Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Carl Schwamberger » 06 Aug 2017 04:33

JonS2 wrote:Yes, the Westerm Allies devoted proportionately more men to CS and CSS (and HSS) roles than other militaries did. Many significant advantages accrued to them from this. This is not a new insight.


There is a distortion in this as the Germans used civilian labor for many tasks the US or Commonwealth armies used uniformed labor. ie: the Todt Organization performed many of the tasks the US Army engineer battalions worked at. While there is still a difference it is not as wide as usually counted when conscripted or forced labor in the combat zone is counted.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby JonS2 » 13 Aug 2017 00:56

Carl
a very good point, but even given that I still understand that the Western Allied divisions, corps, and armies had proportionately a lot more CS, CSS, HSS support to draw on, compared to the Italians, Germans, or Russians.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Delta Tank » 29 Dec 2017 17:48

Sheldrake wrote:
losna wrote:I've supposed that the major advantage was the air superiority, and in second place the powerful American artillery, but these are only suppositions and I'd be glad to read well argumented opinions.
I'd particurarly like quantitative data.
Cheers


Well for a start you could read something about the British Artillery which was every bit as powerful as the American and had added bonus of command by the observer. Read Nigel Evan's work here http://nigelef.tripod.com/

Air superiority mattered, as did firepower. Bit the allies also developed effective tactics to face the Germans and mobilized the citizen armies to win.


Sheldrake,

So, British Artillery was commanded by the observer, and the other armies of World War II didn’t have observers? Ignored the calls for fire from an observer, ignored or disregarded adjustments of fire from the observer. Fired missions that were called for, by ???

So, the battery commander in the British Army was the observer, so what!? Could a British tank platoon leader call for Artillery Fire? Could a British Infantry Commander call for Artillery Fire? Etc??? If the British Battery Commander was killed would the battery Fire for another observer or would they sit there and wait?

(I hate spell check!)

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby OpanaPointer » 29 Dec 2017 18:11

Fresh cake. /obscure
Come visit our sites:
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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 30 Dec 2017 10:28

Delta Tank wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:
losna wrote:I've supposed that the major advantage was the air superiority, and in second place the powerful American artillery, but these are only suppositions and I'd be glad to read well argumented opinions.
I'd particurarly like quantitative data.
Cheers


Well for a start you could read something about the British Artillery which was every bit as powerful as the American and had added bonus of command by the observer. Read Nigel Evan's work here http://nigelef.tripod.com/

Air superiority mattered, as did firepower. Bit the allies also developed effective tactics to face the Germans and mobilized the citizen armies to win.


Sheldrake,

So, British Artillery was commanded by the observer, and the other armies of World War II didn’t have observers? Ignored the calls for fire from an observer, ignored or disregarded adjustments of fire from the observer. Fired missions that were called for, by ???

So, the battery commander in the British Army was the observer, so what!? Could a British tank platoon leader call for Artillery Fire? Could a British Infantry Commander call for Artillery Fire? Etc??? If the British Battery Commander was killed would the battery Fire for another observer or would they sit there and wait?

(I hate spell check!)

Mike


There is a subtle difference the American and British systems of fire control.

The British sent their regimental, battery and troop commanders forwards as liaison and observation parties attached to the supported arms. These officers could send fire orders - not requests, to their guns. There was also a policy and practice for assigning guns to an authorised observer, originally called a CRAs representative. So the guns of an entire division, or more, might be placed in modern terms "at priority call" to the CO of one regiment, who might delegate that to an authorised OP, say a BC or TC in the best position to observe or apply the fire. In parallel with the infantry and armoured chain of command there was an artillery command chain aligning firepower where it was needed. There was a cost to this. Casualties among field artillery troop and battery commanders parties was comparable to those in the infantry.

