World War II Street-Fighting Tactics
'BLITZKRIEG' IN URBAN AREAS
• Prewar doctrine: German - British • 1940: anticipating invasion • American responses DR STEPHEN BULL is the Curator of the Museum of Lancashire in Preston, which incorporates the collections of several local regiments. Born in 1960, he graduated from the University of Wales with a BA (Hons) in history in 1981, and obtained his doctorate from University College, Swansea, with a study of English Civil War weapons. For several years from 1984 he worked at the National Army Museum, on a fortifications project and later in the Weapons Department. He has written numerous articles for specialist journals, including a number on the weapons and tactics of World War I.
THE EASTERN FRONT, 1941-44 • • • •
The opening rush Stalingrad: the academy of street fighting Warsaw: improvisation and terror Lessons from Warsaw: the German analysis
THE ITALIAN EXPERIENCE • • • •
The Canadians in Ortona British analysis: Fighting in Built Up Areas (1943) Cassino Air support: Training Manual No.5
THE US ARMY IN NW EUROPE
• Doctrine: FM 31-50 • The urban environment - squad organization - house-tohouse fighting - tank/infantry co-operation - raiding • Practical experience: 23rd Infantry at Brest - 26th Infantry at Aachen - 410th Infantry at Schillersdorf
• German forces • Allied forces - flamethrowers
PETER DENNIS was born in 1950. Inspired by contemporary magazines such as Look and Learn he studied illustration at Liverpool Art College. Peter has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects, including many Osprey titles. A keen wargamer and modelmaker, he is based in Nottinghamshire, UK.
Elite • 168
World War II Street-Fighting Tactics
Stephen Bull · Illustrated Consultant editor Martin Windrow
First published in Great Britain in 2008 by Osprey Publishing, Midland House, West Way, Botley, Oxford OX2 OPH, UK 443 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016, USA E-mail: [email protected]
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WORLD WAR II STREET-FIGHTING TACTICS INTRODUCTION Romanticized impression of fighting amongst ruins, in Will Tschech's wartime painting Grenadiere, once on display at Munich's Haus der Deutschen Kunst.
treet fighting' - known today by the acronyms FIBUA (Fighting in Built Up Areas) or MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) - has occurred since biblical times, and one of the first writers to refer to the subject in a tactical context was the Roman author Vegetius. The medieval, early modern and Napoleonic eras offer numerous examples of bloody fighting and appalling massacres in the streets of contested towns. During the 19th century, however, it was the engineering branches of armies that occupied a specialized niche not only in the prosecution of sieges, but in the attack and defence of ordinary civilian buildings. In 1853 a British officer, LtCol Jebb, RE, writing in the Aide Memoire to the Military Sciences, attempted to formulate universal and scientific principles for the conduct of the defence of buildings and villages. Jebb's key maxims were: that forces should not be 'shut up' in built-up areas without a particular object; that the means of reinforcement and retreat were as crucial as the actual defence; that buildings required very different treatments depending on their relationship with an overall plan; and that the selection and preparation of any particular structures for defence was a 'great art', in which one might have to sacrifice almost anything to be successful. When it came to defending a building, Jebb saw little distinction between a church, a factory or a country house - all could be made defensible if six factors were taken into account:
RIGHT A bullet-pocked building in the central Varhegy district of Buda, 2007. More than 100,000 soldiers and civilians were killed in the battle for Budapest, which began with its encirclement in December 1944, and ended with its fall to the Red Army on 13 February 1945. The German defence centred on the Buda side of the Danube, where a labyrinth of tunnels ran under the ancient castle. About 80 per cent of Budapest's buildings were damaged in what came to be regarded as the final rehearsal for the battle of Berlin. BELOW Plan for the defence of a house 'not exposed to artillery fire', from the British Manual of Field Engineering (1939). The copious use of barbed wire, loopholes, steel loophole plates and traverses is suggestive of lengthy preparation - and draws extensively upon devices developed for the trenches of World War I. The thick apron of 'close wire' prevented enemy troops getting close enough to place charges or put grenades through narrow openings.
(1) The building should 'command all that surrounds it'. (2) The structure should be 'substantial', and furnish the materials needed. (3) Its size should be proportionate to the number of defenders. (4) It should have walls and projections suitable for flanking - i.e. positions from which enfilade fire could be brought to bear on the attacker. (5) The approach should be difficult for the attacker, while the defender should maintain a route for 'safe retreat'. (6) The situation should be suitable to the 'object for which the detachment is to be posted'. In 1862 the same journal printed a counterpart article in which Cen Sir John F. Burgoyne elaborated principles for 'street fighting' and the 'attack and defence of open towns', citing illustrations from both Napoleonic and more recent examples. Burgoyne's approach was brutally realistic; he recognized that when committed inside a built-up area, confronted by 'tumults and insurrection' and often unable to tell bystanders from foes, troops were liable to respect 'neither person nor property'. The only satisfactory way to prevent loss of control was therefore not to bring the Light fra'YHl ........o.·k to ad a bornb~r
In some instances burning the whole town had much to recommend it. Many of Burgoyne's points would be demonstrated during May 1871, when the French Army of Versailles recaptured the streets of Paris from the rebellious Communards in 'Bloody Week'. By World War I street fighting had a long and unedifying history, and it was natural that this particular form of combat should be increasingly codified and integrated into formal training. Grenades were standard issue for engineers long before 1914, while the modern flamethrower was perfected in the decade leading up to the war and unleashed in 1915. In Britain, Charles N. Watts published his Notes on Street Fighting in 1916. By this time British Army sniper training included lessons on builtup areas, and 'realistic environments' were specially created for practice. At the end of the Great War, US instructors took the idea a stage further with the introduction of the now-famous 'Hogan's Alley' concept. According to Maj J.S. Hatcher, this was originally the brainchild of a Capt Deming, 'an artist by profession', who had 'contributed much valuable material' to training by creating landscape targets. Back at Caldwell, New Jersey, in 1919, he constructed a 'French Village'. At the back of this was a pit for the scorers. Each of these scorers had a cardboard figure, resembling the head and shoulders of a man, nailed on the end of a long stick. The shooter took his place at the firing point, gun in hand. Suddenly at the windows or the corner of a wall, or some other unexpected...