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"Tactics Discussion: Marching Fire" Topic


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Wolfhag30 Nov 2019 9:21 a.m. PST

I know there has been some discussion on this in the past. However, there does seem to be some evidence for its use.

There is "assault fire" which is used in the final phase of an assault after using F&M to get into assault range. This seems to be what the VN era infantry was trained on.

The "marching/walking fire" seems to be used to close with the objective when not needing to use F&M and not under a lot of accurate defensive fire. This appears to be a combined arms tactic where suppressive arty/fire will keep the defender's heads down allowing the infantry to continue to advance. Attackers hitting the deck can seem to actually increase causalities as they are static for enemy mortar fire and not shooting back giving the defenders the initiative. Without some type of suppression on the objective, I doubt if the walking fire could be used to close to assault range.

There are accounts I've read where it was very successful but the dates are in early 1945 against the Germans and I the defenders may have been more interested in surrendering than fighting.

Is anyone using rules that would simulate the documentation below?

I can see ways this could work and ways it can easily be defeated. The morale and tactics of the defenders is a big factor. Timing is very important because if supporting suppressive fire is lifted too soon the defenders will come out and shoot.

It could be effective if the defenders are in a treeline because they are easily targeted. But if the defenders have a good FPF set up they hold their fire and basically ambush the attackers at close range and the supporting fire would not be able to engage.

However, if the defenders set up their line 25-50m inside the treeline they can ambush the attackers at close range and be immune to any combined arms supporting fire for the attackers.

It would most likely not be effective against bunkers and pillboxes but smoke screens could take care of that. The attackers would need to endure there were no enemy units on their flanks so that would have to be screened too.

Wolfhag

Andy ONeill30 Nov 2019 10:24 a.m. PST

Can you imagine shooting a bar from the hip as you walk forward?
Your enemy are dug in 700 m ahead.

When i've read descriptions of "successful" marching fire there's something else stood out for me.
What was that?
The supporting fire from static machine guns and shermans.

I feel it is fairly obvious why it went out of fashion. Imo the main contribution of marching fire to an attack was to the morale of the attackers.
The more they've done it i suspect the more likely a unit would be to realise all their blazing away was having no effect on the enemy.

DePuy did some research on marching fire.
You might want to look it up.
His conclusion was not positive.

Legion 430 Nov 2019 11:07 a.m. PST

Yes, to do that you'd have to be very close to the enemy/OBJ. And [hopefully!] the enemy would be heavily suppressed/attrited. And/or have low morale, etc. As Wolf pointed out in his comments.

Of course we were taught about violence and shock action in the attack. E.g. we were taught that in an ambush if the enemy is 20m or less you charge into the ambush, yelling, guns blazing, etc. Close the range and overrun the ambushers. As at that range you'd probably lose more trying to break contact then going into the assault.

But if over 20m, you go thru breaking contact SOPs, etc. Withdraw to fight another day. And call in FA and/or CAS on your way out on the ambushers position.

Wolfhag30 Nov 2019 11:08 a.m. PST

I look at it as Risk-Reward Decision for the player. I'm interested in scenarios it worked and when it did not work to implement it into the rules.

General William E. DePuy, who rose from junior staff officer to battalion commander in the 90th Infantry Division between 1942 and 1945, evaluated the efficacy of unsupported marching fire and found it lacking. Writing after the war, DePuy said that marching fire became a fad, in some American units almost the sole form of attack. DePuy noted that when it was employed against Germans who were "well hidden and in very good positions"—as they usually were—the attackers walked into the enemy's kill zone.[14] DePuy said that if maneuvering infantry alone performed marching fire, the moment when enemy suppression was most needed it would cease during the final charge at which time "the enemy then comes up out of his foxholes and starts to fire at you."[15] DePuy asserted that suppression gained by fire from non-moving units was critical to the success of marching fire.[14] Such units could be as large as rifle companies or as small as squads equipped with heavy and light machine guns.[15]

The tactic of marching fire was praised by General George S. Patton for three reasons: friendly forces using the tactic continued to advance rather than get bogged down, the positive action of shooting provided self-confidence to the soldier, and the enemy's defensive fire was reduced in accuracy, volume and effectiveness.[11][12] Patton recommended that the rifleman carrying "that magnificent weapon", the M1 Garand rifle, should fire his weapon every two or three paces, holding the weapon at his shoulder if desired, but a lower position between the belt and armpit was "just as effective".[11] Patton advised his 81 mm M1 mortar teams to stay in one place during the assault and apply steady fire, but his smaller 60 mm M2 mortars should alternately fire and leapfrog forward. Light machine guns could be simultaneously carried and fired by one man while another man fed the ammo belt.[11] Patton wrote that the main purpose of the tank was to attack infantry in defensive positions rather than other tanks. He instructed his tanks and other armored units to advance with marching fire in support of the infantry.[13]

I'm examing this because in an attack you want your attacking units to close with the enemy as quickly as possible. F&M is ideal but the rate of advance is slowed allowing the enemy more time to bring up reserves and call in indirect fire. The volume of fire is decreased too.

