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'Best' infantry division

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by T. A. Gardner, Jan 7, 2004.

  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    At each of their peaks, who had the 'best' infantry division of the war (including a typical corps slice of support)?
     
  2. Oliphaunt

    Oliphaunt Member

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    hmmm.. thats a difficult question.. i'm not sure if you're talking about the BEST division (like 3rd inf. division" or who had the best organization etc. but if its based on the average fighting ability of a an army typical infantry division i'd have to say the US army division.. simply based on its mobility and its superb artillery. i'm not sure but i also believe the us army had an edge when it comes to small arms firepower due to the semi-automatic M-1 Garand
     
  3. Onthefield

    Onthefield Member

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    Although I voted for the American infantry I had to think very hard about that because the German infantry was as equally impressive and effective at the beggining of the war.

    During Hitler's expansion in Europe the German infantry were feared and could march through hell and back, thus American and German would be my votes.
     
  4. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    US Army's infantry divisions? I don't think they qualify at all because of what Oliphaunt posted.

    - Mobility. This is a very important and very decisive in combat, but it has nothing to do with the actual performance of the division in combat.
    - Artillery. The best the US Army had. But again, if very decisive it is not directly linked with the average foot soldier.
    - Small guns. The quality of their guns again doesn't have to do on how the soldier acts.

    Training, commanding systems, physical resistance, tactics. That's what must be taken into account to consider which Army had the best divisions - as organised fighting units, not because of their combat record.

    In such case I would have to say that it was German infantry divisions, specially from 1940-1942. More than a hundred of these divisions which were the backbone of the German Army, formed by average men trained with standard, non-special methods. They were not considred élite, just regular troops. But they were who made all the dirty things of the 'Blitzkrieg' - though the Panzers took all the fame and credit.

    These troops marched hundreds of kilometres, took prisoners and swept and cleaned enemy positions, towns and fortresses. They occupied and held ground.

    Specially in the eastern front, these divisions fought every day annihilating the great pockest formed by the Panzers, fighting the brave and though Russian soldier with Mausers from 1898. But their tactics; surprise, leadership, machine-gun and light-mortars centralised made a German infantry division in 1941 with 15.000 men an incredibly powerfvul and efficient fighting force. These tactics and this average training created veteran soldiers with no paralell in WWII.

    Unfortunately everyone always remember paratroopers, mountain troops, Panzer crews and WSS men because of their amazing training, uniforms and equipment, forgetting that it was millions of soldiers with not impressive training, uniforms nor equipment, who marched on foot and carried their supplies with horse - like old Egipcian and Roman Armies - the ones that made 80% of the hard work in WWII.

    [ 08. January 2004, 10:57 AM: Message edited by: General der Infanterie Friedrich H ]
     
  5. sapper

    sapper British Normandy Veteran, Royal Engineers

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    Mine friends! Mine! Never took a step back from Sword Beach to Bremen.
    Sapper
     
  6. Oliphaunt

    Oliphaunt Member

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    yes you could very well be correct friedrich.. it would seem difficult for me to compare fighting abilities of individual soldiers.. i really dont think thats possible.. i was answering the question pretty much considering only its organization and what would be included in it.. who can say really whose soldiers were more tenacious/savage/professional/dedicated/brave/skilled/amorous/drunk etc.. i really dont think we can.. i know the german army has attained a certain mystique which is sometimes grounded in reality and sometimes not.. they were certainly some of the best soldier sin the world.. german soldiers have always been excellent.. going back to the battle of teutonberg <spelling?> where they destroyed an entire roman army.. but i dont think its possible to say which countries soldiers were "better".. i would still choose the american infantry division simply based on its attributes (artillery, mobility, firepower)
    if we're talking command structure and leadership i'd have to say the germans win hands down
     
  7. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Thanks for the post, Oliphaunt. ;)

    But I didn't compare individual soldiers or men, did I? I just talked about a division as a combat, organised, unit. And I think that even with severe limitations such as lack of mobility and lack of advanced communications; the German infantry divisions were more flexible and versatile, as a Roman legion in its times.

    By the way, I think you're talking about the battle of Teutoburg Forest in 9 b.C., where three Roman legions, under Quintilus Varus, were annihilated by Germanic tribes under Arminius, thus, preventing Romanization of Germany and affecting world history for ever. But that's another story... :rolleyes:

    But it has to do with what I say; give those radios, telephones, lorries, half-tracks, jeeps and guns to a German infantry division and... :eek:

    So, the mobility, fire power and cohesion and co-operation - because of superior communication - is not the real esence nor what makes a division as a unit, good or bad.

