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A look inside Wehrmacht sniper school in 1944

Discussion in 'Military History & Tactics' started by Psychic, Jun 26, 2015.

  1. Psychic

    Psychic SENIOR MEMBER

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    Background
    In summer offensives of Wehrmacht into Soviet Union, Red army snipers proved to be a constant head ache for them. They specifically targeted officers and NCOs. The Wehrmacht lacked professional snipers of it's own but did not feel any need to form dedicated snipers units because of it's superiority in the field, it could tackle red army's snipers by using heavy infantry weapons like mortars and assault cannons. The speed and surprise of Blitzkrieg tactics made them stop thinking about having snipers of their own.
    When the tide of the war turned, only then Wehrmacht realized the importance of having snipers and started professional sniper training courses in 1943.
    [​IMG]
    Soviet sniper

    German sniper course

    Venue
    In the last few months of 1943 at large military depots , firing ranges were introduced for sniper training in Germany, Austria, Hungary and Lithuania.

    Duration of the course
    The course lasted 4 weeks.

    Participants of the course
    The recruits were veterans who were recognized as either sharpshooters or good prospects along side recent conscripts.
    That was considered an advanced course for specialists with no endless shouting, no purposeless drill and no brutal indoctrination of course material by rote.

    "Welcome to the course"
    The CSM( Company sergeant major) welcomed soldiers with a friendly introductory talk and talk about course accommodation.
    Sniper schools had this Gothic lettering nailed to a wall welcoming new trainees:
    1. The sniper is the hunter among soldiers!
    2. His job is difficult and demands the dedication of body, soul and mind.
    3. Only a thoroughly convinced and steadfast soldier can become a sniper.
    4. It is only possible to destroy an enemy if one has learnt to hate and persecute him with all the strength in one's soul!
    5. A sniper is a man set apart from the common soldier.
    6. He fights unseen.
    7. His strength is based on Red Indian-like use of territory linked to perfect camouflage, catlike agility and masterly use of his rifle.
    8. Awareness of his abilities gives him the sureness and superiority which guarantee success.

    The Instructors
    The instructors were veteran snipers, who were wounded in the battles and deprived of their " fit for the front " medical category. Many of those who served as instructors in sniper schools had partial invalidities like not having a limb, not having some fingers etc.

    Initiation of Sniper's course
    Trainees were divided into sub groups of 5 students and each sub group was trained by a separate instructor (usually a sergeant) to guarantee the almost personal transmission of knowledge.
    Course started on the next day of arrival of students.
    Course began with introduction on telescopic sights.
    Weapons
    A table top was laid with four rifles, three Mauser K98k and one Walther self-loading Modell 43 (G-43). Each weapon fitted with an optical sight. The Mausers were fitted respectively with the 15cm long Modell 41, the 6-power Zeiss Zielsechs and the Hensoldt Modell Dialytan optical sights. While the walther semi-automatic rifle was fitted with Voigtilander Modell 4 sight.

    [​IMG]
    Mauser K98K with Model 41(ZF41) scope


    [​IMG]
    Mauser k98k with Zeiss ZF42 scope

    [​IMG]
    Mauser K98K with 4x Dialytan scope

    [​IMG]
    Walther 43 semi automatic with Voigtilander Modell 4(ZF4) sight.

    Weapon specifications:

    Mauser K98K
    Cartridge: 7.92x57mm Mauser
    Action: Bolt-Action
    Muzzle velocity: 760 m/s (2,493 ft/s)
    Effective firing range: 500 m (550 yd) with iron sights, 1000 m (1,090 yd) with telescopic sight
    Feed system: 5-round stripper clip, internal magazine
    Sights: Iron sights or telescopic sights.

