[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 VII. MINEFIELDS
The Germans make extensive use of mines which they consider a most effective defensive weapon. Minefields are utilized chiefly to cover defensive actions and retreats, although limited use is made of them in offensive actions for flank protection. In a static situation the Germans regard minefields as an element of the front-line position, laid out according to an over-all mine plan developed in close conjunction with that for the fields of fire of all weapons. Within recent months, standard German doctrine for minefield location has been modified. Instead of laying dense minefields in front of the main line of resistance, dispersed mines are laid there, while the minefields proper are sited within the main battle position.
2. Surveying of Minefields
The Germans consider it necessary to survey the location of minefields and individual mines within the minefields. German engineers are instructed to choose reference points (Festpunkte or FP) for minefields which easily can be identified. At a grade crossing, at the intersection of two improved roads, at the edge of a village, or some such favorable location, this can be done without any difficulty. In some instances, however, the Germans are forced to use "guide wire" and auxiliary fixed points (Vermessungspunkte or VP). A type of auxiliary fixed point that has proved practicable is the center of an equilateral triangle with sides 15 to 25 feet long. The corner points and the fixed point itself may be stakes, rails, or concrete or steel girders about 3 feet in length connected with barbed wire. Such a fixed point can be reestablished easily because even heavy shelling will rarely destroy more than one or two stakes.
A minefield is limited by the four corner points A1, A2, A3, and A4. The corner points are marked clockwise, A1 and A2 forming the base line on the German side. The survey of the field refers to one or both points of the base line. Auxiliary fixed points, called "mine stakes" (Minenpfähle), are used if necessary. Fixed points may be reference points found on the map or auxiliary fixed points established by the troops. Distances are measured in meters; azimuth readings are taken on the German issue compass—divided into 6,400 mils like the U.S. compass but read counter-clockwise, and marked with the letters KZ (Kompasszahl). The new-type compass called "march compass" has clockwise graduation and is indicated with the letters MKZ. The Germans use the magnetic azimuth and always proceed in their survey from the friendly toward the enemy side.
The Germans believe that it is advantageous to lay a continuous chain of reference points 600 to 900 feet apart, through a division sector. This chain can be used to determine the location of ditches, trenches, obstacles, and pillboxes, as well as minefields. Individual points are designated with Roman numerals, starting on the right flank of the division sector.
3. Laying of Minefields
a. PATTERNS. To assure the greatest possible effect, minefields normally are laid out in definite patterns. The Germans make an exception to this practice, however, in sectors where they do not intend to undertake offensive actions. There they disperse the mines irregularly in the areas between defensive positions.
The main belts of a major antitank minefield laid in uniform pattern normally consist of anti-tank mines with a sprinkling of antipersonnel mines in the forward edge of the field. Both types may be fitted with anti-lifting devices, and some of the antipersonnel mines have trip wires attached. In some instances, these mines are placed in the intervals between the diagonal wires of a double-apron fence, with trip wires fastened to the diagonals.
A number of antitank mines are laid in the forward edge of antipersonnel minefields to prevent armored vehicles from detonating the main belt of antipersonnel mines. The forward edges of minefields of all types often are sown with explosive charges placed in wooden boxes fitted with pressure fuzes. These act as both antitank and antipersonnel mines, and discourage the use of detectors to locate the mines.
Forward of most regular fields, and particularly in front of lanes, mines may be found widely spaced or scattered at random in unmarked groups. Mines also are laid in spaces running out at right angles from the forward edge of the minefield to damage vehicles moving along the field in search of lanes.
All pressure-type antitank and antipersonnel mines are laid in lines. For measuring distances and spaces, the troops use a mine-measuring wire (Minenmessdraht) which they themselves make from old telephone wire. (See Figure 15.) The mine-measuring wire is 24 meters (about 25 yards) long, and every meter (3 feet 3 inches) is marked with a piece of wood. The rings on the ends are about 5 inches in diameter. The measuring wire, in addition to measuring the distance between fixed points, serves to lay out right angles by staking out a triangle with sides of 6, 8, and 10 meters respectively. Spaces between mines are determined by reference to the marks on wire; the four rings on one end are used to offset the rows.
