Military Organization > United States > ​U.S. Army Medium Tank Company (1943-45)

U.S. Army Medium Tank Company (1943-45)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Medium Tank Company of the U.S. Army from September 1943 through to the end of World War II. These were the primary combat units of the U.S. Army's Tank Battalions.

The next level up was the Tank Battalion, which consisted of 1 HQ & HQ Company, 3 Medium Tank Companies (this), 1 Light Tank Company, 1 Service Company, and 1 Medical Detachment. The Medium Tank Companies were lettered A, B, and C, while the Light Tank Company was D Company. 

 

Each U.S. Army Armored Division had 3 Tank Battalions in addition to 3 Armored Infantry Battalions, 3 Artillery Battalions and 1 Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron as their combat arms elements.

Contents:

  1. Organization

  2. Discussion

    • Company HQ​

    • Platoons

    • Distribution of Tank Models

    • On D-Day

    • Leaflet  Tank Company

  3. Sources

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Organization

  • Type: Tank Company

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Time Frame: Late World War II (1945)

  • Personnel: 5 Officers and 112 Enlisted (after May 1944) or 117 Enlisted (before May 1944)

Company HQ—Headquarters Section (1 Officer and 17 Enlisted)

→ Tank No. 16 (Command)*—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain (OF-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* In the march this tank was commanded by 1 of the 2 Tank Commanders. In combat it was commanded by the Company Commander. One SCR-508 on board. One SCR-300 (AN/VRC-3) added June 1944.

→ Tank No. 17 (Replacement)*—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Communication Chief, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gu

* One SCR-528 radio on board.

→ Tank No. 18*—M4 (105) Sherman

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* Possibly pooled with battalion assault gun platoon or attached to a tank platoon in combat. One SCR-528 radio on board.

→ Jeep*

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Liaison Agent, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Bugler (Jeep Driver), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* Company Commander rode in the Jeep in the march, but was the tank commander of an M4 Sherman in combat. Jeep had 1 SCR-510 radio on board.

Company HQ—Maintenance Section (1 Officer and 9 Enlisted)

→ M3A2 Half-Track*

  • 1× Maintenance Officer, Second/First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine (SMG before June 1944)

  • 1× Tank Mechanic (Half-Track Driver), Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Armorer, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Artillery Mechanic, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

* Tows 1-ton 2-wheel trailer. One M9 Bazooka and 1 SCR-500 radio on board.

→ 1/4-ton Jeep/Bantam*

  • 1× Maintenance Sergeant, Technical Sergeant (OR-7), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Tank Mechanic (Jeep Driver), Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Radio Repairman, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

* Tows 1/4-ton 2-wheel trailer after January 1945. 

→ M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle​*

  • 2× Tank Mechanics, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine each

  • 1× Tank Mechanic (Recovery Vehicle Driver), Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* One M9 Bazooka and 1 SCR-538 (SCR-528 after June 1944) radio on board.

Company HQ—Admin, Mess & Supply Section (14-19 Enlisted)

→ 2.5-ton 6×6 Cargo Truck*

  • 1× First Sergeant, First Sergeant (OR-8), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Mess Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Clerk, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Cook, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Cook, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • Light Truck Driver (Cook's Helper), Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Cook's Helper, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 6× Basic Duty (after May 1944, 11× before), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

* For kitchen. Tows 1-ton 2-wheel trailer. One M9 Bazooka on board.

3× Platoons (1 Officer and 24 Enlisted each)

→ Tank 1—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Platoon Commander, Second/First Lieutenant (OF-1), armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

1st Section

→ Tank 2—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ Tank 3—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

2nd Section

→ Tank 4—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Staff Sergeant (OR-6), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 4th Grade (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ Tank 5—M4 Sherman

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant (OR-5), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Tank Driver, Technician 5th Grade (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Gunner, Corporal (OR-4), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Private (OR-1) to Private First Class (OR-2), armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* Platoon Commanders' and Platoon Sergeants' tanks had 1 SCR-528 radio. Replaced by 1 SCR-508 radio and 1 SCR-300 in June 1944. Others had 1 SCR-528 or SCR-538 radio

 
 
 
 
 

Discussion

The Medium Tank Company were the primary units of the U.S. Army Tank Battalion, with each battalion allotted 3 Medium Tank Companies (M4 Sherman equipped) and 1 Light Tank Company (M5 Stuart equipped) ideally. Each company consisted of a Company HQ and 3 Tank Platoons, serving 17 M4 Shermans with 75mm or 76mm guns, 1 M4 (105) Sherman with a 105mm howitzer, 1 M3A2 half-track, 2 Jeeps/Bantams, and 1 Deuce-and-a-Half cargo truck. All M4 Shermans had 5 crew: 1 Tank Commander, 1 Loader (Cannoneer), 1 Driver, 1 Gunner and 1 Bow Gunner/Assistant Driver.

