SOVIET INFANTRY SQUAD TACTICS IN WORLD WAR II

Introduction

The following is a brief survey of squad-level tactics employed by the Soviet Army during the Second World War. The survey is designed to help re-enactors accurately portray operations of Russian infantry soldiers; it is not intended to be a comprehensive manual for military training.

Not a lot of material on tactics has been included, due to the fact that not many Soviet soldiers got a lot of tactical training. As the course of the war ground along, men were drafted into the army, given a uniform and where possible weapons and sent straight to the front. Any training he received, the Soviet soldier got in transit to a front-line unit or upon assignment to a squad at the front. The attrition rate was so high, there was just time to get men to front-line units, training was on a strict catch-as-can-catch basis. The end of the war killed an estimated 29 million Russian soldiers killed in action.

Military Formations
The Squad Rank

The first thing soldiers in any army do after being rolled out of bed is to fall in for morning Formation. Formation is the start of the official army day. This is where the basic leader of any military system - the squad leader - finds out how many men he has available, where the missing ones are, who's sick, lame or lazy, and reports this information up to the next higher level of the unit, the platoon, which then passes this information up to the company commander.

The soldier's world, as far as he can see, begins with the squad and ends with the company. Everything else, from battalion level on up to the Chairman of Stavka (Soviet equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) is a distraction with generally unpleasant results for him.

It follows then; that the first thing the soldier learns is the squad rank, in which he finds himself first thing in the military morning. Upon hearing the command "Fall in" he stumbles out of the barracks after taking care of the various bodily functions and grooming, the soldier sees his squad leader standing in the company street, holding his left arm straight out to his side at shoulder level. This is an invitation and order from the squad leader for the soldier to move up alongside the squad leader, so that his right shoulder touches the squad leaders out held fingertips.

The soldier then imitates his squad leader's action by holding out his arm to the side at shoulder height so that his comrade next in line can for-mate on him in the same manner - and so it goes until all nine men of the squad are fallen in.

When the whole company has performed this feat, it has achieved the Morning Formation. At this Formation, all are accounted for, information on the day's activities are passed to the troops, and jobs are assigned. The company is then dismissed for breakfast, after which it is formed again, then the day's activities commence.

It is important to know that the order of the squad formation is not random, based upon the speed of members getting out of the barracks and into line. The first position in the squad rank is that of the squad leader, naturally enough. Falling in on the squad leader's left is the machine gunner, and next to him, his assistant gunner. Immediately to the left of the assistant machine-gunned, the squad guide/observer, and the assistant squad leader falls in. Then the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth riflemen fall in, resulting in the squad rank of nine men.

Here we have our infantry squad neatly dressed, and at the correct interval of one arms-length between each member. The rule invariably is fall in on the left of the man preceding you in position. If you are rifleman #3, fall in to the left of rifleman #2.

At any time, anywhere, the command "fall in" is heard this sequence is repeated. It is the basic military evolution.

Assuming that every other squad in the platoon has achieved this level of military competence, the platoon formation of four nine-man rifle squads - four squad ranks could be formatted within one minute of the command "fall in" being given.

This brings us to the next level of military competence required of the rifleman; the Squad Column.

The Squad Column or File

The column is the basic movement formation for military units.

The column or file involves getting all personnel in a formation in the situation of following behind the man ahead of him in the formation.

This is accomplished very simply by giving the command "Right Face" while the squad is in the facing-to-the-front squad rank formation.

All facing commands are two-part commands. That is, there is a preparatory command alerting the formation, to which direction it will be turning, then a command of execution telling the formation to execute the command.

For the movement Right Face, the preparatory command is "Right....", followed by the execution command "Face."

Upon hearing the preparatory command "Right....", the soldier prepares to pivot on his right heel and left toes by slightly lifting his right toes and left heel.

At the execution command "Face", the soldier swivels on his right heel and left toes, through a 90-degree (right) angle to his right. Immediately upon achieving this quarter-circle movement, the soldier brings his left heel up level with and in contact with his right heel in a smart that is smart, movement.

The former rank, with all soldiers facing to the front, has been converted into a column or file, with all soldiers in line behind their formation precedents. The column or columns may now be given the "Forward March" command, putting the formation into motion.


The Skirmish Line

So, the soldiers have all been gotten into a comprehensive formation, counted or accounted for, transformed this assembly formation into a movement formation by executing a right face, and are now moving towards their destiny, having been given the command "Forward March".

There are two types of military formations and movements; the close-order, assembly or drill and ceremony formations and movements, and the field or open-order formations and movements.

The close-order formations and movements are used to move a group of soldiers around in garrison or parade situations. The open-order formations and movements are used in the field and in combat situations.

Close-order formations and movements are conducted with an interval of 30-33 inches, or an arm's-length, between the soldiers. Open-order formations and movements are conducted with intervals varying between six and eight yards between soldiers, or such interval as the situation dictates.

When we left our squad, it was marching along with the other four squads of the platoon in close order column formation, keeping an interval of 30 inches all around, in soldierly socialist cadence, under the control of the comrade platoon leader.

Suddenly, a sound like Marisha in bed at three o'clock in the morning after taking full advantage of the cabbage and potato dinner the collective farm put on to celebrate making the monthly production norm, only much louder.

Eyes glance nervously from side to side, mouths seem to dry up, and weapons are gripped more tightly. That sound means only one thing.... Hitlerite Bandits and their vicious MG-42 machinegun!

Are the Courageous Defenders of The Socialist Homeland frightened? Certainly Not! More alert, perhaps, more keenly attuned to sights and sounds, but totally without fear!

But, this is no time to be fooling around in parade-ground fashion at an interval of 30 inches. The comrad platoon commander orders "open order, squads forward in column!"

The soldiers now increase their distance from 30 inches between men to 18 to 24 feet in the open terrain they now find themselves. In closely forested areas or difficult terrain, the interval is determined by conditions, and may be much closer.

At the same time, the four squads of the platoon begin to diverge from one another, so that when the platoon or company is ordered into skirmish line, each squad will cover a front of about 160-165 feet.

So, the situation is developing rapidly, and the enemy position is in sight. The order comes "As Skirmishers, Deploy".

At once, the comrad squad leader comes to a halt and orders "Squad, attention... Guide man (assistant squad leader), from the center, form skirmish line!"

At this command the guide man moves up to the left and level with the squad leader. At his movement, the other squad members move into skirmish line.



The machinegun team moves up and out to the right, slightly in front of the squad leader and guide man, preparing the automatic weapon for fire.

The number two rifleman, from his position behind the guide man, moves up to the right on line with and 18 feet further out from, the automatic weapon team.

The rest of the riflemen move out in alternating directions from their predecessor in line onto the skirmish line, assuming an interval of 18 feet from their sidemen in the line.

The squad is now deployed and ready to move into the attack under the control of the squad leader. See Diagrams 3 and 4.

Comrads! I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for you to study and digest the information provided in this article. Competent application of basic military doctrine is the key to victory and the destruction of the Hitlerite Hordes of Plant City and their thrice-damned tin-can tracks.

By the way, has anyone besides me noticed that the principal criminal, the bandit chieftan Winston is a dead ringer for his butcher master Himmler? Think about it Comrads, there's more here than meets the eye. Death to traitors and fascists!

On to final, Glorious, Just, Communist Victory, Peace and Freedom!

Comrad Rifleman Pavlik Morozov
(AKA Carl Weaver)