Thursday 9 October 2014

Panzerfaust, Russian Style

CAMD RF 233-2356-775 contains a laconic and rather interesting phrase in a paragraph describing the actions of the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the 598th Infantry Regiment. It seems that Captain Kolchanov found his 45 mm guns and 76 mm regimental guns unsatisfactory, and decided to stock up on some heavier firepower. The document reads: "Against enemy Panzerfaust operators, the battalion successfully used singular M-31 mortar rounds, which were carried up to the second or third floor of a building and fired at the enemy positioned across the street."

Thankfully, a little extra digging reveals more details about this tactic.

"Experience of direct fire by rocket artillery in the streets of Berlin

In street battles, when a solid front line is gone and enemy units are often found in individual houses and crossroads, the use of traditional artillery is impossible. Rocket artillery units used M-13, M-31 and captured 280 mm rounds to fire directly without launchers.

Considering the caliber and destructive force of M-31 rockets, their use was an effective measure against enemy concentrations.

Rockets were used to destroy all or parts of houses that contained enemy concentrations or impeded progress. The conditions of city fighting allowed for transport and installation of rockets 30-100 meters from enemy forces in a house window or wall breach. Aiming was performed with a primitive aiming device.

The effectiveness of M-31 rockets is achieved due to the following:
  1. At short distances (30-100 meters), it is possible to hit a small target such as a smokestack, church cupola, window, or breach in a wall. Due to the destructive power of the rocket, the target is completely destroyed.
  2. Using rockets to fire directly at the last minute allows our forces to eliminate the enemy or clear a path before the enemy has a chance to commit mobile reserves. The sudden and complete destruction has a great effect on enemy morale.
One advantage of rockets over traditional artillery is that moving large caliber artillery into a direct fire position is impossible, and indirect fire introduces the danger of hitting your own forces, whereas low caliber artillery does not achieve the desired effect. Another advantage is the possibility of using many rockets at once to destroy several targets. 

Massed use of M-31 rockets results in powerful and effective fire support for infantry units in cities. The use of this method is possible when:
  1. There are concealed paths towards to front lines.
  2. The target is 30-150 meters away.
  3. The placement of rockets is done secretly and silently.
  4. Cooperation with infantry is carefully and correctly carried out.
When preparing for fire support, assault teams encountered difficulties with transporting the rockets. Due to the presence of enemy soldiers with Panzerfausts and submachineguns in our rear, as well as fires, trucks carrying the rockets were forced to stop 900-1000 meters away from the front lines. The 130 kg rockets had to be carried the rest of the way by hand. In some cases, additional breaches had to be made in house walls. In places where the path of the rockets crossed the street under fire, the rocket was placed in a box, a rope was tied to the box, and thrown across the street. Soldiers would run across one by one and then pull the box across after them. In order to protect the rocket from bullets and shrapnel, the front part was covered with bricks. 

When the rocket was put into firing position 15-30 meters from the enemy, absolute silence and stealth was required. When any noise or movement was detected, the enemy would fire upon the position with Panzerfausts.

Horizontal aiming was performed with a primitive sight, consisting of one nail in the front of the mount and two nails in the rear. Vertical aiming was performed by stacking bricks and wooden beams under the rear of the mount. The mount was stabilized with wire in different directions. This held the mount in place during the process of firing, which improved accuracy. 

Since the exhaust jet was hot and highly pressurized, all doors and windows behind the rocket were opened, and all flammable objects removed. In order to prevent accidents, the detonator was placed in the basement or a distant room. Wires were run on the floor along the walls, and held with heavy objects every 1-2 meters. 

The firing position was camouflaged during setup by field-expedient means, and was removed several seconds before opening fire."

And of course, pictures!

Firing an M-31 rocket directly,

Firing an M-31 rocket upwards.

Firing an M-31 rocket downwards.


  1. Never heard of this before! Thanks for sharing:)

  2. Really would not want to be in the same room (or the same floor) as the one where the rocket is fired from the backblast would kill me.

  3. Looks like a plan out of present day Gaza.

  4. Is there any record of the Soviets using and of the PIAT's that the UK supplied them? I think 1000 were sent over.