'Instructions to the Pioneers' 13 June 1941

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Jeff Leach
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'Instructions to the Pioneers' 13 June 1941

Postby Jeff Leach » 16 Jul 2017 10:24

I have seen several requests for information reguarding the build-up to Operation Barbarossa. There are 1000s of pages of such material but most of it is: loading and unloading tables, movement order, assembly area and traffic regulations, which honestly are not that exciting to read. Fortunately there is some material that is interesting.

Here is Army Group South's 'Instructions to the Pioneers' 13th June 1941 (it is from AOK 11's T312 records but I didn't write down the exact reference). I've tried to translate the German into readable English.

Employment of Pioneer and Construction Troops
Army Group South, 13th June 1941

I.) The small allotment of pioneer and construction troops to Army Group South and the special conditions of the operational space mean strict control of this arm of service will have to be exercised. The pioneers and construction troops have a variety of mission and even with giving them all the assistance possible it will still require careful control to ensure their timely employment to the most important operational areas. The army group only has small reserves of bridging and construction equipment. It is not expected that the situation will improve during the course of operations either. This situation needs to be taken into account at the beginning and during the conduct of operations.

II.) The follow basic points are to be observed

1.) Pioneers: Are to be exclusively used in the combat zone and for the construction of bridges. The bridging columns (Brücko) are responsible for the guarding and dismantling of bridges.

2.) Military Bridge Construction:
Given that there is often a shortage of bridging columns or that those available have a shortage of equipment, they require careful deployment. The use of temporary bridges and coordinating the deployment (überschlagenden Einsatz) of the bridging columns will help make sure that there is always adequate crossing equipment available at the points of attack.

3.) Bridge and Road Construction:

a.) Essential for the construction of temporary bridges (Behelfsbrücken) and roads is the supply of material. The supply of material will only be met with great difficulties. It will be necessary to have survey teams, preferably under the command of an officer, to see that the correct materials are delivered to the correct depot (locality). The amount and location of construction materials is to be made available to the necessary units to avoid unnecessary duplication of work.

b.) The access- and other important roads, to destroyed bridges that are to be later replaced by heavy substitute bridges, are to be built as high as possible. This measure is meant to facilitate the construction of heavy flood-safe bridges.

d.) If possible construction should be completed by the unit that started it. If the front line is advancing quickly, it might be necessary to turn control of the unit over the Army Rear Area Commander (Befehlshaber des rückwärtigen Heeresgebietes) until the completion of the mission.

e.) Maintenance of the ‘tank-road’ (Panzer-Straßen) is the responsibility of the army, in whose sector it lays in.

f.) The greatest diligence is to be kept on the maintenance and repair of the roads that are the life-blood of the supply network. Regular maintenance ensures that sufficient amount of supplies move forward. Neglect of maintenance means the road will rapidly deteriorate and quickly become useless and have to be repaired again. Every supply route needs responsible management. In order to avoid extensive delays, possible alternate routes are to be identified as early as possible.

4.) Construction Troops:
The small number of bridge construction battalions means that it may be necessary to use construction battalions for the initial construction of temporary bridges, as was the case in the Western Campaign. It is undesirable that the Higher Construction Staffs (Oberbaustab), Commandants of Construction Troops (Kommandeure der Bautruppen) or Regimental Pioneer Staffs (Pionierregimentsstab) are employed or designated as pioneer units. The army commands (A.O.K.) need to realize that part of its construction assets, especially the R.A.D. (Reich Arbeitsdeinst) units, will be needed for railroad repair and construction and under command of the Army Railroad Section (Kodeis). At the start of the campaign, the requirements will be about two construction battalions per army.

5.) Equipment and Material:
Because of misuse, neglect and faulty training large quantities of engineering equipment and material, especially river-crossing material, was lost during the Western Campaign. So much was lost, that the combat troops suffered from a lack of it during the later part of the campaign. The river-crossing equipment and bridging material are combat resources of the pioneers. There loss means a loss in combat effectiveness of the troops. In the cases were equipment or material is used temporarily, it is important that all the material is reclaimed so it can be used again. It is to be always possible to identify who is the responsible officer when engineering equipment is used. This applies especially to reclaiming river-crossing material and where it stored. Full use of the specialists and special equipment in the Army Pioneer Parks are to be used when repairing engineering equipment.

6.) Messages and Reports:
The proper employment of engineering resources available requires continually keeping superiors informed on the engineering situation, in addition to timely and through reconnaissance. It is the responsibility of the Pioneer officer to continually inform their superior on the engineering and tactical situation.

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Re: 'Instructions to the Pioneers' 13 June 1941

Postby ViKinG » 17 Jul 2017 09:05

Very interesting post Jeff! Thanks!


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