When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Discussions on High Command, strategy and the Armed Forces (Wehrmacht) in general.
Yoozername
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 26 Feb 2018 04:49

German Army
Authorized Strength
Motorized Heavy (120mm) Mortar Company
1 March 1944
Staff:
1 Company Commander (officer)
1 pistol & 1 submachine gun
1 Position Officer (officer)
1 pistol & 1 submachine gun
1 Scissors Telescope Operator (NCO)
1 submachine gun
1 Direction Circle Operator (NCO)
1 submachine gun
1 Corpsman (NCO)
1 Pistol
1 Direction Circle Operator
1 submachine gun
1 Range Finder Operator
1 pistol
3 Motorcycle Messengers
3 submachine guns & 3 350ccm motorcycles
3 Truck Drivers
3 rifles, 1 light 3 seat passenger vehicle & 2 light 4 seat
passenger vehicles
Signals Squad:
1 Squad Leader (NCO)
1 submachine gun
1st Light (mot) Field Cable Troop:
1 Troop Leader (NCO)
1 submachine gun
3 Telephone Talkers
3 rifles
1 2 ton truck
2nd Light (mot) Field Cable Troop:
like 1st
3rd Light (mot) Field Cable Troop:
4 Telephone Talkers
4 rifles
1 2 ton truck
4th Light (mot) Field Cable Troop:
like 3rd
1st (mot) Radio Troop:
1 Troop leader
1 submachine gun
2 Radio Operators
2 rifles
1 light 3 seat personnel vehicle
2nd (mot) Radio Troops:
Like 1st
3rd (mot) Radio Troops:
Like 1st
4th (mot) Radio Troop:
3 Radio Operators
3 rifles
2
1 light 3 seat personnel vehicle
5th (mot) Radio Troop:
like 4th
6th (mot) Radio Troop:
like 4th
1st Platoon:
1 Platoon Leader (officer)
1 pistol & 1 submachine gun
1 NCO to operate the Scissors Telescope
1 submachine gun
1 Direction Circle Operator
1 submachine gun
1 Driver
1 rifle & 1 light four seat passenger vehicle
1 Position NCO
1 submachine gun
4 Mortar Crew Chiefs
4 submachine guns
20 Mortar Crewmen
4 rifles with grenade launchers, 4 pistols, 12 submachine guns,
2 light machine guns, 4 120mm mortars
8 (later 7) Drivers
8 (later 7) rifles, 4 Sd Kfz 3, 4 (later 3) 3ton trucks
4 Truck Crewmen/Munitions Handlers
4 submachine guns
2nd Platoon:
Same as first, but officer replaced by NCO
3rd Platoon
Same as first, but officer replaced by NCO
Field Train:
6 NCOs, 12 soldiers, 14 rifles, 3 pistols, 1 submachine gun, 1 350ccm motorcycle,
4 trucks, 1 four seat passenger vehicle.
Administrative Train:
2 soldiers, 1 rifle, 1 submachine gun, & 1 2 ton truck
Baggage Train:
1 NCO, 3 soldiers, 3 rifles, 1 submachine gun, 1 3 ton truck.
Totals:
Warant
Officers Officer NCOs Soldiers
Troop Command 2 - 3 8
Signals Squad - - 6 29
1st Platoon 1 - 6 33/34
2nd Platoon - - 7 33/34
3rd Platoon - - 7 33/34
Field Train - - 6 12
Administration Train - - - 2
Baggage Train - - 1 3
Total 3 - 36 156/153
3
Note: When two numbers appear 11/12 the first number is the original strength
and the second number is a penciled change to the original document reflecting
a later organizational revision.
Records of Headquarters, German Army High Command, National Archives Microcopy
No. T-78, Roll 391, American Historical Association Committee for the Study of
War Documents, Washington, DC., 1960

yantaylor
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by yantaylor » 26 Feb 2018 15:21

Hi Gary, I thought that the Recce Battalion had Sd.Kfz 250s rather than Sd.Kfz 251s, that’s how I made the error.

Yan.

yantaylor
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by yantaylor » 26 Feb 2018 15:43

Brilliant breakdown Yoozer!

Gary Kennedy
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Gary Kennedy » 26 Feb 2018 21:25

See what you mean Yan, I can only keep about six or seven of the 251 types in my head, then it's off to the bookcase. When the Pz Recce Bns went fully armoured the Heavy Coys switched to the 251, while the two Rifle Coys had the 250s, before one of the two converted to 251s under the fG reorganisation.

