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FM 18-5: Organization and Tactics of Tank Destroyer Units
Tank Destroyer Field Manual, War Department, June 16, 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Field Manual. As with all field manuals, the text may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the contents of the field manual. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Section I

• 216.—GENERAL.—a. The ultimate of all military training is victory in battle. The conditions facing an army in war cannot always be definitely foreseen. It must be trained to function effectively in any climate or terrain. The fundamental training doctrines are prescribed in FM 100-5, FM 21-5, and in this manual.

b. Training will be so conducted as to develop the ability and desire to take offensive action in combat. Detailed instructions are contained in field manuals and technical manuals, in mobilization regulations, and in training circulars and directives.

c. To develop the offensive spirit, a major objective of training must be the development of aggressive individuals and units whose skill with weapons have instilled in them confidence in their ability to destroy the enemy both at long range and in close combat.

d. Successful offensive action demands that military training develop in the individual and in the unit the following qualities:

Health, strength, and endurance.
Technical proficiency.
Tactical proficiency.

e. The commander of an organization must analyze carefully the training mission or objective designated by a higher echelon to ascertain precisely what he is expected to accomplish. Each commander must analyze his own requirements and assure himself that the training objective he has designated can be attained, if the time, facilities, and personnel are properly employed.

• 217. TRAINING THE INDIVIDUAL.—a. The object of individual training is the development of the skill and knowledge necessary to enable the individual to play his part effectively in the fighting team in order that he can kill, or help kill, his enemy before his enemy can kill him or his comrades.

b. Every opportunity during training will be utilized to create enthusiasm and interest, to stimulate alertness, pride in personal appearance, sense of responsibility, and to develop initiative and esprit de corps. (See FM 21-5.)

• 218. TRAINING IN LEADERSHIP.—The qualities of leadership must be developed to a high degree in all grades. The ability to analyze situations basically and quickly, to reach sound decisions, and to give expression thereto in concise and clear orders will be developed in all leaders through frequent tactical exercises.

• 219. UNIT TRAINING.—The training objective of the tank destroyer unit is to produce a team composed of individuals. squads, sections, platoons, and companies each with a high degree of individual and group skill which will apply on the battlefield the proper tank destroyer technique and tactical doctrine.


• 220. SCOPE.—The purpose of this section is to explain the adaptation of certain subjects covered in pertinent field manuals on training to tank destroyer training and to furnish additional training suggestions.

• 221. VERSATILITY.—Throughout tank destroyer units, it is essential that officers and enlisted men be thoroughly trained in their regularly assigned duties, and in addition, they must become proficient in other assignments. This requirement is necessary so that fighting efficiency will be maintained in spite of casualties. Training of the individual in multiple assignments is subordinated to training in his primary assignment until he has become reasonably proficient.

• 222. INDIVIDUAL TRAINING.—a. Members of tank destroyer squads will be trained in antiaircraft gun marksmanship; members of the antiaircraft squad, likewise, will be trained in the tank destroyer squads' individual duties and in tank destroyer gun marksmanship.

b. Members of the security section will be trained as replacements for both tank destroyer and antiaircraft squads. Replacement training will include firing weapons.

c. Reconnaissance platoons will be trained in pioneer operations; members of pioneer platoons will be trained in accordance with FM 21-45.

d. Each individual will be highly trained in marksmanship with his individual weapon and with those weapons assigned to his section.

e. The general objective in driver training should be: all drivers and all officers able to drive any vehicle in the unit. Specifically, all personnel assigned to a vehicle should be able to drive it; company commanders will train at least two fully competent replacement drivers for each vehicle. (See FM 25-10.)

f. All personnel will be trained in weapon, tank, and other vehicle destruction employing individual, section, and improvised weapons, and in tank hunting. (See ch. 10.)

g. All personnel will be trained in the employment of motor vehicle field expedients. (See FM 25-10.)

h. Training films and film strips are exceedingly valuable training aids which have particular application in the training of the individual. For list of current training films and methods of use, see FM 21-6.

