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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 3

13. The speed and mobility of the armored division demand of all commanders boldness, powers of rapid decision, and ability to convert decisions into brief commands.

14. The strength of the armored division lies in concentrating the force of the tank brigade. This is the normal practice. It is the task of the commander to see that all arms of the division are used to support the tank attack. Individual arms must be mutually supporting, and each must be prepared to exploit the success of the other.

15. Task forces can be formed temporarily for specific missions:

a. In the attack, when the division is advancing on a broad front over several roads against a weaker enemy, or in traversing wooded or mountainous country;

b. In a rapid pursuit when the division has to anticipate the enemy in occupying important points, road junctions, potential bottlenecks, etc.;

c. In a withdrawal, to cover disengagement from the enemy.

Task forces are employed in accordance with the same principles that apply to the armored division as a whole. The division commander can influence the battle by employing reserves of all arms. Task forces, however, must be provided at the outset with all means necessary for the task allotted. The division commander must make every effort to reconcentrate all parts of the division under his direct command.

16. The object of the armored division in battle is destruction of the enemy, either by break-through or envelopment. The mobility of the armored division enables it to avoid a frontal engagement and to maneuver to the enemy's rear.

Foresight in choice of the terrain over which an anticipated engagement is to take place is of great importance. This terrain should be thoroughly covered by air reconnaissance. The art of command lies in ability to choose the exact moment for deployment for battle so that the object may be achieved with maximum speed and minimum losses.

The armored division must be deployed in depth. When deep penetration is made, long flanks are frequently exposed. Anxiety on this cause must not, however, be allowed to hamper bold action nor divert the division from the decisive direction. Advance measures must be taken to screen the flanks and defend against air attack.

17. In battle the full striking force of the division must be used unsparingly. The more decisive the role of the division in the operation, the more important this becomes. The greater the forces that can be concentrated at one point, the greater will be the success and the smaller the losses.

18. The tank's ability to surprise by its speed and mobility must be fully exploited. Aids to this are the screening of movements, camouflage of bivouacs, and prevention of enemy air reconnaissance.

19. Accurate knowledge of the topography must be obtained by detailed study of maps and aerial photographs before orders are issued.

Subordinate commanders must be kept constantly informed of the current situation and the division commander's ultimate intention, in order to be able to adjust themselves to rapid changes in the situation which are often encountered as a result of the speed of movement, and in order to act in accord with the commander's general plan when unexpected difficulties and obstacles are encountered.

The cooperation of all parts of the division must be worked out in the greatest detail possible by the division commander. In order to avoid delays, frequent use will be made in the armored division of short warning orders. A thrust line (see note) will be given to the division during the attack in order that fresh directions of attack and objectives may be radioed in the clear. Important information gained by reconnaissance can also be communicated quickly and safely by this means.

The situation and necessity for rapid action may compel the division commander to intervene temporarily in the command of lower units by setting new objectives for the tanks or the motorized infantry regiments.

Note.—The thrust line (Stosslinie) method is much used by the Germans for sending map references in the clear. It consists of a line drawn upon a map which theoretically may run in any direction but actually usually extends in the proposed direction of advance or down the axis of a reconnaissance unit.

[Thrust line (Stosslinie)]

The line, which begins at a fixed point and continues indefinitely in the required direction, is usually divided into centimeters for convenience. To give a map reference a perpendicular is dropped from the reference point to the thrust line. Measurements are then taken from the point of origin to the point where the perpendicular cuts the thrust line, then along the perpendicular to the reference point. Since the point may lie on either side of the thrust line, the second figure must be prefaced by either "right" or "left" or as one looks toward the enemy.

A typical reference would be "6 right 3." The figures are always in centimeters; therefore the actual distance on the ground will vary with the scale of the map used. The scale may start with an arbitrary figure, have dummy figures interspersed, or start with the number of the thrust line when there are several in a given area. These devices make the code difficult to break rapidly.

Instruments have been found consisting of a transparent ruler graduated in millimeters, with a shorter ruler similarly graduated fixed to slide up and down at right angles to the long ruler. Operators with practice can give references very quickly.

20. Commanders of all units must establish themselves with an advance headquarters well forward, and must be in a position to survey the battlefield frequently in time to issue their orders early and note changes in the situation.1 This applies especially to the division commander.2 On the move he will usually have his headquarters with the commander of the advance guard. In action he will choose a position from which he can most quickly and directly influence the conduct of the battle.

A tactical headquarters group will remain as long as possible with the division commander. Terrain, enemy activity, liaison with superior headquarters, and necessity for insuring unified command may, however, lead to separation. Even so, the tactical group must make every effort to be well forward. The division commander communicates with his tactical group by radio or messenger. He must keep constantly in touch with his tactical group in order to keep abreast of the situation as a whole.

It may be desirable to specify in division orders the route to be followed by the tactical group and the proposed location of the command post. Higher headquarters and units protecting flanks must have early notice of these points.

It must be made clear in orders which units are to establish message-dropping grounds.

21. Signal communications must be established early so that information and orders may be transmitted quickly to meet changes in the situation. As the radio method of communication employed by the armored division betrays the latter's presence to the enemy, radio silence must be maintained, especially by tank units, until the moment operations commence. Orders must therefore be communicated as long as possible by means of messengers, telephones, and, over long distances, by aircraft.

After battle begins, orders are issued chiefly by radio. It is essential to proper functioning of the armored division that radio communication should function perfectly, since it controls not only communications within the division, but also between the division and neighboring formations, and between air and ground reconnaissance forces.

Radio must be safeguarded. All messages regarding future intentions which allow the enemy sufficient time to take countermeasures must be camouflaged in accordance with regulations. Messages and orders which call for immediate action are sufficiently camouflaged by use of the thrust line and code names.

22. If there is likelihood of cooperation of fighter and bombardment aviation with the armored division, contact must be made beforehand with commanders of the units involved, and details thoroughly worked out.

An air liaison officer must be allotted to headquarters of an armored division. He must have an air signal section to maintain constant touch with flying units. Timing and targets must be worked out in advance in cooperation with dive-bomber and bomber units. Commanders of air units must have early information of the movement of the armored division. Targets must be clearly laid down in order of priority.

Those elements of the division which are to receive aerial support in the attack must know the objectives to be attacked and the time, number, and duration of attacks to be made.

23. Cooperation of the armored division with parachute and air-borne troops must be coordinated as regards time and plans. Each must know the task of the other. The armored division must endeavor to establish contact with air-borne troops by swift attack. Radio communication must be established between the armored division and commanders of the parachute or air-borne troops.

1. See par. 140, FM 100-5, FSR.

2. In this connection, note the following excerpt from "Panzers across the Meuse," in The Field Artillery Journal (April 1941):  "Of interest is General Guderian's method of exercising command in the field. His headquarters is divided into two echelons. The rear one (headed by the Chief of Staff) contains the larger part of the staff, and remains in fairly quiet places to study situation maps, work on orders, and to act as a clearing house for the flow of information to and from the front. The forward echelon of headquarters is led by the general himself (he is the 'outside' man) in a small cross-country car. Apparently Guderian sits in the front seat of this vehicle, which he frequently drives himself. With him are two staff officers and an adjutant. Following are two aides in motorcycles with side cars; then two or three messengers on solo motorcycles; and finally the armored wireless truck, or CP—an open armored vehicle equipped with radios, map tables, etc. Guderian used this car throughout the Polish campaign. With this small circus he spends his time up at the very front, circulating back and forth between his subordinate units."

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