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  • Hunting Tongues

    Fighting on the eastern front during the second world war assumed an aggressive, bloody fanaticism pervading all aspects of combat to include tactical intelligence operations. As the then 39th Army chief of intelligence, Colonel Maksim Afanas'evich Voloshin, wrote in his memoirs, '...a captured German soldier with his soldier's books had great significance'. However, the aggressive fighting did not allow intelligence to wait for prisoners to fall into their hands as a result of tactical operations, but rather they sought to acquire prisoners well before an offensive operation.

    Marauding Red Army reconnaissance patrols, called 'Hunts' (poiski), infiltrated German forward fighting positions and rear areas seeking to capture prisoners, documents, and, at times, inflicting losses on the enemy. The 'Hunt' patrol became a method by which tactical commands conducted a surprise raid with the specific objective to capture a 'tongue' (yazyk)--an information prisoner. In these unique 'hunt' patrols, the reconnaissance scouts were known as 'hunters', and their search for 'tongues' were playfully referred to as 'linguistics' (yazykovedenie--the science and study of tongues.
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

  • #2
    As noted in other threads, the Red Army General Staff established a method for collecting and processing its war experiences for lessons learned, and used published studies as a primary means for passing on conclusions. The second volume for the study of collected war experiences, released in September-October 1942, contained a detailed section on the conduct of various tactical reconnaissance operations. In seeking immediate, practical remedies, the study candidly identified shortcomings and gracelessly assigned responsibility for the problems. "The absence of control over the work of reconnaissance elements naturally gives birth to deception and fraud, which was noted more than once in formations of the 48th Army on the Bryansk axis. having arrived at an enemy wire obstacle, the scouts often laid in waiting, and at dawn they returned with the standard report: "The reconnaissance was conducted without any results".'

    The study explicitly blamed commanders and their staffs. 'The fact that military reconnaissance up to now is at a low level is the fault not nly of the commanders of reconnaissance units, who often do not have sufficient preparation and experience, but also the division and unit commanders as well as chiefs of staff and intelligence sections of higher headquarters.' While the requirements and tasks for 'tongues' would come from the Army level, the execution was generally a division responsibility. But, in the early stages of the war, these tasks were passed along to the reconnaissance units without proper supervision and guidance by the higher commanders and staffs.
    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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    • #3
      A well-known tactic yes, if easier said than done.

      Certainly in WWI but presumably you can find much older examples..

      https://spartacus-educational.com/FWWpatrols.htm

      Lieutenant Basil Rathbone was a battalion intelligence officer and twice a week he led reconnaissance night patrols into No Man's Land. On the patrol's return, it was Rathbone's job to write up a report. He later admitted that many of these reports "were masterpieces of invention; inconclusive, yet always suggesting that every effort had been made by our patrol to garner information and/or make contact with the enemy. Under such circumstances one's imagination was often sorely tried in supplying acceptable news items."
      In fact I seem to remember de Brack in his standard on light cavalry tactics mentions the practice, and no doubt you can find it in Vegetius and the likes too

      I suspect it's mostly done on a stagnated front, when enemy prisoners are few and the line may hide troop movements behind the front.
      Last edited by Snowygerry; 09 May 19, 07:49.
      Lambert of Montaigu - Crusader.

      Bolgios - Mercenary Game.

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      • #4
        Agree, with your historical depth of the tactical operation. I think somewhere along the line, the American army called them, 'snatch patrols'. The unique, "hunting tongues", lured me into research of Red Army operations which has been a focus of my studies for decades.

        The danger and risks of this type of patrol cannot be overstated. No general analysis from Red Army has appeared on the success rate, but one suspects many attempts failed. Some of the difficulties in these patrols are evident in post-war writings. I'll distill some Sovit memior examples.

        An example readily available to English readers is a German account on a Soviet operation, August 1941, in US Department of Army Pamphlet No. 20-269, Small Unit Actions During the German Campaign in Russia, Washington, DC: Dept of Army, 1953), pp. 208-13.
        Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 09 May 19, 08:04.
        Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post
          A well-known tactic yes, if easier said than done.

          Certainly in WWI but presumably you can find much older examples..

          t.
          In earlier wars recce paroling was usually done by the light cavalry and it would be less easy to bring prisoners back. Moreover some senior officers (like Lord Raglan) believed that it was dishonourable to obtain intelligence by questioning prisoners/deserters. The widespread taking of prisoners as a means of gathering intelligence does appear to have begun in WW1. It was consistent with the BEF's doctrine of "dominating no mans land" through aggressive patrolling and trench raiding and there are lots of mentions of this in unit war diaries as well as private officer's diaries. As well as on the Western Front this was also practised in Mesopotamia where the Gurkhas proved particularly adept at it (contrary to popular legend the Gurkhas preferred the hand grenade to the Kukri for trench raids and reserved the latter for silent raids such as those intended to grab a prisoner).
          Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
          Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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          • #6
            Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
            ()
            The danger and risks of this type of patrol cannot be overstated. No general analysis from Red Army has appeared on the success rate, but one suspects many attempts failed. Some of the difficulties in these patrols are evident in post-war writings. I'll distill some Soviet memior examples.
            In fact - once established as common tactic, an obvious counter would be to hunt the patrols and get your information that way
            Lambert of Montaigu - Crusader.

