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.
2. NOTES ON TRAINING
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