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Tank-Armored Infantry Coordination in Attack
(42nd Tank Battalion and 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion)

Compiled by
Lt Col George B. Pickett, Jr., Cavalry
(Reprinted with Permission of the Author)

When the 1st and 2d U. S. Armored Divisions were activated in 1940, the armored infantry component of these divisions was outnumbered by the tank component about three to one. In 1942, the armored division was reorganized to provide two armored (tank) regiments and one armored infantry regiment. A further reorganization made the ratio of tanks to armored infantry in the armored division equal —four tank battalions (three medium-one heavy) and four armored infantry battalions. This is the present organization of the armored division and it provides an equal ratio of tank to rifle platoons 48 to 48. There is no regiment in the armored division, and there is no tank unit organic in an armored infantry battalion to compare with the tank company of the infantry regiment. Even so, the armored division uses the team principle combining tanks and armored infantry. This article discusses organization for combat—the formation of tank-armored infantry teams; and methods of attack—the techniques for coordinating the advance of tanks and armored infantry in the armored division.



The armored division is organized for flexibility in forming combined arms teams. This flexibility is provided by the combat command—separate battalion -- organization, often called a mission type organization.

An armored division has two combat commands and a reserve command. These commands are tactical headquarters directly under the division commander. They have no organic troops except their own headquarters companies. During operations, tank and armored infantry battalions are attached either to a combat command or a reserve command. The ratio of tank battalions to armored infantry battalions, attached to any combat or reserve command, varies with the mission, enemy situation, terrain, and the division plan of action.


A hypothetical 1st Armored Division might have the following organization for combat:


Combat Command A           Combat Command B
Hq and Hq Co CCA           Hq and Hq Co CCB
1st Medium Tk Bn           4th Hv Tk Bn
2d Medium Tk Bn            3d Medium Tk Bn
1st Armd Inf Bn            3d Armd Inf Bn
2d Armd Inf Bn             Plat, Brg Co, 1st Armd
Co A, 1st Rcn Bn           Engr Bn
Co A, 1st Armd Engr Bn     Btry B, 1st AAA AW SP Bn
Co B, 1st Armd Engr Bn     Co B, 1st Armd Ord Bn
Brg Co, 1st Armd Engr Bn   Co B, 1st Armd Med Bn
(- 1 Plat)                 Det, 1st Armd Sig Co
Btry A, 1st AAA AW SP Bn   Det, 1st MP Co
Co A 1st Armd Ord Bn       Tac Air Control Party, 9th TAF
Co A, 1st Armd Med Bn
Det, 1st MP Co
Det, 1st Armd Sig Co
Tac Air Control Party, 9th TAF


Division Arty
Hq and Hq Btry, Div Arty      Reserve Command  
1st Armd FA Bn (l05-mm)       Hq and Hq Co, Res Comd     
(Dir Spt, CCA)                4th Armd Inf Bn
2d Armd FA Bn (l05-mm)        Det, 1st Armd Sig Co
(Dir Spt, CCA)
3d Armd FA Bn (105-mm)        Division Trains   
(Dir Spt, CCB)                Hq and Hq Div Tns
4th Armd FA Bn (155-mm)       Div Hq (Rear)
1st AAA AW SP Bn (-)          1st Armd QM Sup Bn
1st Armd Ord Bn (-)

Division Troops
1st Armd Med Bn (-)
Hq and Hq Co, 1st Armd
1st Armd Repl Co  
Rcn Bn (- Co A)
Band 1st Armd Div
1st Armd Engr Bn (-
Btry C, 1st AAA AW SP Bn
1st MP Co (-) 

1st Armd Sig Co
Tac Air Control Party, 9th TAF


Bear in mind that only the headquarters and headquarters. companies are organic to the Combat and the Reserve Commands; all other units are attached.

