Monday, May 31, 2010



The standard German infantry squad manual in 1942 was sadly lacking in direction for patrolling by regular infantry.


Close-in reconnaissance is carried out by infantry patrols in addition to cavalry and cyclist parties and armored scout cars. The number and the strength of the patrols sent against the enemy, also their equipment and arms (light machine guns), depend upon the situation and the mission.

The reconnoitering patrol must move cautiously and quietly. It should halt frequently in order to observe and listen. Cunning and cleverness, a quick eye and resolute action, a love of adventure, and boldness are the prerequisites for the successful execution of every reconnaissance mission. The reconnoitering patrol should get as close to the enemy as possible without being seen in order that the patrol may obtain information on his position. The men of the patrol must become acquainted with the terrain so that on their return they may give information about it and, if necessary, serve later as guides.

At night-and often during the day, too-observation and listening posts are usually sent out in front of the line of sentinel posts to suitable point (for example, exits from villages, bridges, etc.) in order to provide increased security and information. They remain in position until relieved.

In crossing a sentry line, the visiting patrols must inform the nearest post of their mission and, when they return, of their observations. The same is true of reconnaissance patrols that are met.

Reconnaissance and visiting patrols within the line of outposts observe, chiefly at night and on broken terrain, intervening areas not occupied by posts. The patrols also serve for liaison. As a rule, they consist of two men (including the leader) and are sent out by the outguards.

Ski/Mountain Troops

The Gebirgsjaeger, or German mountain troops, were essentially light infantry and more of an elite unit. They were specially selected, specially trained and equipped, and operated in a much more aggressive manner. Their manual when it came to patrolling was quite extensive.
Keeping in line with the theme of light infantry operating on their own with little or no support, that was often what mountain troops were. In the mountains, especially the Russian Caucuses, supply lines could be tenuous as best. Many issues regular infantry or panzer grenadiers could settle with an artillery barrage or a Stuka strike, the Gebirgsjaeger often had no choice but to settle with small arms and perhaps a mortar.

With logistics being so manpower intensive and complicated the mountain troops had to make sure every shot counted, and were trained to be superior marksmen, and were outfitted with more telescopic-sighted and more automatic rifles than ordinary infantry.

Squad and Platoon on Security Patrols

Ski troops frequently fight alone, independent of larger units. Such tactics require special security measures and increased watchfulness on the part of all troop employed as security patrols. At night and with poor visibility, in terrain which is difficult to observe and is near the enemy, all normal security measures must be increased. As a matter of principle, at least two men should always be assigned to patrol and sentry duty. The leader charged with maintaining security will decide whether sentries and patrols shall move on skis or on foot. Sentries at fixed posts must be camouflaged day and night.

Long hours of guard duty in any weather, particularly after strenuous marches, are part of the training of every ski unit and must also be required of all members of supply columns. Constant
supervision and care of sentries and patrols is one of the most important tasks of the squad or platoon leader assigned to security duty.

To provide immediate security for quarters located near the enemy, a circular ski track may be made. This is established, depending on the situation and the terrain, at a radius of about 1,000
or 1,500 meters (1,094 to 1,640 yards) around the position, in a manner permitting observation of enemy terrain. The track, however, should be concealed as much as possible. (See fig. 25.)

Outposts or sentries are established in heated tents, sheds, or farmhouses at the roadside or other points important for the protection of the position. Old tracks, extending beyond the security circle, should either be properly marked or be obliterated. Patrols and runners should cross the security circle only on previously designated and marked tracks. Patrols from the outposts guard the security track by constantly circulating on it. Branches placed across the track serve as a means of checking whether the enemy has used it. If new tracks of unknown origin are discovered, patrols will investigate and, if necessary, alert the outposts. A second narrower track may be constructed around the quarters and guarded in a similar manner to provide close-in protection.

Tracks for messengers must permit speedy skiing, and it must be possible to find them without difficulty even in the dark and in foggy weather. Snow squalls require frequent renewal of the tracks. In extreme cold, special trails for ski or foot travel should be prepared in the immediate vicinity of the sentries to give them an opportunity to warm up by vigorous movements. Sentries should be relieved at short intervals. To increase security and to protect sentries and outposts, various simple obstacles and alarms should be constructed on tracks or communication roads leading toward the enemy. Trip wires hidden in the snow and connected with mines, booby traps, or alarm mechanisms are particularly useful.

Listening posts are especially important at night in snow-covered terrain, and also in daytime, if the position is defiladed. At night, patrols, sentries, and outposts should be equipped with flare pistols and an ample supply of flares. Regardless of the protection provided by circular ski tracks, reconnaissance by scouting patrols in the direction of the enemy cannot be dispensed



The ski patrol is the most important reconnaissance organization in snow covered terrain. It may be employed for combat reconnaissance as well as general reconnaissance. Its missions may sometimes last several days. Training Regulations for Infantry, in the section entitled "The Squad in Reconnaissance," applies in general to ski patrols. Because of its mobility the ski patrol is particularly fitted to execute, besides reconnaissance, minor combat missions to disturb and harass the enemy. Detachments on skis which are organized for the sole purpose of executing limited combat missions are designated as ski assault troops.

