German Squad Tactics & Organization in World War 2


Time to take a look a German Squad Tactics in World War 2. Two important points, first a squad rarely acted alone on the battlefield, it was used in coordination with other squads of its platoon and/or company. Second, the main source for this is the US Manual “German Squad in Combat” from the Military Intelligence Service released in January 1943. It is a partial translation of a German publication and using other sources, I could correct some small errors and inconsistencies, nevertheless take everything with a grain of salt, especially since manuals and combat realities often differ.

The German Squad

Let’s begin with organization and armament.

Structure and Armament

The German Infantry Squad in World War 2 for the most part consisted of 1 squad leader and 9 infantry men, thus a total of 10 men.
Initially all men besides the machine gunner and his assistant were equipped with the “Karabiner 98 kurz”, the German standard rifle, even the Squad leader, yet around 1941 he was issued a MP40 submachine gun with 6 magazines of 32 shots each.
The machine gunner was equipped with an MG 34 and later on with an MG42, he was also issued a pistol and an ammo drum with 50 rounds.
The assistant gunner carried 4 ammo drums with 50 shots and a weight of 2.45 kg each. Additionally, one ammo box with 300 rounds weighing 11.53 kg. He was also issued a pistol.

There was also an ammo carrier assigned to the machine gunner, whose job was to carry and supply ammunition. He carried two Ammo boxes with 300 rounds each. Unlike the assistant he was issued a rifle not a pistol.

Note that the “German Squad in Combat” indicates a pistol instead of a rifle as a weapon for the ammo carrier, but it seems that this is incorrect and is probably from an old layout, when the squad consisted of an LMG and rifle team. (Sources: Buchner, Alex and
Now, each rifleman had around 9 clips for his rifle with 5 shots each, thus 45 rounds. This was the regular amount, according to Buchner more rounds were issued in case of a combat situation. Also the second-in-command was armed the same way as regular rifleman.
Note that the men except for the squad leader were numbered, whereas the machine gunner was the “Schütze 1” or rifleman number 1, which gives a good indication of his importance.

Hence, in total the squad had 1 light machine gun, 1 submachine gun, 2 pistols, 7 rifles and several hand grenades, which were issued depending on the situation. (Sources: Buchner, Alex: Handbuch der Infanterie 1939-1945, S. 15-16; German Squad in Combat: p.1-3 ; Töpfer: p. 5-7; Bull: p.23-24)

Roles/Duties and Responsibilities

The roles/duties and responsibilities of each squad member were as follows:
The Squad leader was commanding the unit, he directed which targets the LMG should engage and if the combat situation permitted also the rifle fire. His responsibilities outside of combat included that the equipment of the unit was in order and that enough ammunition was available.(The German Squad in Combat: p. 1)
The Second-in-Command was his assistant and was in command during the absence of the Squad leader. His responsibilities were to communicate with the Platoon Commander and also adjacent squads, thus he was vital for the coordination. (The German Squad in Combat: p. 3)
Next is the Machine Gunner, he operated the light machine gun and was responsible for taking care of the weapon. (The German Squad in Combat: p. 2)
His assistant would help him with setting up the MG, supply ammo and assist him in combat. Usually he would be left of the gunner or to his rear. He had to be ready and close enough to support the gunner with tasks like changing the barrel or fixing jams. And in case the gunner couldn’t continue operating the LMG the assistant would take his role. He was also responsible to take care of the weapon. (The German Squad in Combat: p. 2-3)
The ammo carrier was responsible for inspecting the ammo, refilling fired ammo belts and checking for left ammunition in case of a position change. He usually stayed in the rear and in cover, but could act as a rifleman if necessary.( The German Squad in Combat: p. 2-3; Töpfer: p. 6)
The regular rifleman’s duty was to participate in combat with his rifle and bayonet. The riflemen formed the assault part of the squad. Thus, if necessary assaulting the enemy position with grenades and bayonet. Although not officially designated, they would also serve as ammo carriers to a varying degrees. Additionally, some were designated grenade carriers and/or throwers.( The German Squad in Combat: p. 2-3; Töpfer: p. 6)


Now let’s take a look at formations. The basic close order formations were the squad line or “Reihe”, the squad column or “Kette” which was basically a 90 degree turn of the previous and of course the Squad in March order. (The German Squad in Combat: p. 4)
As you can see the machine gunner with his assistants is always at the very front, he was the key member of the squad, which is also indicated by his designation “Schütze 1” or “infantry man number 1”. (base man) (The German Squad in Combat: p. 5)
These were the close order formations that were not suited for dangerous situations.

Squad Column Extended Order – Schützenreihe

Close-Order formations were abandoned if the situation changed due to terrain, hostile activity or other circumstances. The basic extended order formations were the Squad Column or “Schützenkette”and the Skirmish line or “Schützenreihe”. The squad column in extended order was not a straight line, instead the soldiers used terrain for cover, although the principal order of the line remained. Note that the second-in-command was at the end, ensuring that the squad stays together. (The German Squad in Combat: p. 5-6)

Skirmish Line – Schützenkette

The skirmish line was used if the firepower of the whole squad was necessary. In this case the riflemen move to the left and right of the machine gunner, who remained at a central position. The forward half of the riflemen moved to the right and the other half to the left. Alternatively, an echeloned right or left deployment was also possible, in this case the all men moved to the right or left of the machine gunner. The distance between the men was about 3.5 m ( 12.5 ft) (Original: 5 paces). Note that the squad leader had no fixed position in the formation.
Generally speaking, there was a standard approach for everything, like the squad line formation or how to deploy into a skirmish line. This means that any deviations from the standard must be explicitly ordered. (The German Squad in Combat: p.5- 8)


In terms of leadership the translated manual states that leading by example is essential. It is explicitly stated:
“In order to be a leader in the field, a superior must display an exemplary bearing before his men in the moment of danger and be willing, if necessary, to die for them. The weak and vacillating are then guided by his example and by his disregard of self in accepting privations and dangers.” (The German Squad in Combat: p. 10)

Squad in Offensive Combat

Now, let’s take a look at the squad in offensive actions. It is very important to note, that the squad in offensive combat would not act alone, but as an element of its platoon. Note that each platoon contained usually 4 squads. So let’s look at the different stages of offensive combat.

Stages of an Attack

The stages are as follows: development, deployment, advancing, attack and penetration. Note that most other sources use less stages and the transition from one stage to another can be quite fluent or blurry. (German Squad in Combat: p. 32-47)


The development phase is the first step in the preparation of an attack. The rifle company left their marching route and broke up into 3 platoons. Those platoons themselves separated into 4 squads. Yet, the squads remained in close formation. The machine gun and other important equipment was now carried by hand and on carts anymore. (German Squad in Combat, p 32-33)


Next was the Deployment phase, which was about organizing the troops into combat formations. Usually, the squad was deployed right after the deployment of the platoons. The squad leader may have received his orders directly from the platoon leader or acted independently based on the mission of the platoon. (German Squad in Combat, p 35-36)


Now, since the units were now in battle formations the advance phase began. The advance was ideally performed in squad column with the light machine-gun on the front. This would allow rearward supporting machine guns and other weapons to fire safely past the advancing squads.
If the squad was under effective enemy fire, the squad needed to use its own fire to support its movement by achieving fire superiority. Fire and movement should be employed, which means that one part of the squad fires to cover the movement of the other part of squad. This principle can also be used on a larger scale, where one squad covers another squad. (German Squad in Combat, p 36; Töpfer: p. 20-21)
If areas were covered by enemy artillery fire, they would have been avoided if possible, if not these areas needed to be crossed during firing pauses in quick rushes. Generally, it was recommend to use rushes, when the situation and enemy fire did permit them. (German Squad in Combat, p. 36-37)


Following a successful advance of the squad, the attack phase commenced. Although the difference is not so obvious at first, since both stages may include firing upon the enemy and also advancing. Yet, during the advance phase firing is only employed if it is necessary, whereas in the attack the firing was usually a crucial element.

Initially the fire fight was started by heavy weapons from supporting units, like artillery, infantry cannons and heavy machine guns, these weapons focus on the destruction or neutralization of strongpoints. The squad’s machine gun was also used, the riflemen depending on the situation. Yet, it is noted:
“[…] it is not the task of the riflemen to engage in fire fights of long duration in order to gain fire superiority. In the attack, in the final analysis, it is the vigorous shock power of the riflemen with bayonet which overcomes the enemy.”(German Squad in Combat, p 39-40)

Hence, at this point the squad still advanced. Generally, the squad should move as much forward without firing as possible, only if this wasn’t possible anymore it should engage the enemy. (German Squad in Combat, p, 39- 41)


The final stage is the penetration into the enemy positions. It is usually initiated around 100 m away from the enemy positions. (Töpfer: p. 21)
“In penetration, the whole group rushes or fires as a unit. If possible, the platoon leader employs several squads advancing from various directions against the objective. In this way the defensive fires of the enemy will be scattered. This form of attack is no longer carried out by the squad, but by the platoon.” (German Squad in Combat, p 42)

It is important the maximum amount of fire is provided during an assault. For this reason the LMG should be positioned to fire into the enemy position without risking friendly fire. If such a position is not attainable, the LMG should be used during the assault and fired from the hip. Furthermore, neighboring units should provide additional firepower and/or support the assault by a complementary attack from another direction.
Once the riflemen closed in on the enemy position, the designated grenade throwers on command would use their grenades and the squad stormed the position under the lead of the squad leader. (Töpfer: p. 21; German Squad in Combat, p 42-43)

Example for an Assault on an enemy position

To give you a better idea, how two squads with supporting elements would assault an enemy position, here is a little illustration, based from an original German manual from what I can tell, but the document I got it from provided no direct reference.

Here you can see the German positions on the left side and a fictional enemy on the right. Both positions are reinforced by barbed wire. There is a mortar pit with a light mortar and in the not visible rear position another light and heavy mortar are available. The mortars would attack the following areas of the enemy position. To support the attack the two heavy machine guns would be positioned on the flanks. In the center a squad with a light machine gun would fire at the enemy position. The assault itself would be performed by two assault squads that were supported by light machine guns, the first squad would directly assault the enemy position, whereas the second one would attack the rear and cut it off from reinforcements. (Töpfer: p. 21)
Once the assault was successful, the squad leader would ensure discipline and prepare for a potential counter-attack.



Töpfer, Harry: German Tactical Manual

Bull, Stephen: World War II Infantry Tactics – Squad and Platoon

WWII German Map Symbols by James Byrne

Oberkommando des Heeres: Hinweise für die Ausbildung der Infanterie auf Grund der Erfahrungen des Ostfeldzuges, H. Qu. O.K.H., 1.3.1942

[Tanks 101] Armor Protection 1920-1980 – Features and Characteristics


Time to talk about the basics of Tank Armor. After all, we all wanna know the basics when we are diving into tank designs in upcoming videos. Note that this video is limited in scope and mostly deals with developments from the interwar period up to the 1980ies. Anyway, let’s get started with armor materials.

Armor Materials

The usual material for armor was and is steel, but there are different techniques of producing steel and also other materials. Let’s take a look.

Rolled Homogeneous Steel Armor

Rolled Homogeneous Steel Armor was for quite some time the standard steel armor for tanks. Rolled steel means that the hot steel was rolled through one or several pairs of rolls during the production. It can be easily produced in large quantities, but can only be bent to limited degree. Usually it is used for armor plates, Germany in World War 2 used for the most part rolled Armor, thus their tank hulls and turrets have great boxy features. In contrast the cast steel turret for the Sherman had round features. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1)

Now, a few words about terminology, rolled steel plates are usually welded together, hence the term welded armor is usually use instead of rolled armor. Although, this can be a bit misleading since cast armor is also welded together unless the part is completely cast. Thus, cast turret or hull implies that large parts of the element are made from cast steel.

Cast Homogeneous Steel Armor

Now, the other main method for producing tank armor is steel casting. In this case the liquid hot metal is poured into a mold. This has the main advantage, because the armor can be molded into various shapes easily, allowing for curved areas and specific thicknesses. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-3)
Initially, this technique was rather rate, but it was already used in World War 1 for several versions of the French Renault FT tank’s turret. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 359)
In World War 2, the British, Soviets and US used various cast turrets, but it isn’t so straight forward, e.g., the Churchill Mark III had a welded turret, whereas the Mark IV had a cast turret and for certain variations of the T-34 there exist both welded and cast turrets. As you can see, it can get quite complicated, even up to this day certain tanks have some variants with cast and welded turrets, like the T-90.

