The account given below describes an interesting example of the employment of antiaircraft
guns in the battle for Sevastopol. This article appeared in the German press in the middle
of June, and shows clearly that 88-mm antiaircraft guns have been used against ground targets
by the German troops in Russia just as they have been by the Afrika Korps of Field Marshal Rommel.
"The battle for Sevastopol is among the hardest of the war. Here the German Command was
confronted with a narrow front barricaded completely with concrete, steel, and guns. But
however heavy the barrage from the massed Soviet artillery, our antiaircraft guns succeeded
in pushing through on several occasions and knocking out pillboxes at very short ranges so
that our infantry could advance again. The initiative of the antiaircraft gun crews in the
battle for Sevastopol was outstanding, and one particular instance has been singled
out as an example.
"A lieutenant in charge of an antiaircraft combat detachment, who had been especially
prominent in the fighting on the northern sector of the Sevastopol front, was ordered to
support the infantry attack with one heavy gun and a light antiaircraft section, firing
from a gully. The tasks of these antiaircraft combat detachments are almost always
extraordinarily difficult. While the field artillery remains stationary for long
periods in each position, the guns of the antiaircraft combat groups move close
behind the first wave of the infantry, and engage over open sights and at very
short ranges those pillboxes and other enemy centers of resistance which the infantry
cannot overcome. Since the antiaircraft groups move normally without cover, they tend
to draw the fire of all the enemy artillery. Such was the case here--and, in
addition, the Soviet defenders had registered every yard of the ground.
"At first the task seemed impossible to the lieutenant. There was no field of fire for
his gun from the gully, and the violent fire of the defenders made it impossible to
advance. All alternative routes to the enemy pillboxes were also under heavy fire.
"Thereupon; the lieutenant decided on a bold gamble. Despite the intensive Soviet
fire, he rushed his gun to a suitable position and opened fire immediately. By constant
change of position and by taking cover momentarily when things became too hot, he was
able to maintain an almost continuous rate of fire against his targets. In this way he
succeeded in knocking out six pillboxes and, in conjunction with the light antiaircraft
section, silenced a number of field works, machine-gun nests, and gun positions.
"Similar antiaircraft combat groups were employed on a number of other sectors. In practically
every instance they are the first heavy weapons to follow the infantry. Although the way is
first cleared for them by the engineers, it nevertheless requires skill and coolness to
take the gun through the narrow gap in the minefields, where the slightest deviation may
bring disaster. Furthermore the terrain at Sevastopol is extremely difficult. The long
hillsides are covered with thick undergrowth and bushes, and bristle with pillboxes
and weapon-pits. Concealed Russian snipers will permit the antiaircraft elements to
pass unmolested and then ambush the supporting units as they come up. The German
infantry, following its own artillery screen on a front of a few hundred yards, is
subjected to continuous Soviet attacks, supported by artillery, from the flank. In
these circumstances the situation has often been saved solely by the initiative of
the antiaircraft combat groups and by the high rate of fire of their guns."
COMMENT: The above account appears to indicate that the Germans, at any
rate at Sevastopol, used antiaircraft guns to give close support to the infantry. The
high velocity and heavy shell of the 88-mm antiaircraft gun make it a
formidable weapon against pillboxes and similar types of concrete defenses. (See
this publication No. 5, page 34 for the account of the siege of Sevastopol.)