May 26, 2015

Ten Lessons in Street fighting

StuG III in Warsaw


The Warsaw Uprising took place between August 1 and October 2, 1944. After it had ended, the Inspector General of Panzer Troops, Geyr von Schweppenburg, ordered the experience gained in street fighting to be codified in a pamphlet called “Notes for Panzer Troops”. Employing the German Army training method of listing incorrect and correct procedures in parallel columns, "Notes for Panzer Troops" sets forth a number of German errors in the Warsaw fighting, and supplies official comment on the methods which should have been employed in each case.



WRONG
RIGHT
1.
A large number of heavy support weapons (assault guns, heavy howitzers, assault howitzers, self-propelled antitank guns, and infantry heavy weapons) were used in an uncoordinated fashion, with a consequent lack of effect. The fire of the support weapons was not used for immediate pushing forward.
All available support weapons, including artillery and aircraft, are concentrated on approved targets. During the concentration the infantry prepares to attack as soon as the last shell has fallen. Armored vehicles accompanying the infantry, to keep down any hostile soldiers who are still alive and who try to reappear.
2.
Our troops mainly used streets. (In street fighting the enemy can take advantage of innumerable hiding places. Absence of visible enemy therefore by no means implies actual absence of enemy.)
Walls of adjoining houses are blasted, and troops move forward through the houses. Mopping-up parties of infantry follow. (Making such covered approaches facilitates evacuation of wounded and supply of ammunition and rations.)
3.
Houses or blocks were not consolidated immediately after capture. Infantry lingered around the entrances, doing nothing.
As soon as a building has been taken, it is consolidated; windows and other openings are turned into firing ports. Since underground passages and sewers provide the enemy with cover and means of communication, the entrances to cellars, stairs, and so on are to be given special attention. If subterranean passages cannot be mopped up immediately, the entrances must be barricaded, or blown in and guarded. Troops will not stand around idly.
4.
Completely ruined houses were regarded as being no longer of use to the enemy. (It was found, however, that the enemy made considerable use of completely destroyed buildings.)
Even the most completely ruined houses must be occupied or covered by fire. Roving patrols are detailed to deny access to them and to ferret out any hostile stragglers who may have occupied them.
5.
Many of the houses that we occupied had been almost completely destroyed by our own fire, thus denying our attacking troops positions and cover.
As far as possible, random destruction of potential cover can be prevented by strict discipline. Only outbuildings affording the enemy covered approach to vital points should be destroyed.
6.
Armored vehicles were used to knock down barricades and walls, to push aside abandoned vehicles and guns, and to perform other tasks for which they are not suited.
The fire power of the armored vehicles must be conserved by all means. In street fighting they are very much exposed to close-range antitank weapons. This makes them fundamentally unsuited for "bulldozer" tasks. The accompanying infantry therefore protects them against surprise attack of any kind. When attacking barricades and obstacles, the infantry approaches first and forces a passage through the obstacles. Squads of civilians later are put to work to complete the clearing of debris.
7.
Our troops failed to make sufficient use of their rifles. The enemy was not sufficiently harassed.
Rifle and machine-gun fire must be delivered promptly and steadily from all newly captured buildings. Rifle fire is concentrated on group targets to keep the enemy's heads down. The enemy is not given a moment's rest, but feels himself perpetually observed and engaged. Rapid opening of fire is especially important, to avoid giving the enemy time to withdraw to alternate positions.
8.
The supposedly non-combatant and "harmless" population was not kept under observation, and seldom was employed to clear debris.
All able-bodied civilians are employed to clear debris. The German Army must enforce this point relentlessly, even when the work is performed under fire. (In this case the whole population was more or less directly assisting the insurgent Polish troops.)
9.
Sufficient cunning was not employed to counter the enemy's tactics.
Tricks must be employed to draw fire and silence it. Our methods must change constantly; feints and other tricks and imaginative tactics must be devised.
10.
The liaison between the various assault detachments was generally too loose, and signal communications were inadequately used. Radio and telephone conversations were practically always in the clear.
Assault detachments are instructed in methods of cooperation, use of fire, and movement. Cooperation will be improved if the assault detachments are kept constantly in the picture and if they report regularly on their position and intentions.

Geyr von  Schweppenburg
2. Geyr von 
Schweppenburg
The Inspector General adds a final comment of his own. He says:

"When tanks are used in street fighting, they should be employed like the so-called 'tank-infantry teams' used in Normandy—that is, small infantry units will be detailed to cooperate directly with tanks. The tougher the fighting, the greater our casualties will be if the following principles are not observed:

(1) no splitting of forces,
(2) thorough and purposeful concentration of fire,
(3) immediate infantry exploitation of tank fire and
(4) the closest mutual support throughout each action”.




Source
U.S. War Department, Military Intelligence Service. Intelligence Bulletin Vol. III, No. 8. Washington D.C.: April 1945.


Photos attribution
1. Schremmer, via Wikimedia Commons
2. original photograph - family-owned, CC BY 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons