German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

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German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by I have questions » 03 Dec 2019 02:27

this is a very American topic I know :) . I have wondered what it would have been like if a USMC Infantry squad went up against a German (Heer) Infantry squad in 1941? I was wondering what an expert's opinion would be on the outcome of this theoretical fight. If someone takes this, specifics like environment, experience etc. could be worked out, but for now I am going to keep it simple.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by T. A. Gardner » 03 Dec 2019 02:50

Well, to start off with, which German and USMC rifle squads are we discussing?

In 1941 the German squad could have depending on TO&E used, 9 to 12 men and one or two light machineguns. The squad leader would have a submachinegun.

On the Marine side, the squad could have 9 or 13 men depending on which D-1 table you use. The 9 man squad would have 7 men with rifles (M1 or M1903 Springfields), 1 man with an M1903 Springfield with grenade launcher attachment, and a BAR man. The 14 man squad adds 3 riflemen. The squad leader in both cases can substitute a Thompson SMG for his rifle as these were supplied to the company for distribution as needed.

On the whole, there isn't much to choose between the two except the USMC squad has the advantage of a much more effective (assuming the German squad has one at all) grenade launcher firing standard Mk II grenades to about 100 yards.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by I have questions » 03 Dec 2019 04:29

that was fast....I was thinking a 12 man squad for the Germans and a 13 man squad for the USMC. As far as weapons are concerned, didn't M1s only become mainstream in 1942? Also, just for clarification, my intent here was to see who would win based on training, tactics, experience, etc. I understand it would be hard (or I dare say impossible) to know exactly what would happen, so this is more of a "best of" training, experience, and field abilities.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by Kingfish » 03 Dec 2019 10:53

I have questions wrote:
03 Dec 2019 04:29
that was fast....I was thinking a 12 man squad for the Germans and a 13 man squad for the USMC. As far as weapons are concerned, didn't M1s only become mainstream in 1942? Also, just for clarification, my intent here was to see who would win based on training, tactics, experience, etc. I understand it would be hard (or I dare say impossible) to know exactly what would happen, so this is more of a "best of" training, experience, and field abilities.
In terms of experience it's difficult to compare apples to apples given that the US didn't enter WW2 until December '41, while the Germany was well into it's second year.
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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by maltesefalcon » 04 Dec 2019 01:24

Squad vs squad level fighting would most likely be a patrol vs picket situation or other troops would be near enough to intervene.

Both sides would be evenly matched enough on their own for weapons and training not to be the derminant factor.

More likely it would be terrain and circumstances that decided the day. If one squad was well dug in and hidden, the element of surprise would ensure they prevailed.

Of course this is assuming neither called for artie or air support.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by I have questions » 04 Dec 2019 02:12

[/quote]

In terms of experience it's difficult to compare apples to apples given that the US didn't enter WW2 until December '41, while the Germany was well into it's second year.
[/quote]

in this case then, wouldn't that mean the Germans would have more combat experience (assuming, naturally, that they are Poland, France, and/or Yugoslavia veterans?

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by I have questions » 04 Dec 2019 02:18

maltesefalcon wrote:
04 Dec 2019 01:24
Squad vs squad level fighting would most likely be a patrol vs picket situation or other troops would be near enough to intervene.

Both sides would be evenly matched enough on their own for weapons and training not to be the derminant factor.

More likely it would be terrain and circumstances that decided the day. If one squad was well dug in and hidden, the element of surprise would ensure they prevailed.

Of course this is assuming neither called for artie or air support.
well, lets say, just for the scenario, that there are no other units around, neither side calls for artillery or air support, and all they have are what the squads would carry with them into combat. As far as terrain specifics, I don't really know what to do about that, unless you would be willing to create a 3D landscape or something. As for circumstance, let's just say they stumbled upon one another, neither was expecting the other.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 04 Dec 2019 04:01

T. A. Gardner wrote:
03 Dec 2019 02:50
Well, to start off with, which German and USMC rifle squads are we discussing?

In 1941 the German squad could have depending on TO&E used, 9 to 12 men and one or two light machineguns. The squad leader would have a submachinegun.

