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.