Post-CRUSADER – Guidelines for the use of 88mm AA guns in the D.A.K.

The following instruction was issued on 22 May 1942, just before the start of the Gazala campaign. It is interesting in terms of lessons learned, and likely intended to serve as a reminder to commanders who had served in the D.A.K. for a while, as well as instruction to newly arrived commanding officers. It shows well the multi-tasking roles assigned to the heavy AA batteries. A bit of new information to me is about the speed discrepancy between the 8.8cm gun prime movers and the reconnaissance battalion vehicles.

The instruction can be read against a similar British document at this link.

C o p y

SECRET

Deutsches Afrikakorps, H.Q. 22 May 1942

Ia/Flak No. 661/42 sec

Guidelines for the Use of AA Batteries

I. Heavy AA Battery 8.8cm

A) General:

The heavy AA battery 8.8cm is equally useful for the task of:

a) AA batterie
b) Tank accompanying battery
c) Ground target battery, especially at a range of 8-14km

From its anti-air firing position at least half the guns can immediately engage tanks and ground targets. The re-grouping of the other guns for engagement of tanks will only require a few minutes. When tasks of tank or ground target engagement are expected, a more linear or trapezoid placement can be chosen from the start, which will bring almost all the guns into fire immediately.

Smashing successes are to be obtained in all three tasks in the most easy manner when the 8.8cm battery is tasked together.

The assignment of single 8.8cm guns to infantry units often leads to an early loss of the guns since they offer too large a target in the forward line.

On assignment to Reconnaissance Battalions the prime movers cannot sustain the speed of the mostly much faster moving Reconnaissance Battalions, breakdowns of prime movers and loss of the guns are therefore the consequence. The assignment of heavy A.A. batteries to Reconnaissance Battalions is therefore to be restricted.

B) On stops of more than 30 minutes duration, refueling, resting, concentration etc. the heavy battery enters into air defense position as a matter of course.

C) On concentration of tank forces the 8.8cm batteries are to be held back initially and only shortly before the start of the attack to be pulled into the tank concentration.

D) During spreading out. Heavy A.A. batteries are most usefully put between the 1st and 2nd waves of tanks. The battery commanders should as much as possible be assigned a command tank with  a radio.

E) The use of the 8.8cm tank accompanying battery is generally on one wing of the tank force, to achieve flanking impact.

II. 2 cm AA Battery:

The 2cm batteries of the AA artillery are less useful for defense against surprise enemy strafing attacks than the self-propelled AA companies of the Army.

On the other hand, they can fire from a fixed position foundation with much higher hit probability against air and ground targets than the guns fitted on top of self-propelled mounts and trucks.

The use of 2cm guns against armoured cars only promises success under 800m of distance.

On stops the 2cm guns go into firing position in all cases. During combat moves the 2cm guns are as far as possible to be placed on the outside of the combat groups.

For the Deutsche Afrikakorps

The Chief of the General Staff

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A soldier examines a German 88mm gun believed to have been knocked out by the RAF in the Western Desert, 10 September 1942. (Courtesy of the IWM)

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