Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Armies with the Most Versatile Infantry Tactics

Discussion in 'Military Training, Doctrine, and Planning' started by JJWilson, Nov 20, 2017.

  1. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,411
    Likes Received:
    454
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Hello everyone! I have a bit of a strange question to ask all of you, and I apologize if a similar thread has been made before. My question is Which Army during WW2 was the most versatile or flexible in tactics, meaning they can go from being in a defensive posture, to an offensive posture in a relatively quick manner. I am talking on the platoon and company level. I have a very little knowledge on infantry tactics during the war (mostly American), but I was hoping some of you experts could tell me if certain Nations did a better job at training their men for drastic changes or "adapting and overcoming".

    Here is a scenario too try and make more sense:
    A platoon of soldiers is attacking a rocky hill that is lightly defended, as they move up the hill the defenders abandon their defensive positions. A few moments later an artillery barrage ensues, and minutes later a counter-attack is underway. Which countries infantry could best adapt to a situation like this effectively and orderly?

    Thank you for any comments or insights you might have!
    -Wilson
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2017
  2. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,548
    Likes Received:
    1,833
    IMO the Australian soldier...a small army required more from its members, we teach all infantry to think on their feet and rely less on its NCOs...from expansive tactics of the desert to gorilla warfare in the jungles Australians have tasted it all. We didn't rely on support (hoped for it but never relied on it)...and have a "complete the mission" mentality, this requires a strong quick mind and the ability to adapt to a changing situation.
    My mob would have raced to the newly emptied defensive position, destroyed anything the enemy can use (checked for enemy info)...check to see if they could counter the battery (if they were close enough) stuck a flag or slouch hat on a pole in the hope that the artillery would destroy the outpost for us. Then pissed off!
     
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2017
    JJWilson likes this.
  3. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,411
    Likes Received:
    454
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    I can't argue with you there CAC about Australia having fought just about everywhere in every situation. Is what you mentioned above actually Australian military doctrine? If so then I think that's a pretty good argument.
    I do have one thing to add to the question though, even though a unit may be able to tactically adapt, will there weaponry and resources enable them to put up a good fight, I say this because 90% of Japanese infantrymen had Arisaka rifles not semi-auto and sub-machine guns like the U.S and commonwealth forces (more U.S though). That good greatly effect the actual process of changing tactics I would think.....
     
  4. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    1,658
    Location:
    God's Country
    Let's see, German infantry was primarily armed with the K98, Commonwealth with Lee-Enfield Mk.III/IV, so how was the Arisaka a greater liability than other bolt action rifles?
     
  5. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,411
    Likes Received:
    454
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    The Germans also had a few MP40's and potentially a handful of G43's, Commonwealth forces had the Sten, and Owen. Besides the type 96 light machine gun, the Japanese had no other semi-auto or full auto capabilities (The Type 100 was very rare and did not see much of any combat at all). Not to mention the Lee-Enfield can carry 10 rounds, the Arisaka...5.
     