I don't think you can say the tactic was effective or not without looking at the overall circumstances for the attacker and defender, hence the discussion. There appears to be no doubt the walking fire fell out of favor but the assault fire was practiced and used in the VN era.

I'd think if done right with supporting arms if infantry did need to seek cover supporting direct and indirect fire would take care of it rather quickly.

A player may be confronted with moving infantry across an open area with supporting arms and tanks. What's the quickest and best way to do it? Tanks only with no infantry support or tanks and infantry at a walk with the supporting infantry firing mainly to keep up their morale as Andy stated?

Did the Russians use a version of "walking/assault fire" with their tank riding infantry? Was it successful?

It seems like any other tactic, it's not a 100% solution all of the time and the way it is used is important.

Wolfhag

Legion 430 Nov 2019 11:10 a.m. PST

It seems like any other tactic, it's not a 100% solution all of the time and the way it is used is important.
Agreed …

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2019 11:15 a.m. PST

I can't imagine it would be very effective from 700m out.

200 – 300m at best.

If you are a fast walker, have enough ammo, and can fire fast enough, it should help suppress those you are firing on, unless they are in hard cover.

Wolfhag30 Nov 2019 11:45 a.m. PST

I think there is one aspect of a suppressive artillery barrage that is overlooked in a game. Barrages in support of an attack ideally have about 25% of the beaten zone in front of the defender's position. The burst and debris has a screening effect so the defenders could not effectively select individual targets but the attackers could still put down area fire. The shell holes would also give some cover to the attackers if the attack got bogged down in the final assault.

I'd think that if the suppression were effective enough an assault covering almost any distance could be effective. That why infantry alone is not going to work.

We've been discussing aimed fire but don't downplay the suppressive effect of a large volume of small arms from from 500m or more. Remember what it sounded like on the rifle range, especially during the rapid fire?

Here is an account of when it did work:

Wolfhag

Steve Wilcox30 Nov 2019 12:21 p.m. PST

That account appears to be similar to what Andy ONeill said about marching fire:

When i've read descriptions of "successful" marching fire there's something else stood out for me.
What was that?
The supporting fire from static machine guns and shermans.

"…two companies abreast supported by Heavy Weapons Company, artillery, and 50 caliber machine guns, used marching fire very effectively…"

UshCha30 Nov 2019 12:25 p.m. PST

I looked at this to gain an assessment of its effectiveness.

Not being a serving soldier I took some advice from men who had served. They said it looked like a good way of keeping poor soldiers on their feet but the inaccuracy would mean it had little real effect. They did admit with a poor morale enemy it may work but with good morale enemy it looked a bad way to attack.

My own understanding is that if it was that effective it would have seen very wide adoption but it did not get adopted widely, it seems only som US units adopted it. Post war all sides went in for fire and movement instead.

Therefore our opinion was that we would not include it, It was too small a phenomena to be worth modelling and if we really wanted something like it could be achieved by allowing poor troops to ignore or reduce the possibility of suppression. However this would make them more likely to suffer more serious casualties if against good well organized opposition. Even in our rules walking through a fixed line MG FPF would be deadly. Hence it was never used by us.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP30 Nov 2019 1:16 p.m. PST

Given the very low rates of hitting the enemy, even when fire is aimed, I suspect "marching fire" would be not good for anything save for suppressing the enemy.

Yes, with supporting MGs, mortars, smoke, and artillery fire, "marching fire" and/or "walking fire" should be a lot more effective.

jdginaz30 Nov 2019 3:01 p.m. PST

Can you imagine shooting a bar from the hip as you walk forward?

YouTube link

Yes I can.

Wolfhag30 Nov 2019 11:47 p.m. PST

Walking Fire video, BAR starting at 18:41 YouTube link

I don't think anyone is going to expect enough accuracy to hit a concealed enemy but research and experience have shown using area fire a round coming within a few feet is going to distract/suppress the defender. With enough firepower, suppression will do the job of getting close enough for an assault.

Question:
In a combined arms/tank and infantry attack with the infantry advancing with the tanks (not riding on them), what should the infantry be doing?

Wolfhag

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2019 1:08 p.m. PST

Hiding behind the tanks, using them as bullet magnets, of course. ;-)

Legion 401 Dec 2019 3:48 p.m. PST

As I mentioned the enemy position would have to have been suppressed and attrited with supporting fire assets. As noted Tanks and MGs in support by fire positions. And maybe mortar and/or FA prep too.

Yes you can fire a BAR from the hip as I have seen it in footage, etc. But I know for a fact you can do the same with the M60 MG and M249 SAW.

We were trained ride on the backs of MBTs[M60A1s] until contact was made or better yet they dropped us of an RP, etc., before attacking.

And yes walking behind the tanks is a good tactic. But note Tanks draw fire. So as with much on the battlefield it is situational as well as terrain dependent.

The Infantry moving along with the Tanks should be looking for enemy AT weapons, etc. To suppress or destroy those to protect the Tanks. And in turn the tanks take out enemy MGs, FOs, etc.

