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small units actions .pdf

Nombre del archivo original: small units actions.pdf
Título: Small Unit Actions During the German Campaign in Russia
Autor: Franz Halder

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Department of the Army Pamphlets Published

in the




Aug 51
the Russian Campaign
Military Improvisations
Russian Combat Methods in World War II
Nov 50
Combat in Russian Forests and Swamps
Jul 51
Airborne Operations: A German Appraisal
Oct 51
German Defense Tactics Against Russian Break-Throughs
Jan 52
Operations of Encircled Forces
Jun 53
Night Combat
Rear Area Security inRussia The Soviet Second Front Behind
the German Lines
Jul 51
German Armored Traffic Control During the Russian Campaign.. Jun 52
Jul 51
Terrain Factors in the Russian Campaign
Effects of Climate on Combat in European Russia
Feb 52
Oct 51
Warfare in the Far North


NO. 20-269







JULY 1953

25, D.C, 31 July 1953
Department of the Army Pamphlet 20-269 is published for the
information and guidance of all concerned.

[AG3BS (7 Apr 53)]

order of the Secretary of the Army :

Official :
Major General, USA
The Adjutant General

Chief of Staff, United States Army

Distribution :
Active Army:
GSUSA (2) ; SSUSA (2) ; Tech Svc (2) ; Admin & Tech
Svc Bd (1) ;AFF (5) ;AAComd (3) ;OS Maj Comd (5) ;
MDW (2) ;Log Comd (2) ; A (10) ;CGQ (3) ; Div (5) ;
Bn (2) ; Sch (10) cxc USMA (5) ; PMS & T (1) ; Dep
(2) ;MAAG (1) ;MilMis (1) ;MilDist (1).

NG: State AG (1).

Army Reserve: None.

For explanation of distribution formula, see SR 310-90-1


Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-269, Small Unit Actions
During the German Campaign in Russia, is published as an adjunct
to existing training literature in the belief that much can be learned
from other armies, particularly the vanquished. It does not embody
official training doctrine. Although called a historical study, itis not
such according to a precise interpretation of the term. Itis rather a
series of interesting and instructive small unit actions based on the
personal experience of Germans who actually took part in them.
Clausewitz wrote that, in the art of war, experience is worth more
than all philosophical truth. This pamphlet is published with that
thought inmind, tempered with the truth that investigation, observa­
tion, and analysis are necessary to give fullmeaning to experience.

Major General, USA
Chief, MilitaryHistory
Washington, D.C.



The purpose of this text is to provide small unit commanders with
instructional material, at their own level, concerning the Russian
front during World War 11. A careful study of the examples in the
text will provide many lessons in tactics, logistics, and techniques, in
the coordination of weapons, in the influence of terrain, climatic and
weather conditions upon operations, and in the qualities of the officers
and men who fought on the Russian front. Itis only by utilizing
German experience that the best insight into the fighting on that front
can be secured.
To the average military student a thorough and detailed knowledge
of the fighting and livingconditions on the battlefield is of far greater
benefit than a superficial acquaintance with large operations, which
are primarily the province of commanders and staffs of the higher
commands. In his Battle Studies, Ardant dv Picq stated the same
idea as follows :
The smallest detail, taken from an actual incident in war, is more
instructive for me, a soldier, than all the Thiers and Jominis in
the world. They speak, no doubt, for the heads of states and
armies but they never show me what I
wish to know —a battalion,
a company, a squad, in action.
The young officer, lacking practical wartime experience, will find
much information in field manuals and service regulations, but such
texts will not stimulate his imagination or understanding of battle.
These must be stimulated and developed by other means, if the
principles propounded in manuals are to become a live part in the
professional preparation of small unit commanders before they par­
ticipate in battle. One of the most vivid media of instruction that
can be drawn from military history is the small unit action based on

personal experience.
A number of books dealing with small unit actions have been pub­
lished. One of the first was Freytag-Loringhoven's Das Exerzier
Reglement fur die Infanterie, which appeared in 1908 and which at­
tempted to show the validity of selected statements in the German
field manual for Infantry by subjecting them to the test of military
history. Perhaps best known to the United States Army is Infantry
in Battle, which considerably influenced U.S. Army training during
the 19305. During World War IIGeneral George C. Marshall, who

as commandant of the Infantry School fathered Infantry in Battle,
initiated the American Forces in Action, Series. These pamphlets are
essentially small unit actions. Three Battles: Arnaville, Altmzo, and
Schmidt is a volume in the official histories of THE UNITED
STATES ARMYIN WORLD WAR IIand deals with small unit
actions. Additional books of this type, soon to appear, are Service
Goes Forward and Small Unit Actions in Korea.
The actions contained herein describe the Russian soldier, his equip­
ment, and his combat methods under a variety of circumstances and
conditions as seen by his opponent the German. The narratives are
intended to supplement the theoretical knowledge of Russian combat
doctrine during World War IIthat can be acquired from the study
of manuals. Whereas the military doctrines of the nations vary little,
the application of these doctrines differs greatly between countries.
The chief characteristics of Russian combat methods during World
War IIwere the savagery, fanaticism, and toughness of the individual
soldier and the lavish prodigality with human life by the Soviet high
The actions here described are based solely on German source mate­
rial, primarily inthe form of narratives of personal experience. They
were written under the direct supervision of General Franz Haider,
Chief of the German Army General Staff from 1938 to 1942. General
Haider, like many of our own high-ranking officers, has on numerous
occasions expressed interest insmall unit actions and has often stressed
their importance in training junior leaders.
The German narratives, comprising over a hundred small unit
actions, reached this Office in the form of 1,850 pages of draft trans­
lations done in the Historical Division, USAREUR. These were
analyzed for content, presentation, and pertinence to the subject. The
better ones were then rewritten, edited, and arranged in chronological
sequence to give the best possible coverage to the different phases of
the German campaign in Russia. Under the direction of Lt. Col.
M. C. Heifers, Chief of the Foreign Studies Branch, Special Studies
Division, Office of the Chief of Military History, this work, as well as
the preparation of maps, was done by Mr. George E. Blau, Chief, and
Ist Lt. Roger W. Reed, Ist Lt. Gerd Haber, Mr. Charles J. Smith,
and Mr.George W. Garand of the Writing and Translation Section.
Although the original German source material has undergone consid­
erable revision, every effort has been made to retain the point of view,
the expression, and even the prejudices of the original.

P. M. Robinett
Brigadier General, U.S. A.Ret.
Chief, Special Studies Division

I. General
11. The Russian Soldier
111. German Adjustments to the Russian Theater of War
IV. Peculiarities of Russian Combat Methods
V. Russian Combat Orders







Chapter 1. Infantry

I. General
11. German Limited-Objective
Attacks South of Leningrad
(September 1941)



111. Company G Counterattacks during a Snowstorm (Novem­
ber 1941)
IV. Company G Operates in Deep Snow (January 1942)
V. Russian Infantry Attacks a German-Held Town (January





VI. Company G Struggles Against Overwhelming Odds (March


VII. Company G Annihilates a Russian EliteUnit (March 1942) VIII. Company G Recaptures Hill 726 (October 1942)
IX. The 2d Battalion Launches a Limited Counterthrust (No­
vember 1942)
X. The 2d Battalion Switches to the Defensive (November







XI. The 2d Battalion's Stand at Verkhne-Golubaya (Novem­
ber 1942)
XII. The 2d Battalion Holds Out Despite Being Overrun by

Russian Armor (December 1942)
XIII.Infantry Succeeds Where Armor Failed (December 1942) _
XIV. The 2d Battalion's Final Struggle in the Stalingrad Pocket

(January 1943)





XV. Sudden Initiation into Russian Winter Combat (February



XVI. Russian Reconnaissance inForce by Tank-Mounted Infan­
try (October 1943)


Chapter 2. Armor
I. General
11. The Armored Roadblock (June 1941)
111. German Armored Engineers Capture Two Bridges (June


IV. Russian Tank Trap (July 1941)
V. German Armored Engineers on the Road to Leningrad

(August 1941)







Chapter 2. Armor—Continued


VI. The Struggle for Shelter (December 1941)

VII.Seesaw Battle inSubzero Temperatures (January 1942)...
VIII.The Fedorenko Order (June 1942)
IX. Feint, Ambush, and Strike (July 1942)
X. Ambush Without Follow-Up (December 1942)
XI. Tanks Fail to Eliminate a Bridgehead (June 1944)
XII.An Armored Task Force Seizes Two Vital Bridges (August










