June 16, 2014

A Platoon Commander’s View of an Armored - Infantry Assault

Armored infantry

In an Intelligence Bulletin, issued by the Military Intelligence Division of the U.S. War Department in October 1943, we find an interesting and vivid description of a Panzer-Grenadier assault, against Russian troops holding an Ukrainian village, presented by a German Lieutenant.

A Russian force had been encircled, and the task was to drive through the center of the pocket and divide the Russians into still smaller groups, which could be destroyed separately. No rounds had been fired yet, but the tanks ahead of us could come upon the hostile force at any moment.

It was very hot, and there was a haze. The men in the tanks ahead could see a village in the distance. According to the map, this ought to be Krutojarka. Guns could be seen flashing at the edge of the village. The Russian force was engaged. We heard the fire of Russian antitank guns and our own tank cannons, and, in between, the sound of both sides' machinegun fire.

The Panzer Grenadier company commander gave his command by radio. As soon as the grenadiers saw Russian soldiers, they were to fire on them directly from the personnel carriers, or else dismount quickly and fight on the ground, depending on the requirements of the moment.

The first tanks entered Krutojarka, but presently reappeared. The company commander gave the radio command, "Krutojarka is being held by the enemy. Clear the town!"

The personnel carriers advanced past the tanks, which were firing with all their guns, and moved toward the edge of the village. A personnel carrier's tread was hit by a flanking antitank gun. The grenadiers jumped out and assaulted the antitank-gun crew with machine-gun fire, while the driver and the man beside him got out and, under fire, changed the broken link of the tread.

The attacking grenadiers had reached a street at the edge of the village. Startled by the suddenness of the assault, the Russians took cover in houses, bunkers, foxholes, and other hideouts. The grenadiers jumped out of the personnel carriers and advanced along the street, making good use of grenades, pistols, and bayonets. The driver and a second man remained in each carrier. The personnel carriers skirted around the sides of the village, with the men beside the drivers delivering flanking fire against the buildings. Soon the roofs of the houses were afire. The smoke grew thicker and thicker.

Three tanks pushed forward along the main street of the village, to support the attack of the grenadiers. We found the smoke an advantage, for it prevented the Russians from discovering that there were relatively few of us. Also, as a result of the poor visibility, the Russians could not employ their numerous machineguns with full effect. We, for our part, were able to engage in the close-in fighting at which we excelled. It was no longer possible to have one command for the company. Officers and noncoms had formed small shock detachments, which advanced from street corner to street corner, and from bunker to ditch, eliminating one Russian nest after another.

When about half the village was in our hands, and when we had captured the Russian commander and his political commissar, resistance collapsed. All prisoners were marched to the rear, and the booty of guns and vehicles was collected. The Panzer Grenadiers advanced to the far end of the village, where they climbed into the waiting personnel carriers. Most of the tank battalion also had skirted the village, and already had moved further east. Anticipating further action, the Panzer Grenadiers again followed the tanks.

U.S. War Department, Military Intelligence Division. Intelligence Bulletin Vol. II, No. 2. 1943.

Photo attribution
Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-218-0510-10/Thiede/CC-BY-SA-3.0-de, via Wikimedia Commons