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"German Signal Units" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German signal units is taken from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 6, August 27, 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.]


In the German Army a tactical army is served by one motorized signal regiment. Corps, infantry divisions, motorized infantry divisions, mountain divisions, armored corps, armored divisions, and "Landwehr" infantry divisions are all provided with a signal battalion, charged with laying and maintaining the signal communications of the unit. The light motorized brigade, the cavalry brigade, and each frontier guard sector have available one signal company. All of these signal units are fully motorized except those in the "Landwehr" infantry divisions, mountain divisions, and normal infantry divisions, which are only partly motorized.

The normal signal net of an army consists chiefly of open wire on poles. Multicircuit land cables are also used as far as the command posts of army corps. The army corps signal battalion establishes connections by single circuit cables to the command posts of the division. Divisional signal units hook into this army corps net and lay their own signal net, which extends as far as the regimental command post. Units smaller than the regiment lay wire to their next higher command posts, i.e., the battalion to the regimental C.P., and the company or battery to the battalion C.P.

This wire net is supplemented by radio communications wherever the wire may be subjected to severe bombardment, or in mobile situations where it is impossible to maintain communication by wire. Ground-air communications are, of course, also carried on by radio.

The Germans strive for the utmost security in the use of radio. They attempt to limit radio messages to subjects which contain no secret information.

Walkie-talkies, "Tornisterfunktruppe", are extensively used, in the front line units as well as in higher echelons. Messenger dogs, carrier pigeons, and rockets (visual or sound) are used to supplement the two basic methods of radio and wire.

The Germans emphasize that for the signal unit to function effectively, its officers must have a thorough understanding of the tactics of the units which they serve. This is typical of all cooperating arms and services of the German armed forces in the emphasis placed on achieving cooperation by mutual understanding of the problems and characteristics of the supported arm.

A highly developed branch of the German signal units is the radio-listening service, "Funkaufklarung". While this unit concentrates primarily on enemy radio messages, it also attempts to tap wire messages. The effectiveness of its interception has been illustrated in documents captured from a radio-listening company operating with the German Afrika Korps in North Africa. These captured documents indicated the thorough and methodical compilation which the Germans had made of all the references to units, officers, positions, equipment, strength, and even personal messages. With this information they were able to interpret many of the code names used by the British for units and officers. It is, perhaps, because of the efficiency of their own radio-listening service that they place such stress on radio security within their own units, assuming that the enemy is as well qualified as they to capitalize on carelessness,

The "bearing-taking" service, "Peilen", is also a part of the signal units and is charged with locating enemy planes by the use of radio direction finding.

In each division there is a divisional Signal Officer who advises the commander in all problems of signal communication and even goes so far as to influence the location of the command posts. The message center itself is located with due consideration for ground and air visibility, defilade against direct fire, conditions of approach, distance from the divisional command post, etc.

In the divisional message center the standing operating procedure requires that the sender be notified if ordinary messages have not been sent in 30 minutes, or if urgent messages have not been sent in 20 minutes. In the front lines a blanket maximum sending time of 20 minutes is prescribed.


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