• 223. PHYSICAL TRAINING.—a. General.—The tactical employment of tank destroyer units will place a heavy drain on the physical stamina of the individual; therefore, special attention must be given physical conditioning. (See FM 21-20.)

b. Calisthenics.—A comparatively small amount of time allotted to physical training will be devoted to formal calisthenics.

c. Marching.—Long marches, combined with hard physical labor, probably is the best method of toughening; but this method requires much time and does not teach coordination.

d. Athletics.—Contests, both mass and personal, never fail to produce rivalry for superiority and at the same time develop mental and physical alertness, coordination, and unit or group spirit, and give variety and interest to the physical training program.

e. Athletic facilities.—Company commanders should procure, install, and maintain in good condition as much athletic equipment as funds and issued articles will provide.

f. Injuries.—Some injuries may result from strenuous games and exercise, but must be kept to the minimum by the use of exercises of progressive intensity. However, the strenuous program of development and conditioning will not be abandoned because of injuries to a few men. Men with minor injuries should be excused only from those exercises that might aggravate their injury.

• 224. DISCIPLINARY TRAINING.—In addition to other drills, short recurrent periods devoted to service of the piece and gun drills, and executed with meticulous precision, constitute valuable training.

• 225. MARKSMANSHIP.—a. Details of marksmanship training are covered in Field Manuals and in Technical Manuals pertaining to each weapon.

b. Training in marksmanship for tank destroyer units must be thorough and continuous; organizations that cannot shoot will not live on the battlefield. Tank destroyer action is rapid and the effect of both tank destroyer and tank fire is extremely destructive. Gunners must therefore develop speed and accuracy of marksmanship well above formerly accepted standards.

c. Thorough preliminary training, use of training expedients, and subcaliber and field firing will be utilized. After proficiency has been gained, troops must continue marksmanship practice to obviate loss of skill from lack of practice.

d. (1) Gunners should be instructed in the elements of ballistics and effect of fire. Their ability to estimate ranges under combat conditions must be developed.

(2) Gunners should be taught the theory of leads and afforded frequent opportunity for practice. The ability to estimate leads rapidly and accurately is of great importance and requires practice.

e. Training expedients will be utilized to the full extent of facilities and ingenuity. Expedients add interest to preliminary practice and show the results of instruction to both the student and the instructor. Numerous expedients are described in FM 21-5. Another device for teaching coordination and recording ability to coordinate is illustrated in figure 1(1). A tapered cylindrical plug that contains a pencil size recess with a light coiled spring at its base is inserted in the muzzle of the gun. A stand is placed in front of the muzzle for recording on paper the result of the tracking. A target, approximate size 2 feet by 3 feet, is placed about 1,000 inches away (see fig. 1(2)). The student tracks from spotter to spotter, forming an irregular W. His first efforts probably will result in a series of irregular steps, but practice will quickly teach the student how to manipulate his piece so that the resultant tracking is a straight, or nearly straight, line.

[Figure 1. Manipulation recording device and target.]
Figure 1.—Manipulation recording device and target.

f. Subcalibers may be improvised by mounting a caliber .22 or .30 rifle in or upon the tube of 37-mm or larger guns. Subcaliber firing should be as realistic as local conditions permit. Caliber .22 firing is effective in training as far as the dust raised by the bullet's impact can be seen; training in firing caliber .30 tracer ammunition is most effective at ranges up to 500 yards; beyond this range the sights are not accurate due to the difference between the trajectories of subcaliber and service ammunition. Realism is added by the use of ingenuity in the adaptation of moving targets to the types of ranges available.

g. Field firing with practice ammunition should not consist of firing from a prepared position only; crews should receive training in combining fire and movement. Target should be both visible and partly concealed; they should appear from unexpected, as well as expected, locations.

• 226. DRIVING.—a. Drivers of tank destroyer vehicles must be trained beyond ordinary standards. Further details will be found in FM 25-10 and FM 18-15. Emphasis will be placed upon cross country and other forms of difficult driving. Cross country instruction should not be confined to driving courses, but should include driving over rough, untraveled terrain and the type of ground that will be encountered in combat. Only experience will teach the capabilities and limitations of vehicles.

b. Instruction in night driving without lights, on roads and cross country, will be stressed. The instruction should include teamwork between the driver and assistant driver, noncommissioned officer, or officer who rides beside him. Instruction in night driving should start with easy exercises and progress from driving with a bright moon to darker conditions in bad weather. The route should be easy at first. After proficiency is gained under good conditions, exercises of gradually increasing difficulty are executed.

c. Desert driving calls for the highest skill on the part of the driver, since the necessity of dispersion and of avoiding sharp turns and the tracks of a preceding vehicle will require a high degree of individual effort. The driver must be taught the proper use of gears in sand driving, and the use of expedients for extricating equipment once it is stuck in the sand. Details are included in FM 31-25.

