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US Armored Division - CCR Use?

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  • US Armored Division - CCR Use?

    A US Armored Division consisted of three basic formations, ie combat commands, plus support elements. These were Combat Commands A and B, plus also CCR aka Combat Command Reserve. Each consisted of a tank battalion, an armored infantry battalion and an artillery battalion. CCA and CCB had full HQ units in the AD's TOE, while the reserve was just that, a unit with reserve battalions to allocate CCA or CCB as required. However, some AD's used CCR as a seperate fighting Combat Command. However, this meant taking troops from other elements within the AD to do so.

    Effectively, a US AD either had two combat commands with reserves, or three combat commands which were slightly weaker, and no reserves.

    The official TOE has less initial punch, but if it did find itself in open country, probably far more likely to be able to perform the usual AD's role of exploitation and pursuit. However, three CC's give more flexibility and greater initial firepower as all elements could be initially employed.

    Each option has its merits, and historic supporters. Do you think the CCR should be used as intended or as a 3rd fighting Combat Command?

    However, a third option exists, and that is allocating battalions within the AD to combat commands as the CO sees fit to perform a specific mission. This gives great flexibility at regimental level, but unless the different units have trained together, could lead to brittleness at company level. This is simply because units would be unsure how its neighbours would react in any situation. Two examples help clarify this point. Independent US tank battalions were initially to be placed with Infantry divisions as and when required. It was found co-operation only really came when they were more or less permantly attached. Likewise the British Tank Brigades did better when fighting with infantry they had trained with. The three choices are more diffcult than one might initially ponder.

    Which option was right for WW2 in your opinion?
    9
    As intended ie an important reserve.
    33.33%
    3
    As a 3rd Combat Command.
    33.33%
    3
    To strengthen CCA and CCB on a mission basis.
    33.33%
    3
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  • #2
    Originally posted by Nick the Noodle View Post
    A US Armored Division consisted of three basic formations, ie combat commands, plus support elements. These were Combat Commands A and B, plus also CCR aka Combat Command Reserve. Each consisted of a tank battalion, an armored infantry battalion and an artillery battalion. CCA and CCB had full HQ units in the AD's TOE, while the reserve was just that, a unit with reserve battalions to allocate CCA or CCB as required. However, some AD's used CCR as a seperate fighting Combat Command. However, this meant taking troops from other elements within the AD to do so.

    Effectively, a US AD either had two combat commands with reserves, or three combat commands which were slightly weaker, and no reserves.

    The official TOE has less initial punch, but if it did find itself in open country, probably far more likely to be able to perform the usual AD's role of exploitation and pursuit. However, three CC's give more flexibility and greater initial firepower as all elements could be initially employed.

    Each option has its merits, and historic supporters. Do you think the CCR should be used as intended or as a 3rd fighting Combat Command?

    However, a third option exists, and that is allocating battalions within the AD to combat commands as the CO sees fit to perform a specific mission. This gives great flexibility at regimental level, but unless the different units have trained together, could lead to brittleness at company level. This is simply because units would be unsure how its neighbours would react in any situation. Two examples help clarify this point. Independent US tank battalions were initially to be placed with Infantry divisions as and when required. It was found co-operation only really came when they were more or less permantly attached. Likewise the British Tank Brigades did better when fighting with infantry they had trained with. The choices are more diffcult than one might initially ponder.

    Which option was right for WW2 in your opinion?
    I think it all depends on the overall mission and the realities of the tactical situation faced by the division at the time. When viewed in a vacuum having a reserve makes a great deal of sense. Rotating which unit is in reserve based on casualties and the need for rest makes sense as well. However if the mission is indeed exploitation and there is signficant support from other units the AD might do well to "throw it all in" and use every bit of combat power available. Situation dictates.

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    • #3
      CCR in some divisions was used administratively rather than as a combat unit. That is, it contined the division train and support units under a single command.
      That is, it contained the supply train, engineers, headquarters, and possibly some attached non-divisional units in it along with the field artillery or some of the field artillery depending on mission.

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      • #4
        I was always under the impression that the Combat Commands were ad hoc groupings of battalions, and that's as I'd have it. Flexibility is key. A battalion here, one there...whatever fits the mission.

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        • #5
          I said it was a true reserve; that being it was sent where it was NEEDED. If one of the other combat commands need a blow; it replaced them. If they needed extra punch; it joined them. If the enemy broke through; it moved to stop them. Some armoured divisions did create CCR with the logistical tail, HQ, etc. and used the elements of the 3rd combat command to beef up A & B. But for those who had a "real" CCR then I stick by my previous.
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          • #6
            Originally posted by llkinak View Post
            I think it all depends on the overall mission and the realities of the tactical situation faced by the division at the time. When viewed in a vacuum having a reserve makes a great deal of sense. Rotating which unit is in reserve based on casualties and the need for rest makes sense as well. However if the mission is indeed exploitation and there is signficant support from other units the AD might do well to "throw it all in" and use every bit of combat power available. Situation dictates.
            Save the typing, this is also my answer.
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            • #7
              Doctrine dictated that the combat commands had no units assigned to them. Units were attached by the division commander for specific missions. The combat commands of different divisions were organized in different manners, however, and the division commanders also differed in their use of the reserve command.

