Assault Gun Employment Guidelines, 1942

By Christian Ankerstjerne

The document below was published on 27 April 1942, and formed the official guideline for employing assault gun units.

Document

Artillery Leaflet Number 34 - Guidelines for the Employment of Assault Gun Units

Preface

Leaflet 34 governs the employment of assault guns as long as army manual 200/2 m has not been replaced by a new version.

I. Nature and Tasks of the Assault Gun

1. The assault gun - a 75 mm gun on an armored self-propelled chassis - is an offensive weapon.

Employment of assault guns requires careful knowledge of their nature, capabilities, and possible uses, so that these especially valuable weapons are not quickly worn out or destroyed.

2. Cross-country capability, armor protection, mobility, and the constant ability to open fire allows the assault gun to accompany the infantry during their assault, and to provide constant artillery support at optimum combat distances. Assault guns gives the infantry's assault impact and speed and gives them strong moral support.

Supporting the infantry's assault is thus the nature of the assault guns' most important task.

Employment as divisional artillery or in cooperation with tanks does not correspond to the weapon's tactical and technical possibilities.

3. With its high accuracy and fire effect, the assault gun is particularly capable of quickly defeating enemy strongpoints and infantry support weapons. Using smoke grenades, they can also blind observation posts and weapons.

When fighting armored vehicles, assault guns can successfully defeat light and medium tanks.

4. The assault gun accompanies the infantry from position to position. It only fires when halted, and only with direct fire from open positions that are as well-concealed against ground and air reconnaissance as possible.

It is delicate in close combat, as it has easily vulnerable sides and open top hatches, as well as having poor close-defense capabilities and only being able to fire forward.

It is not intended to independently carry out reconnaissance or combat missions. Infantry protection is always required.

II. Organization of the Assault Gun Battalion and the Assault Gun Battery

5. The assault gun battalion consists of the battalion staff with a staff battery, and three assault gun batteries with seven guns each (three platoons with two guns each, and one gun for the battery commander). The alternative organization is similar to a light motorized artillery battalion.

III. Principles of Employment

General

6. The assault gun battalions belongs to the army artillery. When employed, they are usually subordinated to infantry divisions or motorized infantry division. During this time, they are entrusted to the supervision of the divisional artillery commander.

7. In the hands of the divisional commander, the assault gun battalion is a means to strengthen the offensive strength of the infantry at the decisive point. Whether the entire assault gun battalion is employed with a single infantry regiment, or the batteries are divided amongst the regiments, depends on the situation and terrain.

Basically, the assault gun units are to be subordinated to the infantry commander of the unit that they are supporting. This similarly applies when the assault guns are assigned to advance battalions, vanguards, or split-off units.

8. Splitting the assault gun units into small parts (platoons, individual guns) impairs the firepower and makes the enemy defenses more effective. Infantry support using single platoons is therefore to be limited to exceptional cases, where the battery commander can't command the entire battery, for example, when supporting assault troop companies or employment in unclear terrain.

Employment of individual guns must always be avoided, as the guns provide mutual fire support, as well as mutual help in the case of difficult terrain or in case of engine- and other damages.

9. Assault guns are not to be assigned objectives and targets that can be defeated by infantry support weapons or by artillery. Their targets are those that are not known at the start of the attack, or those that can't be defeated fast or fast enough by the use of other weapons at or during the attack.

10. The employment of assault guns is particularly successful is they succeed in surprising the enemy, and before they have the time to build strong anti-tank defenses. To accomplish this requires discreet reconnaissance, concealment during build-up and preparation, concealment during the approach, and surprise when opening fire.

11. Before the final objectives are defined, the infantry commander and the assault gun unit should have an in-depth discussion about the intended battle plan.

Prior to the mission, it should be strived to obtain the best possible picture of the enemy, above all the position of the enemy's armor-piercing weapons and the location of their obstacles (mines), as well as the nature of the terrain that is to be conquered. Rushing into action without sufficient reconnaissance and exploration can jeopardize the success of the attack. Premature advancement into the staging area, followed by prolonged waiting, puts the assault guns at risk of unnecessary losses.

