Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

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S. Head
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Panzergrenadiere

Post by S. Head » 25 Mar 2005 10:52

In my understanding, the revolutionary idea behind German Army's Panzergrenadiere was to provide the riflemen with an adequately armoured and lightly armed vehicle which was able to follow the tanks into the battle without slowing them down or leaving the infantry behind, as was common practise in the Alliied armies. That approach was first implied with the Sd. Kfz. 251, which could provide only moderate protection with its open "Kampfraum", and refined to the Marder ACV still in use today.

As quoted by Peter Blume in the historical chapter of "Die Panzergrenadiere der Bundeswehr 1956 - Heute" p. 3 f., the typical way to fight of the Panzergrenadiere was the close co-operation with the Panzers on one hand and the quick change between mounted fight under (limited) armoured protection or dismounted with support of the armament of the SPW (halftracks).

That way of fighting was totally new and had to be refined by the lessons learned on the front. Furthermore, especially higher echelons of the German Army were not fully aware of the possibilities which arose by that approach. It is therefore not surprising that there might exist conflicting manuals concerning the employment of the new "weapon".

In the typical combat situation the Panzergrenadiere and Panzers would support each other. The tanks provide the breaking power against enemy tanks and pillboxes while the riflemen, which are now able to follow the tanks without slowing them down, take on the fight against the enemy infantry, either mounted or dismounted and supported by their armed SPWs, according to the actual combat scenario.

You simply couldn't fight that way by means of trucks or light carriers. On the other hand, to use the Sd. Kfz. 251 simply as a transport vehicle which was to be left behind before the engagement would mean to negate to possibilities that vehicle provides. That happened in fact, mainly due to the neglect of higher ranks which could not see these possibilities or would rather stick with the way they had learned to fight. Finally, the new approach to fight was accepted not only in the German army now and then, but in other "modern" armies as well.

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Post by cbo » 25 Mar 2005 12:36

Christoph Awender wrote:A question for the experts RB&Co. And you are sure speaking of going into battle with the vehicles and not the
* Einbruch (-sphase)
* Erweiterungsphase
* Verfolgungsphase
- of not digged in and prepared enemy forces?

\Christoph


No one here claims to be experts, we're just going with what we got. If you have something to offer, why dont you just say it, give argument and references instead of beating around the bush all the time? You are behaving like a primadonna and it is getting really old.

Claus B

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Post by Jon G. » 25 Mar 2005 12:56

As I understand it, the original purpose of the 251 half-track was to ensure that infantry would stand better chances against enemy artillery - the high sides would be enough to protect against fragments, and the squad riding in the half-track would be toast anyway in the event of a direct hit, which is why the Germans didn't consider it necessary to add a roof to the 251.

Apparently tactical doctrine differed according to the situation, but I again think that the original concept would require the infantry to dismount some 800 meters from the objective, under covering fire from the half-track's MG.

Post WWII I think there was a lot of dispute over differing tactical doctrines whether the APC should be a strict 'battlefield taxi' transporting infantry to where it was needed but otherwise taking no further part in the fighting (as the US originally envisaged the M113, though the Bradley must have meant a change of ideas), or if the APC should be a dedicated battlefield vehicle integral to infantry tactics, like the bigger and heavier German Marder.

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Post by Christoph Awender » 25 Mar 2005 15:45

cbo wrote:
Christoph Awender wrote:A question for the experts RB&Co. And you are sure speaking of going into battle with the vehicles and not the
* Einbruch (-sphase)
* Erweiterungsphase
* Verfolgungsphase
- of not digged in and prepared enemy forces?

\Christoph


No one here claims to be experts, we're just going with what we got. If you have something to offer, why dont you just say it, give argument and references instead of beating around the bush all the time? You are behaving like a primadonna and it is getting really old.