XIII.Tank Battle Near the Berlin Highway (March 1945)
Chapter 3. Engineers

I. General. _

11. A River Crossing that Almost Failed (July 1941)
111. The Hidden Bunker in the Stalin Line (July 1941)
IV. The Capture of Balta (August 1941)
V. Russian Mine-Clearing Methods (July 1942)
VI. Russian Excavation Methods (September 1943)
VII. The Recapture of Goldap (November 1944)








Chapter 4. Fighting inTaiga and Tundra

I. General
11. A Sabotage Operation Against the Murmansk-Leningrad

Rail Line (August 1942)
111. German Raid on a Russian Strong Point in Northern Fin­
land (February 1944)
IV. The Last German Offensive Operation in Northern Finland


(August 1944)





V. German Retrograde Movement Through the Taiga (Sep­
tember 1944)

Chapter 5. Russian Operation* at River Lines


I. General.

11. Battle Reconnaissance by Infiltration (August 1941)

111. A Unique Underwater Bridge (August 1943)

IV. The Swamp Bridgehead (June 1944)

V. The Oder Crossings (February 1945)
Chapter 6. Forest Combat


I. General

11. Initiation into Forest Fighting (July 1941)
111. Russian Defensive Position near the Edge of a Forest

(August 1941)
IV.German Defense of a Forest Strong Point (February 1942) . 244

V. Russian Infiltration Tactics (October 1942)


VI. Russian Attack Through a Forest (November 1943)

VII. German and Russian Combat Tricks


Chapter 7. AnHpartiian Warfare


I. General
11. The First Encounter (June 1941)
111. The Forest Camp (December 1942)
IV. Attack on a Partisan Headquarters (June 1943)
V. Operation QUARRY (January-March 1944)



Map No.

1. General Reference Map of European Russia
Advance from Romano vka to Sluts k
3. Hill747 Northeast of Rzhev...
4. Fighting East of Toropets
5. Defense of Khristishche
6. Defense of Village T North of Olenino
7. Defense of Village S Northwest of Olenino.
8. Attack on Hill726 North of Olenino
9. The 2d Battalion's Moves During the Stalingrad Fighting10. Counterthrust from Verkhne-Buzinovka
11. Defense of Verkhne-Buzinovka
12. Defense of Verkhne-Golubaya
13. Fighting North of Bolshaya Rossoshka
14. The Struggle South of Verkhniy Kumskiy
15. The Advance from Konstantinovka to Krasnogorka
16. Skirmish North of Kiev
17. A Russian Tank Obstructs German Advance inSouthern Lithuania.
_ 84
18. The Two Bridges Across the Dvina
19. The Seizure of Zhlobin
20. Approach to Leningrad
21. German Defense of Berestovaya
22. Fighting West of Kursk
23. German Advance to the Resseta River
24. German Armor at the Foothills of the Caucasus Mountains
25. Russian Bridgehead on the Dnestr
26. German Counterthrust in Southern Poland
27. German Defense of the Kuestrin-Berlin Highway
28. Bridge Construction Across the Dvina at Ulla
29. Demolition of a Russian Bunker on the Bank of the Dnestr.
30. The Capture of Balta
3 1 Russian Mine Clearing in the Voronezh Salient
32. Russian Tunnels Dug South of Lake Ladoga
33. The German Attack on Goldap
34. General Reference Map for "Fighting in Taiga and Tundra"
35. The Sabotage Company's Route to the Murmansk-Leningrad Rail
36. Assaulton Hill858 East of the Litsa River
37. Situation in the 307th Regiment's Sector
38. The 307th Regiment's Route of Withdrawal
39. Russian Cross- River Reconnaissance Along the Lower Dnepr.
40. Russian Attempts to Cross the Upper Donets South of Belgorod..,.






Map No,



Russian Bridgehead on the Pripyat

42. Russian Crossings South of Frankfurt an der Oder
43. Forest Fighting in Latvia
44. Russian Forest Positions Near Kanev in the Ukraine
45. German Defense of a Forest Strong Point Southwest of Moscow
46. Russian Forest Force Southeast of Rzhev
47. Russian Attack North of Kiev
48. Partisan Resistance in Southern Lithuania
49. Elimination of a Partisan Force in the Bryansk Area
50. Attack on a Partisan Headquarters in the Lepel-Borisov Area
51. Antipartisan Operations Near Kerch in the Crimean Peninsula



German Patrol Returning With Prisoners and Wounded Comrades..
2. German Sentry Using Large Wash Tub to Protect Himself Against
Icy Wind
3. German Sentry in Sheepskin Coat Near Moscow, December 1941
4. German Supply Column Returning From the Front, January 1942. _
5. German Foxhole Near Rzhev, February 1942
6. German Reconnaissance Patrol Near the Don, 1942
7. German Sentries Near the Don, 1942
8. German Infantry Fighting Russian Tanks, 1942
9. Russian T-34 in Action
10. German Columns Advance Past Immobilized Russian Tanks, July
11. German 50-mm. Antitank Gun in Position
12. Russian XV Tank Demolished by the Germans, July 1941
13. German Tank Attacks With Mounted Infantry, 1942
14. German 88-mm. Gun Crew Keeping Warm, Winter 1942
15. German Tanks Attack With Luftwaffe Support, 1942
16. Two German Tiger Tanks Meet Near a Forest, 1944
17. German Advance Through Ukrainian Wheat Field During Attack
on Stalin Line, July 1941
18. Construction of a German Ponton Bridge, 1941
19. The Russian Bunker in the Stalin Line (Dnepr Bridge in the Center) .
20. Closeup View of the Russian Bunker
21. Russian Position in the Ukraine, August 1941
22. German Ponton Bridge, 1941
23. German Bunker in the Taiga
24. German Bunkers on the Kandalaksha Front, 1944
25. German Ski Company in the Tundra, May 1944
26. German Patrol Reports inLapland, 1942
27. German Infantry, 1944
28. Russian POW's, 1941
29. Russian Infantry Mopping Up While German Tank Burns, 1943
30. German Assault Gun Attacks Behind Smoke Screen
31. German 88-mm. Gun Knocks Out Russian Tanks
32. German River Crossing, 1942
33 German 20-mm. Antiaircraft Gun Used in Ground Fighting, 1942 —
34 German Armored Infantry Advancing Through Forest








German Assault Gun Advances Ahead of Infantry, 1942


36. German Tanks Rumbles Through Kiev
37. German Motorized Column Takes a Break on the Road to Minsk,
July 1941
38. German Poster Warns of Death Penalty for Any Partisan or Anyone
Assisting Him, August 1941
39. German Soldier Searching a Captured Russian Partisan


40. German Supply Dump in Russia
(Most of the illustrations are from the collection of captured German combat
paintings now in the custody of the Chief of Military History, Special Staff, U.S.
Army; the others are U.S. Army photos from captured German films.)



I. General

Proper combat training for officers and enlisted personnel is essen­
tial to military victory. The objective of peacetime training must
be to improve their efficiency so that they can achieve optimum per­
formance in time of war. This willbe attained if every soldier knows
how to handle his weapon and is fully integrated into his unit and
ifevery leader is able to master any situation with which he might be
faced. The better their preparation for war, the fewer improvisations
commanders and soldiers willhave to introduce in combat.
Every tactician and instructor recognizes the validity of these
principles and tries to instillthem inhis trainees in the most realistic
manner. Yet even the best-trained German troops had to learn many
new tricks when war broke out and when they were shifted from one
theater to another. Ineach instance they were faced with problems
for which they were not sufficiently prepared. Inunusual situations
field commanders were sometimes compelled to violate certain regula­
tions before they could be rescinded or modified by higher authority.
The preceding observations give an indication of the problems
involved in preparing the German field forces for an encounter with
an opponent whose pattern of behavior and thinking was so funda­
mentally different from their own that it was often beyond com­
prehension. Moreover, the peculiarities of the Russian theater were
such that German unit commanders were faced with situations
for which there seemed to be no solution. The unorthodox Russian
tactics with which the Germans were not familiar were equally dis­
turbing, and Russian deception and trickery caused many German
casualties. Several months of acclimatization were often necessary
before a unit transferred to Russia was equal to the demands of the
new theater. Occasionally a combat efficient unit without previous
experience in Russia failed completely or suffered heavy losses in ac­
complishing a difficult mission that presented no problems to another



