Soldiers and Submachine guns

Discussions on the small arms used by the Axis forces.
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Der Weisse Wolf
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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 01:15

V. Andries wrote:

The misprint was however incorrectly interpreted by Allied Intelligence, when the 'Handbook to the German army' was composed in March 1945. Since many post-war writers and wargamers have based themselves on this otherwise good document or on the single KStN 131V 1.9.44, rather than on further source-material, the idea of MP40-equipped volksgrenadier platoons got a life of its own, and was still repeated in a 2004 Osprey title on WWII infantry tactics.
So that must be the original source of this "SMG myth" then. Indeed, whenever I have seen German TO&Es with either MP or SMG I have assumed that it could mean either MP38/40 or MP/StG44 in the very late in the war. So I guess there is no hard(=official) evidence that MP40s (or any other SMGs in that matter) were deployed as a primary squad weapons to any German formations in any time during the war.
V. Andries wrote:

The shortage of MP38/40 late in the war had everything to do with reduced production capacities and the poduction priority being given to the MP44: while in 1943 some 220.527 MP38/40 were still produced, the number dropped to 74.564 in 1944 and 189(!) in the first three months of 1945. (figures from 'Lexicon der Wehrmacht').
Excellent site and another forgotten treasure chest for me. That same chart you are referring to, shows that 9mm Italian Berettas somewhat compensated the reduced MP38/40 production, though. 145.693 in 1944 and 85.000 in 1945. But your point is absolutely correct: those numbers also strongly suggests that German "9mm SMG squads" (and by that I mean just about 4-5 SMGs per gruppe) were rare indeed, if they even existed at all. I'm still confident that in some cases, prior to assault mission etc., there were more than 1-2 SMGs issued within the gruppe. But before I bring this topic up again in some context and place, I just have to find some quotable evidence :)

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Post by V. Andries » 15 Jan 2006 13:03

That same chart you are referring to, shows that 9mm Italian Berettas somewhat compensated the reduced MP38/40 production, though. 145.693 in 1944 and 85.000 in 1945
Yes, some of the Beretta SMG's which were produced for the German army late in the war found their way to frontline troops, in somewhat similar quantities as the MP38/40 (they're marked in reports as MP(i) or MP(ital.). On a sidenote: like any other of the many captured foreign weapons the German army partly depended on, Berettas are rarely to be seen in German wartime pictures...!
I'm still confident that in some cases, prior to assault mission etc., there were more than 1-2 SMGs issued within the gruppe. But before I bring this topic up again in some context and place, I just have to find some quotable evidence
Two points:
1. Stosstrupps (or ad-hoc composed combat patrols for aggresive frontline reconnaissance, capturing prisoners for interrogation, clearing known enemy positions,...) usually consisted of 15 men up to a complete platoon, so larger than squad-formation. Equipping the soldiers assigned to the Stosstrupp with all remaining MP's of the other men in the company who were not assigned to the mission, would not have increased the automatic firepower of the complete Stosstrupp very dramatically.
2. Officers and NCO's who considered themselves lucky to have a 9mm MP and for which they were held responsible, would have been rather reluctant to hand them over 'for a while' to other soldiers that were to depart on a dangerous mission... If the Stosstrupp-action went wrong, most of the company's MP's would be gone!

That being said, I don't think the idea of 'lending weapons' can be ruled out completely. Some accounts in Roland Gaul's book on the Ardennes offensive in Luxemburg, at least point to the practice by which soldiers individually received the MP of their NCO or officer for a scouting mission, for guard duty or for messenger service.

Andries

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Der Weisse Wolf
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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 15:12

V. Andries wrote:
assigned to the Stosstrupp with all remaining MP's of the other men in the company who were not assigned to the mission, would not have increased the automatic firepower of the complete Stosstrupp very dramatically.
I disagree. Even a few(2-3) extra SMGs per 7-9 men group(does not have to be Stosstrupp) gives much needed mobile firepower in close assault missions compared to clumsy bolters in such situations.

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Post by V. Andries » 15 Jan 2006 16:10

I disagree. Even a few(2-3) extra SMGs per 7-9 men group(does not have to be Stosstrupp) gives much needed mobile firepower in close assault missions compared to clumsy bolters in such situations.
In theory, yes of course. But in reality assault missions were never to be performed by single squads. During WWII, squads rarely operated autonomously. Where then find the 2 to 3 extra MP for every squad that was involved in an assault? Besides, 'clumsy bolters' were to be outfitted with bayonets during assaults, thereby increasing shockpower (Stosskraft)...
It was only when the MP43 and the accompanying MPi-Zug-tactic were developed that the concepts Stosskraft and Feuerkraft (firepower) were satisfactorily combined for foot soldiers.
Like Christoph Awender has already often pointed out, within the infantry the limited MP38/40 available were there for officers and/or NCO's, to use them for their personal protection and for pointing out targets with the tracer ammo.

