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Squad Formations in Open Order
By Eric Tobey


The following was taken from the Die Neue Feldpost newsletter & was done so with permission of the publisher.  We would like to thank him for his generosity as well as thank all those who have contributed to this article.  It is with their efforts, we are able to share this valuable research with the rest of you.

This article is extracted from paragraphs 246-266 of the 1941 edition of "Ausbildungsvorschrift für die Infanterie."  This particular copy has official annotations dated up to June 22, 1943.

- The open order is applied when enemy fire, the terrain, or tactical situation makes the closed order impractical.  There are two basic forms of the open order:

DIE SCHÜTZENREIHE

(Indian file)

DIE SCHÜTZENKETTE

(Skirmish line)

Any part of the squad can be put in either formation, providing that the squad is kept together.

The Schützenreihe is used for the approach (see illus. A).  It is also suitable for occasions when the MG is firing alone and it always uses all available cover in the terrain.  When forming into this order, the squad forms up on the ANSCHLUßMAN who is also Schütze 1 (the MG gunner).  Interval in this formation is called ABSTAND and is measured in SCHRITT (steps).

When no interval is specified, assume 5 steps.  The assistant squad leader (Stellvertretende Gruppenführer) is at the end of the line and makes sure that no one remains behind.

The Schützenkette is used to turn the squad into a position to facilitate the fire of the entire unit (see illus. B).  The squad can be ordered into this formation by signal or by the command GANZE GRUPPE... STELLUNG!  Another command which means basically the same thing is SCHÜTZENKETTE!  This last command is usually made merely to shake out the squad into the skirmish line and is often used as the squad is underway.  The former command implies an imminent fire mission and will mean that the squad will be at a halt when the command is carried out.  

When forming up, the squad forms on the ANSCHLUßMAN;  the front half of the riflemen going to the right, the rear half going to the left.  Total deployment to one side can be specifically ordered.  Bunching up around the MG is forbidden.  Interval here is called ZWISCHENRAUM and is also measured in SCHRITT.  As with the Schützenreihe, assume a 5-step interval if none other is specified.  Forward movement by the squad in the Schützenkette is limited to short moves only; long moves in this formation make passage of terrain difficult and impairs the cohesion of the squad.

In general, there will be no talking in the open order except to communicate information about the enemy, the terrain, or to pass on information from one's neighbors.  The squad leader has no specific place in the open order: normally he is at the head of his men, but may be farther removed to scout or laison.  During combat he is in the center of the squad.  If no specific direction or objective is ordered, the Anschlußman will follow the squad leader.

Examples:

During the advance, the Gruppenführer (squad leader) wants the men to proceed towards a suspicious corner of woods in single file:
 

"RICHTUNG WALDECKE - SCHÜTZENREIHE!"  The men form up on the move and assume a 5-step interval.

A squad on the move is needed to move quickly toward a hedgerow in skirmish line with 10-step interval:
 

"RICHTUNG BAUMREIHE!  10 SCHRITT ZWISCHENRAUM!  SCHÜTZENKETTE!  MARSCH!  MARSCH!"

A squad at rest near a path receives the command, "AUF DEM WEG IN SCHÜTZENREIHE!  2 SCHRITT ABSTAND FOLGEN!  MARSCH!"
 

The squad would then get up and follows the squad leader at 2-step intervals.

Another squad at rest in a field near a woodlot is ordered:
 

"ZUM BESETZEN DER BAUMGUPPE DORT VOR UNS!  GANZE GRUPPE - STELLUNG!  MARSCH!"  This squad would move into the woodlot and form into a skirmish line in order to occupy it.

In order to form a stationary squad into an Indian file preparatory to a move, the Gruppenführer would order:
 

"FRONT WIE ICH STEHE!  ABSTAND 8 SCHRITT!  SCHÜTZENREIHE!"  The men would use the leader's position as the starting point of their line and take an 8-step interval.

To shake a stationary squad out into a skirmish line along the edge of a forest preparatory to another employment (different formation, move, etc..), the Gruppenführer could order:
 

"AUF DIESER WALDGRENZE!  SCHÜTZENKETTE!"

MOVEMENT

Every man is responsible for seeing that his weapon is on safe and all ammo pouches and boxes are closed before a movement is made.  Movement in the open order is commenced on the command MARSCH! (or for quick time, MARSCH! MARSCH!).  Short sideways moves can also be ordered.  Movements to the rear will be made on: "KEHRT MARSCH!", and ended by the command "H-A-L-T!!  KEHRT!".  All leaders remain on the enemy side of the formation during these movements.

Forward movement can be stopped by H-A-L-T!, HINLEGEN!, VOLLE DECKUNG!, or STELLUNG!  On the command H-A-L-T!, the men remain standing with rifles at Gewehr ab.  HINLEGEN causes the men to drop in place to the prone position.  VOLLE DECKUNG causes the men to seek individual cover.  STELLUNG causes the squad to assume the Schützenkette formation.

ASSEMBLY

The squad will assemble in the Reihe formation (not the Schützenreihe) behind their squad leader.  If assembly is ordered for the entire platoon, the squad will form in Marschordnung.  Assembly occurs on the command SAMMELN.

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