Tank-Infantry cooperation as envisioned and/or executed for/in 1940.

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phaze
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Tank-Infantry cooperation as envisioned and/or executed for/in 1940.

Post by phaze » 28 Mar 2021 10:22

Basically the title. In the usual old narratives of Fall Gelb and Fall Rot, the French are castigated for splitting their tanks into 'penny packets' and/ or chaining them to the infantry vis a vis Germans who kept them concentrated. Without going into ins and outs of whether these takes have validity or no, it appears to me that precious little (read - nothing) is ever said of specifics of how the tanks were supposed to act and acted in conjunction with others arms, infantry in particular. So things, like, whether the tank battalions and other structures fought as whole units or perhaps split themselves further and attached to constituent levels of (say)ID they were working with, what were the command arrangements, what were the envisioned tactics of tank-infantry assault/defense. Were the tanks supposed to be in front/in the middle/ behind, the differences in approach between the different divisions and across the cavalry/infantry tank split etc.

The general trend of later war seems to be less and less "pure' tank unit and the parceling of them downwards and it's a point of interest of mine, how the maligned French usage compares with these trends. With it being a niche topic in an already poorly covered campaign(in English at least), there's not a whole lot on the subject that I found, so if anyone got any insights or literature to recommend on the subject, please do.

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Tank-Infantry cooperation as envisioned and/or executed for/in 1940.

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 29 Mar 2021 17:02

Not the Supreme Expert here, but hers a few thoughts.
phaze wrote:
28 Mar 2021 10:22
Basically the title. In the usual old narratives of Fall Gelb and Fall Rot, the French are castigated for splitting their tanks into 'penny packets' and/ or chaining them to the infantry vis a vis Germans who kept them concentrated. Without going into ins and outs of whether these takes have validity or no, it appears to me that precious little (read - nothing) is ever said of specifics of how the tanks were supposed to act and acted in conjunction with others arms, infantry in particular. So things, like, whether the tank battalions and other structures fought as whole units or perhaps split themselves further and attached to constituent levels of (say)ID they were working with, what were the command arrangements,
The independent tank battalions were for admin purposes collected in groups, usually at the corps or sometimes army level. Two or three battalions per corps. For operations they would be temporarily assigned to the infantry divisions. The division commander could concentrate a assigned battalion with one Inf Regiment, or split them up. For the counter attack by 10th Corps on 14 May near Sedan two tank battalions supported the two rifle regiments.
... what were the envisioned tactics of tank-infantry assault/defense. Were the tanks supposed to be in front/in the middle/ behind, the differences in approach between the different divisions and across the cavalry/infantry tank split etc.
The usual idea was the tanks would accompany the lead infantry companies. either a little in advance, mixed, or slightly behind. It would depend on the circumstances and inclination of the local commanders. I suspect most would place the tanks a few meters ahead of the riflemen. In the well trained units this worked. In the case of the 10th Corps the undertrained men of the 55th & & 71st Divisions failed to keep up with the tanks. Long rang MG fire from the Germans scattered and pinned the rifle & MG sections, leaving the tanks to advance unaccompanied.
The general trend of later war seems to be less and less "pure' tank unit and the parceling of them downwards and it's a point of interest of mine, how the maligned French usage compares with these trends. With it being a niche topic in an already poorly covered campaign(in English at least), there's not a whole lot on the subject that I found, so if anyone got any insights or literature to recommend on the subject, please do.
The late war trend of "parceling" you refer to was more of a return to prewar ideas. The concentration of tanks en massed formations, with little accompanying infantry, artillery, engineers, ect... was a temporary condition that faded. 'Armored' formations became combined arms groups with tracked & armored supporting artillery and infantry. If you look at Guderians early proposals for the 'panzerwaffe' it was for these combined arms groups with armored carriers for the infantry & supporting arms. He did not have the final say on production priorities tho and early on the focus was for tanks, with relatively few armored halftracks or SP artillery built. So, in the operations 1938-1941 there were masses of tanks followed by motorized infantry & supporting arms using unarmored trucks. By 1942 the Germans had fully implemented combined arms battle groups of battalion & brigade size with the tanks mixed with the artillery, AT guns, Pioneers, FLAK, and infantry. Even if they were short armored carriers the custom was still to integrate in combined arms groups and down to companies.

The US Army initially planned for divisions of nearly all tanks. Some of the paper concepts have as many as nine tank battalions in the division. The first three armored divisions formed had a large mass of six tank battalions with only three armored infantry and armored artillery battalions in support. Field tests showed this to not be optimal and later armoed divisions had a 1-1 ratio of tank battalions to infantry or artillery. For combat tasks these were grouped in Combat Commands of tanks, inf, ect.. The exact mix depended on the mission or circumstances and the division commanders whim. Within the Combat commands the battalions were usually mixed into combined arms task forces and down to company & platoon level.

