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"Squad LMG Firepower - How important?" Topic


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Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 6:15 a.m. PST

In another thread I started asking about the level of Firepower assigned to LMGs in Combat Patrol, but looking through various rules sets there really isn't a lot of agreement on the subject.

So I guess my question is what percentage of a squads firepower did LMGs represent?

Or in cruder terms, how many Bolt Action rifles worth of firepower should a two man team with a drum fed or belt fed LMG put out?

Thanks!
Ed

Pan Marek09 Sep 2016 6:23 a.m. PST

I do not know the statistics. But all the modern armies of the world supplied their troops with LMGs before WWII. So their value was recognized. They are essential to both defense and "fire and movement".

This is one of the reasons I am not fond of Bolt Action.
You cannot split off the LMG (or any other part of your squad) to model fire and movement.

Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 6:28 a.m. PST

Bolt action has a drum fed LMG team worth 3 bolt action rifles but with a slightly longer range. Version 2 will push that to 4, with an even longer range (which is kind of weird).

However you are absolutely that modeling squad level fire and movement is really hard to do in Bolt Action (i.e. Have to buy small squads and use them as fire teams)

Whirlwind09 Sep 2016 6:29 a.m. PST

Read this thread for useful info: TMP link

Martin Rapier09 Sep 2016 6:36 a.m. PST

Machineguns are 'the distilled essence of infantry'.

Firepower equivalences assigned in e.g. the manuals used to adjudicate field exercises range from 9-14 rifles for mag fed LMGs to anything up to 40-50 rifles for tripod mounted water cooled weapons.

It is notable that both German and British doctrine up until the middle of the war was that infantry firefights were conducted _solely_ by the MG. Riflemen were there to protect the MG and conduct close combat to take ground. Under dire circumstances they might do some shooting too, but WW2 era musketry was generally pretty poor.

So the short answer is most, if not all the squad firepower was generated by the LMG. The riflemen were only really of any use at quite short ranges – which of course is fine for most skirmish games. At short ranges, the balance will be different.

Things were bit different for the US who didn't really have a proper LMG, just the BAR and a mass of semi automatic rifles. They did at least have decent company and battalion support weapons with lots and lots of tripod MGs and mortars, unlike the poor old British with one measly battalion mortar platoon.

Of course the Germans had decent squad MGs and lots and lots of company, battalion and regimental support weapons.

Whirlwind09 Sep 2016 6:38 a.m. PST

I vaguely remember David Rowland covering this in Stress of Battle, maybe? link

I read a library copy so I can't go back and refer, but in terms of causing casualties, something like x5-6 as effective (with an 81mm mortar being x3 as effective again as that)

You could find the review by Andy Grainger to find the sort of thing: PDF link

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 7:00 a.m. PST

Martin pretty much hits it on the head. The LMG was the core of British and German squads. The US had a different doctrine which put the onus on the riflemen, with the BAR as support. This really did not work all that well. Theoretically ten M1 Garands could put out firepower equivalent to an LMG, but in practice this rarely happened.

Blutarski09 Sep 2016 7:37 a.m. PST

"Theoretically ten M1 Garands could put out firepower equivalent to an LMG, but in practice this rarely happened."

… and herein lies the prodigious advantage of the MG as a weapon system. It is a trick indeed to: (a) get all ten of those riflemen to agree to: (a) simultaneously poke their heads up from cover; (b) direct their collective fire upon a particular target; (c) have it possible that all ten men can actually acquire the target.

It is also a fact that a crew-served weapon is much more likely (perhaps by an order of magnitude) to actively participate in the fighting as opposed to the individual rifleman. All modern tactical combat reading I have done points to the MG being the dominant actor in any firefight.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

B

Starfury Rider09 Sep 2016 8:11 a.m. PST

I recently found a downloadable copy of the US post war report on the Inf Dv "Organization, Equipment and Tactical Employment of the Infantry Division".

PDF link

I was surprised to see the comments on pages 7-8 re firepower of the rifle squad;

"The squad consists of two groups; a base of fire consisting of the automatic rifle group, and a maneuvering element composed of riflemen. Automatic fire is essential to the base of fire and an increase in the firepower of this group could be obtained by the addition of another automatic rifle, but this would be at the expense of the maneuvering element and appears undesirable. Actually, with foreseen improvements in reduced weight and increased firepower of the present M-1 rifle, no additional automatic weapon is necessary."

From the footnotes that seems to be based on the views of eleven different US Inf Divs. Obviously they are talking about not just WW2 ETO experience, but considering future developments to the M1, which I only know of as coming to bear in the M14, but that was post Korea, let alone post WW2. I know there was an officially sanctioned increase in BAR issue in 1944, six extra per Rifle Coy 'where authorised', so two-thirds of the Rifle Squads could double up. I really expected the report to suggest a much higher allocation of BARs than that envisioned in 1942 given the experience that followed.

The US M1/BAR combination is very different from the bolt action/LMG combination of pretty much every other army, and put a lot more emphasis on individual riflemen contributing to the fire-fight.

Gary

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 8:34 a.m. PST

I apologize as I can't really speak to the problem at hand regarding Bolt Action, but I wanted to hop into the conversation regarding doctrine and practice regarding the use of an automatic weapon within the squad.

I believe there is no doubt the squad automatic weapon is the key to a squad's firepower, and the overall ability to engage the enemy between 200 and 600 yards. Rifles simply fail in this role due to lack of volume of fire, accuracy, and (as mentioned by Blutarski) their ability to sustain that fire (riflemen have to continuously reload, differing sectors of fire to provide rear and flank security mean not everyone is looking at the same target).

What I take issue with is the idea that the BAR not successful in its doctrinal role. It was, of course, limited in its ability to provide sustained fire by its 20 round magazine. But this was a conscious decision in order to increase the mobility of the squad in offensive operations, and the volume/sustainability of fire issue was often attacked by adding more than one BAR to the squad (look at late war USMC tables of organization which provided three BARs, one per four-man fireteam, in each squad).

The problem with the 'true' light machine gun, which I define is a heavier caliber (at least in modern terms, where machine guns stay in the 7.62mm range and squad automatic weapons have gone down to the 5.56mm range), belt-fed weapon. Within machine gun doctrine the best use of guns is to have them on a tripod, with tons of ammo available, operating in pairs to keep sustained fire on the target while one reloads/changes barrels/clears stoppages of the gun.

So for a true machine gun to be at its most effective you are almost making it immobile in tactical terms. This issue was often dealt with by pulling the gun off the tripod and utilizing a bipod. This presents two issues: the gun's mobility is still affected by being belt fed (it's harder to move then something that is drum or magazine fed), and two, where the mission of the infantry squad is to close with and destroy the enemy by fire and close combat, the gun team is pretty much useless in close combat (not defined as hand to hand melee, but at extraordinarily close range, probably 30 yards or less).

The gun on a bipod is an unhappy solution at best, as you've lost the ability to engage targets accurately beyond a couple hundred yards or so, and at close range you've simply turned it into a wildly inaccurate, and much heavier, submachine gun (albeit one that can throw a lot of rounds out, but keep in mind those rounds have to move with you in the offense).

This is why Post-War, many countries went to the lower caliber round in a box/magazine fed weapon at the squad level, and pulled machine guns out to supporting elements (weapons squads, platoons, and companies let out as attachments to the infantry platoons/companies)to be used in the traditional machine gun role.

Lately we've seen some of the Western countries going back to 7.62mm automatic weapons in the squad, but this is not so much a doctrinal change as one driven by experiences on the ground in places like Afghanistan, where common engagement ranges are 700- to 900 yards. The 5.56mm SAWs can't reach that reliably, and so to be able to participate in the engagement (rather than just serve as targets), and willfully giving up the idea of mobility in the offense due to realizing you're not going to close with the enemy over 700 yards away to destroy him, he'll simply withdraw before you reach him, the guns are now used to fix the enemy in place for supporting fires (air and arty) to destroy the enemy.

That's long and rambling, and probably too much on modern warfare rather than WWII, but it's always occurred to me that Germans in the offense during the latter period of WWII didn't do particularly well. A prime example of this, in my opinion, is the second fight in the Ardennes ("The Battle of the Bulge"). It seems to me the fight went well for the Germans in more open terrain where they're tanks could be brought to bear, but where infantry had to go it alone they really, really underperformed, despite incredible numerical superiority and the lack of Allied air (thinking of Bastogne here).

While there's no doubt the German infantry was no longer the cream of the crop by this stage of the war, I would counter that the German Army and SS did a good job of keeping experienced cadre around to guide newbies (they're replacement system), as well as the fact there were very aggressive in pulling units out of the line for intense training with their actual combat units, to maintain/enhance combat capability.

This drove me to look at how they were set up for a possible answer. You look at the squad organization in late war and find that it was quite normal for each squad to have two MG-42s. Well, that works fantastic on the defense, where you can dig the gun in, great field of fire, on the tripod, with ammo stockpiled. But if you've got two guns in an eight or ten man squad, everybody is loaded down with their own gear plus ammo, you're not particularly mobile. And it's not just the issue of true mobility, it affects the mindset of how a unit accords itself in a firefight.

And regarding fire and maneuver, you've now lost the 'assault group' and 'gun group,' you've got the 'gun group' and the 'gun group.' And I even understand that fire and maneuver within the squad/section is not the most desirable of offensive options; you'd rather fire and maneuver at the platoon level (the difference between half a squad firing while the other moves, vs one or two squads firing while the other two or one squads move, based on the tactical situation). But even then, you've got a squad with two heavy (weight-wise, not caliber) machine guns, belt fed (worrying about accidentally breaking/fouling the belt, having to worry about accidental discharge with an open bolt weapon, or intentionally breaking the belt so you don't have those problems, but then needing additional time to get the gun back in action) firing while another squad (or two) with the same problems is supposed to be moving up in a quick, aggressive manner.

Like I said, this is why you need something better than a rifle (in terms of range and sustainability of fire), but more maneuverable than a machine gun, in the rifle squad, and then use the machine guns in their own unit to provide supporting fires.

All of this is strictly in my humble opinion.

