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German Squad Tactics in World War 2

July 29, 2019



Time to take a look at German squad tactics
in World War II Two important points: First, a squad rarely acted alone on the battlefield… It was used in coordination with other squads of its platoon and/or company. Second, the main source for this is the US manual 'German Squad in Combat' from The Military Intelligence Service. It is a partial translation of a German manual, and with using other sources I could detect some small errors and inconsistencies. Nevertheless, take everything with a grain of salt, especially since manuals and combat realities often differ. Let's begin with the organization and armament. The German infantry squad in World War II for the most part consisted of: One squad leader and nine infantry men, thus a total of ten men. Initially, all men besides the machine gunner and his assistant were equipped with the Karabiner 98 kurz, the German standard rifle in World War II. Even the squad leader was equipped with that rifle. Yet around 1941 he was issued an MP40 submachine gun with 6 magazines, 32 shots each. The machine gunner was equipped with an MG34, and later on with an MG42. He was also issued a pistol and an ammo drum with 50 rounds. The assistant gunner carried 4 ammo drums with 50 shots each, additionally 1 ammo box with 300 rounds. He was also issued a pistol. There was also an ammo carrier assigned to the machine gunner, whose job was to carry and supply ammunition. He carried 2 ammo boxes of 300 rounds each. Unlike the assistant he was issued a rifle, not a pistol. Note that the 'German Squad in Combat' indicates a pistol instead of a rifle as a weapon for the ammo carrier. But, it seems this is incorrect and is probably from an old layout of the squad, which was used in 1937. Now, each rifleman had around 9 clips for his rifle with 5 shots each, thus 45 rounds… This was the regular amount. According to Buchner more rounds were issued in case of a combat situation. Also, the second in command was armed the same way as the regular riflemen. Hence in total, the squad had: 1 light machine gun, 1 submachine gun, 2 pistols, 7 rifles, and several hand grenades, which were issued depending on the situation. Now the rolls and responsibilities of each squad member were as follows: The squad leader was commanding the unit. He directed which targets the LMG should engage and if the combat situation permitted, also the rifle fire. His responsibilities outside of the combat included that the equipment of the unit was in order, and that enough ammunition was available. The second in command was his assistant, and was in command during the absence of the squad leader. His responsibilities were to communicate with the platoon command and also adjacent squads. Thus he was vital for the coordination. Next is the machine gunner… He operated the light machine gun and was responsible for taking care of the weapon. His assistant would help him setting up the MG, supply ammo, and assist him in combat. Usually he would be positioned left of the gunner, or to his rear. He had to be ready and close enough to support the gunner with tasks like changing the belt or fixing jams. And in case the gunner couldn't continue operating the MG, he would take his roll. The ammo carrier was responsible for inspecting the ammo refilling fired ammo belts, and checking for left ammunition. He usually stayed in the rear and in cover, but could act as a rifleman if necessary. The regular rifleman's duty was to participate in combat with his rifle and bayonet. The riflemen formed the assault part of the squad thus if necessary assaulting the enemy position with grenades and bayonets. Although not officially designated they would also serve as ammo carriers to varying degrees. Now, let's take a look at formations… The basic close order formations were the squad line or "Reihe", the squad collumn or "Kette", which was basically a 90 degree turn of the previous, and of course, the squad march order. As you can see, the machine gunner with his assistant is always at the very front. He was the key member of the squad, which was also indicated by his designation, "Schutze 1": Infantryman number one. These were close order formations, that were not suited for dangerous situations. Close order formations were abandoned if the situation changed due to terrain, hostile activity, or other circumstances. The basic extended order formations were the squad column or "Schutzenkette",
