Web Editor's Note:
We should add that over our years of research of 3AD history,
it was a long frustration that no WWII writings by Brown could
be found. And here was an officer who had been recognized by
many as one the most, if not THE most, brilliant and successful
of U.S. artillery commanders in WWII. At last in 2010, Jim MacClay
of 3AD.com staff hit pay dirt with the discovery of this superb,
long-lost article below. Brown's military career in the Cold
War would include a return to the 3AD in Germany as Division
Commander in 1959, and promotion to Lt. Gen. in 1960 as Commander
of V Corps.
Col. Devere Armstrong
Editor, The Field Artillery Journal, 1946
COLONEL BROWN KNOWS ARMOR. He served with it from June 1941
to June 1945, and commanded the Artillery of the 3rd Armored
Division throughout its entire period of combat in Europe. It
is safe to say that Colonel Brown commanded as much, if not more,
artillery during this period than any division artillery commander
in Europe. During one stage (Marche-Hotton) of the decisive Battle
of the Bulge, for example, he had nine battalions of artillery
under his control. In this writer's view, it will remain one
of the injustices of World War II that our veteran armored division
artillery commanders were denied by an unrealistic T/O the rank
of general officer so richly warranted by their combat responsibilities.
Colonel Brown's Silver Star with OLC, Legion of Merit with OLC,
Bronze Star, Air Medal, and foreign decorations testify to the
quality of his ten months of battle leadership in the heaviest
type of continuous combat.
Relatively unpublicized is the unequalled record of the 3rd
Armored Division. It came of age in the bloody hedgerow fighting
in Normandy in June, 1944. Thereafter, it saw heavy action almost
without a break, spearheading the VII Corps. The Division was
first into Belgium, first into and subsequently through the Siegfried
Line, first to take a German town. It took more casualties than
any other armored division, and, although not in the beach assault,
its organic artillery battalions fired more 105mm ammunition
(490,021 rounds) between D-Day in Normandy and VE-Day than any
other division in the ETO. The trail of the Division's hurtling
power is shown on pages 504-505. The men of the 3rd Armored can
well defend their claim to being the Spearhead in the West.
Readers should note that, like the 2nd Armored Division, the
3rd Armored Division was a so-called "heavy" division.
These two divisions remained organized under the T/0 & E
dated 1 March 42 thus they were authorized personnel and
equipment exceeding that authorized for the "light"
The 54th, 67th, and 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalions
were organic to the 3rd Armored Division.
- Col. Devere Armstrong
THE STORY OF THE 3RD ARMORED DIVISION ARTILLERY
By Col. Frederic J. Brown, Field Artillery
This article is based on my experience as Division Artillery
Commander of the 3rd Armored (Spearhead) Division in Europe.
The division was in combat continuously over a period of ten
months, and was assigned to First Army for the entire period.
The division was attached to the VII Corps for nine months; the
other divisions in this Corps also remained more or less permanently
assigned for the same period. This fixed organization was of
inestimable value to all in the Corps and permitted artillery
coordination and cooperation of the highest order.
The 3rd Armored Division was a veteran division, tremendously
proud, confident and competent. It participated in all types
of operations except amphibious. It rang up many "firsts"
and took many casualties. It was out in front most of the time,
spearheading an aggressive corps and army. It repeatedly took
the finest the Germans had.
The division was fortunate in being activated early and having
the personnel frozen in the early stages of its training cycle.
Thus, most of the division's training was performed with the
same personnel. Branch jealousy was dispelled at the outset,
and the division saw itself as one team long before entering
In retrospect, too much training time was wasted on high level
lectures on subjects of a general nature and far too little attention
paid to the basic schooling and indoctrination of the soldier.
I believe that every soldier in. ground forces should be trained
initially as a combat infantryman and be so thoroughly indoctrinated
that, regardless of later branch assignment, he will always remain
a combat infantryman in addition to his other duties. At any
time he may be called upon to fight with any means at hand. It
takes some bitter experiences for a division headquarters or
a supply unit to realize that, upon occasion, they must fight
as an infantry company.
It is an easy error to cut down the total strength of a division,
by generalizing that this unit or that unit can be attached if
needed. Combat requirements should be organic. The purpose of
much of our training is to form the team that is to fight together
and to indoctrinate them as a team in the common purpose and
common sacrifice. I believe this to be particularly true of armored
units due to the tempo and confusion of their action. Their success
is dependent primarily upon teamwork, élan and esprit.
For this reason, above all others, attached units can never equal
There is one more point on training, which is applicable to
all artillery-rotation of duties in training. Truthful is the
axiom, "keep three deep in every job." Not only is
this depth essential when the casualty rate goes up, but also
the~ rotation of duties in combat produces new ideas, evens out
arduous duties and casualty expectancy, and keeps the outfit
from going stale or battle weary. Our soldiers are too intelligent
and versatile to be held to a "one track" frame of
mind. If you can rotate them in combat, you can rotate them in
In the early development of the armored division and during
the organization changes, I could see no essential difference
between the role of artillery in an armored division and in an
infantry division. Combat experience merely strengthened this
More of the Same
By the very nature of its supported unit, however, armored
artillery must necessarily be faster, more aggressive in spirit,
and harder. But these characteristics are in addition to, and
not merely in lieu of, those traditional to the artillery of
the infantry division. That it should not be expected to do what
infantry division artillery does is unthinkable. Naturally equipment
must be suitable to enable it to perform its role, but the composition
of the organic artillery should conform to the same principles
as the infantry division artillery. As each combat team requires
a direct support battalion, so does each task force of an armored
division. Infantry divisions require general support artillery
and so do armored divisions-and in the same quantity. A fire
direction center is equally important. The surprise and violence
of armored action dictate maximum concentrated firepower, massed
action and the continuity of action until resistance has been
overcome. To accomplish this, massing of firepower is the most
effective and flexible means in a commander's repertoire.
