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Reorganization
after the Attack
(from Combat Lessons Number 3)

Don't Waste Time:
Lieutenant Colonel Murphy, Executive, Infantry, ITALY: "When an objective is captured, immediately push reconnaissance elements of the supporting weapons unit forward behind the riflemen. Get rifle groups out for local security as soon as the position is captured.  Have the weapons platoon immediately take position to beat off a counterattack. Displace promptly at least one-half the Heavy Weapons company forward to the captured objective.  Get your artillery observer up front in a hurry.  We were taught all these things and they are still perfectly sound.

sarrebourg pows captive german soldiers 1944Delay Brings Trouble:
"Where an outfit gets into trouble it is usually because they haven't pushed these points hard enough - when they waste just a little time instead of getting set and moving the stuff forward at once. You probably will have only a little time to dig in before the counter-attack hits, but if you get set without delay you will be all right whether you plan to keep going or to hold what you've captured.

Sergeant Gives Example:  "Back on the other front about two months ago we captured a Hill. Two companies took it.  After its capture, the two company commanders dilly-dallied around. When ordered to consolidate their positions immediately, they said they would have to attack again to drive off some Germans who had infiltrated to the slope of the hill. A platoon sergeant intervened at this point. He said he had made a personal reconnaissance, had posted squads at the key points in defending the hill, and could state positively that there were no Germans on the hill. This noncommissioned officer recognized the need for proper reorganization and the importance of promptness in its accomplishment."

Keep Forward Observer on the Ball  
Major Howe, Battalion Executive, Infantry, ITALY: "Be sure that after a successful attack you have the artillery forward observer move up fast and that he immediately registers his guns on all dangerous approaches.  Make him do this first, before he fires on any targets of opportunity, no matter how tempting."

COMMENT:
 While immediate registration is extremely important and should be completed before engaging targets of opportunity of minor importance, vitally important targets, such as an enemy counterattack, would take precedence.

How We Reorganize
First Lieutenant Benjamin A. Blackmer, Company Commander, Infantry, ITALY: "Usually the Germans counterattack in not over three hours after you capture an objective.  His counter measure may come in as little as one-half hour.  On the heights above VENAFRO we captured a ridge at 0330, the Germans counterattacked at 0620 and pulled eight more counter-attacks during daylight that day. You had better be ready in half an hour to meet a counterattack or you are likely to have trouble.

Getting Ready for the Counterattack:
"Whenever the terrain and the enemy fire will permit, pull the bulk of the company back on the reverse slope to shake it out and reorganize it. However before doing that, put out out-posts consisting of small rifle groups and BARs.  Get your weapons platoon all set in position to stop a counterattack, and have the artillery FO start his registration on likely avenues of approach.

"As soon as the company is reorganized and set to go I push more riflemen out to the front and flanks. I always try to hold the bulk of one platoon in hand so as to have a force with which to counterattack the counterattack. Because of the low strength of the platoons, and the losses sustained during our attack you are seldom able to hold all of one platoon in support.


Avoid the Crests: 
"When I say 'pull the bulk of the company hack on the reverse slope' I don't mean to pull them back just behind the crest, but well back. The Germans will inevitably shell their former positions which are generally near the crest of the heights. This shelling will fall on both sides of the crest-some on your reverse slope, some on your forward slope. The whole idea of pulling the bulk of he company back is to get them out of the area of this shelling, so don't stay too close to the crest."

60-mm 60mm 60 mm mortar team squad snow bunkerReorganization Aided by Prior Planning: 
Lieutenant Colonel Ahern, Infantry Battalion Commander, ITALY: "From the battalion commander's point of view, the most vital feature of reorganization is prior planning.  By that I mean deciding well in advance whether all machine guns are going to displace forward immediately or only half of them, deciding what areas the 81-mm mortars are to cover and what areas the 60-mm mortars of the various companies cover. All this planning is vital so that the prompt issuing of orders for reorganization can be effected immediately following the capture of the objective.

Methods Used: 
"So far as the actual reorganization is concerned,  I believe in shoving BAR teams well forward at once to act as an outpost, getting up the heavy weapons promptly, getting the mortar and artillery observers up to the captured objective without delay, and then pulling the bulk of the rifle companies back far enough on the reverse slope to be out of the area of the German artillery retaliation fire before trying to reorganize them."

COMMENT:
 All comment on attack tactics against the Germans emphasize the importance of prompt and thorough reorganization of the attack unit when it reaches its objective. It is necessary that this be accomplished in order to oppose effectively the habitual German counterattack.

There is considerable divergence of opinion as to the use of the reverse slope for this reorganization but all agree that effective measures must he taken to protect the personnel against the German retaliatory artillery fires which he places on his evacuated positions.

The four main methods of evading this fire are: (1) Press on forward to next defiladed area: {2) Pull bulk of unit back onto reverse slope leaving only outposts with automatic weapons on forward slope: (3) Move bulk of unit to one flank of the captured position; (4) Dig in promptly in the position area occupied and hang on until dark.

The choice of which of the above methods to adopt will depend on many factors. Some of these are: (1) Nature of the terrain: (2) Degree
of enemy observation; (3) Strength of enemy resistance. (4) Strength of own unit upon reaching the objective; (5) Hour of the day.

The high degree of efficacy of mortar and artillery fire in breaking up counterattacks before they really get going Is reported in most action comments.


Reorganization of an attack unit must begin at the elementary squad
level and work to the top. Have squad leaders organize their squads, section leaders supervising the work of the squad leader. The platoon commander, assisted by the platoon sergeant, supervises the work of the section leaders and sees that proper protective measures are taken. The company commander must be planning the defense of the position, checking the dispositions of his weapons platoon and coordinating the fires of his mortars with his artillery support.

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