Search: in
Infantry in Encyclopedia Encyclopedia
  Tutorials     Encyclopedia     Videos     Books     Software     DVDs  


Battle of the Somme]] in World War I.

Infantrymen are land based soldiers who are specifically trained for the role of fighting on foot to engage the enemy face to face and have historically borne the brunt of the casualties of combat in wars. As the oldest branch of combat arms, they are still the backbone of modern armies. Infantry units have more physically demanding training than other branches of armies, and place a greater emphasis on discipline, physical strength, fitness and spontaneous sustained aggression. The Infantryman himself, with or without his personal weapon is considered a weapon system.

Infantrymen are easily distinguished from soldiers trained to fight on horseback (cavalry), in tanks, or in technical roles such as armourers or signallers. Rudimentary infantry skills such as basic individual movement techniques, shooting positions and field craft are fundamental to the training of every soldier. Infantry can access and maneuver in terrain inaccessible to vehicles and tanks, and employ infantry support weapons that can provide firepower in the absence of artillery.

Since the end of the Second World War, the infantry has become a very small part of the Western world's armies. Typically between 5% and 30% of an army's personnel are trained infantry. Despite this number they may still represent one of the largest individual arms; with the exception of logistics and supply. Infantry numbers are vastly reduced from pre-WWII levels. For instance, in the United States Army of 2009, there were only approximately 49,000 Infantrymen[1] out of about 565,000 active duty enlisted personnel.[2][3] The Marine Corps has another 10,000-20,000 Infantrymen. This means that there are fewer than 70,000 Infantrymen in the entire US military. The US Air Force does not have infantry assets. The Russian Navy on the other hand employs a small number of troops, less than 2,000, as Infantrymen. This Naval Infantry functions as Marine Infantry which usually assault land objectives from the sea.

These lower infantry numbers reflect the greatly increased lethality and degree and type of training afforded modern Infantry regiments. This combined with a higher demand for technical and logistical specialists in Western armies. Western armies have increasingly complex technology based weapons systems which drive the demand for and the importance of logistics in modern armies



Winfield Scott leading a line of American infantry at the Battle of Chippawa during the War of 1812. Although the use of the term infantry in English dates from the 16th century, the foot troops of the previous eras in history who fought with a variety of weapons before the introduction of the firearms are also referred to as infantry. During the Ancient and Middle Ages Infantry were categorized by the types of weapons and armor they used, such as heavy, medium, and light infantry. Since the introduction of firearms classifications have changed initially to reflect their formations on the battlefield as line infantry, and later to reflect modes of transport and type of tactics used by specific units as Mechanized infantry or airborne infantry.


The role of the infantry is generally defined as being to locate and engage the enemy at close proximity and kill or injure them utilizing their rifle, bayonette, entrenching tool, or even their bare hands. for example:

  • The Canadian Army Infantry role "is to close with and destroy the enemy" [4][5]
  • The Australian Army defines the role of the infantry thus: "The role of the Infantry is to seek out and close with the enemy, to kill or capture him, to seize or hold ground and repel attack, by day or night, regardless of season, weather or terrain."[6]
  • The United States Army describes the mission of infantry: "The Infantry closes with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver in order to destroy or capture him or to repel his assault by fire, close combat, and counterattack."{FM7-8, Infantry Rifle Platoon And Squad}
  • The infantry mission is "to close with and engage the enemy in all operational theatres and environments in order to bring about his defeat"

All things considered these synopsize what the infantry does and has done throughout the ages, regardless of nationality, changes in technology, doctrine, tactics, etc.


Australian infantry at Tobruk, Libya in 1941. Infantry is notable by its reliance on organized formations to be employed in battle. These have been developed over time, but remain a key element to effective infantry development and deployment. Up into the 20th century, infantry units were for the most part employed in closely organized formations up until the actual moment of contact with the enemy. This was necessary to allow commanders to retain control of the unit, especially while maneuvering, as well as allowing officers to retain discipline amongst the ranks.

