A few months before the Axis capitulated in North
Africa, the operations officer of the German Light
Africa Division issued a significant directive. German
officers in general—and junior officers, in particular—had
been displaying certain weaknesses in defensive
operations, and the operations officer was anxious to
see an improvement in German tactics, especially with
reference to the defense of positions. The document, which
follows, has a special interest for us, inasmuch
as it gives a clear indication of measures approved by
the enemy, if not always practiced by him.
b. The Directive
(1) Each soldier must remember that the defense of a position
will continue, if necessary, to the last man and to the last
round. Every commander is fully responsible for the defense
of the interdependent strong point assigned to him. It is not
permissible, for instance, that the heavy-weapons platoon leader
command the heavy weapons employed on the right flank of
the company, as well as those on the left flank.
(2) All possible measures must be taken to prevent the
opposing force from removing mines or other obstacles laid
to the front of our position. Machine guns can be very effective
for this purpose.
(3) All available machine guns are to be employed on the
flanks whenever possible. At night the machine guns must
command the entire terrain to the front. Shortly before dusk
each machine gun—every light machine gun included—will
therefore be sited so that it can cover a designated zone. The
sector of fire will be marked by stakes on the right and left
limits, and the elevation will be marked by a wire stretched
(4) The heavy weapons and artillery will be so placed (in
relation to the light infantry weapons) that their fire power
can be directed primarily against important positions and terrain
features which the opposing force might conceivably use
during its approach.
(5) Officers of all grades will be held responsible for continuous
preparedness for defense. Moreover, precise written
orders are to be drawn up for each position. Each man must
repeatedly be instructed in these orders, and must know them
by heart. They must show, among other things:
(a) The position of the hostile force, the defense area, neighboring
units, and the security toward the front.
(b) Day and night observation and scouting patrols.
(c) Supervision of order and alertness in the position, fire
preparedness of the weapons, and the storage of ammunition.
(d) Action to be taken against hostile artillery fire (for
example, "The soldier will take cover in his foxhole, with his
machine gun or rifle.")
(e) Action to be taken against low-level air attack (for
example, "Machine gunners will fire at their own discretion.")
(f) Action to be taken against thrusts by enemy assault troops
(for example, "Alertness will be maintained to detect hostile
(g) Action to be taken in case of attack by infantry or
attack by tanks.
(h) Action to be taken in case adjacent terrain is penetrated.
(i) Significance of pyrotechnic signals.
(k) Security of communication net.
In forwarding this directive down to companies, the
operations officer of the 200th Panzer Grenadier Regiment
added, "The written orders mentioned in (5) are
to be drawn up immediately for every defensive position, and
will be presented to me, without further request
on my part, whenever I make an inspection of the position."