12. After the assault guns' combat mission has been completed, they are not to be assigned to security tasks, especially at night. Instead, they must be withdrawn from the front line to restore their combat readiness (ammunition restocking, refueling, and carrying out necessary maintenance).

13. After four to five days of operation, the assault gun units must be given the necessary time to restore their combat readiness. If the situation does not allow for this, it must be accepted that parts are not combat ready, or fail completely.

The facilities assigned to the assault guns should, to the extent possible, utilize existing halls and machine shops to allow the maintenance work to be carried out easily and quickly.

Cooperation with Other Weapons; Target Reporting; Fire Control

14. The troops operating with assault guns must by all means support the movements and combat of the guns in difficult and mine-covered terrain. This includes passing through ditches, streams, marshland, and through cleared lanes in mine fields. It is prudent to assign engineers. These should, when possible, be deployed in advance.

It is the task of artillery and infantry support weapons to support assault guns by suppressing or destroying enemy armor-piercing weapons.

15. Target discovery and target allocation is done in close cooperation with the infantry.

The assault gun battalion (battery) commander and the infantry regiment (battalion) commander should discuss the results of the reconnaissance patrols and the terrain exploration while planning each mission.

During combat, close cooperation between the commanders of the assault guns (battalion, battery, and platoon commander) and the commanders of the infantry (regiment, battalion, company, and platoon commander) must be sought, through the use of direct interaction, infantry runners, or signals (for example, point shooting by the infantry in the direction of the target). It is essential for the success of the attack that targets are relayed quickly and clearly to the assault guns, especially when dealing with hard-to-see targets. Motorized infantry, infantry, and motorcycle infantry that are equipped with signal boards for cooperation with tanks can also use these for target relaying, etc. for assault guns.

16. The opportunity for the battery commander to carry out fire control using the assault guns depends on the terrain, the strength, and the enemy's situation. If the battery commander is unable to allocate targets due to unclear terrain, wide frontlines, or the splitting of the battle into individual actions, the fire control will sometimes lie with the platoon commander. These must then work directly together with the forward-most infantry platoons. It should always be strived to gather the battery under the battery commander.

IV. March

17. When an assault gun battalion is assigned to a division, the division commander must keep control of the battalion for a long as possible during the march. Depending on the situation and the terrain, and above all when moving through forests, however, he may assign individual assault gun batteries to the regimental march groups for the purpose of the march. The battery commander, along with parts of the battery troop, is usually near the march group leader. The placement of an assault gun battery in the forefront of the vanguard is the best way to ensure that enemy resistance is quickly broken. The number of vehicles that are brought along is hereby kept as low as possible.

18. Because the average march speed of the assault guns is about 22 kilometers per hour, during longer marches, they cannot move at neither the walking pace of the infantry, nor at the speed of motorized units. Consequently, they will usually have to move in leaps in the spaces between the individual marching groups or the vanguard, etc.

19. The assault guns may only cross the war bridges erected by engineers at walking pace (5 kilometers per hour), exactly at the center of the lane, to the extent possible without jolting movements of the track, and at a minimum distance of 30 meters. The bridges must have a load capacity of 22 tons. Advance coordination between the commander of the assault gun unit and the bridge commander is necessary.

V. Attack

20. The assault guns' task is, in cooperation with the other branches, to support the infantry in breaking through the enemy position and their in-depth fighting on the battlefield.

21. Upon receiving orders from the division, the battalion or battery commander must immediately establish personal communications with the commander of the infantry unit that he is going to support. Based on this communication, and after thorough discussion of the enemy situation, the terrain, the infantry's intended battle plan, the assignments of the infantry support weapons and the artillery, etc., the commander of the assault gun units determines his battle plan.

He gives his units or platoons narrowly defined combat objectives, and to the extent possible, points out the targets to be defeated in the field.

22. Depending on the situation, the first strike of the attack follows either immediately following the advance, or from concealed positions or assembly points in the rear. Concealed roads of approach are necessary in both of the latter cases. A close connection with the vanguard of the infantry must also be maintained from concealed positions or assembly points.

23. When fighting against bunkers, assault guns can be employed using armor-piercing grenades to defeat embrasures. This is especially efficient when combined with assault engineers equipped with flame throwers. Reconnaissance and deciding the assault plan should be done jointly.

