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Three-squad Para platoons, myth? Or fact?


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JonS - the standard stick for parachute infantry was 21 men per C-47. The average over both divisions works out to 16.26, but that reflects fewer in planes carrying heavy weapons, command groups, some of the pathfinders, etc. In the line AIBs, it was 21 men per plane.

I hope that helps with your calculation.

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This site has a lot of detail. The TOE was changed in August 44 but it still only had 2 squads per platoon. Not until Dec 44 were the tables officially changed to 3 squads per platoon yet the changes could not be adopted until March 45.

also, these words about extra BARs:

As there was no Weapons Platoon, each Rifle Platoon included a six man Mortar Squad serving a single 60-mm weapon. Each Platoon also had access to several unallocated support weapons, chief among these being a Bazooka. There were also a further two Browning light machine guns available which could be deployed as necessary. That gave the Battalion forty-four such weapons and allowed each Rifle Squad to effectively double its firepower.
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That's good stuff, Lemuel, but it's a bit problematic. Meyers wasn't in Normandy. He's relating something he was told to the effect that the orgasnisation he was about to take into MARKET GARDEN is the same as had been used in Normandy.

I concede this, though Nordyke does feel at liberty to embellish the testimony: "Lieutenant Meyers was briefed on the unofficial table of organization and equipment that had been adopted before Normandy, with the addition of a squad to each platoon in a parachute infantry company."

The 'before Normandy' part was in the author's words. Otherwise it is Meyers simply describing the state of a para platoon in D/505 as he found it. Nordyke comes highly recommended, I found the book after reading Bob Murphy's endorsement in No Better Place To Die.

17 troops per-plane is conservatively-estimated as well - the first testimonial by a para on that site gives the troops in his plane (elements of H/505) as 21.

Total planes for the 505th + divisional HQ elements + attached engineers is 120 (according to the site linked), at 21 troopers per plane that gives us a (rough potential) capacity of 2520 men, subtract the head-count of three on-paper rifle battalions and you're left with almost 1000 'spare' places for some engineers and HQ elements. The extra bodies required to make up an extra squad in each platoon is only 324 men.

To my mind this is actually a very good reason for. Go team 3-squads! :P

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JonS - the standard stick for parachute infantry was 21 men per C-47. The average over both divisions works out to 16.26, but that reflects fewer in planes carrying heavy weapons, command groups, some of the pathfinders, etc. In the line AIBs, it was 21 men per plane.

I hope that helps with your calculation.

Thanks. OTOH, I had a look at Mark Bando's site - he gives a typical figure that's under 20. It's a back of the envelope calculation at this stage, so I'm not shooting for 100% accuracy yet anyway, but 2 or 3 per a/c adds up to quite a few men over the hundreds that were flying that night.

ISTR that (in one of his books, maybe?) Bando has put together a plane-by-plane list of who was on each. That'd probably be useful.

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Regarding the 3 Squad implementation prior to Normandy... sheesh, with all the obsession and research about the US Airborne we wouldn't even have a question about this!! Damned historians and their obsessions with documenting 101st haircuts and "crickets" instead of TO&E :D

OK, for sure there is some evidence the changes were made prior to Normandy. I'm not totally convinced yet, however. I'm even less convinced it was 100% universal. It could be they only managed to scrounge up the extra manpower and equipment for a couple of Battalions, or perhaps one Company per Battalion. So far there's no good overall picture of this situation, other than officially it didn't exist and several other sources do not mention it in place for Normandy.

Regarding the BARs, kinda a similar thing. Did paras use BARs? I don't doubt it. But did they pick them up after being on the ground? Did they only manage to get a few sprinkled amongst a Battalion? This is important because putting in too many BARs could be more incorrect than having none as we have now.

And lastly, 17th Airborne wasn't in the ETO so it counts as part of this discussion as the PTO's 11th Airborne Div and the 503rd PIR :D

Steve

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Regarding the 3 Squad implementation prior to Normandy... sheesh, with all the obsession and research about the US Airborne we wouldn't even have a question about this!! Damned historians and their obsessions with documenting 101st haircuts and "crickets" instead of TO&E :D

OK, for sure there is some evidence the changes were made prior to Normandy. I'm not totally convinced yet, however. I'm even less convinced it was 100% universal. It could be they only managed to scrounge up the extra manpower and equipment for a couple of Battalions, or perhaps one Company per Battalion. So far there's no good overall picture of this situation, other than officially it didn't exist and several other sources do not mention it in place for Normandy.

