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John Kettler

MILITARY REVIEW article on case for 12 man Army squad

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Whether you're interested in future warfare, WW II or both, this superb MILITARY REVIEW article from early this year should give you lots to think about. The author is pushing for making the current 9-man squad bigger, by adding a super capable, tech loaded 3-man Scout-Recon team. This, mind, is after the Marines have upped their firepower by ~3 x, downsized their squad and added a new position: Systems Operator to handle digital data, squad UAV, etc.
In order to make his case, the author shows how WW II experience led to downsizing from 12 to begin with and why he sees a need to expand the squad back to its previous size by adding a 3-rifleman Scout-Recon team loaded with tech. He also drops a bombshell on squad maneuver during WW II and presents some harrowing numbers on the attrition rate at the Battle of Aachen.
Edited by John Kettler

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Thanks, John, interesting piece. The author writes fairly dense Pentagonese; the original 1946 transcript was easier reading.

But here's the meat of it. Not sure I agree with the conclusion about adding 3 'cyber warriors' to each squad though.

1. The members of the Infantry Conference observed that infantry squads typically operated below full strength during World War I... an infantry rifle squad had to be able to survive and retain effectiveness after some attrition. Consistent with this rationale, the committee decided on the nine-man squad as the most survivable construct that a squad leader could control with voice and hand-arm signals in combat.

2. during World War II “the rifle squad almost never employed tactical maneuvers in the attack, i.e. the Able, Baker, and Charley elements of scouts, base of fire, and maneuver.” In his lecture on infantry organization, Connor stated that “wars are won by platoons” and added that “in combat, fire and movement is a platoon job.

3.  veterans believed it would be easier to train and integrate conscripts into the new nine-man squad than the twelve-man World War II squad simply because command and control over inexperienced conscripts would be better in the smaller squad.

4. at Aachen, "Casualties were still eroding the fighting power of the rifle companies. Within a few days, most were operating at half or two-thirds strength. Each night, personnel officers fed brand-new replacements into the companies. This kept the rifle companies in operation, but they were always understrength, in constant need of reinforcements"

5.  “future wars are almost certainly going to be fought mostly in cities.... urban environments will increase attrition of personnel, equipment, and ammunition.

6.  Technology and automation seem to have increased the workload of the squad on contemporary battlefields, with more equipment for the same nine people to manage and operate in addition to legacy warfighting functions.... adding another team to the squad could optimize it for unmanned armed reconnaissance, cyber, and electronic warfare capabilities

Oh, and the boys of the "Bloody Bucket" would have loved to have a few of these gizmos humping ammo up the Kall trail between 81mm mortar bursts. 


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The 1946 source pdfs linked in the above essay also make fun reading:

  1. There was a requirement In all theaters for a security element and Military Police at each regimental post
  2. Many divisions organized a combat and reconnais­sance patrol unit of 1 officer and 15 men in each rifle battalion to meet the combat patrol and reconnaissance requirements over and above that performed by the rifle companies
  3. Communications personnel in the signal company and in the communications platoons were not adequate in the following categories; switchboard operators, field linesmen, and radio operators
  4. Heavy machine guns could not be kept far enough forward for close support in the attack
  5. The rifle squad almost never employed tactical maneuvers in the attack, i.e. the Able, Baker, Charley, elements of scouts, base of fire, and maneuver in World War 2.
  6. The light machine guns and rocket launchers were habitually attached to the rifle platoon
  7. The organization of the 75mm gun squad does not provide sufficient men to keep both guns in operation in the attack
  8. The infantry regimental commander habitually commanded more men and had a greater responsibility than Brigadier generals in the US Army and other armies
  9. Forward observer parties provided in the Tables of Organization for Field Artillery are not adequate in number. Additional personnel had to be taken from the firing batteries to meet the requirement of one FO party for each rifle company,
  10. Direct fire support was frequently reinforced by fire from Corps Artillery
  11. A 50% increase in volume of fire can be obtained by adding two guns and their crew to each firing battery,  at a cost of about 10% increase in personnel*
  12. Presence of full track vehicles in an infantry division requires an increase in ordnance maintenance personnel and equipment. 

Here are some comments by General Bradley. I love the last one especially....

I thought in general our organization was sound. 

