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Sturmtruppen tactics


Garron

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Hi Pals

Don't Know if this has been covered before

How did German Sturmtruppen tactics work?

Was it a case of attack quick with grenades, flame throwers then hand to hand combat or am I totally barking up the wrong tree? :D

Thanks

Garron

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Garron;

I have been studying this for years, mostly using German sources. My father was a storm trooper (flame throwers), and I also have his oral history. He also was in the Freikorps.

I have made many posts on this topic, and related topics. I think you can search on my posts, using the search function. I probably have made 200-300 posts on this. I am writing about four books about these topics, in parallel.

Bob Lembke

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Thanks Bob

Have looked through yout post and learned a lot, good luck with the books

Thanks

Garron

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Essentially, Garron, the storm troopers were intended to avoid fighting as much as possible. Their task was to bypass any pockets of resistance and aim for the artillery lines in rear. They were given powerful personal arms, because they were expected to rapidly outstrip the range at which artillery support would be available to them. Once they had neutralised the enemy artillery, ( that was us), the support troops would be able to move forward at a leisurely pace, mopping up the centres of resistance the storm troopers had left behind.

:ph34r: I retreat to my bunker now in the sure and certain knowledge of a heavy bombardment and counterattack to come. :)

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I think that there were features like hand-grenade/explosives handling, special weapons (Bergmanns, light machine guns (that later became more common), flammenwerfers, etc) usage and small unit tactics with strong attacking-mood that made the stosstruppe differ from average infantry...

BTW, correct me if I'm wrong, but Sturmtruppe was Austrian and Stoßtruppe German? Generally just "stormtroopers"...

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I think that there were features like hand-grenade/explosives handling, special weapons (Bergmanns, light machine guns (that later became more common), flammenwerfers, etc) usage and small unit tactics with strong attacking-mood that made the stosstruppe differ from average infantry...

BTW, correct me if I'm wrong, but Sturmtruppe was Austrian and Stoßtruppe German? Generally just "stormtroopers"...

Hi, Landsturm!

The term "Sturm" was in general use by both the Germans and Austrians, and not just for the specific storm battalions, like the famous Sturm=Bataillon Nr. 5 (Rohr) , but attacking troops in a much more general sense.

The term "Stosstruppen" was coined by the CO of my father's unit, Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer) , who was Major der Landwehr Dr. Bernhard Reddemann.

Bob Lembke

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Another comment, in relation to the special weapons, already in the second half of 1916 the EM in my father's unit did not bother carrying rifles. Not at all. I think some NCOs may have carried carbines slung across their backs.

Bob Lembke

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Was that becuase if they were in combat, it would be close quater and a pistol was easier to fight with?

Garron

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Sturmtruppen tactics were an adaptation to the introduction of trench warfare. But the tactics built on concepts that were inherent in German military thinking. Previously, there had been a strong emphasis on providing a significant concentration of forces at the main point of attack. Wherever possible, this concentration of force would be on the flanks of the enemy, which enabled one part of the force to pin the enemy from the front while the remainder strove to get around the enemy and into the rear areas. Elsewhere, the supporting forces would attempt to pin or defend against the enemy away from the main point of battle. Once into the rear areas, the aim was to encircle or cut off the retreat of the enemy. Once trapped, the enemy would be annihilated.

The continuous trench lines changed all that. Somehow the trench lines had be broken from the front, then the break widened enough that the attacking force could get into the rear areas and to attack along the front line from side on. Surprise was vital, as was mobility. To create abreak, massive force was needed to suppress and overwhelm the defenders. Sturmtruppen were used for this purpose, but not across the width of an attack, only at selected points. There would be lots of fire support, particularly from artillery and Minenwerfer. This would enable the Sturmtruppen to get forward, cut the wire if necessary, and establish additional fire support. This mainly involved the light machine guns but also specially adapted field guns (Sturmkanone) in some circumstances. Once the obstacles were cut and the defenders stupefied, the artillery fire would lift and the Sturmtruppen would pounce. They would be supported by Flammenwerfer in some cases. Typically the men would carry lots of stick grenades and rely on close quarters weapons to overwhelm the defenders and knock out any strong points that would prevent the break being made. Once a break was made, it had to be exploited quickly to keep the enemy off-balance. The machine gunners would push forward in support. Sometimes, Sturmtruppen would push laterally to help widen the gap. Sometimes, having made the initial break, the Sturmtruppen would be relieved by the infantry who followed behind. Sometimes, as Tom suggested, they would push deeply into the defences. It all depended on the tactical situation, and every operation would be carefully planned and rehearsed.

