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"German Troop Train Protection Against Air Attack" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German antiaircraft protection for rail transport is reproduced from the WWII publication Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 5 dated August 13, 1942. For further information on German antiaircraft units and tactics, see also German Antiaircraft Artillery, Special Series No. 10.

[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.]


The movement of troops by rail is always attended by dangers incident to sudden air attacks. The extent to which these can be successfully warded off, may often determine the final outcome of a battle.

The German Air Force Manual includes a section entitled "Protection of Troop Trains Against Air Attack."

Where trains are to be protected by means of antiaircraft machine guns, the troops transported will furnish 3 antiaircraft sections. Three antiaircraft railroad cars are provided, one at the center of the train, and one at the center of the front and rear halves of the train. There are two types of railroad cars: an open high-sided car with a superstructure or scaffolding, and an open low-sided car. The type of car used depends upon the make-up of the train. Thus in the case of non-motorized units which will use roofed cars for the most part, the guns must be placed at a considerable height in order to get a clear field of fire. Therefore, two high-sided cars with a superstructure are used, and only one low-sided car. This allotment of cars is reversed for motorized units. The high-sided antiaircraft cars are spotted in the train with the roofed cars, the low-sided antiaircraft cars with the open cars. Where possible, the guns are mounted on vehicles when the low-sided car is used.

In conjunction with the antiaircraft machine guns, 20-mm. antiaircraft guns may be used. When the 20-mm. guns are to be used, 2 antiaircraft sections are formed, and 3 low-sided cars, specially designed for antiaircraft use, are provided. One car is placed at the tail-end of the train and another at the center. The third car is placed immediately behind the locomotive so that when the direction of the train is changed, as in switching for example, the tail car need not be shifted; if possible, this car should also be provided with a gun. At least 2 open cars with low loads should be coupled to either side of these special antiaircraft cars in order to give a good field of fire. Additional 20-mm. guns may be used when required.

Care must be taken that the guns are not struck by obstructions, such as passing trains, tunnels, signal posts, etc. For this purpose, lookouts are detailed to observe on each side of the train. When not firing, the 20-mm. guns should be pointed directly to the front or rear depending on their sector of fire.

No warning of attacks can be expected, so all antiaircraft personnel must be kept in a constant state of readiness. There are two aircraft watchers, one observing an arc of 180° to the front, the other to the rear. These watchers should be selected from among the best-trained men and relieved frequently.

The procedure for firing is as follows: The normal zone of fire of the guns near the front of the train is to the front, that of the guns near the rear, to the rear; these guns will support each other only when there are no planes within their respective normal zones. The guns in the middle of the train support the front or rear guns as the situation may require. When the train is moving, only tracer ammunition will be used since the motion does not permit accurate sighting. Care must be taken not to shoot up signal posts and other installations, and even if under attack no firing may be done where there are overhead powerlines. At prolonged halts, when for one reason or another fields of fire are obstructed, the guns should be dismantled and set up at suitable points in the surrounding countryside.


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