World War II Technology: Land Warfare Weapons--Artillery


Figure 1.--The German 88 was probably the single best artillery weapon of the War. It was developed as an anti-aircraft weapon. Rommel found during the campaign in France that it was a highly effective anti-tank weapon. The Germans were highly dependent on rail lines. Away from the rail lines they were less mobile. The Germans at the beginning of the War were often forced to move artillery with draft animals. Here we see German 88s in France, probably in 1943. The young men in the white uniforms are probably Organizatiion Todt workers or perhaps RAD youth. In preparation for D-Day, the Allied air forces began hammering the French railway system to cut off the German coastal beach defenses--the Transportation Plan (April 1944).

Artillery, as was the case since the 16th century, one of the primary weapons of World War II. The advances in motorized vehicles gave the artillery unpecedented mobility. The tank was essentially motorized artillery and there were a range of self-propelled guns. The Germans began the War, however, still dependent on horses to move artillery. This impeded their mobility and was a factor in the failure of Barbarossa. German draft animals were unable to withstand the rigors of the Russian winter. Artillery was a strong point of both the Soviet and American armies. The Germans also had excellent atillery. Erwin Rommel noted the effectiveness of the American artillery in his initial confrontation with the U.S. Army at Kaserine. It allowed the Americans to quickly recover. The expansion of air power to an extent cut into artillery operations. At the beginning of the War, the Germans used the Stuka as mobile artillery. The Allies beginning in North Africa followed the German example and won air superority. The Allies were about to pound German positions well beyond the range of artillery. Japanese artillery was inferior, but effective enough to cause substabtial casualties in several island campsign. The Japanese became very adept at concealing their artillery pieces. There were three types of artillery used during the War, not counting tanks. 1) field, 2) infantry, and 3) emplaced. Field artillery is what one usually thinks of when discussing artillery. Field artillery served both offensive and defensive funtions. It was use to prepare or soften up an area to be attacked or to help hold a defensive position. American use of field artillery and its mobility at Bastoign helped save it during the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944). Field artillery fired various projectiles (high explosive and covering smoke to anti-aircraft and armour-piercing, anti-tank rounds). Unlike World War I, poison gas shells were not used. There were various types of guns including howitzers and mortars. Three of the best known guns were the German 88-mm, the American 105-mm, and the British 25 pounder. The German 88 was probably the single best artillery weapon of the War. It was developed as an anti-aircraft weapon. Rommel found during the campaign in France that it was a highly effective anti-tank weapon. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Allied strategic air campaign forced the Germans to deploy many of their 88s in massive FLAK batteries around German cities rather than on the Eastern Front to destroy Red Army tanks. 2) There was also infantry artillery. Infantry units were provided light mortars, giving them their own artillery coverage. 3) Emplaced artillery was of less importance. Enplaced guns were used by the French on the Maginot Line. They were never tested as the Germans went around the Maginot Line. The Gemans wasted enormous resources in building huge railway guns. Other resources were wasted in static batteries on the Atlantic Wall. The Germans were not impressed with American tanks, but American artillery was a very different matter. Not only were American artillery excellent weapons, but they were produced in great quantity. Even more important to the effectiveness of American artillery was the large number of field radios which American units had from the beginning of the War. Virtually every American leiutenant had the ability to call in for artillery support. The Germans also had radios, but in much smaller numbers.

Importance

Artillery, as was the case since the introduction and mastery of gun powder (15 th cebntury), was immportant in World war II. It was one of the primary weapons of World War II, although aircraft delivered powerful blows on eneny forces as well. The advances in motorized vehicles gave the artillery unpecedented mobility. The tank was essentially motorized artillery and there were a range of self-propelled guns. German focus on mobil warfare gave them a huge advantage at the onset of the War. The Luftwaffe Stuka was essentially aerial artillery. Mobility provided the oportunity to concentrate rtillery at critical points on the battlefield to a degreev never before schieved. This proved cricial in the German crossing of the Meuse ahnd resulting victory in the Battle for France (1940). It was the Germans who first appreciated the importance of anti-tank guns in tank warfare. And the Germn 88 proved to be one of of the best such guns of the War. It took the Allies some time to deploy anti-tank guns of similar effectivness. The dynmic of tnk warfare was fundamentlly chnged by the development of infantry anti-tank weapons and forced changes in tank tactics. Standard artillery was also of importance, especially as tank tacics changed. The Soviets and Allies had much stronger artillery arms. The artillery provided support to ground troops. The American artillery played a key role after Kasswerine in stopping the German armored thrust and in maintaing the Bastogne pocket in the Bulge. Here the mobility of American artillery was key to its success. Artillery was always aimportant both to support friendly infntry and to pound eneny artillery. The American introduction of the proximity fuse prived deadly to German infantry.

Country Trends

All of the major beligerant countries, except Japan and Italy, had important artillery arms. The German 88 is one of the best known World War II artillery pieces. It was created as an anti-aircraft weapon, but became a multi-purpose gun, especially formidable as a tank killer. The Nebelwerfer multi-barreled mortar was also a very effective weapon. The Germans began the War, however, still dependent on horses to move artillery. This impeded their mobility and was a factor in the failure of Barbarossa. German draft animals were unable to withstand the rigors of the Russian winter. The Germans devoted substabtiak resources on giant guns. Artillery was a strong point of both the Soviet and American armies. The Germans also had excellent atillery. Erwin Rommel noted the effectiveness of the American artillery in his initial confrontation with the U.S. Army at Kaserine. Artilery covver allowed the Americans to quickly recover. The Allies and Soviets had a uge advantage over the Germans because of their larger industrial capacity. In addition, the Germans with the onset of the strategic nombing campaign was forced to deploy a substantial part of its artillery production in the Reich around major cities, instead of at the front. The expansion of air power to an extent cut into artillery operations. At the beginning of the War, the Germans used the Stuka as mobile artillery. The Allies beginning in North Africa followed the German example and won air superority. The Allies were about to pound German positions well beyond the range of artillery. Japanese artillery was inferior, but effective enough to cause substantial casualties in several island campaigns. The Japanese became very adept at concealing their artillery pieces, necessary because as early as Guadalcanal they were forced to fight the war without air cover. The Germans were not impressed with American tanks, but American artillery was a very different matter. Not only were American artillery excellent weapons, but they were produced in great quantity. And the highly mechmuzed American Army had the bility to move its artillery rapidly. And even small American infantry unit had radios and other communications equipmentto cll in artillery support.

