From World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom, a recurring trend can be seen: On the battlefield, combat leaders develop integrated, combined-arms units, with combat-proven tactics and techniques. The needs of combat allow them to disregard flawed pre-war doctrine, established organizations, and training restrictions. After combat, armies resist making doctrinal or organizational changes. Organizations revert to single branch or weapon focus, combined arms training atrophies, combat lessons grow less relevant, and experienced men retire.
In 1945, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps had developed highly effective practices for small-unit tank-infantry coordination. By 2003, none of these practices were contained in any training manual in either service. The lessons of 1942-1945 had to be relearned in Iraq.
[See notes in brackets] Some of the following documents are available on-line at: www.2ndbn5thmar.com/tank/tank-infantry-page
John F. Antal. 2nd Battalion, 72d Armor Dragon Force Battalion SOP. Korea: 2nd Infantry Division, 1994-1996. A great unit-level publication, with a forward by division commander General Tommy Franks, written by a commander and his officers who had put a great deal of thought and energy into developing techniques on how to fight armor units in the defiles of Korea.
Roy E. Appleman, James M. Burns, Russell A. Gugeler, and John Stevens. Okinawa: The Last Battle. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1947. On Okinawa, one U.S. Army tank battalion, the 193rd, supporting an infantry battalion of the 27th Division, suffered extremely from a lack of tank-infantry coordination during a one-day attack. Of thirty U.S. Army tanks, three were stopped by mines or road hazards and five were shot by Japanese anti-tank guns enroute to the village objective. In the village, fourteen more tanks were disabled by mines, anti-tank guns, artillery, and close assault units. Six more tanks were attacked by suicide attackers who swarmed the unprotected tanks and destroyed them with satchel charges. At 1330, the tanks withdrew. Only eight vehicles of the original thirty made it back to the start point. The tanks had operated wholly without infantry support.
Robert J. Bodisch. Tank-Infantry Smartpack: The Urban Fight, Tools for the Tank-Infantry Team. Iraq: Charlie Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 1, 2005.
Robert J. Bodisch. Charlie Company, 2d Tank Battalion After Action Report, Operation Al Fajr. Iraq: Charlie Company, 2nd Tank Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 1, 8 January 2005.
Larry Q. Burris. Operation Iraqi Freedom After Action Review Comments. Iraq: Team C, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment, Task Force 1-64 Armor, 24 April 2003. The tank platoon’s pre-OIF urban training was invaluable in Iraq. The infantry squad attached to the tanks worked well and repelled an RPG attack, but radio communications between tanks and infantry was hobbled by field-expedient solutions.
William R. Campbell. Tanks With Infantry, Armored Cavalry Journal, September-October, 1947, pp 49-51. Although the 745th Tank Battalion was attached to the 1st Infantry Division three months before the Normandy invasion, it was not until after the D-Day landings that a tank platoon was attached to each infantry battalion. These attachments with the same tank platoons attached to the same infantry battalions continued for the rest of the war. In the fighting in the town of Aachen, four-man tank security teams were attached to each tank. The tank-infantry team should not be made up on the battlefield but must be trained long before battle.
Joseph D. Celeski. The Use of Armor and Mech Forces in Urban Operations: With Implications and Considerations for Special Operating Forces. February 2002.
Mark T. Calhoun. Defeat at Kasserine: American Armor Doctrine, Training, and Battle Command in Northwest Africa, World War II. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2003. Although poor leadership, inadequate equipment, and faulty training did contribute to the American defeat at Kasserine Pass in 1943, the underlying, more important, and rarely discussed reason for the defeat was flawed U.S. armor doctrine.
Michael Del Palazzo. After Action Report for Project Metropolis. Twentynine Palms, California: Third Platoon, Company B, 1st Tank Battalion, 4 December 2000.
