Questions on artillery methods and doctrine

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Simon K
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Questions on artillery methods and doctrine

Post by Simon K » 28 Jan 2009 09:44

What country was the most proficient in artillery doctrine and operations in World War Two?

Not necessarily which country had the best equipment, but which used its artillery force to the best tactical and strategic effect? I would say the U.S.S.R. France and Britain were leaders, but France was unable to use her formidable artillery arm strategically.

Is there an instance where a campaign or major clash was won by the superior use of artillery?

I think Dunkirk could not have been succesful without heavy allied heavy artillery support, which did much to make the defensive parimeter strong. BTW I think the "Halt Order" question is a red herring. The infantry units kept up massive attacks, there wasnt exactly a Christmas truce :wink: so the artillery was decisive in giving the rearguard real power. Thats my own idea so its probably wrong.

Any thought people?
Last edited by Simon K on 01 Feb 2009 14:11, edited 2 times in total.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Sid Guttridge » 28 Jan 2009 11:01

Hi Simon K,

I have seen it suggested that the artillery was the most competitive arm of the British Army in WWII. However, whether this would make it the best internationally is another matter.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Michael Emrys
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Michael Emrys » 28 Jan 2009 11:28

I gather that the British and the Americans more or less equally share the honors. The Soviets certainly used theirs to good effect, but I don't have the impression that they were as efficient in a rapidly changing situation, at least not before the last year of the war and probably not even then.

I think especially on the defense the Western Allies' artillery was deadly. A lot of German counter-attacks got stopped cold when they ran into heavy concentrations of artillery.

Michael
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Simon K
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Simon K » 28 Jan 2009 11:36

Sure Michael, I forgot to say that the artillery machine available to the US and British armies in 1944-5 was awesome. Perhaps it was the peak of pre computer age artillery perfection.

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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by South » 28 Jan 2009 11:50

Good morning Simon,

I don't believe the various artillery doctrines can be compared to establish a "best" doctrine. The sponsoring governments' doctrines had different philosophies.

US Army artillery against the Japanese during the "island hopping" was effective. Offshore naval gunfire must also be mentioned.

The US Army's division was the smallest unit of the combined arms and services. One doctrine was to (try to) keep the maneuver elements within the "artillery fan", ie within the range of supporting artillery. I believe the Soviet's Red Army did not use this doctrine.

As an aside, the south Pacific experience of the US Marine Corps, especially re the Battle of Guadelcanal, was so negative re artillery and air support, HQ, USMC sought to develop their own organic air and artillery. This was seen later during the Korean War. I mention this as an example of weaknesses of US WWII arty doctrine experienced by USMC.


Warm regards,

Bob

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Tim Smith
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Tim Smith » 28 Jan 2009 13:17

US Army artillery was undoubtedly the best in the war.

The British had quality.
The Russians had quantity (not only of guns, but ammunition too.)
The Americans had both quality and quantity.

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Harri
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Harri » 28 Jan 2009 17:01

Tim Smith wrote:US Army artillery was undoubtedly the best in the war.

The British had quality.
The Russians had quantity (not only of guns, but ammunition too.)
The Americans had both quality and quantity.


Wrong.

The top field artillery country during the WW II was Finland. Despite of its very heterogenious, partly obsolecent or even obsolete artillery pieces firing methods and artillery training in Finland were among the best in Europe. For example German artillery was far behind the Finnish one. Interestingly after the WW II many countries adopted the "Finnish model" or something alike because certain aspects remained top secret.

Thoeretically Finnish field artillery was in a very high level already in the late 1920's and during the Winter War but the lack of ammunition, heavy long range artillery pieces and modern field radio equipment constricted the fully efective use of this advantage. The father of the Finnish field artillery was Artillery General Viljo Nenonen. Actually he was acquiring weapons from USA during the Winter War and I believe (no evidence so far) that some sort of information was exchanged between high US artillery officers and Gen. Nenonen. I once discussed about this with our member Galahad who has nowadays only occasionally seen here.

