Osprey's study of infantry tactics of the squads and platoons of World War II (1939-1945). Despite all technological advances, final mastery of any battlefield depends upon the tight-knit group of footsoldiers trained to manoeuvre, shoot and dig in. This first of a two-part study examines the methods by which the Western infantry of World War II- the German, British and USOsprey's study of infantry tactics of the squads and platoons of World War II (1939-1945). Despite all technological advances, final mastery of any battlefield depends upon the tight-knit group of footsoldiers trained to manoeuvre, shoot and dig in. This first of a two-part study examines the methods by which the Western infantry of World War II - the German, British and US armies - actually brought their firepower to bear. Drawing upon period training manuals for the evolving theory, and on personal memoirs for the individual practice, this first book covers the organization and tactics of the squad of ten or a dozen men, and the platoon of three or four squads. The text is illustrated with contemporary photographs and diagrams, and with colour plates bringing to life the movement of soldiers on the battlefield....more
Paperback, 64 pages
May 25th 2004
by Osprey Publishing
(first published 2004)
This book by scholar Stephen Bull is an adequate introduction to the infantry subject, and is part of a two-set study of infantry tactics on the Western front. As the author notes the subject of infantry tactics rarely make the cut into books and other general audience spheres. The main problem with this book is that the writtting end up as more descriptive than analytical because of the author's lack of military background. While he may be an excellent scholar and knows how to research manualsThis book by scholar Stephen Bull is an adequate introduction to the infantry subject, and is part of a two-set study of infantry tactics on the Western front. As the author notes the subject of infantry tactics rarely make the cut into books and other general audience spheres. The main problem with this book is that the writtting end up as more descriptive than analytical because of the author's lack of military background. While he may be an excellent scholar and knows how to research manuals and interview veterans, his lack of practical experience with the fundamentals and concepts is clearly a handicap. This is a continuing [and annoying] trend in Osprey books, and even more unacceptable in the tactics series. Plus the fact the author ignored other important players like the French, Soviets, Italians and Japanese is yet another huge drawback.
The book starts with a quote from a British manual of 1939 that states:
"Infantry must in the end confirm all sucesses in war. Infantry compels the withdrawal or surrender of the enemy and holds the objectives which have been secured, or the points of importance which have to be protected, as a base for further action. It is the mosadaptable and the most generally useful of all arms, since it is capable of operating over any ground by day or night and can find or make cover for itself more readily than the other arms".
As the author correctly observes, even with the changes in technology and firepower, this reality remains today and the infantry will always be "the Queen of battle" as per chess analogy. Dr Bull makes a decent explanation of the basics of tactics and training but, as mentioned elsewhere, gets dragged on by topics that aren't so important for military personnel, yet another indication that scholars must be advised by military authors while writing Osprey books. The differences in marksmanship, medial care and food supply are really big issues and were completely ignored by the author because, again, he lacks military background. Also ignored by the author are important daily things like noise/light/litter discipline, mission preparation, rehearsals and tactical adaptability. Also, the author spends too much time on snipers. This is a subject already covered in other Osprey books and to save space the author should only use some footnotes for further reading.
The author really shines when he explains the usage of weaponry and importance of winning the "Feuerkampf" (firefight) in order to fix the enemy and close-in for the kill. Unfortunatelly the author does not dig in it as he should and the explanation remains quite superficial to readers not so familiar with the concept of fire and maneuver (or fire and movement). Plate E does give a good basic explanation of fire and maneuver but the author gets lost in endless descriptions of trivialities that could be explained more succintly, thus missing the mark time and again. Albeit the author does mention the importance of closing in to kill the enemy, he fails to do so in a manner as to indicate to the reader that this is the whole point of the exercise.
