Friday 7 August 2015

Anti-Tank Defense Manual

"Directions to the Forces of the 2nd Ukrainian Front on Organization of Anti-Tank Defenses

May 30th, 1944

When organizing anti-tank artillery and engineering defenses, follow these instructions:
  1. Heavy and divisional artillery must be arranged in a way that allows for long-range concentrated fire to disperse enemy tank formations and deal damage to them even at starting locations. Special long-range observation needs to be set up, and artillery must be ready to fire immediately when observers or aircraft call them.
  2. Enemy tanks must be under artillery fire as soon as the attack begins and until they reach our lines. All tank-accessible directions must be split between batteries and squadrons. Maneuverability of fire must be such that when the main tank force appears in any direction, it can be fired upon by other artillery units. This fire, in combination with machinegun and mortar fire, will disperse enemy formations and suppress their infantry.
  3. At night, when it is impossible to observe the results of your fire, it is necessary to set up an immobile artillery barrage in tank-accessible directions 300-400 meters from our lines, reinforcing it with direct fire from the front lines. The latter aim with the aid of illumination flares, fired by infantry from front line trenches.
  4. Keep in mind that no amount of indirect fire can destroy enemy tanks completely. The main foundation of the anti-tank defense must be direct fire anti-tank guns on the first line and in depth through the defensive line in combination with engineering obstacles, natural hazards, maneuvers from mechanized artillery, SPGs, tanks, and sappers with anti-tank mines. The use of the aforementioned methods must be accompanied by infantry tank destroyer squads with AT rifles, grenades, and KS incendiary fluid.
  5. Set up mines in solid lines in front of the front line of defense and in between trenches. The first minefield should not be more than 30-50 meters away from the first trenches. The second minefield should be in front of the second or third line of trenches.
    On secondary directions, put mines only in front of the first line of trenches, around gun placements.
    In order to confuse the enemy, put mines on various sections of terrain 200-300 meters away from the front line.
  6. All minefields and engineering obstructions on the front line must be guarded by AT guns. Assign each gun a section of the minefield that the gun's crew is responsible for protecting.
    Minefields in the most important directions must be protected by overlapping fire.
    Aside from direct fire AT guns, indirect fire guns of all calibers must also protect them. Make sure that the sectors of responsibility overlap. Pre-aim indirect fire guns and mortars on areas immediately ahead of minefields and on flanks.
  7. Concentration of AT guns on especially important directions should be up to 25 guns per kilometer of front. Separate AT guns into three echelons. The first echelon is placed in the second line of trenches, the second and third echelons within 600 meters of each other. Secondary directions only have two echelons.
    The core of AT defenses of each echelon must be 76 mm divisional guns due to their superior penetration. Surround them with 76 mm regimental guns, 45 mm guns, and AT rifles. Do not allow for all artillery to fire and reveal itself when individual tanks or small groups are sighted. Individual guns and platoons assigned to this role should fight these tanks.
    There should be "lure" guns set up in the path of potential tank attacks. Their assignment is to fire from 1.5-2 kilometers and lure the tanks into attacking them, making them vulnerable to the rest of the guns, positioned in ambushes at the flanks. After "lure" guns do their duty, they must immediately retreat to prepared positions.
    All AT guns, especially those in the first echelon, should be dug in and camouflaged. Each gun should have at least two positions 25-30 meters apart with trenches allowing the gun to quickly swap between them.
    The second and third echelons should have, if possible, 2-3 large caliber guns (85 mm AA guns, captured German 88 mm guns, 122 mm mod. 1931 guns, 122 mm howitzers, or even 152 mm gun-howitzers).
    Individual tank-accessible directions must have "dagger" guns and batteries, tasked with destroying particularly valuable targets and heavy tanks.
  8. In order to increase the resistance of the AT guns, place guns or platoons behind natural obstacles, unless shooting conditions are worsened.
    If it is necessary to position guns in the open, cover the flanks of the AT guns with minefields.
    In order to more easily cover the flanks of the guns, stagger them.
  9. If there is a shortage of AT mines, mine the most important sections first. Hidden paths towards the first line of defense take priority, as this forces the enemy tanks to approach in the open.
  10. Protect artillery positions in depth from the front and the flanks with engineering obstructions, forming an anti-tank sector. Use existing natural obstacles.
    Protect minefields around artillery positions with machinegun and submachinegun fire. Additionally, have tank destroyer groups ready.
  11. In places where tanks can only attack in certain places (ravines, dales, levees), lock down those directions with independent anti-tank regions with 360 degree defenses and minefields, combined with natural obstacles. Each region should have a squadron to a regiment of anti-tank artillery, 1-2 companies of infantry, and 4-5 SPGs. An anti-tank region is commanded by an artillery commandant. The garrison should be supplied with an emergency store of ammunition, fuel, and supplies. The personnel in an anti-tank region do not retreat, they either deflect the tank attack or die. The region is supported with indirect fire. In order to call down this fire, the commandant must have a diagram of pre-sighted points. The artillery is called by radio or with flares (same for aircraft).
  12. Unlike independent anti-tank regions in part 11, main artillery positions in part 10 are placed deep inside the defenses. They must be placed in such a way that they can fire at least 600-800 meters forward and have overlapping fields of fire with neighbouring batteries. The overall system of batteries must also provide for 360 degree defense. Aside from tanks, the personnel of these positions must be prepared to fight enemy infantry that broke through.
  13. As a rule, massed enemy tank attacks are accompanied by bombers and ground attack aircraft. Starting with first echelons and throughout the entire defensive depth, the AT gun batteries must be covered by AA measures (DShK machineguns, 37 mm and 85 mm guns).
  14. The organization of AT defenses is organized by the artillery commander, approved by the combined arms commander. Anti-tank obstructions must be constructed in strict accordance with the AT defenses.
    Based on the artillery commander's decisions, compose a single map of AT and engineering defenses in the 25000 or 100000 scale with precise locations of all engineering obstructions as well as guns and batteries defending those obstructions and their fields of fire.
  15. In order to increase the stability of the anti-tank defenses, reinforce important directions, and liquidate enemy tanks that break through, all division sized and greater units must have mobile anti-tank reserves composed of a squadron, regiment, or brigade of AT artillery, sappers with mines, SPGs, and tanks.
    Mobile reserves are composed of:
    1. In armies, from AT gun units and Supreme Command Reserves.
    2. In divisons, from AT gun squadrons and AT reinforcements.
  16. The chief of the reserves must have a direct line of communication to the combined arms commander in his sector. Move reserves into battle on the orders of the combined arms commander.
  17. In order to more effectively use reserves, artillery commanders must mark deployment lines in advance, approved by the combined arms commander. These lines must coincide with natural obstacles. Mine approaches to these lines for the AT artillery to cover. Carefully inspect them to determine the approaches tanks can take and the necessary number of mines. Commanders of these units must personally examine these regions and organize the minefields.
  18. Use the engineering reserves depending on the use of artillery reserves. The engineers that act alongside the artillery must be subordinate to the artillery commander.
  19. Engineering and artillery reserves must have necessary transport and be located in a location that ensures they can reach their deployment line and mine it before the enemy that broke through gets there.
  20. During the preparatory period, the artillery reserve and engineering reserve commanders must organize training exercises on their positions in order to ensure minimal time is spent on deployment and mining.
  21. There are two ways to use SPGs and tanks as a mobile reserve.
    1. SPGs and tanks move out along with mechanized artillery and reinforce it on prepared positions.
    2. SPGs and tanks set up ambushes along directions of enemy movement with the objective of flanking directions that lead to positions of the mobile reserves. In this case, aim to create a ring of fire so that tanks that are stopped by frontal artillery fire are destroyed from the flanks by tanks and SPGs."
Collection of Combat Documents from the Great Patriotic War, vol. 4, doc. 25


