TANK DESTROYER COMPANY
TANK DESTROYER SQUAD AND SECTION
• 58. TANK DESTROYER SQUAD.—a. Composition.—The tank destroyer squad consists of a destroyer commander, a driver, a gunner who lays the piece, and one or more assistant gunners. The commander of one of the two destroyers of a section is also the section leader. When a heavy gun squad consists of only four men, the destroyer commander, in addition to exercising command, assists in the service of the piece.
b. Equipment and transportation.—The tank destroyer squad is transported on a self-propelled antitank gun mount.
c. Fuel and ammunition.—The tank destroyer squad carries sufficient fuel for one day of operation and approximately 50 rounds of heavy or 100 rounds of light ammunition.
• 59. DESTROYER COMMANDER—a. He is responsible for the conduct of the training of his squad and the care and condition of all individual and squad armament and equipment. He receives and executes orders of the section leader, usually transmitted by voice or visual signals. He sees that lookouts are posted at all times to observe for hostile aircraft or ground troops.
b. On the march he is responsible that the driver and the designated assistant driver perform the proper vehicle checks and that they rotate at the controls so that neither becomes excessively fatigued. He sees that the duties of air sentinel are rotated frequently. He checks equipment for its presence and serviceability and insures that it is located in its proper place and securely fastened. He sees that the, driver maintains proper distance, speed, and road position. He keeps oriented as to the location of the vehicle. He watches the preceding vehicle for signals or changes of direction. At the halt he directs disposition of the vehicle, taking advantage of cover and concealment, or gains security through dispersion. Except in the presence of the enemy, crew members are permitted to relax in order that they may be in condition to take their turn at the above duties. On forced marches the destroyer commander encourages crew members who are not on duty to sleep. During night marches he prevents unnecessary use of unshielded lights and is particularly careful to keep lights from being flashed in the eyes of vehicle drivers. When contact with the enemy appears imminent, without awaiting directions from the section or platoon leader, he orders the crew to take action posts and load the piece. After preparing for action he will frequently check to see that all members are observing their sectors and are prepared for action.
c. In combat, subject to limitations imposed by orders of the section leader, he reconnoiters,
selects, occupies, and improves the destroyer position and directs the action of the crew. (See
d. During lulls in combat, and upon arrival in an assembly or rallying position, he informs the section leader concerning casualties, ammunition, and fuel supply.
• 60. DRIVER.—In bivouac he is responsible for camouflaging the destroyer. He keeps it headed out and prepared for prompt movement without necessity of backing. On the march he keeps a sharp lookout for mines and obstacles. He looks for routes offering cover and defilade, and watches the vehicle ahead for signals. In combat he observes to the front, reports menacing targets promptly to the destroyer commander, and is ready to maneuver the destroyer to meet them. During actual firing he watches the traverse of the piece and, upon signal of the gunner, is ready to move instantly when the gun reaches the limit of traverse. He studies the ground, and is prepared for any possible move that he may be directed to make. Before commencement of a combat action, he empties the extra fuel that is carried on the vehicle into the fuel tank or otherwise disposes of it. He keeps the destroyer commander informed concerning the supply of gas and oil and any other matters pertaining to the operation of the vehicle. He is responsible for first echelon maintenance of the vehicle and for making motor maintenance inspections as prescribed in FM 18-15.
• 61. GUNNERS.—While on the march in the combat zone, the gunners keep a constant lookout for hostile ground or air forces. When the destroyer is in cover or firing positions, they observe in assigned sectors. In action, they take maximum advantage of their armored protection while performing crew functions. They assist in the care and maintenance of the destroyer and all weapons and equipment and operate secondary armament, as directed by the destroyer commander.
• 62. TACTICS.—a. General.—In combat the destroyer is either in a firing or cover position, or moving from one position to another. The time required for a move from one position to another and the exposure during the move are reduced by reconnaissance and the selection of routes and new positions before the destroyer moves out from the old position. Adequate reconnaissance will save time and prevent undue exposure through false moves to positions which prove unsatisfactory.
b. Reconnaissance of position.—The destroyer commander determines the best route into and out of his assigned area and selects within that area the most advantageous position or positions from which to accomplish his mission. When time permits, this reconnaissance is made on foot. Since this often will not be feasible, the destroyer commander and every member of the crew must constantly consider two vital questions:
(1) Where is the next suitable firing position—to my front—to my flanks?
(2) What is the best available route to that position—out of the position?
Every time a hill is crossed or a corner turned, these questions must be asked and answered.
c. Selection of positions.—The primary consideration is that the destroyer must be suitably located to accomplish its mission of timely and effective fire on any part of its sector. Extensive use is made of cover positions. When a cover position is selected, the destroyer commander reconnoiters, preferably on foot and accompanied by one or more gunners, and marks the location of the firing position. When a man of average height can see the target or assigned sector over the top of a crest while standing, this position is usually suitable for a destroyer firing position. In selecting routes and positions the destroyer commander endeavors to comply with the following basic guides:
(1) Take advantage of concealment when moving into position; avoid movements over or along a crest which will present a clear silhouette to the enemy.
(2) Do not wait for orders when the enemy launches a surprise attack, but move off the road at once to the nearest position and open fire.
(3) Select positions from which movement can be made without delay to the front or rear.
(4) In any firing position, seek concealment and hasty camouflage. Avoid firing positions on a hill crest; seek a position that provides partial defilade, and which has an irregular background.
(5) Select firing positions with unrestricted fields of fire, and that do not offer covered approaches to the enemy.