VI. Pursuit

24. As the pursuit progresses, the assault gun batteries stay close to their own infantry, to immediately break any resistance using concentrated fire in close formation.

25. It is expedient to assign assault gun batteries to the pursuit battalions1, to prevent the enemy from regaining a foothold, and to sustain the flow of the pursuit.

VII. Defense

26. Offensive use of the assault guns is also the principle while on the defense. The assault guns' defensive tasks is the support of counter-pushes and counter-attacks.

27. The assembly area should be chosen to be sufficiently far behind the main battle line to ensure that the assault gun units are available to counter attacks and break-through on every location of the main battle line with lightning speed.

28. The combat follows the principles of supporting an infantry attack. Scouting should be carried out as early as possible with the commanders of the infantry that has been designated to carry out the counter-push or counter-attack.

VIII. Breaking Off of the Attack and Retreat

29. Through their armor, off-road capability, and speed, the assault guns are able to quickly disengage from the enemy withdraw across long distances, even when engaged in close combat. They can therefore hold off the enemy for a long time and quickly disengage. Against an armored enemy, it is necessary to have strong covering fire behind sections secured against armor. It may be considered to assign assault guns to the rear guard.

IX. Combat under Special Circumstances

30. Employments in cities and forests requires particularly strong infantry close support, to the extent that the lack of visibility, limited firing arc, and endangering of their own troops does not entirely prohibit the use of assault guns.

Assault guns are not suited for use during darkness due to their construction and armament.

31. Urban combat: During urban combat, assault guns support the infantry, and are often assigned to the assault troops in platoons. Thorough discussion that settles all the aspects of carrying out the operation, and frequent cooperation with the same infantry unit, is of significant importance to the success of urban combat.

32. Forest combat: The assault guns provide overwatch for the infantry during the approach to and infiltration of the forest. Inside the forest they can usually only provide weak support for their infantry due to the poor gun traverse and limited spotting ability, and easily puts them in danger due to premature detonation of grenades on branches, etc. Thorough scouting is required when fighting against forest strongpoints.

33. Winter usage: Usage depends on the terrain and snow conditions. The assault guns' poor ground clearance mainly limits their use to existing roads, which must be expected to have increased enemy defenses. Their use can only be justified by detailed preparation and careful estimation of the expected success.

X. Supplies

34. As an army-level unit, the assault gun battalion brings with it its initial complement of ammunition, fuel, and food. The battalion is the supply unit, especially for vehicle maintenance.

35. When the battalion is subordinated to a division, regulation of the battalion's supplies, especially fuel, ammunition, and armor replacement parts, must be applied for with the higher command (corps, army) in a timely manner.

36. The battalion commander is responsible for the supplying of the battalion and the individual batteries.

37. Every assault gun battery, platoon, and gun commander must continuously keep the supply situation of their unit, etc., in mind. He is required to report to his superiors in a timely manner, and to ensure the supply of ammunition, fuel, and food.

Appendix

Numerical Data

Combat weight 22 t
Maximum speed
Cross-country 12 km/h
Hard roads 35 km/h
Cruising speed 22 km/h
Range
Street (under normal circumstances) 150 km
Cross-country 90 km
Tank gun caliber 75 mm
Maximum fire range 6000 m
Normal combat range Between 400 and 1200 m
Ammunition for Every Gun2
High-explosive grenades 224 rounds 300 rounds
Armor-piercing grenades 46 rounds
Smoke grenades 30 rounds
Fuel consumption of a battery (under normal circumstances) 4000 l (100 km)
Initial fuel allotment 3½ consumption quotas
March length when halted
Staff of an assault gun battalion (motorized) 250 m
Staff battery (motorized) 950 m
Assault gun battery 1400 m

Notes

  1. Referring to the supported infantry units. Back.
  2. Not all of this ammunition would have been carried on the assault gun. Back.

Sources

  1. Brand. Merkblätter für Artillerie Nr. 34 : Richtlinien für den Einsatz der Sturmgeschütz-Einheiten. Berlin : General der Artillerie, 1942. 15 p. General der Artillerie Nr. 1600/42 (I b).