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"Breakthrough Against German Defenses" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on a Red Army tactics against German defenses was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 10, Oct. 22, 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 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."


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