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"Antiaircraft Defense of Motor Columns on the March" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on German antiaircraft defense of motorized columns was originally printed in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 12, November 19, 1942.

[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 is an extract from a Russian publication on the organization of antiaircraft defense of motor columns on the march.

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Enemy reconnaissance is maintained by scout plane patrols approximately 20 to 35 miles from the advance elements and by timely establishment of stationary posts of air observation along the route of march. The stationary posts are provided with radio and other means of communication.

Air observation details are usually attached to the security detachments of the motor column.

In order to cover the movement of the motor column, pursuit aviation is used either en route or at specific points, such as crossings and in defiles.

Pursuit aviation covers the motor column, patrolling at different altitudes over the region of its movement. Under conditions in which enemy raids are imminent and the information service is reliably organized, it is sometimes possible to place pursuit aviation in ambush near the route of the motor column.

One squadron of pursuit planes is capable of covering parallel columns along several roads on a front of 10 to 14 miles. If the front of the movement is wider, it is best to echelon the motor columns, allotting the pursuit aviation to one and additional antiaircraft artillery to the other.

Antiaircraft artillery is assigned to cover troops and motor transport along their entire route. If there is insufficient antiaircraft artillery, it is placed on sectors of the road most vulnerable to air assault, i.e., open terrain, crossings, or defiles. The batteries must be prepared for action and ready to open fire the moment the motor columns arrive.

Antiaircraft and heavy machine guns are used for covering troop motor columns against attack planes, dive-bombers, and scout planes of the enemy.

The distribution of antiaircraft machine guns is such that the whole motor column may be covered by their fire. These machine guns mounted in trucks move in the motor column at a distance of 1,200 to 1,800 feet from each other, always ready to open fire.

In transporting troops, motorized antiaircraft units manned by troops of the column, are used for air defense. Taking into consideration that many such units may be necessary, antiaircraft defense is organized along the march route as economically as possible.

If gas is sprayed from low altitudes, the motor column must leave the poisoned area and halt. In such cases, the drivers take measures to conceal their vehicles and then conduct a preliminary decontamination of the materiel and cargo. In case of heavy contamination of the vehicle surfaces, the canvas covering and the cargo must be taken off immediately and left on the side of the road, and the cargo covered with a new tarpaulin.

Large forests on the march route may be subjected to contamination prior to the time the motor column reaches them. Drops of the gas remain on the branches of the trees and get on the surface of the vehicles.

When contaminated forests are discovered, the march route is altered or the column stopped until decontamination of the sector has been effected.

As a rule, aviation contaminates forest roads from low altitudes, and consequently roads located one-half or one mile to the side of the contaminated area are usually not affected. These alternate roads are less convenient, but they often save time and effort otherwise employed in decontamination.

Dust from a motor column moving in a contaminated area is full of minute drops of gas. These drops, together with the dust, are carried in the air and are capable of producing casualties. Therefore, for the protection of personnel against gas, in addition to putting on gas masks, the windows of the cabs must be shut tightly and the distance between the vehicles must be maintained at 30 to 40 yards. For 2 miles after passing the contaminated area, the increased interval must be maintained.


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