The Americans sent forwards observation parties of (expendable) junior officers and NCOs to call for fire. Calls for fire were then assessed by the Fire direction center (FDC) and the appropriate fire authorised after assessing competing calls etc. In theory this was as flexible as the British system, but the command responsibility at the gun or FDC end meant that decision making was one or more stages removed from the supported arm. One of my old gunnery instructors an Australian Vietnam veteran explained it. It works fine but if could take half an hour while the FDC decided whether you really needed five rounds of proximity or whether you could do just as well with three rounds of HE, by which time the target had gone.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Delta Tank » 30 Dec 2017 14:38

Sheldrake wrote:
Delta Tank wrote:
Sheldrake wrote:
losna wrote:I've supposed that the major advantage was the air superiority, and in second place the powerful American artillery, but these are only suppositions and I'd be glad to read well argumented opinions.
I'd particurarly like quantitative data.
Cheers


Well for a start you could read something about the British Artillery which was every bit as powerful as the American and had added bonus of command by the observer. Read Nigel Evan's work here http://nigelef.tripod.com/

Air superiority mattered, as did firepower. Bit the allies also developed effective tactics to face the Germans and mobilized the citizen armies to win.


Sheldrake,

So, British Artillery was commanded by the observer, and the other armies of World War II didn’t have observers? Ignored the calls for fire from an observer, ignored or disregarded adjustments of fire from the observer. Fired missions that were called for, by ???

So, the battery commander in the British Army was the observer, so what!? Could a British tank platoon leader call for Artillery Fire? Could a British Infantry Commander call for Artillery Fire? Etc??? If the British Battery Commander was killed would the battery Fire for another observer or would they sit there and wait?

(I hate spell check!)

Mike


There is a subtle difference the American and British systems of fire control.

The British sent their regimental, battery and troop commanders forwards as liaison and observation parties attached to the supported arms. These officers could send fire orders - not requests, to their guns. There was also a policy and practice for assigning guns to an authorised observer, originally called a CRAs representative. So the guns of an entire division, or more, might be placed in modern terms "at priority call" to the CO of one regiment, who might delegate that to an authorised OP, say a BC or TC in the best position to observe or apply the fire. In parallel with the infantry and armoured chain of command there was an artillery command chain aligning firepower where it was needed. There was a cost to this. Casualties among field artillery troop and battery commanders parties was comparable to those in the infantry.

The Americans sent forwards observation parties of (expendable) junior officers and NCOs to call for fire. Calls for fire were then assessed by the Fire direction center (FDC) and the appropriate fire authorised after assessing competing calls etc. In theory this was as flexible as the British system, but the command responsibility at the gun or FDC end meant that decision making was one or more stages removed from the supported arm. One of my old gunnery instructors an Australian Vietnam veteran explained it. It works fine but if could take half an hour while the FDC decided whether you really needed five rounds of proximity or whether you could do just as well with three rounds of HE, by which time the target had gone.


Sheldrake,

Everybody in the military is expendable, the Cemetery is full of people that could not be replaced. And the “war story” is absolute bullshit and you should know not to repeat crap third hand. What really would of happened the US Arty outfit would of sent both!! Just because some old Vet tells a story that doesn’t make it so.

The system obviously worked because we use that same basic system now. Every maneuver company needs an observer, if multiple observers call for fire, the unit with priority of fire will get their request fired first, the FA Battalion will be monitoring all Fire Nets, and they can direct another battery or a GSR Battalion to fire the other mission. The key is to have a lot of firing batteries available. And don’t forget the 120mm (4.2 inch when I was in) mortar platoon.

So, how does one guy direct fire for an entire Battalion spread all over the place, vegetation, terrain, etc possibly blocking his view?

Now, answered the other questions I posted in my original post. So, the battery commander in the British Army was the observer, so what!? Could a British tank platoon leader call for Artillery Fire? Could a British Infantry Commander call for Artillery Fire? Etc??? If the British Battery Commander was killed would the battery Fire for another observer or would they sit there and wait?

Mike

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 30 Dec 2017 15:57

Delta Tank wrote:Sheldrake,

Everybody in the military is expendable, the Cemetery is full of people that could not be replaced. And the “war story” is absolute bullshit and you should know not to repeat crap third hand. What really would of happened the US Arty outfit would of sent both!! Just because some old Vet tells a story that doesn’t make it so.

The system obviously worked because we use that same basic system now. Every maneuver company needs an observer, if multiple observers call for fire, the unit with priority of fire will get their request fired first, the FA Battalion will be monitoring all Fire Nets, and they can direct another battery or a GSR Battalion to fire the other mission. The key is to have a lot of firing batteries available. And don’t forget the 120mm (4.2 inch when I was in) mortar platoon.