With the development of weapons with increased firepower, it became necessary to disperse soldiers in infantry units to make them less susceptible to high explosive and rapid fire weapons. From World War I, it was recognized that infantry were most successfully employed when using their ability to maneuver in constricted terrain and evade detection in ways not possible for other weapons such as vehicles. This decentralization of command was made possible by improved communications equipment and greater focus on small unit training.

Among the various subtypes of infantry is 'Medium infantry.' This refers to infantry which are less heavily armed and armored than heavy infantry, but more so than light infantry. In the early modern period, medium infantry were largely eliminated due to discontinued use of body armour up until the 20th century. In the United States Army, Stryker Infantry is considered Medium Infantry, since they are "heavier" than light infantry but "lighter" than mechanized infantry.


Infantry doctrine is the concise expression of how infantry forces contribute to campaigns, major operations, battles, and engagements. It is a guide to action, not hard and fast rules.

Doctrine provides a very common frame of reference across the military forces allowing the infantry to function cooperatively in what is now called combined arms operations. Doctrine helps standardize operations, facilitating readiness by establishing common ways of accomplishing infantry tasks. Doctrine links theory, history, experimentation, and practice. Its objective is to foster initiative and creative thinking in the infantry's tactical combat environment.

Doctrine provides the infantry with an authoritative body of statements on how infantry forces conduct operations and provides a common lexicon for use by infantry planners and leaders.

Until development of effective artillery doctrines, and more recently precision guided air delivered ordnance, the most recent important role of the infantry has been as the primary force of inflicting casualties on the enemy through aimed fire. The infantry is also the only combat Arm which can ultimately decide whether any given tactical position is occupied, and it is the presence of infantry that assures control of terrain. While the tactics of employment in battle have changed, the basic missions of the infantry have not.

Retractions to the Infantry Concept: Although it has been argued that infantrymen and infantry tactics are an antiquated and careless use of military manpower and resources, the infantryman has proven quite capable against many units, some much more technological and modern. For instance, light infantry has proven to be extremely effective against tank units by being able to take advantage of a tank's limited field of fire and sight by swarming enemy armor units and utilizing anti-armor rockets at long range or grenades in close quarters. Furthermore, air bombardment that can flatten entire cities has been shown to be completely useless against a dug in infantry force. (see Battle of Stalingrad 1942-1943) Even an occupying enemy police force has been shown to be a poor match against a clandestine infantry that has secreted itself away in a civilian population. (see French Resistance WWII, Iraqi Insurgency, American Revolution) In fact, even during heavy occupation there is almost no offensive military response to a well trained dug in infantry force that results in certain victory. So long as a well trained, disciplined and determined infantry force stands the war is not won for the enemy and the hope for victory lives on for the underdogs.


Canadian army reserve]] infantrymen train in urban operations. Attack operations are the most basic role of the infantry, and along with defense, form the main stances of the infantry on the battlefield. Traditionally, in an open battle, or meeting engagement, two armies would maneuver to contact, at which point they would form up their infantry and other units opposite each other. Then one or both would advance and attempt to defeat the enemy force. The goal of an attack remains the same: to advance into an enemy-held objective and dislodge the enemy, thereby establishing control of the objective.

Attacks are often feared by the infantry conducting them because of the high number of casualties suffered while advancing to close with and destroy the enemy while under enemy fire. In mechanized infantry the armored personnel carrier (APC) is considered the assaulting position. These APC's can deliver infantrymen through the front lines to the battle and contribute heavy firepower to engage the enemy. Successful attacks rely on sufficient force, preparative reconnaissance and battlefield preparation with bomb assets. Retention of discipline and cohesion throughout the attack is paramount to success. A subcategory of attacks is the ambush, where infantrymen lie in wait for enemy forces before attacking at a vulnerable moment. This gives the ambushing infantrymen the combat advantage of surprise and causes confusion. The ambushed unit does not know what is up against or where they are attacking from.

