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History of CoH Units: Part 1

By DanielD - 10th November 2011 - 22:55 PM



Written by IronWings

Have you ever wondered how the units in Company of Heroes actually were back in World War II? If the answer is yes, this may interest you!

I have gathered historical facts and anecdotes about most units there are in the game, and would like to share them with you in a series of articles. Each part of the series will include clear, easy-to-read descriptions of some infantry squads, vehicles and weapons seen in Company of Heroes, while remaining as historically accurate as possible.

Hope you enjoy!

Infantry


American Engineers

The US engineer squads in CoH have the skills of different types of real WW2 engineers: Combat Engineers who were tasked to destroy obstacles and open ways for the other units while being able to fight like regular infantry, General Service Engineers who were in charge of construction and repair, and Bridging Engineers who like their name suggests had to build or repair bridges. Real life engineers weren’t weak like CoH ones; combat engineers proved their valor numerous times, making the US Engies comment in game "Army core, here" relevant. Note that they were also vastly composed, depending on their specialty, of African-American troops - an aspect that isn‘t depicted in the game.

Riflemen

The US Army GIs of WW2 were, just like their CoH counterparts, the backbone of the US infantry. Each squad would generally be twice as large as a CoH Riflemen squad, with up to 12 soldiers led by a sergeant and corporal. While trained to handle most combat situations and in the use of a wide variety of weapons, most GIs initially suffered in terms of effectiveness due to a lack of real field experience when they landed in France in 1944. Although they suffered severe casualties during their first battles against German elite troops (Fallshirmjaegers, SS, etc.), they quickly became combat-hardened themselves as they advanced through Normandy. Does it remind you of something? Yes, the US veterancy system is obviously inspired by this historical fact!

US Airborne

"Death from above!" say the Paratroopers in CoH. Well, the reality could pretty much be summed up in this sentence.
Back in the 1940’s, the airborne infantry was a brand-new concept, which the US had no experience with at all. Nevertheless, Airborne Divisions (the 101st and 82nd being the two most famous) were formed. Trained to be the best, the men had to be in an excellent shape and be able to make use of different weapons (even captured ones), besides of course being able to jump from an airplane. In return, they were paid twice what the average enlisted man received, and had the best equipment available. Through each campaign they took part in, the US Airborne earned a reputation of effectiveness and strength. A famous example is when the 101st effectively stopped the Germans in the Ardennes in 1945, even though they were severely lacking of supplies. When asked to surrender, one of their commanders answered: NUTS !

Vehicles & Tanks


Sherman M4

Nothing more ironic than seeing the Sherman occupying the place of most famous Allied tank of WW2, as it was without a doubt one of the worst of the conflict. In our CoH gamer’s mind, it is a well-rounded vehicle able to handle most threats on the virtual battlefield, apart from heavy German tanks. But the real M4 was not half as good: even if it was a decent infantry support tank, with real anti-infantry & fortifications capabilities, it had a terrible armor (hence the name its crews gave it, Death Trap, which can be heard in CoH). Nearly anything could knock out a Sherman in a single shot from any side, from Panzerfausts(!) to PaKs, Panthers or the almighty Tiger tank. Even its in-game counterpart, the Panzer IV, could beat it head on! Nevertheless, the M4 did its job on every battlefield of WW2, from the sands of Africa to the jungles of the Pacific and even the steppes of Russia!

M3 Halftrack

This vehicle was widely produced during WW2 and used by the US Army as well as its allies (British, Free French Army, etc.). Its main purpose was to be a troop carrier, especially for the armored infantry fighting alongside armored divisions. It had a capacity of 10 men plus its 3-men crew. Fast, but with a very thin armor, it was not really meant for combat duties even though it was generally equipped with at least a .50 cal machine gun. There was a lot of specialized variants: gun carrier or self-propelled gun with 75mm or 105mm Howitzers, anti-air with a Maxson M45 turret (two or four .50 cal machine guns), etc. Just like the M4 Sherman, the reliable and solid M3 was seen on most battlefields of WW2, and therefore on many pictures of this era.

Panther tank

The Panzerkampfwagen V Panther is still considered nowadays as one of the best tanks of WW2. This 45 tons beast was originally produced in 1943 as a response to the Russian T-34. It benefited from the most advanced features of all German tanks: powerful engine, interleaved wheels, a thick inclined armor (max of 120mm) and on top of that, the new 75mm long-barreled KwK 42 gun. Although the Tiger held the reputation of the best tank in the German arsenal, the Panther was superior in most departments: faster, with a thinner silhouette, and higher armor penetration. It had on the other hand a slightly inferior armor, although still vastly superior to its Allies counterparts. To complete the picture, it had unlike its CoH version sufficient anti-infantry capabilities to be a real threat on the battlefield, even if the air superiority gained by the Allies didn’t allow it to shine as much as it should have.

M8 Armored Car

Certainly one of the best recon vehicles of WW2, the M8 was the eyes and ears of the US armored divisions. Sent ahead of heavier vehicles, its primary mission was to spot the enemy positions and estimate their strength. With its decent off-road capabilities, high speed (which is why the British nicknamed it Greyhound) and long-range radio, it performed exceptionally well in its scouting role. On the other hand, the M8 was not adapted to a real support role, which it still occasionally had to fulfill. Despite being equipped with two machine guns and a 37mm gun, giving it a good firepower, it had very thin armor. Imagine, a MG42 using armor piercing rounds could have penetrated its hull! If the real M8 was in CoH, it wouldn’t be the harassing unit we know - it could in fact be defeated by a HMG crew, Puma, etc. Worst of all, it would die to a single mine, as it was historically extremely vulnerable to land mines.

Weapons


HMG & LMG 42

Successor of the MG34, the Maschinen Gewehr 42 became the standard issue machine gun of the Wehrmacht in 1942 as its name suggests it. Developed to be easier to produce, it also received improvements which made it the best and most modern weapon of its type and era. The most notable feature was its fearsome rate of fire, which on average toped at around 1200-1500 rounds per minute. More than its sheer killing and suppressing power, its recognizable saw sound had a psychological impact on the enemy. Worse, it could be either mounted on a tripod and used by a crew of 3-5 men (CoH HMG42 crew) or used in a much more mobile configuration by one or two men when equipped with a bipod (CoH LMG42). Fortunately for the Allies its strength was also it weakness. The high rate of fire made a change of the overheated barrel necessary, which gave them a few seconds gap to advance.

Browning Automatic Rifles M1918A2

The Browning Automatic Rifle, better known as the BAR, was one of the best automatic rifles of its era. First produced at the end of WWI to equip Pershing’s expeditionary force in Europe, and used to its potential during WW2, it turned out to be one of the best attempts to provide soldiers a reliable and mobile source of automatic fire (something revolutionary back in 1918). The BAR was highly efficient thanks to its powerful .30-06 cartridges (7,62mm), high rate of fire and deadly accuracy. But on the other hand, it suffered from some serious downsides, mainly its weight of 10kg (with the bipod mounted), low magazine capacity for an automatic weapon (it used a 20 round box magazine rather than a belt), and rather strong recoil. But in the hands of an experienced soldier, it was a serious threat for its enemies -that’s why it was generally given to the two most reliable men of every US infantry squad. Note that it was also produced under license and used by many other countries involved in WW2.

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