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"Defense Measures for the Anzio Perimeter" from Intelligence Bulletin, Aug. 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A brief article describing German defenses around the Anzio bridgehead, from Intelligence Bulletin, August 1944.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy equipment and tactics published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German equipment and tactics is available in postwar publications.]



In an effort to contain the Allied forces in the Anzio beachhead indefinitely, the Germans organized a system of numerous self-supporting positions which, they hoped, would trap any attacking force in an elaborate network of cross fires. From the German Army engineers' point of view, the defense of the Anzio beachhead perimeter presented special problems. If the greatly feared Allied breakthrough were to occur in any one sector, the prepared defenses in the other sectors would be relatively powerless to halt it, and might be outflanked by swift encircling maneuvers. For this reason the German defense areas around the perimeter not only had to be numerous, but had to be organized into a close mesh of strongpoints. (In operations to the south, German defense areas had depended less on the principle of mutual support and more on the advantages offered by mountainous terrain, where it had been possible to make the most of a wide variety of commanding features.) It was obvious to the Germans that the plans and activities of all arms at Anzio would have to interlock. On 4 March the engineers at Fourteenth Army Headquarters issued an order which has a fresh significance now, in the light of German efforts to contain beachhead forces elsewhere.

The construction of defensive positions on the line which had then been reached was to be undertaken at once and developed as rapidly as possible. Combat patrols were to be employed constantly while the engineers were adding depth to the main defensive belt.

Headquarters at all levels—regimental, battalion, and so on—were to organize for all-around defense. The same instructions were to apply to rifle, machine-gun, infantry-gun, and antitank-gun, and other positions. Furthermore, the bivouac areas of reserve units were to be developed for all-around defense.

All the defense areas in each sector were to be organized according to a coordinated plan which was to be established by the sector commander. The mutual support was to be so thorough that any attacking force—"even the strongest"—would be caught and held in an elaborate network of defenses.

In terrain suitable for tank operations, the engineers were to coordinate their plans for minelaying with the plans of antitank and tank-hunting detachments. In terrain unsuitable for tanks, S-mines were to be laid, but a number of marked gaps were to be left open for the use of combat patrols and for the possible development of future counterattacks.

With regard to the laying of scattered mines, it was announced that the authority of Army Headquarters would have to be obtained for any project of this kind and that each request would be decided on its own merits. Should the Germans gain ground, mined areas remaining in the rear were to be marked by posts or surrounded by wire; in either case, the posts or wire were to be placed at least 60 yards beyond the edges of the mined areas.

Considerations of economy were to govern the preparation of wire obstacles. Only trip wire was to be laid at first. Because of the increasing shortage of materials, wire obstacles in rear areas were to be salvaged and used in the preparation of forward obstacles.

A limited number of wooden frames was being manufactured, and would be used primarily in the construction of dugouts situated in the immediate vicinity of firing positions. It was specified that the prefabricated roof arches (Heinrichbogen) which already had been issued to troops would not be used in the front line. Dugouts designed to accommodate more than six men were prohibited. All slit trenches were to be sufficiently narrow to afford adequate protection against tanks, and were to be not more than 5 yards long.

The possibility of further withdrawal, or retreat, was not forgotten. The order mentioned the regular inspection and maintenance of obstacles in rear areas and referred to plans for future demolitions.

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