The commander of a German parachute demonstration battalion recently
issued to his companies a directive which affords useful insight into
some of the ground tactics that enemy paratroopers may be expected to
employ. The following extracts from the battalion commander's order
are considered especially significant:
1. For parachute and air-landing operations, I have given orders for
section leaders and their seconds-in-command to carry rifles, and for
the No. 3 men on the light machine guns to carry machine carbines. There
are tactical reasons for this decision. The section commander must be
able to point out targets to his section by means of single tracer rounds. The
No. 3 man on the light machine gun must be able to give this gun covering fire
from his machine carbine in the event that close combat takes place
immediately after landing. This last should be regarded as a distinct
possibility. He must provide this covering fire until the light machine
gun is in position and ready to fire. Before the assault, the No. 3 man on
the light machine gun must also be able to beat off local counterattacks with
his machine carbine until the machine gun is ready to go into action.
2. Since so many targets are likely to be seen only for a fleeting moment, and
since the rifleman himself must disappear from hostile observation as soon as he
has revealed his position by firing, the German paratrooper must be extremely
skillful at "snap shooting" (rapid aiming and firing). The following three points
are to be noted and put into practice:
a. Snap shooting is most useful at short ranges. It will not be employed at
ranges of more than 330 yards, except in close combat and defense, when it
will generally be employed at ranges under 1,100 yards.
b. Even more important than rapid aiming and firing is rapid disappearance after
firing, no matter what the range may be.
c. Movement is revealing, also. Men must move as little as possible and must
quickly find cover from fire at each bound.
3. I leave to company commanders the distribution of automatic and sniper rifles
within companies. I wish only to stress the following principles:
a. Wherever possible, sniper and automatic rifles will be given to those
paratroopers who can use them most effectively. In general practice, this
rules out commanders and headquarters personnel (who have duties other than firing).
b. There seems to be a general but incorrect impression that our sniper rifles
improve the marksmanship of men who are only moderately good shots. These rifles
are provided with telescopes only to make more distinct those targets which are
not clearly visible to the naked eye. This means that an advantage accrues solely
to very good marksmen firing at medium ranges—and, what is more, only where impact
can be observed and the necessary adjustments made. Since the sniper is seldom in
a position where he can observe for himself, a second man, with binoculars, generally
will be detailed to work with the sniper.
4. I wish company commanders to make the report on the battle of Crete the
subject of continual reference in their own lectures, and in the lectures of
platoon commanders who are training noncoms. I particularly desire that those
passages in the report which deal with the importance of the undertaking as a
whole be drilled into every man. The last three exercises I have attended have
shown me that this principle is by no means evident to all platoon
commanders. Platoon commanders in this battalion are still too much inclined to
fight their own private brands of war instead of paying attention to the larger
5. It is extremely likely that, during a parachute or air-landing operation, this
battalion will land in hostile positions not previously reconnoitered, and will
have to fight for the landing area. Such fighting will be carried out according
to the same regulations which would obtain if we had fought our way into the heart
of a hostile position.
6. Inasmuch as we shall soon be receiving our new machine
guns, training with
those new machine guns we already have must be pushed forward in our light
companies—at least to the extent of giving the No. 1 men about 1 1/2 hours
a day on it. The most important point to be driven home is that this weapon is to
be fired in very short bursts to avoid waste of ammunition.
7. During the exercises and field firing demonstrations I have witnessed—I admit
they have been few—I did not once see yellow identification panels used to
mark our forward line, nor did I see the swastika flags used to identify our own
troops to friendly aircraft. Henceforth, these panels and flags will be carried
on all occasions and will be spread out at the proper times.
8. I wish platoon exercises to include more emphasis on the attacks on well
prepared defensive positions. This Will Include cooperation between two assault
detachments and a reserve assault ("mopping-up") detachment.
Each German paratroop company commander, it is reported, must designate five to seven of
his best men as a tank-hunting detachment. These men perform their regular duties, but
are prepared to act as a team in their tank-hunting capacity whenever they may
be called upon. The infantry training of German paratroopers is usually very
thorough, covering all normal training and, in some instances, use of the
light machine gun, heavy machine gun, mortar, and antitank rifle, as well. Cunning
and initiative are stressed. Many men are taught to drive tanks and other
vehicles. Use of simple demolitions and the handling of antitank and antipersonnel
mines are often included in the training.
 Here the German battalion commander is probably referring to a
consignment of regular or modified M.G. 42's.
 No doubt the enemy also hopes that this precaution will help to keep
the fire on the target.