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Subject: Need help with WW2 Tank Platoon info rss

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David Thompson
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Greetings all. I'm researching WW2 tank platoon structure. I know this is a broad topic (across nationalities and throughout the war things changed significantly). For simplicity sake, let's just say US tank platoons circa 1944 operating in the western front.

I've got FM17-30 "Armored Force Field Manual: Tank Platoon", but it doesn't cover some of the areas I'm looking for. Specifically, I'm trying to find more detailed info on the different roles and responsibilities of the platoon commander, tank commanders, gunners, drivers, assistant drivers, etc. I'm also looking for the ranks of each crew member.

I'm guessing this info is covered in a different manual, but I can't seem to locate it. I don't necessarily need an original field manual as a reference. If there is a better book out there (whether for minis or board gaming or just a general WW2 reference book), that's fine.

Thanks for the assist!
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kevin halloran
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This link might help.
http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/3985...

The info is for medium and light US tank companies, November 1944.
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Confusion Under Fire
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The basic composition of a tank crew is quite easy to find but as to what their specific roles were might be a little harder to distinguish apart from the obvious the driver drives etc.

I recommend reading the books by a WW2 tank commander called Ken Tout, his books can be purchased on Amazon.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ken-Tout/e/B001HOPQU2?tag=article-ge...

At an early age he was the commander of a Honey light tank but after reaching the shores of Normandy suddenly found he was in command of a Sherman. I imagine many tank commanders and other crew members suddenly found themselves in a role they were not used to and maybe finding the rank of these crew members may be misleading as to their training and experience.

The books give a brilliant insight into life within a tank and its crew as well as describing some firefights.

Edited my post to add a book I use for starting data;
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/287228.British_and_Americ...

I also have the German equivalent
http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1190895.Encyclopedia_Of_G...

I have seen online the same information word for word but cannot remember the site and the link I had now gives an error. cry
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David Thompson
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Kevin and Mike, thanks for the links. Exactly what I needed. I'll check out Tout's book, Mike. Looks good.
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Andrew Franke
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I can second the Ken Tout recommendation. Fantastic book and it does highlight the changes somewhat between the positions in the tank having just read it again recently.
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Jason Sadler
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http://www.theshermantank.com/sherman/the-crew-and-their-sta...
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Martin McCleary
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crew roles and functions are described in the period tank gunnery manual(s). See FM 17-12 (43) Tank Gunnery and FM 17-15 Tank Gunnery practice.

They are available free on line but I have them in PDF if you pm me.
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David Thompson
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BeatPosse wrote:

Very nice. Thanks!

Rallye72 wrote:
crew roles and functions are described in the period tank gunnery manual(s). See FM 17-12 (43) Tank Gunnery and FM 17-15 Tank Gunnery practice.

They are available free on line but I have them in PDF if you pm me.

Perfect. Thanks, Martin. Although, I'll use any source, I especially love referring back to the field manuals.
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Mark Russo
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WW2 US Army tank unit rank and crew duty structure can be tricky if one tries to compare them to the modern day structure.
Basically in WW2, because of the extremely rapid growth of the Armored Force in just a few short years, the large number of draftees and replacements, and the short term nature of needing to win the war, anyone that was trusted to fill a role and to do that job was given that job to do until they were needed to fill another role.
If you could drive a tank well you were a driver, if you could hit the target you were a gunner.

In the post-Vietnam, volunteer, peacetime US Army duties are usually assigned by rank and time in service until the promotion system moved you up to the next job. For example if you have been a good, smart, hard working driver for a few years you should eventually be promoted to gunner (with the prerequisite that you know what you are doing in the seat).
From lowest to highest rank and seniority on a modern tank crew: Driver/Loader -> Gunner -> Tank Commander -> Platoon Sergeant --> (Company First Sergeant)


So back to WW2, you could be a brand new tank crewman replacement with only a few weeks at Ft Knox and fresh off the boat to the ETO in Sep 1944 and be assigned as a gunner, if the unit trusted you to hit the target (for example maybe the unit held a quick gunner's tryout for new replacements). There was no real formal "ladder" up the tank crew hierarchy.

Tank Commander, the job description is very simple: to coordinate the actions of the crew. Like today a US Army WW2 tank commander was an NCO, either an E-5 Sergeant or E-6 Staff Sergeant (could also be a Corporal in a pinch). Today, in four tank platoon, these NCO tanks are called "wingman" tanks (don't remember if they used that term in WW2) since they are each assigned to pair with either the Platoon Leader or the Platoon Sergeant. Each pair of tanks is called a Section. Be assured they are not followers and in most formations the NCO wingman tank will lead the unit, allowing the LT and PSG to coordinate.
In the five tank WW2 platoon that extra NCO tank allowed a bit more flexibility in how the Platoon Leader could structure his platoon for a given task. One tank (maybe PL) could hang back as reserve while the other pairs moved ahead, or they could use the "heavy" section concept of three tanks to attack while the other section provided support.

