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.

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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.

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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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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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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Zimtstern » 27 Aug 2019 17:33

Its been some time but I will try to formulate my question again minding all these objections and hope to get an answer then:

Of course war is not a squad duel and its all about combined arms but as I mentioned if one part is sufficiently lacking doctrinal effectiveness its collapses like a house of cards.
I will just repeat my question to ease reading: How can you effectively provide infantry firepower with your firepower concentrated in just some few points?
These mg teams are supported by the whole rest of the squad doing important things. During the battle primarily observing and kinda covering flanks and dead spots of the mg team and carrying ammo but in general quite far behind the mg team regarding firepower. So should it happen that the mg team is temporary (changing position, weapon jam, gunner hit...) or completely (gun hit, crew dead, ...) out of action the squad suddenly drops significantly in firepower making it compared to the previous firepower rather combat ineffective for its assigned task.

To put it in a combined arms example lets take a rifle platoon obviously supported by his higher structures. Basically we can categorize in artillery, armor and infantry. Infantry is obviously present. If enemy armor is present the defender need sufficient counter armor assets or the defender already lost and in need of highly favorable terrain to take that fight. Here we assume quite less enemy tanks acting cautiously in fear of enemy counter-armor. Same for the counter armor which only takes one high valve targets of opportunity repositioning after that. The enemy armor is staying with its infantry supporting it but playing it safe. For artillery, we hopefully also can agree that artillery is the queen of the battlefield and the big killer. Both sides got heavy artillery and medium and light mortar but limited in strength else it would be crushing and again distracting from the infantry part. Artillery will be occupied with the opening barrage/ counter battery fire. Mortar open up on pre registered likely enemies positions some waiting for fire orders. Germans in defense, Americans attacking on our company sector. Germans digged in a day before after a retreat.
This may be sounding like picking raisins but it was absolutely normal to be not at full strengths and fight all these little battles that are just a little note in the history books with what you had. Attacker hastily massed sufficiently looking mass of combat strength and attacked to keep pushing. Sometimes successfully sometimes not. There are enough examples and also with even less support of heavy assets. But also in general WWI proved that you cant obliterate the enemy with technical assets and then just walk there arms shouldered. The last push is always an infantry battle before you actually take boots on ground.

Now our supported infantry clashes. You win by massing superior firepower. Whoever wins the firefight suppressed the enemy to a point that his left fire output is rather ineffective and allows movement for you. Free support assets waiting for fire missions are used on promising weak spots and the defender will try to support it weak spots the same way. Our platoon isnt such a weak spot and our light mortars at hand are used to harass and later massed on an enemy support mg position.
Now the Americans expected their fire output of their squads coming from every rifleman with their semi-autos supported by a automatic rifle. Since the mass of Germans small arms fire coming from their mgs they all focus on the few mg teams while the Germans facing a well distributed origin of that fire output. You cant tell me that a mg is winning over multiple riflemen if sufficiently spread out and superior in strength. For me its looks like the Germans are those in need of superior numbers even though they are in the defense and thats just on infantry. They were often inferior in heavy assets and that more and more the longer the war got, so they should have been constantly mauled which wasnt the case. If you just looking at the deaths of the allied you see they made them pay a price and by fact normally held ground if not faced with superior number and assets.

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Cult Icon » 27 Aug 2019 17:52

This doesn't need to be theorized about by anyone taking one side or the other- the German MG system worked, its concepts originated in the experiences of the Great War (which evolved into the Storm troop battalions- "Stormtrooper Tactics" by G. ) and was worked over extensively in the inter-war period (Path to Blitzkrieg, Citno) and proved itself from the beginning to the end of WW2 in the defense. The basic fact that german divisions held out so long and under such pressure with a minimum of infantry (at the extreme- but common often situation: divisions with only a battalion of infantry holding numerous KMs of divisional frontages) manning well-sited MGs and mortars- backed up by weakened artillery regiments- is proof enough.

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by kfbr392 » 27 Aug 2019 18:28

Duncan_M wrote:
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.
I never saw a KStN/ Kriegsgliederung document explicitly mentioning this very mortar in Grenadier/ Infanterie/ Panzergenadier units. Neither in Jäger/ Gebirgsjäger companies where I would rather have expected to find it. Whats your source, please?

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Zimtstern » 29 Aug 2019 20:13

Cult Icon wrote:
27 Aug 2019 17:52
This doesn't need to be theorized about by anyone taking one side or the other- the German MG system worked, its concepts originated in the experiences of the Great War (which evolved into the Storm troop battalions- "Stormtrooper Tactics" by G. ) and was worked over extensively in the inter-war period (Path to Blitzkrieg, Citno) and proved itself from the beginning to the end of WW2 in the defense. The basic fact that german divisions held out so long and under such pressure with a minimum of infantry (at the extreme- but common often situation: divisions with only a battalion of infantry holding numerous KMs of divisional frontages) manning well-sited MGs and mortars- backed up by weakened artillery regiments- is proof enough.
Its the whole point of this topic to help me understand this fact by reasons since for now my reasons would let me assume the opposite.