Regarding the BARs, kinda a similar thing. Did paras use BARs? I don't doubt it. But did they pick them up after being on the ground? Did they only manage to get a few sprinkled amongst a Battalion? This is important because putting in too many BARs could be more incorrect than having none as we have now.

And lastly, 17th Airborne wasn't in the ETO so it counts as part of this discussion as the PTO's 11th Airborne Div and the 503rd PIR :D

Steve

I think the reasons for not going and not making wholesale changes to the ToE are good, as you've outlined.

But for example: I can find evidence that puts BARs in at least two different squads of A/505 on the morning of the 6th; where would they have picked these up? My guess is out of the bundles that dropped with them, where they got all their equipment.

That's why my suggested compromise was to allow single extra squads to be purchased in the design phase and added to each platoon, and that the presence of a BAR in a squad be determined by a toggle in design-mode, BAR/No-BAR? A bit like Grenadier/not-grenadier for the Germans.

This way if a scenario-designer, through thorough research, is satisfied that these changes are appropriate then he can include them in his OOB.

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Not in June, but they were for VARSITY.

Which is even after the December TO&E changes, so how is it relevant to this discussion? :D

I think the reasons for not going and not making wholesale changes to the ToE are good, as you've outlined.

But for example: I can find evidence that puts BARs in at least two different squads of A/505 on the morning of the 6th; where would they have picked these up? My guess is out of the bundles that dropped with them, where they got all their equipment.

Probably for these two. If the accounts can be believed, that is. I've found too many 1st person accounts from long time vets that confused what they had and when. You would think they wouldn't, but they sometimes do. Especially they were interviewed 20-40 years after the fact.

The other source of error comes from incorrect assumptions from the author retelling the vet stories. For example, the vet is interviewed one time and mentions so and so firing his LMG or hearing outgoing automatic fire. The author erroneously attributes this to a BAR even though the vet never mentioned a BAR.

I'm not trying to discredit your sources, I'm just relating why I keep a healthy amount of skepticism.

FWIW, I just read a 1st hand account where the soldier said he lost his weapon and found a Carbine just lying around. Complete with ammo belt. This was within maybe the first hour or so of parachuting in. You have to wonder, "where the heck did THAT come from?" Who knows, but it seems lots of really strange stuff happens in war like this.

Where might paras got BARs early in the fight? The most likely source would be the Glider guys. They definitely had them and Glider and Airborne were intermingled right from the get-go (at least to some extent).

The idea of having it be optional equipment is a possibility. I would rather have more information about how BARs might have been allocated at this stage. It might make a difference in how I code up the TO&E. With the other options in the game now I've had that sort of information.

Steve

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The glider bns didn't come in until about 18 hours after the main landings, at 2100hrs on D. Both divs did bring ~50 gliders in 2 hours after the paras at 0400 on D, but they were carrying HQs, medics, anti-tank guns, AA guns, vehicles, and signallers.

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I went mining for nuggets in Google Books, one I dug-up is a passage from All American, All the Way, by Phil Nordyke, which is very similair to the passage from Four Stars... except he is much more explicit:

Before Normandy, an unofficial increase in the strength of the rifle companies had been made so that an additional rifle squad was added. This increased the strength of the rifle company from 110 men with 8 officers to 144 with 8 officers.
(p.3)

I think it's fair to say he meant 'platoons' instead of 'companies' in the first sentence (poor editing, nothing more), and the final count appears to be out by 2 (?), but nevertheless leaves little to conjecture.

Incidentally this figure meshes more-or-less perfectly with the strength of A/505 at dawn on D-Day given by Bob Murphy.

There's also this from everybody's fave, Stephen Ambrose:

Within a few days of it's formation, Easy company had it's full compliment of 132 men and eight officers. It was divided into three rifle platoons and a headquarters section. There were three twelve-man squads and a six-man mortar squad to a platoon.

All I really took away from that was that the author's sums don't add up. He does say there are three squads though, so he's on the team :D

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Ambrose :rolleyes: What is the context for 'within a few days of it's formation'? What date is being talked about there?

The Nordyke numbers look odd to me, unless they just threw the official TOE out the window. I'd have expected 126 with two squads (not 118), or 162 with three squads (not 152).

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The Nordyke numbers look odd to me, unless they just threw the official TOE out the window. I'd have expected 126 with two squads (not 118), or 162 with three squads (not 152).

