Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

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Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 25 Oct 2021 17:52

Cant remember where I read about the 'crushed electrolyte container' technique being used. Had something to do with batteries that had to be stored unused for extended time, but needed to be ready for use instantly. Capacitors were used with electric motors fairly early, and radios when that technology took off. Faraday built the first lab bench bi metal/dielectric capacitor, after reading about Ben Franklyns experiment with dielectric material (oiled paper) to determine the exact location of the electric storage in wet acid batteries.

By the 1920s it appears fuze designers were so enamored of the their clockwork time fuze designs they were boxing themselves in and not seriously considering the use of existing electrical knowledge & technology.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 28 Oct 2021 17:35

Swerving back to cannon. Im looking again at the strength of the German corps and army artillery groups. On paper they look undersized compared the British or US Army artillery, fewer heavy cannon. Anyone see the same thing here, & was it possible or desirable to have boosted the firepower at these levels?

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Richard Anderson » 28 Oct 2021 19:14

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
28 Oct 2021 17:35
Swerving back to cannon. Im looking again at the strength of the German corps and army artillery groups. On paper they look undersized compared the British or US Army artillery, fewer heavy cannon. Anyone see the same thing here, & was it possible or desirable to have boosted the firepower at these levels?
It is difficult to assess for various reasons. The number of German "non-divisional" artillery battalions fluctuated considerably, as many light and medium battalions that were nominally formed as Heerestruppen eventually were used to replace or fill up artillery units in divisions. That was what happened to many of the 120-odd leichte-Artillerie-Abteilungen and 140-odd schwere-Artillerie-Abteilungen formed. There were also 62 Heeres-Artillerie-Abteilungen, but most of those were renamed leichte or schwere Abteilungen.

Overall, it seems the Ostfront corps in July 1941 had about two non-divisional battalions per division available. For example, I Armeekorps in July had six (mostly 15cm sFH and 10cm sK) battalions under the command of two Artillerie-Regiments Stab and two Beobachtungs-Abteilungen for its three infantry divisions. II Armeekorps was similar, except it had a third Regiments Stab. III Armeekorps (mot) had two Regiments Stab and three motorized battalions, one with two batteries of 24cm Haubitze, one of one battery of 10cmsK and two of 15cm sFH, and one of three 15cm sFH batteries for its two Panzer divisions.

By 1944, the expansion of the Heer appears to have diluted the non-divisional artillery pool. By the end of May 1944, VI Armeekorps with four divisions had just three artillery battalions and a StuG Brigade, with a single Beobachtungs-Abteilung in support. IX Armeekorps has a single artillery battalion and a single Beobachtungs-Abteilung for its two divisions and Korpsgruppe. That led to the organization and fielding of the Heeres-Artillerie-Brigade and Volks-Artillerie Korps, nominally of five or more battalions.

German artillery strength appears less than for comparable British and American formations. In general, a British corps had under command am AGRA of five or six regiments (battalions), plus usually an additional light artillery regiment (battalion) per division, as well as one or more heavy AA regiments (battalions) per corps. In American practice, each division normally had a single light artillery battalion more or less permanently attached as well as an artillery group of three to four battalions in direct support and one or more additional in general support. Thus, where a German division at peak might have the support of two non-divisional artillery battalions, a British or American division would have the support of at least double that and frequently considerably more. In practice in an emergency, a British WILLIAM target enjoyed the attention of all guns of the army in range. In solid terms, for the American Army, it meant that the 26th Infantry Regiment, during the Battle of Dom Butgenbach, had available the firepower of as many as 22 battalions of artillery.
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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 28 Oct 2021 20:22

Those are similar to the numbers Ive come up with accounting for the corps groups.

What less clear is how the different commanders were were using the Corp/ Army artillery. Reinforcing fires in the US sense may not have been common.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Richard Anderson » 28 Oct 2021 20:46

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
28 Oct 2021 20:22
Those are similar to the numbers Ive come up with accounting for the corps groups.

