2010/10/03

The role of the infantry branch

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The Infantry Mission is — ‘to defeat the enemy through close combat.’
(from an UK infantry field manual)

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The role of the infantry is to close with and destroy the enemy.
(from a Canadian infantry field manual)

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The Australians seem to define this as the infantry's role:
‘to seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize and hold ground, and to repel attack, by day or night, regardless of season, weather or terrain’
(I've still got to add Aussie manuals to my collection, got this from a secondary official Aussie source.)

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The mission of the Infantry is to close with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him, or to repel his assault with fire, close combat, and counterattack.
The Infantry will engage the enemy with combined arms in all operational environments to bring about his defeat.
The close combat fight is not unique to the Infantry
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(from a U.S.Army field manual)

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Das Jägerbataillon führt den Infanteriekampf vorwiegend in bewaldetem und bebautem Gelände sowie mit und um Sperren und Hindernissen, nimmt und hält bewegungs-ungünstiges Gelände und trägt zum Schutz von Räumen und Objekten bei.
(The infantry battalion executes the infantry fight primarily in forests and settlements as well as with and around obstacles, captures and holds movement-adverse terrain and contributes to the protection of areas and objects.)
(from a German infantry manual)

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Le fantassin combat principalement à pied en engageant le combat à courte ou très courte distance et si nécessaire au contact direct avec l’ennemi.
(It basically says that infantry is for short distance, very short distance or if necessary "direct contact" (melee?) combat.)
(from a French infantry manual)

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The U.S. field manuals which I read in preparation of this post don't lay out the role of infantry so cogently, but feature a kind of statement of belief in AirLand Battle and some deployability strengths instead.

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So what's REALLY the role of infantry on campaign?

These commonwealth-typical "close with and destroy" ideas were not only unable to become an alliance-wide consensus, they are regularly despised as idiotic (in more gentlemanly expressions, of course). This may be harsh, but these Commonwealth armies look almost stuck on the side of the bayonet fans from 18th century "bayonet vs. musket ball" tactics discussions.

The French and Germans weren't as far off with their approach; focus on what infantry can do well.


Infantry combat is in contrast to vehicle-based combat, although very often both are combined for extra benefits.
The infantry's tasks are therefore almost all of those (line-of-sight) combat missions which can better be accomplished dismounted than mounted. This explains why the infantry's relevance varies a lot in different terrains and scenarios, unlike the UK phrase which cannot explain anything but anecdotes.

A general description of the infantry's mission is really that simple, but a detailed list of these activities would fill several field manual pages. To revert to a primitive and obviously wrong if not outright stupid mission description (I'm still trying to be nice here) is nevertheless not justified.
S O
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