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"Training Methods" from Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following comments on German military training during WWII were originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, September 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.]



Present German military thought centers around the task force idea. The task force usually consists of all arms and services working under one commander to perform a single specific mission. The Germans spend a great deal of time developing their task forces, which may vary in size from a squad to a group of armies. The elements of the task force are so drilled that they will lose their identity as separate units and merge into a smooth-working task-force combat team. As a result of this joining together of units, the Germans stress cooperation, with every man and unit doing a definite job.

According to the best German military thought, there has been a change in the nature of fighting and also in the basic objective of battlefield combat itself. Formerly, the supporting arms made it easier for the infantry to surround and destroy the opposition. Now, even the destruction is done by the supporting arms—mainly artillery and combat aviation--with the infantry operating only in a supporting role. The mission of the supporting arms, according to the German idea, is to keep the infantry advancing without engaging in combat. This the Germans have done, as a rule, in the present war. Following the armored, motorized, and air team with forced marches, the foot units have done mop-up work and have seized and organized strategic areas.


When a mission is assigned to a commander, he is given the troops and equipment with which to accomplish it. These are made available to him so that he can mold a combat team for the accomplishment of his assigned mission. Not only must the men do their own jobs, but all must work together in the accomplishment of the common task.

When the troops are first made available, they are like a football squad reporting to a coach on the first of September. They are a squad, but not yet a team. After a course of combined training, and particularly after some experience in combat, they may be considered a task force in the correct sense of the word.

Of course, all men in the German Army are given a basic course of instruction. At present, under war conditions, the basic instruction lasts about six weeks. This is followed by at least four weeks of training in large units. If possible, this instruction is extended an additional four weeks.

The idea here is to mold the individual units into the structure of the combat team as a whole, under the leadership of its commander. In this change-over every effort is made to discourage rivalry between the components of the team. For example, there are no songs about the infantry being better than the cavalry and the engineers being best of all. There are no inter-company or inter-battery athletics. On the contrary, every opportunity is taken to develop teamwork among the parts of the force. Cooperation between the units is encouraged. This is impressed upon all subordinate commanders—so much so that they go out of their way to assist each other.

One important phase of the training of combined arms is the use of practice ammunition. This is regular ammunition with reduced bursting charges. The men taking part must be careful in handling these munitions, so as to escape injury. Use of real ammunition in training exercises is very valuable. Many men are accidentally killed in combat by fire of friendly troops lacking this valuable experience. Umpires are used in all these exercises.

During the training phase, the importance of surprise in combat is continually emphasized. According to German teachers, surprise is accomplished by three general methods: first, by secrecy; second, by deception; third, by speed of execution.

Surprise by secrecy and speed of execution is self- explanatory. During the training period, a great deal of time is spent in the construction of dummy positions, and in the execution of false movements to deceive the opposition.

With regard to infantry training, there is much more emphasis on volume of fire than on accuracy. Rifle marksmanship is not stressed, and there is good reason to believe that German standards do not compare with our own. The basic fire power of the infantry squad is provided by a light machine gun, supported by ten rifles. In combat the main effort of the squad members is to advance their machine gun. Although their marksmanship standards are not high, German infantry soldiers are likely to center a heavy volume of fire on vital points.

Since there is very little stress on the use of the bayonet in combat, there is little emphasis on its use in training.


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