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FM 18-5: Organization and Tactics of Tank Destroyer Units
Tank Destroyer Field Manual, War Department, June 16, 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Field Manual. As with all field manuals, the text may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the contents of the field manual. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


• 208. GENERAL—While tank destroyer units' principal method of action against tanks is fire and movement by antitank cannon, many occasions will occur where dismounted tank hunting methods may be effectively employed by tank destroyer personnel. Any type of tank may be destroyed by close combat weapons in the hands of courageous, aggressive men. Such action by individuals or small parties is inherent in tank destroyer combat. When their main weapons have been knocked out, all tank destroyer crews continue to fight hostile tanks effectively. Small units may be used to attack tanks in a park or bivouac. Reconnaissance and security elements will frequently be offered the opportunity to attack tanks which attempt flanking action through woods.

• 209. EMPLOYMENT OF CLOSE COMBAT WEAPONS.—a. The antitank grenade is the principal weapon used by tank hunters. It is preferably employed against known weak spots in armor.

b. Accurate small arms fire at close range will reduce the fighting efficiency of the tank. Targets are: exposed crew members; periscopes (fire will not break the glass, but will shatter the lens, making vision impossible) slits (they are usually too small to permit the passage of a small arms projectile; however, lead spray will cause the crew to close slits or suffer casualties); turret rings (a direct hit on the turret ring will seal the turret and tank hull, preventing rotation); driving sprockets (direct hits in the driving sprockets may reduce tank mobility); radio aerial and aerial base (this will not necessarily prevent communication, but will cause radio interference). Tank hunters use small arms fire to kill crews of tanks disabled by antitank mines.

c. Incendiary grenades are employed against horizontal surfaces of tanks or crevices where inflammable substances will collect. Coatings of grease and oil which gather on the surface, ventilation ports which draw flame into tanks, or burning of the motor when flame filters through engine coverings render all tanks vulnerable to flames.

d. Antitank mines are used mainly against the running gear or tanks. Once stopped, tanks are destroyed with incendiary or antitank grenades. Large mines or two or three 10-pound mines placed together will stave in the belly of the tank, killing the crew. Mines are employed in ambushes to block and destroy leading and rearmost tanks, or to deny ground to tanks.

e. Antitank bombs, improvised from 10 pounds of TNT or nitrostarch, are most effective when placed in tracks and detonated, or dropped on the top of tanks where armor is thin. The explosion usually staves in the top armor or engine covering.

f. Smoke is used to blind the tank and confuse the crew; it enables tank hunters to work close to the tank unobserved. Smoke also may be used to isolate tanks so that mutual support is impossible. Smoke may be laid by smoke pot or FM grenade. White phosphorus grenades also are good smoke-producing weapons.

g. The use of all close combat weapons against tanks is such as to capitalize on the limitations on the free use of tank weapons. Although some tank weapons have all-around traverse, visibility of gunners is limited to narrow lanes. Tank weapons are limited in depression, causing a dead space near the tank ranging from 20 to sometimes 30 feet. Turrets require up to 15 seconds to traverse the full 360°.

• 210. ORGANIZATION OF TANK HUNTING PARTIES.—Tank hunting organization is dictated by the terrain and situation. As a rule, small parties are most effective. Where many men are available and needed, several parties operate on the same mission with close cooperation. Tank hunting operations are of three distinct types, each type requiring different methods.

a. Emergency action.—Tank hunters, keeping well concealed, work in small groups, deployed in depth along probable routes of advance of hostile armored units. From slit trenches or other concealed and protected areas, tank hunters assail tanks, using the type "A" grenade (rifle or hand), incendiary grenades, and small arms fire. They withhold fire until tanks can be assailed from several sides; this may require that reconnaissance and leading elements of enemy armored units be permitted to bypass the foremost tank hunter groups. Tank hunter groups may be used to deny wooded or covered areas to enemy tanks and force the latter into regions where primary tank destroyer weapons have good fields of fire.

b. Ambush.—In the ambush surprise is essential. Wits should be used rather than rules. The obvious should be avoided and the enemy should be misled and mystified. Variations in ambushes are unlimited. In all phases of ambush, concealment is the primary consideration. Varying factors are the terrain, the formation and strength of enemy, the strength of our own forces, and available weapons.

(1) The following general guides are suggested:

(a) Through reconnaissance select a suitable site.

(b) Endeavor to locate defiles (a road flanked by high banks or woods, villages, towns, etc.).

(c) Avoid places that are too obvious, especially when an easy detour is available for a suspicious enemy.

(2) A definite plan should be made for each ambush, and must be thoroughly understood by all tank hunters. In general the following should be included:

(a) At each end of the ambush, place observation posts (scouts).

(b) If time permits, dig slit trenches.

(c) Provide foolproof signals for the announcement of enemy approach (visual or sound).

(d) Devise methods to stop reconnaissance units after they have passed the ambush site (wire, ropes, etc., stretched diagonally across road as motorcyclist arrives at proper point.

(e) Devise method of stopping the first tank so that remaining tanks will then stop or crash into it (barricades, trees felled by explosives at proper instant, AT mines, AT guns, etc.).

(f) Provide means of preventing escape, that is, mines across roads or road block.

(g) With smoke or explosives, isolate tanks so that mutual tank support is impossible.

(h) Designate a tank hunting team to destroy each tank anticipated; 3 men on first tank, 3 men on second, etc.

(i) Provide flank observation for protection.

(j) Stress concealment of men and equipment, weapons and vehicles; otherwise surprise is sacrificed.

(k) Visualize sequence of events, and inform all individuals.

(l) Rehearse ambush if time permits.

(m) Check weapons and sector of fire.

(n) Arrange and reconnoiter routes of withdrawal to rallying positions.

(o) Give detailed information as to how to deal with tank crews which may be capable of dismounted action.

(3) Trained personnel should be employed. They must be highly disciplined and capable of holding fire until the exact moment required.

c. Raids.—Prior to a raid, tank hunters locate tank parts by reconnaissance. Tank hunters then raid the harbored tanks, killing the crews and destroying armored vehicles by flame and explosives. Raids must be carefully planned. Raiding parties must be small. When large numbers of raiders are required, several parties may operate in conjunction. Information obtained by previous reconnaissance should give the exact location of enemy tanks, nature of terrain, number and location of sentinels, outguards, etc. The size and perimeter of a park and the approximate number of tanks contained therein should be know definitely, as well as routes of approach and retreat. Success of tank hunter raids depends on surprise. The tank hunters strike silently and quickly, cause as much damage as possible, and rally outside the tank park. In terrain offering little or no concealment, one group may be employed to illuminate one side of the park with flares and other pyrotechnics while a second group fires upon the enemy silhouetted against the light. Care is taken to prevent exposure of the first group to the fire of the second. Personnel for raids should be carefully selected.

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