  1. Once again some very interesting and useful information. Thanks:)

  2. Interesting. My observations/questions:

    a) Wouldn't having the AT guns open up at long range just reveal their positions and allow counterbattery fire? I would have thought you'd want to let the attacking AFV close to "can't miss/sure penetration" range, and then open up. The advantage of an AT gun over a tank is that the former is harder to see plus the AT gun can pump out rounds much faster. Plinking the tanks at long ranges wouldn't seem to do much good.

    b) Likewise, I wonder about medium-caliber and higher AT guns in the first line of defense being vulnerable to indirect fire and initial bombardment. Wouldn't a "infantry and small AT" first-line be more appropriate, so that you don't have artillery-vulnerable targets in that first line? The idea is that the first line of defense separates the attacking AFV from its infantry (the infantry gets bogged down) while the enemy AFV go through. The only medium-caliber AT weapons I'd want in the first line would be SP AT weapons (more indirect fire resistant due to their armor, and able to "shoot and scoot")

    Once stripped of its infantry support, the enemy AFV hit the minefields and more lethal AT defenses in the second and third lines.

    Due to the enemy's artillery initial bombardment and support, t's hard to construct a first line of defense that will hold up to a serious attack. Even the first line of defense at Kursk were penetrated by the Germans in relatively short time (like in a day or so). It's the second and third and deeper lines that should stop the attacker.

    c) Minefields--at least when the Soviets were the ones attacking, the reason they would strive to go *through* minefields when exploiting forces encountered blocking forces is that they realized "where the mines are, the enemly isn't (at least not in strength)". They thought the Germans used mines to cover weak areas of the front which had very little in the way of defending forces behind the minefields. Interesting they insisted that mines and AT obstacles be covered.

    1. a) That's why the manual instructs only specially designated guns to open fire. Presumably the benefits of scrambling the enemy formation a little outweighed the benefits of having your own AT guns shot at.

      b) ZiS-3s were small enough to be wheeled around by their crews into cover. I agree though, I expect the first line of defense to be more mobile.

      c) Minefields without gun cover buy time. A few tanks will lose tracks, the engineers will come, those tanks will be salvaged and the armour will be on its way. A minefield with gun cover is a nightmare where any vehicle that stops is basically a total loss since there's no way to recover it before it's shot to pieces, and good luck clearing the mines under direct fire.