Infantry - Infantería

The infantry is the fighting force on foot. Use all kinds of weapons portable and semi - portable and for movement you can use all kinds of means of transportation , you can fight it alone has limited or in combination with any other weapon, provided this is acting on your support in order to increase their possibilities.

In the front rows are placed the soldiers of the light infantry , who hardly wear protection.


The word infantry comes from the Latin infantry (child, young) [ 1 ] and in the medieval military context it denoted soldiers who were still too young, inexperienced or not part of the nobility ("boys" servants) to be part of The chivalry.


Ancient times: the infantry at the service of the great empires

The infantry has always been with few exceptions the main force of the armies throughout history. In the ancient empires of Sumer , Babylon , Assyria and Egypt, the infantry, accompanied by horse-drawn chariots, was always the main mass of the army and was generally formed on one side by warriors armed with spears , shields , swords , axes or maces and on the other by important contingents of archers that decimated the enemy ranks during the fighting.

A modern reconstruction of Greek soldiers in phalanx formation.

In Classical Greece during the 8th century BC. C. appears the phalanx , a military infantry formation that for centuries would be the dominant one on the battlefield until the appearance and consolidation of the Roman legion that demonstrated its superiority in the battle of Pidna in the second century BC. C. With the phalanx and especially with the legion, the infantry goes from acting in masses that charge in a more or less orderly manner to forming flexible coordinated blocks in battle that maneuver skillfully changing position in the face of enemy reactions, enveloping and facing to counterattacks, etc. The Legion was a formation that providedRome absolute superiority for centuries even in conditions of obvious numerical inferiority.

Middle Ages: decline and resurgence of the foot soldier

During the decline and fall of Rome, the cavalry became increasingly important due to Persian, steppe and Germanic influence . During the Middle Ages , feudalism consolidated this phenomenon giving absolute supremacy on the battlefield to the heavily armed knight and turning the infantry into a merely auxiliary force, to guard fortifications and castles, etc. The infantry follows the example of the cavalry and uses chain mail and armor , lighter of course.

The appearance at the end of the Middle Ages of monarchies were strong eager to totally dominate the lords, together with tactical changes that benefit the infantry, change the landscape. Kings need strong armies that they have to support out of pocket and foot soldiers are obviously cheaper. In England during the Middle Ages the longbow was developed , a weapon capable of launching a dozen projectiles per minute against the enemy, although it takes strong men and years of training to master it. With large contingents of archers, the English defeated the French feudal cavalry in 1346 and 1415 at the battles of Crécy andAzincourt . Finally, in the 15th century, the Swiss began to export their fighting form all over the continent, cadres of infantry very close to each other armed with pikes of five or more meters that contain and skewer the cavalry, disorderly and restrain them, and then their Inside come soldiers armed with halberds and greatswords that massacre the cavalry, the knights standing and holding tight with little chance of defending themselves.

Modern age

Chilean infantry at the Battle of Maipú (1818).

Perfecting the Swiss strategy and adding the experience of the infantry during the Reconquest and those of the Great Captain in Italy , the third emerged in Spain at the end of the 15th century. The most important innovation is the incorporation of groups of crossbowmen and harquebusiers who were deployed along the sides of the pikemen square or behind the front rows and riddled the enemy with their fire. Little by little the arquebusiers are becoming an elite unit in charge of assaults on fortifications and their proportion is increasing, with the crossbowmen gradually disappearing throughout the 16th century . In theBattle of Pavia in 1525 , the Spanish thirds totally crushed the French feudal cavalry of Francisco I , definitively demonstrating the absolute dominance of the infantry on the battlefield .

In the seventeenth century the third gradually lost its power. The proportion of soldiers with firearms, now muskets , is increasing more and more . At the beginning of the century Central European armies used a single line of pikemen for protection while two or three lines of musketeers took turns firing at the enemy. This allows cavalry, lightened from its medieval past, to regain importance on the battlefield. By mid-century in Prussia all infantrymen became marksmen thanks to the combination of rifle and bayonetand they are organized in groups of three lines that advance slowly while successively unloading their rifles and loading them as quickly as they can to fire again and finally charge the enemy with bayonets. The model is extended and by the end of the century practically all the armies of Europe have only two types of infantrymen: riflemen and grenadiers .

