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Subject: WW2 American Armored Division Organization Question rss

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Holman
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Here's something I've wondered about:

It's common to read (and wargame) about operations where American WW2 armored divisions are split into "Combat Commands," usually CCA, CCB, and CCR (for Reserve). I've never been entirely clear on the relationship between Combat Commands and the component regiments and battalions of a division, so I thought I'd ask here.

I assume that a Combat Command was a grouping of Armored and Infantry battalions from within the division as a sort of battlegroup or kampfgruppe, with additional support elements added as needed. Is this accurate? Was a Combat Command just a way of creating combined arms units within the division?

Why is one of them "officially" considered "Reserve"? Why not just have CCA, CCB, and CCC?

Would a battalion typically belong to the same Combat Command for a long period of time, or were they swapped out frequently? (This relates to the reserve question above--would the members of CCR consider themselves luckier and more relaxed than the others?) In other words, how permanent was the Combat Command structure?

In short, what is the function of the Combat Command structure, and why do we not typically see something analogous in Infantry divisions?
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Mike Maloney
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Combat Commands were mission-oriented combined arms of about battalion strength. They could have infantry companies, anti-tank units (early doctrine called for tanks to fight as infantry support, while destroying enemy tanks was for purpose-built weapons). These varied company and battalion-sized units made up CCA, CCB, and CCR (yes, Reserve). The three Combat Commands were roughly regiment or brigade sized. The core of these Commands were still the armored companies and either towed, motorized, or mechanized tank destroyer companies.

An armored battalion was generally made of two medium tank companies and one light tank company. Usually there were two of these battalions in a front-line CC. The third battalion had the armored infantry companies. Tank Destroyers were attached, as well as other support units (such as recon and weapons platoons/companies that were not already inherent in the three "core" battalions).

So to answer your question, yes they were similar to the kampfgruppe in name, if not purpose.

CCR was named since it was the reserve (in a standard 2-forward 1-back deployment), and used in a similar way. Pulling units out of the two forward commands to rotate off the line as needed/required.

As far as the battalion rotation and unit swapping, I have no idea. Probably depended on what the objective and timeline required. So someone else can answer your question on the duration of the CC structure.

I believe Chafee created the idea in the 30s as a combined-arms idea. (I could be wrong of course). The CCR was changed to CCC after WW2 or Korea. It is not used anymore, but the idea is still used depending on the situation (probably BCT - "Brigade Combat Team").

edit - attempt at making my grammar more gooder whistle
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K G
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From what I understand this concept has been applied to the infantry. Here`s a somewhat dated resource: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/bua.htm

(I find it all a little difficult to understand, but I`m not out among troops trying to take Hill 60.)
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Mike Maloney
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Kluvon wrote:
From what I understand this concept has been applied to the infantry. Here`s a somewhat dated resource: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/bua.htm


Excellent link! cool Brigade Unit of Action must be the current term.
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Jan van der Laan
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For some good information about US armored divisions, their history, training, equipment and organization I recommend:



and for some more info:



Osprey has, as always, done a good job in presenting lots of info in a relatively small format.

Edit: rephrasing.
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Bill Eldard
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Stehlek wrote:
Kluvon wrote:
From what I understand this concept has been applied to the infantry. Here`s a somewhat dated resource: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/army/bua.htm


Excellent link! cool Brigade Unit of Action must be the current term.


When the Army moved toward enacting the latest concept, it was referred to as Unit of Action. But the term they eventually adopted was Brigade Combat Team (BCT). The BCT is different from the brigade in that combat support and combat service support units - normally attached frmo division to the brigades -- are supposed to be permanently assigned so that each BCT essentially functions as a mini-division. In other words, a BCT would have a combat engineer company permanently assigned.

In WW2, US armored divsions were initially organized by regiments, and operated via a combat command concept. That included two armor regiments (each having 3 battalions), and one armored infantry regiment (3 battalions.)

But having learned lessons in Tunisia and dissatisfied with the tank-infantry balance of the TO&E, armored divisions were reorganized in 1943 to have three tank battalions and 3 armored infantry battalions. Regimental headquarters no longer existed in this TO&E. These, together with division artillery and other combat support and combat service support units, could be mixed and matched under Combat Commands A, B, and R for whatever the tasks demanded.

However, two US armored divisions retained their pre-'43 TO&E: 2nd Armored Division ("Hell on Wheels") and 3rd Armored Division ("Spearhead").
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Colin Raitt
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A light division had 2 regiments. The armoured regiment had 3 medium tank battalions. The armoured infantry regiment had 3 battalions of half track mounted infantry. These were split into 3 combat command each with 1 tank battalion and 1 half track battalion. The regimental colonels were the combat commanders. There wasn't much shifting of battalions between combat commands because taking a tank battalion from a combat command just left an armoured infantry battalion.

With only 2 regiments, one combat command was under the brigadier general who was also the deputy division commander. His combat command HQ was taken from the corps armour group HQ. It wasn't needed as its tank battalions were attached to infantry divisions.

A heavy armour division fighting on its own theoretically had too many tanks for its infantry. 2 tank battalions for 1 armoured infantry battalion in each combat command. This wasn't actually a problem as it normally had an infantry division on at least one flank and could co-opt a motorised infantry battalion or 2 with the say so of the corps commander. With 2 light, 4 medium tank and adopted infantry battalions there could be a fair amount of shifting units between combat commands. Artillery was never lacking as corps had 2 or 3 artillery brigades floating around.
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Bill Eldard
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polate wrote:
A light division had 2 regiments. The armoured regiment had 3 medium tank battalions. The armoured infantry regiment had 3 battalions of half track mounted infantry. These were split into 3 combat command each with 1 tank battalion and 1 half track battalion. The regimental colonels were the combat commanders. There wasn't much shifting of battalions between combat commands because taking a tank battalion from a combat command just left an armoured infantry battalion.

