German Squad Tactics

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.
Duncan_M
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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Duncan_M » 19 Feb 2019 06:55

AbollonPolweder wrote:
18 Feb 2019 07:38
I suggest that we first deal with the topic that Zimtstern stated. This is all for now. If you want to compare divisions, please do it. I have nothing against. :milwink:
If I started a thread where I asked why 2+2=5, it would be the proper thing to alter the thread by explaining the initial statement wasn't valid.

Likewise is this one. Want to discuss the German squad? Fine. Also discuss its history to explain why they did things the way they did, the different types (there wasn't one type), why they changed it. More so, since infantry squads don't fight alone, and are just subunits of a larger tactical unit, you need to include those units and what they carry, why they carry it, and how they plan to use it, as part of a larger package. Only then, when all the complexities are covered can one understand it.

Talking just about one type of German squad and only the squad is like trying to understand professional boxing by only talking about Mike Tyson's right fist.

Duncan_M
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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Duncan_M » 19 Feb 2019 07:10

Cult Icon wrote:
18 Feb 2019 15:18
The typical (late war, resource constrained) pattern was a new division arrives to the front, and the Army commander immediately deploys it to a threatened area or in a counterstrike. Counterattacking activities wear down the infantry battalions far more quickly than usual until the unit is approx. half strength or less. Then it reverts to a more passive mode- typical of other long-standing formations of holding the line with combat assets more like a brigade.

Forget about riflemen- the ratio of riflemen to machineguns (and to support weapons) has radically shifted in favor of the MGs and the support weapons. Much of the suriviving "riflemen" were, per typical practice, pulled out from the front and organized in ad-hoc "sturmtruppes" or other such name as counterattack reserves. "Sturmkompanies" and smaller were usually heavily equipped with automatic small arms, grenades, etc. and were generally the better fighters of the division.

Unlike the Soviet and Allied combatants German units had very little in terms of replacements as they were the smaller and weaker party. A division may have a replacement battalion supporting it (an elite division like G.D. had an entire brigade) but these were more like an emergency reserve to save their bacon at the 11th hour. The way the German forces rejuvenated the front was to ship in new formations,not repair damaged ones on the spot.

When their enemies attacked, the MG teams would open fire, and try to suppress and waste as much time as possible (then the mortars and artillery and other support weapons would do their work) while the counterattack reserves tried to reduce or eliminate the breach, based on prepared attack plans and understanding of their environment.
Sturm kompanie were in late war Volksgrenadier regiments in VG divisions, and were specially organized as sturm kompanie by a specific kstn. And I'd love a historic example of removing the Schuetzen from the front lines, with only machine guns present, to form some sort of local reserve. My understanding is that a platoon on the line would already have a depleted squad strength. Not only are they going to need to support the light machine gun, carrying ammo, covering its flanks, providing security for it at close quarters, they're also serving in LP/OPs, they're sitting in AT positions with panzerfaust, they're laying mines, etc. A reserve itself is either an organic unit, typically 1/3 the size of the force in the front line or smaller. A counter attack force was often adhoc, as the Germans had a nasty tendency of not having an actual local reserve, only an operational reserve that local commanders were very apprehensive of committing too early (if they even had it at all). From what I've read the counter attacks were usually a collection of survivors from a shattered and retreating force holding a line that had collapsed, as well as rear echelon support personnel, even artillerymen and other non-infantry combat arms, who were grouped together by battalion officers who were required, under threat of court martial, to counter attack immediately. There were times when counter attacks didn't happen that officers were even court martial'd for not doing it.

Germans weren't weak in replacements just because they were smaller, that is back to the "crushed by numbers" myth. Their problem was their policy was not to replenish units in combat. Heavily depleted units would not be pulled from the line until after being seriously mauled. If they were lucky, and their units had the time and freedom, they would spend weeks, sometimes months, rebuilding them, training, before being reinserted somewhere decisive. Or more likely newly raised battalions of new recruits led by formally transferred or wounded and recovered NCOs and officers, would be grouped together into an entirely new division to be sent to some theater in desperate need of intact units, at which point inside a week or so, they were just as battered as everyone else. It was a purposeful decision, like not motorizing their infantry division's artillery, a decision that made sense at the time, had its strong reasoning, but would come back to bite them badly when the decision back fired because Murphy's Law.

Duncan_M
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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Duncan_M » 20 Feb 2019 06:29

What weapon the German infantry possessed that really impressed me?

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kz_8_cm_GrW_42

After they scrapped the lackluster platoon level 5 cm mortar they added not just rifle grenades to the rifle squad (very useful, especially anti-tank) but also a pair of short 8 cm mortar at the company level. Really cool. Powerful, accurate, not great range but company weapons are only a few hundred meters from the MLR. Nothing comparable to any adversary, who at best had 50-60 meter mortars at the company level, whose destructive power was only slightly better than a hand grenade, whereas the 8 cm mortar is like an arty round, or better actually.