unit familiar with the Russian theater, even though the latter had
been depleted by previous engagements. This fact alone proved how
necessary it was to disseminate the lessons learned in Russia, since
this was the only method by which inexperienced troops could be
spared the reverses and heavy casualties they would otherwise suffer
during their commitment against Russian troops. To meet this need
for training literature, a series of pamphlets a*:ci instructions based
on German combat 3xperiences in Russia was issued in 1943-44.
11. The Russian Soldier
The Germans found, however, that to be acquainted with Russian
tactics and organization was useful but by no means decisive in
achieving victory in battle. Far more important was the proper
understanding of the Russian soldier's psyche, a process involving the
analysis of his natural impulses and reactions in different situations.
Only thus were the Germans able to anticipate Russian behavior in
a given situation and draw the necessary conclusions for their own
course of action. Any analysis of the outstanding characteristics of
the Russian soldier must begin with his innate qualities.
a. Character. The Slav psyche especially where itis under more
or less pronounced Asiatic influences covers a wide range in which
fanatic conviction, extreme bravery, and cruelty bordering on bestial­
ity are coupled with childlike kindliness and susceptibility to sudden
fear and terror. His fatalistic attitude enables the Russian to bear
extreme hardship and privation. He can suffer without succumbing.
Attimes the Russian soldier displayed so much physical and moral
fortitude that he had to be considered a first-rate fighter. On the
other hand, he was by no means immune to the terrors of a battle of
attrition with its combination of massed fire, bombs, and flame
throwers. Whenever he was unprepared for their impact, these
weapons of destruction had a long-lasting effect. In some instances,
when he was dealt a severe, well-timed blow, a mass reaction of fear
and terror would throw him and his comrades completely off balance.
b. Kinship With Nature. The Russian soldier's kinship with
nature was particularly pronounced.
As a child of nature the Rus­
sian instinctively knew how to take advantage of every opportunity
nature offered. He was inured to cold, hot, and wet weather. With
animal-like instinct he was able to find cover and adapt himself to
any terrain. Darkness, fog, and snowdrifts were no handicap to him.
Even under enemy fire he skillfully dug a foxhole and disappeared
underground without any visible effort. He used his axe with great



dexterity, felling trees, building shelters, blockhouses, and bunkers,
and constructing bridges across waterways or corduroy roads through
swamps and mud. Working in any weather, he accomplished each
job with an instinctive urge to find protection against the effect of
modern weapons of destruction.
c. Frugality. The frugality of the Russian soldier was beyond
German comprehension.
The average rifleman was able to hold out
prepared rations, bread, or tobacco. At
without hot
such times he subsisted on wild berries or the bark of trees. His
personal equipment consisted of a small field bag, an overcoat, and
occasionally one blanket which had to suffice even in severe winter
weather. Since he traveled so light, he was extremely mobile and
did not depend on the arrival of rations and personal equipment
during the course of operations.
d. Physical Fitness. From the outset of the Russian campaign the
German tactical superiority was partly compensated for by the greater
physical fitness of Russian officers and men. During the first winter,
for instance, the German Army High Command noticed to its grave
concern that the Russians had no intention of digging in and allowing
operations to stagnate along fixed fronts. The lack of shelter failed to
deter the Russians from besieging German strong points by day and
night, even though the temperature had dropped to —40° F. Officers,
commissars, and men were exposed to subzero temperatures for many
days without relief.
The essentially healthy Russian soldier with his high standard of
physical fitness was capable of superior physical courage in combat.
Moreover, in line with the materialistic concepts of communism, the
life of a human being.meant little to a Russian leader. Man had been
converted into a commodity, measured exclusively in terms of quantity
and capability.

111. German Adjustments to the Russian Theater of War
Conversely, the German troops were illprepared for a prolonged
campaign inRussia. An immediate readjustment and a radical de­
parture from the norms established in the western and central Euro­
pean theaters of war became necessary. As a first adjustment to local
conditions the German Army revised the standards for selecting lower
echelon commanders. Their average age was lowered and the physical
fitness requirements were raised. Staff cars, riding horses, and every
piece of excess baggage had to be left behind whenever a German unit
had to go into action against Russian forces. For weeks at a time
officers and men had no opportunity to change their underwear. This



required another type of adjustment to the Russian way of life,ifonly
to prevail in the struggle against filthand vermin. Many officers and
men of the older age groups broke down or became sick and had to be
replaced by younger men.
In comparison with the Russian soldier, his German counterpart
was much too spoiled. Even before World War I
there was a standing
joke that the German Army horses would be unable to survive a single
night in the open. The German soldier of World War IIhad become
so accustomed to barracks withcentral heating and running water, to
beds with mattresses, and to dormitories with parquet floors that the
adjustment to the extremely primitive conditions in Russia was far
from easy. To provide a certain amount of comfort during a term of
service extending over several years was perfectly justifiable, but the
German Army had gone much too far in this respect.
The breakdown of the supply system and the shortage of adequate
clothing during the winter of 1941-42 were the direct outgrowth of
German unpreparedness. The extraordinary physical fitness of the
Russians, which permitted them to continue the struggle without let-up
throughout the biting-cold winter, caused innumerable German cas­
ualties and thereby shook the confidence of the troops.
IV. Peculiarities of Russian Combat Methods
During the course of the war the Russians patterned their tactics
more and more after those of the Germans. By the time they started
their major counteroffensives, their methods of executing meticulously
planned attacks, organizing strong fire support, and establishing de­
fensive systems showed definite traces of German influence. The one
feature distinguishing their operations throughout the war was their
total disregard for the value of human life that found expression in
the employment of mass formations, even for local attacks. Two other
characteristics peculiar to the combat methods of the Russians were
their refusal to abandon territorial gains and their ability to improvise
in any situation.
Infantry, frequently mounted on tanks and in trucks, at times even
without weapons, was driven forward wave upon wave regardless of
the casualties involved. These tactics of mass assault played havoc
with the nerves of the German defense forces and were reflected in
their expenditure of ammunition. The Russians were not satisfied
at merely being able to dominate an area with heavy weapons or
tanks ; ithad to be occupied by infantry. Even when as many as 80
men out of 100 became casualties, the remaining 20 would hold the
ground they had finally gained whenever the Germans failed to mop



up the area immediately. In such situations the speed with which
the Russian infantry dug in and the skill with which the command
reinforced such decimated units and moved up heavy weapons were
A quick grasp of the situation and instantaneous reaction to it were
needed to exploit any moment of weakness that was bound to develop
even after a Russian attack had met with initial success. This was
equally true in the case of a successful German attack. Under the
impression that they had thoroughly beaten and shattered their Rus­
sian opponents during an all-day battle, the Germans occasionally
relaxed and left the followup operation or pursuit for the next morn­
ing. On every such occasion they paid dearly for underestimating
their adversary.
The conduct of the Russian troops in the interim periods between
major engagements deserved careful analysis because it provided clues
to what had to be expected during the initial phase of the coming
battle. The gathering of information was complicated by the fact
that Russian commanders put so much stress on concealing their plans
during the buildup phase for an attack and during the preparation of
a defensive system. The effectiveness of secrecy and adaptation to
terrain was forcefully demonstrated in the shifting and regrouping
of forces. While the speed with which Russian commanders effected
an improvised regrouping of large formations was initself a remark­
able achievement, the skill with which individual soldiers moved
within a zone of attack or from one zone to another occasionally seemed
unbelievable. To see a few soldiers moving about in the snow at great
distance often meant little to a careless and superficial observer.
However, constant observation and an accurate head count often
revealed surprisingly quick changes in the enemy situation.
Inview of the alertness of the Russian infantryman and the heavily
mined outpost area of his positions, a hastily prepared reconnaissance
in force by the Germans usually failed to produce the desired results.
Under favorable circumstances the patrol returned with a single
prisoner who either belonged to some service unit or was altogether
uninformed. The Russian command maintained tight security, and
the individual soldier rarely knew his unit's intentions. The re­
sulting lack of information with regard to Russian offensive plans
gave no assurance, however, that strong Russian forces would not
launch an attack at the same point the very next day.
To celebrate major Soviet holidays Russian sharpshooters usually
tried to break the standing marksmanship scores and on those oc­
casions German soldiers had to be particularly on the alert. In
general, however, Russian attacks were likely to take place on any



day, at any time, over any terrain, and under any weather conditions.
These attacks derived their effectiveness mainly from the achieve­
ment and exploitation of surprise, toward which end the Russians
employed infiltration tactics along stationary fronts as well as during
mobile operations. The Russians were masters at penetrating the
German lines without visible preparation or major fire support and
at airlanding or infiltrating individual squads, platoons, or companies
without arousing suspicion. By taking advantage of the hours of
darkness, or the noon rest period, the weather conditions and terrain,
or a feint attack at another point, the Russian soldiers could infiltrate
a German position or outflank it. They swam rivers, stalked through
forests, scaled cliffs, wore civilian clothing or enemy uniforms, in­
filtrated German march columns in short, suddenly they were there !
Only through immediate counteraction could they be repelled or an­
nihilated. Whenever the Germans were unable to organize a suc­
cessful counterthrust, the infiltrating Russians entrenched themselves
firmly and received reinforcements within a few hours." It was like
a small flame that rapidly turns into a conflagration. Despite com­
plete encirclement Russian units which had infiltrated German posi­
tions could hold out for days, even though they suffered many
privations. By holding out, they could tie down strong German
forces and form a jumpoff base for future operations.

