July 30, 20100 Comments

PANZERGRENADIER TACTICS

I thought this bit on PANZERGRENADIER TACTICS might prove of some interest, as probably the German Motorised/Panzergrenadier divisions were amongst the most versatile of the War.

Guderian always accepted that tanks could not operate alone effectively. Despite anti-infantry weaponry-usually machine guns-a tank was always vulnerable to small groups or even lone infantrymen if they were determined enough. This vulnerability was increased if the infantry had access to decent anti-tank guns or devices, but even poorly-equipped foot soldiers could prove a real danger if they had the requisite courage. Finnish tank-killing infantry destroyed about 1600 Soviet AFVs/Tanks during the Winter War of 1939-40, mostly using Molotov cocktails or even petrol filled vodka bottles. Tanks proved particularly at risk in broken terrain, such as forests and urban areas and the Finns exploited this.

They then attacked in the conventional manner of infantry supporting tanks. they only had 13mm of armoured plate. who was armed with a machine pistol and was responsible for the squad to the platoon commander. There were no half-tracks available in the Polish campaign. in a fast-moving advance that usually characterised German Blitzkriegtactics he might find himself carried by a halftrack. It was only at the time of Barbarossa in 1941 that large numbers of SdKfz 251s became widely available and enough to equip full battallions of Panzergrenadierswithin a Panzer division. The driver was also responsible for the care of the vehicle and expected to remain with the transport. Although the classic image of the Panzergrenadier is intimately associated with the SdKfz 251 half-tracked armoured personnel carrier. they could be brought into battle as soon as they were needed. usually a junior NCO eg a corporal. the Panzergrenadiers. These were very vulnerable and thus caution was required when following tanks. Therefore instead of driving into the midst of the enemy position. The concept of a carrierborne attack into the heart of the enemy’s defences accompanying the tanks was the ideal. Even within the Panzer divisions. but the reality was somewhat more mundane. Whenever tanks bypassed points or 'pockets' of stiff enemy resistance. the vehicle was mounted from the rear. only 1 battalion in 2 would be so equipped. Now. 2 runners. the basic Panzergrenadier unit was the gruppe or squad. Nonetheless. Most Panzergrenadiers were transported in soft-skinned vehicles like trucks and motorcycles. the half-track could provide a useful firing position. The key tactical advantage was that because of their motorisation. Although the SdKfz 251 provided decent protection against small arms fire. they needed accompanying infantry to go in first to clear the way or make a breakthroughin the enemy line so the Tanks could then exploit. lorry or motorcycle. ready to dismount and engage anything that slowed the Tank. hanging from the tank itself.When Tanks were fighting through defensive lines or moving through landscape that provided the enemy with good cover. the Germans could experiment with fighting directly from their halftracks. and on the move it was usual for one man to scan the skies constantly for aircraft. a radio-operator. a driver. or in extreme circumstances. On the move. The squad contained 2 light machine-gun teams. His rifle-armed assistant was normally a lance-corporal and could lead the half squad if it was divided. normally debussed at a forming-up point or start line away from the enemy’s line of sight. These vehicles were open-topped. Conversely. usually an MG 34/42. usually about 12 men mounted in a half-track or often a truck. he also commanded the vehicle and fired the vehicle mounted machine gun. there were never enough of these vehicles to equip panzergrenadier formations to full strength. At the lowest level. Thus the Panzergrenadier might very often have to fight like a conventional infantryman. when using the SD KFZ 251. The squad was led by a squad leader. it was the job of the Panzergrenadier to clear up these pockets. usually a juniorofficer but sometimes a sergeant. the Germans fairly quickly resorted to debussing at least 400m or so in front of enemy positions. four rifle-armed infantrymen and the driver and co-driver. When the squad was transported by a half-track. Due to heavy losses suffered amongst half-tracks when accompanying Tanks into the heart of a battle. with the platoon HQ in a separate vehicle. thus he would sit towards the rear of the vehicle and the squad leader would sit atthe front. A Panzergrenadier platoon was made up of 3 squads. and later in the War very few Pazergrenadier divisions had a full complementof these vehicles. under certain tactical conditions. The HQ troop consisted of a platoon commander. whilst others . Thus they became vulnerable to even the smallest calibre anti-tank weapon and suffered accordingly. The deputy squad leader was responsible for closing the door. each of 2 men. a medic and usually some form of anti-tank gun.

