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"A German Defense Area on the Anzio Front" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A detailed after-action report on a German defense position at Anzio, from the Intelligence Bulletin, July 1944.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. In most cases, more accurate data is available in postwar publications.]



The preceding section, which discusses the German defense of Ortona, mentions the use that the enemy made of the debris of destroyed buildings in preparing his defenses. A Fifth Army report from the Anzio front offers an unusually graphic illustration of this German practice—with the difference that in Ortona the Germans performed their own demolitions, whereas in the instance described below they made use of the collapsed walls and general debris of houses shelled by the Fifth Army.

On the road to Carano, the enemy held houses A and B and their immediate surroundings (as shown in fig. 1) with 50 to 80 men—or about two platoons. Previously, both houses had been reduced to rubble by Fifth Army artillery fire. In this debris, and in the area immediately surrounding it, the Germans had prepared a formidable strong point to cover a small road bridge over a stream. Fifth Army troops subsequently attacked and captured this bridge.


In the case of house A, it was observed that all the machine guns (34's) were emplaced in the house itself or in its outbuildings. Machine gun No. 1 was fired from a table in the ruins of what had been a room; the gun's direction of fire was through a hole in the main wall and then through the archway of a cowshed. By emplacing the machine gun in this manner, the Germans concealed its muzzle flash from all directions except to the front, and even from that direction it was not conspicuous. The gunner was well protected from small-arms fire and grenades, and was not exposed when he moved to his alternate (1a) position. From position 1a, the gunner was able to cover an additional area to the front and also to protect the flank of the strong point against any attack from the road. Three Mauser rifles loaded with antitank grenades were found leaning against the wall to the left of the doorway.

[Figure 2. A German Defense Area on the Anzio Front.]
Figure 2.—A German Defense Area on the Anzio Front.

Machine gun No. 2 was in position inside the same room, and was sited so that it could be fired through a window facing the stream. It is interesting to note that when our forces secured the south side of the building and attempted to toss grenades through the window at machine gun No. 2, the German gunner ricocheted bullets off the wall (W) in an effort to forestall the grenade fire.

Machine gun No. 3 was sited in a corner of an adjoining room, where the walls were still standing. This gun was so sited that its plane of fire was close to the ground; during the course of the action, the gun delivered continuous fire, ankle high, toward the stream and, alternately, to the south. The walls afforded protection from the south and west. (This gun was finally knocked out by rifle grenades.)

The siting of machine gun No. 4 shows how the enemy utilizes the characteristic Italian outdoor oven as a machine-gun emplacement. By siting his weapon in the part of the oven normally used for storing wood, the gunner protects himself against small-arms fire from the flanks and rear, and enjoys a certain amount of overhead protection against artillery fire. During the action, the No. 4 gun delivered grazing fire ankle high. (Hand grenades and rifle grenades wounded the two-man crew of this gun, and destroyed the gun itself.)

The No. 5 position, in the remnants of a second floor, was occupied by a German soldier who was armed with a machine pistol. Selecting a number of suitable points, he delivered close-range fire from them during the attack, and had good concealment. When our forces succeeded in reaching the southern wall, he delivered plunging fire over the wall. (However, grenades lobbed over the wall put an end to this.)

Concertina wire, in poor condition, was found about 50 yards from the house, on the west, south, and east sides. Smooth wire with antipersonnel mines attached to it had been staked along a narrow irrigation ditch on the west and south sides. Three or four blocks of explosive with a pull-igniter served as concussion mines. Antitank mines had been laid in the Carano road east of the house. A Tellermine with a push-pull igniter, attached to a 20-yard length of smooth trip wire, was found in a hedge 50 yards east of the house.


The house B area evidently contained the communications center (and probably the command post) for this strong point. Between the house and a nearby shed on the west side, a small dugout had been prepared. Its roof was constructed of heavy beams and was covered with earth. A standard German field telephone, a complete set of pyrotechnic equipment, and a Very pistol with a grenade launcher attached were found in the dugout.

An M.G. 34 was in position in house B's outdoor oven. This gun, mounted on a tripod, could deliver grazing fire to the southwest, toward the bridge. Alternately, it could deliver fire down the Carano road to the southeast, thereby giving mutual-support fire to house A. Furthermore, the gun was protected by a rifleman, who was dug in on the north side of the oven.

Concertina wire with concussion-type antipersonnel mines attached to it had been stretched from house B to the northwest for about 100 yards. At this point, where was a slight gap in the wire, an unoccupied machine-gun position was found. From this position, the wire continued for about 300 yards to the northeast.

A concussion-type booby trap was found on a window sill of house B.


Holes, each about 1 cubic foot in size, had been prepared in the road on the eastern side of the bridge, and Tellermines, ready to be placed in the road, were found alongside the bridge. An inverted U of concertina wire protected each side of the bridge, as shown in figure 2. Machine gun No. 6 was inclosed within one of these U's, and machine gun No. 7 within the other.

South of the bridge, machine gun No. 6 was in a prepared emplacement on the eastern bank of the narrow stream. It could fire down the stream and to the southeast across the field. Its alternate position, No. 6a, was on the western bank.

North of the bridge, machine gun No. 7 (a heavy machine gun) was on the western bank of the stream. It could fire along the stream and also support the defense of house B. Its alternate position, No. 7a, was on the eastern bank.

Both of these machine guns were destroyed by artillery fire.

[ Note: In siting their machine guns, the Germans obviously had paid careful attention to the problem of providing mutual support. Throughout the attack, each position was able to assist and support a complementary position, and, later, house C supported a German counterattack with machine-gun fire. ]

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