So, how does one guy direct fire for an entire Battalion spread all over the place, vegetation, terrain, etc possibly blocking his view?

Now, answered the other questions I posted in my original post. So, the battery commander in the British Army was the observer, so what!? Could a British tank platoon leader call for Artillery Fire? Could a British Infantry Commander call for Artillery Fire? Etc??? If the British Battery Commander was killed would the battery Fire for another observer or would they sit there and wait?

Mike

Mike


#1 I take exception to your description of my regiment's rationale for its system 1 procedures, maintained as a NATO exception as "third hand crap!" I have the utmost respect for the Australian Ack I G with his fruit salad of combat medals. His account was not a bar yarn,. but delivered as part of a lesson in Fire Discipline in the Gunnery Wing at Larkhill. Other commonwealth countries also maintain their belief that our system works better!

We have a hero who developed our control methods. H J Parham, the CO of 10th Field Regiment in France in 1940 developed procedures for firing the whole regiment using the wireless. As CRA 38 Infantry Division 1941 in he developed methods that allowed the entire divisional artillery to be commanded as if it was a single battery. The fact that fire was controlled by an observer empowered to give fire ORDERS and nor merely request fire gave this method an impressive immediacy. This was illustrated in flawed fire power demonstration which shelled the VIP stand. Everyone was impressed with how quickly the fire was stopped.

A BC is not normally in the lead any more than battalion HQ is. With casualties it was quite common for anyone in the BCs and FOOs parties to make calls for fire. The BC's job in battle is as the Battalion commanders fire power adviser. You assign the FOOs to companies or other tasks. If you get this right they should be in the best positions to call for fire. There is a lot of tactical chat across the brigade, across the Gunner Regimental net. This enables priorities for fire to be assigned, not on a mission by mission basis, but to support the all arms tactical mission for a set time. It might be that the best observation for an attack by one battalion is from the neighbouring battalion's area. The prioritiews might change as the battle develops. The FOO advancing with the infantry might not have any vision during the assault, but will need to be ready to call DFs to face a counter attack. All of this could be accomplished with the US system, but the British experience was that in the chaos of war, it helps to have experienced officers trained experience to read the battle and to exercise judgement.

Anyone can call for artillery fire using artillery target indication procedures. We used to practice this with the infantry and armour.

BCs and sometimes COs were observers. They were in tanks or carriers with the comms. At Pt103 on 8th June 1944 the COs of 86 and 147 field Regiments were side by side and used three regiments freely against the Panzer Lehr. Even senior commanders could play. On 6th (?) August the Commander and CCRA of 30th Corps fired lots of guns from the top of Mount Pincon.

The BC could always call for fire from his own battery - unless on a different task, as could a troop commander from his troop. Un authorised observers requested fire - so an FOO could request a Mike Target.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Mori » 30 Dec 2017 17:10

About the French post 1940:

- the number of troops is really low until Morocco and Algeria are liberated. However, the few Free French are highly motivated, as shown in Bir-Hakeim, Syria and other minor places. When liberated, French North Africa mobilizes as many men as possible. I think this area has the highest mobilization rate of the planet.

- Tunisian campaign: the improvised French units do well. The ones joining Montgomery's 8th army (= the Leclerc column) also do well. But they are not involved in the most important places

- The French corps in Italy is instrumental in breaking the German defenses

- The units landing in Provence perform nicely in liberating Marseilles, Toulon and moving north to the Vosges. They are the units with experience from Italy

- One armored division also lands in Normandy in August and fights in the Falaise battle and in liberating Paris. It does well, although I wouldn't rate it outstanding.

From September 1944 on, the French army reaches its limits in terms of manpower and weaponry. About 2 million men are in Germany, either 1940 PoWs or (more or less forced) labour, so that the governement can't mobilize Metropolitan France. Many FFI join the regular army on a volunteer base, and they eventually make 1/3 of the total French army - meaning 2/3 are those men mobilized in North Africa (mostly) and fighting since early 1943. FFI have high morale but little to no training in professional fighting (e.g., coordinating air and land forces), while veterans from Italy are exhausted and gradually become sick of bearing all the effort on behalf of Metropolitan French.

