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German Tactical Doctrine, Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 8, December 20, 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.]


The commander must continually, day and night, conduct reconnaissance and utilize intelligence means to seek information clarifying the enemy situation. As soon as possible, he will forward information and important reports to the next higher commander. Once contact with the enemy is gained, steps should be taken not to lose contact. In higher commands, and sometimes with the lower units, a special officer (intelligence officer) will be detailed to handle all intelligence matters. Such an officer works in coordination with all the commanders of attached intelligence units and information services, and keeps them constantly informed of the situation.


Keep in mind the following rules governing the preparation of reports: (a) Determine beforehand what reports must be sent in code and also what means of signal communications are to be used. (b) Differentiate between what one has personally seen and what another has remarked or reported. (c) Avoid euphemistic phrases and exaggerations. (d) State strength, time, and place exactly. (e) Include information on the condition of the terrain. (f) Send in pertinent information yourself, never assuming that another unit has already sent it in. (g) In very urgent cases, send a report not only to the next higher commander but also direct to the commander-in-chief. (h) From time to time, submit a complete assembly of reports; frequently a sketch will suffice.


In battle, utilize pauses to send in reports on enemy movements, your own situation, the ammunition supply, the condition of the terrain, and your own impressions. Make suggestions for the seizing of favorable opportunities. Reports giving such information as exists just before darkness sets in are especially valuable. After a battle, report immediately what enemy troops oppose your force, what the enemy is doing, what the condition of your own troops is, where your troops are located, and what the status of the ammunition supply is.


Liaison between neighboring units, and between higher and next lower units, is accomplished through a mutual exchange of reports and a prompt communication of friendly intentions. Large units utilize liaison officers for this purpose, each unit sending one of its officers to the other and holding him responsible for the exchange of information. Such officers keep their commanders informed of the situation with reference to the enemy, all developments of the situation, and the intentions of the other commander. The duties of a liasion officer demand tactical knowledge, intelligence, and tact.


Several communication means should always be available to a commander. Where technical communication means are uncertain or cannot be maintained, then courier service7 is established. Very important orders or reports are generally sent by officer messengers in motorcycles or cars. If delivery is uncertain, several means of transmission are used, as well as different routes, to insure the prompt arrival of the information at its destination.

Every commander is required to know the routes of communication and the messenger route. All units assist in the uninterrupted transmission of reports and messages. Higher commanders and commanders of reconnaissance and security units are authorized to examine the messages which they contact en route, noting on the message that they have done so, the hour, and the date.


To expedite the receipt of information, advance message centers are established, particularly in the area or sector where communications will be numerous. Such message centers should be easily located, protected from hostile fire, and definitely connected with the rearward message center. Under certain circumstances (for example, on the front of a cavalry corps), advance message centers and message assembly points may be established at considerable distances from the main headquarters, in order to simplify and expedite the transmission of information between the reconnaissance units and the main headquarters.


The air intelligence service observes hostile air activity and provides information relative to the air situation, and from this one can obtain a fairly accurate conception of the enemy's intentions. The signal communication intelligence service observes all hostile communications (radio, telephone, telegraph, etc.) through goniometric intercept, listening posts, wire tapping, observers, and other means. The routine interrogation of prisoners of war yields miscellaneous information. Captured documents may include orders, maps, messages, notebooks, newspapers, photographs, and films. Scrutiny of the hostile press and publications is maintained.


Do not dissipate reconnaissance strength. Superiority of means is very important for successful reconnaissance: but superiority in mobility and clever employment tend to offset numerical inferiority. It will frequently be necessary to fight for information. Advanced hostile security and reconnaissance forces must be penetrated or thrown back to make contact possible with the hostile main force. In this connection, it is often advisable to occupy important points quickly with motorized forces. When there is great inferiority to the enemy, fighting should be avoided, and an endeavor should be made to penetrate the enemy screen or go around it.

The commander who specifies what information is to be obtained should coordinate all his subordinate reconnaissance means. Efficient reconnaissance is not obtained through employment of large numbers of reconnoitering units, but by the careful direction and instruction of these units as to what the commander wishes to know. Definite missions and their relative urgency must be indicated, and the means of sending information to the rear, including definitely regulated radio traffic, must be insured.


Strategic, or operative, reconnaissance endeavors to build up a general picture of the overall situation, thus aiding the commander in chief in making the decisions which have important influence on the entire campaign.

Missions may include observation of hostile mobilizations, assemblies, initial march directions, railroad movements, boat movements, supply echelons, construction of fortifications, air activities, locations, strengths, movements of motorized and mechanized forces, and, particularly, open flanks. Such missions are performed by air reconnaissance units, motorized reconnaissance battalions, and army cavalry units. The three must supplement each other and be carefully coordinated to that end.


Tactical reconnaissance is concerned with the movements of the enemy in closer proximity: his movements, bivouac areas, organization, breadth and depth of disposition, supply service, construction of defensive works, air activity, and location of airfields and antiaircraft. Especially important is timely report of the location of motorized or mechanized forces.

For air reconnaissance, the commander utilizes the airplane squadron which is placed at his disposal for such purpose by the air force. For ground reconnaissance, he utilizes independent motorized reconnaissance battalions, motorized reconnaissance battalions of the cavalry, mounted reconnaissance battalions of the cavalry, and reconnaissance battalions of the infantry divisions.


