ARMORED DIVISIONS

 
 

MISSIONS ASSIGNED TO ARMORED DIVISION IN THE ETO

 

On the fourth day following the initial invasion of Normandy, the beachhead was sufficiently large to provide assembly areas for an armored division.

 

On this day the 2nd Armored Division landed on Utah beach. It was followed closely by the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Armored Divisions, and latter by 10 additional divisions, the last in early 1945. Of these the 2nd Armored Division was the only one which had previous combat experience.

 

On 27 July 1944, a breakthrough was made by infantry divisions at St. Lo, and the armor was ordered through the gap created.

 

Then followed the dash across France and Belgium in which American armor surpassed the Germans in "blitz" warfare, although the latter had originated the method. Under courageous, farsighted leadership, the armored divisions were properly employed, according to the principles laid down in Field Service Regulations. The overwhelming success proved that the principles were sound.

 

This excellent leadership and sound employment continued through the Siegfried Line, during the bitter fighting in the Ardennes, to the Rhine and on into the very heart of Germany, where the war's end found the armor spearheading all advances.

 

Numerous examples illustrating the assignment of proper missions to armor and their successful accomplishment may be found in the historical records of the European Theater of Operations. In the following paragraphs, the missions of armor, as prescribed by Field Service Regulations, are extracted and illustrations are briefly cited. These illustrations were selected as typical. Many more are recorded.

 
a. The primary role of the Armored Division is "Offensive operations in hostile rear areas"
  (1) Following the St Lo breakthrough the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th Armored Divisions performed this mission.
  (2) Following the crossing of the Rhine River all Armored Divisions were employed offensively behind the German lines.
 
b. "Breakthrough an enemy protective screen and establish early contact with hostile forces."
 

On 7 March 1945, the 9th Armored Division seized the Remagen Bridge, broke through the German screen on the east bank of the Rhine River and by 9 march 1945 established contact with the German mobile reserves which had been set up for the defense of the Rhine.

 
c. "Seize ground essential to the development of the higher commander's plan."
 

On 1 January 1945 the 6th Armored Division attacked northeast of Bastogne to the vicinity Mageret. This was the first action of a general offensive resulting in the reduction of the Ardennes salient.

 
e. "Restore the impetus of an attack that has lost momentum."
  (1)

 

After crossing the Wurm River on 3 October 1944 the attack of the 30th Infantry Division was bogged down west of Ubach, germany. A combat command of the 2nd Armored Division attacked through the 30th Infantry Division and seized Ubach. This allowed the 30th Infantry Division to reorganize and continue its attack.

  (2)


 

The First Army Offensive which began on 16 November 1944 had come to a standstill northeast of the Hurtgen forest in early December. On 10 December one combat command of the 3rd Armored Division launched an attack from Langerwehe, Germany, between the 9th and 104th Infantry Divisions. This restored impetus to the attack and resulted in capture of the west bank of the Roer River in the vicinity of Duren, Germany.

 
f. "Spearhead the attack against an enemy incompletely prepared for defense."
 

On 16 March 1945 the 4th Armored Division passed through the gap created by the 90th Infantry Division and spearheaded the attack of Third U.S. Army in the reduction of the Palatinate. This division traveled 48 miles in 52 hours through scattered resistance.

 
g. "Attack on a narrow front against a prepared position."
 

On 20 February 1945 the 6th Armored Division attacked on a 4000 yard front, breached the Siegfried Line in the vicinity Dasburg, Germany and by 24 February 1945 had penetrated 20 miles into the German western defenses.

 
h. "Break through on a wide front against a demoralized enemy."
 

On 5 March 1945 the 12th Armored Division, operation to the left rear of the 4th Armored Division, broke through the remnants of the German defenses northeast of Luxembourg on a front of approximately 10 miles and by 9 March had reached the west bank of the Rhine River in the vicinity of Andernach.

 
i. "Exploit a success."
  (1)

 
On 27 July 1944, the German defenses had been breached at St. Lo, France by the Infantry Divisions. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Armored Divisions, o purely exploitation missions, rolled through northern France and Belgium until stoppen by the German defenses in the Siegfried Line in the middle of September 1944.
  (2) In March and April 1945, following the crossing of the Rhine River, all armored divisions were employed to exploit this success.
 
j. "Pursue a defeated enemy."
 

In the exploitation following the St. Lo breakthrough mentioned above, the German forces were retreating to the Siegfried Line. All armored divisions then on the continent were in pursuit.

 
k. "Perform strategic envelopment."
 