152 adds-up if you take the organization described by Lt 'Joe' Meyers (quoted earlier) at face-value: 8-man company HQ (x 1); 4-man platoon HQs (x 3); 3 x 12-man rifle squads per platoon; 1 x 6-man mortar section and 1 x 2-man bazooka team per platoon (making 48 men total per platoon, an 8-man co.HQ makes 152).

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Lieutenant Turnbull posed a question to the 23 men in his platoon who were still able to fight: “Should we charge them to the front or the rear?” Pvt. Joe Sebastian suggested they all try to get out before they were cut off completely and try for a breakout towards Ste. Mère-Eglise. Corporal James Kelly, the platoon medic, said he would remain behind, taking care of the wounded.

That said, Sebastian, who had recommended immediate evacuation, elected to stay behind with his lethal BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). Cpl. Roy Smitson and Sgt. Robert Niland would stay and went to man the machine gun. Niland was killed instantly. Someone yelled, “Let’s go! For Christ’s sake, let’s go!” As they were heading out of the trap, they heard 60mm mortar rounds exploding into the German field position. (1)

The mortar was fired by Sgt. Otis Sampson of E/505, the most deadly accurate mortar sergeant in the 505th. They held off the Germans long enough to get back to their Ste. Mère-Eglise outposts. Lt. Turner Turnbull and his 505 platoon held off the huge German force coming from the north, which gave the 3rd Battalion time to defeat the enemy force coming from the south.

At about 1600 hours, a few rounds of German artillery or mortars landed on the causeway in front of the church. The tanks shelled the Cauquigny church as the infantry closed up on the side of the road next to it. Both sides were now about ten yards apart, throwing grenades at one another. Private Orlin Stewart was on the west side of the church at the fork in the road when he saw a bazooka round hit a tank. Then two other Renault tanks tried to get past the damaged tank while a volley of rifle fire erupted along the enemy line. To Stewart’s surprise, a 1st sergeant and a private, who were total strangers to him, began a battle with the enemy. This mystery sergeant and private had a handful of gammon grenades that they both threw against the tanks while Stewart covered them with his Browning automatic rifle (BAR). They disabled both tanks, and the unknown sergeant killed the crews with a fragmentation grenade as they tried to bail out.

Murphy, Robert M. (2009-04-07). No Better Place to Die (Kindle Locations 952-959). Casemate Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Krause ordered Company I to counterattack and throw the enemy back. The company moved south along a hedgerow-lined dirt road that paralleled the highway west of the N-13. Sergeant Bill Dunfee was carrying a BAR that he’d picked up during a lull in the shelling that morning.

“We moved back to our platoon and set up a line of fire on Lieutenant Turnbull’s immediate left, the farmhouse with the enemy gun to our immediate front. We formed a perimeter defense with our power to the front. We commenced firing on order, firing BARs, mortar, bazooka, and small arms fire, making quite a racket.

“After possibly five or ten minutes—all hell broke loose. The enemy, moving west down the road near the farmhouse and to our immediate front, walked right into our hidden left flank, who were stretched out along the hedgerow so that they were practically facing east. Corporal [Thomas J.] Burke, who had already won a Silver Star for bravery, with his Tommy gun; a [trooper with a] BAR; and three or four riflemen held their fire until the enemy was within a few feet of them. Then they opened fire. The surprised enemy took off in every direction, losing a good number of men.

With that, the whole platoon opened fire with everything they had at the enemy. This included Sergeant Sampson, the greatest and most accurate mortar sergeant in the business. He fired at this close range and laid the shells down in a line right on their heads.”29

At that very moment, Company A trooper Private First Class Dave Bullington was just about to open up with his BAR from his position in front of the hedgerow next to the river, north of the bridge. “[sergeant Oscar L. “Stonewall”] Queen was the first one that fired. He had the machine gun off to my right. His tracers went right in front of me. He was firing at the infantry—his tracers went right over their heads in the center of their column. He was a little high, and I got him on the target, and then we let’ em have it. I don’t know how many infantrymen there were; there might have been a couple hundred of them. They were all bunched up real close and made a real nice target. They were right up close to the tanks. All I remember was my BAR and Queen’s machine gun. I don’t know how many magazines I fired at them.”62

The Germans shelled Ste.-Mère-Église while reorganizing for a renewed attack to capture the town. Private First Class Joseph L. Comer, at one of the Company H roadblocks, saw one of his good friends hit by a German shell. “Corporal Glenn ‘Red’ Carpenter, a BAR man, got his legs blown off and died of a loss of blood and from shock. It really hurts you when you lose a good friend but you couldn’t dwell on it. You kind of had to put it in the back of your mind at the time.”29

