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"Company Commander map detail" Topic

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Last Hussar24 Mar 2021 10:48 a.m. PST

What sort of level of detail woul be available on a Coy Commander map.

I've put on woods, orchards. Would crops (tomato plantations*, other crops, vineyards) be marked.

*Sicilian tomato plants grow up to 6 meters high, they are definitely a factor at platoon level.

Rod MacArthur24 Mar 2021 11:00 a.m. PST

Modern company commanders may well have terrain maps. In WW2 the Allies would have had much more general maps showing towns, villages, woods etc. Germans company commanders often did not have maps at all.


Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian24 Mar 2021 11:17 a.m. PST

1:50,000 or 1:25,000 if 'lucky' in the modern day

WW-II US had 1:100,000 (1 cm =1 km) or most of Europe though I suspect these were are Division and Higher.

Michelin for some Armor units in WW-II

Nine pound round24 Mar 2021 2:39 p.m. PST

Modern at the company and battalion level were, in my experience, invariably 1:50,000, showing contoured elevations, structures, vegetation, watercourses, roads, railroads, etc. Since WWI, gridded for reporting and artillery call for fire.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2021 4:49 p.m. PST

I'm with Saber6 and 9 pound round, 1:50000 is it, with one klick grids.

We had been using imagery in briefings for a few years (which is much more detailed) but not operationally, and by the end of my time in the Marine Corps (2004) we were actually carrying imagery of the objective in congested urban areas, with a tactical overlay (I can't think of what we called the damn thing) that showed all the buildings and gave them an alpha-numeric designator. We would use 1:50000 maps to get there, then once on the objective we could reference specific buildings by their designator ("just cleared A1, moving to A2," "taking fire from B5," "men down in C3," etc…) using the imagery/overlay.

My point is that you're talking about WWII, and the maps being used even today aren't anywhere near as detailed as a lot of people think. This is why so much is talked about reconnaissance in operational planning. Recon isn't just, or even primarily, to find the enemy (which is what it seems like wargamers think it's for); recon is done to make sure you know where you're at in relation to the objective, that you're able to identify key landmarks to aid in navigation, to identify obstacles (both natural and manmade), to scout out (maybe even mark) the route to your staging area, positively identify the Line of Departure and unit boundaries, identify covered and concealed approaches to the objective, various rally points, etc…

Because of the limitations of showing micro terrain on the maps, a significant portion of reconnaissance was also about sketching the terrain, which we were taught in Boot Camp and various other professional courses (leadership courses, division schools, etc…).

Wargamers seem to think small unit commanders always know exactly where they're at, exactly where they're going, and exactly how to get there, and the only issue is figuring out where the enemy is. Couldn't be further from the truth.

Sorry if this got off topic and/or isn't helping you get where you're trying to go.


robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2021 4:59 p.m. PST

Figure 1:50,000 for post-WWII armies. Better for commando missions--sometimes. But that's at best. Troops in Grenada had road maps with a grid overlay. Soviets didn't teach map reading to enlisted men, so if the officer was killed, quality of the map didn't matter much. The only 1:25,000 I ever saw were for terrain we'd been garrisoning for 40+ years--and Grenada after the invasion to make it look bigger.

For the World Wars at company level, think road maps at best for mobile ops, possibly supplemented with sketch maps from scouts and locals. The detailed maps show up with static fronts or invasions. You can get very nice stuff if someone's been planning the invasion for a year. Again, commandos may have really good maps--but it may be more detailed than accurate.

And they were scarce. Bellah tells a story about a Compton Packenham of the Coldstream Guards in WWI planning an attack with only one map for the brigade. His superior was very upset when when he was shot and began bleeding on the map. (Pack did not sign up for WWII. Something about having had enough of the March of Empire.)