The density of a minefield depends upon the interval between mines and the number of rows. The table above represents the density.
Mine lanes are left open for patrols, and passage lanes for assault troops. For permanent patrols new lanes are made from time to time, and the old ones closed. A mine-free safety strip is provided on the Germans' side.
The Germans normally lay mine belts in individual sections 80 by 105 feet. The sections usually are staggered, and, for extensive mine belts, they are combined in units of three or four to form forward or reverse arrowheads, or echelons. Minefields arranged in echelon are surveyed by using corner posts on the hostile side of intermediate minefields as survey points.
The Germans emphasize that minefields must be covered by fire, although during a hasty withdrawal they often do not follow this principle. It is common for a regular minefield to have a listening post with two men at the rearward edge; about 70 or 80 yards farther to the rear there usually is a covering party of four or five men armed with one or two light machine guns.
When the Germans are in hasty withdrawal, they usually lay a large number of small nuisance minefields. These fields contain many different types of mines, which often are unmarked and show every evidence of hurried laying. The consequent lack of pattern uniformity makes their detection and clearance a laborious and dangerous task. Though no consistency is noted in layout and types of mines used in such fields, the Germans show certain preferences in their choice of sites for them.
b. LOCATION. In general, mines are laid either close to, or on, roads; on
airfields and railways; and along telegraph routes. Surfaced portions of
roads usually are avoided by the hasty mine layer, but
c. CONCEALMENT. The Germans, with great ingenuity, attempt to make their mines difficult to detect. They bury them as much as 24 inches below the surface where they explode only after passage of a number of vehicles has compacted the earth cover sufficiently to operate the fuze. They put explosives in wooden boxes to prevent the effective operation of ordinary mine detectors, and mark tire prints in the earth on top of the mine by drawing a detached axle and wheels over it.
The Germans also show considerable ingenuity in siting random antipersonnel
mines on the line of the hostile advance. Road demolitions are plentifully
Nuisance fields on lines of communication generally are closely spaced, occasionally so closely as to cause sympathetic detonation. This is particularly possible when mines are laid with their pressure plates almost flush with the surface of the ground and only lightly covered with earth.
German dummy minefields take various forms. In some cases a trip wire is laid to give the appearance of a minefield perimeter wire, with the usual lanes, and the ground is disturbed at regular intervals. Scrap metal, often dispersed with real mines, is placed in shallow holes to cause a reaction in the mine detector. Dummy mines often are wired in and connected with booby traps.
4. Marking of Minefields
The Germans stress the marking of minefields and attempt to mark them in such a manner that they cannot be recognized by the enemy but can easily be found by their own troops. Their methods of marking minefields are not uniform. The front edge of a field often is unmarked and unwired; the rear edge seldom so. Some fields have been found unmarked, but because of many accidents caused by their own minefields, the Germans issued orders within recent months making proper marking obligatory.
The following are typical examples of markings by the Germans, the type used depending on the situation and terrain: corner-post marking stakes; double-apron fence on the enemy side and a single trip wire on the friendly side, or the reverse; single knee-high wires; cattle fencing; empty mine crates; and signs.
The length of marking stakes varies with the terrain. They are flattened on one side for a length of about 8 inches. The flat surface is painted red, with the letter M (Minen) in black. Such stakes are used only on the friendly edges of minefields.
Signs are painted in red and white on boards or pieces of sheet metal, and fastened to two stakes. The edges of minefields are marked with signs showing horizontal stripes. Edges of lanes through the fields are shown by vertically divided signs with the white portion on the side of the lane, and the red portion on the side of the minefield (danger). The reverse side of the signs (the side toward the enemy) is painted olive drab. If red paint is not available, the Germans substitute black-and-white signs. They are painted with the following words:
Minefields are marked with vertical lettering, dummy minefields with slanting letters. This distinction, however, is supposed to be made known only to the German engineer troops because other troops may divulge the location of dummy minefields by crossing them.
