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"Some Principles from the War on the Russian Front" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on Russian and German tactics on the Russian Front in WWII was originally printed 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.]


Although Germans introduced "Blitzkrieg" tactics, to a great extent they themselves evolved the tactical countermeasures to this form of attack. The Russians, who have fought two major defensive campaigns, have been quick to seize, adapt, and even improve on the defensive tactics employed by the Germans in the winter of 1941-42.

a. Anti-Blitz Defense

As a result, the effective defensive measures as developed by both sides are principally represented by:

(1) The "Hedgehog" system of all around defense in depth based on effective use of any ground, and especially of villages and towns, protected by minefields, and garrisoned by determined troops with a coordinated fire plan.

(2) The rapid conversion of strategically important inhabited localities into modern fortresses with every street and house an actual strongpoint.

(3) The use of night fighting, in order to give the advancing enemy no rest.

(4) Rapid improvement in means of antitank defense.

(5) Improved disposition and employment of reserves and the better timing of determined counterattacks.

(Note: Dive-bombing, and parachute and glider action, have ceased in themselves to exercise a decisive influence against a well-disciplined and organized defense.)

b. New Offensive Tactics

The problem facing the attacker has been to evolve new offensive tactics and thereby regain for the offensive that decisive preponderance which it had lost for the moment.

The most promising developments so far evolved by both Russians and Germans may be summarized as follows:

(1) Night Fighting

If the enemy can be made to fight night and day without respite, a decisive result may be obtained in a particular sector. The Russians, as soon as they discovered that night fighting caused the enemy particular discomfort, concentrated on this form of warfare. Infantry and engineers are best adapted for these tactics; tanks either provide a diversion or follow the infantry to gain favorable positions for the following day's battle.

(2) New Methods of Coordinating Tank and Infantry Action

Tanks carry or haul heavily armed infantry and engineers to prepare and to hold ground, and to neutralize the antitank defense. (This can be done where there is no undue exposure to small-arms fire.)

(3) Concentration of Effort

Great emphasis is placed on bringing all available fire power to bear simultaneously at the point of maximum effort, thereby causing changes in the doctrine of deployment. The doctrine of deployment by echelon, which does not permit this heavy, simultaneous concentration of fire power, is being abandoned; this doctrine also leads to wastage without any positive returns for casualties suffered.

(4) New Supply Methods

Improved methods are used to supply advancing troops with essentials by air and by armored vehicles.

(5) New Artillery Tactics

Creeping and box barrages are considered ineffective and a waste of ammunition. The barrage is only important in screening friendly troops from counterattack while consolidating newly won ground. Artillery support is based primarily on highly mobile control of artillery fire in close support of tanks and infantry. A large proportion of guns is self-propelled. The air arm is employed in the role of long-range artillery and for strafing reserves, dumps, and lines of communication.

(6) Greatly Increased Infantry Fire Power

This is accomplished principally by increasing the basic allowance of mortars, automatic weapons, and antitank rifles. The number of mortars particularly, and their massed use, have been greatly expanded.

(7) The Employment of Shock Groups

Their composition and armament are highly elastic, but both sides consider they are essential to achieve a decision at the point of maximum effort. The Russians seem to have shock groups organized in special brigades, or even as special shock armies.

(8) The Achievement of More Effective and Mobile Control in Battle

This is accomplished to a certain extent by greater use of aircraft by senior staff officers and commanders, both for reconnaissance in the planning stages and to control operations.

(9) Improvisation and Development of Weapons

Although no really new weapons have been introduced, there has been considerable development in the use of weapons, and the side which is capable of the more rapid improvisation scores an advantage. Thus, the campaign has seen the development of the rocket gun, the multiple grenade projector, the multiple-barreled rocket projector, and rapid increase in the caliber of antitank rifles and of antitank and tank guns.

c. Important Factors

The important factors which appear to have assisted the Russians to keep up in this keen competition for tactical superiority are:

(1) A centrally controlled and adaptable industry which can provide rapidly improvised weapons to meet or surpass the enemy's latest technical improvement.

(2) Intense and continuous training in the latest tactical innovations and ruses--night fighting especially requires very extensive and concentrated training.

(3) Elasticity of tables of organization and basic allowances to meet changing battle requirements.


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