Notice that Combat Command A differs from Combat Command B; that A has been given two armored infantry battalions, B, one; that A has a reconnaissance company attached, B, none; and A has two companies of engineers as opposed to B's single engineer platoon. Remember that this particular organization for combat is not permanent, that new situations mean new organization; that the division's next mission may require strengthening Combat Command B at the expense of Combat Command A.

Within the combat command, reinforced battalions are formed by attaching tank companies to armored infantry battalions, or armored infantry rifle companies to tank battalions. Attachments are made in such a way that the resulting team, a reinforced battalion, contains the right proportion of tanks and armored infantry for the tasks assigned. This attachment may be a mutual exchange of tank and armored infantry rifle companies. However, in a situation requiring a reinforced battalion heavy in armored infantry, the armored infantry battalion might retain all four of its rifle companies and have one or more tank companies attached. Conversely, when the situation favors tank employment, a tank battalion may keep all of its tank companies and have one or more armored infantry rifle companies attached.

The team is commanded by the battalion commander to whom the attachments are made. Regardless of the ratio of tanks to armored infantry, the reinforced battalion employs tanks and armored infantry in mutual support. When necessary, armored engineers are attached to either or both types of reinforced battalions.

The same principle of attachment is followed within the reinforced battalions at company level. The reinforced armored infantry rifle company team is formed by attaching one or more tank platoons or a tank company to an armored infantry rifle company. Conversely, the reinforced tank company team is formed by attaching one or more armored infantry rifle platoons or an armored infantry rifle company to a tank company. Reinforced companies usually consist only of armored infantry and tank elements. The battalion commander normally keeps battalion mortar and reconnaissance platoons and attached armored engineer units under his control.

The commander of the reinforced company either forms reinforced platoons or coordinates, under company control, the efforts of the tank and armored infantry rifle platoons. The system of reinforced platoons is employed except in a few special cases. These special cases occur when some condition prevents the tanks and dismounted armored infantry from being employed together in the assault phase of the attack. The company commander coordinates tank platoons and armored infantry rifle platoons when tanks can only support dismounted armored infantry by overhead or flanking fire and if the following conditions exist:

1. From positions on or near the line of departure the tank unit can support the entire assault echelon.

2. The entire rifle company is supported by a small tank unit. (This is especially applicable when one tank platoon supports an entire rifle company.)

3. The depth of the enemy obstacle belt or the location of the enemy positions makes it impractical for the assault to be delayed until the obstacles are gapped.



Armored infantry may advance mounted, dismounted, or by a combination of both methods.

In each situation personnel are transported in their armored personnel carriers as far forward as possible: to conserve their energy; to speed the advance; to reduce casualties in crossing areas swept by small arms fire and fragments; and to use the fire power of weapons on the carriers. The mission, the type of enemy weapons, and the terrain govern the point at which armored infantry dismounts to fight. The final assault, regardless of the method of advance, is made dismounted in order to seize and mop up the objective and to complete the destruction of the enemy. Even after the majority of the men dismount, personnel carrier weapons are manned and fired to give close support to the dismounted personnel.

The formations and methods of attack of the tank and armored infantry platoons are selected:

To Develop the Fire Power of the Tanks: The tank unit deploys to develop the maximum fire power permitted by the situation. To concentrate its fire to the front, it assumes

a line formation; to fire to a flank, the tank unit echelons in that direction; and to fire to the front and both flanks it uses a wedge formation.

To Provide Security: The tank unit combat formation that provides the greatest security for the team is assumed..

To Insure Maximum Control Consistent with the Tactical Situation: The tank and armored infantry elements assume the easiest formation to control that develops the required fire power and provides security.

To Conform to the Terrain: The formations adopted take advantage of any terrain barriers or defilade that protect them from fire and observation.

To Enable the Tanks to Protect the Carriers from Hostile Armor: The tank-armored infantry team commander constantly considers the fact that his armored personnel carriers have no cannon to engage enemy tanks. He adopts the formation and method of attack that gives the mounted armored infantry antitank protection. When antitank protection is inadequate, mounted armored infantry cannot advance in areas where enemy tanks are defending. Dismounted armored infantry, without friendly tank support, can protect itself against hostile tanks better than mounted armored infantry without tank support.



