German Company in the Defense
Recently a Panzer
Grenadier company commander, troubled by the loss of
life and matériel that his unit had been suffering in
Italy, made an effort to alter certain methods that
his men had been employing in the defense. His attempt
is significant, in that it is an instance of a German
commander undertaking hastily to revise his company's
practice, in the light of experience freshly acquired
in fighting United Nations forces. Much has been said
about the rigidity of German junior leadership in the
field, and not enough, perhaps, about its
adaptability. The illustration at hand shows how a
German junior officer tried eleventh-hour measures in
the hope that his unit might avoid further reverses.
The Company Commander's Instructions
It was stated that, since a creeping barrage always
preceded an attack, this type of fire was to be a
signal for each man to go at once to his alert station
and make a further brief check of his weapons.
Even during the barrage, every man was to keep a
continual lookout, frequently raising his head above
the parapet. This was described as particularly
important when the fire moved, or "lifted",
because, it was said, a hostile advance would follow
the barrage closely, and the opposition would use
mortar fire and grenades for purposes of deception.
When the attackers arrived in close proximity to the
position, special attention was to be paid to any
cover or dead space within hand-grenade range. Hand
grenades were to be used against any hostile soldiers
who might succeed in reaching such places.
The first section to discover that a hostile attack
was in progress was to send a reliable, speedy runner
to platoon headquarters by the safest route. It was
stressed that speed was essential if the heavy weapons
were to give proper support.
It was ordered that the position be held at all costs.
Every man was to stay at his post and fight. A single
well-aimed rifle shot was to be regarded as more
worthwhile than a badly placed burst of machine-gun
The dispatch of a runner was not to be considered
necessary when a Very pistol was available. The
following signals were to be employed:
barrage has lifted.
||We are here.
should be remembered, of course, that all German
signals may be changed frequently.)
It was stated that platoon headquarters should have
sufficiently good observation to enable the platoon
commanders to keep up with the situation and to insure
against any hostile attack achieving surprise.
Platoon headquarters were to be turned into strong
points, so that a hostile force could be engaged at
any time from the depths of the position. A reminder
as to the effectiveness of enfilade fire was added.
It was ordered that, if the next hostile attack were
to be made at night and with armor, the forward
sections were to fire with everything they had, while
the best hand-grenade throwers were to be assigned for
this specific duty. It was pointed out that the
resulting damage to the opposition's morale might
serve to halt the advance.