Defense operations are the natural counter to attacks, in which the mission is to hold an objective and defeat enemy forces attempting to dislodge the defender. Defensive posture offers many advantages to the infantry, including the ability to use terrain and constructed fortifications to advantage and the reduced exposure to enemy fire compared with advancing forces. Effective defense relies on minimizing losses to enemy fire, breaking the enemy's cohesion before their advance is completed, and preventing enemy penetration of defensive positions.

Patrol is the most common infantry mission. Full scale attacks and defensive efforts are occasional, but patrols are constant. Patrols consist of small groups of infantry moving about in areas of possible enemy activity to locate the enemy and destroy them when found. Patrols are used not only on the front-lines, but in rear areas where enemy infiltration or insurgencies are possible.

Pursuit is a role that the infantry often assumes. The objective of pursuit operations is the destruction of enemy forces which are not capable of effectively engaging friendly units before they can build their strength to the point where they are effective. Infantry traditionally have been the main force to overrun these units in the past, and in modern combat are used to pursue enemy forces in constricted terrain (urban areas in particular), where faster forces, such as armored vehicles are incapable of going or would be exposed to ambush.

Escort consists of protecting support units from ambush, particularly from hostile infantry forces. Combat support units (a majority of the military) are not as well trained and have a very different mission than infantry units, they need the protection of the infantry. This is one of the most important roles for the modern infantry, in particular when operating along side armored vehicles. In this capacity, infantry essentially conducts patrol on the move, scouring terrain which may hide enemy infantry waiting to ambush friendly vehicles, and identifying enemy strong points for attack by the heavier units.

Canadian soldiers of the Royal 22e R giment.

Maneuver operations consume much of an infantry unit's time. Infantry, like all combat arms units, are often maneuvered to meet battlefield needs, and often must do so under enemy attack. The infantry must maintain their cohesion and readiness during the move to ensure their usefulness when they reach their objective. Traditionally, infantry have relied on their own legs for mobility, but mechanised or armoured infantry often uses trucks and armored vehicles for transport, but can easily transition to light infantry, without vehicles, to access terrain which armored vehicles can't access.

Reconnaissance/intelligence gathering Surveillance operations are often carried out with the employment of small recon units or sniper teams which gather information about the enemy, reporting on characteristics such as size, activity, location, unit and equipment. These infantry units typically are known for their stealth and ability to operate for periods of time within close proximity of the enemy without being detected. They may engage high profile targets or be employed to hunt down terrorist cells and insurgents within a given area. These units may also entice the enemy to engage a located recon unit thus disclosing their location to be destroyed by larger combat assault forces.

Reserve assignments for infantry units involve deployment behind the front, although patrol and security operations are usually maintained in case of enemy infiltration. This is usually the best time for infantry units to integrate replacements into units and to maintain equipment. Additionally, soldiers can be rested and general readiness should improve. However, the unit must be ready for deployment at any point.

Construction can be undertaken either in reserve or on the front, but consists of using infantry troops as labor for construction of field positions, roads, bridges, airfields, and all other manner of structures. The infantry is often given this assignment because of the physical quantity of strong men within the unit, although it can lessen a unit's morale and limit the unit's ability to maintain readiness and perform other missions. More often, such jobs are given to specialist engineering corps.

Base defense is where infantry units are tasked to protect certain areas like command posts or airbases. Units assigned to this job usually have a large amount of military police attached to them for control of checkpoints and prisons.

Raid/Hostage Rescue Infantry units are trained to quickly mobilize, infiltrate, enter and neutralize threat forces when appropriate combat intelligence indicates to secure a location, rescue or capture high profile targets.