            Bolgios - Mercenary Game.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Snowygerry View Post

              In fact - once established as common tactic, an obvious counter would be to hunt the patrols and get your information that way
              Hunting tongues was a night operation. Patrol against patrol at night is like submarine against submarine without sonar, just limited hearing.
              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

                Hunting tongues was a night operation. Patrol against patrol at night is like submarine against submarine without sonar, just limited hearing.
                Sorry but it isn't. Having read numerous accounts of similar fighting in no mans land in WW1 - it was rarely pitch black (and when it was patrols did not go out). Night vision is limited but not non existent and having spent enough nights outside myself (badger watching etc) one does develop the ability for some night vision even under just star light and once one 's eyes and brain have developed the knack one can see quite a lot in moonlight if one doesn't worry about lack of colour. Townees these days tend to be night blind but those that live in the country can get around at night.
                Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                  Sorry but it isn't. Having read numerous accounts of similar fighting in no mans land in WW1 - it was rarely pitch black (and when it was patrols did not go out). Night vision is limited but not non existent and having spent enough nights outside myself (badger watching etc) one does develop the ability for some night vision even under just star light and once one 's eyes and brain have developed the knack one can see quite a lot in moonlight if one doesn't worry about lack of colour. Townees these days tend to be night blind but those that live in the country can get around at night.
                  Actually, not read, I have been on Ranger patrols in very dark nights in dense forest. It was like submarine warfare, because we would stop suddenly to catch an enemy patrol still moving to locate their position or paused to mask our location and make a decision to ambush or evade.

                  I often took point because of my night vision. I used the technique of a rock suspended on a string from my M-16 barrel; it helped me find a tripwire that would have signaled that we were on the edge of an ambush 'kill zone'. It is difficult work. Actually, we did not like moonlit nights because of the visibility vulnerability, rather preferred operating on a compass azimuth in the dark and terrain features..
                  Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 09 May 19, 18:43.
                  Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

                    Actually, not read, I have been on Ranger patrols in very dark nights in dense forest. It was like submarine warfare, because we would stop suddenly to catch an enemy patrol still moving to locate their position or paused to mask our location and make a decision to ambush or evade.

                    I often took point because of my night vision. I used the technique of a rock suspended on a string from my M-16 barrel; it helped me find a tripwire that would have signaled that we were on the edge of an ambush 'kill zone'. It is difficult work. Actually, we did not like moonlit nights because of the visibility vulnerability, rather preferred operating on a compass azimuth in the dark and terrain features..
                    Most patrols would not be in dense forest
                    Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                    Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MarkV View Post

                      Most patrols would not be in dense forest
                      Upon further thought, no man's land is unique terrain altered by artillery, clearings for grazing fires.... Most patrolling outside WWI tench warfare uniqueness consists of moving through diverse terrain.

                      Dense force and vegetation limits the visual distance of picket lines allowing the by-pass by a patrol or in the case of 'hunting tongues', an isolated soldier(s) for a hunt patrol.

                      You are a bright and well read individual, but you are truly an 'armchair general'. Me, I'm just a retired colonel (Military Intelligence specialties), but from three wars of experience.
                      Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post
                        Marauding Red Army reconnaissance patrols, called 'Hunts' (poiski)
                        "poisk" is a raid or a process of raiding, not a name of the raiding party. "Survey" or "prospect" (geological) would be a better literal translation than "hunt".

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                        • #13
                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJwEsfobXy8

                          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdqsfUM4ZJM

                          Some German movies about infiltrating enemy lines and how to conduct such raids.

                          https://www.amazon.de/Gek%C3%A4mpft-...y&sr=8-1-fkmr0

                          If you are abled to read German thats a neat book by an officer of the 8. Panzerdivision and his memoirs about the war. He has some parts of it dedicated to such raids to gather intel. He wrote his memoirs during and directly after the war and chose not to alter the text before publishing it.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Artyom_A View Post
                            "poisk" is a raid or a process of raiding, not a name of the raiding party. "Survey" or "prospect" (geological) would be a better literal translation than "hunt".
                            I took the term, "poisk", and use from V. Chikin, "Razvedka v operatsiyakh 61-i armii', Voenno-istricheskii zhurnal, No. 10 (1979), p. 56 and M.A. Voloshin, Razvedchiki vsegda vpredi (Moscow: Voenizdat, 1977), p.17 who also noted poisk and the playful linquistics ('yazykovedenie'), hunting tongues, among the professionals.

                            The term 'yazyk' (tongue) is a descriptive term for an information prisoner which may have been used in Russian and Polish military lexicon since the Napoleonic era. During WWII, the term clearly meant an enemy soldier
                            Last edited by R.N. Armstrong; 10 May 19, 10:06.
                            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by bierbaron View Post
                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MJwEsfobXy8

                              https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdqsfUM4ZJM

                              Some German movies about infiltrating enemy lines and how to conduct such raids.

                              https://www.amazon.de/Gek%C3%A4mpft-...y&sr=8-1-fkmr0

                              If you are abled to read German thats a neat book by an officer of the 8. Panzerdivision and his memoirs about the war. He has some parts of it dedicated to such raids to gather intel. He wrote his memoirs during and directly after the war and chose not to alter the text before publishing it.
                              Thanks, appreciate the reference.
                              Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

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