I don't think anyone is going to expect enough accuracy to hit a concealed enemy but research and experience have shown using area fire a round coming within a few feet is going to distract/suppress the defender. With enough firepower, suppression will do the job of getting close enough for an assault.
Exactly as I said about charging into a near ambush.

codiver02 Dec 2019 6:58 a.m. PST

My group plays Arc of Fire for WWII skirmish, with several "house rules" that we have documented.

One of those is to allow a "running" move of 6"/action for infantry (normal is 4"/action). If the unit "ran" the last action, they have to make a TAC roll to "run" again, unless if under fire (in which case they can "run" automatically).

A second "house rule" is "marching fire". A small arm with an ROF > 1 (so does not include bolt action rifles) and excepting belt-fed LMGs can do "marching fire": Cannot "run" (see above), ROF is -1, and To Hit is -1.

A third "house rule" is the U.S. BAR is treated as a less effective "clip-fed" LMG, or more accurately a slightly more effective "self-loading rifle" (SLR), that doesn't require a assistant/loader to be 100% effective. SLRs (e.g. U.S. M1 Garand, German Gew 43) have an ROF of 2, the BAR has an ROF of 3.

The reasons we play these "house rules" include:
1. Movement/maneuver on the table top, and anything that enhances or encourages it, is good. For an interesting take on this philosophy, read Frank Chadwick's designer's notes from the first edition of Command Decision.
2. These three "house rules" lead to squads from different nations typically behaving differently on the table top. The Germans are the primary nation that has a squad belt-fed LMG, so they tend to be LMG focused, as they were historically. Other non-U.S. nations are typically "clip-fed" LMGs and bolt action rifles, so they tend to operate differently. U.S. squads are typically a BAR and M1 Garand SLRs, so when on the attack, they can utilize "marching fire" (AKA fire & maneuver) to the utmost.

Legion 402 Dec 2019 7:47 a.m. PST

Yes, the US BAR & M1 Garand gave the Infantry a significant edge. As we see fire & maneuver is a basic tactic for all well trained Infantry then as well as today.

Andy ONeill02 Dec 2019 11:13 a.m. PST

The type of rifle carried pretty much didn't matter for ww2 infantry. They had very little success with whatever they carried.
The bar wasn't a great light machine gun.
It was the squad machine gun was by far the most significant of squad weapons.
Which is why the us army nearly adopted the mg42.
One of which they judged to be as effective as 20 m1 garand armed riflemen.

Us infantry could expect more support weapons than their foe. When those weren't available they could have rather a rough time of things.

Legion 402 Dec 2019 3:19 p.m. PST

On a tactical level the BAR and M1 still did give the US Infantryman an edge. The BAR was a SAW not so much a LMG. The M1's semi-auto feature was superior to most other Infantrymen who were still using bolt action.

The Sqd MG no matter whose was the basis for the Sqd's firepower.

The US did have a lot of supporting arms. But even without those the Sqd's Auto & Semiauto weapons still gave them the edge over bolt action rifles.

jdginaz03 Dec 2019 1:08 p.m. PST

The bar wasn't a great light machine gun.
It was the squad machine gun was by far the most significant of squad weapons.
Which is why the us army nearly adopted the mg42.

Your right the BAR wasn't a LMG nor was it intended to be one. It was a automatic rifle added to the rifle squad to be a very mobile boost to the quads firepower. The US Army has never added a LMG t it's squads. The LMGs are in the companies weapons platoon. In the case of WWII they were the M1919A1s.

The US Army did not "nearly adopt the mg42" for the rifle squad. They did however have a low priority attempt at developing the MG-42 for testing as a possible replacement for the M1917 HMG

Here is a link for the story of that attempt plus post war use of the MG-42. Interesting fact, the FN MAG is basically a belt fed BAR.

You seem to keep making inaccurate posts about the BAR.

Legion 403 Dec 2019 1:36 p.m. PST

+1 jdginaz.

And yes the WWII US Squad generally only got an MG i.e. M1919A1s, etc. if it was attached directly to the Sqd from the Company's Wpns Plt, etc. And again that was the basis for the firepower of the Sqd when attached to the Sqd. Add the BAR's auto/semiauto and M1's semiauto capabilities that is a lot of firepower if used properly.

Blutarski03 Dec 2019 1:57 p.m. PST

It is my understanding that the BAR, which was a weapon design of very late WW1 parentage, was originally intended to fill the role of a mobile light machine rifle capable of delivering "marching fire" (among other fire tasks) as it accompanied advancing bolt-action rifle armed infantry ….. in much the same manner as the Chauchat (which was employed in large numbers by the AEF).

B

jdginaz03 Dec 2019 6:09 p.m. PST

Nether the BAR nor the Chauchat were LMGs or intended to be so, but yes the BAR is the US Army's version of an improved Chauchat. The French started the whole marching fire and developed the Chauchat for that purpose.

Interestingly when the French decided to begin replacing their WWI squad weapons in the '20 they wanted to replace the Chauchat with a license built BAR. Browning didn't want to sale them the license so they designed FM24/29 which used many ideas from the BAR.

jdginaz03 Dec 2019 6:59 p.m. PST

More automatic rifles

The Polish squad AR RKM wz. 1928 is a BAR chambered in 7.92x57 with a few minor changes

The Belgian Fusil-Mitrailleur Mle 1928 is a BAR in 7.65x53
the Mle D version has a quick-change barrel.