Most tank crews, other than the Platoon Commander (after June 1944) and Communications Chief, were authorized submachine guns. As of 1944, this would have been an M3 Grease Gun. Thompsons, the weapon the M3 Grease Gun replaced, would have been more common earlier in the war as the standard weapon of the tank crew. Non-tank crews in the company were armed with M1 Carbines.

Tank Battalions in Tank Divisions were largely focused on offensive operations, and weren't particularly well-laden with supporting infantry units. The independent tank battalions, which were more focused on infantry support, could vary in effectiveness depending on how the infantry divisions treated them. The poorest examples of the tank battalion's usage was when an infantry commander would send a small tank unit into combat without adequate infantry or artillery support. However, if used properly, units could be highly effective when used in conjunction with infantry battalions. Tank battalions were sometimes attached to a specific infantry division for longer periods of time. This had the best results vis-a-vis facilitating combined arms cooperation, although there were not enough to go around during the war. Each tank company HQ had a dedicated liaison to send up to battalion or an infantry headquarters and field telephones were often installed on tanks to allow for communication between infantry and the tank crew. However, there were significant hurdles to cross in regard to communication between infantry and tank units. Chief among them was that infantry radios (on an AM frequency typically) couldn't communicate with tank radios (on an FM frequency typically) until late 1944.

Company Headquarters

The Company HQ housed the company's command, administrative and replacement personnel. It was split into 1 Headquarters Section, 1 Maintenance Section and 1 Administration, Mess and Supply Section.

The Headquarters Section contained 2 M4 Sherman tanks, 1 M4 (105) Sherman and 1 Jeep. One of the M4 Shermans (Tank No. 16) was the command tank. In the combat, it was commanded by the Company Commander, while in the march it was commanded by a Sergeant Tank Commander. In the march, the Company Commander rode in the Jeep which was driven by the Bugler. Meanwhile, in combat, the Tank Commander would ride in the jeep and acted as a replacement. The Replacement Tank was commanded by the Communications Chief, who was responsible for checking and repairing radios when not in combat and acted as a liaison in combat. The M4 (105) Sherman was intended to provide close support with high-explosive and smoke, although in some cases it seems it was transferred to the battalion-level assault gun platoon. This would bring the assault gun platoon to 6 tanks. Such was the case in the 7th Armored Division. In Tank Battalions, these 3-tank assault gun platoons also fielded the 105mm Sherman, while the Light Tank Battalions had M8 75mm in lieu.

The Headquarters Section's 1 Jeep had two purposes: reconnaissance and liaison. It could be used as a fast reconnaissance vehicle for the company commander. When the company was committed to combat, the Liaison Agent (a Corporal) would use the jeep to travel to the Battalion Headquarters or the headquarters of whatever unit it was attached to in combined arms operations (such as an infantry battalion or regimental headquarters). The jeep's radio served as a link between the liaison and the Company Commander/Communications Chief. When in the march (and not used for recon or liaison) it was used to transport the Company Commander or Maintenance Officer.

The Maintenance Section was responsible for the company's second echelon maintenance (between maintenance done by the crews and maintenance done at the battalion). It had an unarmed M3A2 half-track (M9 Bazooka on board), 1 Jeep and 1 M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle (M9 Bazooka on board, also armed with an 81mm mortar, a .50 cal machine gun and a .30 cal machine gun). Essentially an M4 Sherman chassis with an A-frame boom, this vehicle would be used to lift and tow damaged vehicles. The section in all had a complement of Tank Mechanics, an Artillery Mechanic, Radio Repairman, Armorer, Technical Sergeant and Maintenance Officer. The Maintenance Officer was also the Company's second-in-command.

The Administration, Mess and Supply Section provided mess and supply personnel. The mess section consisted of a Mess Sergeant, 2 Cooks, 2 Cook's Helpers (1 of which was a light truck driver) and 6 Basic Duty soldiers (11 before May 1944 in practice, officially June 1944). The section's Deuce-and-a-Half cargo truck carried supplies for the mess. The entire section was commanded by the First Sergeant—the company's senior enlisted man. He would command the rear echelon in the march and in combat.

