TM-E 30-451 Handbook on German Military Forces

[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.]



2. Types of Attack

a. FLANK ATTACK (Flankenangriff). The Germans consider that the most effective attack is against the enemy's flank. The flank attack develops either from the approach march—sometimes through a turning movement—or from flank marches. It attempts to surprise the enemy and permit him no time for countermeasures. Since mobility and the deception of the enemy at other positions are required, the flank attack is most successfully mounted from a distance; the troop movements necessary for the maneuver can be executed in close proximity to the enemy only with unusually favorable terrain or at night. Attacks are launched on both flanks only when the Germans consider their forces clearly superior.

b. ENVELOPMENT (Umfassungsangriff). The envelopment is a combination flank-and-frontal attack especially favored by the Germans. The envelopment may be directed on either or both the enemy's flanks, and is accompanied by a simultaneous frontal attack to fix the enemy's forces. The deeper the envelopment goes into the enemy's flanks, the greater becomes the danger of being enveloped oneself. The Germans therefore emphasize the necessity of strong reserves and organization of the enveloping forces in depth. Success of the envelopment depends on the extent to which the enemy is able to dispose his forces in the threatened direction.

c. ENCIRCLEMENT (Einkreisung). An encirclement, the Germans think, is a particularly decisive form of attack, but usually more difficult to execute than a flank attack or an envelopment. In an encirclement, the enemy is not attacked at all in front, or is attacked in front only by light forces, while the main attacking force passes entirely around him, with the objective of maneuvering him out of position. This requires extreme mobility and deception.

d. FRONTAL ATTACK (Frontalangriff). The Germans consider the frontal attack the most difficult of execution. It strikes the enemy at his strongest point, and therefore requires superiority of men and materiel. A frontal attack should be made only at a point where the infantry can break through into favorable terrain in the depth of the enemy position. The frontage of the attack should be wider than the actual area (Schwerpunkt) chosen for penetration, in order to tie down the enemy on the flanks of the breakthrough. Adequate reserves must be held ready to counter the employment of the enemy's reserves.

e. WING ATTACK (Flügelangriff). An attack directed at one or both of the enemy's wings has, the Germans teach, a better chance of success than a central frontal attack, since only a part of the enemy's weapons are faced, and only one flank of the attacking force or forces is exposed to enemy fire. Bending back one wing may give an opportunity for a flank attack, or for a single or double envelopment.

f. PENETRATION (Einbruch) AND BREAKTHROUGH. (Durchbruch). These are not separate forms of attack, but rather the exploitation of a successful attack on the enemy's front, wing, or flank. The penetration destroys the continuity of the hostile front. The broader the penetration, the deeper can the penetration wedge be driven. Strong reserves throw back enemy counterattacks against the flanks of the penetration. German units are trained to exploit a penetration to the maximum so that it may develop into a complete breakthrough before hostile countermeasures can be launched on an effective scale. The deeper the attacker penetrates, the more effectively can he envelop and frustrate the attempts of the enemy to close his front again by withdrawal to the rear. The attacking forces attempt to reduce individual enemy positions by encircling and isolating them. The Germans do not consider a breakthrough successful until they overcome the enemy's artillery positions, which usually is the special task of tanks. Reserve units roll up the enemy's front from the newly created flanks.

The Germans often refer to this maneuver as "Keil and Kessel".


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