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Infantry (Infantrymen) are soldiers who fight primarily on foot, using
personal weapons. They may arrive on scene in various ways, and are deployed
either in formations or as skirmishers and guerillas. In the modern period,
the term infantrymen is reserved for the most basic of infantry troops, the rifleman.
Infantry have been the core of most armies throughout history. In ancient
times the most prominent formations were the phalanx and later the more
sophisticated legion, which could reach several thousand men in size. After
the Roman Empire collapsed cavalry dominated the west for almost a thousand
years; particularly later in the Middle Ages when the armoured knight was
invincible. The dominance of cavalry was not threatened until the Hundred
Years War, where the development of the longbow saw French knights heavily
defeated by well-disciplined infantry, archers, and dismounted cavalry at
the battles of Crecy, Poitiers and Agincourt. From this time on, cavalry
became lighter and more mobile, and infantry became, in general, the most
Although the longbow would remain significantly more powerful than the newly
invented musket for some hundreds of years - longbows had greater range,
accuracy, penetrating power and rate of fire than early firearms - it
required great skill to use effectively. It took a lifetime of training to
become an effective archer, where to raise an army of musketeers simply
needed ample numbers of men who could be trained in weeks or months, enough
money, and access to manufacturing facilities for guns and powder. From the
late Middle Ages on, industrialisation saw rural aristocracies weaken,
cities became richer, and large, easily raised forces of relatively
untrained infantry ruled the battlefield. With cavalry now lighter and
unarmoured, the pike became an important close-range defence for bodies of
Before the development of railroads in the 19th century, infantry armies got
to the battlefield by walking, or sometimes by ship. In the 1890s and later,
some countries used bicycle infantry, but the real revolution in mobility
started in the 1920s with the use of motor vehicles, resulting in motorised
infantry. Action in World War II demonstrated the importance of protecting
the soldiers while they are moving around, resulting in the development of
mechanized infantry that uses armoured vehicles for transport.
Modern-day infantry is supported by armoured fighting vehicles, artillery,
and aircraft, but are still the only kind of military force that can take
and hold ground, and thus remain essential to fighting wars.
* "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." Ernie Pyle
* "I'm convinced that the infantry is the group in the army which gives
more and gets less than anybody else." Bill Mauldin, Up Front (1945)