Armor In Exploitation
By Edward R. Ardery (A56ENG), et. al.
Hanau to Suhl
This chapter deals with the actions of the leading elements of an armored division in the exploitation phase. The time covered was a part of an exploitation from 29 March 1945 until 3 April 1945; from the crossing of the Main River in Germany until the meeting with the Russian forces in the vicinity of Linz, Austria. The Armored Division was the 11th, with a background of about four months combat experience.
In general two combat commands operated abreast on separate routes and more or less independently of one another. If one was held up, it would follow the other. The combat commands normally consisted of: a tank battalion and an infantry battalion made up into two task forces, each with elements of the other battalion in the task force; three artillery battalions in direct support; two engineer companies; a reconnaissance troop; and antiaircraft battery; and an ordnance and a medical company in support.
Since the purpose of this chapter is to concentrate on the leading elements of the combat commands, the movements and actions of the division as a whole are discussed only in so far as they pertain to the actions of the small units. Throughout, incidents have been picked that are representative of the whole exploitation and once covered have not been repeated even though they occurs frequently.
The mission assigned to the Division was to cross the Main River at Hanau, pass through the 26th Infantry Division and advance to the NE beyond Fulda. The 26th was to follow the 11th. Because there was only one first class road running between Hanau and Fulda, and the remainder of the zone was cut up by cross corridors, CCA was to lead the Division in column followed by CCB, who had the mission of outflanking any resistance.
29 March 1945
At 0630, leading elements of CCA passed through the 26th Infantry Division. At 0715, a defended roadblock was encountered 1.5 miles east of Hanau in heavy woods. Infantry from the lead task force outflanked dug-in enemy positions and bazooka teams. The roadblock was neutralized and mines cleared. The roadblock was type encountered continuously. Nearly every town, large or small, had these blocks on all of the roads leading into town. Logs about 8 to 10 inches thick were sunk into the ground vertically on either side of the road leaving a slot for the horizontal logs that made the actual closing of the 12 foot gap. They were removed by blasting, direct fire of tank cannon, or by pulling individual logs with the winches on the half-tracks. The task force continued until it reached Ruckingen. The town was defended by numerous infantrymen with automatic weapons and bazookas, supported by heavy mortars and anti-tank guns. The task force was divided into two teams, one under the control of the battalion executive officer. This team consisted of one infantry company and two platoons of medium tanks. It assaulted the town from the SE while the remainder of the task force moved in from the east. Determined resistance necessitated house to house fighting to clear the town. The town was cleared at 1350.
Meanwhile, the other task force of CCA, which was heavy in infantry, bypassed this resistance to the north in order to clear the bridge over the Main River. It returned to the main route at Langenselbold. Some antitank and automatic weapons fire was encountered on the outskirts of the town, bur was overcome by 1500. It then advanced rapidly towards Rothenbergen where resistance was again encountered in the form of three tanks and infantry. The hostile positions had not been reduced by 1800 so defensive positions were organized for the night just short of the town.
The tank task force meanwhile had reorganized and advanced on Langenselbold, bridging two blown bridges. One of these was a stone arch bridge on which the Germans had put an insufficient pressure charge. A large hole had been blown out, taking most of the roadway but leaving the sidewalks and that part of the arch under them intact. One half of a treadway bridge was put in so that the vehicles rode half on the sidewalk and half on the treadway bridge. For some strange reason the bridge held up. The task force arrived at Langenselbold at 1600 and set up defensive positions for the night. The two task forces of CCA were then about four miles apart.
CCB crossed the Main River at 1500 on the same day and turned north as shown on the sketch. Its mission was to attack on a parallel axis to the NE, generally from Budingen to Grossenluder. The first resistance met was a booby-trapped roadblock a few miles east of Hanau. The booby traps exploded and killed four civilians who were removing the block under the direction of two squads of engineers. Due to darkness, the command coiled for the night at Langendiebach without further resistance.
