Scouts Out – Chapter 1: The Development of Armored Reconnaissance

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Chapter 1 covers the history of armored reconnaissance, with its historical roots, its cavalry tradition and its role in the age of armor. It explores the “schoolhouse,” that is the cavalry school and its role in developing tactics and doctrine in prewar Germany andapplying those concepts through the use of training and the establishment of the Kavallerie-Lehr- und Versuchs-Abteilung at Krampnitz.  It then traces the evolution of theory as refined by the realities of the battlefield and the wartime situation of Germany, focusing on and comparing both prewar and late-war doctrinal manuals (both of which are translated in their entirety as appendices). In addition, an early-war primer for the training of scout sections is reviewed and examples drawn from it illustrating the typical scenarios scout crews could encounter on the battlefield.

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Please note that sample pages here are illustrative only. Actual layout will differ slightly, however, the text and images will remain the same.

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In addition to the main-body text, there are a number of sidebars devoted to the chapter theme:

  • An excerpt from a wartime publication outlining correct and incorrect methods of employment for armored reconnaissance assets (done in the typical German richtig and falsch style of the period.
  • Several after-action reports that were printed in the periodical Die Panzertruppe that was published by the force-structure branch of the Army High Command. These include an AAR from a “c” type armored scout company (armed with the light Sd.Kfz. 250 series of vehicles, including the scout halftrack, the Sd. Kfz. 250/9) and another AAR concerning the experiences of an armored reconnaissance battalion organized under the freie Gliederung concept (both published in late 1944).
  • A selection of images from the photo album of a scout assigned to Aufklärungs-Abteilung 2 (mot), illustrating the life and training of an armored scout in prewar Germany.
  • A selection of images illustrating different aspects of training and doctrine as it pertained to the armored reconnaissance force.

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Each chapter also contains additional images tracing the Panzeraufklärungstruppe through the war. Chapter 1 highlights images of prewar reconnaissance battalion and the Campaign in Poland.

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4 Responses to Scouts Out – Chapter 1: The Development of Armored Reconnaissance

  1. Just received the book and offer my congratulations. I was also delighted to find the extra material on the web site – a true bonus.

    I am particularly interested in combat tactics and wondered (pushing my luck here) if there were any additional after action reports that you might be willing to publish …. perleeze?

    The book provides some insights into actual combat deployments, such as with patrols of 2 or so vehicles sent forward, with the battalion HQ behind, with the COs of the heavy platoon and reserve at the HQ . I am really interested in how recon battalions were used, for instance, to cover open flanks – did they act as just a screen and then pull back at the first sign of trouble? Or were they sufficiently reinforced to try to hold the ground? I have read accounts of recon battalions being used as a manoeuvre group to get in behind the enemy – how did they operate in such situations? How were the heavy company weapons assigned – I get the feeling that text book recommendation was to provide these en masses and not in penny packets.

    Anyway I ramble on – any help gratefully appreciated. Thanks again for the book.

    • admin says:

      Steve,
      Many thanks for the kind words regarding the book. I’m also happy you are availing yourself of the additional information on the web site. I have a few more after-action reports kicking around, but I am currently discussing possible follow-ups to Scouts Out and those might form part of it. Hence, I’m a bit reluctant to post anything here at the moment.
      With regard to the tactics, it is difficult to state anything definitively, since the employment of scouts and other reconnaissance assets was often left to the individual commander’s discretion and, of course, the intent of the higher commander, usually the Division Commander. The Germans do not make a formal distinction between screening and guarding, as is the case in the US Army, with the former simply providing early warning of the enemy’s approach or intentions and the latter generally requiring that resistance be offered. That said, the battalion commander’s specific orders to his section and troop commanders would detail what the scouts on the ground were required to do. If the chain-of-command felt that combat was expected and/or the enemy was believed to have heavy weapons, then the scout sections could be augmented with weapons systems capable of countering the threat. I believe the the reconnaissance battalions were generally used as an advance guard / pursuit force when you talk about operating behind enemy lines, that is, a penetration had already been achieved through the enemy’s front, enabling assets to move through and beyond in an effort to exploit the enemy’s rear area. In such cases, the reconnaissance assets would be augmented with other maneuver assets to accomplish that mission. Individual scout sections could be sent behind enemy lines, generally only when conducting offensive operations, in an effort to flesh out the enemy situation. IN those cases, however, they would only be directed to “snoop and poop,” as we used to say in the US Army. Contact was to be avoided.

  2. Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. I do understand you wanting to hold on to additional reports for now, especially with a follow up book in the offing. I hope it comes off for you.

    My interest stems from my research into the II SS Panzer Corps battles before Prokhorovka in July 1943. It’s the only battle I really know much about. In particular I have been curious as to the role and combat effectiveness of the LSSAH recon battalion, SS-Pz. AA 1. I had assumed a number of things, that the battlefield was so densely occupied and fought over that there was little leeway for a pure recon role, that the battalion was used as an additional combat unit, and that the battalion was sufficiently strong in terms of numbers and weapons to operate pretty much as the equivalent of a motorised/armoured infantry battalion. Closer study of the TOE made me question some of these assumptions and I questioned them even further when reading the chapter on doctrine and role in your book. I just wonder now how the battalion did what it seemed to do and yet survive relatively intact.

    For instance on 10th July 1943, LSAAH mounted an assault SW of Prokhorovka, with two battalions of 2nd SS PzGr in the lead, reinforced with the Tiger company and the StuG battalion. After the infantry broke through the defending Soviet infantry battalion and dealt with dug-in T34s, the recon battalion, reinforced with a Marder company seems to have been fed through the gap, to protect the attackers left flank and also, I assume, by way of exploitation. Soviet defenders continued to hold out around Hill 241.6 and the State Farm and the recon battalion was ‘introduced’ from the NW of the Soviet defenders to ‘augment’ the assault. It seems to me that much of the threat posed by AT and tanks must have been low for the recon battalion to survive. I also wondered whether the battalion directly attacked the Soviets, albeit from the rear, or just stood off and fired into the defences. From what I Have read in your book it also seems likely that the recon battalion would have fought mounted.

    On the 11th the recon battalion advanced further to the North – into the gap between the LSSAH and the Totenkopf Division on the left flank. On the 12th the battalion, still in this gap and in covering mode, appears to have lain directly in the path of the major Soviet tank attacks launched that morning. I haven’t found anything that describes any action fought by the LSSAH recon battalion on the 12th July and my guess is they survived pretty much intact. To do so they would have to have either bugged out in the face of the Soviet tank attack or taken cover in the area they occupied whilst the T34s rolled by to be destroyed in the rear of the recon battalion. The latter is entirely possible as the Soviets fought closed down and could see very little. This brief description is taken from the war diaries of II SS Pz Corps and the situation maps included, and also from Zamulin’s book, ‘Demolishing the Myth’.

    Given the additional insights provided by the information in your book, I’ve really had to rethink how recon battalions fought in such dense and high intensity battles – and survived. They were clearly reinforced, at least with AT weapons and played an important role – they were not mere passengers.

    Thanks again.

  3. Just to add to the previous post, I have some daily situation maps which illustrate the missions assigned to the recon battalions of both the LSSAH and the Totenkopf divisions, which I’ve tried to describe above. If these are of interest let me know and I’ll post or mail copies.

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