Welcome

Welcome to 20thCenturyPlatoons.com, a website dedicated to small-unit tactics and military history. Translating primary source material from four different languages into English, this website aims to give a historical overview of squad, platoon, and company level units of various nations, using the very same manuals commanders of the era would have used.

How useful were the tactics employed by Dutch troops fighting in Indonesia between 1945 and 1949? What impact did World War I have on the German Schützenkompanie, and how did its 1906 structure differ from 1922? How did the French infantry platoon change from 1972 to 1999? To what degree has American doctrine influenced NATO-partners?

In trying to answer these questions and explore modern military history, I will be using a number of "pillars", if you will.

These include lengthy articles based on multiple primary and secondary sources, scans of rare postcards and images with a military theme, entire manuals uploaded to the archive, and brief discussions of material already available online.

This website will - for the most part - focus on the militaries of continental Europe. The reason for this is two-fold:
In the first place, there is comparatively little English-language information out there on for example the Dutch, Belgian, or Austrian military. Secondly, my own interests and collection simply focus on European armies.

None of that is to say, however, that the American or Commonwealth militaries are entirely ignored. They are interesting in and of themselves, and they provide both context and comparison.

The Belgian FN MAG, 1962


The standard for Western GPMGs, the FN MAG is used by over eighty nations, amongst which of course its home country, Belgium.

Initially developed to accept both FAL magazines and belted ammunition (American M13 or West-German DM1 type), the weapon modified and combined the barrel and bolt mechanism of the FN Model D (a variant of the M1918 BAR) with the trigger and feed mechanism of the MG42.

With the dual-feed capability dropped, the weapon was eventually offered to the Swedish and British militaries in 1957, with both adopting the weapon in 1958 and 1961 respectively.

It would strongly appear the Belgians did not adopt the weapon until 1962, given the provisional nature of our document in question. The FN MAG would initially be a weapon exclusive to the Para Commandos, the airborne light infantry component of the Belgian Army, with one weapon scaled per platoon, fifteen per company, and 45 per battalion.

It would be with the Paras where the FN MAG would fire perhaps its first shots in anger, during Operatie Rode Draak/Operation Dragon Rouge. The weapon was used in its infantry and tripod version, the latter from Jeeps.

As late as 1974, the weapon was entirely absent from the mechanised infantry battalions mounted on the AMX APC, the battalion being equipped with a mix of 68 FN FALOs, 32 FN .30-cals, 55 American .30-cals, nine Browning .50-cals, and four M45 quadmounts instead.

Somewhat later in 1981, the FN MAG had finally been introduced to line units, with a mechanised infantry platoon possessing two rifle squads equipped with one FN MAG each, in addition to their two FN FALOs. The M75 "Full-tracks" still were still somewhat awkwardly equipped with .30-cals.

Below, the weapon's technical specifications are translated and the parts list is shown in full. The entire manual is available here.

The archive of manuals can be found here.

A final note on the weapon's name: MAG stands for Mitrailleuse À Gaz, not Mitrailleuse d'Appui Général, as evidenced from various early documentation . The weapon was, however, marketed as the GPMG in English language publications, a term which has most likely been incorrectly translated back into French. FN's Dutch-language publications used the far more neutral Mitrailleur , designating it simply as a "machine gun".

Technical Characteristics
Calibre 7.62×51mm NATO
Weight of weapon, with buttstock and bipod 10.85 kg 23.9 lbs
Weight of weapon, without buttstock and bipod 10.1 kg 22.3 lbs
Weight of the barrel (with gas regulator, flash-hider, and carrying handle) 2.75 kg 6.1 lbs
Overall length, with flash-hider 1255 mm 49.4 in
Barrel length 545 mm 21.5 in
Sight radius (folded down) 848 mm 33.4 in
Sight radius (extended) 785 mm 30.9 in
Rifling, number of grooves 4
Rifling, twist rate 305 mm 1 in 12"
Sight, graduated in 100 m increments, folded down 200 to 800 m
Sight, graduated in 100 m increments, extended 800 to 1800 m
Weight of the tripod 12 kg 26.5 lbs
Traverse
On bipod 50 degrees 880 mils
On tripod 67 degrees 1200 mils
Elevation
On tripod 30 degrees 530 mils









Footnotes

C7A1 Parts List, 1995


Today's post further explores the Diemaco down to its details, with the detaillijst showing us all parts down the 3rd echelon.
The Diemaco family of weapons has previously been discussed here as follows:

Adopted in 1995, the Geweer, 5,56MM, C7 and C7A1 replaced the FN FAL and M61 Uzi, and to a lesser extent the M1 Garand and M1 Carbine in use with territorial and reservist units. The C8 carbine and C7 LSW (termed LOAW) replaced select FN Browning High-Power pistols, M1 carbines and M61 Uzis, and the FN FALO respectively.