    Walther 43
    Cartridge: 7.92x57mm Mauser
    Action: Gas operated
    Muzzle velocity: 746–776 m/s (2,448–2,546 ft/s)
    Effective firing range: 500 m, 800 m with scope
    Feed system: 10-round detachable box magazine, stripper clip fed
    Sights: Iron sights, Zf42 optical crosshair sight


    "Checking out" weapons
    [​IMG]

    File photo

    The tutors explained the efficiency of the four optics and mountings, they spoke about the Mauser carbine with Hensoldt sight( Dialytan sight) specifically, this being considered the best and firmest combination, and the rifle with which each every student would be issued. In the afternoon the students range-tested each of the four rifles. The Zeiss and Hensoldt optics offered a wide field of vision, which were far superior to the Russian scope. On the other hand, the latter and the Voigtlander were virtually similar, and although the Walther self-loading rifle was a pleasant weapon to fire, since part of the recoil force was absorbed by the automatic reload mechanism, its accuracy fell short of the Mauser carbine. The semi automatic with ZF-41 sight was not considered to be a good sniper rifle.

    Firing practice
    [​IMG]

    File photo

    After above mentioned free exercises the students returned to ordinary rifle shooting with the conventional K98k carbine over open sights from 50 to 300 metres: free standing, kneeling, lying. Ammunition was made freely available and the usual safety drills were dispensed with to allow the students to keep up the momentum.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2015
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  2. Psychic

    Psychic SENIOR MEMBER

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    Other tactical exercises ( distance estimation, trench digging and camouflage)
    [​IMG]
    File photo

    The next day, students were taken to countryside for distance estimation exercises and the tactical assessment of terrain, the afternoon they spent shooting, and in fact there was almost no day in which shooting was absent from the timetable. During the week they were taught trench digging and camouflage. Some of the camouflage ideas were very costly in time and materials, and of questionable value in practice. Hollowed-out tree trunks, a full body camouflage of tree bark, a fake milestone of wood to hide a slit trench: these were ideas that seemed to have no practical value. Practically, camouflage needed to be quickly prepared, effective and improvised from the simplest materials available, limiting the sniper as little as possible in movement.

    The "Shooting garden"
    [​IMG]

    File photo (notice the Mosin Nagant rifle)

    On the last day of the first week, students were introduced to "The Shooting Garden". A miniature landscape designed to resemble a valley with roads and a village would be set up at 50 meters from firing range and reduced to scale. Three small-calibre Army sports rifles were provided: the Walther Deutsches Sport Modell with 4-power Oigee sight, the Menz Deutscher Sport and the Gustloff Wehrsportgewehr, the latter two both fitted with the ZF 41 optic.
    The exercise was to keep the landscape under observation and shoot at small papier mache figures (dummies) as soon as they appeared at windows, between houses or behind trees. Tiny cars and horse-drawn carts moving across the landscape were also to be brought under fire as the situation demanded. Scoring of students was done in this exercise. Veteran sharpshooters with battle experience achieved perfect score many times which was otherwise a rarity.
    The shooting garden received frequent visits from students throughout the course. The arrangement of scenery and location of targets was changed regularly. To encourage competition between the candidates, their daily scores were recorded and the eventual winner received the reward of a certificate and a large sack of groceries. Students were required to keep a small personal notebook to list their scores and jot down observations on the terrain. On the battlefield it was supposed to serve to note their witnessed kills as well. That was to be done by keeping one's name anonymous in actual battlefield because any German soldier who fell into Russian hands and was identified as a sniper could expect to be tortured to death.

    Students recieving their wives (Sniper rifles)
    [​IMG]

    File photo

    The second week, Students were given brand-new K98k carbines fitted with the 4-power Hensoldt sight on an adjustable mounting. Each man received a personal issue, its registration number being entered into student's individual course books. It would become their personal property upon passing the course successfully. The younger soldiers without battlefield experience were very keen to qualify for this very reason. The weapon was quite a lot shorter than the Russian rifle(Mosin nagant), but the optic was far better.
    The first issue of sniper ammunition was distributed from boxes bearing the designation "Anschuss" to distinguish them from ordinary rounds. The instructor told students that the projectiles had been prepared individually to ensure maximum precision. When at the front, students were to ask armourers for them specifically.

