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German Infantry Fieldworks
Transcribed by Jonathan Bocek


The following was taken from the March 1943 issue of The Intelligence Bulletin.  This publication was issued by the U.S. War Department to military personnel with the intention of providing helpful information concerning the enemy.

The following extracts from German Army documents illustrate the general principles that the Germans follow in constructing infantry fieldworks. The Germans preface their doctrine on this subject with a reminder that the construction of positions "must conform to factors determined by the enemy, the ground, one's own forces, and the time and supplies available. Fire positions and fields of fire must be established on the fire plan before the work is marked out and construction begun. Fire positions must merge with the surrounding country in such a fashion that the maximum possible use is made of natural concealment. Furthermore, all positions, even those to the rear, will be kept camouflaged as much as possible while they are under construction." 

General Principles
The time required for the construction of fieldworks must be calculated carefully. Periods of time given at the end of this section represent the minimum requirements. A few complete and well-concealed positions are worth far more than a large number, half-finished. When our troops are in the immediate neighborhood of the enemy, construction must be carried out in such a fashion that some form of defense is possible at all times. 

In order to decrease vulnerability to high-angle enemy fire, weapon pits must be constructed no larger than is necessary. The walls of the pit must at all times be kept at a suitable angle, varying with the nature of the ground, so that they cannot fall in. In the case of loose ground, and in constructing fire positions in permanent fronts, it may be necessary to revet the walls of the pit. Revetting with resistant material makes the work of clearing out the pit after a shell-hit more difficult; the pit must then be excavated to a larger size than before. 

If the situation and enemy action permit, the surface soil is removed from the immediate neighborhood of the pit, to be used later in camouflaging the position. The spoil, or subsurface soil, must be deposited far enough from the pit to forestall the necessity of moving the earth a second time. The parapet must be extended far enough on each side to afford the riflemen a field of fire on all sides, meanwhile protecting them against enemy flanking fire. Also, the parapet should be kept low. The field of fire should not be affected by irregularities in the surface of the ground. 

A firing position that can be readily assumed remains the first consideration. The depth of the excavations for arms or weapons depends on the required firing height. Dimensions must also be adjusted to conform to the height of the riflemen. In setting out the work, measurements can be taken by the length of a spade. 
 
 Length of short spade... 20 inches
 Length of long spade... 3 feet 7 inches
 Approximate length of blade... 8 inches

The excavated earth should be disposed of in the least obvious manner, and by a single route leading from one side of the pit. The path by which the earth is transported must be regulated carefully. 

Each position must have an alternative position. This must be at least 50 to 60 meters from the original position. It must fulfill the same requirement. "Field of fire comes before cover." As always, camouflage is of primary importance. 

If time allows, pits should be connected by communication trenches. Along lengthy communication routes, antitank pits should be dug at intervals of 50 yards. The communication trenches should follow a zigzag course, and should be constructed with rounded, rather than sharp, edges. 

The type and construction of positions is determined above all by the time available for the work. Ground conditions, drainage, weather, facilities for concealment, available personnel, entrenching tools, other tools, and construction materials must also be considered. The following will serve as a guide for the construction of positions on average terrain: 

Time Available

Type of Construction


   Few Hours Machine gun and rifle pits, affording protection against machine-gun fire and fragments of shells with impact fuzes. Simple wire obstacles should be constructed. In the case of light machine guns, antitank rifles, heavy machine guns, light mortars, and antitank guns, overhead protection for riflemen and their weapons may be provided at the same time. With heavy mortars, light infantry guns, and heavy infantry guns, overhead cover for the crew must be constructed before that for the weapon.
   Half Day Thorough construction of pits and recesses under parapets, providing protection against light high-angle fire and splinters from richocheting and time-fuze shells, protection against weather, and increased comfort for the crew.
   Whole Day Strengthening of wire obstacles, strengthening of pits and firing bays. Connection of weapon pits within the system by crawl or communication trenches. 
   Several Days  Continuous trenches.
   Several Weeks Systematic construction of defenses with continuous trenches and shelters.

 

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