Urban Combat Urban combat poses unique challenges to the combat forces. It is one of the most complicated type of operations an infantry unit will undertake. With many places for the enemy to hide and ambush from, infantry units must be trained in how to enter a city, and systematically clear the buildings, which most likely will be booby trapped, in order to kill or capture enemy personnel within the city. Care must be taken to differentiate innocent civilians who often hide and support the enemy from the nonuniformed armed enemy forces. Civilian and military casualties both are usually very high. US Infantrymen fared very well in the urban combat, of Iraq, especially in the hand to hand close combat Fallujah, Iraq (2004). This clearly demonstrates the effectiveness and lethal nature of modern infantry training and techniques despite the mass use of civilians as shields and the posing of the enemy as civilians.

Daily life

German Army mechanized infantry (Panzergrenadiers) on an alert post during an exercise in 2006.

Because of the very nature of the work, with firearms, explosives, physical-emotional stress, and genuine physical violence, casualties and or deaths are not uncommon in both war and in peacetime training or operations. It is a highly dangerous and demanding occupation.

The physical and mental demands on the Infantryman are extreme. All of the combat necessities such as ammunition, weapon systems, food, water, clothing and any shelter are literally carried on the backs of the infantrymen. Combat loads of over 36 kg (80 lbs) are standard and greater loads in excess of 45 kg (100 lbs) are very common., These heavy loads, combined with long forced foot marches and patrols of over 25 miles a day, in any climate from 43 degrees (110 Fahrenheit) heat to -29 degrees (-20 Fahrenheit) cold, demand the infantryman to be in extraordinary physical and mental shape. There is no escape from the climate. Infantrymen live and fight outside in all types of extreme brutal climates. This adds additional misery to an already very demanding job. Frost bite, heat stroke, trench foot, insect and wild animal bites are common. Due to these shared hardships experiences, infantrymen develop strong bonds and mutual respect with each other, in and out of the armed services.

Despite these extreme physical demands, an infantryman is exceptionally disciplined; expected and highly trained to continue on with the combat mission despite personal loss of friends, fear, despair, fatigue and bodily injury. This is exemplified in the United States Army by an excerpt from the infantryman's creed:

In the race for victory, I am swift, determined, and courageous; Armed with a fierce will to win. Never will I fail my country's trust. Always I fight on: through the foe, to the objective, to triumph over all. If necessary, I fight to my death.[7]

United States Army Rangers, a form of special operations light infantry, have their own Ranger Creed that demands faithful service from the infantryman even "...though I be the lone survivor."

Though the lethal combat skills attained by Infantryman have no real direct civilian correlation, valuable life skills that cannot be taught in any classroom, such as mental and physical toughness, discipline, courage, team work, initiative, loyalty, trustworthiness, empathy, stress management, "lead by example" leadership, as well as many others contribute to their success in the civilian job world; regardless of occupation.

Foreign and domestic militaries typically have a slang term for their Infantrymen. In the U.S. military, the slang term among both Marine and Army Infantrymen for themselves is "grunt." Among themselves, a small close-knit community, it is a term or endearment which conveys shared experience and a life-long comraderie. Being called a "Grunt" by someone who has not been through the training, common experience and suffering of an Infantryman is considered disrespectful and insulting.

Working with individual and crew served weapon systems, hand to hand combatives, sensitive military information, physical and emotional rigors and devotion to the ideals of the country, make infantrymen good recruitment candidates for both government and private sector police, intelligence and spy agencies; especially if the individual has attained other important skills in language, computers, foreign policy and culture. Some Infantry units are considered Special Forces. The earliest Special Forces commando units were specially trained infantrymen with special equipment and missions. Special Forces Units, including Delta Force recruit heavily from Infantry units to fill their elite secretive ranks.

Equipment and Training

Infantrymen are trained to march longer, think clearer, communicate better, shoot straighter, move faster, grieve shorter, and kill easier in sustained or intermittant combat than their trained enemy. This simply mean an Infantrymans training is unique and demands that they are led by a much higher standard.

