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Field manual

German tactics, Defensive, The defense of towns


The Germans regard towns and villages as excellent strongpoints, particularly if the buildings are of masonry. Towns also are regarded as excellent antitank positions because of the considerable infantry-artillery effort necessary to neutralize them. In defending a town or village, the Germans locate their main line of resistance well within the built-up portion; the edges of the town, which provide easy targets for artillery fire, are believed to be too vulnerable. The main line of resistance is laid out irregularly in order to envelop flanking fire, and every effort is made to conceal its location until the last possible moment. Minor strongpoints are maintained forward of the line in order to break up attacks and provide additional flanking fire. Cul-de-sacs are organized and attempts are made to trap attacking forces in them for destruction by counterattacking mobile reserves. These reserves are kept in readiness within the town itself , but other reserve forces are held outside the town to prevent hostile flanking maneuvers. Both occupied and unoccupied buildings are booby-trapped in organizing the defended positions. Entrances to buildings are blocked, and all windows opened so as not to disclose those from which fire is maintained. Rooms are darkened and passages are cut in the walls between buildings. To avoid detection, the Germans fire from the middle of the rooms, and frequently change their positions, while communication is maintained through cellars and over roofs. Chimneys and cornices are used as cover for men on roofs; tiles may be removed to provide loopholes. Searchlights are mounted to illuminate fields of fire; in their absence vehicles headlights may be used as substitutes. When houses collapse, the defense is carried on from cellars, and rubble heaps of destroyed areas are organized as strongpoints. Tanks are considered to be ineffective within a defended town, although the Germans have used them in static, dug-in positions at cross-roads and squares. As a result of their experience on the Eastern Front, the Germans believe single tanks are too vulnerable to Molotov cocktails, magnetic mines, and explosive charges. When the Germans themselves use these antitank weapons, they employ them from foxholes dug outside the perimeter of the town. Efforts are made to destroy enemy tanks immobilized by antitank action, either within or outside the town, in order to prevent their recovery or use as artillery observations posts or machinegun nets. Antipersonnel mines are interspersed in antitank minefields because the attacking infantry are considered the chief menace. Assault guns may provide direct defensive support fire If attacking forces break through and disorganize the German positions. To secure the added protection afforded by masonry walls, the Germans may locate assault guns or tanks, within buildings and use them against hostile armored vehicles and infantry. Counterattacks, supported by assault

guns or tanks, will not be withheld until the situation has become desperate ; indeed, surprise counterattacks may be launched at any time. For the defense of village strongpoints special battle commandants (Kampfkommandanten) are appointed. The battle commandant is usually the senior officer and the tactical commander of all military forces, emergency units, and civil organizations in his area. He has the disciplinary power of a regimental commander. In the case of fairly small villages, consolidation of the place itself is usually deemed sufficient. For larger locations an outer defense system is constructed in addition to the inner defenses. The inner defense system consists of a number of concentric positions which are broken down into perimeter positions. The inner defense system is divided into sectors, each forming a strongpoint system in itself, with the strongpoints protected by all-around antitank and infantry obstacles and connected with each other by trenches. The perimeter ring position is the most important part of the inner defenses and consists of one or more continuous trench systems, each with a deep main battle zone. The forward edge often is beyond the outskirts of the village, unless this creates unfavorable conditions for the antitank defense, in which case it is within the village itself. Artillery and heavy support weapons are employed as whole units in support of the perimeter ring position., although single guns may be detached for the defense of strongpoints and roads. The nearer the fighting approaches the inner ring, the more likely it will be that the Germans will split up the support weapons units for close cooperation with infantry assault groups. The outer defense system likewise consists of a number of concentric positions, approximately 4 to 6 miles apart, so far as to force the enemy artillery to displace to engage one. For defense of larger towns the Germans organize the outside ring about 12 to 18 miles beyond the outskirts wherever feasible. Beyond this outside ring about 2,200 yards forward are the advanced positions, with covering units still further forward on main roads and railways. Patrols of all types, including motorized and cyclist patrols, give early warnings of the enemys approach and keep him under continuous observation. Non-military outposts, such as police sentries, party officials, and local farmers also are used for these duties. Sector boundaries for companies and battalions are defined from the outside defense ring to the center of the town or village. Usually they do not coincide with vital main roads, which always are defended by entire companies or battalions. Every strongpoint, defense block (combined adjacent buildings), and sector has local reserves; mobile reserves, consisting of combat groups comprised of infantry, tanks, assault and self-propelled guns are employed for counterattacks of a larger scale.

In addition to regular military units the Germans employ emergency units, organized from personnel of Army, Navy and Air Force in town defense. Besides these regularly organized emergency units, improvised emergency units are formed from stragglers, remnants of formations, and units in process of reorganization. Utilization of emergency units is only temporary. Their main tasks, of local nature, are protection of headquarters, supply points, airfields, etc., and garrison service in fortifications.

Source: Handbook on German military forces, Louisiana State university press, ISBN-08071-2011-1 This book, with an introduction by Steve E Ambrose, is a reprint of a classified handbook of the US war department. As such it contains a whealth of information on administrative structure, unit organization, field tactics, fortification and defense systems, weapons and other equipment, and uniforms and insigna of the German forces in the 1944 time frame. It has quite a number of illustrations, pictures, tables and charts.among its 640 pages. I stronlgy recommend it to everyone looking for more information about the structure, doctrine and equipment of the German ground forces.