Infantry is the branch of an army that engages in military combat on foot, distinguished from cavalry, artillery, and tank forces. Also known as foot soldiers, infantry traditionally relies on moving by foot between combats as well, but may also use mounts, military vehicles, or other transport. Infantry make up a large portion of all armed forces in most nations, and typically bear the largest brunt in warfare, as measured by casualties, deprivation, or physical and psychological stress.
The first military forces in history were infantry. In antiquity, infantry were armed with an early melee weapon such as a spear, axe or sword, or an early ranged weapon like a javelin, sling, or bow, with a few infantrymen having both a melee and a ranged weapon. With the development of gunpowder, infantry began converting to primarily firearms. By the time of Napoleonic warfare, infantry, cavalry, and artillery formed a basic triad of ground forces, though infantry usually remained the most numerous. With armoured warfare, armoured fighting vehicles have replaced the horses of cavalry, and airpower has added a new dimension to ground combat, but infantry remains pivotal to all modern combined arms operations.
Infantry have much greater local situational awareness than other military forces, due to their inherent intimate contact with the battlefield ("boots on the ground"); this is vital for engaging and infiltrating enemy positions, holding and defending ground (any military objectives), securing battlefield victories, maintaining military area control and security both at and behind the front lines, for capturing ordnance or materiel, taking prisoners, and military occupation. Infantry can more easily recognise, adapt and respond to local conditions, weather, and changing enemy weapons or tactics. They can operate in a wide range of terrain inaccessible to military vehicles, and can operate with a lower logistical burden. Infantry are the most easily delivered forces to ground combat areas, by simple and reliable marching, or by trucks, sea or air transport; they can also be inserted directly into combat by amphibious landing, or for air assault by parachute (airborne infantry) or helicopter (airmobile infantry). They can be augmented with a variety of crew-served weapons, armoured personnel carriers, and infantry fighting vehicles.
In English, use of the term infantry began about the 1570s, describing soldiers who march and fight on foot. The word derives from Middle French infanterie, from older Italian (also Spanish) infanteria (foot soldiers too inexperienced for cavalry), from Latin īnfāns (without speech, newborn, foolish), from which English also gets infant. The individual-soldier term infantryman was not coined until 1837. In modern usage, foot soldiers of any era are now considered infantry and infantrymen.
Infantry equipped with special weapons were often named after that weapon, such as grenadiers for their grenades, or fusiliers for their fusils.[note 1] These names can persist long after the weapon speciality; examples of infantry units that retained such names are the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the Grenadier Guards.
More commonly in modern times, infantry with special tactics are named for their roles, such as commandos, rangers, snipers, marines, (who all have additional training) and militia (who have reduced training); they are still infantry due to their expectation to fight as infantry when they enter combat.
Dragoons were created as mounted infantry, with horses for travel between battles; they were still considered infantry since they dismounted before combat. However, if light cavalry was lacking in an army, any available dragoons might be assigned their duties; this practise increased over time, and dragoons eventually received all the weapons and training as both infantry and cavalry, and could be classified as both. Conversely, starting about the mid-19th century, regular cavalry have been forced to spend more of their time dismounted in combat due to the ever-increasing effectiveness of enemy infantry firearms. Thus most cavalry transitioned to mounted infantry. As with grenadiers, the dragoon and cavalry designations can be retained long after their horses, such as in the Royal Dragoon Guards, Royal Lancers, and King's Royal Hussars.
Similarly, motorised infantry have trucks and other unarmed vehicles for non-combat movement, but are still infantry since they leave their vehicles for any combat. Most modern infantry have vehicle transport, to the point where infantry being motorised is generally assumed, and the few exceptions might be identified as modern light infantry, or "leg infantry" colloquially. Mechanised infantry go beyond motorised, having transport vehicles with combat abilities, armoured personnel carriers (APCs), providing at least some options for combat without leaving their vehicles. In modern infantry, some APCs have evolved to be infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs), which are transport vehicles with more substantial combat abilities, approaching those of light tanks. Some well-equipped mechanised infantry can be designated as armoured infantry. Given that infantry forces typically also have some tanks, and given that most armoured forces have more mechanised infantry units than tank units in their organisation, the distinction between mechanised infantry and armour forces has blurred.
The terms "infantry", "armour", and "cavalry" used in the official names for military units like divisions, brigades, or regiments might be better understood as a description of their expected balance of defensive, offensive, and mobility roles, rather than just use of vehicles. Some modern mechanised infantry units are termed cavalry or armoured cavalry, even though they never had horses, to emphasise their combat mobility.
In the modern US Army, about 15% of soldiers are officially Infantry. The basic training for all new US Army soldiers includes use of infantry weapons and tactics, even for tank crews, artillery crews, and base and logistical personnel.
The first warriors, adopting hunting weapons or improvised melee weapons, before the existence of any organised military, likely started essentially as loose groups without any organisation or formation. But this changed sometime before recorded history; the first ancient empires (2500–1500 BC) are shown to have some soldiers with standardised military equipment, and the training and discipline required for battlefield formations and manoeuvres: regular infantry. Though the main force of the army, these forces were usually kept small due to their cost of training and upkeep, and might be supplemented by local short-term mass-conscript forces using the older irregular infantry weapons and tactics; this remained a common practice almost up to modern times.
Before the adoption of the chariot to create the first mobile fighting forces c. 2000 BC, all armies were pure infantry. Even after, with a few exceptions like the Mongol Empire, infantry has been the largest component of most armies in history.
In the Western world, from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages (c. 8th century BC to 15th century AD), infantry are categorised as either heavy infantry or light infantry. Heavy infantry, such as Greek hoplites, Macedonian phalangites, and Roman legionaries, specialised in dense, solid formations driving into the main enemy lines, using weight of numbers to achieve a decisive victory, and were usually equipped with heavier weapons and armour to fit their role. Light infantry, such as Greek peltasts, Balearic slingers, and Roman velites, using open formations and greater manoeuvrability, took on most other combat roles: scouting, screening the army on the march, skirmishing to delay, disrupt, or weaken the enemy to prepare for the main forces' battlefield attack, protecting them from flanking manoeuvers, and then afterwards either pursuing the fleeing enemy or covering their army's retreat.
