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German Methods of Warfare in the Libyan Desert
Military Intelligence Service, Information Bulletin No. 20, July 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.]

Section III. Organization of a German Defensive Position1


"The Division will defend its allotted sector; that is, each man will hold his own position to the last round against any attack, ignoring the behavior of his neighbors and any orders to the contrary. Our positions are so strong that they are impregnable if every defender does his duty.

"As the front here is not solid, all subsectors (and in these, all defense areas, and, as a last resort, all firing positions) will arrange for all-around defense and an all-around field of fire.

"If the enemy breaks into the ground between subsectors or surrounds these latter, subsectors will defend themselves to the last. If the enemy penetrates the subsectors, each defense area and each firing-position will be defended, and the enemy penetration broken up by the concentric fire of all arms or by a bold-fronted bayonet charge.

"The whole point of this battle on the Salum front is to destroy the enemy, or, failing this, to inflict maximum losses on him and delay him until the Tank Corps finds a favorable opportunity to destroy him completely.

"As the struggle will be principally against the enemy's tanks, the defense must be built around the antitank defense. This will have priority over everything else; all the best positions will be allotted to it. Moreover, antitank defense means not only the defensive positions of the antitank weapons (antiaircraft and antitank guns and rifles) but the position of any weapon that has any chance of taking part successfully in antitank defense. The enemy's tanks are the most important target of all arms. Weapons not employed in an antitank role will take over the defense of the weapons engaged in an antitank task.


"In the face of attack by hostile tanks the battle will be split up roughly into the following stages (although these will obviously interlace):

a. 1st Stage

"Antiaircraft and antitank guns open up on the attacking tanks at the most profitable ranges. The main weight of fire will be reserved for tank concentrations and for armored fighting vehicles attacking through gaps in the mine fields.

"The artillery will take as its principal target any enemy artillery accompanying the tanks, especially the guns which are firing. If there is no enemy artillery, our own will join the concentrations on the massed tanks.

"The infantry will open up with machine-gun and rifle fire on enemy aircraft giving low-level support to the attack. At this stage this is not the task of the antiaircraft guns.

b. 2d Stage

"Antiaircraft and antitank guns and (as the enemy comes nearer) static guns (temporarily or permanently immovable) and antitank rifles begin to engage the enemy tanks. The nearest tanks will now be engaged; the guns may have to reckon on firing over the heads of the infantry.

"The artillery continues engaging enemy artillery accompanying their tanks or the motorized infantry following them. In the absence of such targets they will fire concentrations on tanks massing in back areas.

"The infantry continues antiaircraft fire and also fires at the slits of the nearest tanks.

c. 3d Stage

"The real antitank weapons continue engaging the enemy's tanks, especially any that have broken into our positions. Our own comrades may even be in some danger from this antitank fire, but it will certainly be less than the danger from hostile tanks. All-around observation is a vital necessity.

"The artillery continues as before.

"The infantry will, at this stage, be relieved of its antitank task by our own aircraft. The infantry will destroy odd tanks which have broken into our own positions by means of assault parties armed with petrol bottles, pole-charges (explosives on poles—used to thrust into tanks), etc., and use its own weapons against enemy infantry following the tanks.

"If the enemy succeeds in any measure in penetrating the subsectors, he will be destroyed as soon as possible by encircling assault groups.

"If the enemy tanks break into the ground between subsectors, the real antitank defense will take them on. The artillery and the infantry will continue to fire to the front, singling out the unarmored attackers.

"Immediately the attack has been broken off, the defense will be reorganized.


"These directives will be thoroughly studied by all commanders. The men will be regularly instructed in this sense by company commanders and so schooled in the ground around their positions that, in an emergency, every man will act of himself in the way he believes the higher commanders would have ordered."


Of interest is the directive to the infantry to concentrate their fire against aircraft in the first stages of the attack, leaving the antiaircraft guns free to deal with the tanks, and the use of aircraft in the defense.

1. This extract is from a document recently captured at Salum. It is in the form of orders for the German 90th Light Division at Salum.

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