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"Concentrating the Fire of 81-mm Mortars" from Intelligence Bulletin, February 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following U.S. military report on the concentration of fire by German 81-mm mortars was originally distributed 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.]



Many U.S. junior officers and enlisted men who have fought the Germans in Tunisia and Italy have emphasized the necessity for a wider and better understanding of how the Germans use their infantry mortars against United Nations forces. For this reason the following enemy discussion of concentration of fire by German 81-mm mortars should be of special interest to Intelligence Bulletin readers.

In connection with this article, reference should be made to "German Infantry Weapons" (M.I.D. Special Series, No. 14) which contains descriptions of the German 50-mm and 81-mm1 mortars and details about their operation.


a. General

The fire of one or two [81-mm] mortar sections may be concentrated to achieve greater effectiveness against suitable targets. The fire unit is the section, even when two sections or a platoon are engaged. Throughout an action, platoon and section commanders must concentrate fire on the most important targets. When several appear at the same time, it may be more effective to engage them one by one, and with concentrated fire. Concentration of fire can be very effective in defense against such targets as observation posts, machine-gun nests, and assembly areas.

Good intercommunication is essential for rapid concentration of fire. For a single section, this intercommunication can usually be accomplished by word of mouth; for two sections or a platoon, a telephone line will be necessary.

Targets must be indicated as quickly as possible. The methods employed are:

a. Indication on the ground. (This is possible only for single sections, or if sections are close together.)

b. Fire by "voice control" section. (The platoon commander establishes his observation post near a section which fires on the indicated target with a single mortar.)

c. Use of reference points.

d. Use of a plan with numbered targets.

Ranging is normally done by a single mortar firing on a registration point, to make the most of the element of surprise. A range finder is very helpful for this, and should be borrowed from a machine-gun platoon if necessary. On receiving the range, the other mortar in the section will correct it for position. Fire for effect will be undertaken only after this fire for preparation, except when engaging fleeting targets or targets of considerable size. Digging-in the base plate is of great importance, especially when mortars have not undertaken fire for preparation. The possibility of danger to own troops from rounds falling short must be considered when firing mortars which have not undertaken fire for preparation.

b. By a Section

The section commander may either entrust detachment commanders with fire control or carry it out himself. In the former case, he indicates the target, or portion of the target, to detachment commanders, who carry out ranging individually and report when they are on the target. He then orders fire for effect according to the situation. In the latter case, he either ranges both mortars himself or ranges only one of them, the detachment commander ranging the second mortar while registration is proceeding. The mortar-position, noncom determines the position correction and passes the result to the second mortar.

c. By Two Sections or a Platoon

The platoon commander establishes his observation post, and details the section which is to be near him to serve as the "voice control" section. Intercommunication with the other sections is arranged. Concentration of fire of sections must be regulated both as to space and time. Sections will be allotted portions of the target, and section commanders will further distribute the fire of individual mortars. The tactical situation may make it necessary for sections to range gradually and at varying intervals. When ranging has been completed, the platoon commander will order fire for effect. The order will be passed by line, by the fire of the "voice control" section, or fire may be arranged on a time basis. The platoon commander will observe each section's fire and report corrections, but section commanders must also observe and attempt to improve their fire independently. Concentration of fire of several sections is easier if the sections are sited as close together as possible. In this case it may be possible for the ranging to be carried out by a single mortar.

1 Although this is an 8.1-cm mortar, it is called an 8-cm by the Germans.


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