Tuesday, 12 January 2016

German Experience

"Introduction:

What follows is a translation of a captured document in the form of a summary of combat experience common in the German army. Documents of this type were composed in many units since the start of the war with the USSR.

The first part of the document covers the actions of the Red Army, the second, the actions of German tank divisions.

The 3rd and 23rd tank divisions mentioned in the order fought in May and the first half of June in the Kharkov direction. At the time, the 22nd tank division fought in Crimea and the 9th tank division was in reserve at the Bryansk Front.

The conclusions of the document suggest that the enemy will do the following:
  1. The enemy will continue to concentrate the main mass of tanks in the direction of the main attack.
  2. Considering the increasing strength of our anti-tank defenses, the enemy will try to avoid using roads and will try to discover detours off roads, at connecting points between our units, and on their flanks.
  3. Considering the speed at which the Red Army erects defensive lines, enemy tank divisions will attempt to push on despite leaving their supply tail behind, which weakens them.
  4. Large materiel losses force the enemy to resort to ambushes in some cases when meeting our tanks.
Penetration date in the attachment is seemingly overestimated, since, according to the notes released by Germans earlier, the destructive effects of German shells on our tanks were achieved at closer ranges than shown in this document.

Overall, the provided report deserves attention and study by Red Army commanders.

...

Experience of recent battles of several tank divisions in Crimea and near Kharkov

Experience, gathered from Russian tactics and command methods
  1. On the defensive, the Russians fight until the end. Some units report that enemy infantry morale is low.
  2. Russian tank units are sensitive to artillery. Powerful artillery fire, especially from the flank (in several cases even heavy machinegun fire) will cause them to turn back.
  3. Russians use 2-3 dug in, well hidden tanks to cover their retreat. The positions of these tanks are picked to allow them to protect their flanks,
  4. The same type of anti-tank ditches are used as before.
  5. The enemy seems to be using more thanks than before.
  6. Control and concentration of enemy artillery is successful.
There have been cases of high concentration of artillery fire. In connection with this, it is necessary to use loose formations.

Skilled use of secondary positions, ranging in, and "migrating" guns. Camouflage of artillery is excellent.

Conclusions: high concentrations of armoured vehicles is the deciding cause of success.
  1. When tanks are cooperating with infantry, the primary goal of both branches is to suppress all discovered AT artillery immediately.
    An offensive by a tank regiment must be preceded by effective artillery fire (and, in some cases, the use of smokescreens) until complete penetration is achieved. It is desirable to also use dive bombers, if possible.
  2. A fast offensive with a powerful attack in the main direction after careful preparation (organization of fire, cooperation among different types of forces) pays off. It is necessary to have mobile artillery fire and the ability to move it on time in the direction of the main attack.
  3. When tanks stop after reaching their goal on an offensive, the Russians often send in tank destroyer teams.
    Conclusion: do not allow any carelessness at any time during battle.
  4. Commanders of supporting artillery are responsible for the success of the tank attack.
    Moving out artillery past the front infantry lines is unacceptable. In exceptional cases, it is permitted to use dug in tanks.
  5. Tanks must use the moment when dive bombers are sent in against enemy tanks. It is recommended to use smoke shells to coordinate.
  6. In a tank battle, the front tank units must hurry to take favourable positions (usually the reverse slope of a hill), await enemy tanks, and destroy them. These tactics show higher effectiveness than excessive cockiness displayed by front line units.
    A tank battle is decided by:
    1. Timely discovery of enemy flanks and joints between units, for which recce in force is necessary.
    2. Use of all flank and second echelon tank forces to strike at the enemy flanks and rear.
  7. Use minefields to protect artillery positions from being attacked by tanks directly.
  8. Cooperation of tanks and infantry on APCs must be arranged such that the second echelon of tanks is ready to support infantry that is dismounting and clearing the area of the enemy.
  9. In some cases, tank riders worked well. In this case, the commander of the infantry unit must ride on the vehicle of the tank unit commander.
  10. After a successful penetration, it is necessary to continue the assault, even at night, as Russians will quickly set up a defensive line, fighting through which results in heavy losses.
  11. When breaking through, avoid the use of roads, as that is where the enemy will concentrate their AT guns. The 3rd tank division had numerous successes because they moved off roads.
  12. When attacked by enemy aircraft on the march, stop immediately and fire from all weapons.
  13. The 50 mm HE grenade works well when firing on live targets. If possible, place 50 mm AT guns on reverse slopes.
  14. The use of the Stosslinie system down to the battalion level proved itself well.
  15. In all cases, it is necessary to immediately start digging slit trenches. Heavy and unnecessary losses are possible, as Russians, after ranging in with single shots placed off-target, will suddenly begin a massive artillery barrage.
Engineer unit experience
  1. The engineers must have heavy weapons on them, even at the cost of leaving behind other tools.
  2. Using engineers to destroy disabled enemy tanks at night showed good results.
  3. No new Russian mines have been discovered, but there have been cases of reinforcement of minefields with bombs, sea mines, and torpedoes.
  4. Any ravine, fording site, bridge, or road can be mined. It is necessary to always use minesweeper teams and, if possible, avoid roads.
  5. Engineering units in tank units must provide for timely delivery of mines with fuses, as they are in demand.
Fascines carried on cars showed themselves well. It is necessary to carry wire.

Miscellaneous:
  1. There have been cases of one-ton tractors breaking down when towing vehicles of equal or greater weight."
Via memental.

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