Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 29 Nov 2016 19:46

Yoozername wrote:Well opinions are like...Doctrines...
Rather the opposite really. :) Opinions are highly individualistic and variable, Military doctrine are the "fundamental principles by which military forces guide their actions in support of national objectives." (FM 100-5, Glossary)

It may surprise some to know that the U.S. Army also did not have wartime "doctrine" in that such a definition was not promulgated until postwar. Instead, like the British, although "doctrine" may be found used in various documents, the preferred phrase was "regulations" as in Field Service Regulations. It was only in 1941 that the U.S. Army published its revision to FSR 1939 in three separate volumes identified as FM 100-05 Operations, FM 100-10 Administration, and FM 100-15 Larger Units, which were joined in July 1943 by FM 100-20 Command and Employment of Air Power (replacing the former FM 1-5), rounding out the Army's ground-air "doctrine".
If we look at the more concrete evidence, that is the actual hardware and the generation thereof, we do get a clear picture of the 'evolution' of the 'Tank Destroyers'. The men behind it are also fairly well documented. That is, McNair, Bruce, Devers, etc.
Yes, they are. It is thus always surprising to me that so many, such as Mr. Ward and Mr. Fox, manage to get so confused about who did what.
One can look at North Africa, see the results of using French 75s on halftracks and the M10, and draw some conclusions. Some combat generals like Patton and Bradley disliked the performance of the TDs, I am not that sure about how they felt regarding the doctrine, but they were the ones commanding the units using them. A TD uses people, fuel, large ammunition, etc., No Doctrine changes that fact. Many never got into combat and the one 'success' Guettar, was a bit of a wash.
It may also surprise some to know that Patton was surprisingly "doctrinaire' when it came to the FSR. Bradley OTOH is surprisingly difficult to pin down, since he changed his tune and attempted to rewrite his history (a la B.L.M.) a number of times. The experience of North African combat resulted in Tank Destroyer Training Circular No. 88 of 24 June 1943. While paragraph 3a maintained the mantra “Action of tank destroyers is characterized by an aggressive spirit. Their mobility permits them to be concentrated rapidly in an advantageous position.”, paragraph 3d also stated “The vulnerability of tank destroyers to hostile tanks, antitank, and artillery fire requires that every practicable measure be taken to ensure concealment. The most advantageous positions are those affording flanking fire.” And various other similar cautionary remarks, all of which were eventually embodied in the FM 18-5 revision of 18 July 1944.
The knee-jerk reaction of going to towed antitank guns (3 in.), and Bruce's obsession with battlefield hotrod speed (M18), results in an overall lack of focus on what is needed on the coming battlefield. Bradley supposedly refused the M18 in Italy since its speed was of no real battlefield use.
I think you have that scrambled? The first M18-equipped TD units were not available until fall 1943, after Bradley moved to command FUSA in England. He never held more than a corps command in the Mediterranean. It is true the first M18 units were all assigned to Thrid Army initially as the NEPTUNE follow-on, but it appears for the same reason the decision was made not to use the 76mm-armed Medium Tank M4 in the invasion; no one was interested in fielding a new and untested item which required retraining of crews and maintenance reorganization.
The fact that artillerymen (McNair) were clearly central to the decisions, brings up another point. They did not see what the Germans were doing.
The fact that McNair as an artilleryman was included was due to the simple fact that prewar anti-armor defense was the purview of the Field Artillery and because McNair had been central to its doctrinal development and testing since he was a lieutenant colonel in 1934. I think a more important point would be to ask why anyone would think McNair shouldn't have been "central to the decisions".

BTW, the American military attache office in Berlin saw very well what the Germans were doing and reported on it with surprising accuracy through 1941.
That is, the Germans had developed, for their artillery arm, a multi-function tracked vehicle that could give direct support for the troops, and also act as a antitank weapon. This was the Sturmgeschutz and the branch of the artillery was the Sturmartillerie. If anyone had been paying attention to the Intel, it was part of the Germans success along with the 'Blitzkrieg' early in the war. By 1943, when all the Brass in the US Army were trying to reinvent the wheel, the StuG units had become one of the most important means for the Germans to keep the Soviets from rolling them up.
The German development of a self-propelled "infantry accompanying gun" was well known to the U.S. Army. What do you think was the impetus for the development of the 75mm SPM by Major Icks in the spring of 1941? Hint, it wasn't initially as exclusively an antitank weapon and it wasn't as a tank destroyer...they got co-opted after the fact into the "tank hunter" experiments of summer and fall 1941 that resulted in the creation of the Tank Destroyer Force.
The US had experience with Tiger I in North Africa and also Sicily, Panther in Italy and even heavy armor like the Elephant/Brumbar. They had feedback from the Soviets regarding the fielding of panthers in larger numbers. They had evidence that the Germans were developing bigger guns and even APCR ammunition. It just seems, possibly easy in retrospect, that the whole D-Day invasion took on a life of its own, much like the Market garden operation, and any voice that was not gung ho was not listened to. I wonder what Patton was thinking since he was side-lined?
There is an extensive body of documentation on just what was known and what conclusions were drawn and why, some of which I have contributed to. In summary though, the first real understanding of the potential threat of the Panther was not realized until literally the eve of D-Day. And yet despite that the effort to get "improved punching power" in American tanks goes back to the Medium Tank T6 design as laid out in OCM 17202 of 11 September 1941.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 29 Nov 2016 19:50