Gary

Yoozername
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 27 Feb 2018 00:16

The German machine Gun Battalions with assorted weapons aside from MGs...one had 120mm mortars

Machine Gun Battalions January 1944

4th, 13th & 14th Machine Gun Battalions
1 (mot) HQ Company
1 Signals Detachment
2 Motorcycle Platoons (4 HMGs ea)
3 (mot) Companies (12 HMGs, 3 50mm mortars & 3 AT rifles)
1 (mot) Company (2 LMGs, 6 37mm AT guns, & 6 80mm mortars)
16th Machine Gun Battalion
3 (mot) Companies (12 HMGs, 3 50mm mortars & 3 AT rifles)
1 Engineer Company (9 LMGs)
1 (mot) Anti-Tank Battery (9 37mm AT guns & 3 LMGs)
17th Machine Gun Battalion
1 (mot) Headquarters Company
1 Infantry Support Gun Section (3 75mm guns & 1 LMG)
1 Engineer Platoon (3 LMGs)
1 Mortar Platoon (6 120mm mortars)
3 Companies (12 HMGs ea)

yantaylor
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by yantaylor » 27 Feb 2018 01:25

Yoozer, do you know how these crews were organized, it is a great breakdown but this part needs some building, I have pasted the part below so maybe we can work on splitting this list into individual mortar crews;

4 Mortar Crew Chiefs
4 submachine guns
20 Mortar Crewmen
4 rifles with grenade launchers, 4 pistols, 12 submachine guns,
2 light machine guns, 4 120mm mortars


Regards
Yan.

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Sheldrake
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Sheldrake » 27 Feb 2018 16:54

stg 44 wrote:
Ste wrote:In order to give a better explanation, I will make an example:
a Major, commanding a grenadier bataillon had to attack and conquer a town. He has at his disposal some 81mm mortars in each of his companies, he has some IG (both 75mm and 150mm) and also a battery of 105mm howitzers under his command.
Depending on what he will decide to use mortars instead of howitzers instead of IG?
Thanks in advance.
Why not all of the above? If you've got it use it. The only reason I could see a problem is accuracy, so you'd have to tailor the mission to the CEP of shorts/long dropped rounds. So Howitzers, the furthest away and most inaccurate would suppress until other weapon systems got on line and could direct fire (IGs) or accurately indirect fire close by, while mortars would hit targets further from the front line to avoid hitting their won troops. So in terms of danger close the howitzers were the weapon you'd have to stay furthest from, mortars next, IGs last, as they were the most accurate and the one that could direct fire close to the front.
The question needs to be rephrased. You are asking about planning a fireplan to support an attack by a (dismounted) battalion on a town. There are lots of ways to organise this depending on the circumstances:-

Scope of the mission
We need to assume that this is a small town or big village defended by an enemy that could be reasonably tackled by an infantry battalion - say a company in a small town/big village rather than somewhere the size of Stalingrad, (defended by an Army) or even Caen, Cassino or Ortona defended by a division.

Lets do a bit of mission analysis. Why does the town need to be captured? What is the commanders intent? Is this a key transportation hub or winter shelter that needs to be preserved intact? or is it acceptable to turn every street into cinders craters and rubble? Could the commanders intent be achieved by bypassing and isolating the town and manouvring the enemy out of it?

Some factors

Terrain
What is the town made of? Are the buildings of wood and brick? Or are they built of more substantial stone or concrete? Will the town burn if shelled? Are there any buildings that could be used as strong points - thick walled forts, air raid bunkers or reinforced concrete tower blocks? To tackle thse you might need to consider using an fH or IG in the direct role as the bunker buster.

The Enemy
What do we know about the enemy defences? Is this a hasty defence in some meeting engagement? Or has the town been prepared for defence? Are there supporting weapons outside the town - direct weapons covering access to the town and indirect artillery or mortars?

Equipment characteristics
Mortars - short range - less ammunition -high trajectory
fH - long range - has own ammuniton logistics - should come with an LO/FOO and communications with guns.
iG - Short range - large calibre ammunuition
comes

Ammunition availability
How much have you got?
What natures? HE smoke time fuses

Supported arm scheme of manouvre.
The gunners - fH IG or Mortarswill want top know what effect you want to make on the enemy. Do you want that enemy neutralised or destroyed? Do you want an area screened from the enemy by smoke or a particular point blinded? When? How long for?

In British practice this task was taken on by the Direct Support battery commander who would co-ordinate the different weapon systems (artillery and mortars) into one plan -including an observation plan for adjustment of fire OPs and accompanying FOOs. He would also ask for a regiment of 24 guns rather than just a single battery of 8. If the enemy contested the town seriously a lot more artillery might be involved. If it was the divisional main effort it would get all 72 field guns and probably a load of medium guns too.

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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 27 Feb 2018 18:56

I am interested in the actual Battalion/Regt. weapons and distribution.

In Normandy, I believe I've read that only a few German infantry battalions actually had 120mm mortars. That is, there was little uniformity and many types of troops also. Ammunition was a concern also.

Having 120mm weapons at battalion level has its pros and cons. Ammunition, which is very heavy, being a major concern. The inability to rapidly move the 120mm (manpack) being another. Of course, the greater range is a definite plus as the Germans had to assign larger fronts on all units. Also, the range helps since counter-mortar fire was being developed to react to the casualties these weapons inflict. Having 81mm weapons fire from closer to the enemy has its benefits. Accuracy being one of them, and using a minimum charge also helps conceal the firing signature.