After the fall of Rome, the quality of heavy infantry declined, and warfare was dominated by heavy cavalry, such as knights, forming small elite units for decisive shock combat, supported by peasant infantry militias and assorted light infantry from the lower classes. Towards the end of Middle Ages, this began to change, where more professional and better trained light infantry could be effective against knights, such as the English longbowmen in the Hundred Years' War. By the start of the Renaissance, the infantry began to return to dominance, with Swiss pikemen and German Landsknechts filling the role of heavy infantry again, using dense formations of pikes to drive off any cavalry.
Dense formations are vulnerable to ranged weapons. Technological developments allowed the raising of large numbers of light infantry units armed with ranged weapons, without the years of training expected for traditional high-skilled archers and slingers. This started slowly, first with crossbowmen, then hand cannoneers and arquebusiers, each with increasing effectiveness, marking the beginning of early modern warfare, when firearms rendered the use of heavy infantry obsolete. The introduction of musketeers using bayonets in the mid 17th century began replacement of the pike with the infantry square replacing the pike square.
To maximise their firepower, musketeer infantry were trained to fight in wide lines facing the enemy, creating line infantry. These fulfilled the central battlefield role of earlier heavy infantry, using ranged weapons instead of melee weapons. To support these lines, smaller infantry formations using dispersed skirmish lines were created, called light infantry, fulfilling the same multiple roles as earlier light infantry. Their arms were no lighter than line infantry; they were distinguished by their skirmish formation and flexible tactics.
The modern rifleman infantry became the primary force for taking and holding ground on battlefields worldwide, a vital element of combined arms combat. As firepower continued to increase, use of infantry lines diminished, until all infantry became light infantry in practice.
Modern classifications of infantry have expanded to reflect modern equipment and tactics, such as motorised infantry, mechanised or armoured infantry, mountain infantry, marine infantry, and airborne infantry.
An infantryman's equipment is of vital concern both for the man and the military. The needs of the infantryman to maintain fitness and effectiveness must be constantly balanced against being overburdened. While soldiers in other military branches can use their mount or vehicle for carrying equipment, and tend to operate together as crews serving their vehicle or ordnance, infantrymen must operate more independently; each infantryman usually having much more personal equipment to use and carry. This encourages searching for ingenious combinations of effective, rugged, serviceable and adaptable, yet light, compact, and handy infantry equipment.
Beyond their main arms and armour, each infantryman's "military kit" includes combat boots, battledress or combat uniform, camping gear, heavy weather gear, survival gear, secondary weapons and ammunition, weapon service and repair kits, health and hygiene items, mess kit, rations, filled water canteen, and all other consumables each infantryman needs for the expected duration of time operating away from their unit's base, plus any special mission-specific equipment. One of the most valuable pieces of gear is the entrenching tool—basically a folding spade—which can be employed not only to dig important defences, but also in a variety of other daily tasks, and even sometimes as a weapon. Infantry typically have shared equipment on top of this, like tents or heavy weapons, where the carrying burden is spread across several infantrymen. In all, this can reach 25–45 kg (60–100 lb) for each soldier on the march. Such heavy infantry burdens have changed little over centuries of warfare; in the late Roman Republic, legionaries were nicknamed Marius' mules as their main activity seemed to be carrying the weight of their legion around on their backs.[note 2]
When combat is expected, infantry typically switch to "packing light", meaning reducing their equipment to weapons, ammo, and bare essentials, and leaving the rest with their transport, at camp or rally point, in temporary hidden caches, or even (in emergencies) discarding whatever may slow them down. Additional specialised equipment may be required, depending on the mission or to the particular terrain or environment, including satchel charges, demolition tools, mines, barbed wire, carried by the infantry or attached specialists.
Historically, infantry have suffered high casualty rates from disease, exposure, exhaustion and privation — often in excess of the casualties suffered from enemy attacks. Better infantry equipment to support their health, energy, and protect from environmental factors greatly reduces these rates of loss, and increase their level of effective action. Health, energy, and morale are greatly influenced by how the soldier is fed, so militaries often standardised field rations, starting from hardtack, to US K-rations, to modern MREs.
Communications gear has become a necessity, as it allows effective command of infantry units over greater distances, and communication with artillery and other support units. Modern infantry can have GPS, encrypted individual communications equipment, surveillance and night vision equipment, advanced intelligence and other high-tech mission-unique aids.
Armies have sought to improve and standardise infantry gear to reduce fatigue for extended carrying, increase freedom of movement, accessibility, and compatibility with other carried gear, such as the US All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment (ALICE).
Infantrymen are defined by their primary arms – the personal weapons and body armour for their own individual use. The available technology, resources, history, and society can produce quite different weapons for each military and era, but common infantry weapons can be distinguished in a few basic categories.
Infantrymen often carry secondary or back-up weapons, sometimes called a sidearm or ancillary weapons in modern terminology, either issued officially as an addition to the soldier's standard arms, or acquired unofficially by any other means as an individual preference. Such weapons are used when the primary weapon is no longer effective, such it becoming damaged, running out of ammunition, malfunction, or in a change of tactical situation where another weapon is preferred, such as going from ranged to close combat. Infantry with ranged or pole weapons often carried a sword or dagger for possible hand-to-hand combat. The pilum was a javelin of the Roman legionaries threw just before drawing their primary weapon, the gladius (short sword), and closing with the enemy line.
Modern infantrymen now treat the bayonet as a backup weapon, but may also have handguns or pistols. They may also deploy anti-personnel mines, booby traps, incendiary or explosive devices defensively before combat.
Some non-weapon equipment are designed for close combat shock effects, to get and psychological edge before melee, such as battle flags, war drums, brilliant uniforms, fierce body paint or tattoos, and even battle cries. These have become mostly only ceremonial since the decline of close combat military tactics.
Infantry have employed many different methods of protection from enemy attacks, including various kinds of armour and other gear, and tactical procedures.