There is a Swedish version also

The Italian Breda 30 is a really a automatic rifle also, and a really bad one at that. Here is a good video on it
YouTube link

Doc Yuengling04 Dec 2019 10:37 a.m. PST

There are instances of "assault fire" even now.
An example would be the last bayonet charge in Afghanistan.
Corporal Sean Jones from the PWR, in 2012, when sparatic fire, turned into an ambush from the Taliban.

"I have been shot at quite a few times and could tell the enemy was close. Gravel and dirt were flying up all around me from the bullets."

Caught in the killing zone and unable to advance into the hail of fire, the soldiers withdrew to the relative safety of the water-filled ditch to return fire but were trapped as the insurgents moved in to try to overwhelm their position.

"We had to react quickly," said Cpl Jones.

"There was something different about this. It was obviously a well-planned ambush and they overwhelmed us with fire from three points initially."

Firing a rocket at one of the insurgent positions, Cpl Jones ordered three of his men to fix bayonets before breaking cover and leading them across 80 metres of open ground raked by enemy fire.

"I asked them if they were happy. They were all quite young lads and the adrenalin was racing. I shouted follow me and we went for it. I got 'Commander's Legs' on and was going very quickly. I realised I'd left them behind a bit so had to slow down and was engaged again, so I organised my guys who started attacking the enemy firing points," he said.

As two of the soldiers provided fire support, Cpl Jones prepared a hand grenade for the final assault. He raced towards an alley and was about to throw the grenade but said he realised that the buildings were occupied so put the grenade away. But the speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.

Sporadic enemy fire continued.

Cpl Jones rallied his men to launch another assault just as the platoon commander and the rest of the patrol, who had been suppressing the other enemy position during the charge, rejoined the group.

The insurgents melted away.

Doc Yuengling04 Dec 2019 10:52 a.m. PST

Jdzinaz

"Your right the BAR wasn't a LMG nor was it intended to be one. It was a automatic rifle added to the rifle squad to be a very mobile boost to the quads firepower. The US Army has never added a LMG t it's squads. The LMGs are in the companies weapons platoon. In the case of WWII they were the M1919A1s"

In WW2, they had LMGS at Company or platoon level (Armored infantry platoon weapons squad for example), and could regularly attach them to squads as tactically needed.
And in VN, Many times the M60 teams would be attached to squads for firesupport.

Doc Yuengling04 Dec 2019 11:20 a.m. PST

Marine rifle company TOE 1944:
HQ platoon, three rifle platoons, and…
Machine gun (LMG) platoon:
Since each section has two light machine guns (.30 caliber Browning, M1019A4), the platoon has a total of six light machine guns. The rifle company headquarters carries six heavy machine guns (MOcaliber, Browning, M1917A1) in reserve to be used in place of or in addition to the light machine guns when the tactical situation demands.

Blutarski04 Dec 2019 12:07 p.m. PST

Hi Doc,
It gets more interesting when you drill down into USMC squad organization. Data taken from "Guidebook for Marines".

- – -

The rifle squad is made up of one sergeant, who is squad leader, and three fire teams of four men each – a total of 13.

The fire teams consist of one corporal who is fire team leader, and three privates or PFCs. One of the privates or PFCs is the automatic rifleman, one the assistant automatic rifleman and the third is a rifleman.

- – -

Over and above the LMG and MMG support elements present at platoon and company levels, each of the three fire teams in the infantry squad included an automatic rifle acting as its firepower center of gravity. And every member of the squad was supposed to be fully trained to operate the BAR.

I also seem to recall reading that the BAR was quite popular among US Army infantry in the European campaign, to the extent that troops often informally acquired "orphan" BAR's found along the way to enhance their formation firepower.

B

UshCha04 Dec 2019 12:30 p.m. PST

Not sure hoe this progressed to the inevitable BAR vs LMG debate. That is definitely off topic which is marching fire and was it effective.

jdginaz04 Dec 2019 12:58 p.m. PST

In WW2, they had LMGS at Company or platoon level (Armored infantry platoon weapons squad for example), and could regularly attach them to squads as tactically needed.
And in VN, Many times the M60 teams would be attached to squads for firesupport

Yes as I wrote the LMGs were in the Company Weapons Platoon and they were at times temporarily attached to squads, but that isn't the same as being assigned as the LMGs are in other countries. In the Armored Rifle Platoons the LMGs are part of the Platoon not the Squads. I'm aware that often the M60s were attached to squads but again not the same as assigned.

Not sure hoe this progressed to the inevitable BAR vs LMG debate

sorry I don't see any BAR vs.LMG debate going on here

I also seem to recall reading that the BAR was quite popular among US Army infantry in the European campaign, to the extent that troops often informally acquired "orphan" BAR's found along the way to enhance their formation firepower.

