[Lone Sentry: WW2 German Tactical Doctrine]
[Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]
Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Contact: info@lonesentry.com

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.]


You must thoroughly work yourself into the stituation. Place upon the situation map the location of your own troops and put down the information that you have about the enemy. This information is built up by reports from various sources, as suggested above under the heading "Combat Intelligence." Information must be evaluated objectively; one must be extremely careful not to interpret what is received as one would like it to be, or as one hoped it would be. A large part of the information received in war is contradictory, a still greater part is false, and by far the greatest part is very uncertain.


Carefully read the orders received from the next higher commander, and consider all information received. In considering the situation, the following principles govern: The first and most important principle is to utilize to the maximum the available means. Any moderation in this regard is a deterring factor in attaining the ultimate goal. Second, concentrate as much of your force as possible where you plan or believe the principal blow (the main effort) will fall, and expose yourself disadvantageously at other points, in order to be more certain of success at the point of the main effort. The success of the main effort more than compensates for any minor losses sustained. Third, lose no time. Unless special advantages accrue by delay, it is very important that you execute your plans as quickly as possible; through speedy action many measures of the enemy are nullified in their initial stages. Finally, you must weigh each situation independently, restricting yourself only to a consideration of the essentials. The following questions may here occur:

Mission.--What is my mission? Does it require decisive action or delaying action? Must I fight an independent action or will I be influenced by the movements or action of other troops?

Terrain.--What is the condition of terrain between my troops and the enemy? Which routes lead toward the enemy? Where does the terrain permit approaches covered from air or land observation for an attack on the enemy position? When my mission requires defense, where does the terrain offer favorable defensive positions? What possibilities are therefore available for the fulfillment of my mission?

Enemy.--What can the enemy do to counter my plans? Where is the enemy now located?11 Are there any bases for his strength and organization? What can he do, making correct tactical suppositions?12 Are there any indications that the enemy has acted incorrectly? Do I know anything about the ability or personality of the commander or the condition of his troops? How will the terrain influence the enemy's action? How can I best fulfill my mission with the most damage to the enemy?

Own troops.--Where are my own troops? Which are immediately available? Which troops can be later drawn in? And when? Are special transportation means such as a railroad or motor trucks at my disposal? What can I expect from my troops considering their past performance? How is the supply situation, especially with regard to ammunition? Is support from other organizations possible? Which of the present possible solutions will give the greatest success?


As a result of all these considerations, is the accomplishment of my mission no longer possible? (When, owing to unavoidable circumstances or unpredictable events, it is impossible to carry out a mission, then and then only may I change my mission, and I must then assume full responsibility for the change. I must select a substitute mission to assist effectively the general scheme of maneuver. I must notify at once the next higher commander in case I decide that it is impossible to carry out my assigned mission.)


In general, when confronted by a vague situation and difficult circumstances, as is often the case in war--be active. Seize and maintain the initiative. Do not expect or await hints or suggestions from the enemy relative to your next move.

11 Always favor the enemy in computing the distances possibly covered by the enemy since his position was last reported.
12 Always assume that he will carry out his plan most disadvantageously to you.

[Back to Table of Contents, WWII German Tactical Doctrine] Back to Table of Contents