I've got flanked pretty bad today, and I shouldn't have ...
Another custom-made, single player scenario in Iron Front Liberation D-Day. This time is way more dull and just for practice. I am commanding a German infantry squad against a platoon of US infantry that is advancing over open terrain.
|The main firing position for the light machine gun, though, was in the second story of the ruins. Here I placed my gunner in a prone position with a narrow field of fire centered around the road the US troops are likely to cross.|
|With the exception of a couple of riflemen that I left on the ruins to cover the front of the position, the rest of my rifle infantry was placed on the left flank. These men were more for flank protection than anything.|
|Contact! I kept myself close to the light machine gunner. He mowed down some enemy troops but most of them just sprinted across the road and through the narrow light machine gun's field of fire.|
A quick check at the mini-map revealed no less than 18 US infantry on our left flank.
|It was not until I moved the light machine gunner to our left flank that the threat was eliminated. In this screen shot, I am located at the rear of our position, looking at the front of it.|
The issue of how to use a modern infantry squad effectively is like a virus I can't take out of my head. The transition of monolithic company/battalion formations in close, almost Napoleonic, formation during the Franco-Prussian and Russo-Japanese Wars towards the more open formations used during the Second Boer War and (in some cases) first stages of WWI is just a fascinating topic. All culminating in the birth of the squad as a usable tactical unit ...
There is an excellent vintage bulletin (circa 1943) about the organization and tactics of German squads during WWII written by the US Military Intelligence Service . I actually have a printed version of it, profusely annotated by Matthew Gajkowski.
Although I recognize that warfare is a system of expedients, it is interesting to read the somewhat stiff field manuals not to follow recipes but to find general trends. In the introduction of his publication, Gajkowski writes:
In contrast to the doctrine of other nations the German army holds that the machine gun, not the rifle is the backbone of infantry tactics. The German squad is built around the light machine gun. It is the squad's base of fire. The riflemen support it and provide ammunition for it. In the US squad, the rifleman are the base of fire and the BAR supports the riflemen. This may be one of the reasons why the Germans stayed with the K-98k rifle (designed originally in 1898 and modified last in 1930). In the US squad the M1 rifle (adopted in the 1930's) was the newer weapon while their automatic weapon, the BAR (originally an 1918 design) was old. In the German squad the MG-34 (introduced in 1936) was the new design. The Germans even came out with a replacement for the MG-34 in 1942 (the MG-42).
It doesn't take long for the Iron Front player to fall in love with the long range and high rate of fire of the MG-42. Taking proper advantage of both is an entirely different matter. Page 14 of the bulletin makes a point that is repeated over and over:
Victory comes to the one who fires the largest number of well-aimed shots against his opponent in the shortest time.
Ideally, the light machine gun fire should be the sudden, devastating opening (and only) act of the firefight. This is the point where I can find some basis to explain my du jour misgivings in the virtual battlefield. I just handicapped my light machine gun's firepower with a narrow and shallow field of fire.
|Aftermath. The center of the light machine gun's field of fire, from the enemy's point of view. The light machine gun was located in the second story of the building in the background.|
A narrow filed of fire was good to protect my gunner (only a few enemies could hope to engage him) but allowed the enemy to move through it fast and towards a tactically advantageous position (my left flank). A shallow field of fire meant an inability to take advantage of the enemy's deep formation and long exposed flank.