Emphasis on the vital importance of inspiring efficient leadership, and
understanding of troop psychology, and a discussion of tactical principles, feature in
a recent German document concerning the defense of populated places. The
following article is a translation of the document, which was written by an officer
serving on the eastern front.
* * *
a. The Leader
The leader is the soul of the defense. The fighting power, strength of the
defense, and the spirit of the unit depend entirely on the leader. The leader, in
turn, depends entirely on his men.
The defense of a town can only be directed from the town itself. It is
nonsensical to attempt to direct the defense of a town from the rear. The leader
must breathe the same air, take part in the same combat phases, as the common
soldier. The leader must possess energy and must perform his mission with
undaunted fanaticism. He must be able to act on the spur of the moment. Better
to do the wrong thing once in a while than to act too late. He must be filled with
optimism. He must be young and alert -- there are young leaders who are 50 years
old. Ruthlessness and hardness are always necessary. Yet the leader must feel
for his men. Cold, rational beings will never be able to inspire enthusiasm, among
the men. The leader must be able to give orders and state his intentions clearly
Overcoming fear is the greatest victory man can gain. Some fear is
inherent in every human being; the leader, too, cannot free himself from it. Even
in desperate situations, the leader must be able to force weak men to stick it out.
He who runs away will be shot. He who weakens must roughly be barked at. Better
to beat up a weakling and thus save the situation than to lose the fight.
b. The Men
As troops engaged in the defense of a town are usually a mixture of several
units, they do not possess the combat efficiency of a closely knit group. Leading
such troops is a most difficult task. It is therefore necessary to form small
groups and appoint sub-leaders. Sectors and boundaries must be clearly defined.
An all-round defense must be planned. The leader in each sector must be thoroughly
aware of the great responsibility resting on him. Every opportunity must be seized
to instruct the men, to question them about their mission, to strengthen their
self-confidence and to inform the sub-leaders about the situation. Every man
must know the intentions of the leader. The men must believe in their invincibility
and every one feel that he is stronger than 100 attacking Russians.
Men must be freed from the tank phobia. The men inside the tank are only
human beings, who are just as frightened as the defenders, if not more so. The
soldier must know that individual tanks are helpless in a town. Don't hesitate,
therefore, to let such tanks pass through the lines. Tanks in motion don't hurt
The soldier should be familiar with every possible situation and with the
methods for defense in each case. His optimism must be refreshed time and
again. Occasionally the leader might even start a good latrine rumor. The
efficient functioning of the guard reliefs and provision for rest, warmth and food
c. The Position
Wherever possible, reverse slope positions which cannot come under enemy
observation should be selected and scouting patrols for combat reconnaissance
continuously sent out. During the frost, snow forts can be built. (See Tactical
and Technical Trends No. 22 p. 20) Defenders should remain close to warm places;
and should not hesitate to leave unoccupied a seemingly important hill if it is
fairly distant. Small, narrow antitank foxholes should be dug on the outskirts of
the town, as in cases of artillery fire, buildings are mantraps. The heavy weapons
should be ready for action. Areas not covered by antitank guns must be closed by
minefields and covered by fire. Reserves of ammunition and food must be
accumulated, cattle and food-stuffs protected, and dogs shot. Attached artillery
will usually have to learn how to fight in far advanced positions. Provision for
early evacuation of wounded is necessary.
Russian low-flying attacks are usually ineffective. This is true also of
their bombing attacks. Thus, everybody is to go under cover and only one light
machine gun and one squad will remain to fire on planes.
e. Antitank Combat
Tanks usually move slowly through towns, fearing minefields and unexpected
obstacles. Tanks are fought with AT and incendiary charges, with mud thrown
against the slit, and by using every other means. At night, the field of fire may
be lighted with flames and concentrated fire directed on the tanks. Each soldier
must know the tank's weak points, what weapons it carries, where it cannot fire.
Tanks that have lost their mobility are still in fighting trim. It is necessary,
therefore, to blow them up or to fight them until they burn. Experience teaches
that the Russians use "destroyed" tanks for artillery observation posts or as
machine-gun emplacements; therefore from time to time such tanks in front of
our own position should be fired on.
f. Use of Assault Guns
The self-propelled assault gun is an outstanding and much-feared weapon. It
is especially well suited for house-to-house fighting against an enemy who has
broken through. Do not let assault guns fight against heavy Russian tanks since
the assault gun's armor is too weak.
g. Signal Connections
At least one wire connection must be functioning at all times. Therefore,
several must be laid and checked constantly. Radio equipment and batteries must
be ready for immediate use. Whenever conditions permit, transmission may be
in the clear.
Lighting facilities are needed to enable the men to find their weapons and
equipment without delay at night.
Drinking water must be boiled, and tea prepared for the guards whenever
it is possible to do so.
j. Barrage Fire
Exact barrage areas for mortars and infantry guns must be established
and heavy machine guns sited to give flank protection to reverse slope positions.
Hills can be combed with heavy machine guns and 20-mm AA. An advance observer,
with a radio connection, should be constantly in the front line.
k. Care of Weapons
Weapons are inspected constantly to see that all are ready for action.
Weapons "sweat" when taken into warm rooms; they should be dried at once. Oil
or grease can not be used during freezing weather as such lubricants freeze and
cause jams; petroleum or a gasoline-petroleum mixture is preferable. Machine-gun
ammunition belts must be kept filled and in good order.
l. Conduct of Fighting
If the enemy penetrates a town at night, he must be cut off at daybreak and
driven out with bunches of grenades and single hand grenades. Dominating hills
are to be held by the smallest possible number of men, and in reverse slope
position, in order to avoid unnecessary large losses. Massed Russian infantry
attacks will be affected by organized hurrah-shouting by our own troops. This
strengthens our own morale and confuses the enemy.
The focal point in winter fighting for a town is the town itself, since it is
the center of warmth. It is much more effective to concentrate on the defense of
the town and a few hills nearby, or on the defense of the town only, than to scatter
one's forces by occupying hills far off. In the event of a strong attack it will not
be possible to send prompt support to these hills.
If the town should be entirely surrounded it will be the duty of the leader
to continue the defense as before. The enemy will have to depart sometime. Since
he will freeze to death, he cannot camp in the open for an indefinite period in order
to keep the town cut off. An enemy who has been beaten off repeatedly will become
cautious and hesitating. Relief will arrive eventually. Only mind and will power
will triumph over any weapon.