But back to World War 2, in general, although the Allies used more cast turrets than the Germans as the war progressed. After the Second World War, cast turrets became almost universal for main battle tank turrets. Since the 1950s it is also common to cast complete hulls. Nevertheless, as mentioned before even current tank models use also welded elements. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 359)
Chemically, rolled and cast armor are almost the same. The main advantage of cast armor is that It can be molded into almost any shape.(Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-3)
Now, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages of cast armor is that heat treatment and other refining techniques are complicated or not possible, thus it is not as though and shock-resistant as rolled armor.

A Manual from the US Army Materiel command from 1963 states:
“In general, rolled armor is about 15% better in resistance to shock and penetration than cast armor. However, this advantage is offset to some extent by the varying angles of obliquity and irregular shapes possible in castings. These variations in shape considerably decrease the penetrating ability of certain types of projectiles.” (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-3)
Note that I don’t know if this value is also correct for World War 2 steel nor current steel.

Cast armor although reduced the number of welded joints, especially considering turrets or hulls that are made out of one piece. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 359)

Face-Hardened Homogeneous Steel Armor / High Hardness Armor

One way to improve the hardness of armor was to process the surface of the armor, this armor is called face-hardened homogenous Steel Armor. In this process, called carburizing, the armor is heated in a furnace for a considerable amount of time. Usually rolled armor plates were used for this. The advantage is it increases the hardness, thus increasing the chance that projectiles shatter on impact, but increased hardness also increases the brittleness. Additionally, the welding of such armor plates could often lead to cracking during the welding or afterwards. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 3) Thus, early example of face hardened armor before World War 2 were usually bolted or riveted, which wasn’t ideal. Furthermore, the process is quite expensive and not suited for mass production. During the 1960s the problem of cracking could be overcome and high hardness armor was used on light armored vehicles mostly. Only in 1980s the technology was suitable to produce dual hardness steel thick enough for main battle tanks. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 359-361)

Nonferrous Armor Materials

There were also various non-iron-based armors (nonferrous), like titanium, aluminum, magnesium alloys, nylon, fiberglass and others. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-4)

Aluminum Armor

Probably one of the most notable non iron amored vehicles is the Armored Personal Carrier M113, which has aluminum armor and is also one of the most produced armored vehicles outside of the Soviet Union. Also other aluminum armored vehicles like the M114, M 108 and M109 were built. Although aluminum is lighter, for the same amount of protection about the 3 times the thickness is needed compared to rolled Steel. There are various advantages and disadvantages for aluminum. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 367-368)

As pointed out by the author Ogorkiewicz:
“In addition to the savings in weight, aluminum armour is also easier to machine and the greater thickness of its plates makes it possible to use stepped joints, which provide a partial interlock between plates and require therefore less welding. All this has helped to reduce the cost of producing vehicles with aluminum armour but its cost per ton has been significantly higher than that of RHA [rolled homogenous armor].” (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 368)
There are various armored vehicles that use aluminum and/or aluminum alloys to a large degree, like the M551 Sheridan, the British Alvis Scorpion, the French AMX-10 and also the M2 Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicle. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 368-369) Now, the Bradley also has composite armor, so let’s take a look at it.

Composite Armor

The wide adoption of shaped or hollow charges like the Panzerfaust, RPG and HEAT shells, allowed the penetration of thick monolithic steel armor quite easily, this lead to the development of composite armor. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 369-370)

[NOTE: shaped and hollow charges are used interchangeably here]

To spare you and me some complicated math here, basically hollow charges are not too much affected by the density of the material, thus certain lower density material provide better protection for their mass in comparison to steel, hence the term for this is also called mass effectiveness, which almost sounds like a really cheesy title for a computer game. The problem is that the resulting thickness usually makes those materials impractical to protect against shaped charges. Furthermore, they are also quite useless against regular anti-tank ammo or to use the technical term kinetic energy projectiles. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 370)
Yet, the combination of low and high density material, can provide effective armor protection. The US started to develop composite armor at the end of the Second World War, there were firing tests with Shermans. Later on different version of composite armor were developed for the M48 and M60 Patton, but didn’t see mass production due to cost and difficulty in production. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 370-371)
Yet, the British developed the so called “Chobham Armor”, which was also used by the US and Germany in their designs since the early 1970s.
“Since then almost all new battle tanks have been built with some form of composite or multi-layered armour instead of monolithic steel armour”. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 371)
There are various materials like glass, ceramic and aluminum oxide, that offer greater protection against shaped charges than their density might suggest. Yet, those materials often have their disadvantages. The most effective approach is to use multi-layered armor consisting of steel and said materials. The effectiveness can also be improved by spacing those layer, although this makes the armor more bulky.(Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 371-373)

Explosive Reactive Armor

Another protection against shaped charges was explosive reactive armor. It was developed in the 1970s and was first used by the Israelis in their operations in 1982 in Lebanon with British Centurions and US M60A1’s. A few years later the Soviet T-64 and other Soviet tanks were also equipped with reactive armor. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 374-375)
Now, to properly explain reactive armor, we need some basic understanding of shaped charges. To put it very simple, a shaped or hollow charge creates a kinetic effect that punches through armor, reactive armor solves this problem by exploding. Of course it is a bit more complicated than that, reactive armor is basically a hollow brick consisting of an explosive charge between two metal plates. Now, if the brick is penetrated by a shaped charge, the explosives go off and brick expands towards the shaped charge. There are two effects that reduce the effectiveness of the shaped charge, first its velocity and angle is changed and second the expansion of the plates requires the molten jet to go through more space.
Of course reactive armor must be designed resistant enough to be unaffected by artillery fragments and small arms fire. Also it can be a potential hazard to unbuttoned crew and nearby supporting infantry. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 374-375; Cooney, Patrick J.: Armor, January-February 1988, p. 7; Yap, Chun Hong Kelvin: The Impact of Armor on the Design, Utilization and Survivability of Ground Vehicles, p. 68-70)

Physical Properties

Now, before we look at the ballistic properties, let’s take a look at the physical properties, because those are determining the ballistic ones. And the most important physical properties are:
“(a) Hardness: the ability of the armor to resist indentation.
(b) Toughness: the ability of the armor to absorb energy before fracturing.
(c) Soundness: the absence of local flaws, cavities, or weaknesses in the armor. Unsoundness is not so often found in rolled armor as in cast armor, because of the mechanical working which has been done during the hot-rolling process.” (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-7)

Note that a high hardness, which is measured by the Brinell Hardness Number (BHN), usually makes armor quite brittle and easier to break, thus reducing the toughness rating. Thus, increasing one value can also lead to the reduction of another value, hence the proper balance is more important than one local maximum.
Ballistic Properties / Armor Characteristics
So, let’s move on to the basic ballistic properties that are most important for tank armor.
“The necessary ballistic properties which are required of armor consist of resistance to penetration, resistance to shock, and resistance to spalling.” (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-6)

Resistance to Penetration

Resistance to penetration is quite simple, it is the ability of the armor to resist the partial or complete penetration, which is called perforation by the way, through the armor plate. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-7)

Resistance to Shock

Next is resistance to shock, which means the ability of the armor to absorb energy without cracking or rupturing. Note that resistance to shock is referring to energy, thus it includes both projectiles as also explosion. Also atmospheric condition can change this property, low temperature makes most materials more brittle and thus more likely to crack. Something you should consider, especially if you want to invade Russia, Canada or Finland. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-7)

Resistance to Spalling

Finally, resistance to spalling, which is the property of armor resisting to partial cracking, flaking and breaking away of smaller elements, especially on the opposite side of the penetration. Usually, spalling results in an expanding hole from the entry to the exit of the armor plate. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-7)

Or to put it another way, resistance to spalling is the property of your armor plates preventing themselves from transforming into a shotgun blast that turns your crew into Swiss cheese.

Penetration vs. Perforation

Now, while reading I encountered a very interesting distinction, it seems that most of us use the term penetration not quite precisely. To quote:

“The term penetration is reserved for the entry of a missile into the armor without passing through it. The term perforation implies the passage of the missile completely through the armor.” (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 11)

Now, if one thinks in more biological terms this actually makes quite a lot of sense. But, in case you wanna go full Penetration-Perforation-Nazi, here is a list of subreddits that will really enjoy your comments:

Whereas the word “enjoy” is used rather loosely here.

Surface Design and Features

The overall Surface design of tank armor should be focused on providing appropriate protection in relation to the expected direction of attack, e.g., strong frontal armor and weaker rear armor. Furthermore, the tank should have an overall convex surface and as a short reminder, this is what concave looks like. Now imagine some shot ricochets here with the convex shape the projectile will fly always away from the shape, but with the concave shape it can hit the shape after bouncing off. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 4)

Shot Traps

In context with armor design convex is reached by the absence of reentrant angles. These so called “shot traps” would often occur between the turret and the hull. What makes them so dangerous is that the deflected projectiles could strike weak spots in the armor that were usually hard to hit, like the top of the hull. Probably the best known shot trap of World War 2 is the early Panther. As you can see here a shot that bounces from the gun mantlet will deflect into the upper side of the hull, which is weakly armored. This was the reason, why the gun mantlet was changed. As you can see here, the lower Panther is a later variant. Here, the same shot will not be directed towards the hull if it ricochets. Reentrant angles are also relevant when attack by high-explosive shells, because they will also redirect the explosive blasts and fragments into lesser protected areas. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 4)


Yet, another aspect that is less obvious is that the surface should be as regular as possible. Basically, every irregularity that breaks the uniformity of the armor will restrict the uniform absorption of energy and as a result could damage the armor. (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 4)

Thus, “A flat, smooth wall of constant thickness offers the best resistance to severe attack, principally because the shock of impact can be uniformly absorbed over the entire area.” (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 4)

Sloped Armor

Now, probably one of the best known armor features is sloped armor, which was one of the features the Russian T-34 is well known for. Sloped Armor is basically armor that is not angled at 90 degree. Sloped Armor increases the effectiveness of armor in two ways, first it increases the distance the projectile has to perforate. In this case, an armor of the thickness of 1.2 has an effective armor thickness of about 1.7 if it is angled at 45 degree. And Secondly, due to the angle deflections and also shattering of projectiles becomes more likely.
Note that sloping usually doesn’t reduce the effectiveness of shaped charges. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 363)

Spaced Armor & Armor Skirts (Schürzen)

Another way to improve armor rating is by using spaced armor, one of the first tanks that was fitted with spaced armor was a late Panzer III in 1942. After the Second World War spaced armor was not used commonly until the 1960s. Yet, sometimes spaced Armor is not so obvious than in World War, e.g., the Leopard 2A5 uses spaced armor at the frontal part of the turret. Probably the best known use of spaced armor are the German “Schürzen” or armor skirts in World War 2. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 363-365)
These were originally introduced to protect the sides of German armored vehicles against Soviet anti-tank rifles that fired conventional Kinect rounds. Why do I mention that? Because there is a on ongoing myth out there that the skirts were introduced to protect against shaped charges, yet at the time of the introduction of the armor skirts in 1943 shaped charges weren’t common on the battlefield yet.(Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze, S. 92-93)
Skirts were not common the first decades after the Second World War, but were reintroduced with the British Centurion and other tanks in the 1960s and 70s. Although this time in order to protect against shaped charges. (Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 365)

Slat, Cage, Chain and Bar Armor

There are also other forms of spaced armor, namely slat, cage or bar armor, which was also used in World War 2 with wire meshes instead of metal plates for the skirts. It usually consists of steel bars that are located at a certain distance to the main armor of the vehicle. After World War 2, slat armor saw a reintroduction in the 1960s and recently it is used by Israeli and US troops in the Middle East to protect against shaped charges. Also, since it is relatively easy to produce, vehicles used in the current conflicts in Iraq and Syria are equipped with all kinds of slat and chain armor. You might check out the galleries that the blog “Tank and Armored Fighting Vehicles News” put up, as always the link is in the description.(Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, p. 365;

Feasibility, Cost & Strategic Resources

As a final remark, one important aspect that we need to consider then it comes to armor is the feasibility in terms of industry, cost and resources, which is probably very well expressed with this remark from 1963:
“The alloys of certain light metals show future promise for use as aircraft armor where the importance of weight saved would offset the disadvantages of substituting a more expensive, strategically critical material in place of steel.” (Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics, Cp. 10, p. 1-4)


To summarize, steel was and is a common material for armoring tanks, once it was used almost exclusively. It has a high density and is quite easily to produce in large quantities. The introduction of shaped charges although allowed to penetrate even very thick steel plates easily. To counter shaped charges various measures were introduce like spaced, composite and explosive reactive armor. Thus, nowadays a tank is usually armored with a multiple layers of different materials and/or additional armors like spaced and reactive armor.
Although steel was the main material for main battle tanks for light armored vehicles aluminum alloy armor is not uncommon since the 1960s.