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 Jan 2006 16:40

Stoßtrupps are a huge topic. Stoßtrupps were usually not done by just one Gruppe. Usually such missions were made of volunteers from one of the Schützenkompanien and the Infanteriepionierzug for the "heavy duty". In my oppinion a l.M.G. has not much use in many close combat mission. More important in such missions for example were the "Sperrensprengtrupp" to break gaps into wire obstacles etc... the "Schartensprengtrupp". The Deckungstrupps which cover the mission are to be armed according to terrain and vegetation.
Manuals give exact orders how these had to be armed with which weapons and explosives.
If the mission made it necessary to form a strong Deckungstrupp they would put several machineguns into it (standard is two) but this cannot considered as a Gruppe with three or four machineguns. This has nothing to do with a regular Gruppe organisation - this is the Deckungstrupp of a Stoßtrupp.

\Christoph

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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 16:47

V. Andries wrote:
In theory, yes of course. But in reality assault missions were never to be performed by single squads. During WWII, squads rarely operated autonomously. Where then find the 2 to 3 extra MP for every squad that was involved in an assault? Besides, 'clumsy bolters' were to be to be outfitted with bayonets during assaults..
I already described that in detail and I have not written about squads acting independently. Every squad has it's own objective within platoon and let's say that platoon has order to secure on block (a few houses) in a village. The 2 front groups/squads could use either loaned MPs from squads who are giving fire support withe their LMG and rifles, or more likely, use captured SMGs to give extra firepower. An yes, still there are men left who assault with their rifles, bayonetsand hand-grenades only. I don't see any strange about this. And bayonet is a melee/hand to hand weapon as we all know, and using it(=spear) does not make bolt action rifle any less clumsier in a close quarters firefight compared to SMG. Just like riflemen using hand grenades does not make bolter a substitute for SMG, so it's offtopic.

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 Jan 2006 17:17

MPis. were not lent away. The MPi. belonged to the Gruppenführer and he was with his group! What is he supposed to do without a weapon? What is if the group with all the "loaned" MPi. is cut off or lost? The company would be stripped off all MPis. with several group leaders and men without weapon. Such things were not done.

\Christoph

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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 17:21

Christoph Awender wrote: Such things were not done.
\Christoph
Probably not very often, but I doubt that it was never done. It's up to commanding officer to take a risk in a field and not to think about regulations all the time.

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 Jan 2006 17:29

Der Weisse Wolf wrote:
Christoph Awender wrote: Such things were not done.
\Christoph
Probably not very often, but I doubt that it was never done. It's up to commanding officer to take a risk in a field and not to think about regulations all the time.
It would be good to know where from you have the impression and give a source. The knowledge that it was done must come from somewhere so I would be interested.

\Christoph

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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 17:38

Christoph Awender wrote: It would be good to know where from you have the impression and give a source. The knowledge that it was done must come from somewhere so I would be interested.
\Christoph
I already have told that there is no satisfactory data about it, so it's assumption. How there was ever assaulting troops with "SMGs firing" within German Wehrmacht, if there were never MPis, in any circumstances, available to others than officers and NCO's. I doubt that captured PPShs are the only answer.

edit: One answer could be casualties. Weapons were not alway lost with men and that could make temporarily more availabe SMGs within gruppe and zug.

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 Jan 2006 17:52

Well, honestly this is not my understanding of military history. It should be based on what can be gathered from serious sources and not assumptions. So again.. what are you basing your "assumption" on that there were dozens of MPis. involved in an attack? And why is it so hard to accept what we know?

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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 18:03

Christoph Awender wrote:So again.. what are you basing your "assumption" on that there were dozens of MPis.
know\Christoph
"Dozens" is your word and I don't like anyone putting words in my mouth or keyboard. But whenever I read book or text about German militarty that describes SMG usage in assault(that does not point out that there was only one man firing) involved in an attack I assume there must be more of them than just that of gruppenfuhrer or zugfurhrer.

And since you have this "I know" attitude you can assure that in no circumstances there were no more than 1-2 SMGs per gruppe?

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Post by Christoph Awender » 15 Jan 2006 19:50

Der Weisse Wolf wrote:
Christoph Awender wrote:So again.. what are you basing your "assumption" on that there were dozens of MPis.
know\Christoph
"Dozens" is your word and I don't like anyone putting words in my mouth or keyboard. But whenever I read book or text about German militarty that describes SMG usage in assault(that does not point out that there was only one man firing) involved in an attack I assume there must be more of them than just that of gruppenfuhrer or zugfurhrer.
Sorry, for the dozens but it was just rhetorical. It would be good if you could define how much MPis. were gathered together to form such kind of Stoßtrupp you are thinking of.
Please give me a source, a book, a memoir where you get the impression that soldiers in a company had to give their personal weapon to someone else and that there were attacks with men armed with "loaned" MPis from other soldiers.

