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German Coastal Defenses
Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 15, June 15, 1943
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Special Series publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



a. General

During the North African campaign the Germans made great use of minefields and developed minefield technique to a high degree of effectiveness. They have applied this experience widely in western Europe, where they have had plenty of time to lay out fields behind important beaches and in their rearward defenses. The German Army teaches that mines are a very powerful defensive weapon, and that their skilled employment in combination with other weapons strengthens defense, especially when the defender is considerably inferior in numbers. The Germans also teach that the employment of mines must be under strict control and in the hands of well-trained, courageous troops. Their basic doctrine prescribes the use of minefields in advanced positions, in the vicinity of the main line of resistance, and in the depth of the position.

The material and diagrams set forth below in this section have been taken wholly, with slight alteration, from the recently published TM 5325, Enemy Land Mines and Booby Traps (April 19, 1943), chapter 2, section XI, and Changes No. 1 (May 17, 1943).

The principles which guide the Germans in selecting a minefield location are essentially the same as U.S. principles. Maximum use is made of natural and artificial barriers to compel vehicles to cross the minefield. Roadways are usually mined at points where vehicles cannot detour, the aim being to cause the cratering of the road and damage to vehicles. Mines are also used wherever it is desired to augment the difficulties of passing natural or artificial obstacles.

Extensive use is made of mines in preparing a hasty defense against counterattack. Under such conditions, because of lack of time for proper burial and concealment, the mines are generally not concealed, but are laid on the ground surface until there is an opportunity to bury them. When the ground is covered with snow, land mines may not be buried until the melting of the snow makes concealment necessary.

Although standard patterns may be prescribed in training pamphlets, there is considerable variation in the actual layout of German minefields. The Germans leave gaps in minefields for their own use, but normally they will place a small field about 50 paces behind the gap to act as a stopper. By the use of dummy mines, the Germans leave paths for the passage of their own vehicles. Tellermines are normally used to form antitank minefields, whereas heavy antitank mines are used for road blocks.

b. Minefield Layouts

(1) Tellermine minefield patterns.—(a) Method of spacing.—The measurements which establish the location of individual mines in a field are ordinarily made by pacing. Consequently, considerable variation from the intended pattern may be encountered. For "close spacing," the interval varies from 3 to 5 yards; none is less than 2 yards. If spaced at 3-yard centers, the detonation of one mine will invariably detonate the one next to it. In "open spacing," Tellermines are laid 10 yards apart.

According to a German document, the distance between Tellermines, center to center, should be 5 paces (13 feet) when laid in the ground, or 10 paces (26 feet) when laid on the surface.

In North Africa, minefields of 6 rows have been found in which German Tellermines and Italian B2 mines have been laid in alternate rows; individual mines were laid from 5 to 8 yards apart. These mines also have been found installed together in a haphazard manner throughout an entire minefield. In some minefields in Cyrenaica, Tellermines were laid on 9-foot centers. In one instance, the firing of 1 mine set off a field of 980 mines, set 9 feet apart, by sympathetic detonation.

(b) Hasty minefield.—A layout for a hasty minefield is shown in figure 8. It has panels 30 paces across the front by 30 paces in depth, or approximately 80 by 80 feet. Each panel contains 12 mines. The resulting density is 1 mine for each 6 1/2 feet of front, and thus would be classified as open-spaced. The panels are repeated side by side to cover the desired length of front.

Figure 8.—Hasty minefield pattern (open spacing).

(c) Deliberate minefield.—The layout for a somewhat more deliberate type of minefield is shown in figure 9. This is also open-spaced. The panel is 30 paces across the front by 40 paces in depth, or approximately 80 feet by 105 feet. It contains 24 mines, giving a density of 1 mine per meter (3 1/4 feet of front). These panels are combined to form staggered patterns of 3 panels each. Each panel is offset 20 paces (52 1/2 feet) from the adjacent panels, as shown in figure 10. These patterns of 3 panels each may be further combined to form a more extensive minefield layout.

Figure 9.—Deliberate minefield pattern (open spacing).

Figure 10.—Panel arrangement of deliberate minefield.