The part of the Squad Ethos is good, albeit underdeveloped, with the importance of the love for the comrades receiving due mention. The comradeship is the cornerstone of the Infantry and can be the difference between victory and defeat. The infantryman fights for his peers and leads by exemple, he knows that he is the sharpend of his high command and that all other arms revolve around him and depend on him. While the tank and artillery units depend on technological and exact formulas, the infantry depends on the unquantifiable power of will (the famous "élan"). In a tank you go with your tankers, if you are with an artillery piece you go where that goes. In the infantry there is a peculiarity because you are not vested in anybody else, and you must make your own individual decision to engage in the battle, whether sitting down at bottom of your foxhole and take no part in the battle, or you can stand up and be counted, sometimes with acts of great courage and gallantry. This hability of the infantry to make his own decision is peculiar to him.
Dr Bull mentions, in the first page of this book, that the infantrymen of some countries were recognized by their peculiarly dangerous job and received distinctions like the German "Infantry Assault Badge" and the US Army "Infantry Combat Badge" (which carried additional pay of $10 a month). While the German and British understood the importance of the unit ethos, always maintining the 'esprit de corps' the Americans didn't. The American replacement system was yet another mistake in the military stablishment, that always gave more priority to tehcnology over soldiery, and overstaffed the tank and anti-air corps leading to shortages of infantrymen throughout the war, and the junior infantry leadership always green and many non-firers. The US Army would remain using this flawed system in Korea and Vietnam - to their cost. The Germans, on the other hand, more often than not promoted NCOs to officer status, and there was emphasis on the learning of tactical drills thus ensuring good small unit leadership.
The authors narrative of the gruesome nature of the infantryman's job with its high rate of casaulties, physical exhaustion is good, but then the author fall into silly gibberish of dubious importance, wasting pages in hand-to-hand trainning techniques aimed at building confidence rather than actual combat use; worse still, he ignores the actual usages of bayonnets in combat, portraying it as something unsophisticated, used only as a last resource. The French were very fond of the bayonet, as the French mentality always used will ("élan") to good effect either in offensive and deffensive operations. The French would remain to do so in Indochina and in Korea. Due to the constant bayonet charges made by the French and the Turks (especially around Seul), US General Ridgway would order his men to fix bayonets more often. The British infantry in the Falklands also bloodied bayonets in 1982, and Scots used bayonet charges to fend off insurgent embushes in Iraq. Far from a mere "last ditch" resource, the bayonet charge is an effective way of imposing ones will on the battlefield. Other flaw is the lack of patrol and ambushes in this book, which is where the soldiers spend more of their time - not in huge pitched battles as in movies.
The plates are range from the very good to the waste of space. Plates B and G are mainly pointless, as they didn't add much to the subject. The best plates are C and E, while plates A and D had potential but were poorly done. Fortunatelly, the second volume has better plates and they all directly relate to battle drill and unit movements. The photographs are good, with those in pages 30 and 51 showing the exhaustion in the faces of the soldiers. More first-hand accounts of men in combat should also be included. This book tried to tackle a veyr rich and interesting subject, but the execution was found wanting and many important aspects where omitted in favour of general audience hype - which is very sad. Even though the text is comprehensive and the images are decent. Four stars....more
This is a companion to another work by Bull: "World War II Infantry Tactics--Company and Battalion." The squad and platoon are the lowest units within an infantry organization. Here, British, American, and German units are compared. Basic principles of each country's use of these formations is provided.
The squad is considered the basic constituent unit--10-12 soldiers. As this book notes, "it was the cornerstone of morale" (page 20). Squad organization and weapons are described across the threeThis is a companion to another work by Bull: "World War II Infantry Tactics--Company and Battalion." The squad and platoon are the lowest units within an infantry organization. Here, British, American, and German units are compared. Basic principles of each country's use of these formations is provided.
The squad is considered the basic constituent unit--10-12 soldiers. As this book notes, "it was the cornerstone of morale" (page 20). Squad organization and weapons are described across the three countries considered here. Offensive and defensive tactics are also discussed. Finally, the platoon. I think that there might have been a bit more on this structure, but the section is informative.
As always, the pictures and diagrams add. Much of the material is from manuals from all three powers, giving the work added effectiveness.
All in all, a nice addition to this Osprey series, "Elite."...more
This Elite Series book from Osprey Publishing briefly introduces the squad and platoon tactics and equipment of the American, British and German armies. Chock-full of pictures, diagrams and illustrations it is a useful reference.