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American infantry in Iraq
First lieutenant of the Bavarian Grenadier Guard Regiment 1814
Kurhannoversches Infantry Regiment von Behr 1735 (1783: No. 7-A) at the review of Bemerode

As infantry (obsolete or historical infantry ) refers to moving on foot and fighting with hand weapons equipped soldiers of the fighting force of the land forces . Although the term infantry did not become established until the early modern era , it is also used for corresponding soldiers from earlier eras. The individual soldier becomes an infantryman and was previously called a foot soldier .

The term infantry is to be differentiated on the one hand from unorganized fighters on foot like tribal warriors, on the other hand against soldiers who do not fight on foot, like the cavalry or soldiers with long-range weapons like the artillery . In modern times, the infantry is mechanized or motorized , like the armored troops or the hunter troops, and has other weapons than just portable long weapons .

The importance and prestige of the infantry has changed greatly over the course of history. But it usually formed the basis of the land forces. From the time of the standing armies , line infantry was set up in the crowd .

The light infantry and formerly the dragoons are to be distinguished from the line infantry, infantry made mobile with horses as a means of transport, which were dismounted for battle.

The term infantry (motorized) is used for infantry made organizationally mobile with motor vehicles, as in the Wehrmacht and subsequently also in the Bundeswehr . These are the terms grenadiers (mot), today hunters or fusiliers in modern times . Grenadiers and fighters usually differ in their equipment with armored personnel carriers such as the GTK or with (protected) wheeled vehicles.

Mechanized infantry , as formations equipped with armored personnel carriers, are conceptually armored infantry . In the area of ​​the Eastern Bloc one knew the term Mot-Schützen , which were grouped in regiments. However, there was no close interlinking through mutual subordination, such as in the battle of the combined arms . The motorized riflemen wereonlysupported by battle tanks by an independent tank battalion, which was divided intothe motorized rifleregiments by company.

These types of infantry troops are to be distinguished from security troops, which only have the task of protecting objects and areas and are not capable of independent combat without an organic, heavy fire support company.

Concept emergence

The term infantry comes from the Romansh-speaking area and possibly refers to the squire of a knight , who was referred to in Italian as an infante . This term comes from the Latin infans "[small] child", composed of in- "not" and fari "to speak".

According to another explanation, the name infantry goes back to the Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia , daughter of King Philip II of Spain, at the beginning of the 17th century. The infantry recruited on their orders was armed in a new way, trained, and called infanteria in honor of the Infanta .

In the German-speaking world, the term infantry first appeared in 1616 as a general term for foot troops. Until then, these were commonly referred to as infantry , warrior on foot , foot servant , pile on foot and mercenary .

Depending on the armament and mission, infantry is divided into heavy, now also mechanized, and light infantry, which today is mostly motorized with protected vehicles.

Gereon of Cologne and Saint Mauritius are considered to be the patron saints of the infantry / soldiers in the Christian popular belief .



The forerunners of the infantry can be regarded as the warriors and armies of prehistoric epochs who fought individually at their own discretion, of which we are told in traditions such as the Iliad , but also as they met the Europeans during the colonial period, especially in North America. A development towards infantry can be seen from the effort to decide a battle through the coordinated behavior of many foot soldiers rather than through individual success. The emergence of long standing armies and cavalry can also be counted among the prerequisites for the formation of infantry. The resulting professionalization and fixed role assignment ultimately justify a delimiting designation.

The phalanx

Phalanx when maneuvering or forming

A phalanx is a tactical deployment of heavily armed and armored infantry, as was common in the ancient Greek culture. The phalanx was formed by hoplites armed with a long lance and protected by armor and shield. The hoplites, often numbering many thousands, were set up ten to twenty rows deep to form the phalanx, close to one another with protruding (first rows) or placed on the shoulder of the person in front (rear rows) lances.
The phalanx initiated the transition from single to formation battles in ancient Greece. It was probably made by the Spartans in the 7th century BC. Chr. Invented.
For centuries, the phalanx was considered insurmountable for troops set up differently, but it was not very mobile, unprotected from behind and sides and required great discipline from the hoplites. In the Battle of Marathon , a Greek phalanx triumphed against far more numerous Persian troops, who lacked the motivation and training to form such a highly ordered formation.
The tactical superiority of the phalanx ended with the introduction of the Leaning Order of Battle by the Theban general Epameinondas in the 4th century BC. It was first used in 371 BC. Chr. In the conflict between Sparta and Thebes in the Battle of Leuctra used. 10,000 Spartans are said to have been beaten by 7,000 Thebans.