(6) Exploit difficult terrain and natural obstacles to the advantage of the destroyer and the disadvantage of the enemy.
d. Occupation and improvement of position.—Tank destroyer units occupy selected positions rapidly, by covered routes and without unnecessary lateral movement. A destroyer commander begins improving his position as soon as it is occupied. Alternate and supplementary positions, both cover and firing, are selected and routes to them are reconnoitered.
e. Fire mission.—A tank destroyer squad is normally given a specific fire mission including a primary sector of fire. When required by the situation, the squad fires in other sectors. The conditions for opening fire must be clearly understood. Fire may be withheld for a radio or other prearranged signal given by the section, platoon, and, at times, company commander. Specific orders governing the opening of fire will often be given with respect to visible terrain features. In the absence of instructions or in emergencies, the destroyer commander determines when to open fire.
f. Conduct of fire.—(1) Opening of fire is governed by many factors, including the number of hostile vehicles which are exposed, the degree of concealment afforded the destroyer, proximity of cover into which target vehicles might vanish, the effective range of the destroyer against the target in question, the extent to which the terrain favors machine gun fire by a moving tank, and the mission of the destroyer in question.
(2) Fire will not be opened at ranges that are likely to be ineffective. Premature opening of fire gives warning and discloses positions. Against small numbers of tanks, well-concealed destroyers seldom open fire at ranges greater than 500 yards. Destroyers with a skirmishing or delaying mission may open fire at longer ranges. When large numbers of tanks expose themselves in a mass attack, opening fire at effective ranges will be normal. In flat, treeless areas where concealment and, hence, surprise fire is difficult, fire is opened at the longest range promising remunerative results.
(3) Once fire has been opened, any tank within effective range is engaged. The crews of moving tanks are relatively deaf and blind. These handicaps should be exploited by the use of ambush wherever possible. For example, three tanks which appear to be traveling a course that will take them to the flank of a gun position should be permitted to come almost abreast of the position and the last tank in the column engaged first, then the second in column, and last, the first in column.
(4) On the other hand, when tanks approach and threaten a gun position, the tank which is most menacing (usually the closest to the gun) should be fired upon until hit; then the next nearest (or most menacing) should be fired upon. It must be noted, however, that the most effective fire from tank guns is obtained when firing from a halted tank. Consequently, a halted tank that is firing upon the gun position may be more menacing than a closer, moving tank.
(5) Whenever practicable, tanks which are covering the advance of other tanks by firing from a stationary position in hull defilade should be neutralized by smoke while maneuvering tanks are being engaged.
(6) So far as practicable, destroyers seek to deliver fire against the sides of a tank or to strike it at a normal angle of impact. As soon as a tank has been stopped, it is usually advisable to fire one or more additional shots to insure its destruction and prevent it from opening effective fire from a stationary position. In case appearance of an emergency target prevents such action, the destroyer disables the immobilized tank at the earliest opportunity.
(7) After firing three or four rounds, the destroyer changes position unless a remunerative target is in sight, in which case it continues to fire but changes position at the first opportunity. Displacement to the alternate position is by a previously selected route.
(8) The destroyer commander exercises care to insure that his squad is in constant readiness to meet attacks of successive elements of enemy tanks.
(9) If the vehicle has to retire across open ground, use of smoke to mask hostile observation is advisable.
• 63. TANK DESTROYER SECTION.—a. Composition.—The tank destroyer section is composed of two tank destroyer squads. It is commanded by a sergeant who is also leader of one of the squads.
b. Communication.—The section may receive orders from the platoon leader by radio. Communication between the destroyers of a section is maintained by voice, visual signals, or messenger.
c. Duties of personnel.—The duties of individuals are as listed in paragraphs 59, 60, and 61. The section leader has additional duties as listed below:
(1) He transmits and has executed all orders and instructions of the platoon leader. He is responsible for the training of the section and the care, cleaning, and operation of its equipment and armament. He usually operates the radio.
(2) On the march he leads his section and performs the duties listed in paragraph 59 with respect to his own destroyer. He supervises the duties of the squad leader of the other destroyer in his section. While marching in the combat zone, the section leader constantly studies the terrain, and is prepared to commit his destroyers to prompt action. If the section is acting independently and advancing by bounds, the section leader's destroyer will always be the leading element. The section leader regulates the advance by use of signals. In case of a sudden attack while on the march, he signals ACTION LEFT (RIGHT, FRONT), and by his action and signals indicates the action for the other destroyer.
(3) At halts he conducts such inspection of materiel and equipment as is necessary. In bivouac he locates his destroyers as directed by the platoon leader and supervises the execution of all instructions concerning camouflage, digging of slit trenches, and other special security measures. He reports to the platoon leader when his destroyers are cleaned, serviced, filled with gasoline, and ready for movement, or he indicates items that he cannot correct.
(4) In combat he regulates the action of the section in accordance with the orders of the platoon leader or the requirements of the situation.
d. Hasty selection and occupation of position.—When sudden action is ordered, the section leader, without halting for further reconnaissance, signals ACTION, and points in the desired direction. He then halts his destroyer in the nearest suitable firing position. He readjusts dispositions as opportunity permits.
e. Deliberate selection and occupation of position.—(1) In situations where time is ample, a more detailed reconnaissance, selection, and occupation of position are made. Sections may be halted under cover (destroyers pointing out ready to fire) while the section leader and assistant, on foot, reconnoiter the assigned fire position area, for routes and positions, with the following in mind:
(a) Upon terrain which tends to canalize the direction of tank approach, and which affords some natural protection to the position area, effort is made to obtain enfilade fire.
(b) An ambush position requires complete concealment for destroyers and personnel. Cover positions are usual.
(c) Destroyers will be mutually supporting. They should not be placed so far apart that control by voice, signal, or messenger is lost. However, they should be separated by at least 50 yards.
(2) Based upon this reconnaissance the section leader assigns a position or position area to the other destroyer of his section and issues the necessary instructions for its occupation. These instructions will include—
Time for opening fire.
Plans for next displacement.
Location of section leader's destroyer.
f. Organization of position.—After the occupation of the position, the section leader, as soon as possible—
(1) Ascertains the areas which security elements near his section are guarding and observing. He assigns at least one man to be on the alert for signals from these security groups.
(2) Sees that destroyer crews use all available time for camouflage and for improving the local defenses of the position area by the use of natural obstacles, augmented in some cases by artificial obstacles. They may prepare slit trenches near the destroyer it the position is to be occupied for a considerable period.
