Street (Urban) Fighting”

‘These comments are taken from reports of units that have successfully and extensively engaged in village and town fighting.

Boundaries Between Units

From an VIII Corps report describing techniques and methods employed by three infantry divisions during action at BREST:

“Streets formed the boundaries between units. In some cases the entire street was included within the zone of a unit; in other cases the boundaries were drawn down the middle of the street. There was not just separation of boundaries, but also the separation of responsibilities on both sides of the streets. Sometimes, if the street was a part of the boundary line, troops were shouldered duties along the demarcated line. Houses, other buildings, boundary walls etc also fell on the boundaries, and then, in the same way, responsibilities were divided. Any resort was seriously dealt with. Get more information on this boundary duties and fighting in the below sections. Many felt that responsibility for the street itself was immaterial since no one dared use it anyway.”

urban fighting port Cherbourg German Kampf Group von Schlieben surrender 314th Regiment france COMMENT: In village and town fighting, boundaries between units should not be drawn down the middle of the street. A street is a natural avenue for approach or for retrograde movement even though not used for either purpose. It is also a natural line of demarcation and as such must be considered a critical area.  Our tactical doctrine teaches that in assigning boundaries all natural avenues and lines of demarcation should be made all inclusive to one unit or the other so that there will be no division of responsibility for a critical area.

In cities and villages it is feasible to place boundaries along the face of the buildings on one side of a street so that the street itself, together with the buildings along the side opposite the boundary, becomes the responsibility of a single unit. Stream lines, valleys, ravines, etc., are also classed as critical areas; assignment of any one of these should be all inclusive to one unit.

Zones of Unit Action

“Each platoon or squad should be assigned a definite zone or group of buildings within the city block under attack. The city block may be thought of as a hollow square outlined by buildings. When the buildings on the near side of such a square are already held, one unit (squad or platoon) should be assigned to clear the buildings on each of the two sides (right and left) while a third unit remains on the friendly side to give support by firing across the center of the square into the rear windows and back entrances of enemy-held buildings. Such support is very necessary. Bazookas, BAR’s, Tommy guns, and the SMG M3 are effective for such support.

Routes of Advance

“Routes of advance for platoons and squads varied. Hallways, stairways, rooftops, and basements were used. Sometimes it was necessary to blow only two or three walls in an entire block of buildings.  “It was found best to cross streets near the center of blocks. To make sure that the doors of buildings across the street were open, the locks were shot away or the doors blasted open with bazookas or AT grenades. The street would then be screened with smoke from WP hand grenades so that the men could dash across under cover.

Enemy Firing Positions
street fighting kohisched germany machine gunning enemy positions wwii ww2
“Sometimes the enemy removed a single brick to provide a loophole for firing from a basement.”

“Hostile SIG’s located in the upper stories of buildings often were able to get effective fire from ricochets on the stone streets.

Entry of Buildings

“One of our front-line leaders felt that it was better to enter the lower floors of buildings so that, if necessary, the building could be burned from the bottom; he was doubtless bearing in mind that the enemy could do the same if our troops were above. This platoon leader found also that after the ground floor was captured, a few AP shots (from an M1 Garand or BAR) upward through the floors would usually bring remaining enemy down with hands in the air.”

“When the enemy held out in a basement, a well. tamped charge of TNT on the floor above usually proved effective.”

Demolition Practices

“Pole and satchel charges were generally used; they were prepared by the engineers in almost all cases. Care was required in determining the amount of the charge, for it was difficult to estimate the thickness of the walls. The average thickness was about 18 inches.  In a few instances, a too heavy charge brought the entire building down into the basement, leaving an unnecessary obstacle. One solution to this problem was to set the charges in fireplaces where the heavier side walls of the fireplace would prevent collapse of the walls.

“Our men were pulled back two or three buildings before charges were set off; this safety measure was always observed.”

Demolition Teams

“Ammunition and pioneer teams were at a premium because the rate of advance depended upon the number of demolition teams available. Sometimes front-line troops joined with the A and P men to form demolition teams. One unit reported that when the A and P platoon sent down a 4-man team, four 3-man teams were formed, using one A and P man in each.”

Burning Buildings

“Some buildings were set afire with 81-mm WP shells; however, this method was used only as a last resort because it left difficult obstacles. Such fires were set at night to avoid interference with daylight combat.”