Paul A. Disney. Tactical Problems for Armor Units. Harrisburg, PA: The Military Service Publishing Company, 1952. Disney, an experienced tanker who fought throughout Europe during World War II, presents fifteen tactical problems for tank leaders. Of note, every single tactical problem and diagram emphasizes the combined arms integration of infantry units. Fifty years later, these lessons have largely been lost due to tank doctrine’s Cold War focus on defeating Soviet tank armies.
Michael D. Doubler. Busting the Bocage: American Combined Arms Operations in France, 6 June ,31 July 1944. Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1988. Doubler recounts how the specific tactical problem of penetrating the well-defended hedgerows was solved by developing tank-infantry organizations and tactics while under fire during the Normandy campaign.
Michael D. Doubler. Closing with the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994. In European city fighting, the U.S. Army learned uncontestable lessons on the value of the combined-arms team. The tank developed into the key support weapon in city fighting. Despite battlefield experiences, new training manuals did not go far enough in advocating organizational changes or combined arms tactics and techniques.
- D. Duncan. Tanks and Infantry in Night Attacks,Armored Cavalry Journal, January-February, 1948, pp 56-61.
Kenneth W. Estes. Marines Under Armor: The Marine Corps and the Armored Fighting Vehicle, 1916-2000. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 2000. A detailed review of a half-century of Marine-specific armor practices and experiences, clearly linking doctrine, procurement and training with combat performance. After non-existent cooperation on Guadalcanal, Marine tanks received new radios that still couldn’t net with the infantry. 3rd Marines on Bougainville used M3 half-tracks as bunker-busting assault guns. On Cape Gloucester, tank sections were attached to infantry platoons. At Arawe, the U.S. Army’s 158th Regiment, working with Company B, 1st Marine Tank Battalion, attached a rifle squad to each tank. The 2nd Marine Division had almost no tank-infantry coordination prior to Tarawa some SOPs were worked out between Marines during the first intense night ashore but by Saipan coordinated assaults by tanks and vigilant infantry had become the norm. On Okinawa, infantrymen overwatched tanks, looking especially for traces of Japanese anti-tank guns, and protecting the vehicles from close-in assaults: not a single tank in action was destroyed by tank hunters. Light planes conducted talk-ons for tank-infantry teams. During the intense week long battle on Kunishi ridge, tankers delivered urgently needed supplies, ammunition, and 550 infantry reinforcements to the cut-off and exposed infantry companies of 7th Marines, and evacuated over 600 casualties. In Korea, regimental tank platoons became part of the infantry regiment’s T/O. By the early 1960s, the Marine Corps’ interest in helicopters negatively affected the tank’s perceived value. The 1980 publication, Marine Combined Arms Task Forces, reflected a lack of true mechanized doctrine even after thirty years of experience. The Marine could not balance heavy equipment requirements with strategic lift limitations. The Gulf War, and the success of the four fielded Marine Corps Armored Task Forces, propelled the Marine Corps finally into the heavy mechanized fight. In 1993, the Krulak board recommended a Combined Arms Regiment (CAR) as a standing infantry-LAR-tank-artillery team. But doctrine never envisioned tank units as the basis for offensive combat power, still relegating them to the anti-armor role. The Marine Corps completed acquisition of the M1 fifteen years after it became the Army standard.
Benis M. Frank and Henry I. Shaw, Jr. Victory and Occupation: History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in World War II, Volume V. Washington: Historical Branch, G-3 Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1968. Each of the Pacific island campaigns contributed to the continuous development of Marine tank-infantry team tactics, organizations, and techniques.
Oscar E. Gilbert. Marine Tank Battles in Korea. Havertown, PA: Casement, 2003.
