July 31, 2014

Order of Suvorov

Order of Suvorov

Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov (1730 – 1800) was a Russian general of legendary fame, being undefeated in over sixty battles. The Order of Suvorov was established in three classes in July 1942. It was awarded for outstanding success in defeating superior enemy forces. During the Great Patriotic War 390 First Class, 2800 Second Class and 4000 Third Class were awarded.

July 30, 2014

A Russo-German Parade

Guderian and Krivoshein attending the victory parade at Brest
Generals Heinz Guderian and Semyon Moiseevich Krivoshein attending
the victory parade at Brest-Litovsk (
Brest) on September 22, 1939.

July 29, 2014


SU-100 at Arsenal Park Transilvania in Romania.

The SU-100 was a self-propelled antitank gun created to deal with the heavier German panzers. The vehicle was based on the T-34 chassis and the 100mm gun on the B-34 naval A/A gun. The first prototype trials took place in March 1944 and the vehicle entered production in September 1944 at Uralmashzavod. Production lasted until late 1945 and the Soviet Army kept it in service until 1957.

July 28, 2014

9th Panzer-Division

Insignia 9. Panzerdivision
At the end of 1940 the 4th Light (leichte) Division was redesignated as the 9th Panzer-Division. The 33rd Panzer-Regiment provided the necessary tank element.

The Division took part in the French Campaign with the Eighteenth Army and fought in the Low Countries. In the pursuit that followed the collapse of the French Army the Division advanced as far as Lyon. 

In the Balkan Campaign the 9th was part of the Twelfth Army. The Division, deployed in Bulgaria, invaded the Yugoslavian Macedonia and from there it entered Greece. It fought off Greek, British and Commonwealth forces but was recalled before the end of the campaign for the preparations for Barbarossa. On 28 June 1941 the Division crossed the German-Soviet border, as part of Panzergruppe 1, and fought in Ukraine. Later it was given to Guderian for the assault on Moscow.

July 25, 2014

Defending the Road to Carano, Anzio Beachhead, 1944

In the early morning hours of January 22, 1944 U.S. VI Corps landed on the Italian coast around the city of Anzio. The Germans doggedly defended every inch of ground. They emplaced machine guns and antitank guns in every farmhouse along the roads and turned them into strong points with excellent interlocking fields of fire. Those improvised fortresses had to be knocked out one by one in vicious hand-to-hand combat. 

The Road to Carano

On the road to Carano, the Germans held houses A and B and their immediate surroundings with 50 to 80 men—or about two platoons. Previously, both houses had been reduced to rubble by Fifth Army artillery fire. In this debris, and in the area immediately surrounding it, the Germans had prepared a formidable strong point to cover a small road bridge over a stream. Fifth Army troops subsequently attacked and captured this bridge.

The defensive area
1. The defensive area.

July 24, 2014

The Fedorenko Order: Don't Split the Armor!

Yakov Nikolayevich Fedorenko
The Russians realized the superiority of the T-34 tank early in the war and converted their plant facilities to the sole production of this one model. During their first winter in Russia the Germans encountered enemy tanks either singly or in small groups. This scarcity of armor came about because the production of new tanks was low and because many of those which did become available were used far behind the front to train crews on the latest tactical doctrine. With the improvement in optical and radio equipment, the Russian command was finally able to organize large armored formations and employ them in far-reaching operations.

Although the Russian military had reason to be satisfied with the local successes achieved during the winter of 1941-42, it was nevertheless fully aware of the deficiencies still inherent in the tactics of large armored formations. It thus felt obliged to intervene in armored affairs at the end of June 1942, and did so by issuing a new directive, which was particularly important because its author, Yakov Nikolayevich Fedorenko (Chief Marshal of Tanks and Mechanized Forces and Deputy Commander of Defense), drew the right inference from previous mistakes.