    Training, tactics, leadership, organisation, tactical felxibility, self-sufficiency, independence, co-operation, cohesion...

    That's why I vote for the German divisions, and as the thread says, at their peak. [​IMG]

    There's no way that an average German infantry division in 1944 could be slightly compared to one of 1941.
     
  8. C.Evans

    C.Evans Expert

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    Sapper has a good point there.

    If you are talking at the beginning of the war--I would definately have to go with the Germans as having the best Infantry Divisions.

    After the war was going on for about 2-3 years, I think that distinction would have to be shared as everyone was learning and getting battlefield experiance.
     
  9. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    I wanted to wait a bit before posting any sort of reply myself. A bit of a tough question, and yes, it addressed the organizational, operational and, material aspect of each nation's infantry division rather than asking about any specific division.
    At their peak the Germans almost certainly had the best tactical small infantry units of any army of the era. The British had a very well developed and machanized division....probably the best of the first half of the war with the exception of a good operational doctrine. That is why the materially deficient by comparison German division performed better during the early war years.
    By 1944 the British had rectified most, if not all, of those problems.
    Then there is the Soviet division. It just totally lacked the depth of its Western counterparts. Even with a corps slice it is really incapable of operations on its own.
    Last, we have the US division. Initially, it wasn't a good performer (1942 - 43) due in great part to a completely unrealistic operational doctrine. By 1944 those problems were worked through and US divisions performed well. Organizationally and especially materially it was unmatched. The British come close and in some areas did better (I would be hard put to decide which had a better artillery complement for example). With the corps slice (one reason I put that condition in) the US division really shines. It becomes more of a strong panzergrenadier division than a simple infantry division. More so than the British unit. The Germans simply cannot compete materially. By 1944 most of the doctrinal edge of the Germans had also erroded. This strenghtens the selection of the US division. Was it somehow perfect? Hardly. It just had more equipment and options open to it as a result.
    And, Sapper is probably right; his division was the best! ;)
     
  10. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    First of all, I don't think the Red Army's infantry divisions can even come close to be considered really powerful. First of all because of their size. They were nearly 60% of a German full-infantry division of 1941 — some 10.000 men — and second, their training was poor, as well as their communications and command structure.

    Then, if we were talking about the thoughness of the soldiers; then the average Ivan should have to be taken into great, great account.

    T.A. Could you please post the aproximate strenght of US and British infantry divisions numerical force in 1944? I bet they were larger than the German ones then. And you're right when comparing them to German motorised divisions instead of normal infantry divisions. British and Americans didn't carry their supplies with horses, had greater communication systems, had more vehicles available for combat — jeeps, lorries, self-propelled guns, tank-killers, half-tracks, etc. — so I don't think it's quite fair to compare them to poor German divisions whose infantry didn't difer much from Napoléon's... :rolleyes:
     
  11. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    Without their corps slice both hovered just short of 15,000 men. The US division was 14,253 men by TO&E 7 of 15 July 1943. With the typical added units as follows:
    US: cavalry (mechanized) regiment, Tank battalion, tank destroyer battalion, anti-aircraft battalion (automatic), chemical mortar (4.2") battalion, several artillery battalions (depending on mission). Total with support units about 20,000 men.
    British: Infantry tank regiment or brigade (depends on mission), several artillery battalions. Total with support units about 18,000 to 19,000 men. (The British division had more organic reconnissance, an organic machine-gun battalion (chemical mortar equivalent), anti-tank regiment (large battalion) and, anti-aircraft regiment (battalion sized unit).
    For the US the addition of 3 quartermaster truck companies supplies enough lift to motorize the division infantry regiments.
    With both the addition of an engineer battalion / regiment or two usually provided when necessary these units could easily traverse most natural obstacles in ways their German or Russian counterparts could only dream of.
     
  12. jpatterson

    jpatterson Member

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    I feel that the tactical leadership of the German Officer Corps puts the best German Division above the rest given equality in suppies and equipment.

