[Lone Sentry: The German Armored Division]
[Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]
Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Contact: info@lonesentry.com

The German Armored Division
Military Intelligence Service, Information Bulletin No. 18, June 15, 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the wartime U.S. War Department 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.]

Chapter 6

Section I: GENERAL

75. On good roads free of traffic, the following speeds are possible: full-track vehicles—day 12 mph, night 7.5 mph; half-track vehicles—day 18 mph, night 9 mph; motorcycles—day 24 mph, night 12 mph.

In 24 hours the division can move 90 to 120 miles with full-track vehicles, and 150 to 210 miles with other vehicles.

76. Distances covered by the armored division and its freshness for the battle are influenced to a decisive degree by the terrain and the road network. Movement of the armored division is appreciably influenced by unfavorable weather conditions. This must be taken into account when missions are assigned.

77. Early and continuous reconnaissance of roads to be used in the advance is necessary to insure speed of movement. Engineer reconnaissance of roads must be combined with that of the reconnaissance units. Valuable assistance can be obtained from visual reconnaissance and aerial photographs. This road reconnaissance will be carried out by reconnaissance detachments under the command of officers. Normally they will be assigned their tasks by the commanders of the march columns. Frequently they will have engineers attached so that any obstacles can be speedily removed. These detachments may also be called upon to carry out reconnaissance of rest and assembly areas.

The advance of the division must not be delayed by waiting for fresh reports as long as the division can withdraw in case of necessity.

78. Movement and traffic control will be carried out in accordance with the principles laid down in Movement and Traffic Control.

79. The speed with which all troops of the division can catch up permits large intervals between individual units and groups within the march columns, provided the division is allotted roads with no time limit. In this case, unified control of the march columns is unnecessary. Individual units form at the times allotted them, and are in turn given the order to move. By this means the commander maintains control over movements of the division. If the foremost elements of the columns are held up, units behind are not necessarily held up in their turn. The different speeds of movement in the division are compensated for. Complete march columns may also be formed without previous assembly.

Large intervals between individual columns necessitate strict traffic control in order to prevent other troops from mingling in the movement of the division. If the higher command lays down definite times during which the division is to use certain roads, intervals between individual march columns must be so regulated that the roads are cleared within the time allotted.

80. If sufficient roads are available, the advance will normally be made in several columns, but if there is a possibility of contact with the enemy, the lateral interval between march columns must be such as to allow the division to concentrate swiftly for unified employment.

81. The intention of surprising the enemy, as well as the threat of air attack, frequently makes night marches necessary. The division will lay down the degree of lighting necessary.

Speed in night marches depends upon visibility. When no lights are used for driving, speed must be dictated by considerations of safety. Road reconnaissance and clear signposting are indispensable in night marches.

82. Liaison between the division commander and his tactical group and the march columns, march groups or individual units on the move must be insured by liaison officers, messengers, and radio. Radio sections detached for this purpose listen in, even during periods of radio silence.

It is desirable to establish points along the main route of advance with which units moving on other roads can establish timely liaison. Liaison over long distances can be established by means of aircraft. They can also be employed to cover the movement of the division and report the points reached by individual columns. Within the march columns and march groups liaison will be maintained by messengers.

83. Halts of 20 minutes should be made every 2 hours, or when necessary. Unified divisional control of timing for the individual march columns and march groups is essential. Within a march column no commander may halt independently, even for a short time, as each halt extends itself to the rear and causes undesirable blockages and increased gasoline consumption.

A rest is essential under normal conditions after a 4- to 5-hour movement. It conserves the gasoline supply and can be used to give the drivers food and rest. It should last for at least 3 hours.

Rest areas must be reconnoitered in advance. They must permit a rapid resumption of the advance. Rest areas for troops on wheeled vehicles and motorcycle troops are generally close to the road; for tracked vehicles they are some distance from the road.

84. Long marches make the same demands on vehicles of the division as does battle itself. After 4 or 5 days' operations it is essential, in order to maintain efficiency of the armored division, that time be allotted for recovery and overhaul. If the situation or military necessity forbid this, the commander must accept the fact that parts of the division will be temporarily unfit for service.

Frequently a rest of several hours will be sufficient to repair damaged vehicles. Troops must be informed of the duration of the rest period.


85. With the rapidly changing situation of the armored division, there is no hard and fast rule for march organization. The command must adjust march organization to suit a wide variety of demands.

86. If combat is not expected during the march, wheeled, half- and fully-tracked vehicles move together.

87. If contact with the enemy is expected during the march, the controlling factors are the task, enemy resistance to be expected, and the terrain.