The initial contract called for a total of 52,285 weapons to delivered, with the Army receiving 39,500 C7s, the Airforce and Royal Marechaussee receiving 7,500 C8 carbines, and the Navy receiving 4,750 C7A1s and 535 LOAWs respectively, the latter for the Korps Mariniers. This leaves out the C8A1 and C8A1GD (Geluidsdemper), which appear to be later modifications of the C8.

It was, however, not to be so. As the Army (and other services) downsized following the Cold War's end, the number of rifles required was adjusted accordingly.

Even more so, the Army's initial plan of only adopting the iron-sighted C7 was quickly thrown out the window, with additional C7A1s being procured. The choice of foregoing the scoped C7A1 was driven by the initial requirement for a rifle capable out to 300 metres, as opposed to the Navy's (Korps Mariniers) requirement of 500 metres. In the end, the Army procured C7 for its non-combat troops, issuing the C7A1 to airmobile and mechanized infantry.
This also explains the chapter dedicated to the bayonet in the C7A1 manual, which is absent from the C7 manual.

In the future, the various posts on the Diemaco family of weapons will be combined into a single, long-form post, including various editions of the field manuals (VS 7-508 1995; 1996; 2003;2007).

The full manual can be downloaded here, with the individual pages showing the drawings available below.

The archive of manuals can be found here.



Footnotes

Centurion Mk. 3 Drawings, 1954


Perhaps one of the most successful post-war tanks, the Centurion served with a variety of countries, including the Netherlands.

Although initially expecting to use the American M47 tank, it was decided in 1952 to equip the Dutch Army with the Centurion instead, as the American tank was required by its home country due to the Korean War.

With an agreement reached by the end of 1952, the United States placed an order in the United Kingdom for 435 Centurion Mk. 3 tanks, to be delivered under the Mutual Defence Assistance Program. Ultimately, 592 tanks would arrive starting from January 12th 1953 to 1956, with one example lost to a fire in the summer of 1953.

Upon arrival, the Mk. 3 tanks were quickly modified to the Mk. 5 standard, which included replacing the BESA machine gun with an M191914A4 and replacing the British WS No. 19 radio with an American SRC 508 or 528, among other changes.

Somewhat curiously, the document posted below has some notes on anti-tank warfare, describing the use of Molotov cocktails and how to disable tracks.
Appropriate for the time, the notes also discuss the Soviet T34-85, T-54/55, T-44, PT-76, and IS-1/2/3 and T-10 tanks.

The drawings can be downloaded here.

The archive of manuals can be found here.



Footnotes

The Swedish G3 and Carl Gustaf, 1974

For today's post, we have two spare parts lists for the Swedish 7,62 mm automatkarbin 4, the Heckler & Koch G3, and the 8,4 cm Granatgevär m/48B and m/48C, the 84mm Carl Gustaf.

The G3 has a fair few accessories, such as a bayonet, cleaning kit, .22 conversion kit, and Hensoldt 4×24 scope.

The Carl Gustaf is a weapon worth expanding on in terms of the organisation surrounding it. With a Skyttepluton consisting of an HQ element, three Skyttegrupper and a Granatgevärsgrupp , the latter was equipped with two launchers, and organised as such :



1st Carl Gustaf
Squad leader



First aid kit
Compass
Binoculars
Flashlight
2 smoke rounds



Gunner

Pick

Carl Gustaf
Tool kit
Loader Shovel 4 AT rounds
Ammunition bearer

4 AT rounds
Range-finding tool
2nd Carl Gustaf
Gunner

Shovel

Carl Gustaf
Tool kit
Loader Shovel 4 AT rounds
Ammunition bearer

Axe
First aid kit
4 AT rounds

Deputy squad leader


Shovel
Compass
Flashlight
2 smoke rounds



The G3 parts list is available here, with the Carl Gustaf parts list available at the link here.

