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"Ground Tactics of German Paratroops" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on ground tactics of German paratroopers based on a captured order issued by the commander of a German parachute demonstration battalion, from the Intelligence Bulletin, June 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 commander of a German parachute demonstration battalion recently issued to his companies a directive which affords useful insight into some of the ground tactics that enemy paratroopers may be expected to employ. The following extracts from the battalion commander's order are considered especially significant:

1. For parachute and air-landing operations, I have given orders for section leaders and their seconds-in-command to carry rifles, and for the No. 3 men on the light machine guns to carry machine carbines. There are tactical reasons for this decision. The section commander must be able to point out targets to his section by means of single tracer rounds. The No. 3 man on the light machine gun must be able to give this gun covering fire from his machine carbine in the event that close combat takes place immediately after landing. This last should be regarded as a distinct possibility. He must provide this covering fire until the light machine gun is in position and ready to fire. Before the assault, the No. 3 man on the light machine gun must also be able to beat off local counterattacks with his machine carbine until the machine gun is ready to go into action.

2. Since so many targets are likely to be seen only for a fleeting moment, and since the rifleman himself must disappear from hostile observation as soon as he has revealed his position by firing, the German paratrooper must be extremely skillful at "snap shooting" (rapid aiming and firing). The following three points are to be noted and put into practice:

a. Snap shooting is most useful at short ranges. It will not be employed at ranges of more than 330 yards, except in close combat and defense, when it will generally be employed at ranges under 1,100 yards.

b. Even more important than rapid aiming and firing is rapid disappearance after firing, no matter what the range may be.

c. Movement is revealing, also. Men must move as little as possible and must quickly find cover from fire at each bound.

3. I leave to company commanders the distribution of automatic and sniper rifles within companies. I wish only to stress the following principles:

a. Wherever possible, sniper and automatic rifles will be given to those paratroopers who can use them most effectively. In general practice, this rules out commanders and headquarters personnel (who have duties other than firing).

b. There seems to be a general but incorrect impression that our sniper rifles improve the marksmanship of men who are only moderately good shots. These rifles are provided with telescopes only to make more distinct those targets which are not clearly visible to the naked eye. This means that an advantage accrues solely to very good marksmen firing at medium ranges—and, what is more, only where impact can be observed and the necessary adjustments made. Since the sniper is seldom in a position where he can observe for himself, a second man, with binoculars, generally will be detailed to work with the sniper.

4. I wish company commanders to make the report on the battle of Crete the subject of continual reference in their own lectures, and in the lectures of platoon commanders who are training noncoms. I particularly desire that those passages in the report which deal with the importance of the undertaking as a whole be drilled into every man. The last three exercises I have attended have shown me that this principle is by no means evident to all platoon commanders. Platoon commanders in this battalion are still too much inclined to fight their own private brands of war instead of paying attention to the larger picture.

5. It is extremely likely that, during a parachute or air-landing operation, this battalion will land in hostile positions not previously reconnoitered, and will have to fight for the landing area. Such fighting will be carried out according to the same regulations which would obtain if we had fought our way into the heart of a hostile position.

6. Inasmuch as we shall soon be receiving our new machine guns,[1] training with those new machine guns we already have must be pushed forward in our light companies—at least to the extent of giving the No. 1 men about 1 1/2 hours a day on it. The most important point to be driven home is that this weapon is to be fired in very short bursts to avoid waste of ammunition.[2]

7. During the exercises and field firing demonstrations I have witnessed—I admit they have been few—I did not once see yellow identification panels used to mark our forward line, nor did I see the swastika flags used to identify our own troops to friendly aircraft. Henceforth, these panels and flags will be carried on all occasions and will be spread out at the proper times.

8. I wish platoon exercises to include more emphasis on the attacks on well prepared defensive positions. This Will Include cooperation between two assault detachments and a reserve assault ("mopping-up") detachment.

Each German paratroop company commander, it is reported, must designate five to seven of his best men as a tank-hunting detachment. These men perform their regular duties, but are prepared to act as a team in their tank-hunting capacity whenever they may be called upon. The infantry training of German paratroopers is usually very thorough, covering all normal training and, in some instances, use of the light machine gun, heavy machine gun, mortar, and antitank rifle, as well. Cunning and initiative are stressed. Many men are taught to drive tanks and other vehicles. Use of simple demolitions and the handling of antitank and antipersonnel mines are often included in the training.


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