Types

Artillery became increasingly specialized during World War II. There were three types of artillery used during the War, not counting tanks which were essentially mobile artillery. The three major artillery types were: 1) field, 2) infantry, and 3) emplaced. Field artillery is what one usually thinks of when discussing artillery. Field artillery served both offensive and defensive funtions. It was use to prepare or soften up an area to be attacked or to help hold a defensive position. A major innovation here was the elf propelled gun. American use of field artillery and its mobility at Bastoign helped save it during the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944). Field artillery fired various projectiles (high explosive and covering smoke to anti-aircraft and armour-piercing, anti-tank rounds). Unlike World War I, poison gas shells were not used. There were various types of guns including howitzers and mortars. Rocket artillery was also deployed as field artillery, primarily by the Germans and Soviets. Rockets were hardley new, but there use was limited until World War II. Field artillery could be employed in arange of tactical situations. This included direct, line-of-sight firing to howitzer lobs, which could deliver rounds behind obstacles, including buildings. 2) There was also infantry artillery. Infantry units were provided light mortars, giving them their own artillery coverage. This meant that they could immediately deliver artillery rounds when they were unable tio call in artillery support or air strikes. 3) Emplaced artillery was of less importance. Enplaced guns were used by the French on the Maginot Line. They were never tested as the Germans went around the Maginot Line. The Gemans wasted enormous resources in building huge railway guns, most notably used in the seige of Sevasterpol (1942). Other resources were wasted in static batteries on the Atlantic Wall. The loss of air superiority significantlyreduced the effectiveness of German artillery.

Major Developments

Major developments in artillery occurred during World War II. Most of the major changes occurred because of the need to defend against armored and aerial attack. One of the major innovations was the self-propelled artillery gun. These guns reaching 8-inch (122 millimeter caliber) were mobile artillery mounted on tank chassis, but lacking the armored protection of a tank. There were two types of self-propelled artillery: 1) the assault gun and 2) the light assault gun. The ground attack fighter required major improvements in anti-aircraft guns. The American Bofors 40 millimeter cannon was capable of firing two rounds per second over a slant range of 4 miles. They proved especially importnt in the Pacific War. The American M-2, 90 millimeter gun fired 25 rounds per minute to a height of 9 miles. The introduction of reliable electronic fire control systems with radar detectors and trackers linked to primitive computers provided great advances in the lethality of antiaircraft guns. Fortuntelty the U.S. Army enjoyed air cover for most of the War in shrp contrast to his German and Japanese counterpart. Another major innovation was unguided rocket artillery. Several World War II combatants introduced rocket weapons. The German 15 centimeter Nebelwerfer could fire six 70-pound rockets in less than 3 seconds. The Soviet Katusha, first at 90 millimeter and then 122 millimeter, fired over 40 rockets at once. The American rocket weapon was the Calliope which fired 60 rockets at a time. These weapons were not very accurate, but were effective s as area saturation weapons. They caused both psychiatric as well as physical casualties. The variable timed and proximity fuse introduced by the Americans, signidicantly increased the lethality of artillery fire. These shells contained a minature radio transceiver within it that could be set so that the round exploded at a predetermined distance near a plane or above the ground. Thus instead of creating a large whole in a small area, it spread out sharnel over a wide area. One source estimte that it increased the killing power of artillery by a factor of 10. It was first used in the Pacific in naval warfare where there was no danger of it dalling into eneny hand. It was not used in Europe until the Bulge (December 1944),

Individual Guns

Three of the best known guns were the German 88-mm, the American M-59 155mm Long Tom long range field artillery, and the British 25 pounder. The German 88 was probably the single best artillery weapon of the War. It was developed as an anti-aircraft weapon. Rommel found during the campaign in France that it was a highly effective anti-tank weapon. Unfortunately for the Germans, the Allied strategic air campaign forced the Germans to deploy many of their 88s in massive FLAK batteries around German cities rather than on the Eastern Front to destroy Red Army tanks. The British 25 pound gun was the main gun used by Monty's 8th Army in North Africa and was key to the British success in that it was able to be used as both field artillery and an anti-tank gun. The American M-59 155mm Long Tom long range field artillery were not used as anti-tank guns at the front lines. Their shells packed enough force that even a close miss could heavily damage a tank or even turn it over. The 155mm is comparable to a 6 inche naval gun. It is basically the same size gun that was used on light cruisers. [Military History]

Communications

Even more important to the effectiveness of American artillery was the large number of field radios which American units had from the beginning of the War. Virtually every American leiutenant had the ability to call in for artillery support. The Germans also had radiod, but in much smaller numbers. Air superority was vital for effective artillery fire. The loss of air superority meant that arillery fire was limited to line-of-sight fire.

Sources

Military History Of the 20th Century






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Created: 7:10 AM 11/27/2011
Last updated: 6:50 PM 7/26/2013