Now that United Nations forces are fighting energetically
on the soil of continental Europe, it must be expected
that we shall engage the enemy in towns and cities
with ever-increasing frequency. For this reason, it is
most important for us to understand German doctrine
regarding combat in populated places.
Often the size of a town is not the principal determining
factor in a German commander's tactical
plan; instead, a town's geographic or economic importance
may be his first consideration. A very small
village may be worth contesting fiercely if it commands
the entrance to a mountain pass, for example, or if it
possesses resources essential to the German war effort. A
much larger town, on the other hand, may have far
less value, and by no means be worth the same expenditure
of men and matériel.
However, the Germans use the same basic tactics
for towns and cities alike. These tactics are summarized
in the following paragraphs, which are based
on a German Army document.
2. IN THE ATTACK
The Germans attempt to outflank and encircle a town. If this move
succeeds, they cut off the water, electricity, and gas supply. They
find the most vulnerable spot in the area held by the hostile forces, and
penetrate it. After cutting the hostile forces in two, the
Germans then divide the opposition again and
again so that it no longer is able to maneuver freely. German
doctrine maintains that parallel attacks constitute
the most advantageous method if a number of
columns are available (see fig. 17a). Thrusts at an
angle (see fig. 17b), and especially thrusts from opposite
directions (see fig. 17c and d), are avoided. The
Germans believe that such thrusts are likely to result
in friendly troops getting under each other's fire, and
that confusion is inevitable.
The Germans group their units as attack columns
and mopping-up columns. Advance by limited sectors
is the rule. Commanders do not plan too far ahead. After
taking a block, a commander reassembles his men
and issues further instructions.
It is a German axiom that "he who commands the
heights also commands the depths." The Germans
strive for dominating positions, although in defense
they may site their machine guns in much lower positions.
While an advance is being made in a street, a simultaneous
advance is made along the roofs if the houses
adjoin each other. In the streets an advance is made
by single files edging forward close to the houses on
each side. From front to rear, marksmen are detailed
to observe danger points on the opposite side of the
street; that is, a man may be ordered to observe all
roofs or all the windows on a given floor, and so on.
|Figure 17. German Attack Tactics in Towns and Cities.|
Side alleys and entrances to side streets are blocked
as rapidly as possible. After this, searching parties
are detailed to investigate all buildings in the block, and
then close them. Entrances to cellars and first
floors are guarded until all houses in the block have
been searched. All windows are closed and shuttered.
The Germans attach importance to constant and
effective cooperation with artillery. Light
guns (manhandled) advance along the street and
combat nests of resistance with direct fire. The
Germans believe that, aside from air
bombardment, only 150-mm to 210-mm pieces are
effective in destroying the larger buildings. Tanks, they
maintain, are not very successful in assaults on houses.
When attacking a town, the Germans do not employ
motor vehicles or horses. As much gear as possible
is sacrificed in favor of axes, crowbars, wire-cutters,
saws, ropes and rope ladders, flashlights, prepared
charges, hand grenades, smoke candles and grenades, and
maps and air photographs of the locality.
3. IN THE DEFENSE
In organizing the defense of a town, the Germans
prepare a reserve of drinking water, rations, ammunition, and
medical supplies. Some of this is stored in various
cellars, since the Germans are aware that these
are tactically useful places, from which the advance
of a hostile force can be hindered considerably. Searchlights
are kept ready to illuminate the target
area at night. Preparation is made for defense by
sectors. Mines and booby traps are kept ready for use.
So that the main line of resistance will not be discovered
by the hostile forces, the Germans place it
within the town proper and make it irregular. Only
individual centers of resistance are established in the
outskirts. These are used for flanking purposes. Important
buildings are defended, not from their own
walls, but from advance positions.
The Germans try to maintain a strong mobile
Every attempt is made to trap hostile units in dead-end
streets and to cut off, by sudden flanking movements, hostile
units which advance too recklessly.
Emergency barriers are kept ready in the entrances
to buildings. These barriers can be placed across the
streets on extremely short notice.
Low machine-gun positions are prepared to cover
all possible approach routes.
Good telephone communication is maintained.
Command posts remain constantly on guard against surprise attacks.
The windows of all buildings are kept open at all
times, so that the attackers will have difficulty in
detecting from which windows fire is being delivered. German
soldiers are instructed not to fire from window
sills, but from positions well within the rooms. Snipers
continually move from room to room. Individual
roof tiles are removed to provide loopholes. On
rooftops, firing positions behind chimneys are considered
desirable, provided that the chimneys are below
the roof ridges.
Important doors leading to the street are guarded, and
doors which are not to be used are blocked. Holes
are pierced through the walls of adjoining houses
to afford communication channels.
The Germans regard the entire matter of defense
merely as a preliminary to surprise counterattacks.