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"Notes from a Second German Army Training Directive" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following report on German tactics is based on a translated German army directive. The report is reproduced from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 11, Nov. 5, 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 following notes were translated from a captured German document. They are the commanding general's views on various phases of German Army training. The section given here concerns tactics.

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When expecting contact with an enemy reported to be in approach march formation, the troops should advance, depending upon the situation, either in small columns or completely deployed. Whenever possible, supporting weapons should be in position to render assistance. The approach march formation develops into the attack formation when enemy fire demands such action.

Generally, division orders will assign one or more objectives for the division as a whole, as well as final objectives for the infantry regiments. Only in exceptional cases will intermediate objectives for the infantry regiments be assigned by the division order.

In spite of my directives, almost without exception, a triangular formation has been adopted for the purpose of constituting a "point of attack," although it is clear to every one that an attack carried out by an infantry regiment whose units advance in a triangular formation is, as a matter of fact, led merely by the light machine gun of a single combat group, and, as a result, is subjected to heavy enemy fire and doomed to failure. I invite your attention again to the fact that the triangular formation must not become a fixed rule.

It is a rule that an infantry regiment should constitute several "points of attack," particularly against a well-organized enemy defense.

Narrow and deep formations make it easier for the subordinates, and especially for the battalion commander, to make use of his heavy infantry weapons. The organization of the fire of these arms and the synchronizing of their fire with the advance of the troops are the supreme test of the battalion commander.

The lessons of the World War, confirmed by those of the campaign in Poland and in the West, that widely deployed formations avoid severe infantry losses, must always be borne in mind. They must be resorted to even on a terrain that is not under the direct observation of the enemy (depressions, wooded areas, etc.) but which can be brought under his fire.

The junior officers and noncommissioned officers of the infantry must realize that the combat formation of their respective units will be subjected to continual changes because of the terrain and enemy fire. The shaping of the formation to meet the new situation rests with every subordinate commander.

Staffs forced to move on foot during an advance should avoid bare ridges or open spaces. Should it be absolutely necessary to cross them, widely deployed formations should be used.

The advantage fog affords to the attacker will be lost if the commander does not require that it be fully utilized in moving against the enemy position.

In darkness, fog, or large wooded areas, a compass is the most simple means for maintaining the direction of attack. It is frequently the case that the direction of march is fixed by the battalion rather than higher headquarters.

To have the reserves follow at a prescribed distance is wrong; and to leave them at a fixed point during the development of the action is frequently inadvisable.

The reserves should be moved from one point of the terrain to another only when so ordered and, until the moment they are engaged, their commander or the second-in-command should be with the commander at whose disposal they have been placed.


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