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"US WW2 Infantry Platoon" Topic


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Comments or corrections?

captaincold6923 Jan 2023 2:48 p.m. PST

Can someone clear something up for me? The typical US Infantry platoon was made up of

1x HQ command
3x squads (rifles and 1 BAR each)

Is that about right? Did the platoon have a seperate MG team or was there an attached MG team to one of the squads?

Thanks

Fingerspitzengefuhl23 Jan 2023 3:07 p.m. PST
captaincold6923 Jan 2023 3:09 p.m. PST

Perfect, thanks!

Thresher0123 Jan 2023 10:19 p.m. PST

Marines in the Pacific had up to three bars per squad, for a 12 man unit, during the late war, from what I've read.

Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP24 Jan 2023 1:24 a.m. PST

I believe the number of B.A.R.s increased in the last days of the war in Europe too, to try and compensate for the Germans extensive use of automatic weapons.

Griefbringer24 Jan 2023 7:31 a.m. PST

Did the platoon have a seperate MG team or was there an attached MG team to one of the squads?

As shown in the previous link, there is no MG in US leg infantry platoon (these being instead held at company level).

However, US armored infantry platoons had integral MG squad (two guns) and mortar squad (one 60 mm mortar), in addition to the rifle squads.

And the rifle squads in para platoons tended to pack a M1919 MG of their own instead of BAR.

For more detailed TOEs for these different kinds of units I would recommend visiting the following website:

link

Trajanus24 Jan 2023 9:01 a.m. PST

The Marines did indeed have three BARs later in the War. This enabled them to conduct what was known as "Barking Fire" where the three weapons were directed at one specific target.

Each BAR emptied is magazine in turn while the others changed there's out and then repeated the cycle. This enabled a virtual stream of fire against strong points etc to be maintained, even with the BAR's limited magazine capacity.

In NWE Platoons/Squads gradually "obtained" a second BAR per Squad, by semi authorised means. Drawing them from Company/Battalion reserve weapons and somehow forgetting to return them.

Eventually "the powers that be" saw the way things were going, acknowledged the improvement and wrote it into practice, long after it had become accepted as the norm.

SBminisguy24 Jan 2023 5:23 p.m. PST

As shown in the previous link, there is no MG in US leg infantry platoon (these being instead held at company level).

However, US armored infantry platoons had integral MG squad (two guns) and mortar squad (one 60 mm mortar), in addition to the rifle squads.

Yep, MGs and Mortars could be assigned to a Platoon by the Company Commander based on the Mission, but it was pretty common for most Platoons to have an attached Medic assigned by the Battalion-level Medical unit.

Andy ONeill25 Jan 2023 8:30 a.m. PST

Our interviews with us veterans back in the seventies included some info about BAR usage.
The BAR was not universally popular.
Some units liked them and scrounged more, some did not like them and carried none.

They are quite heavy and it was common to remove the bipod. Some veterans said the resultant automatic rifle had too low a mag capacity to be worth lugging around rather than an smg or garand or M1 carbine.

I feel their accounts are believable but apply salt to taste.

Perhaps similarly, Audie Murphy didn't quite get the memo on how fab the garand (of bar) was and preferred a carbine.

thomalley25 Jan 2023 10:40 a.m. PST

On Guadalcanal the Marines were salvaging rear MGs from trashed dive bombers to increase their firepower.

Blutarski25 Jan 2023 4:00 p.m. PST

Interesting factoid –
More M1 carbines were manufactured during WW2 than M1 Garands.

B

Skarper26 Jan 2023 1:25 a.m. PST

A key factor is carrying a BAR made you a target as you stood out from the crowd. Many probably felt it was not worth the added risk for a marginal increase in firepower.

Carbines were light, shorter, had lower recoil and still useful for close range – <200 metres?

Many – perhaps most – infantrymen have their own agenda centred around their survival and comfort that conflicts with the needs of the mission/unit.

I don't think anyone in 1941 would choose to use a BAR as a squad lmg replacement – but the US went with what they had.

