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World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics, Gordon L. Rottman


World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics, Gordon L. Rottman

World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics, Gordon L. Rottman

Elite 214

This book is probably a bit over-ambitious, in that it looks at Soviet, German, US and British and Commonwealth infantry fire support tactics and how they evolved over the course of the Second World War, a massive topic, especially for only 64 pages! The main focus is on the later part of the war - 1944 onwards - although there is also material on the earlier years.

The main value of this book for me is that it brings together material on various types of weapons that are normally examined in isolation - machine guns, infantry guns, anti-tank guns, hand-held anti-tank weapons and mortars. Many studies of these weapons only compare them to each other - mortar vs mortar etc - but that isn't how things worked in battle. Here we get an idea of how the lighter, more portable anti-tank guns were used once they stopped being useful against tanks, how the various types of weapons were distributed across the battlefield and how they supported each other. We do start with an examination of each weapon type in turn, followed by a look at their impact on the battlefield, but we then move onto how they were organised, and how they were deployed on the battlefield, before finishing with a single case study.

It is interesting to see how some weapons became less suitable for use by the infantry as they got more effective at their own job - anti-tank guns are the main example, which eventually became far too large and heavy to be used by the infantry.

The example deployment maps are probably the best way to understand how the various weapons were deployed and interacted, although they do take some work to understand, as one has to keep referring to the key to make sense of them, but the visual reference does eventually make sense.

Chapters
Introduction
Infantry Fire Support Weapons
Fire Support Weapons' Effects
Fire Support Units
Tactical Employment
Example

Author: Gordon L. Rottman
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 64
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2016



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World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics - Gordon L. Rottman

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

Basic infantry unit allocations

Origins of infantry fire support

Glossary of relevant terms

INFANTRY FIRE SUPPORT WEAPONS

Basic characteristics

Nomenclature Machine guns: categories

Mortars: light – medium – heavy

Antitank guns: light – medium

Shoulder-fired antitank weapons: AT rifles – rocket launchers and projectors

FIRE SUPPORT WEAPONS’ EFFECTS

Machine guns: light , medium, and heavy

Shoulder-fired antitank weapons

FIRE SUPPORT UNITS

Organization, by nationality: US – British and Commonwealth – German – Soviet

TACTICAL EMPLOYMENT

Fire control: observation – communication – planning

Common practices, US Army

EXAMPLE

US 2nd Armored Division vs German Volksgrenadier-Regiment 330, Geilenkirchen, October 1944

CONCLUSION

SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY

ABBREVIATIONS

INTRODUCTION

The term fire support covers a broad range of weapons, dedicated specialist units, tactics, and capabilities. Fire support includes weapons found at all echelons of units: machine guns, mortars, infantry guns, and AT guns and rifles. This book focuses on infantry fire support tactics and weapons at company, battalion, and regimental/brigade levels.

These weapons were essential in both the attack and defense, providing responsive fires owing to the complexity of warfare and constantly changing doctrine and tactics, they were also frequently employed in manners not originally envisaged. Warfare changed so quickly at the tactical level that units more often developed their own employment techniques. Often there was no single best weapon for a specific target: some might be more effective than others, but often two or three different types of weapons might be employed against the same target. Additionally, a given weapon might have multiple capabilities: for example, as well as its standard AP projectiles an AT gun might have HE rounds to attack fortifications and exposed troops. Mortars could fire HE or lay smoke screens. Infantry guns were capable of both direct and indirect HE and smoke-laying fire against fortifications, crew-served weapons, and troops in the open, and could deliver direct fire with AT rounds against AFVs (although they were less than adequate for that mission). Some of these weapons were almost identical in design and capabilities between countries, and others were unique. There were also similarities between tactics and employment, and how they were allocated to units.

The German version of the ubiquitous Brandt medium-caliber mortar was the 8cm mGrW 34. This was at first designated the sGrW 34, being rated as a heavy (schwere) mortar, but with the adoption of the 12cm sGrW 42 from 1942 the 8cm was redesignated as medium (mittlerer) class. In the foreground is an airtight steel ammunition case for three rounds. (Tom Laemlein/Armor Plate Press)

While doctrine changed during the course of war, other variables were terrain, weather, and evolving enemy tactics. Numbers and allocation evolved and new fire support weapons were fielded, some to replace existing weapons and others to augment them, expanding their capabilities with improved effectiveness. Fire support served to enhance line-company firepower, to gain fire superiority by inflicting more concentrated and accurate fire on the enemy and degrade his own fire. These weapons were allocated to different echelons rather than being evenly distributed at the lowest echelon. This allowed commanders to influence the battlefield by being able to re-allocate and concentrate weapons where they could have the most impact.