V. Russian Combat Orders

In contrast to the steady stream of propaganda poured out by the
political commissars whose language abounded in flowery phrases
and picturesque expressions designed to stimulate the Russian soldier's
morale and patriotism, the combat orders of lower-echelon com­
manders were very simple. A few lines drawn on a sketch or on one
of their excellent 1:50,000 maps indicated the friendly and hostile
positions, and an arrow or an underscored place name spelled out the
mission. As a rule such details as coordination with heavy weapons,
tanks, artillery, tactical air support, or service units were missing,
because more often than not the mission had to be accomplished
without such assistance.
On the other hand, it would be unjust not to mention that these
details were considered with utmost care by the intermediate and
particularly by the higher echelon command staffs. Whereas in
the early stages of the campaign captured Russian division and
regimental orders often showed a tendency toward stereotype thinking
and excessive attention to detail, during the later phases the Russian
staff work improved considerably inthis respect.



Chapter 1
I. General

Hitler's plans for the invasion of Russia called for the destruction
of the bulk of the Russian Army in western European Russia. A
rapid pursuit was then to be launched up to a line extending approxi­
mately from the Volga to Archangel. Along this line, Asiatic Russia
was to be screened from the European Continent by the German Army.
The execution of the operation was to be entrusted to three army
groups. Army Group Center was to rout the Russian forces inWhite
Russia and then pivot northward to annihilate the armies stationed
in the Baltic area. This objective was to be achieved in conjunction
with Army Group North which was to thrust from East Prussia in
the general direction of Leningrad. Meanwhile, Army Group South
was to attempt a double envelopment south of the Pripyat Marshes and
crush the Russian formations defending the Ukraine before they could
withdraw across the Dnepr. Here, Kiev was to be the first major
objective, the seizure of the highly industrialized Donets Basin the
next one. Once the northern and southern wings had made sufficient
progress, allefforts were to be concentrated on the capture of Moscow,
whose political and economic importance was fully recognized. The
entire campaign was to be over before winter; the collapse of the
Soviet Government was anticipated at an early stage of the campaign.
The description of the course of the actual operations is not within
the scope of this study. However, knowledge of the planning on which
the invasion was based does afford a better understanding of the series
of actions involving Company G of a German infantry battalion dur­
ing the crucial winter of 1941-42. This unit helped to guard the life
lines of the two German armies holding the Vyazma-Rzhev salient
west of Moscow (sees. 111, IV,and VI-VIII)
The infantry actions included in this chapter stress fighting under
poor weather conditions, particularly in subzero temperatures, in the





heart of European Russia. It was under such adverse conditions,
which hampered armored operations, that German infantry battalions
and companies demonstrated their capabilities and combat efficiency.
A series of five other actions describes the struggle of the 2d Bat­
talion of a German infantry regiment that fought to the bitter end in
the Stalingrad pocket during the winter of 1942-43 (sees. IX-XII
and XIV) The remaining examples have been selected to complete
the picture of German and Russian small infantry units fighting under
unusual weather and terrain conditions.


11. German Limited-Objective Attacks South of Leningrad (September

After its lightning advance through the Baltic States during the
early days of the Russian campaign Army Group North arrived
at the gates of Leningrad, where the Russians fiercely contested every
inch of ground. During the late summer of 1941 the Germans were
slowly forging a ring of steel around the strongly fortified city. In
mid-September the 490 th Infantry Regiment was given the mission
of eliminating Russian centers of resistance approximately 15 miles
south of Leningrad in the area north of the Izhora River between
Romanovka and Slutsk. In the path of the regiment's advance stood
an unknown number of Russian bunkers and defense positions es­
tablished on the hills dominating the Izhora Valley. These positions
had to be neutralized in order to secure the German lines of com­
munication during the thrust on Slutsk. Late on 13 September the
regiment crossed the river south of Gorki and spent the night in that
village. The attack against the Russian -held hills north of the
river was to start the next day, with the Ist and 2d Battalions ad­
vancing along the river valley and the 3d protecting the flank to the
north (map 2).
Very little was known about either the terrain or the Russian forti­
fications in the area. The German maps, as well as previously cap­
tured enemy maps, were either inadequate or inaccurate. For this
reason, the commander of the 3d Battalion decided to conduct care­
ful terrain reconnaissance before attacking. The reconnaissance
took the entire morning, and it was not until noon that the attack
of the 3d Battalion against the Russian bunkers sast of Gorki finally
got under way. Attached to the forward elements were three demoli­
tion teams equipped with flame throwers and shaped charges. Only
a few minutes were required to dispose of the first Russian bunker.
While the engineers were preparing to attack the next bunker, two
Russian howitzers in a cornfield west of Vilosi went into action.





The regimental artillery was on the alert and destroyed the two
howitzers and a neafby ammunition dump. By 1600 the demolition
teams had captured the second bunker and were preparing to attack
a third, which they presumed to be the last. Half an hour later this
bunker was in German hands. The engineers were just about to
withdraw and take a well-deserved rest when the Ist Battalion ad­
vancing farther to the south, discovered two additional bunkers, one
of which was about 1,000 yards southwest of Vilosi. The demolition
teams destroyed both bunkers in short order, thus paving the way
for the 3d Battalion's advance toward Hill312 northeast of Vilosi.
Continuing its attack, the 3d Battalion made some slight gains in
the late afternoon of 14 September, but halted at 2015 after dark­
ness set in and withdrew to Vilosi for the night. The other two bat­
talions had made only little headway during the day, and spent the
night of 14-15 September at the eastern edge of Vyarlevo. During
the night Russian aircraft scattered bombs over widely separated
areas, including some positions held by their own troops.
The seizure of strongly fortified Hill312, scheduled for the next
day, promised to be an arduous task. Although H-hour had origi­
nally been set for 0600, the attack had to be postponed until afternoon
because the morning hours were needed for thorough terrain recon­
naissance by twopatrols sent out by the 3d Battalion.
One of the patrols, led by Lieutenant Thomsen, was to reconnoiter
the hills between Korkiolia and Lukashi to determine whether and
in what strength they were occupied by the Russians. The second
patrol, under Sergeant Ewald, was to reconnoiter the area north of
Hill312 to determine the enemy's disposition and strength, and to
probe for weak spots inhis defense.
Patrol Thomsen was stealthily advancing southeastward from Kor­
kiolia when it was suddenly intercepted and pinned down. In the
ensuing exchange of fire the patrol was able to identify a number of
Russian bunkers and field positions and to relay the necessary target
data to the 3d Battalion CP. Ashort time later these Russian strong
points were destroyed by the accurate fire of the regimental artillery.
After having completed its mission, Patrol Thomsen returned to bat­
talion headquarters.
By noon no word from Patrol Ewald had been received by the com­
mander of the 3d Battalion. Since he could not postpone the attack
on Hill312 any longer, he ordered Lieutenant Hahn, the commander
of Company I,to seize the hill.
At 1230 Hahn assembled the assault force, which consisted of Com­
pany I
plus a machinegun and a mortar platoon, a demolition team



