The Roman infantry

Similar to the Greeks, the Romans fought since the 7th century BC. In the phalanx. In the 4th century BC The rigid infantry formation was broken up into smaller, closed units ( maniples ), which were maneuvered according to the battle situation and, due to their mobility, were usually superior to Greek phalanx formations. In the attack, the Roman infantrymen first threw their javelins ( pila ) at a certain point in the phalanx and then stormed into the gap created in this way with their short swords drawn ( gladius ).

The maniples were part of large groups - the legions . A legion was an independently operating large military unit with a core of 4,000 to 6,000 foot troops, supported by mostly lightly armed auxiliary troops of roughly the same strength as well as cavalry. In today's terms, it comes closest to division . In the long history of the Legion, its strength, composition and equipment changed. The legion of the classical Roman Empire was created by the army reform of Marius from 107 BC. Minted.

Both with the Greeks and during the time of the Roman Republic, the infantrymen as well as the horsemen bore the cost of their armament themselves. Conscription was compulsory and the free citizens were assigned their function on the battlefield according to their economic efficiency.

middle Ages

The Varangian Guard in the Chronicle of Johannes Skylitzes (12th century)

With the end of the Western Roman Empire and the Great Migration Period, the cities largely fell into disrepair, and with it the societies that had produced the infantry formations of antiquity. At the beginning of the 8th century, the stirrup appeared in Europe and led to the emergence of heavy riding. Towards the end of the 10th century, knights had become the battle-decisive weapon in Europe. Only the few cities had infantry as the main weapon. For the "infantry" throughout the Middle Ages one cannot speak of infantry, since the armed servants, unlike infantry, did not fight in tactical units. As a rule, they lacked the discipline they had drilled. An exception was the Varangian Guard , the bodyguard of the Byzantine emperor , initially consisting of Vikings .

Long archers

In the 13th century, the English King Edward I sought a stronger role for foot soldiers in warfare for the first time. He realized that mountain populations like in Wales could not be beaten with short-serving knights. He therefore introduced two important innovations that were to last for a long time: He raised a mercenary army that served all year round and equipped it with the longbow , whose special advantages he had recognized. With a certain amount of practice, this weapon could be used to fire an aimed shot up to 90 feet, the maximum range was about 140 meters. A rain of arrows disturbed the enemy at the beginning of a battle and his groups lost their cohesion. During the attack, the archers gave fire protection to their own troops .

During the Hundred Years' War , the English archers equipped with longbows on foot, in interaction with dismounted knights and behind obstacles, for the first time again posed a danger to the mounted warriors of the Middle Ages.

See also: Feudal system , Battle of Crécy , Battle of Azincourt

Landsknechte / Reisläufer

“The five Landsknechte”, iron etching by Daniel Hopfer from the early 16th century

Starting in 1386 ( Battle of Sempach ), the Swiss represented real infantry again for the first time since antiquity. Armed with spears and battle axes , tightly organized, trained and fighting in units, they showed themselves to be superior to knights. The form of division of the infantry was called a heap of violence . The effect of the heap of violence was based on the impact force of the mass moving forward in a closed manner. The decision was sought in the attack . In this way the Spaniards successfully led their infantry against the Moors in 1485 . They became a model for other European armies.

Emperor Maximilian I and Georg von Frundsberg are considered to be the creators of the German infantry . They were the most important leaders and organizers of the mercenary armies . With them the modern war system began. With the increasing re-emergence of an important equestrian weapon and the introduction of firearms, the foot troops developed the form of the quarter pile as a defensive line-up. Arquebusiers and musketeers were the infantry's first firearm carriers.

The now emerging firearms were initially understood as a coward's weapon and as a threat to Christian morality and social order. But their effect was crucial, and that's why they were used. In his military science work Nef des Princes et des Batailles (1502), Robert de Balzac delves deeply into the use of firearms, modern troop organization, and the need to be ruthless in maintaining discipline and using scorched earth tactics.

