defensive battle

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defensive battle

Post by julian » Fri Jan 24, 2014 2:25 am

Excerpt from manuscript B 789 by Oberst Brandstaedter

'The characteristics of the defensive battle

Defensive battle is a feature of position warfare and thus of strategic defense. In general, it is perforce fought with inferior means.

Higher combat morale and better training are the best compensations. The defensive battle does not arise from one’s own free will, neither with regard to space-sector and frontage-, nor with regard to time-start and duration. It therefore contains the maximum element of uncertainty for the defending party during its initial stage. Only in the course of the battle will the comparative strengths become clearer. Thus, the forming of centers of gravity at certain points, which correspond with regard to space and time to the expected points of main effort, shows the skill of the leadership. The prerequisites of success are solely maneuverability and quick reactions.

The strength of the defense is based on the effect of one ‘s own fire of all weapons which is to be concentrated to the utmost . If necessary, the defense is supplemented by counterattacks and counterthrusts. But, the enemy , also, does not execute his attack merely by combining firepower and movement, but by a sequence of fire thrusts and mobile thrusts which are repeated several times. It is therefore also of decisive importance to extract one’s own forces from the fire thrusts of an attacking party by organization of the ground and measures of deception.

It will only rarely be possible to carry out an immediate tank defense organization as suggested on page 15 envisages an enemy, who after a successful thrust will not exploit his success , which was generally the case on the western front.

In the east experience showed that the Russians after effecting a penetration immediately pushed ahead into the deep rear area; antitank defense was often organized to a depth of eight or ten kilometers, the center of gravity being definitely in the deep rear area; anti –tank guns in position level with the second line of the trenches rarely went into action.


Under no circumstances can the defender forego strategic reserves

b) Reserves

Reserves for counterattacks and the closing of gaps(corps and army reserves)will have to be put in readiness at points with good traffic facilities which are not too close to the front. They will be in constant radio communication; motor vehicle convoy space will have to be held in readiness for the purpose of providing quick mobility. The local reserves will be initiated in their prospective area of commitment and will carry out corresponding reconnaissance.

c) the position

Fundamental principles: do not undertake too much, but do a good construction job on the essential parts. In general , the following requirements should be fulfilled:

1) The defensive area , with the first row of trenches (MLR)and the second one ; they are developed out of foxholes, which eventually are improved to strong points, and then to thoroughtrenches. Whether combat outposts are to be put in front of the main defensive line, depends on the terrain and the closeness of the enemy. Combat outposts facilitate the concealment of the MLR , scatter the enemy fire , but also lead to scattering of forces and will usually be abandoned immediately after the start of the enemy attack. The divisional commander issues instructions on the depth and the rear boundary of the main defensive area according to his combat mission, the terrain and the available infantry forces. The depth of the main defensive area will usually be between 500 and 1500 meters.

2) The artillery cover position or Barbara position: This position should be established in front of the divisional artillery , and is supposed to include the positions of the heavy infantry weapons and the command posts.

3) The line of support : the function of this line is to force the enemy to reassemble and to simultaneously serve as switch line in case of deep penetrations, and should therefore be constructed approximately four to seven km behind the MLR. Trains and other rear elements of the fighting troops are to be used for its improvement and should, at the same time , be the security forces which are to be given precise missions and corresponding equipment of weapons.

4) Obstacles erected in the entire combat area , are to be coordinated with the course of the individual lines (1) to (3). The governing principle : ‘not much but solid’ applies in particular to these constructions.

5) If there is sufficient time and manpower, additional lines are constructed between the main defensive area and the line of support ; they will be given specific local designations, such as for instance “Aubach position”, railroad cover position etc… . Additional rear positions are only justified if they correspond to strategic necessities, as for instance bridgehead positions. Otherwise they divert the mostly insufficient construction forces from improving the advance position.

Frequent practice alerts are indispensable for the occupation of the rear positions and the line of support.

Construction works: minimum size shelters; the best camouflage available which has to be reexamined ;dummy positions should be constructed to appear authentic and should be constantly occupied.

d) The infantry

The preparations for the defensive battle require , above all, the maintenance of the combat strength, of the individual soldier and his weapons. Apart from bulletproof dug outs for very small detachments which, this entails a distribution in depth which has to be planned with particular care. It is of decisive importance in preventing deep penetrations or even a breakthrough. The right medium has to be found between this necessity and the requirement of sufficient infantry troops to occupy the MLR proper. This can only be achieved in connection with a well contrived plan of fire of all heavy weapons from the depth of the main defensive area. Its concentrated effect into the area in front of the MLR must be obtained. Concealed weapons, which hold their fire until the enemy has reached certain points, must be installed. The heavy weapons are to be assembled in groups and should form-if possible-points of support in conjunction with local reserves which at the same time become points to cling to in case of enemy penetrations and points of departure for counter thrusts. The same considerations pertain to the establishment of battalion and regiment command posts which must remain the psychological points of resistance of the fighting even during critical situations in the defensive battle. Points of support of the heavy weapons must be installed for all-round defense and close combat against tanks .

The same considerations as to artillery also apply to alternate emplacements , roving positions , and the installation of roving guns.

e) The artillery

The fundamental principle is that the artillery must take up the fire fight at an early moment and carry it out actively by the strongest possible concentration of fire. Such heavy losses must be inflicted on the enemy already before the beginning of the infantry combat that his attacks lose their penetrating power.

1) The center of gravity

The primary requirement for the execution of this mission is the building of an unequivocal center of gravity of the artillery based on the presumed center of main effort of the enemy.

For this purpose all sectors of the front not under direct threat must-without hesitation- be stripped of guns and ammunition. Special attention must be paid to building up a group of heavy artillery units in the center of gravity which is being adroitly lead and employed in such a way that it can easily maneuver."

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