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"Stereotyped Attack Tactics in the Middle East" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military intelligence report on German attack tactics in the Middle East during WWII was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 16, Jan. 14, 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.]


A study of the tactics employed by the Germans in the Middle East, when approaching a prepared position, shows that they have developed a stereotyped form for these attacks.

Initial contact is made by armored cars operating on a wide front. These cars operate in groups of two or three, and, if seriously opposed, turn back. The cars are followed by mixed columns of tanks and motorized infantry, the former usually leading. After the armored cars have made contact, an aggressive reconnaissance is carried out by tanks, which, if successful, are followed by the motorized infantry. A full-scale attack is then developed. If the tanks are driven off, a pause follows while a more detailed reconnaissance is carried out. On the results of this reconnaissance the plan is drawn up.

A German attack is generally launched against that part of the defense system which is nearest the principal objective. Only that part of the front which is to be attacked is subjected to careful reconnaissance, the remainder being either ignored or only superficially reconnoitered. A careful watch on the conduct of this reconnaissance will, therefore, give a very accurate idea where the attack will strike. The plan of attack is worked out in great detail, full consideration being given to such factors as concealment and surprise. Surprise is obtained not by attempting to hide the imminence of the attack, but by concealing from the defender its extent and scope. For example, the forward movement to the assembly area is frequently carried out with the evening sun in the eyes of the defender, and the actual attack launched at dawn or by the light of the moon.

The attack is preceded by heavy air bombardment of known gun positions. Tanks then move forward in the fading light, covered by mortar fire and supported by dive-bombing attacks on the forward positions, and establish themselves in front of the obstacle covering the forward areas. Engineer units pass through the tanks under cover of darkness, and remove the obstacles either by lifting the mines, or by forming gaps in the ditch. At the same time a machine-gun battalion is brought up and established in line with the leading tanks. At daylight, or in moonlight, the German infantry attacks the forward areas, with tanks moving in support. When visibility permits, the tanks either advance in mass formation with the object of breaking through the gun positions and other vital points of the defense, or they assist the infantry in systematically mopping up defended points. In the latter role, the methods employed include flame-throwers, direct thrusts at machine-gun nests and throwing bombs into trenches.

Whenever such an attack has failed, especially when the tanks have passed through the forward areas to attack gun positions, it has always proved extremely costly to the Germans.

From the above, the following conclusions may be drawn:

(a) The points most liable to attack are those nearest a vital objective which have good tank country in front of them;

(b) Forward areas of resistance should be sited to cover any defiladed ground which could be used by the enemy as an assembly area;

(c) Forward areas should be sufficiently protected by obstacles to prevent their being over-run by tanks, or by infantry at night. Adequate protection against dive-bombing in the form of slit trenches should be prepared, and antiaircraft fire should be coordinated. Areas of resistance should be self-supporting for a sufficient time to ensure the defeat of the tank attack and the subsequent restoration of the situation by counterattack.

(d) Gun positions should, where possible, be protected by a tank obstacle at such a distance in front that they cannot come under pointblank machine-gun fire from the enemy tanks.

(e) The principal object of the defender should be to separate the enemy tanks from the supporting infantry.


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