Military Organization > United States > ​U.S. Army Regimental Tank Company (1948-52)

U.S. Army Regimental Tank Company (1948-52)

By Brendan Matsuyama, Editor

The following was the organization of the Korean War-era Heavy Tank Company of the U.S. Army’s Infantry Regiment active from April 1948 to May 1952. These were tank companies organic to Infantry Regiments intended to provide support to infantry operations and provide the regiment anti-armor protection.

 

Most aspects of this organization remained broadly the same until as late as 1957 when the Pentomic structure was brought online and infantry regimental tank companies were done away with. The only exceptions were minor changes made to the Company HQ’s Maintenance Section and Admin, Mess & Supply Section in 1952 and 1955.

 

The company consisted of a Company Headquarters (further subdivided into the Headquarters Section; Admin, Mess & Supply Section; and Maintenance Section) and 4 Tank Platoons. The next level up was the Infantry Regiment, which consisted of a Regimental HQ & HQ Company, Service Company, Medical Company, Tank Company (this), Heavy Mortar Company, and 3 Infantry Battalions. The regiment could also be augmented with a small Light Aviation Section consisting of two liaison fixed wing aircraft and a helicopter.

Contents:

  1. Organization

    • 1 Company Headquarters

    • 4 Tank Platoons

  2. Discussion

    • Background

    • Organization

    • Explanation of Rank System

  3. Sources

Like our content? Consider supporting us on Patreon to help with web host and software costs!

us army heavy tank korea-01.png
 

Organization

  • Type: Tank Company

  • Origin: U.S. Army (United States)

  • Time Frame: Korean War (1948-1952)

  • Personnel*: 6 Officers, 1 Warrant Officer (only after Dec 1949) and 142 Enlisted

* Note: In Nov. 1950, the U.S. Army changed over to a new rank system. Ranks that were active during the Korean War post-1950 are displayed, with the 1948-50 WWII-era ranks displayed in brackets if different.

Headquarters Section, Company HQ (1 Officer and 12 Enlisted)

→ M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M45 in theory)

  • 1× Company Commander, Captain, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M45 in theory)

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant First Class [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ 1/4-ton Jeep*

  • 1× Communication Chief, Sergeant [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Liaison Agent, Corporal [Technician 5th Grade], armed with 1 M1 Carbine

  • 1× Bugler (Jeep Driver), Private [Technician 5th Grade], armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* One M8 grenade launcher on board for mounting to a carbine.

Maintenance Section, Company HQ (1 Officer and 13 Enlisted)

→ 1/4-ton Jeep*

  • 1× Executive Officer, Lieutenant, armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Radio Repairman (Jeep Driver), Corporal [Technician 3rd Grade], armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* Tows 1/4-ton 2-wheel trailer. 

 

M39 Armored Utility Vehicle or M3A1 Half-Track

  • 1× Motor Sergeant, Master Sergeant, armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Artillery-Armorer Mechanic, Corporal [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Automotive Mechanic, Private First Class [Technician 5th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Tank Mechanic, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Tank Mechanic (Driver), Corporal [Technician 4th/5th Grade], armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 4× Tank Mechanic, Corporal [Technician 4th/5th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

* Tows 1-ton 2-wheel trailer.

→ M32 Tank Recovery Vehicle​*

  • 1× Vehicle Recovery Commander, Sergeant [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Artillery-Armorer Mechanic, Corporal [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Driver, Private First Class [Technician 5th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

* One M9 Bazooka on board.

Admin, Mess & Supply Section, Company HQ (17 Enlisted + 1 WO after '49)​ 

→ 2.5-ton 6×6 Cargo Truck*

  • 1× Unit Administrator, Warrant Officer, armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× First Sergeant, Master Sergeant, armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Supply Sergeant, Sergeant First Class [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Clerk, Corporal [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Food Service Apprentice (Driver), Private, armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

  • 6× Filler Personnel, Private, armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

* Tows 250-gallon water tank. One .50 caliber machine gun mounted and Bazooka on board.

→ 2.5-ton 6×6 Cargo Truck*

  • 1× Mess Steward, Sergeant First Class [Technical Sergeant], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 3× Cooks, Sergeant [Technician 3rd Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 2× 2nd Cooks, Corporal [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Food Service Apprentice (Driver), Private First Class [Technician 5th Grade], armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

* Tows 1-ton trailer.

