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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 8

Section I: GENERAL

103. In armored division combat, the decision is gained by attack of the entire tank brigade in one body. Employment of the brigade is therefore of decisive importance. The main effort will be made where the tanks can find suitable terrain and battle conditions.

The role of the other units of the armored division is to provide conditions necessary for employment of the armored brigade, to support the tank attack, to protect the flanks, and to insure that success is exploited by close support. The motorized infantry enables the armored division to seize ground taken by the tanks and hold it for a considerable period.

104. The armored division must endeavor, by obtaining early possession of vital points, to open the way for an attack.

105. If the armored division succeeds in surprising an enemy ill prepared for defense, the division will attack without deploying. Attack without deploying can also be considered if the enemy is advancing to attack. The rapidity with which fire can be brought to bear and the combination of fire power and movement in the tank brigade compensate for the enemy's advantage in being prepared for attack.

Attack is preceded by detailed preparation if the enemy's defense is organized and antitank defense is expected.

106. The armored division's actual frontage of attack is normally less than frontage of the sector allotted to it. It depends upon the tactical situation, the terrain, and the nature and strength of opposing forces.

An attack against an enemy whose defense is organized requires concentration of the armored division's forces. Against an inferior or demoralized enemy, or where there is little antitank opposition, a series of attacks at several separated points is frequently successful. Areas which have natural antitank defenses are well mined, or are protected by strong antitank organization, may narrow the attack or impose a temporary division of the attacking forces.

107. Attack is made easier where the enemy has limited visibility. Attack at dusk or during darkness may lead to decisive results and completely disrupt the enemy. Suitable ground and good roads along which to press home the attack are essential.

Fog precludes observed defensive fire, restricts the movements of tanks, and makes it difficult to identify the objectives allotted to them.

Smoke assists the attack of the tanks if it is used to screen flanks and blot out antitank defenses and observation posts in the enemy's rear. It can be laid down by attached smoke units, tanks, or artillery, or can be sprayed or dropped in bombs by aircraft. Spray from low-flying aircraft is possible only when the enemy's antiaircraft defense is negligible or neutralized.


108. Rapid and unexpected attack is the secret of success and leads to decisive results.

109. In an attack without deployment, the objectives allotted will generally be distant. Over difficult terrain or where the situation is not clear, especially when the attack has not been preceded by ground reconnaissance, the division may move forward by bounds in order to keep its forces together in readiness for unified action. Orders must be given early enough so that a steady, unimpeded advance is maintained and the enemy is given no time to organize his defense.

110. An axis will be laid down for the attack.

111. Wherever possible the attack will be led by the tank brigade. A short halt will usually be necessary in order to provide the attack with requisite breadth and momentum. A favorable opportunity will be exploited without delaying to make this preparation, even if only part of the armored brigade is immediately available. In such a case the remainder of the tank brigade will follow deployed, so that it may immediately be thrown into the attack if the enemy's resistance stiffens.

112. The success of the tank attack depends upon neutralizing the enemy's antitank defense. All arms must support the tank attack to this end.

113. The motorized infantry follows the tanks in vehicles, deployed, as long as the enemy's fire allows. Troops dismount in order to attack defense areas which the tank brigade has not destroyed.

Contact between the tank brigade and the motorized infantry following must not be broken. If there are enemy elements which have not been attacked by the tanks, or if there is a likelihood of enemy defense areas resuming activities after the tanks have passed, the tank brigade must set aside part of its force to assist the forward movement of the motorized infantry. It may be desirable to attach part of the tank brigade to the motorized infantry for this purpose.

114. The attack must be pressed home to the objective regardless of threats to flanks. Threatened flanks will be protected by motorized infantry or elements of the antitank battalion. Frequently sufficient flank protection can be given by reconnaissance. If the situation allows, it may be advisable to employ forces farther in rear against an enemy attacking in the flank. This is not done by diverting them so that they meet the enemy in a frontal attack, but by using them even farther back so that they in turn strike at the enemy's flank.

