German Armed Forces Research 1918-1945
Panzer Tactics Training GuidePanzer Vorwärts! Aber mit Verstand! | Armor Forward! But with Intelligence!
This is a translation of a German training circular issued
by the German Armored Force containing 30 basic lessons of
armored combat on the platoon and company level derived from the
Wehrmacht's experience against the Soviets. Written during the Second
World War by a German company commander, these lessons are
fresh with recent combat experience. The original text has
cartoon-like illustrations and civilian "parables" on one page, with the
combat lesson on the opposing page. Only the combat lessons are
The Panzer Regiment is, by reason of its firepower, protection and mobility the main fighting power of the Division. Its strength lies in unexpected, concentrated and determined attack; aggressive leadership and daring operations.
Combat in Russia has shown once again that for us, in action against the Communists, it is not so much the kind or number of our tanks but the spirit and skill on the tank soldiers that count. Only by these factors are German tanks always, even in Russia, victorious.
This exemplary combat spirit can however count for little as the weapons speed, armor or number of tanks in achieving success, if they are not led and employed by fully competent officers.
Superior tactical leadership in battle is a prerequisite when one desires few, or better still, no casualties.
The purpose of this volume is to collect the experiences of the veteran front-line combat leaders of our Regiments in action, and pass it on in simple and understandable form to our junior officers.
1. Before any attack acquaint yourself with the ground. Use the information provided by other units or by the map. Share this information with your subordinate commanders. Exact information and correct estimation of the terrain will be the decisive difference between victory and defeat.
2. No armored attack is so fast, even under the most pressing situation, that you do not have time to put subordinate leaders into the picture about the tactical situation, mission, and anything else which may impact on the coming action. Losses due to over-hasty action are your responsibility and place the success of the mission in jeopardy.
3. Only careful combat reconnaissance can protect you from surprise. Protect to your flanks as well as the front. Observation to all sides is the duty of every commander. ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYE OUT FOR THE ENEMY!
4. Your entire ability in combat must be used to make a constant appreciation of the situation. Only in this manner can you make the correct decision during the decisive seconds and issue short, clear orders without delay. This is the kind of leadership for which you are responsible.
5. Iron radio discipline is a prerequisite of good leadership, particularly when your only method of command is radio. In the point company for instance, the trail platoons should not use the radio at all except in emergency, leaving the net clear for the point platoon leader.
6. You must lead with strength. At least two tanks must be forward, and the trail platoons must be held far enough forward to support the lead platoon. The more guns that fire in the first minute, the quicker the enemy will be defeated and the fewer losses you will suffer.
7. When breaking cover, do it quickly and together. The more targets the enemy is shown simultaneously, the harder his fire control and distribution will be, and the more guns you will have in effect on the enemy.
8. In the attack drive as fast as you can. At slow speed you can see and shoot only a little better than at high, and are much more likely to be hit. For a tank there should be only two speeds: the half (for firing!) and all out forward. This is the basic principal of tank combat!
9. When antitank weapons are encountered at long or medium ranges, you must first return fire and then maneuver against them. First make a firing halt in order to bring effective fire to bear - then commit the bulk of the company to maneuver on the enemy with the continued support of one platoon.
10. When antitank weapons are encountered at close range, stopping is suicide. Only immediate attack at the highest speed with every weapon firing will have success and reduce losses.
11. In combat against the antitank guns you may never - even under the protection of strong fire support - allow a single platoon to attack alone. Antitank weapons are not employed singly. Remember - lone tanks in Russia are lost!
12. You must continually keep a broad interval between vehicles. This splits the enemy's defensive fire and complicates his fire control. Narrow intervals must be avoided at all costs, especially in critical situations, or it will cost you losses.
13. When an impassable obstacle, for instance a minefield or antitank ditch, is encountered you must immediately and without hesitation give the order to withdraw into the nearest cover. Standing still, in open sight, trying to carry on the attack, has in such circumstances no sense and will only cost you losses. Your consideration on how to make a new start will be best made in the safety of cover.