Like the French the US Army doctrine was for independent tank battalions to be provided in 2-3 battalion groups to the Corps commanders. Those could be parceled out to the infantry divisions as needed. Usually they were more or less permanently with the same infantry division. There were a few exceptions. On luzon Kruegers 6th Army used the armored group HQ as head of a combined arms formation a motorized infantry battalion and artillery were detached from their parent units and combined with the tanks & other units to function as a mini armored division on the advance to Manilia.

phaze
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Re: Tank-Infantry cooperation as envisioned and/or executed for/in 1940.

Post by phaze » 01 Apr 2021 23:28

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
29 Mar 2021 17:02
Not the Supreme Expert here, but hers a few thoughts.
Thanks for the input !
The independent tank battalions were for admin purposes collected in groups, usually at the corps or sometimes army level. Two or three battalions per corps. For operations they would be temporarily assigned to the infantry divisions. The division commander could concentrate a assigned battalion with one Inf Regiment, or split them up. For the counter attack by 10th Corps on 14 May near Sedan two tank battalions supported the two rifle regiments.

The usual idea was the tanks would accompany the lead infantry companies. either a little in advance, mixed, or slightly behind. It would depend on the circumstances and inclination of the local commanders. I suspect most would place the tanks a few meters ahead of the riflemen. In the well trained units this worked. In the case of the 10th Corps the undertrained men of the 55th & & 71st Divisions failed to keep up with the tanks. Long rang MG fire from the Germans scattered and pinned the rifle & MG sections, leaving the tanks to advance unaccompanied.
So it would seem there was a large leeway given to commanders on the spot and avoidance of delineating more detailed tactics by higher hqs ? Sounds familiar to the landscape of 4 years later. :D
The late war trend of "parceling" you refer to was more of a return to prewar ideas. The concentration of tanks en massed formations, with little accompanying infantry, artillery, engineers, ect... was a temporary condition that faded. 'Armored' formations became combined arms groups with tracked & armored supporting artillery and infantry. If you look at Guderians early proposals for the 'panzerwaffe' it was for these combined arms groups with armored carriers for the infantry & supporting arms. He did not have the final say on production priorities tho and early on the focus was for tanks, with relatively few armored halftracks or SP artillery built. So, in the operations 1938-1941 there were masses of tanks followed by motorized infantry & supporting arms using unarmored trucks. By 1942 the Germans had fully implemented combined arms battle groups of battalion & brigade size with the tanks mixed with the artillery, AT guns, Pioneers, FLAK, and infantry. Even if they were short armored carriers the custom was still to integrate in combined arms groups and down to companies.
Hmmmm. This will be a tangent to an extent but I'm not sure if I agree with this characterization of Guderian and to an extent, of the german developments. From my reading, Guderian, while no Fuller, was very limited in how far he wanted to take his "combined arms". His approach doesn't seem go below the divisional level and thus; keeps panzers in 'pure' regiments. He was also consistent advocate of very tank heavy panzer divisions, the kind that Brits get ridiculed for, all the way in 1943 still: From Panzer Leader:
The task for 1943 is to provide a certain number of Panzer divisions with
complete combat efficiency capable of making limited objective attacks.
For 1944 we must prepare to launch large-scale attacks. A pan¬zer division
only possesses complete combat efficiency when the number of its tanks is in correct
proportion to its other weapons and vehicles. German panzer divisions were
designed to contain 4 tank battalions, with a total strength of roughly 400 tanks per
division. If the number of tanks falls appreciably below the 400 mark, then the whole
organization (its manpower and vehicle strength) is no longer in true proportion to
its offensive power. At the moment we unfortunately have no panzer division which,
in this sense, can be said to possess complete combat efficiency.
3. For 1944 I propose war establishments in accordance with Diagram 2
(unfortunately no longer available). So far as tanks are concerned it embodies the
following major modification: the expansion of the tank regiment to a brigade of
four battalions
.
Similarly, while my reading on the subject is an ongoing and tortured process, the german developments in this regard strike me as much more messier and confused. The approach varied from division to division and there was plenty of proponents of keeping tanks together within it. Certain things, such as (possible?) faults in composition of kampfgruppes and very unequal split of resources covered by a certain blog on bgg much better and in greater detail than I could ever have.

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Re: Tank-Infantry cooperation as envisioned and/or executed for/in 1940.

Post by Hoplophile » 15 Jun 2021 03:42

Readers can find a great deal about French armor in 1940 in the articles that John Sayen wrote in the early 1990s for Tactical Notebook. These can be found on the online companion to On Armor. (The latter book, by the way, also pays a great deal of attention to French armor in the years between 1915 and 1940.)

https://onarmorcompanion.blogspot.com/2017/06/6_28.html

phaze
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Re: Tank-Infantry cooperation as envisioned and/or executed for/in 1940.

Post by phaze » 15 Jan 2022 18:17

This is small tidbit I stumbled upon a while ago that has German AAR rather praising French combined arms in 1939:

https://youtu.be/AiXgf9lRlb4?t=569

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