The most basic is personal armour. This includes shields, helmets and many types of armour – padded linen, leather, lamellar, mail, plate, and kevlar. Initially, armour was used to defend both from ranged and close combat; even a fairly light shield could help defend against most slings and javelins, though high-strength bows and crossbows could penetrate most armour at very close range. Infantry armour had to compromises between protection and coverage, as a full suit of attack-proof armour would be too heavy to wear in combat.
As firearms improved, armour for ranged defence had to be thicker and stronger. With the introduction of the heavy arquebus to piece standard steel armour, it was proved easier to make heavier firearms than heavier armour; armour transitioned to be only for close combat purposes. Pikemen armour tended to be just steel helmets and breastplates, and gunners little or no armour. By the time of the musket, the dominance of firepower shifted militaries away from any close combat, and use of armour decreased, until infantry typically went without any armour.
Helmets were added back during World War I as artillery began to dominate the battlefield, to protect against their fragmentation and other blast effects beyond a direct hit. Modern developments in bullet-proof composite materials like kevlar have started a return to body armour for infantry, though the extra weight is a notable burden.
In modern times, infantrymen must also often carry protective measures against chemical and biological attack, including gas masks, counter-agents, and protective suits. All of these protective measures add to the weight an infantryman must carry, and may decrease combat efficiency. Modern militaries are struggling to balance the value of personal body protection versus the weight burden and ability to move under such weight.
Beginning with the development the first regular military forces, close-combat regular infantry fought less as unorganised groups of individuals and more in coordinated units, maintaining a defined tactical formation during combat, for increased battlefield effectiveness; such infantry formations and the arms they used developed together, starting with the spear and the shield.
A spear has decent attack abilities with the additional advantage keeping opponents at distance; this advantage can be increased by using longer spears, but this could allow the opponent to side-step the point of the spear and close for hand-to-hand combat where the longer spear is near useless. This can be avoided when each spearman stays side-by-side with the others in close formation, each covering the ones next to him, presenting a solid wall of spears to the enemy that they cannot get around.
Similarly, a shield has decent defence abilities, but is literally hit-or-miss; an attack from an unexpected angle can bypass it completely. Larger shields can cover more, but are also heavier and less manoeuvrable, making unexpected attacks even more of a problem. This can be avoided by having shield-armed soldiers stand close together, side-by-side, each protecting both themselves and their immediate comrades, presenting a solid shield wall to the enemy.
The opponents for these first formations, the close-combat infantry of more tribal societies, or any military without regular infantry (so called "barbarians") used arms that focused on the individual – weapons using personal strength and force, such as larger swinging swords, axes, and clubs. These take more room and individual freedom to swing and wield, necessitating a more loose organisation. While this may allow for a fierce running attack (an initial shock advantage) the tighter formation of the heavy spear and shield infantry gave them a local manpower advantage where several might be able to fight each opponent.
Thus tight formations heightened advantages of heavy arms, and gave greater local numbers in melee. To also increase their staying power, multiple rows of heavy infantrymen were added. This also increased their shock combat effect; individual opponents saw themselves literally lined-up against several heavy infantryman each, with seemingly no chance of defeating all of them. Heavy infantry developed into huge solid block formations, up to a hundred meters wide and a dozen rows deep.
Maintaining the advantages of heavy infantry meant maintaining formation; this became even more important when two forces with heavy infantry met in battle; the solidity of the formation became the deciding factor. Intense discipline and training became paramount. Empires formed around their military.
The organization of military forces into regular military units is first noted in Egyptian records of the Battle of Kadesh (c. 1274 BC). Soldiers were grouped into units of 50, which were in turn grouped into larger units of 250, then 1,000, and finally into units of up to 5,000 – the largest independent command. Several of these Egyptian "divisions" made up an army, but operated independently, both on the march and tactically, demonstrating sufficient military command and control organisation for basic battlefield manoeuvres. Similar hierarchical organizations have been noted in other ancient armies, typically with approximately 10 to 100 to 1,000 ratios (even where base 10 was not common), similar to modern sections (squads), companies, and regiments.
The training of the infantry has differed drastically over time and from place to place. The cost of maintaining an army in fighting order and the seasonal nature of warfare precluded large permanent armies.
The antiquity saw everything from the well-trained and motivated citizen armies of Greek and Rome, the tribal host assembled from farmers and hunters with only passing acquaintance with warfare and masses of lightly armed and ill-trained militia put up as a last ditch effort.
In medieval times the foot soldiers varied from peasant levies to semi-permanent companies of mercenaries, foremost among them the Swiss, English, Aragonese and German, to men-at-arms who went into battle as well-armoured as knights, the latter of which at times also fought on foot.
The creation of standing armies—permanently assembled for war or defence—saw increase in training and experience. The increased use of firearms and the need for drill to handle them efficiently.
The introduction of national and mass armies saw an establishment of minimum requirements and the introduction of special troops (first of them the engineers going back to medieval times, but also different kinds of infantry adopted to specific terrain, bicycle, motorcycle, motorised and mechanised troops) culminating with the introduction of highly trained special forces during the first and second World War.
As a branch of the armed forces, the role of the infantry in warfare is to engage, fight, and kill the enemy at close range—using either a firearm (rifle, pistol, machine gun), an edged-weapon (knife, bayonet), or bare hands (close quarters combat)—as required by the mission to hand; thus
Beginning with the Napoleonic Wars of the early 19th century, artillery has become an increasingly dominant force on the battlefield. Since World War I, combat aircraft and armoured vehicles have also become dominant. However, the most effective method for locating all enemy forces on a battlefield is still the infantry patrol, and it is the presence or absence of infantry that ultimately determines whether a particular piece of ground has been captured or held. In 20th and 21st century warfare, infantry functions most effectively as part of a combined arms team including artillery, armour, and combat aircraft. Studies have shown that of all casualties, 50% or more were caused by artillery; about 10% were caused by machine guns; 2–5% by rifle fire; and 1% or less by hand grenades, bayonets, knives, and unarmed combat combined. Several infantry divisions both Allied and Axis in the European theatre of WWII suffered higher than 100% combat and non combat casualties and some above 200%, meaning that the number of service personnel that became casualties was greater than the sum of the divisions' available service positions at full strength.