14. When your attack must pass potential enemy tank positions, for instance a woodline, you should either pass by them so closely that you are inside their minimum range, or remain so far away that you are outside their maximum effective range.
15. Enemy tanks should not be attacked directly, because then they see you and know your strength before you can kill them. More often, you should avoid them until you can move into favorable firing positions, and surprise them from the flank or rear. Repelled enemy tank assaults must be aggressively pursued.
16. A strongpoint, for instance a small village or artillery battery position, whenever possible should be attacked from different directions simultaneously in order to split enemy defensive fire and deceive him about the true location and direction of the attack. In this manner your breakthrough will be easier and your losses fewer.
17. Always prepare dug in positions and camouflage against the possibility of air or artillery attack. Being sorry afterwards is no excuse for losses taken by these causes.
18. Ammunition should not always be conserved; in the decisive moment, if you want to save casualties, you may expend ammunition at exceptionally high rates (for instance, an emergency attack.)
19. Never split your combat power; that is to say, do not employ parts of the company in such a manner that they cannot support each other. When your attack has two objectives you should attack first one and then the other with all weapons. In this way you will more certainly end up with both objectives in hand and fewer casualties.
20. Support from artillery fire or dive bombers must be used immediately, that is to say, while the fire is still hitting the objective. Afterward, when the fire has stopped it is too late. You must know that mostly such fires only produce a suppressing effect, not a destroying one. It is better to risk a friendly shell or bomb than to charge into an active antitank defense.
21. Other weapons and arms, cross-attached to you, should not be misused. Do not use them for purposes for which they were not intended, for example, do not use tank destroyers as assault guns, or armored infantry as tanks, or recon or engineer troops as infantry.
22. Unarmored or lightly armored units attached to you must be protected from any unnecessary losses until they are needed for their own operational tasks, for which reason they were attached to you.
23. Cross-attached units placed under your command are not your servants, but your guests. You are answerable to supply them and share everything they need. Don't just use them on guard duty! In this way they will work better and more loyally for you when you need them. And that will be often!
24. In combined operations with infantry or armored infantry, you must make certain that the arms stick close together; only so can they help each other and achieve success. Which of the two is leading is a secondary matter; what must be known is that it is the intention of the enemy to separate them and that you must prevent this in all circumstances. Your battlecry must be "Protect the Infantry!" and the infantry's battlecry is "Protect the Tanks!"
25. You and your soldiers must always concentrate on your combat mission, i.e. "the bridge," and you may not turn aside, for example, to an enemy on your flank, unless he is actually dangerous to the accomplishment of your mission. Then you must attack and destroy him.
26. After a victorious battle; i.e. the seizure of a bridge or the occupation of a village, keep your helmets on. That is to say, prepare for a counterattack which will certainly come, perhaps in a different place than you expect. Later you can collect the spoils of victory.
27. In a defense or security mission place your tanks so that not only their firepower, but also their shock action can be brought into play. Also, leave only a few tanks in stationary firing positions. Keep most as mobile reserves under cover. Tanks defend aggressively!
28. Against strong enemy resistance, there is no point in continuing to attack. Every failed attack only costs more casualties. Your effort must always be to hold the enemy with only weak forces, in order to use mass of your strength at another, weaker place, breakthrough, and destroy the enemy by surprise attack in the rear or flank.
29. Never forget that your soldiers do not belong to you, but to Germany. Personal glory hunting and senseless dare-deviltry lead only to exceptional cases to success, but always cost blood. In battle against the Soviet- Russians you must temper your courage with your judgement, your cunning, your instincts and your tactical ability. Only then will you have the prerequisites to be victorious in battle and only then will your soldiers look on you with loyalty and respect and always stand by you in untiring combat readiness.
30. The panzer division in modern warfare today holds the former place of cavalry as the decisive arm of combat. Tank officers must carry on in the tradition of the cavalry, take up its aggressive spirit on behalf of the Panzer arm. Therefore take note, as a basic combat principle, of Marshall Blucher's motto, "FORWARD AND THROUGH!" (but with intelligence).
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