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"German Construction Troops" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German construction troops was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 26, June 3, 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.]


Since the German Army engineers perform almost exclusively combat missions, such as crossing streams, reducing fortifications, and removing obstacles under fire, the Army includes special construction units for non-combat functions usually performed by engineers in other armies. These construction troops (Bautruppen) form a separate arm of the service, which is divided into specialized groups, such as road, bridge, railway, and fortress construction. Recently the German personnel has been largely confined to the older age groups, and increasing numbers of foreign laborers have been used for the heavy manual work; the construction troops are nevertheless fully capable of giving a good account of themselves if attacked. The Bautruppen are the subject of an article which appeared in an authoritative German military magazine in October 1940.

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In the organization of the combined arms, the German construction troops, newly established on the basis of experiences in the Polish campaign, have their clearly marked tasks. These troops were created for relieving and supplementing the engineers, who have great responsibilities in the modern war of movement. Because of their varied combat missions, such as attacking across streams and against enemy fortifications, the construction troops are trained to perform the construction work that becomes necessary in overcoming natural and artificial obstacles. In close cooperation with the engineers, this work includes the clearing of obstacles (concrete, rail, post, and tree obstacles), the filling of shell craters on the lines of advance, the opening of passages through debris-littered communities and, if necessary, the building of road detours.

BEFORE: "The German advance through the Vosges led from Colmar to Gerardmer by way of the road along the ravine pass. The French tried to hold up the German advance. With tremendous dynamite charges they blasted the rocky road before their withdrawal. Where previously a normal automobile traffic prevailed, after the blasting there yawned a tremendous crater in the rock."

AFTER: "After six days of work the wooden bridge with a capacity of 16 tons was finished. Even the Fuhrer has taken note of the outstanding work of the army construction troops, as typified by this job, stating that their capabilities of use are practically unlimited in spite of the lack of years of experience."

Another mission is the repair and constant maintenance of the heavily taxed advance and supply roads. To take the place of highway bridges demolished by the enemy, the construction troops must build heavy bridges of from 16 to 24 tons capacity for accommodating all army loads. Thus, in the war of movement they create the prerequisites for the forward push of the modern, far-ranging, motorized army. The rail construction troops assigned to the railway engineers attend to the reestablishment and resumption of operation on demolished stretches of track. The fortification construction troops are utilized under the local fortress engineer service-posts in the building of permanent fortified zones.

Not only in building the West Wall, but also especially in execution of our attack operations against our western enemies, the construction troops have been thoroughly tested. By their readiness for service and their technical efficiency, they have contributed to the operations of the German military forces. Even in the reestablishment of utilities service in demolished installations (water, electric power, and gas works) and in the case of canals blocked by sunken ships in enemy territory, the construction troops have given valuable aid. Adequately equipped even for infantry missions, exceptionally efficient because of their training as skilled workers, these troops have shown themselves to be an indispensable auxiliary arm of great versatility in the general organization of the German Army.


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