    Later
     
  13. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

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    My vote would go to the US Marine Corps Division. Specifically, the series "F" and "G" TO&E's. Well trained, well equipped (compared to many other nations), high elan, uber aggressive, tactically proficient, most of the high ranking officers and many of the company grade officers and NCO's had combat experience early on. As the war progressed and new units were formed they would split an existing unit and then bring them both up to strength with newly trained personnel, so the organizations, both old and new retained this combat experience. Pioneered close air support. They had most of the material strengths of a reinforced US Army division, but were somewhat lacking in transportation assets. The 13 man rifle squad with a squad leader and three four man fire teams (still used today). Each fire team built around an automatic rifle for increased firepower and optimizing the ability to use fire and maneuver. Increased control because the squad leader only needed to control the three fireteam leaders who in turn controlled the other three men in each fireteam. This also pushed leadership down to lower levels where new replacement leaders could gain experience. Lose a squad leader and a fireteam leader is ready to step up. Helps maintain unit cohesion and combat effectiveness even when units become scattered or suffer heavy casualties.
    --The Marine Division had an artillery regiment of 5 artillery batteries.
    --The Marine Division had a tank battalion.
    --The Marine Division (up until late 1944) had an engineer regiment. It was composed of a combat engineer battalion, a Navy Construction battalion (SeaBees) and a pioneer battalion.
    --An Amphibious Tractor Battalion
    --An anti-aircraft Battalion
    --A Special Weapons Battalion
    --A Motor Transport Battalion
    --A Medical Battalion
    --A Service Battalion
    The individual support battalions were habitually divided up and attached to the Infantry Regiments so they operated as a combined arms Regimental Combat Team.

    Their combat record should prove the effectiveness of their organization, training and doctrine.

    Rear Admiral Shibasaki Keiji, "A million men cannot take Tarawa in a hundred years,"

    The Second Marine Division took this island because its men were willing to die. They kept on coming in the face of heavy defense, and though they paid the stiffest price in human life per square yard that was ever paid in the history of the Marine Corps, they won this main base in the Gilbert Islands in 76 hours.
    Out of two battalions – 2,000 to 3,000 men – thrown onto the beach in the first assault at 0830, only a few hundred men escaped death or injury. Officer casualties were heavy. And still the Marines kept coming. The leathernecks died with one thought – to get there.
    —Sgt John Bushemi, “Yank” Staff Correspondent

    Marines have a cynical approach to war. They believe in three things; liberty, payday and that when two Marines are together in a fight, one is being wasted. Being a minority group militarily, they are proud and sensitive in their dealings with other military organizations. A Marine’s concept of a perfect battle is to have other Marines on the right and left flanks, Marine aircraft overhead and Marine artillery and naval gunfire backing them up.
    —War correspondent Ernie Pyle, killed on Ie Shima, Ryukyu Archipelago, 1945
     
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  14. jeno

    jeno recruit

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  15. Spaniard

    Spaniard New Member

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    WWII had so many Countries, years, battles with many Infantry Unites and division involved, which all did their part in the War. Many Allied unites due to their Dead Gameness suffered many casualties and won many Battles Honours till the end of the War.

    To ask for just one country or "Infantry Division" To be the "Best" is not realistic. The Best in what Dieing? or Regiment's that were almost completely decimated, or most decorated for their Heroic Gallantry?

    Not the "Best" But one division that's always worthy of mention is,

    2nd Canadian Infantry Division.
     
  16. Landsknecht

    Landsknecht Member

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    Overall, I would have to go with Germany, followed by Britain and the U.S.. In the late war, however, I have to say that, all in all, the Western Allies were the superior fighting force because of their massive material edge.

    As for the Russians, I would claim that their army was, as it has been during a large portion of history, largely quantity-oriented. They certainly had their elite units, but overall, their units didn't exactly receive much training.

    Naturally Western-made war movies tend to glorify the Americans, but they --the Americans-- nonetheless performed well, which is evident if you take a look at the exchange of losses in the battles they fought.

    Reasonable, considering both the Germans and Finns performed well.

    Unreasonable, given the Japanese suffered roughly three times as high casualties as the Americans in most of their defensive battles in the Pacific.

    Very unreasonable. One could argue that the Americans were equal to the Germans because of their edge in materials. Granted, if you remove the American superiority in production, the Germans would be better without a doubt because of their superior fighting morale and experience, but the material aspect is very important to how an army performs, and even then, I doubt that the Americans would be considerably worse.
     
  17. ozjohn39

    ozjohn39 Member

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    From "The Rommel Papers" I believe, but I cannot give you a reference apart from that,

    "The Australian 9th Division was the finest Infantry Division I ever faced".



    John.
     
  18. Fury 1991

    Fury 1991 New Member

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    Germany based on the strength and experience of their officer corps.
     
  19. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    How did the typical British division compare to the average American division in terms of weaponry? Rommel seemed to feel that the Americans had superb weapons and equipment even more so than the British and a historian R. Hart criticized the British for not having good infantry or armored firepower (again purely in terms of organization and numbers) except their artillery, which was immensely powerful. But looking at Terry's post they were in fact pretty well matched in matériel. Was there any substantial difference?
     
  20. jeno

    jeno recruit

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    i think your spot on
     

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