Monday 17 October 2016

Red Army Infantry Manual on Tanks

Naturally, tanks are not the primary topic of infantry manuals, but these excerpts from the 1935 Red Armyman's handbook give you a good idea of how the common soldier in the USSR was expected to react to their appearance on the battlefield.

"How to combat a sudden attack by the enemy on the march
How to combat a sudden attack by motorized or mechanized means

Modern armies have a large amount of armoured cars, tankettes, and tanks. Entire regiments and divisions are made up of these vehicles and infantry mounted on trucks.

The main force of these motorized and mechanized units is the speed of movement and the armour that protects them from rifles and machineguns. Weaknesses of armoured cars, tankettes, and tanks include poor visibility and vulnerability to artillery shells, bombs, mines, or even hand grenades. A truck is vulnerable to ordinary rifle bullets.

Machinegun fire from a tank, tankette, or armoured car is not very effective at ranges over 400 meters, is inferior in firepower to a regular machinegun at ranges closer than 400 meters, and cannot fire at targets within 20 meters (dead zone). A tank, tankette, or armoured car can do the most damage to fleeing infantry. Knowing this, every Red Armyman must remember this on the march:

  1. Armoured cars, tankettes, and tanks are only dangerous against people prone to panic. A resilient infantry unit will always repel an enemy armored attack.
  2. Armoued cars, tankettes, and tanks drive at a speed of up to 30 kph. You cannot run away from them, even on a horse.
  3. When tankettes, tanks, and armoured cars appear, our artillery and machineguns will open fire with armour piercing munitions.
The best way to reduce losses from enemy armour is to lie down and reduce the size and visibility of the target you present. If there are obstacles nearby (trees, trenches, etc), take cover and prepare to repel the enemy attack. If there is no cover, conceal yourself so the armoured car, tankette, or tank does not see you and comes close, then throw a grenade bundle and open fire at its observation ports.

If there is infantry attacking with enemy tanks, either on foot or on trucks, riflemen and machinegunners must fire at infantry and trucks first.

How to combat tanks on the defensive

During his attacks, the enemy will often use tanks or tankettes. Every Red Armyman must know the weak points of tanks in order to fight them successfully. Tanks are armed with machineguns, and often also cannons, but they have to fire on the move and are less dangerous than a machinegun in the hands of infantry that is concealed on the battlefield.

A light tank cannot cross a grade of over 45 degrees, cannot cross a stream that is more than a meter deep, cannot knock down thick trees or stumps, cannot traverse swamps.

Soldiers siting in trenches or shell craters can easily avoid a tank, as they usually advance along a very wide front, 75-100 paces between. The infantry and machineguns that are coming up behind the tanks are much more dangerous. Defending infantry should concentrate on them first, and let our regimental and battalion artillery take care of tanks.

Firing a machinegun at tanks is ineffective (left image). Concentrate your fire on the attacking infantry (right image).

If you see tanks moving towards you, do not scurry about or run from place to place, do not move where the tank can see you, don't lose your head and think that the tank is coming straight for you, like it might seem from a distance. Remember that even if a tank is coming straight at you, you can always jump aside at the last moment, just like with a car.

If there is nowhere to hide, do not run: you can't outrun a bullet. Press yourself into any crater, depression, ditch or bump. Tank fire at low speeds is effective up to 400 meters. A tank also can't see well, and if you lie still, a tank will drive 3 meters away and not be able to see you.

You can't run away from a tank. An attempt to run will result in your death (left image). It's better to hide and let the tanks past (if you can't repel them), and prepare to fight off enemy infantry (right image).

To hide from a tank, you can crawl close and blow up a track with a bundle of grenades. Remember that a tank cannot hit targets that are very close. Don't be afraid of a nearby tank. A slit trench can protect a rifleman from a tank, and a light roof will protect you from flamethrowers and shells.

A slit trench will protect a rifleman who is lying at the bottom from the tank's tracks and will let him rise 2-3 seconds later and open fire at enemy infantry.

After throwing a bundle of grenades under the tank, the rifleman takes cover from the tank's flamethrower to wait 2-3 second until the tank moves past the trench, and opens fire at enemy infantry once again.

Open fire at observation ports and machinegun mounts. Tanks that break through your line will be destroyed by our artillery or will be forced to retreat if their infantry escort is killed, so you must fight it first. Remember that even an individual rifleman can prevent enemy tanks from destroying barbed wire.

Example: a Red Armyman dug a hole a little less deep than he is tall, wide enough to stand or crouch. He is armed with several bundles of hand grenades, five grenades per bundle. A tank that drives over his head will not even collapse the edges of the hole, and will then be destroyed by a grenade bundle thrown by the soldier under the track or the floor. These lone Red Armymen hiding in individual trenches are called tank destroyers. Try to become a tank destroyer during peacetime.

A rifleman sitting in an individual trench is invulnerable against tanks and can destroy tanks by throwing bundles of grenades. That is how a tank destroyer operates.

To be successful against tanks remember that retreat means death. Tanks move faster than a man, and it is easier for a tank to fire at a running soldier than at a prone one.

How tanks help infantry during an offensive and how a Red Armyman can help a tank

During an offensive, a tank can offer support for attacking infantry, tearing barbed wire with its hull, destroying the enemy with its fire, crushing enemy machineguns, or suppressing them so they cannot fire. In order to take full advantage of the tank's support, every Red Armyman must:
  1. Know the characteristics of tanks, their weak and strong sides, understand how they work.
  2. As soon as the tank attack weakens the enemy, rush forward through openings in the barbed wire and destroy enemy strongholds that were suppressed by the tank's movement or fire.
  3. Never return or stop, but continue the attack, even if the tanks drive to the side or back to the rear. They must often do this in order to deal with a revived enemy stronghold somewhere in the rear or on the flank, move around an obstacle, or restore communication with other tanks.
  4. Help tanks by showing them obstacles or anti-tank guns that were discovered, and help destroy those anti-tank guns.
  5. Help bogged down tanks by protecting them from enemy counterattacks.
  6. Help tanks cross trenches and ditches, clearing the inclines with your shovel.
Tanks will often stop in locations that are hidden from enemy observation and fire. Use these opportunities, approach the tank from behind, knock on the side with your shovel, and ask if the tankers need your help, show them where the enemy is, tell them what help you need. While driving past infantry, tanks will often signal with a flag, asking infantry where the enemy, his machineguns, and his cannons are located. Answer the tank by firing tracer bullets, rifle grenades, or by pointing.
Tanks help attacking infantry. They make openings in barbed wire and destroy enemy machineguns.

Follow the tank commander's orders in regard to work to be done to help a tank cross an obstacle. Remember that the tank helps the rifleman, but needs help in return.

How an infantry squad attacks alongside a tank. The squad waits for the tank to make an opening in the barbed wire and weakens the enemy (upper image). When the enemy machinegun falls silent and hides in the trench, the attacking squad charges (lower image).

What to do during an offensive if enemy tanks appear

When the enemy counterattacks with tank support, hide from the tank behind an impassable obstacle, or at least in the closes shell crater or ditch, and continue precise fire at the enemy. Remember that the tank is half-blind and cannot shoot at targets that are too close. Fire at its accompanying infantry and chase it off. The tanks will either leave themselves or be destroyed by our artillery."

1 comment:

  1. Some of the details seem a little dubious (though arguably excusably so if the main goal is to instill confidence), but the general principles - concealement, separating enemy tanks from the infantry and conversely providing close support to your own cans - are certainly quite sound.