Intelligence and Reconnaissance Platoon Unit Card

with Jim Westerfield

From the mid-1930s until the late 1950s, U.S. Army infantry regiments in each division contained an Intelligence and Reconnaissance (I&R) platoon as part of the regimental headquarters company. In 1939, the I&R platoon Table of Organization & Equipment (TO&E) authorized 10 infantrymen to make up the unit. This was expanded to 18 infantrymen in 1940 and the platoon TO&E, in 1941, was authorized to include 1/4-ton vehicles (Jeeps).

I&R Platoon of the 180th Regiment, 45th Infantry Division in WWII.

The I&R platoon consists of a platoon headquarters and two reconnaissance squads. Platoon headquarters consists of the platoon leader, platoon sergeant, driver, topographic draftsman, radio operator, and scouts and observers. Each squad consists of a squad leader, assistant squad leader, radio operator, drivers, scouts and observers. The platoon headquarters had one jeep while each squad had three jeeps, some of which carried radios.

The soldiers that made up the platoon are all infantrymen, given additional training by the regimental S-2, as there was no institutional military intelligence school at the time. Training of the platoon members focused on operating as scouts along with map and aerial photograph reading, conventional signs, military symbols and abbreviations, sketching, oral and written reporting, scouting and patrolling, theory and practice of observation, camouflage and the art of concealment, and the collection of information.

Individual equipment for members of the I&R platoon include standard infantry small arms and equipment, though individuals in the field often supplemented the standard issue as they saw fit. Each squad also had a prismatic compass, a 20-power monocular telescope and/or a pair of field glasses, and a watch. The platoon members carried notebooks and writing materials and colored pencils to pass along information and mark maps.

War Department FM 7-25, Headquarters Company, Intelligence and Signal Communication, Rifle Regiment, October 7, 1942 states:

“The principle mission of the regimental intelligence platoon is to serve as the special intelligence agency of the regimental commander, for the collection, recording, evaluation and dissemination of information, under the supervision of the regimental intelligence officer (S-2). The platoon is also charged with counterintelligence measures and surveillance. Actual operations of this platoon are conducted under the immediate control of the platoon leader. He may receive his orders directly from the regimental commander, S-2, or S-3. During training periods, it may be required to assist the S-2 in conducting intelligence and counterintelligence instruction within the regiment.”

The main function of the I&R platoon was to be the ears and eyes of the regimental commander. FM 7-25 describes the principle functions of the platoon as:

  • Gathering detailed information about the enemy and terrain in locations that are not readily accessible to the rifle companies of the battalions or regiment.
  • Assemble, evaluate and distribute information and intelligence gathered by the platoon and by subordinate, higher, or adjacent friendly units.
  • Provide early warning to the regiment on the presence, disposition, composition, and approach of enemy forces of all types. Operate well in advance of the regiment in order to gain and maintain contact with the enemy.
  • Maintain contact with reconnaissance and security formations of other, larger formations that are operating forward or to the flanks of the regiment.
  • Regain lost contact with adjacent, attached and assigned friendly units. Locate and maintain contact with the flanks of an enemy force when contact is gained by dismounted combat elements of the regiment.
  • Reconnoiter avenues of approach, routes, river crossings and complex enemy obstacles. Search suspicious, dominating and critical areas along the route of march to identify possible ambush sites, defended roadblocks, route classification and contaminated areas.
  • Establish and operate 24-hour observation and listening posts.
  • Conduct dismounted patrolling to the front, flanks, and rear of the regiment when terrain or enemy situation precludes the use of mounted patrolling.
  • Assist the regimental S-2 at the command post or at a tactical observation/tactical command post by maintaining the intelligence situation map, and/or keeping an intelligence log, taking and preparing reports, messages and sketches.
  • Carry out such counterintelligence measures as directed by the regimental commander or S-2. Provide instruction on the subject to other units of the regiment. Search undefended or captured towns and villages and captured enemy equipment and positions.

Some other missions performed by the platoon that were not specifically included in standard doctrine were;

  • Liaison between regiments of the division.
  • Messenger duties between battalions of the regiment.
  • Escort and security for the regimental commander as he moved forward of the main command post.
  • Serving as radio-telephone operators for regimental command in dismounted offensive operations.
  • Marking of route of march for the regiment and providing guides at traffic control points.
  • Accompanying a combat or reconnaissance patrol conducted by rifle platoons or companies from subordinate infantry battalions of the regiment in order to report on tactical progress of intelligence acquired directly to the regimental commander.
  • Conduct economy of force operations on a flank of the regiment in order to provide early warning and prevent the regiment from being surprised.

While being trained infantrymen, thus capable of getting involved in direct fighting against enemy forces, the primary duty of the I&R platoon is to support the front-line infantry and regimental commander by carrying out the above type of missions and not get directly into a firefight.  The MTOE did vary during the war but we will go with the 1942 organization.  