The weight and portability of the weapons, their associated equipment, and ammunition was critical. The weapon crew had to keep pace with the infantry unit they supported or follow close behind. To accomplish this, some weapons could be broken down into man-portable loads. Heavier weapons might be carried by pack mules or horses, animal-drawn on their own carriage or in a cart, or towed by light cross-country vehicles. Regardless of weight, it was necessary for all to be manhandled short distances to alternate or supplementary fire positions.

For the most part these weapons did not require excessive ranges. Most targets were at line-of-sight tactical ranges, being detected by frontline infantrymen, but some weapons did have a longer reach, allowing them to support patrols beyond the frontline or engage targets just behind the enemy frontline.

This German 7.92mm MG42 in light configuration, with a three-man troop or crew, is fired resting on the shoulder of the assistant gunner – common practice, to provide a relatively stable brace for the gun when firing bursts at longer range. The MG42 weighed 25lb 8oz with its bipod, and its cyclic (i.e. mechanically theoretical) rate of fire was the very high 1,100– 1,200rpm that made its sound signature unmistakable. A rifle company initially had nine LMGs, but late in the war that number might be doubled, especially on the Eastern Front. (Tom Laemlein/Armor Plate Press)

Basic infantry unit allocation

The US, Soviet, and German infantry regiments, three to a division, each consisted of three battalions plus various supporting companies under regimental control (though Germany was obliged to change to two-battalion regiments in 1944). The British and Commonwealth division employed three brigades, each with three battalions. They had no organic brigade supporting units instead these were assigned to the division, and allocated to brigades and battalions as necessary.

In most armies three rifle platoons per company was normal, with three squads (sections) per platoon some armies began the war with four squads, but with losses and the need to expand armies they soon dropped to three. Infantry battalions consisted of a headquarters company plus three rifle companies (British and Commonwealth, four from 1943), with three rifle platoons per company. Battalions might or might not have a separate weapons or support company if not, the supporting weapons were assigned to the headquarters company (e.g. in British and Commonwealth battalions pre-1943, when a support company was introduced). Soviet battalions and regiments possessed multiple supporting weapons platoons and companies. This book will cover supporting weapons as they were allotted to standard infantry regiments assignments in parachute, glider, mountain, light, and other specialized regiments were often different.

The smallest tactical unit is the squad in US service, the equivalent section in both British Commonwealth and Soviet armies (otdyelenye), and the group (Gruppe) in Germany. For the purposes of this work the term squad is used generically when referring to those elements collectively. When regiment is referred to in general terms, this also includes the British and Commonwealth brigade.

Many Waffen-SS units were issued high-quality weapons produced in occupied Czechoslovakia, where the Germans kept arms factories in operation throughout the war. The vz26 and externally identical vz30 light machine guns (see left) were often issued in lieu of MG34s, and used the same 7.92x57mm ammunition in German service they were termed the MG26(t) and MG30(t). Both were fed from 20-rd top-mounted magazines the vz30 was the weapon from which the British Bren gun was developed. (Tom Laemlein/Armor Plate Press)

Origins of infantry fire support

World War I saw the machine gun drive armies below the ground and created a virtually uncrossable No Man’s Land, regardless of determination and esprit de corps. That war also saw the introduction of other supporting weapons to aid the infantry in crossing the deadly ground and breaking into enemy positions.

The British began the Great War with only two Vickers MGs per battalion. Despite the fact that as late as 1915 Gen Sir Douglas Haig, commanding First British Army, described the machine gun as a much overrated weapon, this ratio was increased to four guns, subsequently concentrated into an MG company (16x guns) in each brigade a fourth divisional company was later added, and in 1918 the four companies were consolidated into a divisional battalion. By 1916 each rifle platoon had one Lewis LMG, and by 1918 each section (36 per battalion) had received one. In 1916, brigades received a battery of eight 3in Stokes mortars.

