Soviet Squad Tactics in World War 2

Soviet Squad Tactics in World War 2


Time to take a look a Soviet Infantry Squad
Tactics in the Second World War, now be warned the source situation is not the best, to put
it mildly. My main source is a translation of the “Combat
Instructions for the Infantry of the Red Army, Part I: Soldier, Squad, Platoon and Company”
from November 1942. Now, the problem with army regulations is
always that they were not necessarily followed. Also note that Squads generally don’t acted
alone but as part of a platoon or company. And speaking of Army Regulations, be sure
to check out our krautfunding campaign on a German Panzer Company Manual from 1941. We added shipping to Europe. So, since we got those flanks covered;
Let’s begin with the organization and the basic armament. Now in June 1941 when the Wehrmacht attacked
the Soviet Union, the Soviet Rifle Squad was quite different to the German one. It consisted of 12 men, namely:
1 Squad Leader 1 Assistant Squad Leader
1 Light Machine Gunner 1 Assistant Machine Gunner
1 Grenadier 1 Grenadier Assistant
1 Sniper, and 5 Riflemen
Whereas the German Squad consisted of only 10 men and in a far simpler organization,
as you can see no Grenadier nor Assistant and no sniper, but 1 more assistant to the
machine gunner the ammo carrier. Now, this might not seem a big deal at first,
but if you look at the weapons loadout, you can see that the Soviet Squad had 3 or even
4 different weapons, if one counts the sniper rifle as distinctive weapon. Sharp points out:
“The problem with this unit was that the lowest commander in the Red Army, the junior
sergeant squad leader, had to coordinate no less than four different weapon systems!” Already in July 1941 the squad was reorganized,
and the Grenadier was dropped, and his assistant converted into a regular rifleman. As such the Squad now had only 11 men. Now, according to Campbell, the organization
and equipment was quite different in 1941: “By 1941 the basic infantry unit was an
11-man squad, containing a squad leader, a two-man LMG team, two submachine-gunners and
six riflemen.” The issue is I am certain that Sharp speaks
Russian and he published quite a lot in terms of Soviet Tables of Organization and Equipment,
as such I assume his information is correct. Yet, it could be that Campbell is not wrong
neither, since the official Tables of Organization and Equipment could always differ from the
reality on the battlefield. As always, take everything with a grain of
salt. Finally,
“In late summer of 1942 the squad was reduced to 9 men, reflecting the fact that firepower
was becoming predominate over manpower at the front. The Rifle Regiment Shtat on 10 December 1942
(04/551), which remained in effect for most of the war authorized two different types
of rifle squad:” The Type A was basically like the German Squad
without the ammo carrier. As you can see. Whereas the Squad B packed a bit more firepower
by replacing 2 riflemen with 1 machine gunner and his assistant. Now, in terms of weaponry, everyone except
for the machine gunner and his assistant were equipped with a rifle, usually the Mosin Nagant
bolt action rifle, alternatively there were also the SVT-40 semi-automatic rifle. The machine gunner assistant was sometimes
equipped with a carbine version of the Mosin, which could not fit a bayonet, had shorter
range, but was also lighter. The machine gunner was equipped with a light
machine the DP-27 (also often called DP-28). It had a 47-round magazine on top, which earned
it the nickname “record player”. Now, let’s look at some basic principles
for the rifle man and squad. In General duties of the soldier it is noted:
“31. Every soldier must hate the enemy, maintain
military secrecy, be vigilant, unmask spies and saboteurs and relentlessly act against
traitors to the Motherland. Nothing – including the threat of death
– allows a soldier of the Red Army to surrender or in any way to give up a military secret.” (Sharp, Charles C.: Soviet Infantry Tactics
in World War II. George Nafziger: 1998, p. 12)
Now to put this in contrast, I could sadly not find a mention of surrender in German
Army Regulations so far, but the general tone is rather similar, although more refined. The German Army Regulation about the guiding
principles for the education and training of the infantry from August 1935 demanded
“[…] from the soldier unconditional commitment […] up to the sacrifice of one’s own life”
Now, let’s move to the squad: “55. The rifle squad is the smallest organization
of the infantry. It fights with fire, with the bayonet, with
hand grenades and fire bottles. The squad fights as part of the rifle platoon
or alone.” (Sharp, Charles C.: Soviet Infantry Tactics
in World War II. George Nafziger: 1998, p. 18)
Furthermore, “57. In every case the squad leader designates
in his squad an observer (of the enemy), a messenger, and an ammunition carrier.” (Sharp, Charles C.: Soviet Infantry Tactics
in World War II. George Nafziger: 1998, p. 18)
Now, some of you might notice that I previously mentioned that the German Squad had an ammunition
carrier and the Soviet did not, well, here is the main difference. In German Squad, the ammunition carrier was
