Infantry Tactics of World War Two

The site has grown apace since I first sat down to commit what knowledge I felt I could share on the hazy subject of military organisation during World War Two.  The foray into Infantry Weapons of World War Two has proven quite popular as well it seems.  These two subjects provide some details on the Who and the What of military operations of the period, yet to see them in their proper perspective requires an examination of the How of warfare; Tactics.

Tactics is the enabling mechanism of war.  It differs from strategy in that the former dictates where the battles will be fought, while tactics decides how they will be fought.  It provides commanders from the basic Rifle Sections or Squads to Divisional level with the means to plan their actions.  All armies adopt a doctrine, some central plank of military philosophy upon which it bases its operations.  It may be as simple as the primacy of the offensive or as complex as Blitzkrieg.  Tactics have to address the reality of how to turn those grandiose designs into an achievable goal.  

Given the vast nature of the subject, this examination can only hope to scratch the surface.  The Infantryman of World War Two plied his trade in sand and snow, desert and jungle, city and field.  He fought on foot, from personnel carriers and descended from the skies by parachute and glider.  Every location and variation inevitably impacted upon the tactics used.  Likewise, once troops had survived their opening combat, they could view their basic training with a more critical eye.  They learned to deviate from the rules laid out in the Army instructions which in action had proven outdated or irrelevant.  It would be quite impossible to capture all these local variations.

But tactics are taught with a broad stroke.  Few armies had the luxury of knowing exactly where they would be called upon to fight.  The troops were taught to act within a system as it were, which could be adapted to suit the locality the men found themselves in.  As a result, I have opted for a similarly broad approach to the discussion.  That may disappoint those looking for a detailed examination of a particular country's small unit tactics, but the Published works and Websites may offer some alternatives.  Likewise, there is some common ground to be found in the low level operations of armies as diverse as the British, American, Russian and German covered herein.  As a result, rather than visit each one separately, a single discussion can largely suffice, with national deviations identified where appropriate.

I should say these pages are culled together purely from my reading and observations.  These are based where possible on the contemporary manuals of the day, plus the innumerable articles and accounts I have read over the years.  I must stress I have no personal military experience or qualifications to draw upon.  I have had the good fortune to be able to correspond with a retired US Army officer as a result of the site.  His correspondence, as well as being of great interest, has been invaluable in compiling this section, so these pages can perhaps claim to have had to undergo some form of professional scrutiny.

I recall a quote from an American author which I had not fully appreciated until I sat down to this project.  In the introduction to his work on contemporary Special Forces he said the examination 'doesn't nail jello to the wall'.  I finally understand what he meant now.  I would be foolish to suggests these pages can cover everything on the topic, but I do think they can offer some insights.  I hope you find them of interest.

Small Unit Formations

Combined arms operations

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Example TOE

Infantry Weapons of World War Two