In the summer of 1943, a German parachute machine-gun
battalion issued a significant directive regarding
company training. Addressed particularly to the
leaders of machine-gun and mortar units, the directive
is a fresh illustration of the thoroughness of German
training, and also indicates the German determination
to correct certain weaknesses which have been
demonstrated in the past.
The directive requires that the following points be
stressed in company field training:
a. Junior officers' and noncoms' technique of issuing orders.
b. Exploitation of terrain during the advance; camouflage.
c. Use of snipers to support machine guns and mortars.
d. Choice of positions by leaders of machine-gun and mortar sections.
e. Intercommunication between squads.
f. Expenditure of ammunition; fire discipline.
g. Decisions taken by leaders of small units.
h. Intercommunication between squad leaders and their company officers.
It is believed that the following extract from the
German training instructions, which discusses these
points in some detail, will be both interesting and
2. POINTS STRESSED IN TRAINING
a. When issuing orders to their men, leaders of machine-gun and
mortar sections must outline the mission clearly. Lengthy discussions
are to be avoided. The sequence of orders will be that
in which the following examples appear:
(1) Enemy.—"Enemy soldiers are occupying the group of
houses just ahead of us."
(2) Intention.—"We're going to take those houses."
(3) Method.—"X's machine gun will engage the enemy."
(4) Orders to an Individual Squad.—"X's machine-gun position
will be this side of the hedge."
(5) Flanking Units.—"Left of the road, a patrol of the Second Company
is moving forward. On the right, and to our rear, Y's mortar is following."
(6) Position of Leader.—"I'm going forward. The remainder
of the unit will follow, keeping 50 yards behind me."
An alternate series of examples follows:
(1) Enemy.—"We have reason to suspect that the enemy is occupying
the small settlement just ahead."
(2) Intention.—"We are going to find out whether there are
any enemy soldiers in the village."
(3) Method.—"X's machine gun will move forward to the
ridge and observe the entrance to the village."
(4) Orders to a Squad.—"X's machine-gun position will be on
the ridge, from which fire can be opened at once on the entrance
to the village."
(5) Flanking Units.—"X's machine gun will cover the advance
of Section A and maintain contact with Section B. Section A
is now by the ditch; Section B is 150 yards to our rear."
(6) Position of Leader.—"Q and Z will come with me to the
ridge. When we get there, the rest of the section will follow by
the same route."
The leader of a machine-gun or mortar section will always
issue orders to his whole unit. He will require one of the men
to repeat the order.
Preparations will always take place under the most complete
cover available, and the advance will make use of all possible
cover along the way, as well as of camouflage.
b. A leader, having issued his orders, will not simply dash
ahead. He will lead his men, and see to it that they take up their
positions properly. He can do this only by exploiting the ground, by
cleverly crawling as near the enemy as possible, and by choosing
positions with the utmost care. Therefore, the wise leader
will advance somewhat ahead of his men, and will have them
follow him by bounds.
c. Every section has a sniper. It is the sniper's mission to cover
forward movement. When weapons are in position, the sniper
must be slightly to one flank. The leader must give him special
instructions regarding his targets and when he is to open fire. The
sniper must make every round count, and must try to
demoralize the enemy without revealing the position of the main
d. The leader's choice of his own position will necessarily
depend upon the situation. However, he will tell his unit approximately
where his position will be, and he will detail the men
who are to maintain contact with him. The leader is responsible
for continuous observation of his unit's sector, for preserving
silence, and for maintaining the best possible camouflage.
e. Every squad leader must immediately establish contact with
his nearest neighbor. This is especially important on boundaries
f. The squad leader is responsible for directing and controlling
the fire of his squad's mortar or machine gun. His orders will
provide for the engagement of targets in the order of their
importance. He will specify the quantity of ammunition to be fired. He
must be strict in seeing to it that not a round too many is fired, but
also that enough ammunition is employed to deal effectively
with the target.
g. Rapid changes in the situation may force a leader to make
his own decisions. He must have good reasons for his actions, and
must instantly report his decision by messenger to his commanding
officer. He must also inform neighboring units about it.
h. In action there must be constant communication between
leaders and their commanding officers. Runners must be careful
not to betray, by indiscreet or clumsy movements, the positions
of weapons or of the commanding officer. Terrain that the opposition
can observe must be avoided. Areas which are under fire, or
which are commanded by hostile weapons, must be avoided or
crossed at a run. Every runner must take pride in getting his
message through, regardless of the circumstances.