# How far could a soldier/tank go in a week? A month?

A strange question which came to me after I came up with a brief idea for an Axis & Allies-style game with turns either week- or month-length?

On average, how far in miles could a soldier go in a week? A month?
On average, how far in miles could a tank go in a week? A month?

Both WWII-era and modern-era, if there is any difference.

Soldiers and tanks can go as far as they can dependent on quite a few things:

A. Maintenance
B. Terrain
and C. Supply Trains

IIRC, somewhere (and I’ll have to dig for it) the Marine Corps indicates a standard Marine can travel 4 miles an hour for 8 hours a day. Granted, this is on level ground under a standard load. People do need maintenance and supplies–food, water, and the occasional shower or medical checkup.

Tanks, being the mechanical beasts they are, break down and need repair. Terrain can often make repairs or maintenance happen more often. Also, tanks drink more gas than does a dozen of my personal pickup trucks, so they often have to refuel. Again, IIRC, I’ve seen estimates of 60 km per day.

So, bottom line is that there are averages, but those averages are based on a bunch ‘o’ variables. And these variables also depend on the era and the nationality of the technology/training involved.

Tripler
Now you’re going to make me dig through some FMs, aren’t you?

Thank you. Those are some good numbers, as they’re even (some of my own calculations were somewhat uneven). I’ll have to see what other responses (if any) I get, but those are pretty interesting.

A fun bit of trivia that one of my military history professors gave me, while we’re on the topic of tanks and soldiers traveling places. During WWII, each infantryman in the US Army consumed a ton of supplies, if you include the overhead for the logistics pipeline that supported him operating so far from the US.

Another one: The US fielded one of the smallest combat forces per-capita of the major powers in WWII, due to them emphasizing on being highly mobile and being able to operate at such great distances from home. It takes a LOT of manpower and resources to support an infantry division from Texas if you want them to fight in Italy.

But yeah, how far you travel would depend on various things, including weather, terrain, resources and supplies at your disposal (tanks don’t go far without gas, and soldiers march on their stomachs), and the little matter of how hard other people are trying to keep you from getting anywhere, and how well equipped and prepared they are to do so. A tank constantly resupplied with fuel and spare parts can move very quickly along a level road unopposed. The same tank will move very slowly indeed if it has infrequent resupply, in rugged terrain with bad weather, against an enemy equipped with anti-armor weapons and bombers.

Yeah, well, even I have to admit that you have to take my estimates with a grain of salt. That grunt ruckin’ 32 miles that day? Only if he hasn’t been attacked or come into contact with the enemy. Most likely, after that fifth or six mile, he’s gonna mount that tank and ride it as far as he can. He’ll burn himself out of multiple days of foot march–either from boredom or from physical fatigue.

Tripler
Walking is boring. Walking in a war is boring and unproductive.

I don’t have my copy handy, but in Guns of August it says that the far right wing of the German attack was making 18-20 miles a day during WWI. That was over a month or so period, and they were pretty much wrecked by the end of the advance. I’d say that, about 500 miles in a month, is about the high limit for sustained marching and fighting. With mechanization and clear paths it could be much higher.

I’d say that in a 7 day period a soldier could march 400 miles, and over a month about 700. They are going to be in rough shape when they get wherever, but they’d be there.

Err not 400 miles in 7 days. More like 250. I did my multiplication wrong.

I used to have a book that was something to the effect of “World War II by the Numbers” in which there was an essay in which a historian made a point about how in the German Army, even though they had a lot of mechanized equipment, most troops still walked everywhere, compared to American soldiers who almost always managed to catch a ride on some supply truck or other piece of equipment. Part of the explaination the historian offered was that the US had by far the highest rates of automobile ownership in the pre-war period and that US troops were used to thinking about logistics in terms of getting people in (or on) vehicles. Along the same lines, because cars were mostly owned by the rich in pre-war Germany, the Tank corp had more of an aristocratic air about it and German tankers were less likely to go out of their way to let some foot soldier bum a ride.

I thought it was an interesting piece-- I should try and dig it up.

The German army lacked transport all throughout the war. The transport was concentrated mostly on elite spearhead units - and those units were quite mobile - but outside of that, most supply was horse-drawn and soldiers frequently had to walk.

I don’t think an additional explanation is necesary although perhaps it is a factor.

The American army was pretty much entirely mechanized, in contrast. The Russian army, too, was more mechanized than the Germans, but less than the Americans. One of the US’ key contributions to the war was supplying the Russians with hundreds of thousands of trucks.

All I know is Ronald Reagan warned that the Sandinistas could be in Texas in two days. :rolleyes:

I’ve heard a number of neat theories comparing the different ways that the people from each country looked at things. One example is how Americans were more familiar and comfortable with automobiles and machinery than most of the Europeans and British. I’m trying to think of examples that make the other countries in the war sound better than us Americans, but I guess those didn’t come up much in much of my reading.

If you were moveing tanks large distances you’d put them on low loaders.

As pretty much everyone else has said, the distance a tank can move (assumming it’s unopposed by The Enemy) is really limited to terrain, and the ability of the logistics and maintenance “tail” to keep up with it.

And, as casdave has pointed out, low-boy haulers and flatbed rail cars are used nowadays to move tanks any distance for purely transportational purposes.

Here’s something most people don’t think about when considering supply lines: all the fuel and food they have to carry to the front also has to keep the supply line fed, clothed, etc. So as the supply line lengthens, more and more fuel, food, water, etc., is being consumed by the supply line than is reaching the front.

This is why intact rail networks are so desireable; as well as harbors.

As far as we’re told.

Damn. I’m aroused.

[Moderating]

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Sorry. That was more than 20 years ago of course, but it was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the thread title.

I once read that Operation August Storm (the Soviet invasion of Japanese-occupied Manchuria in 1945) is considered the fastest moving real-world offensive in military history. Some Red Army tank units averaged over sixty miles a day during the campaign.

Oh, the drums do bang
And the cymbals clang,
And this is the way we go,
It’s forty miles a day
On beans and hay
In the Regular Army-O

It’s strange how it happens like that. I heard an anecdote on a BBC documentary by Richard Holmes about the advance of the BEF at the Battle of Arras. Amongst the terrain that baffled British tank drivers was a level crossing. The barrier being in the down position, it took some time for British nerve to be steeled enough to simply drive through it.