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Training For War
 

In 1938, '39 and '40 at the outset of Nazism, the United States became aware of the need for military units of all types, such as the 702nd Tank Battalion.  The military planners looked to armor as a super cavalry.  The Nazi "Blitzkrieg" taught the entire world that the tank is a weapon of exploitation for driving deep into the enemy's rear and disrupting supply lines, communications, as well as demoralizing enemy infantry. 

 

General George S. Patton envisioned such an armored force for the U.S., but even old "Blood and Guts" knew that in order for that force to be effective, it had to be backed up by the common foot soldier.  Some infantry divisions would be supported by an attached tank battalion, which would continue to be a weapon of exploitation but also would act as a guardian for the infantry.  Patton's future Third Army would have attached tank battalions in all of its infantry divisions.  However, not all infantry officers shared Patton's enthusiasm for armor, and therefore, not all infantry divisions would have such an attached tank battalion.

 

3rd Platoon, Company B, 702nd Tank Battalion

 

An infantry division such as those that the 702nd would serve with consisted of three infantry regiments, each consisting of three battalions of infantry, plus an artillery group.  Divisional artillery consisted of one battalion of large caliber and three battalions of medium caliber howitzers.  One battalion (three batteries) of artillery would be assigned to each regiment, with one battery to each infantry battalion.  A tank battalion was also tailored in this same triangular pattern with three companies of medium tanks, with each consisting of three platoons.  A tank battalion that would be attached to an infantry division required planning of a more intensive nature than one, which would be part of an armored division. A tank battalion supporting an infantry division needed to be more self-contained.

 

Once the plans for these special battalions were made, they were approved by the Armored Force at Fort Knox, Kentucky.  The Tables of Allowance were drawn, outlining the necessary items needed such as maintenance tools, etc.  The War Department (now called the Defense Department) finalizes the organizations needed.  Directives were issued to acquire personnel (cadre and fillers).  On February 9, 1943, the 702nd Medium Tank Battalion reached cadre strength activation.  By March 1 it would become fully active. This battalion was part of the 9th Tank Group, stationed at Camp Campbell, Kentucky.  The cadre came from the Armored Forces school, National Guard Units and Officers Candidate Schools, as well as the 8th Armored Division.  Officers and N.C.O.'s were designated to specific jobs.  The Commanding Officer, Major (later Lt. Col.) Ralph Talbot was reputed to be a tough man to get along with.  His Father and Grandfather were both generals and he was expected to carry on the tradition.  Opinions of the men who served under him varied, he seems to have been tough but fair.

 

 

 

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