Claus B


Claus B you are an expert for sure in this topic so this is not anything "sarcastic" what I was saying. I said something and gave the sources (Feldunteroffizierschule der Panzertruppe Rembertow, and I have also the manuals you source from) which was commented by you -Do you have sources for this?- and by RB who said summarized that I am talking bullshit. If you think I am behaving like a primadonna you obviously know me and then you also should know that I am not fantasizing but always giving info from original sources I have. And when someone (not you) treats me like an fantasizing amateur I react accordingly.
How about answering my question now as I am interested?

\Christoph

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cbo
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Post by cbo » 26 Mar 2005 12:02

Christoph Awender wrote: Claus B you are an expert for sure in this topic...


Actually, I'm not. I have only scoured what I could from mostly secondary sources. As I see it, true expertise require a good deal more, particularily acces to the primary material.

But based on that, my impression is that the SPW was intially designed as vehicle merely for transport and the infantry would always fight on foot. IIRC this is what the 1940 regulations speaks of. As the war progressed, more emphasis was put on the advantages the SPWs gave in the form of speed, manouverability, protection and observation and they were increasingly used as combat vehicles and the infantry fought from the vehicle when appropriate. I.e. they would do so when

- cooperating with tanks, who could deal with the enemy heavy weapons and thus cut a "safe" path for the SPWs
- attacking unprepared and weak enemy infantry positions (the training film I mentioned deals with exactly this - an enemy had broken into the German HKL and positioned himself there, but has not yet brought his heavy weapons forward. The SPWs are used as a rapid-reaction counterattack force supported by the Jagdpanzers of the PzJgAbt)
- attacking enemy positions which could be overrun without exposing the SPWs too long to enemy heavy weapons fire.

On the other hand, SPWs were discouraged from attack against prepared and well defended enemy positions, particularily those with anti-tank guns, who the SPWs were to avoid if at all possible. If they could not avoid them (i.e. ran into them by accident), they were to use their speed to overcome them, but this would clearly only be done in an emergency.

It is my impression that this would be the doctrine - which may or may not be equal to practice. My impression is, however, that this was in fact practiced in the field as well. As I see the references put forward by Christian, it would appear that by late 1944 (perhaps even late 1943 - that is not clear to me?) the losses incurred by SPWs made it necessary to relegate them to support and transport rather than put them directly in harms way.

So, as I see it, we have a historical development from APC (transport, 1940) to IFV (mounted combat/close support of infantry, 1941-43/44) to more cautious use in the last year or so of the war due primarily to insufficiency of numbers.

That is why I asked Christian for the dates and why I asked you for your references; That insufficiency of numbers lead to caution in use in 1943/44 is not the same as to say that doctrine dictated that infantry should never fight mounted from 1940-45, which was the impression I got from that post of yours I responded to.

As for you question:

Christoph Awender wrote: A question for the experts RB&Co. And you are sure speaking of going into battle with the vehicles and not the
* Einbruch (-sphase)
* Erweiterungsphase
* Verfolgungsphase
- of not digged in and prepared enemy forces?


I'm puzzled about the distinction you seem to make between "battle" as being only an attack on digged in and prepared enemy forces and break-in (Einbruch), expansion (Erweiterung) and pursuit (Verfolgung). As I see it, it is all part of a battle or combat and the use of mounted combat and close SPW support would be appropriate in some situations and not in others. And that is how I've understood the references to German field manuals - the rapid change between mounted and dismounted combat as the cornerstone of Panzergrenadier (gep.) tactics from ca. 1941 to 1945 - the problem being that in the later part of the war, SPWs were becomming increasingly vulnerable and increasingly scarce to actually employ that doctrine.

But I'll happily let myself be re-educated if I'm proven wrong in my assumptions :)

Claus B

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Post by Christoph Awender » 29 Mar 2005 00:49

Claus it is always a problem (for me at least) to decide between a very long answer with very much details and a shorter more general answer to questions and that is why I answered with "they didn´t go into battle in their vehicles" which was of course not correct when we want to discuss the tactics in great detail like you want to.