Anything that would increase the firepower or otherwise support Sturmtruppen was considered. The A7V, for example, served as tank and armoured personnel carrier combined. Sturmtruppen would travel in the tank and then debus to attack strongpoints, as happened in Operation Michael.

Strurmtruppen were used for defensive purposes as well. Their role was to react quickly when the enemy was disordered through the exertions of the attack and the toll taken by the defending machine gunners and artillery. The Germans referred to this as Schlagfertigkeit, translated as 'quick-wittedness' or 'repartee'.

The very specialised units, such as Sturmbataillon Rohr, were used to train other infantry in Sturmtaktiken.

Robert

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Was that becuase if they were in combat, it would be close quater and a pistol was easier to fight with?

Garron

Amen to everything that Robert has just posted.

Garron, every man had a role as part of the crew of a crew-served weapon (FW, MG, or spigot mortar) or as a grenadier. The rifle would have been in the way, a burden. The P 08 gave everyone the ability to shoot someone close up if necessary, and of course gave each man a little morale lift. In the storm, at least in my father's unit, no clumsy holsters were worn; the P 08 was on a lanyard and was tucked in the blouse or in the "combat Vest", as Pop put it, probably a pair of tailored sand sacks for grenades, a bit of ammo, etc.

Supposedly some NCOs, as they were not attached to a crew-served weapon, could afford to carry a slung carbine. There are limited situations where a rifle/carbine was useful, perhaps in the defense of a captured position. In practice in the face of a FW attack the French my father mostly fought against usually left their positions in a hurry, leaving weapons and ammo. The German soldiers were trained in the use of certain enemy weapons, especially grenades. Most of the light MGs they carried were captured French MGs, and if a position was taken there usually would be some ammunition at hand.

Pop also told me that they sometimes carried out "private" raids to be able to sieze the luxury foodstuffs that the Allies tended to have. Pop was a dealer in these, sort of a Milo Milobinder character, and had some other privates sort of like employees. (One of about a dozen reasons why the company brass did not like him at all, the principal one being his having shot and killed the cowardly, theiving company commander.) In a letter from a hospital, Pop wrote his father offering to send him a tin of coffee, to suppliment the available food; he mentioned that he had just sent a tin to his mother, who lived elsewhere, and he mentioned that he still had five tins under his bed. He described them as "about 900 grams" each, which would be exactly two pounds. Suggests English or American packaging. Did the Tommies have two-pound tins of coffee? This was in 1917. He was still in contact with his company, and the hospital sometimes sent him back to his company for short visits. Probably an effort to maintain unit cohesion. Even in the hospital he had other soldiers doing errands for him. He had figured a way to send food from the hospital in Bavaria to his family in Prussia, although it was against Bavarian law.

A problem with storm troops: They were smart, trained to independent thinking and action, were behind the front, and had time on their hands. So, my father's company carried out all sorts of mischief, usually involving augmenting the crummy food. They collected infantry uniforms, as their distinctive storm uniforms and insignea stuck out "like a sore thumb", and wore them on adventures. A classic was when they learned that the Crown Prince (stationed where they were, Stenay-sur-Meuse) was going for dinner at the villa of the general in charge of the district, who had a villa on the bank of the Meuse. The Sturm=Pioniere went to the area of the villa, looked in the fish weir of the general in the Meuse, saw a fine live salmon, and pinched it and took it to the chef of the general, and sold the chef his own salmon. Of course, when the chef checked the weir, he found that the general had been sold his own salmon and that he did not have two salmon for the dinner. Later, the general stormed into the barracks of the flame company, and screamed at the men that he knew that they had done it, that he didn't have a scrap of evidence, but when he caught them red-handed he would have them shot. I have many such anecdotes in my father's oral history. My father seemed to have been a ring-leader.

I thought that that sort of anecdote would be interesting; not the kind of thing in the usual history.

Bob Lembke

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It is also worth noting that Sturmtruppen could be used as a generic term. German accounts frequently describe attacking British soldiers as Sturmtruppen. Men who had been trained by specialist Sturm units were often formed into small Stosstrupps within their parent regiments. They did not have all of the support weapons enjoyed by the specialist units. They were trained in the use of the light machine gun (MG08/15) and in the vigorous close quarters attack, particularly with the use of the handgrenade.