30 March 1945
The next morning at 0615, the infantry task force of CCA assaulted Rothenbergen with dismounted infantry. The defenses were reduced at 0810. The advance continued against very little resistance toward Liebos, which was taken at 1000. Stiff opposition developed at Roth. As the first tanks came around a bend in the road, they found themselves in a defile, formed by an embankment on one side and fill on the other. They were taken under fire by an antitank gun of some sort that could not be located. Four M-4 tanks were knocked out in quick succession. Dismounted infantry overran the enemy position and advance continued. It became apparent that the enemy would strongly defend Gelnhausen and the favorable dominating terrain which formed a very narrow corridor along the axis of advance. Upon request, Division attached an additional infantry battalion to CCA. It was estimated that 600 infantrymen, supported by five tanks, held the Gelnhausen position. A plan was made to force the defile using two dismounted infantry battalions. One attack was to be made frontally and the other to advance through the wooded high ground north of Gelnhausen. An air strike was made by fighter bombers at 1_30 but failed to rout the defenders. This strike was followed in twenty minutes by a Time-on-Target blast from the supporting artillery, but Gelnhausen remained n enemy hands.
During the night, arrangements were made for the 26th Infantry Division to take over the attack and CCA was given a bypass route around the defile.
CCB renewed its advance toward Huttengesas and Budingen on the morning of 30 March against booby-trapped roadblocks which were lightly defended by small arms fire. East of Budingen, in a wooded defile, a massive roadblock halted the column until 1500. Next, the villages of Renderburgen and Wolferborn were seized. Pushing to the NE, Neider Seemen was taken at 1840 against light resistance. Here the command coiled for the night.
31 March 1945
On the morning of 31 March, CCA’s cavalry troop moved out along a route initially opened by the cavalry squadron of the Division. In CCA, the practice was to start the cavalry troop, reinforced with either light tanks or M-1 Tank Destroyers, cut at daylight along the axis of advance. The remainder of the Combat Command followed about an hour later. The cavalry, operating slowly, would be passed through after several hours as they met resistance. Then the lead battalion, usually the tank battalion, would take over. The lead element down the road then would be a platoon of medium tanks, usually led by one that had extra armor plate welded or bolted to the turret and hull increasing the weight by about eleven tons. Following the tank platoon would be on infantry platoon in half-tracks, and they were usually followed by an engineer platoon also in half-tracks. All of these troops were under the control of the lead tank company commander who operated under his own battalion commander.
After passing through friendly elements at Breitenborn, scattered resistance was encountered and the tank force passed through the cavalry troop. This task force advanced rapidly against light resistance and defended roadblocks in the small towns until 1015. At this time a serious threat was met at Hellstein, consisting of infantry in the woods along the axis of advance. The column came under mortar and small arms fire from the woods and direct fire from the town itself. The infantry dismounted and assaulted the town with tank support. Hellstein was cleared by 1130. Delaying points were encountered in nearly every town and village until 1510 when an enemy tank and self-propelled gun were destroyed near Breitenbach.
One of the many types of obstacles were burning vehicles left on the road by the enemy. Frequently ammunition trucks would be exploding as the column rushed by, with the unarmored jeeps holding back a little to get enough room to make a run for it. All of the knocked out vehicles presented a problem in blocking the road. If they were not removed quickly, the tracked vehicles tore up the road as they got out on the shoulder to by-pass. This resulted in the road becoming impassable for wheeled vehicles after a few tracked vehicles had passed around the obstacle. Because of the number of these obstacles, it was necessary for troops other than engineers to assist in clearing the road. The 8• mm AA_AT gun was extremely difficult to move from a road with anything smaller than a medium tank, and the Panther and Tiger tanks were hard to move with any U.S. vehicles, especially if the tracks had been destroyed. As a result of these types roadblocks, tanks were frequently used to assist in road clearance.
Few mines were encountered along the entire route. No attempt was made to locate mines unless there was some indication in the road; mine boxes on the side of the road; or if the lead vehicles was blown up by a mine. As a rule, most of the mines were located by the latter method. For example, the lead tank passed through a small cut in the road which was about twelve feet wide, just outside of Wallroth. As the second tank got into the defile, the left track struck a mine which broke the track and front set of bogey wheels. The crew, thinking they had been hit by an anti-tank gun, piled out. Upon investigation, it was found that there was only one other mine in the cut and it had been run over by the lead tank but did not explode. Meanwhile, the remainder of the column bypassed with little difficulty.