Oscar E. Gilbert. Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, 2001. Although primarily focused on Marine WWII tank equipment and tank units, Gilbert does touch on the development of Marine infantry tank doctrine and tactics. After Tarawa, where there had been very little pre-invasion tank-infantry coordination, the 2nd Marine Division trained extensively at Parker Ranch on Hawaii. By Saipan, the division’s tank-infantry teams were fully integrated and highly effective. By the battle of Okinawa in 1945, Marine Corps units had fully implemented their hard-won tank-infantry lessons the importance of small-unit integration and pre-invasion training, clear command relationships, habitual assignments, equipment modifications, and tank-infantry tactics such as target designation using tank phones, using tracers to mark targets, and close-in infantry protection of tanks.
John Gordon IV and Bruce R. Pirnie. Everybody Wanted Tanks: Heavy Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Armed Forces Journal, Number 39, pp 84-90.
Bruce I. Gudmundsson. On Armor. Westport, CN: Praeger, 2004. An overview of the history of armor. Gudmundsson does not focus on vehicle development, but analyses how different armies addressed specific warfighting challenges. Armored force development is shown to be an interplay between history, theory, industrial capability, military budgets, strong personalities, organizational design, doctrine, and battlefield experiences.
[See On Armor]
Karl J. Gunzelman. White Knight Or White Elephant: The M1A1 Abrams In The Marine Corps. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Army Command and General Staff College, 1989. The Marine Corps has procured a main battle tank that fails to adequately support its doctrinal mission as an infantry support weapon. The M1A1 was designed to destroy tanks, not support infantry, and has few features required of a good infantry support vehicle such as ammunition variety, and redundant communications capabilities.
Emerson F. Hurley. Tank-Infantry Teamwork At Its Peak In The Armored Division, Armored Cavalry Journal, May-June, 1947, pp 27-28. In 1944, the Fifth Armored Division attached a half-track mounted infantry squad to each tank. Each of these married squads ate, slept, trained, and fought as a single combined-arms tank-infantry team. The secret of combined infantry and tank fighting is to keep the same infantry squad with the same tank crew all the time.
[See Tank-Infantry Teamwork]
Jon Latimer. Alamein. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. The British Army’s lack of pre-war tank doctrine and the 1935 Field Service Regulations’ separation of armor into infantry and cruiser tanks, hindered operations throughout WWII. British Army hippomania love of horses and cavalry traditions led to gross deficiencies in armor training, especially the mistaken belief that tanks could operate without infantry support. Strong regimental traditions and mindsets also prevented the development of integrated combined-arms teams.
Leonard Lawton. Tank Infantry Team, Marine Corps Gazette, November 1945, p 30. Explains tank-infantry techniques developed during the war in the Pacific. Marine infantry served as the tank’s eyes and ears, directing fire, designating targets, and protecting the tanks against suicide bombers. Multiple combined arms drills were developed, including corkscrew and blowtorch. The bunker drill emphasizing communication and fire coordination, was a demolition, flamethrower, bazooka, tank and infantry combined arms drill. Sometimes artillery, air, and naval gunfire was included. An enemy position was fixed by the tank-infantry team of machineguns , bazooka, and rifle fire. A flame-demo team of flamethrowers and demolitions closed on the position. Tanks and flamethrowers destroyed the position, then demolitions sealed the position. Habitual relationships helped build tank-infantry coordination.
- B. McBreen.Tank-Infantry Insights from World War II.2005.
- B. McBreen.Marine Mechanized Formations in OIF.Washington: 2003. A comparison of Marine mechanized formations in Operation Iraqi Freedom to German formations of World War II.
- L.Mudd.Development of the American Tank-Infantry Team During World War II in Africa and Europe, Armor, September-October, 1999, pp 15-22.
Stephen L. Parrish. A Light Tap with a Strong Arm: Doctrine and Employment of Marine Corps Armor from 1965 to 1975, Armor, September-October, 1992, p 18. A critical look at Marine Corps tank employment during the Vietnam years.
Bryan Perrett. Iron Fist: Classic Armoured Warfare Case Studies. Leicester, UK: Brockhampton Press Ltd., 2001. In all the Pacific islands campaigns, in Papua / New Guinea, in Burma, and in India, attacking the well-built Japanese bunkers fell to tank-infantry teams of the Commonwealth forces. The historian of the Australian Royal Armoured Corps commented without tanks the infantry very often found it impossible to close with the enemy.
