Article Thirty Basic Lessons Of Armoured / Armored Combat - German Wehrmacht


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This is a translation of a training circular issued by the German armoured force containing 30 basic lessons of armoured combat at the platoon and company level derived from the Wehrmachts experience against the Soviets.
Written during the Second World War by a German company commander these lessons are fresh with recent combat experience. Many of these lessons are close to American doctrine, but others reflect differences based either on divergent tactical thought or the methods imposed by the technological imperatives of the forties.

The Panzer-Regiment is by reason of its firepower, protection and mobility the main fighting power of the division.

Its strength lies in unexpected concentrated and determined attack, aggressive leadership and daring operations (from German doctrinal regulation).

Combat in Russia has shown once again that for us, in action against the Communists, it is not so much the kind or number of our tanks but the spirit and skill of the tank soldiers that counts. Only by these factors are German tanks always, including in Russia, victorious.

This exemplary combat spirit can however count for as little as the weapons speed, armour or number of tanks in achieving success, if it is not led and employed by fully competent officers.

Superior tactical leadership in battle is a prerequisite when one desire few, or better still, no casualties.

The purpose of this volume is to collect the experience of the veteran front-line combat leaders of our Regiments in action and pass it on in simple and understandable form to our junior officers.

1. Before any attack acquaint yourself with the ground. Use the information provided by other units or by the map. Share this information with your subordinate commanders. Exact information and correct estimation of the terrain will be the decisive difference between victory and defeat.

2. No armoured attack is so fast, even in the most pressing situation, that you do not have time to put subordinate leaders into the picture about the tactical situation, mission, and anything else which may impact on the coming action. Losses due to over-hasty action are your responsibility and place the success of the mission in jeopardy.

3. Only careful combat reconnaissance can protect you from surprise. Protect to your flank as well as the front. Observation to all sides is the duty of every commander. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYE OUT FOR THE ENEMY!!

4. Your entire abilities in combat must be used to make a constant appreciation of the situation. Only in this manner can you make the correct decision during the decisive seconds and issue short clear orders without delay. This is the kind of leadership for which you are responsible.

5. Iron radio discipline is a prerequisite of good leadership, particularly when your only method of command is the radio. In the point company for instance, the trail platoons should not use the radio at all except in emergency, leaving the net clear for the point platoon leader.

6. You must lead with strength. At least two tanks must be right forward and the trail platoon must be held far enough forward to support the lead platoon. The more guns fire in the first minute, the quicker the enemy will be defeated and the fewer losses you will suffer.

7. When breaking cover do it quickly and together. The more targets the enemy is shown simultaneously, the harder his fire control and distribution problems will be, and the more guns you will have in effect on the enemy.

8. In the attack drive as fast as you can, at slow speed you can see and shoot only a little better than at high and are much more likely to be hit. For a tank there should only be two speeds: the halt (for firing!) and all out forward. This is the basic principal of tank combat!

9. When anti-tank weapons are encountered at long or medium ranges you must first return fire and then manoeuvre against them. First make a firing halt in order to bring effective fire to bear – then commit the bulk of the company to manoeuvre on the enemy with the continued support of one platoon.

10. When anti-tank weapons are encountered at close range stopping is suicide. Only immediate attack at the highest speed with every weapon firing will have success and reduce losses.

11. In combat against anti-tank guns you may never – even under the protection of fire support – allow a single platoon to attack alone. Anti-tank weapons are not employed singly. Remember – lone tanks in Russia are lost!

12. You must continually keep a broad interval between vehicles. This splits the enemy’s defensive fire and complicates his fire control. Narrow intervals must, especially in critical situations, at all costs be avoided, or it will cost you losses.

13. When an impassable obstacle, for instance a minefield or anti-tank ditch, is encountered you must immediately and without hesitation give the order to withdraw into the nearest cover. Standing still, in open sight, trying to carry on the attack, has in such circumstances no sense, and will only cost you losses. Your considerations on how to make a new start will be best made in the safety of cover.