With only 2 regiments, one combat command was under the brigadier general who was also the deputy division commander. His combat command HQ was taken from the corps armour group HQ. It wasn't needed as its tank battalions were attached to infantry divisions.

A heavy armour division fighting on its own theoretically had too many tanks for its infantry. 2 tank battalions for 1 armoured infantry battalion in each combat command. This wasn't actually a problem as it normally had an infantry division on at least one flank and could co-opt a motorised infantry battalion or 2 with the say so of the corps commander. With 2 light, 4 medium tank and adopted infantry battalions there could be a fair amount of shifting units between combat commands. Artillery was never lacking as corps had 2 or 3 artillery brigades floating around.


All but the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions had been divested of regiments in the 1943 TO&E. The three tank battalions and three armored infantry battalions in each of the 1943-orgs were independent and had no parent regiments. One could say that, in terms of tank and infantry, the '43-org ADs had two regimental-equivalents while the 2nd and 3rd ADs maintained the three regiment structure.

It should also be noted that in addition to the tank and armored infantry battalions, each AD had an armored cavalry battalion.
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Bill Eldard
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polate wrote:
Artillery was never lacking as corps had 2 or 3 artillery brigades floating around.


It was also not unusual to find a tank destroyer battalion attached from corps to the armored division.
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Steve Arthur
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Would I be right in suggesting that a Combat Command could be described as being similar in concept to a Kampfgruppe from a late war German panzer division?...a combined arms package the contents of which could be tailored for the job at hand..
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Michael Dorosh
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Atraxrobustus wrote:
Would I be right in suggesting that a Combat Command could be described as being similar in concept to a Kampfgruppe from a late war German panzer division?...a combined arms package the contents of which could be tailored for the job at hand..


There were three different kinds of Battle Group as I understand it, none of which were permanently constituted.

A Task Force would be closer in concept, I think.

A Task Force was a temporary grouping of units or sub-units for a specific mission, usually named for the commander of the force (i.e. "Task Force Richardson"). This was also one of the types of German Battle Groups (i.e. "Kampfgruppe Hansen"). The Germans also used Battle Groups to reconstitute battle-depleted formations and reorganize formations.
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Bill Eldard
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
Atraxrobustus wrote:
Would I be right in suggesting that a Combat Command could be described as being similar in concept to a Kampfgruppe from a late war German panzer division?...a combined arms package the contents of which could be tailored for the job at hand..


There were three different kinds of Battle Group as I understand it, none of which were permanently constituted.

A Task Force would be closer in concept, I think.


Yes. That's the concept.

But when reading US Army histories of WW2, be advised that as Combat Commands were task organized, so did they themselves further task organize subordinate units into Task Forces, usually named after the officer in command.

So, Combat Command A might consist of 1 tank battalion (minus 1 company detached and assigned to Combat Command R as division reserve), 1 armored infantry battalion, two companies from another armored infantry battalion, one company of combat engineers, an artillery battalion (105mm) plus a battery from an attached corps-level heavy artillery battalion, a company from the armored cav battalion, and a platoon from an attached tank destroyer battalion.

Combat Command A could then be further broken down into Task Force (TF) Barnes, TF Jones, TF Nelson, etc.
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Seth Owen
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Eldard wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
Atraxrobustus wrote:
Would I be right in suggesting that a Combat Command could be described as being similar in concept to a Kampfgruppe from a late war German panzer division?...a combined arms package the contents of which could be tailored for the job at hand..


There were three different kinds of Battle Group as I understand it, none of which were permanently constituted.

A Task Force would be closer in concept, I think.


Yes. That's the concept.

But when reading US Army histories of WW2, be advised that as Combat Commands were task organized, so did they themselves further task organize subordinate units into Task Forces, usually named after the officer in command.

So, Combat Command A might consist of 1 tank battalion (minus 1 company detached and assigned to Combat Command R as division reserve), 1 armored infantry battalion, two companies from another armored infantry battalion, one company of combat engineers, an artillery battalion (105mm) plus a battery from an attached corps-level heavy artillery battalion, a company from the armored cav battalion, and a platoon from an attached tank destroyer battalion.

Combat Command A could then be further broken down into Task Force (TF) Barnes, TF Jones, TF Nelson, etc.


As to why it was CCR instead of CCC, I believe the original idea was that the division would habitually operate with most of the assigned combat elements working under either the A or B headquarters with the R headquarters being simply that, a "reserve." The Two-up-and-one-back deployment was an infantry division thing.

In actual practice the division commanders apparently found having three combat commands more useful and CCR was often used just like CCA and CCB, although it was handicapped by having a much smaller staff on paper. I suppose those divisions that used their CCR as a third maneuver HQ beefed up the staff with officers and men detailed from other duties, which seems to have been pretty common practice in the US Army.

The Combat Command doctrine was very flexible, although commanders did tend to keep the same units operating together as familiarity had advantages. THe Combat Command idea was later extended to the whole Army under the ROAD concept. Today's brigades, however, have gone back to a set organization.
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