and the skirmish line or "Schutzenreihe". The squad column in extended order was not a straight line. Instead, the soldiers used terrain for cover, although the principal order of the line remained. Note that the second in command was at the end ensuring that the squad stayed together. The skirmish line was used if the firepower of the whole squad was necessary. In this case, the riflemen moved to the left and right of the machine gunner, who remained at the central position. The forward half of the infantrymen moved to the right, and the other half to the left. Alternatively, an echelon right or left deployment was also possible. In this case, all of the men moved to the right or left of the machine gunner. The distance between the men was about 3.5 meters. Yet, this was only a guideline. Note that the squadron leader had no fixed position in this formation. In terms of leadership, the translated manual states: that leading by example is essential. It is explicitly stated. [Reading text above] Now let's take a look at the squad in offensive actions. It is very important to note that the squad in offensive combat would not act alone, but as an element of its platoon. Note that each platoon contained usually four squads. So let's look at the different stages of offensive combat. The stages are as follows: Development, deployment, advancing, attack, and penetration. Note that most other sources use less stages, and the transition from one stage to another can be quite fluent or blurry. The development phase is the first step in the preparation of an attack. The rifle company left the marching route and broke up into three platoons. Those platoons themselves separated into four squads. Yet the squads remained in close formation. The machine gun and other important equipment was now carried by hand and not on carts anymore. Next was the deployment phase, which was about organizing the troops into combat formations. The squad leader may have received his orders directly from the platoon leader, or acted independently based on the mission of the platoon. Since the units were now in battle formation, the advance phase began. The advance was ideally performed in squad column, with the light machine gun on the front. This would allow rearward supporting machine guns and other weapons to fire safely past the advancing squads. If the squad was under effective enemy fire the squad needed to use its own fire to support its movement by achieving temporarily fire superiority. Fire and movement should be employed, which means that one part of the squad fires to cover the movement of other part of the squad. This principal can also be used in a larger scale, where one squad covers another squad. If areas were covered by enemy artillery fire they would have been avoided if possible. if not, these areas needed to be crossed during firing pauses in quick rushes. Generally it was recommended to use rushes when the situation and enemy fire did permit them. Following a successful advance of the squads far enough, the attack phase commenced. Although the difference is not so obvious at first since both stages include firing upon the enemy and also advancing. Yet during the advance phase, firing is only used if its necessary. whereas in the attack phase, firing was usually a crucial element. Initially, the firefight was started by heavy weapons from supporting units like artillery, infantry cannons, and heavy machine guns. These weapons focused on the destruction or neutralization of strong points. Yet it is noted: [Reading text above] Hence at this point the squad still advanced. Generally the squad should move as much forward without firing as possible… Only if this wasn't possible anymore it should engage the enemy. The final phase is the penetration into the enemy positions. It is usually initiated around 100 meters away from the enemy positions. [Reading text above] It is important that the maximum amount of fire is provided during an assault. For this reason, the LMG should be positioned to fire into the enemy position without risking friendly fire. If such a position is not attainable the LMG should be used directly in the assault and fired from the hip. Furthermore, neighboring units could provide additional firepower and/or support the assault by complementary attack from another direction. Once the riflemen closed in on the enemy position The designated grenade throwers, on command, would use their grenades, and after the detonation, the squad stormed the positions under the lead of the squad leader. To give you a better idea how two squads with supporting elements would assault an enemy position, here is a little illustration. Based on an original German manual, from what I can tell, but the document that I got it from provided no direct reference. Here you can see the German position on the left side, and the fictional enemy on the right. Both positions were reinforced by barbed wire. There is a German mortar pit with a light mortar, and in the visible rear positions another light and heavy mortar are available. The mortars would attack the following areas of the enemy positions to prevent reinforcements. To support the attack, two heavy machine guns would be positioned on the flanks. In the center, a squad with a light machine gun would fire at the enemy positions to support the attack. The assault itself would be performed by two assault squads that were supported by light machine guns. The first squad would directly assault the enemy position whereas the second one would attack the rear, and cut it off from any reinforcements. Once the assault was successful the squad leader would ensure discipline, and prepare against a potential counter attack. [Silence] Thank you for watching. Please like, comment, share and subscribe. And, see you next time.