In Flames of War:
The I&R platoon is an additional platoon in the Rifle Company formation diagram.  To model the platoon, we will use the organization from V3 North Africa with a command carbine team of 3 figures and 2 carbine teams of 4 figures.  I used the dismounted armored recon platoon to build the unit. As the pick of the litter they are a little better trained than most of the rest of the guys in the regiment.  Very useful for calling in fire. For points we will use the rifle platoon as a benchmark. We will be adding recon and spearhead skills, but in compensation we will have worse Rally and Counter Attack ratings. At slightly less than one point per rifle team we, rounding up we get 1 point for the platoon.  

Semovente 47/32 Unit Card

with Adam Brooker

The release of Avanti in Mid War allowed me to get back to my first love in Flames of War— Mid-War Italians (my first Flames of War force). I loved their cool special rules like Unknown Hero and their interesting equipment like Lancias, Semoventes, and Elefantino guns. But mostly, it was because by the time of Mid-War they were very much underdogs. So when you won, and won with style. it was an even better feeling, as you knew you it was your guts, skill, and a few lucky dice rolls that pulled it off even with your sub-par equipment.

One unit that didn’t make it to Avanti was the 47/32 Semovente, these little self-propelled anti-tank guns were great for hunting down armoured cars, knocking out machine gun nests, and generally annoying my opponent. Also as this was my first Italian unit I painted, I felt I had to have these in my list, so I put this Unit Card together. But first I looked a little more into the history of the Semovente da 47/32.

Brief History
In 1940 the Germans had shown the usefulness of the self-propelled gun in the invasions of Poland and France, their allies the Italians had noticed, and wanted to produce their own. By then they had also realised that their current tank designs were underpowered and obsolete compared to Allied designs, and needed a stop gap measure until the heavier Italian P40 tank reached production. By the start of 1941 they had plans to convert two different types of self-propelled guns (Semovente) based on tank chassis already in production, the Fiat-Ansaldo L6/40 light tank (which was ending its production run), and the larger Fiat-Ansaldo M14/41 medium tank.

Work was quickly started, fitting the 47mm Cannone da 47/32 inside the armoured but open topped superstructure built on the L6/40 chassis. This vehicle kept many of the characteristics of the L6/40, using its engine, drive train, tracks, and 30mm frontal armour. An armoured box was built on top of the chassis and mounted forward compared to the L6/40 hull, it was also roomier. This allowed the larger 47/32 gun to fit in the fighting compartment, which was still cramped, but the gun was compact enough to still be useable.

The 47mm Cannone da 47/32 was originally an Austrian anti-tank gun that was built under licence in Italy in the 1930s. It had a muzzle velocity of 630 m/s with AP shells, and 250 m/s with Italian Effecto Pronto (HEAT) rounds, with an effective range of 500m, where it could defeat 43mm of armour (up to 58mm at close range). Standard Semovente 47/32 carried around 70 rounds of ammunition and lacked a radio, but a platoon command variant was fitted a radio in exchange for less ammunition.

Production started in late 1941, but realistically given the smaller scale of Italian industry, the Semovente 47/32 was not available in great numbers before 1942, and was produced up until 1943 when the Italians surrendered. Around 280-300 had been produced in that time. There was also a company command vehicle produced which was equipped with long range radios and map tables, and the main gun was replaced with a Breda machine gun which was disguised as a 47mm gun.

When it entered service in 1942, some of these units were sent to replace the tank losses in Italian armoured divisions in North Africa. They operated with the Ariete and Litorrio Divisions from the second Battle of El Alamein, and up until the fall of Tunis in February 1943. Some others were also stationed in Italy, with units attached to the “Black Shirt” Divisions in Sicily. They saw action in defence of Sicily when the Allies invaded in  1943 with Operation Husky.

In both cases they faced newer allied tank designs, with better armour and firepower. The gun was ineffective against medium tanks like the M3 Lee or M4 Sherman, and barely adequate against smaller allied light tanks like the M3 ‘Honey’ Stuart at normal fighting ranges.

Another 38 Semovente 47/32 were shipped to the Eastern Front, and operated with the ARMIR (8th Italian Army). There, along with the L6/40, it was the most heavily armoured and Italian unit on that front. It had to contend with the much heavier and better designed T-34 and KV-1 tanks, where it was unless except at extremely close ranges as its gun could not penetrate their thick armour. As a result it was not very successful. By February in 1943, these units had been decimated by the Soviet counter-offensive Operation Little Saturn, where the Soviet forces actively targeted the weaker Italian and Romanian forces around Stalingrad.

With Iron Cross out this year and focussing on the Battles of Stalingrad, these would be a great historically accurate unit to field. Either as part of your ARMIR (Italian 8th Army) Force or as allies for your German Forces. Historically also after the surrender of the Italians in September 1943, the Germans commandeered many of these vehicles, and were designated StuG L6 47/32 630(i).