(3) Transmits additional instructions of the platoon leader as soon as received.
g. Combat action.—Destroyers in cover positions move into firing positions upon signal of section leaders or observers. During the fire fight, communication between destroyers may be impractical. The second destroyer conforms, in general, to the action of the section leader's destroyer. If an extensive change of position is necessitated, the section leader at first opportunity reestablishes communication with the platoon leader and reports the change in dispositions. When the section has opened fire and disclosed its position, the section leader, at the first opportunity, displaces the section to alternate fire positions. Usually one destroyer will move at a time, covered by the fire of the other. In the absence of orders, or if time is not available to contact the platoon leader, the section leader takes such action as will best further the combat mission of the platoon. He does not hesitate to move his section to forestall attempts at flanking action by hostile tanks. As opportunity arises, he reestablishes communication with the platoon. At the earliest opportunity after combat, the section leader will report to the platoon leader on the condition of his section. Primary items included in this report are—
Fuel and ammunition.
Damage to vehicles or weapons.
The section leader causes gun crews to be reorganized and redistributes ammunition if necessary.
h. Local security.—When providing local security of a bivouac or position by covering a road, destroyers are placed in positions away from the road but permitting effective fire on the road. The destroyers are mutually supporting and may have the same primary fire mission. They are usually given local protection by security elements, posted in slit trenches.
• 64. COMPOSITION AND DUTIES.—This section consists of two multiple antiaircraft weapons on self-propelled mounts, and personnel and equipment as prescribed in T/O 18-27. The antiaircraft section leader also acts as gun commander of one of the weapons. Duties of individuals on the march, at halts, and in bivouac correspond in general to those prescribed for the tank destroyer squad (pars. 59, 60, and 61). Personnel of the section are thoroughly trained in the technique of fire against ground targets in addition to antiaircraft fire applicable to their particular weapons.
• 65. MISSION.—The primary mission of the section is to protect the platoon from air attack. Its secondary mission is action against hostile tanks.
• 66. DISPOSITION.—a. In bivouac and assembly areas.—In bivouac or in assembly areas, antiaircraft sections will be posted so as to provide coordinated all-around air defense. Air sentinels are provided during daylight hours and sufficient personnel remain in the immediate vicinity of the guns to insure that they are manned in case of alarm.
b. On march.—The antiaircraft section marches as a unit behind the rear tank destroyer section on night marches and when hostile air attack is improbable. When air attack is anticipated, the section leader's vehicle moves immediately in rear of the first tank destroyer section and the other antiaircraft gun follows the second tank destroyer section.
c. In combat.—(1) In combat the antiaircraft section will usually be placed in rear of the tank destroyer platoon where it can obtain concealment and still have an adequate field of fire. Distance behind tank destroyer sections will depend on the terrain and the armament with which the antiaircraft section is equipped. If practicable, antiaircraft guns will be posted close enough to each other to facilitate control by the section leader; however, this consideration must be subordinated to effective protection of tank destroyer sections. Antiaircraft weapons must remain in the vicinity of tank destroyer sections (distance not normally exceeding 200 yards). Each antiaircraft gun is normally affiliated with a given tank destroyer section and unless the platoon leader directs otherwise an antiaircraft gun is posted generally in rear of the tank destroyer section so as to protect it against dive-bombing attacks or flanking action by hostile tanks. In case a tank destroyer section moves several hundred yards from its original position, the affiliated antiaircraft group automatically accompanies it unless otherwise directed. The antiaircraft group usually does not displace when destroyers effect only minor changes of position.
(2) During the engagement the platoon leader may call upon the antiaircraft section to cover either or both flanks to stop an encircling maneuver by hostile tanks. In selecting positions, routes over which antiaircraft weapons may be moved to fulfill this secondary mission are given consideration. The range at which antiaircraft weapons are effective against tanks is also a factor.
(3) In exceptional circumstances, the antiaircraft section may reinforce security groups against infiltration by hostile ground troops.
• 67. AMMUNITION SUPPLY.—It air activity is intense, supply of ammunition to the antiaircraft guns will present difficulties. The platoon leader may give priority to the needs of antiaircraft guns and keep the platoon ammunition vehicle in their vicinity.
• 68. COMPOSITION.—The Composition and equipment of the security section are listed in T/O 18-27. It is divided into groups, each with its own transport. One group is commanded by the sergeant and the other by the corporal.
• 69. MISSION.—The primary mission of the security section is to protect the platoon against hostile foot troops and to provide warning of tank attacks. Secondary missions include the attack of tanks, employment as reconnaissance patrols, furnishing guides and route markers, and protecting the leader's reconnaissance parties.
• 70. DUTIES.—The duties of the personnel of the security section on the march, at halts, and in bivouac in general correspond to those listed for the tank destroyer squad. (See pars. 59, 60, and 61.)
• 71. TRAINING.—For basic training of the security section, see FM 21-45 and FM 21-100. For technique of fire in combat, see appropriate Field Manuals for weapons in question. The security section is especially trained in methods of destroying tanks by the use of grenades and mines. It is trained in combat and terrain reconnaissance.
• 72. OUTGUARDS.—In bivouac, mutually supporting elements of security sections will be posted to provide local security and to protect destroyers and antiaircraft weapons. Security section groups also may be employed as patrols and outguards at some distance from the bivouac. For details, see FM 21-100.
• 73. ON THE MARCH.—On the march the security section normally moves as a unit directly behind the platoon leader, and Is available for combat, security, or reconnaissance missions to the front or flanks. When the platoon halts temporarily, members of the security section establish local security, dismounting and moving to nearby points of observation. At longer halts it may form part of a more elaborate march outpost. Dispositions favor a rapid assembly so as not to delay the platoon in moving out.