I've seen accounts of squads acquiring as many as 5 additional BARS but one or two seems to be the norm.

jdginaz04 Dec 2019 1:01 p.m. PST

@Wolfhag

Did you find that document online? IF so could you post where I would like to have a copy of it.

Doc Yuengling04 Dec 2019 1:26 p.m. PST

B

You're telling me what I already know.

I was simply infering that LMGs were available and attached to squads for support if tactically needed, but as you point out it wasn't regular.

Soldiers maximize firepower whenever possible.

Can we talk about assault fire now? LOL

Legion 404 Dec 2019 3:57 p.m. PST

I was simply infering that LMGs were available and attached to squads for support if tactically needed, but as you point out it wasn't regular.
Soldiers maximize firepower whenever possible.
Yes …

There are instances of "assault fire" even now.
Yes as I said we were taught ['79-'90] about violence and shock action in the attack. E.g. we were taught that in an ambush if the enemy is 20m or less you charge into the ambush, yelling, guns blazing, etc. Close the range and overrun the ambushers. As at that range you'd probably lose more trying to break contact then going into the assault.

Wolfhag04 Dec 2019 5:00 p.m. PST

Attempting to break contact and running will most likely put you into a minefield or another ambush. If their fire discipline was poor and they used a full mag to trigger the ambush covering 20 yards while firing would be the best option while they attempt to reload. Hunkering down in the kill is the worst option.

BAR manual:https://play.google.com/books/reader?id=PMpBAAAAIAAJ&hl=en&pg=GBS.PA44

Shows picture of the butt support for marching fire, discusses semi, not automatic fire shooting 148 rounds/minute in marching fire.

I found the pdf online but can't find it now. Email me at treadheadgames AT g mail and I'll send a copy.

Wolfhag

Blutarski04 Dec 2019 6:41 p.m. PST

Doc Yuenglig wrote – "You're telling me what I already know.
I was simply infering that LMGs were available and attached to squads for support if tactically needed, but as you point out it wasn't regular.
Soldiers maximize firepower whenever possible.
Can we talk about assault fire now? LOL"

Hi Doc,
That wasn't obvious to me based upon your preceding post. Just trying to be helpful. Assault fire it is then.

B

UshCha05 Dec 2019 2:45 a.m. PST

Marching fire might work at 20 yards but as I understand it the fire was one round every one or two paces and at 20m, if you had and could access it on the move, a grenade would be better, particularly if the enemy was in a trench. Plus speed would be of the essence, running better than marching so again seems maybe its not the place for Marching fire.

Legion 405 Dec 2019 3:50 a.m. PST

We were trained for aggressive shock actions. I think we'd fire more than one round for every one or two paces. But it would depend on terrain, light conditions, etc. And we spent very little time on Marching Fire. But Fire & Maneuver, cover & concealment, going it the assault, Fire Superiority, volume of fire, etc.

And yes the faster you close with the enemy the better. Also the problem with a hand grenade is you have to be careful not to run into the blast radius.

I believe that Marching Fire would only be used under certain circumstances as we have talked about before. E.g. at a shorter range, with supporting fires, Suppression of the enemy, etc.

Stalkey and Co05 Dec 2019 6:13 a.m. PST

From the game design perspective, this would seem to generally fall into the category of "moving fire" or "Move & Fire" which a number of rule sets allow.

IF one was to make a mechanic for it, and IF the rules differentiated suppressing fire from actual aimed fire at known targets, then I would say it would only be suppressing fire.

I'd say that the main issue is target acquisition. It is very difficult to acquire a target while on the move, as either a vehicle or a specific person or team. I think vehicles have a bit of an advantage here as the Tank Commander should be spotting targets while the driver drives and the gunner spots and prepares to shoot.

If a squad or team is on the move, they are too busy watching where they are going and running to acquire targets [ever put your foot down a gopher hole while running?]. All this to say, I think if you are certain where the enemy is, but you need to move, you are still better off having one team lay down fire while the second team dashes in and tosses a grenade.

So depends on the scale of the game. If an MU = a platoon, then I would permit moving fire IF the time scale allows a move, halt, acquisition of targets, and then some firing.

Only game I personally know of that does this is 6D6 WWII. It allows movement and then a Fire at close range, which is about 150m.

Hope that is helpful.

UshCha05 Dec 2019 9:53 a.m. PST

Stalkey and Co. That is where skirmishing/ and fire and movement come in. Some elements lay down fire while other rush in short lengths perhaps 10m then go down, crawl a bit then move pot down fire while another element rushes a few yards and then does the same. This is almost universally adopted certainly in the Western world.

Marching fire is just folk marching and firing, by definition its suppressive fire. If your rules don't even have that then they are so far from reality that marching fire is the least of your credibility problems.

Wolfhag06 Dec 2019 2:02 p.m. PST

Here's my take on the discussion so far:
Walking/Marching Fire is a tactic just like any other. It works in the right circumstances and fails when not used appropriately. The tactic seems to be something the attacking leader can use in a combined arms attack.

When closing to the enemy you need two things for success: Good suppression and speed.