July 23, 2014

German Rearguard Tactics in Tripolitania, 1942-43

1. An 88mm gun towed by a 5t. Half-track.
After the battle of El Alamein Rommel conducted a fighting withdrawal and saved Africa Korps from total destruction. During this long retreat his rearguard played a vital role in shielding the main body from Montgomery’s clutches. To succeed in that, the Germans were observed using the following methods.  
  • The foundation of the rearguard positions was always the 88-mm antiaircraft-antitank guns, with a 50-mm core.
  • In support they had: long-range artillery (105's, 210's, and 75's on self-propelled mounts), tanks, infantry (very well equipped with machine guns and mortars), and engineers.
  • In the initial stages (open desert) the rearguard screen was at first deployed over a very wide front. They used their artillery (including 88's firing frontally) at extreme range to hold up the British Eighth Army's advance and to force it to deploy. They used mines (including dummy minefields) effectively for the same purpose.

July 22, 2014

Street Fighting in Ortona

German defensive lines in Italy
1. German defensive lines south of Rome.
Ortona is located at the eastern end of the Gustav Line.
Toward the end of December, 1943, the Canadian 2nd Infantry Brigade assaulted Ortona, an Italian town, at the eastern end of the Gustav Line. The town was defended by elements of the 1st Fallschirmjäger-Division.

Ortona was described as a town of well-built houses and narrow streets. Most of the houses had cellars leading out into underground passages under the street; such a passage may link as many as six houses. The southern part of the town was more modern. There the streets were wider, and there were numerous squares. It was in the southern area that the Canadians encountered the heaviest opposition.

A Canadian officer who took part in this action gives the following account of how the Germans planned and executed the defense of the town.

July 21, 2014

Small Unit Actions in Tunisia

The following notes on German tactics in the Tunisian campaign have been compiled by the commanding officer of a U.S. armored infantry battalion. They deal with the German use of tanks with infantry in the attack, and with lessons learned and methods practiced by American troops. It should not be inferred, however, that either the German or American methods described here were standard. They were adapted to meet specific situations. As always, local factors and the decisions of individual commanders must be taken into account.

Case I

On one occasion we were defending some rolling country, with our front lines forming an L, our left flank anchored on a river, and our right flank anchored on a mountain.

The Germans, after several days of intermittent artillery fire, attacked the eastern part of our defensive line with wave after wave of infantry. When this did not succeed, they dive-bombed and strafed a secondary hill which was holding up their attack. This did not break our position, so they attacked with tanks. 

Case I
1. Case I

July 18, 2014


There is a well known photo and video, where King Tigers are lined up in a field and then inspected by a mounted officer.

King Tigers

July 17, 2014


The Panzerwaffe established two Panzertruppenschulen, one in Munster and the other in Wünsdorf, for the training of its officers and NCOs. Four American official observers, at the invitation of the German General Staff, visited the school at Wünsdorf, on October 4, 1940. The school troops staged a demonstration in the maneuver area for the purpose of illustrating some of the troop leading features involved in attack by an armored force and the general technique employed in the execution of such an attack. The Americans observed the demonstration and reported on it.

Tank crews inspected by Generalleutnant Ernst Feßmann
1. Tank crews inspected by Generalleutnant Ernst Feßmann, at Wünsdorf on October 20, 1935. 

July 16, 2014

July 15, 2014

German Defense Tactics Against Russian Breakthroughs: Defensive Pincers

Defensive pincers are the most effective countermeasure against an enemy break-through, they should be applied whenever the tactical situation permits and the necessary forces are available.

Defensive pincers

July 14, 2014

Combat Camera!

A cameraman of a Wermacht Propagandakompanie in a Panzer I

A cameraman of a Wermacht Propagandakompanie in a Panzer I of the 11th Panzer-Division, ready to capture the individual battle phases within a tank. Eastern Front in June, 1942.

July 11, 2014

German Defense Tactics Against Russian Breakthroughs: The Spoiling Attack

Continuing with German defense tactics against Russian breakthroughs we will examine the spoiling attack. The spoiling attack, if successful, can disrupt the enemy’s offensive plan. But if it fails a significant portion of the defender’s reserve will be lost and his position will worsen considerably. Thus only an experienced commander can take that risk.

