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"Experience in Russia Modifies German Training Methods" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on German training methods originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 26, June 3, 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 following material is taken from a training circular issued by the German High Command. Some of the points made illustrate the influence of the Russian Campaign on German training methods.

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a. General

(1) It is very important to note that battle conditions will often not be as laid down in the text books, and that therefore, junior commanders must learn to be adaptable.

(2) There is great need for more practice and training in patrol activity.

(3) When organizing refresher courses behind the lines, it is not sufficient to work out a training program allotting certain periods for certain general subjects. It is necessary to make quite sure in detail what is to be taught within each period.

(4) Men must gain complete confidence in their weapons. They must be taught not only to shoot, but also to know their weapons and prevent stoppages. Firing at dusk and at dawn, and close combat, must be practiced.

(5) Infantry must be able to lift and lay mines, and to carry out engineer jobs independent of help from the engineers.

(6) It is important that training should also be carried out at night. Camouflage and digging-in must be intensively taught.

(7) A rapid change from attack to defense and vice-versa must be possible.

(8) Infantry must be taught to rely on their own weapons in taking gun positions, concrete emplacements, and fortified houses, and not to depend solely on the heavy weapons to destroy these points of resistance.

(9) Commanders must see that troops are instructed in the use of captured weapons.

b. Infantry Training in the Field

Time will generally be very short. Training will be made more difficult by lack of experienced instructors. New drafts must at the same time be incorporated in the fighting troops. It is necessary therefore to include only what is essential for the next battle. Subjects that cannot be taken up except in long courses must be omitted. Troops will be mainly trained in the attack.

The following factors will influence the training program:

(1) Personnel (i.e., with regard to the physical and mental state of the troops; the state of training; the supply of instructors and personnel experienced in battle; and the number and quality of reinforcements); (2) Equipment (i.e., with regard to the condition of equipment, including motor transport, repair and maintenance facilities, and facilities for completion of equipment); (3) Billeting conditions; (4) Weather; (5) Leave; (6) Special missions during the training period (security duties, guerilla hunting, etc.); (7) Probable future employment in battle.

c. Training the Rifle Company

(1) This training will concentrate on combat training and marksmanship under battle conditions. Each man must be allowed to get on as fast and as far as his capabilities let him. In this way the company commander will form a reserve of good shots, and the competitive spirit will lead each man to improve his shooting. The best shots might be rewarded with telescopic rifles. Phases of the attack from 800 yards to the final breakthrough will be practiced. This is the only way to give replacements any idea of the battle conditions they will meet.

(2) Battle Training

Battle training is a preparation for battle firing, and therefore weapon instruction is a necessary preliminary. Special attention must be paid to digging in, which must become as automatic as parade ground drill. If 4 weeks are available for training, a number of combat exercises and practice shoots will be carried out in gas masks.

(3) Physical Training

Physical training, such as obstacle races, grenade-throwing, short and medium distance running races (some of which can be run in full equipment), is a preparation for battle training, in-fighting, and therefore battle itself. Physical training and games should not be omitted even though time is short.

(4) Lectures

Lectures will be cut down to essentials. Engagements in which the company has taken part will be used instead of lectures in general tactics. The chief usefulness of talks is in the raising of morale, and in the discussion of current affairs and of the meaning and the ideals of this war.

(5) Indoctrination

Periods are devoted to National-Socialist subjects.

(6) Inspections

Inspections will concern only weapons and equipment used in battle, if time is short. Clothing and the full scale of equipment will be inspected only if there is plenty of time to put everything in order. Care of boots is as important as care of weapons.

(7) Platoon Commanders

Platoon commanders will be fully occupied in training their units, and their own further training in a four weeks' course will be limited to urgent subjects, such as giving commands, etc. Company commanders must make every effort to get platoon commanders together at least twice a week, not only to discuss past training but to prepare for the future as well. Training will be made easier if it is made clear which tasks have been satisfactorily accomplished and which have not, and if training objectives for the coming week are clearly laid down.

If the further training of platoon commanders cannot be satisfactorily carried out within the company, then battalions or regiments will arrange junior leaders' courses. Fresh platoon commanders should be taught not only the spade work of platoon leading, but also the technique of cooperation with the heavy weapons in ample time to pass it on to their units.

d. Heavy Machine-Gun and Mortar Platoons

Training will be concentrated on the crews. Special attention will be paid to the following points:

(1) Firing, and observation exercises on the black-board and sandtable;

(2) Giving of fire orders;

(3) Fire coordination between two sections;

(4) Locating the target.

e. Infantry Cannon Company

As with heavy machine-gun and mortar platoons, attention will be paid to the following additional points:

(1) Knowledge of essential terms;

(2) Quick giving of fire commands from observation;

(3) Forward OP shooting;

(4) Observation and appreciation of terrain;

(5) Practice of fire direction with companies and platoons.

f. The Antitank Platoon

The object of training is to produce reliable fire on the gun. Firing and aiming are the chief points.

Aiming exercises will be held for a short period each day. Manipulation of the sight, target-finding, and changing targets and sights are most important in these exercises. Success will be achieved only by constant practice until the man is completely accustomed to his weapon. Accuracy is always more important than speed.

Target practice will always have a definite purpose, for example, shifting aim from one stationary tank to another at the same range. Even if ammunition is short, target practice is still possible. More value will always be put on the number of targets being hit than on the number of hits on one target. The man must be trained to find the vulnerable point on a tank.


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