Getting Artillery Right (1944)
It is unnecessary to tell an experienced foot-slogging dog-face how important artillery support is to him when he needs it. When he runs up against a Jerry strongpoint that is too tough to crack with infantry weapons the proper thing to do is yell for artillery. He’s got to be sure, however, that the target he sees is worth tossing a lot of cannonballs at because cannonballs are the only reserve the artillery has and they cost sweat and blood. A single Heinie sunning himself on an Eyetie mule and cart is not worth an artillery concentration. There will most likely be an artillery forward observer somewhere in your company area who is in contact with the guns. Look him up, give him your mission and he will fire it for you if it is humanly possible. Remember, he is just as interested in killing Krauts as you are….
Back in medieval days when the artillery man was a civilian mechanic with an eye for war loot they tried to keep outsiders out of their union by covering up their activities with a lot of scientific mumbo-jumbo just like some professions still do. Artillery since that day has become still more complicated and there are some technical problems that need special training to handle. This need not bother you because all you want to do is lay a lot of scrap-iron on the pretzel-benders and you can do it.
The first thing to do is get a few rounds out in front of you where you can see them. The easiest way to do that is by giving the artillery a point on the way at which to shoot. (This is where the map reading you learned in basic-training would come in handy). The artillery will come closer to hitting that point than you think; so if the rounds suddenly appear about two miles to the right don’t cuss out those SOB’s who can’t read a map – better take another look at your own map. If the rounds land close but still not where you want them try to put yourself where you think the gun position is and sense the rounds accordingly – over or short, right or left. If you are using the battalion in direct support of your outfit it will normally be right behind you somewhere but if your target is an enemy gun or something that requires medium or heavy caliber artillery the chances are that you won’t know where they are firing from. If that is the case or if for any reason you are not sure of the gun location, the safest thing to do is call for a range change. This will do two things for you – first, by remembering where the previous rounds fell you will have an idea of the direction of fire, and secondly, you will have a unit of measure out there by remembering how much of an increase in range you asked for. When you tell the gunners that you are within 50 yards of the target, the fire direction will most likely order fire for effect. Unless you are uncomfortably close to your target it is going to be hard for you to judge how close your adjusting rounds are landing. It is very important that you bracket the target; get rounds that are over and short of the target. You will know then that the correct range is somewhere between your over and short rounds.
Source: Major Arthur J. Peterson, S-2, 34th Division Artillery, Lessons Learned in Combat, Headquarters, 34th Infantry Division, U.S. Army, September 1944, pp. 46-47.
Image source: “Members of an artillery unit stand by and check their equipment while the convoy takes a break,” U.S. Army Signal Corps, November 9, 1944.http://www.forgottenwarstories.com/2015/04/21/getting-artillery-right-1944/http://www.forgottenwarstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LOC-WW2-ARTY-31.jpghttp://www.forgottenwarstories.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/LOC-WW2-ARTY-31-150x150.jpgWW2artillery,combat,italy,world war IIIt is unnecessary to tell an experienced foot-slogging dog-face how important artillery support is to him when he needs it. When he runs up against a Jerry strongpoint that is too tough to crack with infantry weapons the proper thing to do is yell for artillery. He's got to...stevenhardestySteven Hardestyforgottenwarstories@gmail.comAdministratorForgotten War Stories