Armor design is a complex topic, because many factors affect each other, for instance the key physical properties of tank armor are hardness, toughness and soundness, whereas increased hardness usually decreases toughness.

Furthermore, certain materials and techniques are quite expensive, thus armor design is not only influenced by military aspects, but also by feasibility in terms of the industrial capabilities and resources of the producing country.


Headquarters, US Army Materiel Command: Elements of Armament Engineering Part Two Ballistics.

Ogorkiewicz, Richard M.: Technology of Tanks, Jane, Volume 1-3.

Yap, Chun Hong Kelvin: The Impact of Armor on the Design, Utilization and Survivability of Ground Vehicles: The History of Armor Development and Use

Cooney, Patrick J.: Armor, The Professional Development Bullentin of the Armor Branch PB 17-88-1, January-February 1988.

Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze

Tank and AFV News – Armored Oddities of Syria/Iraq

Japanese Fortifications and Defense Organization in World War 2


Time to take a look at some Japanese field fortifications and defense measures. Note that in this case I used mostly sources from US military intelligence in World War 2. Unlike the Atlantikwall video this video is about the small scale units, hence you will see an individual bunker and also layouts for company and platoon defenses. Note that every country had some distinctive features, but the general layout were to a certain degree quite similar, if we consider this statement from the in publication Japanese in Battle from August 1944:
“Examples of typical defence layouts, from platoon to battalion positions, are shown at Appendix ‘ A ‘. They show no remarkable difference in principle from our own layouts.” (General Headquarters, India – Military Intelligence Directorate: Japanese in Battle – Second Edition, August 1944, p. 5)

Attitude towards defense

The Japanese had quite a negative attitude towards defensive combat, similar to the German Army, thus both addressed defense usually only in limited amount, but nevertheless both proved quite capable and dangerous in defensive operations and improved their training and manuals throughout the war. (War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, p. 99; Das Dogma der Beweglichkeit. Überlegungen zur Genese der deutschen Heerestaktik im Zeitalter der Weltkriege, in: Bruno Thoß, Erich Volkmann (Hrsg.), Erster Weltkrieg – Zweiter Weltkrieg. Ein Vergleich. Krieg –Kriegserlebnis – Kriegserfahrung in Deutschland. Paderborn u.a. 2002, S. 143-166)

In General, besides their attitude towards defensive Combat the Japanese were renowned for both their elaborate defensive fortifications and their tenacity in defense. One area they were clearly lacking though, was the use of mines. But let’s take a closer look at those issues.

No Amateurs – Well constructed Bunkers

The Japanese constructed their bunkers usually from logs and earth. The logs were interwoven and strongly attached to each other. To strengthen the roofs of bunkers against indirect fire, they used alternating layers of logs and earth. This provided excellent protection and usually gave full protection against mortar and light artillery fire. (War Department: Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 1943, p. 17)
Furthermore, for the Buna area (southeastern New Guinea) it was stated that:
“in addition, the bunkers had been planned and built for just this purpose long before the campaign actually started, and the quick jungle growth, sprouting up over the earthworks, gave first-class natural camouflage.” (War Department: Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 1943, p. 17)
[Buna-Gona Battle (1942/1943)]


The tenacity and fanatism of the Japanese troops in World War II is well known and Field Marshal Slim wrote about the individual Japanese soldier the following:
“He fought and marched till he died. If 500 Japanese were ordered to hold a position, we had to kill 495 before it was ours – and then the last five killed themselves.” (Slim, William: Defeat into Victory, p. 615)

After all the Japanese doctrine and training put a strong emphasis on morale factors and tenacity. (Drea, Edward J.: In Service of the Emperor, p. 64) An US Army engineer remarked about the campaign in Buna the following:
“It would be impossible to overstress the tenacity with which the Jap[ane]s[e] clung to their prepared positions. Grenades, and ordinary gun and mortar fire were completely ineffective. There were many instances (not isolated ones) where dugouts were grenaded inside, covered with gasoline and burned, and then sealed with dirt and sand,—only to yield, 2 or 3 days later, Jap[ane]s[e] who came out fighting.” (War Department: Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 1943, p. 17)


Although, the Japanese employed various ruses like dummy snipers and simulating friendly fire by synchronizing their own artillery with the artillery of the attackers, but their capabilities in mine warfare was quite limited for most of the war..( War Department: Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 1943, p. 18; War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol III, No. 4, December 1944, p. 13)
In 1944 according to the Intelligence Bulletins this changed:
“Instructions recently issued to some Japanese troops in the far Southwest Pacific areas attempt to establish definite uniformity and improvement in the employment of land mines.” (War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol III, No. 4, December 1944 , p. 13)

Yet, it is also noted that:
“In this respect, the instructions as a whole are very general. They tell “what” should be done, but neglect to tell “how” the minelaying should be carried out. It is possible that, like many such Japanese orders, the details and the operational technique are left to the discretion of subordinate commanders.” (War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol III, No. 4, December 1944, p. 15)

Now, general instructions usually require a highly trained force, yet in 1944 all of the Axis members had lost most of the their best trained units.

Example: Beach Defenses Talisay-Tanke

Now, let’s see what the US engineers noted about a late war Japanese beach defense. In March 1945 US troops landed on the Talisay beach, where the Japanese had established an elaborate defensive system, but since the beach was undefended the site was mostly intact and could be examined by US troops. (HQ Eight Army – Engineer Section: Intelligence Bulletin No. 3, May 1945, p. 2-19) Since the conclusions of the report are rather short and cover mines, fortifications and ditches of a late war Japanese beach defense, I will quote directly from the report:

“1. Japanese employment of bombs and shells as improvised AT and AP mines was excellent. Their effectiveness was limited only by poor concealment, failure to arm some shells, and failure to cover them with fire. The75 mm shells used would have been particularly effective against personnel if they had been properly concealed.“
[AT – Anti-Tank; AP – Anti-Personnel]
(HQ Eight Army – Engineer Section: Intelligence Bulletin No. 3, May 1945, p. 18)

“2. The AT ditches were adequate to stop our medium tank. The log and rail barriers probably would not have stopped medium tanks or bulldozers completely, but would have provided sufficient delay to prevent armor over-running a position covered by adequate AT and small arms fire, and made the tanks good targets for AT weapons. “
(HQ Eight Army – Engineer Section: Intelligence Bulletin No. 3, May 1945, p. 18)

“3. Most of the firing positions and shelters afforded protection only against small arms fire, blast, shell and bomb fragments, and light mortar fire. None of the emplacements furnished protection from direct hits of 100 pound bombs or naval shell fire. Considered as light emplacements, the works demonstrated excellent improvisation and effective utilization of locally available materials by the Japanese.”
(HQ Eight Army – Engineer Section: Intelligence Bulletin No. 3, May 1945, p. 18)

Defensive Positions

Now, in this part, we will take a closer look at defensive positions. Once the command is given to occupy a position and setup defensive preparation the development was usually prioritized the following way: 1) Establishing the important points in the main line of the resistance, 2) Determining and development of the fields of fire and observation posts, 3) Setting up obstacles for the main line of resistance and 4) the development of communication trenches and personnel shelters. (War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, p. 101-103) Let’s take a closer look at the development of a company position.

To give you some time-frame for orientation it is noted that:
„The division usually has from about 3 hours to a half day to complete its organization of the ground. Three hours is considered the minimum required to organize a rudimentary system of trenches and obstacles along the main line of resistance. The timework unit in engineering calculations is the 12-man squad which is considered capable of digging about
25 yards [23 metres] of standing fire trench in a little over 3 hours.” (War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, p. 101)

Typical Company Position

Now, here you can see a company position after about 2 hours of work. Each of the areas is for one platoon, the firing trenches are for individual squads. The heavy machine gun is deployed along the support position. It is directed in a diagonal line, the same as neighboring units thus the cover is interlocked. After another 4 hours, the firing trenches of the squads should be connected forming a single line.(War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, p. 102, Figure 86; & p. 100 (HMG))

The position after a week of construction, whereas a week is 56 hours of work. The caption of the illustration reads as follows:
“Squad positions will be enlarged [to] standing trenches. The communication trenches will be deep enough for crawling, and the shelters will be of light construction accommodating 6 men. Only the machine gun shelters will be built to resist 150-mm howitzer fire. The wire entanglements beyond the front-lines will be 8 meters in depth.” (War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, p. 102, Figure 87)

Now, the same position after about 4 weeks of construction time, would be improved considerably. There would be another layer of wire in the front. And also some basic wiring on the flanks. Additionally, the trenches would be connected in a sophisticated system with adjacent units too. The individual shelters would be covered with roofs. Furthermore, although I am not completely certain, since there is no legend on the original figure, there would be tunnels or covered trenches connecting to the rear area. Looks a bit different than those 3 ovals from the start. (War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944, p. 103, Figure 88; see also Japanese in Battle)

A “Platoon” Defense Position in Burma

Now, let’s take a closer look at a platoon position from Burma. As a quick reminder a company usually consists of three platoons, so basically we take a look at a unit one level deeper.
As you can see it has a circular pattern. In the rear area there is a larger shelter with sleeping accommodation. The circular endings of the trenches are foxholes, whereas each has a one-man-dugout nearby, which had an earth and timber cover. Furthermore, there was a MG position that was well covered too. The report notes that the dugouts near each foxhole and three-bay machine gun position were the two interesting features. So, let’s take a look at the MG position.
(War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol III, No. 4, December 1944, p. 15)
(General Headquarters, India – Military Intelligence Directorate: Japanese in Battle – Second Edition, August 1944, p. 24)

MG Position

So, this is a Japanese Three-Bay Light Machine gun position in Burma from the side. As you can see the roof is constructed with several logs and reinforced with earth. The machine gun would be placed here. Now, why was it called “three-bay”, well let’s look at it from the front. As you can clearly see, the supporting logs divided the firing slit into three areas. And by the way, this is a type 96 Japanese light machine gun and not a British Bren, they look similar, but there is a clear difference between those two, which might not be so obvious.
Problem with the Numbers
Now, let’s go back to the Platoon position, because there is one problem I have encountered, which I couldn’t find a proper answer too. Basically, the numbers don’t add up.

The shown position is according to the description for a platoon. But the problem is that a rifle platoon of an infantry company of an “A” or “B” type division had 3 LMGs and furthermore 62 or 54 men. Now, there is only one position for an LMG, but also the area is quite small for 54 let alone 62 men. Although, the number of foxholes and LMGs would match almost exactly the layout of a rifle section. But I doubt such an error would occur, especially since this layout was reprinted in two different military intelligence publications.
Hence, I must assume that the platoon was far below full strength, but still I am confused that this isn’t noted in the report. But of course there is always the chance that I missed something or made an error. If anyone knows more, please let me know in the comments.


To summarize, although the Japanese had a serious distaste for defensive combat, their ingenuity and improvisation skills allowed them to construct various kinds of excellent field fortifications and defensive systems. Although their ability to lay sophisticated mine fields was limited for most of the war, the Japanese Army took actions to counter this problem and probably would have reached similar capabilities as other forces.

Now, a little public service announcement. I originally wanted to do something about naval tactics in the non-world war era, but since I got a bit sick and thus my mind could only operate at limited capacity, I switched to this easier topic, after all, I am mostly a land-rat from the modern era. So stay tuned, I plan to cover nearly every era of military history, major battle and much much more. Since I get quite a lot of repeating question about what topics I will cover, you might want to check out the frequently asked questions on my homepage.


