhanced during the war when they had to change the powder in the HE shells due to shortages)

    Finally you have the reduction in army spending and the 10 year rule. The armys job was to police an empire, not to fight a continental war. A small professional army, budget tanks and a stagnation in the development and more importantly the lack of enforcement of doctrine all contributed to weaken the army.

    The large manouvres on Sailsbury plains ended in 20-30ies due to funding. The crazy infantry-cruiser tank principle was introduced as a result of a strong cavalry tradition and low funding.

    The 40 campaign in France did not allow for the British to do much. Looking at the units that did patrolling and raiding in the Saar area the results are good. However the BEF was under French command (actually two commanders) and the campaign was a right dog's breakfast. The BEF was however saved since the British had embraced the motorisation of the army. Something the Germans was not able to.

    As for the 4 types of TOE in the armoured division it was down to the application of the division. Infantry would do the break-in battle, and the Armored division would do the breakout. The support group in the Armoured division would guard the armour in Laager, and hold ground that was captured. The next two TOE's came as a result of the poor (if any analysis of the 40 campaign. The analysis concluded that it was the French who let down.

    The next development came after initial success in North Africa. Operation Compass would do massive damage to the British army for the next two years. O'Connors masterpiece gave all the assurances that the top brass in London needed to proclaim that there was nothing wrong in the army. This would of course change. But not for two years. North Africa would be the graveyard for many British generals.

    Monty was the man to put it straight. Bold, energetic and determined to win. He set about creating the 8th Army is his own image. Clear directives, proper training and enforcement of doctrine. Orders forbidding bellyaching etc. did wonders. The pet projects of certain commanders was stamped out. Lumsden was sent packing for his lack of enthusiasm for the role of the Armoured division.

    The US did learn quickly. In 1943 Patton didn't manage to break out from the Eastern Dorsal with a stunning 88,000 men at his disposal. A few months later he would become famous for doing a series of amphibious ed runs to crack the german lines in Sicilly. In 1944 the same general set about an amazing journey. A journey that could have ended the war if the Allies had not been led by Ike.

    There is the paradox and the achilles heel of the US in WW2. On the top there was little development in strategic thinking. Fantasies such as Giant II (landing the 82nd Airborne in Rome with not enough transports to do it at once) multiple 'penny packet' landings planned for both Sicilly and Italy, hoping that one Bde group would manage to hold out.

    All in all the Americans did very well. They had plenty of 1st class equipment, and the will to see their operations through.

    As for the use as the Artillery as the hammer in operations if think it is unfair. At low tactical level it was a cost effective choice. At the higher level many american commanders opted for manouvre (Patton beeing the prime example)

    I don't agree. Landing 5 divisions in italy against 20 German. Making the largest amphibious landing in history in poor weather, with worse forecasts. Using 3 Airborne divisions and an Army corps to advance through the low Countries and across the Rhine.

    At lower level there is a lot of other examples of willingness to take risks on the behalf of the Allied side. Trouble is that for some 60 odd years a bunch of knowitalls have branded the Allies as plodding, firepower oriented soldiers. The Germans have been portrayed differently...

    1939 Poland. Facing a largish obsolete army deployed at the border. Encircle and game over.

    1940 Denmark. Walk over.

    1940 Norway. Facing a small nation with obsolete equipment and a pacifist government with no grip on the military issues. Defeated for the first time in battle by Gen. Fleicher. The Allies pull out to aid France, norwegian government flee to UK. Win.

    1940 France. Facing large army. This is an interesting campaign. The Aliies are defeated on the basis of muddled command. Obsolete thinking in higher HQ's. And politicians not in touch with reality before the battle is joined.

    Yugoslavia and Greece are smaller countries.

    The Germans started to prepare for war in the early 30ies. They had a clear image of how to fight the war, and the weapons to do it.

    By starting a war against the Soviet Union, Germany has lost. All of the plans and training of the Army is based on continental warfare. High infrastructure and short supply lines.


    Regarding the Soviets.
    Tukhachevsky was one of the brightest military minds in the interwar years. He transformed the Red Army into the best in the world. He was not so smart in other ways. Having put forth critisism against the would be leader of the Soviet Union Stalin, he paid the price. The Winterwar saw a new man rise who was the direct opposite of Tukhachevsky. When the Germans attacked, the Red Army was but a shadow of itself. Stalin would correct this in time by using some splendid commanders.
     