Tanks and mounted infantry are coordinated in the attack by:

(1) Using an integrated formation.

(2) Having the mounted armored infantry follow the tanks by short successive bounds.

(3) Having the tanks and mounted armored infantry converge on the objective from different directions.

Time or VT fire may be placed over a tank-armored infantry team when the armored infantry is mounted. This time fire may be used in conjunction with any of the mounted methods of attack. In preparation for this fire, all tank hatches and all carrier hatches and doors are closed. This protective time fire works best when using an integrated formation of tanks and mounted armored infantry. Time fire is also useful when the armored infantry follows the tanks by successive bounds, and when the two elements of the team converge on the objective from different directions.

Successful use of time fire depends on its being lifted or shifted promptly when the armored infantry dismounts for the assault. The armored infantry uses radio, supplemented by visual signals such as pyrotechnics, to direct lifting or shifting the time fire. The supporting artillery may signify lifting or shifting fires by mixing several rounds of HC smoke in the last volley. This use of smoke supplements the radio announcement that the fire has been shifted; it does not replace radio. Once the time fire is lifted or shifted, the team launches its assault before the enemy recovers.

The integrated attack formation normally puts the tanks between the enemy and the mounted armored infantry. When so employed the tanks and mounted armored infantry reach the assault position almost simultaneously. This reduces the time needed to coordinate and launch the assault by the dismounted armored infantry in conjunction with the tanks. When approaching the objective, tank weapons directly protect the armored personnel carriers. In addition, the very presence of tanks indirectly protects the carriers. An enemy tank or antitank gunner, observing an integrater1 formation of tanks and armored personnel carriers advancing, normally fires first on the target most dangerous to him—the tanks. If this fire is of sufficient intensity to disrupt the tank advance, the mounted armored infantry has a few moments to seek defilade before continuing the advance dismounted. The greater the size of the tank unit in the attack, the fewer losses are sustained by the mounted armored infantry in the formation.

On the morning of 20 December 1944, the Germans, using an integrated formation, attacked one of the battalions of the 101st Airborne Division at Marvie on the Bastogne perimeter. Marvie was occupied by an airborne infantry battalion and a light tank company The Germans held the wooded area just north and east of the town The attack began when German Mark V (Panther) tanks opened fire on the American M-5 light tanks in Marvie. Although the U.S. tankers returned the fire, their 37-mm guns were no match for the German 88-mm tank cannon. Seeing the unequal struggle, the airborne infantry regimental commander ordered the light tanks to withdraw. Immediately after the light tanks withdrew, a reinforced platoon of German tanks and mounted panzer grenadiers (armored infantry) launched their assault. The German force consisted of four Panther tanks and six half-tracks full of panzer grenadiers, supported by the fire of two assault guns from positions in the woods.

The Germans advanced in an integrated formation with the tanks deployed on line and the half-tracks closely following the tanks, also in line formation. The attackers raced toward Marvie as fast as the tanks and half-tracks could move, firing all the tank and half-track machine guns furiously. A platoon of U.S. medium tanks, located on the ridge west of Marvie, knocked out the four Panther tanks with flanking fire. However, the half-track borne German infantry never slowed down. In spite of the fact that all four tanks were lost, the half-tracks continued to race toward Marvie, losing one half-track to U.S. tank fire before reaching the built-up area.

As soon as the five remaining half-tracks reached Marvie, the panzer grenadiers dismounted and, covered by machine-gun fire from their half-tracks, began to clear the town. The speed and violence of the German attack enabled a small, hopelessly outnumbered unit to disrupt a defending battalion for four hours. Although the attack eventually failed, the action at Marvie indicates the speed and violence which the attacker can gain by using the integrated formation. Remember, too, that the half-tracks used by the Germans at Marvie were far less efficient cross-country vehicles than the new armored personnel carrier.