V/R,
Jack

Andy ONeill09 Sep 2016 9:13 a.m. PST

Modern infantry is better trained and motivated than the vast majority of ww2 infantry.
One strange thing about the crew served weapon is that it seems to have been disproportionately effective.
The two guys working an lmg improved morale, likelihood of shooting or whatever.
The common practice in us squads of removing the bipod off the bar and making the loader just a regular rifleman seems significant to me.

Bear in mind also that splitting a squad was rarely practical. Despite all the manuals. Re organising the platoon was more likely. And documented in wigram's report.

Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 9:59 a.m. PST

Modeling the relative efficiency of the US Semi-Automatic rifle plus BAR squad organization vs the more traditional bolt action rifle plus LMG squad organization is certainly one worth discussing (and rules designers are all over the place on it!) but I'd like to keep discussion focused on the bolt action rifle plus LMG squad for the moment.

Given the historical evidence for the importance of LMGs in WW 2 infantry combat, why do platoon skirmish rules so often underpowered it?

For example, a two man drum fed LMG team has the following bolt action rifles worth of firepower:

Bolt Action V1: 3
Bolt Action V2: 4
Combat Patrol: 2-3
Chain of Command: 6
Disposable Heroes: 2.5
Nuts: 4

mghFond09 Sep 2016 10:10 a.m. PST

In my humble opinion, none of them give the LMGs enough firepower but then it is just a game.
Needless to say, if I had to pick one, I'd go with CoC 6 dice.

Lion in the Stars09 Sep 2016 10:36 a.m. PST

I'd honestly have to give a drum or belt-fed LMG (Russian DP or MG34/42) a LOT of dice. At least 8 bolt-action rifles worth, maybe 10. Should probably give more than that, but that's starting to get into game balance issues.

It's one of the things that Infinity gets really wrong, but the way the dice probabilities work they can't really give the Infinity MGs more dice than they already have (5 dice for MG versus 3 dice for an automatic rifle). Besides, Infinity MGs are used more in the Squad Automatic or Automatic Rifle role, fired from the shoulder, not fired from the bipod or tripod.

Flames of War gives the tripod MG about 20x the firepower of a basic rifle. One stand of 3-5 Rifles gets one die, while a tripod MG stand gets 5 or 6 dice.

martin goddard Sponsoring Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 10:44 a.m. PST

PBI 2-8 depending on density of target.
More for MG 34/42 less for BAR etc…

martin

Whirlwind09 Sep 2016 10:51 a.m. PST

@ Just Jack,

A very interesting post, thank you. I'll just chuck a few things back at you – hopefully as the basis for further friendly discussion:

What I take issue with is the idea that the BAR not successful in its doctrinal role. It was, of course, limited in its ability to provide sustained fire by its 20 round magazine. But this was a conscious decision in order to increase the mobility of the squad in offensive operations, and the volume/sustainability of fire issue was often attacked by adding more than one BAR to the squad (look at late war USMC tables of organization which provided three BARs, one per four-man fireteam, in each squad).

I think that the issue is whether the doctrine itself was the best choice, rather than that the BAR was a failure in that role. Incidentally, I have seen more modern research that totally backs up why some modern militaries are attracted to the SAW/LSW model for the assault.

Lately we've seen some of the Western countries going back to 7.62mm automatic weapons in the squad, but this is not so much a doctrinal change as one driven by experiences on the ground in places like Afghanistan, where common engagement ranges are 700- to 900 yards. The 5.56mm SAWs can't reach that reliably, and so to be able to participate in the engagement (rather than just serve as targets), and willfully giving up the idea of mobility in the offense due to realizing you're not going to close with the enemy over 700 yards away to destroy him, he'll simply withdraw before you reach him, the guns are now used to fix the enemy in place for supporting fires (air and arty) to destroy the enemy.

I'm really not sure that this is the reason that the belt-fed squad LMG has come back into vogue – the trend seemed to start before this. And I suggest that current combat loads have more to do with the tactical changes than the engagement ranges.

That's long and rambling, and probably too much on modern warfare rather than WWII, but it's always occurred to me that Germans in the offense during the latter period of WWII didn't do particularly well. A prime example of this, in my opinion, is the second fight in the Ardennes ("The Battle of the Bulge"). It seems to me the fight went well for the Germans in more open terrain where they're tanks could be brought to bear, but where infantry had to go it alone they really, really underperformed, despite incredible numerical superiority and the lack of Allied air (thinking of Bastogne here).

I think I'd have to be persuaded that German infantry underperformed in the offense in the latter part of WW2. Especially in that they were perfectly happy to take part in tactical counter-attacks even when operationally on the defensive. IIRC Zetterling pointed out that American casualties were higher than the German during the Bulge fighting and Bastogne in was not heavily outnumbered, amongst other things.

This drove me to look at how they were set up for a possible answer. You look at the squad organization in late war and find that it was quite normal for each squad to have two MG-42s. Well, that works fantastic on the defense, where you can dig the gun in, great field of fire, on the tripod, with ammo stockpiled. But if you've got two guns in an eight or ten man squad, everybody is loaded down with their own gear plus ammo, you're not particularly mobile. And it's not just the issue of true mobility, it affects the mindset of how a unit accords itself in a firefight.

I asked a similar question in a previous thread. The consensus then was that the MG didn't impede the movement that much (and that the extra ammo would be in the transport – that was why Panzergrenadiers got 2, Grenadiers got 1). IIRC this included the opinion of some German machinegunners.

And regarding fire and maneuver, you've now lost the 'assault group' and 'gun group,' you've got the 'gun group' and the 'gun group.' And I even understand that fire and maneuver within the squad/section is not the most desirable of offensive options; you'd rather fire and maneuver at the platoon level (the difference between half a squad firing while the other moves, vs one or two squads firing while the other two or one squads move, based on the tactical situation). But even then, you've got a squad with two heavy (weight-wise, not caliber) machine guns, belt fed (worrying about accidentally breaking/fouling the belt, having to worry about accidental discharge with an open bolt weapon, or intentionally breaking the belt so you don't have those problems, but then needing additional time to get the gun back in action) firing while another squad (or two) with the same problems is supposed to be moving up in a quick, aggressive manner.

But I wonder if the counter to this is that if you suppress the enemy – and a belt-fed LMG will be more help in doing this – you don't actually need the LMG in the assault, you will win with rifles/SMGs and grenades anyway.

Los45609 Sep 2016 10:55 a.m. PST

There is nothing strange about the disproportionately effective role of a Squad LMG…unless of course you have never been an infantryman.

;)

Los

Weasel09 Sep 2016 10:57 a.m. PST

I'll concur that realistically, the MG portion of a squad should provide pretty much the same firepower as the rifle portion, but a lot of gamers will riot if you do that in a skirmish game :-)

Hence, 3-4 times effectiveness is a lot more common as a compromise to make the game more interesting.
Interestingly, TW&T made it about even between rifle and MG teams but Chain of Command scaled it back a little bit.

Back when I did FAD, a SAW was equal to 6 grunts.

In No End in Sight, a SAW type system is equal to 3 grunts while a crew served gun with a loader is equal to 5.

Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 11:10 a.m. PST

The question is why will gamers riot if that's what the historical strength really was?

Certainly game designers need to provide historical means for mitigating the lethality of MGs, but as long as they are doing that, why the pushback?

Thomas Thomas09 Sep 2016 11:33 a.m. PST

German infantry did not underperform in the Bulge – if anything the opposite given the level of training and support they were given.

They did not enjoy a great numerical superiority at the Bulge (it started at about 2.5-1 compared to say Cobra where US had an 8-1 advantage). At Bastonge it was 3-2 but if anything the US defenders had better support in terms of tanks and artillery.

A late war German squad equiped with an MG42 (sometimes drum fed) and if lucky asualt rifles and AT rockets in many ways represented the prototype for a modern squad.

TomT

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 11:44 a.m. PST

Andy – "Modern infantry is better trained and motivated than the vast majority of ww2 infantry."
I agree with that.

"One strange thing about the crew served weapon is that it seems to have been disproportionately effective.
The two guys working an lmg improved morale, likelihood of shooting or whatever."
I agree with that too, and it's not so strange. Guys getting shot at tend to bunch up, just a feeling of safety having a buddy next to you. It happens with riflemen as well, not just MG teams. It's also partly why some countries have gone to smaller fireteams (the other reasons being added tactical flexibility and issues with command span, the amount of men a small unit leader can control under fire).

"The common practice in us squads of removing the bipod off the bar and making the loader just a regular rifleman seems significant to me."
Regarding significance, I think it's simply a realization that the automatic weapon in the squad, certainly at short range, is nothing but a rifle with more of a sustained fire capability. And if the gunner can handle it himself, the a-gunner becomes another rifle on the line, just carrying more ammo for the gun (BAR). This aids the issue of mobility in the offense as well.

Another aspect of the magazine-fed Bren and BAR is that the rate of sustained fire is more limited than with a belt-fed weapon, which is a good thing in terms of requiring less barrel changes, which keeps (or can keep) the gun in action longer and negate the need for an assistant.

"Bear in mind also that splitting a squad was rarely practical."
If you're discussing the issue of consciously splitting a squad, I get what you're saying, but there's still the doctrinal and training issues dictating that, given the appropriate tactical situation, it should be done.

The other side of the coin is, under fire, 'splitting' the squad is pretty much inevitable, due to the issue of command span. The small unit leader can only control a couple of other men, and that was kind of Wigram's point, right? The lack of leader's meant less tactical flexibility (consciously splitting the squad), but it also means that if the squad has only one leader capable of acting under fire then his squad, at the point of contact, is going to end up being him and the two or three other men he can coax forward with him.

PV – Sorry man.

"…LMG squad organization is certainly one worth discussing (and rules designers are all over the place on it!)…"
I just want to heartily agree with this, and I'm not sure what the answer is. But here are my two cents in direct response:

"Given the historical evidence for the importance of LMGs in WW 2 infantry combat, why do platoon skirmish rules so often underpowered it?"
I could point out that, when playing a skirmish game, with its limited ranges (typically) and the limited amount of troops on the table, 'under-powering' the LMG is a mechanism to make sure you don't unbalance the game. Folks would complain it's not fair that the LMG gets 12 firing dice when each rifleman only gets 1/2 a firing dice.

I figure that probably figures into some sets of skirmish rules. But I think there's something to add to that, and I alluded to it in my earlier post: the issue of range.

