The Russians have proved that there is a definite place for horse cavalry
in battle, despite the wide use of mechanized forces and airplanes in modern
warfare. By operating at night, cavalry avoids attack by aircraft, and
moves, dismounts, and strikes with much more surprise than during daylight hours.
2. METHODS OF ATTACK
The success of a night attack depends largely upon careful reconnaissance of the
enemy positions. A commander's reconnaissance includes the approaches to the
enemy's positions and the location of his firing points and outposts. Before
nightfall, all steps have been taken to provide absolute secrecy of movement. The
plan of every assault group is worked out in detail. Units are designated to seize
outposts and guards, and deal with the automatic riflemen, the machine-gun
crews, and the tank crews when they come out of bivouac.
In moving to the point from which the attack is to be made, the Russians do not
fire a shot, unless the Germans open fire. In this case all Russian fire power
is put into action.
Experience has taught the Russians that it is difficult for cavalry to use
artillery in night operations, except while on the defensive. Normally, the
cavalry regiments and squadrons take along their heavy machine guns in carts. The
machine guns are capable of accomplishing the mission usually assigned to
artillery. Antitank units are equipped with antitank weapons, grenades, and
bottles of gasoline ("Molotov cocktails").
All equipment is carefully inspected before the cavalry leaves for the attack. Stirrups
are wrapped with felt or straw. At a point about 3 to 5 miles from the enemy
positions, the machine-gun carts are left in he open and the guns and mortars
are carried in pack. The troops dismount again in open areas near the enemy
outposts, and the horse-holders hide the horses.
If the mission is to seize a particular point, machine guns and mortars support
the action without a let-up until the point is taken. If the mission
is to destroy an enemy unit, the troops return when the mission has been
accomplished. In this case the machine guns and mortars are placed in positions
where they can also provide fire for the withdrawal of the units, in addition to
supporting the attack.
These night attacks are planned so as to be completed 2 or 3 hours before
daybreak. The Russians need this time interval in order to return to their
original positions without being exposed to air attacks.
3. EXAMPLE OF TYPICAL ATTACK
The following is quoted from a Russian report as an example of typical cavalry night
operations against a village:
"Two days were required to prepare this attack. The village was 22 kilometers (about
14 miles) from our division position. A troop had been sent out on reconnaissance. It
went out on the highway, concealed itself in the forest, and observed road movements;
it determined the enemy strength, location of outposts, and location both of tank
parks and night bivouacs, as well as the headquarters and rear elements.
"The approaches to the town were important. West and south were two ravines too rough
for tanks. The decision was to attack from the north and east. These directions would
permit cutting off any attempt of the Germans to withdraw along the highway which ran
north of the city. They would catch the enemy under crossfires and at the same time
avoid danger of firing on our own troops. Since one regiment attacked from north and
the other from east to west, this danger was averted.
"The division moved out in two columns at 1900; at 2400 it
assembled 3 kilometers (about 2 miles) from
the town, dismounted at once; and went into action. To insure surprise, the
attack was made without the use of signals. The outguards were jumped without noise,
and the units advanced on the bridge in the town. Here three German guards opened
fire, but it was too late. Our troops threw grenades into the houses used as
quarters, the assault groups attacked the firing positions, and 15 tanks were
put out of action. The remaining tanks moved to the highway, but our
engineer units had blown up the bridge. The fight ended at 0500, and from then
until daylight (in December, about 0800) the troops returned to their position
unnoticed by enemy aircraft.
"Our missions are usually for the purpose of opening the way for the infantry.
"As a result of these attacks, the Germans are now posting strong outguards, and
even more careful reconnaissance is required.
"During such night attacks the Germans try to capture our horse-holders."