Relief of Units

“One company commander recommended that the relief of forward companies be accomplished during daylight. He pointed out that routes forward led through basements, around buildings, through holes in walls, and over half-demolished walls. If men were brought to their stations during darkness, they lacked proper orientation and could not intelligently anticipate enemy action nor their own method of attack.”

Use of 60-mm Mortar Shell

“The 60-mm mortar shell was extensively used for direct fire through windows. The shells were launched from rifles by wiring them to the grenade projector adapter, M1.”

Aerial Photographs

“Aerial photographs were in great demand. It was pointed out that aerial photographs should be taken almost daily during city fighting if they are to furnish exact information concerning the buildings yet to be taken.”

Rifle-Platoon Employment

combat enginners snipers street fighting germany From the Commanding Officer, 329th Infantry, ETO: “For street fighting, we organize each rifle platoon into two sections-one to assault and the other to cover. Each section has two automatic-rifle teams and a bazooka team. All the men carry several hand and WP grenades.”

“We attack rapidly and aggressively, clearing each building in this order: first floor, second floor, cellar. Each succeeding building is covered by fire from the top floor of the building just cleared”

Principles of Street Fighting

The Commanding Officer of a regiment with the Twelfth Army Group attributes his unit’s success at AACHEN to the following factors: “We employed common sense, normal tactical principles, and maximum fire power.  We forced the enemy to fight on our terms by attacking at every opportunity from a direction least expected and by isolating small sections which could then be left to small holding groups while other troops worked around to the rear.

“We proceeded without undue hurry, realizing that street fighting requires great physical exertion and considerable time if buildings are to be thoroughly searched and cleared. Our policy of searching every room and closet in every building, blowing every sewer, and thoroughly mopping up each sector paid dividends in later security. Not once did the enemy fire a shot from behind our lines; fighting troops didn’t have to worry about snipers in rear, nor were command and supply personnel hindered in their work by remnants of enemy resistance groups.”

“We placed tanks, TD’s, and SP guns in position just before daylight or at dusk. We would have the engineers and pioneer-platoon men blow holes in the near walls of buildings; then we would run the vehicles into the buildings and provide apertures for the gun barrels by blowing smaller holes in the far walls.”

Tanks in Village Fighting

sherman tank herscheid germany 2d infantry division 2nd second Officers and enlisted men of a tank battalion that had fought its way from the beaches into GERMANY made the following comments concerning tank participation in village fighting:

– During the Approach:  “Main roads and cross roads near small villages should be avoided; they are often mined and generally have one or more road blocks.  The enemy’s first defenses, which are usually on the outskirts of the village, must not be permitted to separate the tanks and infantry. Tanks that bypass these defenses too far ahead of the infantry become subject to antitank fire and cannot fire at the bypassed enemy without endangering friendly troops.  Some tanks and other direct-fire weapons should act as the base of fire while other tanks circle the village and attack from the flanks.  Infantry carried on tanks should dismount before entering a village. (However, in one night attack, infantrymen remained on the tanks and fired effectively at enemy on rooftops or in upper stories of buildings.)

-Within the Village:  “It is not necessary for infantry to precede the tanks into small villages, but infantry should remain abreast of or close behind the tanks in order to provide protection against enemy infantry.  If more than one street is accessible, parallel attacks should be made. Narrow streets, on which only the leading tank can be employed, should be avoided.”

“Hand grenades were found to be of great value; without leaving the tank, the tank commander can throw them through windows to force enemy evacuation of buildings. Use of grenades also conserves tank ammunition and is less dangerous to our infantry than use of tank weapons.”

“WP can be of great value in village fighting, but its use must be definitely planned and explained to all elements before the attack. WP rounds should hit inside or behind ‘buildings; if they bit in front, the enemy can escape through the smoke undetected. A round of WP will sometimes force surrender or evacuation of a building.”

“Where resistance is stubborn, all buildings should be fired upon and either burned or destroyed. Enemy soldiers who have taken cover in buildings can be brought out by use of a few rounds of HE.

-After the Attack:  “To avoid mortar and artillery fire, both infantry and tanks should move out of the village as soon as it has been taken.”

Ricochet Fire

Comment from the Commanding Officer, 746th Tank Battalion, ETO: “An effective use of HE in villages is to fire with delay fuse, `skipping’ the rounds 50 to 75 yards in front of tank and infantry.  This method was particularly effective at crossings of streets and alleys.”