A raiding party is used chiefly for the demolition or destruction of distant objectives or for missions behind enemy lines. It must be able to accomplish combat missions independently, fighting for several days without relying on the supply installations of the main unit. In particular, raiding parties may be employed to conduct reconnaissance in force over large areas;

b. To destroy enemy artillery positions, to annihilate troops and reserves separated from their units, and to raid command posts;
c. To destroy shelters, supply installations, and transport facilities;
d. To intercept and destroy food or ammunition supply columns and to cut off and interfere with enemy supply and communication lines;
e. To protect wide sectors against enemy guerrillas, paratroops, and airborne troops.


Russian fighting men have had excellent opportunities to learn about German reconnaissance methods. The information on this subject in the following paragraph has been collected and arranged by Lt. Col. L. Davidov of the Red Army. It should be of special interest and value to our junior officers and enlisted men.


The Germans place great emphasis on reconnaissance. Dozens of orders and memoranda issued to German Army units include reminders that land reconnaissance must be conducted by all branches, regardless of whether or not this type of work is their primary responsibility.

During periods of inactivity on the fronts. German land reconnaissance attempts to learn:
a. The location and extent of our defensive lines.
b. The location and composition of our strong points.
c. The differences between our day and night dispositions.
d. The location of our obstacles and minefields.
e. The movement and new positions of our units.

German land reconnaissance tries to report accurately and in detail the dispositions of our troops, heavy artillery, headquarters, and reserves. Regarding all changes in our units as significant, the enemy attempts to discover these changes and to draw conclusions which can be put to use. This reconnaissance is carried out by observers, listening sentries, patrols, or battle (reconnaissance in force).

Special attention is given to the reports of the listening sentries. Under cover of darkness, these men crawl as close to our lines as possible, and try to plot and fix the location of various sounds—especially to gain information about our tanks, our reserves, the movement of our patrols, the location of our new artillery positions, and regions in which digging is in progress. Although the listening sentries can sometimes discover important data, we are repeatedly able to deceive them by means of ruses. Since the listening reports are checked in the daytime by German visual observation, we are obliged to deceive the visual observers, as well, for the sake of consistency. For ex-ample, if we imitate tank sounds at night for the benefit of German sentries in a certain locality, the next day we must see to it that there is some sort of camouflage in the same place.

Reconnaissance by combat patrols—usually a platoon—is most often done at night. These patrols, armed with hand grenades and machine pistols, generally operate without artillery support. They try to reach positions on the flanks of our units without attracting our attention, and then suddenly attack a previously assigned objective for the purpose of capturing a "tongue." (In general, the objectives are those which have been discovered by lookouts and listening sentries). After capturing a number of outposts, the Germans send details of two and three men into our rear areas. Our wide-awake unit commanders often take advantage of these tactics for the purpose of counter-reconnaissance.

If the Germans are unable to locate our outposts and flanks or believe them to be well hidden, reconnaissance by a patrol is preceded by artillery and mortar fire. Under such circumstances the raiding party is divided into attacking and supporting groups. As a rule, one or two small groups make a frontal advance, while the remainder attack the designated objective from the flanks. Two or three days before this type of operation, the Germans place ranging fire on the objective and nearby positions. After this preparatory fire, the Germans do not fire again in this region until they are ready to attack. (However, during daylight it is not difficult to detect the movements of small groups of soldiers who are being instructed in the methods to be used for the attack and fire support. It is also fairly easy to detect a group of officers on a reconnoitering mission.) When the Germans are thoroughly prepared, they launch a night attack. If Russian units detect the approaching groups and open fire on them, the Germans signal for the previously prepared artillery and mortar fire.

Characteristic methods of German reconnaissance are clearly illustrated by an action which was attempted against the Nth unit of our army. Two days before the time set for a reconnaissance in force, a group of German officers conducted a reconnoitering tour. That same day there was a brief artillery barrage, apparently for ranging. After this there was no action whatever in the sector—no doubt the scheme was to lull the defenders into a sense of security. Two days later, during the second half of the night, the Germans opened concentrated artillery and mortar fire on the same sector. Under cover of this fire, a German reconnaissance unit, divided into three parts, advanced. Presently a German signal light went up, and the artillery fire was shifted to neighboring strong points. Simultaneously, two groups, supported by the small-arms fire of the third, made a quick rush on our trenches. We met the three groups with concentrated artillery and machine-gun fire. This forced the enemy to retreat. We have learned that when we can perceive the enemy's intentions, it is a good policy to allow these first groups to approach our positions so that we can annihilate the attackers at close range.

Finally, a word about German counter-reconnaissance. Highly resourceful officers and soldiers are chosen for this work. These men take up positions as near our lines as possible. Their primary task is to determine the intentions of our reconnaissance patrols; their secondary task is to locate our minefields and learn the boundaries of our positions.

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