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"German Tank Platoons Operating as Points" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on the employment of German armor as point during advance with an emphasis on communication procedures, from the Intelligence Bulletin, June 1944.

[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.]


This section discusses the composition and employment of German tank platoons operating as points. Although the information in this account comes from an unofficial source, it is believed to be substantially correct.


The point platoon is generally made up of the platoon leader's tank and two sections of two tanks each. The platoon leader may place either the first or second section at the head of the point platoon, but he himself always stays between the two sections in order to observe his entire outfit. However, the composition of the point varies according to the situation.

The strength of the point platoon may be increased in mountainous terrain. During the German invasion of the Balkans, the point amounted to an extra-strong company and consisted of heavy tanks, assault weapons, tanks with the long 75-mm and 50-mm guns, an infantry platoon, and a detachment of engineers. A platoon of five Pz. Kw. 4's led the point. Behind them came a group of engineers, riding either on the last tanks in the point or on other tanks immediately following. After that came a platoon of self-propelled assault guns (four short-barreled 75-mm's), then the platoon of infantry riding in armored personnel carriers, and finally a platoon of five Pz. Kw. 3's. There were no motorcycle couriers.

At the historic Thermopylae Pass, in Greece, there were 22 tanks in the spearhead, but only three of these got through. A responsible German officer's comment on this was that it was worth losing the 19 tanks in order to achieve success with the three.


a. Within the Point Platoon

In combat, communication within the German tank platoon operating as a point is done basically by radio. Up to that time, liaison is maintained by at least one or two motorcycle couriers attached to the platoon leader. As soon as contact with a hostile force is established, these couriers scatter to the sides and lie in ditches until the whole platoon has passed. They then go back to the company commander and report to him contact has been made. After this, he carries on by radio.

b. Within the Armored Regiment

As has been stated, there are five tanks in each platoon—two in each section and one for the platoon leader. The platoon leader and each section leader has a two-way radio; the two remaining tanks have receiving sets only. Regimental commanders and all three battalion commanders have special radio cars, each equipped with 100-watt sets. If the battalions (or companies) attack together, they have radio communication with the regiment. When they attack separately, each uses, in addition to his two-way radio (Funk Gerät 5), four sets capable only of receiving (Funk Gerät 2's). Each of these receiving sets is used for communication with one of the four companies. Moreover, each company is on a different frequency. In turn, each company commander has a two-way set and two receiving sets, and can speak with the battalion commander.

Each battalion, too, is normally on a different frequency. The platoon is on the same frequency as its company commander. Each platoon leader has his second receiving set tuned to the frequency of his battalion commander, in case his company commander should become a casualty.

If the regiment attacks as a unit, the network remains unchanged. However, if the battalions act independently, the regimental commander has no communication with them except by messengers, usually motorcyclists.

Code is used only with the 100-watt sets, from battalion up to division. During the attack, communication is in the clear, even up to the regimental commander. When battalions attack separately, however, they use code in communicating with the regimental commander.

The division commander alone authorizes messages in the clear. If the battalion commander cannot reach his regimental commander by using the two-way Funk Gerät 5 (which has a range of 6 kilometers), he encodes his message and uses the 100-watt set.


a. Combat Vehicles

It is a German principle that the distance between the rear of the point platoon and the company commander must not be so great that the latter cannot see the former. It can be, but seldom is, as much as 1 kilometer. The spacing depends entirely on the terrain. All movement is made by road until a hostile force is encountered. The tanks then scatter to the sides. Even when there is danger of air attack, the tanks remain on the road but keep well apart. In mountainous country, when heavy tanks are used in the point, the method of advancing on roads is altered. Two tanks advance together, one behind the other but on the opposite side of the road.

The sections are easily interchangeable; for example, should the first section be at the head of the platoon and then leave the road to overcome hostile resistance, the second section can move to the head, allowing the first section to fall in behind when the resistance has been overcome. The Germans believe that it is of the utmost importance to keep the platoon moving forward.

b. Supply Column

During the campaign in Greece, all supply trucks were placed at the rear. In any other position they would have delayed the movement, because of the twisting mountainous roads. Any truck that was damaged was immediately shoved off the road to keep the column moving at all costs.

In more recent operations, when facing the possibility of a guerrilla attack from the front (rather than from the flank), the Germans have been known to sandwich elements of the supply column between tank platoons on the march. The important ration and fuel trucks have even traveled between tanks within a platoon. While this plan has not been followed by a point platoon, it has been employed by the platoons following immediately afterward in the line of march. The same plan has occasionally been used by German battalions on the march, but only when there has been a danger of attacks by guerrillas or when road conditions have been so bad that supply trucks have needed tanks close at hand at all times, for emergency towing.

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