The following report is an extract from the translation of a German Army
High Command memorandum issued on December 18, 1940.
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(1) The principal reason for failure of a reconnaissance is the desire of
commanders to push forward the attack. As long as the situation on both sides
remains fluid, this is justified. In such cases, the best opportunity to attack will
be lost if the results of reconnaissance are too long awaited. When an attack is launched
against an enemy who is organized for defense, the time taken to prepare the
attack is also advantageous to the defender. Commanders must therefore do
their utmost to secure speed. However, the preparation of an attack demands
time, which must be allowed if unnecessary losses and set-backs are to be
avoided. This time must be thoroughly used for reconnaissance.
(2) The employment of over-weak patrols is partly due to previous
teaching. For example, in our Infantry Training Manual, it is stated that "a few
resolute men" suffice, and then again that "the minimum strength is generally a
commander and two men". Almost all patrols in peacetime exercises were of
It is also the result of the attempt of company and platoon commanders
to keep their troops together, and avoid weakening them prematurely. Experience
shows that only combat patrols can carry out reconnaissance against an enemy
organized for defense. Patrols formed of from one to two squads under the
leadership of a platoon commander and supported by mortars and machine guns have
proved successful. The squad is also the most self-contained unit for this
purpose and, with four squads to a platoon, one that is always available.
b. Assault Detachments
(1) Formations in Approach and Attack
To secure superiority for the fire power of a rifle company, a large
number of machine guns must be employed in the front line. In many cases
troops were formed according to their departure from the assembly
position, and retained this formation throughout the approach although
the time to adopt battle formations had not yet arrived.
(2) Arrowhead Formations
The usual method of attack against a permanent position is to force a
breakthrough in arrowhead formation with a strong spearhead. The objective of
the arrowhead is the enemy's weak point, "wherever the tactical situation and
ground offer the best chance of pushing home the attack swiftly." The strength
and composition of the formation of the advancing company depend on cover for
the approach, fire support, and the breadth of the objective.
All available heavy weapons, including those of reserve troops, should be
brought up to lay down a concentration of fire in conjunction with the advance of
the assaulting force.
Reserves are also brought up to the point of penetration. They approach
the battle with assault and fire, keep the situation fluid, and extend the breach
on either side.
It can thus be seen that the arrowhead formation is a development of the
theory of concentration. The most important factor is not the formation of the
company or battalion, but the coordination of all forces, assault, fire power, and
reserves, against the chosen objective.
It is the duty of the tactical commander to decide how the sectors of the
enemy position not directly assaulted are dealt with. If a battalion advances
against its objective in arrowhead formation, with one rifle company forward, the
stronger sectors of the enemy positions on the flanks are not at once
engaged. The enemy can therefore often bring down unhindered enfilading fire upon the
head of the attack. The fire of heavy weapons and of artillery will not usually
suffice to neutralize these sectors. They can only be efficiently neutralized by
direct attack. Hence the arrowhead must be extended to the flanks by the
employment of patrols of fighting strength to attack the flanking position. The
company forming the arrowhead, and the battalion, must be organized with this
(3) Concentration of Fire for Advance
Many reports emphasize the advantage of concentrated fire. There is
nothing new in this. Battalion commanders should coordinate fire according to
the tactical conditions. Stereotyped fire plans should be avoided.
Concentration of fire requires careful preparation. If all firing is
forbidden during the preparation, the initiative, and therefore the spirit, of the
junior officers is lowered. Even during the preparation, every company, and
even every platoon, should exploit any opportunity of pressing forward, and even
provide the needed impulse by concentration of fire.
Strong emphasis should be laid on the importance of careful timing of
fire and movement. The combined fire of heavy weapons and artillery must
coincide with the advance of infantry. It is the task of the battalion commander
and all commanders of heavy weapons to push the advance steadily forward by
means of concentration of fire. It is the task of all commanders and junior
officers of rifle companies to bring up their men and push on as long as fire
continues. The key to success lies in advancing under cover of friendly fire.
Both the concentration of fire and the advance under its cover must be
practiced as a drill.
(4) Concentration of Fire--Heavy Weapons of Reserve Units
Fire is concentrated on the point of penetration. All heavy weapons must
prepare to combine fire on targets which obstruct the line of advance, and after
that on the objective. The battalion commander orders the exact time at which
the fire is to be concentrated, in accordance with the considerations discussed
above. The regimental commander increases the concentration, where possible,
by employing the heavy weapons of the reserve battalions as well as by appropriate
cooperation with the artillery.
c. Fighting in Woods
An attack through thickly wooded country imposes special battle tasks on
commanders and troops. It demands careful preparation and timing.
Quick successes can be won by good observation, cunning, and surprise
attacks. When the enemy is encountered suddenly, he must be attacked with the
In large, thick woods, with heavy undergrowth, reconnaissance patrols of
fighting strength must be sent out to force the enemy to open fire and disclose the
whereabouts of his well-camouflaged positions.
The spearhead of the attack, which follows the reconnaissance element,
must be liberally equipped with close-combat weapons, automatic pistols, and if
there is thick undergrowth, with axes. Single heavy weapons, and antitank and
infantry guns are brought up close behind the leading elements to clean out weak
centers of resistance from clearings and paths. Strong centers of resistance
should be passed by, and left to the following units. If this is impossible, they
must be carefully reconnoitered and assaulted with the support of heavy weapons.
Loud cheering and the sounding of the "Charge!" when assaulting troops
break through confuse the enemy and facilitate cooperation between friendly
The foremost attacking parties penetrate the enemy position in arrowhead
formations. They are followed, at distances determined by the ground and
the tactical situation, by rifle companies which comb the woods and clean up the
Protection must be secured for the flanks.
Snipers in trees can be dealt with effectively by raking the tree-tops with
/s/ von Brauchitsch
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