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Seek, Strike and Destroy: U.S. Army Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II

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Seek, Strike and Destroy: U.S. Army Tank Destroyer Doctrine in World War II
  • by Dr. Christopher R. Gabel
    • Leavenworth Papers No. 12
    • Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Leavenworth, Kansas, 1985

Following the German conquest of France in 1940, the U.S. Army found itself without a doctrine, organization, or weapon capable of defeating a wholesale mechanized attack. Consequently, at the direct instigation of the Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, Lieutenant General Lesley J. McNair founded an anti-tank quasi-arm in 1941. This force, the "tank destroyers," combined a aggressive doctrine, an elite spirit, and highly mobile, heavily gunned weapons.


On the battlefields of World War II, however, tank destroyers were unequal to the task of neutralizing German armor. Their aggressive doctrine played into the hands of the German panzer divisions, which employed highly integrated combined arms tactics.


The tank destroyers were also outgunned by the heavy German tanks that appeared in the last three years of the war. Therefore, the original tank destroyer doctrine was largely abandoned n the field, where the tank destroyers continued to perform a variety of less ambitious missions.


This work provides a case study in the formulation of doctrine, with emphasis being given to the conceptual flaws that marred the tank destroyer program and the corrective measures that were implemented in the field to alleviate these flaws.


This study concludes with the argument that any comprehensive anti-tank doctrine, then and now, must embrace the principles of combined arms warfare in order to be effective.


  • Introduction

  • Anti-tank Evolution 1918-1941

  • The Synthesis of Tank Destroyer Concepts

  • Tank Destroyers Under Fire

  • The European Theater: A Pyrrhic Victory

  • Conclusion

  • Notes

  • Bibliography

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