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How Germans Fight in Wooded/Broken Terrain
Transcribed by Jonathan Bocek


The following was taken from the January 1945 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 Germans recognize that operations in wooded & broken terrain require special combat methods both in the attack and in the defense.  In such terrain the Germans try to control all roads and trails, so as to ensure the movement of support weapons and supplies.  The heaviest fighting therefore generally takes place in the vicinity of these roads & trails.
 

"In the defense it is considered essential to block roads and trails.  Snipers are posted in trees.  Centers of resistance are established at curves and defiles, and whenever a road climbs to higher ground."

 

GENERAL PRINCIPLES

In the attack the Germans maintain careful protective fire as they advance along the roads and trails; when they are obliged to move across open stretches, this protective fire becomes continuous.  Roads are opened up as rapidly as possible, and are covered with antitank guns.  Special attention is paid to the formations adopted during movement and in battle, to correct employment of fire power, to appropriate communication methods, to the problem of maintaining direction, and to supplying forward elements with an adequate amount of ammunition.

In the defense it is considered essential to block roads and trails.  Snipers are posted in trees.  Centers of resistance are established at curves, bends, and defiles, and whenever a road climbs to higher ground.  Firing positions are prepared just off roads and trails, to command open fields of fire.

 
 
METHOD OF ADVANCE

In the approach march, squads and platoons advance on a narrow front, deployed in depth along roadside hedges and scrub growth, and in hollows running in the desired direction.  The leading squads, on contact, serve as scouts and patrols.  They advance in extended order, with a light machine gun leading.  While the squads immediately behind the forward squads deploy less deeply at intervals of 30 to 40 paces, the subsequent squads follow in squad columns so as to have all-around observation and protection.  Special observers are detailed to watch out for tree snipers.
 

"In the approach march, squads and platoons advance on a narrow front, deployed in depth along roadside hedges and scrub growth."

 
The Germans believe that when battle is joined, the same formations employed during the approach march should be maintained as far as possible.  Fire cover is provided by the support weapons, especially the mortars, which advance with the forward troops.  However, the Germans recognize that further deployment of squads and platoons may be necessary.  It is a German principle that after resistance has been crushed and hostile strong points eliminated, the original formations should be resumed immediately.

The reserve platoon advances, employing the same close formation, in the rear of the platoon which gains the most ground.  The commander of the reserve platoon arranges for all-around protection, particularly to repel surprise attacks which may be made by hostile forces from centers of resistance not yet engaged.  These protective measures also included protection of the rear.

 
 
USE OF FIRE POWER

To eliminate centers of resistance, the Germans employ all available light and heavy weapons, especially mortars. Since observation in close country is difficult, the Germans not only keep their support weapons well forward, but often use their heavy machine guns as light machine guns.
 

"Sometimes observers can work only from treetops."

"In the heat of battle, disk signaling is preferred."

Terrain conditions are likely to have a definite effect on German employment of mortars.  Sometimes observers can work only from treetops.  Every effort is made to place observers close to the mortar positions so that corrections can be passed accurately and rapidly to the mortar detachment.  The employment of message runners is not considered practicable in the heat of battle: instead, disk signaling is preferred.  The Germans try not to site their mortars too close to the roadside scrub growth.

The commanders of the support weapons are required to report their availability to the leading rifle company commander and his platoon commanders, and to remain in their vicinity.
 

"The antitank guns take over the job of preventing hostile tanks from using the roads."

The antitank guns follow without orders in the rear of the infantry, as soon as the roads have been cleared.  Their principal mission is to take over the job of preventing hostile tanks from using the roads.  In addition, so far as their principal mission permits, the antitank guns take part in attacks on Allied centers of resistance, using antitank high-explosive shells.

"Compass directions are issued before the departure."
 
"Because of terrain difficulties, the Germans find it useful to equip squads with ladders, axes, good knives, and sharp spades."

Protected by the fire of the support weapons, the infantry works its way forward as close as possible to the Allied centers of resistance.  As soon as the support weapons cease firing, the infantry breaks through, hurling hand grenades.  The Germans are scrupulously careful in regulating the time when the support weapons are to cease firing - first the medium mortars and then the heavy machine guns - and the time when the break through is to be attempted.  The points at which the breakthrough is to be made are sealed off on the flanks by squads especially detailed for this job.  Hostile positions along hedges or other roadside growth are mopped-up after the breakthrough.

 
 
MISCELLANEOUS PRECAUTIONS

Platoons and squads detail men for the express purpose of maintaining contact with neighboring units.  These men indicate the headquarters of their own units by means of pennants and by signaling with lamps to flanking squads and platoons.  It is a rule that pennants marked "Front Line" always be put up.  Identification panels are laid out, when necessary, to indicate the advance of the front line.

Because the opportunities for unobserved movement are very good in terrain of this type, the Germans make considerable use of runners.  Radio-telegraphy and smoke cartridges also are used, in addition to the light signals.

Higher headquarters are continually kept informed about the situation, to permit smooth coordination of the attack.

Since the problem of maintaining direction is difficult in closely wooded and unevenly wooded terrain, squad leaders are given specific rendezvous on roads and paths.  Compass directions are issued before the departure.

Because of terrain difficulties, the Germans find it useful to equip squads with ladders, axes, good knives, and sharp spades.  Since ammunition supply is likely to be slow and cannot be relied upon, a generous quantity of ammunition, including hand grenades, is issued to the men before the departure.

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