  6. USMCPrice

    USMCPrice Idiot at Large

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2009
    Messages:
    4,617
    Likes Received:
    1,658
    Location:
    God's Country
    About 30,000 Type 100's were produced (so really not particularly rare) and primarily went to elite airborne or special ops type units, in infantry companies, when issued, it went to officers and NCO's, the latter which is pretty standard doctrine across contemporary militaries. This is because officers and NCO's are primarily leaders and directors of their subordinates actions and not shooters. I know Hollywood would disagree, but that's a fact. The service rifle is the primary weapon in an infantry company. A bolt action rifle is a bolt action rifle and the Arisaka was a good one. Japanese rifle squads were built around the Type 96/99 LMG's. How does this differ from the Commonwealth that used bolt action rifles built around the Bren LMG? The US was the only power to widely deploy a semi-auto service rifle, but even they built their squads around a light machine gun/automatic rifle, the BAR. The Marine Corps took it even farther by building their squads around three fireteams each built around a BAR. As a general rule, approximately 70% of a WWII infantry company's firepower was found in it's crew served weapons, machine guns (to include the squads LMG that normally has a gunner and assistant) and mortars. So unless you were involved in heavy urban, close quarters battle, high numbers of submachine guns are not really a tactical advantage. Japan did deploy the Type 10 and Type 89 Grenade Discharger (inaccurately referred to as a Knee Mortar) which was a close range firepower enhancer. Japanese troops were noted for their effectiveness on the defense, but they were also quite adept at infiltrating and flanking their opponents, particularly at night. Their biggest weakness being they weren't particularly adaptable at the small unit level (the question of this thread), they tended to attempt to execute their battle plan despite changing battlefield circumstances. Japanese tactics were good. They did administer the greatest defeat to the British military in it's history during the Malaya/Singapore campaign despite being outnumbered at about 2:1. Communist Chinese troops during the Korean War had adopted and employed many Japanese small unit tactics.
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  7. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,411
    Likes Received:
    454
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Well you got me there Price. I understand that as a whole most infantrymen had bolt-action rifles, but can't you agree at least for the Lee-Enfield that 10 shots compared to 5 is better in an intense combat situation (I can only assume). So from what I understand the Japanese didn't like changing their plans in the thick of things, they had a set goal and they sticked too it no matter what? Lets switch from the Japanese for a moment and go with the Soviets, because I'm curious as to what they were like in high intensity combat situations?
     
  8. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,737
    Likes Received:
    531
    Location:
    London UK
    Actually there was very little difference between the tactics of any army in the scenario postulated. An assault followed by consolidation and defence against a counter attack is the bread and butter of infantry warfare and the drills for such a situation were driven by necessity in the face of lethal arithmetic. The assault would be followed by a systematic search of the position. Failure to mop up snipers would be costly. Re-organisation should take place away from the captured position, which would be an obvious pre-planned artillery target.

    However, tactics is only the conceptual component, of fighting power. The moral and physical components will also play a part. The weaponry, level of training of the soldiers and the fighting spirit of the soldiers and officers will matter. There was a massive variation in competence within armies, probably more so than between armies. The raw material and motivation of soldiers might vary between volunteers for elites and elderly home guards or disaffected conscripts. Every army had raw recruits, experienced veterans and battle weary shell shocked. Every army had good officers and not so good. Armies could group their better soldiers into elites, which might be far more capable than the standard infantry. A small unit of British commandos paratroops or special forces would be made up of soldiers who would all have been officers or NCOs in a line battalion - and none of the battle weary or reluctant who made no contribution in combat. But which is the truest measure of the capabilities of the British Army?

    There is also a contextual difference. Soldiers well equipped for one battlefield may be ill adjusted for another. In the desert or on the steppe a unit needed motor vehicles for tactical flexibility. The same vehicles can transport ammunition, support weapons and long range radios. In the mountains or jungle vehicles are a handicap.

    The German Army was very effective in the contact battle. German ethos was based on the assumption that battle was essentially chaotic. Their consistent doctrine emphasized initiative, and leaders received thorough two up training. Soldiers at every level were expected to take the initiative as circumstances changed. As an Army they were consistently quick to respond.
     
    Kai-Petri and JJWilson like this.
  9. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2013
    Messages:
    1,737
    Likes Received:
    531
    Location:
    London UK
  10. JJWilson

    JJWilson Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2017
    Messages:
    1,411
    Likes Received:
    454
    Location:
    Arizona U.S.A
    Great post Sheldrake, very informative and helpful!
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,238
    Location:
    Michigan
    Given your "clarification" of the question I'm not sure your use of "tactics" and "flexibility" are in line with common military usage. The ability to change postures quickly could vary tremendously from unit to unit and time to time with logistics playing a significant role.
     
    bronk7 likes this.
  12. CAC

    CAC Ace of Spades

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2010
    Messages:
    7,548
    Likes Received:
    1,833
    Bloody fence sitters... : )
     