• 74. ADVANCED GUARD POINT—a. When the platoon acts as advance guard, one group of the security section, assisted by one or more motorcycle scouts from company headquarters, acts as point. The point is both a reconnaissance and security element. It usually precedes the rest of the platoon by about 1 minute (600 yards). The point advances rapidly along the road until indications of the presence of the enemy are received. In close proximity to the enemy, the advance is conducted by bounds. On winding roads, or where visibility is limited, elements within the point are particularly careful to maintain visual contact until the next bound is reached.
b. The point reconnoiters the road on which the column is marching and observes to the immediate flanks. It remains on or near the route of advance. It gives timely warning to the platoon leader of the enemy's presence or of road blocks, mines, or other obstructions. It removes small obstacles from the route. It pushes boldly into villages along the line of march to determine whether or not they are occupied by the enemy. It drives back or disperses small hostile patrols. When the enemy encountered is too strong to be defeated by the point, it protects and warns the next element in the rear.
c. The point commander gives the necessary orders to the point and insures that the designated route is followed. In case it becomes impracticable, or obstacles are encountered, he notifies the platoon leader and reconnoiters for routes around the obstacle. In case the enemy opens fire on the point, he reports contact and sends members of the point to reconnoiter the enemy position, to fire on and mark the hostile flanks with tracer ammunition, and to signal if the enemy withdraws. As soon as practicable he informs the platoon leader of the hostile strength, composition, and dispositions. If the scouts sent out from the point remain out of view for an unreasonable period, he assumes that they have been shot or captured and sends dismounted scouts to reconnoiter the place where they disappeared.
d. In the execution of its mission, elements of the point proceed as follows: Two vehicles work as a pair, making successive bounds at the maximum speed which road conditions permit. The point commander is in the second vehicle. At the end of each succeeding bound the leading vehicle slows down, halts short of the crest, bend, etc., and observers dismount and move to reconnoiter the terrain to the front and check the route. The crew of the second vehicle observe to the flanks. The motorcyclist is employed in a position where he can observe for at least 600 yards. The leading vehicle does not move forward to the next bound until it has signaled "Forward." Control is maintained by visual signals. (See FM 18-15.) When an obstacle or enemy is discovered, one man reports this to the point commander; the others remain in observation. When fired upon, the crew of the leading vehicle seek cover, report contact, and then reconnoiter to determine the direction and nature of the hostile action. They fire their weapons in self-defense and to warn elements in rear. In case fire is opened on troops in rear from a hostile position which has been passed without being observed by the crew of the leading vehicle, it will return, dismount, and attack the enemy. It will especially seek to bring under fire antitank guns and machine guns.
• 75. COVERING ACTION.—When the platoon is effecting a deployed advance in the presence of enemy mechanized forces, the security section may advance by bounds on a broadened front to successive commanding terrain objectives. Movement is on vehicles. Each bound of movement is directed upon a terrain line of importance to the security of the platoon or to its eventual combat action. The security group, upon reaching an objective, deploys to screen the employment of destroyers or prepares to continue their advance in accordance with orders or signals.
• 76. GUARDING PLATOON LEADER—One group of the security section accompanies the platoon leader when he moves forward on reconnaissance. If the group is in two vehicles, one vehicle remains near the platoon leader while the other precedes him and reconnoiters the area into which he is about to move.
• 77. SCREENING ASSEMBLY AREA.—During the occupation of an assembly area, rallying position, or platoon cover position, the security section dismounts and provides a local screen of security and observation. The distance of observers from the platoon depends on the terrain; it will rarely be more than 100 or 200 yards.
• 78. COMBAT ACTION.—a. In combat the security section usually protects the flanks of the platoon. Positions of groups will preferably be such that they can fire across the front of the platoon against any enemy advancing from that direction and at the same time block avenues of hostile approach from the flanks. When the platoon moves into combat, the security section, unless otherwise ordered, splits into groups, one group being affiliated with each tank destroyer section. In the absence of other orders, the group remains in support of its tank destroyer section, and its combat employment will be based upon the action of that section. The security group leader is responsible for ascertaining the position of destroyers and maintaining contact with the tank destroyer section. The security group accompanies or precedes the destroyers on all major displacements, covering them when practicable. For limited displacements security units move dismounted, with their vehicles following by bounds. Security section drivers endeavor to keep their vehicles in a defiladed position centrally located with respect to the position of security groups. The vehicle should be within at least 200 yards of the crew and preferably closer. When the tank destroyer section is in a firing position, the affiliated security group usually places observers well forward on the exterior flank of the section to give warning of the approach of hostile mechanized units and to guard against infiltration of hostile infantry. The entire security section may be employed on an exposed flank.
b. During combat the security groups take advantage of all opportunities to attack tanks whenever their action is not required against hostile foot troops. In particular, tanks which attempt to bypass destroyer positions by moving through wooded areas are particularly vulnerable to attack by small patrols from the security section. Movement through woods requires exposure of tank personnel while the woods reduce the speed of the tank movement and enable attacking elements to reach close quarters under cover. Under such conditions, the initiative and offensive spirit of security groups using close combat weapons against tanks is of decisive importance. (See ch. 10.)
• 79. WITHDRAWAL.—When the platoon executes a withdrawal, the security section covers the maneuver by fighting a delaying action. It attempts to deceive the enemy in regard to the movement of the platoon. Extensive use is made of grenades, road blocks, and smoke. Maximum use of cover and cooperation are essential in covering a withdrawal. The security section, during such action, will seldom 'be separated from the platoon by more than 500 yards.
• 80. TANK HUNTING.—The security section will frequently furnish tank hunting parties for attacks on tanks located in parks or assembly areas. For details of tank attacking methods see chapter 10.
• 81. COMPOSITION.—The tank destroyer platoon (heavy) consists of a platoon headquarters, two tank destroyer sections, a security section, and an antiaircraft section. (See T/O 18-27.)
