Increasing emphasis on the importance of infiltration of Allied
positions at night, and an admission of Allied superiority in fire
power and air power, are significant points in a recently published
German army document. Translation of an extract follows:
The incredibly heavy artillery and mortar fire of the enemy on the
Western front is something new, both for seasoned veterans of the
Eastern front and new arrivals from reinforcement units. Veterans
get used to it comparatively quickly, but inexperienced reinforcements
require several days to do so.
The Allies have complete mastery of the air. They bomb and
strafe every movement, even single vehicles and individuals. They
reconnoiter our area constantly and direct their artillery fire. Against
all this the German Air Force is conspicuous by its complete absence.
From the operations point of view, our own offensive operations by
day, after completed assembly, etc.—i.e., attacks prepared "according
to the book" have little chance of succeeding. Assembling of troops
is spotted immediately by enemy reconnaissance aircraft, and smashed
by bombers. fighter bombers, and artillery directed by aircraft; and
if the attacking troops go forward they become involved in such dense
artillery and mortar fire that heavy casualties ensue and the attack
peters out within the first few hundred yards. Losses suffered by
the infantry are then so heavy that the impetus necessary to renew
the attack is spent.
Better results have been obtained through attacks by assault detachments
operating at night on a broad front. These detachments
penetrate enemy positions noiselessly and, in each instance, surprise and
overcome the enemy without enemy artillery or air units having a
chance to intervene.
The primary condition for this is that each individual assault
detachment be fully acquainted with its task and know what to do
in various circumstances, that it be in close liaison with its neighbors,
and that the heavy weapons and artillery know exactly when to come
into operation. But this is usual only in the event of local failure,
when surprise has not been achieved.
Direction of infiltration operations is less a question of large-scale,
elaborate planning than of practical instruction and reminder. The
fact that "assembly has been completed" before the attack begins is
of less importance than the fact that every company and platoon
commander has thought of everything necessary to ensure the success
of his assault detachment.
It is an essential duty of the staff planning the operation to put
everyone down to the lowest ranking commanders completely in the
picture. An attack of this nature attains no far-distant objective, but
proceeds only by small stages, night after night. Yet in the end it
reaches its objective without paying a heavy toll in manpower. The
more cunning and variable the fighting, the more successful the