With going into battle I mean the initial attack on enemy positions. Each attack (Prepared in contrary to - out of the movement-) has several phases which are well planed in the tactical manuals of infantry and Pz.Grenadier units.
It is clear that the SPW was used to breakthrough, pursue etc... enemy infantry without heavy weapons etc...
But this was also done with other vehicles...
I don´t know a manual which says that the SPW immediately attack with tanks together against prepared enemy positions but if you say so I believe it.
The tactical examples and guidelines I have speak of dismounted initial attack until break-in distance (60-100-200m described).
Several pages describe the communication with tanks and how to move with them.
There the group leaders together with the platoon leaders will try to hold down or take out identified positions. When the break-in was accomplished eventually prepared SPW would follow through the gap and open the front to the back under the premise that they don´t encounter armour piercing weapons which should result in immediate dismount.
While leaving back forces to widen the gap and assist other units by flank attacks the SPW and tanks will advance towards the objective.
A higher positioned M.G. or equal weapon would cause catastrophic casualties within a filled SPW as well as many other "disadvantages" when attacking mounted are listed standing against a few situations where a mounted "fighting" was recommended.
I see you have the oppinion that mounted attacks were the rule and were considered as very effective which is not my impression from what I ´ve read. There is also a very, very big difference between a SPW in WW2 and in times of the Bundeswehr after the war.
My impression is still that the SPW was more a fast, cross country capable transport vehicle than a fast attack vehicle. But I guess we will never agree in this topic.

\Christoph

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cbo
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Post by cbo » 29 Mar 2005 13:19

Christoph Awender wrote: With going into battle I mean the initial attack on enemy positions. Each attack (Prepared in contrary to - out of the movement-) has several phases which are well planed in the tactical manuals of infantry and Pz.Grenadier units.
It is clear that the SPW was used to breakthrough, pursue etc... enemy infantry without heavy weapons etc...
But this was also done with other vehicles...


What vehicles? I doubt they would move in trucks against an enemy which fired back, regardless of what phase of battle we are talking about...!

Christoph Awender wrote:The tactical examples and guidelines I have speak of dismounted initial attack until break-in distance (60-100-200m described).
Several pages describe the communication with tanks and how to move with them.
There the group leaders together with the platoon leaders will try to hold down or take out identified positions. When the break-in was accomplished eventually prepared SPW would follow through the gap and open the front to the back under the premise that they don´t encounter armour piercing weapons which should result in immediate dismount.
While leaving back forces to widen the gap and assist other units by flank attacks the SPW and tanks will advance towards the objective.


This is what I've been speaking about. SPWs cooperating with tanks, mounting and dismounting as the situation dictates.

Christoph Awender wrote: A higher positioned M.G. or equal weapon would cause catastrophic casualties within a filled SPW as well as many other "disadvantages" when attacking mounted are listed standing against a few situations where a mounted "fighting" was recommended.


A higher positioned weapon would be a good reason to dismount, but dismounted infantry would be vulnerable to any weapon.
There seems to be a general tendency to ignore that fact that the SPW actually provided armour and speed and the alternative would be to walk with nothing between you and the enemy weapons but the cotton of a shirt. Clearly, the SPW had protection to offer in many circumstances.

Christoph Awender wrote: I see you have the oppinion that mounted attacks were the rule and were considered as very effective which is not my impression from what I ´ve read.


I dont know where you get that idea? I've listed the situations where mounted combat was possible and backed by the field manuals and they seem to correspond with what you write. Question is how often such situations transpired on the battlefield. I've read accounts suggesting that SPW mounted attacks could be very effective just as I've read accounts of miserable failures of such an attack, as said earlier. My point is that you and anyone else is flat out wrong in claiming that the Germans never fought mounted in their SPWs and it would be equally wrong to claim that there was no proviso for such fighting in the field manuals. There clearly are. If you read my posts, you should notice that I have emphasized the doctrinal flexibility of the German Panzergrenadiers alternating mounted and dismounted combat. This is by your own admission documented in the manuals. Stating that "They didnt' go into battle in their vehicles" is simply wrong and there is no reason to post wrong information contrary to your own knowledge. You could post the right information in a few words if you wanted to.