    JJWilson likes this.
  13. Riter

    Riter Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2020
    Messages:
    583
    Likes Received:
    145
    I believe leadership has a lot to do with it. The Soviets in 1941 weren't very good (Stalin's purges didn't help) but if they survived, got better over time. I read accounts of Soviet career/professional officers who ordered junior officers to take the risk (scout, capture a tongue) and then got the credit (and medals) for the mission success. The Germans were very good and many officers attended fahnenjunker (sp) schule before going to the front to fight as a NCO. If they survived, they finished their training in Germany and were commissiomed. The Americans OCS produced both good and bad officers and the field of combat sorted them out. Capt Sobel (?) of the Band of Bros. (Co E, 506 PIR) was a great trainer, but not a battlefield leader. He becaame a staff officer in the 506. Lt. James Magellas (101) was an outstanding platoon commander. Americans who received field commissions were generally proven and saavy (like Audie Murphy).

    Regardless of the army, the trick was to survive to learn the trade.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2021
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    25,099
    Likes Received:
    1,805
    Location:
    Finland
    I think the Germans were effective and quick to create Kampfgruppen. If they had several units that were shattered they did not wait for reinforcements but took what was left and turned it into one fighting unit straight away and either defended or attacked. Perhaps better as building a little bigger unit but definitely company level. You had to create a battle unit fast from the remains of what was left or escaping soldiers.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2021
  15. the_diego

    the_diego Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Messages:
    307
    Likes Received:
    54
    Platoon and company level? I could think only of the Americans and the Germans. And two contending weapons come to mind: the 81mm mortar vs. the .30 cal machine gun. Both have their respective flexibilities and limitations. The machine gun's use in offense has an older history. Up two now the US army still has tactics for the (exclusive) use of either weapon, whether during assault or when defending a hard site.
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    25,099
    Likes Received:
    1,805
    Location:
    Finland
    How about the US M2 machine gun? I read that Germans said a hit from this would shatter the bone of your arm and seem to have been afraid of facing this?
     
  17. Riter

    Riter Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 12, 2020
    Messages:
    583
    Likes Received:
    145
    The Americans and the Soviets both fielded big machine guns. Americans had the .50 cal M-2 and the Soviets the 12.7mm DShK. A hit from either could be devastating.

    One thing the Germans did was cobble together ad-hoc kampfgruppe from whatever was available. While this worked, it reduced the effectiveness of the units it drew men or material from. I heard of Germans being culled together as an emergency kampfgruppe to meet an emergency situation. This became a practice after Bagraton destroyed Armee Gruppe Center. Morale among the ad-hoc kampfgruppe couldn't have been that good either when you're fighting among a bunch of strangers instead of your buddies.

    Patton's Third Army was so short of infantry that it asked its rear echelon personnel to volunteer. Many did to fill the depleted ranks of fighting GIs. During the Battle of the Bulge there were times when a regiment would throw everybody it had (cooks, drivers, mechanics) into the line to delay or stop the Germans. At one point Ike got volunteers from among the black soldiers to form platoons and they were added as a fifth platoon to infantry companies. Too bad a history of them has't been written yet.
     
    Kai-Petri likes this.
  18. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    25,099
    Likes Received:
    1,805
    Location:
    Finland
    In the army in 1996 I was given the chance to shoot the DShK 12.7 mm MG called "Sergei" in the Finnish Army. With a 3d optics as the means to aim. I felt that anyone attacking the hill we were on would never reach us. Watching the short bursts hit the targets was awesome. You could feel the power in your hands.
     
    Riter likes this.
  19. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2013
    Messages:
    4,744
    Likes Received:
    326
    Location:
    MIDWEST
    ....the different units had different '''tactics''/etc--such as Airborne vs a standard infantry division...German Fallschirmjager vs a standard infantry division
    .....the Marines in the Pacific vs Army in Europe --the Pacific War involved much ''smaller units''/different terrain/much less vehicles/etc = different tactics
     
  20. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2013
    Messages:
    4,744
    Likes Received:
    326
    Location:
    MIDWEST
    ......in the USMC, the 81s are a Battalion level weapon and the 60s Company level ......what's your point regarding the OP?
     

Share This Page