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"Infantry Was More Important Than Tanks For Victory" Topic

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809 hits since 11 Mar 2019
©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Lee49411 Mar 2019 9:40 p.m. PST

Lots of recent threads here on tank vs tank duels but as I reflected it seems to me that the real determinant of victory was the Infantry vs. Infantry matchup.

German infantry was markedly superior in France 40. Japanese infantry was superior in their early victories. US and British infantry in Normandy and NW Europe. When the Russian infantry learned how to fight they started winning against the Germans.

So while we gamers obsess about armor and penetration, was it really the Poor Bloody Infantry that won the war? Cheers!

Mark Plant11 Mar 2019 11:08 p.m. PST

How do create and then exploit a hole with infantry?

WWI shows that good infantry simply can't exploit fast enough.

Even the best infantry are useless when tanks are loose in their rear. Previously it was cavalry, despite firm infantry always being a frontal match for them.

Skarper12 Mar 2019 1:28 a.m. PST

Combined arms is the best…obviously.

The German 'Stosstruppen' seemed to do well in 1918 using what were to become modern infantry tactics.

My opinion is that the Panzergrenadiers deserve more credit than the Panzers for Germany's early victories. Highly trained, mobile, well armed and able to work with the Panzers at the decisive point. Add to this the new weapon of close air support and the scales are weighted heavily in the Germans' favour, whoever they are facing.

The Panzers get all the limelight but Panzer divisions always had a large component of infantry without which they would have struggled.

Vigilant12 Mar 2019 3:14 a.m. PST

Tanks take ground, infantry hold it. Both were essential to win the war, neither could have done it alone.

Keith Talent12 Mar 2019 3:55 a.m. PST

And the winner is?…..
The artillery of course!

Fred Cartwright12 Mar 2019 4:53 a.m. PST

So while we gamers obsess about armor and penetration, was it really the Poor Bloody Infantry that won the war? Cheers!

Once again no one thing wins wars. Why are people obsesssed with finding the war winning this or that. If you put together a war winning combination then you win. Having great infantry or great tanks just won't cut it if the rest isn't up to scratch. As an example many would accept that the British infantry lacked aggression in the attack in 1944, but made up for that with superb artillery support and tank support. You are right the quality of German infantry had declined, but they had nothing else to take up the slack. Not enough artillery tubes, or shells for the ones they did have, not enough tanks or fuel and spares for the ones that had and no airforce able to give close air support. Result is they lose despite being man for man as good as the British.

mysteron Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 5:11 a.m. PST

The desert was different IMO. Infantry were mainly in a secondary role often mounted in trucks unless dug in, in a defensive formation. Infantry was a good defensive force if dug in . The tank was key when on the offensive.

Legion 412 Mar 2019 6:58 a.m. PST

My thoughts being a former Infantry Officer …

There are more Infantry units than tank …

The M113 Mech Co. I commanded was routinely attached to a Tank Bn.

Regardless fight combined arms …

Almost everything has to o with terrain and situation …

Infantry can go places where armor can't …

Old Army saying

Tanks seize …

Infantry holds …

Artillery destroys …

As a Rifle PL in the 101, an Air Assault unit, we were light Infantry. Inserted by helicopters, then walked. In Closed Terrain, e.g. jungle, urban, etc., was a good place to be.
Even thought at times we [rarely] had attached armor.

Then as a Mech Co. Cdr in the desert, the mobility certainly was advantages. But in all cases you have to use the terrain.

As well as in (West) Germany … But at times we still moved dismounted thru thick woods, etc. Then have the tracks link up with us later.

Even as a Mech Co. Cdr, I favored the dismounted night attack in many cases. Again based on situation and terrain. And don't forget weather can have an influence.

With the employment of Paratroops/Air Assault forces, the classic tactic as they were inserted behind the enemy. And Armor/Mech Forces link up with them. But as we see, sometimes that always didn't happen/work, e.g. Arnhem.

The German 'Stosstruppen' seemed to do well in 1918 using what were to become modern infantry tactics.
Yes I agree … It appears at the end of WWI the Germans showed how to effectively unit Infantry. And at the beginning of WWII the demonstrated how to effectively use Armor in coordination with Infantry, FA and Aircraft… Which was a bit of surprise it appeared to many other nations' forces.