41 Comments

  • Reply Military History Visualized July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    If you like in-depth researched video on Military History, considering supporting me on Patreon: http://patreon.com/mhv/
    The infographics poster for this video can be found here: https://www.redbubble.com/people/mhvis/works/31141375-german-infantry-squad-1941-die-gruppe?p=poster&finish=semi_gloss&size=medium

  • Reply sonrouge July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Imagine if they'd had the MP44 at the start of the war.

  • Reply Muscle Man July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Penetration is for the prostitutes on the soldier's spare time

  • Reply Dariusz C. July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    co on gada?

  • Reply Kitaro Usomaki July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Amtssprache ist Deutsch! Nicht das dein Englisch schlecht ist, aber Vaterlandsliebe…

  • Reply German countryball July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Not Karabiner 98kurz just k

  • Reply TRoNiCsIX GAD July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Some of you better watch less Hollywood movies…

  • Reply L Drake July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    To know how the Germans fought in WW2 just look how America fights in 2019. They were that advanced that we still use their play book. Aka the hail mary in desert storm

  • Reply Jan Pruszcz July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    How Germans Wehrmacht 10 men squad was set -up to kill civilians in Warsaw Poland?

  • Reply lasher500 July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Good video. Keep in mind, they lost both world wars they started.

  • Reply Richard 4SHORT July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Also, the Heer always counterattacked.

  • Reply eric harris July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    "He huffed and he puffed and he made us sign an eviction notice"

  • Reply eric harris July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Why is this in broken English

  • Reply Kamil Murzyn July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    so it was german not nazi?

  • Reply red scouse July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    How would the fire power compare to an english or Russian squad? With such a high rate of fire from the MG, they keep up that rate of firing surely

  • Reply Lord Wungler Beckett July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Wait so how does a platoon look like, a 1.25 squads? Quite bamboozling indeed

  • Reply Albert Art July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Germans are such a genius of a nation!

  • Reply Frei Korps July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Honour to my Grandfathers 🖤 Wir halten eure Fahnen hoch!

  • Reply dominik468 July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Dieser Akzent 🤦🏼‍♂️

  • Reply Kokfesk July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    im dissapointed,you said that we were going to look at German squat tactics…

  • Reply Nachrichtentruppe.de July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Very well explained! 🙂

  • Reply Max- Eric Thiel July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Germans dont used LMGs, they had just one MG. What you called the heavy MG is the same one, on a stand , doubling the effective range to 1200m about a 1/2 mile.
    But the rest ist nice and right, we do it like that even today with the same MGs (some MG and some spare parts are even from WW2) in a 8 man "Gruppe"

  • Reply Krotonyasha July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Про винтовочные гранотометы не сказал:)

  • Reply Florian Schubert July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Mach es mal auf deutsch bitte oder hast du Angst als nazi diffamiert zu werden ?

  • Reply Axel Gieck July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    So, some Army rulebook got into the hands of an Amerucan, translating it into English, to be translated back 70 years later by a German, just to then be made public translated to English again… that is funny 🙂

  • Reply Roll Wax July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Thanks ! Interesting, clear explanations and well illustrated.

  • Reply Tai Tran July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Best Army ever

  • Reply Green Flag Racing July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    ranks???

  • Reply jimjd1969 July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Don't forget, giant balls.

  • Reply jimjd1969 July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Without Hitler, they might have won

  • Reply Norman Comeau July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Interesting because I do not think you could get ten people to cooperate in a selfless manner today.

  • Reply Per Peruna July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    PACI SA MI, ze pouzivas a citujes zdroje.

  • Reply Aaron Judgement July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Love the metal at the end!,

  • Reply Takumori July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Yeet now I can create it in MoW

  • Reply Steve Bashakus July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    WWII German squad tactics, get shot to shit by the Americans and Russkies.

  • Reply Maine made July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Great a German telling us about there tac tics how about us army tactics to combat German seeing how we beat them we had the better tactics .learning weak or subpar ,outdated moves ,only for the losers 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸⚓️

  • Reply Valkay Mapping July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    It is true that Germany had less SMGs in squads but also German squads were smaller than American or Soviet squads, mostly those squads were twice the size of a German squad unit alone, but squads never operate alone and in larger scale units they had the same number of soldier and the amount of SMGs but most importantly more MGs

  • Reply Jeffrey Wherry July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    I'm impressed. You even know the difference between "clip" and "magazine". Extra credit!

  • Reply bob king July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Would love to see you use miniatures from Warlord/Bolt Action game.

  • Reply AdiazPravda July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    I use some of this tactics in PUBG

  • Reply Deaf And Destruction July 29, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    Remember guys, don't take advice on football strategy from the Cleveland Browns if you plan on winning the Super Bowl. In other words, the Germans don't have a competitive strategy for the sport of war, and proved it twice to thier very own ruin.

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