What less clear is how the different commanders were were using the Corp/ Army artillery. Reinforcing fires in the US sense may not have been common.
From the few fire plan documents I have seen - mostly Anzio - pre-planned offensive and defensive fires were the norm and "on call" fires were an exception. Generally, the artillery was divided between counter-battery missions (frequently assigned to heavy Flak since the number of 10cm and 17cm heavy guns was very limited and only the 17cm was "safe" from Allied counterbattery given the 10cm range was too short versus the mas of 155mm guns available to the Allies), Sperrfeuer, which were barrages for screening or defensive fires, and Zerstörerischesfeuer/Vernichtungsfeuer? (IIRC the term), which was directed at pre-selected points.

One of the German battalion commanders from Anzio (he was a captain BTW at the time) said he had a single leFH battery in direct support with its observer as part of his command group, so similar to American practice. So long as the observer was with him and remained in communication with his battery he could call for fires on pre-registered points and could adjust from that point, but the sticking point was the communications. If wire or wireless was lost, which was common, they could only call for fires by per-arranged combinations of signal flares...and that had its own problems. Furthermore, he had little or no means for his company commanders to call for fires, inasmuch as communications to his forward companies were even more limited than communications back to the supporting battery. He also had virtually no way of calling for reinforcing fires beyond that of his attached battery unless it was part of the original fire plan. He contrasted this with the rapidity American artillery fire responded to his movements and how quickly the firepower built up.
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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 29 Oct 2021 02:24

Thanks for all this.
Richard Anderson wrote:
28 Oct 2021 20:46
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
28 Oct 2021 20:22
Those are similar to the numbers Ive come up with accounting for the corps groups.

What less clear is how the different commanders were were using the Corp/ Army artillery. Reinforcing fires in the US sense may not have been common.
From the few fire plan documents I have seen - mostly Anzio - pre-planned offensive and defensive fires were the norm and "on call" fires were an exception.
Hmmm...
Generally, the artillery was divided between counter-battery missions (frequently assigned to heavy Flak since the number of 10cm and 17cm heavy guns was very limited and only the 17cm was "safe" from Allied counterbattery given the 10cm range was too short versus the mas of 155mm guns available to the Allies),
Having the FLAK double for counter battery. I wonder how often that happened? With what appears to be a inferiority in tube numbers I might be surprised.
Sperrfeuer, which were barrages for screening or defensive fires, and Zerstörerischesfeuer/Vernichtungsfeuer? (IIRC the term), which was directed at pre-selected points.
The plot thickens.
One of the German battalion commanders from Anzio (he was a captain BTW at the time) said he had a single leFH battery in direct support with its observer as part of his command group, so similar to American practice. So long as the observer was with him and remained in communication with his battery he could call for fires on pre-registered points and could adjust from that point, but the sticking point was the communications. If wire or wireless was lost, which was common, they could only call for fires by per-arranged combinations of signal flares...and that had its own problems. Furthermore, he had little or no means for his company commanders to call for fires, inasmuch as communications to his forward companies were even more limited than communications back to the supporting battery
Not much different from anyone else. Comm goes down you lose fire support. The difference seems to be fewer observation & comm links. The US Army usually had a artillery liaison officer with the battalion CP, with a comm link to the artillery. There would also be one of more forward observers farmed out to the companies. Or on separate observation posts. Those created another link. Aside from giving the fire support system more 'eye' it lends to redundancy making a comm failure a tiny bit less a problem. That leads elsewhere, but sticking on course... weather the German Battalion commander was limited in his links to fire support by doctrine or by equipment and personnel shortages is a question.
. He also had virtually no way of calling for reinforcing fires beyond that of his attached battery unless it was part of the original fire plan. He contrasted this with the rapidity American artillery fire responded to his movements and how quickly the firepower built up.
Again this raises the question of a doctrinal thing, or shortages driving the ability to reinforce artillery fires on short notice. I suspect both. What I don't know anything of are the German procedures or doctrine for massing artillery fires. Some basic understanding of how the French, US, and Brits did it has come my way (they all had very different techniques). On the German side its a blank.