MarkN wrote:Alternatively, you could read a few books and maybe surf the internet for a few 'expert' blogs or websites that tell you everything you want to know. But mostly everything you don't want to know. Remember, all of these books and webpages are written by an individual who is telling you their personal understanding and opinion.
You forgot about surfing for an academic paper that agrees with your previously conceived point of view (AKA "confirmation bias") in order to achieve an aura of academic respectability.
And finally, most accept the British got tank 'doctrine' completely wrong leading up to, and for the first few years of, WW2. It was so wrong that they were the only ones who focussed tank effort on being able to defeat the enemy's tanks and gave their tankers almost nothing to deal with non-armoured targets. Perhaps they were just ahead of their time.
:thumbsup:

Cheers!
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 29 Nov 2016 21:05

Well, I meant opinions are like assholes, and doctrine is written by them. It was meant in a vein of humor. You might be, I suspect, self-amused, so sorry to make you look up a definition and post it here. I know just not myself is in awe of your postings...

Reading the rest of your post, I was not "surprised". In any case, I would like to analyze what was known as far as the state of enemy armor (German mostly) especially before D-Day. And the failures of the officers who you seem to want to defend.
I would think that most people would agree that the the manual describes, in its own words, a doctrine.

https://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/re ... M18-5B.PDF
This manual contains doctrines for the training and combat
employment of tank destroyer battalions and groups.
Given the date, and the rapidly changing events, and lack of a real tank destroyer, I might put forward that it is more in the vein of Science Fiction (note to Mr. Anderson, more humor)

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 29 Nov 2016 21:27

Yoozername wrote:Well, I meant opinions are like assholes, and doctrine is written by them. It was meant in a vein of humor. You might be, I suspect, self-amused, so sorry to make you look up a definition and post it here. I know just not myself is in awe of your postings...
I realize it was meant in humor as was my reply. Meanwhile, you do realize that opinions are like assholes too in that everyone has one? :D
Reading the rest of your post, I was not "surprised". In any case, I would like to analyze what was known as far as the state of enemy armor (German mostly) especially before D-Day. And the failures of the officers who you seem to want to defend.
Why would I want to defend a monumental intelligence failure? I understand it, which is something different. Too often we read judgmental opinion masquerading as analysis without any understanding of context. Is that what you would prefer me to do?
I would think that most people would agree that the the manual describes, in its own words, a doctrine.
Well, of course it describes what we now define as "doctrine". What they called it though was "regulations"...in the American, British, and German armies. So saying they didn't "have" a doctrine, as some opine, isn't really accurate.
Given the date, and the rapidly changing events, and lack of a real tank destroyer, I might put forward that it is more in the vein of Science Fiction (note to Mr. Anderson, more humor)
You don't think there was a "real tank destroyer" on 16 June 1942? What is a "real tank destroyer" then? :D
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 29 Nov 2016 21:35

Here's a real tank.

http://www.lonesentry.com/articles/panther/index.html

U.S. intelligence report on German Panzer V (Panther) tank, from the Intelligence Bulletin, January 1944.

Armor _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
front of turret and cannon shield, 3.94 in;
upper front plate, 3.45 in, 57 angle of slope;
lower front plate, 2.95 in, 53 angle of slope.

