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"Employment of German Antiaircraft Artillery at Sevastopol" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on the German use of antiaircraft guns in the battle for Sevastopol is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 7, Sept. 10, 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 account given below describes an interesting example of the employment of antiaircraft guns in the battle for Sevastopol. This article appeared in the German press in the middle of June, and shows clearly that 88-mm antiaircraft guns have been used against ground targets by the German troops in Russia just as they have been by the Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Rommel.

"The battle for Sevastopol is among the hardest of the war. Here the German Command was confronted with a narrow front barricaded completely with concrete, steel, and guns. But however heavy the barrage from the massed Soviet artillery, our antiaircraft guns succeeded in pushing through on several occasions and knocking out pillboxes at very short ranges so that our infantry could advance again. The initiative of the antiaircraft gun crews in the battle for Sevastopol was outstanding, and one particular instance has been singled out as an example.

"A lieutenant in charge of an antiaircraft combat detachment, who had been especially prominent in the fighting on the northern sector of the Sevastopol front, was ordered to support the infantry attack with one heavy gun and a light antiaircraft section, firing from a gully. The tasks of these antiaircraft combat detachments are almost always extraordinarily difficult. While the field artillery remains stationary for long periods in each position, the guns of the antiaircraft combat groups move close behind the first wave of the infantry, and engage over open sights and at very short ranges those pillboxes and other enemy centers of resistance which the infantry cannot overcome. Since the antiaircraft groups move normally without cover, they tend to draw the fire of all the enemy artillery. Such was the case here--and, in addition, the Soviet defenders had registered every yard of the ground.

"At first the task seemed impossible to the lieutenant. There was no field of fire for his gun from the gully, and the violent fire of the defenders made it impossible to advance. All alternative routes to the enemy pillboxes were also under heavy fire.

"Thereupon; the lieutenant decided on a bold gamble. Despite the intensive Soviet fire, he rushed his gun to a suitable position and opened fire immediately. By constant change of position and by taking cover momentarily when things became too hot, he was able to maintain an almost continuous rate of fire against his targets. In this way he succeeded in knocking out six pillboxes and, in conjunction with the light antiaircraft section, silenced a number of field works, machine-gun nests, and gun positions.

"Similar antiaircraft combat groups were employed on a number of other sectors. In practically every instance they are the first heavy weapons to follow the infantry. Although the way is first cleared for them by the engineers, it nevertheless requires skill and coolness to take the gun through the narrow gap in the minefields, where the slightest deviation may bring disaster. Furthermore the terrain at Sevastopol is extremely difficult. The long hillsides are covered with thick undergrowth and bushes, and bristle with pillboxes and weapon-pits. Concealed Russian snipers will permit the antiaircraft elements to pass unmolested and then ambush the supporting units as they come up. The German infantry, following its own artillery screen on a front of a few hundred yards, is subjected to continuous Soviet attacks, supported by artillery, from the flank. In these circumstances the situation has often been saved solely by the initiative of the antiaircraft combat groups and by the high rate of fire of their guns."

COMMENT: The above account appears to indicate that the Germans, at any rate at Sevastopol, used antiaircraft guns to give close support to the infantry. The high velocity and heavy shell of the 88-mm antiaircraft gun make it a formidable weapon against pillboxes and similar types of concrete defenses. (See this publication No. 5, page 34 for the account of the siege of Sevastopol.)


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