Christoph Awender wrote: There is also a very, very big difference between a SPW in WW2 and in times of the Bundeswehr after the war.


You miss the point. The Bundeswehr built its Panzergrenadier doctrine on the experiences with SPWs in WWII. The difference between the way the Bundeswehr interpreted the used of armoured infantry transport in WWII and that of the US Army was observed and commented on by outside observers in the 1950ies

Christoph Awender wrote:My impression is still that the SPW was more a fast, cross country capable transport vehicle than a fast attack vehicle. But I guess we will never agree in this topic.


If not, it is because you do not want to agree with anyone. You basic premise here is simply wrong. The point is not whether it was transport or it was an attack vehicle. Your argument was that the SPW was transport, now it seems to be that it was mostly transport?
My argument is that it was a combat vehicle which was used in multiple roles as the situation dictated. That could be mere transport, it could be support of an attack on foot or it could be a mounted attack. It seems to me that any unbiased, sensible reading would suggest that this was in fact that case and attempts to reduce the problem to a simple "either or" shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the differences between German doctrine and the doctrine of anyone else.

Claus B

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Post by Christoph Awender » 29 Mar 2005 22:55

What vehicles? I doubt they would move in trucks against an enemy which fired back, regardless of what phase of battle we are talking about...!

Motorcycles of Kradschützenkompanien, Schwimmwagen and Kübelwagen of reconnaissance units etc... used the rush tactic against not prepared enemies.

A higher positioned weapon would be a good reason to dismount, but dismounted infantry would be vulnerable to any weapon.
There seems to be a general tendency to ignore that fact that the SPW actually provided armour and speed and the alternative would be to walk with nothing between you and the enemy weapons but the cotton of a shirt. Clearly, the SPW had protection to offer in many circumstances.

That was the point the Lehrstab of the Rembertow school was emphasizing. There IS a difference if a enemy weapon firing on a advancing dismounted company and a vehicle like a SPW. Soldiers would have a formation which would make it impossible to hit many soldiers at once and it is more easy to take cover behind a tree, in a ditch etc....
When a machinegun salvo hits a fully loaded SPW the effect would be catastrophic taking out the most of the group for sure.
And we agree here that in some situations the SPW was the better choice. But as I said and what I want to make clear not against prepared enemy defenses.

I dont know where you get that idea? I've listed the situations where mounted combat was possible and backed by the field manuals and they seem to correspond with what you write. Question is how often such situations transpired on the battlefield. I've read accounts suggesting that SPW mounted attacks could be very effective just as I've read accounts of miserable failures of such an attack, as said earlier. My point is that you and anyone else is flat out wrong in claiming that the Germans never fought mounted in their SPWs and it would be equally wrong to claim that there was no proviso for such fighting in the field manuals. There clearly are. If you read my posts, you should notice that I have emphasized the doctrinal flexibility of the German Panzergrenadiers alternating mounted and dismounted combat. This is by your own admission documented in the manuals. Stating that "They didnt' go into battle in their vehicles" is simply wrong and there is no reason to post wrong information contrary to your own knowledge. You could post the right information in a few words if you wanted to.

I already tried to explain why I used this general statement. It was a mistake and came out in a way I didn´t want it to be. Why should I post willingly wrong information? It would be great if you could accept, as I said, that my first statement was a mistake and too short to explain the complexity.

If not, it is because you do not want to agree with anyone. You basic premise here is simply wrong. The point is not whether it was transport or it was an attack vehicle. Your argument was that the SPW was transport, now it seems to be that it was mostly transport?
My argument is that it was a combat vehicle which was used in multiple roles as the situation dictated. That could be mere transport, it could be support of an attack on foot or it could be a mounted attack. It seems to me that any unbiased, sensible reading would suggest that this was in fact that case and attempts to reduce the problem to a simple "either or" shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the differences between German doctrine and the doctrine of anyone else.