              Eishenhower arranged a meeting for armored commanders in England in February 1944. He was of the opinion that permanent assignments were a better way to go instead of the flexible organization that doctrine called for. Not all commanders complied, though.

              4th Armored, for example, used CCB as the support command and also used a reserve command. Units were rotated from the reserve to CCA to the CCB to ensure everyone got a chance to rest and perform maintenance, etc.

              When Gen. Newgarden commanded 6th AD, he wanted balanced combat commands like Eisenhower had advocated. When Robert Grow later took over, he reversed this idea and went back to the doctrine, assigning units to combat commands on the basis of mission requirements.

              Some commanders went along with Eisenhower's ideas. The 5th AD commander, Lunsford Oliver, saw units unfamiliar with each other not cooperate in Africa. To get around this, 5th AD assigned units on a fixed basis. Contrary to doctrine, its reserve command started to be used as a combat command in June 1944, and the division balanced all of its combat commands with the same types of units in each. Entire combat commands were rotated in and out of the line.

              The 8th AD used the reserve command as a combat command and balanced its three combat commands starting in early 1945.

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              • #8
                A little off topic, but related:

                When the Army re-organized it's divisions from pentomic to triangular in the early '60s, the three brigade HQs were not supposed to have permanent battalions; they were supposed to mimic the WWII Armored Division combat commands and have battalions assigned as required.

                But the brigade commanders wanted to command defacto regimental combat teams of a sort, not just HQs to receive battalions as required. The result was the same three battalions being assigned to the brigade commander all the time with the option to receive (or give up) battalions if required.

                So the system allowed for some flexibility to task organize, but was still more rigid than the WWII Armored Division system. Seems a shame to me. I understand the advantages of cohesion and habitual association, but I think that should be at battalion level and down. I think brigade level is the best level to start mixing and matching subordinate units as required. And I think the WWII Armored Divisions proved the flexibility advantages out weigh the advantages of habitual association.
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                • #9
                  Personally I think it is all down to how well trained the troops are.

                  Well trained troops can use far more flexible formations, and certainly flexibility is a key ingredient for success much of the time. However, if you are forming large units very quickly, a more stable force is probably the best option.
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                  • #10
                    Combat Command was a small group. It did not have the staffing that Combat Command A and B had to control a large combat formation.

                    Some of the U.S. Armored Divisions where given the old armored group command personnel. The armored groups where to be used to control the independent tank battalions. But since the independent tank battalions where most often just put under the control of an infantry division there was no real need for the Armored groups.

                    The 7th Armored Division for instance used personnel from the 9th Armored Group to bring its Combat Command R up to par with A and B Cobat Commands.

                    I like the fluidity of the Combat Command system.

                    For instance:
                    Combat Command A is attacking accross open country.
                    Combat Command B is covering there flank against more wooded country.

                    It would make sense for Combat Command A to be tank heavy and Combat Command B to be infantry heavy.

                    In the late pattern U.S. Armored Division there where only seven manuever battalions, 3 tank, 3 armored infantry and one recon. Plus the three artillery and one engineer battalions. Thats 11 battalions that the 2 or 3 combat commands would deal with on a regular basis. That shouldn't have been that hard to manage.

                    From what I understand it was common to mix and match units on down to the company level in the U.S. Armored Divisions.
                    For instance:
                    A tank and armored infantry company could give each other a platoon.
                    The tank company would have two tank platoons and one armored infantry.
                    The infantry company would have two armored infantry and one tank platoon.
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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 17thfabn View Post
                      Combat Command was a small group. It did not have the staffing that Combat Command A and B had to control a large combat formation.

                      Some of the U.S. Armored Divisions where given the old armored group command personnel. The armored groups where to be used to control the independent tank battalions. But since the independent tank battalions where most often just put under the control of an infantry division there was no real need for the Armored groups.

                      The 7th Armored Division for instance used personnel from the 9th Armored Group to bring its Combat Command R up to par with A and B Cobat Commands.

                      I like the fluidity of the Combat Command system.

                      For instance:
                      Combat Command A is attacking accross open country.
                      Combat Command B is covering there flank against more wooded country.

                      It would make sense for Combat Command A to be tank heavy and Combat Command B to be infantry heavy.