TM-E-30-480 – War Department: Handbook on the Japanese Military Forces, 15 September 1944

War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol II, No. 7, March 1944

War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol II, No. 8, April 1944

War Department: Intelligence Bulletin Vol III, No. 4, December 1944

HQ Eight Army – Engineer Section: Intelligence Bulletin No. 3, May 1945

General Headquarters, India – Military Intelligence Directorate: Japanese in Battle – Second Edition, August 1944

War Department: Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 21, March 25, 1943

Field Manual 5-15, Field Fortifications, August 1968

Drea, Edward J.: In Service of the Emperor

Comparison German Field Army 1917 vs 1944 [Document]

Special thanks to Matthias Hoffmann for providing information on the German Field Army in 1917.


The title of this video may appear like click bait, yet actually it is the short version of a document from the organization department of the German Army’s Generals Staff in July 1944.

The original title of the document was:
“VERGLEICH DES FELDHEERES 1917 MIT DEM FELDHEER 1944” which means “comparison of the field army in 1917 with the field army 1944”

So, this video is mainly a visualization of selected parts of the document with some additional information and context. The document has a quite interesting date, namely the 20th July 1944, which was the day of the best known attempted assassination of Hitler. I don’t know if this is a coincidence or not, after all the officers behind the assassination wanted prevent an unconditional surrender similar to 1918. And in their assumptions stable front-lines were an important foundation for any negotiations. (Müller, Klaus-Jürgen: 20. Juli 1944 – Der Entschluß zum Staatsstreich, in: Beiträge zum Widerstand 1933-1945, S. 5)

What is the Field Army?

Now, you probably want to know what is the difference between the Army and the Field Army? Well, the field army is the part of the Army that does most of the killing and dying, one could say the field army is out in the field. For some contrast, other parts of the army would be the Reserve Army (Ersatzheer) or the Occupation Army (Besatzungsheer).
So, since we got that covered let’s get started.

Front Length

In terms of the front lines the Western Front in 1917 had a length of 650 km, whereas in 1944 it was 151 km, yet this only covered the invasion front not the coast lines.
The Italian the front was 450 km in 1917 and 281 km in 1944.
Yet, the huge difference was of course on the Eastern Front with 1700 km in the First World War vs 2720 km in 1944, whereas the later number does not include the front lines in Northern Finland and Norway.

In total the 1917 front length was 2800 km, whereas the 1944 front length was 3152 km.
Now, let’s look at the number of divisions next.

Number of Division

On the Western Front in 1917, there were 148 German divisions, whereas in 1944 there were 60 division of those 22 division were on the invasion front.
On the Italian Front there were 54 Austro-Hungarian divisions in World War 1, whereas in 1944 there were 22 German divisions and 1 foreign division, for a total auf 23 divisions.
On the Eastern Front in 1917 the Germans were probably not up to modern diversity regulations, but still a quite mixed composition with 82 German, 43 Austro-Hungarian, 3 Bulgarian and 4 Turkish division, in 1944 there were 128 German and 36 allied division. Thus in total of 132 and 164 divisions for the Eastern Front.
If we add all these numbers together we get 334 Division for 1917 and 247 division in 1944. Thus there is a total difference of 87 division. Additionally, you can clearly see that in World War 2, the Eastern Front was the most important frontline, whereas in the Great War it was the Western front.

Total numbers

Now, the total numbers of men in the field army are from December of the previous year, because in the document there are only the numbers given for December 1943 and the number for the First World War is missing, but thankfully someone provided proper sources for the First World War.
Now, the total number of men in the field Army in December 1916 were almost exactly 4.8 million (4 799 095), whereas in December 1943 it were about 4.3 million (4 270 000). Note that this difference is considerable smaller than the gap of 87 division, because these numbers only account for the manpower of the German Field Army and not their Allies.

Manpower per Front km

Now, since we have the total numbers of men and front lengths, let’s see how the many German soldiers were available for each front kilometer. Although note that the total numbers of men are from December 1916 and 1943, whereas the front lengths are from July of the following years. So this part is more about giving you a general idea on the situation than historical accuracy.
For final stages of the First World War there was a total front length of 2800 km, which had around 4.8 million men stationed there, whereas for the final stages of the Second World War there was total front of 3152 km with about 4.27 million men. Thus, we get 1714 men per km in World War I vs 1355 men in World War 2. (2759 per mi, 2180 per mile)
Note that these numbers are only for the German soldiers and don’t include the manpower of all Axis Forces in Europe, which had considerable more manpower in World War 1, thus the difference in men per front kilometer was even more significant.

Cut-Content: Battalion per Front km

A German infantry battalion of 1917 had a required strength of 750 men [NOTE: That before the number was 1050 before and changed to 850 in 1918.] (Nash, David: German Army Handbook April 1918, p 44) As a result about 2.3 infantry battalion per front kilometer.

Now, since a German infantry battalion of 1944 had a required strength of 700 men (708). (Keilig: Bl. 101 – V 64) This means a little less than 2 infantry battalions per front kilometer.


Vergleich des Feldheeres 1917 mit Feldheer 1944, Generalstab des Heeres Organisationsabteilung (I), in: Keilig, Wolf: Das Deutsche Heer 1939-1945; Bl. 201 / 1944-1 & 2

Inf. Div. 1944, Keilig, Wolf: Das Deutsche Heer 1939-1945: Bl. 101 – V 64

Müller, Klaus-Jürgen: 20. Juli 1944 – Der Entschluß zum Staatsstreich, in: Beiträge zum Widerstand 1933-1945, S. 5

Sanitätsbericht über das deutsche Heer im Weltkriege 1914/1918

Nash, David: German Army Handbook April 1918

Total Manpower of the German Army in 1916/1917?


[Battle of the Bulge] Why were the Allies surprised?


The Battle of Bulge was the last major German offensive operation in World War 2. Yet, it caught the Western Allies by surprise. How was this possible? After all, the Allied military intelligence throughout the war was for the most part very good or even excellent. There were major successes for longer operations like the Battle of the Atlantic or rather short engagements like the Battle of Midway.

What were the reason for this? Did the Germans suddenly became sneaky or did the Allies become complacent of their victories? So, let’s find out and take a closer look.

The Allied “Mood” prior to the Attack

After the successful landings of the Western Allies at the Normandy beaches in June 1944, the Wehrmacht was defeated in almost all major operations, except the operations Market and Garden. In general, the Allied troops were advancing, whereas the Germans were retreating. The basic attitude of the Allied commanders is probably well expressed by the following situation: One day prior to the attack the British Field Marshal Montgomery asked General Eisenhower, if he can spend Christmas back in England, Eisenhower agreed. Additionally, Montgonomery reported:
“There is nothing to report on my front or the front of the American Armies on my right. I do not propose to send any more evening situation reports till the war becomes more exciting.” ( Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 623) Since Montgomery isn’t really that popular with most people , it should be added that his attitude in this case was by no means the exception, it was the same for other high-ranking officers too. ( Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 623)
This may sounds a bit like complacency, but let’s not make hasty conclusions yet.

German Preparations

Let’s take a brief look at the German preparations for the operation “Wacht am Rhein” meaning “Guard at the Rhine”.
The initial preparations were performed in August 1944 by creating a new Tank Army intended for offensive operations, yet any other information was omitted from the involved personnel. Only Hitlers closest officers were informed about his intentions at this time. In October 1944 the commander of the West was informed to prepare for offensive operations in the Ardennes area, but was instructed that secrecy of the operation was paramount. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 619-622)
The measures for keeping the operation secret were strict, in some cases units were moved into the assembly areas only the night prior to the attack, which thwarted any attempts for proper recon operations. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 623)

Additionally, the Germans were ordered to not use of radio transmission of orders during the preparation, thus signal interception program ULTRA by the Allies couldn’t pick up anything substantial. . (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 625)

Yet, the question is did this secrecy paid off or did the Allies pick up substantial information from others sources anyway.

Indicators of an Attack

So let’s look at the indicators for a German offensive that the Allies did pick up.
In the book “The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge” from the center of military history of the United States Army it is noted “With the advantage of hindsight, seven items can be discerned in the corps reports for the period 13–15 December which might have given the alarm.” (Cole, Hugh: The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge p. 59)
But there is one problem with this book, it was published originally in the 1960ies and at that time the ULTRA intelligence program was not declassified yet, hence crucial information was not available to historians back then.

Also looking just at the days before the attack might be a bit too limited. After all it was known to the Allies since August 1944 that the Army Group B (Heeresgruppe B) was preparing for a counter-attack. The Allies also knew about the creation of a Panzer Army and the German removal of motorized units on different front areas. Additionally, large parts of the Luftwaffe were concentrated in the area and an increasing number of rail and motor transports were noticed too. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 623-624)
The crucial indicators before the attack were: (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 624)
1) Warnings by defectors and civilians that the Germans amassed vehicles, tanks and bridging equipment.
2) The increased amount of weather reports sent by German submarines since the beginning of December.
3) Reports that the Germans planned an operation behind enemy lines.

Allied Interpretation of the Intercepted Indicators

All this information was not ignored by the Allied intelligence officers, but acquiring information is only one part, the other part is analyzing this information. So let’s take a look on how the Allies interpreted the information in context of the overall situation on the Western Front.

The area eastwards of the Ardennes was rather calm. Hence the major explanation for the troop concentration was that the area was used for regrouping and refreshing of combat troops before they were sent to the Eastern Front or used for counter-attacks in case of an Allied advance. The commanders noted the rather weak number of Allied troops in the Ardennes, but at the same time in the North and South the Allies were conducting offensive operations, which should have made a German attack unlikely. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 624)
Generally, the Allied didn’t rule out a German attack, but they assumed it would be a small operation or highly unlikely, due to a number of reasons, to quote an US historian:
“It may be phrased this way: the enemy can still do something but he can’t do much; he lacks the men, the planes, the tanks, the fuel, and the ammunition.” (Cole, Hugh: The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge p. 57)
This base assumption combined with the lack of information from ULTRA lead the Allies to interpret various indicators differently. As Dr. Pogue noted in his talk to the NSA:
“But nothing was coming from Ultra. […] So there was a tendency to feel that there was no great buildup. There was a tendency to explain what was occurring on other grounds.” (Pogue, Forrest C.: The Ardennes Campaign: The Impact of Intelligence. P. 3)

To cite two of his examples:
“Then we found out the Germans were issuing very strict orders on saving gasoline. We interpreted that to mean that they were about to run out of gasoline. The point was that it was a part of a strict conservation program to make sure there was enough gasoline for the attack.” (Pogue, Forrest C.: The Ardennes Campaign: The Impact of Intelligence. P. 3)

“There was evidence in October that a new Panzer Army had been created. But again that didn’t seem to upset anybody, because again the theory was that the Germans knew we were going to mount an attack somewhere around the middle of December in the area south of Cologne and that therefore they were setting up a reserve to meet that attack.” (Pogue, Forrest C.: The Ardennes Campaign: The Impact of Intelligence. P. 3)

So, basically due to indicators from Ultra the Allies drew wrong conclusions about existing intelligence. Furthermore, they knew that the German forces were in a dire situation.

Why did the Germans attack nevertheless?

Now, the question is, how could the Germans launch a major attack with their rather limited capabilities? Well, they did what most people do – even nowadays – if they basically have lost and can’t admit it, they literally played the Hitler card. [or maybe Hitler played them…]

And the Allies weren’t expecting Hitler. Probably the greatest irony is that Mongomery’s intelligence officer noted that he would expect a surprise action before Christmas if Hitler was running the war. But added:
“We know that von Rundstedt is now running the war and he is a cautious man.” (Pogue, Forrest C.: The Ardennes Campaign: The Impact of Intelligence, p. 4)

Now, the interesting part here is that the mentioned American historians are quite positive about von Rundstedt and blame mostly Hitler, whereas the German military historian Detlef Vogel notes that the operational plans from von Rundstedt and Model were also quite lacking in quality. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 625) Furthermore, the German commanders still were convinced that their officers were superior to the Allied ones on the tactical and operational level. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S.623)


To conclude, as so often it was not a single factor that explains properly why the Allies were surprised by the German attack in the Ardennes. It was a combination of several factors:
First off, the Allies knew that the overall strategic situation for the Germans was dire, thus the Germans ability to launch a proper offensive was limited and the result of the battle clearly confirms this. Second, based on the overall situation the Allies assumed that an attack would make no sense. Third, this basic assumption lead to misinterpretations of several indicators that could have alarmed the Allied commanders. Fourth, these misinterpretations were also not reevaluated because ULTRA didn’t pick up any indications of a major attack. Which of course, brings us to the fifth point, which is the lack of intelligence that was achieved by the high secrecy enforced by the Germans during the preparations of the operation “Wacht am Rhein”. Based on all this the Allies concluded that there were no indicators of major offensive, but Hitler wouldn’t have that.
Based on that, one might still argue that the Allies got complacent of their victories to a certain degree this is probably also true. Yet, after the initial German attacks the overall size of the offensive wasn’t known, nevertheless Eisenhower assumed a major attack and immediately reacted. He ordered troops into key areas. Probably best known the 101st Airborne Division to the Bastogne area. (Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7, S. 627)

Now, if someone really wants to pinpoint only one factor, which I think is almost always an oversimplification, I would say the gravest error of the Allies was to assume that they were facing a rational enemy that wasn’t willing to risk everything even though the chances were extremely slim.


