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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 purpose of a delaying action is to effect maximum delay to the enemy without committing the friendly force to decisive action. It is employed to avoid breaking before superior hostile force; to gain time or to improve the situation with reference to observation, cover, and field of fire; and to maneuver the enemy into a position in which he may be more effectively attacked. If a transition from defense to delaying action is imperative, the first position selected should be at least 6 miles to the rear. A fully coordinated attack by the enemy can be checked by causing him to displace his artillery and to reorganize generally before he launches a new attack.

The characteristic organization for delaying action includes the following considerations: (a) Successive defensive lines are selected with sufficient intervals to cause displacement of the enemy's artillery. (b) Positions selected should permit distant observation and effective use of long-range weapons, and have cover in the rear to facilitate withdrawal. (c) Natural obstacles are fully exploited and supplemented by constructed obstacles and by the use of poison gas. (d) The bulk of the artillery, along with the long-range artillery, is held under the artillery commander for long-range interdiction and counterbattery missions. (e) Resistance in the forward position is continued until the next rearward position is occupied and fully prepared to carry on the defense. (f) Units are deployed over very broad fronts and with no depth.33 (g) Small reserves are retained. (h) Reserves are utilized to cover the withdrawal particularly by daylight (according to the situation and terrain, they may be located off to a flank or on a commanding piece or terrain, which facilities the protection of the units withdrawing). (i) When the situation permits, withdrawals are always made under cover of darkness; sometimes, even at the risk of being involved in serious action requiring a strong defense, the situation should be held until darkness.

33 In favorable terrain a unit may occupy a sector twice as wide as is normal for defense. In heavily wooded areas or where visibility is restricted, the sectors are narrower.

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