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Function & Operation of Component Units

Excerpted from War Department Field Manual
FM 17-33 "Tank Battalion," December 1944


  A. BATTALION HEADQUARTERS. The headquarters of the tank battalion includes a headquarters section, containing the necessary command, staff, and communications personnel and equipment for the control of the battalion, and a tank section. In divisional tank battalions this section has two medium tanks. In separate tank battalions it has three, the extra tank being for the use of artillery forward observers.

1. The battalion commander. The battalion commander is responsible for every phase of the training of every component part of the battalion; for its actions in battle; for the health and well-being of every individual in the battalion; for the supply and maintenance of all of the equipment of the battalion; and the repair or replacement of all items of equipment which become unserviceable for any reason whatsoever. It is impossible for a battalion commander to perform all these duties efficiently unless he trains and utilizes to the fullest extent his staff and all the company officers and noncommissioned officers of the organization.

2. The staff. Every member of the battalion staff is trained to perform not only his own duties, but those of every other section. In no other way is the continuity of staff work in battle to be assured. Duties of the battalion staff are given in FM 101-5, appendix III, and the following paragraphs.

a. Executive. The executive is the assistant to the battalion commander. He is prepared at all times to assume the battalion commander's functions. A high degree of intimacy must exist between the battalion commander and his executive. They must understand each other and each other's methods. The executive supervises all staff operations.

b. S-1. The S-1 is responsible for the personnel administration and other duties which may be assigned by the battalion commander. These duties are covered in detail in FM 101-5.

c. S-2. The duties of the S-2 are covered in FM 101-5 and field manuals of the 30 series. The S-2 must be thoroughly trained in the basic principles of intelligence work. The S-2 works intimately with the S-3 of the battalion. See par. (d). He must be prepared to assume the duties of the S-3. He supervises, under the direction of the battalion commander, the activities of the reconnaissance platoon.

d. S-3. The S-3 supervises, under the direction of the battalion commander, the execution of the training program of the battalion and the operation of the battalion in battle. In his section are prepared such overlays and maps and sketches as may be necessary. One of his principle duties in battle is coordination with attached and supported units.

e. S-4. The S-4 is responsible for the supply functions of the battalion. He is responsible for coordination, procurement, and actual movement of supply vehicles to the places designated by the commander and his subordinates. The S-4 must be intimately familiar with the supply problems of the individual companies in battle. He follows the course of the battle closely and estimates the probable supply requirements of the companies so that in the event of communication failure he may use his own initiative to furnish what he believes to be the ammunition and fuel requirements of those companies.

f. The battalion surgeon. FM 17-80.

g. Battalion motor officer. The battalion motor officer is responsible for the supervision of the vehicle maintenance in the battalion. Company motor officers operate very closely with the battalion motor officer. He is responsible for the efficient use of the maintenance facilities of the battalion at all times to keep every vehicle operating. He is responsible for liason and coordination with higher echelons of maintenance and, in battle, maintains close contact with supporting maintenance and evacuation units.

h. Communications officer. The communications officer is responsible for the efficient use of the communication means within a battalion. Company communication personnel operate closely with the battalion communication officer. He conducts, under the supervision of the battalion commander, radio schools throughout the training period and in the combat zone. He is responsible for liason and coordinations with higher echelons of communication and radio repair.

i. Headquarters commandant. the duties of the headquarters commandant are diversified and detailed. Besides being commander of the headquarters company he must be prepared at any time to assume the duties of any member of the battalion commander's staff. He is responsible for the organization of the command post, and for traffic control within it.

j. Liason officer. FM 101-5 and paragraph 12f.

  B. RECONNAISSANCE PLATOON. The battalion reconnaissance platoon is capable of route, site, and battle reconnaissance missions. It may also be used as a billeting party, for route marking, and to establish and man observation posts. None of these duties, however, can be allowed to interfere with its primary mission. Because of its composition and the limited range of its radios, the platoon cannot operate far from the battalion headquarters unless relay stations are established.

  C. MORTAR PLATOON (FM 17-27). The mortar platoon is equipped with three 81-mm mortars mounted in half-track vehicles. The mortar may be fired from the vehicle or the ground. The platoon operates usually as a unit rather than as individual squads. The mission of the mortar platoon is to give close fire support to tank units with particular reference to destroying or neutralizing anti-tank guns. It operates directly under control of the battalion commander. As many of its missions will be screening, a preponderance of smoke ammunition is carried. Smoke is used as directed by the battalion commander and must not be allowed to interfere with the movement of the battalion or adjacent troops. The platoon normally moves with the battalion reserve and where it is readily available to the battalion commander.