• 227. MAINTENANCE AND SALVAGE.—a. General.—Details pertinent to maintenance and salvage will be found in technical manuals on each type of matériel and FM 25-10.

b. Preventive maintenance.—The tremendous importance of preventive maintenance of motor vehicles will be emphasized. This consists of recognizing minor defects before they result in major breakdowns. (See FM 18-15.)

c. Reports of damage and malfunctioning.—All personnel must be imbued with the requirement of instantly reporting any damage to, or malfunctioning of, any piece of matériel that comes to their attention. All personnel will continuously inspect all matériel assigned to them for service ability and cleanliness. Drivers will inspect their vehicles at every halt.

d. Weapon maintenance and salvage.—(1) All gun crews will be instructed in the care, operation, and field repair of weapons. The crew should be able to perform most repair work, except that involving the recoil mechanism, and in combat emergencies be able to salvage damaged weapons and build serviceable weapons by combining parts from two or more guns.

(2) Motor vehicle recovery and salvage in combat will require the utmost in resourcefulness and ingenuity. Salvage operations should be practiced during field exercises.

• 228. IDENTIFICATION OF AIRCRAFT AND ARMORED AND UNARMORED VEHICLES.—Instruction in prompt identification is continuous. Full use is made of charts, which of necessity may be improvised under field conditions, and of field manuals of the 30 series covering identification of U. S. and foreign vehicles and aircraft. Recent battle experience has clearly demonstrated the critical importance of recognition of friendly matériel. Charts should be displayed in mess halls, recreation rooms, squad rooms, or on bulletin boards. Captured vehicles should be used in the instruction when possible. The latest information of enemy matériel should be passed down to all personnel. In addition to being taught identification by sight and sound, personnel should be instructed in possible identification by action; this is particularly important in teaching the identification of leaders' tanks. Personnel, especially reconnaissance elements, should learn to identify by tire imprints what vehicle has passed. Troops will be warned about the possibility of the enemy using captured vehicles; this warning will be emphasized when operations are within a theater in which it is known or believed that the enemy has captured armored vehicles from our own or allied forces.

• 229. TERRAIN APPRECIATION.—a. Terrain appreciation is the ability to observe and interpret accurately all important terrain characteristics from ground, aerial, or map reconnaissance in order to provide for the correct tactical use of the ground and complete employment of available natural cover. This ability can be acquired only through extensive training and field reconnaissance experience. Training in this phase of reconnaissance should emphasize, and develop proficiency in, observing and recognizing the following:

(1) Terrain features, areas, and objects to be avoided, including those—

(a) Lacking sufficient natural cover.

(b) Not readily passable by the type vehicles in use.

(c) Open to direct observation regardless of overhead cover, ridges, and crests.

(d) Unusually prominent and logical registration points for enemy artillery and bombing.

(2) Routes of approach or attack, or areas to be occupied which offer best natural cover (overhead and defilade).

(3) Particular types of terrain which permit the utilization of the superior mobility of our own vehicles over enemy tanks.

b. It is essential to train and perfect in terrain appreciation leaders of all units from the section to the battalion. Training of units of any size to employ correct use of ground and cover is a part of tactical training and of protective measures. (See also FM 101-5.)

• 230. RECONNAISSANCE AND SECURITY.—a. Reconnaissance.— The elementary phases of reconnaissance may be taught with blackboards, maps, or sand tables, or by combination of these. Numerous practical exercises in mounted and dismounted scouting and selection of routes are required to develop reasonable proficiency in reconnaissance.

b. Security.—The instructor emphasizes the constant need for security measures. (See FM 21-100 and FM 21-45.) Elementary lessons given indoors should be followed by practical work; advanced training is conducted in connection with field exercises. All commanders continuously inspect security measures, making corrections and giving constructive criticisms when necessary.

• 231. SIGNAL COMMUNICATION—a. Tank destroyer communication training will cover radio, messengers, panels, pyrotechnics, smoke, flag, and improvised blinker signals as outlined in FM 24-5.

(1) The technical training of radio operators is amply covered in FM 24 series, and in TM 11- 454. Radio operators are permanently assigned to the same set and to the same station in the net. Efficient teamwork between the radio operator and his commander requires familiarity and constant work together.

(2) Communication personnel should be trained in the use of auxiliary and improvised methods of signal communication after they have become proficient in the normal methods. Radio operators must also be capable of acting as drivers and gunners.

b. Codes and ciphers used are the air-ground liaison, division field, geographical codes, and the cipher device M-94 and converter MC-209.

