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"Notes on German Armored Units" from Tactical and Technical Trends

Two intelligence notes on WWII German chemical warfare capabilities, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 24, May 6, 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.]


The following pages contain an edited translation of training notes on some of the tactical courses given at the Panzer Troop School (School of Mobile Troops, at Wünsdorf, Germany). Though dealing specifically with armored units, this material should be of interest to all branches of the service.

The types of German tanks mentioned below are the PzKw 2, 3, and 4. The PzKw 2 is a 10-ton tank capable of about 35 mph, usually equipped with one 20-mm gun and a machine gun. The PzKw 3 is a 19-ton tank with heavier armor, and with a speed of about 28 mph; it is usually equipped with a 50-mm gun and 2 machine guns. The PzKw 4, with still thicker armor plate, weighs 21 to 22 tons, and has one 75-mm gun and 2 machine guns; its top speed is 22 mph.

*          *          *


a. General

(1) Close reconnaissance by the tank regiment will be carried out for the benefit of the regiment only.

(2) For this mission the following units are available:

The PzKw 2s of the light tank platoons in the regimental and battalion headquarters companies.*

The motorcycle reconnaissance platoons of the headquarters companies.

Moreover, all crews of light and medium tanks** must be qualified to carry out close reconnaissance when conditions permit.

(3) The PzKw 2 tank is entirely suitable for cross-country work. On account of its stronger armor it is superior to the armored reconnaissance car, although this car carries a gun of larger caliber. According to the situation, the tank is expected to defeat a numerically stronger but unarmored enemy who is not prepared for defense.

As the enemy may well suspect the presence of a tank unit if one or more tanks are sighted, battle or tactical reconnaissance by tanks is not permitted when an armored attack is contemplated against an enemy with well-prepared defenses and a high morale. In this situation, the reconnaissance is carried out by motorcycle platoons. For this reason, in many cases squads of the motorcycle reconnaissance platoons in battalion headquarters companies form a valuable supplement to the light tank platoon--for example, with motorcycle reconnaissance elements in front of a point of light tanks.

(4) The light tank platoons are equipped with radio transmitters and receivers, but the range is short. If the ground to be reconnoitered is beyond the radio range, motorcycle messengers must be added or relay radio stations established.

b. Orders for Reconnaissance

(1) Close reconnaissance is ordered by the regimental commander as a matter of routine. He directs the assembling of the patrol.

(2) Orders for the patrol should include:

Information concerning the enemy, as known to the officer issuing the order;

Plan of operation, including the time phases during the reconnaissance;

Mission for the patrol, together with the route and measures to be taken in case of road blocks, mines, and enemy contact:

The missions, routes, and reconnaissance limits of other patrols; Duration of the reconnaissance;

Means of communication;

Where to rejoin the command;

Where messages may reach the commanding officer.

(3) Composition of Patrols

As a general rule, patrols will be formed from motorcycle reconnaissance squads of the headquarters companies. They are trained to cooperate properly. These patrols must be especially strong if contact with the enemy is expected and it is necessary to fight for information.

While the regiment is on the march, at rest periods, during alerts, and after the objective has been reached, parts of the motorcycle platoons and of the light tank platoons will be used for security missions.

When attacking an enemy whose strength is uncertain, or after a successful break-through, the light tank platoons of the leading battalions will be employed as patrols.


Although brief, the following outline suggests main points covered in the tactical training of German tank platoons, particularly with regard to the character of missions assigned to these units. The original notes were accompanied by references, omitted here, to German training documents and manuals.

a. Combat Platoons

(1) Ordinary Operations

Point platoon (alone or in cooperation with motorcycle reconnaissance platoon).

Attack against heavy infantry weapons.

Attack against artillery.

Attack against infantry:
While the platoon is in motion;
From a prepared position.

Close support of friendly infantry:
After the second wave, or echelon, of tanks has passed friendly riflemen;
Riflemen of armored units.

Fighting for an important terrain feature.