the second assistant to the machine gunner, which was a permanent role. Whereas, in the Soviet Squad the Squad leader
could appoint any riflemen for the role. Let’s look at the basic formations, these
are almost equal to the German ones. Besides the obvious difference of being for
just 9 men not 10. The Squad Column looks as follows, the squad
leader is at the front, followed by the machine gunner and his assistant, which is followed
by the guide and 4 regular riflemen. The guide serves as orientation for changes
in formation. In contrast, in the German squad the squad
leader has no fixed position. This could also be the case with the Soviet
squad, but it is neither explicitly mentioned nor are the illustrations distinct in this
like in the German manual. Additionally, for the German squad the man
everyone uses for orientation is the Schütze 1, the machine gunner, he is also in the lead
position. Now, the deployment from Squad Column to centered
Skirmish line is as follows. This is pretty much the same way as the German
Squad. Similarly, there are also deploying into Skirmish
line to the right and left. If you want to know more about that check
out my video on German Squad Tactics. Let’s move to the instructions for a rifle
squad in the Attack. Like in German Squad Tactics the squad advances
along the principle of fire and movement: “63. The light machinegun changes position at the
direction of the squad leader; it moves first to the new position under the cover of the
fire of the rest of the squad and neighboring units and covers (by its fire) the dash of
the riflemen from the old position.” The dashes forward are dependent on the cover
provided by the terrain and the amount of enemy fire:
“The more open the terrain and the stronger the enemy’s fire, the faster and short the
dashes must be.” Dashes should occur suddenly and exploit any
reduction of enemy fire. “At the end of his dash the soldier falls
to the ground like a stone, crawls unnoticed to the side and then takes up a firing position.” Now, in case the advance is suppressed by
enemy fire. The squad should suppress the enemy, where
the machine gun should engage at a maximum range of 800 m, the most accurate riflemen
at 600 m and regular riflemen at 400 m. Now, the instructions on what to do under
artillery fire is rather interesting: “72. If the squad comes under enemy artillery or
mortar fire, they infiltrate (literally: “seep”) to the front of the bombardment, without diverging
from the designated direction of advance.” This is in sharp contrast to the German instructions:
“298. The squad bypasses enemy artillery fire to
the extent permitted by the order. If this is not possible, the squad rushes
through the artillery fire during a pause. The squad goes to the ground itself if artillery
projectiles strike nearby, or if the muzzle flash, muzzle blast, or projectile noise indicate
nearby impacts. Advancing shall continue as soon as the effect
of the impacting projectiles is over.” Back to the Soviets, following the successful
advance of the squad, the assault start position will be reached, which should be as close
as possible to the enemy. “After arriving at the Assault Start Position
ordered by the platoon leader the squad leader is responsible for all soldiers knowing the
attack time and their fire missions and the terrain objective for the attack and the ammunition
resupply available.” The platoon leader orders the squad leader,
he gives the command: “Prepare for Assault!” Thus, soldiers load their weapons and prepare
their hand grenades, once again the Platoon leader will order, and the squad leader will
order: “To the Assault – March!” (Russian: Na Shturm, Marshch!):
“The squad moves forward quickly and without halting; they fire on the move and without
bunching up and by firing suddenly at close range suffer no losses[sic!].” Note, this is before the famous “hurrah”. “ At 40 to 50 meters distance from the enemy
the squad breaks into determined battle cry and storms the enemy position and destroys
the enemy with hand grenades, with fire from (point blank) range, with the bayonet and
rifle butts. The light machine gun attacks together with
the squad and fires on the move.” Now this is followed by further instructions
on exploiting weak enemy positions and breakthroughs. Additionally, notes on how to clear trenches
and be ready to defend against enemy counterattacks. Yet, there is no word of caution like in the
German manual: “309. The moment of weakness after the penetration
requires special caution and energy from the squad leader. The first thing to do is to assert what has
been won. The squad that got mixed up during the penetration
has to be immediately pulled apart and restructured by the squad leader.” In contrast the main paragraph about counterattacks
in the Soviet Manual is as follows: “83. The squad repulses enemy counterattacks with
fire and a determined, bold attack in platoon strength. If the enemy counterattacks with tanks, the
squad must fight the tanks with fire, hand grenades and fire bottles and the infantry
following the tanks with rifle and machine gun fire. If the counterattack is against a neighboring
unit, the squad leader is responsible to go to their aid with fire and a determined attack.” Now, let’s look at the instructions for
