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  • After-action report of the 15 Tank Brigade from March 1942, which elaborates on some observations made earlier
    - employment of brigade was mostly correct. No piecemeal employment, assigned tasks were realistic, terrain was accessible for tanks, time for preparation - limited but sufficient.
    - in combat tanks should be deployed on a broad frontage with intervals 50-100 meters between tanks and good observation. Bunched deployment makes them vulnerable to counterattacks from flanks and aerial bombing.
    - jump-off positions were reconnoitered in the daytime, position of each individual tank was determined in advance. Positions were occupied at night, for concealment movement was performed by single tanks rather than by a common column
    - attack method and formations: tanks were deployed in an irregular line, one KV was positioned 400-600 meters forward of them as battle reconnaissance. This tank shouldn’t try to break into hostile positions on its own, but should halt and wait for the main group. Tanks advanced by bounds from one defiladed position to another behind own infantry/dismounted cavalry. Advance of infantry was supported by fire from static positions. When infantry lagged behind, tanks advanced to a nearest topographic crest. Pursuit was employed on a limited scale since own infantry was unable to support it (losses, tiredness etc).
    - employment in defense:
    a) correct: tanks were concentrated in an assembly area 8 kilometers from the forward line. Possible avenues of hostile attacks with terrain accessible for tanks were reconnoitered and 2-3 positions for own tanks to meet these attacks were determined. Dug-outs for tanks were prepared in snow and ranges to terrain features were measured in advance. One tank was deployed on a possible avenue of approach in a dug-out with wide field of observation and fire as a static observation post. This OP was connected by a signal line and was to provide an early warning of hostile attacks and secure occupation of positions by own tanks.
    b) wrong: tanks were deployed in close proximity to the frontline. Limited opportunities for maneuver, good positions for tanks are situated in own rear.
    - hostile combat methods: heavy reliance on counterattacks, especially from flanks. Own cavalry due to limited strength in heavy weapons is extremely vulnerable to counterattacks and the only things that saves it from extermination is prompt retreat. Tanks are captured in fire traps. Example: on 20.3.42 own tanks were engaged by 4-6 AT guns from the front while 8 hostile tanks enveloped them from the right flank and 6 - from the left. An early warning from a forward observation post saved our tanks (which were situated so that they had limited field of observation) from complete destruction. Fortified villages have a large strength in anti-tank weapons (8-12 AT guns) and cannot be captured with a limited number of tanks available.
    - tank replacements were received by small batches. As a result the brigade was always weak in tanks. Experience suggests that massed employment of tanks produces positive results and gives confidence to own units.
    - infantry of the motor rifle battalion transported on tanks was employed for limited tasks (close security of tanks).
    - connection to the telephone network proved to be the best method of intelligence, all information about the enemy was immediately received from neighbors and supported units. The brigade feels a strong need in aerial reconnaissance.
    - own losses: 5 T-34 knocked out by cannon fire (of them 4 left on hostile territory), 6 – immobilized but evacuated, 3 received damage and are under repair. Previously German 50-mm tank cannon couldn’t penetrate T-34’s armor, now it does. Reinforcement of the frontal armor is needed.
    - ammunition expenditure in a day of combat: several hundred (125-770) cannon rounds, from 3000 to more than 30 000 machine gun ammo.
    - Carrying observes placed behind a tank turret, which dismount, when tanks come close to hostile positions, proved effective. Many men volunteered as observers in the motor rifle battalion.
    - employment of close-range anti-tank weapons (grenades, Molotov cocktails) was ineffective. Men cannot dig trenches in frozen soil. On open ground they retreat before hostile tanks come to an effective distance. The same applies to our infantry/dismounted cavalry
    - one or two simple periscopes for all-around observation from tanks are needed
    - hostile tanks were knocked mostly from hull-down static positions. Losses to hostile personnel were inflicted mostly when tanks stormed into infantry positions. When tanks come to 300-400 meters hostile crews abandon their anti-tank guns.
    - tank commanders/gunners of officer ranks recently graduating from schools are less proficient than enlisted men with pre-war training.
    https://pamyat-naroda.ru/documents/view/?id=454917845

    Long story short: to counter German tank counterattacks own tanks should avoid bunched deployment, have good positions (preferably behind hill crests), and maintain continuous observation. In particular, the value of forward observation posts capable of observing the battlefield and communicating with tanks was confirmed.