  10. Lippert

    Lippert Member

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    This is an absolutely enlightening thread. I would point some to the 25Jan45 publication by the military intelligence service "The German Squad in Combat" by the US Military Intelligence Service. A lot of the same information can be found there.

    Regarding Machine Gun Employment, many of the same principles can be found in the current USMC doctrine: PICMDEEP.

    Pairs - employ machine guns in pairs for mutual support, to fire bursts ("talking guns," where one fires, the other rests, and vice versa, for two second bursts).
    Interlocking fields of fire - The goal is to place the enemy at the horns of a dilemma and to create a kill zone in front of your defensive/offensive perimeter by crossing fields of fire from dual pairs.
    Coordination of fire - Implement this dilemma by good coordination via communication or preplanned fireplans from both side of a position.
    Mutual Support - Make it so the guns can mutually support one another's position. This is particularly important in an offensive strategy. For example in MOUT, where one position can support the defense of another offensive MG position by establishing a good protective fire along an avenue of approach.
    Defilade/Enfilade - Use terrain to your advantage and attempt to expose as much of the enemy's advancing flank to your fires.
    Entrenchment/Protection - Make manual modifications to terrain to enhance survivability of the machine guns - an infantry units major asset in combat.

    In a defensive setup, it is not uncommon to position machine guns at, or near your flanks to allow for an interlocking field of fire along the center of the position. At the defensive positions direct front is typically a series of engineered obstacles such as concertina wire or traps, etc. This gets the enemy caught in the obstacle, allowing them to be hit with machinegun fire and hopefully stopping them in the obstacle, at a good distance from the lines.

    Offensively, you hope to move your machineguns up to support the advance, in position to mutuall support one another, as well as the advancing troops. Thus you leap frog them from position to position to maintain an overall watch of the advance.

    Interesting how tactics have evolved from just putting all the machine guns on a line and hoping to mow down as many frontal assaults as possible.
     
  11. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    Painting in very broad strokes, most western nations at the eve of 1940 were not prepared for war. Doctrinal developement had no implementation and the necessary equipment were not bought. So while almost all countries that fought the war had doctrines and thinkers of indirect approach (think Charles Du Gaulle, Fuller, B. L-D, Patton) they were incapable of putting the plans into practice.

    It is easy to criticize the conservatism of the American cavalry branch. But after the conclusion of the First World War the cavalry branch did not possess the motor vehicles or armor or radio to experiment armored forces in operational maneouvers. IIRC that inadquate gasoline stocks in many militaries forestalled the attempts to practice mobile operations.
     
  12. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Some German kampfgruppes were well designed task forces for special tasks others were desperation measures where anyone who could use a weapon was put in the line under a resourceful commander. Still the Germans appear to have greater flexibility in creating this sort of units than their opponents in the early war years. One example is the use of mountain troops (high quality light infantry) as marines in Norway and airlanding forces in Crete.

    The use of British armour in the desert in 1942 and "road bound" infantry in Malaya is what I had in mind by inflexible, they took a lot of time to adapt tactics to unexpected situations.

    I parly agree with you but still believe there is some truth behing the exagerations.


    Think you forgot Barbarossa ..... if you look at the forces involved how the Germans got as far as they did is really hard to understand.
    Also Norway, especially Narvik, is a texbook example of succesfull risk taking. Landing an unsupported infantry force at the end of a non existing supply line and against an enemy who had large uncommited resources it could easily have ended in total disaster ....

    I agree with you here.

