Real History, Tanks and Infantry

Tank-Infantry Innovation

            The American military had constructed its entire offensive strategy around combined arms. The use of over whelming combined power to destroy any opponent. The infantry of U.S Army were designed to be mobile for offensive movements. The American infantry would be a key part of the offensive strategy of American operations but the infantry was designed so that support from other parts of the combined arms would increase their effectiveness. However the combined arms strategy denied infantry of an integrated armor force.

Armor which the Germans had demonstrated as an incredibly effective force on the battle field, which presented the triangular system with something it lacked. The failure to take advantage of American armor would present a problem later in the Second World War. American military doctrine regarding the use of armor was a bit slow to fully integrate armor into its own effective force instead its primary functions were infantry support and exploitation. The American use did allow for the creation of the armored Corp in July, 1940.

The introduction of armor into the over all battle formation of he army gave the combined arms strategy an impressive arsenal of support system, at least on paper. The actual deployment of the combined arms battle strategy proved to be a more complex scenario in the hedge rows than the U.S army had ever anticipated. The U.S strategy depended on the ability of all the branches to come together and provide sustained force of strength. The U.S army when in landed in Normandy met with success in capturing the beaches but when it came to moving inland the U.S forces met with considerable resistance from not only the German forces but the terrain of Normandy its self.

The region that the British were in command of was more suited for mobile warfare. The area that the U.S Army had to operate in was entirely unsuited for any type of aggressive maneuvering. The marshy soft ground made armored movement next to impossible. The lack of opened ground forced the Americans shift to controlling main transportation hubs.

The inability of U.S forces to effectively maneuver caused serious friction on the combined arms strategy which the U.S Army had built its main battle plan around. The U.S army was in effect unable to bring its combined strength against the enemy. The U.S Army ran into even more problems when they entered the hedge rows of Normandy. The hedge rows caused considerable chaos among the U.S forces and about 70% of the total causalities in the Normandy campaign. The hedge rows proved to be a formidable obstacle to the allied advance, not only because the hedge rows were a considerable physical barrier that the Germans turned into large killing fields.

U.S forces could not us their heavy weapons against the German positions because of their close proximity of the combat. The American soldiers were forced to try and cross the hedge rows with little support from their heavier weapons. The lack of heavy weapons limited the Americans to using primarily infantry for the task of busting through the hedge rows. The Germans had established incredibly heavy fields of fire around the major openings in the hedge rows which were devastating in causing casualties against the advancing Americans.

The Americans when advancing through the hedge rows encountered a number of problems while trying to take enemy positions. The majority of the problems that hindered American soldiers came from a lack of experienced veterans. A large number of U.S troops were rather green and there was failure in the chain of command to enforce discipline while pushing to capture objectives. The Germans noted that American troops were slow to take the initiative and often did not move quickly to capture exposed positions. The Germans stated that if the Americans moved like the Russians the Americans would have pushed to Paris much faster. Among the other problems the Americans had was a lack of skilled commanders who could navigate through the hedge rows, when the soldiers would push into the rows they found it that was very easy to get complete turned around.

The Americans encountered even more frictional problems when it came to how U.S Infantry operated with tanks in assaults. There was a definite disconnect from the tanks and the infantry, the tank-infantry assaults where of mixed proficiency, often times when the tanks would advance against enemy positions the infantry would lag behind and the openings created by the tanks would remain unexploited. In other attacks the infantry that kept pace with the assaulting tanks were killed by enemy fire. The lack of experienced veterans was a serious detriment for the attacking U.S Army.

Another issue the U.S Army would have to over come was that the Infantry were not generating enough volume of fire against German positions, U.S infantry were taught that they needed to produce massive amount of fire to prevent the Germans from returning fire but Americans were still hesitant in the amount of fire they produced. The lack of training and inexperience of the soldiers made it difficult for U.S infantry to advance at times. First hand accounts show how devastating German snipers were against the green U.S soldiers instead of advancing and finding superior cover the U.S soldiers would drop and stay static only to be picked off one by one.

The U.S Army had to over come these problems and quickly. What allowed the U.S army to react quickly to many of the problems was the way in which almost every soldier and officer was given a voice in dealing with the problem. There were a large number of ideas that were brought forward to deal with the hedge row problem. The main issue that had to be dealt with was making the combined arms strategy a viable and successful plan. The American high command started to aggressively address the problems at hand. The High command knew that retraining their officers was not something that could be pulled back and handled it had to be addressed in the field.

The commanders had to be educated on exactly what their units could do in order for them to be of any effectiveness against the Germans. The American command had to innovate and come up with entirely new doctrine in order to break through the hedge rows. The ability of the U.S to adapt came at a heavy price but the U.S forces innovated in a number of ways that greatly improved their tactical operations. The U.S approached the tactical issues in a creative way they first addressed the problem of breaking through the hedge rows with the Rhino modification. The modification allowed Sherman tanks to break through the hedge rows, but the rhino modification was just one of many tactical innovations employed to break the hedges. Once the U.S tactics were adjusted to fit the conditions of hedges the American forces began to make aggressive progress. The U.S forces improved their Tank-Infantry coordination by making communication possible by adding telephones to the back deck of the Shermans

When U.S forces finally tied together their different branches the U.S army gained success in breaking through the Germans fierce defense. The U.S Army achieved the combined Arms strategy which was what required for victory. The U.S Army had to innovate in the field and rely on the skill of its soldiers and officers to ultimately achieve victory in busting the bocage.

Work cited

Doubler, Micheal. Busting the Bocage: American Combined Arms Operations in France, 6 June—31 July 1944. Fort Leavenworth.

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Categories: Real History