Successive bounds: A mounted armored infantry unit may follow a tank unit by short successive bounds. This method is used normally when a small tank unit is attached to a larger armored infantry unit; when situations are obscure and information of the enemy and terrain is restricted; and when the tank unit is advancing by alternate or successive bounds. Using this method, the tanks arrive in position to assault before the armored infantry and wait until the armored infantry arrives and dismounts before assaulting. During this wait the tanks usually place direct fire on the objective in preparation for the assault.       

This method has three principal variations. The tank unit, which the armored infantry unit follows, may advance as a unit in a combat formation; the tanks may advance by successive bounds; or they may advance by alternate bounds. If the tank unit advances as a unit to a terrain feature, it remains there in firing positions, until the armored infantry unit moves into complete defilade behind that terrain feature. The tank unit then advances to the next terrain feature and the process is continued until the assault position is reached. In some situations the tank unit may advance by alternate or successive bounds. This occurs when the size of the tank unit in the team is small or when the rate of advance has not permitted development of a detailed supporting fire plan. If the tank unit employs successive bounds, the armored infantry unit moves with the rear tank section (or platoon) as it moves forward to join the leading section. If the tanks employ alternate bounds, the mounted armored infantry moves forward with the rear section as it moves to join the leading section. It then halts behind the overwatching section, waits until the moving section is in firing position, then moves forward with the rear section to join the section which is in firing position. This procedure is continued to the assault position.

Converging Attack: Tanks and armored infantry in carriers may converge on the objective from different directions. The advance of the tanks and mounted armored infantry is timed so that the tanks and armored infantry arrive on the objective simultaneously. Enough tanks are used to provide their own support, in conjunction with artillery and mortars, without the protection normally provided by armored infantrymen. When this is not possible, some infantrymen accompany the tanks to give them close-in protection. The terrain should be free of tank obstacles and should be sufficiently open to prevent the enemy from effectively employing individual antitank weapons. This method provides surprise, fire effect, and shock action. Close coordination times simultaneous arrival of the units on the objective.

Converging attacks are widely used in situations where reinforced companies, strong in armored infantry, are employed in secondary attacks while reinforced companies, strong in tanks, make the main attack, which generally is an envelopment. Each reinforced company may employ any of the other methods of attack, either mounted or dismounted, as it converges on the objective. This method is also used when terrain favors tank employment in one portion of the zone and restricts it in another. A dismounted attack can be made over the terrain not favorable for tank employment while the tanks attack, supported by additional armored infantry, over the favorable tank terrain.



Dismounted armored infantry, with direct fire support of tanks, leads the attack when the type of mission, the nature of the terrain, the enemy opposition, or the composition of the tank-armored infantry team cause the commander to select this method of attack. Such situations usually occur in attacks through antitank mine fields or defiles, in river crossings, or in combat in towns or woods. In dismounted attack, the carriers may be used to supplement the supporting fires, to fire to the flanks, and to transport support platoons and reserve companies until they are committed. Tanks and dismounted armored infantry may be coordinated in the attack by having:

(1) Tanks support by fire then join dismounted infantry in the assault.

(2) Tanks and dismounted armored infantry approach the objective from different directions.

(3) Tanks support dismounted armored infantry by overhead or flanking fire.

(4) Armored infantry riding tanks.

(5) Tanks and dismounted armored infantry advance together.

(6) Tanks initially support by fire then pass through the dismounted armored infantry and precede them to the objective.

