Russian fighting men have had excellent opportunities to learn about
German reconnaissance methods. The information on this subject in the
following paragraph has been collected and arranged by Lt. Col. L. Davidov of
the Red Army. It should be of special interest and value to our junior
officers and enlisted men.
The Germans place great emphasis on reconnaissance. Dozens of orders and memoranda
issued to German Army units include reminders that land reconnaissance must be
conducted by all branches, regardless of whether or not this type of work is their
During periods of inactivity on the fronts. German land reconnaissance attempts to learn:
a. The location and extent of our defensive lines.
b. The location and composition of our strong points.
c. The differences between our day and night dispositions.
d. The location of our obstacles and minefields.
e. The movement and new positions of our units.
German land reconnaissance tries to report accurately and in detail the dispositions
of our troops, heavy artillery, headquarters, and reserves. Regarding all changes in
our units as significant, the enemy attempts to discover these changes and to draw
conclusions which can be put to use. This reconnaissance is carried out by observers,
listening sentries, patrols, or battle (reconnaissance in force).
Special attention is given to the reports of the listening sentries. Under cover
of darkness, these men crawl as close to our lines as possible, and try to plot
and fix the location of various sounds—especially to gain information about
our tanks, our reserves, the movement of our patrols, the location of our new
artillery positions, and regions in which digging is in progress. Although the
listening sentries can sometimes discover important data, we are repeatedly able
to deceive them by means of ruses. Since the listening reports are checked in the
daytime by German visual observation, we are obliged to deceive the visual
observers, as well, for the sake of consistency. For ex-ample, if we imitate
tank sounds at night for the benefit of German sentries in a certain locality,
the next day we must see to it that there is some sort of camouflage in the
Reconnaissance by combat patrols—usually a platoon—is most often
done at night. These patrols, armed with hand grenades and machine pistols,
generally operate without artillery support. They try to reach positions on
the flanks of our units without attracting our attention, and then suddenly
attack a previously assigned objective for the purpose of capturing
a "tongue." (In general, the objectives are those which have been discovered
by lookouts and listening sentries). After capturing a number of outposts, the
Germans send details of two and three men into our rear areas. Our wide-awake
unit commanders often take advantage of these tactics for the purpose of
If the Germans are unable to locate our outposts and flanks or believe them to be
well hidden, reconnaissance by a patrol is preceded by artillery and mortar fire. Under
such circumstances the raiding party is divided into attacking and supporting
groups. As a rule, one or two small groups make a frontal advance, while the
remainder attack the designated objective from the flanks. Two or three days
before this type of operation, the Germans place ranging fire on the objective
and nearby positions. After this preparatory fire, the Germans do not fire again
in this region until they are ready to attack. (However, during daylight it is not
difficult to detect the movements of small groups of soldiers who are being instructed
in the methods to be used for the attack and fire support. It is also fairly easy to
detect a group of officers on a reconnoitering mission.) When the Germans are
thoroughly prepared, they launch a night attack. If Russian units detect the
approaching groups and open fire on them, the Germans signal for the previously
prepared artillery and mortar fire.
Reconnaissance in force is the most ambitious of all German reconnaissance missions. As
a rule, it is directed against a well-fortified position, and precedes an offensive. (Before
such a reconnaissance, small groups, like those described above, will have tried to define
the boundaries of the main objective.) The unit which is to perform such a reconnaissance
may vary in size from a company to a battalion with artillery support. If the Germans expect
to encounter unusually well-fortified positions with prepared obstacles, a unit consisting
of combat engineers, heavy artillery, and a number of tanks is integrated into the
The Germans try to conduct a reconnaissance in force with all the speed they can
achieve. If their first attempt is unsuccessful, they often repeat an attack, sometimes
immediately after the first failure. Such an attack generally occurs during the second
half of the night or at daybreak. During the daylight hours the objective is placed under
Characteristic methods of German reconnaissance are clearly illustrated by an action which
was attempted against the Nth unit of our army. Two days before the time set for a
reconnaissance in force, a group of German officers conducted a reconnoitering tour. That
same day there was a brief artillery barrage, apparently for ranging. After this there was
no action whatever in the sector—no doubt the scheme was to lull the defenders
into a sense of security. Two days later, during the second half of the night, the Germans
opened concentrated artillery and mortar fire on the same sector. Under cover of this fire, a
German reconnaissance unit, divided into three parts, advanced. Presently a German signal
light went up, and the artillery fire was shifted to neighboring strong points. Simultaneously,
two groups, supported by the small-arms fire of the third, made a quick rush on our
trenches. We met the three groups with concentrated artillery and machine-gun fire. This
forced the enemy to retreat. We have learned that when we can perceive the enemy's
intentions, it is a good policy to allow these first groups to approach our positions
so that we can annihilate the attackers at close range.
Finally, a word about German counter-reconnaissance. Highly resourceful officers and
soldiers are chosen for this work. These men take up positions as near our lines as
possible. Their primary task is to determine the intentions of our reconnaissance
patrols; their secondary task is to locate our minefields and learn the boundaries
of our positions.