Germany and the Second World War. Volume VII. ( affiliate link)

Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg. Band 7. ( affiliate link)

Pogue, Forrest C.: The Ardennes Campaign: The Impact of Intelligence. (Declassified by the NSA in 2007)

Cole, Hugh M. The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge. United States Army in World War II


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Assault Artillery – History & Organization of Assault Gun Units #Stug Life


Time to talk about the famous the German assault guns or as they are called in German “Sturmgeschütze”. Now this video is more about the branch and organization and not individual vehicles. Thus, the name “assault artillery”, because this is the translation of the original name for this branch in German which was “Sturmartillerie”.

Origin Story

Now, the origin story of the assault artillery begins unsurprisingly in World War 1. During the war a common problem was that after a successful initial attack, the follow-up attack advanced too far for proper artillery support or that it took too long to move the guns forward. Furthermore, there was a lack of direct fire support, after all most guns were quite unwieldly and the terrain usually quite deformed from artillery fire, additionally these guns were usually not well protected even from small arms fire. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 2; see also Artillery Combat in World War 1)

The Initiative – Manstein’s Memorandum

The first major call for a “Sturmartillerie” as a mobile and armored infantry support gun was in 1935 in a memorandum from Erich von Manstein, back then, when he was still a Colonel. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3)

He proposed three main formations as the base for the Army:

1) Independent Tank division with their own organic infantry and artillery units to support the tanks.
2) Independent Tank Brigades that consisted only of tanks and that were under the authority of the Army Command to allow for the localized concentration of force.
3) Regular Infantry division with organic assault gun units to support the infantry units.

Now, the important part here is that the assault gun units should be an organic part of the infantry division. Why is this important? Well, organic divisional units are trained with the division and stay with the division all the time. This means, that other division units are familiar with these units and are also trained in operations where the various different units supported each other, thus everyone involved knows of the strength and weaknesses of the units.
Remember, even to this day tanks without proper infantry support can be quite vulnerable. Additionally, you need to consider that back then most of the German division weren’t even motorized, thus a Sturmgeschütz was quite an oddity that was mostly known from propaganda. Hence, a lot of soldiers attributed qualities to these units that they couldn’t fulfill. Something that could be deadly in combat situations. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3-4)

Note that the proposed number of units per division was still relatively small. Every division should have one battalion with 3 batteries each with 6 stugs, thus only 18 stugs in total. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3-4) But, numbers without context can be misleading. So, let’s look at a weapon system with a similar role and its number, this would be the light infantry support gun and in a regular German infantry division of 1940, just 20 of these were present, thus the number of 18 stugs is actually not that low as it might appear at first glance. (Source: Alex Buchner: Handbuch der Infanterie 1939-1945)

The first 5 prototypes were ready in Winter 1937, after which a first series of 30 units was ordered. This series wasn’t completely delivered until May 1940, hence the first time StuGs were used in significant numbers was during Operation Barbarossa. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 4)

Problems & Delays

The original plan called for an assault gun battalion for each active division until Fall 1939. Yet, due to changes in the command structure, delays in the specifications, limits of the German arms industry and internal rivalries this goal was never achieved. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 3-4)

Even far from it, even in in May 1940 only 2 batteries were operational, whereas around 180 would have been necessary to equip all active divisions in May 1940. (Frieser, Karl-Heinz: Die deutschen Blitzkriege; in: Wehrmacht: Mythos & Realität. (S. 184); Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 4-5) Furthermore, the Tank Brigades were realized neither. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 7)

Operational History

At the start of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 the situation had changed, around 250 StuGs were ready, these were organized in 11 battalions and 5 independent batteries. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 6)

During combat it became obvious that the combat effectiveness of infantry units was increased by a large degree due to the use of the assault gun units. Due to the high amount of training, firepower and mobility. It should be noted that the assault guns were part of artillery branch, thus they were accustomed to supporting infantry from the get go. Furthermore, the better optics and stronger emphasis on artillery practice resulted in higher hit chances. Yet, one major problem was that the battalions were part of the overall Army Units and not organic units of the infantry divisions as Manstein originally had proposed, thus the coordination between the infantry and StuGs was limited. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 6)

By the end of 1942 around 27 Stug Battalions were operational on the Eastern Front, furthermore the required strength increased from 22 to 31 StuGs, although on average only 12 were operational. This means around 320 Stugs operational. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 7)

Although the assault guns were originally intended for infantry support, their role changed on the Eastern Front. Soon they were used more and more as tank destroyers, because the German anti-tank guns with 37mm and 50 mm were simply not able to deal with the T-34 and KV-1, although in Summer 1942 the 75mm Pak 40 was introduced this gun was too heavy to have tactical mobility.
Since Spring 1942 the StuGs were upgraded to the F version that used the long barreled 75mm gun that was also capable with dealing with Russian tanks. And unlike the dedicated tank destroyers like the Marder I and II, it was better armored and also had a far lower silhouette. Thus, the StuG III F was the best German anti-tank weapon at its introduction. As a result, many StuGs were used in the anti-tank role, but thus they were missing for their intended role, namely supporting infantry. This was the reason for the development of the “Sturmhaubitze” (StuH), literally meaning assault howitzer. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 7-9)

By the end of 1943 there were 39 assault gun battalions on the Eastern Front with a total of 1006 StuGs. The average operational rate increased to 15 Stug for each battalion. In 1943 the Wehrmacht was mostly on the defensive and the StuG became a mainstay of the defense. Once Guderian became inspector for the tank troops (“Generalinspekteur der Panzertruppen”), he continuously tried to get the assault artillery integrated into the tank destroyer units, yet without success. Nevertheless, quite a large number of produced StuGs were transferred into tank divisions to compensate for the lack of regular tanks. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 9-11) This situation worsened after the failed 20th July assassination attempt against Hitler, after which Guderian became Chief of Staff. He limited the total amount of assault gun battalions to 45 and furthermore assigned a smaller portion of the produced StuGs to the assault artillery branch. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 11)

Although the output of assault guns increased year by year and reached its peak in 1944. More and more numbers were assigned to other branches. Ultimately, in March 1945 the total number of assault gun battalions was 37 with a total number 606 operational vehicles. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 12-13)

Panzertruppe – Parallel Developments “Sturmpanzer”

Now, some of you might wonder, what about the various other variants of German armored support vehicles with large guns that were similar to assault guns, like the Sturmpanzer “Bison”, the Sturmpanzer 38(t) “Grille” and of course the “Sturmtiger”? Well, those were all parallel developments by the German Tank branch.
Most of them were used with rather limited success, they were usually built upon obsolete vehicles and traded firepower for mobility and protection. Thus, giving them a rather unbalanced quality, their combat effectiveness was quite limited and for the most part they were just a waste of already limited resources. To a certain degree these parallel development by the tank branch were motivated by the fact that the assault guns were part of the artillery branch and thus avoid any dependencies to that branch. (Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie, S. 5-6)

Organization of StuG Units

Now, there is one question that military historians up to this day haven’t answered yet, namely what is the difference between Thug Life and StuG Life?
Well, first, the German accent and second, organization, organization , organization, so here we go.

Sturmbatterie / Sturmgeschützbatterie 1939 (K.St.N.445)

Now the original Assault Battery from 1939 had the following organization:
1 battery headquarters, 3 Platoons, an lightly armored ammo column, a transport unit and a maintenance squad.
Each of the three platoons consisted of just of 1 observation halftrack, 2 StuG III and 2 ammo half tracks.
Now, this is a rather odd setup, because the headquarters unit actually is only equipped with an observation halftrack, whereas armored headquarters units usually had a similar vehicle than their combat units. In total the unit had 5 light observation vehicles, 6 StuGs, and 6 light armored ammo carriers.
Note that this was an intended organization that was probably never achieved due to a lack of proper halftracks, which to a certain degree were replaced by trucks in the following layouts.
(Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze. S. 233)
(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 18)

Sturmbatterie 1941 (K.St.N446)

Now, the 1941 version was quite similar, a major change was the addition of the 7th StuG in the headquarters unit. Furthermore for this unit, I have some data on men & equipment.
In total there were 5 officers, 1 official, 37 NCOs and 83 enlisted men. Additionally, 9 light machine guns, 17 trucks, 6 cars, 7 StuGs and 3 light armored ammo carries.
As you can see the early batteries were quite small with only 2 guns, this number increased throughout the war.

Sturmgeschützbatterie (mot) K.St.N.446 (1.11.1941)
(Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze. S. 236)
(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 33)

Sturmgeschützabteilung November 1942 (K.St.N. 446a)

Now, let’s take a look at the organization of an assault gun battalion from November 1942.
It consisted of a headquarters unit and 3 assault gun batteries. Each assault gun battery consisted of a headquarters unit, 3 platoons and a transport unit. Now each platoon now had 3 StuGs and each headquarters unit one Stug, now if add the multipliers, we get a total of 31 StuGs. Finally, let’s take a look at a late war unit.

Sturmgeschützbatterie (mot) (zu 10 Geschützen) – K.St.N.446a (1.11.1942)

(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 67)

Heeres-Sturmartillerie-Brigade Juni 1944 (K.St.N. 446B)

One of the latest organizations was the “Heeres-Sturmartillerie-Brigade” which means Army assault artillery brigade from 1944.
It consisted of a brigade headquarters, 3 assault gun battalions and 1 support grenadier Battery. Each of the assault gun battalions consisted of a headquarters unit,1 assault gun battery and a transport unit. Finally, the assault gun batteries consisted of 2 assault gun platoons, 1 assault howitzer platoon, an ammo column and 1 maintenance column.
Now, if you think this is overly complicated, well, you might be right or you may not be German enough. Anyway, each assault gun platoon consisted of 4 StuGs, whereas each assault howitzer platoon consisted of 4 assault howitzers. Now, let’s take a look at the whole unit. The headquarters units together consisted of 9 vehicles. Whereas the Combat platoons for each Battalion had a total of 12 vehicles. Together there were 30 assault guns and 15 assault howitzers in the brigade.
(Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. S. 105)


To summarize, the original concept for the StuG was to be a direct fire support weapon for the infantry, especially in the attack against enemy defensive position. The StuG combined mobility, firepower and protection, additionally since it was part of the artillery branch, its members were better trained in firing and also are more accustomed to support infantry units, unlike regular tank units.

Due the lack of proper tank destroyers the StuGs were used quite often as tank destroyers, for which it was also ideally suited due its strong frontal armor and low silhouette, although this was not their initially intended role. Ultimately assault gun units were also added organically to infantry divisions, but at this stage the German side was on the defense, thus the StuG was mainly used as a tank destroyer and not its original role supporting infantry in offensive operations.


Wettsein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie Geschichte einer Waffengattung (free article)

WW2 day by day – Kriegsstärkenachweissungen ” T&OE” (Homepage)

Spielgerger, Walter: Sturmgeschutz & Its Variants (affiliate link)

Spielberger, Walter: Sturmgeschütze. Entwicklung und Fertigung der sPak (affiliate link)

Fleischer, Wolfgang: Die deutschen Sturmgeschütze 1935-1945. (affiliate link)

Buchner, Alex: The German Infantry Handbook 1939-1945 ( affiliate link)

Buchner, Alex: Das Handbuch der deutschen Infanterie 1939-1945; Gliederung – Uniformen, Bewaffnung – Ausrüstung, Einsätze. (affiliate)


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US and German Atlantic Strategy 1939-1941


Time to take a look at the overall Strategy in early World War 2 concerning the Atlantic. This video will cover the views, actions and development of the German and American side from the time of the outbreak of the war to the situation just before the German declaration of war against the United States. So let’s get started.

