US Army Infantry Battalion Structure & Attack Tactics World War 2 (1944)

US Army Infantry Battalion Structure & Attack Tactics World War 2 (1944)

This is the script for the video, not an article.

US Army Infantry Battalion Numbers

In 1944 an US Army infantry battalion roughly consisted of 900 men.
These were divided up in the HQ Company with 120 men.
Three rifle companies with 190 men each.
A weapons company with 160 men and
a medical detachment with 30 men.

The HQ Company was equipped with

  • 8 bazookas
  • 3 57mm anti-tank guns
  • 2 .50 cal and
  • 6 .30 cal machine guns.

Each rifle company had

The weapons company had

  • 6 bazookas
  • 8 81mm mortars
  • One .50 cal and
  • 8 water cooled .30 cals for supporting the other companies

And finally the medical detachment had bandages, probably.

Tactics: Attack against an organized position

Before we take a closer look at how an infantry battalion attacks an organized position, Some basics: artillery and smoke were used to support the attack. The Field Manual states that “in the presence of the enemy, fire must be used to protect all movements not masked by cover, or by fog, smoke, or other conditions of reduced visibility.”
The attack against the enemy position would consist of a main and secondary attack. Depending on the situation, each of those would be performed by a different set of units. The battalion consisted of 3 rifle companies, let’s call them Able, Bravo and Charlie. In this case Able company carries out the main attack, Bravo company performs the secondary attack and Charlie company is kept as reserve to exploit any breakthrough or to fight off counter-attacks. Finally, the weapons company would support the main attack.

The main attack was usually directed against the weakest point of the enemy defense. In order to increase power of the main attack, it was conducted on a narrower zone than the secondary attack.
The main purpose of the secondary attack is to prevent the enemy from providing a concentrated defensive effort. This could be done in two ways, either by advancing or by simply providing fire support. In this video we only look at the advancing version.

Secondary attack with advance

Here is the situation, the German positions are at the top. The main attack is directed against a position on the left side performed by Able Company, which will be supported by the weapons company with its mortars and machine guns.

Ideally the secondary attack should mislead the enemy, into committing reserves away from the main attack. Thus Bravo Company is assigned a terrain objective which it should attack with full force. Finally, Charlie Company is staying in cover ready to exploit any breakthroughs.
We can assume that the company commanders usually weren’t informed on what kind of attack they were performing, because the Field Manual states: “In attack orders, however, the battalion commander does not distinguish between nor use the terms “main attack” and “secondary attack.” Although, practice and field manuals usually deviate from each other.

The main and secondary attack are performed in conjunction, thus the enemy can’t focus his defense on one point. The narrower attack space of the main attack and the support from the weapons company allow for a breakthrough in the enemy line.

Able Company now attacks the flanks of the enemy line, while Charlie Company is brought through the gap in the line to exploit the situation. Meanwhile the weapons company moves up to continue its support of the attacking units, if necessary. Depending on the situation and objectives the companies would continue to attack the flanks or break into the rear areas.

Sources

Books

Amazon.com (affiliate link): Stephen Bull: World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion
Amazon.de (affiliate link): Stephen Bull: World War II Infantry Tactics: Company and Battalion

amazon.com amazon.de

Websites & Online materials

Authorized Organization – 1944 Infantry Division – Infantry Battalion (niehorster.org)

Field Manual 7-20 Infantry Battalion 1944

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