On the equipment shortage side its clear. With only two, three, or maybe four battalions of cannon in the corps group there not enough to both put attentions to missions like counter batter, or interdiction & other 'deep fires', and to provide reinforcing fires to the division artillery.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by T. A. Gardner » 29 Oct 2021 03:18

German artillery tends to be decentralized in control. Infantry guns and mortars at regiment and battalion are more common for direct support while the divisional artillery tends to do its own thing most of the time. If artillery is assigned to say an assaulting regiment, then observers are assigned from the artillery regiment to direct fires.
A common German practice was also to use a roving gun from the battery for deception in counterbattery fire. That is, the battery would detach one gun to set up away from the rest of the battery and when directed it would open fire to conceal the actual battery position, or give the impression that the battery was still in place while it changed positions.
Normally, a battalion was used whole in fires. Fire by battery was the exception. This started to fall by the wayside about mid war when the Germans were experiencing a shortage of artillery pieces and the need to provide some artillery support for mobile operations became apparent. Then, a battery could be assigned to a kampfgruppe, along with observers for the purposes of giving it fire support in an offensive mission.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Sheldrake » 29 Oct 2021 09:16

The German higher command of artillery rested with the artillery commander at Corps or Army level. These were lightly staffed unlike the British AGRA and US Artillery brigades which included much more "computational power" in the form of human "computers" and locating, signals, survey and logistic assets. The Germand did create an Artillery Division based on the 18th Panzer Division HQ communications and logistics. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/18th_Arti ... Wehrmacht)

The Germans had far thinner network of artillery communications and observers than either of the Western Allies. Their logistic support was far inferior too. German artilliery was better supplied with ammunition than the Red Army, but its logistics in the west were woefully inadequate.

There were two growth areas in the German artillery arm. Multiple rocket launchers, though IRRC operated by the chemical warfare arm, and assult artillery. Multiple rocket launchers provided a high weight of fire in a short time and with shoot and scoot tactice could minimise losses from counter battery fire. Fine for harrassment and an offesnive fire plan. Not particularly useful as a defensive fire.

Assault artillery grew from one or two battlaions in 1940 to hundreds by 1944. This was the sexy arm of the Artillery. It was where aggressive German gunners could most easily win the Ritterkreuz. Sturm artillerie took close support artillery to an extreme, decentralising artillery as direct weapons. It also occupied the space in the German army taken by Infantry tanks in the British Army and indipendent armoured battlaions in the US Army.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by stg 44 » 29 Oct 2021 12:53

Sheldrake wrote:
29 Oct 2021 09:16
The Germans had far thinner network of artillery communications and observers than either of the Western Allies. Their logistic support was far inferior too. German artilliery was better supplied with ammunition than the Red Army, but its logistics in the west were woefully inadequate.
Intentionally or as a byproduct of Allied bombing of logistics, demands in the East, and attrition of equipment and manpower?

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by T. A. Gardner » 29 Oct 2021 22:57

stg 44 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 12:53
Sheldrake wrote:
29 Oct 2021 09:16
The Germans had far thinner network of artillery communications and observers than either of the Western Allies. Their logistic support was far inferior too. German artilliery was better supplied with ammunition than the Red Army, but its logistics in the west were woefully inadequate.
Intentionally or as a byproduct of Allied bombing of logistics, demands in the East, and attrition of equipment and manpower?
A good part of that has to do with the size of the German electronics industry. They simply didn't have the capacity to meet demand. Making things worse, the Luftwaffe got priority over the Wehrmacht for electronics. Same thing went with ammunition. Flak came first, the Heer's needs came second. Thus artillery was usually short of ammunition too.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Sheldrake » 29 Oct 2021 23:02

stg 44 wrote:
29 Oct 2021 12:53
Sheldrake wrote:
29 Oct 2021 09:16
The Germans had far thinner network of artillery communications and observers than either of the Western Allies. Their logistic support was far inferior too. German artillery was better supplied with ammunition than the Red Army, but its logistics in the west were woefully inadequate.
Intentionally or as a byproduct of Allied bombing of logistics, demands in the East, and attrition of equipment and manpower?
1. Several aspects were intentional.