14. When your attack must pass potential enemy tank positions, for instance a wood line, you should either pass by them so closely that you are inside their minimum range or remain so far away that you are outside their maximum effective range.

15. Attacking enemy tanks should not be attacked directly, because then they see you and know your strength before you can do them harm. More often, you should avoid them until you can move into favourable firing positions, and surprise them from the flank or rear. Repelled enemy tank assaults must be determinedly pursued.

16. A strongpoint, for instance a small village or artillery battery position, should whenever possible be attacked from different directions simultaneously in order to split enemy defensive fire and deceive him about the true location and direction of the attack. In this manner your breakthrough will be easier and your losses fewer.

17. Always prepare dug in positions and camouflage against the possibility of air or artillery attack. Being sorry afterwards is no excuse for losses taken by these causes.

18. Ammunition tactics does not always mean conserving ammunition; in the decisive moment, if you want to save casualties you may expend ammunition at exceptionally high rates (for instance, an emergency attack.)

19. Never split your combat power; that is to say, do not employ parts of the company in such a manner that they cannot support each other. When your attack has two objectives you should attack first one and then the other with all weapons. In this way you will more certainly end up with both objectives in hand and fewer casualties.

20. Support from artillery fire or dive bombers must be used immediately, that is to say while the fire is in effect on the objective – afterward, when the fire has stopped it is too late. You
must know that mostly such fires only produce a suppressing effect, not a destroying one. It is better to risk a stray friendly shell or bomb than to charge into an active anti-tank defense.

21. Other weapons and arms, attached to you for an appointed purpose, should not be misused. Do not use them for purposes for which they were not intended, for instance do not use tank hunters as assault guns, or armoured infantry as tanks, or recon or engineer troops as infantry.

22. Un-armoured or lightly armoured units attached to you must be protected by your tanks from unnecessary losses until they are needed for their own operational tasks, for which purpose they were given to you.

23. Attachments from other arms placed under your command are not your servants, but your guests. You are answerable to supply them and share with them everything they need. Don’t just use them on guard! In this way they will work better and more loyally for you when you need them. And that will be often!

24. In combined operations with infantry or armoured infantry, you must make certain that the arms stick close together; only so can they help each other and achieve success. With of the two is leading is a secondary matter; what must be know is that it is the intention of the enemy to separate them and that you must prevent this in all circumstances. Your battle cry must be “Protect the Infantry!”, the infantry’s battle cry is “Protect the tanks!”

25. You and your soldiers must always concentrate on your combat mission, i.e. “the bridge,” and you may not turn aside, for instance, to an enemy on your flank, unless he is actually dangerous to the accomplishment of your mission; then you must attack and destroy him.

26. After a victorious battle, i.e. the seizure of a bridge or the occupation of a village, keep your helmets on; that is to say, prepare for a counter-attack, which will certainly come, perhaps in a different place than you suppose. Later you can collect the spoils of victory.

27. In the defence or security missions place your tanks so that not only their firepower but also their shock action can be brought into play. Also leave only a few tanks in stationary firing positions, keep most as mobile reserve under cover. Tanks defend aggressively!

28. Against strong enemy resistance there is no point in continuing to attack. Every failed attack only cost more casualties. Your effort must always be to hold the enemy with the only weak forces, in order to use the mass of your strength at another, weaker place, breakthrough, and destroy the enemy by surprise attack in the rear or flank.

29. Never forget that your soldiers do not belong to you, but to Germany. Personal glory hunting and senseless dare-devilry lead only in exceptional cases to success, but always cost blood. In battle against the Soviet-Russians you must temper your courage with your judgment, your cunning, your intuition and your tactical ability. Only so have you the prerequisites to be victorious in battle, and only then will your soldiers look on you with loyalty and respect and always stand by you in untiring combat readiness.

30. The tank division is in modern warfare today in the former place of the cavalry as the decisive arm of combat. Tank officers must carry on the tradition of the cavalry and take up its aggressive spirit on behalf of the tank arm. Therefore take note, as a basic combat principle, of Marshal Blucher’s motto, “FORWARD AND THROUGH”
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