Legionarius24 Mar 2021 7:58 p.m. PST

Jack and Robert +1 each! In my day, I was pretty good at map reading and navigation; but I can confess that I got lost now and then in the worst of circumstances. When you are sleep deprived, hungry, cold, or bathed in sweat and mud as well as concerned about the mission, it's easy to get "temporarily misoriented." Few things are more embarrassing for a small unit leader when he is being followed by his soldiers. As others have said, 1:50,000 maps are pretty good; but not good enough for micro terrain features and often years out of date. Cheers!

gamershs Supporting Member of TMP24 Mar 2021 11:00 p.m. PST

One of my jobs in the Army was Bn map custodian for our Artillery Bn. Would track the upgrades of maps and when 5 to 6 1/50000 maps had been upgraded would go to map depot and pick them up. Each set of maps were put in a powder canister (they were water sealed) and had a seal on it. The seal would be broken and maps exchanged and then resealed with the battery map custodians dispose of the old maps. As I remember there were about 120 canasters and the standard order was for 150 copies of each map. The remaining maps went into storage and would be used for Officer/NCO map books (for our expected area of ops) or replacements if a canaster was opened for an emergency. Some old maps were kept for training classes.

As I remember the maps would show detail down to individual buildings in suburban areas.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2021 2:43 a.m. PST

I was forgetting--or at least thinking of the ETO and MTO. Read some stuff on the Pacific. Toll has material in The Conquering Tide. We were sending troops ashore in major invasions where there simply were no maps of the interior, and coastal maps were wildly inaccurate.

If the question is "What sort of map should a wargamer commanding a WWII company be given for planning before he sees the table?" I think the answer is 1:50K for D-Day or Dieppe, road map for mobile ops, and all too often a verbal description or sketch map otherwise. And it's important to remember that they're going to be wrong some of the time.

uglyfatbloke25 Mar 2021 2:59 a.m. PST

Last Hussar…..I think you could go with 'nothing much of any real value' and be pretty much on the button almost every time.

Nine pound round25 Mar 2021 3:28 a.m. PST

I once discovered- while calling for fire- that the depot at Ft Bragg had issued new 1:50k maps on the WGS-84 datum to replace the older maps with the NAD-27 datum. They just didn't tell us.

Nothing illustrates the importance of common survey to accurate predicted fire like trying to figure out why the same spot has two completely different grid coordinates.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP25 Mar 2021 4:02 a.m. PST

I know the Army printed out colossal numbers of maps (I was reading a history that was talking about the immensity of the war effort and had a list of all the stuff manufactured and it included something like 250 million maps printed). So there were a lot out there, what scale and how many found their way into the hands of company commanders is anyone's guess.

Carlos Von B25 Mar 2021 5:00 a.m. PST

As others have said a lot depends on the situation, however 1:50,000 and !:25,000 maps were available. If there was lots of time to prepare for an operation in a static area then the larger scale maps would probably be used, however the sheer number of large scale maps required to cover an area means on a rapidly moving front it would be difficult to keep up the supply.

1:25,000 maps for D-Day:

Good site for 1:50,000 Italy WW2:

Carlos Von B25 Mar 2021 5:35 a.m. PST

Those 1:100,000 Germany maps. These are British ones:


The US version of them was not as detailed (I have a full set of these reprinted post war):


Both are redrawn from a 1934 German series.

ScoutJock25 Mar 2021 8:41 a.m. PST

Don't forget that IRL all battles have to be fought at the corner intersection of 4 map sheets.

Or at least it seems that way.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP25 Mar 2021 10:11 a.m. PST

Actually, it's three map sheets in two scales--and one of the three is missing. (The other ones show roads they're going to build some day, but miss the five year old fortifications and the ten year old swamp drainage, suburb and canal.)

uglyfatbloke25 Mar 2021 12:15 p.m. PST

Also, uphill and in the rain.

COL Scott ret25 Mar 2021 8:38 p.m. PST

With inadequate food or sleep.

Nine pound round26 Mar 2021 4:52 a.m. PST

And working off a three day old written OPORD, supplemented with only fragmentary orders and oral updates to the situation.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP26 Mar 2021 2:02 p.m. PST

And one of the FRAGO's was based on a complete misreading of the situation. (No, of course they weren't received in the order they were issued. Why would you even ask? Just be grateful you can find the town on your map--if it IS the same town.)

wargamingUSA26 Mar 2021 2:28 p.m. PST

Well, depending on how well mapped an area was and what the supply situation was… the Co. CO might just be looking at a Michelin road map.

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