    Weapon care
    [​IMG]
    File photo

    The students calibrated the optical sight over a distance of 100 meters. This was done by removing the breech and placing the carbine on sandbags on the range table for stability. When the center of the target was lined up through the barrel, the rifleman coincided the optic by adjusting two screws on the rear foot of the mounting using a special key. After this rough calibration, fine adjustment followed during practical shooting.
    Instructions were given never to allow the weapon out of one's hands and throughout the remainder of the course the trainees always carried the weapon with them. All rooms had a rifle keep for use at night. The idea was to instill in students, the need to protect the optic, for any hard jolt could spoil the calibration. Since the calibration procedure had to be repeated if the weapon was knocked or dropped, the culprit was punished with twenty push-ups and thirty knee-bends holding the rifle above his head.

    Film sessions
    [​IMG]

    Students were shown a film entitled "Choice of, and Constructing Positions". The film was in Russian with German subtitles and had been recorded in 1935. It gave an impressive insight into the high standard of Russian training. The instructor told the students how difficult Russian snipers had made the advance of German forces in 1941/2. Compared to them, we had known nothing. Our losses among command staff from snipers had been devastating. If a unit lacked heavy infantry weapons, a Russian sniper company could pin it down all day. We had tried to get back on level terms using captured optics. "Ivan has professionals, make no mistake about it, and if you notice that your opposite number is gunning for you, clear out, and never fire a second shot from the same position."
    A scene in the film showed a Russian sniper company climbing to the treetops at the edge of a wood. The subtitles read: "Treetops with plenty of leaf are an outstanding position! The rifleman cannot be seen, but has a good view of the landscape and an outstanding field of fire!"
    These film sessions were informal and students were at liberty to interject at any time.

    Field theory
    Field theory was put into practice over the next remaining days to test the independence of the individual. Students were lodged in a common shelter and had to select a suitable spot to dig a personal slit trench for occupation early next morning. The battle scenario was that two enemy snipers had "No-Man's-Land" pinned down: any observed movement of the trainee meant his end, the purpose being to teach him to lie low and consider personal strategy for the next day. Near each sniper was a tutor who refereed on claimed "kills". The trainees were therefore confined to their individual trenches until night fell. To remain more or less immobile in one spot from five in the morning to eleven at night brought with it questions about food, water and the natural functions. The students (usually veterans) who chose and prepared a position that took all this into account passed the test comfortably on the other hand, students who preferred for the most part to cover their helmets with a light camouflage of grass and fresh twigs found themselves in trouble and they, at the end of the exercise would be at their last gasp. Most would have had wet their trousers and worse, attracting the pithy observation of the course tutor: "Men, here's a hot tip, first thing upon rising, empty your bowels", or words to that effect. Next day during the official tour of the trenches students were asked to give the points for and against their own dugouts.

    Introducing students to supression
    Snipers often moved in No-Man's-Land between the lines. If spotted by the enemy they would be engaged with heavy infantry weapons. In order to judge the correct defensive method, it was an advantage to recognize these weapons by the noise they made when fired. If one came under mortar attack for example, it was only a question of time before the Russians got the range or saturated the area so thoroughly that one could not avoid falling victim. In this case it was essential to leave the trench at once. If one could not retire through cover, the alternative was to jump up suddenly and run in wild zigzags for the German line. Snipers called this the " hare's jump". It required a high degree of composure but offered the only possibility of surviving the situation. Hare's leap was therefore practiced repeatedly in training, yet when the hour came many snipers preferred to remain in their foxholes in a blue funk, and perished.
    " While a real mortar could be fired for our instruction, a gramophone record was played for the acoustic demonstration of one of the most feared Soviet weapons, the Stalin organ, a multiple rocket launcher mounted on a lorry ". The full battery would transform a football field into a blizzard of steel splinters and worked earth. The rhythmic, howling noise of discharge played at full volume would make the stomach of the students turn.

