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"Miscellaneous (German)" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Miscellaneous section from the April 1943 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin, covering "German Destruction of Motor Vehicles," "New German Army Insignia," and "The Fire Fight."

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]

German Destruction of Motor Vehicles, New German Army Insignia, The Fire Fight


A recent German Army document shows the importance that the Germans attach to the destruction of motorized equipment before it can fall in our hands. The document also describes methods of accomplishing the destruction most effectively.

The Germans state that if very little time is available for the destruction of a motor vehicle, four vital parts which can be destroyed quickly are the carburetor, the distributor, the fuel pump, and the ignition coil. The destruction of these parts is accomplished with a hammer, hatchet, pick-axe, or similar tools. A hand grenade placed between the cylinder block and the carburetor or distributor is especially effective, since this results in a cracked cylinder block as well as in the destruction of the carburetor or distributor.

The Germans recommend that if more time is available, the following be demolished also: the generator, the battery, the starter, and the tires. As soon as these have been destroyed, gasoline is poured over the vehicle and ignited.

The motors of track-laying vehicles are destroyed in the manner recommended for wheeled vehicles. In addition, the driving sprockets may be demolished. The Germans place a 5-pound prepared charge of TNT between the sprocket and adjacent bogie. If possible, similar charges are set on both sides of the vehicle. The charges are wedged in place with wood or stone to obtain maximum destruction. A length of safety fuse, long enough to insure a 25-second delay, is recommended for use in firing the charge. Demolitions of this type are performed only by those trained in the handling and use of explosives.

It should be noted that the above instructions apply specifically to the destruction of gasoline engines making use of the ordinary spark plug for ignition. A vehicle powered by a Diesel engine has no carburetor, distributor, or spark plugs; in wrecking a Diesel engine, the Germans destroy the fuel-injection system by means of a hand grenade.


New insignia have been issued throughout the German Army, to be worn on the left arm, 4 inches below the shoulder, when shoulder straps are not worn (see fig. 1).

[Figure 1. (German Army shoulder insignia)]
Figure 1.


A British Army handbook on fieldcraft and battle drill stresses the importance of the fire fight, lists the fire power of the German infantry division, and summarizes German methods in defense and attack. Extracts from this handbook are given below.

a. General

The morale and fatigue factors being equal, it is fire superiority which will win or lose battles. The side which applies the greatest quantity of fire at the right time and at the right place usually will succeed. It is fatal to attempt movement without having made proper arrangements for fire superiority.

b. German Infantry Division Fire Power

(1) Reconnaissance Unit.

Mobile covering troops with mortars (three 50-mm and three 81-mm) and machine guns may be encountered on a very wide front.

(2) Infantry Regiment.

The infantry regiment consists of three infantry battalions. Each battalion has four companies—three rifle companies and a machine-gun company (although Nos. 4, 8, and 12 are called machine-gun companies, they also include 81-mm mortars).

(a) Rifle Companies.

Each company consists of a headquarters group, three platoons, and an antitank rifle section.

Each platoon consists of a platoon headquarters, four rifle sections (each consisting of a second-in-command and nine men), and a light mortar section.

Each platoon has a platoon sergeant, a bugler (who carries a machine pistol), two messengers, and a stretcher-bearer. It also has a one-horse vehicle.

The light mortar section has a team of three men (the mortar is normally a two-man load) and five ammunition cases containing nine rounds each.

The total strength of the headquarters group is nine men.

(3) Platoon Weapons.

The platoon weapons consist of a light mortar and 45 rounds (50 mm, range 550 yards); five machine pistols, 192 rounds per pistol (9 mm); four light machine guns—one per section, 1,150 rounds per gun (range 3,200 yards); and 28 rifles (90 rounds per rifle, carried by the individual soldier).

(4) Support Weapons.

(a) The antitank rifle section within each rifle company consists of a noncom and six men, with three antitank rifles.

(b) Each of the three machine-gun companies—Nos. 4, 8, and 12—has 12 heavy machine guns. These are fired off a tripod, have a range of 3,800 yards, and are capable of indirect fire (caliber .31 inch). Each company also has six 81-mm heavy mortars with a range of 2,078 yards.

(c) The regimental weapons in No. 13 infantry-gun company and No. 14 antitank company consist of six 75-mm light infantry howitzers, with a range of 5,600 yards (10- or 14-lb. shell); two 150-mm heavy infantry howitzers, with a range of 6,000 yards (80-lb. shell); and twelve 37-mm antitank guns.

c. Characteristics of German Defense

(1) Great attention is paid to camouflage, especially during the construction of posts.

(2) Covering positions are mobile.

(3) Weapon pits are used.

(4) Dummy positions are used extensively ("to draw and dissipate the opposition's fire") and movement from dummies to real positions take place when an attack begins.

(5) The siting of 81-mm mortars, heavy machine guns, and infantry guns is determined by:

(a) Observation post sites.—These must afford a good view from a high point.

(b) Method of control.—The infantry-gun and machine-gun companies have no radio, very little other signal equipment, and only 8 miles of field wire. Therefore, communication by line is limited. In the case of heavy mortars, communication is maintained by shouting or by line telegraphy or telephony only.

(6) The Germans tend to site positions in threes, in a clover leaf pattern.

(7) General mobility and immediate counterattack are the backbone of German defense doctrine.

d. Characteristics of German Attack

(1) The significance of the fire fight (Feuerkampf) is fully appreciated. The Germans adhere to the principle of fire superiority on a narrow front chosen as the "critical objective" (Schwerpunkt theory).

A typical concentration of fire for a battalion attack, which might be on about a 600-yard front, would be provided by—

6 heavy mortars from the machine-gun company,
12 heavy machine guns from the machine-gun company,
9 light infantry howitzers from No. 13 company,
2 heavy infantry howitzers from No. 13 company.

This is exclusive of light machine guns, machine pistols, and so on, and does not include the usual allotment of divisional artillery.

(2) The Germans distinguish between three aspects of the destruction of the opposition by fire:

(a) Destroying the opposition's personnel and their means of fighting.

(b) Forcing the opposition under cover and preventing them from using their own fire power.

(c) Blinding the opposition to prevent observation and avoid fire. The use of smoke figures in this method. Also, the psychological effect of stunning the enemy by the sheer weight of explosives is taken into account.

(3) The Germans use light signals to call for fire support.

(4) Three ranging rounds of mortar fire are likely to be followed by groups of 10 rounds.

(5) Mobile reserves of ammunition are maintained, to step up fire at a decisive place at a decisive time.

e. British Doctrine

(1) In Attack.

We must dispose our strength so that we have fire superiority at the point of impact. This is the key to success.

(2) In Defense.

We must keep a mobile reserve of fire—as large a one as possible—to counter the enemy's tremendous concentration at his point of attack.

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