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.
* * *
I CLOSE RECONNAISSANCE BY A TANK REGIMENT
(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
The motorcycle reconnaissance platoons of the headquarters
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
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
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
II NOTES ON MISSIONS AND OPERATIONS OF TANK PLATOONS
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
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:
Against heavy odds;
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.
III ORDER OF MARCH OF A TANK BATTALION OF THREE COMPANIES AS ADVANCED GUARD
IV ORDER OF MARCH OF A REINFORCED ARMORED INFANTRY BATTALION
as Advance Guard; Speed, 20 mph)
V NOTES ON MARCH DISCIPLINE OF MOTORIZED TROOPS
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.
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.
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:
|| 20 km ph (12 1/2 mph)
|| 12 km ph (7 1/2 mph)|
|| 30 km ph (18 1/2 mph)
|| 15 km ph (9 1/2 mph)|
|| 35 km ph (22 mph)
|| 18 km ph (11 mph)|
|| 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.