a. German re-armament skimped on artillery. They never invested the logistic vehicles that supported the British and American artillery arm or the level of C3. Most of their artillery arm was no more mobile than in 1918. Horse drawn transport was inadequate for ammunition resupply and tied to railheads. The attrition of artillery horses was horrendous and led to lots of abandoned guns in Soviet offensives. Arguably the Germans should have motorised their medium artillery rather than their anti-tank guns.

b. The Germans made extensive use of captured artillery, which looked good on paper, but further complicated logistics. The German Seventh Army had a ludicrous variety of artillery pieces. It was a choice to have the most for show rather than the ability to generate sustained firepower - but I guess the self delusion of the Atlantic Wall was that it might deter the allies from invasion.

c. The German success in tactical manoeuvre and the contact battle led them to favour decentralisation. Hence e.g. 240 STuG parceled out to the infantry in penny packets rather than large numbers of field artillery tubes that could be massed as 240 gun batteries against any point on the Army front. One often overlooked aspect is that the debate about German reserves prior to D Day almost totally ignored artillery. Because there was no agreement on how the panzer divisions were to be used, few if any provision has been made for artillery contingencies. So when 1st SS Panzer Corps deployed to Normandy after D Day there had been no prior survey of gun positions or even 1:25,000 maps, even though Normandy was always one of the possible battlefields.

3. Demands of the East? Yup the Germans did invest in artillery in the run up to the Second World War. However, success in Poland and France raised the idea that armour and aircraft would be the key to victory. If the Germans had more resources or fewer demands in the East they would probably have more panzer divisions.

4. Allied action? The German lack of motor transport and their reliance on railways was a weakness in Normandy exploited to the full by the allied air forces. Op Strangle in Italy was less successful, probably because prior to Op Diadem the allies were not forcing the Germans to expend ammunition daily and they could build up ammunition stocks.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Cult Icon » 29 Oct 2021 23:19

T. A. Gardner wrote:
29 Oct 2021 22:57

A good part of that has to do with the size of the German electronics industry. They simply didn't have the capacity to meet demand. Making things worse, the Luftwaffe got priority over the Wehrmacht for electronics. Same thing went with ammunition. Flak came first, the Heer's needs came second. Thus artillery was usually short of ammunition too.
sources for these claims??

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Cult Icon » 29 Oct 2021 23:31

Sheldrake wrote:
29 Oct 2021 23:02

3. Demands of the East? Yup the Germans did invest in artillery in the run up to the Second World War. However, success in Poland and France raised the idea that armour and aircraft would be the key to victory. If the Germans had more resources or fewer demands in the East they would probably have more panzer divisions.
Battle of Kerch/Sevastapol, Stalingrad, Kursk are examples of areas where German artillery was strong....Siege weapons were brought in for Sevastapol.

The German forces used close air support instead of grandiose artillery organizations (such as the Soviet Artillery corps) as substitute artillery (dive bombers and medium bombers), this is why it was essentiall to allocate the support of a Luftflotte or Fliegerkorps for an attacking army or panzer korps.

The manner in which this close air support was coordinated was through air force liasion officers allocated to divisions, specially trained and mounted in armored halftracks. Patton's 3rd Army did the same thing, allocating liasion officers to coordinate their supporting ground-attack aircraft (P47).

However the routine German method had more firepower delivered air-ground than the US routines, because they used proper bombers and high volume of sorties.

