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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.]


Publishing orders is an art that can be learned only by continual practice. Prompt distribution of faultless orders furthers the confidence of the troops in the leader and often has decisive influence in achieving success in combat. Conversely, power in the attack or strength to resist in the defense can be greatly reduced by faulty orders.

Commanders of divisions or larger units generally use written orders. Simple instructions and brief missions may be communicated orally or through the communications net, but the text should be simultaneously recorded. Commanders of units smaller than a division generally use oral orders, but again, the text must be recorded in writing. While higher commanders usually make reference to points or areas on maps, commanders of small units point out or make such designations actually on the terrain. Although oral discussions with subordinates may contribute to clarity, the leader should not become dependent upon such discussions. Decisions and orders remain the direct responsibility of the leader himself.


The following rules embrace accepted fundamentals and help to gain uniformity: (a) Do not issue orders until your plan of action is definitely established. (b) Distribute the order early enough to allow the lower echelons time for further dissemination and full compliance. (c) Create conditions that are conducive to clearness and conciseness, leaving nothing to mutual agreements. (d) Place yourself mentally in the shoes of the subordinates receiving the order. (e) State only what subordinates must know for the proper performance of their tasks. (f) Always state definitely whether the combat is to be attack, delaying action, or defense, and whether the troops must remain "prepared for action" or whether they "may rest." (g) Issue affirmative statements, avoiding ambiguous or vague expressions and statements of exaggeration.14 (h) Include a brief commendation of a unit for the execution of a difficult or unusual task, particularly when troops are ordered to withdraw, to retire, or to pursue under circumstances difficult for the troops to comprehend. (i) Use prescribed abbreviations. (j) Embody pertinent information for each subject, unit, or weapon in a separate paragraph, underlining key words or phrases. (k) Number all orders successively, also the paragraphs within the order.


Warning orders, usually transmitted orally, by telephone, or by radio, are issued to troops to give advance information about the will of the commander. The information contained therein is influenced by existing circumstances--the time available, the situation with respect to the enemy and our own troops, etc.--but in general will include such items as the plan of the commander, arrangements for reconnaissance and security, time and place of departures, march destination, bivouacs, halts, and changes of direction. Warning orders must be followed as soon as practicable by a complete order or an individual order.


Complete operations orders present a full survey of the situation with respect to the enemy and our troops, the plan of the commander, the role each unit will play, and pertinent information for the troops. The usual arrangement follows:

Enemy.--Pertinent information of the enemy, including strength, dispositions, condition, losses sustained, defeats suffered, and the commander's expectation of what the enemy may do.

Own troops.--A brief orientation involving the next higher units, neighboring units, and special supporting units.

General plan.--A clear and concise expression of the plan of the commander (not repetition of the plan of the next higher commander), to ensure that subordinates fully understand his intentions.

Detailed plan.--An announcement of the specific details relating to such matters as reconnaissance, missions, supply and evacuation, communication, and the command post.15


Separate orders (Einzelbefehle) are issued when circumstances render it impractical or unnecessary to issue a complete operations order (Gesamtbefehl). Such circumstances include situations wherein individual units must be given specific or special instructions, or where the time available does not permit the issuance of a complete operations order. The separate order (Einzelbefehl) contains the necessary information to insure coordination of effort; and later the publication of the complete field order will include such information, briefly stated, as was sent out previously in individual orders.


Special instructions supplement operations orders with information principally concerning ammunition, communication, equipment, food supply, transportation, medical and veterinary service, construction, and civil population. In general, special instructions are written and are issued direct to the units or agencies that they concern.

14 A statement of conjecture or expectation must be definitely stated as such.
15 As to reconnaissance, the detailed plan mentions the enemy information desired, the areas to be reconnoitered and by whom and when, the time and place where resulting reports are to be sent, and the sequence of reconnaissances according to their urgency. As to missions, what each unit with indicated attachments or detachments must fulfill is clearly stated. In respect to supply and evacuation, the definite functioning of agencies in relation to the combat elements is specified. As regards communication, the axis of communication for the unit publishing the order is indicated, and special instructions, such as those pertaining to the use of the radio or existing commercial nets, are included. As for the command post, the location of the commander's headquarters and the time when it opens or closes, etc., are given.

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