• 82. DUTIES OF PLATOON LEADER.—The platoon leader commands the platoon and is at all times responsible for its training and discipline and the care, maintenance, and operation of its armament and equipment. On the march he conducts the movement in compliance with the instructions of the company commander and in conformity with the tactical situation. At halts he verifies, through reports of subordinate leaders and by personal inspection, that motor maintenance inspections are properly conducted by drivers of all vehicles. He sees that proper march security measures are taken. In bivouac he supervises the location of subordinate units of the platoon and verifies that the pertinent duties indicated for personnel of the various sections are properly performed. In combat he leads his platoon in accordance with the missions assigned by the company commander; in the absence of orders he takes such action as will best further the mission of the company.
• 83. TACTICAL DUTIES OF PLATOON PERSONNEL.—a. Platoon sergeant.—The platoon sergeant is second in command. He assists the platoon leader and replaces him when the platoon leader is absent. The platoon leader usually marches at the rear of the platoon; however, whenever the platoon leader anticipates having to leave the platoon, he causes the platoon sergeant to march with platoon headquarters. In combat he carries out such missions as are assigned by the platoon leader. Usually, he is conveniently located with respect to the platoon leader as well as the ammunition corporal, to whom he transmits orders and signals. He assigns one observer in his vehicle to watch toward the rear.
b. Reconnaissance corporal.—The reconnaissance corporal assists the platoon leader in reconnoitering routes and positions. When not engaged in reconnaissance, he usually acts as an observer for the platoon leader. He keeps the position of the platoon and other relevant data posted on the platoon leader's map.
c. Ammunition corporal.—The ammunition corporal is in charge of the platoon ammunition vehicle. He is charged with keeping the combat vehicles constantly supplied with ammunition. This is accomplished, ordinarily, during lulls in combat. The platoon sergeant sends the ammunition vehicle to the guns requiring replenishment of ammunition. When empty, the platoon ammunition vehicle obtains replenishment of ammunition from the battalion ammunition distributing point. Movement to the battalion ammunition distributing point is effected on the order of the- platoon leader; the ammunition vehicle in moving to the rear, checks in at the company command post unless the time factor is vital. The ammunition corporal at all times keeps the platoon leader informed of the amount of ammunition on hand. The platoon ammunition vehicle usually seeks cover in combat in a defiladed and concealed position in the rear of the platoon. Visual contact with the platoon sergeant or the platoon leader is maintained. Personnel on the ammunition vehicle also watch toward the rear with a view to warning the platoon of any surprise attack from that direction. Visual and other warning signals are employed.
• 84. TACTICS.—a. Movement.—The platoon leader determines the march disposition of his vehicles in accordance with the situation and the orders of the company commander. Usual dispositions are as follows:
(1) When moving as a unit of the company—platoon leader, security section, tank destroyer section, one antiaircraft squad, tank destroyer section, second antiaircraft squad, ammunition vehicle, platoon sergeant.
(2) When the platoon is acting independently or as the advanced guard of a larger unit—security group, reinforced by one or more motorcyclists (attached from company headquarters), acting as point, followed at several hundred yards by the platoon leader, the remainder of the security section, and the rest of the platoon as previously indicated.
b. Conduct of march.—(1) The provisions of FM 25-10 as to the conduct of the march are applicable. Movement by bounds is effected when in the immediate presence of the enemy. One section of destroyers and affiliated security and antiaircraft groups may advance from cover to cover to a predetermined terrain objective while the other section overwatches the advance. The second section in turn then advances to a further objective. The platoon leader moves to successive points of observation and controls the movement by radio or visual signals.
(2) When its advance is screened, movement may be by platoon bounds. The platoon leader, with a security escort, precedes the platoon by a few hundred yards, leaving the platoon sergeant to direct the movement of the platoon. The platoon leader reaches the vicinity of the new objective in time to select suitable cover positions and direct the platoon there without halting it or delaying it in the open.
(3) The platoon in combat is usually assigned its missions in general terms. It is usually given initial positions and fire missions or the direction of advance. The platoon is not assigned a zone of action.
c. Hasty selection and occupation of position.—(1) Hasty occupation of positions will frequently be required by the situation. In such cases the platoon leader, after a hasty reconnaissance, whenever practicable assigns general areas to his section, which then take up positions with all possible speed. The platoon leader designates position areas by radio, visual signals, or provides guides.
(2) Action of this type requires instant decision by the platoon leader and immediate execution of orders by subordinate commanders. Whatever time is available between the occupation of position and the commencement of action is utilized in improving positions. The antiaircraft and security sections are usually deployed as indicated in sections II and III of this chapter. In situations of this kind, in the absence of orders, individual gun commanders regulate the opening of fire and detailed adjustments of their positions on their own initiative.
d. Deliberate selection and occupation of position.—(1) The platoon leader takes part or all of the security section with him when reconnoitering a position. The security section patrols the area, covers the platoon leader's movements, and assists in reconnaissance. During the reconnaissance, the platoon usually remains under cover under control of the platoon sergeant. The latter leads it forward at a given time or upon receipt of orders or signals from the platoon leader. When kept under cover, the platoon is prepared to open fire upon short notice.
(2) Radio control by the platoon leader permits wider separation of sections than is possible between the individual destroyers or a section. A platoon, however, will seldom occupy an area larger than 500 yards square.
e. Deployment of sections.—(1) The platoon leader may deploy his tank destroyer sections in depth in vague situations, or when the flanks are exposed; however, tank destroyer sections are usually deployed abreast against a definite threat. Whenever practicable, sections are deployed so as to be mutually supporting.
(2) The platoon leader prescribes missions for the antiaircraft section and the security section when employment other than that indicated in sections II and III of this chapter is desired, and particularly when coordinated action of those units is desired in a specific area.
