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"Enemy Mine Clearance" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following U.S. military report on German methods of mine clearance was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 46, May 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.]


The British source from which the details set out below are taken states that the Germans expect land mines to be laid to protect roads, tracks, bridges, crossings, etc., in open country as part of a general defensive scheme; and as scattered booby traps. Mine clearance is a function of the German assault engineers.

a. Reconnaissance

Normal reconnaissance and reports will reveal a suspect area, which must be reconnoitered by the engineers for boundaries, types of mines, gaps and methods of laying. The engineers work in small parties 300 to 500 yards apart. Such reconnaissance should be supplemented by aerial photography, maps, and by interrogating prisoners in the area where captured.

b. Searching

Searching is to be done by small parties of engineers. They use long improvised probes designed to prod, with the soldier standing erect, a lane 3 feet wide. Protective goggles (presumably splinter-proof] are worn. The probes are of three kinds: two are about 5 feet long, one resembling a rapier (Sucheisen) and the other having no special handle (Minensuchstab); the third probe is about 15 feet long with points like a hay fork. Electro-magnetic detectors (Minensuchgerät) are also used for clearing gaps.

Mines which have been laid a long time may be spotted in sand, by the depression; in fields, by the lighter colored grass; in wet earth, by the dark patches; in frosty ground, by the cracks and under a thin covering of snow, by a slight rise if the mines have been laid during the snow fall. Mines laid in frosty ground before the fall of snow cannot be spotted after it.

c. Clearing

Gaps should be 2 yards wide for infantry, 5 yards for vehicles and 10 yards for two-way traffic.

Gaps are cleared by engineer parties, artillery barrage, and air bombardment.

Engineers clearing gaps, if the mines are not under fire, search for individual mines. If the mines are under fire, detonating fuze nets (Knallnetz), charges (geballte Ladungen) or bangalore torpedoes (gestreckte Ladungen) are used. Trip-wire mechanisms are sprung by using a harpoon.

Artillery barrages are an expensive method of mine clearance. For a 100-yard gap 20 to 25 yards wide: a 21-cm heavy howitzer fires 120 rounds of percussion fuze ammunition, a 15-cm medium howitzer fires 400 rounds of percussion fuze (short-delay) ammunition, and a 10.5-cm gun-howitzer fires 600 rounds of percussion fuze ammunition. The latter is not to be used except in an emergency.

Air bombardment with 50-kg bombs fuzed without delay is effective. Lighter bombs are unsatisfactory and heavier bombs create a gap which is impassable for armored vehicles. About nine-hundred 50-kg bombs are required to clear a gap 50 to 100 yards wide and 200 yards long.

Neither shelling nor bombing guarantees that all mines are neutralized; this must be done by engineer parties.

d. Electro-Magnetic Detector

For reconnaissance a detector-operator and a neutralizer work as a pair clearing a lane 5 feet wide. The detector-operator crawls about 3 feet ahead of the neutralizer and sweeps to and fro across his front covering a lane 5 feet wide.

For clearing a gap 15 feet wide, five such pairs are used, each detector-operator dragging a 30-yard line behind him as a guide for his neutralizer and his neighbor. Pulls on the rope also serve as a means of signaling. The pairs work in staggered formation 10 yards behind each other, each pair sweeping a 5-foot wide lane and overlapping its neighbor's lane by about 1 foot 6 inches; this is done by sweeping up to 5 feet out from the line of the neighboring pair in front. The boundaries of the gaps are marked with tape laid 1 foot 6 inches outside the guide lines.

When there is no opposition, detector-operators walk erect sweeping a lane 8 feet wide.

e. Detonating Fuze Net

Detonating fuze is made up into a net 30 feet long and 8 feet wide with a 6 inch mesh. The net is raised on pegs or stakes 2 to 3 feet above ground. The net is laid by hand.

f. Mobile Bangalore Torpedo (Ladungschieber)

This is improvised from two wheels with an axle between. Several of these are made or collected and spaced 5 yards apart. The pipe of the bangalore torpedo is laid over the axles and made fast. To supplement this, 3-kg charges (geballte Ladungen) are placed on the pipe, two spaced between each axle. The normal length of the bangalore torpedo on wheels is 25 yards, and it clears a gap 4 to 6 yards wide. It is towed as far as possible before being pushed out into the minefield. The front wheels and axle are replaced by skids in overgrown country.

g. Neutralizing Mines in a Rear Area

Mines are destroyed with detonating fuze, two turns being taken round each mine cover.

Mines may be ploughed by using a tractor or winch to pull the plough from a safe distance.

S-mines may be cleared by a tank towing a harrow.


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