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"A Battalion Commander Looks Us Over" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1945

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   The following intelligence report summarizes a German battalion commander's comments on U.S. forces and tactics. The article was originally printed in the January 1945 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


[A Battalion Commander Looks Us Over]

These enemy comments have a special value for U.S. junior officers and enlisted men, not only because U.S. combat methods are seen through German eyes, but because of the marked emphasis on German counter-measures.

Several weeks ago a Panzer Grenadier battalion commander prepared a report on his unit's recent experiences in combat against U.S. forces, and recommended possible improvements in German methods.


During the past week of operations, the U.S. infantry has not gone in for aggressive action. When possible, they avoid close combat. When attacking, they mass behind tanks or sit on the tanks. They very seldom take advantage of darkness or fog to begin an attack. As a rule, an attack is preceded by a strong artillery preparation in which the Americans employ all calibers, including their heaviest. Planes are used for fire direction, and excellent results have been obtained. The infantry shoots wildly into areas where the presence of our troops is suspected, or into our principal sectors. Most of the fire is unaimed.


Artillery directed by observation planes places fire on each of our movements. The infantry main effort usually is supported by good fire concentration and by tanks. German counterattacks are harassed by U.S. fighter bombers, which strafe and bomb German infantry.

Fire concentrations on road crossings and identified positions are always placed at irregular intervals.


If a U.S. tank is hit by our antitank weapons, the other tanks immediately turn away. In breaking through to our positions, they fire on our troops in foxholes with automatic rifles and machine-gun fire. It is therefore recommended that: we dig our foxholes at a right angle underground. In attacking U.S. tanks at close range, the large rifle grenade and bazooka have proved to be valuable weapons. The small rifle grenade was found to be ineffective and unable to penetrate the tanks.


As to our own attacks, we found them to be more successful when they were launched without artillery preparation, so as to gain surprise. Also, we have made the most of darkness and fog.

If artillery support is used, it is best to camouflage the concentration in the sector of our attack by simultaneously covering the other sectors with fire.

Whenever possible, attack preparations should be avoided during the day. U.S. air observation detects every movement, and directs sudden and heavy fire concentrations on the deployment area.

To avoid losses, the line of departure should be reached by infiltration. Attack in depth cuts down our own losses and allows us to employ our troops flexibly.

When our troops have been caught by U.S. artillery fire, we have found it very hard to escape trying to go around this fire. Therefore, it is recommended that our troops take cover immediately. If this is done, our troops should work their way close enough to be inside the minimum range of artillery and mortars. It has often proved advisable to attach 81-mm mortars to the assaulting units.

It is also useful to have an observation post well forward at the point of main effort, to direct fire from the captured positions.

With reference to the lack of cooperation by the artillery, it must be emphasized again and again that everyone must help the infantrymen.

At the point of main effort, double communication must be ensured by telephone and radio.


The following are recommended:

1. Deployment in depth in the sector. Always have a reserve available even though it is only a small force.

2. Establishment of three observation posts simultaneously—in the main line of resistance, in the advanced sector of resistance, and in the immediate vicinity of a gun position.

In previous engagements the installation of three observation posts proved very valuable, because the enemy—always was under our observation and fire, even though a penetration had been made.

Only one 81-mm mortar should be attached to the attacking company. Readiness and quick changing of positions make this a valuable weapon. The remainder of the weapons should be under the control of the mortar platoon leader for concentrated use in any one sector.


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