Making a Unit Card
So to field these little Italian pocket rockets, we need to see how their stats will carry over into V4. We will use the L6/40 light tank unit card as a base, as this is what it is based off in real life. So the armour will be the same, except as it is open-topped it will have a top armour of 0. The movement values will also be the same, except that is has a slightly better cross value (3+) due to the better vision the open topped vehicle affords the crew.

As far as firepower, it would have the same 47mm gun as the M14/41 Medium Tank with HEAT ammunition, but as it is a self-propelled gun with no turret, it would have the Forward Firing rule.

In terms of crew, you would use the same crew as the larger Semovente 75/18, so your To Hit On is 4+, Skill 4+ and Motivation is the is 3+.  But your Counter-attack 6+ and Remount 3+ are slightly worse, as the Semovente 47/32 is Open-Topped and lacked the Protected Ammo that the larger Semovente 75/18 had.

They would be taken in Platoons of 2 or 4.

To use this unit card in your Avanti force you would substitute the Semovente 47/32 for the 90mm Lancia platoon in your Formation Support slots. As in reality units would use either one or the other depending on what they were facing.

These assault guns can be used as a cheaper alternative when looking to take out MG/gun teams or small recon platoons of light tanks or armoured cars. Also as they come out of your support slots, it makes them a little more versatile, as you don’t need to take a whole formation to take them. Also they just look damn cool, for me I’ve always liked assault guns in all their forms. So if it hasn’t been the Stug Lyfe with my German Forces, it certainly has been the Semovente Vita with my Italians in V4. Semovente are one of the great Italian units in V4 and this allows you to field even more.

So if you have these carri armati lying around and looking sad and forlorn in your miniatures cabinets, pleading for a game, maybe this card will help you bring them out for a run.


Panzerjäger I Unit Card

with Mark Nisbet

Germans are not my first army, being on the receiving end of their effective weapons, especially the fearsome Marder, I have a profound respect (and mild fear) of their tank hunters. The Panzerjäger I is one of the few tank-hunters that I can happily roll my Churchills, Shermans, and even Grants forwards with minimal worry. However, put up against the more evenly matched Stuarts, and Crusaders and the Panzerjäger I suddenly becomes a weapon to be reckoned with.

Even with the dated, and ramshackle look of the vehicle, it was very popular amongst German players, which is why today we’re doing another ‘Unofficial’ card for players to field them in your Afrika Korps force.

Brief History
Even at the start of the war, the Wehrmacht recognised that the Panzer I was obsolete, even for a scouting role. With this in mind, they devised a project to take the chassis of these light tanks and mount usually static anti-tank guns, giving the weapons greater versatility, and to keep up with the Blitzkrieg. With the capitulation of Czechoslovakia in 1938, the Germans found themselves with a surplus of light to medium anti-tank guns of Czech origin. The Škoda 4.7cm, was chosen for this task due to its reliability and lightweight frame.

The gun was originally mounted in place of the turret in its original form; gun shield, with wheels and trail removed. This was soon improved upon with a fighting compartment comprised of sheet metal, a marked improvement over the original design.

The vehicle originally served in France, before twenty-seven of them were equipped to the Afrika Korps in 1941. During Operation Crusader almost half of these vehicles were lost, with only four replacements arriving for the Battle of Gazala, and a further three later in 1942. By the time of the Second Battle of El Alamein, the Anti-Tank Battalion (605) only had eleven working vehicles.

The Panzerjäger I saw more action on the Eastern Front, during Operation Barbarossa, but that’s for another time.

Making a Unit Card
To stat up the Panzerjäger I, it’s natural to look to its successor; the Marder (7.62cm). Much like the successor, the Panzerjäger I had very little armour; only the thin steel fighting compartment, and the thin Panzer I armour, combine this with the open-topped nature of the vehicle, and it results in a 1-1-0 armour rating.

In terms of rating, these Tank-hunters were crewed by the same Veterans of France, and so retain the 3+ Skill rating, and with similarities to the Marder, the Motivation remains unchanged.

The armament of the Panzerjäger I is where the biggest difference lies. The 4.7cm (t) [For Tscheschisch, or Czech], was a larger round than the 2pdr, or American 37mm, with slightly higher armour penetration, but with a similar amount of firepower once the target was hit. This gives the gun an Anti-tank rating of 8, with a good Firepower of 4+.

Finally, the movement of the Panzerjäger has an identical mobility line to the Marder, given the lighter frame, chassis, and gun; but with a less powerful engine under the hood.

In terms of points, the Panzerjäger I is a tank-hunter for players on a points budget. With the loss of effective armour, and a major drop in penetrating power, it’s no surprise that the tank comes in at half the points of the bigger Marder.

 With the ability to field the Panzerjäger in the place of the Tiger, Marder, and even the Diana, this light tank-hunter will be a must-have for supporting the usually expensive German Companies, who don’t feel the need to have anything as powerful as a Tiger or Marder in their battle line.

Though it may be older, and ramshackle, the Panzerjäger I remains a favourite for German players, and will continue putting the fear into Crusaders, Stuarts and pesky US armored rifle platoons.