I am sure that the squad is too large. With rapid promotion due to casualties you sometimes find yourself with people commanding squads who are having a pretty hard job commanding that large a squad. In my opinion the number of infantry is pretty small. Maybe it is large enough. With better weapons, it might be best not to have too many on one team. 

Figure on the present division of 3,240 actual rifle­ men. That is where the casualties are heaviest. Out of 2,000 casualties per division 1,500 are riflemen. Some people advocate more riflemen. The division becomes weak in riflemen after not too much fighting. Concerning a replacement battalion in each division, I am not sure. Personally, I think.it can be handled through a mere effective replacement depot system. 

I think our division needs more communication troops. I think that the com­munication set-up should be given a very thorough going over to set the actual number of. bands that can be used. Increase the whole T/E of communication. The details of the organization of smaller units is going to depend on weapons. 

Practically every commander I talked to said that he does not believe the cannon company in the regiment carries its weight. All are very strong for mortars. We had several battalions of them, but all commanders wanted 4.2" mortars.

Many times we had much more artillery than we could use, but whether or not you are always going to be faced with that ammunition supply problem, I don't know.  When you want real shooting you can always use it. One day we supported one divi­sion with 30 battalions of artillery. It gives you a greater mass of fire to have a great.number of guns. It is an economy of personnel to have 6 instead of 4. You get wider dispersion with six.

I think every infantry officer and NCO should be taught how to adjust artillery in case of an emergency. Casualties among the observers were very high. I think that there is no man in the battery more valuable than the forward observer. We had one very excellent example of that in Tunisia on hill 609. The Germans launched a counter-attack just about the time when things were critical. The forward observer was killed and an infantry officer by one correction brought down six battalions on the counter-attack. It broke up the counter-attack.

We went into the Normandy invasion with 10 or 15% infantry overstrength per division so we had the same idea you had in mind. Otherwise strength decreases quickly. Any landing operation should be 10 or 15% overstrength in infantry, certainly in riflemen.

We found in cases the officer replacement had higher casualty rate than the men. The only thing we could figure out was that knowing when to duck and not to duck. When officers duck at the wrong time, it is not so good. A lot of youngsters were afraid to duck at the wrong time and didn't duck when they should. We tried to send officers up with a division other than the one they would be assigned to. Sent them up for a week or so and then brought them back to a pool and assigned them out. Most of us are scared the first time anyway. That is a little point that may be interesting to you.


Edited by LongLeftFlank

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1 minute ago, LongLeftFlank said:

Blah, blah, blah...

What are you doin'?! Why aren't you playing the demo?!!!!!



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Well, that sucks! Figures it'd come out while you were working. Well, good luck. Hope you are playing soon!



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One last tidbit: this officer sets the intellectual stage for Dien Bien Phu and Khe Sanh. "Islands of Resistance".

I want to put in one plug in support of General Gavin's theory.

There weren't many of us who fought in Asia. I feel positive, without being too predictable, that in 50 years we will fight in Asia. There are no roads, there are an awful lot of big rivers, and the only way to get in there is not to walk in as we did but be flown in. You will be forced to fight for railroad junctions, ferry crossings on rivers, and interior cities. A thousand miles from the coast line, you will be air dependent and you will be air supplied. I agree with General Gavin - you can go in the jungle, you can walk in, but it is better to fly -in. I predict that we must be prepared to fight what I call "Islands of Resistance."

Independent divisions must have an all-round defense in the future.

We are not going to fight on a big, broad front in Europe. You are going into the centers of communication and the centers of industries and hit where they are weakest, as quickly as you can.

If we don't conceive a division that can do that job, then I agree with General Gavin - we are looking back instead of to the future.

I have looked over my shoulder for 5 months in the jungle, and it is not fun to sit around and not have a reserve element. You have got to have 4 elements

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It's amazing to me how determined western Generals like Gavin were to vindicate the Airborne concept. I'm pretty sure that between his own efforts and the efforts of Stephen Ambrose were what left us with the Airborne Cult in American military folklore. It still amuses me that the Airborne Drop's major achievement at Normandy, the "finest hour"  of Airborne Operations ever, was that they just managed to avoid being totally annihilated by 2nd rate garrison troops.

Gavin's mindset toward Vietnam was the setup for Dien Bien Phu. Even heli-borne drops proved insanely dangerous and difficult events. 

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