Topic: The Field of Battle
German and Russian Combat Tricks (1941-42)
Small Unit Actions During the German Campaign in Russia, Department of the Army Pamphlet No. 20-269; Washington, 1953
A German Decoy Diverts Russian Aircraft (Winter 1941-42)
During the desperate struggle in the Rzhev area in the winter of 1941-42, the Russians employed several outdated biplanes to conduct night raids against German installations, to drop propaganda leaflets, and to supply encircled Russian units. Since the nightly harassing raids robbed the German defenders of their much-needed rest, the commander of a German infantry regiment decided to trick the enemy into dropping his bombs where they could cause no damage. He ordered his engineers to hang several lanterns on 6-foot poles set up in an isolated area. A wire connected the lanterns, and a man about 800 yards away manipulated the wire in such a way that the lanterns swayed back and forth. From the air this motion produced the effect of a number of men walking on the ground and carrying lanterns in their hands. On the following night the Russian air craft appeared as usual. Upon spotting what appeared to be a rewarding target, they immediately released their bombs which exploded without causing any damage except for the destruction of a number of lanterns. After this ruse had been successfully employed for a number of nights, higher headquarters refused to supply any more lanterns because of excessive expenditure. However, when a bomb landed squarely on the billets of the division commander two nights later, the order was rescinded, and lanterns were again available in unlimited quantities.
The Dummy Drop Zone (January 1943)
During the fighting near Demyansk in January 1943 a German infantry regiment succeeded in encircling elements of several Russian divisions in its rear area. Within a short time the Russians began to airdrop supplies to their encircled forces. A German radio intelligence detachment intercepted a Russian message transmitted to the units in the pocket, ordering them to lay out a drop zone with four fires. During the following night the fires should form the letter T; letters were to be changed every night.
The German regimental commander decided to take advantage of this information and prevent the Russian units in the pocket from receiving badly needed supplies. To this end he established a dummy drop zone outside the pocket. Russian prisoners of war who served the division as laborers were ordered to fill four shell craters forming the letter T with dry wood, which was then soaked in gaso line. The laborers had scarcely completed the task when the noise of approaching aircraft became audible. The piles of wood in the pits were quickly set afire. Upon noticing the fires on the ground, Russian aircraft dumped their cargo of ammunition and rations over the German drop zone. This deception was successfully repeated on three successive nights, and the encircled forces were thus deprived of supplies. They were forced to surrender a few days later.
On other occasions the Germans were equally successful in de ceiving Russian aircraft, provided that they observed the correct pro cedure. First, the number of fires and the letters they formed in the drop zone had to correspond to the prearranged signal. If the fires on the ground were not correctly laid out, the Russian pilots became suspicious and were likely to drop a few bombs instead of the desired supplies. Second, the fires had to be built in shell craters or pits according to Russian methods and not on flat ground.
The slow-flying Russian cargo planes were vulnerable to small-arms fire while making their approach run to the lighted drop zone. No tracer ammunition was to be used for this purpose. In their eagerness to recover the airdropped supplies, the German soldiers often did not wait until all Russian aircraft had departed. In one instance, a noncommissioned officer was severely injured when he was hit by frozen sides of bacon.
Russian Traps (February 1943)
Near Demyansk in February 1943 the German forces in the MLR were greatly understrength, and Russian reconnaissance patrols were often able to infiltrate. They would cut a wire line connecting outposts with the rear and prepare an ambush for the German troubleshooters, who usually arrived within a short time. As a rule, the wire repair team consisted of two men, whose attention was concentrated on the task at hand. While the two were engaged in repairing the damaged wire, the Russians would catch them off guard, overpower them silently, and take them away. At that time the German manpower shortage was so pronounced that usually no infantry detachments were available to protect the troubleshooters.
Another incident occurred on a particularly dark night, when one of two German infantrymen manning a machine gun momentarily left his post to investigate a suspicious noise. Five Russians belonging to a reconnaissance patrol jumped at the soldier who had remained at the machine gun, threw ground pepper into his face, pulled a bag over his head, and disappeared with him into the night. When he heard the noise, the other man ran back to the machine gun and fired several bursts in the direction in which the Russian patrol had vanished. On the following morning the bodies of a Russian officer and two Russian enlisted men were found in the immediate vicinity of the outpost, as was the body of the abducted German machine gunner. Two severely wounded Russians were discovered a few yards away. Among the Russian officer's papers the Germans found an elaborate plan of attack based on preliminary reconnaissance information, indicating that during the four preceding nights the officer had observed the German outpost area from behind a disabled tank at only 30 yards distance from the German machine gun crew.
German Sound Deception (November 1944)
During the fight ing along the Narev River in November 1944 the commander of a German infantry regiment requested from higher headquarters the dispatch of a sound truck equipped with recordings simulating the approach, assembly, and the attack of an armored division. Each record ran for 12 minutes. As soon as the requested equipment arrived, a shelter was constructed on a reverse slope so that the sound truck would be protected from enemy view and fire. Observers, equipped with telescopes, were to scrutinize the Russian positions to determine the emplacements of their heavy weapons and artillery. A fire plan was prepared according to which the heavy weapons of the three German battalions in that sector were to alternately fire at specified targets in order to confuse the Russians. Division and corps intercept units were alerted. The time for the deceptive attack was set for the late afternoon of a hazy November day, when visibility was at a minimum.
Soon after the start of the German fire, which was perfectly coordinated with the sounds of approaching armor, the Russian heavy weapons began to reply. A little later the artillery went into action. As the noise of the approaching German tanks grew louder, the Russian unit commanders became more and more alarmed and sent out frantic calls for help. This radio traffic was observed by the German intercept detachments, which were thus able to plot the location of the enemy command posts.
Thirty-seven minutes later a Russian artillery shell scored a direct hit on the cable which linked the loudspeaker to the sound truck, thus putting a sudden end to the performance. However, by this time the deception had achieved its purpose. The Russian forward positions had been identified, 11 mortar and 7 antitank gun emplacements had been determined, and a great number of artillery pieces had been located by flash and sound ranging. On the following day the identified Russian weapons were taken under fire and destroyed.