The Average cost of the initial training to become a US Infantryman costs well over $250,000. This excludes the meager pay and benefits. To train as an infantry specialist, such as an Infantry Sniper, will cost a considerable amount more.

Although the capability of the American military to train and graduate infatrymen is considered sensitive information, the cost, time constraints and emphasis on combat competency ensures that they can not be mass produced without suffering from severely decreased physical/mental fitness, discipline and overall combat effectiveness.

The equipment of infantry forces has evolved along with the development of military technology and tactics in general, but certain constants remain regarding the design and selection of this equipment. Primary types of equipment are weaponry, protective gear, survival gear, and special, mission specific equipment.

Infantry weapons have included all types of personal weapons, i.e., anything that can be handled by individual soldiers, as well as some small crew-served weapons that can be carried. During operations, especially in modern times, the infantry often scavenge and employ whatever weapons and equipment they can acquire in addition to those given them by their available supply chain. Infantrymen are trained to use equipment such as their personal rifle, hand guns, shot guns, machine guns, anti-tank missiles, anti-personnel mines, other incendiary and explosive equipments, bayonets, GPS, map and compass, encrypted communications equipment, booby traps, surveillance equipment, night vision equipment, sensitive intelligence documents, classified weapon systems and other sensitive equipment.

Infantry of ancient times up until just before the modern age have wielded a wide array of weaponry. Infantry formations used all sorts of melee weapons, such as various types of swords, axes, and maces, as well as ranged weapons such as javelins, bows, and slings. Infantry of these premodern periods also employed a variety of personal body armor, including chain mail and cuirasses.

Many of the premodern infantry weapons evolved over time to counter these advances in body armor, such as the falchion, whose heavy blade was designed to break chain mail armor and engage the underlying individual.

Protective equipment and survival gear

camouflage]], 2006. Infantry protective gear includes all equipment designed to protect the soldier against enemy attack. Most protective gear comprises personal armor of some type. Classical and medieval infantry employed leather and metal alloys for armor as defense against both ranged and melee attacks, but with the advent of firearms, such armor was no longer effective and was abandoned. The return to use of the helmet was prompted by the need to defend against high explosive fragmentation, and further developments in materials led to effective bullet-defeating armor within the weight acceptable for infantry use.

The use of personal body armor such as Kevlar is again becoming widespread amongst infantry units. Infantrymen must also often carry protective measures against chemical and biological attack, including gas masks, counter-agents, and protective suits. All of these protective measures add to the weight an Infantryman must carry and may decrease combat efficiency. Modern militaries are struggling to weigh personal body protection versus the weight burden and ability to move under such weight.

Infantry survival gear includes all of the items soldiers require for day-to-day survival in the combat environment. These include basic environmental protections, medical supplies, food, and sundries. As the amount of equipment a soldier can carry is very limited, efforts have been made to make equipment light and compact. Equipment is carried in tactical gear (such as ALICE), which should be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time, hamper movement as little as possible and be compatible with other things a soldier can be expected to carry, such as field radios and spare magazines. Infantry have suffered large casualty rates from disease, exposure, and privation often in excess of those suffered from enemy attacks. Better equipment of troops in this area greatly reduce this rate of loss. One of the most valuable pieces of gear is the entrenching tool - basically a collapsible spade which can be employed not only to dig important defenses, but also in a variety of other daily tasks and even as a weapon.

Specialized equipment consists of a variety of gear which may or may not be carried depending on the mission and the level of equipment of an army. Communications gear has become a necessity, as it allows effective command of infantry units over greater distances. In some units, individual communications are being used to allow the greatest level of flexibility. Engineering equipment, including demolitions, mines, and other gear, is also commonly carried by the infantry or attached specialists. A variety of other gear, often relating to a specific mission, or to the particular terrain in which the unit is employed, can be carried by infantry units.