Tanks supporting by fire, then moving forward to join the dismounted armored infantry for the assault: In this method, the tanks fire from hull-defilade position while dismounted armored infantry moves forward. When the armored infantry masks the tank fires, the tanks move forward to new positions to give continuous fire support. When the foot troops approach the assault position, the tanks move forward rapidly to join in the final assault. This method can be used when the objective is clearly defined and when the terrain is open enough to permit tanks to fire overhead or to the flanks of the advancing armored infantrymen. It provides tank fires to cover the movement of the armored infantry from the line of departure to the assault position and tank fire power at the critical time of the assault. Since tanks moving forward to join the assault don't have to move as slowly as dismounted armored infantry, they are exposed to enemy antitank fire for less time. This method is used frequently in attacks through obstacles which can be breached to permit the tanks to rejoin the dismounted armored infantry for the assault

An instance of tanks supporting by fire, then advancing to join infantry in the assault occurred during the Bastogne-Houffalize drive by the 11th Armored Division. The objective of CCA, 11th Armored Division for 13 January 1945 was the high ground immediately south of Bertogne, Belgium. Seizure of this terrain feature would cut the main Laroche-Houffalize highway, which was the last main escape route left to the Germans inside the Bulge. Task Force Bell of CCA consisted of the 42nd Tank Battalion and the 63d Armored Infantry Battalion. The task force plan of attack called for the armored infantry battalion to attack through the mine field on the right of the Longchamps-Bertogne Road and advance to the edge of the woods overlooking the combat command objective. Company A, 42nd Tank Battalion, was to support the 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion by fire while the 63rd advanced. Once the mine field at the near edge of the woods was gapped, the tank company was to pass through the rifle companies and lead the tank battalion in the attack on the combat command objective.

The initial attack by the armored infantry battalion through the mine field proceeded rapidly, although the Germans reacted by placing intense heavy mortar fire on and in front of the mine field. Company A, 42nd Tank Battalion, supported the infantry from defiladed positions northeast of Longchamps. By 0830 the infantry advance had progressed into the woods out of direct fire support of the tanks. Simultaneously with the infantry advance, Company A, 56th Armored Engineer Battalion, gapped the mine field in the zone of advance. At 0845, Company A, 42nd Tank Battalion, passed through the gap and moved into the woods to join Company B of the Infantry Battalion. As soon as Tank Company A reached the edge of the woods, it advanced rapidly and overran the combat command objective. It left the infantry following on foot through the deep snow. Company A was promptly reinforced by the remainder of the 42nd Tank Battalion to repulse a movement of German armor from Bertogne to Compogne. Company B, 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion, meanwhile, continued its difficult advance through the snow and joined the tanks on the objective.

Tanks and dismounted armored infantry approaching the objective from different directions: This is sometimes necessary when the only route available for the tanks would unduly expose the dismounted armored infantry. While this method provides surprise, fire effect, and shock action, its assault phase is hard to coordinate. The difficulties in employing this method are the same as those discussed under converging attacks.

The 42nd Tank Battalion (Reinforced) of the 11th Armored Division used this method in attacking Konigsau, Germany. On 19 March 1945, the 42nd Tank Battalion (Reinforced) was advancing rapidly through the Rhenish Palatinate with Worms, on the Rhine, as its objective. Along its route of advance it reduced the German defenses of Kellenbach; but the enemy had blown the bridge over the stream in the center of town, making it necessary to locate a crossing point for the vehicles. A ford was found about one-half mile northeast of the blown bridge. Company B was immediately directed to cross the ford and prepare to move cross-country into Konigsau. This was the next town down the canyon through which the battalion bad been advancing. The straight line distance from Kellenbach to Konigsau was about a thousand yards, but the road and stream meandered so much that the road distance was slightly over a mile.

Attacking Konigsau, Company B, 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion, climbed the west wall of the canyon and advanced down the ridge line to seize the high ground west of Konigsau. Company A, 63rd Armored Infantry Battalion waded the stream at Kellenbach

and advanced astride the only road leading into Konigsau. Company B of the tank battalion moved across country to the ridge northeast of Konigsau to support the attack of both rifle companies. Tank Company B reached this high ground long before the dismounted troops. Because of the difficult footing, Company B of the armored infantry had trouble advancing down the ridge west of Kongisau. Armored Infantry Company A advanced unopposed until it encountered a large farmhouse about 200 yards from town. Resistance here was overcome by tank fire of Company B of the tank battalion. After neutralizing the farmhouse positions, Company B, 42nd Tank battalion, started to move into Konigsau. Its advance was coordinated with the advance of Company A, 63rd Armored Infantry. Company B, 63rd Armored Infantry, occupied the ridge west of Konigsau while Company A, 63rd Armored Infantry, and Company B, 42nd Tank Battalion, cleared the town.

