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"German Antitank Tactics: Text of a Captured Document" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A report on German antitank tactics from a captured document, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 51, October 1944.

[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.]


Don't split up antitank units, give them definite tasks in combat, maintain close liaison with the infantry, set up antitank nests under unified command, employ self-propelled companies in mobile operations—these are some of the antitank tactics outlined in a recently obtained German document. The translation from the German follows:

The tendency to split up antitank units completely, to have a proportion of antitank firepower everywhere, is wrong. The smallest unit permissible is the half-platoon (two guns), except for defense of streets for which less may be employed.

Companies in their entirety, or at least whole platoons, should cover likely tank approaches. To use a single antitank gun is to invite destruction. Other terrain over which tanks might approach will be covered by mines, obstacles, or tank-destruction detachments.

Antitank units will normally be in support; they must be given definite tasks and allowed to make their own tactical dispositions.

Engagement of even worthwhile infantry targets must be the exception rather than the rule. Such employment is limited by lack of mobility, by the bulkiness of the gun as a target, by the sensitivity of the barrel which is subjected to great strain, and finally by the small issue of high-explosive shells. In addition, accuracy diminishes with bore wear.

On the move, regimental antitank companies are normally distributed throughout march groups by platoons—one platoon always with the advance party. No heavy antitank guns [should be] with the point, as too much time is needed to bring them into action. Divisional antitank battalions are normally brought forward as a body.

In assembling, locate in areas from which the final movement can also be protected; local protection [should be] by machine guns. Positions for antitank guns not immediately employed will be reconnoitered and prepared. Antitank warning arrangements must be made by the officer commanding the antitank unit detailed for local protection. Advantage will be taken of unexpected gains of ground to push forward the antitank defenses.


In attack, antitank units follow the advancing infantry in areas likely to favor tank counterattacks, moving from cover to cover in such a manner that the antitank guns always have advantageous positions. The leading infantry must not be beyond the range of the antitank guns. As many guns as possible must be ready to fire simultaneously. There must be close liaison between the antitank units and the infantry before and during the attack. When the objective has been reached, or if the attack is held up, a solid belt of antitank defenses must be organized immediately. This is the responsibility of the antitank unit commander.

In defensive operations, an antitank defense plan will be drawn up by the responsible antitank commander. Location of the main defensive belt must give the antitank guns suitable fields of fire; this is a prerequisite for effective antitank support for the infantry.

Antitank positions must be established at some distance to the rear. These positions must be camouflaged so they will not be seen and concentrated on before the attack. However, in the selection of positions it must be remembered that these should be sufficiently far forward to cover the ground in front of the main defensive belt. Normally, regimental antitank companies are forward, and divisional antitank units are to the rear.

Alternative and dummy positions are essential for continued surprise. Mines and obstacles should be used in suitable areas. Tank-hunting detachments should be held ready in villages, wooded areas, and close country.

Nests of antitank guns under one unified command should be set up. Units arriving subsequently will be incorporated in the general antitank defense plan.

Open fire as late as possible. Do not be deceived by feint attacks. Use one uniform system of tank warning. It is important to keep in contact with artillery OP's. Take advantage of all radio and telephone facilities. Tank warnings have priority over everything.

If there is any possibility of creating an antitank reserve, the reserve units must reconnoiter a number of possible positions and prepare them for occupation.

In the employment of self-propelled antitank guns the following will apply:

Companies are controlled by radio, in emergency by flag signals. Normal formations for movement on the battlefield are file, arrowhead, broad arrowhead, or extended line. Self-propelled antitank guns use fire and movement, their constant readiness for action making them the ideal mobile reserve. They are, therefore, the very weapon to use at points of main effort. The tactical unit is the company; exceptionally, the platoon. Disadvantages at present are low speed (up to 10 miles per hour), tall silhouette, weak armor, and restricted traverse. Immediate counterattack, such as can be carried out by assault guns, is impossible. Self-propelled antitank guns can be employed only on open flanks if adequately covered by infantry. Whenever possible, ground reconnaissance, preferably on foot, must precede the occupation of positions.


On the move, one self-propelled antitank half-platoon should be as far forward as possible; the remainder of the platoon should be with the advance party. The rest of the company will remain together. Road reconnaissance must include investigation of the carrying capacity of bridges.

In an attack, the infantry will be accompanied by self-propelled antitank platoons, each giving the other mutual support. The enemy should be engaged by surprise, when possible from defiladed positions or from positions on reverse slopes, with all guns firing simultaneously. Fire should be opened, when possible, by whole companies, since it will frequently be necessary to fire in several directions at the same time. Platoons can fire effectively only in one direction at a time.

The only completely successful method of employing self-propelled companies is in mobile operations. Flank attacks are very effective, especially if they are combined with a small frontal attack.

In defense, the main task of self-propelled antitank guns is the destruction of tanks which have broken through. Self-propelled units will therefore be held as mobile reserves and employed all together, especially for the point of main effort. An efficient warning system, using radio whenever possible, is especially important. Gun commanders must thoroughly reconnoiter probable operational areas, the ground in the main defensive belt, tank approaches, and the rear areas of the position. Close liaison with the infantry is essential. It is wrong to dig in self-propelled guns because of their lack of traverse, but firing and alternative positions must be prepared for them.


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