Tuesday 8 November 2022

Late War American Infantry Battalions

 Late War American Infantry Battalions 

I`ve been giving some thought to the make up and organisation of US infantry battalions in NWE during the last year of the war and how it effects my tabletop orbats.

As always in our games your basic unit is of course the rifle platoon which is represented on the tabletop by 10-figures

In combat these 10 figures would split into two movement/fire groups, the fire group being centered around the BAR. This unit would be carried in a single truck model on tabletop.

Each company has 3 of these plus a small 4-man HQ

Note in Charles Grant`s original rules there were no company HQs, but I like some sort of command/control element.

Also in Charles Grant`s original rules company support weapons were allocated among the three rifle platoons (8 figs plus a 2-man support weapon), for some reason the great man also ignored LMGs - a pretty central weapon in all nationalities section/platoon organisations? 
In my tweaking his classic rules I of course added these (BAR in the case of the Americans) into unit organisations.
In the case of the Americans because of the make-up of their historic company orbat, I decided to give rifle platoons this 10-man organisation and the support weapon platoon requires its own set-up.
So we have a Bazooka team, a 60mm mortar team, a .30cal machine gun team, a rifle grenadier and an NCO (I sometimes add a couple of ammo bearers too depending on the size of game ). This platoon comes under the direct command of the company commander and are deployed as required in attack or defence.

Now three rifle platoons plus the support weapon platoon and the HQ creates a tabletop company 
(42 figures). 
To move the entire company requires 4 trucks and a Jeep.

Obviously three such companies make up a full battalion (126 figures)

Battalion  HQ & support 

Now in my games battalion command elements are just a group of officers and radio staff, we rarely see battalion HQs on our tabletop, but it has happened. 
This is the basic idea (12 figs) 
I also add a defense rifle platoon to represent cooks, drivers, clerks, etc. 
The battalion HQ would have radio vehicles, several supply trucks, Jeeps and trailers

Military police
These guys police the rear areas, look after prisoners, direct traffic

Battalion support weapons

Medium machine gun platoon

This set-up gives the Battalion commander the ability to deploy one gun per company in defence, this unit would require yet another truck.

81mm medium mortars

2 x 2 tube batteries (one truck each). 
The FOO teams may also require Jeep transports
Anti-tank platoon
Obviously of more use in defence than attack, this platoon was often held in reserve, but the guns would be deployed to help defend taken ground against future German counter-attacks. 
The guns were sometimes deployed as direct fire weapons against strongpoints and bunkers too, though this could prove costly to their crews being exposed to German fire. 
Sometimes the guns were "lost" and the men deployed as an additional rifle platoon to bolster the rifle companies. This was particularly during the savage street fighting for German frontier towns on the West Wall and into the Ruhr Pocket. 
Each gun of course will require a towing vehicle
Battalion Aid-Station
Not important as far as a wargame is concerned but necessary 
Anti-aircraft platoon 
2 x .50cal HMG team and an NCO
These could either come from regiment, or more likely dismounted off battalion HQ vehicles and manned by drivers, etc

This now gives the battalion a grand total of 183 figures!
Note I forgot to put the HQ defense platoon in this photo - D`oh!

The West Wall and Assault Platoons 

I know there has been reams written about American Combat Engineer Battalions, but the American practice was that engineers build, or repair, or blow things up, they were highly valued, trained specialists and not paid to fight!
Please note the units thrown into the path of the German Ardennes offensive who fought so bravely are  a special case. 
So the job of actually attacking bunkers, etc fell on the poor bloody infantry! 
As the Allies approached the West Wall, divisions began to plan for what was to come. Men were put through serious training schemes on bunker busting, crossing streams and other obstacles; working in concert with tanks and other support.
Each company of the selected divisions was allocated an assault platoon equipped with Bangalore torpedoes, sachel charges, mine detection gear and flame-throwers (these last items being far rarer and less used in reality by the US Army than in most wargames) 
Assault Platoon
One for each company

Reinforced Assault Battalion (213 figures)  

Now the shear number of trucks and Jeeps required to move this vast force is just not practical, so basically I have enough trucks to transport one (OK maybe two 😅) full companies plus guns tows and I have several spare Jeeps some with with trailers and the odd additional truck if required. 
My Battalion HQ now has a shiny new GMC radio truck and generator trailer




  1. Fantastic collection Richard.

    Great to see laid out like that.