Battle against enemy tanks:
Evenly matched;
Against heavy odds;
Unexpected encounters;
Enemy tanks surprising our own;
Our own tanks surprising enemy tanks.

Advancing during attack, but behind our own front line.

Conduct of an armored unit which has reached its objective.

Transition from attack to defense.

Defense against close-in attack.

(2) Special Operations

Attack against permanent fortifications.

Attack against a river line.

Attack against villages and wooded areas.

Combat at night or in fog.

Procedure on encountering mines.

b. Light Tank Platoon***

(1) The Individual Tank

When attacking an insufficiently reconnoitered enemy.

After breaking through the enemy infantry zone.

After reaching the objective.

Security in bivouac, or in prepared positions subject to attack.

(2) The Unit

Unit as point, or flank guard.

Reconnaissance for determining terrain and enemy position, as the basis for the beginning of an armored attack.

After a successful penetration of the enemy infantry zone, determination of hostile dispositions and nature of the terrain to the front and flanks.

After reaching its objective.

Reconnaissance to determine the enemy's position during the counterattack.

The unit, reinforced with engineers, to make surprise attack to capture a bridge, blow up railroads or bridges, or lay mine obstacles.


(Acting as Advance Guard; Speed, 20 mph)


a. The Fundamental Principles for the March of Smaller Units

(1) Mounting up, Starting, and Halting

Everyone will sit quietly after mounting the vehicles. At the signal or command "Forward," the vehicles will be set in motion. If possible, all vehicles should begin to move at the same time. Vehicles which fail to move off with the others cause confusion. Therefore, a preparatory signal should be given. As they move out, all vehicles will follow the leading vehicle at the designated distance. The minimum distance should be 20 meters. During halts, distances are in no case to be less than 20 meters. This distance may be shortened to 5 or even 2 meters when the tactical or traffic situation so demands.

Besides the driver, all vehicles will have assigned to them leaders who are responsible for the transmission of signals. The following signals will be used: "Slow down;" "Turn to right;" "Halt;" "Turn sharply to right;" "Take cover from air raid;" "Turn left." Personnel are always to dismount on the right-hand side. Crossings, curves, etc. are to be left clear. Traffic control personnel are to be posted along the line of march.

(2) Distances

Distances are to be not less than 20 meters. If the distance is too great, vehicles are to proceed at gradually increased speed to close the gap, rather than racing ahead. Platoon leaders must keep control of their units. The observance of the regulation distances is not to be rigidly insisted upon; the type of vehicle, route, and terrain are to be considered. Distances of 50 to 150 meters are to be maintained between units (i.e., companies, etc.). The signals, "Take more distance" or "Close up" should be given only in exceptional cases. The basic principle is to give as few signals as possible; otherwise march discipline will become lax and drivers will pay no heed to the signals.

(3) Speed

This depends on the condition of the road, and on the terrain, weather, and type of vehicles. Average speed is not to be insisted upon; however, the speed of the leading vehicle should be set by order. The following table may serve as a guide in fixing the speed of the leading vehicle:

For units with a preponderance of:

Full-track vehicles   20 km ph (12 1/2 mph)   12 km ph (7 1/2 mph)
Half-track vehicles   30 km ph (18 1/2 mph)   15 km ph (9 1/2 mph)
Four-wheeled vehicles   35 km ph (22 mph)   18 km ph (11 mph)
Motorcycles   40 km ph (25 mph)   20 km ph (12 1/2 mph)

Vehicles move off at a slow speed, which is then gradually increased when the whole unit is in motion. Speed is not to be increased or decreased too suddenly. Even very brief halts in front will unfavorably affect the rest of the column.

(4) Passing

The overtaken vehicle must pull over to the right and give the "go ahead" signal, and must not increase its speed. Columns may be doubled without special permission by: single vehicles with officers, personnel moving forward to receive orders, messengers, medical and veterinary officers, supply sergeants, signal personnel, and staff personnel with appropriate command flags. Marching columns must not be overtaken by another column. Stationary or slowly moving columns may be doubled only if their commanders are consulted first, or if an order to this effect issued by a higher authority is produced. A halted column must not be put in motion while it is being passed.

