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German attack doctrine in CM


JasonC
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First, thanks to all for the kind comments.  And my apologies to combatintman for being snippy earlier.

 

Second, I don't need to give a cite for the maneuver warfare tweats because they are all mine; I can write such things as fast as I can type.  

The principles involved are as ingrained as how to breath, I don't need to think about them, only a tiny bit about how to say them.

 

I propose a slightly different way of proceeding, not wall of text and not tweats.  

Instead, experimental, a course of study.  I will lay out what you should do in games of CM to learn this stuff and have it at your own command.

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I want you to set up a quick battle, German probe, infantry only forces.  Hotseat game.  You will be playing *both sides*.

The Germans will get an infantry company, grenadiers will do, veterans.  

Give them 3 platoons and a heavy weapons section with several HMG teams and 2 81mm mortars.

Add a 105mm radio FO.

 

The defenders are a single Russian rifle platoon.  Set them up first, in defensive positions.  Split one squad as outposts, put the rest in a platoon position in some decent cover, with LOS forward and around, wide, up positions, nothing reverse slope.

 

You will play both sides.  When you are the Russians, you are forbidden from issuing a single command.  The tac AI can shoot from where you set them up, nothing else.  You use the LOS tool (fire command, voided etc) to check what they can see, you observe their exact morale state and the effects of all German fire.  You are trying to command the Germans and win and win easily with them, but you are blessed with *perfect information* and with an opponent who is *physically incapable of movement*.  You also outnumber them 3-4 to 1 and have heavier combined arms.

 

I want you to murder that Russian rifle platoon.  I want you to learn, directly and in your gut, seeing is believing, that said rifle platoon is utterly defenseless before you, simply because it is immobilized and you know every hair on their heads.

 

Feel free to put the 105mm FO on the center of that platoon position at the start, for a map prep fire.  Feel free to take all day approaching, if you like.  Feel free to use the LOS tool as the Russians to determine exactly every route they cannot see, and move the Germans exclusively in the perfect "shadows" of houses or hills etc that are out of sight of them.  Feel free to set it up so that your entire company can fire at a single half squad outpost before you first step into their view or pull the first trigger.

 

Next, add another Russian rifle platoon, but put it over in Cuernavaca, Mexico, completely away from any position that helps or defends the first platoon.  Kill them both, in whatever order you like, with whatever mix of weapons.  They can't move a muscle, they can only fire back under tac AI control, from right where they are.  Next put a modest heavy weapons position behind them, with an HQ, 2 Maxim MMGs, and an 82mm mortar.  It has LOS to some field or other that you don't necessarily need to ever enter.  Kill that force. You still know every detail, and they still can't move an inch, and you pick a sequence of fights to exploit the crap out of that immobility to kill them efficiently in sequence.

 

Why are you doing all this?  Because you are a sneaky German. You don't believe in fighting fair.  You are hacking the Kobiyashi Maru scenario to ensure you can win it, just because you don't like to lose.  *This* is how you want to fight *all the time*, in real scenarios.  As unfairly as possible, with perfect information, against a passive punching bag of an opponent, strapped into his existing positions and unable to react.

 

Moral - prove to yourself that an immobile and known enemy force is dead as a post, if you know and move and fight it intelligently, and it just sits there and takes it, and tries to fire back with one unit at a time.  You will in the process learn the host of lopsided match ups you are always seeking in real fights, you will learn to have confidence in them, and the like.

 

But there is a deeper moral.  You are learning all these things to arrive at the clarity, that the *whole real fight* consists in (1) learning exactly where the enemy is and (2) rendering him immobile.  That if you can do those things, the rest is a mechanical application of techniques a child could execute.

 

Once you have that base, you will understand what all the other, harder aspects of maneuver warfare theory are aimed at, or need to bring about.  Start with seeing how the forced mate in 3 works.  Then you can work back to how you set the enemy up for that forced mate in 3.

Edited by JasonC
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OK, so you've completed Fire and Movement 101 and you understand that a located immobile enemy is already dead and just doesn't know it yet.

 

For the 102 course you will need a little help from a friend, but not much.  You will be learning how to conduct a basic broad front recon pull attack with the same German infantry company you commanded in 101.  All your friend has to do is set up that one Russian rifle platoon, not tell you where it is, and hit "go" every time it is the Russian's turn.  The Russians are still immobile, they still don't get a single order given to them all game, and you still have odds and heavy weapons to trump them.  But this time, you don't know where they are or get to see the effects of your own fire at them, from their side of the hill.  You have to estimate lines of sight without the benefit of their LOS tool or exact position.