During the Continuation War Finnish artillery doctrine was tested in full scale for the very first at river Tuulos in September 1941 when Finnish field artillery shot a total of 20.000 shells against the Soviet positions and fast Finnish troops supported by infantry broke through the lines easily.

The next main improvements during the Continuation War were introducing of the military radiosonde (probe, sound?) by Vaisala for measuring metheorological values (temperature, moisture etc.) in the air (1942) and the so called "correction converter" (1943) that relieved forward observers from calculations (they didn't have to know were the artillery units were located). All fire orders and responds became very fast and also large scale timed barrages (up to 10 - 20 artillery battalions) together with bombers were used in the summer 1944. Heavy 120 mm mortars were also in the same system.

http://www.vaisala.com/corporate/histor ... lhovaisala
http://www.vaisala.com/corporate/histor ... eway/1940s

The first delivery of a civilian Vaisala radiosonde to the USA took place on 30.7.1936.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that IIRC US Marines uses Finnish Vaisala weather detection systems.

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Simon K
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Simon K » 28 Jan 2009 19:52

Very interesting Harri

Was the radiosonde released by balloon?

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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by JonS » 28 Jan 2009 19:59

The Finns fought practically their entire war defensively, in exactly one type of terrain, and within a couple of hundred yards of where they started. If they couldn't make good use of their guns within such a restricted manoeuvre area then, something would have been desperately wrong. They were very good at what they needed to do, where they needed to do it, but they were highly customised to those circumstances. What the Finns did NOT have was a demonstrated offensive doctrine, a mobile doctrine, nor demonstrated prowess in multiple types of terrain. Therefore, they cannot claim the cup.

Japanese equipment, logistics, and doctrine was terrible.

Russians had loads of guns, but their logistics links weren't great, and they relied too much on centralised C&C. They could be absolutely awesome in a set piece battle, but were never that great in a mobile battle. Also, they generally massed guns, rather than effects.

German kit was great - they started the war with essentially an all new artillery park, which no one else had. However, they never really figured out centralised command coupled to decentralised control. Their CB doctrine was weak and generally ineffective. In the early part of the war they - as an army - relied too much on airpower, and once that was gone they'd lost too much ground to make it up with artillery. By the end of the war their system was relatively archaic. They tried to make up the difference with high ROF big bang equipment (mortars and nebels) which worked to a certain degree, but was never as effective as a true artillery arm.

Brits and UK were on much of a par. The first half of the war for both of them was abysmal, however it was during this period of extensive losses that they got their act together. By the the second half they were awesome. By 1942/43 they had new equipment throughout their parks, and more importantly had developed effective doctrine that allowed centralised command and decentralised control (basically; any FO could call in any guns, regardless of OrBat reporting lines), enabled by widespread production and distribution of effective and reliable radios. The US clung to a 'destruction' doctrine, which the British had worked out wasn't that great about 20 years earlier, but the practical effect of that difference on the battlefield was slight. Both made extensive use of technology to leverage the effectiveness of their artillery - calibrated guns, radar control of missions, large numbers of dedicated light aircraft for controlling missions, large numbers of high performance a/c for specifically artillery reconnaissance, fully motorised at all points from production through the log chain to the batterys and forward to the FOs, etc. British CB doctrine equipment and practice had crushed German artillery by 1944, and kept it that way till the end of the war. By 1945 British and US artillery was extensively practised in all phases of war, and all types of climate and terrain, and showed excellence in all of it.

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Simon K
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Simon K » 28 Jan 2009 20:04

Great post Jon

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Harri
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Harri » 28 Jan 2009 20:32

Simon K wrote:Was the radiosonde released by balloon?


Yes. The balloon is filled with hydrogen.

