A fascinating glimpse on the German view of fighting in built up areas in Stalingrad (p.52) German Panzer Tactics by Charles C. Sharp
Street Fighting with Tanks in Stalingrad
(Report from the 24th Panzer Division
Dated 11 October 1942
The employment of an armored assault group consisting of tanks, armored infantry, self-propelled antitank guns, combat engineers, and artillery has performed exceptionally well in the large city area.
Tanks: Encountered terrain difficulties such as building rubble, bomb craters, narrow streets, minefields, obstacles, and barricades which greatly reduce the mobility and the visibility from the tanks, so that in principle the employment of the tank units in combat in cities is to be avoided. The losses received do not compare to the success of this most valuable weapon in the army. The main weapons of the tanks, fire and mobility, cannot be used effectively. The tanks present a target and see very little.
The tanks as a unit in the panzer regiment and the battalion are not suitable for employment in combat in the city.
On the edge of the city and in totally destroyed sections of the city, tanks were ofren useful, especially if the enemy did not have time to establish his defenses.
As an exception, individual tank-support companies (as the largest unit) were employed to support weak and combat fatigued armored infantry and infantry units.
Their employment should follow these basic rules:
Deviation from these rules will cause the few tanks to be easily destroyed by the dug-in, well-camouflaged enemy antitank positions.
Attack: The tanks are to be attached only to experienced armored infantry. They should work together only with other infantry but not be under the infantry’s command because most of the infantry are not trained or experienced in fighting with tank support.
Before beginning the attack, the terrain must be thoroughly scouted and a clear picture obtained of the enemy situation (tanks, antitank guns, mines).
An attack plan must be precisely established, and the conduct of the attack must be discussed with all the commanders together.
The tanks are to be employed in platoons or sections, Pz.Kpfw III and IV mixed, sent in on specific streets.
Use of single tanks is to be avoided because the mutual support with covering fire cannot be conducted. Before beginning the attack, knock out enemy tanks and antitank guns by using a PzKpfw IV (7.5cm Kw.K 40 L/43) guided on foot to a concealed firing position.
The platoons and sections of tanks are not to be advanced in front but stay behind our own armored infantry. Only then can both sides communicate. Contact with the armored infantry should be made through the side hatches opposite the side the enemy is on, not out of the commander’s cupola.
The tanks are to be used for covering fire, not as assault guns.
The infantry should not advance bunched up behind the tank, but must advance through the terrain on a wide front under covering fire from the tanks. In the city, a tank attracts all enemy fire to itself.
When mines are encountered, under no circumstances are the tanks to advance further until the combat engineers have cleared the minefield or made a gap through it.
If a tank falls out due to a mine, hit by fire, or because of terrain difficulties, the tank is to be defended by armored infantry and the other tanks against close combat attacks and further enemy action. Otherwise the largely immobilized, often lightly damaged tank will be destroyed by further enemy action.
Employment of tanks in the city without accompanying armored infantry can only be expected to succeed against an extremely demoralized enemy with no antitank defense. Employing tanks in local flank attacks is recommended as very successful.
Defense: Only as a local reserve close behind our own front lines for counterattacks promises success.
Employment of tanks in the forward defense line is not recommended. In difficult situations, however, well-camouflaged individual tanks located directly behind the main battle line have proved useful. They provide moral support.
Using the PzKpfw IIs to escort the supply columns through sections of the city not yet cleared of the enemy has proven successful.
- 7.5cm Kw.K.40 L/43 only used against tanks. The long gun (tube) is too easily damaged.
- 7.5cm Kw.K.2 L/24 is the best weapon. Delayed fuse shells have an excellent effect against bunkers and buildings.
- Smoke shells (Nebelgranaten) have worked when fired against completely stubborn enemy resistance and to blind enemy snipers.
- Armor-piercing shells (Panzergranaten) are good against stone walls.
Most Dangerous Enemy Weapons:
- Antitank Rifles usually appear only at close range and are difficult to spot and to fight
Summary: Employment of tanks in known and uncleared mine fields, in impassable terrain with destroyed factories and bomb craters, through uprooted areas of Stalingrad city, has led to very high losses of the tanks that were sent in. The successes in no way compensate for the losses that occurred, especially while supporting infantry that were not trained to work with tanks. Untrained infantry place impossible demands on the tanks. The infantry must learn to work with the tanks, and the infantry commander must know the tanks limitations. They are not assault guns with double armor protection. From the experience in the battles in Stalingrad employment of tanks in cities is in principle to be avoided and should be viewed as an emergency measure only.
Especially from the first report, the trends mentioned in the section on organizations are repeated: massed Russian tanks, which must be met by massing the Panzer Regiment, seeking the flanks, and generally using better command and control and tactical maneuverability to offset the superior armor on the Soviet tanks. Even on the open plains of southern Russia, where the main German offensives took place in 1942, there is continuing emphasis on close cooperation with the infantry and other arms: no matter how favorable the terrain, the panzers cannot operate alone.
24th Panzer Division’s experiences in the streets and suburbs of Stalingrad are instructive: traditionally, cities with their restricted sighting and shooting ranges and restricted maneuverability are deathtraps for tanks and other mobile forces. Note that the 24th Panzer had problems working with infantry that was not used to tanks. This is a problem that comes up in all armies in WW2: infantry had very exaggerated ideas about what their own tanks could do, and infantry commanders almost universally misused tanks under their direct command. Tankers and their commanders, in turn, tended to distrust their own infantry unless they’d had a chance to work with them, and “educate” them, before the battle. Virtually the same comments that are made here can be found in Russian and American records.
(According to Carius in Tigers in the Mud- ALL German officers were trained as infantry officers, THEN in their specialty, this made them the best choice to conduct affairs since they knew the capabilities of BOTH armor and infantry, whereas pure infantry officers only knew the capabilities of infantry).