    The explosive round
    To round off, a new kind of infantry ammunition was shown. This was known as the B-bullet, "B" standing for "Beobachtung" or observation. It had been developed originally as a tracer round for calibrating fighter weapons. The round exploded on impact and indicated the accuracy of the burst. Aerial MG-gunners were able to calibrate their weapons relatively quickly using this optical aid. The ammunition was very expensive, however, and its use limited to the purpose for which it was designed. The Russians, on the other hand, had issued it to their troops from the onset of the Barbarossa campaign. It was much feared by the German infantry because of the terrible wounds it inflicted. Russian snipers were particularly keen on it. The Soviets had no compunction in putting it into general use. The munition used in small arms was illegal under the Geneva Convention, but the Russians had obviously waived the right to object and the war was at such a desperate stage for Germans, they felt it justified. During a short demonstration with these bullets, trees 5cm in diameter were felled without difficulty.
    [​IMG]
    File photo

    Practical exercises
    [​IMG]

    File photo

    During the last two weeks of instruction, the course concentrated more on the practical. Besides the daily visits to the firing range and the shooting garden, students concentrated on movement in the field, passing unseen through military exercises held by other units, or infiltrating between the lines. Later the principle of the shooting garden was transferred to open terrain and a time limit imposed for spotting and shooting at the papier dummy figures. For failure, points were deducted from the score-card and "death" awarded. Many inexperienced boys quickly came to understand the dangers of the life they had embraced. When these drills began, they "died" like flies. Yet it was not quite so bad as it looked, for official sniper tactics were permanently offensive while in reality on the battlefield many difficult situations resolved themselves by a healthy dose of caution. A good sniper had to know when it was best to vanish, but the training programme did not teach discretion.

    Conclusion of course
    The course concluded with a celebration party. Each man was called forward individually, first those who had failed and were being returned to unit, then those who had passed, beginning in reverse order. After a handshake from the CSM, each man received his personal rifle with optic, a Wehrpass (identification book) bearing the registration number of his rifle, a certificate confirming his success and final position in class, and a parchment in Gothic lettering reading:
    German Sniper.
    Impress upon yourself these ten rules:
    1. Fight fanatically! You are a people hunter!
    2. Shoot calmly and deliberately, without haste: the hit rewards you!
    3. The most deadly opponent is the enemy sniper! Always reckon with him and attempt to outfox him!
    4. Never fire more than once from your position!
    5. The entrenching tool lengthens your life, trench-digging spares blood!
    6. Practise distance estimation constantly.
    7. Be a master of camouflage and in use of terrain!
    8. Maintain your shooting skills through constant practice even when away from the front!
    9. Never let your sniper rifle out of your hand and give it careful upkeep! A perfectly functioning weapon is your strength and safety!
    10. After being wounded, your return to the front is preceded by a fresh sniper's course to sharpen your faculties!
    Your goal should be the Sniper Badge, awarded to the Best.
    Those who finished the course good scores, won an ammunition crate full of delicacies“ wine, cigarettes, chocolate, cold meats and so forth.
    The act of receiving the rifle with optic made one a sniper officially.

    [​IMG]
    A Wehrpass

    @levina @AUSTERLITZ @Gufi @Desert Fox @jhungary @Gauss @!eon @Major Shaitan Singh @Yazp @Ulla @WAJsal
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2015
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  3. AUSTERLITZ

    AUSTERLITZ SENIOR MEMBER

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    Mind if i use excerpts from this thread later on one of my battle reports when i do russian campaign?
    Excellent thread.
     
  4. Desert Fox

    Desert Fox ELITE MEMBER

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    The German Army had a tradition of snipers dating back to the trench warfare of WWI but during the interwar period the sniper lost his value or at least wasn't considered a significant asset on the battlefield as the new tactics employed swift maneuvering rather than static trench warfare. Only during the invasion of the Soviet Union where German army units encountered Soviet snipers within urban battlefields like Stalingrad and even in the rear of the front lines where Soviet partisans used sniping skills to deadly effect against German troops did the Wehrmacht realize the great potential of snipers on the battlefield and in fact they would take sniping to another level by incorporating various camouflage techniques including patterned camouflage field jackets which initially saw service with the Waffen SS but later began to be incorporated in Wehrmacht units. The Germans would later use the tactics they perfected on the Eastern Front to deadly effect against the Allied invasion force in France. The Americans in particular were both terrified and impressed by German sniper tactics as they had never encountered anything similar to it before.