 

How should you go about this?  Task your company as a 2 platoon scouting wave and a main body, which gets the remaining full platoon, the heavy weapons, and the 105mm FO.  The scouting wave goes out as a skirmish line, with a few non LMG half squads ahead, a line of LMG teams and HQs following them at 50 meters distance.  Use move to contact or short advances.  Find the 2 Russian half squad outposts and the main platoon position.  You get to know that is exactly what there will be to fight, you just aren't sure where it is.  You get to know that it won't react, just fire back from where it is.  But now you will have to assess sight pictures and cover and routes for your scouts, make guesses as to where your friend put them, use the balance of a scouting wave platoon to destroy a half squad outpost that engages one of your scouting half squads, use the first scouting wave platoon that finds the full Russian rifle platoon to engage them, but know not to press but to back off until the help comes up.  You will learn that the main body can figure out where to go based on what the scout wave finds, and bring up superior weapons, and use them to destroy the located enemy full platoon position.

 

Congrats, almost there.  Call on your friend one more time for the 102 course.  He sets up 2 rifle platoon positions, 1 heavy weapons position with 2 Maxims and 1 82mm mortar, 4 half squad outposts strung out ahead of the rest, detached from the platoon positions.  He can try to actually "sew" these positions together with reasonable, mutually supporting LOS into open ground areas and the like.

 

But the Russians still don't get to move, or the benefit of a single order received during the fight.  Execute a recon pull wave attack like the previous against a single platoon.  You will need to pay more attention to picking a way through their mutual support more carefully, and you will learn the importance of discovering further bits of the defense scheme before committing too heavily.  But that defensive scheme will be sitting there, static, you just need to learn what it is.  Pick it apart once learned using the tools in your combined arms kit - grenadier platoon against half squad outputs, 105mm FO vs full platoon position, or 2x81mm mortar barrage vs the same, or an HMG, skulk away from fire and ignore what you can ignore, understanding that if it can't see you, it won't do anything until you choose to engage it, etc.

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So now you understand that located and immobile is dead, and you know how to locate.  Time for Fire and Movement 103, how to immobilize.  Make it easy, fight the AI in a quick battle.  Start by giving them a tiny force of 2 rifle platoons, set up with outposts and 2 platoon positions.  The AI won't be at all smart about movements, but it won't be physically nailed to the pavement.  Use MG teams (HMG, LMG half squads, full squads) to put down fire lanes into open ground between positions, know or suspected, to cut up its ability to move.  If they run between bodies of cover, shoot them down in the open.  This shouldn't be significantly harder than the previous.  You will learn there is a value to pushing an MG team forward far enough to cut any retreat out of, or reinforcement into, a firefight you are deliberately triggering with an isolated enemy element.  You will learn that practically speaking, at the CM firefight scale, "envelopment" means putting a line of MG fire across open ground behind any enemy position - because it is easier to get fire to either side of it, but harder to cut the "last LOS shadow" that gives the enemy a covered route into or out of any given position.

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Now you are ready for your graduation exam.  You get the veteran grenadier company, plus - this time - 3 StuGs.  Your punching bag of a Russian friend gets the reduced company previously described - 2 platoons, 1 heavy weapons section, deployed with outposts etc.  This time, though, your friend gets to give his Russians orders.  You still have odds and superior combined arms, and now you also have 3 full AFVs that he doesn't have a single weapon to counter.  Your mission is to use those advantages to execute another recon pull wave attack, find fix and finish him.  Notice, your StuGs can be pushed forward pretty aggressively, and can cut off open ground routes.  Your enemy will probably go quiet when they are in sight, however, to avoid giving them easy shots.  So you will still need your scouting wave.  You aren't fighting fair, this isn't meant to be hard.  I just want you to apply the same methods you've been using, but now make use of MGs pushed forward and unanswered armor pushed forward, to "freeze" enemies and *create* the immobilization that you were handed for free, in the earlier courses.

