The 8-3-8 Pionier Squad

Blackcloud6

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In a single word, FIREPOWER. The Germans were looking at ways of providing the prodigous close range firepower of an SMG while retaining the ability to reach out and touch people at reasonable battlefield distances (300m). Rather than equip a squad with a blend of rifles and SMGs, it would be better to provide a new weapon that could do both jobs.

Traditional SMGs use pistol rounds - far too underpowered and ballistically inefficient for effective use beyond around 100m. Full powered rifle rounds are much too powerful to be controllable in full auto mode in a standard weight weapon. The answer - a reduced power rifle round. This reduces the recoil so that full auto is somewhat controllable, and retains the ballistics required to reach out to 300m accurately.
Spot on post.
 

jwb3

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Thanks to both of you for your replies, but I think you may be missing the point of my question.

Tony's post explains the reasoning behind the increased use of StG44s, and it makes perfect sense -- but I was asking about the vastly increased use of traditional SMGs. MP40s, to be exact (again, this is as represented in CM).

I assume that the Germans would have loved to arm all their troops with StG44s, and I gather that the reason they did not was because the things just couldn't be made fast enough. But given that, and given the weaknesses you have explained of the SMG it was meant to replace, why arm an entire squad with nothing but SMGs? At least if you give the squad an LMG or two, as they did the "Heavy SMG" squads, you're fulfilling the traditional German concept where the troopers are basically only there to carry ammo for the MGs. But I can't see the SMG-only squads as doing anything except sitting there waiting for the enemy to come close enough to shoot at, or charging madly at the enemy in an attempt to get in range.

If these were specialized units designed for use in urban assaults, it would make more sense to me. But with VG, we're talking about divisions intended for relatively standard front-line fighting, aren't we?


John
 

jwb3

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During WWII and since then, the engagement range of infantry combat has been decreasing... due to... increased communication between squad members.
Also, Fred, this part of your reply particularly interested me. What's the relationship between increased squad commo and decreased engagement range?


Thanks,
John
 

Blackcloud6

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It could be that SMGs were easy to produce, as well as the ammunition. The whole VG concept was done in desperation.
 

Blackcloud6

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Also, Fred, this part of your reply particularly interested me. What's the relationship between increased squad commo and decreased engagement range?
Squad members can disperse and hide, while staying in some form on contact with leadership. my dttement does not necessarilty have to do with technology, but also has the component of traing and the development of junior NCOs as tactical leaders as opposed to just guys who kept people lined up.
 

Roadtogundagai

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Thanks to both of you for your replies, but I think you may be missing the point of my question.

Tony's post explains the reasoning behind the increased use of StG44s, and it makes perfect sense -- but I was asking about the vastly increased use of traditional SMGs. MP40s, to be exact (again, this is as represented in CM).

John
Sorry John, I didn't pick up your original point.

I don't have a good answer with references. If I had to guess, it would be a combination of availability (SMGs are cheap and easy to produce) combined with limited training time. It is quicker and easier to train someone to use a "spray" weapon like an SMG effectively rather than a precision weapon like a bolt action rifle. It does seem odd that a VG SMG squad was denied an LMG. Without this they going to be pretty toothless beyond 100m. Perhaps availability and training again?
 

Whizbang1963

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were not the STg44's created to counter the ability of the allies to throw large volumes of fire with their semi-auto rifles? With dwindling manpower reserves, the Germans needed a way to maintain the volume of FP they were throwing down the line. I have always thought that this was the mindset behind the STg44. Was I mistaken?

I do recall reading somewhere that if the Germans had been able to deploy them in large numbers earlier on that the war could have dragged on even longer.
 

final_drive

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Not willing to sound pedantic in a first post on this great forum, but the whole thing is that Volksgrenadier-Gruppen were never to be equipped with traditional SMGs, but always with StG44 right from their creation, and were effectively done so. Games who portray MP40-equipped VG-squads simply got their research wrong.

The whole misunderstanding comes from the fact that the StG44 was still called MP44 at the time when KStN 131V 1.9.44 was composed. As a consequence, this KStN, which was meant for the Grenadier-Kompanien of the then newly-created Volksgrenadier-Divisions, still referred to its platoons dedicated to the new weapon as 'MP-Züge'. Futhermore, specific weapon names were never mentioned in a KStN, but quantities were only categorised as 'Rifle' or 'SMG' or 'LMG' or 'HMG', etc., by means of entering the number of weapons in the weapon type column in the appropriate row. The editor of the KStN simply entered the quantities of MP44 in the SMG-dedicated column, without further referral to this weapon's s special character.