The riflemen, who form the main mass of the infantry, are armed only with rifles and bayonets. The grenadiers form elite units using the tallest and strongest soldiers in the army who carry, in addition to the rifle and bayonet, grenades in the form of metal balls with a small charge of gunpowder and a fuse - which they light thanks to a cord that they carry on and off. coiled around her shoulder - to hurl her into enemy ranks before the clash. They usually also carry a sabershort to combat melee during the assault on fortifications, a mission that is reserved for them, along with being in the most important and dangerous positions in battle. Grenadiers can't throw grenades well with Riflemen's wide, double- or triple-cornered hats, so they wear tube- or miter-shaped hats that don't protrude from the head but are tall enough to impress more.

Throughout the 18th century the model remained unchanged. The regiments form their battalions and companiesacross the field, following each other with small gaps between them, arranged in three or four rows that advance slowly towards the enemy, stop, fire, load their rifles, advance and fire again and receive shots to face the bayonets if the enemy has not retreated due to the casualties of the shots before the encounter. At all times the infantryman must remain standing, since otherwise he would not be able to load the rifle, but the weapons are so short-range and imprecise that the number of casualties is reduced, if compared to those produced in combat. body to body. The cavalry has regained importance in the field and seems increasingly decisive when it comes to breaking lines of riflemen in support of their own and massacring them in their retreat.

The artillery , an element that until the previous century was little more than an anecdote, is also having increasing importance as they evolve projectiles against infantry, that kill or injure with shrapnel the soldiers within a few meters around.

Regiment 6th of the "Chacabuco" Line of the Chilean Army in formation after returning to Santiago de Chile after the end of the War of the Pacific (1884).
Australian infantry with their gas masks during World War I in the Ypres sector ( Belgium ). As September 27 as 1917 .

In the 19th century, the infantry once again proved that it was the main force on the battlefield . The square position allows the cavalry to be engaged and resisted while the artillery and other cadres decimate it, as Wellington at Waterloo demonstrates against Napoleon . Technical innovations in the rifle and artillery are enormous throughout the century, as officers continue with Napoleonic schemes in mind. Around 1850 the rifles are 400 mof effective range and are able to go through the soldier in the first row and kill the one in the second. Butcher shops begin to take place like never seen under normal circumstances. In the American Civil War , for example, there are 600,000 dead and 30,000 mutilated, a prelude to what the so-called Great War or World War I will bring .

Infantry from World War I to the present

During the First World War the infantry is literally buried. The power of the artillery and the massive use of machine guns mean that trenches and shelters have to be dug from one side of France to the other . Napoleonic schemes continue to command and absurd massive attacks occur that cause casualties in hitherto unthinkable numbers. In this context, there appear attempts at solutions such as the battle tank , the start of chemical warfare through the use of toxic gases or the special German assault infantry units, the Sturmtruppen , armed with submachine gunsThey creep up to enemy positions to launch attacks with their automatic weapons, grenades or flamethrowers at close range and storm the position.

US infantry advancing into a Belgian city under the protection of a Sherman medium tank during World War II . As September 9 as 1944 .

In the interwar period, theories occur to avoid situations of static warfare. The infantry prototype with which World War II is reached is based on squads of about ten men armed, most of them with bolt-action rifles and grenades similar to the previous war, but with the novelty that one of them carries a machine gun. light support and one or two others carry submachine guns. The German platoon , with its MG-34 machine guns first and MG-42 later, will initially have the supremacy, the German doctrine is to defend at all costs the carrier of the machine gun, who is the one who directs the defense or the assault with his action . This is the standard infantry.