(5) Turning

To turn around, individual vehicles will veer sharply to the right and then turn. The lead vehicle again takes position at the head and the units follow in the old order, or in the order in which they find themselves after making the turn.

(6) The Last Vehicle and Dropping Out

The rear of every unit is brought up by a vehicle carrying an officer or a senior NCO. He decides whether or not vehicles which have dropped out should remain behind, and he reports his decision to the unit commander. He prevents unauthorized passing of the column by other columns when it is halted. The last vehicle must display a red-and-white light at night. Vehicles which have dropped out will get off the road, hoist the "drop-out" flag, and motion other vehicles to pass. Maintenance sections will repair minor defects, or order the drivers to do so. When these have been repaired, vehicles must not double other columns to catch up, but must attach themselves to the nearest unit and then proceed to their own units at the next scheduled halt.

(7) Night Marches

Vehicles using their parking lights will proceed at moderate speed. Under certain circumstances distances are to be decreased and the units separated. Careful route reconnaissance and traffic posts are essential. Signals are to be given with the flashlight. The same principles apply in case of fog.

b. Basic Principles for the March of Larger Units

(1) Preparations

Advance route reconnaissance should be initiated. The condition and width of roads, bridges, cover, etc., are to be reconnoitered. The effects of sudden freezing or rain should be considered. All personnel, and the drivers in particular, must be well acquainted with the route and destination. The march order must include: the route, destination, order of march, place and hour of assembly for the march, halts and rests, reconnaissance, security measures, regulation of traffic, and administrative details.

(2) Assembling the Initial Point

A timetable is to be drawn up. An initial point must be designated outside the bivouac area, but in the direction of the march. Before the column is assembled a representative from each unit must contact the liaison officer of the unit that is to precede it. The crossing of columns is to be avoided. Lining up without confusion is to be demanded. A short halt is to be made at the initial point. Jamming at the initial point is to be avoided. If possible, there should be no assembling and halting on the road or route to the initial point.

(3) The March

Long columns will be split up into a number of march groups. These travel with considerable distance between groups. These distances must not be shortened by vehicles from the rear groups closing on the group in the front. Any differences in distances due to varying rate of speed are to be adjusted at the next halt. It is the duty of every officer to take energetic measures in case of traffic jams.

(4) Halts

Twenty-minute halts should be ordered every two hours. As a rule they take place on the road. Vehicles should park on the extreme right of the road and cover should be sought. The vehicles are to be inspected. Special halts for maintenance purposes will not be provided for.

(5) Rests

Rests should be ordered every 4 or 5 hours and should be of at least 2 and 1/2 hours' duration. Time and space should be considered when ordering rest periods. If the march is properly regulated as to time, everyone will be able to adhere to the time schedule and get off the road to take cover. During rests an officer collects messages from every company for the information of the column commander on the condition of vehicles, oil and fuel supply, etc. During the rest, the fuel tanks are refilled, minor repairs undertaken, and the troops fed. Roads should be cleared for the resumption of the march.

(6) Traffic Regulation

Each unit is responsible for the regulation of its own traffic. Motorcycle messengers, squads, or even whole platoons may be assigned to regulate traffic. In case of large units, the higher echelons may establish traffic control. The regulations issued by higher echelons must be strictly adhered to. The responsibility for the regulation of traffic must be definitely assigned by order.

* Regimental and battalion headquarters companies include a light tank platoon equipped with PzKw 2s.
**Probably has reference to tanks in the tank companies. In this connection it should be noted that the light PzKw 2 is no longer included in the tank company. The light tank company is now equipped only with PzKw 3s, and the medium tank company with PzKw 4s.
***Part of regimental and battalion headquarters companies; platoon is equipped with PzKw 2s.


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