 

Do that successfully, and you've graduated from the basic recon-pull wave-attack, course of instruction.  It won't yet teach you everything you need to do in less favorable circumstances, or the other German methods.  But it will be enough to teach you the point of the system, its basis, how it works when it works, what it is trying to achieve, what it even means to talk of wining by a mobility differential, and the like.

Edited by JasonC
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Thanks Jason. "Located and immobile is dead" got me thinking about trench warfare with anchored flanks. Here, I guess, only attrition warfare possible. Perhaps Hutier tactics with infiltration is the maneuver giving rise to the find and fix you write about. Without a mobile / mechanized ability to press beyond the tactical zone and supply a breakthrough, attrition resumes when the front closes. circa WW1 where the enemy was pretty well located and immobile on a static front.

 

Kevin

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Kevinkin - fair question, but not quite right about how it worked in WWI. Yes you knew where the enemy trenches were. But that wasn't the same as knowing where his infantry was. There were way more than enough trenches, three layers deep, with dugouts, communications trenches to let reserves move about without exposing themselves above ground, and similar. But also, the defensive schemes had just had forever to set up, and create the coordination and integration that makes movement vital. The first of the haikus begins with, if we can win the war from shooting from right here, we probably should. If you went over the top vs a manned WWI defense you gave the enemy that. They didn't need to move to adapt to get good coordination of their various weapons, they set them up coordinated, three months ago. (Exaggerated for clarity).

But this is still a simplification of WWI. Early manned front line trenchlines were countered by heavy artillery, and that counter was entireky successful. The Germans fielded parks of 300 210mm howitzers for Verdun, for example, and artillery firepower that heavy could and did just execute any French infantry formation that tried to man front line trenches against them.

There is a counter to this method, though, one everyone backed into but that the Germans perfected by 1917. The denuded front or strongpoint based defense was precisely a counter to heavy artillery prep fires. It worked by using depth, driving the defender density low - just a few fortified machinegunners and registered artillery, plus of course wire obstacles, for the forward parts of the defense. Then the bulk of the defenders, who lived 40 feet below ground in artillery proof dugouts when not needed - manned parts of the rearward trenches when a major attack was on. The surrounding areas were covered by fire, and then local counterattacks insude the trench system fought any intruders that made it that far. With grenades, bombing up the communication trenches, and similar tactics, not going over the top, themselves. This defense in depth scheme precisely left the defenders unlocated somewhere in the full depth of the trench system, at the time any artillery prep had to be fired. Infantry artillery communication was bad enough that reactive fire could not be placed on these infantry reserves after they were encountered. The brawl between reserves and best penetrating attackers was a frankly attrition, even exchange thing. But the attackers had to pay a toll to get there through the defender MGs and barrages into no mans land, the defenders had better local intel from their stance and outposts, and their reserves and ammo and such got to reach those fights through their communication trenches, instead of above ground ir across the moonscape between the lines.

The defenders thus had a better time to front than the attackers, and safer approach and withdrawal than the attackers had. After the shift from the manned front trench to the defense in depth scheme, mind.

Hutier or infiltration tactics were developed after that dialectic had already taken the steps above. If the enemy manned his front trenches, they were not needed - just wheel up the 210s and murder the poor sods. The idea of the infiltration attack system was first off to forgo a big opening barrage that announced a major attack - prep fire, if used at all, was kept to 30 minutes or less, and usually more like 15 - but its intended target was a defense system sheltering from long term artillery threat by usng dugouts and reserve positions.

Then the idea is first, pick low visibility conditions like night or fog, and - in WWI you could do this - reduce visibility still further by firing gas, so that everyone had to fight in their masks. Push forward patrols by stealth, economy of force fashion, to find undefended routes. Diversions by firing and a local barrage laid here or there could try to focus the defenders on sectors besides the ones these pathfinder teams were infiltrating. Then the storming parties follow the pathfinders in narrow columns, to trace their steps, maintain control and direction, and present as narriw an "edge" as possible to gaps in the enemy defense. If any of the path finders were checked, the parties behind them followed others instead. Then they take out enemy outposts to widen gaps, and race as deep as they can afterward, before the alarm spreads and the enemy can react. The result was again a brawl with the enemy reserves inside his trench system, but that brawl could be started under more favorable conditions of local surprise, enemy confusion, and limited visibility, and all without paying much or any toll to defending MGs and barrages in no mans land before that brawl.