Small arms fire is not going to be very effective over 200m so in a tank/infantry attack I'd say you have the infantry moving behind the tanks using them for cover. At a certain point the prep barrage is going to lift. It's either timed or by a signal. When it lifts the enemy will start to come out of their shelters to fight off the assault. That would probably be the time for the infantry to deploy in a skirmisher line and start shooting while advancing.

That's why the narrative states that the walking fire units should be shooting with bazookas, grenade launchers and light mortars laying down a second suppressing barrage to make the enemy think the barrage has not lifted yet while the infantry and tanks get closer.

The distance to move after the barrage lifts is crucial.
Move at Quick Time 1.5m/second
Assaulting Distance
30m = 20 seconds
60m = 40 seconds
90m = 60 seconds
180m = 120 seconds

How long would it take a defending squad to recover, exit their shelter, and assume firing positions?

A prep barrage by 105/155 artillery will normally lift when the attackers come within 100-200m of the edge of the barrage. Most prep barrages had part of the beaten zone in front of the defenders because it helped obscure the attackers and shell holes could give some cover if the attack bogged down. That would put then 250-300m to move. That's something you don't normally see in games. That's about 3-4 minutes so you need additional suppression during that time.

If mortars are registered the attackers can follow as closely as 50m. That means you are giving the defenders less than a minute to come out of cover, occupy their fighting positions (which may now be collapsed or destroyed) and set up crew-served weapons. Heavy artillery will most likely have the defenders suffering from causalities and concussion forcing them to take longer.

You can see the attacker's leadership, timing, command control, and communications is vital. A breakdown means attackers being hit by friendly fire or if the barrage lifts too soon the defenders will be prepared. If the prep barrage is timed to lift/shift and the attackers were slowed then the defenders will have more time to prepare too.

It would make sense for supporting infantry to start firing when the prep barrage lifts and the mortars start dropping. That would put them within effective small arms fire for area or point targets. Having tanks, heavy/medium machines guns working the area over will really help as will the tanks HE and machine gunfire.

If the defenders are coming out of their shelters when the attacking infantry is 25-50m away, after the mortar barrage lifts, they'll most likely surrender. This is where the tanks will collapse bunkers and trenches and defenders will attempt to use their close-range hand-held anti-tank weapons. That would be the desired effect of a coordinated combined arms attack.

Defenders with machine guns in pillboxes would try to suppress the attacking infantry and split them from the tanks which will most likely continue the attack and be intercepted by tank hunters or the anti-tank gun belt behind them. The defenders may or may not have a defensive barrage or FPF. You don't want your attackers getting pinned down by them.

I think the best way to use Marching Fire would be in the final phase of the assault (assault fire) as part of an overall suppression plan whether it is area or point targets.

Just the sound of hundreds of rounds is going to make the defenders think twice about popping their heads up (remember being in the butts at the rifle range?). Assault Fire seems to differ in that it is more aggressive, moving a little quicker, higher rate of fire, tossing grenades, yelling, etc. When you get that close you need to overrun them ASAP. If Marching Fire is the only suppressive fire against a prepared defense from 200m+ away it will most likely not come out very well for the attackers.

Anything to keep the infantry morale up and moving is going to pay dividends.

Wolfhag

Legion 406 Dec 2019 2:19 p.m. PST

thumbs up

Andy ONeill06 Dec 2019 3:01 p.m. PST

Really?
How exactly do these germans hear the marching fire shooting over the din of 50 cal, 30 cal, 75mm tank shells and artillery landing around them?

The tactic offered zero advantage over just walking towards the enemy whilst the enemy are totally supressed by supporting fire from static assets.
Which is why it was described as a fad and went out of fashion in 1945.

Legion 407 Dec 2019 9:13 a.m. PST

Yes, as I have said before …

… to do that you'd have to be very close to the enemy/OBJ. And [hopefully!] the enemy would be heavily suppressed/attrited. And/or have low morale, …

I believe that Marching Fire would only be used under certain circumstances as we have talked about before. E.g. at a shorter range, with supporting fires, Suppression of the enemy, etc.

Your enemy are dug in 700 m ahead.

To use Marching Fire at that distance would probably not be a very effecting tactic. Infantry F&M behind and along cover/concealment. As I said at 20m or less.

Also to march online e.g. at 700m with sustained fire you'd probably run out of ammo before you go to the OBJ.

200 – 300m at best.
Yes and even at that range you are pushing it, IMO. And again have the enemy totally suppressed and attrited. Plus hopefully their morale was low …

And we spent very little time on Marching Fire. But Fire & Maneuver, cover & concealment, going it the assault, Fire Superiority, volume of fire, etc.

With modern weapons you want/need to spend as little time out in the open as possible. You have to use cover & concealment and M&F.

The only thing I really would consider even using anything close Marching Fire, would be to get online to assault an enemy position in darkness. Keeping your troops online would keep you from having blue on blue losses. We'd also put our M60s toward the ends the line. To produce sort of an FPL as the unit advanced online. But again we are talking about at close range and in this case in darkness.

Now with an attack in low light conditions you may not choose to suppress the enemy with mortars, FA, etc., so as to have complete surprise. A well trained unit can move very close to an enemy position in darkness.

