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"German Tactics in the Final Phases at Kharkov" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following military intelligence report on German tactics at Kharkov is taken from 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.]


In the Russian offensive against Kharkov in May their forces became overextended and were encircled by the Germans. Here they encountered several innovations in the system of hasty fortifications which the Germans threw up to prevent a breakout. These defenses were built around the basic infantry strongpoints, but the way the Germans used their combined arms and armored equipment is revealing.

Figures 1 and 2 in the accompanying sketches outline the systems set up by the Germans around the encircled Russian forces. The sites of the defense areas were selected so that each island of resistance could mutually support the ones adjacent to it.

Each island or center of resistance was formed by three concentric rings. Within the center ring, self-propelled artillery capable of all-around fire was emplaced. In the next outer ring, tanks were camouflaged and embedded in the ground so that they served as pillboxes for their machine guns and other armament. The outer ring was formed by entrenched infantry units provided with their normal infantry weapons, including antitank guns and mortars.

[German Strongpoints at Kharkov]

Wire entanglements were laid between the embedded vehicles of the second ring and along the channels of fire of the infantry weapons. Clever signaling devices such as cowbells and self-igniting firecrackers were hung on the wires and nearby bushes to warn of an enemy approach at night.

In the gaps between centers of resistance, minefields were laid and charted, and high-trajectory weapons laid to cover defiladed areas.

Outside this system of defensive areas which encircled the Russian troops, mobile combat teams were located, ready to rush to any part of the circumference that might be threatened either from within or without.


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