115. An attack without deployment allows insufficient time to organrize any artillery preparation.

The artillery engages targets which have not been reduced by the tanks and which impede the progress of tanks and infantry. Such targets are primarily antitank weapons and defense areas in country possessing natural tank defense (built-up areas, woods) within and on either side of the sector in which the tanks are attacking.

116. In order to obviate the danger of dispersion of fire in a rapidly moving battle, the commander must always make sure that the fire of several batteries is concentrated on a single objective. The main artillery effort should be concentrated either far ahead of the tanks or outside their sector of attack. No time can be laid down for the artillery fire to be lifted. Isolated targets which appear in the paths of the tanks must be engaged by the tanks themselves.

117. It must be possible to support the tank attack throughout its depth with observed fire. Accordingly, observation and command posts must be pushed well forward before the attack begins, and fire positions must be so chosen that the artillery fire follows the line. of attack as long as possible.

As a rule, part of the artillery, preferably batteries on self-propelled mounts, will be assigned to cooperate with the tank brigade. The commanders of the tank and artillery units must make every effort to confer. At the beginning of the battle the artillery commanders will be at observation posts from which they can give definite support in early stages of the attack.

118. If the tank attack gains ground, the artillery must be kept in close support in order to prevent its losing contact in subsequent stages of the assault. Constant support must be insured by employing artillery troops in leapfrog fashion.

Artillery commanders will move quickly in command cars to points from which they can follow the progress of the attack and support it by concentrated, observed fire. Forward observers in armored observation vehicles will move with the foremost tanks.

Artillery liaison officers, who accompany commanders of the tank units, communicate the latters' requirements to artillery commanders. In addition, personal contact with commanders of the tank units should be sought. Radio communication must be established.

If, after a successful break-through, the tanks find themselves in country clear of the enemy, all available routes must be used in order to push the artillery forward with the last wave of tanks so that they may be ready for action immediately if fresh enemy resistance is encountered.

119. There must be close cooperation between artillery not employed in direct support of the tank brigade and one or more artillery spotting planes. This is essential if enemy artillery is to be rapidly and effectively engaged and fire brought on important targets concealed from ground observation.

Parts of this artillery will, if their fire can be controlled by spotting planes, remain in their fire position as long as range of the guns allows.

One of the most important tasks of the artillery spotter plane is to keep watch for the appearance of enemy antitank and tank forces, and to direct artillery fire against these targets. Valuable data for the choice of fresh targets can be gained by the artillery commander from listening to the reports of reconnaissance aircraft.

120. The armored engineer battalion will usually be attached to the tank brigade. It accompanies the tank brigade, removing tank obstacles encountered during the attack. Material for improvising crossings over small cuts should be carried. Those parts of the engineer battalion which are not yet equipped with engineer tanks must follow as closely as possible behind the tank brigade.

121. The antitank battalion accompanies the tank brigade in the attack, covering its flank and supporting it in neutralizing enemy tank and antitank defenses. Antitank units not yet armored or equipped with self-propelled mounts follow the armored brigade by bounds, with the special task of engaging enemy tanks attacking the flanks and rear of the tank brigade.

Parts of the antitank battalion can be employed to provide antitank defense for the motorized infantry.

122. Depending upon the air situation and nature of the terrain, light antiaircraft artillery and machine-gun units attached can be assigned the task of protecting the tank brigade, artillery, reserves, and transport vehicle assembly points against enemy air reconnaissance and attack. Headquarters and important supply centers, especially for ammunition and gasoline, must frequently be given protection.

123. Rapid progress of an attack while the division is in motion rarely allows telephone communications to be established. Frequently only the most important radio communications will be possible because of the necessity of maintaining an adequate reserve to meet unforeseen demands. There must always be communication with the superior commander, the tank brigade, the motorized infantry brigade, the artillery, the armored reconnaissance unit, and the air reconnaissance unit.