See also: meeting tactics , Reisläufer , Landsknecht


The Janissaries (singular Janissary , Turkish Yeniçeri , “new troop”) were the elite infantry troops in the Ottoman Empire . They also provided the sultan's bodyguard and often reached the highest positions in the Ottoman state. The troops originated in the 14th century and were disbanded in 1826.

See also: Ottoman Army


Strelizen ( Russian Strelez "(bow) shooter", from Slav. Strela "beam, arrow") is the name of the palace guard who was introduced by Tsar Ivan the Terrible around 1550 and equipped with firearms and halberds ( Berdishi ) . They were known for their good education and their loyalty to the tsar. The Strelizos were soon expanded into a standing army with tens of thousands of men, making them the first regular professional army in Russia .

See also: History of Russia

Early modern age

Swedish army reforms

Sweden's King Gustav II Adolf could not afford a mercenary army large enough to hold its own against the armies of his opponents. He therefore introduced conscription and created the first state-established, paid, fed and equipped people's army. He recruited more than 40,000 Swedes who were "strong-limbed and, as far as can be determined, brave - between the ages of 18 and 30". Members of special professions, such as ammunition production and transportation, were released. The People's Army was not only better equipped economically and morally than the enemy armies, which were mostly made up of mercenaries. The composition and equipment of the Swedish army differed from those of other European armies, because they corresponded to the tactical ideas of the king, who placed great emphasis on firepower and mobility. The most important weapon became the musket , and he increased the contingents of musketeers at the expense of the spade bearers. Like Moritz von Nassau , he divided his associations into smaller units and sub-units. A company consisted of 72 musketeers and 54 spade bearers. Four companies formed a battalion , eight battalions formed a regiment, and two to four regiments formed a brigade . The musket became shorter and, since it had become lighter, it could be brought into position hands-free. Loading was simplified, and the wheel lock and paper cartridge were standard equipment. The pike was also no longer 5 meters, but only about 3.5 meters long, and the armor had become lighter. In such an army, which consisted of numerous smaller units, there were of course more officers than before, and a military hierarchy arose . Furthermore, Gustav II did not allow Adolf negligence and promoted his officers according to merit and performance. The area of ​​responsibility of NCOs has been expanded. The introduction of uniforms and badges of rank made a major contribution to standardization and promoted morale and corps spirit. From now on, the fighting strength of the infantry depended on their firearms, the pike was also an attack weapon, but the main task of the pike bearers was to protect the musketeers, especially against the attack of cavalry, during the pause in loading.

See also: Thirty Years War

18th century: linear tactics

Attack of Prussian infantry in linear tactics - not a contemporary depiction of the 19th century by Carl Röchling

At the turn of the 18th century, due to technical developments, the infantry changed from heavy infantry, pikemen with protective equipment, to firearms carriers.

The infantry battalion was divided into four infantry companies, a small battalion staff and accompanying infantry guns. Each of the infantry companies was usually divided into four pelotons . Supply troops and repair workers such as gunsmiths and shoemakers were affiliated with the regiment.

The introduction of the bayonet in the second half of the 17th century brought the bare weapon together with the rifle. In German-speaking countries, the line infantry was usually referred to as musketeers and fusiliers . By switching from the matchlock rifle to the flintlock rifle, the infantryman took up less space on the battlefield. Since the accuracy and range of the flintlock rifles was still low, it was important in the battle to use as many rifles as possible at the same time. For this reason, the formerly more subdivided formations of the infantry with the meeting tactics were replaced by flatter and wider combat orders and the linear tactics emerged . At the same time, the formation of the entire infantry in long, connected lines served to prevent the desertion of soldiers pressed for service. This was also necessary due to the loading time for the muskets . The muskets were only replaced around 150 years later by breech-loaders , subsequently as repeating weapons .

