[Lone Sentry: Soviet Antitank Defense, WWII Tactical and Technical Trends]
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"Soviet Antitank Defense" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on WWII Russian antitank defenses was originally published in 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.]


The following observations and sketches on passive Soviet antitank defenses were made by U.S. Military Attaches after a visit to the Gzhatsk-Vyazma front during the latter part of June 1942.

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On every possible defensive position the Soviets have constructed barriers, barbed-wire barricades, escarpments, tank traps, and tri-railed cleats. All of these obstacles are supported by fortified dugouts and pillboxes of various sizes, so placed as to cover the approaches of the enemy units, which would be canalized by the barricades.

[Soviet Antitank Defense]

The main antitank escarpment extends perpendicularly from the road, either 200 to 300 yards out, or to a secure flank such as a woods or swamp. The ditch usually follows the contour of the terrain and is normally located on a forward slope so that the rear wall rises far above the front wall. The rear (Soviet) bank of a stream affords an excellent site for an escarpment. Escarpments are dug as nearly level as possible so as to retain water from the snows, rains, or swamps. Dirt excavated from the ditch is thrown to the rear ramp. The escarpment usually is dug about 10 feet deep and about 20 feet wide.

In front of the escarpment is usually placed a barbed-wire barricade of the same length and about 3 feet high and 10 feet wide. This wire is designed principally to keep enemy infantry from utilizing the escarpment as a trench.

The Soviets construct single or multiple rows of tri-railed or 6-inch steel I beams, or 3- to 4-inch pipes welded or bolted together and, depending on the terrain, place them in front or in the rear of escarpments, or sometimes in isolated positions. The advantage of this type of barricade is that it can be prefabricated in the rear and brought up and merely dumped into position.

Rows of posts in checkerboard fashion, 3 feet high and 10 feet wide, strengthen the system. In some areas entire groves of trees were cut down and cleared away, leaving only 3-foot stumps.

Another type of antitank obstacle (shown in sketch below) consisted of parallel ditches about 3 feet deep, 3 feet wide, and 30 feet long, and so spaced as to deny tanks sufficient clearance. Groups of such ditches would be placed at varying angles to neighboring groups, their purpose being to cause tanks to become hung on the edges.

[Soviet Antitank Defense]

Antitank obstacles and ditches are constructed under the supervision of engineers, but troops of the communication zone and civilians are used to do the digging. There is no special equipment for digging, and it is all by hand.


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