Welcome to 20thCenturyPlatoons.com, a website dedicated to small-unit tactics and military history. Translating primary source material from four different languages into English, this website aims to give a historical overview of squad, platoon, and company level units of various nations, using the very same manuals commanders of the era would have used.

How useful were the tactics employed by Dutch troops fighting in Indonesia between 1945 and 1949? What impact did World War I have on the German Schützenkompanie, and how did its 1906 structure differ from 1922? How did the French infantry platoon change from 1972 to 1999? To what degree has American doctrine influenced NATO-partners?

In trying to answer these questions and explore modern military history, I will be using a number of "pillars", if you will.

These include lengthy articles based on multiple primary and secondary sources, scans of rare postcards and images with a military theme, entire manuals uploaded to the archive, and brief discussions of material already available online.

This website will - for the most part - focus on the militaries of continental Europe. The reason for this is two-fold:
In the first place, there is comparatively little English-language information out there on for example the Dutch, Belgian, or Austrian military. Secondly, my own interests and collection simply focus on European armies.

None of that is to say, however, that the American or Commonwealth militaries are entirely ignored. They are interesting in and of themselves, and they provide both context and comparison.

MILAN prototype, 1966

Below, we have a number of images of a MILAN prototype, part of a Dutch evaluation dated 1966.
Searching for a next-generation battalion-level weapon to replace the 106-mm recoilless rifle, a number of systems were discussed: TOW, Bantam, Swingfire, and the SS11B1, with the HOT and MILAN considered later on.

The TOW system was selected some seven years later, with the MILAN finding itself rejected a second time in 1977 in favour of the M47 Dragon as a platoon system.

The weapon also makes an appearance in a Belgian publication from 1967, giving us the following characteristics:

Weapon weight ± 8 kg
Mount weight 7 kg
Weapon length 790 mm
Range 75 to 2000 m

Although the report is interesting in full, the reader is left with a short conclusion on the MILAN for now:

With regards to the MILAN-system's positive characteristics, we may expect:

- Low minimum range (75 m)
- Small dimensions and low weight, allowing quick deployment and good concealment
- Ease of selecting and training gunners
- Ease of operation

Negative characteristics are, however:

- Insufficient effect against heavy tank targets, as defined in STANAG 4089
- Not intended to be mounted in/on armoured vehicles, lacking the capability to be operated under armour
- No remote operation

There is furthermore little certainty as to the advantages and disadvantages of the MILAN-system's semi-automatic guidance as compared with manual guidance, especially with regards to hit probability and reliability.


The Carl Gustaf in the Dutch Army’s Armoured Infantry Platoon, 1972-73

A study in squad, platoon, and company configuration, and anti-armour tactics

A Carl Gustaf team with the typical load: the Gustaf itself, 4 rounds, two pouches with parts


Somewhat counterintuitively following on the discussion of the M47 Dragon and Milan as a platoon-level anti-tank weapon here and here, it seems wise to pay some attention to the Dragon’s partial predecessor - the Carl Gustaf M2 - and its role in the Dutch Army’s anti-armour philosophy.

Click here to continue reading.

The M72 LAW and Pansarskott 68 “Miniman”: an Austrian Perspective

As a spiritual successor to the German Panzerfaust of WWII, the M72 LAW has been widely adopted – and copied – since the 1960s. Commonly replaced by heavier systems starting in the 1980s, the M72 has often been readopted, its light weight and small dimensions allowing it to fill a particular niche in any military’s arsenal.

In terms of export success, the weapon was unmatched, despite several competitors: the French SARPAC and WASP 58, and Swedish Pansarskott 68 “Miniman”. The latter had some foreign users, including the Austrian Army, which adopted it as a replacement for the M72 LAW after only three years of use.

This raises an interesting question:

Why did the Austrian Army adopt a similar weapon to replace the M72 LAW?

Click here to continue reading.

Eurosatory Trade Show Documents

Having recently acquired a number of armoured vehicle trade show documents - the bulk of which originate from the French Eurosatory trade show - this page serves to display them.
The page will be regularly updated.

