It is believed that the following combat instructions, a translation of German Panzer
army headquarters' order, will be of general interest. The order has reference to recent
operations in Tunisia. It is reproduced with only a few minor changes made with a view toward
greater clarity for American readers.
* * *
a. Organization of Defensive Positions
Having increased to the full the bridgehead, this defensive position must be organized
and strengthened until the arrival of the main force.
(1) Work will be done in the following order:
(a) Road blocks (with mines, according to circumstances)
(b) Siting of antitank guns and machine guns
(c) Assembly points for tanks
(d) Command posts
(e) Telephone communications
(2) Since engineering equipment and transport have not arrived, work must be done temporarily
with improvised or rented material (no requisitioning).
War in Africa necessitates a far more extensive reconnaissance than in Europe. For this
reason, reconnaissance patrols in certain cases are away for several days.
(1) First, the Axis forces must push out reconnaissance forces to a line 20 kilometers
west of Kebili.*
(2) To achieve this, even by using Arabs, it is necessary to know to what nations and to
which arms of the service the enemy forces behind this line belong--a line which is
considered to be the advance line of the main body of their army.
(3) Use must be made of assault troops. Based on preliminary close reconnaissance, attacks
must be carried out to cut off isolated enemy elements and capture transport (especially
motor transport) and arms.
(4) Any plan of action for a unit larger than a company must first be communicated to Army Hq.
(5) Actions of a particular nature which aim at the capture of necessary avenues of approach, of
high ground suitable for observation, etc., must be communicated in reasonable time so that the
support of Army reserves may be given to units near the battle area.
Every effort should be directed towards defense against much superior infantry, armored
forces, and air attack which might threaten our present line.
(1) Every position must have an element (about one third of the whole strength) armed with
numerous automatic weapons and ample ammunition, in order that centers of resistance may be
formed, particularly on roads.
(2) In rear of the flanks, units must be held ready for counterattack along lateral roads
that have been reconnoitered and along which night positions have been prepared. It is not a
matter of seeking contact with the enemy's flank but of penetrating into his rear.
(3) Our artillery, still numerically weak, consists of infantry howitzers.** The artillery
must organize positions and observation posts not only on one but on all the possible enemy
lines of advance, and prepare or improve the quickest route (i.e., the shortest) which may
link up these positions. Only extremely mobile artillery can, by its dispositions, fulfill
(4) Besides emplaced antitank guns, unit commanders must have a mobile reserve of antitank weapons.
(5) Fire is nearly always opened at the wrong moment.
(a) Artillery must open fire at extreme range.
(b) Infantry and machine guns only fire at 300 meters. Enemy infantry carried in armored
vehicles must be fired on first, thus separating the following infantry from their tanks.
(c) Assault tanks which move in front are not the concern of the infantry. They are
neutralized by the antitank defense and by artillery. Enemy tanks which remain in the
infantry area must be blinded and destroyed by groups specially trained as tank destroyers.
(d) Regimental antitank weapons must open fire at not more than 500 meters. If fire is
opened earlier, it is a sign of fear, and above all it achieves no results. At the opportune
moment an attack should be made on the flank; at the same time reconnaissance elements should
be pushed forward within the enemy lines to oppose new enemy supporting forces, but the results
of this action must not be waited for. The counterattack can be undertaken and be effective
when the enemy is completely beaten and brought to a halt by fire. The troops engaged
frontally likewise take part in the blow delivered against the enemy.
d. Messages and Information
(1) I forbid the use of the expression "strong enemy force."
(2) Either exact figures, or the extent of an attack (for example 100 meters) will be
given, or the forces employed will be specified (For example: "one platoon at least"; "one
company at most.")
(3) Care must be taken that all observations be communicated exactly and precisely to
higher headquarters. The time, place, and circumstances in which such and such a thing
has been observed or attacked by fire must be stated.
e. Comfort of Troops (Duties Incumbent on Unit Commanders)
(1) The most advanced posts must have hot soup.
(2) Now, during the rainy season, protection against dampness is extremely important; if
necessary, Arab "burnous"*** must be bought to prevent sentries getting wet.
(3) Carry a pair of socks in the trouser pockets, so that you can change after completing a
tour of guard duty.
(4) Do not allow men who have a touch of temperature to become seriously ill; otherwise, they
will be off your strength for several months. Send them in time to the field
hospital, for 3 or 4 days.
(5) Everyone must wear continually a flannel body belt.
(6) In future, from sunset to sunrise the body should be fully covered.
Supplies should be echeloned from the unloading point to units, so that local means of
transport may be utilized, and gasoline be saved for operations.
Motor transport of all types must have their documents (e.g., for drivers, the dispatch
ticket). General's vehicles are the exception to this rule. Motor transport will be
requisitioned to give mobility to units. (Signed: Arnim)
*Kebili is roughly 225 miles south by west of Tunis and about 100 miles south of
Kasserine Pass. A north-south line running through Kebili would be about 55 miles
west of Tunis.
**Six 75-mm and two 150-mm infantry howitzers in each infantry regiment.