Robert

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Sturmbataillon were the 'training units' used to train the generic stosstrupps of German line infantry units.

A good book to get your hands on is:

'Deutsche Sturmtruppen' by Jean-Louis Larcade.

David

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Sorry just to clarify:

From an old post by AOK4:

'The elite units were used mainly as troops for support operations in specific attacks and to train other troops. The German idea was to make every unit into a stormtroop unit. Every basic German unit (division, regiment, battalion etc.) had its own stormtroop unit which could be used on any occasion.

Especially in the winter 1917-18 nearly all German divisions (except the Landwehr divisions perhaps who just held a quiet sector, although they also had been receiving training in the new tactics at some point in the war) were retrained behind the front in the stormtroop tactics in preparation of the new attacks.

The average capabilty after the attacks of course diminished because the Germans just didn't have the manpower any more to make up for the losses, combined with the political and economical problems in Germany.

However, it is very interesting to read the German regimental histories from September-November 1918. Regiments often only numbered 1 company in the frontline and this company managed, using these stormtroop tactics, to conduct counter attacks and regain parts of the lost territory in the final attacks and inflict heavy losses.

David

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Yes, I generally agree with everything said. The Highest Army Command felt that the training role was ultimately the most inportant role, and expected that once the training role had been well executed the storm units could wither away. For that purpose, the Sturm=Bataillon Nr. 5 (Rohr) was roughly double sized, at five storm companies, two MG companies, an infantry gun battery (eventually using at least five types of guns), Ithink a mortar formation (could be wrong here), a small Flammenwerfer (FW) unit of its own, internally described as a Trupp (about 10 men), but probably larger, and, additionally, usually a Zug (large platoon) on loan from the flame regiment (my father had this duty several times). Late in the war each of the 12 flame companies had a Zug specially structured to be loaned to the 18 storm battalions; basically, more FW, less or no MGs. When a loaned Zug came back to the flame regiment it was initially stationed at the flame regiment HQ for debriefing, as well as refit, insertion of replacements, etc. This way the feedback on tactics, etc.from the loan Zug was maximized.

I think that most storm battalions had three storm companies, plus one MG company. The double size of Rohr reflected its two duties. But the command thought that Rohr also had to keep on in an attack role, so that the training skills remained fresh, and new tactics, etc. were developed.

But 18 storm battalions, plus the three flame battalions, among an army of roughly 250 divisions were not decisive. More was expected from the training role than actual insertion in combat. However, when a really difficult tactical problem was identified, the storm battalions were often sent for.

My father loved "working" (as he put it) with S=B Nr. 5 (Rohr) , as they were so professional and reliable, especially the infantry gun battery. He didn't think much of most German infantry, nor of the British or French, generally, and probably unfairly. He loved the Turks he had fought with at Gallipoli. They were just over the top, not technically, but in spirit and bravery. (Kemal Ataturk had a favorite phrase to inspire troops being ordered to charge, which he used several times at Gallipoli. "I am not asking you to advance, I am asking you to die." That does not work in most armies.)

Bob Lembke

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Wow, This forum is full of knowledge, thanks to all who added,

It does show from Bob's Fathers anacdotes that there was a lighter side to the war, having a laugh and being with friends. Which I think is somtimes over looked.

Thanks

Garron

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Wow, This forum is full of knowledge, thanks to all who added,

It does show from Bob's Fathers anacdotes that there was a lighter side to the war, having a laugh and being with friends. Which I think is somtimes over looked.

Thanks

Garron

I was lucky enough to meet many WW1 veterans on a regular basis. The reason I am not an expert in WW1 matters is because all they ever told you were jokes and funny stories and ' remember that time big Tam got stuck in the wire? I nearly wet myself laughing" ( they didn't quite say wet) . Real stories about the war had to be weedled out of them. The one thing they were adamant and unanimous about was never join the Army.

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I hear many people who met, or even lived with, real combat veterans who said that the veteran never spoke about fighting, or rarely, etc., etc.

Pop, talking to me when I was probably in my younger teen-aged years, told me about mostly everything; the fighting, the weapons, the crummy corrupt company CO and top sergeant, his father, sexual incidents (without explicit detail and mostly stories at his own expense - as a fumbling kid with experienced women, etc.), and so on. There was a difference with him.

