World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom, a recurring trend can be seen: On the
battlefield, combat leaders develop integrated, combined-arms units, with
combat-proven tactics and techniques. The needs of combat allow them to
disregard flawed pre-war doctrine, established organizations, and training
restrictions. After combat, armies resist making doctrinal or organizational changes.
Organizations revert to single branch or weapon focus, combined arms training
atrophies, combat lessons grow less relevant, and experienced men retire.
In 1945, both the U.S. Army and the U.S. Marine Corps had developed
highly effective practices for small-unit tank-infantry coordination. By 2003, none
of these practices were contained in any training manual in either service. The
lessons of 1942-1945 had to be relearned in Iraq.
notes in brackets] Some of the following documents are available on-line at: www.2ndbn5thmar.com/tank/tankpage.htm
F. Antal. 2nd
Battalion, 72d Armor Dragon Force Battalion SOP. Korea: 2nd Infantry Division,
1994-1996. A great unit-level publication, with a forward by division commander
General Tommy Franks, written by a commander and his officers who had put a
great deal of thought and energy into developing techniques on how to fight
armor units in the defiles of Korea.
E. Appleman, James M. Burns, Russell A. Gugeler, and John Stevens. Okinawa: The Last Battle. Washington, DC: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1947. On Okinawa, one U.S. Army tank
battalion, the 193rd, supporting an infantry battalion of the 27th Division,
suffered extremely from a lack of tank-infantry coordination during a one-day
attack. Of thirty U.S. Army tanks, three were stopped by mines or road hazards
and five were shot by Japanese anti-tank guns enroute to the village objective.
In the village, fourteen more tanks were disabled by mines, anti-tank guns,
artillery, and close assault units. Six more tanks were attacked by suicide
attackers who swarmed the unprotected tanks and destroyed them with satchel
charges. At 1330, the tanks withdrew. Only eight vehicles of the original
thirty made it back to the start point. The tanks had operated wholly without
Tank-Infantry Smartpack: The Urban Fight, Tools for the Tank-Infantry Team.
Iraq: Charlie Company, 2nd Tank Battalion,
Regimental Combat Team 1, 2005.
[See Tank-Infantry Smartpack]
Charlie Company, 2d Tank Battalion After Action Report, Operation Al Fajr.
Iraq: Charlie Company, 2nd Tank Battalion,
Regimental Combat Team 1, 8 January 2005.
[See “C” 2nd Tanks OIF AAR]
[See OIF MOUT Observations]
Larry Q. Burris. Operation Iraqi Freedom After Action Review Comments.
Iraq: Team C, 3rd Battalion, 15th Infantry
Regiment, Task Force 1-64 Armor, 24 April 2003. The tank platoon’s pre-OIF
urban training was invaluable in Iraq. The infantry squad
attached to the tanks worked well and repelled an RPG attack, but radio communications
between tanks and infantry was hobbled by field-expedient solutions.
[See Task Force 1-64 OIF AAR]
“Tanks With Infantry,” Armored Cavalry Journal, September-October, 1947,
pp 49-51. Although the 745th Tank Battalion was attached to the 1st Infantry
Division three months before the Normandy invasion, it was not until
after the D-Day landings that a tank platoon was attached to each infantry
battalion. These attachments – with the same tank platoons attached to the same
infantry battalions – continued for the rest of the war. In the fighting in the
town of Aachen, four-man tank security teams were attached to each
tank. “The tank-infantry team…should not be made up on the battlefield but must
be trained long before battle.”
[See Tanks With Infantry]
Joseph D. Celeski. The Use of Armor and Mech Forces in Urban Operations: With Implications
and Considerations for Special Operating Forces. February 2002.
Mark T. Calhoun. Defeat at Kasserine: American Armor Doctrine,
Training, and Battle Command in Northwest Africa, World War II. Fort Leavenworth, Kansas: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 2003. Although poor
leadership, inadequate equipment, and faulty training did contribute to the
American defeat at Kasserine Pass in 1943, the underlying,
more important, and rarely discussed reason for the defeat was flawed U.S. armor doctrine.
