Friday 12 May 2023

Heavies in Action

 "April 9th, 1945

To the commander of the Armoured and Mechanized Forces of the 2nd Shock Army
RE: #08562 dated March 20th, 1945

Report of the 46th Independent Guards Order of the Red Banner Order of Suvorov Tank Breakthrough Regiment on the study of tactics and combat use of heavy tank regiments in the Red Army as well as enemy tank tactics and use of tanks in combat from January 1st to April 1st, 1945. Map scale 1:50,000

1. Tactics and combat usage of heavy tank regiments

From January 1st to April 1st, 1945, the 46th regiment took part in three operations. From January 15th to January 23rd it penetrated the enemy defenses around the bridgehead on the river Narew jointly with other units of the 2nd Belorussian Front.

From March 2nd to March 5th, 1945, the regiment fought to destroy the enemy garrison in Graudenz and take the city.

From March 17th to March 31st, 1945, the regiment fought to liquidate the encircled Danzig group and capture Danzig.

In these battles, the regiment's tanks were characteristically used in direct support roles, fighting 200-400 meters ahead of infantry. In street fighting in Graudenz and Danzig, the tanks fought no further than 30-50 meters away from infantry and sometimes directly in the infantry's ranks (in the cases of heavy enemy resistance and large concentration of Panzerfaust operators). Tanks fought behind the infantry during night fighting. The appearance of large amounts of enemy tank destroyers armed with Panzerfausts raised the issue of tighter cooperation with infantry, especially when it came to fire support. In the January operation, after the enemy defenses on the western bank of the Narew river were penetrated, the regiment pursued the enemy in the direction of Gołymin Stary, Ciechanow, Mława as a part of the vanguard. The tanks carried up to a battalion of infantry. The artillery followed the tanks. Sappers (up to a platoon) rode on the lead tanks in addition to submachine gunners. IS tanks that supported the breakthrough followed with the second echelon of infantry.

In the process of the operations, the tanks crossed six water obstacles. As a rule, the fording of rivers was done as follows: the tanks would drive to cover within 200-600 meters of the crossing, opening intensive fire at the enemy on the other side. Depending on the situation, the tanks either fired from a single location or moved between locations.

Under the cover of tank fire, the infantry crossed the river first and occupied bridgeheads on the other side, after which the sappers erected a bridge or set up a crossing for tanks and artillery. In some cases (for instance near Szwelice) the tanks captured two bridges across the river intact thanks to a rapid attack. This had an effect on the rate of advance. Naturally, the tanks did not lose time crossing the river and moved forward quickly with the infantry. In addition to preserving the rapid rate of advance, this approach preserved ammunition and could pursue the enemy for longer without stopping to replenish ammunition.

The large amount of minefields in the regiment's sector near Dzierżanowo in the January operation raised the question of using minesweeper tanks. One company of minesweeper tanks was requested, giving a ratio of 1 minesweeper per company (5 tanks). These tanks would drive 100-150 meters ahead of the IS tanks. There turned out to be no minesweeper tanks at all, and the job of removing mines fell entirely to the platoon of sappers attached to the regiment. The minefields ahead of the regiment were cleared right before the attack. Minefields in the depth of enemy defenses were either bypassed or cleared by the sappers under cover from tanks, artillery, and infantry.

Pursuing the enemy in the direction of Gołymin Stary, Ciechanow, Mława in the vanguard, the regiment's cooperation with aircraft consisted only of friend-or-foe indication and marking of targets with flares. Colour codes were delivered from the superior HQ.

Combat operations required the use of concentrated volleys of fire. The most characteristic usage was in Graudenz between March 2nd and March 6th. The enemy turned the toughest buildings in the city into strongholds that held up our advance. There were cases where all other buildings in a block were taken, but the enemy continued their resistance in the aforementioned locations. A volley from a company or sometimes two companies gave good results. Analogous cases were recorded when fighting against field fortifications, as the latter could only be destroyed by a concentrated volley from a company or regiment rather than fire from individual tanks. Fire control was conducted by radio. Targets were designated by the company commander, regimental commander, or combined arms commander (passed on by the regimental commander).

Before the battle and during the battle the regiment conducted reconnaissance appropriate for a heavy tank breakthrough regiment. Without an organic reconnaissance group, the recon officer formed a group of submachine gunners. In addition, line units conducted reconnaissance as well, for which the first platoon of each tank company was trained in reconnaissance as a part of company training.

The reconnaissance plan accounted for reconnaissance both during the preparation period of the operation and during the subsequent battles. Before the battle, the HQ collected reconnaissance data through the reconnaissance officer from the following sources: a) the regimental observation post, b) reconnaissance summaries of superior HQs and cooperating units. In addition, a foot reconnaissance group was sent out before battle up to the enemy's front line. During the battle, the reconnaissance officer organized a mobile observation post.

In battle, the regiment formed a recce in force group made up of between a platoon and company of tanks. Their job was to advance 300-400 meters ahead of the rest to draw fire and have the enemy reveal itself. During the mud season when the tanks had to drive in a line, the recce in force platoon was sent out further (400-600 meters).

When the enemy was pursued in the direction of Ciechanow-Mława, the regiment sent out a company with sappers and submachine gunners 1.5-2 km ahead of the main force. This company performed both the function of recon and a guard force. It's worth noting that the regiment had 15-20 vehicles out of 31 in action during the pursuit period after losses taken during the breakthrough. In all cases, the main method of communication was the radio and signal flares."

CAMD RF F.46 Op.2404 D.30 L.28-30

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps he referes to other vehicles in the regiment?