In town and from the woods outside of Wallroth, two tanks, mortar and antitank guns began firing on the column. Again it became necessary to clear a town by house to house fighting. At 1615 a force was detached from the leading task force and given the mission of seizing Hintersteinau for flank protection fro the NW. This was successfully completed after a minor fire fight at 1830. The infantry task force, which had been following during the day, set up defenses in Breitenbach and the tank task force organized Wallroth. The advance for the day covered 29 miles. Six enemy tanks and eight miscellaneous vehicles had been destroyed; and 80 prisoners were taken with the loss of one tank and one half-track.
CCB resumed the attack at 0530 on 31 March. Under normal conditions, CCB operated with an advance guard in a separate task force. This force consisted of an infantry company and a tank company, reinforced as needed, and was commanded by the executive officer or S-3 of one of the battalions. A reconnaissance platoon usually followed the advance guard to reconnoiter or secure side roads when necessary.
In order to prevent any information being sent from overrun areas to enemy agencies, it was the practice to have a tank knock over several telephone lines occasionally. This caused a little difficulty with the lines trailing across the road.
The enemy offered slight resistance at Reichlos and the village cleared by 0800. A fire fight developed at Hauswurz with two enemy tanks, and the advance guard lost one vehicle in the action. Hauswurz had been severely damaged by fighter bombers earlier and was in flames. Three tank companies were deployed into position and began firing on the town. It was taken shortly thereafter and the advance continued. Lead elements reached the dominating terrain west of Fulda at 1315. There, heavy mortar and artillery fire was received. All bridges around the town were blown. Patrols were feeling out resistance preparatory to an attack when orders came to continue the attack to the north. This was done, bypassing Fulda, and reaching Grossenluder at 1700, where defenses were set up for the night.
Early that evening orders were brought in from XII Corps involving a complete change of plans for the following day. An advance via Meiningen over the Thuringia Wald, bypassing all resistance, was ordered to seize the communication centers Armstadt and Kranichfeld. The zone of action offered only a limited secondary road net; cross corridors, the Werra River; and a mountain range to cross.
So unexpected was this change of direction of attack, neither Division nor Corps had maps available to plan and execute this operation. Shortly after daylight, staff officers of XIX Tactical Air Command flew in a limited supply of vital maps.
1 April 1945
CCB, the leading combat command, was given the mission of advancing in the northern half of the Division zone with CCA advancing in the south.
CCB moved out at 1630 and moved north to Schlitz and then turned east. Initial resistance was met at Larbach shortly after 1100. After a softening attack by fighter bombers, the assault was made and the burning town taken. An estimated 100 enemy soldiers were killed and 259 prisoners were taken. Twenty to Twenty-five horse drawn artillery pieces and vehicles were knocked out by the air strike. Proceeding along a sniper-infested route to Hundsbach, small arms and antitank fire was received. Air, artillery, and tank fire promptly eliminated the resistance. Because of heavy sniper fire and resistance appearing after the combat elements had passed, an additional infantry battalion was attached to the Command. This battalion was given the mission of clearing the woods and towns along the route. At Kaltenwestheim, at 1215, artillery and heavy mortar fire was received from the surrounding hills. The advanced tank elements and artillery dispersed the enemy with the help of the air OP’s. The advance continued to Kaltensundheim where the leading task force was halted at 1400 due to a shortage of gasoline. Defensive positions were set up and the extra battalion of armored infantry was returned to Division control.
During the day, CCB had advanced 35 miles and had captured 1,000 prisoners. The Reserve Command, which had been following CCB, cleared towns and woods along the route and took an additional 400 prisoners.
CCA moved over to the axis of CCB on the morning of 1 April and followed CCB and Reserve Command for approximately fifty miles and then turned off on a parallel axis to the south at Ober Nust. Small arms and sniper fire was received along this axis until the command reached Erbenhausen, where darkness halted the advance. One task force set up all-around defense in Erbenhausen and the other task force set up in Frankenheim.
During the past two days’ action, the Division had outdistanced its supporting infantry division by more than forty miles. During this time, far to the SW, near Gelnhausen, bypassed enemy groups had returned to ambush positions in secluded wooded areas and were harassing and threatening the Corps rear. As a result, orders were received to restrain operations west of a north-south line through Meiningen.
Due to the complete isolation of the Division and the harassment in the rear areas, several precautionary measures were adopted. Troop C of the 41st Cavalry was attached to CCB to give flank protection, and the remainder of the reconnaissance battalion was attached to CCA. Division Artillery was given the mission of maintaining air patrols on the north and south flanks. The light tank company out of the tank battalion in Reserve Command was placed under Division control to guard the supply trains in their trips back to the supply installations. Movement of all supply units was ordered to be in convoy under protection.