    Comment


    • After Manstein's back-hand strike against Popov's Group, the Red Army began using more engineer obstacle detachments, anti-tank, artillery/katushas to guard flanks of penetrating tank formations to counter the German panzer counterattacks.
      Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

      Comment


      • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
        I'm aware of this school of thought but think that it is merely a myth and misconception.
        Are you saying that the armored fist at the German breakthrough point and into freedom of maneuver was not an extension of WWI stormtroop infantry tactics? Maybe there is no written documents to confirm this but it is basically the same tactics.
        Theo mir ist die munition ausgegangen ich werde diesen ramman auf wiedersehen uns in walhalla

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        • Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post

          Are you saying that the armored fist at the German breakthrough point and into freedom of maneuver was not an extension of WWI stormtroop infantry tactics? Maybe there is no written documents to confirm this but it is basically the same tactics.
          The German way of war has always been about speed and initiative, due to geography. It was always about 'Blitzkrieg' even before that term was used. Historic 'Germany' always needed a quick war, simply because it was surrounded by powerful neighbours. A protracted war on one front could see it being invaded by another. Therefore the 'Germans' always needed quick victories.
          How to Talk to a Climate Skeptic: http://grist.org/series/skeptics/
          Global Warming & Climate Change Myths: https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

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          • Originally posted by Kurt Knispel View Post
            Are you saying that the armored fist at the German breakthrough point and into freedom of maneuver was not an extension of WWI stormtroop infantry tactics?
            Even more: I'm saying that "stormtroop infantry tactics" is a misconception or at least a misnomer and the very term was mostly popularized by American authors in 80s rather then being employed extensively in military literature of the interwar period. Very similar to equally nondescript term "blitzkrieg". Not that I intend to embark on extensive discussion on this subject here though.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
              Even more: I'm saying that "stormtroop infantry tactics" is a misconception or at least a misnomer and the very term was mostly popularized by American authors in 80s rather then being employed extensively in military literature of the interwar period. Very similar to equally nondescript term "blitzkrieg". Not that I intend to embark on extensive discussion on this subject here though.
              I agree with Artyom that this is probably not the thread to discuss doctrine. But, I would offer the following quote to show that "the very term was mostly popularized by American authors in 80s" is a mis-characterization of the term use and origins. In the Frieser book, cited above, the author is discussing the operational-tactical interpretation (which is another controversial doctrinal point) and notes, "Obersleutnant Braun in an article published in 1938, already compares blitzkrieg to a "large-scale, powerful 'Stosstrupp' mission". But Strosstrupp is a term used on the lower tactical echelons and as a rule refers to a platoon or a company.

              "General Heinz Guderian is also called the founder of the blitzkrieg idea. He took over this Stosstrupp-Taktik, whose prescription for success was based on speed and surprise, and combined it with the elements of modern technology, such as the tank and aircraft. In so doing, he was not concerned with the implementation of strategic ideas or political programs; his goal, instead, was to find a way back to mobile operations. To that extent, the term blitzkrieg is extensively synonym for the modern operation war of maneuver."

              Again, I am not wanting to discuss the doctrinal points, but used the quote to show the term for Stosstrupp was used in German military literature in the 30s.
              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

              Comment


              • The word "stosstrupp" was frequently used to designate:
                - offensive patrols employed for active scouting or trench raids in positional warfare
                - small groups specially trained and equipped for local assaults on fortifications such as pillboxes, strong points etc
                Anyway, they were not "stormtroops".

                It should be added that employment of small groups of tanks with defensive missions was by no means a normal way how tanks and tank divisions were supposed to be used and was a result of exigency.


