An AEF Original Document


October 16, 1918

CONFIDENTIAL: {Declassified July 15, 1975}


SUBJECT: Reduction of Hostile Machine Gun Nests

     1. The enemy in our front in his determined defense is employing machine guns to the greatest extent, not only for the defense of the main line of resistance, but also for the outposts and rear guards. There are indications that he is employing guns to the sacrifice of infantry for counter attacks with which to conduct an active defense. His defense thus becomes a passive machine gun and artillery defense.

Open Machine Gun Post
Argonne Forest

     2. In order to break the hostile resistance it is of the greatest importance that our troops develop to the fullest extent the use of the combined arms for promptly overcoming hostile machine gun nests. While driving in a hostile outpost every minute's delay subjects our troops to a destructive hostile artillery fire. Machine gun nests in hostile outposts are apprently located with that object in view. During a concerted attack a few minutes delay may cause our troops to fall behind their rolling barrage and the attack thereby to fail. during the pursuit a few determened machine gun nests may cause suffiecient delay to permit the enemy to reorganize. Our troops must learn to redusce hostile machine gun nests with the utmost dispatch. for this purpose the employment of all arms and all means available must be developed to the fullest extent.

     3. Means available:

          (1)     Infantry Weapons.

               (a) Trench mortars
               (b) One pounders
               (c) Machine guns and automatic rifles
               (d) Rifles
               (e) Hand and rifle grenades
               (f) The bayonet

          (2)     Artillery.

               (a) Artillery Preparation
               (b) Rolling Barrage
               (c) Supporting fire
               (d) Designated pieces closely accompanying the infantry

          (3)     Smoke, Gas, Thermite (by gas and flame troops).

          (4)     Tanks.

     4. The artillery preparation may destroy the machine gun works and the original hostile garrison. The final reduction of the machine gun nest demands, however, that it be promptly occcupied by our troops, for in a determined defense, hostile supports will reoccupy the position and carry on the defense. The ultimate reduction of the machine gun nests demands that the defenders be driven therefrom or captured or destroyed by the use of the bayonet or the threat of the bayonet.

Camouflaged German Machine Gun
St. Mihiel Salient

     5. In order that our infantry may reach the machine gun nest with the bayonet it is essential that their approach thereto be protected by a covering fire which gains and maintains fire superiority and keeps down or makes wild and inaccurate the fire of the defenders. Smoke and gas are useful in neutralizing or making less effective the hostile fire. In gaining and maintaining this fire superiority, all arms available must be employed.

     6. The rolling barrage is useful. It raises the morale of our own troops and reduces that of the defenders. The barrage alone cannot be relied upon for gaining and maintaining fire superiority. When it has once passed the hostile nest or when our infantry is delayed and cannot keep up with the barrage, it is useless. Protected or long range machine gun[s] may fire through this barrage. A partial rememdy may be found by making arrangements for calling back the barrage when it get[s] ahead. This should always be prearranged. The development of other means for gaining and maintaing fire superiority is absoluetely essential.

     7. When a machine gun nest is encountered either by our advance line while following a rolling barrage or by our patrols while driving in hostile outpost or while conducting a pursuit, the nest must at once be taken under fire by all guns available. Covered by this fire and by natrual and artificial features of the terrain (brush, woods, ravines, ditches, trenches, etc.), part of the force must promptly advance forward to a position from which the hostile machine gun nest can be taken by assault, and, covered by this fire the assault must be carried home. The assault should seldom be made without this covering fire.

     8. For covering fire, the rifle and automatic rifle will usually be the first arms available. The battalion commander should at once reinforce these with machine gunes, one pounders and trench mortars, which should be following closely the infantry advance with this object in view. When the infantry is crosssing dangerous stretches of ground these weapons may be placed in supporting positions and on the alert, ready to open fire on any machine gun nest which may be developed. It is the greatest importance that the proper use of the trench mortars, one pounder and machine guns be developed by our troops. Where the advance of the infantry is rapid and where it has advanced beyond the reach of animal transport, the difficulty of carrying these arms forward and keeping them supplied with ammunition is fully appreciated. The American ingenuity must be relied upon for overcoming this difficulty. Improvised sleds, plow wheels, wheel barrows, etc., may be employed.

German Machine Gun Pillbox in Building
Meuse Sector

     9. The remarks above apply equally to trench mortars carried by detachments of Gas and Flame Troops employing high explosive, smoke and thermite. These detachments should be attached to battlaions and their weapons employed in the manner indicated above.

     10. The next weapon which will be able to get into action will probably be certain pieces of artillery which have been designated to accompany the advance. The time within which they will be able to get into action will depend greatly upon the terrain and the rapidity of the advance. These guns should accompany the advance as a part of the infantry command.

     11. Finally, the employment of artillery using suppporting fire should be developed to its fullest extent. For this purpose communication between the artillery and its aeroplanes, and the infantry and its aeroplanes must be developed to the highest degree. And in addition artillery observers must accompany the leading infantry units. They should occupy observation stations from which they can closely observe the action of the advance infantry line or patrols and at the same time be in close communication with the infantry commander. They should move their observation stations forward in the same manner in which the infantry commander changes his P.C.; that is, advance parties should be sent forward to establish a new obervation station before the old one is closed. In this manner the supoorting artillery may be kept in constant communication with the advance infantry line. All means of communication should be employed; wire, visual signals, cyclists, orderlies,etc. The use of suppporting artillery is very valuable for overcoming strong entrenched machine gun nests of advance entrenched posts. Arrangements should be made for the halting of the infantry to permit concentration of artillery fire against nests.

     12. Tanks where available render valuable assistance to the infantry in the reduction of machine gun nests. The infantry and the tanks are mutually supporting. The tanks must not run off on exploits of their own and leave machine gun nests behind which hold up the infantry. They must advance with the infantry (sometimes in front, sometimes in rear), and be ready when called for to hold down the fire of machine gun nests until they are captured by the infantry. On the other hand, infantry must promptly advance to capture the machine gun nests as soon as they are covered by tanks. This is important for tanks cannot remain in the same place long. They would soon be destroyed by artillery. It is difficult for tanks to locate machine gun nests. The infantry must point out these targets to the tanks. Communication between infantry and tanks must be perfected.

     13. While capturing one machine gun nest the possiblity of a second machine gun nest within supporting distance of the first opening fire upon our troops while maneuvering to take the first machine gun nest, must not be overlooked. Provision must be made for developing and taking the second machine gun nest under fire.

Machine Gun Bunker
Ypres Salient

     14. The proper cooperation of the combined arms in the reduction of machine gun nests demands that platoon and company commanders promptly furnish their battalion commander with exact and precise information as to the location of machine gun nests. All means available for for transmitting this information promptly should be employed. Sketches are very valuable for this purpose. The ability of our platoon and company commanders to send such information accurately and promptly must be developed.

     15. The Commanding General directs that the above instructions be imparted to all concerned and that steps be taken to insure the proper development of the use of all arms for the prompt reduction of machine gun nests, and further, that disciplinary action be taken against any organization commander who fails to properly develop the combined use of these arms.

                    H.A. Drum,
                    Chief of Staff.

Sources and thanks: Source: The Argonne and Ypres Salient photos were contributed by Great War Society member and Western Front traveler Alice Horner. Ray Mentzer sent the other two images. The document was found in the Archives of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. MH

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