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"Attacks on Concrete Fortifications" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A British report on German methods of attacking pillboxes and other concrete fortifications, from the Intelligence Bulletin, February 1943.

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



In the following report, British Intelligence officers summarize German methods of attacking concrete fortifications.


A typical attack is preceded by a short artillery concentration on the objectives. The artillery then lays down smoke. Under the concealment that this affords, the infantry and its supporting weapons get in position at short range. These supporting weapons will include antitank guns, and possibly field guns, placed under command of the infantry, as well as heavy machine guns, mortars, and infantry guns.

When the smoke clears, all weapons open fire on specific loopholes allotted to them. Under cover of this fire the infantry and engineers move in to the assault.


The assault on pillboxes can be made in several ways, but all these depend on the principle that if you are near enough to a pillbox, yon can get inside the angle of fire of its machine guns and be safe—just as you can when you are approaching a tank. Pillboxes, however, usually will be sited so that they are covered by machine-gun fire from their neighbors. Therefore, pillboxes can be attacked in this way only if supporting fire keeps the embrasures of neighboring pillboxes shut, or if more smoke is put down to isolate the particular fortification to be assaulted. The actual attack on pillboxes may be made either with explosives or with flame throwers.

Infantry sometimes can get close up under the embrasures and push grenades inside. Engineers, who carry more powerful charges, can blow up pillboxes and, by mounting charges on the ends of poles, can attack embrasures that they cannot reach otherwise. These pole charges are a common engineer weapon. The infantry can improvise a similar charge by tying the heads of six stick grenades around a complete central grenade.

Two sizes of flame throwers are carried by the engineers. The range of both is claimed to be about 30 yards, but may in practice be no more than 20 yards. The smaller can produce a jet of flame for 10 seconds, the larger for 25 seconds. The larger must be hauled on a two-wheeled trolley.

A method simpler than either of these has been used to neutralize pillboxes—namely, to plug the embrasures with sand bags, which may be effective for a few moments.

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