On 1.11.44 a slightly adapted KStN 131V was published: the third squad of the company's first and second platoon all received a second LMG (removed from the weapons reserve at Platoon HQ). By then the MP44 had been renamed to Sturmgewehr 44, and this change was taken into consideration on the new KStN: the MP-Zug was now called Sturm-Zug and a small footnote referred to the fact that weapon number in square brackets actually referred to the Sturmgewehr. The record was now set straight.

Another probable source for the continued misunderstanding might have been the 'Handbook on German forces', the writers of which seem to have been confused by the weapons earlier denomination, interpreting the KStN as pointing towards classic SMGs. Many postwar researchers without access to German archival material simply copied the mistake.

But let there be no doubt: training manuals composed for Volksgrenadier-Divisions refer to the beneficial specifications of the new weapon, and all actual weapon strength reports for Volksgrenadier-Divisions show great quantities of MP44/StG44, much greater than of classic SMGs.

Odd as it may seem to some, it was not the W-SS or other supposed elite units who got the StG44 in greatest quantities, but in fact the Volksgrenadier-Divisions.

Kind regards
 
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jwb3

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Not willing to sound pedantic in a first post on this great forum,
Final_drive, if you're going to bring this amazing level of insight and inside knowledge to every post you make on "this great forum", you're welcome to be pedantic any time you want to!

I'd rep ya five times if I could!


Thanks!
John
 

Count_Zero

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Final_drive, if you're going to bring this amazing level of insight and inside knowledge to every post you make on "this great forum", you're welcome to be pedantic any time you want to!

I'd rep ya five times if I could!


Thanks!
John
Got him for you!. What a great post!

- Josh
 

larth

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Too formidable especially with German SWs.......;)

They had some funky AFVs too........

Maybe the new Finns will have some Pulkas......and Klorihartsi pipe grenades?

:smoke:
Klorihartsi... nops. It has been delegated to SSR status if required. :cry:


With an abundance of "Molotov" cocktails.....

Ahkio's should also be made into a counter with 12PPs.

They could carry SW's on these little sleds and still sky long distances in a short period of time.
Akhio's (= infantry-pulled sledges) - yes! 12PP - no! ;)
 

Dave Lamb

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With STG 44s I would suggest something more like 8-4-8. Throw in an inherant MG42 and I would guess at 8-5-8/8-6-8 (assuming the LMG firepower is already factored in). Scary dudes. :surprise:
This was the concept behind the variant German 7-5-8 (Fsjr.) Kommando squads CH released with with our Vroenhoven series a few years ago. The 8-3-8 squad (each armed with an LMG) seemed cumbersome, so Pedro Ramis and I decided to make specialized squad types to reflect our needs.

If the situation called for it, I would not be averse to reusing this squad type in a future release.
 

James Taylor

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Weren't the 8-3-8's actually 8-4-8's in SL?

The U.S. paratroopers were 8-4-7's too weren't they?

Am I just tapping into non-real memories?

Anybody know the reasons for the changes in ASL?

JT
 

Ronnblom

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Re: The 8-3-6 VG SMG Squad?

In a single word, FIREPOWER. The Germans were looking at ways of providing the prodigous close range firepower of an SMG while retaining the ability to reach out and touch people at reasonable battlefield distances (300m). Rather than equip a squad with a blend of rifles and SMGs, it would be better to provide a new weapon that could do both jobs.
As I've understood it, the main driver for the assault rifle was simplification of squad-level tactics. Firepower was already there, with the MG42.
 

jwb3

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Weren't the 8-3-8's actually 8-4-8's in SL?

The U.S. paratroopers were 8-4-7's too weren't they?
As Klas said, 8-3-8s and 8-4-7s.

Anybody know the reasons for the changes in ASL?
Short answer: Because 8-4-7s were considered overpowered for what they represented (US paratroopers and assault engineers).


Long answer:
Start with the fact that 8-3-8s represented, in a design-for-effect way, a squad armed completely with SMGs, and the massive firepower they could put out at close range. Honestly, I've always felt they should have had a range of 2 like the Russian 6-2-8s, but I assume John Hill felt the Germans deserved the major advantages he gave them. Better tactical training and individual initiative, I suppose. Again, very design-for-effect.

