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"Tactics of Personnel Carriers Mounting Flame Throwers" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   An article from the November 1944 issue of the Intelligence Bulletin on the tactics of the German SdKfz 251 halftrack personnel carrier equipped with flamethrowers.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German weapons and equipment is available in postwar publications.]


The official German Army directive which is paraphrased below discusses the tactics of the armored half-track flame-thrower vehicle (see fig. 21). This is the medium personnel carrier used in Panzer Grenadier units, fitted with two large flame throwers and one small flame thrower, in addition to the regular machine-gun mounts at the front and rear.

A large flame thrower is mounted in a V-shaped shield on each side of the vehicle. The small flame thrower on the back of the vehicle is simply the cartridge ignition projector used in the small portable flame thrower; this projector is attached to one end of a 33-foot length of hose, which connects it to the propulsion unit and fuel tank. Tanks situated next to the side armor plates, in the interior of the vehicle, carry 154 gallons of flame-thrower fuel. A small gasoline engine and a pump, used to propel the fuel, are situated in the center of the interior.

The effective range of the large flame throwers is about 40 yards, whereas that of the small equipment is unlikely to exceed 30 yards. The fuel carried is sufficient for about 80 bursts, each lasting from 1 to 2 seconds.

1. The medium armored flame-thrower vehicle is a close combat weapon of the Panzer Grenadiers. It is used in the offensive when the other weapons used from the vehicle do not promise to be sufficiently effective.

2. In addition to employing its machine guns against personnel at ranges of as much as 440 yards, the vehicle may direct flame against personnel and static targets at ranges of as much as 40 yards. If the flame does not destroy hostile troops, it should at least force them to leave their cover. Attacks with flame are particularly effective in mopping up ground quickly, in liquidating hostile soldiers who put in a sudden appearance near the vehicle, and in destroying hostile personnel in hasty permanent field fortifications.

[Armored Half-track Flame-thrower Vehicle]
Figure 21. Armored Half-track Flame-thrower Vehicle.

3. These flame-thrower vehicles normally are employed by whole platoons, and always in close cooperation with mounted Panzer Grenadier units in the attack.

4. For combat in fortified areas, attacks on permanent fortifications, and so on, the vehicles may be employed singly, under the command of mounted Panzer Grenadier platoons. When the latter dismount, the flame-thrower vehicles will be left behind with the armored personnel carriers.

5. It is forbidden to use these vehicles like infantry tanks or assault guns, as "point" vehicles on the march or in action, for protective duty, or as independent patrol vehicles.

6. In the pursuit, the platoon will support local and prepared counterattacks by mounted Panzer Grenadiers.

7. Every effort must be made to employ the platoon as a whole, for greater effectiveness.


1. Preparations for the attack (terrain estimate, tactical reconnaissance. protective duties, camouflage. and so on) follow the same principles as are observed by tanks and Panzer Grenadiers.

2. In the attack the flame-thrower vehicles move in extended order behind the mounted Panzer Grenadier units. The action normally is opened by machine-gun fire. Covered by the fire of other weapons, as well as by the weapons in the personnel carriers themselves, the flame-thrower platoon will break into the hostile position.

3. If the opposition remains under cover, it will be burnt out. Bursts of fire from the flame throwers should be projected only against those targets which definitely are within range. To fire flame bursts indiscriminately, before reaching the opposition, merely wastes fuel and obscures vision.

4. It is important to direct the flame against the bottom of the target first and then work up, so that hostile personnel who may have close-range antitank weapons in readiness will be destroyed.

5. The type of target and the course of attack will determine whether fire is to be opened while on the move or at the halt.

6. Trenches will be crossed and engaged from the flank. Tree tops, roofs, and raised platforms may be set afire if the presence of hostile soldiers is suspected.

7. If a large conflagration is desired, the target first will be sprayed with oil and then ignited by a burst of fire. This is especially effective when attacking dugouts, trenches, entrances to pillboxes, and — of course — wooden buildings.

8. Fire will not be opened in thick, natural fog, except by special order.  

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