Certain cardinal tactical principles cannot be violated in battle with
impunity. We may take, for example, the case which unfortunately occurred when
a Soviet unit was ordered to capture a village and hill for the purpose of
assisting the neighboring units to surround and destroy enemy troops in the vicinity. The
particular village was considered important as the key to avenues of supply
and evacuation. For this reason, the enemy established strong defensive
The first and most important mistake made by the Soviet commander was the
failure to make a sufficiently detailed reconnaissance. Although the terrain
was not familiar to him, he relied on information supplied by friendly troops
in that area. Thus he did not know at first hand the enemy system of defense or
the grouping of its units.
This mistake resulted in others. The commander had received orders
to move into this region 4 days prior to that set for his attack. He was given
preliminary instructions then, and the attack order on the following day. His
men should have been fully ready for the attack, but were not, because the
commander hesitated to make a decision. He finally made his decision and
issued his attack order on the day preceding the attack. The various sections
were assigned various objectives, and the artillery given widely-spread targets.
Only a few hours prior to the jump-off time, the commander, who was still in
doubt due to lack of reconnaissance, issued a countermanding order. There
was insufficient time to reorganize the infantry units or to obtain proper
cooperation between them and the tanks and the artillery. Furthermore, the
new decision did not guarantee fulfillment of the task set. Instead of making a
concentrated attack, the commander decided to use small portions of his forces
in several diverging attacks. Battle experience has decisively proved that
frontal attacks, especially over a wide front, are made only in the most
exceptional cases. Here it would have been better to have made the main attack on
the right flank, thus holding the main force together and providing distribution in depth.
After an artillery preparation the Soviet infantry moved into the attack. The
tanks with "desyanti" troops (infantry on tanks) moved out 30 minutes ahead. Since
they were not supported by the main body of the infantry, they were easily driven
away from the village by the enemy. Then the well-coordinated fire of the German
infantry cut off the opposing infantry which followed.
It is thus clear that the artillery preparation had not been effective. The
reasons were: they received the final order too late to conduct thorough
reconnaissance and organize advance OP's properly; they did not have complete
firing data; and their fire could not be properly observed. The commander did
not utilize radio to reestablish lost control.
Instead of bettering his situation when he committed his reserves, he made it
worse. The commander brought them into the attack prematurely and in
piecemeal formation. After getting tangled up in the forest, they had to
retreat to their jump-off position in the face of strong enemy fire and
The general reasons for the failure of this attack can be attributed to:
(a) Inadequate reconnaissance;
(b) Sluggishness in making the decision and issuing the attack order;
(c) Incorrect attack order;
(d) Loss of control.
Comment: The above report was received in the form of a translation of
an article written by a Colonel in the Soviet Army.