Next, recognize that in the original SL design, every firepower number was even. It was not until COI that the first squads were introduced with 3 fp (Axis Minors, Partisans) and 5 fp (Russian and German "cavalry"). One can guess from this that JH deliberately made all the firepower numbers in SL even.

[I can only guess at the reasons (simple math, didn't want fractions...). I also don't know whether he was expecting the system to be added to with modules like COI, so I have no idea whether he foresaw the day when there would be those 3 fp and 5 fp squads.


It's also worth noting that this is why the original SL IFT is so non-incremental. About the only odd-increment columns that ever would have seen any use are the "3" column (US squad halved) and the "7" column (US squad halved + MMG full).]

This would limit his choices for what to do with the US elites.

Given that he was rating the US squads as 6-6-6s (due to their inherent BARs and semi-auto rifles), the US elites needed to be bumped up to 8 FP to be better. That also gave them an improved ability to take out AFVs in CC (Gammon Bombs et al.). This gets us to the 8-x-7.

The 4 range has always struck me as downright bizarre, and is in my opinion the first major failure of the design-for-effect philosophy. What does it represent? What is an 8-4-7 squad supposed to be armed with?

Answer: 10 men, 5 semi-auto rifles, 2 carbines, 2 SMG, 1 BAR. Extra BARs possibly acquired along the way.

Now, I could so a whole analysis of how this works out in SL terms and how an 8-4-7 is an illogical representation of it, though I admit all the numbers would be extrapolated from Combat Mission (which got all its numbers from official TO&Es, but as we saw from final_drive's post, doesn't necessarily know what the hell it's talking about).

But that's not the point of design-for-effect. It ain't about analysis, it's about outcomes.

So John Hill gave them a relative range -- one that was noticeably better than German squads armed solely with SMGs, and noticeably worse than a US 6-6-6. And that gets us to the 8-4-7.

But then along came COI, and the start of ever-increasing amounts of "realism" injected into the system. And "realism" relies on analysis -- whereas design-for-effect is essentially the antithesis of analysis. Frankly, this is why the game has been screwed up ever since -- because it is a hyper-realistic design based on a foundation of total, deliberate approximations.

One of those "realism" arguments was that, for the US paras or assault engineers it was supposed to represent, an 8-4-7 was "unrealistically" strong in firepower.

Now, the truth is that an 8-4-7 is unrealistic in all sorts of ways, but none of them can be fixed in the basic framework of a system with only one fp number and three range numbers which bear a fixed relationship to each other (1-hex point blank range, the normal range as printed on the counter, and "double the printed" AKA long range - IIRC TPBF was an ASL addition, but it too is in a fixed relationship).

But when you combine a "realistic" assessment of the firepower and range of a US paratrooper squad with a design-for-effect idea of how to rate those abilities, a 7-4-7 is no less realistic an approximation, and arguably more realistic an approximation, than an 8-4-7. So since odd-numbered firepowers were now acceptable values, they reduced it to 7 when they brought out GI:AOV.

The lesson I hope people will come away with from all this long and gory explanation is that the process of development from SL through to ASL was very patchwork and often very reactive.

BTW, I've never heard anything about how the British SL para/assault engineer/commando, which was a 6-3-8, became today's 6-4-8. But the reasons and methods (or lack of!) were undoubtedly similar.


John
 

final_drive

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Hi all,

Thanks for the great reception.

I'll add a few more findings on the subject of the 'Sturmzug', although the thread's original topic is about the firepower of the Pionier squad. ;)

As most of you already know, the original German squad doctrine was built around the squad's LMG, with the bolt-action rifles merely 'protecting' the LMG. But regardless of the LMG's great firepower, this doctrine proved unwieldy during manoeuvre and in dense or built-up terrain, especially once confronted with squads which were entirely equipped with semi-automatic rifles or SMGs. And even while LMG assault fire was technically thought to be possible, in close combat there was little more than grenades and bayonets to add to the firepower of the squad leader's single SMG.