Great for giving a company commander great organic fire support for an attack, and even better on the defense. A common situation: German lay a mine field, AP and AT, cover it with small arms, specifically LMGs and HMGs. When enemy enters mine field, fire at them with small arms, between the mines and MG fire their forward progress is slowed or halted. Call in company level mortars to really cause damage, where troops in the open is a dream fire mission. If the enemy schwerpunkt is identified, FOs call in additional fire from battalion level 8 cm mortars, the regiment's twelve 7.5 cm and four 15 cm infantry howitzers, and the support of other division's artillery regiment, and maybe attached rockets, etc.

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doogal
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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by doogal » 20 Feb 2019 18:49

You present the theory of company level engagements beautifully. But when this was put into practice across a huge front, encompassing hundreds of these engagements. Would not the methodology and manner of there use change during combat, depending on the local situation and circumstances ? .....

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Duncan_M » 20 Feb 2019 19:14

doogal wrote:
20 Feb 2019 18:49
You present the theory of company level engagements beautifully. But when this was put into practice across a huge front, encompassing hundreds of these engagements. Would not the methodology and manner of there use change during combat, depending on the local situation and circumstances ? .....
Absolutely. Situation dictates everything.

All it takes is a single supply difficulty and say good bye to company mortar support. Especially in terms of a standard horse mobile infantry division, supply isn't great at the best of times. How many rounds on hand is a mortar section going to have? Probably not that many. Each round is 3.5 kg/7 lbs, bulky as the rounds are moved in large carboard tubes. There is a reason nobody else had such a heavy caliber company level mortar, because supply is a bitch. But sometimes its worth it. I'd rather have a single 8 cm mortar round than a 250 rd box of machine gun ammo, the former will likely kill/wound a bunch of enemy, the latter will most likely just scare them. Killing/wounding is the best form of suppressive fire.

What about expertise? Firing a mortar is simple. Assemble bipod, baseplate, and tube, and drop round. To do so accurately is ridiculously complex. One must not only be very knowledgeable in the mathematical formulas, have access to firing data, aiming stakes, compass, maps, know how to properly set up everything, have FOs who can direct the fire, as well as leadership who understand the best way to implement the mortars. What happens when the highly trained mortar NCO is gone, dead, wounded, captured? Does the commander have someone who can replace him that is just as capable? What happens if the guns get taken out themselves, the gun teams too, in an enemy counter fire mission? Are they going to get replaced?

What about terrain or weather? What happens when dropping mortar rounds into deep snow? Or into mud? A point detonating quick fused mortar round is going to explode surrounded by packed snow or mud, severely limiting its kill radius.

Overall, the #1 use of mortars, doctrinal, is covering dead space, terrain that is incapable of being hit with direct fire. Pre-war German doctrine was that the light and heavy MGs were for direct fire and mortars were for covering the limited dead space they couldn't engage. Realistically, especially after battle experience watching the marvelous effectiveness of a 8 cm mortar round, which is an especially devastating weapon, suddenly one realizes that not only is it still very effective for covering dead space, its a better killer than the machine gun. The machine gun is generally ineffective once enemy are no longer exposed. Not so with the mortar. Go prone, you're just as exposed. The only safety is to find a hole and climb in and hope a mortar doesn't land on top of you. But machine guns, especially ones with a very distinctive sound that acts as a psychological weapon, can ground an attacking force, force it to stop advancing, with enough fire. At which point they become incredibly vulnerable to indirect fire weapons like the mortars, so creating a really simple battle drill a company commander has at his disposal to deal with a poorly supported enemy attack.

Now take all those "useless" riflemen in the German squad, who some claim are there to support the machine gun. We'll have them cover the areas the MG can't see, have them carry spare ammo too. But they're also going to carry lots of mines, AP and AT. And AT weapons, magnetic, bundle grenades, satchel charges, Panzerfaust, etc., to deal with all those T-34 and M4 Shermans the enemy have in bulk who regularly delegate to support most infantry attacks. As soon as the unit halts, everyone digs in, the mines are laid, obstacles are covered by direct fire, and the company mortars are registered on the most obvious avenue of advance. When the enemy attacks, even in a combined arms attack force of engineers, infantry, armor, supported by artillery, they will still have to deal with those mines, while being shot at with machine guns, rifles, AT weapons. If the attack looks strong, the company commander orders his mortars to be used and gets permission to use battalion mortars too. If it looks like the enemy's main effort attack, more firepower is available on hand: The Germans never had a ton of it, but they tried to mass it when they could to deal with main effort attacks (which is why they also pushed down a lot of heavy weapons at the lower levels, for when units were on their own, without fire support).

What stops an attack? Effective fire. What helps suppress at target to be attacked? Effective fire. Throughout Italy and NW Europe, the British and Americans both feared machine guns but the real killers were German 8 cm mortars. Because they were commonly used, effectively used (as the Germans were rather professional), and very deadly.

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