2HQ by the Tables of Organization and Equipment (T/O&E)

author: Tim Lehotsky

While the Table of Organization and Equipment (TO&E) for the Headquarters Company, Parachute Infantry changed multiple times during the course of the war, the basic structure remained the same: Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Platoon, Light Machine-Gun Platoon, and a 81-mm Mortar Platoon. [1]

Battalion Headquarters

Battalion Headquarters, while an organized section underneath Headquarters Company, was an independent, dependent section that administratively held the Battalion-level leadership.

Headquarters Platoon

Of the three main sections, Headquarters Platoon was the largest, containing three officers, ten NCOs and fifty-one enlisted. While providing the leadership for the rest of the Company, it was also responsible for providing administrative services to the Rifle Companies. Split into three sections, these groups were responsible for providing additional manpower to support the Battalion Staff, a Mess Section to feed the Battalion, and a Communications Section which provided radio operators, pigeoneers and lineman to establish communication for the Battalion and Rifle Companies through a variety of mediums.

Light Machine-Gun Platoon

The Machine Gun Platoon provided a relatively self-explanatory service–provide additional direct firepower to augment each Rifle Company’s twelve Gun, Machine, Light Cal. .30 (M1919A4 .30 Caliber Machine Guns). The eight Gun, Machine, Light Cal. .30s were split between two sections consisting of four MG teams; each team consisted of one Gunner, Light Machine Gun (Corporal), one Gunner, Assistant (Private or Private First Class), and two Ammunition Bearers (Privates or Privates First Class) with a Sergeant managing the four MG teams. In the Platoon Headquarters, the Platoon Commander (1st Lieutenant), Assistant Platoon Commander (2nd Lieutenant) and Platoon Sergeant (Staff Sergeant) made up the leadership team with three additional Privates or Privates First Class providing filling the Basic slot to provide additional security and firepower.[2]

81-mm Mortar Platoon

While each Rifle Company had three Mortar 60-mm M2, these indirect fire support weapons were limited in effectiveness due to their size; the Mortar, 81-mm, M1 provided similar effects with greater range and more firepower. The Mortar 60-mm M2, although much lighter and portable (42lbs vs 136lbs) but were only effective out 1,935 yards as compared to the Mortar, 81-mm, M1 being able to range out to 3,290 yards (3lbs and 6.87lbs shells respectively).  With the longer range and the larger blast radius, the Mortar, 81-mm, M1 provided the Rifle Companies with greater indirect fire support and served as an intermediate between the light Mortar 60-mm M2 and the 75mm Howitzers of the Parachute/Glider Field Artillery Battalions. The Platoon of two officers, eight NCOs and twenty-nine enlisted was split into two sections of two squads with each squad manning their own Mortar, 81-mm, M1 for a total of four tubes. Each squad consisted of one Corporal serving as the Squad Leader, four Ammunition Bearers, one Gunner and one Gunner’s Assistant (all T/4s through Pvts.). Managing the two squads was the Section Headquarters manned only by a Sergeant. The Headquarters Section for the 81-mm Mortar Platoon consisted of the Platoon Commander (1st Lieutenant), Assistant Platoon Commander (2nd Lieutenant), Platoon Sergeant (Staff Sergeant) and an Agent and Instrument Corporal.

[1] TO 7-36, Infantry Headquarters and Headquarters Company, Battalion, Parachute dated February 17th, 1942

[2] The titles Platoon Commander and Platoon Leader are used interchangeably at this point. The TO&E refers to the position as “Platoon Commander” while 506th Regimental documents refer to them as “Platoon Leaders”.