“Then their infantry came again, and we gave them everything we had. The machine gun I had was so hot it quit firing. I took Private [Wesley H.] McClatchy’s BAR (he had been wounded earlier) and I fired it until I ran out of ammo. I then took a machine gun that belonged to a couple of men who took a very near hit. They were killed. The gun had no tripod, so I rested it across a pile of dirt and used it. With this and one other machine gun and a 60mm mortar, we stopped them, but they had gotten to within twenty-five yards of us.”7
(yeah.. that was the 7th, close enough)

Pulling back to the crossroad, Company I reorganized and attempted to move around the German flank, to the right of the road. Tucker, heavily laden with his .30-caliber machine gun, followed Private First Class Ray Krupinski, the squad’s BAR man, who had laid down a withering fire to cover the withdrawal of Tucker and his two men earlier.

(the 8th, makes specific mention of "the squad's BAR")

Nordyke, Phil (2006-11-15). Four Stars of Valor: The Combat History of the 505th Parachute Infantry Regiment in World War II (Kindle Locations 4754-4756). Zenith Press. Kindle Edition.

There are two points I hope to make (by this lazy Kindle-search for 'BAR' then cutting-pasting examples to forum) here, the first is that it is kinda hard to avoid BARs when making a historical D-Day scenario involving the 505th - it doesn't matter to me how they got them (I know it does to BFC, I get this), I need to be able to include them. Somehow, someway. I am a sick, sick person :P

The second is that Sergeant Sampson ought to be the model for all your 60mm mortar-men :)

As Turnbull’s platoon pulled out, the fire from Sergeant Sampson’s lone 60mm mortar devastated the German infantry west of the highway. “I used the mortar with direct firing from an open, high grass area, with just [Private First Class Harry G.] Pickels [the gunner] up there with me to feed the tube. We changed positions often, using various objects as sighting stakes. Our firing, along with the rifles and machine gunners, finally started to tell on the Krauts and their firing began to slack off. Just over the hill, the Jerries were crossing the lane one man at a time on the run. I timed the interval, and when I thought another would cross over, the tube was fed a round. And as planned, when Jerry was in the center of the lane, the shell hit, right to the fraction of a second. On the easing off of the firing, I gave a couple of the squad men a chance to use the weapon as I did, to get the feeling of what it was like under fire. I kept a close watch with my Tommy [gun].
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Well, if you really need BAR teams with your airborne, it's simple enough to add a BAR team or two to a platoon in the editor, and shave off a few men to keep the headcount right. Or not, if you feel that the increased headcount of the 3 squad platoons is more correct. You could even add other teams like scout and breach teams to fill out the ad hoc third squad...

Longer term, the issue will probably be resolved once the Market Garden module comes out, since this will contain the later US Airborne TOE -- no reason scenario designers can't use the later formation for Normandy Scenarios, if they feel it's appropriate.

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Well, if you really need BAR teams with your airborne, it's simple enough to add a BAR team or two to a platoon in the editor, and shave off a few men to keep the headcount right. Or not, if you feel that the increased headcount of the 3 squad platoons is more correct. You could even add other teams like scout and breach teams to fill out the ad hoc third squad...

Longer term, the issue will probably be resolved once the Market Garden module comes out, since this will contain the later US Airborne TOE -- no reason scenario designers can't use the later formation for Normandy Scenarios, if they feel it's appropriate.

This is exactly my thought, as well. The editor is your friend.

It would be nice to find out about BAR's, but that is merely satisfying a curiosity. It has no bearing on the game. (The editor can add as many BAR teams into your airborne units as you'd like. The lack of BAR's in the game's pre-existing TO&E is nearly meaningless in this regard.)

Having said that, we should also recognize that not every unit hewed to the actual TO&E. Even when they did, individuals would gather whatever they could. It very well could be that the Pentagon did not think a single airborne soldier had a BAR, but that many parachuted into Normandy with them. That's what makes relying on HQ level documentation a bit inexact.

Ken

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This is exactly my thought, as well. The editor is your friend.

It would be nice to find out about BAR's, but that is merely satisfying a curiosity. It has no bearing on the game. (The editor can add as many BAR teams into your airborne units as you'd like. The lack of BAR's in the game's pre-existing TO&E is nearly meaningless in this regard.)

You cannot attach them to a squad sergeant. That is not a satisfactory solution.

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2 or 3 squads....

