The article translated below is another chapter from the latest edition of
General von Cochenhausen's Tactical Handbook for the Troop Commander (1940 edition).
As far as is known, the German Army does not have a chemical warfare
service as such. When smoke is required in limited areas, it is furnished
generally by smoke-producing ammunition fired by the combat units' organic
weapons, such as artillery and mortars. In operations involving the use of
smoke in large quantities, motorized units specially trained and equipped are
allotted by GHQ for this purpose. These units are commonly
called "smoke-throwing battalions" (Nebelwerferabteilungen). Each
battalion is organized, in general, into a staff, communication platoon, and
three batteries, each composed of two platoons of four mortars each.
The translation follows.
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a. Purpose and Characteristics of Smoke
Smoke is used to conceal friendly troops and installations, and also to
blind or deceive the enemy or hinder the effect of his fire. It is preferable to
smoke the enemy, if the smoke mission in the given situation can be accomplished
with the existing material. The enemy's fire effect is decreased if the smoke
covers his riflemen and observation posts rather than his targets. Also, to
smoke friendly troops restricts their action and draws the enemy's attention toward them.
Favorable conditions for the employment of smoke are: a steady moderate wind, humid
atmosphere, clouded sky, falling temperature, early morning or late evening hours, and
bare, even terrain.
Unfavorable conditions for the employment of smoke are: a very weak wind or a
calm, a very strong gusty wind constantly changing its direction, dry
atmosphere, sunshine, heat, and hilly or covered terrain.
(1) Smoke Ammunition
Smoke may be produced by special ammunition for artillery and mortars, as well as by
ammunition for special weapons. Smoke ammunition is most applicable for use against
hostile troops and is least dependent upon the weather. A smoke cloud which is to
blind the enemy should be built up as rapidly as possible and maintained with
Ordinary mortars and special gas mortars normally consume less ammunition than
cannon or artillery of equal caliber.
(2) Smoke Sprayers and Smoke-Releasing Apparatus
Devices which release a smoke-producing fluid may be used to establish a smoke
curtain or a smoke cloud.
The sprayers most commonly used are the small type carried on the back of the
individual soldier, and the large type which is moved into position on a
hand cart. The small sprayers produce smoke for a period lasting
about 10 minutes, and the large ones, for periods lasting from
30 to 40 minutes. The small sprayers can be used by troops either while
they are moving or in position.
These sprayers are suitable for rapid use within the combat area of
infantry troops. The installation of the large sprayers in the forward parts of
the combat zone is time-consuming, and possible only when the terrain is hidden
from hostile observation.
Sprayers can release smoke effectively whatever the direction and speed
of the wind, and any vehicles equipped with sprayers can release smoke
effectively even in a calm atmosphere, providing the vehicles are moving at high
speeds. However, if the wind is blowing away from the enemy, such a method
should not be used to smoke friendly front-line troops. This method is
applicable for smoking the enemy only at short distances (seldom more than
800 to 1,000 yards), and if there is a steady wind toward the enemy.
(3) Hand and Rifle Smoke Grenades
These weapons have a limited effect both as to time and space.
(4) Smoke Candles and Smoldering Material
These develop smoke which resembles fog. The material most commonly
used includes small candles that are thrown, or placed, a few paces apart on
the ground. They produce smoke for periods lasting about 2 minutes, and are
used mostly in such small-scale operations as combat in the interior of a
(5) Airplane Smoke Material
Airplanes may drop smoke bombs to screen the enemy for a short time
in limited areas.
Airplanes may also be equipped with smoke sprayers, which, depending
upon the type and size of the apparatus, can either lay a flat smoke screen about
300 yards wide and several miles long, or establish a vertical curtain about 200 yards
high. Planes so equipped may be used to produce smoke in air combat, or
they may release smoke to blind AA weapons or deprive the enemy of ground
observation over friendly troops. Because of their rapid employment, and great
extension but short duration, such smoke screens are principally suitable for
concealing the movement of mobile units.
c. Issuance of Orders for the Employment of Smoke
The influence of weather conditions and the usually short duration of the
smoke effect require quick decisions in its employment. Disadvantages are the
restriction of observation and the interference with neighboring troops. Artillery
and other troops that will be affected by the smoke should be informed of its
contemplated use. Independent employment is permitted only in case the effect
of the smoke is limited to the area of the command using it. In other cases, the
use of smoke is regulated by the higher commander.
The commander can normally withhold from his subordinate units the permission
to use smoke; only armored vehicles may use smoke for sell-protection without
For large-scale smoke operations, army and corps commanders allot to their
subordinate units smoke troops with projectors or sprayers, the necessary
ammunition for artillery and mortars, and airplanes equipped with smoke-producing
apparatus. In general, the division commander regulates the use of smoke and
coordinates it with the fire and movement of his subordinate units. Recommendations
are made by the smoke-troop commander. The combat order should prescribe what the
smoke is to conceal and why. When used to restrict hostile observation, the
direction and duration of the screen should also be stated. To insure close
cooperation, smoke troops are usually attached to the units to be protected.
d. Use of Smoke in Large-Scale Operations
Smoke conceals the movements made in preparation for attack and facilitates
surprise. Smoke reduces losses, and its use is especially valuable in
crossing open terrain and during the initial crossing of a river. Concealed
hostile positions, suspected observation posts, and defensive weapons, such as
machine guns, can be prevented from operating efficiently. When smoke is used
for this purpose, it saves fire power and facilitates the establishment of the
artillery main effort. Smoke serves to support the attack in the zone of the main
effort, to veil weakness in adjacent zones, and to conceal gaps in the lines.