We're talking about a skirmish game, so for the sake of argument let's assume the table is a 'real-life' section of earth that's 100 yards by 100 yards.

If you're talking about a machine gun being used in the doctrinal machine gun role, we've already messed up. The gun isn't designed to engage at that range, the gun was supposed to do its killing between 400 and 900 yards. Anything inside that is the realm of the rifle squad. But stick with me, I understand we're talking about the LMG organic to the rifle squad.

So, the gun in the rifle squad is not meant to do the long range killing; machine guns fire at area targets, rifles fire at point targets. But within the rifle squad the gun (I'm going to call it SAW, as I don't want to get confused with an actual machine gun being used as a machine gun), ahem, the SAW, is used not as a machine gun, but as a super-rifle.

It's used to pour tremendous amounts of fire onto a point target in order to allow the riflemen (whether within one's own squad, or another squad, again, the difference between squad fire and maneuver and platoon fire and maneuver) to move up and destroy the enemy in close combat, to maneuver to a flank to provide enfilading fire and force the enemy to leave that position, etc…

So, rather than a machine gun firing at 800 yards on an enemy avenue of approach (i.e., an area, not targeting one man), killing guys, breaking up formations, stalling attacks, pinning them down for mortars to wipe them out, the SAW is firing from zero to 300 yards at small groups of men moving in the open, a window, a doorway, a bunker's firing port, etc…

You look at the battles in Normandy, where the Germans had so much success with the squad MG-42, the action was at very close range (100 yards or less), the SAW was on a bipod, and they were defensive, so they'd stock up ammo at this position, then stock up more ammo at various/subsequent fall-back positions. So the SAW gunner is dug into a hedgerow, or on the ground floor of a house, and his job is to watch the road between two hedgerows, or the gap for a footpath in the hedgerow, and when an Allied troop shows his face the German opens fire. If the Allies have managed to bunch up in that very limited field of fire, multiple casualties are almost guaranteed.

This also worked on Allies that tried to work their way through the hedgerow itself; the issue was that they would pop through a hole they created one or a couple at a time. The SAW gunner had time to adjust his position, fire, then reposition to put fire on the next guy or guys that popped through.

So it works pretty good, but in terms of usage, it was really no different in action than a rifle, just that it could put a whole bunch of bullets in the hole rather than the one each rifle could send down. This is exactly why submachine guns exist, and ultimately assault rifles (MP/Stg-43/44). So the SAW, or LMG in the squad, is more effective at killing (at this short range) only due to its rate of fire, not for area it can cover (as is the case with machine guns).

So, how do you cover that in rules? Just like everyone does, I guess, give them more firing dice. How many more? I don't think the gap is that big. If you say (just for example, I'm not getting into whether these figures approximate ground truth) a rifleman with a bolt action rifle can hit a man-sized target (no obscuration, fully visible from head to toe) at 30 yards 75% of the time, that means he gets one firing dice.

Does a SAW have more or less of a chance at hitting that same target 75% of the time? It all depends. We tend to give SAWs (LMGs on bipods) things like a field of fire of 180 degrees, or 90 degrees. But if you're lying on your belly with the SAW on a bipod, it's pretty difficult to get the weapon laid onto a target that pops up on your far left or far right.

I would say that if a target pops up in the window/door/gap in the hedgerow you were covering, the chance is much better with a SAW than a rifle. But if I've got to seriously reposition the weapon, it may not be much more, or even equal to the rifle.

The difference with multiple targets really becomes difficult. Usually in skirmish games you run across stuff like 'the SAW (LMG) gets 6 dice,' so you roll them and all of them are hits. We'll let you take down the initial target and five other guys with 6, 8, 10, 12, whatever inches. That's not even close to real life.

Now, if I'm 30 yards away and three guys pop through a doorway, there's a good chance all three of them are getting ventilated. But if I'm thirty yards away and there's ten guys coming across a field in skirmish line at five-yard intervals, not a chance. I'm probably going to get the guy I initially target, but everyone else will be down before I can get the weapon onto them.

In the movies the gunners have the weapon on a bipod and are seen swinging it wildly. You can do that, but there's not telling where those rounds are going. Same thing even with the weapon on a tripod if you're free-gunning it (have the traverse and elevation unlocked so you can swing the gun left and right). If you're on the T&E you just can't manipulate it fast enough to track targets that close, and if you're free-gunning those rounds are guaranteed to pass right between your targets! The whole point of being able to unlock the T&E is simply to change your principal direction of fire, but you move the lay of the gun and then lock it back in, not just swing it around like the movies. Watch "Saving Private Ryan," the end during the battle for the bridge, when Mellish and the paratrooper have the M-1919 on a tripod. It's unlocked and just bouncing all over the place.

But I digress…

So I'd say, in that situation (engaging a skirmish line coming at you with 5 yard intervals), the SAW gets 6 dice, but it's only to hit that one man. I would submit that a well-trained rifleman with a semi-automatic rifle would get more guys than the SAW would in that same situation (and a machine gun in that situation shouldn't even be engaging, they should be displacing if the enemy is that close, let the riflemen do their job keeping the bad guys off you).

But the SAW is more likely to force the enemy troops to re-think they're plans, so you try to take that into account with things like pinning, suppressing, and being driven back by fire. No real solutions I suppose, but some recommendations and some food for thought, maybe.

V/R,
Jack

Mako1109 Sep 2016 11:46 a.m. PST

Given that German infantry doctrine was build around the LMG, I'd say it's pretty important, as Martin, Jack, and others have mentioned above.

Interestingly, as also mentioned, the Bundeswehr has continued that practice to this day.

While I get the concerns over men having to carry belts of ammo to feed the beasts, especially when on the offensive, that is still practiced today, as it was back in WWII, e.g. with one LMG, BAR, or SAW per fireteam of three men.

The US Army and Marines used the BAR, for lack of a better, more suitable LMG. At the end of the war, the 13 man US Marine squad consisted of 3 x fireteams of four men each, plus a leader, and each fireteam would frequently have a BAR.

As we see even today, a LMG, and/or SAW is usually provided for each fire team, so they're pretty important.

6+ sounds about right to me, given stops for reloading, barrel cooling, barrel replacement, etc., especially with the MG42's 1,200 rounds per minute ROF. 20 rounds a second is a lot of firepower.

Guys with a semi-auto rifle can probably bang out 2 rounds in that time.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 12:32 p.m. PST

Damn, I took way too long and seven more posts popped up, some directly addressing me, so forgive me for looking like I'm replying to my own post.

Martin – Absolutely target density has to be a factor, but in these skirmish games at super close range it's more an issue of target proximity. You can put a lot of rounds through the same hole, but switching targets is a stop and start, not hosing down like a lot of skirmish sets allow. But even that's not fair as there's so much more to take into account, such as 'how long is one activation/turn'? Maybe it's long enough that we're simulating the ability of an LMG gunner to acquire a target, fire, acquire another target, fire, etc… Then the dice could almost be limitless, and a multitude greater than a rifle.

Whirlwind – Dammit man, you can't post a long post to my long post! ;)

"I think that the issue is whether the doctrine itself was the best choice, rather than that the BAR was a failure in that role."
Fair enough. I'd say that it won ;) But the point there is that it won not in a vacuum, it was in conjunction with supporting doctrine (organic company machine guns and mortars, super responsive battalion mortars, regimental arty, etc…).

"Incidentally, I have seen more modern research that totally backs up why some modern militaries are attracted to the SAW/LSW model for the assault."
Sure. I'll tell you, in my modern skirmish I tend to treat SAWs as just another rifle for killing, a little better for suppression, unless you catch a clump of bad guys, then I push the dice up.

"I'm really not sure that this is the reason that the belt-fed squad LMG has come back into vogue the trend seemed to start before this."
I can only speak from my and about my experiences. When I joined the US Marines in last 94 we'd had M-249s (then I worked with a lot of foreign militaries that used them as well, mostly calling them 'Minimis') for almost a decade, and we had no issues with them in the urban fighting in Iraq. The Corps didn't start looking for 7.62mm again (organic to the squad; two guns are usually parceled out to each Rifle Platoon from Weapons Platoon) until the mountains of Afghanistan, where the M-249 was simply being outreached.

"And I suggest that current combat loads have more to do with the tactical changes than the engagement ranges."
Which tactical changes? If you're speaking to a reliance on overwhelming firepower and supporting fires rather than closing with the enemy, it's a Force Protection issue.

"I think I'd have to be persuaded that German infantry underperformed in the offense in the latter part of WW2."
Well man, I already did my best.

"Especially in that they were perfectly happy to take part in tactical counter-attacks even when operationally on the defensive."
That's true, but you still have an issue with needing riflemen to do that, not machine gunners. That's why they had MP-40s, Stg-44s, and some dropped their Mausers for M-1 Carbines. Having said that, I understand that was their doctrine, but 1) they lost an awful lot of ground in WWII to say that the immediate counterattack doctrine (which we in the Corps adopted as well) was an unparalleled success. I'm not trying to be flippant, I'm just saying that every tactic has its place, and this comes up a lot, seems to be a bit of the German myth of the super soldier that comes out.

More importantly, I'd say the bigger issue is 2) if you're defense succeeds you don't need a counterattack, and it was far more prevalent for Allied attacks to stall as a result of German long-range fires (anti-tank, mortars, and artillery) than it was for the Allies to kick the Germans off an objective and then be in turn kicked off by a counterattack. The issue there is, for that scenario the tripod-mounted MG-42 with lots of ammo stockpiled is the perfect weapon for the job, and hopefully the rifleman are merely window dressing as you break up the attack before the enemy gets within 300 yards of you.

I hope I don't sound like a @#$%hole, that's not my intent, I'm just working very quickly as I've got something I've got to get to very shortly. So please forgive my tone, and understand I love talking about this stuff.

"IIRC Zetterling pointed out that American casualties were higher than the German during the Bulge fighting…"
Absolutely, and the vast majority of the US casualties occurred when the US was on the offensive, kicking back the bulge, not on the defensive.