The overall quality of the French army decreases compared to the effectiveness of the French corps in Italy. French units still give a nice support to Patch's attack across the Vosges and the liberation of Starsbourg in November 1944, but afterwards their efficiency becomes questionable and reaches its bottom early 1945 during the Colmar pocket battle. The French campaign East of the Rhine, in April 1945, is too slow but that mostly derives from incomprehensible command decisions by de Lattre.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby South » 30 Dec 2017 17:29

Good morning Sheldrake,

It's not being clearly explained in re artillery support and how it's "requested".

I can't help much for the same reason: "Nothing vast enters the human mind without a curse" Socrates.

I do want to add some matters for thought:

Add the new WWII air observer to the matrix. Add the shore party Forward Observer calling in naval fire to the mix also.

In WWII I believe there was both direct fire support arty units and general support arty units. Direct units were assigned to specific maneuver infantry or armor units working in tandem. General support would cover an area and not move with the forward maneuvering units.

Anyone could NOT call in arty fire support - at least not directly. There were procedures and the procedures involved the radio net.

Again, like taking a university course on the web......much is lost......especially when compared to classes in person.

I am offering no comments on the British experience on the Western Front; just my basic commentary re the set-up.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 31 Dec 2017 00:08

South wrote:Good morning Sheldrake,

It's not being clearly explained in re artillery support and how it's "requested".

I can't help much for the same reason: "Nothing vast enters the human mind without a curse" Socrates.

I do want to add some matters for thought:

Add the new WWII air observer to the matrix. Add the shore party Forward Observer calling in naval fire to the mix also.

In WWII I believe there was both direct fire support arty units and general support arty units. Direct units were assigned to specific maneuver infantry or armor units working in tandem. General support would cover an area and not move with the forward maneuvering units.

Anyone could NOT call in arty fire support - at least not directly. There were procedures and the procedures involved the radio net.

Again, like taking a university course on the web......much is lost......especially when compared to classes in person.

I am offering no comments on the British experience on the Western Front; just my basic commentary re the set-up.

~ Bob
once a resident of Ft Sill, Oklahoma - still have photos of the jail where Geronimo stayed.

eastern Virginia, USA


There is a very good explanation about the British and Commonwealth procedures used in WW2 here. http://nigelef.tripod.com/

There was a relevant post on the WW2talk forum with an article by General Francis Tuker. Here is an extract that talks about what the artillery C3 was trying to do. The artillery procedures were those that the British thought would dewliver the goal - "Artillery command centralised at the highest level but control delegated to the lowest practical."
Tuker extract.jpg


The business of fire planning in WW2 was complicated. You are quite right. Not just anyone could call for fire from the guns.

#1. You needed communications to the guns. Not every wireless set would communicate on the frequencies used by the artillery, and many infantry sets were too short ranged. WW2 wireless sets were temperamental and telephone communications unsuited to mobile operations. There were cases when calls for fire were made direct - think about the USS Slaterlee at Pointe du Hoc.

OR

#2 Communication to an artillery liaison party attached to the infantry or armour. This relies on the artillery liason cell to have communications to the guns you want. There were lots of field artillery liaison parties, one FOO per four guns and one BC per eight guns. (one CO, three BCs and six FOOs per brigade, plus extra FOO parties from army artillery.

Communications to ships or aircraft was much more tenuous. Aircraft and ships used radios that were incompatible with army tactical wireless. They also used different procedures. Fire from ships could only be called via the much smaller number of naval liaison parties. Even in Normandy there might be no more than one NGS FOB team per battalion. Air ground TACP tentacles were even more thinly spread. For example, Operation Goodwood, was an army operation to launch an armoured corps deep into the German defences beyond field artillery range. 8th Corps which made the attack had only two TACP's attached. Sure, in the absence of an FOB or TACP a message could be passed up the general staff channels to some joint cell, but this was not going to result in any speedy action.

Aircraft and ships also needed careful briefing on the local tactical situation. To do otherwise was to invite friendly fire.

There were three sorts of aircraft which directed or spotted artillery fire. The RAF had tactical reconnaissance aircraft which could undertake Arty (R) shoots. These were typically mounted by flights of four tactical recce aircraft (Mustang in NW europe). They would be planned 12-24 hours in advance and would typically use long ranged guns such as the US 155mm to hit counter battery targets or choke points.