124. If, in attacking on the move, the commander of the armored division decides to use his motorized infantry as the spearhead of attack, it will remain in vehicles as long as the enemy and the terrain permit. After dismounting, its tactics will follow the principles laid down for infantry in the attack.

As long as the infantry is moving in vehicles, artillery elements on self-propelled mounts will follow closely in order to support their attack rapidly with observed fire.

As soon as the enemy's resistance weakens, the motorized infantry should return to its vehicles in order to make full use of their speed.

The tank brigade should be held back until it can be used in support of the motorized infantry.

Envelopment should be attempted.

The antitank battalion accompanies the motorized infantry brigade in order to destroy enemy tanks. It may be advisable to hold back the greater part of the battalion—frequently in rear of the flanks—in order to exploit its speed, mobility, and ability to carry out surprise attacks against tanks. If the enemy's resistance has been broken by the motorized infantry, the antitank battalion can be pushed ahead of the foremost infantry in order to attack and destroy enemy tanks. Advance artillery observers should be assigned for this purpose.

125. If, after attaining the objectives, the task allotted does not involve pursuit, the motorized infantry will hold the ground gained, and will be supported by the tank brigade. This will be done in accordance with principles laid down for the defense.

If the attack fails or appears likely to lead to no result, the attacking forces should disengage and attack afresh at another point.

126. If the armored division encounters enemy tanks during the attack, engaging them must take precedence over all other tasks. The tank brigade must quickly find covered positions from which it can fire effectively at the halt, while the enemy is compelled to fight at a disadvantage (attacking over open country, against the sun, with the wind). This method is particularly recommended when the enemy is superior in numbers of antitank weapons. Success in these circumstances can also frequently be gained by quick and determined attack, especially against the enemy flanks.

If the enemy is inferior in numbers or armament, or if it is impossible to find a favorable position, a short halt should be made during which all armor-piercing weapons should be brought to bear on him. The attack should then follow immediately, and should, if possible, be supported by some elements firing at the halt.

The rear waves of the tank brigade should be employed as far as possible in enveloping attacks against the flanks and rear of the enemy tank forces.

Extensive combat reconnaissance must be carried out by the division, especially in the flanks and rear of the tank brigade, to insure that the latter is secure from surprise attacks by enemy tanks.

The artillery's task is to attack the enemy tanks while they are deploying, breaking up their attack with concentrated fire.


127. The purpose of an assembly position is to enable detailed reconnaissance to be carried out, to allow units to take up their allotted positions for the battle, and to insure cooperation of all arms participating in and supporting the attack.

128. The assembly area must provide cover against enemy air and ground observation; it must be situated far enough forward to enable the division to advance in battle order; the artillery must be able to carry out its tasks of supporting a break-through without changing its positions, and heavy weapons must be able to neutralize the enemy defenses, particularly his antitank weapons.

Usually the tank brigade and those parts of the motorized infantry which are to follow in vehicles behind the tank advance will be held back, so that they remain unexposed to enemy fire and can eventually be employed with surprise effect. The more thorough the reconnaissance, the longer it is possible to delay the approach march and deployment of the tank brigade. If the terrain permits the tank brigade to adopt its battle formation well in rear of the battle area and to advance in this order, only a short halt will be necessary in the assembly area.

The vehicles of those parts of the division which have previously moved into the assembly area must not be allowed to impede movement of the tank brigade.

129. Surprise is assisted if the division moves into its assembly area during dusk or darkness.

130. Movement into the assembly area and the area itself must be protected from enemy reconnaissance and surprise attack. Antiaircraft machine-gun units must be assigned for defense against enemy reconnaissance and attacking aircraft.

131. The artillery moves up during the assembly. The armored observation battery establishes its sound-ranging and flash-spotting posts and plots enemy positions.

