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"Engineers (German)" from Intelligence Bulletin, October 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following U.S. military report on German combat engineers in WWII was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, October 1942.

[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.]



German combat engineers have been in the front lines of every major Nazi engagement of the present war. They form a very definite part of the German combat team, which also includes the armored forces, air forces, infantry, and artillery. The major duty of these engineers is to keep the German Army moving. They assault fortifications or other obstacles; they span streams with everything from log rafts to large temporary bridges; they go regularly into combat, and under the most difficult conditions, to clear the way for the echelons that follow. The success of the Germans through surprise, deception, and speed has been due in no small measure to the front-line work of the combat engineers, who during World War I worked in the rear areas except when called to the front under rare critical conditions.


In line with a training principle used throughout the German Army, 90 percent of the instruction now given to the army's combat engineers deals with attack problems and 10 percent with defense problems. Stress is placed on engineer reconnaissance and on making use of all means available in the combat area to help the German forces continue their advance. Army engineering equipment is used only when local means are not available.

The combat engineers are trained basically as infantry soldiers, since most of them now advance with the infantry and other combat troops and engage regularly in battle.

German military leaders, however, do not try to turn a combat engineer into a "Jack-of-all-trades." After receiving basic infantry and combat-engineer training, each trainee is assigned to a group which concentrates on one special type of work. For instance, he usually qualifies specifically for one of the following tasks: demolitions, fortifications, storm-troop combat, combat at rivers, construction of military bridges, emergency bridge construction, and general obstruction duties.

Some of these different kinds of specialized training are elaborated briefly as follows:

a. Storm-troop combat, with special equipment for rush assaults.

b. The obstruction service, which prepares obstacles of all kinds. These men are trained to handle explosives and mines, as well as to use electric saws and boring equipment.

c. Combat at rivers, which involves the use of rafts and small assault boats, both in the attack and in the defense. These men learn how to cross water under all conditions--in rain, heavy wind, and snow, and especially at night.

d. Construction of military bridges--also, establishing emergency ferry services, which provide transportation for men and materiel in motorboats and rowboats with outboard motors, or on improvised rafts propelled by these boats.

e. Emergency bridge construction, which calls for the preparation of many types of bridges, using material found locally.

f. Construction of field fortifications, which includes the building of defense installations of all kinds, large and small, with special training in the technique of preparing unusually deep foundations.

Looking over this whole set-up, the American soldier will see that a combat engineer in the German Army operates both as a fighter and a highly skilled technical expert. It may be said that if we destroy a German combat engineer, we destroy a man who is as useful to the Axis as any single person on the battlefield. Someone who is an infantryman--plus.


The types of jobs done by combat engineers in World War I are now done almost exclusively by labor organizations, which include the so-called Todt Organization. The campaign in Poland taught the Germans that motor highways are likely to be more useful transport routes than railroads. The work of maintaining roads became so heavy that the government ordered a man named Todt, inspector of roads in Germany, to form a special organization for this important duty. The Todt Organization is composed of specialists and laborers who repair, construct, and maintain roads and bridges (with the Construction Engineers) from the rear and well into the combat zone. Sometimes it also assists in preparing fortifications (with the Fortification Engineers).

Another organization working with the engineers of the German Army is the Reich Labor Service. It trains boys of 17 and 18 to perform many of the tasks which in the last war were assigned to the regular engineers. These tasks include:

Constructing and maintaining important highways; constructing and improving fortifications, bridges, and airports; salvaging equipment, munitions, and materiel in battle areas, and camouflaging and sandbagging military establishments.


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