Air OPs were a wartime invention - championed by HJ Parham (again) a pre war light aircraft and autogyro pilot. In his view it was easier to teach an FOO to fly than to teach a pilot to understand enough about the tactical picture to be effective. He also thought fighter aircraft flew far too fast to be good observation platforms. Air OP units were part of the Corps artillery and operated closely with the "AGRA" - artillery brigades. They could fly a higher sortie rate than tactical recce aircraft. Air OP aircraft could join any army wireless net. In Normandy there were few good positons for artillery observers and AOPs offered the best means of adjusting fire onto observed targets.

I hope this helps.
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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby South » 31 Dec 2017 07:14

Good morning Sheldrake,

Appreciate link re British procedures.

The General's note are noteworthy and helpful.

A problem we of AHF have is the non-standardized terminology. Eg "artillery C3" does not readily translate. Same re "AGRA". This is not just involving artillery during WWII. Even the air transport corps were not standardized in re terminology and the even more confusing abbreviations. (Not that much has changed as of 31 Dec 2017 !)

I know Pointe du Hoc.

Interesting re a large scale maneuver deploying outside of the artillery fan.

In the overall scheme of development...not just the Western front...a battleship had 2 observer aircraft. The aircraft communicated with the vessel's bridge and not units ashore - at least so I'm told.

Yes, all this assists.

Will glance at the hyperlink after this global warming spell leaves the area.

In a few hours from now: Happy and Safe New Year's !

~ Bob
eastern Virginia, USA

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sid Guttridge » 31 Dec 2017 09:05

Hi Sheldrake,

I would question whether, "The French Expeditionary Force that fought in Italy was...... needing no help from the British or Americans to break the Gustav line."

Firstly, the French received eight divisions-worth of US equipment before they took the field in Italy.

Secondly, their breakthrough of the Gustav Line was greatly assisted by the Anglo-American focus on Cassino and Anzio. This drew German attention away from them.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Sheldrake » 31 Dec 2017 09:30

South wrote:Good morning Sheldrake,

Appreciate link re British procedures.

The General's note are noteworthy and helpful.

A problem we of AHF have is the non-standardized terminology. Eg "artillery C3" does not readily translate. Same re "AGRA". This is not just involving artillery during WWII. Even the air transport corps were not standardized in re terminology and the even more confusing abbreviations. (Not that much has changed as of 31 Dec 2017 !)

I know Pointe du Hoc.

Interesting re a large scale maneuver deploying outside of the artillery fan.

In the overall scheme of development...not just the Western front...a battleship had 2 observer aircraft. The aircraft communicated with the vessel's bridge and not units ashore - at least so I'm told.

Yes, all this assists.

Will glance at the hyperlink after this global warming spell leaves the area.

In a few hours from now: Happy and Safe New Year's !

~ Bob
eastern Virginia, USA


Sorry I forgot to add the third category of spotter aircraft - dedicated naval spotter aircraft. Naval aviation had extra spotter aircraft in addition to the ship based spotter planes. E.g. the naval gunfire for the D Day fireplan was spotted by shore based Fleet air arm Seafire and F4U. I am not sure how these forces liaised with land forces ashore.

Oh and AGRA is short for Army Group Royal Artillery - a brigade sized artillery formation (five or six regiments) usually assigned one per army corps.
Last edited by Sheldrake on 31 Dec 2017 13:19, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Mori » 31 Dec 2017 11:13

Sid Guttridge wrote:Firstly, the French received eight divisions-worth of US equipment before they took the field in Italy.


Yes, they are an extreme case of units fighting with material made in another country. (Just like, say, British used US-made armor etc.).

Sid Guttridge wrote:Secondly, their breakthrough of the Gustav Line was greatly assisted by the Anglo-American focus on Cassino and Anzio. This drew German attention away from them.


That the French corps did not fight in isolation is not going much further than the obvious..

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Re: Which were the main Allied advantages on the Western front?

Postby Aber » 31 Dec 2017 13:48

Sheldrake wrote:
Oh and AGRA is short for Army Group Royal Artillery - a brigade sized artillery formation (five or six regiments) usually assigned one per army corps.


For clarity, this is where the British concentrated medium artillery - 4.5 and 5.5 inch guns, etc.


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