the Rifle Squad on the Defense. “88. On the defense the rifle squad holds a defense
position about 40 to 50 meter wide as part of the rifle platoon. The squad will be assigned direction reference
points, observation and combat sectors as well as additional boundaries for coordination
with the neighboring units. The squad defends its positions tenaciously.” Once the squad leader has received his orders,
he arranges for a proper defense, by establishing liaison with neighboring units and the platoon
leader, setting up observation points, scouting the terrain, explaining the order to his soldier
and making sure line of sight and fire are properly cleared. And of course, that the unit is well dug in. “91. As long as the squad is not firing, all soldiers
except the observer will remain under cover. At the order of the squad leader all soldiers
occupy positions from which through the communications trench or covered routes hidden from enemy
observation they can advance in column or simultaneously.” Similar, to the attack instructions the ranges
are given at 800 m for the machine gun to open fire, 600 m for good marksmen and 400
for regular riflemen. Yet, Sharp added a note:
“Here is one point upon which actual Soviet practice was distinctly different from that
prescribed by the regulation. Far from opening fire at 400 to 800 meters,
numerous German accounts relate that Soviet infantry would wait until the Germans got
within 100 meters or even 50 meters or less, and then suddenly open fire from camouflaged
positions […].” I have German Directions from March 1942 for
the Infantry based on the experiences on the Eastern front that confirms that the Soviets
were masters in camouflage, yet there is no mention on the range units usually open fire. Now, in case tanks are detected, these have
to be reported immediately to the platoon leader or any anti-tank units nearby. Furthermore,
“97. In an enemy attack with tanks specific soldiers
are responsible for fighting tanks. The rest of the soldiers conceal themselves
in trenches and bring the infantry following or riding on the tanks under fire when the
tanks approach the trenches. If the tanks go past, the squad must attack
the following infantry and destroy them with all means.” This is rather similar to tactics to that
of the Russian Civil War, as noted in this video on my second channel. Additionally, there are also instructions
on retreat: “102. The squad retreats only on the order of the
platoon leader, going from cover to cover hidden from the enemy. They must break off contact suddenly during
a reduction of the enemy fire or by exploiting our own artillery, mortar, or heavy machinegun
fires, a friendly air attack or smoke screen.” Note how the withdrawal was very similar to
the advance: “The rifleman start a withdrawal under the
cover of fire from the light machinegun and yield each piece of terrain individually or
all together. The light machinegun withdraws at the last
under the covering fire of the riflemen. The squad only withdraws simultaneously if
they are covered by fire from another part of the position or by a smokescreen, fog,
or darkness. The squad leader moves together with the light
machinegun as the last to withdraw.” Now, instead of a Conclusion, I will make
a final comparison to the German manual. In this case, we look at the structure of
both manuals. In the Soviet Manual, the part about the Rifle
Squad consists of: [WALL OF TEXT] Whereas in the German Manual the part of the
Squad has the following structure: [WALL OF TEXT] As you can see both manuals are structured
very differently. The Soviet Manual focuses on specific tasks,
whereas the German one is more focused along a linear process, e.g., defense is not mentioned
directly only as part of holding a position that was taken. Similarly, the march is rather early in the
German manual, whereas it is only the fifth of seven points in the Soviet manual. Additionally, the part about the German Squad
has 3 levels of subdivision whereas the Soviet has only 1 level. Gordon Rottman notes about the Soviet Manual:
“Small-unit movement and battle formations, and the layout of defensive positions were
simply described and kept to a minimum of variants that were relatively easy for inexperienced
soldiers and commanders to visualize and comprehend.” Now, in case you like WW2 manuals, Bismarck
and I have translated a German Army Regulation about the Medium Tank Company from May 1941,
which builds upon the experience of the successful campaigns in Poland, the Low Countries and
France. It encompasses topics such as tank crew specialization,
training, formations, how to engage enemy positions and tanks. It is not a mere translation; it also comes
with the German original text on one page and the English one on the other. Additionally, we added notes on terminology,
translation decisions, a glossary and several other supplements as well. If you are interested check out our indiegogo
campaign. Thank you to all my supporters, especially
Andrew for checking the script. And to Peter from tankarchives for helping
out with some symbols. Note that any errors are still my own. If you like what I do, consider supporting
me. Sources are in the description, thank you
for watching and see you next time.