Platoon Sergeant: the senior NCO, he had his own tank and crew. Usually a former wingman that was trusted to run the platoon. Other than fighting his tank his other tasks were to have a overall handle on: the welfare of his soldiers (health, morale, uniforms, equipment, sundry items), the maintenance of the vehicles and equipment (weapons, radios, parts, tools), all the logistics for the platoon (food, water, main gun ammo, small arms ammo, fuel, oil, medical items).
Each NCO tank Commander had the same tasks for his individual vehicle and crew, he passed up the information to the Platoon Sergeant who coordinated it all with the higher company level staff.
The Platoon Sergeants job was also to advise the Platoon Leader on any and all tasks, including tactical decisions.


Anyway that's too much for now, shoot any questions.
Some more manuals on crew level tasks (these were difficult downloads to find, took me a few weeks)
FM 17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece Medium Tank M4
FM 17-76 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece Medium Tank M4 105mm

Usually the current 17-15 Tank Platoon is available online (although I think the naming convention is now something like 3.20-15)
The current 17-12 is never online as open source, seeing as how it describes the exact methods to boresight and engage targets with that tank model it is at a higher security classification. (although IIRC the controversy now is that they stuffed every vehicle, Abrams, Bradley, Stryker, Humvee into one huge -12)
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David Thompson
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ardennes4412 wrote:
WW2 US Army tank unit rank and crew duty structure can be tricky if one tries to compare them to the modern day structure.
Basically in WW2, because of the extremely rapid growth of the Armored Force in just a few short years, the large number of draftees and replacements, and the short term nature of needing to win the war, anyone that was trusted to fill a role and to do that job was given that job to do until they were needed to fill another role.
If you could drive a tank well you were a driver, if you could hit the target you were a gunner.

In the post-Vietnam, volunteer, peacetime US Army duties are usually assigned by rank and time in service until the promotion system moved you up to the next job. For example if you have been a good, smart, hard working driver for a few years you should eventually be promoted to gunner (with the prerequisite that you know what you are doing in the seat).
From lowest to highest rank and seniority on a modern tank crew: Driver/Loader -> Gunner -> Tank Commander -> Platoon Sergeant --> (Company First Sergeant)


So back to WW2, you could be a brand new tank crewman replacement with only a few weeks at Ft Knox and fresh off the boat to the ETO in Sep 1944 and be assigned as a gunner, if the unit trusted you to hit the target (for example maybe the unit held a quick gunner's tryout for new replacements). There was no real formal "ladder" up the tank crew hierarchy.

Tank Commander, the job description is very simple: to coordinate the actions of the crew. Like today a US Army WW2 tank commander was an NCO, either an E-5 Sergeant or E-6 Staff Sergeant (could also be a Corporal in a pinch). Today, in four tank platoon, these NCO tanks are called "wingman" tanks (don't remember if they used that term in WW2) since they are each assigned to pair with either the Platoon Leader or the Platoon Sergeant. Each pair of tanks is called a Section. Be assured they are not followers and in most formations the NCO wingman tank will lead the unit, allowing the LT and PSG to coordinate.
In the five tank WW2 platoon that extra NCO tank allowed a bit more flexibility in how the Platoon Leader could structure his platoon for a given task. One tank (maybe PL) could hang back as reserve while the other pairs moved ahead, or they could use the "heavy" section concept of three tanks to attack while the other section provided support.

Platoon Sergeant: the senior NCO, he had his own tank and crew. Usually a former wingman that was trusted to run the platoon. Other than fighting his tank his other tasks were to have a overall handle on: the welfare of his soldiers (health, morale, uniforms, equipment, sundry items), the maintenance of the vehicles and equipment (weapons, radios, parts, tools), all the logistics for the platoon (food, water, main gun ammo, small arms ammo, fuel, oil, medical items).
Each NCO tank Commander had the same tasks for his individual vehicle and crew, he passed up the information to the Platoon Sergeant who coordinated it all with the higher company level staff.
The Platoon Sergeants job was also to advise the Platoon Leader on any and all tasks, including tactical decisions.


Anyway that's too much for now, shoot any questions.
Some more manuals on crew level tasks (these were difficult downloads to find, took me a few weeks)
FM 17-67 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece Medium Tank M4
FM 17-76 Crew Drill and Service of the Piece Medium Tank M4 105mm

Usually the current 17-15 Tank Platoon is available online (although I think the naming convention is now something like 3.20-15)
The current 17-12 is never online as open source, seeing as how it describes the exact methods to boresight and engage targets with that tank model it is at a higher security classification. (although IIRC the controversy now is that they stuffed every vehicle, Abrams, Bradley, Stryker, Humvee into one huge -12)

Mark, this post just won BGG, in my opinion. Exactly the type of info I needed. Fantastic insight, and thanks for the FM 17-67 and -76 references.
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Mark Russo
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PM if you need anything.
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