This worked well tactically. It produced break ins and break throughs. Those just didn't prive strategically decisive, because on a larger operational scale, the defender still had a better time to front than the attacker. Defending divisions *railed* to the break in sector. Attacking artillery had to be manhandled across the blasted moonscape to have combined arms again for the follow up, once the attackers gained 15 miles or so. Shells for that artillery had to be moved by horses, which don't like barrage zones very much. Or wait for the construction of narrow gauge rail extensions to haul meaningful numbers of shells. If the artillery was not brought up, the defenders coukd revert to the manned front line trench - even a hasty one - 15 miles behind the previous front line. The attacker options were then to attack with poor combined arms, inefficiently in exchange loss terms, to try to maintain op tempo - or to wait for the guns to catch up, but give the defender time to rail in more infantry, dig deeper and second line trenches, bring in their own artillery and shells, launch local counterattacks, etc. As a result, the attacjers would have to pause, then do it all again.

Those deeper relationships are the reason infiltration tactics, while they worked as intended and were tactically very successful, could not be translated into strategic results, under WWI conditions. They just took their place as tactical means in a still fundamentally attrition struggle, with defender dominance, with heavy shells and infantry bodies being exchanged off until one side or the other couldn't take it anymore.

In WWII, there are better comms to put down reactive fire on located enemies, armor to carry concetrated power through hus defended zone, trucks to move guns and shells, across more intact terrain and shallower defensive works because no one had years to dig deeper in the same spot, etc. And the sane tactics coukd therefore achieve at least operational results. At the highest level, it was *still* a war of attrition. Depth and reserves and mobility used reactively by such reserves could tame break through, and leave an attrition brawl again. But it was all a lot closer, more promising for the attacker, than the conditions seen in WWI after gaining the first 10 or 15 miles.

Edited by JasonC
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Wow, that was certainly more then i hoped for! Thank you, Sir!

 

Now i had a bit of time to chew on this and try some of it ingame, im rather impressed by my own ignorance. I thought the Grenadier-squads were useless and usually would go for either Panzergrenadiere or Füsiliere, but after playing around utilizing your tips ive come to another conclusion- it was me :D  I also noticed that the Grenadiere have a MG-Platoon at battalionlevel, where a section fields 2 binoculars, outstanding at spotting!

 

Some questions came up while playing myself: i found out that the best way to counter this tactic is actually either have a mobile armor reserve or at least responsive artillery massing( not the russian strong side though- trp!!).

Ive read about german mgs being told to change position every now and then, but on the typical cm battlefield, only few such dominating positions are to be found. It definetely helped the german attacker to maneuver on a rather large map. The next problem encountered is that on a typical cm battlefield you need to actually be on top of the victory location, so that the idea of making a nice web of firelanes around a enemy position only helps you so far. Somewhen in the game you usually have to assault. Sure, softening up with arty and the like, but if you need to clear out russian smgheavy squads, sooner or later casualties will rise.

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SlowLarry - fight the right way, and CM victories will come.  Don't distort the fighting method to fit bad modeling and bad victory conditions in the game.

When you get good enough at it, that stuff won't matter.  

 

As for "eventually you need to assault", you want to chew only the pieces of the enemy you want and need to chew, and only as fast as you can chew them, and using the best meat grinders you have available.  The point of freezing the enemy is to let you deny battle in the places you aren't doing this, and have most of your best weapons for the places where you are.  If every position you do assault is well and truly pinned down before anyone gets close, it will work.  But the point of the practice games against immobile enemies is precisely to learn how to do that, so that is gets to be routine.

 

As for how one meets a German style attack of this sort, one, don't let them know where you are.  Move and change positions and threats.  Pin as much of the scouting wave as you can before it gets close enough to discover very much, with stealthy long range weapons (snipers, MGs from long range, mortars firing from full defilade).  Keep a reserve.  Chose positions with covered routes into and out of them, and fight to hold those routes.  Try to keep the whole defense fluid, able to move, able and willing to pull back where the match up isn't promising.  Lead the enemy scouts down a primrose path, showing weakness where you actually want them to come.  Yes reserve armor that can move through their fire and reinforce where it is needed helps.  Yes TRPed artillery on a cul de sac helps.  Above all, getting inside the attacker's head, yourself, and playing the mutual mind game of just who is predicting whom, helps - if you win it, at least.  Sometimes you need to seize a bit of initiative yourself and do something unexpected to one part of that recon wave - though that's easy to mess up and walk into a trap, and lose your defender's cover edge as well.