"…and Bastogne in was not heavily outnumbered, amongst other things."
If that's true, the 101st Airborne Division has a lot of explaining to do because they love to claim their division stood alone against several German divisions ;)

"The consensus then was that the MG didn't impede the movement that much…"
See, I can't back this up with facts and statistics, I can only tell you that I was a machine gunner on the M-60E3 and then the M-240G (as I got older I carried an M-203, let the younger guys hump the gun), and I emphatically disagree. Maybe I'm just not as tough as I thought I was ;)

"But I wonder if the counter to this is that if you suppress the enemy and a belt-fed LMG will be more help in doing this you don't actually need the LMG in the assault, you will win with rifles/SMGs and grenades anyway."
Sorry, I don't think I got my point across, and there's a couple issues here. I'm not saying you want a gun in the assault, the gun is supposed to taking the objective under fire until I signal them to shift fire for my riflemen to go in.

The issue with mobility is two-fold:
1) You'd like parity in your groups (which may be part of why there were two MG-42s in some squads) as you don't always get to choose the aspects of the engagement. As a simple example, I want my gun group gunning and my rifle group maneuvering. But my rifle group is on the right and we begin taking fire from the right, and the gun group's fire is masked. So the rifle group (who is under fire and doesn't feel like doing a lot of maneuvering to begin with) needs to gun and the gun group needs to maneuver. Not the ideal tactical solution. But if I take the machine gun out, go with a SAW, everyone can do everyone else's job. There's not a gun group and a rifle group, there are just groups. The group is not as good at gunning as a gun group (SAW is lighter than an MG), and the group is not at good at maneuvering as a rifle group (SAW is heavier than a rifle), but it's adept at both and doesn't put you out of position on the battlefield.

2) A lot of times the cannot stay in one position to accomplish the mission, it needs to move. If you've got a Sdkfz 251 to throw everything in, that's great, but the commander might not be so keen on having them hump your gear forward if there's an anti-tank threat of any kind. So that means you hoofing up with all that gear, under fire. So the SAW beats the MG at mobility, at a discount to your firepower.

Los – Amen.

Ivan – Hush, no one likes your rules anyway ;)

PV – I hope I got you in my last post.

TT – Sorry man, I disagree about the Germans not underperforming at the Bulge. It seems to me all gains were made on the backs of their armor, and their infantry performed rather poorly.

"A late war German squad equipped with an MG42 (sometimes drum fed) and if lucky assualt rifles and AT rockets in many ways represented the prototype for a modern squad."
I agree, just like the M-60 was a direct descendant of the MG-42. If this is regards to my SAW comments, like I said, we made the decision to move machine guns out of the squad and get them back to their doctrinal role and give the grunts beefed up, belt fed (but self contained) rifles that made it easier to do their job of maneuvering and closing. The guns are still there, just not in the squad. See also above my comments on parity of force with regards to capability.

Again, please forgive me if my tone sounds off, that was not my intent, but I've gotta run, be back later.

V/R,
Jack

Weasel09 Sep 2016 12:43 p.m. PST

Jack has a good point in that the close quarters we have on a skirmish table will have serious limitations in how many targets a machine gun can actually engage.

Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 1:18 p.m. PST

Some of that depends on whether you are staying a 1:1 figure to ground scale and what your figure scale is.

Chain of Command is 1" = 10', Combat Patrol is 1" = 15', the others I listed above (Bolt Action, Disposable Heroes, Nuts) have no explicit ground scale.

I would certainly agree that longer LOS should increase MG lethality, but in all of those rules sets except Chain of Command, LMGs have a range less than the table size, so not sure that's really reflected in most rules sets

VVV reply09 Sep 2016 2:00 p.m. PST

It depends on your LMG. Example US army had the BAR, basically an automatic rifle. British army a Bren bit more of a machine gun (nice quick change barrel for example). Germans MG34/42 which could really churn out the bullets, at least for a short time. Other armies could have real horrors as LMG.

So in Action All Fronts, there is a standard LMG stat and individual nation LMG stats if they differed substantially from the norm.

And as for the US Garand, the infantry were trained to use it as a normal rifle (single aimed shots) not as an automatic rifle (which is how General Patton wanted it used). So its not so much what it could do but how it was used that made the difference. And the two different doctrines of how to use the M1 are covered in Action all Fronts.

And of course the Italian and Japanese 6.5mm rifles are treated differently from normal rifles. It can be very frustrating commanding a Japanese/Italian army, actually to kill anything!

Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 2:09 p.m. PST

Maybe I'm a heretic but I've never considered the BAR (or FG-42) to be LMGs.

Other than that, most box fed WW2 LMGs seem pretty similar, although some were less reliable than others

Fred Cartwright09 Sep 2016 3:31 p.m. PST

Jack,
There is no need to look any further for a reason for the failure of German infantry in the Bulge than the state of the units at the time. Even the favoured SS units had poorly trained replacements. Chief of staff of 1st SS Panzerkorps commenting that many of the replacements had only been in uniform for 4-6 weeks and spent most of that time clearing bomb damage debris from towns. Allied commanders commented that the attacks lacked any tactical finesse and the infantry tended to attack in clumps herded forward by the NCO's and officers. There were exceptions – units reformed round an experienced cadre, with good replacements and time to complete training and bring the new guys up to speed, but they were the exception not the rule.
Panzer grenadiers had 2 LMG's from the start of WW2 and had attacked successfully many times so wouldn't appear to be any handicap.
By late '44 some squads had no LMG's at all – those with assault rifles often dropped the LMG.
German research concluded that the vast majority of firefights were conducted at ranges below 400yds. The squad LMG wasn't meant for combat at greater ranges. From 400yds onwards other weapons were more effective – tripod MG's, mortars, infantry guns, artillery etc. The squad LMG was designed to dominate the firefight at 100-400yds range.
I don't think in WW2 there was a separation between gun group and rifle group. Certainly in the German army the LMG was right in with the rifles, its position in the advance was just behind point ready to bring its firepower to bear asap. If there was separation it was at platoon level. The LMG's grouped under the platoon 2ic while the platoon commander took the rifles to manoeuvre and assault with.

Mako1109 Sep 2016 5:16 p.m. PST

The Americans lost most of a couple of divisions that were in the line, at the start of the Bulge.

I suspect it was mainly infantrymen that winkled those men out of their foxholes.

In German squads/fireteams, the light machinegunner lead the way on offense and patrols, and the others were there to provide protection and ammo for the man/men, as well as to pick up the LMG if he became a casualty.

Some of the formation images I've seen show the LMG'er to be in the forefront of the squad, when moving, so he had about a 270 degree arc of fire.

Pat Ripley Fezian09 Sep 2016 5:35 p.m. PST

and this thread is why we need a "like" button

GreenLeader09 Sep 2016 7:22 p.m. PST

A little before the timeframe asked for, but I recall reading that a Maxim gun was reckoned to be equivalent to 30 bolt action rifles – so pretty much along the lines that Martin Rapier suggests.
I have often pondered, however, how much that calculation varied on the circumstances: I can see a tripod mounted machine gun being worth 30 Lee Enfields in a 'platoon in defence' situation, but rather less so in a more fluid action. Still, much wiser men than I settled on 30 as the average, so I have no reason to doubt it. I guess an LMG should indeed be rather less.
During my time in the army, I remember being taught that the section machine gun (the good old 'Jimpy') provided 80% of the firepower of the section – so that might be another useful stat to bear in mind.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 7:36 p.m. PST

Ivan – Thanks a lot man, I really appreciate you taking the high road. Really ;)

PV – I dunno, what's not 'machine gun' about the BAR or FG42? I suppose I might actually agree on the FG42, but the issue, for me, is not the anything to do with the characteristics of the weapons, but rather their doctrinal use. The BAR was intended for use as a light machine gun, serving as the backbone of the squad's firepower, whereas the FG-42 was intended for to be used close in, and the squads (or at least the FJ platoon) relied on the MG-34/42. Like I said, I'd need to do more study about FJ tactics and doctrine to make a better judgement, but they both could be the squad's LMG I suppose.

As far as figure scale, for me skirmish is 1 man is 1 man, the ground is 1:1 (or close to it), and most weapons should range the table. That's just me, and I'm certainly not implying you can't do what you want, to include playing a game with five men on each side on a 12' x 12' table. But, for me, I'm not a fan of playing squad vs squad on a 3' x 3' table and then having machine guns that can only cover half of it. It just doesn't sit right with me. But that's just me, and I only bring it up in reference to how I go about dealing with machine guns in my games.

VVV – Like I said, a BAR is a LMG to me, and playing at 1:1 figure scale I treat it as such. Having said that, it's almost an exercise in semantics if you're not factoring in other issues such as bipod vs tripod, fields of fire, gun crews, carrying out barrel changes, carrying out reloads, etc… And even then you're pretty much simply adding or subtracting firing dice (i.e., if he's got an A-gunner he gets two more firing dice). The rules I'm familiar with pretty much just handle weapons by tabletop range and firing dice, so a bolt action rifle fires 'x' inches and gets 1 firing dice, a semiautomatic rifle fires 'x' inches and gets 2 firing dice, a BAR gets 3, a Bren gets 4, an MG-42 gets 6, etc… At that point I don't suppose it really even matters if you call it an MG or not, only whether you've got someone next to him to get that extra firing dice or two.

"…Garand, the infantry were trained to use it as a normal rifle (single aimed shots) not as an automatic rifle…"
I'm not following you here, the M-1 wasn't automatic. Are you referring to the concept of 'walking fire'?

"… Italian and Japanese 6.5mm rifles are treated differently from normal rifles. It can be very frustrating commanding a Japanese/Italian army, actually to kill anything!"
I don't think I agree with this idea. Not because it's too much detail to track in a game, but because I'm not sure of the practical differences between a 6.5mm and a 7.62mm round hitting a man. I could see factoring it into things such as penetrating cover, but not in hitting flesh. Again, that's just my perspective.

Fred – "There is no need to look any further for a reason for the failure of German infantry in the Bulge than the state of the units at the time. Even the favoured SS units had poorly trained replacements. Chief of staff of 1st SS Panzerkorps commenting that many of the replacements had only been in uniform for 4-6 weeks and spent most of that time clearing bomb damage debris from towns."
Perhaps. I'd imagine it's more a combination of factors rather than simply one.

