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German Antiaircraft Artillery, Military Intelligence Service, Special Series 10, Feb. 1943
[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.]

14. Operational Use Against Ground Targets

a. General

The basic principle of German combat methods has been said to be a clever adaptation of fire to movement, with fire power increasing directly in proportion to the resistance encountered. Movement is normally from one piece of advantageous terrain to another, with maximum fire applied during the movement. Both fire and movement are applied with one basic purpose in view: to attain the objective of the unit. This principle is applicable to the offensive combat of all German units, from squads to armies.

In defense the German commander chooses the most suitable ground for combined action by infantry, machine guns, antitank guns, artillery, and tanks. In such depth as resources permit, he will usually construct a series of defense areas capable of all-around defense against any form of attack. The artillery of all types will be placed where it can support either the defense area, or the tanks if these are launched in a counterattack. In withdrawals, after skillfully thinning our most of the transport facilities and battle impedimenta, the German commander will usually launch some form of feint action to cover the withdrawal of the remainder of the force. This feint action often takes place in the evening; during the night the whole force withdraws, leaving only reconnaissance elements supported by a few guns to hold up hostile forces. In any of the above general situations, full use in roles against ground targets can be expected to be made of any AA guns not specifically required for use in an AA role.

b. 88-mm Dual-Purpose Gun

(1) In antitank roles.—Using both HE and AP ammunition, the 88-mm Flak gun has been used on all fronts with deadly effect against medium and heavy tanks. Its worth as an AT weapon was proved in the Polish and French campaigns; since the beginning of the Russian Campaign, when it was used with much success against large Russian tanks the armor of which proved invulnerable to the then standard German 37-mm AT gun, the 88-mm gun has been considered by the Germans to be their heavy AT weapon.

Wherever balanced AT support is considered necessary, it is now considered usual for German task-force commanders to allot a certain proportion of 88-mm guns for purely AT roles. This is especially true since the weapon has made its appearance on the new 12-ton half-track vehicle, which is armored in front and carries a small supply of ammunition. When mounted on this self-propelled mount, the gun is used only for engaging ground targets, necessary AA protection being furnished from other sources. It should be remembered, however, that the gun can also be used in an AT role when mounted on the special trailer (No. 201), which is fitted with pneumatic tires and is drawn by a half-track vehicle carrying the gun crew and a small supply of ammunition. Such ground targets as tanks can be engaged while the gun is in this traveling position.

(2) In other roles.—Since German military commanders are trained to utilize all available weapons to a maximum degree, it is not at all surprising that this gun has been used in other than AA and AT roles. Thus, in the battle for Sevastopol in the Russian Campaign, the German command was confronted with a narrow front barricaded completely with concrete, steel, and guns. In view of the mobility of the 88-mm Flak gun, an AA combat detachment manning one of these guns was ordered to support a local infantry attack. At short ranges and over open sights, this gun engaged pillboxes and other enemy centers of resistance which the infantry could not overcome, thus assisting the infantry in carrying out its mission.

In many sectors, this gun has been used in normal field artillery roles. It has been used against fortified bunkers as well as against personnel. In the crossing of the Albert Canal in the Western Campaign, it was used in a ground role to cover the bridging operations being carried on by engineers.

(3) Fire-control methods.—For use against armored vehicles, and for field artillery tasks, the following four methods of fire control have been used: direct fire, using a telescopic sight; director control; fire directed from an observation post; and air burst HE.

(a) Direct fire.—This has been the most successful method employed against armored vehicles. Apart from the extreme mobility of the gun, the efficient telescopic sight has contributed largely to the success of the 88-mm gun in an AT role. The latest mark of telescopic sight used is the ZF 20-E, which has already been described.

(b) Director control.—With director control, the data for the first round is calculated in the same manner as for an air target. Corrections for direction, range, and fuze range are made from observation of fire and arbitrarily set into the director. This method has not proved very satisfactory.

(c) Fire directed from an OP.—When the target is below the horizontal, or at ranges greater than 10,340 yards (i.e., beyond the limit of the telescopic sight), fire may be directed from an observation post. The OP officer takes azimuth, range, and elevation from his fire-control map. From these, he calculates the firing data with a range table and transmits the data to the gun position by telephone. A director is sometimes used for giving the initial direction to the guns. Corrections are ordered from observation of fire and are applied at the guns.

(d) Air-burst HE.—Fire for effect with time-fuze air-burst HE against troops in the open, and against battery positions, has also been reported. Ranging is carried out with a low height of burst. Fire for effect follows with the fuze range being adjusted to obtain the most effective height of burst. It is believed that this method is not used very often.

c. Light and Medium Flak Guns

(1) In an antitank role.—The light- and medium-caliber Flak guns (20-mm and 37-mm) have had less outstanding success against tanks and armored vehicles than has the 88-mm, owing undoubtedly to the fact that the smaller caliber somewhat limits their use. However, there is no question that with their extreme mobility and high rate of fire, and the penetrating effect of their AP shells, the smaller guns will continue to be used extensively in AT roles, particularly in emergencies.

(2) In other roles.—Aside from AT roles, light flak weapons, particularly the 20-mm, have been used for many different purposes against ground targets. They have been used against hostile machinegun nests, and bunkers have been neutralized by using these weapons for attacks on the openings. They have been employed in occupied villages and towns to overcome scattered resistance, and, like the 88-mm guns, they have also given ground support to engineers engaged in bridging operations.

(3) General.—Fire control for all the above uses is by normal or telescopic sight, with observation of the tracer.

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