The art of the assault in WWII reenacting
In spite of what many people think, WWII reenacting isn't just a bunch of middle aged guys running around the woods reliving cowboys and indians fantasies from childhood. Well, actually, it is just that, but it is also much more. At a WWII event, a person can get a good sense of the tactics employed by the soldiers of the Big One. One of the most important tactics was that of the assault, or, the advance on and capture of a fixed and prepared position.
In the field, the reenactor often runs into positions that the enemy has prepared (usually crudely at events) to receive an attack. Since the goal at most events is capture ground, the soldier and his comrades must advance. The question is, however, how to do so safely. The solution comes in two forms: go around the enemy; or, go through them. Going around is the preferred method since it affords the attacker an opportunity of manuevering the enemy into the open, or attacking him from behind. Going around an enemy position is very difficult though, given the amount of stealth and speed required to pull it off. Many reenactors (who are not in truth real soldiers) just can not infiltrate a defensive system in this way. So, the reenactor is left with an assault on his hands.
The first thing that the Gruppenfuhrer (squad leader) should do is take stock of his equipment. The number one item for a successful assault is an ample supply of hand grenades. Normally, the machine gun is the number one weapon in an assault, but given the fact that most reenactors do not respond historically to suppressive fire, the reenactor must make certain changes to fit his environment. The machine gun, while useful, is not essential, and an enterprising gruppenfuhrer can make a successful assault with enough men and grenades. Ten men usually can take a position manned by 15 men (on a good day) or less.
With grenades and manpower on your side, an assault is a snap if done right. The path of advance that the gruppenfuhrer chooses is crucial. If the squad is ordered to advance over open ground, forget it, they will be toast. Instead, select a wooded approach that will allow the men cover for bounding forward. Next, take two men from the squad and designate them the grenadiers (make sure you give them plenty of grenades.) Then make three men your suppressionary fire section. This leaves you 5 men for the actual assault. (note: if you have an MG, you can use that as your suppression element and add two more men to you assault team.) In the long approach, or the approach while you are still PROBABLY (never assume) out of sight, make sure that as each man bounds forward, he has a buddy watching him with his weapon ready to fire. Remember, each man should bound no more than 3 seconds before concealing himself, preferrably behind cover. Then the forward men can ready themselves as their partners bound past them, etc.
As the squad approaches, the gruppenfuhrer should look for a good spot from which to launch the last phase of the assault, the angrev(sp?). At this time, the gruppenfuhrer should position his suppression element and move forward with the rest of the squad. At this point the suppression element needs to be firing on the enemy position very rapidly. The gruppenfuhrer should take great care in looking out for the safety of his grenadiers on the approach. The grenadies should then toss their grenades into the enemy's position. Usually, it is a good idea to throw a whole bunch of grenades over as large an area as possible. Often at this stage, the enemy will leave their position,and, if the suppression element is still firing, then they will get the enemy. Once the grenades have gone off, the gruppenfuhrer should give the command 'angrev!' and lead the men over the top with weapons at the ready. Naturally, shoot anyone left in the position and then quickly move the suppression element into the position in case of a counter-attack.
This method is tried and true and has saved my bacon at numerous events. I have both participated in, and directed, assaults using this basic outline. Remember though, never be affraid to improvise on the battlefield. This is both historically correct and sometimes necessary because this manual is by no means definitive for all cases. It assumes (gasp!) that the terrain available is wooded. For cases where the ground in front of the enemy is open, see upcoming installments here, namely: Attacking over open ground; or, Attacking, and subsequently dying, over open ground.
Gefreiter Karl Welsch, 43er Sturm Pionier Bn.