                Comment


                • Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                  The word "stosstrupp" was frequently used to designate:
                  - offensive patrols employed for active scouting or trench raids in positional warfare
                  - small groups specially trained and equipped for local assaults on fortifications such as pillboxes, strong points etc
                  Anyway, they were not "stormtroops".
                  Now,here's my problem. I have "Vocabulary of German Military Terms and Abbreviations" (Revised to 1942), by the General Staff, The War Office published in 1943 (reprinted 1945 [my copy]), "Stosstrupp" - assault detachment; raiding party.; "Stosstruppen" pl. - assault troops, shock troops. And my three German to English Regular Dictionaries do not have Stosstruppen. So, I do not have your source, but I suspect it is a Regular German-English Dictionary.

                  My experience has been that military/armies have terminology and definitions different from the non-military dictionaries and on-line translators.

                  For my Russian translations, I have six Russian to English Military dictionaries from WWII to the Cold War, and four Russian to English regular Dictionaries published by the Soviet Union. Additionally, I have five technical dictionaries, two dictionaries on Russian Soldiers' Obscenities, Glossary of Soviet Military and Related Abbreviations, and Soviet Topographical Map Symbols. And I have yet to find an on-line Russian - English able to translate divizion to battalion, one gets division (diviziya). and that includes the Russian on-line site, Yandex.


                  Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                  Comment


                  • Leaving the Eastern Front for a moment: observations of S. Krivoshein (later to become a known tank general) from tank employment in the Spanish Civil War, the parts that I found interesting in light of later experience.
                    The tank [T-26] is blind. A periscope for the tank commander is needed and a window for observation backwards.
                    The radio installed on the tank is not suitable: it is complicated, fragile, and unreliable. A receiver with is a loudspeaker needed to hear orders of superiors officers while having hands free. The transmitter should be of the most simple construction and having a microphone installed on the right side of the turret on the level of the tank commander's chin when he sits. The settings should be most simple and reliable which don't require precise and time-consuming adjustments.
                    A company of 10 tanks didn't prove its worth - it's too small. We need a company of 16 tanks, otherwise when one platoon is assigned as artillery tanks and three tanks are detached for evacuation of damaged vehicles, nothing is left to fight.
                    Tank-transported infantry doesn't yield any results, because when tanks appear on the battlefield all artillery fire is concentrated on them. Infantry should follow tanks at a distance of 300--500 meters.
                    Support of tanks by artillery creeping barrage is quite effective.
                    https://vif2ne.org/nvk/forum/0/archive/2852/2852045.htm

                    Comment


                    • Artyom, very interesting find.
                      Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                      Comment


                      • Returning to the Eastern Front:a vignette from the winter campaign of 1941/42. That is from an essay on combat for settlements captured and translated by Soviet intelligence:
                        Defense of settlements.
                        Russians probe weak spot in our defense of a settlement with their scouting groups of platoon-company strength. If these groups are beaten back they try to enter the settlement again even when they sufferer heavy losses. Settlements and positions are kept under fire of heavy weapons, fist of all mortars, and tanks for several hours, with large expenditure of ammunition. If Russians don’t achieve penetration into the village then they skillfully use hollows and forests for envelopment of flanks and threaten our rear. For this reason in defense of settlements an all-around even with thin defense perimeter is mandatory,
                        Reserves should be kept for counterattacks. The attack is frequently supported by several tanks and in most cases it is launched in twilight or under conditions of limited visibility. If Russians succeed in local break in, then they stop there instead of using this success for further attack. For this reason an instant counterattack should be launched. Since Russian wooden houses offer little protection from shell and splinters, construction of personnel shelters should be started without delays. There are no cellars in the strict sense of the word. It is expedient to construct personnel shelters immediately near combat positions so that the latter can be occupied instantly upon alarm signal. Shelters are best built for 6 men, 3x4 meters. They have an overhead cover of 3-4 layers of log and are covered with earth. All fortifications should be carefully camouflaged. Positions should be laid in front of the settlement using stand-alone houses and barns. In this case combat positions are built under the building and personnel shelter best of all – behind it. A part of the lower beam of the house is removed so that an embrasure is made. Alternative positions are needed for a case of setting the building on fire. Simple wire barrier should be installed in front of positions and constantly reinforced. Sound signalization should be made in dangerous places. Hollows should be blocked by S and T-mines, wire under high voltage and trees. Exits from the settlement should be protected from tanks and cavalry by T-mines and obstacles. Gaps between houses should be blocked by trees and wire braid on palisades and wicker fences.
                        Anti-tank guns should be installed in emplacements near entries to the settlement and at places where tank threat seems probable.

