NATO defines reconnaissance as: A mission undertaken to obtain, by visual observation or other detection methods, information about the activities and resources of an enemy or potential enemy... So how did they do this in World War 2, back when there weren't things such as high image satellites or computerised motion-sensors?
    All the basic principles used in today's branches of intelligence networks, were widely used in World War 2. They had spy rings and payoffs, photography and radar, even computers (Enigma)! The gathering of intelligence was categorized under two forms of collection methods, human and technological.

The fundamental methods the agencies used are as follows:
   Human Intelligence - called Humint : was the gathering of intelligence by questioning a person with the knowledge of the target area. This took on many forms, from asking a local peasant villager to whipping a potential collaborator.

Technical Intelligence, which today is referred to as Techint, wasn't quite as elaborate as today's standards. It was in fact categorized as follows.
   Communications Intelligence - Comint : was the collection capability for intercepting and decoding communications.
   Electronics Intelligence - Elint : was typically the collection of the enemies electronic countermeasures capability such as jambing devices.
   Photo Intelligence - Phoint : was the collection of intelligence gained by using photography. The German Luftwaffe went almost round the clock using their Aufklarungsstaffel to take aerial recon. pictures. These photos were most often then not, the single most important aid to the German High Command in decision making. The photos were best viewed as collections showing the same area. This would enable distinctions to be made about the discrepancies of the landscapes.
   Radar Intelligence - Radint : was the collection of the enemies radar capability and location of installations.

"You can never have to much reconnaissance"
- George S. Patton -

    The German war machine also had intelligence gathering within the field of battle. This type of reconnaissance was  known as "Aufklarung" (OUF-klay-roong). The units, whos make up can be traced back to the cavalry units of World War 1, were fast and highly mobile. They were developed as battalion-sized squadrons and were attached to all branches of the Army and Waffen SS. And although the units varied greatly in their composition, their roles always remained the same. Gather intelligence without being seen.
    Throughout the years, the German reconnaissance battalions (Aufklarung Abteilung) took on many different forms. The reconnaissance battalions of the infantry, consisted mostly of a cavalry unit, bicycle unit and a heavy weapons unit. This was the standard until 1943, when it's compositon greatly changed. It had then become known as a "Fusilier" battalion and had lost it's cavalry and two-thirds of it's bicycles. These would be returned later in the war.
    The reconnaissance battalions of the German panzer divisions were formed much in the same way as the infantry. The cavalry was replaced with armored cars "Panzerspahwagen", the bicycles with motorcycles, and the heavy weapons remained. It was the job of these fast mobile-armored cars to go deep into enemy territory, with little more then a radio and machinegun, to collect whatever intelligence they could about the enemy forces. The function of the motorcycle and heavy weapons squadron was that of shock troops. Their job was to help protect the armored cars, by using a high volume of suppressive fire against the enemy. They would sometimes open corridors in enemy defensive positions, to allow the cars to go through. Once past, the cars would often times complete their missions alone.
    A closer look at generic reconnaissance battalions T.O &E. shows the units appear to change in strength as well. No doubt, do mostly to divisional changes and heavy losses throughout the course of the war. In 1942 reconnaissance units were merged with antitank battalions, thus being known as "Schnelle Abtielung". Although many divisions adopted this form of unit, it lasted mearly a year. In 1944 it was being replaced by yet another form. In the later stages of the war, the Germans used a system of lettering (Typ. A - Kompanie, Typ. B - Kompanie, and so on), to describe the motorized reconnaissance companies that made up battalions. Each letter representing a differet form of vehicles and manpower. The letters could be interchanged to suit certain needs of divisions or areas.
    Reconnaissance units were also attached to battalion,s within a division other then the Aufkl. Abt. An example of this can be seen in Divisional Headquarters, which often times had a reconnaisance unit acting as a message service, as they were equiped with motorcycles. These units were always under the command of their respected battalions.


In 1939 the Aufklarung Abtielung were quickly deployed as follows:

   A-A 1 attached to the 1st Cavalry Brigade.
   A-A 3, 4, 5 attached to Panzer divisions.
   A-A 2, 13, 20 and 29 attached to motorised infantry divisions.
   A-A 6 attached to the 1st Light Division.
   A-A 7 attached to the 2nd Light Division.
   A-A 8 attached to the 3rd Light Division.
   A-A 9 attached to the 4th Light Division.

    Reconnaissance battalions attached to panzer divisions after 1939 took on thier parent divisions number. The abreviation of Pz. was added prior to the A-A. Examples of this are Pz.A-A 16, which is attached to the 16th panzer division. Pz.A-A 'Totenkopf' of the 3 SS panzer division, and so on. In motorized divisions the battalion designation was added to 100.
The reconnaissance battalion of the 20th motorized division was A-A 120.

There was of course exceptions to these rules.
   Pz-A-A 140, served in the 22 Panzer Division.
   Pz-A-A 87 was attached to the 25 Panzer Division.
   Pz-A-A 130 was with the Panzer-Lehr-Division.
   In North Africa, the official title of 21 Panzer Division's reconnaissance battalion was Pz-A-A 200.

"Panzerspäh-Kompanie exercise the tactical ground reconnaissance. Only in open terrain, when being followed or to protect withdrawal the company is used all together. Panzeraufklärungs-Abteilung gain through reconnaissance and combat, information for the rest of the division, and it is the divisions quickest fighting force. The battalion is committed to battle all together. To commit independent combat duties it must first be reinforced."
-Heinz Guderian-

    Units of a reconnaissance battalion were used primarily for road and route screening, for the division they were attached to. They also saw duty in rear areas as road security, especially on the eastern front, as supply lines grew ever increasingly longer. They were not designed for combat however, as their weapons were fairly weak. The typical weaponry of a reconnaissance battalion was  designed primarily for suppression of small arms during withdrawls. Their work-horses for many years were the Sd.Kfz. 222 and Sd.Kfz. 231, both of which only mounted a 20mm gun. The radio was in fact the reconnaissance vehicle's most important weapon, and its use would cause untold damage.
    When moving into enemy territory, the battalion usually advanced separately from the main division. The units within the reconnaissance battalion were often assigned individual tasks, such as long range patrols or advanced tactical reconnaissance. It must be emphasised that their best results were obtained through undetected observation, and that contact with the enemy was almost always avoided.

I've chosen to use the generic 1940 Panzer Division Recon. Battalion TO&E for our WWII Online squad.

    The following pages contain some excerpts taken from the "Handbook on German Military Forces". I've tried to rearrange that information a little better then it is shown in the book. As it is obvious that the author has crammed information concerning different years into 2 pages.

Click the Toten to go out
Click the SS Runes for Page 2