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  • Lines, Triangles and Squares?

    I've recently been reading a book about the TOE of the Red Army in WW2, and it came to my attention that formations tend to follow a pattern concerning sub units.

    It appears different countries prefer different numbers of distinct combat elements in a unit.

    Some units have 2 'fire' teams, some 3 and some 4. Size of formation does not seem to matter, whether platoon, battalion or at divisional level.

    German Panzer Divisions went from four to two panzer regiments on their divisions as an example, with experience gained from the Battle of France.

    Britain tends to use four firepower elements in a unit, sometimes if you include the HQ element.

    Soviets might use 3 or 4, depending on the formation type.

    US Armoured Divisions have three combat commands, which implies 3, but usually means 2, plus reinforcements.

    Reducing the number of elements might be down to losses. It might be more effective to produce 3 elements with 2 combat teams, than 2 elements with 3 combat teams as an example.

    Is there any evidence which formation structure is generally superior?
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  • #2
    The 1940 Panzer Divisions had two Panzer Regiments with two Battalions in each. The next reorganization saw the removal of one Panzer Regiment and the addition of second Motor Infantry Regiment (two Infantry Battalions plus supporting units). Not all 1940 Panzer Divisions had a second Panzer Regiment. In that case they would have three Panzer Battalions. Rommel's 7th Panzer had three P-38 Battalions.

    The original American Armor Division had two Armor Regiments (two medium, one light tank Battalion) and one Armored Infantry Regiment. There were also a lot of supporting units like Artillery, Recon and Engineers. This was formed with three Combat Commands (A,B,and R). This was called by some the Heavy Armor Division. The Army went to a new TOE which you described. There were still three Combat Commands. They were supposed to be formed out of a pool of combat units, but once formed tended to stay together. The CCR was usually formed with the leftover Combat Units and the Recon unit. Engineer Battalions were large enough to send a Company to CCA and CCB and still have some left for CCR. Some Divisions used one Tank, one Armored Infantry, one SP Artillery battalions per Combat Command. They might also have one Engineer and one Recon Company.

    The 2nd and 3rd Armor Divisions kept the Heavy TOE. If they would have been sent to the Pacific, I think they would have been converted to the newer TOE. So would the other ETO divisions going there.

    Pruitt
    Pruitt, you are truly an expert! Kelt06

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
      The Army went to a new TOE which you described. There were still three Combat Commands. They were supposed to be formed out of a pool of combat units, but once formed tended to stay together. The CCR was usually formed with the leftover Combat Units and the Recon unit. Engineer Battalions were large enough to send a Company to CCA and CCB and still have some left for CCR. Some Divisions used one Tank, one Armored Infantry, one SP Artillery battalions per Combat Command. They might also have one Engineer and one Recon Company.

      Pruitt
      Due to unforeseen operational demands "light" armored divisions typically utilized all three combat commands in combat. This was a problem as CCR Hq was not as heavily staffed as the other two.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
        ...The original American Armor Division had two Armor Regiments (two medium, one light tank Battalion) and one Armored Infantry Regiment. There were also a lot of supporting units like Artillery, Recon and Engineers. This was formed with three Combat Commands (A,B,and R). This was called by some the Heavy Armor Division.
        This was actually the second, 1942, armored division structure, but I think it only had two combat commands. With the regiments, you don't need the reserve command, because the regiments can control any units left in reserve.

        The previous, 1940, armored division structure was even heavier and more confusing, with an armored brigade of three armored regiments (2 light, 1 medium) and a FA regiment, another FA battalion, and an infantry regiment of two battalions. This division was designed to be paired with a motorized infantry division in an armored corps, but was restructured after the 1941 GHQ maneuvers.

        Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
        The Army went to a new TOE which you described. There were still three Combat Commands. They were supposed to be formed out of a pool of combat units, but once formed tended to stay together. The CCR was usually formed with the leftover Combat Units and the Recon unit. Engineer Battalions were large enough to send a Company to CCA and CCB and still have some left for CCR. Some Divisions used one Tank, one Armored Infantry, one SP Artillery battalions per Combat Command. They might also have one Engineer and one Recon Company.
        The 1943 "light" armored division technically had two combat commands and one reserve command, which as noted, had significantly reduced manpower (IIRC, the TOE called for only 8-10 men). Some units used all three, usually augmenting the Reserve Command with an Armored Group headquarters to make it combat effective. Some divisions didn't really employ the third command, and fought primarily with the two combat commands.

        The level of habitual relationships retained by the units in the combat commands varied between units. Some divisions employed the flexibility, while others kept their teams more fixed. One, IIRC it was 4th AD, semi-permanently paired armor and infantry units to the platoon level.

        The WWII armored division combat commands is the root of the idea that became the ROAD brigade in the early 1960s.

        Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
        The 2nd and 3rd Armor Divisions kept the Heavy TOE. If they would have been sent to the Pacific, I think they would have been converted to the newer TOE. So would the other ETO divisions going there.
        1st, 2nd, and 3rd all deployed before the newer "light" organization was developed. The 1st reorganized overseas, in Italy, IIRC. The 2nd and 3rd never did, because of the need to retrain and revise shipping plans for Normandy. Once committed to Normandy, there was not a chance before the end of the war.

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        • #5
          I'll simplify - possibly too much, but anyway let me try.

          Four is a number for peacetime armies. The generals have few large units (say divisions), and can afford to have them large. They have not encountered wartime loss rates yet.

          Three is the ideal number, because it gives you a handy way to commit two thirds of your force, possibly making two attempts, side by side, at finding the right spot in the enemy front, while keeping one third in reserve for exploitation or reinforcement or problem solving. Even when on the defensive, you want a sizable reserve for plugging sudden holes. Note this cascades down: if the division is attacking on a wide frontage with two infantry regiments abreast, and the third in reserve, those two regiments will presumably commit two of their three battalions, with the third held in reserve at the regimental level, and so on down.

          Two is the number of make-do. Usually resorted to in wartime, once casualties are mounting. With the noticeable exception of the Italian infantry division having two regiments to start with. But even in that case, even if in peacetime, it was a make-do solution. With two, you have no reserve. Rarely will you have the luxury of committing only 50% of your strength. You'll normally commit both sub-units to start with, so when you face a problem, you'll have to resort to small bits and odds and ends as the only reserve (the HQ escort company, the fusilier company, the recon battalion, the attached Blackshirt two battalions...).
          Michele

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          • #6
            My years of study , especially into 20-21st century tech/weaponry/unit organization has my focus on Land
            Forces methodology leaning towards what I'd call the 3/5 organization. This focuses upon the "Company", about 150-200 personnel; Formation as a basic building block. Within that concept a "Company" will consist of 3 times "LIne" units; one times special weapons/tools Unit; and one times Headquarters/support/supply unit which is the: CCC/SSS fifth of the formation.

            CCC = Command/Control/Communications
            SSS = Support/Service/Supply

            Factor to consider is this can repeatedly upscale from "Company" to "Battalion" to "Brigade/Regiment" ~ Eventually Division/Corps/Army; Etc.
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            • #7
              Originally posted by G David Bock View Post
              My years of study , especially into 20-21st century tech/weaponry/unit organization has my focus on Land
              Forces methodology leaning towards what I'd call the 3/5 organization. This focuses upon the "Company", about 150-200 personnel; Formation as a basic building block. Within that concept a "Company" will consist of 3 times "LIne" units; one times special weapons/tools Unit; and one times Headquarters/support/supply unit which is the: CCC/SSS fifth of the formation.

              CCC = Command/Control/Communications
              SSS = Support/Service/Supply

              Factor to consider is this can repeatedly upscale from "Company" to "Battalion" to "Brigade/Regiment" ~ Eventually Division/Corps/Army; Etc.
              That only works to battalion or maybe regiment/brigade level. After that, things get much more complicated.

              For example, if you use the ROAD division organization adopted by the US n the early 1960s, the battalions look sort of like this- 3 x line companies, with CS ( what you characterized as "special weapons/tools") and C2/CSS ( what you characterized as CCC/SSS) combined into an ever sized headquarters and headquarters company, with variations that divided out a combat support company.

              The Brigade, however, looks very different. The division had a a number of maneuver battalions (usually 10-11) that it could variably task organize between its three brigade headquarters, but a brigade could have anywhere from 2-5 maneuver units depending on the mission. The CS and CSS was usually and mostly retained at Division level, with a support relationship to the maneuver-centric brigades. The division, once again, looks a little like your 3+1+1 with 3 brigades, DIVARTY, and DISCOM, but then how does the rest of the division base (recon, aviation, engineer, signal, intel, air defense, etc) fit in to your paradigm. Corps and above are even more complicated.

              I think the search for such broad rules is overly simplistic. It works for building games and getting the basics across to large numbers of people quickly (like mass mobilization for WWII) but real life is not that easy and neat.


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              • #8
                Historically, an 'army' on a battlefield has 3 'divisions', a center and 2 wings. A sensible general adds a reserve. A clever general adds a skirmish line. This means 3 main elements, plus 2 additional. We know from antiquity that Romans were better tacticians than almost all of their opponents, its why they won an Empire after all.

                What is interesting about Roman armies is the amount of light infantry they used. While any one who is is interested in Romes military tends to focus on the legionaries, it is the supporting arms that made Romes victories possible. Over a quarter of a standard Republican army were light foot as an example. They do not tend to get mentioned.
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