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"Notes on German Antitank Tactics" from Intelligence Bulletin, February 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following intelligence report on German antitank tactics was printed in the February 1944 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]

Notes on German Antitank Tactics


The following observations represent an authoritative Soviet view of German antitank methods:

The German antitank defenses open up while our [Soviet] armor is moving toward the front line or when it has reached its line of departure. First, German bombers and artillery go into action to halt our attack, or at least to delay it.

The German artillery (GHQ units, divisional units, and in rare instances regimental guns) lays down a barrage about 2 miles inside our lines, and tries to smash our armor. Each German battery is assigned a frontage of about 100 to 150 yards, which it must cover. When our tanks are within 200 to 300 yards of the antitank obstacles on our side of the German main defensive area, the German guns transfer their fire to the accompanying Soviet infantry.

When our tanks are within 600 to 1,000 yards of the German main defensive area, single antitank guns (chiefly regimental) are brought into action. The main antitank strength opens up only when the range has been reduced still further, and is between 300 and 150 yards. The guns which constitute the main strength are sited principally for enfilade fire from well-camouflaged positions.

The Germans site most of their antitank weapons to the rear of the forward edge of their main defensive area. Only single guns are sited along the forward edge; their mission is to engage individual tanks. As soon as an attack has been repelled, these guns change position. Antitank reserves are placed in areas most vulnerable to tank attack, especially at boundaries between units. Infantry antitank reserves consist of a platoon of antitank guns and several tank-hunting detachments, and are sometimes reinforced by infantry, field guns, and tanks.

Positions are planned for all-around defense. Two or three alternate positions are prepared for each antitank gun. Roving guns are used extensively, especially in the less vital areas. Assault guns and self-propelled antitank guns are used, not only as a mobile antitank reserve, but also as fixed weapons dug-in near the forward edge of the main defensive zone.

The main antitank weapon strength is concentrated against the flanks and rear of the attacking tanks. Gun positions are protected by antitank mines and by tank-hunting detachments. Very often, too, the Germans mine the ruts made by retreating tanks, in the hope that Soviet tanks will use them as a guide.

As the Soviet tanks reach the German main defensive line, tank-hunting detachments go into action. At this stage smoke may be used, but only if the antitank guns have ceased firing, inasmuch as smoke hinders accurate laying. When the tanks reach the German gun positions, the field guns fire over open sights.


The following order was issued by the general officer commanding the Fifteenth Panzer Division during the last days of the Tunisia fighting:

The general officer commanding the Army Group Africa desires that, as a rule, the antitank artillery engage hostile armored vehicles at ranges of not more than 800 yards, and that special attention be paid to close-range engagement of tanks by tank-hunting detachments. I repeat my instruction that training in close-range engagement of tanks with all weapons shall be stressed. Every man in this division who knocks out a tank in close combat will receive the Assault Badge and, in addition, a special leave.


The following description of a German antitank company layout was provided by a prisoner of war. Since this layout would be dictated entirely by terrain factors, it should be regarded as an instance of enemy flexibility, rather than as a typical arrangement.

Platoons were in line, with their guns echeloned. Each platoon had two guns forward, about 200 yards apart, and a third gun to the rear, equidistant from the other two. The distance to the nearest gun of the adjoining platoon was about 300 yards. On each side of the gun position, there was a light machine gun, in line with the forward antitank guns and about 30 yards from the nearest neighboring gun.


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