Definite sectors are generally assigned to reconnaissance battalions. Within the corps, boundaries between divisions are designated, and on open flanks the boundary is designated between the flank reconnaissance area of the division and that of the corps. Reconnaissance units avoid fighting unless it is absolutely required by the situation in the accomplishment of their missions. If a reconnaissance unit be given a security mission, the unit should be reinforced by others units: for example, by machine gun, light artillery, antitank, and engineer troops.

If a reconnaissance battalion is directly in front of the division and in contact with the enemy, it should be ordered either: (a) to move off to a side and continue reconnaissance in that area, or (b) to await relief from troops coming up from the rear, or (c) to fall back upon the troops in the rear. In the absence of any orders, under the aforesaid circumstances the reconnaissance battalion should fall back upon the troops in the rear. On an open flank, reconnaissance battalions are echeloned forward.


The important advantage is speed. Motorized reconnaissance battalions can reconnoiter by day and march on by night, and are restricted only by limitations of the motor vehicles, terrain, weather, roads, fuel supply, and signal communication. They maintain connection with mounted reconnaissance units by radio. Advancing forward by bounds--the nearer the enemy, the shorter the bounds--they remain as long as possible on roads. In hostile territory, different routes for the return are selected, and important points along the road, or important places, are secured. Rest during the night is obtained by avoiding main roads and villages, and by halting under available cover in isolated areas. Contact with the enemy, however, must be maintained.

The width of a sector should not be over 50 kilometers (31 miles). The depth is limited by fuel supply. Motor vehicles in modern reconnaissance units have a radius of action of between 200 to 250 kilometers (125 to 155 miles) without replenishment.

Scouting groups will generally be organized and dispatched by the commander of a battalion. Such groups include armored scout cars, motorcycles, and radio equipment. Along the more important roads and those leading to the decisive areas or points, patrols should be stronger, but too large a patrol increases the difficulty of concealment from the enemy. Armored car patrols within scouting groups will be given written orders pertaining to route, destination, and information desired; they advance by bounds, with distance and speed sometimes prescribed; generally, however, they precede the division at about 1 hour (approximately 40 kilometers, or 25 miles). Motorcycles are used to fill in gaps and intervals, thereby thickening the reconnaissance net. The remainder of the motorized reconnaissance battalion serves as a reserve and as a receiving and assembly point for reports.


The reconnaissance battalion of the infantry division is employed as a unit, even if the division is advancing over a broad front in several columns. The advance is made by bounds somewhat shorter than those of the motorized reconnaissance battalion. Scout groups are sent out under the direction of the battalion commander. The battalion can reconnoiter an area approximately 10 kilometers (6 miles) in width, and seldom is sent more than 30 or 40 kilometers (25 to 30 miles) forward. The strength of the scout groups (sometimes up to that of a platoon with light machine guns) is, however, determined by the situation and the mission. Patrols sent out from the scout groups remain on the roads as long as possible, advancing by bounds from observation point to observation point.

Reconnaissance battalions of interior divisions are Usually withdrawn to the rear after the battle actually begins. If, however, the division is operating over a broad front or in difficult terrain, the battalion may be reinforced, and utilized to fill in a gap or to seize an important terrain feature. Communications must be carefully provided. Extra signal equipment and personnel may be attached in exceptional cases.


The purpose of battle reconnaissance is to reconnoiter the enemy's front, flanks, and rear to establish definitely the location of his flanks, artillery, heavy infantry weapons, and reserves. Such reconnaissance locates our own front line and often provides close-in security and terrain reconnaissance.8 Security is necessary at all times, but reconnaissance must not be neglected to accomplish security. Battle reconnaissance is established usually at the opening phases of the development or deployment. The advance of the infantry in the attack reveals very quickly the location of hostile infantry and artillery; also, fire from our artillery upon hostile infantry will generally result in the hostile artillery delivering counterfire and thus revealing its location.

There are both air and ground means available for performing battle reconnaissance. Some of the specific means of battle reconnaissance are: (a) Infantry patrols, sometimes reinforced with light machine guns, heavy machine guns, light mortars, or antitank guns. (b) Engineer patrols, particularly valuable in approaching a fortified area, a defile, or a river. (c) Artillery patrols, consisting usually of an officer and a few mounted men assigned to reconnoiter routes of approach, observation posts, and fire positions. (d) Observation battalion (artillery), skilled in locating targets by sound and flash, and in evaluating aerial photographs.9 (e) Captive balloons, supplementing the preceding means and permitting a general view over the hostile front.

7 Runners, mounted men, bicyclists, or motorcyclists.
8 Our observation posts and other friendly personnel, who are reconnoitering for our own artillery, heavy infantry weapon, and antitank positions, can gain much helpful information from units of the reconnaissance battalion. Sometimes they actually accompany the battalion to get early information about the terrain, potential targets, and gun positions.
9 It assists our own artillery in firing on concealed targets by transmitting weather data. By accurate surveying principles, it establishes the location net for the batteries. The net is not restricted to the division sector, but sometimes extends 6 to 10 kilometers (as much as 6 miles).

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