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"Use of Tanks with Infantry" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A German document summarizes the rights and wrongs of tank deployment, from the Intelligence Bulletin, December 1943.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German tactics and equipment is available in postwar publications.]



The correct and incorrect ways of using infantry with tanks, according to the German Army view, are summarized in an enemy document recently acquired. In this document the Germans list the correct and incorrect methods side by side, an arrangement which is also followed in this section, for the convenience of the reader. The document is of special value and interest, not only because the column headed "Right" indicates procedures approved by the enemy, but because there are implications, in the column headed "Wrong," of certain errors that German units may have made from time to time. Extracts from the document follow.


a. Attack

Wrong   Right
Attack not thoroughly discussed in advance. (1) Thorough discussions of reconnaissance and terrain will take place. Riflemen and tanks will maneuver jointly as much as possible, in advance.
Inadequate coordination between armored and artillery units. (2) The mission of protecting armored elements not yet discovered by hostile forces will be distributed among artillery. (Flanks will be screened by smoke.)
Failure of armored cars and tanks to maneuver jointly in advance. (3) Armored cars used for observation will maneuver with tanks before an intended attack.
Distribution of too many tanks in proportion to infantry used in the attack. (4) Tanks not intended for use in an attack will be kept outside the range of hostile fire.
Tanks deployed and distributed among small units. (5) For effective results, available tanks—at least an entire company—will be combined for the assault.
The use of tanks in unreconnoitered terrain when speed is essential. (6) Terrain must be reconnoitered, especially when an attack at great speed is contemplated. Facilities for mine clearance must be at hand. If a tank detonates a mine, the remaining tanks must halt while the minefield is reconnoitered. After this, the minefield must either be cleared or bypassed.
All tank commanders absent on reconnaissance. (7) A number of tank commanders must always with the company.
Tanks launched without a clear statement of their mission. (8) The mission of tanks will be widely understood.
When a sector full of tank obstacles has been taken, tanks are ordered to cross this sector in front of the riflemen. (9) Riflemen cross the sector first and create passages, while the tanks provide covering fire from positions on slopes.
Tanks advance so rapidly that riflemen are unable to follow. (10) Tanks advance only a short distance at a time. Riflemen advance with the tanks.
When two successive objectives have been taken, tanks ignore the possible presence of hostile forces in areas between these objectives, even though an attack on still another objective is not contemplated at the moment. (11) When two successive objectives have been taken, the entire area between them must be made secure by means of tanks, artillery, assault guns or antitank guns, and heavy weapons.
Tanks within sight of positioned hostile tanks advance without benefit of covering fire. (12) Responsibility for covering fire is divided among artillery or heavy antitank guns. If these are not available, Pz. Kw. 3's and Pz. Kw. 4's provide protection.
Tanks are ordered to hold a captured position, even though heavy weapons are available for this purpose. (13) As soon as an objective has been taken, tanks are withdrawn and are kept in readiness for use as an attacking reserve or in the preparation of a new attack.
Riflemen and light machine guns remain under cover during own attack. (14) Riflemen and machine guns cover the antitank riflemen, who have the mission of destroying hostile tanks which may attempt to bypass.
Tanks take up positions so close to hostile forces that early discovery is inevitable. (15) If possible, tanks take up positions outside the range of hostile artillery fire. Tanks which are compelled to take up positions in the vicinity of hostile forces do so as late as possible, so that the hostile forces will not have time to adopt effective countermeasures.
Tanks remain inactive when a mission has been completed. (16) When a mission has been completed, tanks promptly receive orders as to what they are to do next.

b. Defense

Wrong   Right
Distribution of tanks along the entire front. (1) All available tanks are kept together so that during an enemy attack prompt action can be taken against an advantageous point. Tanks, assault guns, and heavy antitank guns must be kept at a distance while firing positions are being prepared.
Subordination of tanks to small infantry units for the purpose of static defense. (2) When tanks have fulfilled their task they are withdrawn behind the main line of resistance, and are kept in readiness for further action.
After repulsing an attack, tanks remain in the positions from which they last fired. (3) After repulsing an attack, tanks move to alternate positions as soon as heavy arms or riflemen have taken over the responsibility of delivering covering fire.
As hostile tanks approach, own tanks advance, having failed to take up advantageous firing positions beforehand. (4) A firing front is created at a tactically advantageous point in the area against which the attack is directed. Tanks deliver surprise fire—from positions on reverse slopes, if possible.
Tanks which have no armor-piercing weapons are sent into battle against hostile tanks. (5) Tanks without armor-piercing weapons are kept back, and are used for antiaircraft protection, as well as in establishing communications and in supplying ammunition.
When hostile tanks approach, German riflemen and their heavy arms remain under cover, and leave the fighting against tanks with infantry to own tanks, assault guns, and antitank guns exclusively. (6) All arms take part in defense against hostile tanks. Infantry accompanying the tanks are kept somewhat apart, however, so that tanks, assault guns, and antitank guns are free to engage the hostile tanks.
All available tank reserves are compelled to remain out of action because of minor defects. (7) Repairs will be arranged in such a manner that a number of tanks are always ready for action.
Tanks which must remain in forward positions do not dig in, and thereby constitute targets for hostile artillery. (8) Tanks which are within range of hostile observation must be dug in as fast as possible. In winter, they must be hidden behind snow walls.

c. Notes on Use of Ammunition

Wrong   Right
When only a few hostile tanks attack, fire is opened early. (1) When only a few enemy tanks attack, it is best to wait until they are within a favorable distance and then destroy them with as few rounds as possible.
Against a superior number of tanks, fire is opened at close range. (2) Fire is opened early on a superior number of tanks, to force them to change direction. High-explosive shells are used at first. Since the early opening of fire give away own positions, new positions must be taken up.
Pz. Kw. 4's will fire hollow-charge ammunition at ranges of more than 750 yards. (3) Tanks which are short of 75-mm armor-piercing shells must allow a hostile force to approach to a position within a range of 750 yards.

d. Peculiarities of Winter Fighting

Wrong   Right
Tanks are placed outside "tank shelters" when these shelters are being used for other purposes. (1) "Tank shelters" are to be kept for the exclusive use of tanks, assault guns, and mounted antitank guns.
In deep snow, tanks do not advance on roads. (2) In deep snow, tanks keep to roads. An adequate number of men are detailed to assist if fresh snow falls.
Winter quarters are located so far from the scene of action that the tanks, if required, may arrive too late. (3) When action in appreciably distant places is under consideration, arrangements must be made for the smaller units—if possible, never less than a platoon—to reach the scene of action at the proper time.
When "tank shelters" are snowed under, departure is possible only after hours of extra labor. (4) Paths leading from "tank shelters" to the nearest roads are kept cleared. Snow fences are provided for exits. Readiness of tanks is always assured.
In winter, tanks travel freely over roads which have not been used for a considerable time. (5) Because of danger from land mines, mine-clearance detachments always precede tanks, especially if a road is seldom used.
In winter, tanks are ordered to attack distant objectives. (6) All attacks consist of a number of consecutive attacks with "limited objectives." When these objectives have been reached, the area is cleared and reorganization is completed before a new attack is launched.

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