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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.]


Proper utilization of modern implements of war (artillery, airplanes, gas, tanks, etc.) can only be accomplished through their careful adaptation to the terrain. The commander himself can obtain only a general picture of the terrain; he has, however, many supplementary means by which he can learn the true condition of the area in which his command is employed: for example, reconnaissance, air photographs, maps, sketches, and questioning of inhabitants. In judging terrain for specific purposes, you1 must bear in mind the plan of the commander and the immediate task--to determine how that plan will be influenced (aided or hindered) by the terrain.


Use the best roads available as routes for supply trains; gain protection against air observation, but avoid defiles and narrow valleys. For combat trains, remember that cover from ground observation is also required. How are the roads constructed, and how will bad weather influence them? What are the bad or impossible stretches, and what is the possibility of avoiding or repairing them? What are the widths?2 defiles and excavated passages? bridges?3 fords?4 ferries?5 steep grades?6


Differentiate between standard gage (1.435 meters, or 4 feet 8 1/2 inches) and narrow gage (1.20 meters, or 3 feet 11 1/4 inches, to 0.6 meter, or 1 foot 11 1/2 inches). Differentiate also between field line, cable line, electric, and steam. How many rails are there, and does room for addition exist alongside the rails? After a small amount of work on the bridges, tracks can usually be adapted for use as marching routes for foot and mounted troops, as well as for motor vehicles.


(a) Where will the enemy resist the attack? Where are his advance outposts, main position, switch positions? (b) How has he disposed his forces--infantry, artillery, reserve? (c) Where is a position of readiness (Bereitstellung), and how can the terrain be best utilized for advance to it? Is there concealment from air observation? Until what point will the attacking force be concealed from hostile ground observation? (d) Where are covered approaches for infantry toward the hostile position? Are attack objectives so conspicuous and so located that concentrated artillery fire may be directed upon them? Where are the best positions for artillery and observation posts? Where is the terrain most favorable for tanks? Where does the terrain favor the enemy's counterattack? (e) And, lastly, what kind of attack is most favored by the terrain--penetration, envelopment, or frontal attack?


a. General

A defensive position is frequently selected through examination of maps. Immediately thereafter, officers are sent on terrain reconnaissance. General Staff, artillery, and engineer officers reconnoiter for their respective purposes or weapons; later, a coordinated defense plan is built up from their information.

b. Questions To Be Considered

Such questions as the following arise:

(a) What should be the locations of the main line of resistance, the flank support, the outpost line, and the advance positions? (b) Where can artillery and heavy infantry weapons, as well as their required observation posts, be located to bring the enemy under fire at long ranges? (c) How can the enemy be subjected to frontal and flanking fire immediately in front of the main line of resistance, and where can a counterblow be effectively delivered? (d) What obstacles must be constructed to canalize the attack of the enemy, including his tanks, and to cause him to advance where heavily concentrated fire can be delivered? (e) Where will the reserves be located to obtain cover and also to facilitate counterattacks? (f) Should it be necessary to limit the enemy's penetration, and how can the defensive be established in a position to the rear?


Where is an effective first line of defense? Where are lines of defense to the rear? Where is favorable ground for an outpost line? Where are covered avenues of withdrawal? Where is observation for supporting weapons? Where are natural obstacles and terrain features which can be converted into effective obstacles? Where is terrain which permits long-range observation and firing?


Before the troops arrive, reconnoiter bivouac areas and routes leading thereto. Avoid large assemblages of personnel. The smaller the groups, the easier to conceal in villages, wooded areas, or other suitable locations. Maintain the tactical integrity of units in bivouac. If it is necessary to bivouac by day in open terrain, increase the distance and intervals to minimize the effect of hostile bombing. For tactical purposes, bivouac requirements include: Adequate room; security and screening forces which occupy commanding terrain and are sufficiently strong to permit time and space for the main force to maneuver according to the situation; and routes connecting the various groups and leading to potential defensive areas. Bivouac requirements for troops demand dry ground and land (preferably uncultivated) which is lightly wooded, protected against wind, and convenient to a supply of water, straw, and wood. The proximity of villages is desirable.

1 The form of the material, here and at many other points, is governed by the fact that it was presented as lectures at the Kriegsakademie.
2 For motor vehicles at least 2.5 meters, or 8 feet 4 1/2 inches, and for passing at least 5 meters, or 16 feet 9 inches.
3 Construction material, capacity, destruction and repair possibilities.
4 Current speeds, beds, depths (for infantry up to 1 meter, or 3 feet 3.4 inches, for machine guns and heavy infantry weapons up to 0.6 meter, or 1 foot 11.6 inches, and for armored cars up to 0.9 meter or 2 feet 11.4 inches).
5 Capacity and time required for crossing.
6 Usually negotiable by motor vehicles if the ratio is not higher than 1 to 7.

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