Infantry Coordination in Attack
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
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.
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.
hypothetical 1st Armored Division might have the following organization for
Combat Command A
Combat Command B
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
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
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
(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
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
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
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.
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
(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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.