                        Example: Defense of Posadniki by I battalion 111 Infantry Regiment beginning from 5 December 1942.
                        On 4.1.42 1/111 IR received an order to defend Posadniki. The battalion had attached to it: a light field howitzer, a 8.8-cm Flak gun, two 2-cm Flak guns, one 5-cm anti-tank gun. Also two tanks and 20 pioneers for construction of all kinds. The battalion was supported by one light and line heavy artillery battery.
                        Companies had battle strength of 20 men. A battalion reserve consisted of a pioneer squad and the battalion HQ. The temperature was -30-40 0C, depth of snow – 80 cm. Positions of guns and fortifications are depicted on the scheme 5. Radio communications were established with every company. Construction of fortifications and shelters started at once. Construction was very difficult because the earth froze to a depth of 0.5 meter. Every company was assigned a squad of pioneers for construction with the use of explosive. Until 8.1 all works could be performed only at night, because any movement at daylight draw hostile fire. Every personnel shelter contained 6 men. Snow walls were built between positions.
                        Until 5.1 hostile scouting groups probed our positions every day. They were repulsed by heavy fire with large casualties.
                        On the morning of 6.1 the sentinel reported “noise of tanks” to the commander. Instantly and alarm signal was given and positions were occupied. 5 minutes later 2 tanks (T-34) emerged from the Tank Hill, each carried 20 Russians. The field howitzer managed to make only one shot, but missed. It had an effect though, as Russians dismounted and were taken under fire of our machine and stayed in deep snow. Tanks entered the village. One of them tried to ram a gun and but failed to damage it. The other moved along a street delivering fire from the cannon and machine gun on every house. Tanks in the village were followed by Russian infantry up to battalion strength which can be seen as dark mass moving from the Tank Hill in deep snow and only slowly approaching the village. This infantry was taken under fire by artillery and heavy weapons and was defeated with heavy losses. One tank stood near the battalion command post and delivered fire along the street. A runner from the battalion HQ ran to it from a side and threw a bundle of hand grenades under the turret. As a result the turret became immobilized. Following that the tanks retreated. As soon as they left crews manned their guns. The first shot hit the target – one tank was set on fire. The second tank was destroyed by the 8.8-cm Flak gun.
                        On 7.1.42 Russian wearing camouflage smokes managed to crawl to positions of the 2nd company and partly capture them. In pre-dawn hours one our tank moved to the site of break-in. Under cover of this tank one squad of the 2nd company broke in the positions and dislodged the Russians, 15 men were taken prisoners. This attack was supported by blocking fire of heavy weapons.
                        On 10.1 at 21.00 when making his tour along the positions the battalion commander spotted under light of a flare suspicious heaps of snow and holes on a steep slope of the Tank Hill. Soon these heaps moved closer by 50 meters. The commander ordered to engage this slope with machine gun fire and to watch it with utmost care. Soon after 22.00 a runner came and reported that fire was delivered from two houses. Russians in camouflage smokes managed to crawl on snow and get into houses which were situated between combat positions. An instant counterattack failed, and then these houses were set on fire. In light of burning houses retreating enemy was easy to destroy.
                        On 11.1 the battalion was relieved by other unit.

