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US Armored Divisions

Discussion in 'Armor and Armored Fighting Vehicles' started by GunSlinger86, May 1, 2022.

  1. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    I have been reading about the make-up of a US armored division, and the question is: Were tank destroyers separate attached units or part of the division? All of the material I've found to read indicates that tank destroyers were not included in the armored division order of battle.
     
  2. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    That's correct; tank destroyer battalions were attached to divisions, in theory as needed, in practice the attachments often became semi-permanent.

    TD battalions could be either self-propelled or towed; antitank guns towed by trucks were referred to as "towed tank destroyers". The proportions of towed vs. SP varied during the war. I assume TD battalions attached to armored divisions would be SP.

    From an earlier post: The US Army went back and forth on the question of self-propelled or towed tank destroyers ("towed tank destroyer" = "anti-tank gun"). Experience with Pak40s and 88s in Normandy suggested the value of powerful towed guns; someone (Bradley?) recommended a 50/50 mix. Then in the Battle of the Bulge a number of towed tank destroyer units were overrun, leading to a renewed preference for SP TDs which could bail out when the situation became critical. The loss of guns has traditionally been considered a dishonor to artillery units, but I think it was overdone. If sticking it out a little longer enabled a gun crew to destroy another enemy tank or AFV, losing their gun would be a worthwhile exchange, assuming the crew got away and disabled the gun, taking the breechblock with them or dropping a thermite grenade down the bore.
     
  3. Half Track

    Half Track Well-Known Member

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    My dad was a tank platoon commander in the tank destroyers and I still have one of his patches. But when he was alive I was never interested enough to discuss when and where, what division and for how long. But I know he was a Sargent and then later a Captain in the 29th Infantry Division. He enlisted in 1941 I believe and was discharged in 1945. His name was Emmet Molloy and he died in 1988.
     
  4. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    More or less, but the specifics are more complicated.

    The first first 44 of 63 TD Battalions authorized by General Marshall were activated on 15 December 1941. Twenty-eight were designated "Light" and sixteen were "Heavy". Nominally 24 of the Light battalions were towed and 4 were self-propelled, but in reality all were towed pending the development of a SP 37mm GMC. Four of the Heavy battalions were SP, equipped with the M3 75mm GMC, while the rest were towed 75mm, nominally the 75mm Antitank Gun on Carriage M2A2 and M2A3, but including some M1897A4 on both Carriage M1897 and the modernized Carriage M3...basically standard field guns. There was also some consideration given to equipping the Heavy towed battalions with the 3" Gun M3 on 105mm Carriage M2A3 of which 140 were completed by July 1941, originally intended to arm the proposed antitank batteries in corps and army artillery regiments. It was standardized in December 1941 as the 3" Antitank Gun M5 and Carriage M1, then after modifications became the 3" Antitank Gun M5 on Carriage M6. However, the new TD Command rapidly embraced the SP concept on 19 March 1942 and moved quickly to convert all towed battalions to SP.

    The kicker came after General McNair visited the battlefront in Tunisia in April 1943. He was very impressed by the success of the German 7.5cm Pak and directed that half of the battalions still in the United States be converted to towed 3". Early experience in Normandy showed that they were impractical for offensive maneuver and so the towed units were mostly reconverted by the end of the war when units receiving the 90mm M36 GMC turned over their 3" M10 GMC to towed units.
     
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  5. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    If he joined the 29th Infantry Division in 1941 then he was National Guard. If he was later in the Tank Destroyers he may well have been part of the 29th AT Battalion (Provisional), which later was redesignated the 629th TD Battalion. They landed on OMAHA 2 July, but were never attached to the 29th ID. However, he does not appear in the list of "commanders in important actions", so he may well have been in one of the TD Battalions later attached to the 29th, which included the 644th, 803d, 821st, and 823d.
     
  6. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Never mind. If his birth date was 16 December 1915, then he was drafted 8 April 1941 and so was not National Guard, was discharged 12 November 1942, and then was commissioned 13 November 1942. He was discharged 13 February 1946. He registered for the draft on 16 October 1940 and his ASN was 33023480. I suspect if he was associated with the 29th ID it was as an enlisted filler before he was commissioned, which is probably went he went to the Tank Destroyers.
     