Defeat at Kasserine]
After Action Report for Project Metropolis. Twentynine Palms, California: Third Platoon, Company
“B,” 1st Tank Battalion, 4 December 2000.
[See Project Metropolis AAR]
A. Disney. Tactical
Problems for Armor Units. Harrisburg, PA: The Military Service
Publishing Company, 1952. Disney, an experienced tanker who fought throughout Europe during World War II,
presents fifteen tactical problems for tank leaders. Of note, every single
tactical problem and diagram emphasizes the combined arms integration of
infantry units. Fifty years later, these lessons have largely been lost due to
tank doctrine’s Cold War focus on defeating Soviet tank armies.
Busting the Bocage: American Combined Arms Operations in France, 6 June – 31 July 1944. Fort Leavenworth, KS: U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, 1988. Doubler recounts how
the specific tactical problem of penetrating the well-defended hedgerows was
solved by developing tank-infantry organizations and tactics while under fire
during the Normandy campaign.
[See Busting the Bocage]
Closing with the Enemy: How GIs Fought the War in Europe, 1944-1945. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994. In European city
fighting, the U.S. Army learned uncontestable lessons on the value of the
combined-arms team. The tank developed into the key support weapon in city
fighting. Despite battlefield experiences, new training manuals did not go far
enough in advocating organizational changes or combined arms tactics and
[See Closing with the Enemy]
W. D. Duncan. “Tanks and Infantry in
Night Attacks,” Armored Cavalry Journal,
January-February, 1948, pp 56-61.
W. Estes. Marines
Under Armor: The Marine Corps and the Armored Fighting Vehicle, 1916-2000. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press,
2000. A detailed review of a half-century of Marine-specific armor practices
and experiences, clearly linking doctrine, procurement and training with combat
performance. After non-existent cooperation on Guadalcanal, Marine tanks received new
radios – that still couldn’t net with the infantry. 3rd Marines on Bougainville used M3 half-tracks as
bunker-busting assault guns. On Cape Gloucester, tank sections were
attached to infantry platoons. At Arawe, the U.S. Army’s 158th Regiment,
working with Company B, 1st Marine Tank Battalion, attached a rifle squad to
each tank. The 2nd Marine Division had almost no tank-infantry coordination
prior to Tarawa – some SOPs were worked out between Marines during the first intense
night ashore – but by Saipan coordinated assaults by tanks and vigilant
infantry had become the norm. On Okinawa, infantrymen overwatched tanks, looking especially
for traces of Japanese anti-tank guns,
and protecting the vehicles from close-in assaults: not a single tank in action
was destroyed by tank hunters. Light planes conducted talk-ons for
tank-infantry teams. During the intense week long battle on Kunishi ridge,
tankers delivered urgently needed supplies, ammunition, and 550 infantry
reinforcements to the cut-off and exposed infantry companies of 7th Marines,
and evacuated over 600 casualties. In Korea, regimental tank platoons
became part of the infantry regiment’s T/O. By the early 1960s, the Marine
Corps’ interest in helicopters negatively affected the tank’s perceived value.
The 1980 publication, “Marine Combined Arms Task Forces,” reflected a lack of
true mechanized doctrine even after thirty years of experience. The Marine
could not balance heavy equipment requirements with strategic lift limitations.
The Gulf War, and the success of the four fielded Marine Corps Armored Task
Forces, propelled the Marine Corps
finally into the heavy mechanized fight. In 1993, the Krulak board recommended
a “Combined Arms Regiment” (CAR) as a standing infantry-LAR-tank-artillery
team. But doctrine never envisioned tank units as the basis for offensive
combat power, still relegating them to the anti-armor role. The Marine Corps
completed acquisition of the M1 fifteen years after it became the Army
M. Frank and Henry I. Shaw, Jr. Victory and Occupation: History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations in
World War II, Volume V. Washington: Historical Branch, G-3
Division, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1968. Each of
the Pacific island campaigns contributed to the continuous development of
Marine tank-infantry team tactics, organizations, and techniques.
[See Victory and Occupation]
Oscar E. Gilbert. Marine Tank Battles in Korea. Havertown, PA: Casement, 2003.
