The armored division was a key structure in the United States Army and thus its structure went through one key change during the war. Specifically, the transition from the earlier armored division organization that served the army until 1943, before finally, the 1943 organization was established. This organization largely reduced the size of the division and added a bigger mix of light vehicles and support weapons.[1] Note that a (2), (3), or (4) indicates the respective amount of said unit in the unit above it. Ex. (4) Rifle Company indicates four rifle companies in the battalion.

Division Strength

Complete Division: 564 Officers, 10,052 other ranks[2]

  • Division Headquarters: 43 Officers, 168 other ranks[2]

  • Headquarters Company: 5 Officers, 119 other ranks[2]

  • Company Headquarters: 27 Officers, 194 other ranks[2]
  • Signal Company: 7 Officers, 302 other ranks[2]
  • Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron (Mech.): 42 Officers, 931 other ranks[2]
  • Military Police Platoon: 3 Officers, 88 other ranks[2]
  • Headquarters Company: 14 Officers, 159 other ranks
  • Battalion Headquarters: 8 Officer, 21 other ranks
  • Company Headquarters: 1 Officer, 5 other ranks
  • Maintenance Section: 1 Officer, 7 other ranks
  • Mortar Platoon: 1 Officer, 24 other ranks
  • Administrative Section: 25 other ranks
  • Assault Gun Platoon: 1 Officer, 23 other ranks
  • Reconnaissance Platoon: 1 Officer, 20 other ranks
  • Machine Gun Platoon: 1 Officer, 34 other ranks
  • Service Company: 7 Officers, 68 other ranks
  • (3) Armored Rifle Company: 6 Officers, 245 other ranks
  • (3) Tank Battalion: 37 Officers, 729 other ranks, 53 M4 Shermans, 18 M5A1 light tanks

  • Engineer Battalion: 32 Officers, 658 other ranks

  • Divisional Artillery Headquarters: 13 Officers, 99 other ranks

  • (3) Artillery Battalion: 31 Officers, 534 other ranks

  • Medical Battalion: 33 Officers, 382 other ranks

  • Armored Train Headquarters: 7 Officers, 95 other ranks

  • Maintenance Battalion: 40 Officers, 716 other ranks

In Practice

The standard American armored division that fought during World War II was designed to be a mobile and effective fighting force that could strike deep into enemy territory while at the same time being able to respond to enemy counterattacks. The chief component of any armored division was naturally its three tank battalions. The battalions had a mix of light and medium vehicles to support basic combat operations. For instance, the primary vehicle intended for use in assaulting dug in German positions was the M4(105) assault tank, though it was not uncommon in the early weeks of fighting in France for American armored divisions to lack enough Shermans, resulting in the makeshift use of the M7 Priest self-propelled artillery vehicle as a mobile assault platform.

Though the standard M4A3 Sherman was not intended for fighting against German tanks and armored vehicles, by late 1944, many of these standard 75 mm Shermans were supplemented or replaced entirely by newer 76 mm gun armed Shermans more capable of dealing with German armor. Perhaps the final attempt to up-gun American armored division strength with more competent armored vehicles came in the form of the formidable M26 Pershing heavy tank, comparable to the German Panther in performance, though limited in combat experience.

As far as infantry support was concerned, the American armored division was supported by a very mobile offensive and defensive force in the form of its three armored infantry battalions, supported by M2 and M3 half-tracks converted into everything from mortar carriers to APCs. The advantage of the widespread usage of half-tracks in armored infantry battalions came from the fact that the infantry aboard could carry far more equipment into battle than standard infantry. This included heavy weapons and often whatever leftovers or scraps the crew found around the battlefield, resulting in some American divisional commanders nicknaming the half-tracks "gypsy caravans" for how many things were carried on board and their overall messy battlefield appearance.[2] Because these infantry battalions were so mobile, American commanders often relied on them to be sent into combat generally more often than a standard infantry formation, resulting in some of the highest infantry casualty rates among different types of combat groups.

References

  1. http://bayonetstrength.150m.com/UnitedStates/Divisions/Armd%20Divs/united_states_armored_division%201944%20to%201945.htm
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 Zaloga, Steven J. US Armored Divisions: The European Theater of Operations. Osprey Publishing (2004), Page 37
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