Line tactics reached their peak during the Seven Years' War (1756–1763). Previously, at the rate of fire of one shot in three minutes, the clumsy fuse rifle had been mostly a defensive weapon. Now the musketeer's flint stone, combined with an improvement in weapon drill, enabled a cadence of five rounds in two minutes. The fire effect was still not achieved by targeted single shot, but by massaging. Various forms of coordination - so-called fire drills - were possible. One can roughly distinguish between two different methods: In the first one, a body of troops fired a salvo up to the strength of a battalion - either all at the same time (rear limbs through the gaps in the front) or staggered from front to back ( firing limbs ). In the second type, either the half companies (= pelotons) shot a rolling fire and, adapted to this rhythm, could move forward peloton by peloton , or the troops gave - such as. B. in Austria - a so-called wildfire that spread from man to man. The effect of fire is controversial. With a range of the infantry rifle of 400 paces, a satisfactory fire effect was only given from about 300 paces (169 m).

The infantry in the second half of the 18th century, divided into half-companies, fired from the wings towards the center according to a complicated system according to the even and odd numbers. The approach never took place while running, so as not to let the troops fall apart, but with a strong step. According to the Prussian regulations of 1743, the speed was 75 steps per minute. The fire was opened at about 300 paces, whereupon the pace was reduced to 40 to 45 paces while the stride length was shortened. When the troops advancing against each other had approached each other within 30 paces, the rifle was felled with the bayonet attached, that is: stretched out almost horizontally. It was no longer loaded in Prussia, while Austrians and Hanoverians used to fire from the hip again.

See also: muzzle loaders , line tactics

Napoleonic Wars and 19th Century

The American Revolutionary War and the French Revolution brought about a change in the use of infantry . While until then well-drilled soldiers often involuntarily fought in linear tactics, these two armies were joined by volunteers who were poorly trained. The recruits of the French people's army were not able to correctly line up in lines and thus not be able to use the previous tactics. By combining the struggle in a dispersed order and in closed columns, the lack of training could be offset. The advantages of the new combat tactics soon became apparent: while a line that was torn at one point had to give up tactically, the firepower of infantry formed in several columns was largely retained if individual columns got into disarray. This system was perfected by Napoléon Bonaparte and adopted by all armies in Europe from 1813 at the latest.

As early as 1631, during the Thirty Years' War, hunter battalions were known that were recruited from foresters and, under the reign of Landgrave Wilhelm V of Hesse-Kassel, were the oldest in the German-speaking area. These had the task of fighting in particular officers and gun crews with an aimed shot. Hessian and other German contingents were then used in the American War of Independence in the late 18th century.

In North America, the boundaries between regulated combat in closed order and partisan combat, also known as the “little war”, became blurred: light infantry, poorly trained and not very disciplined, achieved much-noted successes in scattered operations against the English. In 1787, each infantry company in Prussia was assigned ten special riflemen. Unlike the battle infantry, the riflemen were not equipped with smooth-barreled muskets but with rifled rifles that allowed targeted shots. During the attack they were sent as swarms ahead of the unified deployed units. Thereby they forced a loosening of the enemy line infantry, which could no longer advance in a united front. The bandages used as a closed unit advanced echelon by echelon (in staggered positions), the gaps between the bandages widened. The ability of the riflemen to fire well-aimed shots still did not mean a noticeably increased fire effect. Their value lay mainly in disrupting and disguising. When the distance to the enemy was reduced, the riflemen had to open fire independently, after which they were picked up by the advancing line. A decisive impetus for the further development of shooting tactics came from the French Revolution, in the wake of which the inexperienced masses could no longer be drilled with the necessary thoroughness. The French formed themselves in lines, but sent them ahead of them in dense swarms of riflemen who carried the real burden of the fight. This improvised process relied on enthusiasm instead of discipline and was accordingly inefficient. The French revolutionary armies kept failing until a new generation of officers had drilled the levée en masse.

Napoleon's reforms

Napoleon in the Battle of Jena , 1806

From the beginning of his career as a commander, Napoleon's battle orders were aimed at destroying the enemy, but completing them with a diplomatic-political conclusion. Napoleon's operations and battles were aimed at the decisive annihilation victory, with troops that were highly efficient in terms of spirit, means, structure and number. Napoleon brought the three determining factors, the required “strategic triad” of time, space and force, into a coincidence that was rare in the history of war. His directives for the conduct of operations and the battle were "free from any schematic dogmatism". The main thing was that the concentrically directed large formations came to the right place in time with superior strength to strike together. It was precisely here that Napoleon had to cope with a command problem that had existed since the traditional war history, which could only be solved with the military use of telegraphs, railways and an increasingly developed road network: the spatial-temporal coordination of the army parts that Napoleon mostly designed to bypass the enemy, however summarize them in good time before the battle, so that the necessary tactical dispositions can be made without friction , if possible. Since Napoleon, it has been valid for modern operations management that an offensive from two directions should not be carried out from a previous concentration of all forces directly on the battlefield or on the enemy, but should develop from the depths of the operating room by concentric demonstration of separate army parts.

