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What do you think was the ideal ratio of armor to infantry in an Armored Div?

Discussion in 'Tank Warfare of World War 2' started by Andy235, Feb 8, 2018.

  1. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    What model of division in which army had the best ratio of tanks to infantry, artillery, AT and AA guns and support personnel? What do you think would be ideal and what nation came closest to creating a well balanced armored force? This also includes quality of the various tanks and other weapons in the division.
     
  2. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    With or without attachments? With attachments a US Infantry Division may come close to the ideal.
     
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  3. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    I was thinking what the best organic arrangement would be, but the US Army did have ways of pooling resources and bulking up individual formations at a higher level of command.
     
  4. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    From what I understand US Army armored divisions tended to be a bit too light with regards to organic infantry. Rich will probably be long shortly to quote chapter and verse (he's a real expert in this area). It may also depend on whether you are talking the notional or actual force. German and Soviet late war formations for instance tended to be well under authorized strength while the US kept it's formations pretty much up to strength. I'm not very familiar with British, French, or Italian armored divisions so can't comment too much there.
     
  5. freebird

    freebird Member

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    It also strongly depends on what type of army you have, is it the German/Soviet model in which the bulk of the Army remained un-motorized, or the British model?

    The Germans reformed their Panzer divisions before Barbarossa, and so the improved version was 1 Panzer regiment to 2 panzegrenadier regiments, which proved to be an effective combination. (although many battalions were motorized by truck.)


    The British fought war as the first major power fully mechanized, later joined by the Americans. US armored divisions had 1 tank regiment and 1 infantry regiment. The British dumped the early war organization with 2 armoured brigades + support group, and the final version was similar to the Americans, 1 armoured brigade + 1 motorized brigade, although the British divisions had an extra motorized battalion organic to the armoured brigade. (Giving 4 battalions total in the division) However we have to remember that since both the British and Americans essentially motorized every infantry division, an British or American Corps that included at least one infantry division had several extra motorized brigades (regiments) available.

    So for example, British VIII Corps (O'Conner) during Market Garden had 1 armoured division, 2 infantry div, + 1 arm. & 1 infantry brigades. Total: 2 armoured brigades + 9 motorized brigades, or about 4/1 infantry to armour.

    Compare that to Panzergruppe III during Barbarossa, it had 4 Panzer divisions + 3 motorized divisions = 4 Panzer regiments and 10 motorized regiments. (However there was additional un-motorized infantry)
     
  6. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    A bit off I'm afraid. Take for instance the US 2nd Armored divison:
    2d Armored Division - Order of Battle of the United States Army - WWII - ETO | U.S. Army Center of Military History
    It lists 2 armored and 1 armored infantry regiments plus attachments minus detachments which were significant.
    The 3rd armored division was organized in a similar way but the rest were by battalions with equal numbers of tank battalions and armored infantry battalions. See:
    ORGANIC COMPOSITION OF ARMORED DIVISIONS - Order of Battle of the United States Army - WWII - ETO | U.S. Army Center of Military History
    I believe most had a least a battalion of TD's attached and possibly more infantry

    This page:
    Order of Battle of the United States Army - WWII - ETO | U.S. Army Center of Military History
    has links to the various divisions as well as a the combined page above..

    *** edit for ***
    Looking at the 1s ID is interesting as well as for a short period of time they actually had 4 tank battalions and a TD battalion attached. If I recall correctly most infantry divisions ended up with some mix of two or more TD or tank battalions attached.
     
  7. freebird

    freebird Member

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    I left out a couple of intermediate steps, the Support Group was introduced, and then discarded
     
  8. freebird

    freebird Member

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    US 2nd & 3rd were the only two US armored divisions that had an extra tank regiment attached, most had only one.
    TD's were attached but not organic to the division iirc?
     
  9. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    Correct.
     
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The right mix of armour and infantry depended on the terrain and role.

    For actual combat in Europe the lwd might well be right. An American and British infantry division with an attached armoured battalions was balanced and had enough infantry to take and hold ground.

    But that wasn't really what armoured formations were for. They were supposed to be to sustain mobile operations and fight opposition they might meet, including defeating enemy armour. .

    The German early war panzer division had four panzer battalions and four infantry battalions mounted on motorcycles. The Germans also had a combat engineer and recce battalions that could be used as infantry. In 1941 the number of panzer battalions was halved to double the number of divisions giving a ration of two panzer battalions to four infantry (and two others) SS formations had two armoured and six infantry battalions.

    British early war armoured formations - and the US heavy division had 2 armour to one infantry. The late war British had four and four, while the US light armoured division was three and three - forming four and three armour/infantry task forces respectively. The British had two brigade HQ. This was fine for pursuit or encounter battles such as Arracourt or .El Alamein and Tunisia.

    There wasn't enough infantry in either British or US Armoured divisions to sustain fighting in close terrain. During 1944-45 a US infantry regiment or infantry brigade might be added to an armoured formation. 4 AD needed an extra infantry regiment to relieve Bastogne. In Op Bluecoat 31 July-4 Aug in VIIth British Corps the British Guards and 11th Armoured Divisions gained an infantry brigade from 3rd and 15th Infantry divisions, which in turn each gained an independent armoured Brigade. So the VIIth corps fought with four divisions each with one armoured brigade and two infantry brigades - not a million miles from the German late war german Panzer division. The 2nd NZ division fought in Italy with the same ratio: one armoured and two infantry brigades. They were very happy with the structure and had a very good reputation as a fighting formation.

