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"Reconnaissance By Light Tank Platoons" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   Report on German reconnaissance methods of the light tank platoons of the regimental and battalion headquarters companies, 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.]



In German tank organizations, a light tank platoon consisting of seven Pz. Kw. 2's is an organic part both of the regimental headquarters company and the battalion headquarters company. The regimental light tank platoon is normally used for reconnaissance purposes. German doctrine covering the reconnaissance duties of patrols drawn from these platoons is summarized below. (It assumes that superior German forces are conducting an advance.)


a. Teamwork

Teamwork, the Germans point out, is the secret of successful reconnaissance. They believe that haphazardly formed reconnaissance patrols, made up of men who have never worked together before, are of little value.

b. Reconnaissance Before H-Hour

(1) Orders.—Orders given to light tank patrols which are to perform reconnaissance before H-hour include:

(a) Information about hostile forces and the terrain.

(b) German intentions (especially those of a patrol's own and flanking units).

(c) Composition of the patrol.

(d) Time of departure.

(e) Line of advance and objectives.

(f) Method and procedure of reporting (radio or motorcycle).

(g) Position of the patrol commander, and of the commander to whom he will report.

(h) Action to be taken on completion of task, or on meeting superior opposing forces.

It is prohibited to take written orders and situation maps on reconnaissance. Special precautions are insisted upon when markings of any kind are made on maps used on reconnaissance; these markings are required to be of a kind which will not reveal German dispositions if the maps are captured.

(2) Information Needed Beforehand.—For its disposition and method of work, the German patrol depends on knowing:

(a) Up to what point contact with the opposition is unlikely. (Until reaching this point, the patrol saves time by advancing rapidly and avoiding elaborate protective measures.)

(b) At what point contact is probable. (After this, increased alertness is maintained.)

(c) At what point contact is certain. (Here the patrol is ready for action.)

The patrol commander is also given necessary particulars regarding air support and information as to the attitude of the civil population.

(3) Method of Advance.—The light tank patrol advances rapidly from one observation point to the next, making use at first of roads and paths, but later, as it approaches hostile forces, using all available cover. When approaching villages, woods, or defiles, the patrol leaves the road in sufficient time to upset the opposition's aimed antitank-fire calculations.

(4) Command.—The German patrol commander makes a rapid estimate of our position, and tries to attack and overrun us if he thinks that we are weak. If such a move does not seem advisable, he attempts to discover the type and strength of the opposition encountered, without becoming involved in combat.

"Keen, capable, and well-trained officers or noncoms must be selected to command the light tank patrol," the Germans state. "These must be constituted of quick-thinking, resourceful troops who have functioned as a unit long enough to know and have confidence in their leader."

c. Reconnaissance after H-Hour

(1) Mission.—The mission of reconnaissance after H-hour is to explore the hostile position in detail, to protect German deployment, and to discover hostile gun positions, as well as natural and artificial obstacles in the line of advance.

(2) How Performed.—The mission is carried out by light tank patrols (which may be reinforced) operating ahead or on the flanks, as in reconnaissance before H-hour. The reconnaissance tanks employed immediately ahead or to a forward flank are detailed automatically by the first wave of the attacking force. (Normally, one light tank per platoon of heavier tanks in the first wave, and always the same light tank. The remaining light tanks work behind the first wave, performing other duties.) The reconnaissance tanks advance rapidly, making for suitable high ground. They keep 300 to 500 yards ahead of the first wave, and maintain visual contact with it. The reconnaissance tanks observe from open turrets or, if fired on, through their telescopes, with turrets closed. They advance by bounds, from cover to cover, keeping the terrain ahead under continuous observation.

The tanks in the first wave, especially the Pz. Kw. 4's, cover the reconnaissance tanks as they advance.

When the reconnaissance tanks contact our infantry, they attempt to overrun us and, if they are successful, they report and continue their mission. A reconnaissance tank discovering hostile antitank weapons and artillery reports them, takes up a position, and waits for the rest of its company. While waiting, it fires on hostile antitank weapons.

Tanks are avoided, but are observed from concealed positions. The reconnaissance tanks report suitable terrain for meeting an attack by hostile tanks. As under the circumstances described in the previous paragraph, each reconnaissance tank waits for the rest of its company.

Opposition which begins to retreat is promptly attacked, the reconnaissance tanks reporting the development and continuing the pursuit.

In the event of an attack by the opposition, the reconnaissance tanks take up a position, meet the attack, report, and wait for the rest of their companies to come up.

In all these instances, the reconnaissance tanks avoid obstructing the field of fire of the heavier tanks following them. Throughout, the light tanks report by radio if it is available, by prearranged flag or smoke signals, or by significant firing or maneuvering.

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