Title Date Notes Download
AMX 32 June 1983 Link
AMX 40 May 1983 Link
Fennek Reconnaissance Vehicle June 2002 Link
Upgrading the AMX-10RC: Medium Armoured Vehicle for Deployed Forces June 2006 Link
PzH2000 May 2000 Link
Ulan June 2003 Dutch language: H.A. Muller sticker suggests the document was part of the Steyr offering to replace the YPR-765, which ultimately lead to the adoption of the CV9035NL
Also known as the Pizarro
120 mm Compact Tank Gun undated Manufactured by SW Thun (Swiss Ordnance Enterprise Corp), part of RUAG Link
Boxer: The New Generation of Multi-Role Armoured Vehicles 16th of May 1996 Link
United Defense MTVL: Mobile Tactical Vehicle Light undated Link

The Belgian FN MAG, 1962

The standard for Western GPMGs, the FN MAG is used by over eighty nations, amongst which of course its home country, Belgium.

Initially developed to accept both FAL magazines and belted ammunition (American M13 or West-German DM1 type), the weapon modified and combined the barrel and bolt mechanism of the FN Model D (a variant of the M1918 BAR) with the trigger and feed mechanism of the MG42.

With the dual-feed capability dropped, the weapon was eventually offered to the Swedish and British militaries in 1957, with both adopting the weapon in 1958 and 1961 respectively.

It would strongly appear the Belgians did not adopt the weapon until 1962, given the provisional nature of our document in question. The FN MAG would initially be a weapon exclusive to the Para Commandos, the airborne light infantry component of the Belgian Army, with one weapon scaled per platoon, fifteen per company, and 45 per battalion.

It would be with the Paras where the FN MAG would fire perhaps its first shots in anger, during Operatie Rode Draak/Operation Dragon Rouge. The weapon was used in its infantry and tripod version, the latter from Jeeps.

As late as 1974, the weapon was entirely absent from the mechanised infantry battalions mounted on the AMX APC, the battalion being equipped with a mix of 68 FN FALOs, 32 FN .30-cals, 55 American .30-cals, nine Browning .50-cals, and four M45 quadmounts instead.

Somewhat later in 1981, the FN MAG had finally been introduced to line units, with a mechanised infantry platoon possessing two rifle squads equipped with one FN MAG each, in addition to their two FN FALOs. The M75 "Full-tracks" still were still somewhat awkwardly equipped with .30-cals.

Below, the weapon's technical specifications are translated and the parts list is shown in full. The entire manual is available here.

The archive of manuals can be found here.

A final note on the weapon's name: MAG stands for Mitrailleuse À Gaz, not Mitrailleuse d'Appui Général, as evidenced from various early documentation . The weapon was, however, marketed as the GPMG in English language publications, a term which has most likely been incorrectly translated back into French. FN's Dutch-language publications used the far more neutral Mitrailleur , designating it simply as a "machine gun".

Technical Characteristics
Calibre 7.62×51mm NATO
Weight of weapon, with buttstock and bipod 10.85 kg 23.9 lbs
Weight of weapon, without buttstock and bipod 10.1 kg 22.3 lbs
Weight of the barrel (with gas regulator, flash-hider, and carrying handle) 2.75 kg 6.1 lbs
Overall length, with flash-hider 1255 mm 49.4 in
Barrel length 545 mm 21.5 in
Sight radius (folded down) 848 mm 33.4 in
Sight radius (extended) 785 mm 30.9 in
Rifling, number of grooves 4
Rifling, twist rate 305 mm 1 in 12"
Sight, graduated in 100 m increments, folded down 200 to 800 m
Sight, graduated in 100 m increments, extended 800 to 1800 m
Weight of the tripod 12 kg 26.5 lbs
On bipod 50 degrees 880 mils
On tripod 67 degrees 1200 mils
On tripod 30 degrees 530 mils



  • 26th of September, 2021
  • The website's layout has been changed, displaying the five most recent page on the home page, with a longer list of all posts found on the second page.
  • 23rd of June, 2018
  • The third and final article concerning the Dutch Marine Corps has been published.
  • 14th of June, 2018
  • The second article - the Dutch Marine Corps 1978 - has been published.
    Images now open as a pop-up.
  • 7th of June, 2018
  • The first resource - concerning the Vietnamese sappers - is added.
  • 5th of June, 2018
  • Interactive footnotes are added to the Dutch 1963 Marines Corps article.
    The first manual is added.
  • 4th of June, 2018
  • The first scanned postcard is added.
  • 3rd of June, 2018
  • The first article - concerning the Dutch Marine Corps 1963 - is created.
  • 2nd of June, 2018
  • The website is created and launched.