Richard E. Simpkin. Mechanized Infantry. New York: Pergamon Press, Inc., 1980. Armor consists of the tanks and the dismounted infantrymen who work with them. There is no distinction. One school, one doctrine, one body of tactics, one on-scene commander, one unit.
Michael D. Skaggs. Tank-Infantry Integration, Marine Corps Gazette, June 2005.
Douglas Stewart. MOUT Battle Drills for Infantry and Tanks, Infantry, May-June 1993.
Rudolf Steiger. Armour Tactics in the Second World War. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, Ltd., 1992. Chapter 4, Armour and Infantry, explains the radical pre-war German philosophy of not tying the new weapon, the tank, to the old doctrine and the old weapons. General Guderian wrote that tanks needed mobile infantry specially trained and equipped to support tanks. The infantry, engineers, and artillery in the panzer units were then the supporting weapons to the tank. The French, British, and U.S. only came to this philosophy on the battlefields of World War II. Tanks needed to remember, however, that their primacy was not absolute and they could not afford to outrun their supporting units. They depended on the combined arms effects of the infantry, engineers, anti-tank, aviation, and artillery.
Allyn R. Vannoy and Jay Karamales. Against the Panzers: United States Infantry versus German Tanks, 1944-1945. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1996. Vannoy and Karamales extract multiple after-action reports to show how U.S. units fighting German tanks overcame a lack of pre-combat combined arms training and teamwork and worked out techniques on the battlefield.
[See Against the Panzers]
Harry Yeide. Steel Victory: The Heroic Story of America’s Independent Tank Battalions at War in Europe. New York: Presidio Press, 2003. The U.S. WWII independent tank battalions, fielded specifically to work with infantry divisions, developed and adjusted tank-infantry teamwork in combat. Most of these lessons were lost as post-war tankers focused primarily on the actions of the armored divisions. Yeide’s chronology includes insights on using tank machinegun fire to cover maneuvering infantry, transporting infantry on tanks, the difficulties of voice coordination, the dangers of separation, the challenges for tanks of identifying friendly units and enemy positions in combat, and the myriad skills infantrymen need to work with tanks.
[See Steel Victory]
FM 3-20.15 Tank Platoon. Washington: HQ Department of the Army, 1 November 2001.
FM 3-90.1 Tank and Mechanized Infantry Company Team. Washington: HQ Department of the Army, 9 December 2001.
FM 3-90.2 The Tank and Mechanized Infantry Battalion Task Force. Washington: HQ Department of the Army, 11 June 2003.
FM 17-5 Organization and Tactics of Tank Destroyer Units. Washington: HQ Department of the Army, 16 June, 1942. The original tank destroyer doctrinal publication is a practical and useful manual. A focused and important wartime effort, the manual clearly explains the tactical challenges of how to fight tanks. It has hundreds of useful tactical map diagrams showing the right and wrong techniques for defilade, cover, ambush, overwatch, defense, and multiple other tactical procedures.
FM 17-20 Armored Infantry Units: Platoon, Company and Battalion. Washington: HQ Department of the Army, August 1957. This out-of-date Army manual focuses on tank infantry integration and the mission of armored infantry to get the tanks forward. Illustrations show tanks and infantrymen working in concert, infantry platoon attacks supported by tanks, and infantry formations and immediate actions to protect tanks.
TC 7-3-1 How to Defend with Mechanized Infantry and Light Infantry Platoons. Washington: HQ Department of the Army, 30 June 1975. Interesting handbook for integrated defense, including a diagrammed step-by-step study of the Battle of Singling, 6 December 1994.
Tank-Infantry Fight in Fallujah. The details of a tank-infantry action by A/1/8 in Fallujah, Iraq on 11 November 2004 are described.