4× Platoons (1 Officer and 25 Enlisted each)

1st Section

→ Tank No. 1 — M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M26 in theory)

  • 1× Platoon Leader, Lieutenant, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ Tank No. 2 — M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M26 in theory)

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant First Class [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ Tank No. 3 — M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M26 in theory)

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant First Class [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

2nd Section

→ Tank No. 4 — M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M26 in theory)

  • 1× Platoon Sergeant, Master Sergeant [Technical Sergeant], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

→ Tank No. 5 — M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman (M26 in theory)

  • 1× Tank Commander, Sergeant First Class [Staff Sergeant], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Gunner, Sergeant [Corporal], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Driver, Sergeant [Technician 4th Grade], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol

  • 1× Bow Gunner, Corporal [Private], armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M1/M2 Carbine

  • 1× Cannoneer (Loader), Private First Class, armed with 1 M1911A1 pistol and 1 M3 Submachine Gun

Rear Echelon

→ 1/4-ton Jeep*

  • 1× Jeep Driver, Private First Class [Technician 5th Grade], armed with 1 M3 Submachine Gun

 

Discussion

Background

As of 1948, each Infantry Regiment was to have its own organic Heavy Tank Company to “close with and destroy the enemy and to provide antitank protection for the regiment”. They could form infantry-tank teams in a breakthrough or exploitation operation, or form the core of the regimental reserve (FM 7-35, 1949). While on paper armed principally with the M26 Pershing in the Tank Platoons and M45 infantry support variants in the Company Headquarters — hence the initial “Heavy Tank” designation — tank companies integral to Infantry Regiments during Korea were mostly equipped with the M4A3(76)W HVSS, aka the M4A3E8 '"Easy Eight" (Sayen). 

 

Regimental Tank Companies were an evolution of the regimental Cannon and Antitank Companies of the World War II era Infantry Regiment, which in 1944 were equipped with 6 towed 105mm howitzers and 6 towed 57mm anti-tank guns respectively (TO&E 7-11, Feb 1944). This changed in June 1945 following the end of the War in Europe, with the two formations essentially becoming small tank companies. The towed 105mm howitzers of the Cannon Company would be replaced by M4 Shermans equipped with 105mm infantry support howitzers. Ideally they would have gotten M45s — the variant of the Pershing armed with the 105mm — but these saw very little adoption even in tank companies equipped entirely with the Pershing. Meanwhile, the Antitank Company was equipped with either M26 Pershing heavy tanks or M36 tank destroyers for the 90mm gun (TO&E 7-11, June 1945). 

 

There were a number of reasons for the addition of tanks to the Infantry Regiment. First, the self-propelled assault gun platform was more survivable than its towed counterpart, meaning the 105mm Shermans could provide more effective direct fire support under fire (Sayen). The 105mm was a good infantry support weapon, providing superior shrapneling capability when compared to armor-piercing rounds. As most combat situations involving Allied tanks were combat against things other than tanks, this was advantageous (although the 105mm HE was still capable of hull breaking the big cats and 105mm HEAT could penetrate the front plate of the Panther). The 105mm Sherman had been applied elsewhere — most notably in the Company HQs of Medium Tank Companies — so there was experience backing this move. Second, the Army wanted 90mm guns in its regiments because it saw them as the only means to guarantee victory over the heavy tanks the German military was fielding (Sayen). It is for this reason the M26 Pershing or M36 tank destroyer were chosen for this application, and the primary reason the “Heavy Tank” designation carried on into the Korean War despite most of these types of tank companies not actually being equipped with such heavy tanks.

 

The 1946 Infantry Conference recommended that the Cannon and Antitank Companies be streamlined into one single company and this was actualized with the new tables issued in 1948. Each Infantry Regiment would get one Heavy Tank Company equipped with 20 M26 Pershing tanks with the 90mm and 2 M45 tanks with the 105mm. In reality, prior to Korea these formations existed purely on paper. Infantry Regiments did not actually have the tanks to furnish organic tank companies. Meanwhile, the divisional Tank Battalions subordinate to Infantry Divisions were equipped with a company of M24 Chaffee light tanks rather than a battalion of M26 Pershings because Japanese roads and bridges couldn’t accommodate American heavy and medium tanks (Hanson; Dunstan). When these regimental Tank Companies fought in Korea, they largely did so with 76mm-armed Shermans while M26 Pershings and upgraded M46 Pattons were left to the proper Tank Battalions. In reality, the Shermans were more than suitable for the role, being able to kill the T-35-85 and generally more reliable than the heavy tanks. Tanks with 105mm howitzers and dozer blades were not typically issued to regimental tank companies unlike in companies organic to Tank Battalions, meaning they were entirely Easy Eight equipped (Sayen).

 

Tanks in Infantry Regiments presented a number of issues. Firstly, they were very logistically taxing. While tanks are generally tactically mobile, high maintenance, high consumption equipment like tanks can restrict the operational mobility of a unit — especially something like an Infantry Regiment which is otherwise a semi-motorized light infantry unit. Additionally, tanks were not always suitable for every type of terrain, which had the potential to leave infantry without anti-tank or assault gun support (Sayen). The solution here was to issue large enough anti-tank weapons that were also more available and less taxing than tanks. Thus, the 106mm recoilless rifle replaced the 75mm recoilless rifle in Infantry Battalions and, in December 1956, the Tank Companies were removed entirely from the Infantry Regiment with the new Pentomic organization (TO&E 7-11T ROCID, Dec 1956). From then on, the only tanks in the Infantry Battle Group (the Pentomic equivalent to the Infantry Regiment) were 2 M41 Walker Bulldog light tanks in its regimental Reconnaissance Platoon.