  D. ASSAULT GUN PLATOON (FM 17-25). The assault gun platoon is equipped with three 105-mm tanks. It may be augmented with three 105-mm tanks from the medium companies. The mission of the assault gun platoon is close fire support of the tanks with particular reference to antitank guns. It usually employes indirect fire methods for the initial attack and thereafter direct fire. It operates directly under control of the battalion commander.

This attached unit is organized and equipped to provide close medical support for the tank battalion.

  A. The Medical Detachment furnishes mobile medical support to the tank battalion.


1. The detachment is equipped with a -ton truck, and four -ton trucks. It also has a radio set SCR-510, netted with the battalion command and administrative nets.

2. The -ton trucks may be utilized for service as ambulances. Each carries a crew of medical technicians, equipped to administer emergency treatment.

  C. During marches the detachment moves in the rear of the battalion column, just in front of the battalion maintenance platoon. Upon occasion, one or more of its -ton trucks may be distributed among the tank companies if the situation requires.

  D. Before combat, the medical detachment establishes an aid station at the assembly point.

  E. As the tank battalion moves into combat, the medical detachment closes the aid station and follows in its rear with the company maintenance sections.

1. During the advance, the medical personnel may be able to locate disabled tanks by direct observation. The presence of others is reported by radio to the battalion surgeon. A -ton truck visits each disabled tank. In case a tank with wounded has been by-passed, one of the -ton trucks returns and collects them.

2. Tank crews are thoroughly trained in first aid and the evacuation of wounded personnel from tanks. Under normal circumstances they remove the injured and administer first aid before the arrival of the medical personnel who administer emergency treatment.

3. Casualties suffered during an advance may be evacuated by the -ton trucks:

a. To the previously designated axis of maintenance and evacuation where they are picked up by the battalion ambulance.

b. To a predesignated collecting point, established either by the medical detachment or by the supporting medical battalion.

c. To the rallying point, in cases where the advance is rapid or the casualties have occurred near that point.

4. The battalion surgeon coordinates the movement of the -ton trucks with the advance of the battalion. The medical officer attends the more seriously wounded, the minor cases being cared for by the medical assistant, MAC, and the medical technicians. Speed and thoroughness are essential. The medical detachment should not fall far behind.

5. The aid station is set up again at the rallying point. All wounded personnel there are collected and given necessary treatment. These may include wounded collected by the -ton trucks during the advance and other wounded whose tanks were not disabled and therefore continued on to the objective without them.

6. Evacuation from the aid station at the rallying point is:

a. By ambulances of the medical battalion, directly to one of the division clearing stations, from which further evacuation is handled by army medical units.

b. By the ambulance of the tank battalion medical detachment to a collecting point on the axis of evacuation, from which the medical battalion continues the evacuation as in (a) above.

7. The battalion surgeon maintains continuous contact with the medical battalion. He is aided in this by an agent from that battalion who usually moves with him.

Click here to learn more about the 752nd MEDICAL DETACHMENT

  A. The service company has the necessary equipment and personnel for the administration, maintenance, and supply of the battalion for a limited period of action. It is composed of the company headquarters, the battalion administrative and personnel section, the supply and transportation platoon, and the maintenance platoon. As directed by the S-4, it procures and distributes the ammunition, fuel and lubricants, rations, and water for the companies within the battalion.

  B. When the battalion moves into combat, service company headquarters usually remains in the assembly area or service park, and the supply and maintenance platoons usually move forward at night to service the battalion. The supply platoon then spends the next day reloading at higher unit support points. It is then prepared to resupply the battalion that same night.

  C. If the battalion operates separately, the service company sets up gasoline, ration, and ammunition dumps in areas where the battalion is located. It draws its supplies from the unit to which it is attache or from the next higher unit. It is the responsibility of the supply officer to contact the G-4 or S-4 of that unit and acquaint him with the requirements of the battalion.

  D. The work of the battalion maintenance platoon and that of the company maintenance sections are closely coordinated. Liason with higher maintenance units is accomplished by the battalion motor officer.

  E. When the battalion moves forward into combat, the company maintenance sections follow their respective units. The larger part of the battalion maintenance platoon remains in the assembly area or service park, though its tank recovery vehicles usually move directly behind the attack to recover disabled vehicles.

Click here to learn more about the SUPPLY function

Click here to learn more about the MAINTENANCE function

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