Footnotes

Dutch Requirements for a Platoon Anti-Tank Weapon: 1000m, 10kg loaded, 90% hit rate. Year: 1969

Introduction

In the 1960s, the Dutch Army found itself undergoing a fundamental transformation: the process of mechanisation and motorisation was initiated for the 1st and 4th Division: the infanteristen (infantrymen) would become pantserinfanteristen (armoured infantrymen; mechanized infantry), equipped to fight on the mechanized battlefield. Facing the mighty tanks and capable BMPs of Warsaw Pact, modern anti-tank weapons were more than required.

Although the Carl Gustav was selected in 1962 to replace the 57mm M18 recoilless rifle and 3.5in M20 Bazooka used at the infantry platoon level , the Dutch Army would seek to improve the infantry platoon’s antitank capability as early as 1968, just two years after deliveries of the new weapon began.

A number of issues were noted with both the Gustav itself, and the scale of issue:

The Gustav is, due to its weight and required ammunition, limited by the carrying capacity of its two-man team. It is thus less mobile and as a result more vulnerable. Successful use of the weapon must therefore be sought in its rate of fire, the amount of ammunition present with the weapon, and the use of multiple guns in the same sector. As opening fire at the maximum range will betray the firer’s position, positions must be changed often so as to escape the enemy’s return fire. The initial salvo of multiple weapons in the same sector affords the greatest opportunities, after which fire will be less effective as the enemy concentrates its fire on our antitank weapons. Moving to an alternate firing position will take time. Leaving the initial firing position by foot to move to the alternate firing positions will increase the Gustav team’s vulnerability. A minimum of two weapons in the same sector is therefore necessary to ensure continuous fire at a range of 500 m.

It is however interesting to note the current allocation of the Carl Gustav and their ammunition across the different echelons. As noted, the current allocation of two Carl Gustavs to the infantry platoon is regarded as inadequate with regards to ensuring continuous fire.

The two Carl Gustavs assigned to the company headquarters are regarded as being of little use, as they will be assigned to those platoons that find themselves up front. Creating main points of effort
[Zwaartepunten, Schwerpunkte] at the company level is regarded as a doubtfully useful practice. The amount of ammunition carried by the Gustav teams is insufficient, and will require riflemen to bring up ammunition to the firing position. The timely presence of ammunition is of key importance. It is not unthinkable only a small percentage of the necessary ammunition can be brought up to the Gustav.

All of this pleads for more Gustavs and more ammunition at the platoon level.

As the poor ratio of available troops to the frontage to be covered will necessitate strongpoints, the maximum range Gustav’s maximum range of 500 m must be regarded as insufficient. The company is forced to enter into combat at close range with a considerably stronger foe, with all the odds favouring the enemy.

Below, the solution to the above problem is described, in the form of a set of requirements put forth on the 1st of July, 1969, as well as an information brochure for the XM47 Dragon Weapon System, unsurprisingly found accompanying the requirements document. Indeed, it can be argued the requirements are solely aimed at adopting the Dragon, which happened a decade later in 1978.

The Dragon would however, not quite match the requirements, as illustrated in the table below.

Requirement/
Desired Feature
Additional Requirement/
Feature
M47 Dragon
Weight, loaded <10kg 14kg
Weight, loaded, with night sight <15kg 20.7kg
Length, transport <1.50m 1.15m
Length, ready-to-fire <1.20m
Height, in firing position <0.60m 0.96-1.29m
Ammunition, max weight, in tactical container <5.5kg <3.5kg 10.9kg
Range 750 metres 1000 metres 1000 metres
Incapacitation probability 90% at 750 metres 90% at 1000 metres -
Rate of fire At least 5 rounds per minute 2-3 rounds per minute
Projectile type Guided
or
Unguided, with tracer
Guided
Sight Optical Sight
or
Open Sights
or
Range-Finding Sights
Optical sight, 6×

Click here to continue reading.

Footnotes

Updates

  • 26th of September, 2021
  • The website's layout has been changed, displaying the five most recent page on the home page, with a longer list of all posts found on the second page.
  • 23rd of June, 2018
  • The third and final article concerning the Dutch Marine Corps has been published.
  • 14th of June, 2018
  • The second article - the Dutch Marine Corps 1978 - has been published.
    Images now open as a pop-up.
  • 7th of June, 2018
  • The first resource - concerning the Vietnamese sappers - is added.
  • 5th of June, 2018
  • Interactive footnotes are added to the Dutch 1963 Marines Corps article.
    The first manual is added.
  • 4th of June, 2018
  • The first scanned postcard is added.
  • 3rd of June, 2018
  • The first article - concerning the Dutch Marine Corps 1963 - is created.
  • 2nd of June, 2018
  • The website is created and launched.