Attack operations are the most basic role of the infantry, and along with defence, form the main stances of the infantry on the battlefield. Traditionally, in an open battle, or meeting engagement, two armies would manoeuvre to contact, at which point they would form up their infantry and other units opposite each other. Then one or both would advance and attempt to defeat the enemy force. The goal of an attack remains the same: to advance into an enemy-held objective, most frequently a hill, river crossing, city or other dominant terrain feature, and dislodge the enemy, thereby establishing control of the objective.
Attacks are often feared by the infantry conducting them because of the high number of casualties suffered while advancing to close with and destroy the enemy while under enemy fire. In mechanised infantry the armoured personnel carrier (APC) is considered the assaulting position. These APCs can deliver infantrymen through the front lines to the battle and—in the case of infantry fighting vehicles—contribute supporting firepower to engage the enemy. Successful attacks rely on sufficient force, preparative reconnaissance and battlefield preparation with bomb assets. Retention of discipline and cohesion throughout the attack is paramount to success. A subcategory of attacks is the ambush, where infantrymen lie in wait for enemy forces before attacking at a vulnerable moment. This gives the ambushing infantrymen the combat advantage of surprise, concealment and superior firing positions, and causes confusion. The ambushed unit does not know what it is up against, or where they are attacking from.
Patrolling is the most common infantry mission. Full-scale attacks and defensive efforts are occasional, but patrols are constant. Patrols consist of small groups of infantry moving about in areas of possible enemy activity to locate the enemy and destroy them when found. Patrols are used not only on the front-lines, but in rear areas where enemy infiltration or insurgencies are possible.
Pursuit is a role that the infantry often assumes. The objective of pursuit operations is the destruction of withdrawing enemy forces which are not capable of effectively engaging friendly units, before they can build their strength to the point where they are effective. Infantry traditionally have been the main force to overrun these units in the past, and in modern combat are used to pursue enemy forces in constricted terrain (urban areas in particular), where faster forces, such as armoured vehicles are incapable of going or would be exposed to ambush.
Defence operations are the natural counter to attacks, in which the mission is to hold an objective and defeat enemy forces attempting to dislodge the defender. Defensive posture offers many advantages to the infantry, including the ability to use terrain and constructed fortifications to advantage; these reduce exposure to enemy fire compared with advancing forces. Effective defence relies on minimising losses to enemy fire, breaking the enemy's cohesion before their advance is completed, and preventing enemy penetration of defensive positions.
Escorting consists of protecting support units from ambush, particularly from hostile infantry forces. Combat support units (a majority of the military) are not as well armed or trained as infantry units and have a different mission. Therefore, they need the protection of the infantry, particularly when on the move. This is one of the most important roles for the modern infantry, particularly when operating alongside armoured vehicles. In this capacity, infantry essentially conducts patrol on the move, scouring terrain which may hide enemy infantry waiting to ambush friendly vehicles, and identifying enemy strong points for attack by the heavier units.
Infantry units are tasked to protect certain areas like command posts or airbases. Units assigned to this job usually have a large number of military police attached to them for control of checkpoints and prisons.
Maneouvering consumes much of an infantry unit's time. Infantry, like all combat arms units, are often manoeuvred to meet battlefield needs, and often must do so under enemy attack. The infantry must maintain their cohesion and readiness during the move to ensure their usefulness when they reach their objective. Traditionally, infantry have relied on their own legs for mobility, but mechanised or armoured infantry often uses trucks and armoured vehicles for transport. These units can quickly disembark and transition to light infantry, without vehicles, to access terrain which armoured vehicles can't effectively access.
Surveillance operations are often carried out with the employment of small recon units or sniper teams which gather information about the enemy, reporting on characteristics such as size, activity, location, unit and equipment. These infantry units typically are known for their stealth and ability to operate for periods of time within close proximity of the enemy without being detected. They may engage high-profile targets, or be employed to hunt down terrorist cells and insurgents within a given area. These units may also entice the enemy to engage a located recon unit, thus disclosing their location to be destroyed by more powerful friendly forces.
Some assignments for infantry units involve deployment behind the front, although patrol and security operations are usually maintained in case of enemy infiltration. This is usually the best time for infantry units to integrate replacements into units and to maintain equipment. Additionally, soldiers can be rested and general readiness should improve. However, the unit must be ready for deployment at any point.
This can be undertaken either in reserve or on the front, but consists of using infantry troops as labor for construction of field positions, roads, bridges, airfields, and all other manner of structures. The infantry is often given this assignment because of the physical quantity of strong men within the unit, although it can lessen a unit's morale and limit the unit's ability to maintain readiness and perform other missions. More often, such jobs are given to specialist engineering corps.
Infantry units are trained to quickly mobilise, infiltrate, enter and neutralise threat forces when appropriate combat intelligence indicates to secure a location, rescue or capture high-profile targets.
Urban combat poses unique challenges to the combat forces. It is one of the most complicated type of operations an infantry unit will undertake. With many places for the enemy to hide and ambush from, infantry units must be trained in how to enter a city, and systematically clear the buildings, which most likely will be booby trapped, in order to kill or capture enemy personnel within the city. Care must be taken to differentiate innocent civilians who often hide and support the enemy from the non-uniformed armed enemy forces. Civilian and military casualties both are usually very high.
Because of an infantryman's duties with firearms, explosives, physical and emotional stress, and physical violence, casualties and deaths are not uncommon in both war and in peacetime training or operations. It is a highly dangerous and demanding combat service; in World War II, military doctors concluded that even physically unwounded soldiers were psychologically worn out after about 200 days of combat.
The physical, mental, and environmental operating demands of the infantryman are high. All of the combat necessities such as ammunition, weapon systems, food, water, clothing, and shelter are carried on the backs of the infantrymen, at least in light role as opposed to mounted/mechanised. Combat loads of over 36 kg (80 lbs) are standard, and greater loads in excess of 45 kg (100 lbs) are very common. These heavy loads, combined with long foot patrols of over 40 km (25 mi) a day, in any climate from 43 to −29 °C (109 to −20 °F) in temperature, require the infantryman to be in good physical and mental condition. Infantrymen live, fight and die outdoors in all types of brutal climates, often with no physical shelter. Poor climate conditions adds misery to this already demanding existence. Disease epidemics, frostbite, heat stroke, trench foot, insect and wild animal bites are common along with stress disorders and these have sometimes caused more casualties than enemy action.
