An article entitled "Combat in High Mountains and Extreme Cold," which appeared
in Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. I, No. 2, discussed certain aspects of
German mountain warfare; the material presented below, however, is of
much more recent origin, and includes methods not discussed previously.
2. THOROUGHNESS OF PREPARATION
German Army units trained in mountain warfare are committed to the principle that
thorough preparation is the key to success. All possible information regarding
terrain is obtained and evaluated in ample time before an operation. Local
inhabitants are not overlooked as sources of information. Maps are studied
with the greatest care, and altitude differences. wooded areas, and trails
and short cuts are noted particularly. In studying the objectives, and the
routes leading to them, the Germans make every effort to choose "unexpected" ways
of reaching an objective, so as to insure the element of surprise. (This idea was
employed with remarkable success in Norway, where the Germans deliberately chose
to move by routes locally regarded as almost impassable.)
In mountain warfare the Germans believe in holding a higher unit, such as a battalion
or regiment, responsible for reconnaissance. It is generally performed on foot. The
Germans, recognizing that it must necessarily be slow and that guerrillas are likely
to be encountered, send out reconnaissance patrols large enough, and appropriately
equipped, to engage in combat. Sometimes units as large as a company are sent out
for this purpose. The exact size is, of course, determined by the nature of the
mission. It is interesting to note that in general the Germans believe in restricting
reconnaissance to paths, trails, and other "passable" terrain, even though routes of
an "improbable" type may later be considered for tactical surprise. Reconnaissance
patrols are equipped with radio.
4. COMBAT NOTES
a. Dispositions and Tactical Movement
(1) In mountainous terrain the Germans assign more troops for defense action than
they assign for offensive action.
(2) The Germans believe in a wide front subdivided into areas assigned to assault
groups (where attack is contemplated) or strong points (where defense is
(3) Personal resourcefulness is stressed. Noncommissioned officers are encouraged
to act decisively, since it often happens that the smallest unit is faced with the
necessity of determining a course of action.
(4) The Germans give a great deal of thought to the placing of reserves. They realize
that the task of sending reserves where, and when, they are needed is almost certain to
be complicated by the terrain factor. Therefore, they try to prepare for all possible
eventualities when they place their reserves.
(5) In the attack, the units are strongly organized in depth. They advance sector
by sector. Units are told that once such moves have been made, withdrawal cannot
b. Heavy Weapons
(1) "Fewer heavy weapons and more ammunition" is a German principle
in mountain warfare.
(2) It is a German policy, after a penetration, to avoid moving heavy weapons
forward until proper positions for effective fire in the new situation can be
(3) Heavy weapons are used on the flanks of the forward lines.
(1) The German view is that forces can be concentrated for the main effort
only by means of signal communication.
(2) Since ammunition supply presents a difficult problem in mountain
warfare, the usual German procedure is to fire only on orders. Single
rounds are aimed with the greatest care, for considerations of economy
as well as effect.