  • Attrition of the enemy through concentric acts of attack and elastic conduct of operations
  • Bringing about a decisive defeat through inclusion with the aim of a military-political overthrow

Attack column

At the same time, another tactical innovation was adopted from revolutionary France, which further intensified the tendency to concentrate the troops at greater depths: the attack column. For this purpose, the battalions were set up in four lines of three members each, about fifty units wide. This form combined the advantages of the broad layout - the simultaneous use of as many rifles as possible - with impact force due to the depth structure. Since the majority of soldiers in the column did not get a shot, however, they were far inferior to the line in terms of fire effect. All the more remarkable is the weight which, despite this fact, was attached to the psychological element. Napoleon assembled large columns up to the infantry mass of a division and conquered Europe with this basic tactical form. The new tactics had drastic consequences for the artillery: they ceased to be entangled in the form of regimental pieces in the gaps between the units, and their mobility was increased by having some of them mounted. At the same time, the guns were divided into batteries and more and more combined between the columns for changing focus operations. This turned the artillery operation into an independent combat action, the artillery mass used into a tactical unit. During this period of upheaval, the cavalry retained its previous task. Mounted infantry were the Dragoons , in some armies as Karabiniers referred who used the horse for moving or dismounted to fight. However, depending on the country, the order and structure was increasingly pushed into that of the cavalry.

See also: coalition wars

In the 19th century, different armies divided their infantry soldiers into roughly the following units:

Breech loader

German Feldspaten from the First World War; Manufacturer: TDG, the handle was shortened after a break

With the invention of the breech loader by Johann Dreyse in 1839, the rifle could be loaded while lying down from cover (which was contrary to the attack doctrines from the Napoleonic epoch, which was still widespread at the time; shooting while lying down was considered dishonorable). Infantrymen who were still equipped with muzzle-loaders had to load them standing up anyway. Another improvement, the cartridge magazine (Spencer Carbine American Northern States in 1864, was little noticed in Europe. However, it was in 1866 the Prussian army in the German war and German-Austrian War) (with a breech-loading as dreyse needle gun equipped, unlike In the further development of breech-loading rifles in Europe, the firing performance of a rifle was considerably increased with the gendarmerie rifle of the Viennese Fruhwirth 1872) and the sealing of the chamber ( Chassepot rifle 1866). The Dreyse needle guns could fire effectively up to 300 paces (= 225 meters), the French Chassepot guns up to 1600 meters.

See also: Civil War , snipers

Crimean War

The Crimean War was the first war in world history , especially in a technical sense modern . For the first time infantry units were used on the British side that were equipped with rifled rifles throughout ( Enfield Rifled Musket in caliber .577 inch (14.65 mm), introduced in 1853, effective range approx. 800 meters). On the Russian side, however, smooth-running muskets were still used (effective range approx. 200 meters). The success of the British Enfield rifle meant that Prussia now consistently equipped its entire infantry with rifled rifles. The Crimean War was at the same time the first historically trench and trench warfare. Furthermore, the Crimean War with the Battle of Balaklava called the use of the classic cavalry attack into question, as this was lost to modern, faster-firing infantry weapons.

See also: grave war , trench warfare

Battle of Königgrätz

In the Battle of Königgrätz on July 3, 1866, in the German war for supremacy in the German Confederation, the troops of Prussia met the army of the Austrians.

In terms of military history, the use of new weapon systems is remarkable. The Prussians had the needle rifle , a modern rifle with cylinder lock (single shot, no repeating rifle) and paper cartridge . The telegraph also played a crucial role.