100 Comments on "Soviet Squad Tactics in World War 2"


  1. Interested in German Panzer Company Manual from 1941? You can pledge here: https://igg.me/at/hdv

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    Reply

  2. As Zhukov said: “The soviet army advances through a minefield as if no minefield was there”, blin!

    Reply

  3. Not sure about tactics. But Soviet strategy was – "Oh, it's a Stalin's birtday soon, let's tell him some good news like a new city reclaimed from Germans." Send tens of thousends on well defended M-Gun nests. Dozen survive. "We won"…

    Reply

  4. Some things I found out: the Soviet infantry man generally walked everywhere because there weren't enough trucks and roads were poor and few. Attacks were generally lead by infantry, with tanks being held back to exploit breakthroughs. Human wave attacks were common emerging from nearby cover and were made possible by the soldiers being supplied with vodka to get drunk before the attack. This resulted in heavy casualties. Some one needs to do a study on the role of alcohol in combat in WW2.

    Reply

  5. It is unbelievable that an infantry squad under any heavy type of artillery fire would do anything other than lie flat on the ground. Anything else would be suicidal. Also the effects of percussion shock on the human body and the the nerves needs to be considered.

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  6. By not opening fire prematurely not only do the Soviets frustrate reconnaissance efforts, but the enemy will probably find themselves among Soviet positions with fire coming from multiple directions when firing does start. This is most disorienting and likely to pin the Germans down.

    Reply

  7. It may be difficult to range when Soviets open fire because of the nature of their trench systems and the fact they often just had time to dig 'Russian holes' (single man deep foxholes covered in camouflage). I have read accounts of German soldiers being surprised by Soviets suddenly emerging from these holes and opening fire at almost point blank range. The Soviet defence I think was much like a field full of moles.

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  8. Good video but should have got someone who speaks better english, this guys accent killed this video

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  9. Wait wait wait, are you telling me the standard Soviet Squad set up wasn't 5 Men with Rifles, 2 men manning the Machine gun, and 5 men with Sub Machine guns? Say it aint so! Reddit has lied to me!

    Reply

  10. Is too complicated! Comrades! Tell our men to finish that vodka, form a line and charge the fascists! They can't kill all of us!

    Reply

  11. You clearly see the scenario based thinking in both armies, for conscripted soldiers, it is hard to reorganise during such a short period, and thus easier to command and organise on platoon rather than squad level. Specific task requirement is easier to be understand and executed, though less freedom is given, it surely keep everyone in place. But for a regular army, you would expect them to be organised on squad level and act according to the principle and rules of tactic manoeuver.

