Sunday, 5 October 2014

Deception

The Russian term "maskirovka" is largely translated as "camouflage". This is not entirely correct, as the term covers a broad spectrum of techniques meant not only to deceive the enemy into thinking you don't have forces in areas where you do, but that you do have forces in areas that you don't.

"To the Reserve Front HQ Chief

I report that your order to create tank models that imitate high concentrations of tanks has been carried out as of August 28th, 1941, in the following regions:
  1. Znamenka, Zhelaniye, Dobroye (all locations 40 km south of Vyazma)
  2. Zimnitsa, Siniki, Krasnikobo (all locatiosn 15 km east of Spass-Demyansk)
In total, 28 tank models have been built, which is approximately three tank battalions. Tank models were built to imitate the shape of medium tanks, and are difficult to distinguish from actual tanks at a range of 100-200 meters when properly positioned inside a forest.

Work was carried out by 30 sappers directed by a camouflage engineer and a representative of the 1st ABTU department, Major Belikov. The request to use local civilians without special permission from the regional council was denied due to the start of the harvest. 

Further placements of fake tanks were limited by aircraft bases, landing strips, and airports, which do not allow any kind of military unit or rear base quartering within 10-12 km. 

The lateness in returning from construction can be explained by difficulty of movement due to mud after the rains. All personnel participating in the operation have returned as of 11:00 on August 25th, 1941.

Attachment: diagram of placement of tank models.

ABTU Reserve Front Chief, Brigade Commander Podshivalov"


The fake tanks are represented by the diamonds on the map, with a red line pointing in the direction they are facing. Since detecting any kind of tank in a forest is hard, the engineers made it a little easier for the Germans by also imitating tank tracks on the ground, indicated by dashed red lines. How effective was this tactic? Let's look at how the Germans saw it.

"With the increased speed of our advance, we began a series of rapid tank attacks. On October 4th, front units of Kampfgruppe Koelitz (2nd Vienna Tank Division) penetrated the front lines at Desna and stopped at a crossroads. They were so consumed by deciphering their illegible maps that they were pushed back by a "sudden Russian tank counterattack", which rapidly solved their navigation problems. At 300 meters to the right, three Russian tanks were spotted. They were fired upon, sadly without results. It was decided that a more powerful shell should be used, and even though it hit its target, the tank remained. The Ober-Lieutenant, wishing to finish things, up decided to circle around the tank's rear in a motorcycle. Soon his subordinates were shocked to discover that the officer, standing upright, was laughing. He shook the "tank", and the entire thing fell down."
- Robert J. Kershaw. War without garlands: Barbarossa 1941/42

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