5. Mine Plans, Sketches, and Reports
A German mine plan shows one or more fields in all necessary technical details. A German mine map, on the other hand, shows all mine obstacles within one front sector and their tactical significance, but without technical details.
The Germans use a number of different forms for their reports and sketches, although all are based on the same principle. Figure 17 shows a very commonly used form. The upper third of the mine map form provides space for written specifications and a small situation sketch. The drawing is made on the blank space provided. It is the engineers' responsibility to draw up mine maps, and to keep them up to date. Additional remarks sometimes are placed on the back of the sheet.
a. DETAILS OF MINE MAP. The German mine map usually shows the following details:
(1) Name of the obstacle and designation of the unit which laid it.
(2) Name of the area in which the obstacle is located.
(3) Grid reference and particulars of the map sheet referred to.
(4) Obstacle shown in the little sketch in red.
(5) Date minefield was laid.
(6) Name and rank of officer or noncommissioned officer in charge of laying field.
(7) Day of survey and instrument used (old or new compass—German issue).
(8) Name and rank of officer or noncommissioned officer in charge of survey.
b. MINE DATA IN MAP. The following data are given on the mines:
(1) Number, type and igniter. (Example: 72
(2) Whether or not the mines are dug in.
(3) Number of rows, and number of mines per row.
(4) Fence (Example: warning fence on friendly side.)
(5) Special features (Example: destroyed enemy tank in center, on enemy side.)
c. MINEFIELD-TYPE IDENTIFICATION IN MAP. Colored lines drawn diagonally across the upper right-hand field of the mine map identify the type of the minefield as follows:
(1) A red diagonal line designates fields which cannot be cleared because some or all mines are booby-trapped.
(2) A yellow diagonal line designates fields which can be cleared by using data from mine document.
(3) A green diagonal line designates dummy minefields.
(4) Mines taken up or exploded are marked in red.
The number of the minefield plan and unit designation appears on the upper right-hand corner of the sheet. Battalion, regiment, and division engineers make their notes in the space provided for them.
In case electrical ignition is provided, a note is made showing how the igniters will be disposed of, if the unit which has laid the minefield is relieved.
d. INFORMATION IN MINEFIELD DRAWING. The drawing of the minefield is made in the blank space on the lower part of the sheet. The scale is from 1:500 to 1:2,000 whenever possible. The following information is included:
(1) Shape and size of minefield.
(3) Location of booby-trapped mines.
(4) Location of survey points with azimuth and distances.
(5) Type and location of warning fence.
(6) Location of the front lines and fortifications.
(7) Neighboring minefields, mine lanes, terrain features, special features.
The Germans believe that it is not necessary to mark on the minefield drawing the location of every single mine, if a partial drawing is sufficient. The German mine plans contain the detail symbols shown in Figure 18, while simple tactical signs are sufficient for minefield maps.
The Germans complete their mine plans at company or battalion command posts, based on sketches and data compiled while the field is being laid out. They make five copies of all mine plans and distribute them as follows: One for engineer company which is in charge of the minefield; two for division; one for army; one for central file in Dessau-Rosslau.
Changes in the minefield are recorded on the back of the mine plan. After three changes a new mine plan is drawn.
A mine sketch is a simplified mine plan used to transmit information on a minefield as rapidly as possible. It is not drawn to scale, and is drawn whenever the tactical situation, bad weather, or other circumstances prevent the preparation of mine plans.
Front-line troops receive from the engineers instructions or sketches showing the approximate location and extent of the minefield. These sketches, as a rule, do not contain details on types of mines or igniters, pattern, and survey points.
Engineer units in charge of minefields keep records of changes in minefields under their care and keep these records with their units, while mine plans are turned over to the relieving units.
e. MINE REPORTS. Armies generally designate certain areas for fields of scattered mines. In this case mine reports take the place of mine plans. Normally, mine reports contain:
(1) Number of the order authorizing scattering of mines.
(2) Designation of units scattering the mines.
(3) Name and number of field containing scattered mines.
(4) Map location of scattered minefield.
(5) Number of mines scattered, subdivided by types and igniters.
(6) Number and type of booby-trapped mines. kind of booby trap.
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