You'd be on top of them before they knew what was happening. And at about 0300 hrs., in the rain, many will have fallen asleep, or just trying to keep dry.

Andy ONeill07 Dec 2019 10:00 a.m. PST

Your belief is incorrect.

Read that description again.
Leave in the parts you can't believe anyone would be stupid enough to do.

They started firing right from the start line.
And yes they would have run out of ammo.
Except they organised runners to bring more ammo up.
A unit using marching fire burned through a huge amount of ammo for each attack.

And yes.
It really was an unbelievably stupid and impractical tactic.

In theory just the fire from the skirmish line was supposed to be enough to suppress their dug in enemy.

Some units tried that.
Very bad things happened to several units tried this stuff without supporting fire.

Legion 407 Dec 2019 4:03 p.m. PST

Yes, Andy I was both a Rifle Plt Ldr, '80-'82 and M113 Mech Co. Cdr' '87-'89. When I said I believe I didn't mean I believe what was being said in the article, but as an Infantry Officer. I believe I would only use something like marching fire :

… to do that you'd have to be very close to the enemy/OBJ. And [hopefully!] the enemy would be heavily suppressed/attrited. And/or have low morale, …
I believe that Marching Fire would only be used under certain circumstances as we have talked about before. E.g. at a shorter range, with supporting fires, Suppression of the enemy, etc.

"Your enemy are dug in 700 m ahead."

To use Marching Fire at that distance would probably not be a very effecting tactic. Infantry F&M behind and along cover/concealment. As I said at 20m or less.

Also to march online e.g. at 700m with sustained fire you'd probably run out of ammo before you got to the OBJ.

The only thing I really would consider even using anything close Marching Fire, would be to get online to assault an enemy position in darkness. Keeping your troops online would keep you from having blue on blue losses. We'd also put our M60s toward the ends the line. To produce sort of an FPL as the unit advanced online. But again we are talking about at close range and in this case in darkness.

Now with an attack in low light conditions you may not choose to suppress the enemy with mortars, FA, etc., so as to have complete surprise. A well trained unit can move very close to an enemy position in darkness.
You'd be on top of them before they knew what was happening. And at about 0300 hrs., in the rain, many will have fallen asleep, or just trying to keep dry.

So you & I are in agreement I believe ?

Wolfhag08 Dec 2019 5:39 a.m. PST

From an oral history of Gen DePuy:

GEN DEPUY: Well, there were after-action reports and lessons learned, but not very many, and they didn't seem to be emphasized too much. I do remember one thing though, that was brought back from the battlefront, and that was marching fire. That became somewhat of a fad, and marching fire, as you probably recall, was, if you analyze it, an effort to maintain fire superiority during the assault. It's not a bad idea, assuming that you put it in the right context. They (the 90th division he was with in WWII?) used marching fire as a method of attack — as the sole method of attack. What they should have done, of course, was position the heavy machine guns and light machine guns and even rifle companies, so as to gain total fire superiority with small arms as well as mortars and artillery, and then, during the assault, use marching fire, which would have maintained the fire superiority. It reminds me a great deal of the experiments at the Combat Developments Experimentation Command (CDEC), in 1976.

At the time we were doing the Parapet Foxhole or PAR FOX experiment we discovered that the platoon that attacked with one squad and a light machine gun in the overwatch and two squads attacking, was about forty percent as effective as a platoon that had two squads and a machine gun suppressing and only one moving. The reason was that the fire superiority, as they called it in World War II, we now call it suppression, was maintained. As you know, the problem with infantry is that while you may get fire superiority through suppression, just at the time when you need it the most, during the assault, when the troops all rise up out of their foxholes or from behind a hedgerow and move forward, you lose it. So, the enemy then comes up out of his holes and starts to fire at you, and you lose the suppression.

So, marching fire obviously was designed to overcome that problem, but somewhere in the transmission between the lessons learned and our unit, marching fire became the tactic through which you attacked. In other words, we lined up two battalions with two companies up and they went across the line of departure, using marching fire. It might have worked if the enemy was not well dug in, not well camouflaged, and very weak; but, if the enemy was professional, as the Germans usually were, was well-hidden, and was in very good positions, marching fire as often as not, just wasn't sufficient. We marched into their killing zones. We didn't learn about overwatch suppression until later in the war.

When DePuy was in the 90th Division after Normandy, he saw his division, because of poor leadership, use marching fire without supporting artillery or mortars. The battalion, regiment and division commander were relieved of command because they got mauled. After WWII he gained prominence with TRADOC attempting to reflect the German infantry tactics. He documents how it did not work. DePuy was also the first TRADOC commander in 1973

G.S. Patton, Jr.
Lt. General U.S. Army, Commanding
11. The necessity for using all weapons to their maximum fire capacity during our attacks cannot be too strongly impressed on the soldiers. Any gun that is not firing is not doing it's job. In the assault where marching fire is used by the infantry, every gun, machine gun, and mortar must fire. Actual experiments have shown that using a relatively intense marching fire in an advance of over a thousand yards, that less than 35 rounds per rifle are actually expended. This is lower than would have been the case if we would have attempted to advance by rushes and taken three or four times as long reaching the enemy.

