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"Panzer Grenadiers" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A brief report for U.S. troops on German Panzer Grenadier units and their tactics, from the Intelligence Bulletin, May 1943.

[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.]



The Panzer Grenadier regiments, which are the assault ground troops of the German armored divisions, are notable for their speed, mobility, and great fire power, as well as for their methods of cooperating closely with the tank regiments.

Besides the varied light and heavy armament possessed by the Panzer Grenadier rifle companies, in the Panzer Grenadier regiments and battalions we find headquarters companies, heavy gun companies, tank-destroyer platoons, motorcycle dispatch rider platoons, signal platoons, and engineer platoons. In addition, supply echelons for munitions, fuel, and rations are responsible for the maintenance of the troops. Repair echelons insure that motor vehicles, guns, and equipment are ready for use at all times.

The extensive allotment of weapons to Panzer Grenadier units include rifles, pistols, machine pistols, light and heavy guns, and antitank guns of every caliber. This permits fire power of considerable scope—so much so that a Panzer Grenadier company can develop three times the fire power of the normal German heavy infantry company. So-called "Panzer Grenadier personnel carriers," fully armored and designed for cross-country duty, carry the assault troops into battle (see fig. 1). In combat from these vehicles, and in combat on foot, the Panzer Grenadiers have become an arm which does not fight according to linear and frontal principles, like the infantry, but one which tries to force a decision within and to the rear of hostile positions.

The chief task of the Panzer Grenadiers is to put their mobility and strength to effective use in combined operations with tanks. Often the Panzer Grenadiers must precede the tanks in assault and attempt to create a favorable situation for a tank thrust. This is done, for example, in attacks across rivers, attacks against forces which are established on or behind terrain unsuitable for general tank action, attacks against prepared defensive positions, combat in and around villages and forests, and combat at night and in fog.

Although in independent combat assignments the Panzer Grenadiers are often allotted artillery, assault artillery, and antiaircraft, tank destroyer, and tank engineer units, the Grenadiers assume primary responsibility whenever fighting reaches the hand-to-hand stage. If the Grenadiers have been successful in establishing a bridgehead, breaking through a position, or clearing a village or a forest, they may be expected to get back into their carriers and pursue a disorganized opposition.

[Figure 1. Panzer Grenadier Personnel Carrier. (Sdkfz 251 halftrack)]
Figure 1.—Panzer Grenadier Personnel Carrier.

The Panzer Grenadiers, whose carriers are capable of a much higher speed than tanks can attain, have been known to dash far ahead of other troops—sometimes as much as 200 miles—to seize important communications centers, bridges, towns, or critical terrain. When they go deep into a hostile area, they maintain radio contact with their base and with supporting German aircraft. Such enterprises of course involve open flanks, "doubtful situations," and the danger of being surrounded by superior forces for an indefinite period, with no certain knowledge that supplies can be provided by air. From the leaders down, such undertakings demand a maximum of physical and mental preparedness, as well as a talent for assuming responsibility.

The German Army regards the Panzer Grenadiers as well qualified for certain defense tasks, too—especially the defense of broad sectors—because of their extensive allotment of light, medium, and heavy guns. If the Panzer Grenadiers have reached an objective well behind the opposition's front lines, they may be instructed to halt an advance made at considerable sacrifice (even though they might at this point be able to continue it) so that troop units which are not motorized can be given time to come forward.

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