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"Combat Smoke Screens Recently Used in Italy" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report from an Allied observer on German combat use of smoke screens at Anzio bridgehead, from the Intelligence Bulletin, July 1944.

[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.]



The Germans have been using smoke on an increased scale during recent operations in the Cassino and Anzio beachhead areas. In the beachhead fighting, especially, smoke was used on a large scale of a number of occasions.

In Intelligence Bulletin Vol II, No. 5, pp. 1-19, the German theory of smoke tactics was outlined in some detail. The following report from a U.S. observer in Italy gives actual examples of the use of smoke, both in the attack and in the defense:

On Monday afternoon, 28 February, the Germans set up a smoke screen about 4 miles long, and maintained it from 1630 until dark. The wind was favorable, and under cover of this screen, which was blowing parallel to our lines, the Germans re-aligned many of their units, and got their artillery in travel positions preparatory to making a push the following morning.

On Tuesday morning, the 29th, I witnessed the use of a smoke screen to cover a German attack on the Anzio beachhead. The smoke was laid with a 12-o'clock wind blowing In the face of the attackers. The screen was placed well back of our front lines, on our main support position. In the cool damp air of the early morning, this smoke cloud settled down to a solid bank, which moved across the level fields and passed over our front lines. However, it was fairly well dissipated by the time it reached the Germans.

From their high observation points in the mountains to the rear, the Germans were able to see over this cloud and to direct their artillery fire against specific targets, while, at the same time, the view of our observers was cut off over that entire front. The Germans made a considerable dent in our lines; however, this was more than straightened out that night, when our infantry counterattacked under cover of our own smoke screen and air bombardment.

German platoons and detachments attempt to infiltrate into our lines. When counterattacked, the Germans usually set up a smoke screen with hand grenades and small smoke pots in an attempt to cover a withdrawal.

German tanks invariably use their smoke-screen apparatus—that is, their smoke projectors—when they are fired upon. The tanks then move to safer places under cover of a smoke screen.

When small German units are preparing a night attack, they almost invariably set up a smoke screen about half an hour before darkness, and, behind this screen, move into their new attack positions. Also, smoke screens often are set up when no attack is intended. This is done with the idea of harassing our front-line units into making defensive preparations which involve a waste of time and energy.

Registration is done in the early morning and late afternoon—very frequently with smoke shells, and sometimes with only two or three rounds. On the Anzio beachhead, following the attack on the 29th, it was quite noticeable that the Germans were registering with about three rounds of smoke on all the crossroads and the various draws that our troops might conceivably use in a night movement.

About 90 percent of the German smoke shells now being used are believed to be filled with a brown-tinted liquid which gives off a dense white smoke. About 10 percent, which are used for harassing purposes rather than for screening, are filled with white phosphorus. The use of white phosphorus by the Germans began about three months ago, and has gradually been increasing. Most of the smoke produced within the Germans' own lines apparently is created by smoke pots.

The foregoing methods of employing smoke appear to be practically standard, inasmuch as they have been used in exactly the same way on the Anzio beachhead and on the Cassino front.

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