On the Marine side, the squad could have 9 or 13 men depending on which D-1 table you use. The 9 man squad would have 7 men with rifles (M1 or M1903 Springfields), 1 man with an M1903 Springfield with grenade launcher attachment, and a BAR man. The 14 man squad adds 3 riflemen. The squad leader in both cases can substitute a Thompson SMG for his rifle as these were supplied to the company for distribution as needed.
There seems to be a lot of flexibility in weapons distribution. One Marine described the BAR as grouped in their own squads. Sixteen BAR in the company divided in four eight man squads. The company commander distributed the BAR squads and teams situationally. No MG at all in the company, tho the battalion commander passed those out from his MG company as needed. This observation pertained to 1942. I've also read 1920s reports from the Fourth Marines describing three different squad/platoon organizations used by company commanders. Point here is that patrol of Marines specified may be carrying a extra BAR or two.
On the whole, there isn't much to choose between the two except the USMC squad has the advantage of a much more effective (assuming the German squad has one at all) grenade launcher firing standard Mk II grenades to about 100 yards.
I think the German MG 34 gives a significant advantage. That was the whole point to its light weigh and high rpm to give the squad a really good suppression and neutralization weapon. The riflemen in the German squad were assault grenadiers or ammo humpers for the MG

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by Kingfish » 04 Dec 2019 10:50

I have questions wrote:
04 Dec 2019 02:12
in this case then, wouldn't that mean the Germans would have more combat experience (assuming, naturally, that they are Poland, France, and/or Yugoslavia veterans?
In terms of combat experience the German unit would be the only one with it.

Consider that although the US officially entered the war on Dec 8th, 1941 it wasn't until the following August (Operation Watchtower) that US Marines were able to conduct offensive operations. Theoretically that means the German unit could have upwards of 3 years combat experience under its belt before the US unit fires its first shot.
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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by Sid Guttridge » 04 Dec 2019 10:57

All other things being equal (which, of course they weren't), I would suggest it should have gone the US Marines' way. In 1941 the US Marines still had a very high regular content, whereas the German Army was a massively (over?) expanded conscript force.

While campaign experience was entirely on the German side, until mid-1941 this was still largely limited to four weeks in Poland and six weeks in France. And of course campaign experience is entirely different from combat experience, which would be much shorter still.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by I have questions » 05 Dec 2019 00:20

Sid Guttridge wrote:
04 Dec 2019 10:57
All other things being equal (which, of course they weren't), I would suggest it should have gone the US Marines' way. In 1941 the US Marines still had a very high regular content, whereas the German Army was a massively (over?) expanded conscript force.

While campaign experience was entirely on the German side, until mid-1941 this was still largely limited to four weeks in Poland and six weeks in France. And of course campaign experience is entirely different from combat experience, which would be much shorter still.

Cheers,

Sid.
but why then would it go the USMC's way? Even if the Germans only had a few weeks over the Marines, in a fight where one side has no experience, shouldn't that naturally turn out in favor for the Germans? Also despite having conscripts, this doesn't necessarily mean they won't be on-par with the Marines in terms of motivation, for example, Gunter Koschorrek was conscripted in 1942, and yet he would go on to earn the Iron Cross 1st Class as a result of his good combat performance. I see your point, however, conscription doesn't automatically equal lack of motivation, of course a system with conscription will undoubtedly bring in quite a few who don't want to be there, but just because one is conscripted doesn't mean they are a bad soldier.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by T. A. Gardner » 05 Dec 2019 00:29

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
04 Dec 2019 04:01
T. A. Gardner wrote:
03 Dec 2019 02:50
Well, to start off with, which German and USMC rifle squads are we discussing?

In 1941 the German squad could have depending on TO&E used, 9 to 12 men and one or two light machineguns. The squad leader would have a submachinegun.