Again I tried to explain my general statement and why I used the term "going into battle" was coming out wrong. Do I have to explain that now in every future discussion about this topic?
I see that you are annoyed by me and get "aggressive" so I think it is better so stop arguing with you. I explained already and admitted that my first statement was a mistake and did not explain the complexity of the topic. I can´t remember why I tried to explain it that way and I am sure you wouldn´t be interested. After my explanation you still use my mistake against me which makes it impossible for me to get into serious discussion again.
Of course this will leave the impression that I do not agree with you and have not more arguments against you.

\Christoph

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Re: Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

Post by tigre » 24 Oct 2019 03:13

Hello to all :D; more...............................

SPW in the sand.

Source: http://www.ebay.de/itm/15-Panzer-Div-Af ... 7675.l2557

Cheers. Raúl M 8-).
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Re: Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

Post by yantaylor » 31 Oct 2019 12:48

Funny enough Raúl, posted something on these boards about the amount of Sd.Kfz 250 and 251s which actually made it to Africa. Apparently they were not that common with some issued to HQ units and others to engineers.
I do remember the responce that my post generated and saved the data to word, for further use, but I can't locate it, otherwise I would have posted up for you.

Yan

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Re: Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

Post by tigre » 02 Nov 2019 00:47

Hello Yan :D; yes AFAIK these type of AFV (in Africa) were not alloted to any schützen or grenadier unit but were part of HQ companies (Stabkompanie). Cheers. Raúl M 8-).

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Re: Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

Post by Alanmccoubrey » 02 Nov 2019 09:31

The SdKfz 251's first sent to Africa belonged to the two MG Battalions but were then handed over to the various HQ's where they were more useful, that is why there are so many "homemade" radio vehicles.
Alan

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Re: Panzergrenadiere

Post by Sheldrake » 02 Nov 2019 15:30

S. Head wrote:
25 Mar 2005 10:52
In my understanding, the revolutionary idea behind German Army's Panzergrenadiere was to provide the riflemen with an adequately armoured and lightly armed vehicle which was able to follow the tanks into the battle without slowing them down or leaving the infantry behind, as was common practise in the Alliied armies.
I don't think the idea was either revolutionary nor German.

The French had identified the need for infantry to work closely with tanks in 1917. By 1918 the 262nd infantry regiment 262 was fully motorised to work with medium tanks. In Feb 1919 GHQ produced a note titled General Considerations for tanks and artillery of the future under Petain's signature. It anticipated a progression of "our infantry into a mobile armoured infantry" and "what will be required in future battles is for armoured tracked vehicles to bring infantry and artillery forward to certain points, preferably where the decision will be made.

The British idea of the infantry carrier was the Bren carriers. Far more of these were built than any other AFV.

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Re: Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

Post by yantaylor » 09 Nov 2019 16:00

Changing things slightly to the Sd.Kfz 250, how would each ausf line up in a recon battalion, the Infantry company I guess would have these ausf’s.

Company HQ Vehicles;
Sd.Kfz 250 ?????????????

Support Vehicles
Sd.Kfz 250/7
Sd.Kfz 250/8

Platoon Vehicles
Sd.Kfz 250/10 Platoon Commander
Sd.Kfz 250/1 Personnel Carriers
Sd.Kfz 250/1 MG Carrier

Would they just use a standard Sd.Kfz 250/1 with a radio or a speciallist ausf in the company HQ role.

Yan

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Re: Sd.Kfz. 251 on the battlefields

Post by Alanmccoubrey » 11 Nov 2019 10:30

Yan, they used the 250/3 and 250/5 as command/radio vehicles and don't forget the 250/9 was combined with the radio vehicles in the "Spah. Kp. c".
Alan

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