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US Squad tactics

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A quick post to try and collate the basic US squad structure and tactics for the period. I will certainly run through this with the GIR before the game, but it is here for people to familiarise themselves with.

US squad tactics

BAR Gunner
BAR assistant
BAR ammo carrier
7 riflemen

If operating on its own, the squad frequently split into three teams

Able team
The two scouts

Baker Team
the BAR gunner, assistant, ammo carrier

Charlie Team
the remaining riflemen (5)

The SSG and SGT would be split between Baker and Charlie team as the situation demanded Though if operating on its own this assumes the SSG is in command of the squad, and as such would find himself directing the squad. With an officer present the SSG would likely take command of one of the teams, likely Charlie, at the officer’s direction.

A succeeding simple setup, the commander tells people where to go and wear to cover. Go prone unless you have time to dig a hole... So nothing beyond the standard.
The SSG, or officer in such case, should give the order when to open fire, so as to get maximum benefit from the first 'volley' and direct the fire to different areas if and when he requires.

The scouts should be far ahead – ideally just in visual range of the commander, but given the nature of airsoft sites less for us. They operate as a pair – covering and advancing, and when something is encountered one remains forward whilst the other informs the commander.
The formation is determined by the terrain, column was for dense wood, and moving along roads would be done similar. In the open a diamond formation is adopted. Walking, scanning left and right and keeping an eye on the commander as standard we know.
Upon encountering the enemy the commander determines what to do. In a standard reaction, the skirmish line, the soldiers in the diamond/column move forward and out into line with the commander spacing themselves and positioning themselves behind cover and then moving up to the scouts. It is usually after the skirmish line has been adopted that the commander issues 'orders' to individual teams.

In an offensive situation the commander of the squad should explain to each team/soldier what he wants them to do before engaging the enemy. When this is explained, and at what level of detail is up to the squad commander.

Able team finds the enemy/objective, Baker team pins them and Charlie team assaults them is the textbook pattern.
There is no mention of Able team joining any other team once the enemy has been engaged, but this organisation of a squad was one that was frequently adopted informally as one generally assumes the presence of the rest of a platoon, so they might do.

When any of the teams are ordered to advance they should do so in a staggered pattern, some covering and some advancing, in the standard fire and manoeuvre. I have not found any further reference to a 'two man advance' but have no reason to disbelieve it. This would suggest that people are 'paired of' and so instinctively know who their 'partner' is. One pair provides cover whilst another pair advances. Rather than the squad commander organising the movements of 'pairs' he should order the movement of a 'team', and the movement of pairs within that team are organised by the senior NCO within the team at his discretion, or by the pairs present, to reach their objective. Advances should be made by either crawling through/between available cover, or by dashes over open ground, according to the manual.

It should be stressed that, contrary to some popular belief, American tactical doctrine was very flexible and evolved to the specific situation the GIs found themselves in rapidly. By the time of St Lo many changes had been adopted to deal with hedgerow fighting. Of course the main adoption was the extensive use of close support artillery and air support. As we don't have these it will only serve to make us jealous in thinking about them. However given the flexibility afforded by its distribution of fire-power, the squad should not be hamstrung into attempting to implement textbook manoeuvres in every situation.

fire discipline in the US army is actually very ammo intensive. The squad should, if engaging the enemy as a whole, be in some variation of the skirmish line. Upon the order to fire the squad should deliver one 'huge, surprising and accurate' volley of fire on the enemy position. This is designed to give the Squad fire superiority, making the German fire scattered and ineffectual (or pinning them in simple terms). The reduction in fire volume from the Germans allows Charley team to advance whilst Baker team continues to suppress them (in the textbook). Advancing to the assault should be undertaken firing on the move to 'further unnerve the enemy', and finished with a bayonet charge. (Though it should also be stressed that tactical doctrine was much more aggressive under Patton then elsewhere – and these are some of his orders.)

This 'huge and accurate fire' is achieved by the squad firing simultaneously. Each I fires one shot at the German that opposes his position in the skirmish line and then fires a shot to his right and left. American rifle doctrine is to engage the enemy as an area target. Of course this engagement is meant to actually accomplish something – pinning the Germans to enable an advance – and not just shoot at them for no reason/gain. In a prolonged fire-fight then the fire will be more relaxed. The commander will direct where he wants the fire concentrated within the squad, and the senior NCO would direct fire within the team. Once more in pairs, one pair would fire whilst the other reloaded to maintain a steady rate of fire. The BAR gun should fire in short 5 round bursts.

Posted : 05/06/2009 12:15 pm