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"German Defense of Positions" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following translated German directive for the defense of positions was published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 38, November 18, 1943.

[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 directive for the defense of positions gives some interesting details of German defensive tactics during recent campaigns. A translation of the document is as follows.

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1. Every man must be aware that the defense of a position must continue to the last man and to the last round. Every commander is fully responsible for the defense of the interdependent defense area assigned to him. It is not permissible, for instance, that the heavy weapons platoon-leader command the heavy weapons employed on the right as well as on the left flank of the company.

2. The enemy must be prevented by all means from removing mines or other obstacles which are laid in front of the position. Machine guns are most effective for this purpose.

3. All available machine guns are to be employed on the flanks when possible. Especially at night the machine guns must command the entire terrain to the front. Shortly before dusk every machine gun, light machine guns included, will therefore be sited so as to be able to cover their designated zones. These sectors will be suitably marked. The sector of fire is to be marked by stakes on the right and left limits; the elevation, by a wire stretched horizontally.

4. The heavy weapons and artillery are placed in relation to the light infantry weapons in such a manner that their fire-power can be primarily directed against important positions and terrain features, which the enemy might possibly use during his approach.

5. Officers of all grades are responsible for the continuous preparedness for defense. In addition precise written orders are to be drawn up for each position, about which each man must be repeatedly instructed, and which he must know by heart. These orders must show, among other things:

(a) The position of the enemy, the defense-sector, adjacent units, scout-troops, and the security toward the front;

(b) Observation and scouting patrols by day and night;

(c) Supervision of order and alertness in the position. Fire preparedness weapons and the storage of ammunition;

(d) Action to be taken: under enemy artillery-fire (for instance, the soldier takes cover, with his machine gun or rifle, in his fox-hole); low-level air attack (machine guns fire at will); action by enemy assault troops (alertness for hostile feints); infantry-attack, tank-attack; penetration by adjacent unit;

(e) Significance of pyrotechnical signals, password.


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