[Lone Sentry: www.LoneSentry.com] [Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]
Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
"In Brief" from Intelligence Bulletin, March 1945

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   An article on proper German surrender phrases ("Wir schiessen nicht"), bicycle-mounted troops, assault-gun tactics, and the light machine gun in forest fighting, from the Intelligence Bulletin, March 1945.

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




A U.S. Army private suggests that a German expression used by a U.S. company commander who was quoted in the Intelligence Bulletin (Vol. III, No. 3, p. 43) is not idiomatically correct. The private is right. Here is the paragraph in question, from the company commander's discussion of pillbox warfare in the Siegfried Line. The preferred German phrase has been substituted.

"We have a man work his way close to the pillbox, so that he can throw in a fragmentation grenade or white phosphorus grenade. When there is a quiet moment, he shouts, 'Kamerad?' and 'Wir schiessen nicht!' ('We won't shoot!'). Often the occupants of the pillbox will give up at this stage. If they don't surrender, use of rifle grenades or the bazooka against the steel doors or apertures may have the desired effect. For safety's sake, other riflemen cover all fire ports while this is going on."


Newly created Volksgrenadier divisions not only have a bicycle-mounted reconnaissance battalion or company, but also have an entire battalion of infantry mounted on bicycles. In addition, the two engineer companies of the Division Engineer Battalion are bicycle-mounted. It may be assumed that some of the tactics employed by the bicycle-mounted company in the reconnaissance unit (Fusilier Battaillon) of the infantry division may also be used by the bicycle-mounted elements of the Volksgrenadier divisions. Here are several prisoner-of-war comments on this subject.

A prisoner remarks that when a bicycle-mounted squad is moving along a road as a point, anticipating contact with a hostile force, the squad leader and a runner are followed at a distance of about 50 yards by three machine gunners with a light machine gun, supported by a sniper, a semiautomatic rifleman, and two riflemen, one of whom is armed with a cup-grenade discharger. When the squad is fired on, the machine-gun detachment immediately deploys, while the remaining men drop their bicycles under the nearest available cover and take up firing positions.

The leading squad of a platoon is said to move with a rifleman, a semiautomatic rifleman, a machine gunner with light machine gun, a sniper, the squad leader and a runner, two machine gunners, and a rifleman armed with a cup grenade discharger—moving in that order. Fifty yards behind, the platoon commander and a runner, the platoon sergeant and a runner, a telegraph operator and a medical aid man, and an antitank rifleman follow—in the order named.

A prisoner from another unit comments that in his outfit it was common practice to send two bicycle-mounted scouts ahead of the point squad.

Prisoners remark that bicycle-mounted companies are expected to be able to cover up to 75 miles a day, but that, in actual operations, the figure seldom exceeds 50 or 60 miles.

Prisoners from certain bicycle-mounted companies say that they have been trained mainly in infantry tactics, and not primarily for reconnaissance missions. One unit was trained to move forward on its bicycles, leave them in farm buildings, and then go forward on foot to fight as infantry.

In Russia a company was detached from an infantry regiment, equipped with bicycles, and formed into a reconnaissance company. These men were given the mission of protecting the regimental flank upon contact with a hostile force.


To teach German infantrymen some of the tactics used by assault guns, the Fifteenth German Army outlined the advantages and disadvantages of these self-propelled weapons so that the infantry could have a better understanding of how to cooperate with them in the field.

In reply to the question "What must the infantry know about the assault guns?" the Germans offer these comments:

The assault guns are the strongest weapons against hostile tanks. They engage all your most dangerous enemies, and destroy them or force them to take cover. Assault guns are strong when concentrated, but have no effect when used in small numbers. They are capable of forward fire only, since they have no turrets; therefore they are sensitive to attack from the flanks. This is why the guns must never be employed by themselves, but always in conjunction with infantry. These weapons may be considerably restricted by marshy land, thick woods, and natural or artificial obstacles; moreover, they constitute large targets. They can see and hear little. Even during a battle, the assault guns occasionally must withdraw to cover, and obtain fresh supplies of ammunition and fuel.

This brings us to the question of how the infantry should assist the assault guns.

Infantrymen must draw the guns' attention to hostile tanks and other targets by means of the signal pistol, prearranged light and flag signals, and shouting.

The infantry must neutralize hostile antitank guns.