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  12. i don't understand american idiots talkin' bout equippment and stuff.
    Look, the red army couldn't do anything else, just push with everything they had, and they won. For them, no need for guns, ammo, no.

    you just have to sieze the M E A N S O F P R O D U C T I O N

    but putting the joke away, they had equippment barley, and the only thing they had is men, tanks, and morale. Americans only launched an offensive cause' they just wanted more power. Where soviets were fighting for their lives. if the soviets wouldn't particepate in the war, britan would just got POUNDED by the germans. Not across the brittish channel, No. From norway they would launch an offensive that the brittish didn'T really would expect. russians were a lot worse than germans both in counts of ammo, guns, and the quality of training, in fact the russians had to just randomly put men into the military like: Hey dimitri get in the tank blyat.

    (sorry for the errors in my grammar, i'm from hungary)

    Reply

  13. Arty Barrages, Rain of Katyushas, Tanks first followed by Infantry and Strumovik strikes deep against enemy supply lines,

    Apparently Russkies still have brains.

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  14. Soviet rifle squad only had six guys. The other six were there to make sure the first six did as they were told. And the six guys needed to watch the first six guys also had six guys watching to make sure they were watching the previous six guys without fail. So you see the entire Russian army is pretty much just multiples of six guys watching each other incessantly for political heresy. Great system. A touch obtuse however…

    Reply

  15. Lemme save you 15 minutes: charge into battle and scream UUURRAAAAAAAA and try and take as many down as you can

    Reply

  16. I used your video on German sqaud tactics in a pc game called "post scriptom" and my goodness it was extremely effective, even in pubs with random sqaud mates, I was once asked how I was doing so well commanding troops and taking ground/ enemy positions and I referred him to your videos. Thanks

    Reply

  17. Man with bullets follows the man with the rifle.
    When the man with the rifle drops the rifle the man with the bullets picks up the rifle.

    Reply

  18. My grandpa, Polish resistance soldier of AK – BCh told me once about Soviet infantry tactic that he saw in use. He witnessed Red Army soldiers running straight against machine guns in lines, not scattered and they were always drunk as hell. Also, they were ill equiped, their guns had so destroyed rifling, that bullets from PPSh's bounced over wooden boards just like peas.

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  19. Stalin killed every general so the army had literally no leader nor tactics.

    Their death toll at the end of the war is just sad lol and even today the ratio of men to women is still not balanced.

    But hey on the bright side Russian woman are beautiful so surely they will go with foreigners who are worth their salt.

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  20. Take this rifle and walk into that field I swear you won't be a machine's target practice.

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  21. The structure of the Soviet Manual reflected more than being able to reach barely literate soldiers. They wanted the reader to know the most relevant things first given their crisis. If they lived long enough, they could read through the rest.

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  22. Why does this video have to be made, its so easy-

    take the farmbois and throw them at the german line

    Its that easy cmon guys-

    Reply

  23. One thing to remember about the Soviet perspective, and the bluntness of its attitude towards saboteurs, traitors, and cowardice, is the Ostplan. The USSR was fighting against a war of extermination and slavery.

    There was also a Rightist bloc inside the country that opposed the popular backed center faction, lead by Stalin and pals. The Russian Civil War didn't end in 1917 by any means.

    Red Army is strongest :')

    Reply

  24. there are three levels of messaging. subliminal, liminal, and super subliminal. these are just liminal.
    oh no not liminal messages nooooooo

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  25. Squad set up for the USSR in Stalingrad. "Alright well have a squad of ten men. 1 rifleman, and 9 riflemen assistants"

    Reply

  26. possible for you to do the Japanese squads?-or do the soviet squads in the soviet invasion of Manchuria (Manchukuo)?

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  27. Point 309 in the German manual looks to me like a veiled reference to the fact that you are likely to have taken casualties in the assault, and quickly need to decide who is the new machine gunner's assistant, and whether your injured NCO should be relieved of his duties or attended to by a rifleman for example. The Soviet manual "therefore taking no losses", seems over-optimistic by comparison.
    Good video, very keen to see British and US equivalents. I'm pretty sure that early war the Bren gun team was not expected to join the assault directly but provide covering fire, but that in practice it joined the assault, stopping periodically or firing from the sling, but it would be interesting to see what was actually recommended in the manuals.

