Monday 23 September 2013

Germans on Soviet Tactics

I wrote about a Soviet view of German tactics previously. Now, let's look at the other way around. CAMD RF 239-2220-87 contains several German documents discussing Soviet tactics, dated from October 1942 to February 1943.

"Russians preparations for an assault have the following characteristics:
  • Good camouflage of all movement, especially of tanks, that has to do with getting into position.
  • Complete radio silence of all advancing units, especially tank units.
  • Most marches are done at night.
  • The entire front is surveyed by strike teams (up to a regiment), acting irregularly, over a large span of time, and not raising suspicion, that establish weak points in defenses. The activity of this scouting increases notably two days before an offensive.
  • Artillery does not take ranging shots.
  • Bombing of bases and headquarters increases several days before an offensive.
Conclusions: It is known that the Russians can skillfully conduct readiness operations without arousing suspicion. 

A Russian offensive is characterized by their skillful confusion of the enemy, and excellent disguise of preparations, to the point that the location of the main strike is often unknown until the last minute. 
  • Short artillery bursts cover areas ahead of the advance. Large amounts of rocket artillery, and regular amounts of heavy artillery are used.
  • After a successful breach, tank brigades are sent in to complete operation tasks.
  • The tanks' success is then furthered by infantry, which moves in on trucks (up to a battalion of infantry per tank battalion) and cavalry.
  • Russians, with surprising decisiveness, aim their tanks attacks straight at joints between our units, which usually allows them to break through our main defensive line.
When the enemy uses tanks to defend against our attacks, they use the following tactic: tanks quickly take up positions on reverse slopes, and, with the use of forward observers, fire from large distances (2000-4000 meters), where out AT methods cannot reach them."

Another interesting note: "Sometimes, the top part of the tank is covered in fabric, and the lower part is covered in mud and ice, so magnetic AT mines do not attach."

That's one way to make cheaper Zimmerit, I guess. 

"Recently, when the Russians deflect our tank attacks, they use large amounts of AT rifles (entire battalions), and create defensive lines with them. The use of AT rifles has overtaken the use of incendiary bottles. The Russians skillfully apply their AT rifles, opening fire at close range, at weak spots of our tanks. The main enemy of our tanks are Russian AT rifles, used in massive amounts. The less tanks we have, the larger the chance that the tank attack will stall."

That one is interesting. Looks like the 14.5 mm AT rifles remained effective well into 1943. Another one:

"Long and dark nights, the closeness of enemy soldiers to nature, and excellent knowledge of terrain assist in these attacks. Characteristics of the attacks are as follows:
  • Mastery of camouflage of all preparations, complete and utter silence.
  • Approach of critical positions by large forces in the dark.
  • A lack of artillery barrages, but sudden breakthroughs in weak parts of the front, scouted out in advance.
  • Breakthroughs happen with large forces, moving closely. Soldiers move close to each other to maintain direction.
  • At dawn, tanks follow infantry, as well as motorized infantry (on trucks), cavalry, and support guns."
Soviet scouts seem to pop up a lot. Let's see what the Germans thought of them specifically. From an interrogation of German Colonel Hans-Heinrich Yanus, commander of Kampfgruppe Yanus. 

"The first advantage of the Russians is in their dedicated scouting units. The Russians, with great skill, use the terrain to approach our lines undetected, and even move through them. Russian scouts are skilled in camouflage, and have great patience, which German scouts lack. If you tell a German to scout village N (of, say, 20 houses), he will come back and report "the village is occupied by the enemy". If a Russian scout team receives the same order, they will approach the village, and set up at convenient locations. They will watch the village from these locations for hours. If a soldiers leaves the house with 6 pots, the Russians will know that six soldiers are staying there. If a Russian sees a soldier leaving a building with a file folder, he will note that it is likely there is a headquarters in it, and there are up to ten soldiers (secretaries, adjutants, messengers, etc). As a result, the Russians do not stop at a useless report of "the enemy is in the village", but will precisely report on the enemy in the village."


  1. Yesss, finally. I've been voting for this one for months.

    Imagine the consternation this would cause if you posted it in GD.

  2. Very interesting. By the way, is there an email address for this blog. I have a question I would like to ask.


    1., it's on every page right under the logo.

  3. Do any of the documents mention the Soviet scout practice of kidnapping isolated German soldiers or personnel ("yazhiki" or "tongues", as they called them IIRC?) and interrogating them?

    1. Good question cwijan. I just "rechecked" Rybalko's memoires and for every scouting action he explicitly describes that German Prisoners had been taken.
      (Though most often "taken" as in they moved towards the Soviet part of the front to surrender... With the "Offensive Telltales" as mentioned in this article you don't need to wonder why ;))

  4. Didn't everyone try and kidnap lone soldiers for intel? I know the US Army did.

  5. could you possibly get more info on these kind of tactics, i would be very interested in learning more about these methods.