Monday 5 August 2019

Anti-Panzerfaust Tactics

"How to combat Panzerfaust soldiers and counteract them

The Red Army's use of mass amounts of tanks and SPGs forced the German command to work at reinforcing their anti-tank defenses. This reinforcement went in the following directions:
  1. Introduction of high caliber anti-tank weapons.
  2. Replacement of anti-tank towed guns with SPGs (Ferdinand and others).
  3. Widespread use of AA artillery in anti-tank roles.
  4. Invention of new types of weapons, especially close combat ones: torpedo tankette, Ofenrohr, Faustpatrone.
The Ofenrohr and Faustpatrone are close combat anti-tank weapons in use by German infantry units. The first use of the Faustpatrone was noted in late 1943, when forces of the 1st Guards Tank Army were fighting in the Kazatin direction. They were not widely used.

Captured documents revealed that each infantry company has 6-8 Faustpatrone, which were strictly tracked. The company commander had to report on each Faustpatrone. The Germans themselves were afraid to use this untested and unproven weapon.

The Faustpatrone was used on a wider scale by the end of spring of 1944. Two anti-tank battalions armed with Faustpatrone were formed.

One of the aforementioned battalions fought against our tanks in Stanislavov (North Bukovina) on March 31st, 1944. The tanks had no infantry escort, and the Faustpatrone teams were free to act as they wished. As a result of the street fighting, they were able to destroy up to 10 of our tanks.

The Faustpatrone were widely used by the end of 1944/early 1945, when the forces of the Red Army entered the territory of Germany. German high command had high hopes for the "Faustniki" (soldiers armed with Faustpatrone) in battle against our tanks, SPGs, and armoured cars. The Faustpatrone was mastered by the German army and started to be used en masse to arm infantry. At this point, each infantry company had 20 Faustpatrone instead of 8.

It was also established that the Germans armed local civilians with Faustpatrone. It was also established that during fighting in Berlin the Germans equipped children from several "Hitler-Jugend" schools with Faustpatrone. The "Faustniki" played a significant role in battle with our tanks, and combat against them was an important topic for our tankers.

The positions of the "Faustniki"

As a result of the fighting in 1944-1945, it was established that positions need to be searched for:
  • In bushes along roads.
  • In lone buildings along roads.
  • In settlements: basements, attics, especially at intersections, inside large stone buildings, in ruins.
  • Near bridges crossing rivers or canals.
The Germans paid a lot of attention to preparing these positions. In Brandeburg province, along the Lodz-Kolo-Konin-Golina-Vreshen and Poznan highways, there were slit trenches and foxholes prepared for this purpose.

The "Faustniki" took up positions both individually and in groups of 3-5 men. There were cases of ambushes by as many as 20. A group of "Faustniki" usually had 1-2 light machineguns for killing crew of a tank that was set on fire by a Faustpatrone.

The groups were positions between 15 and 30 meters from the road, since the fire was most effective at that range. Firing from a larger distance is ineffective, since the odds of hitting are low.

Methods of combat against the "Faustniki"

A thorough reconnaissance of the route that tanks and SPGs will take completely avoids any casualties. A reconnaissance squad should consist of light vehcles, motorcycles, armoured cars, heavy machineguns on a "Willis" or an APC.

Before the reconnaissance group sets out, assign each SMG gunner a sector to observe. Spreading out sectors allows inspection of roadside objects to a depth of 100 meters and discover the "Faustniki" in time.

When the reconnaissance group passes a defilade, bush, or lone building along a road that looks suspicious, it should be combed with SMG or machinegun fire, which either destroys the "Faustniki" or creates the illusion that they have been discovered.

Prepared slit trenches and foxholes are spaced out by 100-200 meters. These positions can be seen on the move and from short stops.

Lone buildings along roads are well used by the "Faustniki". It is imperative to fire on these objects from short stops, especially the attic and basement.

Example A: in January of 1945, the enemy on the western shore of the Vistula was destroyed and fled west. The Army reached an operational plateau. An advance squad of one of the Corps of the Army carefully scouted their route ahead with a reconnaissance group, consisting of a T-34 platoon and 2 APCs.

The APCs went on ahead, carefully observing the road. The tank riders had a specific task: to observe and inspect objects along the road. Thanks to the careful observation of the road side at Nove-Bzhezno, an ambush of "Faustniki" was discovered about 30 meters from the road. The reconnaissance group destroyed the ambush with brave and daring action, allowing their advance guard to proceed.

