WWII Urban Warfare

If the trenches and barbed wire stopped the advance of the infantry and cavalry in the Great War, cities delayed an army offensive in WWII as the battle had to be decided through urban warfare. Street-by-street, house-to-house, close-quarters fighting and surprise were the main characteristics of this type of military engagement, for the city buildings, warehouses, churches, homes, and the drainage and sewage systems offered a lot of cover and hiding places for the defending forces. Cities and towns were the ideal battlefields for snipers and the perfect war environment for setting up boobytraps as narrow streets became lethal traps for trucks and armored vehicles, which were often attacked from the flanks with anti-tank grenades or molotov cocktails thrown into tank turrets through the top hatch. Since they did not have infrared goggles and thermal scopes on their rifles, the infantry took a break at night or just played by instinct. Crossing the street at an intersection was a hazardous exploit; the first couple of soldiers who managed to dash across unscathe had to provide fire support for the rest of the platoon. To shoot around the corner was extremely difficult and not accurate as sticking out the head around the corner to aim the weapon to provide fire support to the rest of the team offered a target to enemy snipers or machine gun operators. 

The advancing army needed the tripple or more the amount of infantrymen than the defending troops, who had to be ferreted out from each building. To break into a room to eliminate or flush out the hiding enemy, submachine guns, shot guns, flamethrowers, and handgrenades were often used. In order to reduce the risk of being caught in the crossfire coming from window machine gun nests, the infantry squad had to advance along the sidewalks, away from the center of the street, hugging the buiding walls. Most of the time air and artillery support for the advancing forces made the situation worse, for the heap of rubble from bomb explosions offered even better hiding places to the defending army; the battles of Stalingrad and Caen are examples of this. Thus, the death toll in urban warfare were usually higher than field battles, with a high number of civilian population casualties.

Weapons used in WW2 Urban Warfare

Submachine guns: MP 38/40, M3 “Grease Gun”, Thompson, PPSh-41, Sten Gun

Shotguns: Browning Auto-5, Ithaca 37

Sniper rifles: Mauser Gewehr 98, Mosin-Nagant, Springfield M1903, Lee-Enfield

Anti-tank weapons: Panzerfaust, Panzerschreck, Bazooka, RPG-40

Hand grenades


Machine guns


Infantry support guns


Urban Warfare Footage

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.