The significance of the Battle of Königgrätz is to be seen both in the general political context and as a milestone in the development of military strategy in Europe. With Königgrätz the age of the great maneuvers of mass armies begins, which, in contrast to the Napoleonic epoch, lead pure firefights - the bayonet as a decisive weapon, because it is used in the concrete combat situation man against man, becomes finally historical through the automation of small arms. At the same time, however, the mission tactics, the further development of the close ties originally caused by the linear tactics of the middle troop officers to the strict operational requirements of the army commanders, which goes back to Frederick II and Napoleon alike, become independent, autonomous troop leadership that can be flexibly adapted to the respective terrain conditions for the first time Style applied. Now company commanders - that is, officers in the rank of captain or lieutenant - can, in case of doubt, make decisions at their own discretion, without having to fear punishment from superior commands for disobedience.

Battle of Plevna

The Battle of Plevna in 1877 , which is still almost unknown in Germany, brought about a significant change in the military thinking of the European powers. Turkish defenders fought against attacking Russians. The Turkish soldiers had two rifles: a Peabody rifle in .45 caliber (single shot) and a Winchester M 1866 lever action rifle in .44 caliber. At distances greater than 200 meters, the Turks used the Peabody rifles , but when the Russians approached less than 200 meters, the Turks put the Peabody away and took the Winchester rifle, which they used to subject the Russians with continuous fire . The war was ultimately lost for the Turks, but the Battle of Plevna had shown that firepower can decide a battle, as the Russians sometimes suffered losses of up to 60%. The German Reich did not get the first repeating rifle with the M71 / 84 until 1886 ; Switzerland had already preceded all European countries in it with the adoption of the cousin rifle in 1869.

Infantry strength in comparison

Meyers Konversationslexikon (vol. 8, p. 944) brings the numbers of European infantry strengths in 1888:

country infantry light infantry
German Imperial Army 165 infantry regiments with
11 guards, 19 grenadier and 19 fusilier regiments
20 hunter battalions
Austria-Hungary 102 infantry regiments 1 Tyrolean Jägerregiment, 32 Jäger battalions
France 144 infantry regiments 30 hunter battalions
England 112 infantry regiments with a
total of 144 battalions
1 rifle brigade with 4 battalions
Italy 96 line infantry regiments 12 Bersaglieri regiments, 6 alpine regiments with 72 mountain companies
Russia 192 infantry regiments,
103 reserve infantry regiments with 164 replacement battalions
50 rifle battalions

20th century

American infantry position, 1918

Even at the beginning of the 20th century, infantry was the main weapon of combat. For example, the 1906 regulations for German infantry , which were still valid throughout the First World War, reflect the significance of this type of service at that time: “The infantry is the main weapon. In conjunction with the artillery, it fights the enemy down with its fire. She alone breaks his last resistance. She bears the brunt of the struggle and makes the greatest sacrifices. For this you also beckon the highest fame. "

The infantry in Germany was divided into musketeers and fusiliers of the line infantry regiments, hunters of the independent corps hunter battalions, and formerly in a broader sense also in dragoons , as originally mounted infantry, and the dismounted fighting cavalry of the battalion-strong cavalry that was used during the First World War Rifle regiments. Before 1900 the soldiers who were equipped with hand grenades as weapons in the grenadier companies were called grenadiers. This weaponry was used by all infantrymen during the war. The infantry attack is still carried out in raiding troops today , as was the case with the assault battalions in World War I, which is characterized by cover fire and covered deployment with a surprising break-in.

The main armament of the infantry was repeating rifles from the end of the 19th century until the Second World War , such as the Lee-Enfield rifle in the British Army and the Mauser Model 98 rifle in the German armies .

Until the beginning of World War II , all armies consisted primarily of infantry. However, their importance declined due to tanks and airplanes, as they could not keep up with the terrain gains of the tanks in the battle of movement. In the German Wehrmacht was therefore the support of the Armored Corps and for fighting with combined forces troops genus of armored infantry erected. These were motorized or half-track vehicles, German armored personnel carriers also SPW, armored mechanized infantry . Equipped with armored personnel carriers, infantry could fight while a battle was still in progress. However, due to the lack of armament, only one of the armored infantry regiments of the armored divisions, often only one of the battalions with half-chains, the others as motorized infantry with trucks, and had to dismount to fight. The Panzergrenadiers of the Panzergrenadierdivisions were only motorized.