Before he went in the army he was sent to East Prussia to bury masses of Russian dead after Tannenberg. When he went in he volunteered for Gallipoli, and was not wounded, but the conditions were terrible (water black from days in goatskins on camel-back, etc.) and he caught malaria. Shortly before he died 65 years later he felt crummy and feared that he was having another episode. He joined the flame thrower regiment and fought at Verdun for a few months, was wounded twice, the second (he was hit by a French 75 splinter and lay in a hole for three days; I still have a piece of his left arm bone) put him in and out of hospitals for all of 1917, and then a half year as disabled to Berlin, where he trained new FW recruits, and then he tricked his way to the front, when everything was going bad at the end, and again was wounded twice in a month, the second time being blinded by German gas in no man's land during an attack. Then he was threatened with courts-martial for being at the front fighting, when he was supposed to be in Berlin. Then he fought in the Freikorps, using the FW in Berlin, and once, with his comrades, shot 26 Reds in the forehead after capturing them in a battle.

The food was scant and bad, the commanders in his company very bad, he was really not liked, for good reasons, he didn't get earned leave because he wouldn't let the sergeant major "do him", etc. And, he loved the war. He told me: "It was the best years of my life." The excitement of storm attacks with FW, being comrades with really picked men, was intoxicating. He was one of the 2-3% of the men who fought, and loved it. This is not praising him, it was fairly weird, but there were people like that; a lot of them immediately signed up for the Freikorps.

The commander of the flame regiment, in his writings, often described a quality he tried hard to develop and preserve in his flame pioneers, in translation: "The death-defying joy of combat". Pop had it. Major d. L. Dr. Reddemann, an intellectual of storm (he coinded the term "Stosstruppen", and he edited two scientific journals thru the entire war), said that there were three main tasks to make flame storm succeed; to develop and perfect the weapons; to develop and refine the special tactics; and finally, to develop and preserve the "death-defying joy of combat".

From his stories, and his letters, and the letters of his father and other to him, it is clear that he was a real thug; he was big and an athlete, and he was born illegitimate, and you could tell it from his name, and I am sure that on the school-yard lots of kids said something and got a bloody nose. He killed his corrupt and cowardly company CO, shot one sergeant in the ass, and kicked one in the face with his hobnails and got the guy prosecuted for it. (The terrible CO and the sergeants were in cahoots.) He had no rank, but led a Trupp, and he got his Iron Cross in 1921. The only medal he got was his wound badge.

So he was open and free talking about "the good old days". The silent ones probably sanely didn't like the fighting.

Bob Lembke

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Bruce I. Gudmundsson, USMCR (Retired - Major?) is an historian, a fellow Icelander and author of at least four books and several hundred articles. He has taught at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and Oxford University and if I recall correctly is developing an interest in gourmet cooking. He is also a member of the GWF but operates under a standard nomme du plumme. Perhaps this will bring Bruce into the discussion.

Here is review of his book entitled Stormtroop Tactics: Innovation in the German Army, 1914-1918

"Like the author's survey of Artillery (On Artillery), this is a short, concise and yet informative text. The subject is the evolution of German Infantry tactics during WWI (1914-1918). After the trench stalemate had been reached, the Germans looked for some innovative ways to resume mobile warfare.

Gudmundsson successful puts the reader in the mindset of young German officers in 1915. We know that trench warfare had 3 more years to run it's course, but at the time, it was seen as a temporary thing. The book covers events leading up to WWI that cause turmoil in the German High Command regarding the use of infantry, and how scrutiny of specific tactical employments in various battles in the early to mid stages of the war led to the first experimental stormtroop unit. The book goes on to document the unit's successes and the eventual adoption of special stormtroop units to spearhead attacks at the division level, and finally how complete divisions were organized in the stormtroop fashion. All the major personalities, weaponry, and tactics involved are described in detail, and while dramatic descriptions of the gory and macabre business of trench warfare are omitted, one can easily infer from the descriptions of sharpened entrenching tools and flame throwers how violent and terrible it was to be on the receiving end of one of those attacks. Author Gudmundsson's work interjects some objective scholarship on this subject in an age where it is not politically correct to acknowledge the German military's pioneering efforts in both world wars in establishing modern combined arms tactics."