 

What won't work is lying there passively and letting the attacker dictate the pace of the battle, get the match ups he wants, deny combat where he isn't ready for it right now, and then string those together in any sequence he pleases.

Edited by JasonC
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I want to add a comment or two, to avoid misunderstandings.  I present the "freezing", "immobility" goal of the German attack method not because it is the only aspect of the maneuver attack method, but because it is the simplest to see and grasp, and perhaps the most decisive when fully realized.  The principle behind it is alluded to and its generalization hinted at, in the second set of my "tweet" versions, above.  This principle is that it is the articulation of the enemy force, the intelligent adaptation that animates it, that is the source of most of its combat power.  Coordination and teamwork are thought of as the core power generating capacity or aspect of any force, and then the deduction is made that attack can *target* the enemy's coordination and teamwork, and seek to degrade that aspect of his force.  Forcing immobility upon him is one clear example of that, but it is not the only one.

 

To act in a coordinated fashion, an army needs to see, understand, assess, communicate, and control - as much as it needs to move.  Measures directed at the enemy's capacity to do those things can be as paralyzing as pinning fire.  This includes deception, stealth, unexpected timing and direction of attacks, physical attack on the enemy's headquarters, commanders, and communication equipment, physically separating his forces from each other by the interposition of friendly forces or fire.  It also includes "mental" means - forcing a pace upon the enemy that he cannot sustain, making his older orders obsolete before they have even had time to take effect, stressing or physically preventing his supply, and seeking to intimidate both rank and file and the enemy command.  These may accumulate into the local commander failing his own personal morale check; they surely make his job harder.  

 

Meanwhile, friendly forces are tasked and operated and assessed with an eye to their own capacities in these respects.  Meaning, the German force strives to keep combined arms coordination, to maintain the ability to move shoot and communicate at all times.  Flexibility under future contingencies is valued as much or more than immediately application of combat power now.  This may extend to reserve slope deployments on defense, to ensure an ability to move in a sheltered fashion, to keeping a reserve, to expecting a defense to operate by local counterattack behind thin screens that reveal enemy intentions rather than thick fronts meant to shoot down attackers immediately.  (Keeping the enemy in the dark is as important as shooting his men; a German defense does not want to reveal itself too soon).  It means denying battle altogether, on both attack and defense, when the local conditions are not favorable.  And it means pushing decision making down to the lower ranks and forward locations, where information is most immediate and most accurate, and can be acted on as rapidly as possible.  A good plan executed immediately is considered infinitely better than the best plan executed tomorrow.

 

The German way of war is always in a hurry.  It wants to exhaust the enemy, mentally as much as physically, by giving them too much to cope with, too much to adapt to, and then watch carefully for his worst mistake, and make the most of that mistake.

 

Some of those principles go beyond what one can implement at the tactical level in CM, but the whole train of thought behind it definitely applies.  The core of that thought is that every single piece of the enemy army is weak and defenseless if not supported by the rest.  Its strength and even survival depend on overall coordination, and that their coordination can be stressed by *varying* the threats they face.  Constantly changing threats force the enemy to "dance" to meet each new threat - and then one can cover the dance floor with tripwires and landmines, and see how well they can "keep up", with those in the way.

 

I write this to avoid any interpretations of the German method as being exclusively about the enemy's physical mobility.  That is an illustration of the principle and one of its most important methods or avenues of implementation, but the overall method is wider and more general, than that specific goal.

Edited by JasonC
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@JasonC -- Like others, I've found your posts about doctrine extremely informative and helpful -- thank you. I wonder if we could prevail upon you to offer your insights into American and Commonwealth doctrines?  I know this is the Red Thunder forum, so likely inappropriate to this setting, but the CMBN forum would fit the bill.

 

Or, if American / British doctrines have already been explained, maybe you could direct me to where those threads are --

 

Again, many thanks for your efforts --

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Here's the old skool thread with JasonC's comments about attacking / defending as the Germans and Americans against each other.

 

http://community.battlefront.com/topic/86-how-to-attack-like-a-german-sample-forces/

 

This was from CMx1 days and is more hands-on (realistic force mixes of various sizes) and less theoretical.

 

Don't miss the "bonus" contribution by JonS about a Commonwealth rolling barrage-style attack!