Famous Historical Descriptions

  • "Let us be clear about three facts: First, all battles and all wars are won in the end by the infantryman. Secondly, the infantryman always bears the brunt. His casualties are heavier, he suffers greater extremes of discomfort and fatigue than the other arms. Thirdly, the art of the infantryman is less stereotyped and far harder to acquire in modern war than that of any other arm."[8] Field Marshal Earl Wavell
  • "I love the infantry because they are the underdogs. They are the mud-rain-frost-and-wind boys. They have no comforts, and they even learn to live without the necessities. And in the end they are the guys that wars can't be won without."[9]Ernie Pyle
  • "I'm convinced that the infantry is the group in the army which gives more and gets less than anybody else."[10] Bill Mauldin, Up Front (1945)
  • "Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime. Ask the infantry and ask the dead."[11] Ernest Hemingway[12]
  • "The infantry doesn't change. We're the only arm [of the military] where the weapon is the man himself."[13] C.T. Shortis
  • "Ah, yes, mere infantry poor beggars "[14] Plautus
  • "The army's infantry is its most essential component. Even today, no army can take and hold any ground without the use of infantry."[15] George Nafziger
  • "The infantry is there so that when some die the generals know where to direct the artillery fire" (anonymous Japanese soldier, Iwo Jima)
  • "Aerial bombardment can obliterate, but only infantry can occupy" - a Finnish Army observation of the Operation Allied Force in the 1990s
  • I don t know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they terrify me. - the Duke of Wellington
  • "Victory is still measured by foot" - The Indian Army
  • I don t know why we have the Air Force and Navy. It's always up to the bloody infantry to get the job done." - Australian Soldier At Tobruk

See also

Citations and notes


  • English, John A., Gudmundsson, Bruce I., On Infantry, (Revised edition), The Military Profession series, Praeger Publishers, London, 1994 ISBN 0-275-94972-9
  • The Times, Earl Wavell, Thursday, 19 April 1945 In Praise of Infantry
  • Tobin, James, Ernie Pyle's War: America's Eyewitness to World War II, Free Press, 1997
  • Mauldin, Bill, Ambrose, Stephen E., Up Front, W. W. Norton, 2000
  • Trogdon, Robert W., Ernest Hemingway: A Literary Reference, Da Capo Press, 2002
  • The New York Times, Maj Gen C T Shortis, British Director of Infantry, 4 February 1985
  • Heinl, Robert Debs, Dictionary of Military and Naval Quotations, Plautus in The Braggart Captain (3rd century CE), Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1978
  • Nafziger, George, Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, Presidio Press, 1998

External links

ar: an:Infanter a ast:Infanter a zh-min-nan:P -peng be: be-x-old: bg: bar:Infanterie bs:Pje adija ca:Infanteria cs:P chota da:Infanteri de:Infanterie et:Jalav gi el: es:Infanter a eo:Infanterio eu:Infanteria fr:Infanterie gl:Infantar a ko: hr:Pje a tvo io:Infantrio id:Infanteri is:F tg nguli it:Fanteria he: kk: lt:P stininkas hu:Gyalogs g mk: mr: ms:Infantri nl:Infanterie ja: no:Infanteri nn:Infanteri pl:Piechota pt:Infantaria ro:Infanterie ru: simple:Infantry sk:Pechota sl:Pehota sr:Pe adija sh:Pje adija fi:Jalkav ki sv:Infanteri tl:Hukbong lakad ta: th: tr:Piyade uk: vi:B binh yi: zh:

Source: Wikipedia | The above article is available under the GNU FDL. | Edit this article

Search for Infantry in Tutorials
Search for Infantry in Encyclopedia
Search for Infantry in Videos
Search for Infantry in Books
Search for Infantry in Software
Search for Infantry in DVDs
Search for Infantry in Store


Infantry in Encyclopedia
Infantry top Infantry

Home - Add TutorGig to Your Site - Disclaimer

©2011-2013 All Rights Reserved. Privacy Statement