Some other nations at the beginning of WWII may have understood Combined Arms, but the Germans with their "Blitzkrieg" understood how to effectively use it.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 8:31 a.m. PST

Infantry is the most flexible arm at your disposal, tanks provide the mobility and killing power, but can't hold a position, artillery kills at range, but can be wiped by an infantry attack.

The big innovation of WWII was the widespread motorization and use of radio which gave anything of regiment and up, previously unseen flexibility and gave its commanders far greater control than was previously possible. While the use of tanks, APC's and trucks not only gave troops in the attack great advantages, but also to follow up and exploit more rapidly in a manner previously only possible with cavalry.

It's not enough to simply load all your troops into trucks and replace horses with tanks or tankettes, you need to get the proportions right. Many commanders tried to use tanks as cavalry, while others promised that machine-gun carriers and tankettes would make infantry obsolete (yes, looking at you J.F.C. Fuller !)

The Germans didn't get it right first time, they made huge mistakes in Spain and lots of big ones in Poland, but it allowed them to adjust in time for France and ultimately the USSR. It was an ongoing learning process.

Now it's a bit of a myth that the allies had to learn it all from scratch, they correctly deduced how the Germans operated fairly quickly, but in 1941-1942 very little priority was given to ground forces for the British, so development was partially held back by having only a limited range of tanks and equipment in places like North Africa. The British started to win consistently as soon as the US helped to provide tanks and equipment in sufficient numbers.

Same for the Soviets, they were retooling the Red Army, expanding it into a huge military force to go against Germany at some point in the future, but the inefficiency of the system meant that factories produced massive numbers of tanks, but few spare parts. Almost all Soviet motorized divisions in 1941 lacked transport for their artillery and had to resort to using horses, while infantry divisions did have transport for artillery, but about a quarter lacked guns …

The result is that entire units were lost simply for lack of proper equipment to fight back and didn't have the means to get away fast enough.

Having lost so many officers, the Red Army had to fast-track whatever officers they could scrounge, keeping them to smaller units to allow them to retain control. These formations were too weak too resist a concentrated attack, but small and flexible enough to avoid being entirely destroyed.

The Americans had the benefit of hindsight and carefully took notes and then implemented the lessons.

The result is that the US army system was as good as it go, and if things went wrong, it was a matter of adjusting the manual (for example TD's were used very aggressively early in fighting, often leading to heavy losses, the manual was rewritten alleviate this problem)

You can see the results at Kasserine Pass, the manual sang the praises of the flexibility of combat commands and urged officers to "seek the initiative" which lead to a disjointed uncoordinated attack, the Germans noticed this weakness and gave the US a bloody nose, but everything was already in place to adjust US units to better cooperate and for supporting elements to react faster in times of need.

The Germans did extremely well early, but became a one trick pony and were then reduced to trying to reproduce the Kesselschlacht which had worked so well in the early years of the war against enemies that learned to avoid this and become more effective and flexible themselves.

By 1944 the German army is reduced to "firefighting" on the Eastern Front, brutal counter-attacks to stop Soviet offensives, using their tanks as their last reserve to stop the onslaught. Fuel is in too short supply to hope to relaunch the great offensives.

It's not just combined arms, it's having the proper ratio of troops, the right support weapons and have the logistics to use them properly. Once the troops know what they can and can't do, you can start to figure out the battle at hand and start winning it.

Personal logo 28mm Fanatik Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 8:34 a.m. PST

Infantry played a more pivotal role than tanks in the PTO than the ETO, at least in the island-hopping campaigns.

Blutarski12 Mar 2019 9:07 a.m. PST

On the subject of infantry, Great Britain suffered from a shortage of infantry. In the N African campaign, most of the infantry in 8th Army was supplied by the Commonwealth states. Even then, as early as mid-1942, Britain was forced to begin disbanding infantry formations to provide replacements for other units.

I think that this fact might explain some of the otherwise perplexing planning and generalship decisions made by Montgomery.


UshCha12 Mar 2019 10:15 a.m. PST

Interesting comments on artillery. The US manual on artillery says its role on the battlefield is to "Suppress and fix in place". This is what it does well. In an artillery vs Infantry battle the Artillery are wiped out. How? Simple The infantry approach on a massive wide formation far wider than the Artillery can cover and hence pass the artillery positions and raid the rear echelons and render the artillery pointless. Daft but the assumption that the artillery rules is false.