2 April 1945
CCA moved out at 0700 to Bettenhausen, where one Mark III and one Mark V tank were engaged and destroyed. Passing through Sulzfeld and Henneberg against scattered sniper fire, the advance continued. As the column came down into the valley, enemy foot troops who were withdrawing were overrun. The enemy soldiers scattered into the hills, but not before the machine guns of the column took a heavy toll. This happened several times each day. The column seized three bridges under fire across the Werra River in the vicinity of Ritschenhausen. In clearing the towns in the area, approximately 500 Allied prisoners of was were liberated from a prisoner of war hospital.
As the leading elements were entering the outskirts of the built-up area, a large truck was observed by part of the column about 300 yards back in the column. This truck carried about a squad of men wearing German style helmets and was coming rather fast along a side road leading into the CCA column. The truck was taken under fire by the tank cannon, the first round hitting it on the radiator. After killing most of the men escaping from the burning truck, it was found that the vehicle had been a fire truck loaded with firemen. Enemy vehicles were frequently destroyed or captured by inadvertently running into the armored columns.
Since the restraining line was reached, a defense was organized. A force composed of one company of tanks and one company of infantry was sent NE to Untermassfeld for flank protection and to seize control of the road net there. It also had the mission of capturing the bridge over the Werra River leading to Meiningen. This mission was accomplished by 1230. The defense area received heavy interdictory fire from nebelwerfers on road nets throughout the afternoon. One infantry company, reinforced with one tank platoon and an engineer squad, was ordered to Vachdorf to seize and hold the bridge there until the restraining line was lifted. The attached engineer company, reinforced, was given the mission of capturing the high ground overlooking Meningen from the SE. About halfway through a dismounted attack, the restraining line was lifted and the company was ordered back to the column.
One of the engineer squad’s half-tracks had dropped out of the column due to engine trouble the day before and while trying to catch up, followed a couple of jeeps and a tank destroyer off the axis of advance at Wallroth. Those vehicles stopped after several miles. It was then that they realized that they were lost. Just as they started to turn around, one of the men cried out, “Lord, look at the Heinies.” A German machine gun crew was calmly walking along a railroad embankment about 300 yards away and parallel to the road. To the front were more enemy troops going into position. The crews jumped back in the vehicles and began turning around. An antitank gun opened fire and the second round scored a hit on the tank destroyer. The half-track was having difficulty turning because of a trailer that it was towing. Finally, the men had to get out and unhitch the trailer. Approximately a dozen rounds from the antitank gun landed around the half-track but miraculously missed the men and the vehicle. The engineer squad leader jumped up on the tank destroyer and began firing the .50 caliber machine gun at the advancing Germans while the other men dismounted and began firing. The driver finally succeeded in getting the half-track turned around and the men loaded up and took off. The jeeps had meanwhile gone, as had the tank destroyer when its crew found that it was not seriously damaged. One man was captured and one wounded in the scrap. The half-track had to be repaired because one bogy wheel was shot off and the track almost severed. A P-47 pilot who had been hiding from the Germans since his plane crashed nearby, was picked up by the engineers on the way out.
CCB started off at 0700 along the route of advance and reached Mehmels about 0830 where a liaison plane was shot down by a FW-190. Liaison planes were used extensively for fire control; for reconnaissance; spotting enemy vehicles and troops; and directing the movement of the columns through some of the towns where the maps were not clear (the Division was operating on 1:100,000 scale maps). It was found that if the planes ventured too far from the column, they would draw fire of the 20 mm gun variety and, as in this case, enemy aircraft.
The advance guard found that the bridge over the Werra River at Wasungen was blown. Elements of the infantry task force forded the river over a dam and established a bridgehead against light opposition. A pontoon bridge was started at 1130 by the two attached engineer companies, one doing the actual bridging and the other the construction of a plank road for an approach. The bridge was 108 feet long due to the fact that the only good approaches were just above the dam. Bridging operations were completed at 1745. During this time, twenty FW-190’s strafed CCB’s column but caused only minor damage before they were driven off by elements o the anti-aircraft battery and organic weapons. When the bridge was finished, the remainder of the infantry task force and one medium tank company crossed to enlarge the bridgehead at 2000 hours. Defensive positions were then organized for the night.