2. infantry

a. Infantry must move in order to close with the enemy. It must shoot in order to move. When physical targets are not visible, the fire of all infantry weapons must search the area probably occupied by the enemy. Use marching fire. It reduces the accuracy of his fire and increases our confidence. Shoot short. Ricochets make nastier sounds and wounds. To halt under fire is folly. To halt under fire and not fire back is suicide. Move forward out of fire. Officers must set the example.

b. The heavy weapons set the pace. In the battalion, the heavy weapons company paces the battalion. In the regiment, the cannon company paces the regiment, but it is the function of the rifles and light machine guns to see that the heavy weapons have a chance to move. In other words, the rifles and machine guns move the heavy weapons in to do the killing.

f. The M-1 rifle is the most deadly rifle in the world. If you cannot see the enemy, you can at least shoot at the place where he is apt to be.

11. The necessity for using all weapons to their maximum fire capacity during our attacks cannot be too strongly impressed on the soldiers. Any gun that is not firing is not doing it's job. In the assault where marching fire is used by the infantry, every gun, machine gun, and mortar must fire. Actual experiments have shown that using a relatively intense marching fire in an advance of over a thousand yards, that less than 35 rounds per rifle are actually expended. This is lower than would have been the case if we would have attempted to advance by rushes and taken three or four times as long-reaching the enemy.

Wasting ammo: not really a factor if the tactic is effective, it's the suppression that counts.

I found many historical examples of marching fire working in an assault as part of a combined arms attack, too many to post. The only examples of failures are the 90th div and a German attack that failed. It seemed like a common tactic for the US in W Europe as a way to keep the infantry moving. It most likely worked because of supporting combined arms fire, NOT just the rifle fire of advancing infantry. Without supporting fire or firepower superiority it would most likely fail. DePuy seems to agree too.

Regarding the F&M we use now. Depending on the terrain, when you hit the deck to shoot you may be out of the enemy LOS and cannot contribute to the suppressive fire. It will also slow down the advance. Standing up you have LOS – it works both ways which is why you need to have firepower superiority. When troops hit the deck it may be hard to get them moving again.

Explanations from a training document dated June 6, 1946:
It explains the right and "nonsensical" ways to use Marching fire

More detailed explanation:
PDF link

Wolfhag

Legion 408 Dec 2019 7:11 a.m. PST

It explains the right and "nonsensical" ways to use Marching fire
thumbs up

The only thing that came to mind. Was with everybody on the battlefield today, pretty much having an Assault Rifle, e.g. M4, AK, etc. Along with MMG and LMG, maybe GLs, RPGs, etc. in each squad. That is a lot more firepower generally than a WWII Squad had. Plus supporting fire assets today are much more accurate, efficient and effective.

So that would certainly influence the distances with anything like Marching Fire would be used, IMO.

And of course if you go online into the assault at closer ranges 20-30m. Ammo won't really be a concern because those short distances will be closed quickly and less ammo used. Once you are within spitting distance bayonets, may become useful.

UshCha08 Dec 2019 10:44 a.m. PST

Interesting marching fire as described is nothing like I had read about, 35 rounds in 1000 yds is 1 round every 28 yds or 1 about every 30 paces. That is not much at all. You may as well stop for a second or so to aim at a likely spot at that rate with no real drop in overall speed.

Wolfhag08 Dec 2019 12:00 p.m. PST

UshCha,
It's kind of hard to visualize a combined arms attack using this Marching Fire tactic. Depending on the terrain and depressions, an advance of 1000 yards may put you out of the LOS of the enemy for 20% or more of the time. It does describe the infantry using masking terrain when they can, that only makes sense as it will reduce causalities and the area fire from the rifles should be only a small % of the overall suppressive fire.

Ideally, the Squad Leader is going to control the rate of fire of his squad so if they are running low decrease the rate. I don't know how much ammo the rifleman carried for their M1s. Most likely 2 maybe 3 bandoleers which is 160-240 rounds. Each one could carry a 100 round belt for the MG too. If I were the Squad Leader I'd be loaded down with ammo and grenades. An experienced Squad Leader could adjust the rate of fire based on the distance to the objective and the number of rounds he has. If the advance was going well because of the MG, HE direct fire and mortars the Squad Leader could tell them to hold their fire and just advance without shooting as Andy O indicated.

It appears the key was to keep the infantry moving as the faster speed decreased causalities which seems counter-intuitive because you are standing and exposed. I would describe Marching Fire as fire and maneuver with the base of fire moving too.

A mortar round is going to be in the air from 30-40 seconds, depending on the range and propellant charge. This allows the infantry to advance 45-60 yards. That's going to make it difficult to range in on them unless they hit the deck, another reason to keep moving. If they are spread out 8-10 yards the burst will only effect 1 man maybe 2 at most. Again, the key is to keep moving.

Wolfhag

Legion 409 Dec 2019 7:51 a.m. PST

Wolf +1

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