                        Remarks:
                        a) It was beneficial that the battalion was quartered in shelters instead of houses, thanks to that it suffered very few losses to hostile fire and tanks break-in. On 10 January Posadniki village was completely demolished [by hostile fire].
                        b) In defense of a village it is very important to place obstacles and combat positions in the center of the village, so that the enemy penetrating one part of the village could be beaten back.
                        c) Large number of hand grenades is needed for every counterattack.
                        d) Anti-tank struggle was too slow. In case of alarm crews should man their guns in the shortest time and fully dressed.
                        e) It would be expedient to supply the reserve group with even larger amount of explosive and flamethrowers so they could destroy penetrating tanks.
                        Schemes
                        layout of positions and weapons at Posadniki:
                        https://wwii.germandocsinrussia.org/...inspect/zoom/8

                        Soviet attack on 6.1.42:
                        https://wwii.germandocsinrussia.org/...inspect/zoom/8

                        Soviet penetration to the village and German counterattack on 7.1.42:
                        https://wwii.germandocsinrussia.org/...inspect/zoom/8

                        Comment


                        • Soviet account of the same episode is far more laconic:
                          Situation report of the 331 Rifle Division, 15.00 7.1.42:

                          1.Troops of division supported by two tanks of the Katukov's group resumed attacks on Posadniki, Ludina Gora beginning from the morning but failed to achieve success.
                          2. 1108 Rifle Regiment supported by two tanks attacked the north edge of Posadniki. Since one tank was set on fire and another damaged and also owing to action of a hostile tank supported by artillery and mortar fire the regiment retreated to its starting positions at the ravine 500 meters north-west of Posadniki and occupies the Hill 204.4 [apparently the same as the Tank Hill in the German account] with a smaller part of its forces.
                          3. 1106 Rifle Regiment in the ravine east of Posadniki continues combat for the south-east part of Posadniki.

                          Sit. report 331 RD, 2.00 7.1.42:
                          ...
                          Combat strength of the 1108 Rifle Regiment - 172 men.
                          ...
                          Combat strength of the 1106 Rifle Regiment - 179 men.

                          Situation report of armored forces of the 20 Army:
                          Tank regiment of the 1 Guards Tank Brigade with two T-34 tanks supported an attack of the 331 Rifle Division on Posadniki.
                          The tanks continued street combat in Posadniki for 3.5 hours, but having no support from infantry were forced to retreat. Destroyed as a result of attack 2 light tanks, 3 heavy guns and up to a company of infantry. Our losses: 2 tanks were lost, one burned down and another was damaged, 6 men killed, 1 wounded.

                          Comment


                          • Artyom, great posts and comparison of perspectives.

                            Sitreps and war journal entries by necessity have a brevity. In the interest of timeliness in reporting, it does not necessarily have the whole or complete story. I know, working as a General Staff officer at division, corps, and army group levels, experience proved that the first reports are never as good or as bad as subsequent reporting. And, we also had the saying, "Everything looks better in daylight."
                            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                              Artyom, great posts and comparison of perspectives.

                              Sitreps and war journal entries by necessity have a brevity. In the interest of timeliness in reporting, it does not necessarily have the whole or complete story. I know, working as a General Staff officer at division, corps, and army group levels, experience proved that the first reports are never as good or as bad as subsequent reporting. And, we also had the saying, "Everything looks better in daylight."
                              Until the night comes when the enemy advances towards Sedan or Gazala, and the night reports of such movements are discounted as products of the rich imagination of some nervous observer or products of the enemy's misinformation plan.

                              And then the day comes when a brigade commander radios his Armoured Division commander "I see a whole bloody German armoured Division in front of me." And his commander discovers that reality is even worse, when his HQ is attacked by a bloody German Division and he becomes a POW.
                              Last edited by pamak; 30 Apr 20, 23:40.
                              My most dangerous mission: I landed in the middle of an enemy tank battalion and I immediately, started spraying bullets killing everybody around me having fun up until my computer froze...

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by pamak View Post

                                Until the night comes when the enemy advances towards Sedan or Gazala, and the night reports of such movements are discounted as products of the rich imagination of some nervous observer or products of the enemy's misinformation plan.

                                And then the day comes when a brigade commander radios his Armoured Division commander "I see a whole bloody German armoured Division in front of me." And his commander discovers that reality is even worse, when his HQ is attacked by a bloody German Division and he becomes a POW.
                                You're too literal. It's a general rule from experience--a combat leader cannot panic with every report that's not according to plan.
                                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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