Infantry Tactics

A young soldier of 3. Rgt. 26

    German tactics of WW2 was one of pinning the defender frontally, maneuvering against his flanks, and bringing overwhelming firepower to bear at the main point of attack. Battalions still deploy in line with other battalions from their division, they advance on a fixed frontage, and guide their forward movement on a designated lead formation.  Machine guns deploy forward of the line to soften up identified enemy formations until they are ready to be assaulted. The infantry section used only two simple formations to maneuvre in battle, but it had a repertoire of choreographed tactical responses which produced predictable results in a given situation. Company and platoon commanders, section and squad leaders, even lead machine gunners were trained to recognize opportunity, and act on it. In theory, the tactical and operational concepts worked well, and they are valid even today. In short the Waffen SS was a well-oiled machine.

Key Terms:

Abschnitt - Defence Sector
Aufnahmelinie - Rally Position
Anschluss - The Lead
Ausdehnung - Dispersal
Durchbruch - Breakthrough
Einbruch - Penetration
Entfaltung - Operational Deployment
Entwicklung - Tactical Deployment
Feuer frei! - Open fire!
Feuerkette - Firing Line.
Flügelangriff - Wing attack
Flankenangriff - Flank attack.
Gefechtsstreifen - Attack Corridor
Gefechtsvorposten - Combat Outposts
Hauptkampffeld - Battlefield
Hauptkampflinie (HKL) - Main Line of Battle.
Hauptkampflinie - Main Line of Battle
Hinhaltender Widerstand - Delaying Action
Kompanie-Keil - Wedge
Kompanie-Breitkeil - Inverted Wedge
Schutzengruppe - Infantry Section
Schutzenreihe - Single File
Schutzenrudel - Pack/Swarm
Schwerpunkt - Main Point of Attack
Sicherer - Security
Spaher - Scouts
Spahtrupp - Patrol
Stellung! - Firing Position
Stopfen! - Cease fire!,
Verteidigung - Defence
Vorgeschobene Stellungen - Forward Positions
Volle Deckung! - Take full cover!
Widerstandslinie - Line of Resistance
Zwischenfeld - Middle Ground      

Schutzengruppe - Infantry Section
     Infantry sections consisted of a leader and 12-14 men, who normally advanced into combat in two separate squads, using different routes of advance:

   Gruppenführer - Section Leader
   l.M.G.-Trupp - LMG Squad (4 gunners with 1 LMG)
   Truppführer - Squad Leader
   Schützentrupp - Rifle Squad (7-9 riflemen)

    The section leader took command of the most important squad in his section, based on the tactical situation. If the entire section advanced, the section leader commanded the LMG squad. If an enemy position had been identified, the section leader would direct the fire of the LMG squad while the squad leader maneuvered the rifle squad into an assault position close to the enemy, but in cover. If the enemy position was to be assaulted, the section leader went forward and took command of the rifle squad, either keeping the squad leader by his side or sending him back to command the LMG squad. If both leaders accompanied the rifle squad in the assault, l.M.G.-Schütze 1 took command of the LMG squad temporarily.

Schutzenreihe - Single File
    The entire infantry section advanced in single file only at a safe distance from the enemy. If enemy contact was expected, the section split into its two component squads, and maintained a safe distance between them, either by advancing along parallel routes or by keeping up to 80 metres distance between squads. Unless otherwise instructed, the men would keep a distance of 5 paces between them in single file. LMG squad and rifle squad rarely deployed at the same time. Typically, the LMG squad might form Schützenrudel, while the rifle squad continued to advance in Schützenreihe.

Schutzenrudel - Pack
    Schützenrudel was used to cross open terrain. If ordered to deploy into a pack formation, the squad would dress on the Anschlussmann (lead man) and adopt a staggered formation. Unless otherwise instructed, pack frontage would be 15 paces, and the men kept a distance of 5 paces from eachother. If the entire section or the LMG squad deployed, l.M.G.-Schütze 1 was the Anschlussmann. If only the rifle squad deployed, from single file, the lead rifleman had Anschluss. Otherwise, if the rifle squad deployed from line, the squad leader or section leader would designate the rifleman on the right or left flank as the Anschlussman.

    Spaher - Scouts: 2 or 3 riflemen per platoon acted as Sicherer - Security when the platoon advanced. The scouts would be 200 - 400 metres ahead of the platoon, and it was their job to uncover enemy positions in the attack corridor of their platoon, typically by drawing enemy fire.

    Spahtrupp - Patrol: It was the company's responsibility to patrol the corridor of the frontline assigned to it. One or several patrols might be sent out, depending on the terrain and the tactical situation. A patrol consisted of a Spahtruppfuhrer and 3-6 riflemen. Individual riflemen would be sent back to company headquarters to report. These messengers were instructed to use the fastest communication method available to get the message through, even borrowing a company wireless or telephone operator they happened to run into on the return journey.

Entwicklung - Tactical Deployment
    Until enemy contact was made, infantry sections advanced in single file inside their assigned corridors, taking advantage of the command control and excellent articulation which this formation provided. Patrols and scouts operating well forward of the platoon and company would eventually flush out an enemy position, and individual squads would begin to deploy into combat formations. An Anschluss section leader might deploy the LMG squad from single file to Schützenrudel and advance to an advantageous firing position. The rifle squad from the same section might continue to advance until it reached an assault position immediately opposite the enemy position, but still in cover. Because of their different combat assignments, LMG squad and rifle squad rarely deployed at the same time. Depending on the importance of the identified enemy position, the platoon commander had the option of pooling the LMG squads of all three sections, and soften up the target. If HMG squads or sections were attached at platoon level, they might be pooled as well.

Stellung! - Firing Position
    A verbal command or visual signal instructing the squad to adopt a firing position in the Feuerkette - Firing Line. "Stellung" from single file or pack would require the squad to dress on the Anschlussmann, and form a firing line facing the enemy, keeping a distance of 5 paces between each man, unless otherwise instructed. The command would be followed by Feuer frei! - Open fire! followed by Stopfen! - Cease fire!, and Volle Deckung! - Take full cover!