"Allied commanders commented that the attacks lacked any tactical finesse and the infantry tended to attack in clumps herded forward by the NCO's and officers."
Sure. What I'm saying is that part of that lack of tactical finesse (and even aggressiveness, which I've read was lacking) could be due to lack of training, but my opinion is that an over-reliance on the MG-42 (in this case) as the main battle implement affected them organizationally and practically.

I also want to deal with the PzGren vs Gren idea real quick; reading on the East Front and West Front indicates even 'regular' infantry formations were regularly ending up with 2 guns in a squad, whether due to scrounging or from collapsing other squads due to casualties.

There's a reason infantry squads/platoons/companies have machine guns and riflemen, and it's not just for the riflemen to protect the guns in the defense and/or hump extra ammo. It takes riflemen to go and dig out the enemy (or, as we were discussing above about today's battlefield, an unprecedented level of of supporting precision fires). If all it took were machine guns to do the job, armies would have nothing but machine guns. Same thing goes for tanks, artillery, fighters, bombers, battleships, etc…

And I say that as a former machine gunner, so it's a little painful to admit ;)

"There were exceptions units reformed round an experienced cadre, with good replacements and time to complete training and bring the new guys up to speed, but they were the exception not the rule."
I can get on board with that.

"Panzer grenadiers had 2 LMG's from the start of WW2 and had attacked successfully many times so wouldn't appear to be any handicap."
At the beginning of WWII the German infantryman was arguably the best in the world, and the vast majority of infantry squads had only one MG-34, and they wouldn't appear to be handicapped either.

I will fall back once again on doctrine:

1) While PzGren squads had two machine guns, my understanding is that one was mounted on the halftrack. My understanding is that both were normally dismounted in the defense, but not in the offense.

2) Being mechanized, PzGren many times found themselves in different operational circumstances than their foot-borne brethren, with the former fighting battles of maneuver and the latter fighting more traditional, 'static' fights (and I'm speaking at higher echelon here, not squad level). So infantry regiments supported by massed supporting fires attack the front, open the hole, and the mechanized Kampfgruppe pushes through into the enemy's rear areas. The doctrinal mission of by-passing strongpoints is a much different battle than being the unit charged with reducing said strongpoints.

Additionally, the mech units (KGs) were renowned for very high levels of organic supporting elements. So where an infantry regiment has only the weapons organic to it, the Pz KGs had loads of SP guns, SP AT, armored recon, SP arty (speaking of things like Wespes being used in direct fire roles), and don't forget, TANKS!

So I tend to believe the success of PzGren may have more to do with some of those factors, rather than having two machine guns in each squad.

"By late '44 some squads had no LMG's at all those with assault rifles often dropped the LMG."
I'm familiar with battalions of infantry being raised with only Stg-44s in late '44 and '45, but I've never heard of 'normal' infantry units not having plenty of machine guns. I've even read of infantry units stripping machine guns off of vehicles and aircraft, but it was always to supplement what they already had, not because they didn't have any machine guns.

"German research concluded that the vast majority of firefights were conducted at ranges below 400yds. The squad LMG wasn't meant for combat at greater ranges. From 400yds onwards other weapons were more effective tripod MG's, mortars, infantry guns, artillery etc. The squad LMG was designed to dominate the firefight at 100-400yds range."
I agree wholeheartedly. I was actually trying to make that point in some of my posts above.

"I don't think in WW2 there was a separation between gun group and rifle group. Certainly in the German army the LMG was right in with the rifles, its position in the advance was just behind point ready to bring its firepower to bear asap."
That is not my understanding. Off the top of my head, the Brits had a gun group and rifle group, and the Section Leader stayed with the rifle group to maneuver them. The Germans had a gun group and a rifle group, the squad leader stayed with the gun to direct its fire. The US Army and Marine Corps went through a lot of different variations, and that's not even getting into the Airborne. I can tell you the whole concept of the final T/O for the USMC was three equally manned and armed fireteams, all three able to perform base of fire and close assault missions, and that continues to this very day. The Japanese also broke out another 'base of fire' group, with knee mortars, at the platoon level; conceptually the USMC tried something similar (not knee mortars): two rifle squads, then a base of fire squad with two BARs. The Italians had a giant squad, with gun group (I think two LMGs) and a huge rifle group.

The only exception I'm aware of for the Germans were the FJ, and I'm not sure, but that may have been only early war. I recall reading early war FJ platoons had three squads, none having an MG, and then two MGs at the platoon level (maybe this is what you were referencing below?). But my understanding is this occurred in the early war because they were still organized into parachute sticks and weapons were dropped in containers, and this was done away with later in the war, where they adopted regular Wehrmacht style squad/platoon organization. Certainly period photos show no shortage of machine guns.

"If there was separation it was at platoon level. The LMG's grouped under the platoon 2ic while the platoon commander took the rifles to manoeuvre and assault with."
Sorry, I got this above. But there's a couple things I'd like to address regarding late war:

1) by 1944 I don't really see anything about 2iCs in German platoons. By this time (following their calamity in Normandy), most German platoons were led being led by Sergeants and even Corporals, companies by Lieutenants, battalions by Captains. My understanding is that the concept of a platoon leader and a platoon sergeant went out the window pretty early in the war for them, owing to the fact they had to expand so much to create new formations.

2) Pre-war training and doctrine placed a tremendous amount of stress on exercising initiative at the lowest levels of command, the concept of 'blitzkrieg' required it. So their platoon leaders were not as involved in the running of the fight as they were more concerned with coordination and communication with higher and adjacent units, leaving the fight to the squad leaders. The whole idea of pushing leadership down was to push the tempo of operations to point of stressing and breaking the enemy's ability to respond.

The Germans were so successful with this that is all still used today, though we call it 'maneuver warfare' rather than 'blitzkrieg,' and this specific concept is known as 'getting inside the OODA loop.' OODA is what happens in combat: you observe, orient, decide, and act.

OBSERVE: So a junior leader spots an undefended bridge, but one with an enemy unit in visual range (not near the bridge).

ORIENT: Our junior leader thinks about the bridge and realizes it is important to our effort (whether to blow it to prevent enemy escape or reinforcement, or to seize it for our own use). Part of exercising initiative is knowing the overall plan, so our junior leader has been briefed on what the overall plan for the platoon, company, battalion, and regiment is, and that's how he knows the bridge is important. The enemy's junior leader is not familiar with the overall plan and so is radioing a situation report back to higher HQ to determine what he should do.

DECIDE: Knowing the bridge is important, our junior leader has already made the decision to grab the undefended bridge and has called his team leaders together. Part of being able to operate at a high tempo is familiarity, having 'canned' battle plans (or battle drill, as many countries call it). So our junior leader doesn't need an hour to come up with a plan on the scheme of maneuver, comm plan, logistics, bump plan, immediate action drills, etc…, this has been drilled into him in training exercises. The enemy leader has just heard back from his HQ that the bridge falling into our hands would be catastrophic, SO DO SOMETHING!

ACT: Five minutes after calling his team leaders together, our junior leader is forming his unit up and they are moving on the bridge. The enemy leader is still getting his team leaders together and working on figuring out what courses of action are open to him, and then how best to carry it out. By the time he decides, our small unit leader will have seized the bridge and be moving on the next objective.

Due to the beauty of combined arms, our junior leader, who communicated his intent (not asked for permission) to higher HQ, arty or air is now pounding the the enemy leader's unit, so our junior leader is not worried about them, he's focusing on seizing the key crossroads two miles ahead. Pretty soon the enemy's higher HQ is operating on situation reports that are three hours old, not anywhere reflective of the actual tactical situation in the battlespace, thus unable to orient, decide, and act on what is currently happening.

That's getting inside the OODA loop. And I know I'm rambling and you're wondering why the hell I brought it up, so here goes. The Germans were the first to put this practice into mass effect (stolen from Liddell-Hart and a French officer whose name I can't recall, but written in separate books), and it's how they defeated quantitatively and qualitatively superior forces in record-setting times (France and the Low countries, Norway, Greece, Crete). I'm using the German doctrinal method for fighting war to support my statement about the use of the platoon commander in the German Army.

Mako – "The Americans lost most of a couple of divisions that were in the line, at the start of the Bulge. I suspect it was mainly infantrymen that winkled those men out of their foxholes."
I would say that most casualties were due to indirect fire, and that those initial assaults were horrendous arty barrages followed closely by tanks, and the Germans lost way too many tanks due to poor infantry-armor cooperation.

Incidentally, that greatly supports Fred's statements about the poor state of training in the German formations there, but I still maintain it also supports mine about too much reliance on the machine gun. Guys on foot (or worse, riding on a tank because the gun, barrels, and ammo are heavy) with MGs are not the guys to provide an infantry screen for advancing armor. Riflemen should be out front of the tanks and machine guns behind them, ready to react to contact by getting set up to take on enemy anti-armor weapons (our tanks should take care of enemy machine guns and mortars).

"In German squads/fireteams, the light machinegunner lead the way on offense and patrols, and the others were there to provide protection and ammo for the man/men, as well as to pick up the LMG if he became a casualty."
See, the US did that too in Vietnam, having the M-60 in the 'slack' position. It sounds like a great idea, but we went away from it because re-manning the gun when he becomes a casualty sounds great, until you're actually doing it under fire.

I would argue you want the gun forward, but not near the point, which is where you expect contact to typically come from, so that he doesn't go down or get pinned down in the initial burst of fire. Aside from those practical aspects, there's also the issue of getting the gun into the best possible position to put fire on the target/objective, which is probably not the position he was in when the shooting started. But in the German Army, that was the job of the squad leader, to direct the placement of the gun and then direct the fire of the gun, pinning the enemy, while the rifle group leader led the close assault, which is what actually evicts the enemy from their positions.

On a quick side note, I'm just using that as an example. What I'm describing above is squad fire and maneuver, and what we'd much rather do is platoon fire and maneuver (my squad fires while your squad moves up).

Like I said above, riflemen for protection and ammo are great, but you need to have riflemen to close with and destroy the enemy. That's the whole point of having a gun group and a rifle group; the guy you want entering the house or bunker should have grenades, a submachine gun, rifle, or carbine, not a machine gun.

I think maybe what confuses people is the German concept of 'advancing the gun.' Advancing the gun does not mean moving into close assault; what it means is keeping the gun moving forward to continually provide support to the advancing infantry, rather than the infantry advancing two miles and having to halt while the gun catches up.