consisting of two engineers equipped with flame throwers and shaped
charges, ancUen artillery observer. Since Sergeant Ewald's patrol
had not returned, only the two platoons led by Lieutenant Borgwardt
and Sergeant Timm were available for the attack. Inextended for­
mation, the assault force advanced through the woods west and north­
west of Vilosiand reached a point north of Hill312 apparently with­
out attracting the enemy's attention. From there, Lieutenant Hahn
identified a bunker on top of Hill312 and two positions on its northern
slope. The fortifications were held in strength. Before he was able
to conclude his observations, the enemy spotted the Germans, fired
on them, and pinned them down.
The artillery observer attached to the assault force called for direct
howitzer fire, whereupon the bunker received two hits which, however,
appeared to do little damage. Hahn reported the situation to bat­
talion headquarters and was ordered to continue the attack.
Platoons Borgwardt and Timm were to skirt Hill 312 and ap­
proach its base through the dense thicket that extended southward
from the forest edge to the hill. Platoon Borgwardt went to the
right, Platoon Timm to the left. The latter was to support Borg­
wardt's advance up the hilland then dispose of the obstinate bunker
on the crest of the hill as soon as Borgwardt entered the two slope
positions. While the two platoons were moving out, the attached
machinegun and mortar platoons went into position at the edge of
the forest north of Hill312. The howitzers gave the signal to attack
by firing six rounds at the enemy bunker on top of Hill312. Com­
pany headquarters personnel had to act as covering force since an
enemy relief thrust was to be expected at any time.
Again the fire of the howitzers failed to put the bunker out of action.
While the shells were exploding on and around the bunker, Borg­
wardt's men stealthily worked their way up the hill,creeping toward
the two Russian positions whose occupants' attention was diverted by
machinegun and mortar fire from the edge of the woods north of the
hill. Platoon Borgwardt suddenly broke into the positions and caught
the Russians completely by surprise.
While Borgwardt's men were engaged in seizing the two positions,
Platoon Timm followed them up the hill and captured the bunker
with the help of the engineers, whose flame throwers and shaped
charges succeeded where the artillery had failed. Just as the opera­
tion seemed to have been brought to a successful conclusion, the per­
sonnel who had remained at the edge of the forest north of Hill 312
were attacked from behind by a force of about 50 Russians. Hahn
ordered the newly arrived Patrol Ewald to hold off the Russians while



the rest of the assault force followed the elements that had captured
the hill. Upon arriving at the summit they immediately set up their
weapons, took the Russians under effective fire, and repulsed their
attack. From the top of the hill,Hahn saw the Ist Battalion, now no
longer subject to flanking fire from Hill312, penetrate the Russian
positions west of Nikkizi. He immediately established contact with
the battalion commander and made preparations to defend the hill
against a potential Russian counterattack. This precaution had to be
taken, for within the hour the artillery observer on top of the hill
noticed Russian forces assembling for a counterattack in the woods
north and northeast of Hill312. However, the Russians lost all
enthusiasm for an attack after the German artillery lobbed a few
well-aimed shells into their midst.
After the capture of the hillon the afternoon of 15 September, the
3d Battalion continued its advance on the left of the 490th Infantry
Regiment. Russian resistance was light, and the battalion had little
difficulty in occupying Podomyaki since the Russians had evacuated
the fortified position west of the village and had withdrawn to
On the morning of 17 September the 3d Battalion prepared to ad­
vance from the northwest toward Antelevo, which the Russians ap­
peared to be defending its strength. The Russian positions west and
north of the village were situated on high ground dominating the
terrain over which the battalion had to advance ; to the south and east
Antelevo was protected by the Izhora River. At dawn a reconnais­
identified two concrete bunkers as well
sance patrol of Company I
as field emplacements in and around Antelevo. The northern and
western sections of the village were held by one Russian battalion.
German howitzers and antitank guns took the bunkers under fire,
though only with little effect. Once again demolition teams were
needed to destroy the enemy fortifications with shaped charges. The
flame throwers, which previously had proved so effective, could no
longer be used since the supply of flame-thrower fuel had been
By an unexpected stroke of luck, the reconnaissance patrol managed
to capture a Russian outpost whose telephone was stillconnected to the
CP of the Russian regimental commander at Antelevo. The German
battalion commander immediately interrogated the captured Russian
telephone operator and obtained the latter's code name. His next step
was to put his knowledge of Russian to the test. Using the code name
of the Russian telephone operator, he called the Russian regimental
commander. The latter was apparently misled, but did not divulge
anything of value except that he was determined to hold Antelevo.



When the German officer became more insistent inhis quest for addi­
tional information, the suspicions of the Russian commander were
aroused, and he changed his tone. The German then tried a more
direct approach and made an outright demand for the surrender of
the Russian regiment at Antelevo. This was curtly rejected.
The commander of the 490 th Infantry Regiment thereupon decided
to mass his forces and seize Antelevo by direct assault. During the
afternoon of 17 September he assembled the Ist and 3d Battalions
west and north of the village, respectively, and launched an attack
against the enemy stronghold after a strong artillery preparation.
Again the demolition teams performed their task in an exemplary
manner and quickly put one Russian bunker after another out of ac­
tion. The Russians had apparently considered these particular
bunkers impregnable, for once they were destroyed the enemy infan­
try fled in wild disorder, abandoning most of its equipment. By
nightfall Antelevo was securely in German hands.
With the fall of Antelevo, Russian resistance seemed to disintegrate
all along the regiment's route of advance, except for a brief encounter
at the road fork south of Antropshino. There the Russians attempted
to stop the regiment along prepared positions, but failed to do so.
After this delay the German forces fanned out and reached Slutsk
on 18 September, the 3d Battalion via Pokrovskaya and the Ist and 2d
via Antropshino. Upon its arrival in Slutsk the regiment established
contact with the 121st Infantry Division, which had previously cap­
tured the town.
Anumber of lessons may be learned from this operation. First, all
regimental units had to conduct thorough terrain reconnaissance
since their maps and those captured from the Russians were fre­
quently either inadequate or inaccurate. Whenever one of the bat­
talion commanders failed to reconnoiter the terrain thoroughly, his
unit was in danger of being ambushed by the Russians.
The Germans were able to take the Russian bunkers with a minimum
loss of time and men by employing skilled demolition teams. Each
member of these teams had been thoroughly trained and was well
versed inhis task.
The capture of the Russian outpost on the morning of 17 September
might have provided the Germans with information about Russian
intentions and troop dispositions, had it been properly exploited.
The battalion commander showed a lack of good judgment by using
his average knowledge of Russian in an attempt to extract information
from the Russian regimental commander. This was clearly a task
for an expert interpreter who was skilled in methods of interrogation.
The Russians were fighting a delaying action during which they



often failed to take advantage of the favorable terrain and of their
prepared positions. The flight of the Antelevo garrison was indica­
tive of how easily the Russians became demoralized when they were
confronted by an unexpected situation. When the German demoli­
tion teams blew up the bunkers with shaped charges, the Russians
panicked and instinctively took to flight, as happened so often during
the early months of the campaign.
111. Company G Counterattacks During a Snowstorm

(November 1941)

This action is typical of the fighting in the late autumn of 1941,
when Russian resistance began to stiffen west of Moscow and the illequipped German troops had to rally all their energy to continue the
advance toward the Russian capital.
In November 1941 the 464th Infantry Regiment of the German
253 dInfantry Division was occupying field fortifications about 60
miles northeast of Rzhev. On the regiment's right flank was Hill747
(map 3). Since the hill afforded an extensive view of the German
rear area, the Russians had made repeated attempts to capture itin
an effort to undermine the position of the 464th Infantry Regiment.
The hillhad changed hands several times, but was now occupied by
the Germans. The presence of heavy weapons including assault guns,
as well as reports of repeated reconnaissance thrusts, gave rise to the
belief that the Russians were preparing for another attack against
the hill. Accordingly, the regimental commander withdrew Company
G from the sector it was holding and committed it on the regiment's
right flank.
After reporting to battalion headquarters around noon on 15
November, Lieutenant Viehmann, the commander of Company G,
accompanied by his platoon leaders, undertook a terrain reconnais­
sance. A heavy snowfall set in. As the group was returning from
the reconnaissance mission, submachine gun and mortar fire was heard
from the direction of Hill747. The company commander attached
little importance to this at the time. However, upon arriving at the
battalion CP he learned that the Russians had taken advantage of
the snowstorm and had seized the hill without artillery or mortar
support in a surprise raid. An immediate counterattack by German
troops failed to dislodge the Russians.
Viehmann thereupon received orders to recapture the hill in a
surprise attack to be launched at 2200. Regimental headquarters
attached a medium mortar platoon and a light howitzer platoon to
the company and promised artillery support. Viehmann formed
three assault parties and moved them into jumpoff positions close