Wargamers also get confused. Artillery did kill the most folk but most were not on the battlefield but in the rear echelons. This is because artillery caused a very small number of casualties much of the time. In reality actual battles were comparatively rare. Also war gamers forget. Tanks can do nothing to infantry to any extent. Tanks without infantry support are dead ducks once they run out of fuel. Even then there is little a tank can do on its own to well dug in infantry. A tank trying to collapse a significant number of trenches in the end can fall prey to even a man with a bottle full of fuel and a fuse of some kind.

What wins, as has been said, is close co-operation of a well balanced force.

Fred Cartwright12 Mar 2019 10:21 a.m. PST

Artillery did kill the most folk but most were not on the battlefield but in the rear echelons.

I have also read that artillery casualties is also over estimated as it based on returns from casualty clearing stations and field hospitals and was thus sampling the wounded, not the dead. When they looked they found a much higher proportion of those hit by small arms fire were killed and thus didn't make it the field hospital.

Aethelflaeda was framed12 Mar 2019 11:10 a.m. PST

Tanks without infantry support cannot see much and die quickly. Tanks in built up terrain die even quicker. Infantry provide the eyes.

Personal logo Mserafin Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 2:04 p.m. PST

"Whatever the technical change, it is still the humble infantryman that has to winkle the other bastard out of his foxhole and make him sign the peace treaty"

This, or some form of it, is usually ascribed to General G. S. Patton.

Winston Smith12 Mar 2019 2:31 p.m. PST

And where would you all be without Supply?

Personal logo 28mm Fanatik Supporting Member of TMP12 Mar 2019 3:23 p.m. PST

This, or some form of it, is usually ascribed to General G. S. Patton.

Not to mention on the other side of the fence, Erwin Rommel penned a popular book simply titled "Infantry Attacks" before he even gained fame as the Desert Fox.

Legion 412 Mar 2019 4:00 p.m. PST

And where would you all be without Supply?
Ran supply/resupply ops in the ROK and the desert/NTC.

"Amateurs study tactics, professionals study Logistics" …

Truth be told we studied both … but Logistics is not as "sexy", cool, etc. And probably wouldn't be much fun as a game … evil grin

Erwin Rommel penned a popular book simply titled "Infantry Attacks" before he even gained fame as the Desert Fox.
When I was an LT in the 101. Our Bde Cdr, brought all of us "new" officers into the Ops briefing room. And told us he wanted us all to read it. So we did … A few years later, I did a briefing on it at Combined Arms School.

The US Army recently moved the Armor School from Ft. Knox, KY to the home of the Infantry at Ft. Benning, GA. As it made sense in that we fight as a combined arms force today. More so than ever before …

UshCha13 Mar 2019 1:47 a.m. PST

Supply is key to all arms so no diffrence there. We stick to a modern Battalion level game at most and even at this level
units have to be replaced as battles go on for simulated hours. It does add some interesting dilemas you can't field it all at once as you all have to stop to rest and re-arm.

Whirlwind13 Mar 2019 5:28 a.m. PST

German infantry was markedly superior in France 40. Japanese infantry was superior in their early victories. US and British infantry in Normandy and NW Europe. When the Russian infantry learned how to fight they started winning against the Germans.

Every single one of those propositions is pretty doubtful.

Legion 413 Mar 2019 8:47 a.m. PST

For better or worse in any war/conflict generally Infantrymen take @ 70-75% of the losses. Again, there is generally a lot of Grunts, running around trying not to become a target, etc.

catavar13 Mar 2019 12:09 p.m. PST

Tanks and foot go hand in hand I think; tanks create the break-thru while infantry hold the ground.

As for foot being better it's my understanding several participants were experiencing manpower (and even morale) issues late in the war.

I like UshCha's post. I my opinion supply is king and without it you go nowhere.

Legion 413 Mar 2019 2:46 p.m. PST

Infantrymen have to dismount generally to do their job. APCs then IFVs were designed to keep up with the Tanks. But sooner or later the Grunts have to get on the ground and get "down & dirty". Hopefully with Tank support and FA, etc.

My favorite example of this, is what I had heard about a incident that happened in A'stan. A US Inf Plt was exchanging fire with some Taliban or AQ, etc. in a small building. Made from local construction materials.

The Inf were firing and maneuvering, etc. A couple of M1 MBTs came by and the Tank Cdr yelled at the Inf PL. To cease fire, they'd take care of it. The M1 rotated their turrets to the rear. And ran over the structure with the Taliban, etc., in it. The M1s moved on. And the Inf went thru to finish up and look for intel etc. on the Taliban, etc. bodies.

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