The German infantry divisions with their three infantry regiments, which continued to make up the bulk of the army of the Wehrmacht, were by contrast not motorized due to the lack of armament, artillery and hawser mostly hauled. Transport took place on foot or over long distances by rail. Only very few divisions were therefore equipped for a war of movement such as that waged from 1939 onwards. While the infantry rushed after the mechanized troops in attack operations, they could not follow them quickly enough during retreat operations and were surrounded by enemy troops. The downfall of the infantry branch during Operation Bagration in 1944 was therefore inevitable.

The main difference between an infantry division and a hunter division was that the number of regiments in a division was reduced to two hunter regiments. In addition to the general combat mission, they were equipped to defend and attack field positions, mostly in open terrain, for combat under difficult, particularly wintery conditions, but not, like the mountain troops, for combat in the mountains.

Infantry today

Turkish infantryman with
HK G3 shouldered
HK G36 standard infantry weapon of the Bundeswehr

Infantry is now divided into mechanized infantry as with armored personnel carriers equipped armored infantry and with armored transport vehicles equipped grenadiers , which in some armies as Fusiliers , carabineers or hunters are called. The US Army equipped its mechanized light infantry of the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams with the Stryker Armored Vehicle . Insofar as the hunter troop is only equipped with trucks or protected vehicles, it is part of the light infantry , such as paratroopers and mountain fighters , and like them can be deployed with helicopters as airmobile infantry .

In contrast to mechanized (armored) battalions with basically four combat companies, an infantry battalion is divided into three 2nd / 4th / Jäger companies and a 5th / heavy Jäger company for fire support and anti-tank defense as well as a 1st / staff and supply company . The purpose of the reduced structure is that an infantry company cannot, or only to a very limited extent, be used to counterattack, to intercept in prepared positions, mostly on its own flank, or to reinforce its own forces , as it moves and fights on the battlefield on foot. If the enemy breaks into their own positions, the neighboring sub-unit or unit takes up an immediate counter-attack and throws the enemy back immediately after his attack, before he can even arrange himself for defense. The infantry unit therefore seldom subordinates its own company to another unit, but is reinforced with subordinate forces, usually a mixed company of tanks or armored infantry. These usually form the reserve of the infantry battalion.

The weapons equipment of an infantry group consists essentially of machine carbines , secondary self-loading pistols and hand grenades for close combat , machine guns , grenade pistols , sniper rifles for the hunter train and other weapons such as directional explosives, which enable the train to fight in heavily covered to covered terrain, too to lead in cut to severely cut terrain up to a combat distance of 600 m. Anti-tank weapons are used for anti-tank defense .

The infantry of the Bundeswehr

Main article: Infantry (Bundeswehr)

The infantry of the Bundeswehr today consists of the armed forces of hunters , paratroopers and mountain troops .

The mechanized armored infantry , with armored personnel carriers are equipped, are now together with the armored force to branch of service network of armored troops , and not, as earlier than heavy infantry to infantry.

Until the 1990s, the Bundeswehr's hunter troops served mainly to protect rear areas in symmetrical combat and consisted of reservists in large numbers. For the divided, area-wide deployment in asymmetrical combat operations, however, no new troop category was formed, but only a combat doctrine for all troops was formulated. A major gap arose, especially in the use of mechanized combat troops, as they are not or only partially used without their combat vehicles and they were only given a different type of combat as a makeshift.

Associations and units for object protection of the Air Force and Navy as air force and marine security troops, at the SKB also the guard battalion at the Federal Ministry of Defense , which otherwise performs the protocol honorary service, are trained to be infantry due to their mandate and have the protection of facilities as their mandate, but not the infantry fighting, since they lack the support weapons for that alone. The guard battalion has one naval security company and one air force security company, whose soldiers formally belong to this branch of the armed forces.

