The following description of the operations of ski detachments is taken
from the Soviet Military Manual of Winter Operations.
Although this report concerns ski patrols, it is felt that much of the training
and technique involved is applicable to raiding parties generally.
Ski detachments generally operate in the enemy's rear. Existence of
gaps in enemy positions, broken ground, and wooded country favor infiltration of
ski detachments to the rear of the enemy.
The following tasks are assigned to these detachments:
(1) Destruction of enemy personnel and materiel;
(2) Destruction of enemy staffs and command posts;
(3) Destruction of enemy communications and transport, and the burning of
depots and bases;
(4) Destruction of planes on airfields, and demolition of road and railway bridges;
(5) The capture and holding of an important objective in the rear of the enemy, for
the purpose of impeding his retreat and the bringing up of his reserves.
b. Personnel of Ski Detachments
The composition and strength of a ski detachment will depend on the
nature of the task, distance to the objective, length of fighting operations, likelihood
of meeting the enemy, availability of air support, and the support of the
ground forces. In any case ski formations must possess great mobility, and
should be capable of functioning off roads and without contact with friendly
forces for several days at a time.
Skiers must be exceptional men. To carry out their tasks successfully, ski
troops must possess the following qualities: excellent training, great courage
and initiative, excellent physique, powers of endurance, ability to find
their way easily in any locality at any time of day or night and in any
weather, and ability to use skis expertly.
Each skier must have great determination, must be almost foolhardy, be
vigorous and yet careful, quick of movement, sharpsighted, patient, and expert
in the art of concealment. He must never, under any conditions, get lost.
All ski personnel should:
(1) Be well versed in demolitions and know how to deal with enemy mines;
(2) Know how to use every means of communication, and be able to communicate
with friendly troops;
(3) Be adept at first aid, and able to apply it on the field of battle;
(4) Be experienced in constructing shelters out of any materials at hand.
A ski detachment must be thoroughly equipped for independent action
when out of contact with its own troops for several days at a time. Skiers must
be warmly equipped and carry light automatic weapons and knives. Every form
of fighting equipment, rations, and supplies, including means of evacuating
wounded, must be mounted on skis and sleds. It is the duty of every rifleman
on skis to carry his individual rations, arms, and ammunition. Ammunition for
automatic weapons and mortars, explosives, and incendiary materials are carried
on ski mountings. Operations under conditions of constant frost, and nights
spent in the open demand that clothing and footwear should be in perfect condition. This
should be a subject of constant attention by all commanders. A sufficient
number of spare socks should be provided. The regulation Red Army tent must
always accompany all personnel. Ski detachments must be provided with spare
skis, harnesses and poles, depending on the length of operations and on
whether the ground is broken or not.
Food must be carried in a form which, while taking up the least space, has
high food value and can be quickly prepared. These requirements are best
met by canned products and food concentrates. Whenever possible, thermos
bottles should be filled with a hot drink and all personnel should be
supplied with hot-water bottles.
d. Sick and Wounded
Not a single wounded or sick man must be left to the enemy. For evacuation, the
wounded and sick of ski detachments must be transported on special ski
mountings and sleds. In exceptional cases one may transport wounded by tying
Communication between the ski detachments and their headquarters is
carried out by the use of planes and sometimes by radio. Radio codes in
air-ground communication must be established beforehand, and given to the
commander of the ski detachment when he is assigned his mission. The periods for
radio communication should be also arranged in advance. The fact that the use
of radio discloses one's location to the enemy should be kept in mind and,
therefore, the periods for use of radio should be arranged to coincide with an
anticipated change of location.
The routes and areas of operations of a ski detachment should be studied
by its commander in conjunction with the pilots of aircraft who will be
detailed for communication purposes.
A ski detachment should:
(a) Avoid battle until the objective is reached;
(b) Destroy small groups of the enemy which may hinder the attainment of the main objective;
(c) Constantly and stealthily reconnoiter;
(d) Be able to estimate the situation quickly, and avoid battle when conditions are unfavorable;
(e) Always provide for all-around protection, whether at rest or on the move.
The attempt to penetrate to the rear of the enemy should be carried out by night, in
fog, or during heavy snowfall, and contact with enemy detachments should be avoided.
Where, in order to reach the objective in his rear, it is impossible to
avoid meeting the enemy, the basis of success is sudden, overpowering
concentration of fire power and swift attack.
Surprise is best achieved by taking advantage of poor visibility at night
and during snowfall.
Ambushes should be widely used by ski detachments.
