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"German Field Defenses Observed in Italy" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A brief report on German field defenses encountered in Italy, from the Intelligence Bulletin, May 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.]


The German deliberate field fortifications [1] illustrated in this section are typical of many that U.S. troops are now encountering in Italy. An article in a previous issue of the Intelligence Bulletin, "A Prepared Defensive Position in Italy" (Vol. II, No. 7, pp. 57-60), discussed in some detail a number of German field fortifications of the types illustrated here, and may profitably be read in connection with the following material.

A German machine-gun position, which has received a direct hit by hostile artillery, is shown in figure 15. Coils of wire had been used as revetment, and to hold the camouflage in place. This position had a narrow mine and trip-wire belt to the front. The entrance to the position was from the rear (see fig. 16). The zig-zagged approach trench was shaded by low trees. It will be noted that, in addition to providing thick overhead cover, the Germans used an abundance of natural material in the camouflage scheme.

[Figure 15.--German Machine-gun Position (front view)]
Figure 15.—German Machine-gun Position (front view).

[Figure 16.--German Machine-gun Position (rear entrance)]
Figure 16.—German Machine-gun Position (rear entrance).

The entrance to a German dugout used for sleeping quarters is illustrated in figure 17. Tree shade was used to supplement the natural material with which the revetted dugout has been camouflaged. The debris scattered in the foreground is of course not characteristic of a German position in actual use. The enemy takes pains to hide discarded material of all kinds, even including such minor items as stray pieces of paper, so as not to attract hostile air observation. The Germans are well aware that a single gleaming bit of steel or a fragment of paper may reflect enough light to attract the attention of an air observer.

When the Germans prepare dugouts in hillsides and cliffs, they take every advantage of opportunities to secure ample overhead cover. A two-room dugout used as living quarters by the enemy is illustrated in figure 18. This dugout has more than 10 feet of overhead cover.

[Figure 17.--Entrance to German Dugout in Rolling Terrain]
Figure 17.—Entrance to German Dugout in Rolling Terrain.

[Figure 18.--Entrance to German Two-room Dugout in a Hillside]
Figure 18.—Entrance to German Two-room Dugout in a Hillside.

The large dugouts illustrated in figures 19 and 20 were constructed and occupied by the enemy in the vicinity of Le Cave. [2] The Germans use dugouts of this type for many different purposes—as living quarters, vehicle shelters, command posts, and ammunition and supply dumps. The dugout shown in figure 20 was used as living quarters.

Experience has shown that the Germans are very likely to mine field fortifications of the types illustrated here before abandoning them.

[Figure 19.--German Dugout in the Side of a Cliff (used for storing supplies)]
Figure 19.—German Dugout in the Side of a Cliff (used for storing supplies).

[Figure 20.--Another German Dugout in the Side of a Cliff (used as living quarters)]
Figure 20.—Another German Dugout in the Side of a Cliff (used as living quarters).

1 "A hasty field fortification is one made quickly, when under fire or threat of immediate attack. A deliberate field fortification is made more slowly and carefully, when not in contact with the enemy." — TM 20-205.

2 The equipment shown in figure 19 is our own.

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