This is partly why I believe countries began putting machine guns in squads. Previously machine guns were not part of your unit, they were part of a machine gun platoon or machine gun company that was in support of you. This caused friction; the infantry platoon commander can't call the guns forward to support his next step, that's the job of the machine gun platoon commander, but he might not agree with the infantry platoon commander. So the easy solution is to dissolve the machine gun platoon and put the guns into the squads, making them organic to the infantry platoon, i.e., under his control (right now, in the Marine Corps, six guns belong to Weapons Platoon, but they are all chopped out, with two guns going to each rifle platoon, responding to his taskings).

But this also brought this issue of non-parity of capability I mentioned above. Now that machine guns were in the squad they displace a number of riflemen (adding guns didn't add to the total number of men in the rifle squad, you simply lost rifles). Now you've got a team that's good at shooting but not assaulting (a machine gun and three ammo humpers), and a team that's good at assaulting but not shooting (a submachine gun and five rifles). The two are not interchangeable, and you can't guarantee you're going to have the right team in the right spot when your run into unexpected contact. Which is how the SAW concept was borne; now you could have teams that were equally good at shooting and assaulting.

"Some of the formation images I've seen show the LMG'er to be in the forefront of the squad, when moving, so he had about a 270 degree arc of fire."
Brother, no machine gun has an arc of fire of 270 degrees. The only way to physically do that is to 'Rambo' it (what the Marine Corps euphemistically called 'assault fire'), which has two problems. 1) You're not going to hit anything; and 2) you are presenting a helluva target.

Second, this steps away from everything about how machine guns are actually used in combat, specifically the principle direction of fire (if you're interested in machine gun employment, Google it here on TMP, I think I wrote a similarly long thesis on that as here as well). You can't even have a field of fire of 270 degrees; including your whole team you MAY have a field of observation of 270 degrees.

Sorry everyone, apparently today I'm looking to win the award for TMP's longest post(s)…

V/R,
Jack

Pyrrhic Victory09 Sep 2016 7:55 p.m. PST

Jack,

Your posts have been great and I think there's been more analysis on this thread than some rules may give the subject.

I'd be interested to know what rules you play at this scale, since most of the ones I'm familiar with have some (small) disconnect between figure and ground scale. The Rules I play most often are chain of command at 1" = 10', so the board is roughly 240 x 160 yards.

I completely agree once we get into close combat ranges. You can argue what that is, but ion even you've reached that point your observations are spot on and MGs start being at a disadvantage . It's the ranges that are still on the table but beyond that nebulous close combat range where I'm having a problem rationalizing the ratings.

Honestly, I think games rate MGs the way they do because it simplifies the situation and makes mistakes less lethal… I just don't know why gamers want that!

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP09 Sep 2016 9:00 p.m. PST

GL – I'm with you, the gun is the firepower of the squad. But what is the usage of the gun, how were you trained? With you saying 'Jimpy' I'm assuming your British? We were taught the gun was the firepower which allowed the riflemen to move in and evict the enemy from their positions (whether fire and maneuver at team, squad, platoon, or company level).

PV – Thanks, I hope I've been of assistance. I can tell you the rules I play, but it's likely to be less than satisfying regarding this subject. Not 'cause they're not great rules (they are, that's why I play them), it's just that for all my talk, I still haven't been able to figure out a mechanism to simulate proper machine gun-gunnery.

The rules I use are Ivan Sorensen's fantastic "5Core" series (that's him above, 'Weasel,' and why I was being a @#$% to him; just a friendly joke as he and I have spent quite a bit of time discussing this very topic). I say series because he has squad-level skirmish ("Five Men in Normandy" and "Five Men at Kursk;" I play both), platoon level ("No End In Sight"), company-level ("5Core Company Command, which I've also used for battalion level), and brigade level ("5Core Brigade Commander").

So, pertinent to this discussion are the skirmish rules, in which everything is 1:1, so a man is a a man, and whether I play on 2' x 2', 3' x 3', or 4' x 4', all weapons reach across the table in 15mm (though there are differences between 'close' range and 'battle' range).

So, the concept is that pre-battle maneuver has already occurred and we are coming to the tabletop at the moment of contact. Within those parameters, a machine gun is nothing more than a 'super rifle,' with benefits for having an A-gunner and when firing on clumped up targets.

I think this matches up with the 'close range' issue in your third paragraph.

There are a whole slew of other features that make the rules attractive to me, which I'll gladly share if you're interested, but I don't want to further derail this topic. And it's past my bedtime, getting old sucks ;)

"Honestly, I think games rate MGs the way they do because it simplifies the situation and makes mistakes less lethal… I just don't know why gamers want that!"
It it makes you feel better, I agree with this sentiment 100%, and I don't begrudge my fellow wargamers that fact. The heart wants what the heart wants. I think there are a lot of guys that want to play lower echelon (skirmish fights, a squad or platoon on a side) because they like the feeling of exercising small unit tactics and want to feel more 'zoned in' than the General commanding a division or corps. But then, at the same time, the want a machine gun to act like a machine gun does in its normal combat role, even though they're taking the gun out of its normal combat role (in a skirmish game).

It's really no different than having a rifle platoon from an infantry regiment on the table, supported by a platoon of tanks that the regiment doesn't even have, or having a battery of divisional artillery on-all for their platoon, or air support, or corps-level assets like assault guns or tank destroyers. So I think rules designers give players what they want, a set of rules where you can have thirty men, three Tigers, a Jagdpanther, a Focke-Wulf 190, and a Nebelwerfer battery on the table.

And it's okay, folks are having a great time, and that's what it's all about! Just don't ask me to figure out how to simulate machine guns on the tabletop.

In that vein, to get into the 'real' usage of machine guns, you probably need to play company-level games, on a table that allows engagement ranges out to about a thousand yards. We've already discussed smaller than company level, and if you go bigger, guns should probably be abstracted into an overall anti-personnel capability in the company's fire plan (i.e., as an entire Weapons Platoon, rather than breaking it down into separate mortar and machine gun teams).

At company level you could have gun sections (two guns, which is how they typically operate; please not I'm taking about machine guns used as machine guns, not guns organic to the rifle squads; it's kinda the difference between a tripod and a bipod, in its simplest terms), with principal directions of fire, fields of fire, final protective lines/fires, alternate and supplementary positions, overlaying those with organic indirect fire to cover dead ground, overlaying those with anti-armor weapons (organic and supporting), on-call targets/target reference points for supporting fires, etc.., all that stuff that makes the use of a machine gun so effective on the battlefield.

But the problem there is three-fold:

1) the game would be unplayable because of all the detailed work you'd have to put in just for the machine gun positions.

2) the game would be unplayable because you couldn't just put all that work in on the guns, you need to do that for the mortars, anti-armor, engineering/obstacles, fire support plan, etc…

3) I wouldn't want to play that game because it misses the point, which is 'how things are done in real life.' In that game you, as the player, would be the company commander. But in doing all that stuff, you're doing things that the company commander doesn't do. The company commander doesn't lay each gun, draw up each range card, figure out each PDF and FPF, he has people that do that for him.

So if you put all the detail into a game to use machine guns as they are used in real life, five minutes of 'real life' action would take you four hours, and you'd be doing things your 'real life' counterpart doesn't do.

I figure the only way to really do that would be to play some crazy ass game where you have a player that is the company commander, then players to represent each of the rifle platoon commanders, the mortar squad leader, the machine gun squad leader (this is assuming the guns are held at company level and not parceled out to the rifle platoons), maybe someone to play the XO and the First Sergeant, and have everyone play out their 'real life' tasks on the table. Good luck with that!

So, as near as I can tell, it can't be done. That's my take on why gamers (me included) don't want that.

V/R,
Jack

GreenLeader09 Sep 2016 9:50 p.m. PST

Just Jack

Yes: British Army, and yes: the gun group basically 'won the fire fight' / suppressed the enemy and the rest of the section assaulted / cleared the enemy positions. That was the theory at any rate.

It all changed rather with the introduction of the SA-80 and the LSW the latter of which I always considered a little pointless. I have been out for a long time now, but I think it has finally been realised that even two LSWs are simply not up to the job of replacing a GPMG.

If the gun group can be reckoned at 80% of the section's fire power, then the other six SLRs (assuming a 2-man gun group) account for only 3.3% each – meaning the GPMG team has 24 times the firepower of a single rifle man. I wonder how many rules reflect that?

Weasel09 Sep 2016 10:36 p.m. PST

Greenleader – I'd wager you can take pretty much any set of skirmish rules you like and break it by making a machine gun as effective as 24 rifles, since the rifle fire is already dramatically over-counted in pretty much any game.

Mako1109 Sep 2016 11:05 p.m. PST

My point with the 270 degree arc is all his buddies are behind him on patrol, so the LMG trooper has free range to shoot in almost any direction desired.

The guys behind would alternate covering to the left and right, with every other man, in the squad formation schematics I've seen for the Germans in WWII.

I've never heard the Germans were short on LMGs, other than the mention that those units equipped with MP-44s didn't have them, since they were considered to be superfluous.

IIRC, most of the units that were totally equipped with the MP-44s were Volkssturm units of dubious quality, so the extra firepower was hoped to make up for their poor training and quality a bit.

VVV reply10 Sep 2016 2:39 a.m. PST

It all changed rather with the introduction of the SA-80 and the LSW the latter of which I always considered a little pointless. I have been out for a long time now, but I think it has finally been realised that even two LSWs are simply not up to the job of replacing a GPMG.

I am told by my still serving friends in the British army that the LSW is great at providing longer range firepower. So its use is not what had been planned for but it works great in its new role :)

VVV Like I said, a BAR is a LMG to me, and playing at 1:1 figure scale I treat it as such.

However it is not and its name gives it way, its an automatic rifle (very similar to the FG42)

As a squad light machine gun, the BAR's effectiveness was mixed, since its thin, non-quick-change barrel and small magazine capacity greatly limited its firepower in comparison to genuine light machine guns such as the British Bren or the Japanese Type 96.

And so in Action all Fronts it is treated as what it is, an automatic rifle. Whats the difference, well slightly less firepower (2 shots instead of the 3 of an LMG) and the BAR gets to move and fire without penalty. Also a BAR is not a crew served weapon.