Example B: An advance guard from the 6th Independent Mechanized Regiment and 69th Tank Regiment was moving along a forest road north-east of Korriten. The machinegunners from one APC in the head of the column noticed dense bushes. The machinegunners combed through the bushes with machinegun fire. Upon inspection, an ambush of 4 "Faustniki" was discovered, with 6 Faustpatrone. All had been killed.

One of the most important method of combat against "Faustniki" during the march is a squad of tank riders on every tank and SPG. The objective given to tank riders should be the same as the one given to reconnaissance squads.

Example: a tank brigade was involved in a march from Gnezno to Belkau. A long row of mansions with large stone structures lined the road. Upon approaching Slavno, the riders discovered an enemy presence. Careful search of the buildings revealed an ambush before it had a chance to fire on the tanks.

When fighting in the forest with mechanized forces, assemble your forces with tanks either among the infantry or 100-150 meters behind it, to avoid losses. This kind of formation will not permit the "Faustniki" to hit our tanks.

In battle in the Gdynsk direction in March of 1945, the Army was fighting in difficult forested terrain. In cases where tanks jumped out ahead of infantry they would almost always be victims of Faustpatrone attack.

Tight cooperation of tanks, infantry, and artillery is necessary when fighting in large settlements. Tanks must never move out ahead of infantry, as they will invariably become victims of "Faustniki". 

During the fighting for the German capital of Berlin, it was established that tanks suffered unnecessary losses if they did not have good cooperation with infantry. Often infantry went ahead by 200-300 meters, and tanks that were moving behind them would be taking losses from "Faustniki". It is necessary for infantry to carefully comb the basements and attics, paying close attention to ruins. These are perfect hiding places for the "Faustniki". 

The tank riders should dismount from the tanks during city fighting, as they would take heavy losses from enemy machineguns, mortars, and bricks falling from buildings.

In cases where tanks need to fight in settlements independently, streets should be navigated at top speed, and artillery needs to accompany them with HE fire aimed along streets and at attics. Accompaniment with mortars plays a large role.

These methods of fighting will significantly reduce the loss of tanks to "Faustniki".

Chief of the Intelligence Department of the 1st Guards Tank Army Staff, Guards Colonel Sobolev.
September 17th, 1945"


  1. This report mentions APCs four times. What types of APCs was the Soviet army using in 1945?

    1. Universal Carriers and American halftracks.

  2. Western Allied experience of Panzerfaust ambush teams was rather similar, from what I recall reading of eg. the armoured push during Market Garden. Which makes sense as it was a pretty effective method for inflicting delays and casualties at fairly minimal, if nigh-inevitable, cost.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Reading up on these tactics, i have the impression that an automatic grenade launcher might have been a good addition to tank armament....

    1. Maybe, but the one that Taubin produced was kind of garbage, and never became a functional weapon.

    2. Well the closest anyone had to a grenade launcher in the modern sense at the time was those German experiments with explosive shells for *flare pistols* so, yeah. But I know AGLs have been seriously considered as "proactive" anti-missile defense for the lighter end of modern AFVs (this was floated as a potential upgrade for Finnish BMP-2s some years back for ex) - on the logic that keeping a guided missile on target becomes a bit challenging when a pile of grenades is exploding around the operator. People tend to find that kind of thing a bit... distracting.

  5. I suspect as the war was withdrawing into Germany that they lacked both steel and fuel to build tanks and SPG's leaving basically hand held weapons.

    1. Some of the late war effort to strap rockets to anything that moved with duct tape were comical.

      The Panzerjager Wanze with 6 PanzerSchreck on a Borgward IV comes to mind.

    2. Not that handing a tank-busting LAW to every Joe was a bad idea even if you have the resources for a competitive AFV fleet mind you. The things cost peanuts.

    3. Good idea to hand them out like candy, yes. I just question some of the vehicular attempts at mounting them.

      And then there is the PAW family of HEAT/HE-only "artillery" that kind of reminds me of the later postwar low-pressure guns.

    4. To be fair towards the end they were increasingly running on pure desperation and duly willing to give even the dumbest ideas the old college try. Nothing much to lose there after all.

      The PAW series was basically the startpoint of the "high-low system" nowadays mainly used in grenade launchers and the old Soviet-era 73 mm gun and derivatives. Pretty clever way to produce a light short-to-medium range AT gun of decent caliber if nothing else, those, while dodging the backblast issues of full recoilless designs.

    5. ...nowait, the 73 mm low-pressure rocket-assist job is what they decided on *instead* of the high-low design isn't it...?

    6. Yeah, the 73mm is basically the SPG-9 RR but with a closed breech. Low-pressure with assist.

    7. The 73mm was a clever system as long as one didn't need to fire over the heads of any infantry. To be fair that is more the fault of the BMPs they were mounted upon.