Infantrymen are expected to continue with their combat missions despite the death and injury of friends, fear, despair, fatigue, and bodily injury.
Some infantry units are considered Special Forces. The earliest Special Forces commando units were more highly trained infantrymen, with special weapons, equipment, and missions. Special Forces units recruit heavily from regular infantry units to fill their ranks.
Foreign and domestic militaries typically have a slang term for their infantrymen. In the U.S. military, the slang term among both Marine and Army infantrymen for themselves is "grunt." In the British Army, they are the "squaddies." The infantry is a small close-knit community, and the slang names are terms of endearment that convey mutual respect and shared experiences.
Naval infantry, commonly known as marines, are primarily a category of infantry that form part of the naval forces of states and perform roles on land and at sea, including amphibious operations, as well as other, naval roles. They also perform other tasks, including land warfare, separate from naval operations.
Air force infantry and base defence forces, such as the Royal Air Force Regiment, Royal Australian Air Force Airfield Defence Guards, United States Air Force Security Forces and Indonesian Air Force Paskhas Corps, are used primarily for ground-based defence of air bases and other air force facilities. They also have a number of other, specialist roles. These include, among others, Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) defence and training other airmen in basic ground defence tactics.
The 101st Airborne Division ("Screaming Eagles") is a specialized modular light infantry division of the US Army trained for air assault operations. The Screaming Eagles has been referred to as "the tip of the spear" by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the most potent and tactically mobile of the U.S. Army's divisions by former Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Edward C. Meyer (ret). The 101st Airborne is able to plan, coordinate, and execute brigade-size air assault operations capable of seizing key terrain in support of operational objectives, and is capable of working in austere environments with limited or degraded infrastructure. These particular operations are conducted by highly mobile teams covering extensive distances and engaging enemy forces behind enemy lines. According to the author of Screaming Eagles: 101st Airborne Division, its unique battlefield mobility and high level of training have kept it in the vanguard of US land combat forces in recent conflicts. More recently, the 101st Airborne has been performing foreign internal defense and counterterrorism operations within Iraq and Afghanistan.The 101st Airborne Division has a history that is nearly a century long. During World War II, it was renowned for its role in Operation Overlord (the D-Day landings and airborne landings on 6 June 1944, in Normandy, France), Operation Market Garden, the liberation of the Netherlands and its action during the Battle of the Bulge around the city of Bastogne, Belgium. During the Vietnam War, the 101st Airborne Division fought in several major campaigns and battles, including the Battle of Hamburger Hill in May 1969.
In mid-1968, it was reorganized and redesignated as an airmobile division and then in 1974 as an air assault division. The titles reflect the division's shift from airplanes to helicopters as the primary method of delivering troops into combat. Many current members of the 101st are graduates of the US Army Air Assault School. It is known as the ten toughest days in the US Army, and its dropout rate is around 50 percent. Division headquarters is at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. In recent years, the division has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
At the height of the War on Terror, the 101st Airborne Division had over 200 aircraft. The division now has slightly over 100 aircraft. As of December 2017, the division had about 29,000 soldiers, down from 35,000 soldiers just three years prior because of budget restraints.1st Infantry Division (United States)
The 1st Infantry Division is a combined arms division of the United States Army, and is the oldest continuously serving in the Regular Army. It has seen continuous service since its organization in 1917 during World War I. It was officially nicknamed "The Big Red One" (abbreviated "BRO") after its shoulder patch and is also nicknamed "The Fighting First". However, the division has also received troop monikers of "The Big Dead One" and "The Bloody First" as puns on the respective officially sanctioned nicknames. It is currently based at Fort Riley, Kansas.3rd Infantry Division (United States)
The 3rd Infantry Division (nicknamed The Rock of the Marne) is a combined arms and light infantry division of the United States Army based at Fort Stewart, Georgia. It is a direct subordinate unit of the XVIII Airborne Corps and U.S. Army Forces Command. Its current organization includes one Infantry and two armored brigade combat teams, one aviation brigade, a division artillery and support elements. The division has a distinguished history, having seen active service in both World War I and World War II.82nd Airborne Division
The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a U.S. Department of Defense requirement to "respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours." Based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the 82nd Airborne Division is part of the XVIII Airborne Corps. The 82nd Airborne Division is the U.S. Army's most strategically mobile division. Some journalists have reported that the 82nd Airborne is the best trained light infantry division in the world. More recently, the 82nd Airborne has been conducting operations in Iraq, advising and assisting Iraqi Security Forces.The All American division was constituted, originally as the 82nd Division, in the National Army on 5 August 1917, shortly after the American entry into World War I. It was organized on 25 August 1917, at Camp Gordon, Georgia and later served with distinction on the Western Front in the final months of World War I. Since its initial members came from all 48 states, the division acquired the nickname All-American, which is the basis for its famed "AA" shoulder patch. The division later served in World War II where, in August 1942, it was reconstituted as the first airborne division of the U.S. Army and fought in numerous campaigns during the war.
Famous soldiers of the division include: Sergeant Alvin C. York; General James M. Gavin; General of the Army Omar Bradley; Senator Strom Thurmond (325th Glider Infantry Regiment in World War II); Senator Jack Reed; R&B singer Lou Rawls; actor William Windom; country music singer Craig Morgan; Renown Independent Baptist Minister Jack Hyles; former Syracuse University football coach Ben Schwartzwalder; fashion critic/choreographer Bruce Darnell; The Honorable Patrick Murphy (Under Secretary of the Army); Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards; General "Henry" Hugh Shelton (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001); and Colonel Chris Gibson, former commander of the 2d Battalion, 325th Infantry Regiment, and later commander of the division's 2d Brigade Combat Team, now a New York Congressman.Armoured personnel carrier
An armoured personnel carrier (APC) is a broad type of armoured, military vehicles designed to transport personnel and equipment in combat zones. They are sometimes referred to colloquially as 'battle taxis' or 'battle buses'. Since World War I, APCs have become a very common piece of military equipment around the world.
