The following are summaries of certain phases of basic German tactics.
a. The Meeting Engagement
(1) A meeting engagement means that a commander dispenses with preliminary
preparations, and deploys straight into battle. Careful coordination and
a determination to succeed on the part of all concerned will compensate for the
absence of preliminary preparations.
(2) A commander will not commit himself to a meeting engagement unless either:
(a) he feels that his troops and leadership are superior to that of
the enemy (this does not necessarily mean a numerical superiority) or;
(b) he would, by waiting to launch a deliberate attack, sacrifice
ground which he cannot afford to lose.
(3) Sound tactical decisions in the initial stages are essential. Mistakes
cannot afterwards be rectified. The worst mistake of all is hesitation.
(4) The advance guard will delay the enemy and seize important
positions, e.g., for artillery OPs. It may therefore:
(a) attack with a limited objective;
(b) defend its existing positions;
(c) withdraw to more favorable positions. (Withdrawal is likely to hinder the deployment of the main body.)
(5) The main body will deploy immediately. To wait for further information
in the hope of clarifying the situation is wrong. Time will be lost and lost
time can never be regained. The time available determines whether the
commander should concentrate his troops before launching them to the attack, or
launch them on their tasks as they become available.
(6) The meeting engagement will normally take the form of a frontal attack by
the advance guard, combined with one or more enveloping attacks by the main body.
b. The Deliberate Attack
(1) The object of the attack is to surround and destroy the enemy.
(2) A strong, rapid, enveloping attack can be decisive, provided that it really
gets to grips with the enemy, and that the enemy is pinned down by frontal
pressure which will be exercised mainly by fire.
(3) Enveloping forces must move in depth if they are not to be themselves
outflanked. All enveloping attacks ultimately become frontal.
(4) In all attacks, the commander will select a "Schwerpunkt" or point
of main effort, where the bulk of his forces will be employed. ("A commander
without a Schwerpunkt is like a man without character.") The considerations
when choosing this point are:
(a) Weaknesses in the enemy defense;
(b) Suitability of the ground for cooperation of all arms, but especially for tanks;
(c) Avenues of approach;
(d) Possibilities of supporting fire, especially by artillery.
(5) Boundaries and objectives are allotted to attacking units. This does
not mean, however, that a unit must cover the whole ground within its boundaries
with troops. It will choose within its boundaries the best line, or lines of
advance, and dispose its troops accordingly. A Schwerpunkt battalion can be
allotted about 450 yards of front, while a battalion which is attacking in
the non-Schwerpunkt area may be given 1,000 yards or more.
(6) An attack on a narrow front must have sufficient forces at its disposal
to widen the breach, maintain its impetus, and protect the flanks of the
penetration. Once an attack has been launched, it must drive straight on, regardless
of opposition, to its objective. It is wrong for the leading attacking
troops to turn aside to deal with threats to their flanks. This is the task of the
troops which are following them.
(7) A breakthrough must be in sufficient depth to prevent the enemy
from establishing new positions in rear. The breakthrough cannot be successful
until the enemy artillery positions are captured. This is the special task of the tanks.
(8) As soon as enemy resistance weakens at any point, all available fire
and forces must be concentrated to insure the success of the breakthrough.
(9) Continuous artillery support is essential. Therefore artillery must be kept well forward.
c. The Pursuit
(1) If the enemy is able to withdraw under cover of a rearguard, the attack has
failed. He must then be pursued.
(2) The object of the pursuing forces will be to encircle and destroy the
enemy. Infantry and artillery alone are not sufficient for this.
(3) Aircraft will attack defiles on his line of retreat, and motorized
elements will endeavor to pierce his front and envelop his flanks. A Schwerpunkt and
clear orders are just as necessary in this operation as in any other.
(4) The task of the pursuing forces is to interfere with, and if possible
stop, the enemy's withdrawal, so that he can be dealt with by
the slower-moving infantry and artillery which will be following up.
(5) Troops pursuing the enemy may find themselves in great difficulties
owing to the speed with which they move and the exposed positions in which they
may find themselves. They must be prepared for this, and must rely on aircraft
and the slower-moving infantry and artillery to get them out of their difficulties
in due course.
(1) A Schwerpunkt is as necessary in the defense as it is in the attack.
(2) A defensive position is only of value if the enemy must attack, or if it
is so strong that the enemy is afraid to attack it. If the enemy can avoid a
defensive position by passing round its flanks, it has no value.
(3) Defensive positions will be held to the last man.
(4) Essentials of a defensive position are:
(a) A good field of fire for all arms, but especially the artillery;
(b) Good observation;
(d) Natural protection against tanks;
(e) The ability to concentrate the fire of all weapons in front of the main line of resistance.
(5) The defensive position is divided into covering force, outposts, and a
main position. The forward edge of the latter is known as the main line of resistance.
(6) The task of the covering force is to deny good observation points to
the enemy and to hinder his advance. They will be approximately 6,000 to 8,000 yards
in front of the main position. Mines and obstacles will be used to strengthen
the position of the covering force. The covering force must not expose themselves
to the danger of being overwhelmed. They will be withdrawn at a definite
time. They will normally consist of small mobile forces. Their principal task
is to force the enemy to deploy.
(7) The outposts are responsible for the immediate protection of the main position. Their tasks are:
(a) To prevent the enemy from surprising the forces holding the main position;
(b) To mislead the enemy as long as possible as to the dispositions and situation of the main position;
(c) To protect advanced OP's.
They will be withdrawn when the situation makes it necessary. They are
normally 2,000 to 3,000 yards in front of the main position.
(8) The main position must be defended in depth. This consideration is
paramount. Areas and not lines will be defended. If the enemy should succeed in
penetrating a position, he must be faced by a series of defended areas, mutually
supporting one another by fire, so that in the end he collapses under the
concentrated fire directed at him. A battalion will defend from 800 to 2,000 yards.
(9) The withdrawal of both covering forces and outposts must be carefully
planned, to avoid masking the fire of the main position.
(10) Penetration must be met by immediate local counterattacks with
limited objectives, carried out by small parties of infantry, and if possible
against the enemy's flanks. Unless tanks are available, a deliberate
counterattack will succeed only if carried out by superior forces and as a surprise
against one or both flanks of the enemy penetration. Like any other deliberate
attack, it requires preparation.
e. Village Fighting
Troops are too easily attracted to villages. These give some cover from
fire, but also draw it, and may become traps.
(a) In attack, villages should be bypassed if possible. The enemy
in the village must, however, be pinned down, chiefly by artillery fire, when
this is happening.
(b) If they must be attacked, heavy supporting fire is needed on
the nearer edge, especially on isolated buildings and small groups of houses.
(c) Leading troops will avoid the streets, and fight through backyards and
gardens to the far end of the village. These troops are difficult to
control and support, and must therefore operate in small independent
groups. Their tasks must be accurately laid down, and each group must
have its own supporting weapons.
(d) Reserves must move close behind these leading groups, as they may easily
get into difficulties.
(a) Well-built villages make good strongpoints.
(b) Their edges are shell traps. The main defended line should therefore be
either inside or outside, not on the edges.
(c) If a village is favorably situated, it should be turned into a strongpoint
organized in depth. The irregular shape of its approaches should
provide ample opportunities for flanking fire.
(d) Villages are especially useful as antitank positions.
(e) Reserves must be held in readiness outside the village to
deal with the enemy's probable attempts to bypass it.