    IMHO in 1939 docrinal development was not there for the western allies. The British still had to decide which way to jump, and took a long time doing it, witness the creation of "mixed" divisions combining two infantry brigades and an armoured one in late 1942, at first glance it looks like a 1941 model panzer division but the infantry is not fully motorized and the tanks are the "infantry" models so it really was a binary infantry division supported by a tank brigade not suited to mechanized warfare, as a task force it made a lot of sense but as a permanent organization .....
    The French divisional organization shows no plan for long range armoured operations, they created a tank heavy "breakthrough" unit with the DCR, designed, as it's B1bis tanks, for set piece attacks on enemy positions, and a DLM meant for movement to contact and screening in the traditional cavalry role. Reading Achtung-Panzer! and the pre war edition of De Gaule's Vers l’armée de métier side by side is revealing, both are obviously targetted at influencing military spending towards armoured forces but Guderian's work is more advanced.
    I think the German's had the edge in the early years because of better tactics and morale, this allowed them to achieve a number of successes. They had lots of flaws, the logistics organization was poor (sometimes terrible) and as the lenght of the campaigns increased this showed dramatically, and they were overagressive and overconfident, time and again in they pushed forward when other Armies would have stopped and reorganized and waited for the supplies to catch up, the combat accounts are full of episodes of columns stopped because they had run completely out of fuel, which is quite different from being low of fuel, if the enemy managed to organize a counterattack they were in big trouble. The whole German military machine, if you look at it with the info currently available, has an amateurish, improvised, all or nothing look to it, some examples:
    - The massive use if captured vehicles, a French truck is good as German one until it breaks down, then the chances of getting spares for it are close to zero. So for a long campaign it's close to worthless.
    - The use of air supply for the panzer spearheads, this is wasteful of one of Germany's scarcest resources.
    - Use of drugs, this will keep you going for a few more days than you would otherwise but in the long run is disastrous.
    - Removing one panzer batallion from AGC and AGN divisions to strengthen the AGS divisons involved in case blau.
    - Using rebuilding units as garrison troops, if you look at the german order of battle in Italy in 1943 it's made up mostly of divisions destroyed at Stalingrad or Tunis or badly mauled at Kursk, I doubt most of them were fully combat capable
    This approach worked in their favour in France as there is ample evidence the French suffered from command paralisys, they just could not believe the Germans were taking that sort of risks, not so well against the Soviets that basically outmanouvered the Germans time and again from late 1942 onwards.
     
  13. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    I didn't forget Barbarossa. If you are in a 10 mile run, it is no good leading the first 4 miles and ending up as number two at the finish.

    Ahem I AM a Jaeger myself so I should know of my comrades capabilities. However the Germans did not have one contested beach in Weserubung. They did however use the sailors from the destroyers that were sunk in Narvik to fight as infantry. They were mowed down...

    The Narvik affair was a complete shambles. Dietel was forced to the Swedish border. Narvik was captured and the Brits, Poles and French left for Britain. If they'd stayed Dietel would have lost it all. The releif force was too slow. This was the first action to show how hard it is to use air supply. The Swedes were forced to let the Germans use the railway to send troops and equipment to the Gebirgsjaeger in the mountains.

    No exagerations.

    By use of British armour in the desert I assume you refer to charging the german 88's. That would have been avoided with enforcement of doctrine. The old guards (cavalry men) did little to learn new tricks. In MTP No. 41 the Armoured Regiment (July 1940) directed that armd formations should consentrate their efforts at destroying the enemys armour and unarmoured mobile formations, wheras static formations should be bypassed. ATI No.3 Handling of of an Armoured Division (19th May 1941)There was 9 points regarding missions. 1 Engaging enemy armour. 2 Attacking enemy infantry exept where holding an organised position. 3 Outflanking movements and operations against enemy L o C. 4 Maintenance of momentum in an attack after a breakthrough (ie explotation) 5 Pursuit. 6 Reconnaissance in Force. 7 Counterattackin Defence. 8 Denial of ground to the enemy during a withdrawal. 9 Action against enemy Airborne forces.

    Sadly little was done to get conformity within the Armoured arm. In addition there were technical problems. Cheifly the lack of a HE firing tank gun. Upon receiving Grants, Shermans and Monty as the new 8th Army commander it would change. The organisasation of the combined arms attack varied quite a bit. It would now be done the same way in all of the armd. divs in 8th Army. A step forward.

    The other monster was the long range german 88. Without HE capability the British armour would suffer terribly in the sands of North Africa.

    However the tactical approach to tackling difficult problems was resloved earlier. During the first siege of Tobruk the Tobruk rats countered the effect of 88's and the german machine guns by attacking at night and sticking it out during the day. During the night the close combat would offset the Germans advantage (much in the same way that street fighting was done on the Eastern front.) Playing down the strong points of the enemy and maximising the strong sides of yourself. This would result in a victorious march from El Alamein to the Baltic.

    Training, Leadership and Equipment was the three issues that needed to be done in 8th Army in Montys analysis. He adressed the issues and off they went.