Marine Tank Battles in the Pacific. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Books, 2001.
Although primarily focused on Marine WWII tank equipment and tank units,
Gilbert does touch on the development of Marine “infantry tank” doctrine and
tactics. After Tarawa, where there had been very little pre-invasion tank-infantry
coordination, the 2nd Marine Division trained extensively at Parker Ranch on Hawaii. By Saipan, the division’s
tank-infantry teams were fully integrated and highly effective. By the battle
of Okinawa in 1945, Marine Corps units
had fully implemented their hard-won tank-infantry lessons – the importance of
small-unit integration and pre-invasion training, clear command relationships,
habitual assignments, equipment modifications, and tank-infantry tactics such
as target designation using tank phones, using tracers to mark targets, and
close-in infantry protection of tanks.
John Gordon IV and Bruce R. Pirnie. “Everybody Wanted Tanks: Heavy Forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom,” Armed Forces Journal, Number 39, pp 84-90.
[See Everybody Wanted Tanks]
On Armor. Westport, CN: Praeger, 2004. An
overview of the history of armor. Gudmundsson does not focus on vehicle
development, but analyses how different armies addressed specific warfighting
challenges. Armored force development is shown to be an
interplay between history, theory, industrial capability, military
budgets, strong personalities, organizational design, doctrine, and battlefield
[See On Armor]
“White Knight Or White Elephant: The M1A1 “Abrams” In The Marine Corps.” Fort Leavenworth, KS: Army Command and General Staff College, 1989. “The Marine Corps
has procured a main battle tank that fails to adequately support its doctrinal
mission as an infantry support weapon. The M1A1 was designed to destroy tanks,
not support infantry, and has few features required of a good infantry support
vehicle such as ammunition variety, and redundant communications capabilities.”
“Tank-Infantry Teamwork At Its Peak In The Armored Division,” Armored
Cavalry Journal, May-June, 1947, pp 27-28. In 1944, the Fifth Armored
Division attached a half-track mounted infantry squad to each tank. Each of
these “married” squads ate, slept, trained, and fought as a single
combined-arms tank-infantry team. “The secret of combined infantry and tank
fighting is to keep the same infantry squad with the same tank crew all the
[See Tank-Infantry Teamwork]
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002. The British
Army’s lack of pre-war tank doctrine and the 1935 Field Service Regulations’
separation of armor into “infantry” and “cruiser” tanks, hindered
operations throughout WWII. British Army hippomania – love of horses and
cavalry traditions – led to gross deficiencies in armor training, especially
the mistaken belief that tanks could operate without infantry support. Strong
regimental traditions and mindsets also prevented the development of integrated
Leonard Lawton. “Tank Infantry Team,” Marine Corps Gazette, November 1945, p
30. Explains tank-infantry techniques developed during the war in the Pacific.
Marine infantry served as the tank’s eyes and ears, directing fire, designating
targets, and protecting the tanks against suicide bombers. Multiple combined
arms drills were developed, including “corkscrew” and “blowtorch.” The bunker
drill emphasizing communication and fire coordination, was a demolition,
flamethrower, bazooka, tank and infantry combined arms drill. Sometimes
artillery, air, and naval gunfire was included. An enemy position was fixed by
the tank-infantry team of machineguns, bazooka, and rifle fire. A flame-demo
team of flamethrowers and demolitions closed on the position. Tanks and
flamethrowers destroyed the position, then demolitions sealed the position. Habitual
relationships helped build tank-infantry coordination.
B. B. McBreen. Tank-Infantry Insights from World War II. 2005.
[See Tank-Infantry Insights]
Marine Mechanized Formations in OIF. Washington: 2003. A comparison of
Marine mechanized formations in Operation Iraqi Freedom to German formations of
World War II.
Mech Formations in OIF]
J. L. Mudd. “Development of the
American Tank-Infantry Team During World War II in Africa and Europe,” Armor, September-October, 1999, pp 15-22.
American Tank-Infantry Team]
“A Light Tap with a Strong Arm: Doctrine and Employment of Marine Corps Armor
from 1965 to 1975,” Armor, September-October, 1992, p 18. A critical look at
Marine Corps tank employment during the Vietnam years.