Route of German assault units
Target area




to the Russian line under cover of darkness. The infantry company
to the right was to divert the attention of the defending force at the
time of the actual attack, while the unit to the left was to support
the attack with its fire. Artillery and heavy weapons were to open
fire on specified areas at prearranged flare signals.
The German assault parties occupied their jumpoff positions
without attracting the * attention of the defending Russians. The
party in the center, led by Viehmann, was only about 35 yards from
the nearest Russian position. Close observation of the Russian de­
fenses and the actions of individual soldiers indicated that a German
attack was not anticipated. The Russian sentries were shivering
from the cold and were by no means alert. Rations and supplies were


being drawn. Not far from Viehmann's observation point




detail was unloading furs and felt boots from a sled.
At 2200 the German assault parties, shouting loudly, broke into
the Russian position. The attack confused the Russians, who dropped
everything and attempted to make their way to the rear. Their escape,
however, was prevented by the two assault parties that, at the
beginning of the attack, had skirted either side of the hilland severed
the Russian lines of communications. Unaware of the fighting, the
Russian heavy weapons and artillery remained silent throughout the

GERMAN SENTRY using large wash tub to protect himself against icy wind,



attack. When the signal flare went up, the German artillery and heavy
weapons opened fire,laying a barrage on the Russian-held side of the
hill. Two Russian machineguns covering each flank put up fierce
resistance before being silenced in the hand-to-hand fighting.
After 45 minutes Hill747 was completely in the hands of the Ger­
mans; their former MLR had been reoccupied and communications
established with adjacent units. About 60 prisoners, 7 medium mor­
tars, 5 heavy machineguns, 3 antitank guns, and large quantities of
ammunition were taken. In the morning 70 Russian dead were found
on the hill. Of the five German casualties, only one was severely
The manner in which the Russians exploited the snowstorm incarry­
ing out a surprise attack without artillery or mortar support was
typical of Russian infantry combat methods in wintertime.
The Russians launched their attack before winter clothing had been
issued; some of the men wore only thin summer uniforms. As a
stimulant, each Russian soldier was issued five tablets which had an
effect similar to that of alcohol and a large ration of sugar cubes. In
addition, the men were promised a special liquor ration upon com­
pletion of their mission. The sugar and tablets were presumably
issued to counteract the discomfort caused by the temperature of
16° F. However, once the effects of these stimulants wore off, the
men began to feel the cold acutely and their senses became numbed,
as was observed in the case of the Russian sentries. During the Ger­
man assault to retake Hill747 the Russian defenders appeared to be
as susceptible to the cold as were the Germans. This must be con­
sidered an isolated case, however, since the Russian soldiers were gen­
erally able to endure extremely low temperature. At the same time
itindicates that some of the Russian units were insufficiently prepared
for winter combat and had to improvise protective measures to overcome the rigors of the unexpectedly early winter weather.
IV. Company G Operates in Deep Snow (January


On 13 January Company G of the 464th Infantry Regiment was
ordered to provide protection against Russian partisan raids on the
division's supply line, which led from Toropets via Village M to
Village O (map 4) To this end the company was reinforced by two
heavy machineguns, two 80-mm. mortars, and one antitank platoon.
On the evening of 14 January the company, mounted in trucks,
reached Village O, 5 miles east of Village M. Upon its arrival at
Village O, a supply unit, which was fleeing eastward toward Rzhev
before the powerful Russian offensive, indicated that strong contin­






gents of Russian troops from the north had cut the German supply
route in the forest west of Village N. Using civilian labor, the Rus­
sians had constructed a road at least 30 miles long that led south
through the large forest bypassing Toropets to the east. The com­
pany commander, Lieutenant Viehmann, decided to establish local
security in Village O, spend the night there, and continue westward
on foot the next morning in order to see what was going on. During
the night a few Russian civilians slipped out of the village, estab­
lished contact with the Russian troops, and supplied them with intel­
ligence regarding the German dispositions.
At dawn on 15 January, after posting security details, the com­
pany started out and arrived in Village Mwithout having made con­
tact with the Russian's. As the company's advance element ap­
proached Village N, the Germans noticed a large group of soldiers
in German uniform standing in the road, beckoning to them. That
these soldiers were not Germans became evident when the antitank
gun moving up behind the advance element was suddenly fired upon.
The company's other antitank guns covered the advance element's
withdrawal to Village M, where it rejoined the main body of the
company. The prime mover of the lead gun was lost during this
action. The Russians, however, did not follow up their attack.
In Village Mthe company set up hasty defenses against an attack
from the north and west and tried to determine the strength and in­
tentions of the opposing Russian force. From a vantage point in
Village Mit was possible to observe the eastern edge of Village N,
where the Russians were building snow positions and moving four
antitank guns into position. There was an exchange of fire but no
indication of an impending Russian attack. During the hours of
darkness Company G built snow positions along the western and
northern edges of Village M, while the aforementioned supply unit
occupied Village R, about one mile east of Village M, and took
measures to secure it,particularly from the north.
During the night of 15-16 January reconnaissance patrols reported
that the Russians were continuing their defensive preparations in
Village N and that their line of communications was the road lead­
ing north from there.
On 16 January between 0400 and 0500 a 50-man Russian reconnais­
sance patrol approached the northwest corner of Village Mon skis.
Although the Russian patrol had been detected, it was allowed to
come very close before it was taken under fire. Approximately 10
men of the patrol escaped and three were taken prisoner; the rest
were killedbefore they could reach thwGerman position.



According to the statements of the three prisoners, two Russian
divisions were moving south toward Village M. On 16 January Vil­
lages Mand R were to be captured. What the prisoners either did
not know or refused to tell, was that the Russians, attacking in force
across frozen Lake Volga, had broken through the German positions
west of the 253 dInfantry Division 2 days before and had pushed
on to the south. Thus, Viehmann was unaware of the true German
Since the Russians in Village N remained passive, Viehmann de­
cided to concentrate on defending his village against an attack from
the north. The deep snow caused some difficulties ; for instance, ma­
chineguns had to be mounted on antiaircraft tripods so that a satis­
factory fieldof fire could be obtained.
About 0800 on 16 January the company's observation post identified
three Russian columns moving south toward the forest north of Vil­
lage M. Except for antitank guns these columns did not seem to be
equipped with heavy weapons. Around 1000 the first Russians ap­
peared at the southern edge of the forest, some 1,000 yards from the
German defensive positions. At 1020 the Russian center and rightwing columns attacked with antitank guns and infantry. Just a
short time before this attack Company G had dispatched two rifle
squads to Village R to reinforce the supply unit' there, since the Rus­
sian left-wing column was headed in that direction.
The first wave of Russian infantry, some 400 men strong, emerged
from the forest on a broad front. Itwas evident that the 3-foot snow
was causing them, great difficulty. The concentrated fire of the
German heavy weapons succeeded in halting the attack after ithad
advanced about 200 yards.
After a short while a second, equally large wave emerged from the
forest. Itadvanced in the tracks of the first and carried the attack
forward, over and beyond the line of dead. The Russian antitank
fire became heavier, being directed against the German machinegun
positions, which the Russians had spotted. As a result, several ma­
chineguns were destroyed; some changed their positions frequently
in an effort to dodge the Russian fire. The Russians advanced an
additional 200 yards, then bogged down under the effective German
small arms fire. They sustained heavy losses which, however, were
compensated for by the reinforcements pouring down south into the
forest from Village P. Viehmann estimated that the Russians com­
mitted the equivalent of two regiments in this action.
By 1100 the Russian left-wing column had reached a point 150
yards from the German positions in Village R, where the terrain was
more favorable for the attacker than that north of Village M. The



supply unit and the two rifle squads defending Village R could no
longer be reinforced because the road from Village Mwas under con­
stant Russian fire.

Realizing that his position would become untenable within the next
few hours, Viehmann ordered his men to prepare to evacuate Village
M. A few men with minor wounds were detailed to trample a path
through the deep snow from Village Mtoward the forest to the south
in order to facilitate a quick withdrawal. The troops in Village R
were also to withdraw to the same forest if pressed too heavily by
the Russians.
The members of the third Russian assault wave emerged from the
forest unarmed. However, they armed themselves quickly with the
weapons of their fallen comrades and continued the attack. Mean­
while, Village R was taken and the Russians closed in on Village M
from the east. The Germans were now very low on ammunition, hav­
ing expended almost 20,000 rounds during the fighting.
About 1300 Company G, after destroying its mortars and antitank
guns, evacuated VillageM. Viehmann planned to make contact with
the German troops in Village O by withdrawing through the forest
south of Village M. He ordered the evacuation of the wounded, then
withdrew with the main body of the company, and left behind a
light machinegun and an antitank gun to provide covering fire and to
simulate the presence of a larger force. After the gun crews had
expended all the ammunition, they destroyed the breech operating
mechanism of the antitank gun and withdrew toward the forest.
About halfway there they were fired on by the Russians who had mean­
while entered Village M. The retreating Germans managed to escape
without losses because the Russians did not pursue them into the
During the next 3 days the company marched with almost no halts

for rest through the deep snow that blanketed the dense forest, rely­
ing heavily on a compass in the absence of familiar landmarks. On
19 January, after bypassing Village O, which was found to be occupied
by the Russians, it finally reestablished contact with the 253d
then did the
learn that all forces on the
German front south of and parallel to Lake Volga had been withdrawn
in the meantime.
In this action deep snow hampered the movements of both the at­
tacking Russians and the defending Germans. Only by trampling
a path in the snow before its withdrawal from Village M, did Com­
pany G avoid being trapped by the Russians.
The appearance of a Russian reconnaissance patrol in German uni­
form was a frequent occurrence; however, the number of disguised



GERMAN SENTRY in sheepskin coat near Moscow, December 1941.