And in AAF there is an optional rule to allow all machine guns a beaten zone, to make their use more realistic at the cost of a bit more complication. The BAR would not get that benefit. Oh and heavy machine guns get to do indirect fire (a bit that a friend of mine who used to command a machine gun platoon, wanted in).

Fred Cartwright10 Sep 2016 3:29 a.m. PST

Jack,
I appreciate your experiences as a machine gunner, but your basis is that of a professional, well trained army, not wartime conscript force. Most armies infantry manuals described fire and manoeuvre tactics at squad level, but in practice weren't able to achieve it. Here is Jac Weller talking about the US Army experience of squad tactics, specifically how the concept of the Able scout section, Baker fire section and Charlie assault section in each squad worked in practice. "Too often the squad leader was pinned down with Able, 2 or 3 medical,or psychological casualties made the whole thing impractical. Even if it did work, Baker and perhaps Able didn't join in the final assault." It was the failure of such tactics in practice that lead to the adoption of alternatives such as walking fire used by 3rd Army. In that context taking the bipod off the BAR makes perfect sense. Colonel Wagram (not sure if that is the right name) describes a similar picture in the British army from his observations of platoon level infantry combat in Sicily.
Going back to the Bulge, the initial German bombardment caused very few casualties. The Americans were well dug in and it did little more than cut the wire and cause some disruption. The Germans took some time to get bridges across the rivers and tanks and assault guns forward. For at least the first 24 hours and often longer no tanks or assault guns were involved in the fighting. Many German units, such as 7th Army had no tanks at all and relied on infantry only attacks. I see no lack of aggression on the part of the German infantry. Time and again they threw themselves at their objectives and suffered the losses due to their lack of training and experience.
2 LMG's per squad were not limited to Panzergrenadiers earlier in the war. They had them as standard TO&E, but particularly on the Russian front many ordinary infantry ended up with it as losses and consolidation of units increased the proportion of LMG's per squad. It is not a late '44 phenomenon.
My understanding is that there were never whole battalions without LMG's it was mixed down at platoon level with some squads having none.
The Italian organisation is an interesting one. They seem to have hit on what most other armies discovered after combat experience that you need a decent sized gun group to provide the firepower and a large enough assault group with hopefully enough gutful men in it that when the assault goes in you still have some guys with you. Talking to British veterans that scheme was used by the British army grouping the platoon Brens into a gun group and the rifles into an assault group to conduct fire and manoeuvre at a platoon level.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP10 Sep 2016 7:25 a.m. PST

GL – Yeah, 24 rifles sounds like a lot ;) I recollect working with British rifle sections that had a MAG-58, a Minimi, and an LSW!

Ivan – See, I tend to disagree with rifle fire being overcounted (at least severely so) in skirmish games as the engagement ranges are obscenely close. But it's still a judgement call.

Mako – I hear what you're saying. My thoughts on having the gun too far forward are in one of the posts above.

VVV – "However it is not and its name gives it way, its an automatic rifle (very similar to the FG42)"
You can be a wise ass is you like, but how about this: does it fire rifle caliber rounds (7.62mm or greater)? Is it long-barreled? Do a steady string of rounds come out if you hold the trigger? That's a machine gun. And it absolutely can be a crew served weapon. Any weapon can be a crew served weapon, just like no weapon requires more than one man to run it. Sure, you're tank is going to suffer if only crewed by one-man switching position between driver, loader, and gunner, but it can be done. I'm not sure what your point is. We call the M-249 a SAW, not a machine gun, despite it has all the characteristics of a machine gun, and several other countries call it a (light) machine gun. Hell the M-27 is being labelled a Designated Marksmen Weapon AND a Squad Automatic Weapon. If it walks like a duck…

"Whats the difference, well slightly less firepower (2 shots instead of the 3 of an LMG) and the BAR gets to move and fire without penalty."
And this is pretty much exactly what I said above. It's an MG, just with a lower rate of sustained fire than some other machine guns.

"And in AAF there is an optional rule to allow all machine guns a beaten zone, to make their use more realistic at the cost of a bit more complication."
I'm not sure what's complicated about a beaten zone, but I can't think of how it would come into play in a skirmish game. I know gamers love to put MGs up high, but from that aspect the beaten zone doesn't really need any adjustment from normal firing dice (unless you're saying your rules already differentiate between the cone of fire and the beaten zone, and so you'd actually be losing firing dice?). Ditto for indirect fire in a skirmish game.

Fred – Nah man, I'm no confusing modern troops with WWII troops, though I do think a lot of TMPers really give our WWII brethren short shrift; there were some pretty aggressive capable formations out there, but we seem to be constantly talking about 'they couldn't hit that' and 'they couldn't accomplish that (tactic).' In any case, please re-look at my comments above, where I already (for the sake of argument) conceded the issue of WWII conscripts not being smart enough to figure out "you stay here and shoot while I move up there." I even referenced Wigram, and specifically addressed the issues of command span.

Here's more from TMP:
TMP link

My issue with walking fire, almost regardless of the weapon being used, is that you don't hit anything. Men moving forward with rifles, SMGs, MGs and firing at the same time don't tend to hit anything, and don't even tend to score close enough to the intended target to even pin/suppress him (I believe Mr. Rapier has some great charts showing studies on the effects of fire on troops, how close it has to be to them and how often it needs to occur).

A lot of folks I talk to seem to think that just the pure act of firing has an effect; my reply is that the world is a big place, and it's tougher than you think for that little bullet to find someone. So someone firing doesn't scare you, a round snapping past your ear scares you. You can tell if you're the one being shot at; but even then, your reaction still depends somewhat on what else is going on. As Sun Tzu said, put'em in 'death ground' and there ain't no falling back. Or something like that ;)

"…initial German bombardment caused very few casualties."
I agree, prep barrages are renowned for not accomplishing much in terms of casualties. But I didn't say most US casualties occurred from prep barrages, I said most US casualties (as well as most casualties in the military of every country in every major war since WWI) occurred from indirect fire.

"For at least the first 24 hours and often longer no tanks or assault guns were involved in the fighting."
Hmmm, okay, but most of the breakthroughs occurred on D+1 when the tanks were across, certainly that's when the 106th and 28th IDs folded, and let's not pretend the troops manning the holes in those sectors were of any better quality than the German infantry in the area. A few burnt out vets (28th) surrounded by hordes of guys straight from boot camp, short on gear and heavy weapons, expecting no action (they were sent there to rest, refit, and retrain).

"I see no lack of aggression on the part of the German infantry."
But I do. There are too many early fights that could/should have been exploited, and they simply failed. But the beauty of it is, we don't have to agree. I gave my opinion and you gave yours, we see things differently. It's okay, we can still be buddies here and chat.

I'm not trying to sound like an @#%hole, I mean that absolutely, 100% sincerely. Most of us are old and set in our ways, or at least I am. I'm not totally incapable of having my mind changed, but I formed many of these opinions a long time ago and, rather than change them due to something someone is saying on the internet, I'm more inclined to spend countless hours by reviewing all my books so I can come back and quote chapter and verse to support my opinions. But neither of us want that ;)

"2 LMG's per squad were not limited to Panzergrenadiers earlier in the war. They had them as standard TO&E, but particularly on the Russian front many ordinary infantry ended up with it as losses and consolidation of units increased the proportion of LMG's per squad. It is not a late '44 phenomenon."
Sorry man, this is confusing the heck out of me. It looks like a mashup of something I wrote, but then you wrote some stuff in the middle of some sentences? If I recall correctly, you said PzGren didn't suffer in the offense for having two MGs. I came back with 1) non-PzGren units didn't suffer in early war in the offense and they only had one MG, and 2) many non PzGren units acquired 2 MGs per squad by late war.

"…hopefully enough gutful men in it that when the assault goes in you still have some guys with you. Talking to British veterans that scheme was used by the British army grouping the platoon Brens into a gun group and the rifles into an assault group to conduct fire and manoeuvre at a platoon level."
Sure, that was Wigram's point, and 'gutful men' was even his term for it. The whole point being, we're organized to conduct fire and maneuver at the squad/section level, we're trained to conduct fire and maneuver at the squad/section level, but we don't have enough competent small unit leaders to pull off fire and maneuver at the squad/section level. As a matter of fact, we only have two, me and one other guy, so you take the guns and I'll take the rifles. I'm going to start with 20 rifles, but by the time I get to the objective area I'm going to be down to only myself and two other men. That is a command span issue; I promise you Wigram would rather have had more than three men close assaulting the objective, but 1) he didn't have any other competent small unit leaders to bring men to the fight, and 2) he couldn't control more than two or three other men by himself (under fire).

My point in that discussion (with Andy ONeill) was that you're still splitting the squad, you're just not getting anything out of the rest the men, only the two other guys you managed to keep with you. The rest are strung out over the last 100 yards, tying their shoe, clearing a stoppage, helping a wounded buddy, or cowering.

I can understand that, what my issue with Wigram has always been is what I call 'idiosyncratic training,' the idea that 'I was in (country 'x') and this is what I saw, so this is universal, it's the way it is, my experience is the same as everyone else's.'

And that has never been the case when you're talking combat. I have literally gotten into arguments with Marines I was right next to, immediately after a firefight, about what exactly happened in the firefight. Three of us with three different versions of events. Which is why I say things like 'my experiences, in my opinion, my understanding.' I know as wargamers we tend to think you can pull 'bias' out and have a set of rules that represents 'ground truth,' this is it. My opinion is that rules are nothing but bias, and your favorite rules are nothing more than the ones that best match your biases/expectations of what combat is like.

And that's also why I said those things earlier about not changing my opinions; I'm not trying to be non-collegial, non academic, or anti-intellectual. I'm just saying a lot of the stuff we argue about doesn't have an answer, even things that are theoretically tangible, 'stat-based' issues, like who or what equipment was present at the fight. Well, we're reliant on the records of a nation that was burned to the ground and the personal recollections of guys that were there.

With my attitude towards not changing my opinion, you're probably wondering why I even post? I don't believe I'm likely to change anyone's opinions, and I'm (no longer) trying to get into huge debates with folks. I post when someone asks a question and I think I may be able to help, and I post when I think I can elaborate on things that may help wargamers that don't have a lot of experience or knowledge regarding the military (or, more likely, certain aspects of the military). And I do enjoy the interaction, so there's something in it for me as well ;)

Well, gotta take the wife and kiddies out, be back later.