  7. Half Track

    Half Track Well-Known Member

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    I remember him saying that he started in the field artillery, then tank destroyers then the infantry. He was in the Army of Occupation in Okinawa. He had his degree from Bucknell University when he went in the Army. I got a copy of his papers years ago, as faint as they were, telling me what you mentioned above and I could read it all, but barely. They apologized saying that the original was in very bad shape. I have all his stripes from private up through Sargent then his lieutenant bars and captain bars. It stated on the paper that he was discharged and then commissioned. And that he was a tank platoon commander. Thanks for your input anyway. His mother didn’t want him accepted into the Army so she tried to make him eat to get overweight, but the Army said he was one of the healthiest they had seen. His actual birth date is not known. He was adopted by people by the name of Molloy. He was abandoned in a shoebox in the Allentown Pennsylvania train station in December of 1915 as an infant. Probably by someone passing through on the train. So, he never knew who his real parents were and I never knew who my real grandparents were or where they were from.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2022
  8. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    That is an interesting career progression and calls up a number of questions. He was drafted, starting in the Field Artillery. Moving to the Tank Destroyers makes sense too, given that the FA was heavily used to draft personnel for the TD's. The question then becomes as to what Branch was he commissioned into? For an officer, FA to TD to Inf doesn't make a whole lot of sense. There also is the oddity of the connection to the 29th ID. If he was a Tank Platoon Leader and served on Okinawa, then he may well have been transferred away from the TDs, commissioned in the Infantry, and then assigned to the Armor Force (no officers were commissioned in the Armored Force). Unusual, but not out of the question. All very interesting, but making me wish the St. Louis Archives fire had never occurred. Do you by any chance have his discharge papers?
     
  9. Half Track

    Half Track Well-Known Member

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    The fire was bad, I can not even get my DD-214. I just have a copy of my honorable discharge. I sent for my DD-214 with all the information on the forum and never heard anything. And I got out in 1969. You can guess and wonder all one wants about dad and his service, but probably won’t help. If you find something more definitive, let me know. Somebody else gathered some information for me on the forum a few years ago. My mistake was not asking more questions before he died in 1988, but I could have cared less about World War II back then. But I tell you a story that I remember, he said that for recreation on Okinawa, they used to round up some Japanese skulls and try to throw pebbles into the eye sockets from some chosen distance. Army of Occupation. I’m 77 now and have really not been interested about the war until 2012.
     
    Last edited: May 4, 2022
  10. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    I've read in Stanton's WW2 Order of Battle (yeah I know that he's been discredited a bit, but that book is chock full of details) that most US infantry divisions in the ETO had both an anti-tank battalion and a tank battalion attached to them. Since the US Army only had 16 armored divisions in the ETO (none in the PTO by the way), those independent tank battalions freed up the armored divisions from allotting their armored sub-units to beef up support for local infantry units


    It's been awhile since I've flipped through that book, might have to go dig it up for old times sake.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2022
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  11. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    At war's end the ETO had 15 armored, 42 infantry, and 3 airborne divisions on the Continent, plus 13th Airborne in England. A couple of divisions were in rear areas or besieging German garrisons in French ports. I've seen figures of 39 independent tank battalions and 54 TD, approximately one tank battalion for each front-line infantry division and one TD for each division of any type. Of course they weren't always evenly distributed; the OOB in Macdonald's A Time for Trumpets, about the Battle of the Bulge, credits one infantry division, I think the 1st, with one tank, two TD, and two AA battalions attached.

    Italy/MTO had 1st Armored, five infantry, and 10th Mountain divisions; don't have any info on attached battalions.
     
  12. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Yes, there are a few mistakes in it, but I am not surprised, given the scope of the work. Overall, it is better than any other similar work.
     
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  13. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    I read that book. It seems US forces fought back better in the first days, as most documentaries lay it out that the US forces were completely overwhelmed and beaten in the first few days.
     
  14. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Not sure if you mean late 1944 but in North Africa and Normandy I think the lesson was rough but learnt for later battles.
     
  15. GunSlinger86

    GunSlinger86 Well-Known Member

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    I'm referencing the book mentioned by the other poster, it's about the Battle of the Bulge, and it provides details of tough and effective American resistance to the German attack in the first few days, when most sources state that the US had no change in the beginning of that offensive.
     
  16. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    It must have been tough. The German idea was to push through with Volksgrenadier troops but failed and had to use the tanks to push through the first line. That meant the loss of armoured reserves although the low amount of fuel meant that they were all the time in trouble Another good example of good fighting is Bastogne.
     

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