Internet Source: http://www.librarything.com/work/450553

Borden Battery

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Normally a Sturmbataillon comprised

4 assault companies

infantry gun battery

light trench mortar detachment

light flame projector detachment (Kleif-Trupp)

Machine gun company

They also acted as school for training divisional assault detachments

for example 4 th Army : at Oudenaarde.

Regards,

Cnock

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Borden;

Bruce's book is superb, and I found it very formative and inspirational. He is one of the few authors of secondary sources which I will instatly accept without a concern.

cnock wrote:

Normally a Sturmbataillon comprised

4 assault companies

infantry gun battery

light trench mortar detachment

light flame projector detachment (Kleif-Trupp)

Machine gun company

About right, some variability, some may have had three storm companies. I have only been able to conclusively verify that the S=B Rohr had its own Flamm=Trupp, although I think that at least the Jaeger=Sturm=Bataillon Nr. 3 , the 3rd most important storm unit, in my opinion, probably had one also. The jury is out on the other 16 S=Bs. There was serious turf war here. My father's unit, Garde=Reserve=Pionier=Regiment (Flammenwerfer) , which was the oldest and largest storm unit, later in the war, had a specialized Zug for loan to the 18 storm battalions in each of its 12 field companies. Unfortunately, Graf von Schwerin, the "biographer" of the S=B Rohr, seemingly didn't like FW, and said little about them in his book; while Major Dr. Reddemann refused to write about FW-related things out of his control; so the study of FW detachments in the storm battalions is very difficult. Any Flamm=Trupps in the storm battalions had to be dependent on Reddemann for a lot of technical support. His technical and training formations needed to support his 12 field companies might have totalled about 800 men; I think that I have found a training formation that he used that I don't think that anyone else knows about it; as he did not command it, Reddemann never wrote about it.

They also acted as school for training divisional assault detachments

for example 4 th Army : at Oudenaarde.

Yes, they all had a training roll, not just for German formations, but also for AH, Bulgarian, and Turkish personnel. Also did lots of demonstrations for all sorts of officers and NCO, including foreign.

Bob Lembke

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Ahoj!

I am confused. You write that there were 18 S=Bs. This would had made them "corps level" formations, no?

Yet I had thought that there was a S=B in every Division, drawn from the best men fron the 9 Rifle battalions every Division had.

I am mindlessly transposing KuK army organization to the German one?

Borys

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Borys, the German Sturmtruppen at divisional level were not organised as Sturmbataillone. The latter remained higher level assets and were parcelled out as required, for example during Operation Michael.

Robert

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Ahoj!

I am consfused. You write that there were 18 S=Bs. This would had made them "corps level" formations, no?

Yet I had thought that there was a S=B in every Division, drawn from the best men fron the 9 Rifle battalions every Division had.

I am mindlessly transposing KuK army organization to the German one?

Borys

There were 18 formal storm battalions, one for each army, plus my father's flame regiment, who sent flame units all over under the direct control of the Highest Army Command.

At the same time, all units of any size, except for Landsturm, were expected to develop either permament or temporary storm units within the larger unit. It was hoped that at some point the formal units could wither away. But these "local" units did not have the range of weapons as the storm battalions, although most would be usually locally available.

the kuk had an extensive and different system of storm units. I have info on it.

It is interesting that the three most elite storm units were either Pionier (2) or Jaeger (1) units; the other 16 storm battalions were infantry units. Only my father's unit was Prussian Guard, although I think that the S=B Rohr were able to display some Prussian Guard distinctions and, late in the war,the Crown Prince's monogram, without formally being Prussian Guard.

Bob Lembke

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Ahoj!

OK - I'm slow on the uptake :)

To verify if I'm getting it right:

there were 18 army level SturmBattalionen, which trained Divisional level StossTruppen detachments (which could be permanent fixtures of their repective Divisions).

And these Divisional Stosstruppen detachments were drawn from the Rifle Battalions, thus lowering their quality? In practice, as the theory was that the men trained by the S=B were to be absorbed back, thus bringing the quality of "Line" battalions UP?

The Pionier or Jaeger origin looks perfectly logical to me. The Pionere were "pioneers", those who "went in first", Assault Engineers using various sorts ofspecialized siege equipment - becoming Sturmtruppen was not much of a change for them, I think. As to Jaeger, again, these very well could have had a different mindset than "line infantry", of operating in smaller detachments, independently of the main body, in half encirlement, etc.

Borys

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