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"Night Combat by Russian Cavalry" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A short intelligence report on night raids by Russian cavalry, from the Intelligence Bulletin, October 1942.

[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 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.


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.


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."

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