    On the subject of the mixed divisions there are pros and cons. It was very hard to get proper combined arms training when it had to be organised on corps level. Martel who had a hand in this reorganisation did it to simplify cooperation between infantry and armour. The divisional commander could now enforce it himself. However there were a lot of fuss about this. Brigader G.N. Tuck of the War Office's Research Branch pointed out that with only two inf bde. it would be impossible to keep the enemy under pressure both day and night. Gen. Montgomery also voiced his dislike for the arrangement. The Home Forces reverted back to their 3 inf bde structure for in the late summer of 1943. I am not going to judge the decision because I see both sides points. The NZ division had a Armd brigade attached and did well. In Normandy several divisions had armd bde's attached regulary and did weel because they knew eachother. Only 4th div fought as a mixed division in Tunis, but was reverted before deployment in Italy.
     
  14. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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    Gee, John Christian, where can we get a copy of the handbook? :D
     
  15. JCFalkenbergIII

    JCFalkenbergIII Expert

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  16. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana WW2|ORG Editor

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  17. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Thanks for the very interesting links.

    The "risk level" of the Narvik operation is comparable to dropping the paras on Rome in 1943, Dietl was kicked out of Narvik and came very close to being overwhelmed (probably would if the allies had stayed a few week longer) but had the Germans not landed at Narvik they may have had to face an Allied force entrenched in northern Norway (after all that was the original Allied plan) so the losses were worth it. The sailors turned infantry is the typical German improvisation that did not work, one more instance that they relied on improvisation a lot. No "contested" beach is a matter of how you look at it.... don't think Blucher's crew would agree :), the Germans made no landing under fire but did meet opposition.

    You misunderstood me here, by "exagerations with some truth behind them" I meant the firepower bound belief.

    But I believe Monty at El Alamein used the exactly opposite tactic of attacking the static formations thus forcing the panzer to counterattack instead of going directly for the mobile formations. A lot of the the "charges" on the 88s were due to attempts to get at the panzers and finding them protected by a pak front.
     
  18. Jaeger

    Jaeger Ace

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    I wrote down the two sources (MTP, ATI) to show the development of tactics. The next of the series was written in 1943 as a result of the 8th Army experience.

    I'm sorry that I don't have enough time to copy into the text. (I have a newborn in the house, and really should put priority on sleep)

    At El Alamein the stage managment was for night attacks to create gaps for the armour to pass through. The armour would then hold important ground to draw the enemy armour onto them. (like the successful defensive battle at Alam El Halfa) The gaps were not finished but the armour would still have to push through. This caused dissens from Lumsden X corps commander (something that would cause him to be sent packing later on) who saw this as a pure infantry task. He did not grasp the combined arms theory.

    Back in the UK there were two schools of dealing with attacking fixed positions. The tank gallop and the armoured division doing a set piece attack. The Tank Gallop was scrapped by the War Office since it was found faulty on the battlefield in the Desert. However old habits die hard. During exercise STEWART on May 22 1942 the Armoured regiments of the 5th Guards Armoured Brigade ended with a massed charged by the entire brigade on a narrow front. The diarist of the 2nd Irish Guards branded this 'Balaclava' as a tactical nightmare. These charges would happen again during DERBY on 6th of June, and again on the 20th during DIGBY. At the end of June the 2nd Irish got a new CO C.K Finlay who upon appointment said that it was 'out'. In the Diary of the Regiment it reads: it has survived so long, and is so obviously suicidal, that everyone was delighted to hear it is now right 'out'. However there would be some dissens during LILO on the 9th of July 2nd sqadron did a massed charge at the end of the exercise. General Adair (whom Monty wanted to change since he was "no good") proudly recalls in his memoirs 'a tank gallop in through the best of the hunting country near Towcester' during SPARTAN in February 1943.
     
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  19. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    Old habits die hard, I remember reading about a "charge" by the Queen's Bays as part of the Coriano ridge battles as late as 1944. Unfortunately that was not an exercise.
     
  20. JBaum

    JBaum Member

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    For those with an interest, I've nearly finished the English translation of "Tactics in the Context of the Reinforced Infantry Battalions". The book (268 pages) was published in 1941 and was written by two German generals. It should be in print in another week or two.
     

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