Russians encountered on 15 January in Village N was unusually large.
As so often happened during the winter of 1941-42, the Russians
attacked in several waves on a given front, each successive wave pass­
ing over the dead of the preceding and carrying the attack forward
to a point where it, too, was destroyed. Some waves started out
unarmed and recovered the weapons from their fallen comrades.



V. Russian Infantry Attacks a German-Held Town (January


While the German troops west of Moscow tried to weather the
Russian winter offensive and maintain their precarious lines of com­
munication in the Rzhev-Velikiye Luki area, Marshal Timoshenko's
forces launched a strong attack against Army Group South. In midJanuary 1942 they attacked the German positions along the Donets
River between Kharkov and Slavyansk and achieved a deep penetra­
tion near Izyum. The Russians smashed through the weakly held Ger­
man positions and advanced westward, attempting simultaneously to
widen the gap by attacking southward. Inthat direction the Russian
objectives were Slavyansk and the industrial Donets Basin, whose cap­
ture would lead to the collapse of the German front in southern
The German troops along the Donets River had not expectedja Rus­
sian winter offensive since the opposing forces were believed to oe weak
and incapable of launching one. Because of the shortage of winter
equipment, the Germans had been forced to leave only outposts along
the Donets River and in isolated villages, while their main forces oc­
cupied winter quarters far to the rear. In most instances the defend­
ing units were unable to delay the progress of the Russian offensive
because the attacking troops simply bypassed them.
Toward the end of January the temperature dropped to 50° F.
The snow was about 3 feet deep. The weather was clear and a biting
east wind prevailed.
There was light Russian air activity, with fighters and light bombers
intervening occasionally in the ground fighting. The Lufwaffe rarely
made an appearance.
Timoshenko's forces were at full combat strength, well armed,
appropriately equipped for winter combat, and fed adequate rations.
By contrast, the German units were at 65 percent of T/O strength and
short of winter clothing and equipment, but their rations were plenti­
By defending the town of Khristishehe against attacks from the
north, northeast, and east, the Ist Battalion of the German 196th
Infantry Regiment was to block any further Russian advance along
the road to Slavyansk (map 5). To the south, reconnaissance
patrols were to maintain contact with a few strong points located in
nearby villages. To the west the battalion was to keep in close contact
with the adjacent unit of its regiment. Snow positions had been
established at the edges of Khristishehe because it was impossible to
dig in the frozen soil. The battalion's field of fire extended up to



2,200 yards north and south. To the east lay a long ridge, beyond
which there was a large forest held by strong Russian forces.
During the night of 23-24 January a Siberian rifle regiment with
twenty-four 76.5-mm. guns, advancing westward, reached a point 1
mile northeast of Khristishche. It fired on a German reconnaissance
patrol, which withdrew southwestward leaving behind one wounded
man, who disclosed to the Russians that there were two German
regiments in and around Khristishche.



On the morning of 24 January a Russian reconnaissance patrol in
platoon strength attempted to approach Khristishche, but was almost
completely wiped out by German machinegun fire and snipers.
Russian reconnaissance patrols looking down from the hill observed
lively movement in the town, but made no attempt to advance any
farther during daytime.
According to information obtained from a subsequently captured
Russian officer, the Siberian rifle regiment received the following
order on 24 January :
The Germans have been beaten along the entire front. They
still cling to isolated villages to retard the victorious Russian ad­
Khristishche is being defended by severely mauled German units,
whose morale is low. They must be destroyed so that the Russian
advance to Slavyansk can continue.
At 2115 on 24 January two battalions of the regiment willattack
Khristishche without artillery preparation and willadvance to the
western edge of the town. The 3d Battalion willfollow behind the
Ist and 2d Battalions and clear the village of all Germans. Then
the 3d Battalion willoccupy the nbrtheastern edge of Khristishche
on both sides of the road leading to Izyum, facing southeast. Recon­
naissance patrols willprobe in the direction of Slavyansk. One ski
company* willreinforce each assault battalion. The ski units will
enter Khristishche without permitting anything to divert them
from this objective. During the day preceding the attack the battal­
ion and regimental artillery and mortars willfire for adjustment
on all important targets. However, the Germans must not be led
to expect our attack.
Throughout 24 January the positions of the Ist Battalion of the
German 196th Infantry Regiment were hit by intermittent fire from
light artillery and heavy mortars. Apparently this fire was directed
by Russian observers on the ridge northeast of Khristishche.
At dusk the Germans increased their vigilance. In the snow
trenches the sentries, dressed in white parkas, were doubled and posted
at intervals of approximately thirty feet. Observation was made
very difficult by the east wind, which blew snow into the men's faces.
The sentries were relieved every 30 minutes.
At 2115 the sentries of Company C observed rapidly approaching
figures near the boundary between their sector and that of Company
B. They tried to open fire with their machineguns but found them
frozen. Finally, one sentry was able to give the alarm by firing his
•For T/O and B of a Russian ski company see chart on p. 27.






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carbine. By this time Russian assault troops on skis had been observed
along the entire battalion front firing carbines and signal pistols and
throwing hand grenades. The only German machinegun which would
fire was the one that had been kept indoors.
The Russian surprise raid did not proceed as planned because the
attackers were unable to jump over the 4-foot snow wall on skis and
because most of them were not immediately ready to fire since they
carried their weapons slung across their backs. The Russians were
therefore repulsed, except for those who penetrated into the extreme
north end of the town. Twenty-five Russians occupied the first house
but were wiped out within 5 minutes by hand grenades.
Meanwhile, the German mortars and infantry howitzers laid down
a barrage on the ridge northeast of the town. Two Russian battalions,
which had just gained the ridge, were caught in the barrage and
turned back.
The Ist Battalion took 43 prisoners, including some wounded. Over
a hundred Russians lay dead in and around the German positions.
The Germans had lost 2 dead, 8 wounded, and 3 suffering from
Throughout the night the Germans heard loud cries and shouting
from the forest, followed by submachinegun and rifle fire. Russian
prisoners subsequently stated that the commissars assigned to the
platoons and companies were trying to reorganize their units. They
were unsuccessful in this attempt until the following morning (25
January) , by which time several Russian soldiers had been shot and
the regimental commander replaced.
That same morning a Russian combat patrol of GO men approached
Khristishche from the north but was wiped out some 500 yards from
the German positions. In the afternoon two Russian reconnaissance
patrols of 30 men each, supported by 3 machine gunners and 20
snipers, advanced toward the town from the southeast in single file.
They were stopped halfway to their objective by German small arms
fire. Approximately 20 men ran back over the hill,only to be stopped
by their commissars and shot for cowardice. The intervening hours
before darkness passed without incident.
The Russian troops built snow positions at the edge of the forest,
set up observation posts and combat outposts on the crest of the hill,
and dug emplacements for their artillery and mortars. Each squad
built a shelter hut with tree trunks and branches, on top of which
snow was packed. These shelters were built close together in an
irregular pattern. The infantry howitzers and heavy mortars received
five extra issues of ammunition, which were stored in nearby shelters.
That night a Russian combat patrol of 50 men under the command