The flanks of assault guns must be covered and protected by the infantry against hostile tank-hunting detachments, which are always ready to operate against our assault guns. Such protection is especially necessary in built-up areas and in terrain where visibility is poor.

The infantry must warn the assault guns of the proximity of anti-tank obstacles and mines, and must be prepared to guide the guns through such obstacles.

The infantry must take advantage of the guns' fire power to advance in strength via prearranged lanes not under fire.

The assault guns must be given sufficient time for reconnaissance. The guns and the infantry will formulate plans through personal consultation, and will ensure means of communications during battle.

Infantry should not stay too close to the guns, and should not bunch. Instead, deployment is advised, to lessen the danger of drawing hostile fire and to avoid injury by ricochets.

Since the driver of an assault gun has limited vision, infantrymen must keep in mind the danger of being run down, and must move accordingly.

Assault guns are "sitting targets" when they have to wait for the infantry; infantrymen can find cover almost anywhere, but the assault guns cannot.

Since the guns fire at the halt, the infantry must gain ground while the guns are firing.

Although the assault guns are of great assistance when ground is being gained, it is the infantry that must hold the ground.

Since the assault guns must keep their ammunition available for unexpected or especially dangerous targets, the infantry must engage all the targets that it can possibly take on with its heavy and light weapons.

Although the assault guns must withdraw after every engagement, to prepare for the next engagement where their assistance will be required, the infantry will not withdraw.


The comments of a German company commander on the use of the light machine gun in forest fighting on the Eastern Front are worth noting. In German training, this officer says, it is always emphasized that in forest fighting the rifles are forward with the light machine gun in the middle or rear of the squad. However, after commanding a company during 4 weeks of forest fighting, the officer decided that it was preferable to have the machine gun forward. He remarks that practically all forest fighting is equivalent to an assault operation, and that a German infantry training manual observes, in this connection: "Just before and during the break-in (Einbruch), the hostile force should be engaged at the maximum rate of fire by all weapons. The light machine gun will take part in the assault, firing on the move, alongside the rest of the squad." In forest fighting, however, the danger from ricochets is so great that the machine gun definitely should be forward, this enemy officer says, and adds that when his company had learned this lesson, it had considerable success in avoiding casualties by keeping the weapon well forward. He cites an example of the revised tactic:

My company was making an attack in a wood where a Soviet force had dug itself in, in a number of positions prepared in depth. The first firing failed to make the opposition reveal itself. My company was baffled at being held up in this manner. The machine guns then were brought forward, and, firing continuously from the hip, my company stormed in with spirit to take the first position. The fire forced the Russians to hit the ground, and gave them no opportunity to put down aimed defensive fire. Our casualties were practically all from mortar fire.

Having the machine gun forward has one further advantage. In woods, squads often get split up and scattered. If the machine gun is forward, however, the squad can easily rally around the machine gun, and, after taking a hostile forward position, is able to reorganize speedily and go on to take the enemy's second and third positions.

We found that it was not necessary, as the Infantry Training Manual suggests, to make the assault at the double. As a matter of fact, my men were in no physical condition to do so. In this type of fighting, we always advanced at a walk.

I also found that my men advanced more confidently, since, because of the noise of the machine guns and their own cheering, they could not hear the Soviet bullets. In defense, too, it is highly advisable to encourage the men to cheer as the enemy attacks.

From a high German echelon come the following comments on the company commander's observations:

1. When advancing in woods and in close touch with a hostile force, machine carbines and rifles (preferably the automatic rifles) will be detailed to scout and provide close protection forward of the squad. The machine gun therefore will move with the squad, and not ahead of it. When the machine gun goes first, it is detected too readily and the detachment is fired on before it can bring the weapon into action.

The more dense a wood is, the more the conditions of fighting approach those of close combat; that is to say, machine carbines, automatic rifles, and egg hand grenades play a decisive part.

2. As soon as a hostile force is encountered, the machine gun will be employed forward, for the reasons that this company commander has given in his report.

The usefulness of the machine gun here lies chiefly in the fact that, like the "cheering," it helps to keep morale high.

When a hostile force is well dug-in, and is thoroughly prepared to meet an attack, the initial crack in the opposition's front must be made by assault operation.

[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page

Copyright 2003-2005, LoneSentry.com. All Rights Reserved. Contact: info@lonesentry.com.  

Web LoneSentry.com