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sandman - I can talk about US doctrine, sure.  I am not going to put it into its own thread here, because it isn't really about CMRT and it also isn't one of the "ideal types", like Russian attrition methods and German maneuver methods.  It is closer to the Russian way of doing things but with some specific differences, and also with the US Armor force more inclined to the German approach.

 

First some background.  The US army was relative young in WW II, as a major conventional war ground force.  The US learned most of its military doctrine from French models at the end of WWI. Many of the force structures, tasking, even specific artillery pieces and their roles, came directly from French models.  In the interwar years, the US army was very small, but retained a professional officer corps of WWI veterans and active military schools.  Those tried to learn the lessons of WWI, including places where they saw a need to depart from French methods, and to keep abreast of developments in military strategy elsewhere through academic study and liason postings of officers and mutual observers and the like.  The US was blessed with some particularly sound characters in that effort, notably George C Marshall, the chief of staff during WWII, who basically ran the US infantry school in the 1930s and oversaw its doctrinal publications.  Meanwhile men like Patton were experimenting with the new armor warfare methods during peacetime maneuvers.  There were some weaknesses in US doctrine at midwar - early for the US - but those had largely resolved by the time of the ETO campaign.

 

The next bit of background is to understand some of the strengths of the US force structure.  The US emphasized the firepower arms, which effectively substitute money spent on munitions for blood or brilliance.  Send shells; its only money.  This reflected logistics being a very long suit for the American armed forces generally, and the army specifically.  The US air force was the best in the world, and the US artillery arm was also arguably the best in the world, when the manner in which is could be coordinated was tied to its logistics and supply, etc.  So there was a definite and justified tendency to lean on fire support and let it do as much of the job as possible.  The US army also had a lot of armor by the standards of other nation's forces, with even its infantry divisions well equipped with supporting tank and tank destroyer battalions, as well as truck mobility lift.  Nearly the entire army was mechanized, by the standards of German or Russian contemporary armies.  Culturally, the US army didn't have any of the class or political hierarchies of other period armies; it was more level and the officers relied on voluntary cooperation of the men to get things done.  Initiative at the lower levels was good, discipline and subordination were not, by the standards of the martinets of other armies.  This put a premium on doing things the safe way, the way that was cheapest in blood, not cheapest in time or forces committed, ammo expended, etc.

 

With that as background, I will first describe the typical way the US infantry division force fought, and especially how it attacked.  (Mostly it was attacking, from the overall strategic situation etc).  That system can be described as persistent nibbling, endlessly repeated small probes backed by firepower.  These methods were frankly a marginal updating of late WWI practices, in which "artillery conquers, infantry occupies".  One veteran described his role as an infantry officer fighting clear across Europe as that of a glorified forward observer, whose constant mission was to get close enough to the enemy to call down accurate artillery fire on his positions, and little else.  That's an exaggeration but not a misleading one.

 

The typical tactical unit for infantry division missions was the infantry battalion, but it rarely used all of its component companies in a single attack.  Instead the normal, almost formulaic tasking was to have one company "in assault", a second "in support", and the third "in reserve".  The support company occupied the start line and held it.  It would observe the attack, fire in support of it, shelter anyone who had to retreat, and fight off any local counterattacks if those occurred, but it was not expected to leave its cover and advance, until the immediate objective of the attack was taken.  Then if would move forward to relieve the assault company.  The reserve company didn't have frontage assigned, typically, and could be half a mile behind the support.  It was deliberately left out of action to give the commander flexibility to meet any contingency, and also just as a deliberate "rest" period of less exertion for the men.  They would reorganize, take replacements, restock ammo, repair damaged equipment, etc.  Their primary mission was just to be ready to fight *tomorrow*.  Meanwhile the assault company got to deliver the attack for the whole battalion, as a modest probe.  Yes they would occasionally depart from this normal usage to put 2 or even all 3 companies "in assault" while some other formation stood as reserve, but this was the typical daily way the formation fought.

 

The assault company was thus supported by the full battalion's mortars and all available artillery fire support.  It would also get at least a portion of any supporting tanks, typically a platoon of Shermans or perhaps of SP TDs, and sometimes twice that.  The assault itself was not much more than a reconnaissance by the standards of other armies.  A few scouts leading, their squad behind them, their platoon behind that in a wedge, and the company's platoons and weapons typically only 2 up and 1 plus weapons supporting.  Thus a small number of scouts and a few skirmish lines walked toward the enemy.