Most frequently, the attacker uses smoke shells to blind the enemy. Smoke
sprayers are seldom used for this purpose, and then only as a temporary
expedient, providing the wind is blowing toward the enemy. Sprayers are mainly
used to conceal the movements of attacking troops.
In defense, the use of smoke in front of the friendly artillery observation
posts is seldom advisable, because such use blinds their observation. The defender's
use of smoke on critical parts of his own position in the event of a tank
attack is generally not recommended.
Fire from smoke-producing ammunition is a suitable expedient for blinding hostile observation
positions. When using smoke in the forward zone to conceal working parties or
movements, previous arrangements should be made for observation, from the
flank, of the terrain beyond the smoke cloud, and for fire protection against
surprise attack by the enemy.
Smoke may be used in the rear of the defender's artillery observation posts, except
when the wind is blowing in the direction of the enemy. Such use serves to conceal
the shifting of strength, the movement of reserves, or changes in artillery
positions; but it will fulfill its purpose only if it completely excludes all observation.
(3) In breaking contact during combat, smoke gives valuable assistance. By
providing concealment, it facilitates disengagement from the enemy by day. Whenever
possible, the enemy should be blinded by use of smoke-producing ammunition. Ordinarily, the
withdrawing troops can also be covered by sprayed smoke, even if the wind is
blowing in the direction of the withdrawal. In general, however, the timely
employment of smoke sprayers is possible only in case of previously planned
preparations for retirement. Naturally, the smoke apparatus will fall into the
enemy's hands. The advancing enemy should be held up by observed or planned fire
as soon as the smoking or retrograde movement begins, in order to prevent him
from using the occasion to launch an attack on the withdrawing troops.
(4) Concealment from air observation requires a great expenditure of
smoke ammunition, and therefore is possible only for short periods of
time. The establishment of a complete and effective smoke screen can be accomplished
only under especially favorable weather and terrain conditions. Combat bridge
construction and large ferries cannot be concealed from the air by smoke for
long periods of time. Likewise, troop movements can be concealed only during
short marches: for example, troops moving from a dispersed or camouflaged
formation into natural cover. Smoke makes low-level air attacks more difficult.
(5) Smoke may be used deceptively to divert hostile attention and fire
from important positions. For example, in river crossings, it may be used at
several places in order to deceive the enemy as to the location of the contemplated
crossing. The size of the deceptive smoke cloud must be such as to make
it appear to serve an important purpose in the combat situation.
e. Use of Smoke in Small-Scale Operations
In local operations, smoke should be produced by the combat troops' organic
facilities, which include smoke candles, hand and rifle smoke grenades, artillery
and mortar smoke shells, and smoke sprayers on armored vehicles.
f. Combat in Smoke
Smoke hinders the defense more than the attack.
Troops moving across country in smoke maintain their direction by compass. In
order to maintain control, it is often practical to move troops by
bounds. In smoke, troops should advance silently and attack resolutely. The
decision is secured in close combat. Upon contact with the enemy, attack him
immediately with the bayonet, hand grenades, and battle cries.
In defense, the direction of fire should be definitely established and a fire
plan prepared in advance, thereby guaranteeing effective fire even in case
of a surprise attack supported by smoke. In case of hostile smoke, gas masks
are used until it is definitely determined that the smoke is not mixed with
Front-line troops should open fire individually against hostile smoke only
if it is directly in front of their own position; the enemy may be displaying
smoke to divert fire from his own important positions. Combined fire will be
ordered by higher authority. Friendly air reconnaissance should determine
definitely what the hostile smoke conceals.
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Comments: In order to disperse the hostile fire that smoke attracts, it
should cover the maximum area. However, the possible hindrance to friendly
artillery observation, fire, and troop movements should always be taken into
consideration in decisions to use smoke. Even if handicapped by smoke, artillery
can continue to execute its prepared fires, but it cannot recognize or fire
effectively upon new targets. In view of the above considerations, the Germans
have not emphasized the development of smoke-spraying vehicles for use in
support of front-line units, but prefer to use weapons firing smoke-producing
The Germans believe that it is generally unnecessary for the defender
to leave his cover and move into view of an attacking enemy. Therefore, the
use of smoke by the defense is usually undesirable, since the strength of the
defense depends mainly on the effectiveness of aimed and observed fires.
It must be assumed that the purpose of smoke during a daylight withdrawal
will be immediately recognized by the enemy, who will increase his
efforts to push after the retiring troops. Smoke alone will not hold the enemy
away. Therefore, in such situations, German artillery and other heavy weapons
supporting a withdrawal will increase their fires against favorable targets,
previously selected and registered. These weapons will also be prepared to place
aimed and observed fire upon the advancing enemy as he emerges from the smoke.
It has been noted in this and other texts, as well as in accounts of combat
experiences, that the Germans frequently use smoke as follows: to conceal
movements of armored and foot troops, especially from the flanks; to deceive
the enemy, by placing smoke at seemingly logical and important points; and to
reduce the ammunition expenditures required to neutralize hostile weapons, especially
those which cannot be effectively engaged by armored vehicles, infantry
weapons, or artillery,
Whether the use of smoke brings the intended results depends upon the
ability of the commanders to achieve a skillful cooperation between the effect of
the smoke and the fire and movement of the combat troops.