On the Marine side, the squad could have 9 or 13 men depending on which D-1 table you use. The 9 man squad would have 7 men with rifles (M1 or M1903 Springfields), 1 man with an M1903 Springfield with grenade launcher attachment, and a BAR man. The 14 man squad adds 3 riflemen. The squad leader in both cases can substitute a Thompson SMG for his rifle as these were supplied to the company for distribution as needed.
There seems to be a lot of flexibility in weapons distribution. One Marine described the BAR as grouped in their own squads. Sixteen BAR in the company divided in four eight man squads. The company commander distributed the BAR squads and teams situationally. No MG at all in the company, tho the battalion commander passed those out from his MG company as needed. This observation pertained to 1942. I've also read 1920s reports from the Fourth Marines describing three different squad/platoon organizations used by company commanders. Point here is that patrol of Marines specified may be carrying a extra BAR or two.
On the whole, there isn't much to choose between the two except the USMC squad has the advantage of a much more effective (assuming the German squad has one at all) grenade launcher firing standard Mk II grenades to about 100 yards.
I think the German MG 34 gives a significant advantage. That was the whole point to its light weigh and high rpm to give the squad a really good suppression and neutralization weapon. The riflemen in the German squad were assault grenadiers or ammo humpers for the MG
The 1941 Marine platoon had 3 rifle squads as I previously described and a fourth "BAR" squad with two BARs and 8 men. This paralleled the US Army organization at the time. The BAR squad was intended as a general support and could be added to a rifle squad, or used to reinforce the rifle squads in part.

The big difference between 1941 German and US organization at this level is the US (including the Marines) issue and use far more, and more effective rifle grenades. While the MG 34 in German squad is a great suppression weapon, the rifle grenade gives a squad considerable firepower from cover that a machinegun can't counter.
So, if the Marines were on the offensive, then the MG 34 could counter any maneuver by those troops using suppressive fire. The BAR can't match that at all. But, the Marines could suppress or take out an MG 34 position by using rifle grenades on it.
The German rifle grenade of the period was less effective and used a complicated cup discharger system.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 05 Dec 2019 00:47

The rifle grenade is something thats been difficult to track down. One runs across plenty of remarks about the use of BAR, precision rifle fires, high volume rifle fires, hand thrown grenades, but if it were not for the occasional photograph of a US soldier with grenade on a rifle I could not offer evidence they were used.

Multiple BAR, as with any pair or more of automatic support weapons, allow setting up cross fires and maneuvering the suppression weapon. This can turn a otherwise mediocre or inferior weapon into some better than a single superior weapon.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by I have questions » 05 Dec 2019 03:47

T. A. Gardner wrote:
05 Dec 2019 00:29
So, if the Marines were on the offensive, then the MG 34 could counter any maneuver by those troops using suppressive fire. The BAR can't match that at all. But, the Marines could suppress or take out an MG 34 position by using rifle grenades on it.
The German rifle grenade of the period was less effective and used a complicated cup discharger system.
honestly, the Germans would be at a significant disadvantage in the defense, this would be because in 1941 German troops were barely trained in defensive actions. Their only hope would to use precision rifle fire if they wanted to win, using the MG-34 to suppress the Marines as they were attacking and have their men throw hand-grenades and use precision rifle fire to take out the individual Marines. As for the offense, it would make sense if the Germans used the MG-34 to suppress the BAR and anyone who appeared to have the ability to cause significant damage to the assault force. As far as Marines on defense and Germans on offense, the battle is really up in the air. With the Germans on defense, the Marines would have the advantage because of (as stated previously) the fact that there was little to no defensive training for German infantry. IMO, since it would take a great deal of time and very specific details to organize a battlefield and there is no evidence to show how either side would perform when faced with the other, it can't really be decided who would win. As far as better training, perhaps I'm biased, but I believe the Germans win there, with 16 weeks of basic and then more training at their home unit.

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Re: German Infantry (1941) vs USMC Infantry (1941)

Post by Sid Guttridge » 05 Dec 2019 13:56

Hi I have a question,

Under NATO there used to be (perhaps still is?) an annual tank gunnery competition, which German conscripts usually won, even against regular British tankers. The reason was that the British Army basically recruited off the streets from amongst the ill- or under-educated, whereas German conscripts included highly educated university students better able to understand complex weaponry.

However, this doesn't really apply to squad level infantry combat, which is more basic.

Due to the brevity of the Polish and French campaigns in 1941 it is likely that most German infantry, almost all of whom were short (two-year) conscripts, had never been in close combat, though most had certainly done some demanding campaigning and hard marching.

By contrast, most US Marines were still long service, volunteer, regulars with specialist training.

To compare a German infantry squad of conscripts with a long service US Marine squad of regulars is not really to compare like with like. Probably the specialist German paratroops were more equivalent in that they were selectively recruited, had specialist training and, by virtue of having nowhere to retreat to, like the US Marines, had to have an overwhelmingly offensive ethos.

Cheers,

Sid

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