(d) Variation of deliberate minefield.—In a report dated September 1942, from North Africa, it is stated that a variation in the pacing of the deliberate minefield shown in figure 9 was found. The variation consisted of the horizontal and vertical coordinates being 6 paces and the minimum spacing between mines being 7 paces. When open spacing was employed, the above dimensions were doubled.

Another variation of this more deliberate minefield is a panel having close spacing and measuring 15 paces across the front by 40 paces in depth, or approximately 40 feet by 105 feet. It contains 24 mines, giving a density of 2 mines per meter (3 1/4 feet) of front. These panels are normally combined in groups of 3 in arrowhead reverse, in echelon, or in arrowhead forward formation, as shown in figure 11. These groups of 3 panels each are further combined to form large minefields or a part of an extensive layout, as shown in figure 12 (1).

Figure 11.—Three methods of arranging minefield panels.

(e) Extensive mine field.—An extensive minefield layout may combine groups of open-spaced and close-spaced panels (see fig. 12 (1)). A minimum distance of 50 paces (131 feet) between fields is maintained.

Figure 12.—Extensive layout of minefields.

Figure 12 (2) shows a German-Italian plan of an extensive minefield in which the deliberate minefield pattern was used. The main minefield area (1) with mine zones (2) laid in patterns is bordered in the front and rear with barbed wire (3) and with other barbed wire (4) running irregularly through the minefield for the purpose of deception. In front of the main minefield (1) is a minefield (5) of scattered mines marked in front with a broken line of barbed wire (6). The gaps (7) are intended for deception. A strongpoint (8) is located to the rear of the main minefield.

Figure 13.—Tellermine road block.

(f) Road blocks.—Tellermines may be used in road blocks, alone or in conjunction with artificial barriers. The interval between mines is about 1 pace (2 1/2 feet), and slightly less than this between rows. Thus four rows, as shown in figure 13, give a density of one mine to each 7 1/2 inches of width in the roadway. When the Germans mine a road, yet continue to use it for their own needs, one-half of the road is left unmined. Detours which the Germans have used to bypass their own road blocks may be heavily mined when the area is given up to the advance of opposing forces. If the nature of the road surface permits, mines are buried. Mines are sometimes laid indiscriminately on the shoulders of the roads. In North Africa, railroad tracks leading out of towns have been mined as in figure 14. Other road blocks have been found where mines were laid in a few "chuck" holes in the roads, while other holes were left empty. Of course, all holes had to be carefully examined. For 10 kilometers (about 6 1/4 miles) south of Agedabia, road blocks were laid at all kilometer stones, which were used as markers.

Figure 14.—Tellermine railroad-track block.

(2) Heavy antitank mine fields.—The German heavy antitank mine is normally used to form antitank road blocks on main lines of communication. The road blocks formed by these mines usually contain between 15 and 20 mines laid in 1 of 2 patterns, as follows:

(a) In a line diagonally across the road, 20 mines occupying about 100 yards of road.

(b) In a checkerboard pattern, with the mines placed 6 1/2 to 8 feet apart arid each row of mines covering the gaps of the preceding row. The depth of the minefield may be 15 to 20 yards or more. In some cases Tellermines have been found mixed with heavy mines.

(3) Antipersonnel minefields.—The antipersonnel mines are placed in fields and are on occasion very precisely located by means of standard layout equipment. This equipment consists of an equilateral triangle made up of 10 rings, each 40 centimeters (15 3/4 inches) in internal diameter, and 18 cords, each 4.4 meters (14.43 feet) long. (See fig. 15.) Each side of this triangle, formed by the joining of the cords and rings, is, therefore, 43.3 feet long and is made up of 3 cord lengths and 4 rings. The triangle is laid out on the ground with 1 edge along a base line, and an antipersonnel mine is planted in each ring. The triangle is then turned through 60 degrees on the corner of the triangle farthest from the base line, and more mines are laid at each ring. (See fig. 16.) This procedure is repeated to form some such continuous field as shown in figure 17.

Figure 15.—Equilateral triangle layout for antipersonnel minefields.

Figure 16.—Method of rotating equilateral triangle layout for antipersonnel minefields.