Training and arming

The combat of the infantry consists of defense and attack in and around field positions , the local and house fighting and the forest fight as well as the hunting fight in covered and heavily covered, partially cut terrain. She avoids fighting in open and as far as possible in partially covered terrain. Individual training topics are: Handling of small arms and fire fighting in defense and attack, anti-tank defense for all troops by the anti-tank destroyer team, anti-aircraft defense for all troops (MG on tripod and PARS 3 ), NBC defense for all troops, helpers in the medical service (self and comrade help), Radio operator and partially unarmed close combat . Further training such as life in the field, orientation in the field by day and night, survival of the self-sufficient soldier and in the self-sufficient group, pioneer service of all troops with the creation of wire barriers and safety mine barriers as well as water service for crossing over with inflatable boats are added.

Weapons and ordnance of modern infantry are machine carbines , machine guns , submachine guns , sniper rifles , bazookas , aviator fists , pistols , hand grenades as well as close combat weapons such as feldspades , combat knives or (now rare) bayonets . The pioneering means of locking include S-wire , barbed wire and land mines .

The infantry units also have heavy infantry weapons such as grenade launchers / mortars , anti-tank guided weapons and automatic cannons . Only in large formations often heavy weapons such as integrated (field) artillery, mostly as self-propelled (protected) guns, often on a wheeled chassis.

To improve endurance in combat, new compound systems are being introduced worldwide for the infantry. The Bundeswehr has been introducing the infantryman of the future equipment system since 2007 , which consists of modern equipment in the field of personal protective equipment, telecommunications equipment and handguns. In South Korea the XK11 , in the USA the XM29 is to be developed, a portable weapon that will combine an assault rifle , grenade launcher, telescopic sight , laser range finder and camera .

Marine infantry

The marine infantry is a specialized unit for infantry tasks in cooperation with naval forces . This includes amphibious operations such as sea landings, but also security tasks on board warships . The marine infantry can be part of the naval forces, in some countries it is also part of the army or even an independent part of the armed forces.

Marines (from lat. Marinus - belonging to the sea) is the English name for marine infantrymen, in Germany the name sea ​​soldier was previously common.

The distinction between seafarers who use a warship for seafaring and soldiers who are trained to fight hand to hand has been around for a very long time. The Roman fleet already achieved its success against Carthage by using better trained soldiers for boarding. On the sailing warships of the 18th and early 19th centuries there were mostly smaller contingents of marines who on the one hand had combat duties and on the other hand were responsible for the discipline of the crew. At the beginning of a battle they strengthened the gun crew, later they formed the core of the troop for boarding combat . They were also used for landing companies. From these tasks, marine infantry troops with different organizations and tasks developed in different countries. In some countries, strong landing forces emerged, such as B. the United States Marine Corps .

See also: Naval Striker Company

See also


  • Emil von Conrady : The training of the infantry on the parade ground. A regulatory study. Mittler and Son, Berlin 1886, ( digitized, PDF ).
  • Hans Delbrück : History of the Art of War. The Modern Age. From the warfare of the Renaissance to Napoleon. Reprint of the first edition from 1920. Nikol Verlag, Hamburg 2003, ISBN 3-933203-76-7 .
  • Edward Mead Earle (Ed.): Makers of Modern Strategy. Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitler. 3rd printing. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ 1948.
  • Cyril Falls : The Art of War. From the Age of Napoleon to the Present Day (= Home University Library of Modern Knowledge. 245, ZDB -ID 986189-0 ). Oxford University Press, London et al. 1961.
  • Liddell Hart : The Ghost of Napoleon. Faber & Faber, London 1933.
  • Gustav von Kessel : The training of the Prussian infantry battalion in practical service. Mittler and Son, Berlin 1863, ( digitized, PDF ).
  • Viscount Montgomery of Alamein : War History. World history of battles and military campaigns. Special edition. Komet, Frechen 1999, ISBN 3-933366-16-X (Original edition: A History of Warfare. 1968).
  • Michael Roberts : The Military Revolution 1560-1660. M. Boyd, Belfast 1956.
  • Erwin Rommel : Infantry attack. Voggenreiter, Potsdam 1937, DNB 575884878 .
  • Reinhard Scholzen : The infantry of the Bundeswehr. Motorbuch Verlag, Stuttgart 2011, ISBN 978-3-613-03293-4 .

Web links

Commons : Infantry  - album with pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Infantry  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. See Hans Delbrück, Geschichte der Kriegskunst, Volume 3 and Volume 4.