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"How Infantry Battalions Develop for the Attack" from Intelligence Bulletin, January 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on German infantry offensive tactics was originally printed in the January 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.]



The German theory of entrance into offensive combat is fairly usual, in that two distinct stages are involved. These are called Entfaltung and Entwicklung, which may best be translated into U.S. terminology as "development" and "deployment." The first stage is evidently designed to permit more rapid deployment at the proper time, and to enable good control to be maintained until as late a moment as possible. Briefly, the first stage (Entfaltung) begins with the approach march, when the battalion changes from a route-march formation to one made up of several columns. The second stage (Entwicklung) covers what, in U.S. practice, is the deployment of platoons and squads. The following paragraphs outline the tactics involved in each stage, as they are taught to German infantry noncoms.


Normally, the development of a regiment is by battalions (see fig. 10). If necessary, distances between battalions are increased.

When a high state of preparedness is necessary, the battalion itself may "shake out" into companies. Companies proceed in the direction given them, employing the normal marching formation and, at the same time, making use of whatever cover and concealment are available. Commanders take into account the additional strain of marching across country.

Company transport remains with companies as long as possible, until the companies themselves must deploy.

The Germans believe that it is often advisable to have only one company forward, with the main strength of the battalion kept directly under the battalion commander as long as possible, ready to be employed in the direction most advantageous for an attack.

Support weapons are used to cover the development and the subsequent advance. These weapons are interspersed in the line of march, either between the companies or behind the battalion. If any alteration of intervals is caused by ground conditions or hostile fire, the original intervals are resumed at the earliest opportunity.

[Figure 10: First Stage, Figure 11: Second Stage]

When the development takes place, the leading elements of the battalion may be ordered to seize tactically important terrain.

German training points out that deployment at night, and in woods, calls for stronger protection forward, for preparatory reconnaissance, and for the marking of routes. Intervals between units are shorter than by day.

The battalion commander's orders cover:

a. Information regarding hostile and German units;

b. German intentions;

c. Reconnaissance;

d. Instructions for forward companies (including seizure of dominating terrain);

e. Instructions for weapons supporting the advance;

f. Instructions for the companies comprising the main body (including reconnaissance on flanks and protection of flanks, if necessary);

g. Rendezvous of company transport and battalion vehicles;

h. Battalion headquarters; intercommunications.

At the time of the development, the battalion commander moves with the forward elements from one prominent terrain feature to another. He generally sends special reconnaissance patrols ahead, or reconnoiters the hostile position himself from a commanding terrain feature. Commanders of support weapons accompany him, reconnoitering for firing positions.


As soon as any German company comes within range of observed hostile artillery fire, it disperses in depth (see fig. 11). The Germans consider that an advance in file is often desirable, inasmuch as it represents only a small target and one which is easily controlled; they recognize, however, that it is highly vulnerable to enfilade fire.

If ground conditions and hostile fire make deployment necessary, the platoons may be dispersed in depth into squads. The Germans find that this splitting-up permits the ground to be exploited for cover during the advance, and that it hinders the effectiveness of hostile observation and fire. Reserves and support weapons also adopt open formations. They remain sufficiently far behind the forward elements to avoid coming under fire directed at these elements.

If the rifle companies are deployed, their elements normally move forward in narrow columns or single files, with irregular intervals, and make use of all available cover. The forward elements are not deployed as skirmishers until they are required to engage in a fire fight.


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