    1. Cheers Pete, one day i`ll learn to use a camera properly and take good pics :)

  2. Thanks for the post, looks great. How do you handle LMGs firing in your (modified) rules? Against troops in the open rifles hit at 0-3" on 4-5-6 and machine guns hit at 0-6" on 3-4-5-6 - do you have a separate table for LMGs?

    1. LMG ranges: 0-4 inches hit on 2-6 (open) 3-6 (soft cover) 4-6 (hard cover) 5-8 inches hit on 3-6 (open) 4-6 (soft cover) 5-6 (hard cover) 9-12 inches hit on 4-6 (open) 5-6 (soft cover) 6 (hard cover). I hope this all makes sense :)

    2. Elegant solution! I'll try it.

    3. Works for our games, and it has been heavily playtested

  3. An aside on early war platoon/squad organization/philosophy - the M-1 Garand rifle had/has twice the rate of fire of bolt action rifles (40-50 rpm vs 15-20) and early Garand squad philosophy was there was therefor no need for a LMG at squad level and BARs were removed from the rifle squad and put into a separate automatic rifle squad controlled by the platoon leader. In 1942 the separate AR squad was disbanded and each rifle squad was given its own organic BAR - this was largely done to counter the German squad's organic MG.

    1. Hence how I set my section/platoon up for late war, I`m glad you agree :)

    2. I always thought it a bit of poetic justice that the arrogance of the semi-automatic rifle mafia was silenced by an automatic rifle that was 24 years old...

    3. Yes for me adding the BAR to US organisations was a must.

  4. Superb collection, love the aid section!

  5. Impressive collection, yes a better camera would do them justice, maybe you could add the figures'/kits' makes next time, that would be a bonus. Regards, Pat

    1. Cheers Pat, that, identifying the various ranges may take quite a while there must be a dozen manufacturers among these. Off the top of my head - Britannia Miniatures, Kelly`s Heroes, SHQ, Sgt Major`s Miniatures, Combat Miniatures, Revell, Airfix, Raventhorpe.There are others I`m sure plus numerous minor conversions. Been collecting for nearly 40yrs.

  6. Great tutorial, Richard, on tabletop organisation under Battle rules to represent historical OOB. Carl

    1. Cheers Carl, I think with a bit of tinkering the rules still hold up pretty well and give a good balanced game without too many charts.

  7. Very nicely done! I remember the old Charles Grant rules well, they got me hooked on the hobby since getting the book for Christmas at the tender age of 13 :)
    I believe he never included LMG's in them for the simple reason that he, like all of us, was forced o use Airfix H0-00 scale figures, and Airfix for reasons known only to themselves, only gave LMG's to the 8th Army and Afrika Korps!
    Thanks for the memories though, and yes every US squad needs a BAR (bit no Thompson, carbine or grease gun!)

    1. Cheers, Yes I guess you could be right about the lack of LMGs among early Airfix sets being the reason for thier absence in the rules. US squad and platoon leaders could have Thompsons or carbines and usually I only give these those weapons, but manufacturers pile on the sculpts, so you do tend to get far more than makes any real sense historically :( Carbines were usually issued to drivers, infantry RTOs, recce (who also got SMGs purely for firepower). In a game I usually just class a guy with a carbine as having a rifle unless he is one of those named above - the carbine having far less range than the Garand. As I`ve said quite often I`m NOT a rivet counter, its just a game, I can accept some fudging.