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Soviet Infantry Squad Composition and Doctrine

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by johnwalker1, Mar 16, 2020.

  1. johnwalker1

    johnwalker1 New Member

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    Hi! I've encountered different claims that the soviet infantry squad was composed of ten men (1 sergeant, an LMG team, and 7 riflemen), 11 (same composition but with six riflemen and two SMGs), or even 12 men. Which is correct?

    Also, I don't understand how a composite squad featuring both rifles and SMGs would operate. 3.99 British Pounds to US Dollars, convert 3.99 GBP to USD
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2020
  2. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

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    the SMGs give you greater firepower
    there are many aspects
    ...the SMGs would be the ''main'' base/point in house clearing--not rifles
    ..the SMGs might be at the point/main area/etc for a final push into an objective
    ...they can give suppressive fire while other squad members move on the battlefield
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2020
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The Soviet infantry squad structure is a complicated subject. There were many changes to the structure and organisation during the course of the War. Zaloga and Ness' "Red Army Handbook" has the chapter and verse of the T&OE changes.

    The simple answer is that the Red Army Squad structure was not the result of a rational design for the ideal infantry squad, but reflected the equipment and manpower available as well as tactical lessons.

    In 1939 the Soviets had a 15 man squad - one light machine gun and 14 riflemen. The Russo Finnish war taught them that a 15 man squad was too cumbersome and, from the receiving end, that sub machine guns were a useful addition to the section armoury.

    By June 1941, on paper , a the squad had 11 men. These were a squad leader, a two man LMG team two men with SMGs and six men with semi automatic rifles. During the rest of 1941 and 1942 the weapons production did not keep up with the rate at which units were being formed and lost. So by the end of July 1941 only two out of the four squads in a platoon was authorised an LMG.

    By 1942 each squad had its own LMG, and sniper rifles added to the company, In July 1942 the Soviets were short of manpower and squad size dropped to nine men: two NCOs and seven privates. In December 1942 a further restructuring gave two of the four squads in a platoon an extra LMG. A platoon of 40 would have four squads of nine and platoon HQ of four with a total of six light machine guns, fourteen semi automatic rifles, four PPSh SMPs, and two sniper rifles and fourteen bolt action rifles.

    During 1943 further reductions in the authorised manpower led to a platoon consisting of a platoon commander and three sections of a sergeant and ten men, with one LMG. When manpower was further constrained units would lose a platoon per company or squad per platoon. But the rifle section was about ten men with an LMG (or sometimes two) - plus one or two men with SMG and the remainder with bolt action or semi automatic rifles.

    The Red army also increased the proportion of sub machine guns in infantry establishments.
    The 9 April 1941 T&OE for an infantry division of 14,483 lists 10,420 rifles and 1,204 SMG (10%)
    The June 1945 T &OE has an infantry division of 11,780 with 6,118 rifles and 3,557 machine guns (33%+)

    Many of the SMG Armed soldiers were concentrated into SMG Companies, initially one per regiment and then two. By the end of 1944 the Red army had plentiful supplies of the popular PPSh SMG Local adaptations were to re-arm one platoon in each rifle company with SMGs, sometimes but not always, retaining the PD LMG.

    So returning to your question, the Soviets officially only issued one or two SMG per rifle squad, not dissimilar to the British or Germans, If these were the weapons of the Squad Leader and the LMG No 2 there would be little disadvantage in a long range firefight, while adding to the volume of automatic fire at close range.

    The majority of SMG armed infantry were in SMG companies, or platoons. That gave infantry commanders the options of having squads and platoons equipped with LMG as a point of fire with the assault made by SMG armed infantry with a huge volume of close range fire.

    That make sense?
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2020
  4. OldCavGuy

    OldCavGuy New Member

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    Question. The Soviet Army had a rifle grenade launcher. Do you have the manner in which it was issued?
     
  5. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Did they? What was its designation and what did it look like?
     