V/R,
Jack

VVV reply10 Sep 2016 9:39 a.m. PST

VVV "However it is not and its name gives it way, its an automatic rifle (very similar to the FG42)"
You can be a wise ass is you like, but how about this: does it fire rifle caliber rounds (7.62mm or greater)? Is it long-barreled? Do a steady string of rounds come out if you hold the trigger? That's a machine gun.

Yep I will continue to be a wise ass, pointing out that if you keep on firing it on full automatic, the barrel overheats and you cannot change it (as you can with a true LMG). That limits the practical rate of fire. The BAR never was a machine gun, despite the US army thinking that it could be used as such.

And this is pretty much exactly what I said above. It's an MG, just with a lower rate of sustained fire than some other machine guns.

Note the differences between an assault rifle and an LMG. In AAF a BAR is an automatic rifle, not an LMG.

Whirlwind10 Sep 2016 9:46 a.m. PST

I can understand that, what my issue with Wigram has always been is what I call 'idiosyncratic training,' the idea that 'I was in (country 'x') and this is what I saw, so this is universal, it's the way it is, my experience is the same as everyone else's.'

Brains and Bullets levels this one successfully against both Wigram and Marshall, since Wigram focused on succesful, hard assaults and Marshall (mainly) on desperate (succesful) defences: the point being that sometimes combat consists of easy victories and sometimes of being utterly smashed – neither of which were really grasped by them (because their circumstances and in SLAM's case interests didn't include them so much). So it maybe that Wigram's solution was particularly appropriate for those very specific conditions. Equally, it may be that platoon manouevre generally is the optimum basic tactical command grouping in dismounted close combat in "big war", because the threat of a well-trained enemy with the full panoply of support weapons is just too much for 8 – 10 guys.

Whirlwind10 Sep 2016 10:03 a.m. PST

And that has never been the case when you're talking combat. I have literally gotten into arguments with Marines I was right next to, immediately after a firefight, about what exactly happened in the firefight. Three of us with three different versions of events. Which is why I say things like 'my experiences, in my opinion, my understanding.' I know as wargamers we tend to think you can pull 'bias' out and have a set of rules that represents 'ground truth,' this is it. My opinion is that rules are nothing but bias, and your favorite rules are nothing more than the ones that best match your biases/expectations of what combat is like.

And that's also why I said those things earlier about not changing my opinions; I'm not trying to be non-collegial, non academic, or anti-intellectual. I'm just saying a lot of the stuff we argue about doesn't have an answer, even things that are theoretically tangible, 'stat-based' issues, like who or what equipment was present at the fight. Well, we're reliant on the records of a nation that was burned to the ground and the personal recollections of guys that were there.

Okay, but I think that there have been some advances in understanding over the last 30 years (and some of the WW2 stuff has been usefully dusted off). We do have some idea of some of the useful facts about infantry combat: we should try to incorporate them into our games IMHO, or we should specifically know why we are excluding them.

Fred Cartwright10 Sep 2016 10:06 a.m. PST

Jack,
The 106th is rather a special case. If ever a unit got caught in the perfect storm it was them. Given different circumstances, like a couple more days to sort themselves out they may well have performed differently.
The 28th infantry were about as good as the best the Germans had in the Ardennes. Very similar story to 26th Volksgrenadiers. The 26th Infantry division had been pulled off the eastern front after suffering heavy casualties, were brought up to strength with mainly ex Luftwaffe and Kreigsmarine who were physically better shape than the average recruit and had some basic weapon training and they had been given a few weeks in the Ardennes to bed in the new recruits, complete training and get them used to being shot at. The story was similar for the US 28th – they had several weeks to bed in replacements and get familiar with the terrain they were holding. 26th VG were reckoned by Manteufel to be one of his best divisions.
Now you are confusing me. I thought you said the modern US Army could make fire and manoeuvre work at the squad level. No WW2 army achieved that once the full time pre war regulars were gone. Hence the quote from Jac Weller about US experiences.
The state of training in the modern US army must be in a very parlous state if the guys you served with only did 6 weeks basic shovelling rubble before being posted to units! Maybe the German Army at the peak of its efficiency in 1941 reached the level of modern armies, but none of the other armies did.
I think we will have to agree to disagree. I feel your case that 2 LMG's per squad caused a deterioration in the ability of German infantry to attack remains unproven. There are too many other factors which explain any problems. The allocation was far from universal in late '44 and common enough earlier in the war amongst leg infantry and panzergrenadiers to suggest that any effect is marginal at best.
Walking fire was introduced specifically because fire and manoeuvre wasn't working at squad level and all too often advances would stall when the infantry took fire until artillery, air, tanks, mortars etc had cleared the threat. And remember the Americans had only 1 LMG per squad and they still couldn't get it to work and came to rely on supporting weapons to drive an advance forward. Another point which tends to disprove your theory.
Hope the wife and kids are happy with their trip.

Whirlwind10 Sep 2016 10:06 a.m. PST

"For at least the first 24 hours and often longer no tanks or assault guns were involved in the fighting."
Hmmm, okay, but most of the breakthroughs occurred on D+1 when the tanks were across, certainly that's when the 106th and 28th IDs folded, and let's not pretend the troops manning the holes in those sectors were of any better quality than the German infantry in the area. A few burnt out vets (28th) surrounded by hordes of guys straight from boot camp, short on gear and heavy weapons, expecting no action (they were sent there to rest, refit, and retrain).

"I see no lack of aggression on the part of the German infantry."
But I do. There are too many early fights that could/should have been exploited, and they simply failed. But the beauty of it is, we don't have to agree. I gave my opinion and you gave yours, we see things differently. It's okay, we can still be buddies here and chat.

For this kind of stuff, I prefer to look at the statistics. To say that a specific arm of a nation generally underperformed is a pretty bold statement, really. Did Dupuy look at engagements from the Bulge? Did he find that the German infantry there did notably worse than normal?

Whirlwind10 Sep 2016 10:11 a.m. PST

I think we will have to agree to disagree. I feel your case that 2 LMG's per squad caused a deterioration in the ability of German infantry to attack remains unproven. There are too many other factors which explain any problems. The allocation was far from universal in late '44 and common enough earlier in the war amongst leg infantry and panzergrenadiers to suggest that any effect is marginal at best.

At all times the impetus in protracted war seems to have been to add firepower: is there a case of the opposite in the last 120 years, in which an infantry platoon withdrew firepower from its section & platoon orbat because it was seen as hobbling its close assault capability?

Whirlwind10 Sep 2016 10:16 a.m. PST

Nah man, I'm no confusing modern troops with WWII troops, though I do think a lot of TMPers really give our WWII brethren short shrift; there were some pretty aggressive capable formations out there, but we seem to be constantly talking about 'they couldn't hit that' and 'they couldn't accomplish that (tactic).'

I think that some people forget that modern allied soldiers are not dealing with a peer or near-peer enemy. The difference between facing him and facing an enemy which, at the tactical level, was at least as well-trained, experienced, doctrinally-savvy and equipped is simply enormous. Allied units didn't take heavy losses in WW2 because they were poor soldiers, it was because they were facing very strong opponents.

Weasel10 Sep 2016 10:28 a.m. PST

Wasn't "Walking Fire" pretty much only a text-book thing?

Has anyone found an account of an actual engagement where this tactic was used in any large-scale fashion?

It always seemed like the sort of thing that gamers like, because it lets us add weird rules to an army, but without a ton of basis.

Of course, times are different now, but when I did my bit of military time, we were never taught to do the "walking hip fire" thing for sure.

Mark 110 Sep 2016 10:44 a.m. PST

The Italian organisation is an interesting one. They seem to have hit on what most other armies discovered after combat experience …

I'm afraid this interpretation has the sequencing backwards.

There were many armies that came out of WW1 with platoons divided into guns and rifles. By the 1930s the more forward-thinking armies moved to 3 integrated squads per platoon. Most, but not all. The Italians moved to 2 20-man sections per platoon, each with a 2-LMG gun squad and a rifle squad.

In the Italian case, the Bersaglieri (motorized infantry) moved to an organization based on 3 integrated squads per platoon. Experience in WW2 combat showed this to be the more flexible and productive platoon organization, and in 1942 a new organizational scheme for the infantry platoon (the AS42 reorganization) adopted that model for all infantry units earmarked for combat in North Africa: 3 integrated squads per platoon. While there is much conjecture that the AS42 organization was intended to eventually address continental infantry formations, it does not seem that it ever did, as time ran out before it was propagated beyond the units earmarked and equipped for North Africa.

The Soviets also retained a somewhat archaic infantry platoon organization. At the start of the war the most common platoon structure was 4 squads per platoon, with 2 squads having integrated LMGs and 2 squads having just rifles. The notion was a gun group of 2 squads and a rifle group of 2 squads.

It is harder to make any conclusive statements about Red Army TOEs, as they had SO many versions and SO many revisions. But in general it seems that as the war progressed they moved towards a reasonably standard platoon of 3 integrated squads in their rifle formations.

VVV "However it is not and its name gives it way, its an automatic rifle (very similar to the FG42)"
You can be a wise ass is you like, but how about this: does it fire rifle caliber rounds (7.62mm or greater)? Is it long-barreled? Do a steady string of rounds come out if you hold the trigger? That's a machine gun.

Yep I will continue to be a wise ass, pointing out that if you keep on firing it on full automatic, the barrel overheats and you cannot change it (as you can with a true LMG). That limits the practical rate of fire. The BAR never was a machine gun, despite the US army thinking that it could be used as such.

VVV by your standards the Soviets, the French and the Czechs also did not have LMGs. And the poor SAS jeeps and LRDG trucks with all those Lewis and Vickers K guns mounted on them also lacked LMGs. And none of the aircraft flown by any of the major combatants carried any form of machine guns …

I think your single-issue test of what qualifies as a "true" machine gun is a bit over simplified.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Mako1110 Sep 2016 10:45 a.m. PST

The BAR is an auto-rifle, not a MG, since it only has a 20 round clip.

Info on German and American tactics:

link

Diagram of German squad on the move – the Sqd. Ldr. can be anywhere in the squad:

link

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