The Germans are firm believers in the dual-purpose antiaircraft-antitank
gun. German Fla-Bataillone (independent antiaircraft battalions which are
organic to the infantry) are equipped with such a weapon, the 20-mm self-propelled
gun (for details, see this publication No. 5, p. 14). What follows is
adapted from what appears to be the notes of a commander of a Fla platoon; note
the importance attached to ground targets.
a. Ground Targets
The 20-mm gun on a self-propelled mount combines the fire power and mobility
of an AA gun with the accuracy and penetration of an AT gun. Its disadvantage
is that it is insufficiently armored, and this fault must be offset by good
use of ground and fire control. The smallest unit in battle is the two-gun
section. Use of single guns is exceptional.
As in all land operations, ground observation is most important. Every
spare man must be employed on this, and must be made personally ambitious to
spot enemy targets. Owing to the amazing accuracy of the gun "it is possible
to say that when the enemy has once been spotted, he no longer is an enemy."
b. Protection during Deployment
During deployment, platoons usually take over protection against air or
land attack. Guns must be sited so that attacking aircraft can be engaged from
reverse slopes, while approaching ground targets can be brought under fire as
quickly as possible by moving up the slope to a forward position.
c. The Attack
The Fla platoon supports the advance of the infantry and other arms. For
this purpose it should be placed on the flank to enable its range to be fully
utilized without endangering friendly troops. A hundred yards more or less to the
flank hardly affects the efficacy of the 20-mm gun.
During operations the following are the only men on the vehicle: driver, gun
commander, No. 1, and No. 4. The gun commander often has to dismount to
reconnoiter the terrain or a position, when No. 3 takes his place. The
other men, including ammunition handlers, give protection and observe
to the flanks of the gun. If there is no mine-spotting section available, the
ammunition handlers must cover the terrain to be traversed.
The platoon or section commander follows directly behind the attacking
infantry or the pioneer assault detachment with his runners. He reconnoiters
for good positions and opportunities for the employment of the gun. Signalling by
means of the machine-gun company's number code has proved effective.
The guns usually approach their targets backwards, and use all folds in
the ground and other cover.
Good fire discipline including good observation is of the greatest value. This
needs practice and will be made easier by cooperation with the attacking
troops and the various observation posts. Zones of observation must be laid
down. Telescopes and rangefinders will be used to the full.
Changes of position must be made rapidly. Movement parallel to the front
must be avoided if possible. The guns will advance by bounds. If there is
only slight opposition, which can be broken by one section, the other section
remains in readiness and then goes forward as the advanced section, while the
first gets ready for action again.
When close to the enemy and when breaking into his positions, the guns
fire on the move. Thus they force the enemy to take cover, and achieve a strong
effect on morale.
When in an assembly area or holding a defensive position, the guns occupy
prepared positions under cover. Several alternate positions are prepared, battle
outposts are put out, possible targets are spotted, landmarks identified, etc.
g. On the March
On the march, when in the rear or when contact with the enemy is likely,
the platoon is disposed as follows:
No. 1 gun--protection to the front and right;
No. 2 gun--protection to the front and left;
No. 3 gun--protection to rear and right;
No. 4 gun--protection to rear and left.
In case of aerial attack, a similar formation will be adopted. Fire will
then be opened at the halt on the section commander's orders. Aircraft will only
be engaged if they spot or attack German positions, if bridges or observation
posts have to be protected, or if the aircraft present an especially good target.
The communications section and unit transport travel with the forward echelon
trains of the unit under whose command the platoon has been placed.
It has been proved that the gun rightly used can put even the heaviest
tanks to flight, even if it cannot put them out of action. The most
effective range against tanks is under 400 yards. Every effort
must be made to attack tanks from the flank.