According to the definition in the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, an APC is "an armoured combat vehicle which is designed and equipped to transport a combat infantry squad and which, as a rule, is armed with an integral or organic weapon of less than 20 millimetres calibre." APCs have less armament than other Armoured Fighting Vehicles which are designed to participate directly in combat.
The American M113 and the Soviet BTR-60 are iconic examples.Army Reserve (United Kingdom)
The Army Reserve is the active-duty volunteer reserve force and integrated element of the British Army. It should not be confused with the Regular Reserve whose members have formerly served full-time. The Army Reserve was previously known as the Territorial Force from 1908 to 1921, the Territorial Army (TA) from 1921 to 1967, the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve (TAVR) from 1967 to 1979, and again the Territorial Army (TA) from 1979 to 2014.
The Army Reserve was created as the Territorial Force in 1908 by the Secretary of State for War, Richard Haldane, when the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907 combined the previously civilian-administered Volunteer Force, with the mounted Yeomanry (at the same time the Militia was renamed the Special Reserve). Most Volunteer infantry units had unique identities, but lost these in the reorganisation, becoming Territorial battalions of Regular Army infantry regiments. Only one infantry unit, the London Regiment, has maintained a separate identity.
Its original purpose was home defence, although the establishment of the Territorial and Army Volunteer Reserve in 1967 involved a restructuring and revised doctrine leading to the provision of routine support for the regular army overseas. Reservists in the past also served as constables or bailiffs, even holding positions of civic duty as overseer of their parish. The more modern Yeomen of the 18th century were cavalry-based units, which were often used to suppress riots (see the Peterloo Massacre). Several units that are now part of the Army Reserve bear the title "militia", reflecting their origins as part of that organisation prior to the formation of the Special Reserve in 1907.
During periods of total war, the Army Reserve is incorporated by the Royal Prerogative into Regular Service under one code of Military Law for the duration of hostilities or until de-activation is decided upon. After the Second World War, for example, the Army Reserve – or Territorial Army as it was known then – was not demobilised until 1947. Army Reservists normally have a full-time civilian job or career, which in some cases provides skills and expertise that are directly transferable to a specialist military role, such as NHS employees serving in Reservist Army Medical Services units. All Army Reserve personnel have their civilian jobs protected to a limited extent by law should they be compulsorily mobilised. There is, however, no legal protection against discrimination in employment for membership of the Army Reserve in the normal course of events (i.e. when not mobilised).Battalion
A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by nationality and branch of service. Typically a battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is typically commanded by a lieutenant colonel. In some countries, the word "battalion" is associated with the infantry.
The term was first used in Italian as battaglione no later than the 16th century. It derived from the Italian word for battle, battaglia. The first use of battalion in English was in the 1580s, and the first use to mean "part of a regiment" is from 1708.Battle of the Bulge
The Battle of the Bulge, also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, took place from 16 December 1944 to 25 January 1945, and was the last major German offensive campaign on the Western Front during World War II. It was launched through the densely forested Ardennes region of Wallonia in eastern Belgium, northeast France, and Luxembourg, towards the end of the war in Europe. The offensive was intended to stop Allied use of the Belgian port of Antwerp and to split the Allied lines, allowing the Germans to encircle and destroy four Allied armies and force the Western Allies to negotiate a peace treaty in the Axis powers' favor.
The Germans achieved a total surprise attack on the morning of 16 December 1944, due to a combination of Allied overconfidence, preoccupation with Allied offensive plans, and poor aerial reconnaissance. American forces bore the brunt of the attack and incurred their highest casualties of any operation during the war. The battle also severely depleted Germany's armored forces, and they were largely unable to replace them. German personnel and, later, Luftwaffe aircraft (in the concluding stages of the engagement) also sustained heavy losses. The Germans had attacked a weakly defended section of the Allied line, taking advantage of heavily overcast weather conditions that grounded the Allies' overwhelmingly superior air forces. Fierce resistance on the northern shoulder of the offensive, around Elsenborn Ridge, and in the south, around Bastogne, blocked German access to key roads to the northwest and west that they counted on for success. Columns of armor and infantry that were supposed to advance along parallel routes found themselves on the same roads. This, and terrain that favored the defenders, threw the German advance behind schedule and allowed the Allies to reinforce the thinly placed troops. The furthest west the offensive reached was the village of Foy-Nôtre-Dame, south east of Dinant, being stopped by the British 21st Army Group on 24 December 1944. Improved weather conditions permitted air attacks on German forces and supply lines, which sealed the failure of the offensive. In the wake of the defeat, many experienced German units were left severely depleted of men and equipment, as survivors retreated to the defenses of the Siegfried Line.
The Germans' initial attack involved 410,000 men; just over 1,400 tanks, tank destroyers, and assault guns; 2,600 artillery pieces; 1,600 anti-tank guns; and over 1,000 combat aircraft, as well as large numbers of other armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs). These were reinforced a couple of weeks later, bringing the offensive's total strength to around 450,000 troops, and 1,500 tanks and assault guns. Between 63,222 and 98,000 of these men were killed, missing, wounded in action, or captured. For the Americans, out of a peak of 610,000 troops, 89,000 became casualties out of which some 19,000 were killed. The "Bulge" was the largest and bloodiest single battle fought by the United States in World War II and the second deadliest battle in American history.Company (military unit)
A company is a military unit, typically consisting of 80–150 soldiers and usually commanded by a major or a captain. Most companies are formed of three to six platoons, although the exact number may vary by country, unit type, and structure.
Usually several companies are grouped as a battalion or regiment, the latter of which is sometimes formed by several battalions. Occasionally, independent or separate companies are organized for special purposes, such as the 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company or the 3rd Force Reconnaissance Company. These companies are not organic to a battalion or regiment, but rather report directly to a higher level organization such as a Marine Expeditionary Force headquarters (i.e., a corps-level command).Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation, usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. Infantry divisions during the World Wars ranged between 8,000 and 30,000 in nominal strength.
