German Rifle Platoon

The German rifle platoon of World War II was composed of the platoon leader, platoon troop, four ten-man rifle squads, light grenade-launcher troop and drivers, with a total strength of 50 men. The platoon leader of the first platoon in a company was a Lieutenant, whose equipment consisted of a machine pistol (MP40 Schmeisser) with two magazine pouches, 6 x 30 binoculars, message case, compass and flashlight. The platoon troop that led the platoon consisted of the platoon troop leader (Unteroffizier – non-commissioned officer), and three messengers, all armed with K98 Mauser rifles; later the third messenger was also given a telescopic sight that could be attached to his rifle for sharpshooting. One medic, armed with a pistol, also belonged to the platoon troop; his equipment consisted of a belt attached medical kit, plus a water bottle and a medical pack with supplies on his backpack to treat minor wounds or injuries, marked with a large red cross. The platoon troop also carried amongst themselves, wire cutters, flare pistol, signal flags and a small flashing light for optical communication (Blinkgeràt).

The each of the rifle squads was composed of 10 men: a squad leader, 3 gunners, and 6 riflemen. The light grenade launcher (mortar) troop with its troop leader and gunners 1 and 2 carried the troop’s high-angle fire weapon, the 5-caliber light grenade launcher 36. The troop leader carried a rifle, binoculars, message case, three leg brace for the launcher, and in combat an ammunition box with ten grenades. Gunner 1, armed with a pistol, had the bottom plate, Gunner 2, likewise armed with a pistol, had the barrel of the launcher – both were carried on their backs. The launcher gunners also each carried two ammunition cases by hand. The grenade launcher was set up on its three legs and either aimed at a target or "zeroed in" with a few shots.

The firepower of the German rifle platoon consisted of 5 machine pistols, 4 light machine guns, 11 pistols, 34 rifles and one light grenade launcher. For these weapons, a primary ammunition supply of 1048 machine pistol and pistol rounds, 4600 machine gun rounds, 2040 rifle rounds, about 60 hand grenades and 50 launcher grenades had to be carried into battle. At the beginning of the war, there was a two-horse wagon (HF 1) with a driver for ever rifle platoon; on the march, they carried the light machine guns, the grenade launcher, tripods, hand grenades, tools, long trenching tools, tripwire, gun-cleaning tools, means of camouflage, and especially the ammunition not carried by the men. When they went into battle, the command "Equipment off!" ("entfaltete!") was given and the machine guns and grenade launcher, including the ammunition to be carried with them, were unloaded and taken over by the appropriate gunners.

In battle, the rifle platoon deployed into a wide wedge, with three rifle squads in front and one following them, or to a pointed wedge with one squad in front and three in back. The platoon leader and platoon troop always followed in the middle, from where the platoon leader could give his signals to the groups by voice, whistle, hand signals or messengers. The platoon was capable of handling larger combat tasks such as shocktroop operations and the like.

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Thor is Carlos Benito Camacho, the manager and writer of this blog.