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"German 12-cm Mortar Battalions" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A U.S. report on the German 12-cm heavy mortar battalions in WWII, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 40, December 16, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Translation of an incomplete German document, which was obtained from a reliable source, gives the following information about the motorized German 12-cm Heavy Mortar Battalion.

These battalions appear to be G.H.Q. troops which may be attached as desired. They combine great fire power with considerable maneuverability. When it is necessary to operate off roads, the mortars can be carried for short distances in three loads, therefore they can support the infantry everywhere. As only high angle fire is possible, the mortars must always be placed in positions from which they can take advantage of cover afforded by defilade.

The fire unit is the platoon, the tactical unit may be either the company or the battalion. To build up an especially effective fire concentration, the battalion can be employed complete, fire being coordinated by the battalion commander. In this way it is possible to produce great intensity of fire so that, for the tasks of breaking through fixed positions or overcoming particularly obstinate defense, the battalion is especially suitable. Breaking up the battalion into units smaller than company, diffuses and lessens the effectiveness of the fire.

The battalion is organized as follows:

        Battalion headquarters, with signal sections
        Ammunition platoon and train
        Three heavy mortar companies.

Each company is equipped with 12 mortars and 3 light machine guns for local defense and antiaircraft fire. Battalion headquarters has 6 radio sections with which the companies and also the forward observation posts can be linked. In addition there is a telephone section which can connect 5 separate points.

For communication with their platoons, companies have 3 radio sections and 2 telephone sections so that when 1 platoon is within calling distance of the company command post, the 2 other platoons can each have both radio and telephone communication, and a radio section remains available for a forward observation officer. For communication between observation point and fire position, each platoon has a telephone line and a field radio set. Or alternatively, if double communication is not required, a forward observation officer can be supplied with radio or telephone.

The battalion is equipped with trucks which have only a moderate cross-country performance. For this reason the routes of approach to the position, and particularly to the actual firing positions, must be carefully reconnoitered and sign-posted.

The best range for the 12-cm mortar is between 2,200 and 3,800 yards. Maximum range is 6,500 yards.

When fitted with percussion fuzes, the mortar shells have a good splinter effect. Splinters fly almost horizontally over a large area.

The almost silent flight, the dull thud of the impact, and the air compression when the shell bursts, produces considerable adverse effect on the morale of troops. Naturally, the effect is heightened when the mortars are mass fired. In view of these effects and the destructive power of the shells, the heavy mortar battalion is especially suited for attacking dug-in positions, objectives in hollows, villages and wooded areas.

Generally 12-cm mortar battalions are attached, as army troops, to large units on the march, or else they are ordered to proceed independently to a unit which they are to support in a particular action. When in support of an infantry division, the battalion moves by bounds, either with the motorized elements of the division or alone. When action with an advance guard is necessary, the principles for employment of motorized artillery apply. When in support of a motorized division, the battalion can be allocated to the advance guard.

In the preparation of an attack, the battalion is to be used as a complete unit at tactically important points. In such cases, the battalion is subordinated to an infantry regiment.

Employment of the battalion depends on the distance from the enemy. If the assembly takes place at a great distance from the enemy, the battalion takes position right forward. It advances, whenever possible, on the heels of the leading infantry. Company and platoon commands maintain contact with the unit in front and report back on the possibilities of action.


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