3 April 1945
CCA’s cavalry troop moved out at 0600 followed an hour later by the remainder of the command with the tank battalion task force leading, passing through Vachdorf, Marisfeld, and Oberstadt. The engineer company was set up as a task force, reinforced with forward observers and a platoon of tank destroyers and was given the mission of clearing the town of Alendenbach in order to get room to place the artillery in the only position from which it could fire on Suhl. This mission was accomplished against light resistance, and the area on the flank of the Division outposted.
At about 1200, as the leading elements following the very narrow trails on the mountainside emerged from the heavy woods on the outskirts of Suhl, heavy nebelwerfer, mortar, and small arms fire was received. With the leading elements unable to completely deploy and no room for the column to coil to clear the road, all elements behind were forced to stay on the road making it extremely difficult for other vehicles to pass. The men, seeking cover from the tree bursts that were coming in, made use of the logs previously cut and stacked by the German foresters.
The lead task force was split down into two smaller task forces and with the infantry battalion task force, assaulted the town in three columns against an estimated 600 Volkssturm with a leavening of regular army troops. After heavy house to house fighting which the infantry battalion task force took over at 1500, about half of the town was cleared by dark. Security measures were set up and the remainder of the command closed into the cleared portion of the town for the night.
The combat command trains under the control of the S-4 consisted generally of the supply trucks of the units attached and supporting the combat command; including the armored ordnance and medical companies supporting the combat command; a light tank company from the tank battalion; and a platoon of AA-AW SP artillery. With the trucks of the three battalions of artillery, there was a total of about 90 supply trucks for each combat command.
In general, the trucks were operated in two shifts. For example, after resupplying the column the night before, on the morning of 3 April the fuel and lubrication trucks of CCA were sent back from Obr Massfeld with a light tank platoon to go to the Division mobile supply point which was carried in the trucks of the two quartermaster truck companies attached to the Division. Because of the fact that Division headquarters and Division Trains had been moving with the northern column, the trucks had to retrace their steps to Ober Nust where they followed the route of CCB. That evening the gas tucks arrived at Dvision Trians at Steinbach Hallenberg, regassed, and were ready to start out the next morning. Meanwhile, CCA in Suhl had regassed from the other shift of trucks that had been with them during the day. When the time came for the full gas trucks to return to CCA, the great distance and the fact that the roads had collapsed, dictated the opening up of a road between the two combat commands. The Reserve Command opened up the road part of the way and then an infantry company was given the mission of escorting the gas trucks and their light tanks over the remaining distance to CCA. After encountering light resistance, the trucks arrived at Suhl in the evening after a trip of 36 hours.
It was found in following some of the secondary roads in order to avoid the heavier German defenses, that the roads shown on the map as metaled and as being twelve feet wide would carry the combat elements of the combat command without difficulty, but that the roads then would be completely torn up. The service elements would try to bypass the bad spots if there was room but eventually the whole area would become a morass. In CCB< two of the lettered companies out of the Armored Engineer Battalion furnished the support to try to maintain these roads, doing only the roughest sort of work. In CCA, a combat engineer company from a Corps battalion was attached, involving several difficulties in communication. I spite of these extra engineer companies, the narrow gravel roads could not be made passable without hauling in hundreds of tons of grave, obviously impossible. As a result, it was imperative that the main roads paralleling the axis of advance be opened up as soon as possible for logistical purposes. This was frequently done by the Reserve Command or the following infantry division.
The ammunition supply was not critical in this period of exploitation and the trains were only sent out as they were needed. These trucks had to be sent back to the Army supply points in the Corps rear areas as the Division did not maintain an ammunition supply point. Artillery ammunition, the greatest tonnage problem, was frequently obtained by the artillery units themselves when the remainder of the combat command did not have enough need to send back trucks.
Rations were drawn at the same time as gasoline from the Division Class I supply point carried in the Division quartermaster trucks. Water was supplied by one of the Engineer water supply detachments operating with each combat command.