 

But they had God Himself on the radio, and called his Wrath down on whatever messed with the scouts.  A US infantry division had 12 155s and 36 105s in its divisional artillery, and another 18 105s in its regimental cannon companies.  Corps level artillery groups added another 36 155s or larger per division slice.  An intantry division would typically use 2 up 1 back deployments at the battalion level and sometimes also at regiment, so that only 4-6 infantry battalions were sending forth these company sized probes at one time.  The support of a single company level probe was thus frequently 1 or 2 *battalions* of artillery fire support - plus the infantry battalions own 81mm mortars, if those had any ammo.

 

And that's with even tasking.  But they didn't use even tasking, they let every 2nd Lieutenant with a radio call for anything he could, passing fire mission requests up the divisional command nets.  This could even cause large scale problems down the road because they could fire off all the ammo that could be trucked up to the guns, if let unchecked - the artillery "pull" appetite was practically limitless.  The aggressive and capable FOs and infantry officers got more than their share of support, and sometimes the others heard that the guns were busy or ammo dry.  But the amount of firepower that *could* wind up supporting each little company probe topped out at wrath of God levels.

 

Of course, it wasn't always trivial to make use of that.  Fire at unlocated enemies or enemies deep in their cellars was wasteful and ineffective.  The infantry had to create the threat that made the enemy stand, man his forward defenses, and fight.  And the enemy could "go thin" to fight with just the infantry, not giving the guns enough to chew on, by using scattered small MG nests and snipers and the like.  Against those, the infantry and its armor support had to make their own way.

 

The fundamental approach, though, was relentless artillery pounding ahead of those endless small infantry probes.  The rotation system was designed to ensure another one could be launched on an hour's notice, and another the next day, every day, with all the men getting enough reorganization and rest to keep it up indefinitely.  They were not trying to win the war today, or even tomorrow.  They were trying to take yet another very nearby terrain objective, and get the artillery some nice shoots if anyone tried to stop them.  That artillery shooting was conceived as protecting and supporting the *movement* of the infantry, and the fact that the infantry was sending a pittance was conceived as an economy of force measure to limit losses on any given fearsome screw up.  The whole line of nibbles was also supposed to find softer spots in the enemy defense and advance more surely, if not appreciably more rapidly, in those locations.  The harder spots could stick out into the advancing line and worry the higher commanders, but would call down upon themselves more than their share of artillery pounding, in consequence.

 

That pretty much describes the US infantry force's way of war.  It has similarities to the Russian attrition method, in its emphasis on just finding the enemy and then clobbering him by fire.  It doesn't launch wave after wave regardless of losses to ensure advance, though.  It backs off from anything too hard and just lets that place hold, though plastering it, and expects somebody else to efficiently advance elsewhere.  Anything left relatively undefended, it will find and pocket pretty cheaply, and the whole thing is a broad front ratchet washing over the enemy.

 

The US armor force way of fighting was different, however.  Its standard operating formation was an armored task force, which means a battalion sized force created by cross attaching tanks with armored infantry or the other way around.  They could vary from 2 to 4 companies in maneuver force strength, but 2 tank and 1 infantry company or the reverse were the usual amounts.  They would then have additional smaller attachments, platoon sized typically, of other supporting arms - cavalry, TDs, engineers, etc.  They might also have a battery of 105mm self propelled, or just have a battery to a battalion of those on call, instead of co located with the task force.

 

A task force was conceived as a force for, and operated along, a single major road or direction.  It might split off minor pieces to recon or block flanking routes, but the main body was a one road affair, and normally stayed together for the most part.  Once it finds the enemy, it deploys to fight, off road, and leads with the appropriate arm for the terrain and enemy.  A task force expected all of its elements to fight; any reserve was strictly local and temporary.  In other word, they didn't leave out of battle a third or two thirds of the force to fight later.  (The whole armor division could and did, as a "combat command reserve",  but the committed task forces were themselves all committed to action).

 

Their methods were much closer to the German way of war, described, with special emphasis on flanking and bypassing the enemy.  Something would find him, much like the German scouting wave, and try to fix them.  Another element would then flank them, and either destroy them by doing so or secure a way around them that was safe from their fire.  The whole task force would then exploit any such wedge or entry into the enemy position, with only minimal elements left to "mask" whatever they worked around that way.  The 105s in support would plaster the bypassed, but the task force itself moved on to its next target.

