German Squad Defensive Tactics

German squad defensive tactics stressed the importance of integration with larger plans and the principle of posts scattered in depth. The individual Schützengruppe (squad) was expected to dig in on a frontage 30 or 40 meters, this being the maximum that a squad leader could effectively oversee in a defending battle. Major landmarks, such as single trees or crests were best shunned as too attractive to enemy fire. During the digging, one member of the squad was to stand sentry, preventing surprise from ground or air. Gaps between squads might be left, although covered by fire. Key to the defense was the location of the machine gun, which would be given several alternative positions, perhaps 50 or more meters apart, that were identified from the outset. It would cover longer range targets, while the riflemen, who might well be held further back, were concerned mainly with sweeping the terrain at close and very close range.

The usual deployment would see the men of the squad in pairs in foxholes, trenches, or ditches, posted close enough to communicate with their partner. These little sub-section nests would be slightly separated, echeloned, or at different levels, thus decreasing the effect of enemy fire. In the event that the enemy attack did not materialize immediately, the second phase of construction would see the digging of trenches behind the main line in which much of the squad could be kept back under cover until needed. Good camouflage was complemented by the avoidance of any obvious movement to attract enemy observation. The defensive fire fight was iniciated by the machine gun at effective range, riflemen remaining concealed until the enemy assault, at which all were to open fire regardless of cover. Hand grenades falling on the position were to be dealt with either by the men diving away into cover, or by picking up the grenade and throwing it back.

In the latter part of World War II, there was particular emphasis on resistance to armor. Ideal defensive positions were therefore on a tank-proof obstacle, equipped with at least one anti-tank weapon, capable of all round defense, and having artillery support directed by a forward observer. Active patrols with anti-tank weapons, as small as a single squad, were to be encouraged to intercept enemy tanks probing a defense.

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