    In 1942 the British experimented with the idea of replacing an infantry brigade in each infantry division with an armoured Brigade. This left the division too weak in infantry for every phase of war, as discovered on the battlefield in Tunisia. One of the objectives of Ex Spartan in March 1943 was to test the idea - and it didn't work. So if you ever wonder what the British Army was up to in the long years between Dunkirk and D Day at least one activity was a pointless re-organisation ;)

    So the answer to the OP is 1:2 or 3 since the Panzer divisions and Allied armoured divisions were augmented to this ratio.
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2018
  11. Terry D

    Terry D Active Member

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    Just thought I would throw in my two cents here. When seriously bored I like to design notional WWII armies with TOEs, etc. I have a design for a heavy type armored division in which the ratio of armor to inf is just about even or the inf just a bit ahead, and that seems to be the ratio both the British and American armies arrived at in 1944 so I think it realistic. Reference has been made above to the 2nd NZ Div having two inf bdes and one armd bde in 1944 in Italy. That the Kiwis did, but they later converted some recce, MG, and motor inf units to standard infantry to give the 2nd NZ Div three infantry brigades as well as the armor. So, what you have then is basically a standard triangular infantry division with a serious armored punch as well. The assault organization adopted by British 2nd Army for the opening phase of NEPTUNE was similar with an armored brigade allotted to each of the assaulting infantry divisions (3rd, 3rd Canadian, 50th). The 50th Div was extra large with four infantry brigades plus the armor.
     
  12. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    The ETOUSA General Board recommended returning to regiments and discarding the combat command organization. Each of three regiments would be comprised of a four-company tank battalion and two three-company armored infantry battalions. Division artillery was to be three 105mm and two 155mm howitzer battalions. A two-battalion engineer regiment and a six-troop cavalry squadron rounded out the organization.
     
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  13. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    As I pointed out the terrain and role makes a difference. In the Normandy assault and beachhead battles ashore, and in Italy the tempo and terrain meant that infantry bore the greatest burden. The 1:1 or even 1:2 ratio wasn't enough. Indeed in italy and NW Europe the British converted armour and anti tank units into infantry to relieve infantry in static warfare.

    In mobile operations the NZ Division needed its recce as recce and its anti tank gunners.

    Logistics plays a part. If you only have a set about of supplies per day how much of the infantry do you need to send forwards? 1:3 is then a luxury. The vehicles to move two extra motor brigades of infantry gobble up the fuel that could have kept the tanks moving.
     
  14. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    One thought I've had for the US, which would have been fairly easy to implement: the early "heavy" armored division comprised two armored regiments, each with two medium and one light tank battalion, and an armored infantry regiment of three battalions. When the need to increase the proportion of infantry was identified, simply convert the light tank battalions to armored infantry, making four tank and five infantry battalions. I would also convert one company in each tank battalion to light tanks, as was done historically, making the ratio of light:medium 1:3 instead of the previous 1:2.

    The numbers of companies would be:
    Old: 16 medium tank, 8 light tank, 12 infantry
    New: 12 medium tank, 4 light tank, 20 infantry

    I'm assuming that an armored division would operate in terrain and situations suitable for tanks but should have infantry available when needed, which this organization would facilitate. When a higher proportion of infantry is needed, it is probably better to just use infantry divisions with attached tank battalions.

    I also have a preference for full-size, robust divisions with nine (or more) line battalions.
     
  15. larso

    larso Member

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    Interesting posts. With so many different theatres (built up, steppe/desert, forest) and situations (attack/defense), the American system of having many independent battalions to support their two primary division types was best. I think the US infantry division with the necessary add-ons was just so flexible and with the basis of 9 infantry battalions had real staying power.
    For continuing mobile operations the German panzer division was not too bad. I've thought a panzer brigade of two tank and two mech inf battalions would've been best, with a three battalion mech brigade (including a stug battalion) in support. For real offensive punch, add another panzer brigade.
     
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  16. Andy235

    Andy235 Member

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    I think having a large division is a good idea, even if a brigade is kept in reserve. The reserve brigade would be the replacement pool, already trained and integrated into the division. It would have elements of all the organic parts of the division. The system of just shipping people overseas and sticking them in as replacements where needed didn't really work out well. You might have less overall divisions, but they would be more cohesive.
     
  17. larso

    larso Member

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    I think that is the size of modern US heavy divisions, 5 or 6 tank battalions and 6 or 5 mech infantry battalions - depending on the designation as armor or infantry. They seem a bit unweildy to me but maybe that reflects the trickier communications of WW2. It's probably not such a problem in the digital age. I like the idea of a reserve brigade too.
     
  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Warfare has changed a bit in the digital age. Much more firepower is on tap and the mobility of helicopters change the balance of mobile forces. The rotor is to track what tracks are to the boot. Armoured divisions are no longer the fast bit.

    One challenge for modern forces is lack of preparation for large scale operations. At the end of the Cold War NATO was thinking about the operational level of war. At an operational level the reserve is a corps or Army.
     
  19. larso

    larso Member

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    Years ago I read Guderian's 'Panzer Leader'. One of his frustrations was the declining number of tanks per division, that threw out of balance the division's support services. So there was still (for a while) the engineers, recon, artillery and the supply and support units that were geared to support the optimum - 400 I'm sure he wanted - number of tanks. When this wasn't achieved, the number and capability of support units were not being used effectively, which was a waste given Germany's situation.
    I don't seem to recall him having thoughts on the specific ratio of infantry to tanks though?
     
  20. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The "unit of action" is now the Brigade rather than the division. The latter is mostly administrative.
     

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