Richard Anderson
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 29 Nov 2016 21:49

Yoozername wrote:Here's a real tank.
Much of it is "real", but quite a bit is unwarranted assumptions based on second-party information. From my draft:

In 1944, as the U.S. Army Armored Force doctrine finally came to maturity, the American tankers faced their greatest challenge. Rumblings of a new German medium tank design expected to replace the aging Panzer IV had first appeared in November 1943 in a publication of the U.S. Military Intelligence Service, Tactical and Technical Trends. The authors of the featured article on the “Pz-Kw 5 (Panther) Tank” derived their information from Soviet experience with the Panther gained in summer and fall of 1943. Unfortunately, the information passed to the Americans and British by the Soviets was so badly garbled as to be at best, nearly useless, and, at worst, deceiving.
The report managed to get most of the technical details correct or at least close to correct. The Panther’s weight, armor protection, armament, engine power, speed, range, and general layout were all within ten percent of the actual figures. However, it was in the narrative description of the Panther in the report that things went very badly awry.
Because the Soviets initial encounter was with a specially organized two-battalion regiment of Panthers committed with the Grossdeutchland Division at Kursk, the assumption made was that the German intent was only to deploy them as separate tank battalions as they had the Tiger tank. That assumption was partially correct; the German Inspector General of the Panzer Troops Heinz Guderian did attempt to create a separate reserve of Panther battalions. However, the actual intent was to reorganize the Panzer divisions with one battalion of Panthers and one of Panzer IV medium tanks instead of the previous mix of Panzer II, III, and IV tanks. The result was that the Americans and British assumed that encountering the Panther would be a rarity rather than a commonplace.
Worse though was the Soviet assessment of the Panther. They described it as “much easier to knock out than the PzKw 6” and that,
Fire from all types of rifles and machine guns directed against the peep holes, periscopes and the base of the turret and gun shield will blind or jam the parts. High-explosives and armor-piercing shells of 54-mm [sic, 45mm was probably the intended figure] (2.12 in) caliber or higher, at 800 meters (875 yds) or less, are effective against the turret. Large caliber artillery and self-propelled cannon can put the Panther out of action at ordinary distances for effective fire. The inclined and vertical plates can be pierced by armor-piercing shells of 45 mm (1.78 in) caliber or higher.
The first sentence was simply a generalization, which could be true of any tank. However, in combat it would be a last resort executed at dangerously close range. The second sentence was probably true. The armor on the Panther’s turret was thinnest on the sides and rear. However, from the frontal aspect it was effectively invulnerable to weapons smaller than 57mm and larger lower-velocity guns such as the M4’s 75mm M3, except in the case of precisely aimed shots by a skilled gunner. The third sentence again was simply a truism – large caliber artillery, 105mm firing specialized high explosive antitank (HEAT) rounds and larger guns and howitzers were very destructive when they obtained direct hits on any tank. However, the problem was achieving such a hit against a better-armored vehicle, which could fire back with a highly accurate, long-range, faster-firing gun. The last sentence, tragically, was near fantasy; no gun in the Allied inventory of 45mm caliber or smaller was capable of penetrating the front of a Panther at any range or the sides at more than close ranges (under 300 to 400 yards), except with specialized, and rare, armor-piercing shot such as armor-piercing, discarding-sabot (APDS) or high-velocity, armor-piercing (HVAP).
It was with that badly flawed assessment that American tank units first faced what was to become their greatest nemesis, the German Panther tank, at Anzio Italy during the major German attempt to destroy the Allied beachhead there. In late February and early March 1944, as part of the German reaction to the Allied landing at Anzio, I./Panzer-Regiment 4, which had been training in southern France, was sent to Italy with 76 Panthers. Initially because of the poor condition of the roads and the soggy fields the Panthers were restricted to long range firing, but on 29 February they were committed in an attack on the American 180th Infantry that resulted in the loss of nine or ten of the German tanks. The Allies recovered at least one of the Panthers and sent it to England for evaluation. The evaluation that resulted, released on 5 June to the American and British armored forces, was shocking (Figure 10). The “inclined plates” on the front of the Panther were impervious to the best British and American guns, the 17-pdr and 76mm, at ranges as short as 200 yards or less. The turret front was only vulnerable to the 17-pdr, the 75mm and 76mm were ineffective at any range. Only the so-called “shot trap” at the sides and base of the massive gun mantlet was truly vulnerable and that required a skilled – or lucky – gunner to hit the correct spot so that his round would deflect downwards into the hull roof. Otherwise, from the front, firing to disable the tracks or drive sprocket were the only recourse at all battle ranges. The only certain way to attack it was from the sides or rear, which would require careful maneuver and tactical finesse given that the Allies would presumably be attacking.
The simple fact was little could be done at that point. The British completed their technical assessment on 30 May; it was impossible to disseminate it to the Allied armored units much earlier than the day before D-Day. It seems likely that many Allied tankers did not even know of the assessment until they were already encountering Panthers in France in large numbers as the German armored reinforcements began to stream to the battlefield.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

Yoozername
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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 29 Nov 2016 22:14

This wasn't garbled....its very good info!