As far as is possible without sacrificing surprise, the engineers remove tank obstacles in front of enemy positions and make all necessary preparations for removing obstructions.

The armored signal battalion establishes line communications within the division in order to supplement radio communications during battle.

132. The object of the attack is to break through the enemy's defensive zone. This object is achieved when the enemy artillery is destroyed and the enemy's main line of resistance is so broken that the motorized infantry can follow up in vehicles. Only after a successful break-through must a distant objective be assigned.

133. If there are tank obstacles or natural antitank defenses in front of or within the enemy defensive position, the first stage of the attack will be carried out by the motorized infantry alone. It advances through the enemy main line of resistance until the obstacles barring the tank advance are removed.

The advance of the tank brigade must be so arranged that when obstacles are removed it can penetrate deeply into the main enemy defensive zone, accompanied by the motorized infantry.

134. If it has been possible to remove obstacles in front of the enemy position before the attack, and no obstacles are likely to be encountered in the main line of resistance, the attacks of the tank brigade and the motorized infantry will be launched simultaneously. By this means the armored division brings all its weapons to bear effectively at the decisive moment of attack to destroy the enemy's defenses and lend momentum to the advance.

135. If the terrain is favorable and no tank obstacles have been reported, the tank brigade will precede the motorized infantry in attack on the enemy position. This assists the movement of the motorized infantry to the enemy position, speeds the operation, and reduces casualties.

136. The attack of the tank brigade is carried out according to the principles of an attack not preceded by deployment.

137. Targets against which the artillery is to concentrate its fire before and during the attack depend upon the method of attack. If the attack is led by the motorized infantry, the main effort will be directed against enemy infantry weapons. If tanks precede the motorized infantry in the attack, the artillery's main task will be to destroy or neutralize with smoke the enemy antitank weapons. It may be desirable to lay down smoke shortly before the attack in order to neutralize enemy observation posts and antitank weapons.

If the enemy is occupying strongly prepared positions, it will usually be necessary to lay down an artillery preparation which should be preceded by careful target reconnaissance.

If surprise is to be gained, or if the tactical situation is obscure, it is frequently advisable to delay opening fire until enemy resistance is encountered, and then to destroy it with concentrated fire. As the attack progresses, artillery support is governed by the same principles that apply to an attack not preceded by deployment.

138. If the motorized infantry leads the attack, it will have armored engineers attached. Elements of the armored engineer battalion follow closely behind the motorized infantry brigade to clear the way for the tanks following.

139. The bulk of the antitank battalion will be attached to the motorized infantry leading the attack; elements will be allotted to protect movement forward from the assembly positions.

140. If the armored division attacks through an infantry division, all forces of the infantry division operating in its sector will be attached to the armored division. This insures that:

a. All weapons and troops of the infantry division are concentrated under a unified command in support of the tank attack.

b. Movements of the armored division and the infantry division are coordinated.

This arrangement will end when the main body of the armored division is no longer in contact with the infantry. It will frequently be necessary for the higher command to hold up movement of the infantry division in order to allow the armored division to continue its advance.

141. If the armored division is ordered to give fresh momentum to an attack by other troops, the attack will be carried out either by the tank brigade or simultaneously by the tank brigade and the motorized infantry brigade. The attack will be supported by the mass of the armored division's artillery and antitank units.

142. The higher commander will decide whether the whole or parts of the division shall be temporarily diverted from the original axis of attack in order to widen a breach in the enemy's position. Provision will be made to cover the new flank which is thus formed.

143. If the armored division is ordered to exploit success gained by an infantry division with the object of developing it into a complete break-through, the attack will always be carried out by the tank brigade. The motorized infantry will follow in vehicles as closely as possible behind the tank brigade. Strategic objectives will be assigned. As it is important not to dissipate efforts of the armored division but to maintain strictest concentration in view of tasks which remain after the break-through, the artillery and other heavy weapons will be employed only insofar as they are necessary for completion of the break-through.

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