In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades; in turn, several divisions typically make up a corps. Historically, the division has been the default combined arms unit capable of independent operations. Smaller combined arms units, such as the American regimental combat team (RCT) during World War II, were used when conditions favored them. In recent times, modern Western militaries have begun adopting the smaller brigade combat team (similar to the RCT) as the default combined arms unit, with the division they belong to being less important.
While the focus of this article is on army divisions, in naval usage division has a completely different meaning, referring to either an administrative/functional sub-unit of a department (e.g., fire control division of the weapons department) aboard naval and coast guard ships, shore commands, and in naval aviation units (including navy, marine corps, and coast guard aviation), to a sub-unit of several ships within a flotilla or squadron, or to two or three sections of aircraft operating under a designated division leader. Also some languages, like Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Polish, use a similar word divizion/dywizjon for a battalion-size artillery or cavalry unit.
In administrative/functional sub-unit usage, unit size varies widely, though typically divisions number far fewer than 100 people and are roughly equivalent in function and organizational hierarchy/command relationship to a platoon or flight.Fort Benning
Fort Benning is a United States Army post straddling the Alabama–Georgia border next to Columbus, Georgia. Fort Benning supports more than 120,000 active-duty military, family members, reserve component soldiers, retirees, and civilian employees on a daily basis. It is a power projection platform, and possesses the capability to deploy combat-ready forces by air, rail, and highway. Fort Benning is the home of the United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, the United States Army Armor School, United States Army Infantry School, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly known as the School of the Americas), elements of the 75th Ranger Regiment (United States), 3rd Brigade – 3rd Infantry Division, and many other additional tenant units.
It is named after Henry L. Benning, a brigadier general in the Confederate States Army during the Civil War.Since 1909, Fort Benning has served as the Home of the Infantry. Since 2005, Fort Benning has been transformed into the Maneuver Center of Excellence, as a result of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission's decision to consolidate a number of schools and installations to create various "centers of excellence". Included in this transformation was the move of the Armor School from Fort Knox to Fort Benning.German Army (1935–1945)
The German Army (German: Heer, German pronunciation: [ˈheːɐ̯], lit. Army) was the land forces component of the Wehrmacht, the regular German Armed Forces, from 1935 until it was demobilized and later dissolved in August 1946. During World War II, a total of about 13 million soldiers served in the German Army. Germany's army personnel were made up of volunteers and conscripts.
Only 17 months after Adolf Hitler announced publicly the rearmament program, the Army reached its projected goal of 36 divisions. During the autumn of 1937 two more corps were formed. In 1938 four additional corps were formed with the inclusion of the five divisions of the Austrian Army after the Anschluss in March. During the period of its expansion under Hitler, the German Army continued to develop concepts pioneered during World War I, combining ground (Heer) and air (Luftwaffe) assets into combined arms forces. Coupled with operational and tactical methods such as encirclements and the "battle of annihilation", the German military managed quick victories in the two initial years of World War II, a new style of warfare described as Blitzkrieg (lightning war) for its speed and destructive power.The infantry remained foot soldiers throughout the war; artillery also remained primarily horse-drawn. The motorized formations received much attention in the world press in the opening years of the war, and were cited as the main reason for the success of the German invasions of Poland (September 1939), Norway and Denmark (April 1940), Belgium, France and Netherlands (May 1940), Yugoslavia (April 1941) and the initial stages of Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of the Soviet Union (June 1941). However their motorized and tank formations accounted for only 20% of the Heer's capacity at their peak strength. The army's lack of trucks (and of petroleum to run them) severely limited infantry movement, especially during and after the Normandy invasion when Allied air-power devastated the French rail network north of the Loire. Panzer movements also depended on rail, since driving a tank long distances wore out its tracks.Indian Army
The Indian Army is the land-based branch and the largest component of Indian Armed Forces. The President of India is the Supreme Commander of the Indian Army, and it is commanded by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), who is a four-star general. Two officers have been conferred with the rank of field marshal, a five-star rank, which is a ceremonial position of great honour. The Indian Army originated from the armies of the East India Company, which eventually became the British Indian Army, and the armies of the princely states, which finally became the national army after independence. The units and regiments of the Indian Army have diverse histories and have participated in a number of battles and campaigns across the world, earning a large number of battle and theatre honours before and after Independence.The primary mission of the Indian Army is to ensure national security and national unity, defending the nation from external aggression and internal threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders. It conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances, like Operation Surya Hope, and can also be requisitioned by the government to cope with internal threats. It is a major component of national power alongside the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force. The army has been involved in four wars with neighbouring Pakistan and one with China. Other major operations undertaken by the army include: Operation Vijay, Operation Meghdoot and Operation Cactus. Apart from conflicts, the army has conducted large peace time exercises like Operation Brasstacks and Exercise Shoorveer, and it has also been an active participant in numerous United Nations peacekeeping missions including those in: Cyprus, Lebanon, Congo, Angola, Cambodia, Vietnam, Namibia, El Salvador, Liberia, Mozambique, South Sudan and Somalia.
The Indian Army has a regimental system, but is operationally and geographically divided into seven commands, with the basic field formation being a division. It is an all-volunteer force and comprises more than 80% of the country's active defence personnel. It is the 2nd largest standing army in the world, with 1,237,117 active troops and 960,000 reserve troops. The army has embarked on an infantry modernisation program known as Futuristic Infantry Soldier As a System (F-INSAS), and is also upgrading and acquiring new assets for its armoured, artillery and aviation branches.Light infantry
Light infantry is a designation applied to certain types of foot soldiers (infantry) throughout history, typically having lighter equipment or armament or a more mobile or fluid function than other types of infantry, such as heavy infantry or line infantry. Historically, light infantry often fought as scouts, raiders and skirmishers—soldiers who fight in a loose formation ahead of the main army to harass, delay, disrupt supply lines, and generally "soften up" an enemy before the main battle. After World War II, the term "light infantry" evolved, and now generally refers to rapid-deployment units (including commandos and airborne units) that specifically emphasize speed and mobility over armor and firepower. Some units or battalions that historically held a skirmishing role have kept their designation "light infantry" for the sake of tradition.Marines
Marines, also known as naval infantry, are typically an infantry force that specializes in the support of naval and army operations at sea and on land and air, as well as the execution of their own operations. In many countries, the marines are an integral part of that state's navy. In others, it is a separate organization altogether, such as in the United States, where the Marine Corps falls under the US Department of the Navy, yet it operates independently (and similarly the UK's Royal Marines come under Her Majesty's Naval Service). Marines can also fall under a country's army like the Troupes de marine (French Marines) and Givati Brigade (Israeli Marines).
