US Glider Infantry Battalion 1942 to 1944

The United States Glider Infantry Battalion 1942 to 1944

The Glider Infantry Battalions were intended to provide the bulk of the manpower of the fledgling US Airborne Divisions, with two Glider Regiments to one Parachute. In reality though this ratio was reversed, as it proved difficult to supply sufficient gliders for transport. As with British Army the units involved were converted from Infantry outfits.

The Glider Infantry Battalion 1942 to 1944

    • Battalion Headquarters (4 Officers)
Headquarters Company (4 Officers, 171 men), comprised of;
      • Company HQ (1 Officer, 27 men)
      • Command Section (13 men)
      • Supply Section (1 Officer, 28 men)
      • Mortar Platoon (1 Officer, 61 men)
      • Machine Gun Platoon(1 Officer, 42 men)
Three Rifle Companies (5 Officers, 150 men), each comprised of;
      • Company HQ (2 Officers, 26 men)
      • Weapons Platoon comprised of;
      • Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 4 men)
      • Mortar Section (15 men)
      • Machine Gun Section (13 men)
      • Two Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;
        • Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 10 men)
        • Three Rifle Squads, each comprised of 12 men
Total Strength of 644 all ranks (23 Officers and 621 men)
The Glider Infantry Battalion mid 1944
    • Battalion Headquarters (6 Officers)
Headquarters Company (7 Officers, 189 men), comprised of;
    • Company HQ (4 Officers, 15 men)
    • Headquarters Section (15 men)
    • Communication Section (27 men)
    • Mess Section (24 men)
    • Supply Section (13 men)
    • Mortar Platoon (2 Officers, 61 men)
    • Machine Gun Platoon(1 Officer, 34 men)
Three Rifle Companies (5 Officers, 147 men), each comprised of;
    • Company HQ (2 Officers, 22 men)
    • Weapons Platoon comprised of;
    • Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 5 men)
    • Mortar Section (25 men)
    • Machine Gun Section (13 men)
    • Two Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;
    • Platoon HQ (1 Officer, 5 men)
    • Three Rifle Squads, each comprised of 12 men
Total Strength of 658 all ranks (27 Officers and 631 men)
Points of note

The Glider Battalion was another light formation. In effect, it was a standard Infantry Battalion stripped of its motor transport and towed anti-tank guns. The Rifle Companies were then reduced further by the deletion of the usual third Rifle Platoon.

The elements of the Battalion

Battalion Headquarters – Battalion commander (Lieutenant Colonel), Executive Officer (Major), Operations & Training (Captain) and Intelligence Officer (Lieutenant). By August 1944 they were augmented by a Supply Officer and a Warrant Officer.

Company HQ – the HQ of the HQ Company provided the various cooks, supply men and specialists required to keep the Battalion functioning. The cooks were latterly separated into their own Mess Section. It also had a pool of ten Bazookas for issue as required.

Command Section – with, uniquely, no Communications Platoon, the Command Section combined this role with that of the Intelligence Section found in the usual Infantry Battalion.

Supply Section – the Battalion Supply Officer and his Sergeant commanded three nine man Squads, classed as ammunition bearers but who no doubt acted as pioneers also. A dozen handcarts were provided between this unit and the Command Section. This unit was subsequently reduced to just a dozen men under an NCO.

Communication Section – this unit was a curiously late addition to the Battalion, there previously having been no dedicated signals element.

Machine Gun Platoon – the single Machine Gun Platoon served four .30-cal Browning M1917 heavy machine guns. Each of the four squads was provided with a handcart for transport in place of the usual Jeep.

Mortar Platoon – the Mortar Platoon was the one area in which there was no decrease. It fielded six 81-mm weapons, each transported by a handcart

The Rifle Company – the Rifle Companies suffered the greatest reductions in the transformation to make the unit air portable.

The Rifle Squad remained unchanged, a Sergeant and Corporal, upped to Staff Sergeant and Sergeant by 1944, commanding five riflemen, two scouts and a three man automatic rifle team. The single automatic rifleman carried a BAR, the other eleven men all M1 rifles.

Platoon HQ still controlled three such Squads. It consisted of a Lieutenant, Platoon Sergeant and two messengers, though there was no Sergeant Guide as normally found in US Rifle Platoons. Instead, there was a seven man mortar group, of a Corporal, two gunners and four ammunition bearers, serving a single 60-mm mortar. Initially the two mortar gunners each carried a pistol, but these were swapped for Carbines, as already carried by the Officer and the four ammunition bearers. The two NCOs and both runners carried rifles.

During mid 1944 the Platoon underwent some changes. A Sergeant Guide and radio operator were added, both with rifles, while the six mortarmen were removed to the Weapons Platoon. Oddly, the official tables do not credit the Platoon with a sniper rifle until this period, the weapon being the M1C. All US Rifle Platoons, regardless of type, included an M1903A4 from 1943 onwards.

There were just two such Rifle Platoons in the Company. They received close support from the Weapons Platoon. This served two Browning light machine guns and two 60-mm mortars in its respective LMG and Mortar Sections. Along with the Rifle Platoons that gave the Company four 60-mm mortars, a slightly higher number than found in the Infantry, but still just a pair of the handy M1919 Browning weapons. The quota of 60-mm mortars was retained with the removal of the two Rifle Platoon weapons to the expanded Mortar Section.

Company HQ provided the usual mix of command and supply troops, plus thirteen Basics. A Captain commanded the Company, a 1st Lieutenant acting as his Executive Officer. By 1943 there were six Bazookas available to the Company for antitank defence. This was previously restricted to the replacement of one M1 rifle in each Rifle Squad and Platoon HQ, plus a pair each in the Weapons Platoon and Company HQ, by M1903 rifles with antitank grenades. Each Rifle Company also received six .45-cal submachine guns for issue to the Rifle Squads as required.

Reorganization in 1945

The tables issued in September 1942 were only slightly amended in February 1944, largely to reflect the issue of Bazookas and submachine guns, and the withdrawal of the remaining M1903 rifles when the M1 received its grenade launcher. As with the Parachute Infantry Battalion, new tables were issued in August 1944, as described above, and finally in December 1944. By late 1944 the airborne forces were feeling the effects of the losses of D-Day and Market Garden. Replacements were slow in coming and most units were routinely operating below strength.

In December 1944, the final table was published. It put the Glider Infantry Battalion on almost precisely the same footing as a normal Infantry Battalion. The only changes between it and the standard Infantry Battalion concerned transport. The 1½-ton trucks found in the Antitank and the Ammunition & Pioneer Platoons could not be lifted by glider. Each Antitank Squad replaced its lorry with a Jeep, and received a second Jeep, plus driver. The Ammunition & Pioneer Platoon replaced its truck with a Jeep, and added a Jeep to each Squad. All of these Jeeps towed a trailer. The extra drivers brought the Battalion to 863 all ranks. Realistically, only units operating in the Rhine crossing would have had an opportunity to adopt this final organization.


Rangers aside, the Glider Infantry represented the lightest unit fielded by the US Army during World War Two. No doubt it was subject to the same level of amendments to the paper organization as found in other airborne formations. As the war progressed it became ever harder to recruit men into the ‘flying boxcars’, especially following the tragedy of Sicily. Men seemed far happier to throw themselves out of a perfectly good airplane as a paratrooper than crash land in one with the Glider borne troops.