88. At the same time, care must be taken to see that units are allowed to overtake march columns only if the advance elements of the column are halted in order to leave the road clear and all traffic from the other direction is held up.

89. If the situation indicates that contact with the enemy will require immediate employment of the tank brigade, the latter must be placed well forward in the columns. If, on the other hand, it can be seen from the situation or the nature of the ground that tanks cannot be used on first contact with the enemy, then the motorized infantry will lead. The tanks will follow, be given a separate route, or will be kept in readiness off the road.

If the situation requires the division to be employed in task forces, movement will be carried out in mixed march groups. Their composition will be dictated by requirements of the impending battle. An attempt should be made, even within mixed march groups, to assign separate roads to tanks and to other arms. This must, of course, depend upon the tactical situation. and a suitable road system which allows advance on a broad front.

If important sectors are to be occupied in advance of the enemy or during pursuit, special mobile advance detachments may be formed. They hurry on without regard to maintaining contact with the division behind them. Their composition must be such that they can quickly break any expected enemy resistance and brush aside obstacles. Engineers must be allotted to these detachments.

It may be advisable to place the reconnaissance forces and the advance units temporarily under the same command. This must be ordered by the division.

90. The artillery must be well forward so that it will be prepared for action.

Engineers are to be assigned to all march columns if special tasks do not require the concentration of engineer forces.

91. Combat vehicles of all units will be divided into vehicles which the troops require during action and those which are not apt to be required immediately. The first group moves with units, the second will follow either under control of commanders of the march columns or under unified control of the division, according to the division commander's decision.


92. The armored division protects itself against a ground enemy by early initiation of ground and air reconnaissance.

93. If early contact with the enemy is expected, the advance will be covered by an advance guard. If the advance is made along more than one road, each march column will be allotted an advance guard.

Strength and composition of the advanced guard are dictated by the situation, terrain visibility, and strength of the march column. If the tank brigade follows immediately behind the advance guard, the fighting strength of the latter may be kept relatively small. In suitable country, the tank brigade, or part of it, may take over the duties of advance guard in order to destroy enemy resistance immediately. If considerable antitank opposition, road blocks, or natural obstacles are apt to be encountered, the advance guard should be composed predominantly of motorized infantry. In most cases artillery, engineers, and antitank units must be allotted.

94. Areas which have been reported clear of the enemy will be covered by the advance guard in one bound, except for short halts, in order to enable the division to advance without hindrance. If enemy activity is likely, the advance guard may be ordered to proceed by bounds. This must not interfere with forward movement of the division.

The interval between the advance guard and units following will vary according to the strength of the formation and probability of enemy activity. It may be as much as 1 hour.

If the advance of the division is delayed by road blocks in great depth or by the enemy rearguard, it may be desirable to separate those parts of the division which are not immediately required for removal of obstacles or enemy resistance, and to allow them to rest off the road until the advance can be resumed smoothly. This avoids traffic jams and lessens wear and tear on both troops and engines.

95. March columns guard against threats to their flanks by reconnaissance. When necessary, forces must be sent along parallel roads to protect the main group, or must be pushed out to the flanks of the main route of advance.

96. Antitank defense during movement will be provided by incorporating antitank detachments in columns which are inadequately equipped with antitank weapons. The companies of antitank battalions will, for this purpose, be placed under command of those groups to which they are to be assigned on deployment.

97. For antiaircraft defense, light antiaircraft machine-gun units will usually be assigned to each march column. At bottlenecks and when the columns are halted, antiaircraft machine-gun units must be employed en masse. Frequently antiaircraft troops or antiaircraft machine-gun companies must be sent ahead with the advance guard in order to provide early antiaircraft defense at threatened points. Antiaircraft units can be employed leapfrog fashion during the advance only if halts of considerable length are made to enable them to push forward again.

Protection from daylight air attack demands full use of cover and dispersion. The advance must be continued despite enemy air attack. If this is impossible, the commander will order vehicles to seek cover off the road with troops dismounted.

All troops and all suitable weapons will be employed in antiaircraft defense. If road conditions permit, machine gunners will open fire against low-flying airdraft independently, at the same time warning other troops. Efforts must be made to obtain fighter aircraft protection.

By night the advance will be halted only if enemy aircraft directly attack the troops.

98. The possibility of gas-spray attack from aircraft must always be borne in mind. Orders must be issued before the advance, stating whether vehicles will use tarpaulins and whether troops are to wear antigas capes.

[Back to German Armored Division Table of Contents] Back to Table of Contents