The Spoiling attack

July 10, 2014

German Defense Tactics Against Russian Breakthroughs: The Flank Attack

The defender will often find it expedient to attack the flank of an enemy penetration with the objective of cutting off and destroying the hostile forces that have broken through. Such tactics are effective only when a secure shoulder provides the defender with a spring board for an attack which is launched straight across the gap to the other shoulder, or when a natural obstacle, such as a large body of water or a swamp, serves as an anvil against which he can crush the attacker.

Flank counterattack

July 9, 2014

Tactics Used by (Short-Barreled 75mm) Pz.Kpfw. IV Tanks

The Pz.Kpfw. IV tanks, armed with the short-barreled 75mm gun, remained in service even after the introduction of the long barreled ones, and were used mainly as close support weapons. The following tactics were observed at use in North Africa.

Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf D of the 15th Panzer-Division
1. A Pz.Kpfw. IV Ausf. D at the US Army Ordnance Museum.
It bears the markings of the 15th Panzer-Division.

July 8, 2014

German Defense Tactics Against Russian Breakthroughs: The Frontal Counterattack

One of the numerous studies conducted under the Military History Program was the No. 20-233 Pamphlet, dealing with the defensive battles of the German Army in the Eastern Front. It is of interest to take a closer look at the tactical considerations that were taken into account and the solutions employed against the Soviet onslaught. In this article we will examine the frontal counterattack. 

Conditions Favoring the Frontal Counterattack

One of the simplest methods of sealing off a break-through or eliminating a penetration is the frontal counterattack. Usually, such a counterattack can be launched only if the break-through is minor and can be localized, and if both shoulders are secure. Moreover, sufficient reserves must be available to close the breach by a quick counterthrust before the enemy is able to widen the gap. Once hostile preparations for a break-through have been clearly recognized, it is most effective to move the reserves close to the rear of the threatened sector. While the reserves must be close enough for instantaneous effective employment, they should be sufficiently removed from the front line so as not to forfeit prematurely their freedom of maneuver. In their assembly areas the reserves must be concealed from enemy observation and air attacks and must not be exposed to hostile preparation fire. Obviously, reserves should have maximum fire power and mobility; armored divisions come closest to these requirements because they combine tremendous striking force with concentrated fire power. Infantry supported by assault guns will often restore the situation so long as the break-through is local. 

Diagram 1
1. Diagram 1.

July 7, 2014

German Anti-Tank Tactics in Tunisia

A U.S. Battalion commander, in Tunisia, comments on German Anti-Tank Methods.

German crew preparing an 88 dual-purpose gun firing position
German crew preparing an 88 dual-purpose gun firing position. Notice the kill rings.

July 5, 2014

The Cushman Report: Tank-Destroyers vs Panzers in North Afrika

The fall of France in 1940 influenced decisively U.S. Army’s anti-tank doctrine. The reports from Europe were talking about thousands of enemy tanks advancing relentlessly. It was considered that organic anti-tank weapons in the infantry divisions were not sufficient to meet the threat and independent anti-tank battalions were established. According to the doctrine that was developed, the independent anti-tank units should be kept in reserve at Army or Corps level. When the enemy tank force was located the anti-tank units would occupy suitable positions to ambush it. During the fight with the tanks the anti-tank units would not remain static, but they would aggressively maneuver, using terrain in their advantage, and destroy them. On 7 October 1941 the anti-tank battalions were renamed as tank destroyer battalions, which was more in conformity with the offensive spirit that prevailed in the new, semi-independent, tank destroyer branch. 

Tank-Destroyer Battalions training

July 3, 2014

Ten Commandments for Using Tanks

General der Panzertruppen Gustav von Vaerst succeeded Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim as commander of the Fifth Panzer Army in North Africa. While in command von Vaerst issued a list of ten “commandments” regarding the employment of tanks:

1. The tank is a decisive combat weapon. Therefore, it should not be used except in a center of gravity and on appropriate terrain.

2. The tank is not a lone fighter. The smallest tank unit is the platoon, and, for tasks of considerable importance, the company.

3. The tank is not a weapon to accompany infantry. Forcing its way through the enemy, it enables the infantry to follow it closely.

4. The tank can take, and mop up a sector, but it cannot hold the sector. This is the task of the infantry, supported by its heavy arms, antitank weapons, and artillery.