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Troop command and control question.


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Hello there,

I've been playing CMBB for quite some time now, but i'm quite curious how orders are given in real life, and how higher command HQ's control their troops. (both Russian and German)

How are missions on batallion level and lower decided? Is there a briefing first a few days before the action takes place?

How is enemy troop movement tracked, and how are (for eg.) reconnaissance photo's converted into orders for lower chains of command (Coy and Plt).

Does the Bat. HQ for eg. say take the hill and then the Coy HQ sais we take that side of the hill and the Plt. HQ tells his men we take the top or foot of that part of the hill?

Do higher commands (Bat. HQ) issue orders during a battle to change the situation and does it have any use in the heat of battle? Or do they just issue orders before a battle and don't bother with the rest?

How long does it take for certain orders from a Bat HQ. to reach a Coy HQ?

Was there an extensive use of radio in WW2 for transferring orders?

And finally, is there a book available on OOBs, TO&Es and CnC for the German army in WW2?

Regards,

Gryphon

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Originally posted by Gryphon:

[snips]

How are missions on batallion level and lower decided? Is there a briefing first a few days before the action takes place?

It is classically assumed that military decision-making goes through a cycle of gathering intelligence, making an appreciation based on that intelligence, considering alternative courses of action and formulating a plan, then putting the pplan into the form of orders. More recently, Klein's work on "recognition-primed decision making" suggests that what really happens, especially in fluid situations and at low tactical levels, is that the decision-maker recognises a pattern in the situation he sees and then immediately knows what course of action to take. This strikes me as a more likely mode of behaviour for experienced commanders on both sides on the Eastern Front.

As to the time taken, it depends on the amount of time available for planning and rehearsals. A Soviet Corps might take several weeks gearing up for an offensive. A German regiment should be able to make a quick attack off the line of march in something like half and hour. It's impossible to generalise, as it depends on the command style of the leaders, how well-practised the unit are at working together, and on all sorts of factors of the tactical situation.

Originally posted by Gryphon:

[snips -- short of time]

Do higher commands (Bat. HQ) issue orders during a battle to change the situation and does it have any use in the heat of battle? Or do they just issue orders before a battle and don't bother with the rest?

In both the Wehrmacht and the Red Army, I would expect the battalion CO to be well up at the sharp end on the main effort, observing the situation at first hand and controlling his subordinates directly by voice commands. This would be much less likely in the contemporary British or American armies.

Originally posted by Gryphon:

How long does it take for certain orders from a Bat HQ. to reach a Coy HQ?

How long is a piece of string? It depends if the orders go by D-R, runner, field telephone or radio. As a rough indication of best possible times, radio orders for a Chieftain squadron in the 1970s used to be reckoned to need three minutes. That's only the time taken to transmit the orders over a working voice link, not the planning time.

Originally posted by Gryphon:

Was there an extensive use of radio in WW2 for transferring orders?

Not at the company level, which is mainly what's portrayed in CM. Signals would be mostly by voice, hand- or flag-signal, whistle or pyrotechnics (Very flares, coloured smoke).

Even in the relatively lavishly-equipped British Liberation Army in 1944, radio communications at unit level and below were nothing like as good as one would expect nowadays.

PRO document WO 232/77 "Communications within the Infantry Battalion", quotes from 21 Army Group/2064/2/OPS/(B) of 16 August 1944, "Lessons from Battle" by the Staffordshire Yeomanry:

"2. Bad Infantry Communications. These are without exception deplorable. There is the general defeatist attitude amongst infantry that their communications are bound to fail once the battle starts. The attitude is justified as they always do. The result is that the plan has to be too rigid, and once troops are committed it is impossible for them to adjust themselves to the enemy's reactions. The whole system of infantry communications seems to require a complete overhaul."

Originally posted by Gryphon:

And finally, is there a book available on OOBs, TO&Es and CnC for the German army in WW2?

A fair few, although I can't think of a single title that does a much better job than the old TM E 30-451, "Handbook on German military forces".

The German approach to command has been widely discussed in professional military literature over the last twenty years or so; William Lind's "Maneuver Warfare Handbook" would be hard to beat as a short primer. However, I have met very little in print that addresses the question of comms performance in WW2. Any suggestions for titles on this would be welcome.

All the best,

John.

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