For the future I invite everyone to not reply just for the sake of it or to give me unnessesary advise. If you not want to directly or indirectly contribute to the answering of the question you would do more good by keeping the topic clear and streamlined by not replying at all. Thanks.

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Duncan_M » 29 Aug 2019 20:42

kfbr392 wrote:
27 Aug 2019 18:28
Duncan_M wrote:
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.
I never saw a KStN/ Kriegsgliederung document explicitly mentioning this very mortar in Grenadier/ Infanterie/ Panzergenadier units. Neither in Jäger/ Gebirgsjäger companies where I would rather have expected to find it. Whats your source, please?
I'm still digging for the Kstn, but I read it numerous places, including here:

"This same organization was adjusted slightly in early 1941 for the MG and Rifle
Companies, followed by an updated Battalion Headquarters table in 1942. Officially
these remained in force until late 1943 when the neu Art (nA)
, or new Type,
organization was introduced. Under nA the 8-cm Mortar Platoon in the MG
Company was replaced by a 12-cm Mortar Platoon of four weapons. The displaced
8-cm mortars were allocated two per Rifle Company.
Each Rifle Company discarded
its anti-tank rifles and 5-cm mortars and the three Rifle Platoons dropped to three
Squads each. In some respects the reallocation of mortars had already been
sanctioned with amendments made to the Rifle and MG Companies in mid-1943."

http://www.bayonetstrength.uk/GermanArm ... 938-45.pdf

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Duncan_M » 29 Aug 2019 20:50

Zimtstern wrote:
27 Aug 2019 17:33
I will just repeat my question to ease reading: How can you effectively provide infantry firepower with your firepower concentrated in just some few points?
If you agree its all about combined arms, then why are you only talking about squads?

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by kfbr392 » 29 Aug 2019 21:30

thanks for the link! a well researched paper.
but... no mention of the kz 8cm GrW 42. Just 8cm GrW in general. I have not seen that GrW 42 weapon mentioned in any KStN...

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Cult Icon » 29 Aug 2019 22:12

Zimtstern wrote:
29 Aug 2019 20:13
Its the whole point of this topic to help me understand this fact by reasons since for now my reasons would let me assume the opposite.

For the future I invite everyone to not reply just for the sake of it or to give me unnessesary advise. If you not want to directly or indirectly contribute to the answering of the question you would do more good by keeping the topic clear and streamlined by not replying at all. Thanks.
Giving you two relevant book recommendations is not "unnecessary advice". Instead of asking people and inventing theories (or getting others' invented theories) it is better to get the necessary reference material or histories of the people and units that were actually there. There is no shortcut and neatly packaged theory to satisfy this interest in my experience.

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Zimtstern » 29 Aug 2019 22:37

Nah, the problem wasnt the useful recommendations nor would I find anything wrong in said things but how they were used is the problem.
Instead of simply trying to support the answering of the question you stated that you think that this shouldnt have to be questioned and that the fact that it worked is good enough for you.
Well not for me and waisting your valuable informations to convince me to not ask the question in the first place is simply unnessesary advice.

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Re: German Squad Tactics

Post by Cult Icon » 29 Aug 2019 23:35

Some criticism of the OP question is warranted though- it's a bit of a "rabbit hole/let's catch butterflies question" - you are seeking a granular "General theory" that encompasses the deaths of millions of men in the field and can be devolved down to the squad level. Sounds like you want something like an algorithm that is programmed into a WW2 computer game. Real life is far more complex as soldiers aren't robots and do deviate from their training. We have actual historical evidence that can be consulted, such as the severe infantry shortage of German units that was epidemic by 1943. IIRC earlier in this thread I noted that the MG system allowed bled white division units with the functional equivalent of 1-2 battalions of inf to operate as a network of weapons nests. German units were rarely at TOE strength. This is the very simple but evidence-backed (top-down) theory believed and written about by the historian of the 30th Infantry division in his book "Beyond the beachhead". It is backed by years of combat, particularly on the Eastern Front.

"Path to Blitzkrieg" is extensive about the MG as it was seen as the pivotal weapon of the revised German maneuver warfare, particularly during the Seeckt era (by 1925 the MG system was firmly in place as were the fundamentals of the new doctrine) where innovators took charge and conducted maneuvers & tests up into the 1930s. It was developed in conditions that was ironically opposed to the "attrition" warfare or methodical battle that the allies/Soviets eventually forced on the German Army.

The key behind the MG was having the most effective fighting man behind the gun- (MG training program in 1920s, which was used in WW2 weapons schools.) The MG gunner was typically the best marksmen in the unit.

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