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"Training in a Parachute Machine-Gun Battalion" from Intelligence Bulletin, February 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following report on the training of German airborne troops was published in the February 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.]



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 informative.


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 weapons prematurely.

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 between units.

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.


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