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"Artillery with a German Tank Division" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German artillery tactics was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 8, Sept. 24, 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 is a digest of an article written in the Red Star (Moscow) on the use of artillery in a German tank division during attack. It is interesting in that it describes the composition of march columns and attack formations, in addition to discussing tactical employment.

The organic artillery with a German tank division, as used against the Russians on the Eastern Front, normally consists of two 105-mm battalions and one 150-mm howitzer battalion, and is usually reinforced by one or two battalions of light artillery.

On the march, the commanding officers of the artillery regiments, battalions, and batteries, plus a minimum of their respective staffs and control units, march at the head of the column. The artillery reconnaissance party marches with the tank reconnaissance unit. Battery reconnaissance parties consist of two armored cars and two motorcycles. In case one of the cars is destroyed the other can carry on the vital reconnaissance work.

Artillery observers ride in armored cars which are armed with machine guns. In each car there is an observer, the observer's assistant, a radio operator, and a driver. There are two such observation vehicles per battery. The battery commander rides in one and another officer in the other. The battalion has three such observers' cars.

Planes are assigned to work with the artillery of the division and are subject to call by the commanding officer of the artillery who assigns through battalion one plane or more per battery, depending upon the amount of planes available. In the attack, one light artillery battalion normally supports one tank regiment in direct support and the medium battalion is in general support. But in the majority of cases experienced, the artillery of the tank divisions has been reinforced so that two light battalions can be assigned to a regiment in the first echelon, which allows one light battalion per tank battalion. One battery of each battalion supports the right element of a tank battalion, another the left element, while the third is echeloned to the rear and is charged with security of the flanks and rear.

Observation posts, command posts, and battery positions are all moved as far forward as possible. Batteries fire from concealed positions, as a rule.

Preceding an attack, preparation fire is conducted from 15 minutes to 1 hour on enemy artillery and tank assembly areas, and observation points are smoked. Enemy front-line infantry is generally disregarded during the preparation, as their neutralization is left to the tanks. Direct-support battalions do not always participate in the preparation fire, but are put in march order with full supplies of ammunition, ready to jump off with the tanks.

The battalion commanders and battery commanders of direct-support units remain at their observation posts in an attack until the head tank passes their line, at which time they take up their positions in the attack echelons. The German general-support artillery does not change its position in an attack which is designed to go no further than the enemy artillery positions. However, in an attack which is intended to penetrate beyond enemy artillery positions, they do move forward when practicable. If the German infantry lags and is finally held up, but the tanks break through and continue forward, the general-support artillery does not move forward.

During the German break-through at the end of October 1941, from the city of Orel in the direction of Mtsensk, German tank units succeeded in breaking through the Soviet infantry lines, but the German infantry supporting the tanks was cut off and forced to dig in. The support artillery could not move forward and, as a result, the tanks, having no support from their artillery, were compelled, after suffering heavy losses, to return to their original positions.


The above discussion confirms well-known German tactics. It is important, regardless of the success of the enemy tanks in a break-through, to stop the infantry moving up in support of the tanks because the artillery is therefore prevented from advancing and the tanks are deprived of their direct support. The tanks can then be much more easily dealt with.


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