Recently a Panzer Grenadier company commander, troubled by the loss of life and
matériel that his unit had been suffering in Italy, made an effort to
alter certain methods that his men had been employing in the defense. His attempt
is significant, in that it is an instance of a German commander undertaking hastily
to revise his company's practice, in the light of experience freshly acquired in
fighting United Nations forces. Much has been said about the rigidity of German
junior leadership in the field, and not enough, perhaps, about its adaptability. The
illustration at hand shows how a German junior officer tried eleventh-hour measures
in the hope that his unit might avoid further reverses.
2. THE COMPANY COMMANDER'S INSTRUCTIONS
a. It was stated that, since a creeping barrage always preceded an attack, this
type of fire was to be a signal for each man to go at once to his alert station
and make a further brief check of his weapons.
b. Even during the barrage, every man was to keep a continual lookout, frequently
raising his head above the parapet. This was described as particularly important
when the fire moved, or "lifted", because, it was said, a hostile advance would
follow the barrage closely, and the opposition would use mortar fire and grenades
for purposes of deception.
c. When the attackers arrived in close proximity to the position, special attention
was to be paid to any cover or dead space within hand-grenade range. Hand grenades
were to be used against any hostile soldiers who might succeed in reaching such places.
d. The first section to discover that a hostile attack was in progress was to send
a reliable, speedy runner to platoon headquarters by the safest route. It was stressed
that speed was essential if the heavy weapons were to give proper support.
e. It was ordered that the position be held at all costs. Every man was to stay at his
post and fight. A single well-aimed rifle shot was to be regarded as more worthwhile
than a badly placed burst of machine-gun fire.
f. The dispatch of a runner was not to be considered necessary when a Very pistol was
available. The following signals were to be employed:
|Red|| _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ||Attack by hostile force.|
|Green|| _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ||Artillery barrage has lifted.|
|White|| _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ||We are here.|
|Violet|| _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ||Tank attack.|
[It should be remembered, of course, that all German signals may be changed
g. It was stated that platoon headquarters should have sufficiently good observation
to enable the platoon commanders to keep up with the situation and to insure against
any hostile attack achieving surprise.
h. Platoon headquarters were to be turned into strong points, so that a hostile
force could be engaged at any time from the depths of the position. A reminder
as to the effectiveness of enfilade fire was added.
i. It was ordered that, if the next hostile attack were to be made at night and
with armor, the forward sections were to fire with everything they had, while
the best hand-grenade throwers were to be assigned for this specific duty. It
was pointed out that the resulting damage to the opposition's morale might
serve to halt the advance.