A ski detachment engages the enemy:
(a) If surprised on the march by the enemy, and it is impossible to avoid battle;
(b) When it is impossible to attain the main objective without destroying the intervening enemy;
(c) When the enemy, having discovered the ski detachment, is attempting to surround and destroy it.
Success in battle depends on the initiative, determination, and aggressiveness
of every commander and every soldier.
Each man and every platoon should be prepared, on receipt of the
commander's signal, to break contact and make their way to a prearranged
rendezvous by using cover of darkness and every form of concealment
offered. If a ski detachment unexpectedly meets the enemy and there is no chance of
avoiding action, the commander should attack with the full force of his fire power
in an attempt either to destroy or to force a retreat.
At the same time, the commander must ensure that the attainment of the
main objective is not lost sight of.
As a rule the attack should be carried out simultaneously on all sides, cutting
off the enemy's retreat. Before the attack, telephone wires leading out
of the enemy's position should be cut. Not a single enemy should be allowed to
escape to communicate the news of the attack to enemy commands.
After breaking into the enemy position, ski troops should attempt a rapid
decision by the fire of weapons, by hand grenades, and with the bayonet. As
soon as the task is completed, a ski detachment should move as far away from
the objective as possible. If the attack is unsuccessful, the detachment should
retire as rapidly as possible to avoid being surrounded.
When the objective has to be held the commander of the ski detachment must:
(a) Send reconnaissance parties ahead in the more important directions;
(b) Organize an all-around defense at a distance to insure effective
support by the weapons of the main force;
(c) Defense must be organized with a view to the employment of automatic
weapons, so that the bulk of the personnel can be used as a striking force;
(d) There should be economy in the use of ammunition, and snipers
should be employed as much as possible against single targets or small
groups of the enemy;
(e) Report back the situation immediately.
g. Security, Reconnaissance, and Movements
Security elements of a ski detachment should be particularly well organized
and alert. Sentries must be frequently checked at night.
It must be realized that any relaxation in security measures in the rear
of the enemy may be very costly and, therefore, all security patrols should be
in a constant state of readiness, with their weapons close at hand for use at any
Reconnaissance by a group of battalion strength should be assigned only
to the main objective. Rifle companies may be used for secondary tasks and
platoons employed for reconnaissance patrols. Detachments up to a company in
strength carry out reconnaissance by the use of patrols.
If the attainment of the objective makes unavoidable a move by day under
conditions of good visibility, the commander should exercise particular care in
selecting a well-concealed route. A route thus selected should be checked by air
observation if possible.
Movement of ski detachments in the rear of the enemy as a rule should
be carried out cross-country, avoiding the use of roads; special attention should
be paid to preliminary planning and organization. A ski movement lengthens a
column four or five times; therefore, the first consideration is to try to shorten
columns. The best marching order for a company or a battalion on skis is a
column of fours with a distance of 6 yards between ranks and an interval
of 2 yards between skiers.
Ski detachments operating in territory occupied by the enemy must camp
in thick underbrush or woods, and only in exceptional cases in towns and
villages. When stopping for rest in a town or village cannot be avoided, the
following precautions should be observed:
(1) Personnel should be billeted in whole detachments in a concentrated
area, preferably isolated from other buildings;
(2) Commanders should remain with their detachments;
(3) Hostages should be taken;
(4) Local inhabitants should be prevented from leaving the area and a
strict curfew imposed;
(5) Roads should be strictly patrolled, guards should be placed on all
roads leading out of the area, and all persons attempting to enter or leave
should be detained;
(6) Strict watch on all the inhabitants should be established to prevent
them from communicating with the enemy;
(7) All wires should be cut.
Troops should bivouac in tents or in specially constructed shelters; skis
and ski mountings should be placed to the right of the entrance; rifles, machine
guns and ammunition must remain with the men. The following security personnel
must be detailed: guards within the camp area, a routine guard, orderlies
in each detachment, and patrol. All personnel should know definitely what to do
in case of alarm. In order to be able to repel enemy attack, trenches should be
dug in the snow, and weapons kept in constant readiness to open fire
immediately. To insure a state of constant preparedness for battle, as well as
uninterrupted rest, provision should be made for all-around defense at a sufficient
distance from the camp area to permit assembly and preparation for battle after the
alarm is given. The strictest discipline in opening and maintaining fire at night
should be enforced. The fire should be opened only by order of the
commander. All traces of the presence of ski troops at halts and camp sites
should be carefully eliminated.