[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Technical Manual, TM-E 30-451: Handbook on German Military Forces published in March 1945. — Figures and illustrations are not reproduced, see source details. — 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.]
CHAPTER IV. TACTICS
Section III. MARCHES
The formations and the organizations of the march column in day or night advances are the same in the German Army as in the U.S. Army and are governed by the same principles. For a smooth functioning of the march the Germans stress: systematic training and practice; attention to physical welfare; care of vehicles and equipment; previous reconnaissance of routes; warning orders; and the issue of detailed march orders.
2. Organization and Control of the March Column
In order to secure the march column against enemy attacks, the Germans divide the column in the same manner as U.S. doctrine prescribes, namely into Advance Guard (Vorhut), Main Body (Gros), and Rear Guard (Nachhut). German equivalents for the U.S. terms are:
The issue of orders for march and traffic control is the responsibility of the higher command. Movement by road of formations from battalion strength upwards is carried out in the Zone of the Interior at the orders of the Army High Command (OKH) or a headquarters acting on the orders of the Army High Command. In the Theater of War such movements are controlled by Army Headquarters, which issues orders in accordance with instructions from Army High Command or the Army Group. Movements in the areas of military commanders of line-of-communication areas are controlled by orders of the commanders of such areas.
Orders for movement are issued to the formations of fighting troops by the operations group of headquarters; those to supply services and units in the line-of-communication area emanate from the supply and administrative group.
The Germans set up a well organized traffic control service which is under the orders of the operations group. All traffic control services usually wear orange-red brassards, while the members of the military police are distinguished by metal gorgets.
The Germans allot to each front-line division its own road or sector of advance, usually marked by advance parties. General Headquarters or any other troops directed simultaneously on the same roads, are subordinated to the division for the duration of the move. All-weather roads usually are allotted to motorized or armored divisions, while subsidiary roads are assigned to infantry divisions.
3. Conduct of the March
When a German infantry division advances along several routes, an infantry element normally forms the head of each main body. The commander of the main body usually marches at or near the head of the main body. The motorized elements of the division, unless employed on reconnaissance or security missions, are organized into one or more motor echelons which follow the march column by bounds, or move in a column along a separate road. Before the march begins, the division signal battalion lays a trunk telephone line as far forward as the situation permits and extends this line while the march proceeds. The leading signal unit usually marches with the support of the advance guard and establishes telephone stations at important points. In a march along several roads the trunk line normally is laid along the route of the division commander and his staff. In addition to the construction of the trunk line, the Germans stress radio communications to the rear and flanks, as well as the use of messengers mounted on horses, bicycles, or motorcycles.
4. Security of March Columns
As a rule the Germans allot motorized units for the protection of the flanks and rear of march columns. However, a smaller unit, such as a battalion, may advance without flank security detachments.
The Germans are very much concerned about antiaircraft protective measures and often march in open columns (Fliegermarschtiefe); an advance in deployed formation (Fliegermarschbreite) is seldom practical. Antiaircraft defense is concentrated at important terrain features, such as bridges, crossroads, and defiles. Because of Allied air supremacy the Germans now instruct their troops to conduct movements and the transport of supplies only at night, and without lights. They also order their troops to leave burned out vehicles standing on the road to attract fresh attacks by enemy aircraft.
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