That the German army—like our own—attaches great importance to
thorough reconnaissance is borne out by a recently captured German manual
dealing with reconnaissance units. For example, only exceptionally well
qualified personnel is chosen for such duty, as revealed in the following
quotation from the manual:
"Cunning, versatility, ability to grasp orders rapidly, skill at driving
vehicles across any type of terrain, the offensive spirit, resourcefulness
under all circumstance and especially at night, cold bloodedness, and the
ability to act quickly and independently should be characteristics of men
2. EXTRACTS FROM THE CAPTURED MANUAL
a. Tasks of Reconnaissance Units
By taking advantage of * * * mobility, the reconnaissance unit may even
engage superior enemy forces successfully. Mobility often enables it to
attack the flanks and rear of the enemy and achieve surprise, to deliver
repeated attacks at different points, to concentrate its forces quickly,
to destroy small, isolated enemy detachments, and to employ part of its
strength as a mobile reserve or for counterattacks in defense.
In the attack, a distinction must be drawn between an enemy defense area
and an enemy defense line. Against the defense area, the aim of the
reconnaissance unit is to use its speed to surround and destroy the
enemy. Against a defense line, the aim is to concentrate all available
forces and achieve a break-through at one point. It may not be wise to
reconnoiter points suitable for a break-through, if this action is likely
to give the enemy a hint regarding our plans. The reconnaissance unit
generally will have to be reinforced if it is to achieve a break-through
in a strongly held defensive line.
When an attack is in preparation, orders as a rule will be issued first
to the heavy weapons, so that the attack will not be delayed while the
heavy weapons are getting ready to come into action. Otherwise, the
element of surprise may be lost. If an attack is held up, it may be
a good idea to cancel the plans and strike at another point. Reconnaissance
units are especially well suited to pursue an enemy who has been forced
by our major units to withdraw. If pursuit from any of our flanks would
mean loss of contact with the enemy because of the distance being too
great, the enemy should be pursued directly through the break-through itself.
A reconnaissance unit may be forced by the task allotted to it, or by
enemy action, to adopt the defensive temporarily. It can defend itself
successfully only on ground which forces the enemy to attack on a
narrow front; under any other circumstances, the unit's flanks must
be protected by other troops. It is usually best to keep a mobile
reserve to forestall enemy outflanking movements or for counterattacks.
The reconnaissance unit is better suited for delaying action than
for lengthy defense.
b. Motorized Reconnaissance Units
The reconnaissance unit commander must make his own decisions about sending
out patrols. It is required, however, that each patrol consist of at least
two cars (including the radio car).
Before the patrol commanders start out, they receive verbal information
from the reconnaissance unit commander on the general situation—for
example, where contact with the enemy may be expected, the strength and
composition of enemy forces, the nature of the terrain allotted to the
patrols, the results of air and other reconnaissances, the mission of
the reconnaissance unit, and how it will seek to fulfill its mission.
The unit commander then issues verbal orders to the patrol commanders. Particular
points about which reports are needed should be given out in the order of their
importance, under the heading "I want to know." The patrol leaders will be told
to report, by radio or messenger, on crossing a designated line—even if they
have not been in contact with the enemy.
Usually a patrol should not be given more than one task. If demolitions are required, combat
engineers should be assigned to the patrol and move with it.
Reconnaissance at night is mostly a question of watching roads and keeping the
enemy under observation from such concealment as woods and farms. Reconnaissance
units should be relieved before dawn.
Reconnaissance units and patrols must be able to effect river crossings rapidly. Attacks
on bridges on main roads often are likely to fail. A feint attack may be made on such
bridges, however, while preparations are being made to cross at other points which
are undefended, or less strongly defended.
The commander of the reconnaissance unit decides whether to send the whole unit across
or merely the patrols. In the latter case the friendly shore usually must be defended
until the patrols return.
The engineers in a reconnaissance unit must be able to carry out the following work:
(1) Build a 5-ton bridge, 36 feet long.
(2) Build and man two 2-ton rafts or one 4-ton raft.
(3) Build a footbridge for bicyclists.[1
c. Partly Motorized Reconnaissance Units
The partly motorized reconnaissance unit carries out tactical
reconnaissance for an infantry division.
In country where immediate contact with the enemy is to be expected, the
reconnaissance unit commander will designate the area to be reconnoitered. The
patrol will be told by which route the reconnaissance unit will advance. As a
rule, the bounds for the mounted and bicycle patrols should be not more than
10 miles ahead of the main body of the reconnaissance unit (unless radio
communication facilities are available).
Mounted patrols do not depend on roads, and can swim their horses across
stream. They can search a sector independently. Ground, weather, and the
matter of supplies do not affect them seriously. However, their rate of
march and extent of performance are limited.
In districts with good road systems, and in favorable weather, bicycle patrols
can get around better than mounted patrols. However, their rate of march is
reduced on paths, especially in bad weather. Across country, their rate of
advance may often be less than that of a man on foot. At night, if there is
a good road system, bicycle patrols are excellent because they make little noise.
The armored-car patrol has a high rate of advance and performance. Since it
is allotted a radio car, it can pass information back more quickly than
other patrols. It is suitable for use on roads and to cover great distances. It
can carry out a task quickly, and be available shortly afterwards to undertake another.
The strength of patrols of all types depends on their tasks, the ground, enemy
dispositions, and the attitude of the civilian population. The strength of a
mounted patrol varies from a platoon to a company. As a rule, bicycle patrols
should be of company strength, since they are mainly confined to roads and are
therefore required to fight more often than mounted patrols. The strength of
an armored-car patrol, even if the reconnaissance unit is only partly
motorized, must consist of at least two cars (including a radio car), just
as in the case of the fully motorized units. Also, portable radio communication
sets may be allotted to the patrols. It must be remembered, however, that the
less radio communication is used, the more difficult it will be for the enemy
listening posts to discover the presence and movements of the reconnaissance unit.
In most cases patrols can work only by day. At night their activities will
generally be limited to gaining and maintaining contact with the enemy and
locating his outposts.
 Against a major opponent, German reconnaissance units seldom use bicycles unless the terrain makes this absolutely necessary.