Tank Platoons

Each Platoon consisted of 5 M4 Sherman medium tanks under the command of a Second or First Lieutenant Platoon Commander. As with 5-tank platoons in general, this was split into 1 command tank and 2 sections of 2 tanks each. One section was commanded by the Platoon Sergeant (a Staff Sergeant) while the other was commanded by one of the Tank Commanders. Each tank was under the command of a Tank Commander (2 of which were the Platoon Commander and Platoon Sergeant) who directed the movement of the tank and the gunner. The Gunner and Tank Driver were the two highest ranking members of the tank crew under the Tank Commander, although the Driver was an NCO (Corporal) while the Gunner was a specialist grade (Tech 4 or 5). The Loader and Bow Gunner were the lowest ranking members of the crew at Private or Private First Class.

As per doctrine, the Platoon Commander's tank would be the lead tank in the formation. However, given the large target a tank on point was, some units placed the Platoon Commander's tank in between the 2 sections. Tanks in 1st Platoon were numbered No. 1 to No. 5 (the Platoon Commander's being No. 1). In 2nd Platoon, they were numbered No. 6 to No. 10 and in 3rd Platoon No. 11 to No. 15.

Distribution of Tank Models

Generally, the Medium Tank Companies were to be armed with a mix of 75mm and 76mm gun Sherman tanks (the former being characteristic for its stubby barrel and the latter having a longer barrel with a muzzle brake). Generally battalions had more 75mm gunned Shermans than 76mm, but the exact distribution varied. Some companies only had 2 of the 76mm gunned tanks; others would have been able to distribute them to each of the platoons. In tank companies, platoons universally fielded a mix of 75mm and 76mm gunned Shermans if they had enough of the 76mm versions (this was not always the case, especially before late 1944 and early 1945). Although the 76mm was superior in terms of armor penetration and was intended to be used in the assault, platoons had to field at least one 75mm gunned Sherman because the 76mm didn't have a smoke round.

On D-Day

On D-Day, the 743rd and 741st Independent Tank Battalions were intended to land 1-5 minutes ahead of the infantry on Omaha Beach while the 70th Tank Battalion was to land at Utah. The landings at Utah went more or less according to plan. However, there were some major hiccups on Omaha.

 

At Omaha, each tank battalion supported 1 regimental combat team (743rd in support of the 116th RCT of the 29th Infantry Division in the west and the 741st in support of the 16th RCT of the 1st Infantry Division in the east). Their tanks were converted to be amphibious, dubbed Duplex Drive or DD tanks. Four out of the 6 companies were to be deployed from their LCTs (Landing Craft Tank) 5,000-6,000 yards from shore and wade to shore by themselves. Two companies were to land directly on the beach from their LCTs. B/743 (DD tanks) was to come ashore at Dog Green, C/743 (DD tanks) at Dog White, A/743 (LCT deployed) at Dog Red and Easy Green, B/741 (DD tanks) at Easy Red, C/741 (DD tanks) at Fox Green, and A/741 (LCT deployed) at Easy Red and Fox Green.

Because the 741st deployed its tanks offshore as planned in inclimate weather, most were lost at sea. Meanwhile, the 743rd, at the behest of the navy officer commanding the LCTs, landed directly on the beach.

The 741st Tank Battalion was largely ineffective and was destroyed on D-Day. The 743rd and 70th on the other hand were highly effective and used to great effect supporting the landing infantry against the German beach defenses.

Leaflet Tank Company

Companies that were outfitted with the T10 Shop Tractor (Leaflet tank; Canal Defence Light; CDL) were organized slightly differently as per TO&E 17-45S. These tanks were essentially M3 Grant tanks outfitted with a powerful searchlight for the purposes of disorienting an illumination. They were employed in limited numbers during WWII, particularly on the Allied side of the Rhine.

The tank companies lacked the M4 (105) in the Company HQ. The Company Command Tank, Replacement Tank and Platoon Commander's tanks were M4s. However, each of the 3 platoons were outfitted with 5 Leaflet tanks. This made for a total of 5 M4 Shermans and 15 Leaflet tanks. The supporting vehicles of the standard tank company remained unchanged.

Sources

 

"The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious."

      - Marcus Aurelius

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