(1) Training methods for the various issued codes and ciphers are described in current publications.

(2) Since tank destroyer units frequently will operate under different headquarters, each headquarters possibly using different geographic codes, tank destroyer communication and staff personnel will be trained in the various devices. Some of these devices are—

(a) Templates of various types which are placed on a map in a secretly designated manner, locations being referred to by template readings.

(b) Geographic codes in which towns and other prominent points are given code names.

(c) Coordinate codes secretly designating the normal X and Y coordinates by letters or numerals other than those printed on the map.

(d) Polar coordinates by which points are designated by the azimuth and the distance from a secretly designated point. The protractor may be in degrees or mils or it may be a clock face.

(e) Offset method in which a secret line is drawn north and south, or several degrees from the north-south line, on a map. Points are designated in inches up from the bottom of the map and right or left from the line. Example: A point 10 inches up the map and 3 1/2 inches to the right of the line is described as 10 R 3.5.

(f) Double azimuth method by which a point is designated by the intersection of two azimuths drawn from two different secretly designated points on a map or from two secretly designated terrain features on the ground. This method has the advantage that different scale maps can be used.

c. Signal operation instructions will be simple and conform so far as possible to the form used in FM 24-5.

• 232. INTELLIGENCE, COUNTERINTELLIGENCE, AND INFORMATION.—a. All personnel will be trained in the gathering and reporting of military information. Special emphasis will be placed on prompt reporting of information to intelligence agencies. The intelligence personnel of headquarters company will be thoroughly trained by S-2 in the collection, evaluation, and dissemination of military information.

b. All personnel will be thoroughly trained by conferences, demonstrations, and field exercises in the importance of camouflage and camouflage discipline. Emphasis in training will be placed on the importance of secrecy. All officers and noncommissioned officers will be trained in the employment of all counterintelligence measures. (See FM 30-25 and FM 5-20.)

• 233. CHEMICALS.—Training should include the frequent wearing of the mask during exercises. Decontamination methods and the use of tactical smoke will be given practical application during field exercises. Tactics and methods of defense against chemicals will be found in FM 21-40 and FM 100-5.


• 234. GENERAL.—a. Unit training is designed to promote the development of teamwork and leadership, and the application of technique and tactical doctrine to combat situations.

b. The primary training objective of each tank destroyer unit will be the early development of an efficient, hard-striking unit which is prepared to take the field at short notice, at existing strength, and capable of conducting combined operations against an enemy equipped with modern means of warfare.

c. Unit training commences with the thorough training of small units. No matter how well larger unit training is conducted, efficient companies, battalions, and groups cannot be built around a group of stupidly trained squads, sections, and platoons.

• 235. TEAMWORK.—a. Men are grouped into units with a view to their training for and use in combat. The combat group acquires cohesion through common experience. Individuals constantly trained, quartered, and fed together develop a feeling of solidarity, which must be furthered by the greatest degree of permanence being given to squad, section, and platoon assignments. (See FM 100-5 and FM 21-5.)

b. Units will fight in small groups, often removed from the direct influence of officers, and derive their cohesion from the unity inculcated by association and training. Teamwork is based on the belief that the team task can be accomplished, the knowledge that the leadership is competent, and the confidence that each member of the team will perform his share of the task.

• 236. DISCIPLINE AND MORALE.—a. The combat value of a unit is determined in a great measure by the soldierly qualities of its leaders and members and its will to fight. Discipline is the main cohesive force that binds the members of a unit. The leader must set before all a high standard of military conduct and apply to all the same rules of discipline.

b. Individuals of a unit habitually act in accordance with the military standards which the group has accepted. Every effort must be made to develop the pride of individuals in their group. Good morale and a sense of duty in a command cannot be improvised; they must be thoroughly planned and systematically promoted.

c. Every leader must take energetic action against indiscipline, panic, pillage, and other disruptive influences. The morale of a unit is that of its leader.

• 237. FIGHTING PROFICIENCY.—a. Success In battle depends upon the coordinated employment of all available arms and techniques applicable to the situation. This coordination is obtained only through painstaking combined training of highly trained individuals and units. Tactical flexibility is based on the ability to exact definite and rigid standards of performance from individuals committed to action.

b. Training and discipline impart the cohesion and confidence that will prevent faltering and carry a unit through the demoralizing impressions caused by unexpected events in combat.

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