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"Directive for Defense of Positions" from Intelligence Bulletin, September 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following translated German directive on defensive operations, from the 200th Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 90th Panzergrenadier Division, was published in the September 1943 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.]


a. Introduction

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 horizontally.

(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 feints.")

(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.

(j) Password.

(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."


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