Meanwhile, CCB had resumed the advance at 0700 with the infantry battalion task force still in the lead. Passing through numerous towns and overrunning a few disorganized defenders, CCB reached Steinbach Hallenberg at 1100. Enemy resistance in the form of panzerfaust and small arms fire developed as the command climbed to Obr Schonau. After the lead tank platoon of the advance guard has passed the outskirts of town, and while the infantry and engineer platoons were passing several houses about 75 yards from the road, a group of about 200 Germans opened fire on the column which was temporarily halted. The fire was returned by the men from the half-tracks and from the ground. A group of Germans of about a platoon size actually made an assault on the column but were driven off, leaving about twenty dead and wounded along the road. No attempt was made by the Americans to try to drive the Germans from their position at that time. The Germans seemed to have no weapons other than small arms and machine guns, so that the armored vehicles just sped by without stopping. One 1/4 ton was temporarily abandoned.
From Obr Schonau to Oberhof, the only route of advance was along a narrow winding mountain road, climbing steeply through a heavily wooded gorge. The massive roadblocks made of abates were heavily defended by panzerfaust teams and small arms fire, supported by previously registered artillery and mortar fire.
It was during this period that the infantry troops who were riding on the rear decks of the lead tanks suffered several casualties from the small arms fire coming from the wooded hillsides that overlooked the road. Because of this, the half-tracks were brought up and placed behind the tanks, and with their machine gun and rifle fire were able to protect the tanks. In between the roadblocks, the command came upon an unusual obstacle. A power line suspended from the sides of the gorge through which the column was passing had dropped to where it was about five feet over the road and was still “hot”. Efforts to shoot the wire down were ineffective in spite of direct hits. After a delay of over an hour, the wire was cut and the column continued.
The entire afternoon was spent clearing the roadblocks. Dismounted infantry at 1300 advanced through the roadblocks and made an attack on Oberhof through a snowstorm. The town, which was a vital road center on the crest of the Thuringia Wald, was cleared by 2300. In the meantime, the CCB Cavalry troop, operating on the left flank, overcame light resistance to seize the large town of Schmalkelden. During the day, several missions were flown by XIX TAC. The principal air strike of the day occurred in the afternoon when a retreating column of approximately 200 vehicles was strafed along the highway east of Oberhof and at least 40 were destroyed.
Late that night, a Corps order was received by the Division restraining all units to their present positions except for patrolling. After two days, another direction was given to the Division and the exploitation continued to the SE, finally meeting the Russians about a third of the way between Linz and Vienna on 8 May.
The German forces during the period covered by this report ere a defeated Army and organized resistance, in the sense of a continuous line of defense, no longer existed. However, isolated groups of Germans conducted a delaying action from a series of strong points and retreated across Germany with an amazing amount of unity considering the state that existed at that time. This lack of a continuous defense, however, meant little to the individual soldier who had to overcome these strong points.
It is to be noted that no counterattack was launched against the Division with enough force to require the commitment of the Division as a unit. Small scale counterattacks were infrequent, and during this period were not over a company in size. Tanks were used individually and in an antitank role almost exclusively.
Several features stand out from a study of this short section of an exploitation. The first and probably the most obvious is the fact that the centers of resistance were, almost without exception, in towns and cities. This, in spite of the fact that in many cases the towns were built in the bottoms of the valleys and were dominated by the terrain around the town. Those towns were difficult and expensive to clear out; however, once the dominating terrain around the town was taken, there could be little hope for the defenders to receive supplies or reinforcements. Artillery, air strikes, and direct fire could be brought down at will on the towns. In most cases, when the terrain was fairly open, the net effect of the defense was to deny the use of that particular road till the town was taken or bypassed.
Another feature was in the use of secondary roads. In the initial passing through of the 26th Infantry Division near Hanau, the plan was to proceed up the main road to Fulda; but almost immediately, heavy resistance was encountered by CCA at Ruckingen and Gelnhausen. CCB, on the other hand, met little resistance on the secondary road net they used. As soon as CCA moved away from the main road, the resistance lessened but was still more than that met by CCB. Indication that the main road was still heavily defended was given in the incident of the group that took the wrong road at Wallroth in the direction of the main road, and ran into German defenses two days after the main body had passed Fulda and gone on to the east.
In following the actions of these six days, many of the characteristics of an exploitation were encountered; the delaying actions by small units, defense of scattered strong points, and reliance on obstacles both defended and undefended. Many similar actions took place during the latter stages of the war in Europe and this chapter is an attempt to give the “feel” or picture of an exploitation from the most detailed information obtainable.