 

Organization

The Heavy Tank Company consisted of a Company Headquarters and 4 Tank Platoons. The Company Headquarters was further subdivided into the Headquarters Section; Admin, Mess & Supply Section; and Maintenance Section. The company would have 22 tanks in total, which in practice during the Korean War would have usually been the M4A3(76)W HVSS Sherman although on paper it would have 20 M26 Pershings and 2 M45 Pershings. 

 

The Headquarters Section was the tactical element of the Company Headquarters, containing the Company Commander, Executive Officer, Communication Chief, Liaison Agent, Bugler/Jeep Driver, and 2 Tank Crews. The section contained 2 M4A3(76)W HVSS Shermans in reality (on paper they would have been M45 Pershings, and in proper Tank Battalions they would have been M4(105) Shermans with dozer blades). One tank would be commanded by the Company Commander while the other would be commanded by an NCO Tank Commander. Although within the Headquarters Section in the TO&E, the Executive Officer actually rode with the Maintenance Section as leader of the rear echelon and the company’s motor officer. Meanwhile, the jeep was driven by the Bugler and additionally carried the Liaison Agent and Communications Chief. The Company Commander would presumably ride in the jeep during the march out of combat and for liaison purposes. The Company Commander and Tank Crew were armed with M1911A1 pistols and the Tank Loaders and Bugler/Jeep Driver with a submachine gun. The Communications Chief, Liaison Agent, Executive Officer, and Tank Bow Gunners were armed with carbines.

 

The Administration, Mess & Supply Section provided the company with logistics support in addition to the Tank Company Section within the regimental Service Company. Its personnel rode in 2 2.5-ton trucks with 1 towing a 1-ton trailer and 1 towing a 250-gallon water tank. In the first truck rode the First Sergeant, Supply Sergeant, Company Clerk, Food Service Apprentice, and 6 Filler Personnel. Meanwhile, in the second rode the Mess Steward, 5 Cooks, and 1 Food Service Apprentice. A Warrant Officer Unit Administrator was also added in December 1949 and 1 Company Aid Man (combat medic) would be attached from the regimental Medical Company.

 

The Maintenance Section provided the company with mechanical and recovery support. Its vehicles included an M32 Recovery Vehicle, M39 armored utility vehicle (or M3A1 Half-Track) towing a 1-ton trailer, and Jeep towing a trailer. The Jeep carried the Executive Officer (Company 2IC) and a Radio Repairman. The M32 Recovery Vehicle carried a Vehicle Recovery Commander, Driver, and Artillery-Armorer Mechanic (in charge of maintaining tank guns, machine guns, and small arms). The M39 armored utility vehicle (a modified M18 Hellcat chassis) carried a Motor Sergeant (in charge of company maintenance under the XO), Artillery-Armorer Mechanic, Automotive Mechanic (responsible for maintaining wheeled vehicles), and 6 Tank Mechanics. 


Each of the company’s 4 Tank Platoons consisted of 5 tanks and 1 Jeep. The Jeep was driven by a dedicated Driver and was used by the Platoon Leader for liaison, recon, emergency supply, and evacuation purposes. When the jeep could not follow the platoon due to terrain or combat conditions, it would be detached to ride with the Company Headquarters or the infantry unit the platoon was attached to. Each tank had a crew of 5: a Tank Commander, Driver, Gunner, Bow Gunner, and Cannoneer (Loader). In 2 of the tanks, the Platoon Leader and Platoon Sergeant would act as Tank Commanders. The platoon was split into 2 sections. The first was led by the Platoon Leader and consisted of 3 tanks while the second was led by the Platoon Sergeant and had 2 tanks.

Explanation of Rank System

In 1950, the U.S. Army issued new tables that implemented a new rank system that heavily simplified that it employed during World War II. This system was in service for the 1950s before the implementation of a rank system more similar to the one currently in service. It was a little esoteric, with billets being seemingly inflated in rank and there being no technician ranks or Staff Sergeant rank (3 stripes and 1 rocker was actually Sergeant). You can read the specifics of the changes to enlisted ranks at Uniform-Reference.net.

Sources

Primary​

  • Table of Organization & Equipment No. 17-37N "Tank Company, Heavy or Medium, Infantry Regiment" published 15 November 1950

  • FM 7-35 "Tank Company, Infantry Regiment" published 20 June 1949

Secondary/Tertiary

  • Boose, Donald (2005) "US Army Forces in the Korean War 1950–53"

  • Dunstan, Simon (1982) "Armour of the Korean War 1950-53"

  • Hanson, Thomas (2006) "America’s First Cold War Army: Combat Readiness in the Eighth US Army 1949-1950"

  • Sayen, John. (2001) “Battalion: An Organizational Study of the United States Infantry.” Working paper, Marine Corps Combat Development Command

 

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

      - Marcus Aurelius

Social

© 2019 Battle Order