  6. OldCavGuy

    OldCavGuy New Member

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    A Mosan Negant with a cup launcher that looks like an enormous silencer. 1941 each squad had a mix of a LMG, a sniper, a GL team, and rifles. The first thing the Soviets dropped from their squads was the grenade launcher team. The sniper would be next.
     
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  7. GaryJKennedy

    GaryJKennedy New Member

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    There were around ten different iterations of Shtat (table of organisation) for a Red Army Rifle Regiment issued between 1939 and 1945. The Red Army Handbook does detail the chronology well, however a bit more info has become available since it was published and some is a click away.

    The wwww.rkka.ru website has an html version of the Combat Regulations of the Red Army, dated February 1938. If you click on the second link in the below page (suffixed 1938.r) it takes you to the main page.

    Рабоче-Крестьянская Красная Армия

    The fourth link down (Глава третья. Стрелковое отделение) is for the Rifle Squad. That shows a 12 strong element, and from right to left consists of Leader, observer (in this case I think also sniper), gunner, assistant gunner, rifle grenadier, asst grenadier and six riflemen. If you go to the last link on the main page for the manual there's a glossary explaining the symbols.

    That's the first Squad described in the old Red Army Handbook and is dated to the Rifle Regt shtat 04/21 of September 1939. That was superseded in April 1940 by a new Rifle Regt org on 04/101, which appears to have kept the same Squad size. Unfortunately it doesn't appear that either document remains and it's not until April 1941 that the full details exist.

    Shtat 04/401 reduced the Squad to 11 men - Sergeant (R), two LMG (P, R and LMG) crewmen and eight riflemen (6R and 2SMG). Also across the Rifle Platoon of four Squads, two men were issued with sniper rifles.

    In July 1941 a Reduced Strength version of the Rifle Regt was introduced (04/601) that kept the Squad strength but reduced their weapons. Two of the Squads kept their LMG, and it appears that both the gunner and assistant had no individual weapon allocated. There were two SMGs and two sniper rifles across the four Rifle Squads. December 1941 (04/751) gained a little bit back, with the third Squad adding an LMG and a now three SMGs and two sniper rifles across the Platoon.

    In March 1942 (04/201) there was an optimistic return to a 12 strong Squad - Sergeant (R), Junior Sergeant (LMG), asst gunner (R), 9 riflemen (8R and 1SMG). There were only 3 SMGs across the four Squad so at least one went without one. The sniper get kicked up to Pl HQ at this point.

    In July 1942 you finally see a neat, balanced, T/O (04/301), with all four Squads on the same format, though the Squad is cut back to nine men - Sergeant (R), Junior Sergeant (LMG), asst gunner (R), six riflemen (5R and 1SMG).

    December 1942 sees the final 'full strength' shtats for the Rifle Regt (04/551 and 04/501, the latter for Guards). Two Squads stay as above (July 1942) while the other two change to - Sergeant (R), 2 Junior Sergeants (2LMG), 2 asst gunners (2R) and four riflemen (3R and 1SMG). From May 1943 there's a vastly increased issue of SMGs; each Rifle Squad leader receives one in exchange for a rifle, and one of the three Rifle Platoons in each Rifle Company is converted to an SMG Platoon. They swap out their standard rifles for SMGs, but keep the six LMGs and the two sniper rifles in Platoon HQ.

    There were multiple variations of reduced strength units, that saw Squad sizes reduced further. Oddly the 11 man Squad described in the Red Army handbook isn't one I've seen in Red Army documents, and comes from a German intelligence summary. The very last wartime Shtat (05/41) is for a Guards Rifle Regt, dated December 1944 though it's not clear whether it was actually used. That brought the Squad down to six men - Sergeant (SMG), Junioer Sergeant (LMG), asst gunner (R) and three riflemen (2R and 1SMG). One Squad had to lose a rifleman to provide the Platoon commander with a runner again. The third Platoon again exchanged rifles for SMGs.

    So as outlined it was a long and winding road for the Red Army Rifle Squad, with the book strengths complicated further by local unit reductions.

    Gary
     
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