The Germans began the war with 72 machine guns in their division – six per battalion. They later added a divisional MG battalion, an MG company for infantry battalions, and two LMGs per rifle platoon. In 1916 Germany fielded the new type 7.6cm mortar (Minenwerfer), six to a regiment. Used until the mid-1930s, this was much heavier and more complex than the Stokes mortar, but it encouraged the development of German infantry guns.

The US fielded only four MGs per infantry regiment in 1916. In France, 1917–18, the division had four regimental MG companies, a three-company MG


As infantry units advanced across Europe the only support they could rely on from day to day was that provided by the heavy weapons of their own units. While thundering tanks struck fear into the hearts of their enemies it was the machine guns, mortars and light cannon that proved to be most important, causing the majority of casualties suffered during World War II. Common principles were shared across units but the wide variety of weapons available to the different armies altered the way they were used in battle.

Focusing on the US, British, German and Soviet troops, this title offers a comprehensive guide to infantry fire support tactics used through World War II. Combat reports are complemented by specially commissioned artwork to show the way in which tactics varied, and highlight how developments obliged opposing armies to review their own methods.


World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics by Gordon L. Rottman (Paperback, 2016)

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World War II US Marine Infantry Regiments

Author: Gordon L. Rottman Format: Paperback Release Date: 26/07/2018

The United States Marine Corps came into its own in the Pacific Islands campaign against Japan in World War II. From Guadalcanal to Okinawa, US Marines formed the tip of the spear as Allied forces sought to push the Japanese back to their Home Islands. This fascinating study tracks the deployments of the various Marine divisions throughout the war and explains their composition, but also goes deeper, to detail the individual regiments - the focus of the marines' identity and pride. It explains the organization of the Marine infantry regiment and its equipment, and how they evolved during the war. The marine infantryman's evolving uniforms, field equipment and weapons are illustrated throughout using specially commissioned artwork and detailed descriptions to produce a fitting portrait of the US military's elite fighting force in the Pacific.


World War II Infantry Fire Support Tactics

As infantry units advanced across Europe the only support they could rely on from day to day was that provided by the heavy weapons of their own units. While thundering tanks struck fear into the hearts of their enemies it was the machine guns, mortars and light cannon that proved to be most important, causing the majority of casualties suffered during World War II. Common principles were shared across units but the wide variety of weapons available to the different armies altered the way they were used in battle.

Focusing on the US, British, German and Soviet troops, this title offers a comprehensive guide to infantry fire support tactics used through World War II. Combat reports are complemented by specially commissioned artwork to show the way in which tactics varied, and highlight how developments obliged opposing armies to review their own methods.

Gordon L. Rottman entered the US Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces and completed training as a weapons specialist. He served in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969-70 and subsequently in airborne infantry, long-range patrol and intelligence assignments until retiring after 26 years. He was a Special Operations Forces scenario writer at the Joint Readiness Training Center for 12 years and is now a freelance writer, living in Texas.


Expert's library: World War II

World War II (often abbreviated to WWII or WW2), also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945, although related conflicts began earlier. It involved the vast majority of the world's countries—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. It was the most widespread war in history, and directly involved more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. In a state of total war, the major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, erasing the distinction between civilian and military resources.

World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 million to 85 million fatalities, most of which were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the deliberate genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, starvation, disease and the first use of nuclear weapons in history


World War II Infantry Assault Tactics: No. 160 (Elite) Paperback – Illustrated, 18 March 2008

“This is an interesting book, and it covers a lot more than just the tactics used in assaults. The unit level examined is the platoon, justifiably so since most attacks were basically combinations of platoon assaults at levels from company upward. Period photographs are accompanied by sketch maps of typical assaults and by good colour plates of the main demolition materials and of typical attacks. Highly recommended.” ―John Prigent, Internet Modeler (April 2008)

“Profusely illustrated by Peter Dennis, in Osprey's common style of excellence, this new book is a very interesting read, and, for those of us who have never been involved in a military attack on a fortified position, it gives a reasonable overview of what goes into the attack -- far more that what Saving Private Ryan or the old John Wayne WWII films might imply. Pick up a copy today if you are interested in the details behind the scenes.” ―Scott Mingus, Charge! (March 2008)

“Overall, it is a superb look at how the armed forces of the nations involved in WWII were similar and different. A book that I know you will find interesting and engrossing.” ―Scott Van Aken, modelingmadness.com (May 2008)

About the Author

Gordon L. Rottman entered the US Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces and completed training as a weapons specialist. He served in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969–70 and subsequently in airborne infantry, long-range patrol and intelligence assignments until retiring after 26 years. He was a Special Operations Forces scenario writer at the Joint Readiness Training Center for 12 years and is now a freelance writer, living in Texas.