Tanks supporting dismounted armored infantry by overhead or flanking fire: From hull-defilade firing positions on or near the line of departure, tanks support the dismounted armored infantry by overhead or flanking fire all the way from the line of departure to the objective. This method is used when natural or artificial antitank obstacles prohibit tank movement to the objective, or when additional tanks increase the tank support in the other methods discussed.

Armored infantry riding tanks: This is an emergency means of transporting armored infantry. The casualties which would be suffered from air burst and automatic weapons fire make this method too costly to be employed in attacking an organized position. It is used when road space or fuel shortages prohibit use of the armored personnel carriers.

Tanks and dismounted armored infantry advancing together: Dismounted armored infantry and tanks move together at the same rate of speed throughout the advance. The infantry may move slightly in advance of the tanks, between them, or immediately in their rear. As the advance progresses these relative positions of tanks and infantry are adjusted according to the enemy resistance and the terrain. This method is used when visibility is limited, in built-up areas, and in woods; and when adverse terrain forces the tanks to advance slowly. It permits close coordination and maximum mutual support, but it sacrifices speed and surprise. The slow rate of movement increases tank vulnerability to hostile antitank fires and gives the enemy time to increase the intensity of his defensive fires.

During the Allied drive to reduce the Bulge Salient, Company C 42nd Tank Battalion, was attached to the 193rd Parachute Infantry Regiment for the attack on the Bois Bruhl., 15 January 1945. The Bois Bruhl was a series of highly wooded hills, east of Bertogne and north of Compogne, Belgium. The 193rd Infantry planned for the tank company to attack directly east from Bertogne to the Bois Bruhl. The company commander was instructed to keep his company about 50 to 100 yards ahead of the advancing infantry. The company was employed as a unit under the tank company commander. The attack jumped off as scheduled. Although the snow slowed down the paratroopers, the tanks found good traction on the frozen ground. The tank company advanced by short bounds ahead of the infantry until it reached the edge of the Bois Bruhl. At this point, the riflemen and tanks advanced through the woods on line together. The objective was taken without the loss of a single tank and with only a few infantrymen wounded, mostly by mortar fire.

Tanks initially support by fire then pass through the dismounted armored infantry and precede them to the objective: This method uses the armor protected fire power of the tanks throughout the greater portion of the attack. When tanks advance from their initial firing positions they move rapidly through the advancing infantry and lead the attack. The armored infantry either continues the advance dismounted or mounts and follows the tanks depending upon the distance to the objective and the nature of the opposition. When the supporting fires lift just before the tanks arrive on the objective, the infantry immediately opens assault fire and follows the tanks onto and through the objective.



Tank-armored infantry methods of attack are flexible and commanders use any combination or modification of methods which produces success. Dismounted armored infantry is employed frequently to break through mine fields while the tanks of the team give direct support by overhead or flanking fire. once the obstacle is breached, the tanks and armored personnel carriers move forward to join the dismounted armored infantry. When the tanks and carriers rejoin the armored infantry, and of the other methods of attack, mounted or dismounted, is used to continue the attack to the objective. When a converging attack is used, frequently other methods are combined with it. One reinforced platoon, strong in tanks, may advance on the objective from one direction using any of the mounted methods while a reinforced platoon, strong in armored infantry, advances from a different direction using any of the dismounted methods of attack.



The armored division fights as combined arms teams at all levels of command from the platoon to the division itself. These teams can use a variety of methods of attack. The method used depends on the mission, the enemy situation, the terrain, and the plan of action. Whatever method is used, the armored infantry and the tanks support each other.

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