The Garand was good and made up in part for the shortcomings of the BAR. And the US usually being on the attack and needing to move rather than sit in cover and shoot, a proper MG like the MG34/42 would have been less than ideal. Gamers often ignore the fact that any gun is useless without ammo and a real MG will need a lot of ammo. The Germans could issue 2 MGs to motorised units and on the defence it could be stockpiled to a degree.

British and Commonwealth units gave each section a Bren and 1000 rounds divided among the riflemen. This included the 50 rounds or so each was supposed to use for their SMLE.

Starfury Rider26 Jan 2023 6:04 a.m. PST

I know I've said it before but it's worth repeating in particular reference to the BAR – the US Army did not have a light machine gun in the mould of the Bren, DP, Type 99, Breda, or others for the simple reason that they did not want one. The US Army approach was entirely different, in that they opted to place the burden of fire production not on a handful of LMGs but on the riflemen themselves.

The BAR was kept at Platoon level in the US Army pre their entry into the war, in a dedicated BAR Squad. Subsequently, the BAR Squad was abolished and the BAR was incorporated into the Rifle Squad. That did not alter the fundamental approach, in that the riflemen generated the bulk of the fire, with the BARs now providing closer support than before, but still in terms of short, sharp bursts of automatic fire against key targets.

The use of the term LMG to describe the M1919A4, which was tripod mounted and belt-fed and required more than a couple of men to operate it, sits a bit awkwardly in comparison to the magazine fed, bipod LMG. It was though expected to provide support akin to the belt-fed, tripod mounted, water-cooled M1917A1 (from which the M1919A4 was derived). The M1919A4 was more of a 'lighter' machine gun than a light machine gun, coming in at around 45lbs complete, compared to circa 94lbs for the M1917A1 (both exclusive of ammunition).

The LMG Section of the standard Rifle Company Weapons Platoon was not expected to be split up and parcelled out to be controlled by individual Rifle Platoon commanders. They represented the most powerful reserve of automatic fire directly available to the Company. By June 1944 an extra six LMGs were authorised to the Infantry Battalion and six BARs per Rifle Company, but there was no according increase in manpower to operate them.

Gary

Trajanus27 Jan 2023 10:14 a.m. PST

Don't forget the M1919A6. Which was the A4 with a mounted bipod, lighter barrel and detachable shoulder stock. In action from early 1944, for the most part in the ETO. Made it into Korea as well.

A product of what's been described as "MG42 Envy" in modern times. But still ended up heaver than the A4 without its tripod.

I have read that Armoured Infantry Platoons issued 1919's directly their Squads. I assume that was via splitting off men from the Weapons Platoon and in lieu of having BARs.

As per a lot of things WW2 no doubt "it depends". A long War, lots of changes and improvisations.

Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian27 Jan 2023 10:46 a.m. PST

I knew a fellow who came in as a replacement during the fighting in Huertgen Forest, if I understood him correctly. He was a good shot, so they made him a BAR gunner.

Andy ONeill27 Jan 2023 10:47 a.m. PST

A few random thoughts.

Armoured infantry had their half track to stash things in. They were pretty crowded but if you didn't fancy lugging something heavy around for a while, you could leave it and it'd be there for later.

The Bar man had an assistant in the early org. That seems to have proven pointless and the bar quickly became a one man no assistant thing.

US infantry could expect lots of support from other units in the form of arty and mgs. Loads of vehicles with an mg on top. They might not have felt the need for more in squad firepower.

Wargamers tend to view things in terms of fire factors. They do not have to sit in a muddy hole in the ground with wet socks and lug things round. A lot of soldiers spent much more of their time carrying kit than using it in combat. An individual might not actually see a German for months. Those that did might not have got to tell their stories. Although I would think that might bias the population towards most effective choices.

donlowry27 Jan 2023 4:37 p.m. PST

I would think that to many a soldier, the (live) enemy was only seen when either he or they surrendered. Otherwise, they were just a bunch of bullets coming out of a tree line a few hundred yards away, or a bunch of artillery shells falling all around.

Trajanus28 Jan 2023 8:24 a.m. PST

The Bar man had an assistant in the early org. That seems to have proven pointless and the bar quickly became a one man no assistant thing.

I think that's part of the BAR Good Thing/Bad Thing debate. Certainly when compared to the Bren with its top loading magazine.