In Panzergrenadier and Fallschirmjäger units an attempt was made to remedy the original doctrine's shortcoming by equipping their squads with a second LMG, with halfsquads mutually supporting eachother in manoeuvre, but this complex doctrine could only be implemented by well-trained squads, that's why it remained typical to their branches of service. Moreover, the increase in firepower through a second LMG also brought along an extra LMG-ammo burden, obviously slightly less of a problem for motorised or mechanised units.

So the tactical benefits of the StG44 were evident and have already been mentioned:
  • the option for semi- or fully-automatic fire
  • the possibility to fire on the move
  • a longer range when compared to the classic SMG. Although less than a rifle's range, this was still sufficient for the majority of fire fights
  • a more even partition of the squad's firepower over the entire squad
The first tactical training manual for the MP-Zug, dated February 1944, did not provide any LMG to the platoon, but it still fitted every squad with a scoped rifle and a rifle fitted with a grenade launcher. From this it can be concluded that the concentrated firepower of the MP44s was considered sufficient to replace the platoon's three LMG's entirely, or that the platoon's increased mobility was considered as being more advantageous to the total combined firepower of LMG + MP44. At that time, first half of 1944, taking into account the still limited expected production output the weapon, the MP-zug was considered as a dedicated single platoon within the rifle company, to be used for patrolling, breakthroughs, counterattacks etc. Rifle companies were to be gradually outfitted with such a platoon, newly established or refitting units getting their hands on them first.
The inspectorate for the Panzer arm seems to have stuck with this single-platoon doctrine for the rest of the war (whether this was a clearly defined policy of the inspectorate or rather the result of smaller deliveries of MP44/StG44 to Panzergrenadier-units, remains an open question to me), while the infanty branch of service had a further evolution: once the Volksgrenadier-Divisions were established, from late Summer 1944 on, the MP44 became available to them in vast numbers, so that two platoons within each company could be outfitted with the weapon.
By that time, combat experience must have shown that the firepower of the LMG was still necessary - or at least very useful-, regardless of the added ammo burden, as these weapons returned into the TO&E for the MP-Zug. In the final constellation of the Sturmzug, as described in the manual of November 1944, two of the LMG were concentrated in the platoon's third squad, called the 'Feuergruppe', which was to establish the platoon's base of fire, and the third LMG was to be kept in reserve at Platoon HQ, for use in AA-defense or to be brought forward only in defensive positions. The three rifle grenade launchers were concentrated at Platoon HQ, were their fire was to be directed by the platoon leader. All snipers had already been shifted to the level of Company HQ.
Finally, this brings us to the topic of training. It was specifically mentioned in official documents that the MP44/StG44 and the Sturmzug doctrine was very useful to compensate for the lack of training within young recruits. And we know that by late '44 training had indeed fallen back to a very low level, not only among riflemen and MG-gunners, but also for NCO's and officers. A higher rate of fire was to inspire confidence in recruits (but nevertheless burst of more than three rounds were not allowed in order to conserve ammo). Except for the Feuergruppe, the squadleaders did not have to direct the fire of any LMG anymore. Finally, the platoon leader had a clear doctrinal pattern laid-out for him. Whether all this worked out as well in practice as in theory, is another story, one that is understandably very hard to find out.
A final point worth mentioning is the fact that late '44 doctrine prescribed for fresh infanty companies not to enter combat with more than 80 men (this guideline was repeated to the assaulting divisions on Dec. 16th, 1944). Experience had shown that it was better to fight with a smaller but easierly lead company, than to risk loosing greater numbers of untrained manpower. In fact, the third platoons of each Grenadier-company within a Volksgrenadier-Division (yes, the one without StG44!), containing the least experienced men, was not to be put in line, but to be kept in a provisional reserve company at regimental level or, if established, in the divisional level field replacement battalion, where the most experienced officers and NCO were supposed to provide further training. After this additional training recruits could be gradually shifted forward to replace casualties, or in emergencies they were to be shifted forward 'en masse' in so-called Alarm-companies.

How this would all translate into ASL I leave to the experts, but I hope it might provide some scenario inspiration.
 

Dave Olie

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As Klas said, 8-3-8s and 8-4-7s.


Short answer: Because 8-4-7s were considered overpowered for what they represented (US paratroopers and assault engineers).


Long answer:
Start with the fact that 8-3-8s represented, in a design-for-effect way, a squad armed completely with SMGs, and the massive firepower they could put out at close range...
John, that was a superb analysis, and I'd rep you if I could. Can someone help me out with a rep on this?
 
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