Yes I have this I know attitude because I have the regulations in front of me. There are also just two meters beside of me hundreds of diaries, reports, units KTB´s etc. which describe how Stoßtrupps, Spähtrupps and Kampfgruppen were actaully formed and had to be formed and this is what I call "to know"
You seem to have your assumptions out of the air and you are not willing to give definite sources where you have read what you claim to be reality.
And since you have this "I know" attitude you can assure that in no circumstances there were no more than 1-2 SMGs per gruppe?
It is ridiculous to ask "in no circumstances" because how can I know everything happened during all kind of out of the rule situations. A Stoßtrupp was not a Gruppe and if a Stoßtrupp had 3 l.M.G. your assumption is still wrong because a Stoßtrupp was a especially formed force and not a organic part of a company. I also cannot assure you that there was not one Gruppe in the Wehrmacht equipped with a southeast siberian made revolver. But we have to stick to what we know from sources we can proof and provide if you like. There is no use to discuss exceptions in more than rare situations.

\Christoph

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Post by Der Weisse Wolf » 15 Jan 2006 20:25

Christoph Awender,

I have already told how many extra smg per gruppe there could(which is assumption) be(I have no fixation to Stosstruppe, or any formation type, I mean extra SMGs per 7-9 men) and that is a few which would make 4-5(a few extra) SMGs total per men group assigned to assault mission. I can't remember books which said about using SMGs in assault(no numbers given) and I don't really have to because I'm no researcher and I have not claimed that definitely there were those extra SMGs. I'm just interested about this topic.

Yes, as a military historian(and I'm not certainly historian or not pretending to be) one should stick with written evidence, but I don't see this particular speculation as nonesense, since there are controversy around this topic. And for me it's a question of common sense(I have exprerience as an officer of a modern rifle company, so I think my common sense is not totally "out of air") that sometimes squads were equipped with extra SMGs if situation would need it. Wheter those extra SMGs came from fire support sections(=squads giving fire support to assault groups), captured weapons or from fallen friendly NCO's or officers.

And yes, I know you cannot proof that in no circumstances there were no extra SMGs issued per squad sometimes, so it was as rhetorical question as yours about "dozen" SMGs. History is not an exact science and I don't see this kind of speculation(a few extra SMGs per 7-9 men in some situations) as revisionism(which I'm strongly against at).

I'm sure you, or at least many others, agree that this is an interesting topic at least. (assuming that one is interested about small arms deployment with Germans in ww2).

So I have no proof available that there ever was extra SMGs issued per squad, but I suspect that sometimes it did happen.

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Post by V. Andries » 15 Jan 2006 22:21

And bayonet is a melee/hand to hand weapon as we all know, and using it(=spear) does not make bolt action rifle any less clumsier in a close quarters firefight compared to SMG. Just like riflemen using hand grenades does not make bolter a substitute for SMG, so it's offtopic.
Weisse Wolf,

I find that a bit of a nasty comment, since you broke down the quote which you replied to in the middle of a sentence (you're not the first in this thread to call things off-topic, yet the topic was continued, by somebody calling it interesting...).
Of course a bayonet is a clumsy and impopular weapon, that is clear. What I wanted to say is the following:

When the German army entered the war, the Gruppe disposed over the le.MG, supported by the Karabiner, as their long-ranged 'Feuerkraft' (firepower), to keep the enemy's heads down when closing in on the enemy. To break into, and clear enemy positions, 'Stosskraft' (shock-power) was needed: the le.MG was fitted with the assault magazine, and the Karabiner with bayonets. Together with grenades, rifle butts, trench spades, etc., these were to do the job in close combat. However, practice during the war showed that there was an imbalance between the large 'Feuerkraft' of the Gruppe and its limited, unwieldy 'Stosskraft'.
The confrontation with the Soviet PPSh-equipped 'Avtomatchiki', who proved perfectly suited for close combat, showed the usefulness of light automatic firepower for the infantrymen, in order to increase their Stosskraft. However, 90mm submachine-guns were 1. available in too limited numbers to equip large numbers of troops with it, and 2. their short range meant that they lost their value once employed out of close-combat. Hence they were still reserved as a personal weapon for officers and NCO's.
The new MP43/44, which combined a longer effective range with the close-combat qualities of the submachine-gun, was thought to be the final answer for uniting Feuerkraft with Stosskraft, when concentrated in their dedicated MP-Züge. This happened in increasing numbers from 1944 on. For the large majority of troops outside of the MP-Züge, still organised around the le.MG, the old concept was by necessity still valid.

And if you'd read the above posts a little more closely, you'd understand that I'm not completely opposed against your idea about the 'ad-hoc swapping of weapons'.

cheers,

Andries

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