Excuse me for interupting a thread worthy of the price of CMBN for a game-design related question, but it sort of tracks with this thread.

In CMBO, IIRC, Airborne scenarios often had perfect TOE squads, powerful. It was a bit monotonous. In reality, as noted in this thread, the actual TOE of what fought in Normandy, after the scrounging and the drop, must have been one of the most variable in the war (Hey, lose your weapon, in desperation pick up an enemy one)

It seems to me that variability of unit weaponry does seem to be in CMBN, how much with the Airborne, actually fighting, units?

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Longer term, the issue will probably be resolved once the Market Garden module comes out, since this will contain the later US Airborne TOE -- no reason scenario designers can't use the later formation for Normandy Scenarios, if they feel it's appropriate.

True, maybe we can have a Airborne batallion both early and late...satisfy both sides.

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True, maybe we can have a Airborne batallion both early and late...satisfy both sides.

It would be nice not to have to wait for two modules (so... at least a year from now) to be able to make (what I believe after careful research to be) an accurate D-Day scenario.

I don't think my proposal is too far-out in coding terms, I was careful to ask for something that would work in the way that the game currently does.

To re-iterate: I would like full 12-man squads to be able to be added as 'specialist teams', and for there to be a toggle when a squad is selected to add a BAR to the squad in place of a rifle.

I've kind of run out of steam on this, the passage in Nordyke's (voted by the 82nd VA as it's official historian, a respectable source) detailing the platoon-structure, specifically stating it as being instituted pre-Normandy is the best evidence I can find, and it appears to be conclusive. Maybe it is just the 505th, or formations intended for the most important objectives, it should still be included.

I was hoping there would be a convenient, 21st century method of contacting the author and seeking clarification, but he hasn't made it easy for me. From here, in the southern Pacific conversing via letter is prohibitively slow and un-reliable.

I found a potential contact address for him in Texas, if any Americans/other forumites would like to try to correspond with the author to try to get to the bottom of this, I will provide it by PM. I'm sure there is good reason for him to write what he has written, and that he will help clear things up for us.

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I think LemuelG's sifting through thousands of pages to find a couple of relevant tidbits that should be easily found in books specifically covering Airborne organization is to be commended. It's amazing how obscure this information is given how fundamental it is.

Well, I for one am convinced we should add the option of a third Squad. I have my doubts it was 100% applied to all Platoons in all Companies in all Battalions of all Regiments, but the evidence that at least some units enacted it ahead of Arnhem seems to be pretty solid. And there's no evidence to the contrary except the omission of mention. We all know how reliable that is :D

I'll have to see how best to set the options. I can have it be strict to the Battalion, strict to the Company, or allowed on a Platoon by Platoon basis. My guess is it should be at Company level, but I need to see what sort of flexibility I have.

As to Rankorian's point about weapons variability, there is some. However, given the probability that some BARs were in action I'm going to also look into what I can do to support some swapping. I can't guarantee that I can make it a user selectable option, but I can absolutely make it random within constrained % settings.

Let's keep in mind that Battlefront does not value customer input, nor puts up with any criticism of it's games. I'm just doing this because I forgot my Admin password and can't ban LemuelG for daring to question My Authoritah™ (used without permission of Eric Cartman)

:D

Steve

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Terrific news! Tactical-victory for team 3-squad; I must admit I wasn't confident.

If it is to be a new/alternative ToE can it also reflect some other changes as-outlined in Four Stars..? Such as: 4-man platoon HQs (1st lt., 2nd lt., buck sergeant; radioman); seperate zook-teams in every platoon etc.

Thank-you very much for your time Steve, and mercy :P

'Team we need captured French tanks in first module!' now recruiting :o

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Dang, you're right. my bad.

I was right about the name, but wrong about the two additional LMGs being included in CMBN. The source suggests that each platoon had access to two additional LMGs, not just the two currently present in the game.

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Am I the only one noting a trend? Another squad for Airborne platoon ToE, tweaking of sniper fire on TCs, reviewing crew behavior in Tanks struck by AT fire.... what the? What happened to our defensive, these are not the issues you are looking for, don't look at the errors behind the curtain, refusing to admit to any issues troglodyte developers? Where does it all lead to? V1.02? Version 1.08? oh god the horror!

What is a fanboy to do when even the developers will be flexible about changes? Steve has been replaced by a pod!!!

Okay all ribbing aside, nice to see the folks at BFC keeping discussions focused and openly discussing behavior/items that may need to be modified. Not many things you can buy these days that's value increases after purchase.

Thanks guys.

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