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"Some Notes on German Experiences in Russia" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. intelligence report on German tactics in Russia during WWII originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 25, May 20, 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.]


The Germans have not failed to draw appropriate lessons from their campaign experiences in Russia. These have sometimes resulted in the re-emphasis of old doctrines; at other times, new or modified tactics have been adopted to meet particular features of warfare on the Eastern Front. Some of the combat lessons as stated in German documents are summarized below.

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a. Attack

The practicing of attack tasks by individual companies, with heavy weapons and an allotment of engineers and assault guns, is very important. Instruction in close combat is to be extended. The importance of coordinating flat trajectory and high-angle fire must be drilled into all officers, from section leaders up.

The success of attacks lies in using darkness and bad visibility to allow one's forces to approach the enemy and prepare for the breakthrough.

Attacks should not always be made at the same time of day, but, like the Russian practice, often at night, at dawn, in fog, or in snow storms.

Concentration of fire must be obtained by the allotment of heavy weapons to companies in the assault. The urge to speed up the attack must not lead to insufficient preparation.

When a position is taken at dusk, all-around defense must be effected (hedgehog fashion), and improvements made as soon as it is light.

b. Fire

The best riflemen should be equipped with automatic rifles with telescopic sights, so that they can be used as snipers with best effect. Rocket weapons are to be used when practicable, as they have a great effect against attacking forces and those which have dug themselves in. Heavy infantry-gun shells with delay fuzes often fail to explode on hard objects such as stony ground, stone walls, houses, ice, etc., as the fuzes break off. When this is noticed, an immediate change-over to instantaneous fuzes must be made.

c. Defense

The Russians are keen observers. All lights, smoke, etc., must be cut down to a minimum. At night, listening posts manned by two men must be set up and great stress laid on the importance of sentry duty. This must be practiced for long periods at night and in all weather.

d. Town and Street Fighting

When a village is attacked, the enemy must be held down frontally and attacked from the sides and rear. Strong assault units, armed with plenty of grenades, should take the individual houses and nests. Large built-up areas must be attacked systematically, section by section.

The defense of villages must combine aggressive reconnaissance of the front and flanks with the neutralization by fire of known assembly points. The Russians are adept at utilizing all available cover in order to approach villages from the flanks. They aim at taking up enveloping positions in order to launch an attack, often at night, for the systematic destruction of the village. If tanks are used, they engage house after house with their guns and force out the defenders.

e. Miscellaneous

(1) On repeated occasions, high casualties have been produced by bunching, and by failure to move forward by short bounds. (Over-fatigue and resultant indifference were given as reasons.)

(2) In order to lessen the number of abdominal and chest wounds, strict instruction must be given in short and skillful movement by bounds.

(3) It is most important that men dig in quickly and effectively to protect against surprise fire from mortars and rocket guns. Every soldier must be reminded that digging in and camouflage are his duty at all times. As soon as troops are within enemy artillery range, slit trenches should be prepared (without special orders).

(4) Personnel of first-line transport should be instructed in the building of cover for men, horses, and vehicles. All areas behind this front should be on the alert for raids.


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