• 85. COMBAT ACTION OF PLATOON.—a. The platoon leader in combat carries out the missions assigned him by the company commander. When no enemy tanks confront him, the platoon leader seeks and engages tanks that have passed his position or moves to the assistance of nearby platoons still engaged with the enemy, reporting such movement to his company commander.
b. During maneuvers or displacements in the presence of the enemy, the platoon usually moves by bounds, one section covering the movement of the other. When displacement is necessary, the platoon leader designates which section is to move.
c. When the platoon is held in company reserve, all destroyers are placed in firing or cover positions ready to open fire if required, but located primarily with a view to quick movement. The reserve is usually engaged by order of the company commander; in emergencies, when time is lacking to obtain instructions, the reserve commander engages the reserve on his own initiative, reporting his action as soon as practicable.
d. Following each phase of the fire fight, the platoon leader reorganizes his platoon and redistributes ammunition.
• 86. DESTROYER SQUAD AND SECTION.—In organization and tactical employment the subordinate units within the light platoon are generally similar to their counterparts in the heavy tank destroyer platoon.
• 87. LIGHT PLATOON—The light platoon is organized similarly to the heavy platoon except that it has light instead of heavy guns. Its mobility is usually greater and the destroyers, being smaller, are easier to conceal.
• 88. ADVANCE TO CONTACT.—a. The light platoon is usually employed as a covering detachment (protective screen on broad front with little depth) during the advance to contact when the main body has adopted approach formation. It usually is employed to cover the advance of its own company only; it may be required to cover the advance of the battalion prior to assignment of combat missions to companies.
b. Its primary mission as covering detachment is that of security; the secondary mission is reconnaissance. It guards against surprise and obtains information by observing to the front and flanks. It pushes aside small patrols and offers resistance to larger hostile forces. It guides the force it covers over the best terrain available.
c. The covering force moves by successive bounds, the limitations of each being indicated by the commander of the covered force. Upon arriving at each terrain objective, the covering detachment halts and observes to the front and flanks until ordered to make another bound. Full advantage is taken of available cover. Upon making contact with the enemy, the platoon leader immediately informs the company commander, as the platoon will usually be preceded by its own security section, moving on a broadened front. Interval between destroyers may be as much as 200 yards.
• 89. COMBAT—As soon as the heavy destroyers join the action, the light platoon, in accordance with the situation and orders of the company commander, attacks the hostile covering tanks or disposes itself to protect the flanks. When protecting the flanks the platoon usually divides, one section going to the left flank, the other section to the right flank. In some instances, especially where there is strong evidence that an enemy flanking movement is developing, the company commander will withdraw the light platoon as soon as the heavy destroyers are engaged and hold it as a mobile reserve to throw against the threatened flank.
• 90. PURSUIT.—The light platoon leads the way in pursuing a disorganized and retreating tank force. The high speed of the vehicles will be exploited to the fullest extent to intercept the enemy along his line of retreat. The platoon leader will frequently report the position of the enemy.
• 91. SUITABILITY FOR SECURITY MISSIONS.—The light platoon is particularly suited for employment as an advance, rear, or flank guard (see FM 100-5) and to supplement security sections in protecting the remainder of the company during protracted halts or in bivouac.
• 92. ADVANCE GUARD.—a. The platoon acting as advance guard is both a maneuvering and holding element. Its principal duties are to reconnoiter to a distance of about 800 yards to the flanks and overcome resistance encountered on the line of march or check a hostile advance until the main body can prepare for action. In case the enemy encountered is too strong for the platoon to defeat, the platoon reports the fact and reconnoiters the enemy's strength and dispositions. The platoon as advance guard is divided into an advance party and a point (see par. 74).
b. The platoon leader regulates the rate of march of the advance guard. When the movement of the main body is dependent upon information which the advance guard obtains or upon the actions of the latter, the advance guard regulates the rate of march. At night it is usual for the advance guard to regulate the march.
c. The main body usually follows the advance guard at 3 to 5 minutes' interval.
d. When moving by bounds, the platoon coordinates its advance with the rear vehicle of the point, so far as practicable. When contact is gained, the leading vehicles of the point remain near the axis of march and engage the enemy by fire. The platoon leader makes a hasty reconnaissance and determines his course of action. Usually he extends reconnaissance to locate the flanks, drive out the enemy, or develop the situation. If the resistance is too strong to be overcome, the platoon is disposed to cover the approach of the main body.
e. A platoon acting as advance guard will usually be required to act as covering detachment for the battalion when the latter begins the approach march.
• 93. FLANK GUARD.—a. When a suitable route is available, the flank guard usually marches parallel to the main body. A reconnoitering patrol is pushed well forward; the bulk of the flank guard usually moves abreast of leading elements of the main body, halting at sensitive points as required by the situation. When several such locations must be passed during the progress of a march, the flank guard moves by bounds from one position to another. Upon arrival at a locality, dispositions are made to hold that position as long as may be necessary to allow the main body to march out of danger. The flank guard then moves rapidly to the next locality.
b. When the locality from which an attack may be expected is well defined, the platoon may deploy to defend a key position until the command has passed.
c. Where considerable doubt exists as to the avenue of hostile approach, the platoon may be held in a position of readiness at some conveniently located point.
d. When the enemy is encountered, the flank guard may act offensively, delay in successive positions, or defend a position, in accordance with instructions and the situation.
• 94. REAR GUARD.—a. When the distance from the enemy permits, a platoon acting as rear guard moves in march formation. It drops back a rear point which adheres closely to the route of march, observing constantly to the flanks and rear. It discourages pursuit by firing on hostile elements.
b. When in contact with the enemy, the rear guard moves on a broad front and opens fire at long range to force the enemy to deploy and thus delay his advance. Unless the security of the main body requires a stubborn resistance, the rear guard avoids close range combat and withdraws successively from position to position as the enemy approaches. When necessary it maneuvers at distances up to about 800 yards on either side of the axis of movement.
c. The rear guard fights in successive positions. A rear guard position should favor withdrawal by affording covered routes of withdrawal. The rear guard commander makes timely provision for preliminary reconnaissance of new positions and routes thereto.
d. When the enemy presses his pursuit closely, greater resistance is offered. Full use is made of surprise attacks and ambushes to slow down or halt the hostile advance.
e. A rear guard resorts to such defensive measures for halting or delaying the enemy as obstructing fords, executing demolitions within the capabilities of the rear guard, felling trees across the road, burning stretches of grass or shrubs, or by the use of mines and persistent chemicals.
