In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the US Army invited two of the best tank commanders of the Wehrmacht, General Hermann Balck and his Chief of Staff General Friedrich von Mellenthin, to come to the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for several seminars and war games. Balck and von Mellenthin had a great time playing with the huge amount of airpower available to them while playing as BLUFOR. In addition to comparing notes on wargame solutions, the US Army asked Balck and von Mellenthin a number of questions about organizing units. Here’s what they thought was best:
- Company Strength: Not more than 70-80 men
- (Rifle) battalion strength: about 300 men
- Rifle battalion should be broken up into three rifle companies and a machine gun company
- Panzer division should have three panzergrenadier regiments and one panzer regiment
- Panzergrenadier regiment should have two battalions
- 10 tanks per tank company
- Tank platoons should consist of three tanks
These units are small. But both of the veteran generals felt that small units were easier to lead and more flexible. Plus, these two generals achieved their greatest successes against the Russians when commanding the 11th Panzer Division when the division was so understrength that it was roughly the size of a brigade, at least as far as number of tanks and combat troops was concerned.
That said, I think Balck and von Mellinthin have gone a bit too far in advocating for small, agile units. While they did an excellent job with small units late in the war, no nation has actually gone this far in cutting unit size. Or really, all that close. You end up needing numbers of men to hold terrain, or to fight in cities.