The Initial Situation in 1939

Hitler’s first directive for the war concerning the German Navy was a focus on a trade war against the United Kingdom. Similarly, the Commander of the German Navy Admiral Raeder wanted to break the British economy by cutting it off from the supply lines. Yet, a prerequisite for this would have been a clear focus on the production of the necessary weapon system to achieve this, namely submarines and air planes. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 275)

Yet, Hitler’s view was different. He was focusing on a short land war in Europe and a peace with the United Kingdom and thus wanted to limit an extensive attack on the British economy. Whereas the German Navy Command realized quite early that a long war with the United Kingdom was very possible and that an entry of the United States into the war was quite certain. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 275-276)

Raeder tried several times to convince Hitler of the “Atlantic nature” of the war. After all, Great Britain was dependent on imports and those came to a large degree from the United States, which was likely to intervene if the United Kingdom was under serious threat.

The Situation in 1940

These assumption of the German Navy command were mostly correct. In July 1940 US congress approved of the “Two-Ocean-Navy-Act”, which called for a major expansion of the US Navy by around 70 %. The following decision in September 1940 was to provide the British with 50 older destroyers in exchange for 8 bases. This act was interpreted as quite hostile by the German Navy. To give you some reference at the outbreak of the war Germany had 21 destroyers. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 276 & S. 398)

Of course, the US build up would take time, the German Navy assumed that the US Navy’s expansion would begin to be an important factor from 1942 onwards, thus a crucial success or at least determined stance against the United Kingdom was necessary before the US would enter the war or provide further assistance to the British. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 276)
Although Hitler made some concessions to the Navy, there was no general shift in the strategy in late 1940/early 1941, after all Hitler considered the United Kingdom as a potential ally and not the main enemy, furthermore the preparations for the invasion of the Soviet Union were already in motion. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 277)

1941 – Lend Lease and Beyond – The Continuous Escalation

On the other side of the Atlantic the situation was quite different, in November 1940 Franklin Roosevelt was re-elected, this guaranteed the further continuation of the close cooperation between the US and British politics. In December 1940 Churchill noted that the British ability to pay properly for the arms trade couldn’t be sustained much longer. Soon thereafter in March 1941 Roosevelt announced “An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States”, you probably didn’t heard that one before, because it is commonly known as Lend-Lease. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 278-280) This act allowed the support with equipment “of any country whose defense the President deems vital to the defense of the United States.” (Source )

The British and American cooperation was continuously more formalized and got a unified strategy. This also included agreements on cooperation for the Asian-Pacific area. And probably most importantly, there was an agreement that Germany was the major threat and that the control of the Atlantic was crucial in winning the war in Europe. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 278-280) The US Navy began preparations for escorting convoys in the Western Atlantic, but Roosevelt couldn’t allow the protection of convoys yet, due to the political factors in the United States. Nevertheless, the British were allowed to repair their war ships in US ship yards, which took off quite some pressure from the British ship yards .(Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 280-281)
Nevertheless, the British situation was quite problematic, the monthly losses from January to April 1941 grew from 320 000 Gross Register Tonnage to 688 000. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 282)

German Reaction to Lend-Lease and Occupation of Greenland

In order to counter the Lend-Lease agreement Admiral Raeder called for several actions, yet, Hitler only agreed on expanding the operational areas. As a reaction Roosevelt confiscated all German, Danish and Italian ships in US harbors. Furthermore in April 1941 the US occupied Greenland and expanded the security zone. Additionally, the US-Navy transferred several ships from the Pacific to the Atlantic. In total by June 1941 3 battleships, 1 carrier, 4 cruisers and 18 destroyers were transferred. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 281)

Yet, these transfers made it clear that the US Navy wasn’t yet ready for a war. It lacked the number of ships and personnel to provide proper convoy escort missions in the Atlantic, furthermore there was only a limited backing by congress, and hence no escort operations were conducted. Yet, the patrol activity within the expanded security zones was extended and the zone also clashed with the German operational areas, thus the foundations for future incidents were laid. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 281-282)

German’s Navy View on the US

The German Navy interpreted Roosevelt’s actions as hostile, but was also aware of his political limitations regarding the congress and the public opinion. Basically, there were two approaches in the German Navy. The first one, which was favored by Admiral Reader, was to take determined stance against any further initiative by the United States. The second one, was to try to keep the United States in check by giving no reason for change in the American public opinion. Hitler wanted to prevent a conflict with the United States before the Soviet Union wasn’t defeated, after all he assumed that it would only take several months to defeat Soviet Army. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 282-283)

1941 – The Incidents & Actions – Short of War

In May and June 1941 there were two incidents, in May the US ship “Robin Moor” was sunk by a German submarine and in June a German submarine tried several times to get a proper firing angle on the battleship USS Texas. In the first case Roosevelt didn’t order the direct protection of convoys yet, but expanded the protection zone and also patrols into German operation areas. In the second case, the USS Texas was operating in an area that was clearly known as a warzone. The German Navy informed Hitler, and he decided that before Operation Barbarossa any incident with the United States should be avoided. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 284-285)

Occupation of Iceland

Another major step by the US in 1941 was the occupation of Iceland. Originally Iceland was part of Denmark, after the capitulation in 1940 the British occupied Iceland and in Summer 1940 the US took over. Now, this was done by US Marines, because they were volunteers and thus Roosevelt could act without the approval of the US Congress. Now, at first this seems to be a move with limited consequences, but once you have a base somewhere you need to supply it. So US convoys that were protected by US warships were used to supply Iceland and British merchant ships were welcome to join these convoys. These joint convoy operation also served as a foundation for the future cooperation between the US and Royal Navy. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 284-286)

The USS Greer Incident – Rattlesnakes

So basically, everything was set and in September 1941 there was an incident about 200 nautical miles south-west of Iceland. The Destroyer USS Greer and the German submarine U-652 attacked each other, although both missed. Both sides assumed they were attacked by the other. Originally, a British recon plane attacked the submarine with depth charges and the captain assumed it was the destroyer. Unbeknownst to the Germans the British plane was exchanging information with the US destroyer. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 291)
Roosevelt used this incident and called the German attacks piracy and this is origin for his rattlesnake quote:
“But when you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him. These Nazi submarines and raiders are the rattlesnakes of the Atlantic.“ – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fireside Chat to the Nation, September 11, 1941

Yet, besides this rhetoric the speech also contained a new escalation:
“That means, very simply, very clearly, that our patrolling vessels and planes will protect all merchant ships — not only American ships but ships of any flag — engaged in commerce in our defensive waters.” – President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fireside Chat to the Nation, September 11, 1941
Both Churchill and the German Navy Command interpreted this message basically the same way, either Germany would lose the battle in the Atlantic or it had to risk to be engaged by US Forces every time. Admiral Raeder called it a localized declaration of war, yet Hitler was still hoping for a successful operation Barbarossa and ordered to prevent any incidents with the United States. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 292)

USS Kearny and USS Reuben James Incidents

In October 1941 there were two further incidents. First, the destroyer USS Kearny was hit by a German torpedo, which resulted in first US casualties in World War II. Roosevelt declared the intention to revise the neutrality acts, including the armament of US merchant ships and delivering goods directly into the harbors of warfaring countries. Yet, the Germans didn’t react to this escalation. Second, in the end of October 1941 the destroyer USS Reuben James was sunk, which strengthened Roosevelts position in Congress for revising the neutrality acts. Nevertheless the final vote on changing the neutrality acts was still a close call with only a majority of 18 votes. This clearly showed Roosevelt that the congress was clearly not willing to support a declaration of war anytime soon. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 293-294)


For Germany the situation in October 1941 was quite difficult, the Army was still heavily engaged with the Soviet Union, the incidents with the United States further increased the support for the British and the situation in the Mediterranean was endangering the Alliance with Italy. In order to solve the crisis German submarines were ordered there. After all the loss of North Africa would expose Italy. This showed already how over-stretched the Axis capabilities were in late 1941. Hitler still believed he could beat the Soviet Union and that the Mediterranean was central for stabilization of continental Europe. He assumed that Italy could easily collapse, thus he focused on improving German naval and air units in the Mediterranean.
The low numbers on the German navy units in the Atlantic in the end of 1941 is obvious, if one considers that after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hitler declared war against the United States, yet only 6 submarines were ordered against the US coast. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 294-297)



To summarize, Hitler and the High Command of the Navy had quite different views. Whereas the Navy considered the Battle of the Atlantic as crucial from the get go, Hitler considered it more important to eliminate all continental enemies first. Furthermore, the main enemy for the Navy were the British, whereas Hitler wanted a peace with the British even in late 1941, although it was clear to him that Churchill wouldn’t budge. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 294-296)
Naturally, the Navy and Hitler had a different approach, the Navy wanted to take clear stance against the escalation by the United States early on, whereas Hitler tried to deescalate as long as possible, in order to prevent a three front war before defeating the Soviet Union.


Now, the British didn’t got mentioned a lot in this video, mainly due to the fact they became the junior partner of the United States and most of the initiative on a strategic level was either determined or dependent from the United States. Of course the British still did most of the fighting in this period, but this will be part of another video or probably video series.

United States

Finally, the United States with Roosevelt was a constant escalation course which is usually called “short of war“-policy. Roosevelt was mainly held back by three factors, the relatively unprepared US forces, public opinion and of course the US congress. Yet, by Mid October 1941 the public opinion was already in 70 % in favor of defeating Hitler than keeping out of the war. Still, congress wasn’t willing to support a declaration of war. (Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 293-295) The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese and the following declaration of war from Hitler against the United States clearly changed this situation, the Second World War was set in full motion by the end of 1941.


Main source

Rahn, Werner: Der Seekrieg im Atlantik und Nordmeer, Kapitel I: Der Atlantik in der deutschen und alliierten Strategie, in: Das Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg – Band 6 – Der Globale Krieg. S. 275-298

Supplementary sources – mainly used for translation, quotes and correct titles

“Lend Lease” Act

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt Fireside Chat to the Nation, September 11, 1941

Two Ocean Navy Act

Lend Lease

Destroyers for Bases Argreement

Update: HOI 4 – Historical Infantry Division Layouts – Early War #Hearts of Iron

Original video & script: HOI 4 – Historical Infantry Division Layouts – Early War #Hearts of Iron


Since my first historical division layout video was a major success and a lot of people asked for more, I will do more, but first I have to address the errors in my original layouts, so here is a short update were I discuss the errors, some community contributions and of course the updated layouts briefly.

Thank you

First, thank you all for the great feedback, especially on the paradox forums. Now, there are two people I want to mention explicitly:
First, the steam user ramadawn, who created a mod with various historical divisions, which is also available on the steam workshop.
Second, the paradox user elfiwolfe for giving a lot of good feedback and creating a wiki page with divisions that are derived from my layouts with additional ingame values.
In both cases I didn’t have time to check them out thoroughly, but from their conduct, comments and the data I looked at, I have a good initial impression.

Errors in my first video

Now, when I did my first video I missed a few things that lead to several errors, most notably:
1) Initially, I wasn’t sure if the Artillery Battalions ingame were actually artillery regiments or not.
2) I missed that the support units have less equipment and guns than their equivalent regular combat units.
3) I assigned far too small numbers of anti-tank units in the original video.
The first part, the ingame artillery battalions are actually 3 historical artillery battalions, additionally the game files calls them artillery brigade. Whereas a historical artillery battalion had 12 guns the ingame has 36. For this reason the number of artillery units in my original videos were way too high.
Second, I missed that the number of guns in the support units for anti-tank, artillery, and anti-aircraft is less than that of the regular combat battalions. Basically, a regular combat unit has 50 % more guns than the support version. This allows a bit more fine-tuning, but also note that the support units have special characteristics ingame that I won’t cover here.

Third, in my original video I was far too strict on the anti-tank units. For some reason I neglected the ingame number of guns and used the German Infantry division as reference, whereas in this video I will set the ingame numbers in direct reference to the historical numbers.

The Changes

Since I covered the historical division setups in the original video, I will not narrate the whole setup again, so if you are interested in the background and haven’t see the original video you might want to check it out beforehand, it is mostly military history.