After breaking out of the Remagen bridgehead, which was accomplished by 26 March 1945, the 3rd, 7th, and 9th Armored Divisions spearheaded the advance of the infantry divisions of the First U.S. Army east to the Dill River. On 28 March they turned north and advanced to the vicinity of Paderborn. The 2nd Armored Division as a part of the Ninth U.S. Army made contact with the First Army at Lippstadt. this completed the envelopment of the Ruhr pocket and resulted in the capture of 370.000 German troops.

 
l.
 
"Attack to destroy enemy armored units when forced to do so as a matter of self-preservation or when hostile tanks threaten seriously to disrupt operations of other troops."
 

German forces employed in the Ardennes winter offensive in December 1944 and January 1945 consisted of the Fifth and Sixth Panzer Armies. During this campaign the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th and 11th Armored Divisions were required to attack German armored units in order to prevent the annihilation of American troops originally in the area and finally to reduce the salient.

 
m. "Operate against lightly armored formations or installations."
 

On 31 August 1944, the 2nd Armored Division, pursuing the German forces through Belgium, came upon a lightly armored German column in the vicinity of Orchies and completely destroyed it.

 
n. "Counterattack in withdrawal to disrupt hostile operations."
 

During the period 17 - 20 December 1944, prior to the stabilizing of the allied lines in the Ardennes, the 7th Armored Division was forced to execute numerous counterattacks in the vicinity of St. Vith, Belgium.

 
o. "Execute delaying action."
  In the early stages of the German attack in the Ardennes during December 1944, the 7th and 9th Armored Divisions were employed to delay the hostile advance.
 

ACTUAL COMBAT FORMATIONS OF ARMORED DIVISIONS IN THE ETO

 

TYPES

The vast differences in strength and organization of the heavy and light armored divisions make them incommensurable. Consequently their organizations are presented separately.

 
HEAVY DIVISIONS

Both the 2nd and 3rd Armored Division operated in the European Theater under control of the First U.S. Army until November 1944, when 2nd Armored Division was shifted to the Ninth U.S. Army. Both divisions had an antiaircraft and a tank destroyer battalion attached and these same battalions remained with their respective divisions. One additional armored field artillery battalion was attached to each division during combat operations. medium artillery was attached in varying quantities, but normally at least one battalion of either howitzers of guns was attached in combat. Infantry varying in quantity from a battalion to a regiment was attached whenever corps made it available.

 

Both divisions operated with three combat commands, CCA, CCB, and the third one being designated CCR. In each division the headquarters of the organic infantry regiment functioned as the headquarters of CCR. Although improvised, CCR was a third fighting combat command and was exactly as were CCA and CCB.

 

Combat commands consisted essentially of two tank battalions, one organic armored infantry battalion, one infantry battalion (whenever an infantry regiment was attached to the division ) and tank destroyer, engineer and antiaircraft elements. Medical and maintenance elements were attached or in support. Normally two combat commands were committed to action and the third was held in reserve. Each forward combat command was normally directly supported by two armored field artillery battalions and the medium artillery was in general support.  

 

Usually each combat command operated with two task forces or columns. A typical task force consisted of a tank battalion, an infantry or armored infantry battalion, tank destroyer and engineer platoons, directly supported by an armored field artillery battalion.

 

Tables of Organization provided for a light tank battalion and two medium tank battalions per armored regiment. Prior to landing on the European Continent both divisions reorganized the armored regiments so that each tank battalion consisted of a headquarters company ( containing assault guns and mortars ), two medium tank companies, and one light tank company.

 
Attached infantry was transported on tanks and in 2 1/2 ton trucks.
 
LIGHT DIVISIONS

Light armored divisions operated under the control of all four U.S. Armies in the European Theater of Operations, as well as the Second British Army.

 
Attachments to light armored divisions were practically the same as attachments to heavy divisions.
 

These divisions also operated with three combat commands. Most used CCR as a third fighting combat command; others kept it primarily in reserve, rotating troops through it from CCA and CCB. Wherever possible that headquarters of CCR was increased to practically the size of the headquarters of CCA and CCB. Armored group headquarters and headquarters companies when attached, were utilized for this purpose.

 

As in the heavy divisions, combat commands of the light divisions usually operated with two task forces; one consisted of a tank battalion ( less one medium tank company), a rifle company of armored infantry, and tank destroyer and engineer platoons; the other task force would usually consist of an armored infantry battalion (less one rifle company), one medium tank company and tank destroyer and engineer platoons. When additional infantry was attached to the division, the proportion of infantry in the task forces was correspondingly increased. Armored artillery was either attached to or in direct support to each combat command.

 

Attention is invited to the differences existing in the composition of these task forces: One is heavy in tanks and light in infantry unless additional infantry is attached; the other is strong in infantry and considerably weaker in tank strength. this obviously required an assignment of missions to task forces which were suitable to their makeup. In fluid situations the assignment of zones or axes of advance of the different task forces may or may not have been suitable to their composition.

 
 

 

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