The United States Parachute Infantry Battalion 1945
Towards the end of 1944 the organization of the Airborne Division as a whole underwent a major overhaul. For the Parachute Infantry Battalion, this meant an increase in strength, though as before firepower remained largely unaltered.
The Parachute Infantry Battalion 1945
- Battalion Headquarters (6 Officers)
Headquarters Company (7 Officers, 165 men), comprised of;
- Company HQ (3 Officers, 22 men)
- Battalion Headquarters Section (15 men)
- Supply Section (13 men)
- Communications Platoon (27 men)
- Light Machine Gun Platoon (1 Officer, 46 men)
- Mortar Platoon (3 Officers, 42 men)
Three Rifle Companies (8 Officers, 168 men), each comprised of;
- Company HQ (2 Officers, 27 men)
- Three Rifle Platoons, each comprised of;
- Platoon HQ (2 Officers, 5 men)
- Mortar Squad (6 men)
- Three Rifle Squads, each comprised of 12 men
Total Strength of 706 all ranks (37 Officers and 669 men)
Points of note
The first opportunity for Airborne units to adopt the new tables of organization came with the Rhine crossing in March 1945. The increase in strength of more than one hundred men came largely as a result of the changes to the Rifle Platoon, with all other elements undergoing only detail changes.
The elements of the Battalion
Battalion Headquarters – as with the Infantry Battalion, this comprised the command staff of a Lieutenant Colonel, his Executive Officer and several other specialists.
Company Headquarters – contained the usual clerks and armourer, while the cooks were separated into a Mess Section.
Headquarters Section – the various NCOs and men who operated alongside the Battalion HQ staff.
Supply Section – a reduced version of the Ammunition & Pioneer Platoon found in the Infantry, with just a single Squad under a Sergeant.
Communication Section – was responsible for the Battalion’s links with other units. The Communications Officer was though listed among the members of Company HQ.
Light Machine Gun Platoon – this unit was divided into two Sections, each serving four M1919A4 Browning light machine guns. The Platoon also deployed three Bazookas for self defence.
Mortar Platoon – a reduced strength version of the Infantry, with only four 81-mm tubes. As with the Machine Gun Platoon, there were three Bazookas.
The Rifle Company – the Rifle Company was substantially increased in size. Each Rifle Platoon now had, officially, three Rifle Squads, one 60-mm Mortar Squad and a Platoon Headquarters.
The Rifle Squad retained the same twelve man structure. The August 1944 tables had placed great emphasis on issue of the M1 carbine, while the December 1944 tables reversed this trend recognising the M1 rifle as the primary individual weapon. In the Rifle Squad, both the light machine gunner and his assistant carried a carbine, the remainder all rifles. The previous unallocated M1919 light machine guns were deleted, with each Rifle Squad now being provided with a BAR for ‘optional use as directed’.
Platoon HQ again had two officers, each with a carbine, plus the same NCOs and messengers, all with rifles, plus an unallocated M1C sniper rifle. The Mortar Squad still had one 60-mm tube, with carbines for the two man crew and rifles for the balance.
Company HQ was increased with the addition of cooks and Basics, and there was still one Bazooka for each Rifle Platoon and Company HQ.
The Parachute Battalion enjoyed the same benefits and limitations of all airborne units. The camaraderie created by belonging to an entirely volunteer unit in a conscript army, and the lack of heavy weapons needed to fight a sustained action. This latter fact was increasingly overlooked by the high command in the closing stages of the war, as the Airborne Divisions were deployed as line Infantry, despite their disadvantage in firepower, to make up for the shortages of troops. That was when the former point became even more important.