Note that these units are optimized historical accuracy and not gameplay.

German Infantry Division 1940

So, let’s get started, the adapted setup for the German Infantry Division from 1940is as follows:
Due to the high number of more than 70 anti-tank guns, I recommend to use 2 regular anti-tank battalions and remove the support anti-tank gun unit. The number of artillery battalions should be reduced from 4 to 1, since the ingame artillery battalion are three times the size of historical ones.

Now, since the historical unit had 48 artillery guns, an alternative setup would be to use no regular artillery unit, but two support artillery units, this would give the correct amount of artillery pieces for this unit.


Soviet Rifle Division 1941

Since, we covered fifty shades of grey, time to take a look at Big Red, well no that is too scary, so let’s go with the Soviet Rifle Division from April 1941 instead.
Based on the data, I propose the following changes:
Reduce the number of artillery battalions to 1 or 2 units. Since, the division had 54 anti-tank guns and my original proposal had a regular anti-tank battalion included, one could add an additional support anti-tank unit. This would bring up the total ingame number of 60 guns, which slightly above that of the historical numbers.

Source: Sharp, Charles: Soviet Order of Battle World War II – Volume VIII


US Army Infantry Division 1943

Yeah, well, the Fourth of July is over, but freedom never ends, so next is the US Army Infantry division layout from July 1943.
The changes are very similar to the German and Soviet unit. Reduction of the artillery units to just 1 artillery battalion. Then adding a regular anti-tank unit and also an optional support anti-tank unit, since the historical division had a total of 57 anti-tank guns, thus just being short 3 guns to be on point. Also similar to the German division, it had 48 artillery guns, so an alternative setup could be no regular artillery unit, but two support artillery units, to get the same amount of artillery pieces as the original division layout.

Source: Stanton, Shelby: Order of Battle of the US Army in World War II


British Infantry Division 1939

Now, if you like to call things Spandau, here we go, the British Infantry Division in 1939 of the British Expeditionary Force.

The changed layout for the British is as follows:
I would add an anti-tank battalion and maybe an anti-tank support unit, although the real division had only 48 anti-tank guns, it had a large amount of anti-tank rifles. Also only one artillery battalion. The rest stays the same.

Source: (Note: that it lists 147 pieces of the 25mm anti-tank gun, a number that seems completely off and likely is, because it was a French anti-tank gun and I doubt they received so many of them. )


Japanese Infantry Division 1940 Standard B

Now the war situation may still not necessarily develop to your advantage, nevertheless here is the update for the Japanese Infantry division Standard B around 1940.
The changed layout for the Rising Sun is as follows:
No regular artillery battalion, because of the very limited amount of firepower provided by the Japanese. At most one artillery support unit should be added.
(Source: Rottmann, Gordon: Japanese Army in World War II – Conquest of the Pacific 1941-1942)


Italian Infantry Division 1940

In case you want to go full duce, here is the changed layout for one of the most dangerous pizza delivery services in history, the Italian Infantry division from 1940:
I would make the optional anti-tank support unit a definite one, since the original division had 24 anti-tank guns, which is exactly the number of the ingame unit. No regular artillery unit, but one support artillery unit, although the historical unit had 36 artillery guns those had limited firepower. (12 guns with 100mm and 24 with 75mm, thus of rather weak firepower.)
Source: Schreiber, Gerhard: S.56-62, in Deutsche Reich und der Zweite Weltkrieg, Band 3;
Soruce: Handbook on the Italian Military Forces, August 1943, Military Intelligence Service – TME 30-420


French Infantry Division 1940

What is faster than a pizza delivery, well, some argue it is the United Baguette Division, so, let’s look at the changes for the French Infantry division of 1940:

There should be a reduction of the regular artillery battalions to just one. Instead of the support anti-tank unit a regular anti-tank battalion and optional an additional one as support, similar to the US and Soviet division, because the French division had 58 anti-tank guns historically.

Source: Sumner, Ian; et. al: The French Army: 1939-45


Polish Infantry Division 1939

Now, of course this is for Hearts of Iron IV and not Space Invaders, nevertheless, some update on the Polish Space Division is necessary, the changes for the Polish infantry division of 1939, is as follows:
The once optional support anti-tank unit is now definitely a part of the division, because the historical division had 27 guns. Since the historical artillery was quite similar to that of the Italian division, no regular artillery battalion neither, just one support artillery unit.

Ellis, Johen World War II – A Statistical Survey – The Essential Facts & Figures for All the Combatants, Edition: 1995 reprinted with corrections


Romanian Infantry Division 1941

And the last division layout for this video, the setup of the Romanian Infantry Division of 1941.
Now, the updated Vampire Legions are as follows:
The historical division had 30 anti-tank guns, hence either a regular anti-tank battalion or support anti-tank unit are possible. The artillery battalions should be reduced to one support artillery battalion, since their firepower is just a bit more than that of the Polish or Italian divisions. (36 field guns with 75mm and 16 howitzers with 100mm present. )

(Source: Axworthy, Mark: Third Axis, Fourth Ally: Romanian Armed Forces in the European War, 1941-1945)


Suggestion for Proper Artillery Battalions

Now, once I realized that the ingame artillery battalions are actually the size of 3 historical artillery battalions, I added a suggestion to the Paradox Forums. Maybe there is a good reason for this, but I haven’t found one so far. Because, well there are enough slots in the division designer to support very large units. Additionally, the other battalions have mostly correct values for manpower and equipment numbers that are on par with historical numbers.
If you think the same or otherwise, please check the link below to my suggestion post on the forums and add your thoughts and/or support there.



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Online Resources

[US Army] Anti-Tank Company – Tactics & Organization – World War 2


Time to cover anti-tank tactics and principles, for this I took a look at the War Departments Field Manual 7-35 from March 1944 that covers the anti-tank company and other anti-tank units in an US Army Infantry Regiment. So let’s examine the company before we dive into the overall defensive setup, tactics and how to properly deploy a defensive position with anti-tank mines.
So let’s get started.


An US Army Anti-Tank company of an infantry regiment consisted of a Company headquarters, 3 anti-tank platoons and an anti-tank mine platoon.
The company headquarters had 35 men, each anti-tank platoon 33 men and the anti-tank mine platoon 31 men.
In terms of equipment, the headquarters company had 2 jeeps, 2 0.75 ton weapons carrier trucks and a 1.5 ton cargo truck. Each anti-tank platoon had 1 jeep, a .50 cal machine gun, 3 trucks, 3 anti-tank guns with 57mm and 3 bazookas. The anti-tank mine platoon had 1 jeep and 2 trucks.
So let’s take a look at the whole company, in total the anti-tank company had 165 men, 9 anti-tank guns, 9 bazookas and lots of other stuff.
American Infantry Division – Anti-Tank Company for Rifle Regiment – 26 February 1944 – Table of Organization 7-19

Relationship to Regiment and Battalions

Note that the anti-tank company was part of the infantry regiment, which also consisted of 3 infantry battalions, which themselves had their organic anti-tank units, namely an anti-tank platoon each.

Now, these battalions had all their own assigned areas to defend, which were themselves located in the regimental zone. Thus, regimental anti-tank company was used to support the anti-tank units of the battalions. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p.92-93)

As stated in the field Manual:
“Frequently, one platoon of the regimental antitank company is employed to reinforce or add depth to the antimechanized defenses of each front-line battalion, and provide protection to its flanks (see fig. 12).” (FM-7-35 March 1944: p.93)

Function & Mission

Hence, the main function of the anti-tank company was to provide protection against enemy tanks in coordination with the battalion’s anti-tank platoons. To achieve this, the primary missions were reinforcing the front-line battalions to deepen the anti-mechanized defense and to protect the flank or rear of the regiment. Secondary missions were attacking enemy observation posts, fortifications, gun emplacements or other enemy positions. Note that if during a secondary mission a primary mission appeared the anti-tank units should switch without order to the primary mission, meaning engaging enemy armored and mechanized troops. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p.13-14)

Firing and Cover Positions

Now, something about how the defense was organized. There are three firing positions, the primary, supplementary and alternate position.
“The primary firing position is the position from which the gun can best execute its primary mission.” (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 14)
So let’s take a look at a specific situation. For instance this could be covering an approach. Now, since there are usually more approaches to cover, supplementary positions were necessary. A supplementary position is a firing position that can cover an area that can’t be covered by a primary position. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 16)

An alternate firing position is an additional position to a primary or supplementary position that covers the same area and thus can conduct the same fire mission. This alternate position allows to perform the mission even if the respective primary or supplementary position is under fire. It must be reachable with the gun drawn by hand, yet far enough to avoid being affected by fire directed at the primary position. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 16)

Additionally there should be cover positions near the firing positions, to provide protection for personnel and equipment not engaged with the enemy. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 16)

The usual construction order is to first build the primary emplacements, then followed by the alternate positions for these and then the supplementary emplacements and their alternates. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 101) Additionally, dummy position should be constructed, these should be located at least 140 meters away from any true position. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 154-155)


Now, if you should ever setup an anti-tank position on your property or somewhere else, the manual contained two interesting bits that grasped my attention. First off, during the excavation of the position you should employ a camouflage net to avoid detection from the air. But as always the devil is in the details, when you use a camo net, be sure that it touches the ground everywhere, because if it doesn’t, it will throw a large shadow that makes it quite visible from the air. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 243) And second, after firing your gun several times, you should consider removing the blast marks in front of your gun. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 247)

Area of Responsibility & Engagement Rules

Now, for better coordination and organization, usually each unit was assigned a sector of responsibility, the size was dependent on the terrain, visibility and proximity of additional units. Ideally, these sectors should overlap with the sectors of adjacent units. The unit leader was responsible for observing the assigned areas. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 124)
In order to provide effective fire and prevent giving away the positions too early, there were several rules in place. First the unit leader defined the ranges at which enemy vehicles should be engaged. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 124-125) Second, approaching hostile recon and decoy vehicles should not be fired upon, unless the superior commander ordered this explicitly, e.g., for an anti-tank platoon the company commander and if the platoon was attached to a battalion the battalion commander. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 124-125) This prevented giving away the positions of the guns prematurely and furthermore, the enemy should be engaged when he had committed his main force.
In order to provide proper ranges, the squad leader for each gun was responsible creating a reference sheet, which he also copied for the platoon leader. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 160-161) Let’s take a short look at an adapted version of such a range card contained in the field manual.
Now, such a reference sheet was rather simple, it contained the position of the gun. An indicator for the magnetic north and various reference points with names and distance from the gun.

Defensive Combat

Let’s take a closer look at the defensive organization and tactics of the anti-tank units. The field manual has a quite interesting view on defensive combat stated under the point “defensive doctrines”:
“The general object of defensive combat is to gain time pending the development of more favorable conditions for undertaking the offensive, or to economize forces on one front for the purpose of concentrating superior forces for a decision elsewhere.” (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 91-92)

As you can clearly see, the defense is seen as a temporary situation until an offensive is possible or as a deliberate action in one area to provide the necessary forces for an attack in another area. Thus, on a strategic scale an offensive stance seems to be the determining factor.
“72. MISSION. The principal mission of the antitank company of a regiment defending a sector of the battle
position is to reinforce or add depth to the antimechanized defense provided by the organic antitank weapons
of front-line battalions, and to protect the flanks, and, if necessary, the rear, of the regimental sector.”
(FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 92)

Anti-Tank Mines

Now, one element in discussions about anti-tank operations that is often commonly neglected is the usage of mines. In defending an area against tanks mines can play a crucial part. Yet, mines are often misunderstood, the most important thing about mines is that they are first and foremost an area-denial weapon. This means, the enemy should be discouraged to use the mined areas and thus divert his approach into an area that is chosen by the defending side, which should allow an effective usage of the anti-tank guns and other weapons. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p.93)
Now, minefields don’t stop a professional army. The manual stated that mine fields must be laid in small arms range (50 to 450 meters) of an organized position. Furthermore:
“A mine field must be defended by fire to be effective. Undefended mine fields delay the enemy only for the relatively short time it takes to bypass them or to remove enough mines to permit passage.” (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 176)

Additionally, there should be a certain safe distance between friendly position and mine fields, furthermore they should not be laid in areas that are assigned for defensive artillery fire. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p.96)

Besides funneling an enemy attack into certain areas, mines could also be used to increase the resistance of outpost, by properly mining the approaches of an outpost the defending units could withdraw and lower the chances of being overrun.
Furthermore, in case of an enemy break through, a properly mined regimental sector would prevent the enemy tanks from moving freely and thus denying them to fully exploit their advantage. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p.95)

Example of a position with road block and mines

Let’s take a look an example position from the manual that uses mines and roadblocks to defend an area.
The road block is covered by the gun and also small-arms fire from infantry. The gun is positioned that it can cover the road and other approaches suitable for tanks. The mines are in range of small arms fire to prevent their removal, furthermore the infantry also protects the gun from enemy infantry. Additionally, rocket teams nearby provide additional protection from attacks on the flanks and rear. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 180)
Furthermore, if during an attack a tank comes within or below a range of 270m, all personnel not serving the gun or already attacking enemy foot troops, should employ rockets or other weapons against the enemy tanks. (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 27)
The manual states: “Doors and turrets, if open, offer particularly favorable targets to small-arms fire, as do also vision slits and periscopes. Should tanks succeed in approaching close enough to warrant such action, incendiary grenades, antitank bombs, and smoke grenades may be used. Fire is continued until defenders are forced to take cover to avoid the crushing action of tanks.” (FM-7-35 March 1944: p. 27)


To summarize, each battalion defended its sectors with their organic anti-tank defenses, whereas the regimental anti-tank company provided additional protection on the flanks and/or in the depth.
The use of anti-tank mines, natural and artificial obstacles was central in setting up a proper defense. In case of an enemy attack, it was important to wait until the enemy committed its main force. Additionally, firing at lone recon vehicles was performed only in accordance with the commander the anti-tank unit was attached to. These measures ensured that the positions weren’t given away prematurely and that the maximum firepower could be used once the enemy reached an effective firing range.


