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"Secret Weapon Again? (German)" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   An intelligence report on a rumored German secret weapon used in Russia during the 1942 campaign, from the Intelligence Bulletin, September 1942.

[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.]



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.

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