Armor _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
front of turret and cannon shield, 3.94 in;
upper front plate, 3.45 in, 57 angle of slope;
lower front plate, 2.95 in, 53 angle of slope.

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 29 Nov 2016 22:21

Richard Anderson wrote:
You don't think there was a "real tank destroyer" on 16 June 1942? What is a "real tank destroyer" then? :D
Per the Doctrine....
10. CHARACTERISTICS.-a. The characteristics of tank destroyer
units are mobility and a high degree of armor-piercing
fire power,
combined with light armor protection; strong
defensive capacity against attacks of combat aviation; and
flexibility of action permitted by generous endowment with
means of communication. Tank destroyer units are also
capable of effective action against tanks through the use
of close combat weapons.
How the towed 3 inch qualify is beyond me. We would need an officer to 'splain that...

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 29 Nov 2016 22:22

Yoozername wrote:This wasn't garbled....its very good info!
Sure, just as I said, the technical info was within 10% of reality; it was the tactical assessment and the inferences drawn from it which were off-kilter.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Richard Anderson » 29 Nov 2016 22:44

Yoozername wrote:How the towed 3 inch qualify is beyond me. We would need an officer to 'splain that...
Are you familiar with the terms "interim force" versus "objective force"? :D

The initial organization and equipment of the tank destroyers were perforce "interim". Organizationally, there were both light and heavy TD battalions initially, theoretically all SP. In practice though, only the 899th TD Battalion was even close to that, since it was created from the "tank hunters" formed for the summer and fall maneuvers which resulted in the decision to form the TD Force. They had the T12 SPM. The rest of the initial battalions organized were mostly light or at best mixed despite their official designation and were formed from various elements - the antitank battery formerly in the 155mm FA battalion of the infantry division and the various divisional antitank "battalions" created in late 1940 and early 1941. Most made do with the 37mm AT gun or the towed 75mm "antitank gun", which was the M1897 on carriage M2A2 and M2A3 modified for operation of elevation and traverse by a single gunner, if they were lucky. Many only had the unmodified M1897 and got to try to figure out how to coordinate two gunners operating elevation and traverse laying on a moving target or, even better, made do with the 37mm M1916 Trench Gun. They were all "interim" armaments.

In either case, the 3" Antitank Gun M5 began manufacture in December 1942 as a reaction to experience encountering German antitank guns in North Africa. So it was long after the interim force was created and so represented a modification to the 1942 doctrine. Yes McNair endorsed the idea, like most American field artillerymen he had an instinctual dislike of self-propelled guns (which, incidentally, held sway well into the 1970s), which at least in his case wasn't sublimated under the even more instinctual dislike of motorized prime movers in general. Yes, it was more or less forced on the TD men who almost universally thought it a gift of the bad idea fairy, but saluted and soldiered on.

Meanwhile, the M10 GMC was also considered an interim armament...it was just the best of a dozen or so T-vehicles designed in an attempt to meet the objective force requirement as stated in FM 18-5. That wasn't realized until the M18 was standardized...and by then the realization was sinking in that the objective requirement was changing as well, leading to acceptance of the M36 and the discarding of the towed concept...well, except for the various 90mm towed TD experiments.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 29 Nov 2016 23:17

The M36 was created in spite of the TD folk. Basically, it was created under the need for a SP to break through the Siegfried line or some other excuse.

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Juha » 29 Nov 2016 23:29

I was to write in vein of Rich's 29 Nov 2016 22:49 message but a much shorter and much less sophisticated answer. All I can add to Rich very thorough message is that it is also possible that the 54-mm means the Soviet very powerful 57 mm A/T gun.

Juha

PS found my copies of a pair of pages from a Soviet A/T manual, target early Panther Ausf D, gives firing range for the 45 mm A/T gun, against schürzen/lower hull or turret sides 400 m using APCR ammo.

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 30 Nov 2016 01:10

I was moved to tears by this story....God bless you Colonel L. E.Jacoby and all the hard fighting you did back at HQ....and thank the liquor ration you consumed that allowed you to make such a corny speech...