The only drawback was that it didn't work in all-weather conditions like the modern equipment. The balloons place in the sky (= direction, vertical and horizontal angles) was measured with a teodolite. This indicated wind speed and direction while rise velocity was about standard (with a "standard balloon"). Measuring took less than an hour and was usually valid several hours or a day on the radius of about 50 - 100 kms. Sonde measured temperature and moisture and sent this information to the ground. A standardized weather message was computed based on this information and a needed weather correction was converted in batteries for each gun model.

All corrections were simplified with tables and other improvements effected also on accuracy. Alone the weather correction improved accuracy significantly: even half a kilometre. There was no need for time consuming "shots in the dark". In defence all target areas were precalculated and coded. Fire observed just had to enter the target code and the method of fire and shout "Fire! Fire!". Within a few minutes all artilery and mortar units assigned for this task or target area and were within range shot. Artillery barrages started hitting more closely to the target area and the needed movements of fire were smaller and thus faster. The need for massive long lasting barrages were no more needed which actually saved ammunition.

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Simon K
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Simon K » 28 Jan 2009 20:36

Thats excellent. Was that method unique at the time?

Any pics?

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Harri
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Harri » 28 Jan 2009 21:02

JonS wrote:The Finns fought practically their entire war defensively, in exactly one type of terrain, and within a couple of hundred yards of where they started. If they couldn't make good use of their guns within such a restricted manoeuvre area then, something would have been desperately wrong. They were very good at what they needed to do, where they needed to do it, but they were highly customised to those circumstances. What the Finns did NOT have was a demonstrated offensive doctrine, a mobile doctrine, nor demonstrated prowess in multiple types of terrain. Therefore, they cannot claim the cup.


Wrong. Of course Finns had an offensive doctrine! Actually also our defensive doctrine could be called "offensive defense" which is based on sudden concentrations, counter-attacks and effective delaying. In other words enemy was/is directed to the areas and routes suitable for defense. These were/are supported by effective artillery and mortar fire as well as minings.

The weather conditions in Finland are the most demanding in the word (between +35 to -50 degrees Celsius). Most countries can't shoot their guns if a weather is too cold. I would say -20C would stop all activity even today. Finnish artillery could and can still work in all conditions.

Finnish doctrine worked well both in offensive and defensive battles. I don't know what you exactly mean about "multiple type terrain"? Like weather also terrain varied a lot depending on which part of the country and East Karelia you were. It is true there are no deserts or jungles but lots or lakes, rivers, hills (no mountains), wilderness and swamps. The road and railway network was really bad in East Karelia and partly destroyed by Soviets.

Fast moves from position to another have always been one of the corner stones of the Finnish field artillery even with non-motorized units. Motorized units had usually both heavy trucks for fast moving and tracked tractors for shorter moving or moving in bad conditions. Only the heaviest artillery units had only heavy tracked tractors.

Since 1920's the smallest firing artillery unit in Finland was artillery battalion (12 guns). During the Winter War the reasons I explained earlier led to use battery (4 guns) or even individual guns. It was noted that the long hours duration of artillery barrage was not so important but the speed of fire and the accuracy of the opening fire. These had the "best effect" on enemy but also saved gun barrels and ammunition.

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Harri
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Harri » 28 Jan 2009 21:12

Simon K wrote:Thats excellent. Was that method unique at the time?


I think it was because it was kept secret also from the Germans. After the war Sweden adopted Finnish system as well. Americans used similar kinds of methods (they could because they had good radios) already during the war and I strongly believe that Gen. Nenonen's visit in USA in 1939-40 had something to do with it but there are mentions that Nenonen co-operated with Americans already since 1920's.

Simon K wrote:Any pics?


I don't have any. Juhas and others, do you have any?

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Juha Tompuri
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Re: Best artillery nation in WW2?

Post by Juha Tompuri » 28 Jan 2009 21:43

Hi,
Harri wrote:I don't have any. Juhas and others, do you have any?

Korjausmuunnin (Correction converter) :
Image
http://www.pkymasehist.fi/phpBB2/viewto ... f=22&t=396

http://www.dupuyinstitute.org/ubb/Forum ... 00041.html

Regards, Juha

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