Sunday 24 November 2013

Guderian on Tanks and ATGs

The following document contains Guderian's thoughts on positioning tanks and anti-tank guns in combat. His unique writing style is preserved.

"Translated from German
January 17th, 1945

Instruction on combat action #37 (Combat of tanks and ATGs)

The following material, borrowed from combat experience, contains valuable theoretical and practical instructions, which will aid not only tank commanders and gunners, but also tank destroyers, AT gunners, and soldiers of all forces that combat tanks.

The main observation source of a tank is the commander. What he observes is told to the driver. The turret gunner can only observe through the scope. Because of this, his view range is limited to 24 degrees, and is blurry on the edges, or, in conditions of poor visibility, completely blurry. The commander will tell him the initial direction of fire, and other data.

Aside from the commander's primary task of fire correction, the commander must point out the road to the driver, keep track of the direction of attack, and maintain formation. His view range is also limited (unless he can stick his head of of the hatch), due to looking through thick glass or side refractors. Using the periscope is difficult due to shaking.

It is important to know that an inexperienced commander tends to observe the area in front of a tank, limiting his field of vision to about 120 degrees, and does not pay attention to the sides, being busy with "current events". It is rare to see a tank with a periscope pointed in any direction but the direction of motion.

To put it simply: a tanker is grateful to a target that takes into consideration these difficulties and places itself where it is easy to spot, and get upset when it is not so cooperative.

  1. Tanks like when the target is in the direction of movement, since the turret does not need turning, and it is easy to prepare initial data for the gunner.
    Tankers do not like when ATGs are positioned in such a place where you need to turn your head to spot them. While you are turning the turret, something unfortunate may happen.
  2. Tanks like when the muzzle flash, which is usually the only sign of an anti-tank gun, can be seen in front of some bushes, structures, or some other background that is easily spotted. This makes aiming much easier.
    Tanks get angry when the muzzle flash is seen in the open, and good camouflage and positioning of the enemy gun does not give the commander any reference points, so he is forced to wait for a second shot. While the gunner turns his turret, it may be too late.
  3. Tanks like when the muzzle flash is far away, as even if the shell strikes the thick front armour, it is not likely to penetrate, and the tank can calmly return fire.
    Tanks feel unease when the flash is close, and aiming must be done quickly. In this case, it is very likely that the next shot will hit the tank.
  4. Tanks like when dug up dirt, moving people, and driving tractors indicate that something is up. Tanks can't stand when nothing is visible and everything pretends to be still and peaceful, or when fire comes from a different direction.
  5. Tanks are happy to deal with a single ATG, and can calmly deal with it without interference from other guns. Tanks rage when they get caught in an ambush and must fight several ATGs at once.
  6. Tanks are thankful when enemy ATG positions are so easy to spot that the artillery forward observer has enough time to call in and correct artillery fire.
    Tanks are lost when the observers cannot detect hidden and properly dispersed, lengthwise and width-wise, enemy AT guns, which makes it impossible for artillery to open fire on them.
  7. Tanks are happy when, after taking fire, they can swiftly take cover in a depression and then attack the ATG position from another angle.
    Tanks are very disappointed when they get hit from another direction during a flanking maneuver.
  8. Tanks value cases when a combination of a flank and a forward assault can take out a whole ATG position on one move. Tanks can't stand when they attack an ATG position, and are hit from a flank by another ATG, even if the latter fires at under 100 meters.
  9. Tanks prefer to locate obstructions before an attack: bridges, etc, in the so called "tank-accessible terrain". These obstructions are easy to go around with a feint or by entering unfavourable terrain.
    Tanks get upset when they get baited by a weakly resisting front and are rewarded for their sweet advance with fire from both flanks ("Fire sack"). 
  10. Tanks feel swell when they can combat enemy ATGs while sitting still in a comfortable spot. Tanks get sad when the stop at an elevated point for observation, and take a shot to their stomach from a short distance.
  11. Tanks prefer defences that can't fire in all directions. Tanks are unhappy when an ATG position can fire in all directions, especially directions where the tanks were planning on moving.
  12. Tanks are calm when ATGs fire from well prepared and camouflaged positions, but do not change them. Tanks are enraged when they take fire from ATGs from previously unoccupied pillboxes, houses, or positions.
  13. Tanks prefer to have an enemy tank in front of them than an ATG on the flank.

Sent to HQ down to battalion level, including allied forces.

Translated by the translator of the 9th Guards Army HQ
Senior Sergeant Golant

Confirmed: Senior assistant of the chief of the Armoured and Motorized Forces of the 3rd Ukrainian Front
Major Golovenko"


  1. I like his way of writing :D You can almost visualize a cartoon based on his points, that has a tank with a frowny or smiley face :D

    1. Looking at the Tiger/Panther Fibel that might even have happened with available ressources. ;)

      In the end it's no big surprise, that colloquial writing and/or cartoons helped to bring complicated/tedious instructions into the minds of conscript armies off all sides...

  2. I remember from my dad that the soldiers manual for the dutch army in the 70's having all kinds of small cartoons using the good/bad formula.

    My favorite was a soldier abandoning a march to hug a marilyn monroe look alike.

  3. Good old Guderian - tanks are people too.

  4. This is ther great Guderian?! Stating the obvious tankers prefer easy before difficult. This is one of the greatest military minds in history?!

    1. Even the greatest military minds in history have to write simple things if they want 18 year old conscripted peasants to understand them.

  5. Guderian saw WoT before computer games existed. Tiny, sentient tanks driving around shooting each other, with nary a smelly human in sight.

  6. Notice how many times he bemoaned enemy anti-tank guns instead of enemy tanks?

    - Zinegata