TANK DESTROYER COMPANY
• 95. COMPOSITION.—.The tank destroyer company comprises a company headquarters, one light platoon, and two heavy platoons.
• 96. EQUIPMENT AND TRANSPORTATION.—For authorized equipment and transportation, see T/O 18-27. A baggage truck and a kitchen truck with trailer are furnished by the transportation platoon of headquarters company.
• 97. COMMUNICATION.—The company commander has a two-way radio equipped with two receivers; one receiver is in the company net, the other in the battalion net.
• 98. COMPANY COMMANDER.—The company commander commands the company and is responsible for its training and discipline.
• 99. COMPANY EXECUTIVE.—The company executive is the second in command; he assists the company commander and acts for him in his absence. The executive is charged with organization and security of the command post, including the maintenance and supply group (when present) and motorcyclists. He maintains communication with battalion headquarters and keeps that organization constantly informed. The executive officer at times will act in the capacity of a reconnaissance officer. In this event his regular duties as executive officer will be taken over by the first sergeant. As reconnaissance officer he assists the company commander in the reconnaissance of routes, assembly, and attack positions.
• 100. OTHER COMPANY PERSONNEL.—a. First sergeant.—The first sergeant supervises the establishment and operation of the command post. He assists the supply and maintenance groups and keeps the operations map, journal, and message files. He takes over the duties of the executive officer when the latter is performing reconnaissance missions.
b. Signal sergeant.—The signal sergeant is responsible for establishing and maintaining radio communication; he operates the company net control station; he rides in the company commander's vehicle.
c. Motor sergeant.—The motor sergeant is responsible for the proper maintenance of all organizational transportation. During combat the motor sergeant joins company headquarters. He is charged with the recovery and prompt repair of all vehicles. He utilizes such equipment as may be put at his disposal by the company commander. During combat he and the mechanics repair disabled combat vehicles which have been towed to covered or defiladed positions during lulls in the action.
d. Reconnaissance corporal.—The reconnaissance corporal assists in the reconnaissance of positions and routes; he acts as an observer; he guides platoons to positions.
e. Bugler.—The bugler serves as a guide, messenger, and observer. He also serves, along with chauffeurs, as a rifleman in the local defense of the command post.
f. Messengers.—In addition to the reconnaissance corporal, there are mounted messengers (motorcycles and a 1/4-ton truck). They are used for column control and route marking. When the use of radio is not feasible, they are employed as messengers. In combat they are engaged on scouting or observing missions.
g. Motorcyclists.—Duties of motorcyclists when acting as scouts are covered in the chapter on the reconnaissance company.
• 101. OCCUPATION OF BIVOUAC.—a. In a battalion bivouac the destroyer company generally will be assigned a sector for local security. It will maintain contact with adjacent units. Positions will be selected to take advantage of natural concealment and to permit local defense against air attack (dispersion and cover) and ground attack (maneuver room, routes, and natural obstacles).
b. If there is good concealment offered by trees or brush, the interval between vehicles may be
reduced to 25 yards; if concealment is scanty the minimum interval is 50 yards. Where there is
no concealment the vehicles will be widely scattered (at least 100 yards) and every effort made
to take advantage of irregularities of the ground to minimize damage from bomb or shell
fragments. Small vehicles such as 1/4-ton trucks and motorcycles may be grouped in pairs. Slit
trenches will be dug by all personnel; this is especially important for those whose vehicles carry
no armor. (See
c. Security squads reinforced by 37-mm guns will be posted to cover avenues of approach into the company position and to protect company headquarters. Except when the terrain offers slight choice, weapons posted to cover roads should not be in the immediate vicinity of the road itself. The company commander coordinates disposition of the various antiaircraft sections.
d. Habitually, all motor vehicles are parked in bivouac so that they can move out without backing or turning. All vehicles face outward or toward the nearest route of egress.
• 102. MOVEMENT.—a. The usual order of march for a tank destroyer company forming part of the main body of a battalion is company command echelon, the light platoon, the heavy platoons. When the company constitutes the advance guard of a battalion, the order of march may be the light platoon (advance party), portions of the battalion command echelon, company command echelon, and the heavy platoons as the support. The antiaircraft section of the leading heavy platoon will frequently be detailed to furnish protection for the battalion command post, one gun moving at the head and one at rear of the command post. The motor sergeant and one or two mechanics mounted on a 1/4-ton truck will bring up the rear of the column. All other maintenance and supply elements usually will remain in the battalion rear echelon.
b. March dispositions and route security are prescribed by the company commander. For concealment, movement will often be by bounds, and occasionally, by infiltration. In areas providing no concealment (flat, treeless plains, deserts, etc.) wide intervals between vehicles will be maintained.
c. When elements of the reconnaissance company are attached to tank destroyer companies, reconnaissance missions are assigned them as follows:
(1) To secure information of hostile tank forces, their size, disposition, composition, and direction of movement.
(2) To assist in leading tank destroyer companies to assembly positions or initial combat locations.
(3) To provide a local warning service.
Tank destroyer companies will employ their motorcyclists for close reconnaissance, security, and liaison missions, usually in collaboration with the light platoon.
d. On moving into the combat zone, the company will be on the alert with guns prepared for action. Information of the enemy and friendly situation will be passed down through all ranks. A company rallying position is designated, usually one or two miles in rear of the area of expected combat.
e. Before moving forward to engage hostile forces, the gun vehicles and the platoon ammunition carriers will enter combat with the maximum of ammunition. Resupply of fuel will be effected. If trucks carrying ammunition and fuel have been attached to the tank destroyer companies upon their entrance into the combat zone, these follow the rear elements of the tank destroyer companies.