Historically, tasks undertaken by marines have included: helping maintain discipline and order aboard the ship (reflecting the pressed nature of the ships' company and the risk of mutiny), the boarding of vessels during combat or capture of prize ships, and providing manpower for raiding ashore in support of the naval objectives.
With the industrialization of warfare in the 20th century the scale of landing operations increased; this brought with it an increased likelihood of opposition and a need for co-ordination of various military elements. Marine forces evolved to specialize in the skills and capabilities required for amphibious warfare.Normandy landings
The Normandy landings were the landing operations on Tuesday, 6 June 1944 of the Allied invasion of Normandy in Operation Overlord during World War II. Codenamed Operation Neptune and often referred to as D-Day, it was the largest seaborne invasion in history. The operation began the liberation of German-occupied France (and later Europe) from Nazi control, and laid the foundations of the Allied victory on the Western Front.
Planning for the operation began in 1943. In the months leading up to the invasion, the Allies conducted a substantial military deception, codenamed Operation Bodyguard, to mislead the Germans as to the date and location of the main Allied landings. The weather on D-Day was far from ideal and the operation had to be delayed 24 hours; a further postponement would have meant a delay of at least two weeks as the invasion planners had requirements for the phase of the moon, the tides, and the time of day that meant only a few days each month were deemed suitable. Adolf Hitler placed German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in command of German forces and of developing fortifications along the Atlantic Wall in anticipation of an Allied invasion.
The amphibious landings were preceded by extensive aerial and naval bombardment and an airborne assault—the landing of 24,000 US, British, and Canadian airborne troops shortly after midnight. Allied infantry and armoured divisions began landing on the coast of France at 06:30. The target 50-mile (80 km) stretch of the Normandy coast was divided into five sectors: Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno and Sword. Strong winds blew the landing craft east of their intended positions, particularly at Utah and Omaha. The men landed under heavy fire from gun emplacements overlooking the beaches, and the shore was mined and covered with obstacles such as wooden stakes, metal tripods, and barbed wire, making the work of the beach-clearing teams difficult and dangerous. Casualties were heaviest at Omaha, with its high cliffs. At Gold, Juno, and Sword, several fortified towns were cleared in house-to-house fighting, and two major gun emplacements at Gold were disabled, using specialised tanks.
The Allies failed to achieve any of their goals on the first day. Carentan, St. Lô, and Bayeux remained in German hands, and Caen, a major objective, was not captured until 21 July. Only two of the beaches (Juno and Gold) were linked on the first day, and all five beachheads were not connected until 12 June; however, the operation gained a foothold which the Allies gradually expanded over the coming months. German casualties on D-Day have been estimated at 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead.
Museums, memorials, and war cemeteries in the area now host many visitors each year.Platoon
A platoon is a military unit typically composed of two or more squads/sections/patrols. Platoon organization varies depending on the country and the branch, but typically, per the official tables of organization as published in U.S. military documents; a full-strength U.S. infantry rifle platoon consists of 39 Soldiers or 43 Marines (U.S. Army [USA] or U.S. Marine Corps [USMC], respectively). There are other types of infantry platoons (e.g., antiarmor, heavy machinegun, light armored reconnaissance, mortar, reconnaissance, scout, scout sniper, and weapons), depending upon service and type of infantry company/battalion to which the platoon is assigned, and these platoons may range from as few as 18 (USMC scout sniper platoon) to 69 (USMC mortar platoon). Non-infantry platoons may range from as small as a nine-man communications platoon (USA headquarters and headquarters company [HHC], airborne, air Assault, and light infantry battalions) to a 102-man maintenance platoon (USA HHC mechanized infantry/combined arms battalion). A platoon leader or commander is the officer in command of a platoon. This person is usually a junior officer—a second or first lieutenant or an equivalent rank. The officer is usually assisted by a platoon sergeant. A platoon is typically the smallest military unit led by a commissioned officer.
Rifle platoons normally consist of a small platoon headquarters and three or four sections (Commonwealth) or squads (US). In some armies, platoon is used throughout the branches of the army. In a few armies, such as the French Army, a platoon is specifically a cavalry unit, and the infantry use "section" as the equivalent unit. A unit consisting of several platoons is called a company/battery/troop.Regiment
A regiment is a military unit. Their role and size varies markedly, depending on the country and the arm of service.
In Medieval Europe, the term "regiment" denoted any large body of front-line soldiers, recruited or conscripted in one geographical area, by a leader who was often also the feudal lord of the soldiers.
By the end of the 17th century, regiments in most European armies were permanent units, numbering about 1,000 men and under the command of a colonel.United States Army
The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed (14 June 1775) to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.As a uniformed military service, the U.S. Army is part of the Department of the Army, which is one of the three military departments of the Department of Defense. The U.S. Army is headed by a civilian senior appointed civil servant, the Secretary of the Army (SECARMY) and by a chief military officer, the Chief of Staff of the Army (CSA) who is also a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It is the largest military branch, and in the fiscal year 2017, the projected end strength for the Regular Army (USA) was 476,000 soldiers; the Army National Guard (ARNG) had 343,000 soldiers and the United States Army Reserve (USAR) had 199,000 soldiers; the combined-component strength of the U.S. Army was 1,018,000 soldiers. As a branch of the armed forces, the mission of the U.S. Army is "to fight and win our Nation's wars, by providing prompt, sustained, land dominance, across the full range of military operations and the spectrum of conflict, in support of combatant commanders". The branch participates in conflicts worldwide and is the major ground-based offensive and defensive force of the United States.