The following incident described by Colonel L. E.Jacoby, Commanding Officer of the 5th Tank Destroyer Group, describes forcefully the effect these tank destroyers had on the infantry.1

"What is not in the field manuals on tank destroyer use is the effective support which they render to a fighting infantry at the time of actual combat. An infantryman has his fortitude well tested, and the mere presence of self-propelled tank destroyers in his immediate vicinity give a tremendous shot of courage to the committed infantrymen. For example at Chambois, an infantry battalion moved towards the town with utter fearlessness to enemy artillery, mortar, and small arms fire when accompanied by some M10's. However, the M10's were delayed in crossing a stream for about thirty-five minutes. During this time the infantry battalion continued to their objective which dominated a roadway leading west from Chambois. They fought infantry, they bazookaed some armored vehicles including three tanks on the road, but upon realization that M10's were not firing they started a retirement. Leading the parade to the rear was a short lad affectionately known as "Shorty". Shorty, in the lead, was the first man to see a platoon of M10's who had finally gotten across the stream. Shorty took a good look at the M10's, turned around, and shouted to the other men, "Hell, boys, what are we retiring for, here comes the TD's." The entire company in mass immediately reversed their direction and returned to their excellent positions, and to say they fought for the next few hours with unusual bravery is stating it mildly. The point I am trying to make is that the appearance and the knowledge that self-propelled tank destroyers were hand was a major reason that the infantry attained success and victory. Often many men die or suffer to take important objectives and others will die or suffer to retain or exploit if the inspiration furnished by the presence of the self-propelled tank destroyer is known. The towed gun crews can be just as brave and thoroughly trained but they never give much "oomph" to the fighting doughboy when the "chips are really down."
..."shorty" lost both legs when a TD reversed over his foxhole...Colonel L. E.Jacoby carried him on his shoulders and they both had parts in the Divisions play "A Christmas Carol"...

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 30 Nov 2016 01:28

Fickle European Theater of Operations
7. Trends.

The changing policy in regards to tank destroyers was not limited to the matter of towed versus self-propelled battalions. As experience was gained in combat it became evident that heavier- gunned destroyers were needed. On 16 May 1944 Army Ground Forces asked European Theater of Operations United States Army if any M36's were desired; European Theater of Operations replied that they were not. On 6 June 1944 European Theater of Operations United States Army cabled Army Ground Forces requesting that all M10 battalions be equipped with M36's or M18's.4
But wait...
8. Final Decision.

By September 1944, thought on the type and armament of tank destroyer battalions had settled and a definite policy had begun to take shape. 12th Army Group decided upon the composition of the fifty-two battalions in this theater. A request was made to European Theater of Operations United States Army that twelve of the fifty-two battalions be towed and that they by armed with the T5E1 90mm guns. Of the remaining forty battalions, twenty were to have the M36 self-propelled 90mm gun and the remainder to be equipped with either the M10 self-propelled 3-inch gun or M18 self- propelled 76mm gun at the discretion of the army commanders within the availability of the weapons.5 The Ardennes Campaign caused a further change in this policy and as a result of the losses in towed units, it was decided that towed tank destroyer weapons would be discontinued. By the end of hostilities in this theater all towed units had either been converted to self-propelled or plans made for such change, units armed with M36's were limited only by production and delivery schedules.

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Re: Tanks Role Not To Fight Tanks??

Post by Yoozername » 30 Nov 2016 01:49

I suppose this sums it up....
THE GENERAL BOARD
UNITED STATES FORCES, EUROPEAN THEATER APO 408

PART SIX

CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

CHAPTER 1

CONCLUSIONS

50. Training Literature.

That the employment of tank destroyers in the European Theater was not based on the methods prescribed by Field Manual 18-5.

51. Armor in Infantry Division.

That the use and employment of tank destroyers in the European Theater clearly indicates the necessity that armored, self- propelled, high-velocity guns be organic in the infantry division.

52. Tank Destroyers in Armored Division.

That the trend toward tanks armed with weapons capable of destroying other tanks and the ability of tanks to develop the same mobility and fire power as the destroyer make tank destroyer units unnecessary to the armored division.

53. Infantry Division includes Sufficient Antitank Weapons.

That the inclusion of sufficient antitank means in the infantry division proposed by the Theater General Board, (Organization, Equipment, and Tactical Employment of the Infantry Division 320.2/9 Study No. 15) eliminates the need of attachment of tank destroyers.

CHAPTER 2

RECOMMENDATIONS

54. Armor in Infantry Division.

That armored, self-propelled, high-velocity guns capable of destroying piecemeal commitment of enemy armor and of assaulting strong points and fortified positions be included in the infantry division.

55. Tank Destroyer Function Assumed by Armored Forces.

That the tank destroyer doctrine be revised and included in the defensive doctrines of the Armored Force.

56. Artillery Antitank Responsibility.

That the artillery assume the responsibility of deepening organic antitank defense.

57. Discontinuance of Tank Destroyers.

That the tank destroyers as a separate force be discontinued.

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