Fist: Classic Armoured Warfare Case Studies. Leicester, UK: Brockhampton Press Ltd.,
2001. In all the Pacific islands campaigns, in Papua / New Guinea, in Burma, and in India, attacking the well-built
Japanese bunkers fell to tank-infantry teams of the Commonwealth forces. The
historian of the Australian Royal Armoured Corps commented “without tanks the
infantry very often found it impossible to close with the enemy.”
Mechanized Infantry. New York: Pergamon Press, Inc.,
1980. Armor consists of the tanks and the dismounted infantrymen who
work with them. There is no distinction. One school, one doctrine, one body of
tactics, one on-scene commander, one unit.
“Tank-Infantry Integration,” Marine Corps Gazette, June 2005.
“MOUT Battle Drills for Infantry and Tanks,” Infantry,
Tactics in the Second World War. Oxford, UK: Berg Publishers, Ltd.,
1992. Chapter 4, “Armour and Infantry,” explains the radical pre-war German philosophy
of not tying the new weapon, the tank, to the old doctrine and the old weapons.
General Guderian wrote that tanks needed mobile infantry specially trained and
equipped to support tanks. The infantry, engineers, and artillery in the panzer
units were then the supporting weapons to the tank. The French, British, and U.S. only came to this
philosophy on the battlefields of World War II. Tanks needed to remember,
however, that their primacy was not absolute and they could not afford to
outrun their supporting units. They depended on the combined arms effects of
the infantry, engineers, anti-tank, aviation, and artillery.
R. Vannoy and Jay Karamales. Against the Panzers: United States Infantry versus German Tanks,
1944-1945. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company,
Inc., 1996. Vannoy and Karamales extract multiple after-action reports to show
how U.S. units fighting German tanks
overcame a lack of pre-combat combined arms training and teamwork and worked
out techniques on the battlefield.
Victory: The Heroic Story of America’s Independent Tank Battalions at War in
Europe. New York: Presidio Press, 2003. The
U.S. WWII independent tank battalions, fielded specifically to work with infantry
divisions, developed and adjusted tank-infantry teamwork in combat. Most of
these lessons were lost as post-war tankers focused primarily on the actions of
the armored divisions. Yeide’s chronology includes insights on using tank
machinegun fire to cover maneuvering infantry, transporting infantry on tanks,
the difficulties of voice coordination, the dangers of separation, the
challenges for tanks of identifying friendly units and enemy positions in
combat, and the myriad skills infantrymen need to work with tanks.
3-20.15 Tank Platoon. Washington: HQ Department of the Army,
1 November 2001.
3-90.1 Tank and Mechanized Infantry Company Team. Washington: HQ Department of the Army,
9 December 2001.
3-90.2 The Tank and Mechanized Infantry Battalion Task Force. Washington: HQ Department
of the Army, 11 June 2003.
FM 17-5 Organization and
Tactics of Tank Destroyer Units. Washington: HQ Department of the Army,
16 June, 1942. The original tank destroyer doctrinal
publication is a practical and useful manual. A focused and important wartime
effort, the manual clearly explains the tactical challenges of how to fight
tanks. It has hundreds of useful tactical map diagrams showing the “right” and
“wrong” techniques for defilade, cover, ambush, overwatch, defense, and multiple
other tactical procedures.
17-20 Armored Infantry Units: Platoon, Company and Battalion. Washington: HQ Department of the Army,
August 1957. This out-of-date Army manual focuses on tank infantry integration
and the mission of armored infantry to get the tanks forward. Illustrations
show tanks and infantrymen working in concert, infantry platoon attacks
supported by tanks, and infantry formations and immediate actions to protect
7-3-1 How to Defend with
Mechanized Infantry and Light Infantry Platoons. Washington: HQ Department of the Army,
30 June 1975. Interesting handbook for
integrated defense, including a diagrammed step-by-step study of the Battle of
Singling, 6 December 1994.
Tank-Infantry Fight in Fallujah. The details of a tank-infantry action by A/1/8 in Fallujah, Iraq on 11 November 2004 are described.
[See Fight in Fallujah]