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"German Employment of Heavy Armored Platoon" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. report on the German employment of heavy armored reconnaissance vehicles was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 47, June 1, 1944.

[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.]


A German source states that in the attack heavy, armored reconnaissance vehicles mounting the 75-mm Kw K are extremely effective as support weapons because of their high speed, their armor protection against small-arms fire and shell splinters, their ability to open fire instantly and their high rate of accurate fire. It is stated that the heavy armored platoon can be used to build up or quickly switch a concentration of fire that will decisively influence the fighting at a crucial point, but that the platoon or a single heavy armored car cannot undertake independent reconnaissance or combat tasks without infantry support because they can only fire in the direction of movement and because they are not equipped for close combat. The following details have been extracted from a German source.

*          *          *

a. General

In order to increase the probability of scoring hits, the effectiveness of the firing, and to save ammunition, it is essential that the vehicle be driven as near to the target as the enemy's fire permits. The gun will be fired only when the vehicle is at the halt. Use will be made of all available cover.

The heavy armored platoon will be given objectives which either cannot be engaged (or engaged quickly enough) by the artillery or other support weapons, or it will be held ready to engage such objectives as are encountered during the course of the battle. The small amount of ammunition carried necessitates moderation in its use.

If the platoon or single vehicles cannot be given specific targets during a battle, especially during and immediately after penetration, the platoon will keep in close proximity to the infantry and engage enemy objectives hindering the advance. Every armored commander must be able to recognize where his assistance is required. As a rule platoon commanders will indicate targets to vehicle commanders but the latter will issue their own fire-orders. The platoon will not normally be employed as a covering force. For greatest effect, the platoon should always be used as a whole, but single vehicles may be placed under command of rifle platoons or armored units on the march or on reconnaissance if superior enemy armor is anticipated, during fighting on a broad front in close country, or when the rifle platoons or armored units are given independent objectives.

b. On the March

On the march the heavy armored car may move well up with the point company to enable it to neutralize with concentrated fire any resistance suddenly encountered.

Single vehicles may be employed to reinforce the forward covering troops or armored car patrols if enemy armor is anticipated.

c. In the Attack

The platoon will accompany the attacking infantry and support the attack in co-operation with the other support weapons, especially during penetration and in the fighting in the depth of the main defense zone. As a rule the platoon will be employed as a weapon to be used at the main point of effort under the direction of the infantry commander.

The tasks of the platoon will be to neutralize particularly stubborn centers of resistance, field works and pillboxes, enemy tanks or antitank weapons.

After the objective has been gained, the platoon will take over protection against an enemy counterattack especially if tanks are anticipated.

d. During the Pursuit

During the pursuit the platoon will be kept well up with the leading elements to enable them to break quickly, in co-operation with the other arms, any enemy resistance which may be encountered, and to disperse the enemy.

In the pursuit it may be necessary to place single vehicles in support of pursuing troops or of reinforced armored patrols.

e. In Defense

The platoon will also be used offensively, especially in support of local or deliberate counterattacks. For this purpose, especially thorough reconnaissance and preparation is necessary before employment. During enemy tank attacks the platoon is specially suitable for rapid engagement at the decisive or most threatened point. The platoon can also be used to isolate enemy penetrations.

Only under exceptional circumstances may the platoon be included in the unit fire-plan, and will then be employed as flexibly as possible. The vehicles must be given cover against enemy artillery and air attacks by digging in.

Together with the infantry the heavy armored car platoon can be used to cover disengagement. The platoon can support local attacks, can hold up the enemy for a considerable time from covered positions, and is able to disengage quickly. It may be necessary to put single vehicles under command of rearguards.

f. In Static Warfare

The platoon can be used to give effective support in attacks upon static and field works.

It is necessary for complete success that there be thorough reconnaissance, discussion with the attacking infantry, and cooperation of all arms.

The tasks of the platoon in static warfare will be:

Engagement of embrasures
Engagement of field pillboxes and houses
Blinding of weapon pits and centers of resistance
Blasting a way through obstacles
Support of the attack over the front area, especially by firing air bursts
Protective fire for assault troop raids
Together with infantry, the platoon can be held as a mobile reserve to be pushed through any lanes or gaps made and attack enemy positions from the rear.

g. Ammunition

Up to 800 yards, fire for effect is recommended without ranging; HE 34 over 800 yards should normally be used only after preliminary ranging.

HE 34: range up to 6,000 yards.

Instantaneous fuze is used against centers of resistance, antitank guns and large targets (bunched troops).

Delay fuze is employed against defiladed targets or targets under cover (field pillboxes, houses, etc), air-burst against live targets.

AP: range up to 1,400 yards, and is used against light armored vehicles, and embrasures of static positions. It also may be used at all ranges for possible nuisance effect against roads as well as against tanks which cannot be otherwise engaged.

Hollow charge 38: range up to 2,200 yards and used against the heavier tanks. At ranges over 800 yards the probability of registering hits is small.


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