The field as shown is registered for map-record purposes by extending the base line 100 meters (328 feet) rearward and marking it with pickets at 20-meter (65.6-foot) intervals (Points P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, and P6), except that for safety the point P6 is set back 2 meters (6.6 feet) from the corner mine, making the interval from PS to P6 only 18 meters (59 feet). The Point P1 is registered on two reference points HP1 and HP2, and the azimuth of the extended base line P1 to P6 is recorded.

Figure 17.—Continuous antipersonnel minefield.

(4) Minefields in a defile.—The mines are laid out in regular rows from a line based on outstanding existing features which lie on the forward edge of the proposed minefield. The interval between rows varies between 2 feet 4 inches and 5 feet. The number of rows is not fixed, but the minefield is designed to give a density of at least one mine to 1 foot 2 inches of front. The mines are carefully concealed. Au accurate record is kept of the extent of the minefield and of any gaps which may have been left for the Germans' own use.

c. Minefield Records

Minefields are mapped on a scale of 1:2,500, and the complete scheme is transferred to a 1:10,000 map.

d. Marking

Minefields laid in advance of an enemy approach are marked by holes, sticks, branches, or wires as warning to German troops. A report of a minefield at Ben Temrad states that mines were laid at very irregular spacing, but always in or near a vehicular track. The mines laid across the vehicular tracks were generally marked with small stone cairns at the corners of the fields. Mines were also laid along tracks, and these seemed to be marked by cairns at either end of the mined sections.

In May 1942, an order issued by the German 90th Light Division stated that the existing methods of marking minefields were inadequate. Minefields were to be marked either by a strong wire fence 1 meter (39 inches) high or stone walls 40 cm (16 inches) high. However, substitute materials such as barrels, concertina wire, tin cans, derelict vehicles, etc., might be used. In a report from Agedabia, a perimeter minefield, without markings, was located 20 yards behind the perimeter wire. Mines laid on roads or railroad tracks in North Africa were usually found installed close to some easily identifiable landmark, such as a kilometer stone, track junction, or a small stone cairn. Minefields and road blocks were also found marked by a 40-gallon oil drum, usually with a patch of red paint and holes in the top which marked routes past the minefields.

Figure 18.—Minefield gap signboards.

In May 1942, an order issued by the German 15th Armored Division described minefield-gap identifying signboards (see fig. 18) in red and white which were to be mounted on posts 3 feet 6 inches to 5 feet high. In the northern sector of the El Alamein line, minefield gaps were found which were marked by luminous tubes 1 inch long placed on top of the mines. They marked a route for patrols and were visible 3 yards away. Gaps have been reported to be 7 to 10 yards wide. Often the front edge of minefields is not marked, but the rear edge is usually marked by some form of fence, such as a trip wire on short pickets. Occasionally the rear edge of a minefield has been found unmarked. A common marking for minefields is a single row of concertina wire along the center of the minefield and parallel to the rows of mines. In a large minefield there may be several unmarked rows of mines along the front, a row of concertina wire, more rows of mines, then another row of concertina wire, and so on, with a row of concertina wire marking the rear edge of the minefield. Only one case has been reported of continuous wire running irregularly within a minefield.

e. German Conclusions on Minefield Practice

The Germans have drawn the following conclusions from their experiences with minefields:

(1) Minefield layout plans.—Accurate minefield plans are extremely important, since the unit employed in laying the land mines may not be the one to take them up.

(2) Minefield reports.—Prompt reports, accompanied by layout plans of all minefields, should be submitted to designated higher authority. If this is done, the publication of adequate warning will prevent losses of men and vehicles in their own minefields.

(3) Temporary nature of minefields.—Minefields should always be viewed as temporary, to be taken up again as our own troops advance. For this reason it is desirable to keep the troops engaged in land-mining in the section where they have laid fields, so that they may remove the mines, if necessary, which they themselves set out.

(4) Minefields behind water obstacles.—In planting a minefield behind a water obstacle, the mines should be laid close to the water's edge. If mines are located several yards back, it is possible for the enemy to land personnel skilled in neutralizing them.

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