• 103. RECONNAISSANCE OF POSITIONS.—Prior to the arrival of the company, the company commander reconnoiters the area in which his unit is to be deployed, to the extent permitted by the situation. He effects this reconnaissance in person when the situation permits; in other cases, he may detail an officer for this task. The company commander is accompanied by a small party, which secures the movement and assists in the reconnaissance. When time is pressing, the company commander's reconnaissance will be restricted to a hasty observation of the area from the best available point of vantage, as a result of which he assigns areas for his platoons. He usually employs the light platoon to cover the occupation of positions by the heavy platoons.
• 104. IMMEDIATE ACTION MANEUVERS.—a. The following maneuvers will make it possible for immediate action to be taken by a company when an enemy is met unexpectedly:
(1) Protective maneuver.—On the order: FIRST (SECOND, THIRD) PLATOON, PROTECTION FRONT, the subordinate unit referred to moves out ahead of the main unit and forms a protective screen. The distance the subordinate unit moves out depends on the local situation. The order PROTECTION FRONT may be varied to PROTECTION RIGHT (LEFT, REAR) as the situation demands. The platoon in such case is deployed by approved commands or signals.
(2) Attack maneuver.—The first subordinate unit to meet the enemy halts in the nearest favorable position and engages the enemy with fire, while the remainder of the unit maneuvers to attack the enemy. The attack will be along a flank or along some covered line of approach, if one exists. Every effort will be made to deliver fire from positions of at least partial hull defilade. This maneuver is based on the following orders which are given over the radio or by visual signal. The unit or units to execute the maneuver are designated in the order—
ENVELOP LEFT FLANK.
b. The company commander moves under cover of the tank destroyer unit which is engaging the enemy by fire to a position from which he can best see the combat area, and issues such further orders as are necessary.
c. These maneuvers are intended for use when opposition is met unexpectedly. They are not the best methods to meet every situation and whenever possible more detailed orders should be issued.
d. When a tank destroyer unit has thoroughly mastered the execution of these maneuvers, they may be designated by numbers or other simple code designation.
e. Platoon leaders should be cautioned that energy and initiative must be used in the application of immediate action maneuvers; their successful use depends upon the adaptation of the movement to the particular situation.
• 105. COMBAT.—a. If the enemy has been located, the company may establish an ambush or plan a surprise attack upon the enemy when he is not prepared to maneuver. Either operation requires thorough reconnaissance and concealed movement to combat positions. In vague situations the company will be preceded by the light platoon and at times by elements of the reconnaissance company. The light platoon will be employed in forward areas, the heavy platoons being employed when the direction of hostile armored attack becomes known. When the heavy platoons are in position, the lighter guns may then be brought back and used to cover the flanks or take post in reserve.
b. In deploying for action, care is taken test an excellent field of fire result in the concentration of an excessive number of guns to cover a limited area, thus decreasing the ability of a unit to meet a tank attack from flank or rear.
c. When the direction of the hostile advance is known, and particularly when there is opportunity for ambush, part or all of the heavier guns are engaged at the outset. In such case the company retains a reserve of some guns, light or heavy.
d. Initial deployment against a tank attack should provide a checkerboarded arrangement of weapons affording one another mutual support by flanking fire in a manner generally similar to machine-gun dispositions.
e. Reserves are usually held under cover near routes facilitating movement in any direction. Wide dispersion will be avoided, except for concealment and protection; anticipated firing positions near the reserves and routes thereto are reconnoitered and, in case of emergency, occupied.
f. (1) While the fire fight is in progress, the company commander, so far as practicable, leaves control of detailed movement to platoon leaders. Except for the transmission of essential data and orders he endeavors to leave the radio net clear for them.
(2) During initial phases the company commander plans the further employment of his unit; this is dependent upon the result of early encounters and the reactions of the hostile tanks. The company commander keeps in close touch with the progress of the combat by personal observation, moving from one platoon combat area to another, and by listening to radio reports.
(3) Depending upon the situation, he shifts combat platoons to counter the movement of tanks around the flanks of the destroyers, engages the reserve platoon, or moves the entire company to a better area from which to attack.
(4) He causes necessary route reconnaissance to be conducted in anticipation of movements to new combat areas. During lulls, he causes ammunition to be redistributed among platoons when such action is necessary.
• 106. PURSUIT.—a. When the company constitutes the encircling force, the company commander seeks to delay the enemy by attacks against the flanks or head of his column with the light platoon, to facilitate placing the heavy platoons in advantageous positions across his route of retreat.
b. When the company is detailed to exert direct pressure on the retreating enemy, it moves boldly on as broad a front as the road net and terrain permit. In open terrain when in close contact with the enemy, all platoons are engaged. When the terrain restricts rapid movement to a single route, the light platoon leads.
• 107. REORGANIZATION—a. The order to break off contact with the enemy will be given by the company commander, and a new rallying position designated if the company has moved a great distance during the course of the combat.
b. When control is regained through reassembly at the rallying position, new orders will be issued. Such reorganization and regrouping may be an intermediate bound in a movement toward a battalion rallying position or may be a preliminary step toward a new offensive maneuver.
• 108. ATTACHED CHEMICAL Troops.—a. In the absence of organic 81-mm mortars, a chemical mortar and crew or, in exceptional cases, a chemical platoon may be attached to the company. In the latter case the mortars are usually distributed to tank destroyer platoons unless specific heed for massed employment of the chemical platoon can be foreseen.
b. On the march the mortar vehicle usually moves with company headquarters.
c. In combat the mortar remains near the company commander initially, prepared to move to any part of the company area to execute such missions as may be assigned. The mortar vehicle is vulnerable to fire of all types and its crew is not afforded armor protection; it must be kept in defiladed positions, so far as practicable. Single missions are assigned successively, each specific task being executed on order.
d. Missions usually assigned are—
(1) To place smoke on hostile assault guns and tanks which are covering by fire the advance of maneuvering tanks.
(2) To screen displacements and withdrawals of tank destroyers by the use of smoke.
e. When attached to a platoon, the mortar operates directly under the platoon leader.