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"German Engineer Attack Methods" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report describes the tactics of German engineer assault detachments in attacking pillboxes and bunker fortifications during WWII. The report originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 22, April 8, 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.]


Information has become available giving a number of details concerning the steps followed by German assault detachments in attacking pillboxes and bunker fortifications. The sequence of operations is described in the following paragraphs.

First, it is stated that the whole action is planned in advance to the last detail. It is evident that this must be done, since the assault detachment advances very closely behind the artillery barrage directed on the point under assault.

The initial step in the assault is to utilize heavy artillery fire to form craters in the area in front of and behind the barbed-wire entanglement; the assault troops then advance, taking advantage of these craters until they reach the barbed-wire entanglement. At that time, a green Very light is fired, and this is the signal to advance the artillery fire in order to localize it more on the pillbox or bunker under attack. This forces the defenders to keep the embrasures fairly well buttoned-up and gives the attackers a chance to clear a path through the barbed wire.

The leading elements of engineer troops, who have advanced up to the barbed wire, then push forward their bangalore torpedoes and signal "Ready for ignition." When all the bangalore torpedoes are in place, the leader of the assault detachment signals "Ignite all together." Ignition is then completed as nearly simultaneously as possible. The man responsible for each ignition signals "Ignited" when his job is done, and then retires some 5 yards or more to cover. Generally the laying and firing of the torpedoes takes place under a smoke screen created by smoke grenades to prevent the enemy from observing the action at the wire entanglements.

Once the wire has been breached, the leader signals "Detonation has taken place, gap here"; the leader, followed by the assault detachment, then rushes through the gap in the wire. At this point it becomes more than ever necessary to prevent the defenders from firing on the assault troops. This is accomplished by delivery of artillery or antiaircraft direct fire at close range against the embrasures to force the defenders to keep the embrasures closed.

Artillery fire is also put down behind the pillbox to prevent the defenders from emerging. Smoke is also used to mask the pillbox in order to further reduce the visibility of the defenders. The flame-throwers, who have been following up the leading detachment, now move forward to within about 5 yards of the pillbox and attack the embrasures; this forces the defenders to close completely the embrasures, or to desert them. At this time the demolition squads fix their pole charges, and at the signal of "Last jet" from the flame-thrower, they rush forward and place their charges against the embrasures, after which they signal "Ready to ignite." The leader waits until all demolition charges are reported in place and then signals "Ignite." This is done, and the entire detachment takes cover. As soon as the embrasures have been blown in, men are detailed to guard them so that no one can escape.

As soon as the pillbox has been silenced and occupied, a signal "Mission accomplished" is given.


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