                      In the late pattern U.S. Armored Division there where only seven manuever battalions, 3 tank, 3 armored infantry and one recon. Plus the three artillery and one engineer battalions. Thats 11 battalions that the 2 or 3 combat commands would deal with on a regular basis. That shouldn't have been that hard to manage.

                      From what I understand it was common to mix and match units on down to the company level in the U.S. Armored Divisions.
                      For instance:
                      A tank and armored infantry company could give each other a platoon.
                      The tank company would have two tank platoons and one armored infantry.
                      The infantry company would have two armored infantry and one tank platoon.
                      Personally I think it is all down to how well trained the troops are.

                      Well trained troops can use far more flexible formations, and certainly flexibility is a key ingredient for success much of the time. However, if you are forming large units very quickly, a more stable force is probably the best option.
                      Taking both of your replies, this was how it was done by Armor Division commanders. They were either flexible or rigid in organizing their task forces and combat commands based on how well they knew their troops could operate or trained them that way.

                      Breaking down the Armored Divisions in the Battle of the Bulge, you saw a variety of uses of combat commands and task forces:

                      2nd Armored: Big mondo CCA and CCB with tank and armored infantry battalions pretty much whole (i.e. not broken up into task forces). Their CCR was legitimately used as a reserve and refit outfit.

                      3rd Armored: Based primarily on tank heavy CCA and CCB (HQ's based on the Armor Regiment HQ's like the 2nd armored). CCR had mixed arms units but due to the piecemeal commitment of the division to the Bulge, CCR had a prominent role.

                      4th Armored: CCR was supposed to be a reserve command, but given its commitment in the 90 degree turn north, was the lead element that broke through to Bastogne. All three combat commands had a tank and armored infantry battalion and the task forces typically paired a tank company with a armored infantry company on a mission by mission basis

                      5th Armored: Discussed in this thread already, Oliver created set equal combat commands each consisting of a heavy task force (2 tank and 2 armored infantry companies), and a light task force (1 tank and 1 armored infantry company)

                      6th Armored: Not 100% sure but I believe they they formed equal combat commands with one tank heavy task force and one armored infantry heavy task force by swapping a company each. Combat commands had a tank and armored infantry battalion each.

                      7th Armored: Given the dynamic nature of the defense of St. Vith, there were no formed task forces and the original combat command structures were loose in giving and receiving battalions and companies to stave off the German assaults. After withdrawal from St. Vith and much depleted, they formed dedicated task forces and were given Airborne troops to compensate for lessened infantry.

                      9th Armored: Never fought as a whole in the campaign, and their combat commands were allotted to different corps and 1st Army command. CCB had a portion of it (the armored infantry battalion) on the front line to help the spread out line. Each combat command had the equal spit of battalions and each formed task forces for the missions at hand.

                      10th Armored: From what I can tell, CCR was used strictly as a reserve element. CCA was huge, and the CCB (three task forces each of a tank company and armored infantry company) was sent independently to Bastogne. I've never seen a reference to CCR/10th so I believe no units were assigned to this as everything was in CCA or CCB when it went north.

                      11th Armored: A brand new Armored Division, it had a unique structure (not to say the above was normal). CCA and CCB had the standard split battalions (1 tank and 1 armored infantry into 2 task forces each), but the CCR consisted of only the remaining armored infantry company. The remaining tank battalion was used as a separate reserve element and was split up to support the combat commands and also supported the 17th Airborne when it arrived without tank support.

                      So, the example here is that each Armored Division organized themselves differently. This is in and of itself flexible, allowing commanders to organize their forces as they saw fit.

                      It's usually understood that Panzer Division commanders were flexible in creating Kampfgruppes but the Americans weren't that far off themselves.

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                      • #12
                        I'd go traditional this time.
                        In practice, CCR was about half or less what the other two were. Holding the line in a temporary way might be a good use, it seems beter for that then the Cavalry unit.
                        Combined with the Cav., it could be a good exploitation force, if it was light on it's feet and ready to roll at the time.

                        Depends on the situation, but I'd keep it the way it is. Having a trianary basis for your TO&E is very helpful in a unit who's mission is offensive, and even better if one is easy to move around in a tight situation.

                        However, not another Cav unit, this unit should have close ties to the Artillery, and if you only have one company of Heavy tanks I'd put them here. Mobility is not just speed, it's being able to use fewer roads and dragging around less baggage with you.

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                        • #13
                          In a lot of cases, the Division commander would use the CCR as another combat command. I have read accounts of some divisions using the command to form special task forces and so on.

                          Some commanders would spread all his assets among the three commands.

                          I have also read about a few divisions actually expanding the CCR into a full combat HQ.

                          It should also be pointed out that in the 1948 reorganization that the CCR was officially expanded into a "full combat command". This was based on the wartime experience of the divisions.

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