    WWII German Sniper Training Film:


    German Sniper on the Western Front:

    Bundesarchiv_Bild_101I-297-1728-22,_Im_Westen,_Scharfschütze[1].jpg
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2015
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  5. Psychic

    Psychic SENIOR MEMBER

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    I don't mind, it will be a good thing if you use my data as I also compiled it by utilizing the data of others.Thanks for complements:tup:. I am free for the next two months so this thread making has become a good source of time passing for me.

    Informative post. I learnt some new things from your post. While there was no doubt about the high standard training of the Russian snipers but the German sniper course was more innovative and advanced as compared to their Soviet counterparts although their more advanced course came into effect much later than the Soviets. Another point which I have sensed is that while the Russian snipers operated in pairs, the Germans did that rarely. Many German snipers often took a regular infantry man with them to act as spotters, German Snipers rarely worked in pairs am I correct about that @AUSTERLITZ ? Another interesting fact is that Soviets also employed sniper companies with upto 60 men strength( some companies were entirely female), Germans also did that in late war by forming waffen SS sniper companies.
     
  6. Sage

    Sage SENIOR MEMBER

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    Excellent share ....!
     
  7. !eon

    !eon SENIOR MEMBER

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    Nice sharing :tup:
    Of course Germans were aware of Sniping from earlier war but in their new form of warfare they found no place for sharpshooters.
    According old guys I met, It was first the hunters from Siberia whose excellent shooting skills compelled Russian high command to form proper sniping units.
     
  8. WAJsal

    WAJsal MODERATOR

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    Informative, thank you. Keep up the good work.
     
  9. AUSTERLITZ

    AUSTERLITZ SENIOR MEMBER

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    You are correct,though it wasn't iron clad rule.
     
  10. Psychic

    Psychic SENIOR MEMBER

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  11. IrbiS

    IrbiS FULL MEMBER

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    Twelve female snipers from the Soviet Union's 3rd Shock Army in 1945 with a combined kill count of 775 1.jpg
     
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  12. Psychic

    Psychic SENIOR MEMBER

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    Doubt their kill claimed kill count. Soviets were known to exaggerate number of kills by female snipers and make fictional accounts in order to motivate their male soldiers and boost the morale of their retreating and beaten armies.
    Soviets needed such heroes and when they could not find such heroes, they made them themselves to be used as propaganda tools.

    Here is one example of Soviet myths and fictions being busted.( for their most famous and decorated sniper)

    The Greatest Sniper Duel in History Is a Myth — War Is Boring — Medium

    Even after so many years, Russians still believe it and there is a very nice Hollywood movie about it as well.

    Enemy at the Gates (2001) - IMDb


    An important thing to not is that the kill confirmation method in Soviet armies was very simple and required independent witness to confirm the kill unlike the complex kill confirmation method employed by Wehrmacht.
     
  13. IrbiS

    IrbiS FULL MEMBER

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    Very Likely

    But I took above encounter as fiction always
     
  14. Indian Patriot

    Indian Patriot BANNED

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    You are right. But it is also true that soviet female snipers were a force to reckon with. They faced the same dangers like their male counterparts and inflicted same damage.

    Russia did not win the battle of stalingrad. German orthodoxy and careless stupidity lost them the battle and whole of Russia. The Germans were used to fighting in open fields where they could manouevre and use speed and firepower to their advantage. They were not used to urban street fighting in close confined quarters. Their bolt-action rifles were hopeless in confined spaces especially against the dreaded PPsH-41 which carried 72 rounds and fire full auto. The Germans stupidly used open field tactics in the narrow lanes of stalingrad and were ruthlessly hammered.
     
  15. Frank Baldwin

    Frank Baldwin FULL MEMBER

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    What is the source for the original post?