but the presence of enemy artillery or antitank guns usually saw them seek cover. A halted half-track provided a good firing position but was vulnerable. Essentially the Panzergrenadierswas part of an all-arms team. Even under ideal conditions. On the whole. the squad might well jump over the side as well as out of the back. assault vital strongpoints. close order.kept a watch on both sides of the vehicle. but can only strike hard and break through lines. This was a hollow wedge of tanks inside which moved the mororized infantry. For this reason. They could fight as infantry offensive and defensive actions. seize bridges and clear urban or wooded areas in which the Tanks were at risk. Once dismounted. Improvements in Soviet anti-tank defences as the war advanced meant that the Panzergrenadiersoften had to precede the tanks. the SdKfz 251s. a contraction of Panzer und lastkraftwagen. One of the most important German formations developed during the Soviet campaign was the PULK. In combat. Although the Panzergrenadiers key role was co-operation with Tanks they could fight on their own. As a result. If the whole battalion was deployed. and ragged lines or chequered formations were used.’ . The squad's machine-gunners might well engage targets on the move. it widened the gap as it passed through. the formation could incline left or right. the PULK could advance as a blunt quadrangle. a panzer division was not expected to advance more than 20km in a day. When the wedge pierced the enemy defences. The SdKfz 251. advancing. the Panzergrenadiersfought as normal infantry. stopping and firing to cover other half-tracks. its corner becoming the 'point of advance'. The very flexibility was a vital component of their value. When a platoon was driving together. the gaps were extended to beyond 50m. However. the most important being the Panzergrenadier. The normal dismounting procedure was via the rear of the vehicle. drivers were prepared to simply ignore or drive through small arms fire. To quote Wilhelm Necker in 1943: 'The Germans at an early stage in the war and even before the war understood the special weakness of the tank: its dependency on terrain and the fact it cannot occupy. the preferred formation was often an 'arrowhead'. This was often performed on the move at slow speeds. The Panzergrenadiers were then able to spread out and attack remaining areas of resistance from the flanks and rear. could utilise a motorised version of fire and movement. however. His role grew out of the German acceptance that the Tank could not win battles alone. for the convoy was usually 5-10m apart in column or even abreast in open country. troop-carrying vehicles rarely averaged more than 30km per hour road speed. meaning tanks and trucks. or a mixed force of tanks and soldiers might move forward to clear enemy defences. Often when advancing. the actual tank force was cut down to the minimum and the division reinforced with various other units. in emergencies. The point of the wedge was formed by the best tanks and the sides by other tanks and self-propelled guns. it was not recommended to stop for more than 15-20seconds in hostile terrain. as could the rest of the squad if necessary from the sides. If the enemy’s weakest point had not been identified. Once a weak spot was found.

which are the assault ground troops of the German armored divisions. USA. Herford. and engineer platoons. Mittler & Sohn Verlag. 1984. In addition. combat in and around villages and forests. and tank engineer units. and equipment are ready for use at all times. Repair echelons insure that motor vehicles. 2000. in attacks across rivers. for example. Besides the varied light and heavy armament possessed by the Panzer Grenadier rifle companies. This permits fire power of considerable scope—so much so that a Panzer Grenadier company can develop three times the fire power of the normal German heavy infantry company. pistols. Broschur." fully armored and designed for cross-country duty. 1935-1945. Often the Panzer Grenadiers must precede the tanks in assault and attempt to create a favorable situation for a tank thrust. 1989. This is done. Although in independent combat assignments the Panzer Grenadiers are often allotted artillery. like the infantry. and great fire power. guns. and combat at night and in fog. Scheibert. and antiaircraft. Stuttgart. machine pistols. So-called "Panzer Grenadier personnel carriers. carry the assault troops into battle (see fig. Lucas/Cooper: "Panzergrenadiere im 2. Podzun Pallas Verlag.1945". fuel. in the Panzer Grenadier regiments and battalions we find headquarters companies. (engl. and antitank guns of every caliber. 1). mobility. Wolfersheim. The chief task of the Panzer Grenadiers is to put their mobility and strength to effective use in combined operations with tanks. attacks against prepared defensive positions. ca. Horst: "Deutsche Panzergrenadiere".Weltkrieg". supply echelons for munitions. Podzun Pallas Verlag. 1980. tankdestroyer platoons. the Panzer Grenadiers have become an arm which does not fight according to linear and frontal principles. assault artillery.Auflage. and in combat on foot. Squadron/Signal Publications. motorcycle dispatch rider platoons. but one which tries to force a decision within and to the rear of hostile positions. are notable for their speed. light and heavy guns. Riemann. Horst: "Panzergrenadiere. Waffen-FahrzeugeGliederung-Einsatze". The extensive allotment of weapons to Panzer Grenadier units include rifles. Redmon/Cuccarese: "Panzergrenadiers in action". attacks against forces which are established on or behind terrain unsuitable for general tank action. signal platoons.Fleischer. Kradschutzen und Panzeraufklarer 1935 . as well as for their methods of cooperating closely with the tank regiments. the Grenadiers assume primary . heavy gun companies. tank destroyer.) Carrollton. 1. Motorbuch Verlag. 1981. Texas. Wolfgang: "Die motorisierten Schutzen und Panzergrenadiere des deutschen Heeres. PANZER GRENADIERS The Panzer Grenadier regiments. In combat from these vehicles. Friedberg. and rations are responsible for the maintenance of the troops.

responsibility whenever fighting reaches the hand-to-hand stage. "doubtful situations. bridges. Such enterprises of course involve open flanks. and heavy guns. Figure 1. they maintain radio contact with their base and with supporting German aircraft. or clearing a village or a forest. such undertakings demand a maximum of physical and mental preparedness. From the leaders down. medium. . they may be expected to get back into their carriers and pursue a disorganized opposition.—Panzer Grenadier Personnel Carrier. as well as a talent for assuming responsibility. whose carriers are capable of a much higher speed than tanks can attain. The German Army regards the Panzer Grenadiers as well qualified for certain defense tasks. breaking through a position. When they go deep into a hostile area. or critical terrain. too— especially the defense of broad sectors—because of their extensive allotment of light. with no certain knowledge that supplies can be provided by air. If the Panzer Grenadiers have reached an objective well behind the opposition's front lines." and the danger of being surrounded by superior forces for an indefinite period. have been known to dash far ahead of other troops—sometimes as much as 200 miles—to seize important communications centers. towns. they may be instructed to halt an advance made at considerable sacrifice (even though they might at this point be able to continue it) so that troop units which are not motorized can be given time to come forward. The Panzer Grenadiers. If the Grenadiers have been successful in establishing a bridgehead.

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