    Reply

  28. Thanks. That was interesting.

    As to TO&E … almost no one is ever at TO strength. My father said that the only time he was ever in a unit at TO Strength in his 20 years in the Marine Corp – was during the Cuban Missile Crisis when he was sitting on a ship off Cuba. They got that way by sending Marines to all the airports, train stations and bus stops. If they saw a Marine in uniform – they grabbed him – and told him that whatever orders he had had – he was now in the 2nd Marine Division and to report to the Personnel Office at Camp Lejeune.

    As to all the people bitching about Enemy At the Gates – that is a GOOD movie – but – it is only a fucking movie – not a documentary. Compare that to The Battle of the Bulge … now THAT was a bad movie and there are plenty of other movies out there that are not as good as Enemy At The Gates. Did they overly dramatize things? Of course they did – it's a fucking movie!!!!!

    How about the Russian Stalingrad Movie where they have Russian Soldiers who have been set on fire by flame throwers continuing to advance and kill the Germans … does that mean that in the real Battle of Stalingrad the average Russian Soldier would continue to attack and kill Germans when covered in flames?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ap-bGyTI4_I

    Of course not. It's a fucking movie.

    Ha! Ha! I found some more!
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-5ycjbfELM
    .

    Reply

  29. Hey, MHV. I know the WWII stuff is really popular, and you've been focusing primarily on that. However, if you could give us some medieval or ancient video topics from time to time that would be pretty nice. You did more of these types of videos in the earlier days of the channel, and if you want to focus mostly on WWII that's great but consider changing things up just a little bit.

    Reply

  30. I think the implication of the ammunition carrier is as in one appointed to go and conduct the resupply for the entire squad?

    Might be worth casing over other sources to see if this is how it was employed.

    Including it in a statement about designating an observer/scout and a messenger (for the squad? Turned over as a platoon messenger?) makes me wonder if it isn't a reference solely to the MG.

    Reply

  31. 1942? Thats kind of an inaccurate representation of Soviet tactics, because in 1942 everyone was young and inexperienced and all the old generals were shot because of Stalin's paranoia. Most of these tactics probably didn't work. If you wanna see something actually effective, look up 1944 or 45, by that point USSR even developped its own tactics and small divisons specifically made for urban warfare in broken down German streets and most generals got some experience over the war, so the tactics were actually working, most of what is left in the video probably didn't.

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  32. What a stupid soviet propaganda, i am Call Of Duty and Company of Heroes professional veteran, i know they had no tactics, stop lying.

    Reply

  33. I have a question I've wanted to ask for a long time man. are you former military? you have such a wealth of knowledge that if you are not, is even more impressive. Good work on these videos and keep it up man!

    Reply

  34. Subtitles: "Don't forget to check out our krautfunding campaign"

    I see what you did there google autotranslate.

    Reply

  35. How do you even open fire at 400-800m when you're in a forest or broken terrain with a maximum visibility of 150, in places?

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  36. Soviet: ATTACK THE GERMAN POSITIONS
    German MG42: FRIEDRICH FEUER FREI
    Soviets: dead bodies stacking on each other
    still Soviets: ATTACK ATTACK RETREAT OR WE WILL SHOOT YOU
    German MG42: RATATATATATTATA
    Soviets: walking over their dead comrades bodies BLYAT CYKA

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  37. It is good in theory but realaty was that russina infantry was low on weapons, ammo , very often squads only mashinegun was turned on their own troops to keep them falling back. True soviet tactiks was send in more and more manpower to wear out grman troops and waste their ammo

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  38. This is fantastic! You can truly see the differences that we've all grown up hearing about.. How did the Soviets lose so many? Why did they not care and what kept them in the heat of lusting victory despite the huge losses?

    Well.. I guess now I know.

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  39. I always thought the DP-28 had the nickname Dinner Plate cause you're serving up some pain

    Reply

  40. https://archive.org/search.php?query=subject%3A%22German+Report+series%22

    https://archive.org/details/Dapam20-230

    Reply

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