The US never assigned its 4.2 inch mortars typically, at a regimental level. Keeping them in separate battalions, and using them as needed, was the SOP. Most infantry regimental commanders would have argued differently.
Last edited by Yoozername on 28 Feb 2018 00:29, edited 1 time in total.

Art
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Art » 27 Feb 2018 21:27

Yoozername wrote: The ability to rapidly move the 120mm (manpack) being another.
120-mm mortar couldn't be broken down and carried in manpacks. It was transported with a truck/tractor/horse team and can be hauled by crews only for a relative short distance.

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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 28 Feb 2018 00:29

I meant inability

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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 28 Feb 2018 00:39

double
Last edited by Yoozername on 28 Feb 2018 15:23, edited 1 time in total.

Art
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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Art » 28 Feb 2018 11:11

Ok, then. What was not mentioned here: mortars were more suitable than classical artillery for hitting linear targets such as wire barriers or trench lines unless an oblique or flanking fire was employed. That was due to a dispersion area having a circular shape compared to an elongated ellipse typical for artillery guns.

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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 28 Feb 2018 15:59

That is generally true.

Mortar accuracy is also very range dependant. Even heavy mortars are not typically used at their full range. In WWII, something like the Soviet or German 120mm would be best used at 2000-3000 meters if attacking a observed target. Shooting beyond these ranges opens up the dispersion. It becomes more like harassing fire even if observed.

As mentioned above, 81mm were actually quite accurate when used close-in. A common tactic was to use a single 81mm and constantly trail it a 100 meters behind the point team on a probe. This was accomplished by using a rope that is tensioned and kept strait. The manpacked 81mm could then be assembled and , if needed, fire can be brought down quickly to help assault a position or to break contact.

The Germans, being on the defensive against Soviet tank/infantry attacks, had a SOP that all heavy weapons were to separate the infantry from the tanks. That is get the tank riders off and pin them once they are off. They would also use smoke to blind the second wave of the attack and enemy covering weapons. Mortar fire would not need extreme accuracy under these conditions as troops on top of a AFV are very vulnerable. Artillery could reach out further and obscure and suppress the enemy and also create 'blocking fire'. Basically a wall of protective fire that is intense and far enough away from the front line friendly troops (danger close). The Germans believed in multiple lines of defense also and would use the indirect weapons accordingly.

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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Yoozername » 28 Feb 2018 16:45

An interesting organization is the Heavy Company in each battalion of the SS Panzergrenadier Regiment of the 17th SS Panzer Grenadier Division.

Heavy Company
1 Mortar Platoon (4 120mm mortars)
1 Panzerjäger Platoon (3 75mm PAK 40)
2 Infantry Gun Sections (2 75mm leIG ea)

All motorized I would assume. But this division had truck issues.

In addition, the Regt. would have six 150mm sIG 'Grille' heavy infantry guns in a separate (17th) company.

This would give the Regt. a dozen 120mm mortars in addition to 81mm. Quite a lot of firepower for a Regt.

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Re: When to use mortars/IG/howitzers?

Post by Sheldrake » 28 Feb 2018 19:52

Yoozername wrote:That is generally true.

Mortar accuracy is also very range dependant. Even heavy mortars are not typically used at their full range. In WWII, something like the Soviet or German 120mm would be best used at 2000-3000 meters if attacking a observed target. Shooting beyond these ranges opens up the dispersion. It becomes more like harassing fire even if observed.

As mentioned above, 81mm were actually quite accurate when used close-in. A common tactic was to use a single 81mm and constantly trail it a 100 meters behind the point team on a probe. This was accomplished by using a rope that is tensioned and kept strait. The manpacked 81mm could then be assembled and , if needed, fire can be brought down quickly to help assault a position or to break contact.
I am not sure that mortars are intrinsically more accurate than a howitzer.

All artillery including mortars have a characteristic probable error of range and line/azimuth. Its the distance either side of from the mean point of impact within which half of the rounds will fall, and is typically a cigar shape. It is caused by a series of variations in e.g. charge manufacture, filling and burning, moment to moment variations in the wind speed and direction, imperfections in relaying between each round.

For a 25 Pounder gun howitzer the PEr was 35 yards at 11,000 yards. A British analysis of a German 81mm mortars found its PE r to be 40 yards at 2,400 yards range - which was better than the British 3" which had a PEr of 60 yards at the same range. The trajectory of a mortar bomb is much higher and longer than a howitzer- and the rifling helps.

Mortar bombs had a higher proportion of HE compared to a howitzer shell of the same weight. A mortar bomb did not face the firing stresses and because it would impact at close to 90 degree sit had a better splinter pattern than an artillery round - but it wasn't automatically more accurate.

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