of an officer approached Khristishche from the east. The patrol was
armed with 8 submachineguns, 2 pistols, 2 signal pistols, 38 automatic
rifles, 2 light machineguns, each with 500 rounds of tracer ammuni­
tion, and 8 hand grenades per man. Most of the men wore padded
winter uniforms and felt boots with leather soles; those, however,
who could speak German were dressed in German uniforms. The
patrol was to occupy the first houses and then send a message to the
rear, where a reinforced company was kept in readiness to follow up
the patrol's attack and to occupy Khristishche.
About 0130, while an icy east wind was blowing, five figures ap­
proached the two German sentries near the eastern corner of the town
and called out from a distance, "Hello, 477 th Regiment ! Hello, com­
rades !" The Germans, who because of the whirling snow could see
only about 60 feet ahead, challenged them from a distance of 30 feet
with "Halt! Password!" The answer was "Don't fire! We are
German comrades !" They continued to advance. The sentries now
noticed a number of men about 50 feet behind the 5 soldiers who were
approaching. Again they called "Password, or we fire !" Again the
answer was "Don't shoot ! We are German comrades !" Meanwhile
the 5 Russians in German uniforms had approached to within 20 feet,
whereupon they hurled hand grenades, which wounded 1 German
sentry. The other fired his carbine to give the alarm, but in doing so
was shot by the Russians, who immediately headed for the first house,
followed by the main body of the combat patrol.
The Russians tossed hand grenades into the first house just as the
men of the German squad which occupied the building ran out the
back door without suffering any casualties. Throwing hand grenades
and firing carbines and machineguns from the hip, the German infan­
trymen tried to stop the Russians who closed in from three sides. The
German squad was pushed back to the second house, and the Russians
immediately occupied the first one, set up two machineguns, and
opened fire on MCompany men, who were coming up on the double.
The Russians threw hand grenades and explosives through a window
into the second house inorder to wipe out the German squad occupying
this house. Atfirst this attempt was unsuccessful, but when the house
caught fire that German squad was forced to evacuate. Itgot outside
through a damaged wall on the far side of the house. By this time
the commander of Company Mhad taken charge of the situation and
had launched a counterthrust with company headquarters personnel,
reserve squads, and the squad that had initially occupied the first
house. Throwing hand grenades and firing their weapons on the run,
the counterattacking Germans drove the Russians from Khristishche
within a few minutes. Eight Russian enlisted men and one commissar





manned two machineguns in the first house, where they resisted to
the last man.
Upon noticing the signal equipment that the Russians had left
behind in the first house, the German company commander correctly
concluded that a Russian main force was assembled outside the village,
waiting for the signal to advance. He called for artillery support
against the suspected Russian jumpoff positions. The artillery fire
began a minute later and probably prevented the Russian company
from following up the attack. The remainder of the night passed
On the morning of 26 January the sun shone brightly, and the east
wind continued to blow across Khristishche. Quiet reigned until 1000,
when the Russian artillery started to shell the northeastern part of the
town. Harassing fire continued until 1500.
At 1100, as the battalion commander was making his rounds of the
German positions, a sentry from Company C reported that he had
observed some suspicious movements on the forward slope of the hill
east of Khristishche. A few Russian corpses which had been lying
there had already vanished that morning, and he believed that the
small piles of snow some 200 yards east ofhis post had increased insize.
The battalion commander observed the forward slope of the hill
with binoculars for 1 hour, although a cold wind was blowing. He
discovered a number of Russians hiding in the deep snow and cau­
tiously piling up snow in front of them to increase their cover. The
German sentries fired their carbines at every suspicious-looking pile
of snow ;no further movements were observed.
Russian prisoners subsequently stated that 1 Russian platoon of
40 men had been ordered to approach the town under cover of darkness
and to dig into the snow. After daybreak this platoon was to push
further toward the town in order to launch a surprise attack against
it at nightfall. The platoon maintained wire communication with the

Despite the bitter cold, the Russians remained in the snow for about
10 hours without being able to raise their heads or shift their bodies.
Yet not one of them suffered frostbite.
On the basis of previous experience, the Russian commander ordered
a mass attack without artillery support for that night (26-27 Janu­
ary). The fact that there were snow flurries and a strong east wind,
may have induced him to make this decision.
The Russians assembled 3 battalions, totaling 1,500 men, for the
attack. Two battalions were echeloned in the first assault wave, while
the third battalion followed about 350 yards behind. The Russian
regimental command post remained at the edge of the forest. Each



company had 20 submachineguns, 35 automatic rifles, 10 rifles with
telescopic sights, 8 heavy machineguns (drum fed), 5 light mortars,
12 pistols, and 2 signal pistols, as well as a number of rifles withfixed
bayonets. Each man was issued three hand grenades and an ample
supply of ammunition. Allmen wore padded winter clothing and
felt boots.
At 0330 the Russian regiment started its attack. Any noise that
the approaching Russians might have made was drowned out by the
howling wind. The battalions advanced in close formation without
leaving any intervals between units. The companies marched abreast
in columns of three's and four's, with an interval of 5 to 10 paces be­
tween them. Without commands the Russians marched in close order
to within 50 yards of the German positions and then began their
assault amid wildshouting.
Only a few Russians broke into the German position; they were
greeted with such a devastating hail of fire from the alert defenders
that the dense Russian columns were mowed down, row after row.
Nevertheless, those who survived attacked again and again.
Then the German artillery fire hit the Russian reserve battalion,
which was completely dispersed. After half an hour the impetus of
the attack had spent itself. Within two or three yards of the German
positions the enemy dead or wounded had piled up to a height of
several feet. The Russians suffered about 900 casualties in the en­

Khristishche remained in German hands because the garrison was
alert and had learned to take proper care of its weapons.
VI. Company G Struggles Against Overwhelming Odds

(March 1942)

The following action shows a Russian regiment attacking eastward
in an attempt to cut off some German units and link up with friendly
forces moving in from the opposite direction. The attack methods
employed by the Russian infantry showed that the troops were in­
adequately trained. The infantry units emerged from their jumpoff
position in a disorderly manner, having the appearance of a dis­
organized herd that suddenly emerged from a forest. As soon as the
Germans opened fire, panic developed in the ranks of the attack force.
The infantrymen had to be driven forward by three or four officers with
drawn pistols. In many instances any attempt to retreat or even to
glance backward was punished with immediate execution. There was
virtually no mutual fire support or coordinated fire.
Typical of Russian infantry tactics was the tenacity with which
the attack was repeated over and over again. The Russians never



Map 6

(27 February- 6 March 1942)5>
i ii11

111 German MLR


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abandoned ground which they had gained in an attack. Frequently,
isolated Russian soldiers would feign death, only to surprise approach­
ing Germans by suddenly coming to life and firingat them from close
In February 1942 the 2d Battalion of the 464 th German Infantry
Regiment occupied snow positions without bunkers or dugouts along
the western edge of Village T, situated north of Olenino near the rail
line leading from Rzhev to Velikiye Luki (map 6) German recon­




naissance patrols probing through the forest west of that village had
been unable to establish contact with the Russians. Toward the end
of February a reconnaissance patrol ascertained the presence of Rus­
sian forces in the forest. Subsequent information obtained from local
inhabitants indicated that the Russians were being reinforced for an
From 27 February to 2 March, detachments, consisting of about 80
Russians each, attacked daily in the same sector and at the same time.
The attacks took place about 1 hour after sunrise and were directed
against a point at the northwest edge of Village T. Every one of them
was unsuccessful, the attacking Russians being wiped out before they
could reach the German position.
On the evening of 2 March a Russian deserter reported that his in­
fantry regiment, supported by six tanks, would attack Company G's
sector, which was south of the village. To strengthen the defense of
his sector the company commander, Lieutenant Viehmann, placed three
37-mm. antitank guns behind the MLR and planted antitank mines
across the road leading southwestward. Although his unit was understrength, Viehmann ordered each platoon to form a reserve detachment
of 10 men for a possible counterthrust.
At daybreak on 3 March two Russian heavy tanks of the XV type,
painted white to blend with the landscape, were spotted standing at
the edge of the forest about 500 yards in front of Company G's sec­
tor. At 0820 Russian aircraft bombed the village, while the two tanks,
about 150 yards apart, advanced another 100 yards, stopped, and
opened fire at the most conspicuous German fortifications. At 0830
four more Russian tanks, this time T34's, emerged from the forest.
They paired off, penetrated the right and center of Company G's
MLR, and rolled up the stretch between the two points of penetra­
tion. Encountering no effective resistance, they pushed deeper into
the German defensive position while providing mutual fire support.
The three German 37-mm. antitank guns proved ineffective against
the T34's and were quickly knocked out, as were a number of German
heavy weapons. However, without immediate infantry support the
Russian tanks were incapable of achieving any further results.
It was not until 2 hours later that approximately 300 Russian
riflemen attacked from the forest, while the two XV tanks stood still
and the T34's roamed at will through the depth of the German
defensive position. Hampered by the deep snow, the infantry had
to bunch up and advance along the tank tracks, offering easy targets
during their slow movement. Despite the loss of many of their
heavy weapons, the German defenders mustered sufficient strength



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