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Battalion

Diagram of battalion organization
The battalion was the command echelon below the regiment or brigade and above the company. It was usually the smallest echelon that was sufficiently self-contained to be capable of independent operations, and most military planning used the battalion as the basis of military strength.

United States. U.S. infantry battalions normally consisted of three rifle companies and a heavy weapons company. A battalion was commanded by a lieutenant colonel, with a major as executive officer and with a small staff. The authorized strength in 1943 was 871 men. Each of the three rifle companies had a strength of 193 men, while the heavy weapons company had a strength of 126 men equipped with six light mortars, eight medium machine guns, three heavy machine guns, and four 75mm infantry guns or seven bazookas.  In addition, there was a headquarters company of 126 men to provide essential support services, such as field kitchens, signals, and first aid. The headquarters company also included an antitank platoon with 3 37mm antitank guns and an intelligence and reconnaissance platoon.

Engineer battalions numbered 647 men and were assigned one to a division. The U.S. Army also raised a large number of independent tank battalions, each equipped with 85 tanks. These tended to be assigned one to each infantry division, though this was not formalized during the war. Army Ranger battalions were raised for special operations and were trained and equipped as elite light infantry, with few heavy weapons.

Regular Marine battalions resembled Army infantry battalions. However, the Marines also raised a number of defense and raider battalions. There were also plans to assign a parachute-qualified battalion to each division, and 1 Marine Division actually landed on Guadalcanal with a parachute battalion. These specialist battalions were eventually disbanded on the grounds that they constitute a wasteful "elite within an elite" and to provide cadre for new Marine units.

Britain. British battalions resembled American battalions, but had separate administrative and operational command structures. Administratively, battalions were part of a regiment, to which their troops were permanently assigned. The regiment was a regional recruiting and training formation. Operational command was exercised by a brigade to which the battalion was attached for the length of its combat tour. When the battalion became exhausted from combat, it was pulled from the brigade to absorb replacements from its parent regiment before being redeployed, quite likely to a different brigade. This system provided unit cohesion (the soldier identified with his regiment) while allowing replacements to be drawn from a somewhat larger pool shared by all the battalions in a regiment.

Japan. Japanese infantry battalions were similar to American battalions, but were raised on a regional basis. Thus, all the men of a given battalion came from the same large city or rural prefecture. This contributed to high unit cohesion but limited the replacement pool, with heavily engaged battalions exhausting their replacement pool while other battalions had plenty of manpower. A Japanese infantry battalion was commanded by a major rather than a lieutenant colonel, and it had four rifle companies and a machine gun company along with a detachment of antitank and infantry guns. Total manpower was about 1401 officers and men.

In addition to Army battalions, the Japanese Navy raised units of approximately battalion size for ground operations. Of these, the most formidable were likely the Special Naval Landing Forces. Other battalion-sized naval ground units included Guard Forces (Keibitai), used to defend smaller installations, and Pioneers (Setsueitai), which were construction units often containing a large proportion of Koreans.

References

Ellis (1993)

"Handbook of Japanese Military Forces" (1944-9-15)

Mansoor (1999)



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