Peter Dennis was inspired by contemporary magazines such as Look and Learn, leading him to study Illustration at Liverpool Art College. Peter has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects, including many Osprey titles. A keen wargamer and modelmaker, he is based in Nottinghamshire, UK.

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Contents

The Panzerschreck development was initially based on the American bazooka, captured in Tunisia, November 1942. [6] [7] The Panzerschreck was larger and heavier than its American counterpart – the Panzerschreck had an 88 mm calibre, compared to the 60 mm calibre of the bazooka – which meant that it could penetrate thicker armor, but also produced more smoke when firing.

Calibre 88 mm was selected as the existing RPzB. Gr. 4312 for 8.8 cm Raketenwerfer 43 was reused for Panzerschreck. Warhead and fuzing was carried over, but the rocket motor's housing needed lengthening from 490 mm (19 in) to 650 mm (26 in) to accommodate the longer rocket motor. Raketenwerfer 43 had percussion firing, whereas for the Panzerschreck an electrical priming was selected, forming standard grenade RPzB. Gr. 4322. [6] Other munitions were developed, including drill dummy, practice live rocket with inert warhead and standard grenade with improved contact system. [8]

The earliest production model of the RPzB 54 was 164 centimetres (5.38 ft) long and weighed about 9.25 kilograms (20.4 lb) when empty. Unlike the rockets used in American bazookas which extinguished before leaving the tube, the RPzB rockets kept burning for about 2 metres (6.6 ft) after exiting the tube. Users were instructed to wear heavy gloves, a protective poncho and a gas mask without a filter to protect them from the heat of the backblast when the weapon was fired. [7] Improvised shields were made to protect the user and in February 1944, the RPzB 54 was fitted with an official blast shield to protect the operator which made the weapon heavier, weighing 11 kilograms (24 lb) empty. Small numbers of the shortened RPzB 54/1 were later produced. It had an improved rocket, a shorter barrel, and a range increased to about 180 metres (590 ft). [3]

Firing the RPzB generated a copious amounts of smoke both in front of and behind the weapon. Because of the weapon's tube and smoke produced, official documentation named the weapon the Ofenrohr ("stove pipe"). This also meant that anti-tank teams were revealed once they fired, making them targets and, therefore, required them to shift positions after firing. This type of system also made it problematic to fire the weapon from inside closed spaces (such as bunkers or houses), filling the room with toxic smoke and revealing the firing location immediately.

Late war German tactical doctrine called for Panzerschreck and/or Panzerfaust teams to set up in staggered trenches no further than 115 metres (377 ft) apart. In this way, attacking armor would face anti-tank fire from multiple directions at a distance of no more than 69 metres (226 ft). Anti-tank teams were instructed to aim for the thinner side or rear armor whenever possible. [9] Allied armored units frequently attempted to add improvised protection to their tanks, e.g., sandbags, spare track units, logs and so on to protect against HEAT rounds. Another defense was to rig metal mesh and netting around the tank, resembling the German Schürzen auxiliary plates. In practice about 1 meter of air gap were required to substantially reduce the penetrating capability of RPzB, thus skirts and sandbags were entirely ineffective against RPzB and Panzerfaust. [10]

In 1944, Germany provided the Panzerschreck to Finland, which used it to great effect against Soviet armour. The Finnish name for the weapon was Panssarikauhu (literal translation of the German name).

The Italian Social Republic and Hungary also used the Panzerschreck. Several Italian units became known as skilled anti-tank hunters and the Hungarians used the Panzerschreck extensively during Operation Spring Awakening.

Penetration measured against Face-Hardened Armor (FHA), Rolled Homogeneous Armor (RHA).