The Germans, following the theories of General Heinz Guderian , create a new type of infantry, the Panzergrenadier (armored grenadiers, they are given the name of grenadiers because of the connotation of elite unit that the term had) that must go to the side of the tanks , mounted on off-road armored vehicles, clearing the terrain of anti-tank artillery and other obstacles for the tanks to advance. They obtain unsuspected successes with their Blitzkrieg (lightning war), which will work until they can no longer compete with the numerical superiority and the allied weaponry from 1943 . After Stalingrad and El Alamein, the Germans lose the strength necessary to initiate new offensives to obtain the strategic goals that prompted them to start World War II, they no longer have the initiative and are led to an absurd defensive war that will lead them to defend the last stronghold mounted on the subways of Berlin .

American airborne infantry during the Vietnam War in 1966 .

Since the last world war, the infantry platoon has followed the trend of increasing the firepower of the individual soldier with the use of the assault rifle, capable of acting as a traditional long-distance or automatic shooting rifle for assault. . The soldier also has several types of hand grenades for the assault and in every platoon there are multi-purpose portable rocket launcher systems capable of acting as counter-tank, anti-bomb or anti-personnel, being generally available at the company level more forceful means such as missiles.Portable anti-tank or anti-aircraft guides to deal with tanks or aviation at low altitude. On the other hand, the infantry tends to be mechanized and armored as much as possible. Modern infantry must march close to the tanks to defend themselves from enemy fire. From the Panzer divisions to today armored vehicles have evolved that allow an infantry platoon to be transported inside as armored personnel carriers or to fight in the front line as infantry fighting vehicles .


Light infantry

A specialized type of infantry is what is known as "light infantry." This type of infantry is designed for deep incursion into enemy territory equipped with light means ( armored personnel carrier , light artillery, etc.) and high mobility for exploration and assault on difficult targets, generally taking the consideration of units of Elite. The names by which this type of infantry is known are generally of the rangers type for Anglo-Saxon armies, hunters in their Spanish and Hispano-American denomination or chasseurs and Jäger in the French and German armies. The Rangers of the US Army belong to this type of unit., the French Foreign Legion , the Legion , Cazadores de Monte (Argentina), Mountain Hunters, Knights Legionaries Spanish Paratroopers ( Brigade of Parachute Light Infantry ), airborne (Brigade of Airborne Light Infantry, etc.) These units usually act at the level of regiment or companies, without normally forming full divisions like conventional infantry.

United States infantry on patrol in Iraq . November 2004 .

Heavy infantry

The term heavy infantry refers to infantry troops with heavier weapons than light infantry and, especially in ancient times and in the Middle Ages , with armor.

At present the differences between light and heavy infantry have been blurred. Heavy infantry is understood to have firearms with greater caliber and greater destructive power, such as mortars , machine guns , rocket launchers or grenade launchers .

Motorized infantry

In most Western countries, motorized infantry is infantry that is transported in trucks or other unarmored vehicles.

Mechanized infantry

M3 semi-caterpillars and American infantry at Fort Knox , June 1942 .

Mechanized infantry refers to infantry corps equipped with armored personnel carriers (TBP), or with infantry fighting vehicles (VCI) for transport and combat purposes .

Towards the end of the First World War , all the armies involved were faced with the problem of maintaining the momentum of an attack. Tanks, artillery, or infiltration tactics could be used to break through enemy defenses, but almost all offensives launched in 1918 were stopped within days. The attacking infantry was rapidly depleting, and artillery, supplies, and fresh formations could not be brought forward fast enough to keep up the pressure on the regrouping enemy.

Marine infantry

The marine infantry is a type of foot troops whose mission consists of boarding boats, conducting amphibious operations and ensuring the safety of ships and naval facilities, although the role of marine infantry units may vary depending on the country to which they belong. . Marine Corps are often integrated into the Navy , although they sometimes form a separate branch of the military , as is the case with the United States Marine Corps .

See also


  1. Meaning of "Infantry" in EcuRed [1]

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