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MARK R. HENRY, MIKE CHAPPELL
In the late 1930s the Army began to reorganise its divisions. The old musclebound 24,000-man 'square' division built around four infantry regiments was slimmed down to a 15,500-man 'triangular' division with three. With its new organisation and weapons the triangular division essentially retained its firepower but increased its flexibility and mobility. By 1943 the infantry division was further slimmed to 14,253 men, still organised around three infantry regiments.
1942: Gunners strip to the waist to serve their 105mm howitzer. They wear HBT trousers without cargo pockets, and the man in the left foreground wears the first pattern HBT shirt with 'take-up straps' on the waistband. All wear the khaki first pattern floppy hat or 'Daisy Mae'.
In the Pacific the Army employed standard infantry divisions almost exclusively. Exceptions included the US/Filipino 'Philippine Division' of 10,000 men which was destroyed on Corregidor in 1942; and the 13,000-strong 'Hawaiian Division' of 1941-42, which was disbanded to provide cadres for the formation of the 24th and 25th Divisions.
The 11th Airborne (8,200 men) and the specially configured 1st Cavalry Division also served in the Pacific. The Army's horse cavalry consisted of two divisions in 1941. The 1st Cavalry Division (basically two rifle regiments and eventually four artillery battalions, totalling with support units about 12,700 men) was dismounted and served as infantry in New Guinea and the Philippines. The 2nd Cavalry Division was dismounted and converted into a black infantry formation, but was disbanded in 1943. The crack US/Philippines 26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippines Scouts) was destroyed in the fight for Bataan - the starving garrison ate their horses.
An important tactical innovation was the Regimental Combat Team (RCT). These were task forces temporarily extracted from divisions, or independent units under corps control. Some RCTs and other independent units were combined on New Caledonia in 1942 to form the 23rd 'America!' (America/Caledonia) Division. Most common among army/corps level independent combat units were mechanised cavalry groups and squadrons, and artillery, anti-aircraft, tank and tank destroyer battalions. These were attached to divisions or corps as required. Particularly in Europe, these attachments were common and almost permanent. If these combat units had been assembled into formations the US would have fielded approximately 15 additional divisions.
An infantry regiment (4,000 men) had a headquarters company, three infantry battalions, an anti-tank company (9 to 12 x 37mm or 57mm guns), a cannon company (6 x 105mm guns) and a support and services company. In the Pacific the regimental cannon company sometimes had light 75mm or 105mm pack howitzers. Battalions were commanded by majors or lieutenant-colonels and regiments by full colonels. The divisional artillery ('divarty') consisted of one 155mm battalion (12 guns) and three 105mm (36 guns). Regimental cannon companies were often absorbed into the divisional artillery. Later in the war self-propelled 105mm guns (M7 Priests) were substituted for the 105mm towed guns.
A 1943-45 infantry battalion consisted of 871 men in a headquarters, three rifle companies and a weapons company. Companies were 187 strong and consisted of three rifle platoons and a weapons platoon. A company was commanded by a captain, a rifle platoon by a lieutenant or sergeant. By 1943-44 a battalion (heavy) weapons company had eight machine guns, six 81mm mortars and seven bazookas. The rifle company's weapons platoon had two .30cal machine guns and one .50 cal, three 60mm mortars and three bazookas. Battalion HQ initially had three 37mm (later 57mm) anti-tank guns; by 1944 these were usually consolidated at divisional level.
At full strength, each of the platoon's three rifle squads consisted of 12 men and was led by an NCO. It was supposed to have ten riflemen, a rifle grenadier (armed with the 03 Springfield rifle), and a Browning Automatic Rifle man, providing the squad's light automatic support fire. Once in combat this configuration soon broke down, and GIs carried what was expedient and available. A squad might commonly add or substitute a 'tommy-gunner', a bazooka or an extra BAR man.
The Army started the war in khaki and brown drab uniforms and buff khaki (OD#9) webbing gear; by the end of the war olive drab (OD) green began to predominate. The term 'OD green' quickly came to mean any flat green colour from olive to dark green. The official shade (OD#7) was a darkish green characteristic of vehicles, 1943-45 combat clothing and web gear.