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"British Comments on German Use of Tanks" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Translation of an order from the German Fifth Panzer Army on employment of tanks with comments by British GHQ, British Middle East Forces, from the Intelligence Bulletin, January 1944.

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



In the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 11, pp. 53-54, there appeared a translation of a Fifth Panzer Army order signed by Lt. Gen. Gustav von Vaerst, listing "ten commandments" for the employment of tanks. This month the Intelligence Bulletin again publishes a translation of these "commandments," and adds appropriate comments by GHQ, Middle East Forces, based on a report by an experienced armored force officer.

First, the German order:

1. The tank is a decisive combat weapon. Therefore, its employment should be limited to the "main effort" in suitable terrain.

2. The tank is not an individual fighting weapon. The smallest tank unit is the platoon, and, for more important missions, the company.

3. The tank is not an infantry support weapon. It breaks into, and through, the opposition's line, and the infantry follows it closely.

4. The tank can take and clear terrain, but it cannot hold it. The latter is the mission of the infantry, supported by infantry heavy weapons, antitank guns, and artillery.

5. The tank is not to be employed as artillery to fight the enemy from a single position for an extended period. While fighting, the tank is almost constantly in motion, halting briefly to fire.

6. The mission of the infantry is to neutralize hostile antitank weapons, and to follow the tank attack closely so as to exploit completely the force and morale effect of that attack.

7. The mission of the artillery is to support the tank attack by fire, to destroy hostile artillery, and to follow closely the rapidly advancing tank attack. The main task of the artillery support is continuous flank protection.

8. The task of the tank destroyers ("Ferdinands" or other self-propelled mounts equipped with high-velocity weapons) is to follow the tank attack closely, and to get into the battle promptly when tank fights tank.

9. The mission of the combat engineers is to open gaps in minefields--under tank, infantry, and artillery protection--and thereby enable the tank attack to continue.

10. At night, when tanks are blind and deaf, it is the mission of the infantry to protect them.

And now the comments by GHQ, British Middle East Forces:

It is considered that, with the exception of Nos. 2 and 3, these "commandments" are sound common sense, based on fundamental principles.

Number 2 is interesting, however, since it reflects the opinions of von Arnim, von Thoma, and Stumme (all now prisoners of war), who fought in Russia, where they acquired the habit of using their tanks in "penny packets." A platoon consists of five tanks, and a company consists of 17 Pz. Kw. 3's, 18 Pz. Kw. 4's. or 8 Pz. Kw. 6's. Rommel would never have agreed to the company being split, and would normally have preferred to use the battalion, or even the regiment, as the unit of attack, just as we [the British] ourselves would.

Number 3 is debatable. Against weak antitank defense and no mines, this method would be effective. However the action at Medenine, in the Mareth line area, and all action after that showed that we are as well equipped with antitank guns as the Germans are. Because of this, the Germans will be compelled to rewrite their No. 3 "commandment" and use their tanks much as our Eighth Army has been doing recently.  

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