The following is a digest of an article written in the Red Star (Moscow) on
the use of artillery in a German tank division during attack. It is interesting in
that it describes the composition of march columns and attack formations, in
addition to discussing tactical employment.
The organic artillery with a German tank division, as used against the
Russians on the Eastern Front, normally consists of two 105-mm battalions and
one 150-mm howitzer battalion, and is usually reinforced by one or two
battalions of light artillery.
On the march, the commanding officers of the artillery regiments, battalions, and
batteries, plus a minimum of their respective staffs and control units, march at the
head of the column. The artillery reconnaissance party marches with the tank
reconnaissance unit. Battery reconnaissance parties consist of two armored
cars and two motorcycles. In case one of the cars is destroyed the other
can carry on the vital reconnaissance work.
Artillery observers ride in armored cars which are armed with machine
guns. In each car there is an observer, the observer's assistant, a radio
operator, and a driver. There are two such observation vehicles per
battery. The battery commander rides in one and another officer in the
other. The battalion has three such observers' cars.
Planes are assigned to work with the artillery of the division and are
subject to call by the commanding officer of the artillery who assigns through
battalion one plane or more per battery, depending upon the amount of planes
available. In the attack, one light artillery battalion normally supports one tank
regiment in direct support and the medium battalion is in general support. But in
the majority of cases experienced, the artillery of the tank divisions has been
reinforced so that two light battalions can be assigned to a regiment in the first
echelon, which allows one light battalion per tank battalion. One battery of each
battalion supports the right element of a tank battalion, another the left
element, while the third is echeloned to the rear and is charged with security
of the flanks and rear.
Observation posts, command posts, and battery positions are all moved
as far forward as possible. Batteries fire from concealed positions, as a rule.
Preceding an attack, preparation fire is conducted from 15 minutes to 1 hour on
enemy artillery and tank assembly areas, and observation points are smoked. Enemy
front-line infantry is generally disregarded during the preparation, as their
neutralization is left to the tanks. Direct-support battalions do not
always participate in the preparation fire, but are put in march order with full
supplies of ammunition, ready to jump off with the tanks.
The battalion commanders and battery commanders of direct-support units
remain at their observation posts in an attack until the head tank passes
their line, at which time they take up their positions in the attack echelons. The
German general-support artillery does not change its position in an attack
which is designed to go no further than the enemy artillery positions. However, in an
attack which is intended to penetrate beyond enemy artillery positions, they do move
forward when practicable. If the German infantry lags and is finally held up, but the
tanks break through and continue forward, the general-support artillery does not move forward.
During the German break-through at the end of October 1941, from the city of Orel in the
direction of Mtsensk, German tank units succeeded in breaking through the Soviet infantry
lines, but the German infantry supporting the tanks was cut off and forced to dig in. The
support artillery could not move forward and, as a result, the tanks, having no
support from their artillery, were compelled, after suffering heavy losses, to
return to their original positions.
The above discussion confirms well-known German tactics. It is important, regardless of the
success of the enemy tanks in a break-through, to stop the infantry moving up in support of
the tanks because the artillery is therefore prevented from advancing and the tanks are
deprived of their direct support. The tanks can then be much more easily dealt with.