 

The firepower, especially the soft or anti-infantry firepower, of a US armored task force was very high.  The tank component was usually very close to TOE, 80 to 90% of strength being typical, much higher than the running strength often found in German or Russian armor (outside of the very beginning of an offensive, in the latter case).  All the infantry was halftrack mounted with a plethora of full machineguns, both 30 and 50 caliber, mounted on those vehicles.  Every halftrack carried at least 1 and sometimes 2 bazookas.  There was little that a full armored task force could not simply outshoot, locally, outside of a company of German armor and even in that case, only the superior types would be likely to check the task force.

 

Tactically, they could lead with dismounted armored infantry squads when the terrain was close, and with Shermans when it was open.  A little economy of force for scouts, then a main body dominating enemies found by direct firepower.  They were perfectly willing to use recon by fire, as well, with the Sherman coaxials liberally spraying the countryside as the formation advanced.

 

The basic idea was to smash anything small by just hitting it with way more armor than it could handle ,and bypass larger forces after "blunting" their edges or outposts in the same fashion.  The bypassed are just shelled and follow on forces from the same armor division encircle them, or leave them to infantry division forces to mop up later.  In the meantime, "bypass and haul ass".  

 

Up at the full division level, the armored division is attacking with 2 combat commands of 3-4 task forces each, and reinforcing success, shifting away from failure.  It finds or creates routes into the enemy defense, then through it to his rear area, with bypassed "cells" of holdouts just left in the division's wake.  The objectives are terrain ones - gain ground, get through the enemy, keep moving - not focused on the destruction of enemy forces.  That will come, if the division as a whole gets around or through them.

 

If the division hits serious enemy armor, but only then, it has to get more circumspect about its attacks.  Then it cares about maintaining a line and a reserve, and attrites the enemy by putting armor on armor, with TDs and firepower arms helping.  It still tries to envelop that enemy.  The effectiveness of all the division's armor increases significantly if they get on 2-3 sides of the enemy.  They also try to win the soft firepower, HE war, to strip the enemy of his infantry support.  That is a matter of divisional and higher level artillery, tank and assault gun fire, and air support; L-5 spotting aircraft also direct artillery fire and add to an intel differential.  The assumption is that winning the soft firepower war will deprive the enemy armor of its "eyes", and that then maneuver to its flanks and cutting its road routes will render it immobile and impotent.

 

I hope that helps understand US tactical methods, and how they differed between its infantry division and armor division components.

Edited by JasonC
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Very, very interresting, thanks JasonC.

 

So, how useful is it to use these different tactical doctrines in CM? Will you be more successful if you use the historically appropriate ones for each side, or were these too much influenced by the overall strategic/operational situation (the US and Russia having huge amounts of artillery, for instance) for these different tactics to be the most useful for each side in a more balanced CM scenario?

Edited by JSj
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Very, very interresting, thanks JasonC.

 

So, how useful is it to use these different tactical doctrines in CM? Will you be more successful if you use the historically appropriate ones for each side, or were these too much influenced by the overall strategic/operational situation (the US and Russia having huge amounts of artillery, for instance) for these different tactics to be the most useful for each side in a more balanced CM scenario?

I think the fascinating insight is more helpful in getting scenario designers to put their creations together and give a "historical" feel to them than it is a recipe for battlefield success. All the doctrines Jason has described have valuable tactical principles in them, but I don't think buying a platoon of infantry instead of a company, to get the right proportion of arty-to-boots-to-tracks (for illustrative, inexact example) as Americans in a QB will get you more success than picking the more usual "arty light" (relatively) combined arms force, and it's often considered less than exciting to have a scenario mostly decided by overwhelming artillery on one side, so you won't often see a scenario where the infantry are "just FOs" like the hyperbolic recounting Jason mentions.

 

If a scenario designer has put together a historical battle though, I think you'd probably do well to bear the doctrines in mind, because at least one side will have thought they could win, and would have expected to do so using their doctrines... :) But most of the time, even historical scenarios won't be giving one side the advantage (usually in materiel and personnel, in the stages of the war we've got games for) that allows Russian and US doctrine to function effectively in the round.

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