The German defensive system employed on one sector of the Eastern Front and the
methods employed by Soviet infantry and artillery units in breaking through these
defenses are described in the following article written by a Red Army officer:
"In many battles on the Leningrad front, it has been ascertained that the
German system of defense is usually based on the establishment of a series of
separate firing points which mutually support each other. In one small operation, the
distinguishing characteristics of their defenses were irregularity of pattern, and
the width of front covered in establishing these firing points. They were
placed along two general lines. Some had embrasures and overhead cover while
others were open. At distances from 50 to 200 yards in the rear were dugouts
used for rest purposes, or for protection from artillery and machine-gun fire.
"In the forward firing points were the German light and heavy machine
guns. Some of these were protected by a single row of barbed wire. In the rear
firing points were mortars and light artillery. All firing points were assigned
regular and supplementary sectors of fire. The sectors were overlapping and, in
the case of machine guns, final protective lines were interlocking. Initial
fire adjustment was made on the east bank of the river, the Soviet jump-off line. Mortar
fire was used en masse and was shifted from target to target. In their retreat
the Germans had burned all villages on the east bank of the river, thus
materially improving their observation and field of fire.
"After careful study of the terrain and the enemy defenses, the Red Army
regimental commander decided to strike at the enemy center of resistance near
the church. After it had been reduced, it would then be possible to make a flank
attack to the north, or to strike at the village held by the 6th Company of the
German infantry. The local defenses of the latter comprised only four completed
firing points, which were occupied by two light and two heavy machine guns. Two
of the emplacements were of the open type, and communication between them and
to the rear was difficult because of the heavy brush.
"On the morning of the attack, the Red Army infantry was deployed along
the east bank of the river. After the artillery preparation, during which the
Germans followed their customary practice of taking cover in their dugouts on
the rear slopes, the infantry jumped off at dawn. As the artillery fire was lifted
to the rear firing points and enemy reserve concentrations, our mortars and
machine guns placed direct fire on the forward firing points. The result was
that the Germans were so pinned down that they were unable to get back to their
firing positions. Our small-arms weapons which were brought forward proceeded to
destroy the effectiveness of the forward firing points by direct fire at the
embrasures. Meanwhile, the artillery and mortars kept up neutralizing fire on
the rear firing points.
"Attacking in formation of two battalions in line, one in reserve, our leading
company was able to capture the enemy positions near the church. It was then
possible for the remainder of the two attacking battalions, with supporting
artillery and machine-gun fire, to develop their attack to the north and to
southwest. By committing his reserve battalion at the proper time, the Red Army
commander succeeded in occupying all three villages by noon.
"Several important conclusions may be drawn from the above tactical
operation. First of all, it is necessary to utilize every means of reconnaissance
to discover as nearly as possible the exact positions of the enemy's forward
firing points and his main line of resistance. A plan for coordinated infantry-artillery
action must then be drawn up. In this plan it is essential to designate
which unit will dispose of each individual firing point, and when and how it will
be done. Reserve units must be designated to deal with new firing points as
they are discovered.
"Fire and movement are still the cardinal principles of infantry, down to the last
rifleman. They must eliminate enemy riflemen, machine-gun nests, etc. as they move
forward across the battlefield. They must use every means to discover and destroy
the enemy before he can employ direct fire.
"The artillery is not the only arm which can neutralize a firing point. Infantry
with light mortar, machine-gun, and automatic rifle fire can also be used to this
end, especially in cases where the enemy's cover is light or non-existent. It is
necessary to have good observation of the field of fire for our infantry and to
deny the same to the enemy. If these precepts are followed, fire superiority and
the success of the attack will be assured."