The weakness of German artillery is also why the German ground force was crippled in the West as they could not call on on their Luftflotte and Fliegerkorps to blast a path for their assault forces, leaving the combat burden to infantry and armor, broken up into small groups instead of concentrated.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Sheldrake » 30 Oct 2021 00:13

Cult Icon wrote:
29 Oct 2021 23:31
Sheldrake wrote:
29 Oct 2021 23:02

3. Demands of the East? Yup the Germans did invest in artillery in the run up to the Second World War. However, success in Poland and France raised the idea that armour and aircraft would be the key to victory. If the Germans had more resources or fewer demands in the East they would probably have more panzer divisions.
(1) Battle of Kerch/Sevastapol, Stalingrad, Kursk are examples of areas where German artillery was strong....Siege weapons were brought in for Sevastapol.

(2) The German forces used close air support instead of grandiose artillery organizations (such as the Soviet Artillery corps) as substitute artillery (dive bombers and medium bombers), this is why it was essential to allocate the support of a Luftflotte or Fliegerkorps for an attacking army or panzer korps.

(3)The manner in which this close air support was coordinated was through air force liasion officers allocated to divisions, specially trained and mounted in armored halftracks. Patton's 3rd Army did the same thing, allocating liasion officers to coordinate their supporting ground-attack aircraft (P47).

(4) However the routine German method had more firepower delivered air-ground than the US routines, because they used proper bombers and high volume of sorties.

(5) The weakness of German artillery is also why the German ground force was crippled in the West as they could not call on on their Luftflotte and Fliegerkorps to blast a path for their assault forces, leaving the combat burden to infantry and armor, broken up into small groups instead of concentrated.
Re 1. These were examples of when the German artillery was strong. Though the key artillery bombardment at Stalingrad is the one that presaged the Soviet offensive. ;)

Re 2 I agree - as does Jonathan Bailey, up to a point. The Blitzkrieg myth allowed the Germans to think that aircraft had replaced artillery. The Germans did still make use of field artillery. There was never enough air support to replace field artillery. You may be interested to know that the Stukas were an inspiration for the British artillery techniques. The British artillery officer H J Parham worked out that concentrated fire from 25 pounders could achieve the same effect as stukas, by day and night, in all weathers and regardless of the air situation.

Re 3 All of the armies adopted similar techniques for co-ordinating close air support. It wasn't unique to Patton. The Germans were there first. But the allies ended up with far more than one air force officer per division.

Re 4 The Western Allies could deliver far higher weight of aerial firepower than the Germans. The Stuka could deliver munitions with far greater accuracy - but only survivable against weak AA defences. The far more numerous Allied fighter bombers could deliver similar bomb loads to Stukas. Rocket firing Typhoons and P47s had a comparable psychological impact to the sirens of Stukas. The Germans never approached the bombardments of the allied heavy bombers which were comparable in throw weight to tactical nuclear weapons in Op Goodwood, Op Cobra.

Re 5 Yup. without air superiority the Blitzkreig didn't work the way it was portrayed. The Germans were left with their field artillery, mortars and rocket launchers.

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Re: Alternative Artillery of the 20th Century

Post by Cult Icon » 30 Oct 2021 00:13

Sheldrake wrote:
29 Oct 2021 23:02

3. Demands of the East? Yup the Germans did invest in artillery in the run up to the Second World War. However, success in Poland and France raised the idea that armour and aircraft would be the key to victory. If the Germans had more resources or fewer demands in the East they would probably have more panzer divisions.
"IF" the Germans had more resources and fewer demands in the East the artillery force in the West would have been a lot more standardized with their German 105 and 150 mm guns, infantry divisions would look more like the ones in the summer of 1941 and 1942. Maybe experiments like the 18th Artillery division would be more common, as well as more and stronger GHQ artillery. The German inf units would have been more motorized in general.

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