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The German Peacetime Army of 1941 (Part II)
General Fromm and General Halder agreed that the type of infantry battalion that had fought in Poland, the Low Countries, and France should be replaced by a marginally larger unit made up of companies that were, at once, slightly smaller in size and somewhat simpler in structure. In order to do this, the machine gun company of the wartime battalion would divide into two companies, a machine gun company armed exclusively with tripod-mounted machine guns and a heavy company armed with both mortars and 37mm anti-tank guns.
Having been relieved of their heavy machine guns, the peacetime rifle companies would be able to focus on the task of fighting at close quarters. Likewise, the peacetime machine gun company would employ but one type of weapon. (General Halder described the heavy machine gun as the Schwerpunktwaffe of the battalion commander, the weapon he employed to concentrate fighting power in order to achieve decisive effects.)
The heavy company would serve more as a home for autonomous platoons than as a unit in its own right. Thus, its commander might reasonably expect that his six mortars might be employed in one place and his three 37mm anti-tank guns in another. (Fully aware that the 37mm anti-tank gun could no longer fulfill its original function of knocking out tanks, Halder imagined it as a means of combatting “living targets.”)
In addition to its mortar platoon and anti-tank gun platoon, the heavy company would possess a communications platoon. Inspired, perhaps, by the communications platoons of wartime mountain infantry battalions, this platoon would provide the peacetime infantry battalion with the radio sets, field telephone systems, and blinker lights that wartime infantry battalions had been obliged to borrow from higher echelons.
Like its predecessor, the peacetime infantry battalion imagined by Fromm and Halder would carry its heavy weapons in horse-drawn vehicles. Most of these wagons would be pulled by one or two horses. However, one of the three platoons of the machine gun company, which Halder imagined as a kind of “flying artillery” for the battalion, was to ride into battle in four-horse carts.
Source: Chef des Generalstabs des Heeres, Org. Abt. (III) Nr. 153/41 geh. Kdos, dated 4 February 1941, with appendices, preserved on US NARA microfilm series T-78, Roll 871, frames 283-293
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