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"Use of Infantry Weapons Against Parachutists" from Intelligence Bulletin, December 1943

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following U.S. military report on the German use of rifles and machine guns for defense against airborne troops was originally printed in the December 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.]



The German Army attaches great importance to the use of infantry weapons against parachutists. A German document acquired by United Nations forces in Sicily discussed the technique of employing rifles and machine guns for this purpose. The following extracts from this document should be regarded as supplementary to a more general article, "Principles of Defense against Airborne Troops," which appeared in Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 3.


a. General

German infantry units must at all times be prepared to meet surprise attacks by parachutists.

Hostile parachute troops jump from an altitude of 3,000 feet or more, drop about 1,000 feet, and then open their parachutes; or they may jump at an altitude of about 400 feet, and open their parachutes after a drop of about 100 feet. One must reckon with a speed of fall of from 16 to 20 feet per second. When the first of these procedures is followed, the parachutists, in landing, are dispersed over a large area. When a platoon of parachutists follows the second procedure, it attains in the air a lateral dispersion of from 425 to 750 yards, a depth of about 325 yards, and a difference of altitude of 50 to 65 feet between jumpers.

In employing infantry weapons against hostile parachute troops, German soldiers will fire only on the order of a responsible commander, such as a platoon commander or squad leader. The individual parachutists—not their parachutes—constitute the proper targets.

While a parachutist is landing, he may be attacked with every likelihood of success. At this time he must free himself from his parachute, and is helpless. If his weapons are dropped separately, he must recover them. This, too, will occupy him for a few moments.

All arms must participate in the task of crushing a parachute attack. Moreover, the employment of every form of ground defense for this purpose has the definite effect of breaking down the morale of the hostile force.

b. Use of the Rifle

Riflemen will fire on hostile parachutists as soon as the latter are within a range of about 425 yards. In a moderate wind, a rifleman will aim at the center of his target. In a strong wind, he will lead the moving target according to firing rules. The rear sight will not be changed while fire is in progress. Riflemen will also fire on ammunition and weapon containers.

Standing or kneeling firing positions should be assumed. However, the situation may justify a prone position. Each rifleman will fire at the parachutist nearest him. When the parachutist jumps from an altitude of about 400 feet, the rifleman will not have time to fire more than five aimed rounds.

c. Use of the Machine Gun

Machine gunners will use ordinary ball ammunition against parachutists. It is advantageous to include armor-piercing tracer bullets in ammunition belts, in a proportion of 1 to 3. Fire will be opened with the rear sight set according to the actual distance of the target. With reference to wind velocity, the rules for aiming are the same as those in subparagraph b. The rear sight will not be changed while fire is in progress.

The machine gun may be fired from a bipod, as a light gun, or from a tripod, as a heavy machine gun; however, surprise parachute attacks will generally compel a machine gunner to fire from the shoulder of another man,

If parachutists are dropped in front of a position, they are to be met with concentrated machine-gun fire. If they are dropped beyond the fire position on the flank, they are to be fired upon successively; that is, a machine gunner will fire on the nearest parachutist, and will then fire on any who remain in the line of sight. A volley of sweeping fire on scattered parachutists is a waste of ammunition, and is strictly forbidden.


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