Remember how Germany, just before she opened her campaign against France, Holland,
and Belgium, spread reports through neutral countries that the Germans soon were
going to put into use a new secret weapon? These reports speculated on the nature
of the weapon. They described it as a gas which affected armament but not men, as
a gas which would put troops to sleep long enough for them to be disarmed, and as
super-duper tanks that could easily batter their way through fortified lines.
Well, all these reports proved to be false—they were products of the huge
German propaganda program, which seeks to strike fear and confusion into the
ranks of United Nations forces.
Now, more than two years later, the German propaganda organization is spreading
reports of another secret development. This time the German claim deals with a
new tactical formation, which allegedly is being used in the 1942 campaign
against Russia. The formation has been designated by various names, one of
which is "Motpulk." This is probably an abbreviation of a German expression
which means a force made up of motorized, armored, and air columns.
According to reports from neutral European countries—reports which most
probably were put out by German propagandists—the new formation is a
hollow square of tanks and other armored units, inside which are infantry,
artillery, antitank, antiaircraft, and "flying" workshops. Powerful air
elements supposedly fly overhead during operations of the formation and
cooperate in the fighting. The combined forces, or "Motpulks," carry enough
supplies for limited periods. When these supplies run low, they are restocked
with new supplies dropped from planes. The distance around some of the "Motpulks" is
said to be nearly 300 miles. The formation is shaped somewhat like the
old Greek Phalanx, which was popular back in the days of shields and spears.
Such a massing of armored and mechanized forces calls for large numbers of tanks
and motorized vehicles, Berlin admits. But the Germans insist that their
industries produced sufficient quantities during the winter months to care
for all their needs.
The "Motpulks" are substitutes for spearhead formations used by the Germans, so
the story goes. The new formation allegedly is much better than the spearhead
formations—because the direction of attack can be changed quickly toward
any of the four sides of the square. Also, the new formation permits the quick
forming of a wedge. "Motpulks" are thrown into the attack to disorganize and
confuse retreating opposition troops after the latter have been forced back
by the German infantry, according to the reports. Other "Motpulks," or
detachments from the advancing "Motpulk," are left behind to mop up or
surround any remaining centers of opposition resistance. The Germans claim
the "Motpulks" have proved exceptionally strong in resisting Russian
counterattacks in the Don river area. The formation is said to have been
able to resist every threat to the German flanks by counterattacking forces.
The reports of the new formation are believed to be propaganda. Propaganda is
an effective instrument of war, and the Germans use it to the utmost. As with
other kinds of weapons, a defense must be devised and used.
Fear of the unknown is one of the greatest dangers on the battlefield. The
Germans spread false reports to cause their opponents to fear
so-called "new" or "super" weapons or tactics which they do not have. This
is done to create an uneasy state of mind which readily leads to confusion
when the action really does start. While carrying out an attack, the Germans
continue to spread as much confusion as possible in their opponent's command. They
do this by dropping bombs that make frightening noises, by using sirens on dive
bombers, by terrorizing civilian refugees so they will rush away from their
homes and block the roads, by dropping disguised parachutists, and by tapping
telephone lines to spread false reports and even to give commands in the
opposition's language. In many instances, the Germans also have used Fifth
Columnists to do some of these things, as well as to perform sabotage missions.
As an interesting sidelight, an American observer asked a German general staff
officer immediately after the campaign in France about the nature of
the "secret" weapon announced by the Germans before the campaign. He laughed
and replied that it was the members and units of all the arms and services
operating together in a task force combat team. The "secret" weapon was
cooperation. The German officer added that this cooperation was possible
only when all elements of the task force were under one commander.
In the future there will be other German reports of new weapons or tactics. It
may be gas, or a tank, or an airplane, or something entirely new. These reports
will be studied carefully because they may indicate new weapons or combat
methods, or they may be propaganda—which can be as effective as bullets. Of
course, there will be some improvements in German arms and tactics as a
result of experience, but, in the main, their present combat methods are
the ones they employed in Poland, France, and Russia. These are all
well-known to our officers.