FM 7-35 Antitank Company, Infantry Regiment and Antitank Platoon, Infantry Battalion

Niehorster – US Army Infantry Division Anti-Tank Company 1944

Nafziger Collection – US Army Infantry Division Anti-Tank Company 1944

German Panzergrenadier-Division 44 and Motorized Infantry Division 1939


In this video I will cover a German Panzergrenadier-Division setup and also its precursor the Motorized Infantry Division from 1939. Note that the word Panzergrenadier literally translated is “tank grenadier”, but the correct term nowadays is mechanized infantry or even armored infantry, but in World War 2 most Panzergrenadiers were actually motorized infantry.
There were basically 2 Panzergrenadier Division layouts in World War 2 the Panzergrenadier-Division 43 and 44. The latter one was only valid for a few months, until it was removed, because all German Panzer and Panzergrenadier divisions were reorganized in the Panzer-Division 45 organization layout. Thus, the 44 organization was the last motorized infantry division layout of the war. (Keilig, Wolf: Das deutsche Heer 1939-1945 Gliederung. Bl. 102 – V- 10)

Motorized Infantry Division 1939

So, let’s start with the motorized division.


It consisted of a mixed recon battalion with armored cars and motorcycle units, 3 motorized infantry regiments each consisting of 3 infantry battalions, 1 anti-tank company and 1 infantry gun company. Additionally, 1 anti-tank battalion with 1 heavy MG company and 3 anti-tank companies. Note that the heavy MG Company was equipped with 2cm anti-aircraft guns and no machine guns. Furthermore, an Engineer battalion, a motorized artillery regiment consisting of 3 light artillery battalions, 1 heavy artillery battalion and 1 observation battalion. And finally a signal battalion.

The main rear services consisted of a supply and transportation unit, administration and medical services.

Numbers – Manpower

Now, let’s take a look at the numbers and try to keep the organization in view. Note that these numbers are for single individual sub-units, hence the numbers displayed won’t always add up, because in some cases they need to be multiplied. Also platoons and even smaller sub-units are not visible.
For the Recon Battalion we have around 386 men, one infantry regiment had a total of 3106 men, the anti-tank battalion had 708 men, the Engineer Battalion 831 men, the artillery regiment 2837 men, the signal battalion 424.

Now the sub-units of the Infantry Regiment, the 2 infantry battalions had 864 men each, and about 200 men in the anti-tank company and the infantry gun company. For the sub-units of the anti-tank battalion, there was a heavy MG company with 189 men and about 170 men in each anti-tank company. The sub-units of the Artillery regiment were 3 light artillery battalions with 540 men each, 1 heavy artillery battalion with 554 men and an artillery observation battalion with 574 men.

For the non-combat units there were 984 men in the supply units, 208 in the administration units and 531 men in the medical units.
In total the division consisted of 16445 men, with 492 officers, 133 officials, 2456 NCOs and 13364 enlisted men.

Changes in 1939/1940

After the campaign in Poland and before the battle of France the Motorized Infantry division were slightly changed. Each Division was reduced by one motorized infantry regiment and one light field Artillery Battalion. (Keilig, Wolf: Das deutsche Heer 1939-1945 Gliederung. Bl. 102 – I- 5)
Now, since we know how an early war motorized infantry division looked like, let’s take a look at the last official organization of this unit type in 1944, the Panzergrenadier-Division 44.

Panzergrenadier-Division 44

Now the name can be quite misleading, because usually when somebody mentions the word Panzergrenadier they show either a picture or video footage of soldiers in or next to German halftrack. Yet, the reality was quite different than propaganda footage.

Even in late war the basic layout of the Panzergrenadier Division 44 was using only trucks and no halftracks for the infantry units. After all, there were only 7 armored halftracks assigned to the whole division.

Of course, there were Panzergrenadiers that acted as mechanized infantry and used halftracks, but these were limited and usually assigned to Panzer Divisions and some rare elite units. So a Panzergrenadier was usually motorized infantry and not mechanized infantry. Something, I wasn’t completely aware neither before doing this video. Let’s take a look at division layout.


It consisted of an armored car recon battalion, 2 motorized infantry regiments each consisting of 3 infantry battalions, 1 heavy infantry gun company and 1 engineer company. Furthermore, one engineer battalion, 1 anti-tank battalion with 2 tank destroyer companies and 1 heavy anti-tank company. One assault gun battalion with 3 assault gun batteries. An Army anti-aircraft battalion, one motorized artillery regiment consisting of 2 light artillery battalions and 1 heavy artillery battalion. And finally a signal battalion.
The main rear services consisted of supply and transportation units, administration, medical services, a replacement battalion and a maintenance unit. Now, let’s look at the numbers.

Numbers – Manpower

For the Recon Battalion we have around 1005 men, one infantry regiment had a total of 3107 men, the Engineer Battalion 835 men, the anti-tank battalion had 708 men, the assault gun battalion had 602 men, the Army anti-aircraft battalion had up to 635 (min 607 men), the artillery regiment 1580 men and the signal battalion 427.

Now the sub-units of the Infantry Regiment, the 3 infantry battalions had 868 men each, the heavy infantry gun company had 102 and the engineer company 217 men. For the sub-units of the anti-tank battalion, there were 57 men in each of the 2 tank destroyer companies and 117 men in the heavy anti-tank company. The 3 assault-gun companies had 64 men each. The sub-units of the Artillery regiment were 2 light artillery battalions with 486 men each and 1 heavy artillery battalion with 516 men.

For the non-combat units there were 667 men in the supply units, 233 in the administration units 530 men in the medical units, 973 men in the reserve/replacement battalion and 281 men in the maintenance unit.

In total the division consisted of 14732 men, with 402 officers, 83 officials, 2766 NCOs, 11487 enlisted men and 690 volunteers. Note that these volunteers were part of the official layout of the division not some ad-hoc addition on the front line.


So let’s compare these two units. I won’t cover all changes, because some are quite obvious, like minor replacements, but there were quite some major changes in organization, equipment and the overall numbers.


Recon Element

First in terms of organization, both divisions had a recon layout, but internally the changes were quite significant. The 1939 version consisted of a company of motorcycles and an armored car company with 10 armored cars. Whereas the 1944 version had a headquarters company with 17 or 20 armored cars depending on the layout. Additionally, 3 companies of light motorized infantry with the same amount of weapons each like the motor cycle company and also a heavy company that doubled the amount of mortars. Hence, both the numbers in equipment and manpower was quite different. The 1939 version had 386 men, whereas the 1944 version had 1005 men.

Infantry Units

Now in terms of the infantry regiments, the 1939 version had 3, whereas in 1940 this number was already reduced to 2. Same goes for the 1944 version that had only 2 infantry regiments. The number of infantry battalions didn’t change. Yet, the infantry gun company was changed to a heavy infantry gun company, whereas the anti-tank gun company was removed. Yet, an engineer company was added, which had 18 flamethrower vehicles at its disposal.

Anti-tank Units

Let’s take a look at the anti-tank units. The 1939 version had only towed equipment available and the main force was located in 3 anti-tank companies, whereas the 1944 version had only one company of towed anti-tank guns, yet 2 companies with tank destroyers. Note that the early war anti-tank guns could be moved by infantry tactically, this wasn’t possible with the 75mm guns anymore, thus the introduction of tank destroyers was a necessity to provide mobile anti-tank capabilities on the tactical level. (Wettstein, Adrian: Stumartillerie)

Engineer Units

The engineer battalion stayed almost the same both in numbers and equipment.

Artillery Units

The Artillery unit had two changes, the minor change was one light artillery battalion less, but the total number of guns was the same, hence this was mainly a change in the overall structure. The original setup had artillery observation battalion. This unit was assigned to the Army units and removed from the division after the Polish campaign. (Keilig, Wolf: Das deutsche Heer 1939-1945 Gliederung. Bl. 102 – I- 2)

Anti-aircraft Defense

In terms of anti-aircraft units there was a major change, in 1939 only one company with 12 small anti-aircraft guns was available, the heavy MG company. In 1944 this setup had changed significantly, there was a dedicated army anti-aircraft battalion with a heavy company and an additional light or medium company, depending on the setup.

The different aa-guns were not only located in the anti-aircraft battalions, there were several in each infantry battalion, in the headquarters companies of the artillery battalions and the self-propelled AA guns were located in the assault gun battalion.

Assault gun

This assault gun battalion, was a major change. Whereas in 1939 there were only 24 light infantry guns available, in 1944 this number had changed to 8 heavy infantry guns, but an addition of 42 assault guns clearly increased the amount of high caliber direct fire weapons to support the infantry in combat.

Other Changes

There are quite many other changes, the number of supply companies in individual units increased, furthermore maintenance and other units were added also, which is a direct result of the increased amount of tracked vehicles most notably the tank destroyers and assault guns.

Numbers – Equipment

Now, to wrap this up, a short comparison in the equipment numbers, I choose various numbers that changed considerably and also show the evolution of certain areas.
In 1939 there were a mere 31 sub-machine guns assigned to the Division, in 1944 this number increased to 1230. In terms of light machine guns the number almost doubled from 374 machine guns or should I say Spandaus to 732 light machine guns. In terms of anti-aircraft guns there was a increase from 12 light anti-aircraft guns to 63 light and 12 heavy anti-aircraft guns. There was also some reduction in equipment numbers, the 1939 division had 1323 motorcycles, whereas the 1944 layout had only 153 assigned. Yet, in 1944 the division had 322 Kettenkräder, which is basically a half-tracked motor-cycle. In terms of anti-tank capabilities the original setup had 72 anti-tank guns, whereas the 1944 had only 19 anti-tank guns of a higher caliber, since now 31 tank destroyers were used in the anti-tank role. And an additional 42 assault guns that could be used similarly.

Summary Changes

To summarize the biggest differences were in terms of equipment were the reduction of the number of motorcycles. The vast increase in anti-aircraft weaponry, the addition of assault guns and the change of most of the anti-tank capability from towed anti-tank guns to tank destroyer.

Hearts of Iron IV

Now, for all those waiting for the division layouts for Hearts of Iron IV, don’t worry, I didn’t forget you guys. There will be an update video shortly on the infantry divisions and probably one for the units mentioned in this video too.



Keilig, Wolf: Das deutsche Heer 1939-1945 Gliederung, Einsatz, Stellenbesetzung. (amazon affiliate link – deuk)

Wettstein, Adrian: Sturmartillerie – Geschichte einer Waffengattung or as download (pdf).


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Volunteer – HiWi

Nafziger Layout

Panzergrenadier Division

Kurzchronik (checking some unit names)