The BAR gunner was pretty much forced to change out Mags himself, where as the Bren gunner, particularly if lying prone while giving covering/suppression fire, could rely on a #2 next to him to do it, as soon as the gun was out.

Starfury Rider28 Jan 2023 9:16 a.m. PST

The T/Os always allowed for a three-man team to serve the BAR, with an automatic rifleman, assistant automatic rifleman and ammunition bearer per Rifle Squad. That stayed the same right through from the April 1942 org to the June 1945 (Redeployment) version intended for the invasion of Japan. The latter gave the AR man two stripes as well.

Armored Infantry Companies did not have a Weapons Platoon, the Rifle Platoon had a pair of M1919 LMGs in their MG Squad and a 60-mm mortar in their Mortar Squad.

Gary

Trajanus29 Jan 2023 3:19 a.m. PST

Yes, you are totally correct on the Weapons Platoon.

I think I must have had seen the idea relating to splitting the MG Squad to the two Rifle Squads rather than using it as a base of fire.

Of course that would always be an option. Doesn't mean it needed to be a permanent feature.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP29 Jan 2023 6:01 p.m. PST

Starfury Rider is correct: American doctrine assumed that the majority of firepower from a rifle squad would come from its riflemen, using the semi-automatic M1 Garand. The BAR was was a support weapon which could add firepower to help out the riflemen when necessary. This is in marked contrast to a German rifle squad where the LMG was the main source of firepower and the riflemen were there to support (by carrying extra ammo) and protect the LMG team.

Griefbringer31 Jan 2023 11:55 p.m. PST

I think I must have had seen the idea relating to splitting the MG Squad to the two Rifle Squads rather than using it as a base of fire.

That is naturally a possibility, especially on defense – on the move a full strenght rifle squad with MG team attached would make for a bit largish maneuver element.

Furthermore, all of the halftracks mounted their own AAMG (.30 or .50 cal) which could be in principle be dismounted as long as a tripod was carried on the halftrack. However, this would be a rather involved operation, especially with the rather heavy .50 cal weapon.

Armoured infantry platoon must have been quite a circus to control, especially the earlier version which had a command squad, two rifle squads, MG squad (of two weapons), mortar squad, anti-tank gun and five halftracks.

Andy ONeill01 Feb 2023 12:27 p.m. PST

I think taking 50 cals off a half track was far from usual. It's hard work.

Trajanus01 Feb 2023 1:08 p.m. PST

Did all they carry the tripod mount any way? Given the Air Defence role, it sounds like something enterprising GIs might lose along the way.

Even if they did carry it the combined weight of the .50 + tripod is around 128lb, or some such, you wouldn't want to lug that too far.

Hornswoggler01 Feb 2023 9:03 p.m. PST

I don't buy the story of the MG squad being split up and parceled out. If a rifle squad needed an MG for a particular job there was a standard drill with pre-designated roles for dismounting the vehicle MG and yes, the tripod was part of the standard equipment of every vehicle.

I agree with Andy that dismounting a .50 from the vehicles which carried those would be rare.

Starfury Rider02 Feb 2023 3:04 a.m. PST

I always found it odd that the Armd Rifle Pl got two LMGs to itself while the standard Rifle Coy only had two LMGs total. In most armies though the basic fire unit for MGs was two guns, so perhaps it was derived from that.

Griefbringer02 Feb 2023 5:07 a.m. PST

Even if they did carry it the combined weight of the .50 + tripod is around 128lb, or some such, you wouldn't want to lug that too far.

And then there is the ammo, which is a fair bit heavier to lug around than the .30 cal version.

However, the official ammo load for the .50 cal was around 500-600 rounds, which might be sufficient for self-defense of the vehicle, but a bit limited for extended action against enemy positions. Enterprising GIs could of course try to acquire additional ammo stash if they really wanted to and had spare room on their halftrack.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP02 Feb 2023 6:26 a.m. PST

At the minimum, you'd need a pull cart unless you had a vehicle: theliberator.be/handcart.htm

Wolfhag

Trajanus02 Feb 2023 8:24 a.m. PST

picture

Here's a movie version! 🤣

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