For an armored division of 15,000 to 18,000 strength, I believe
that four direct support 105mm howitzer battalions and two general
support 155mm howitzer battalions are necessary. A 155mm self-propelled
gun battalion is acceptable as a substitute for the 155mm howitzers,
but is not the equal of them. It goes without saying that all
these weapons should be self-propelled.
I conceive the role of division artillery commander to be
that of the director and coordinator: of all available fire power
at the disposal of the division commander, whether close support
aircraft, artillery, guided missiles, rockets or whatever forms
of fire power the division commander has at his disposal. One
agency must be responsible for the clearance for fires, except
local fires within the immediate zone of the combat units. The
division artillery commander's fire direction center is the logical
agency to do these things, and the air direction' center should
be located there.
Flexibility and Confidence
The artillery must keep its technique so flexible that the
combat team or combat command commander feels that he does not
have one direct support battalion but all the fire power of the
division as his direct support artillery. The control must be
so flexible that each forward observer and each air observer
feels that he has adequate firepower available for the accomplishment
of his supported units mission and that it is at his fingertips.
The firepower available to the division commander is little enough
without having what there is compartmented within combat commands.
Combat commanders should be indoctrinated with the increased
value of massed fires of the division rather than the feeling
that each one must have some element attached directly under
his command. Each should be made to feel that he has all the
firepower at his disposal when the circumstances require and
in the meantime, such firepower as the division commander can
spare from other missions.
It takes considerable experience and considerable casualties
to really appreciate the value of surprise massed fires. If an
objective is worth committing 45 tanks and 500 infantrymen to
secure, it is surely worth all of the artillery within the division.
The division artillery commander's job is to give each combat
team or task force the full weight of the artillery to accomplish
its mission. This does not relieve the direct support battalion
commanders in any way of their responsibility for the close liaison
and cooperation with the supported unit. The direct support battalion
commander is the king pin of artillery support and this teamwork
is the very essence of this support. However, he must know that
he has his full division artillery and not just his battalion
backing him up, and that he has the complete confidence of the
division artillery commander.
The six-piece self-propelled howitzer batteries proved themselves
in armored action in Western Europe. Customarily, they occupied
position areas in a hexagonal or circular formation, and required
no larger areas than the four-piece batteries.
The heavy armored divisions were authorized one ammunition
half-track and trailer for each piece. This permitted an essential
rolling reserve of ammunition and also provided excellent perimeter
defense for the battery position. With these half-tracks plus
the antiaircraft protection (usually two M16 self-propelled AA
mounts) an armored firing battery could occupy and clear its
own position area and was more or less impervious to any but
major counterattacks. In several instances they fought off tank
attacks as well as numerous attacks by dismounted troops without
calling for assistance. This defensive ability is very necessary
in an armored division offensive. Armored artillery must be able
to displace through hostile territory, clear its own position
areas, and be as aggressive as the tank and infantry elements.
In several instances towed artillery was tried out as direct
support artillery for armored columns and was unsuccessful. The
lack of self-reliance in artillery units is a serious handicap
to an armored column.
Many close-support missions are fired at very short ranges
due to the necessity of the firing battery remaining, with or
closing up to the forward elements. Naturally this requires a
howitzer type weapon' to clear masks in varied terrain. Also,
self-propelled pieces are a necessity due to the large shifts
at the short ranges. Shifts from 1600 to 3200 mils were routine,
and there were many instances of three pieces of a battery firing
to the front and the other three 3200 mils to the rear. (Readers
who were there may question, and with good reason, my use of
the terms "front" and "rear" in connection
with armored action!) In a hotly contested engagement in which
the battalion is in position in a relatively small area, its
natural position is close to the task force or combat command
trains and also the combat command or task force CP. This forms
a considerable group with good protective firepower. This is
a very important consideration when the task forces are cut off,
as they often are, two or three days at a time and all-around
security is an ever-present necessity.
Old vs. New
The three organic battalions of the division were organized
on the old T /0, the heavy division type. The attached armored
battalions (of which there was at least one; and many times two)
were on the new T/0 or light armored division type. This furnished
an excellent opportunity to compare the two organizations. The
new table has been pared down to the irreducible minimum in firing
battery personnel. This was most evident in prolonged engagements.
With all units normally functioning from 10-15% under-strength,
the organic battalions had every advantage over the attached
battalions in furnishing the relief for their observers and in
the 24-hour operation of firing batteries. The cushion provided
by the old T /0 was just adequate, except for officers, to maintain
an efficient combat unit.
The lack of an adequate T/0 to provide 24-hour operation is
nowhere as evident as in the firing batteries. It was very common
practice for the firing batteries to fire as much or more at
night than in. the daytime. In breakthrough operations, it was
normal for the batteries to displace and march all day long,
and then to fire defensive, harassing, and interdiction fires
all night long - and then to march again at first light. Such
anomalies occurred under the "pennywise" tables as
having one man perform the duties of a truck driver, and operator
of a CW radio set. This simply will not work in combat and the
T/0 must be augmented by the battery commander in this case with
a full time truck driver and a relief radio operator. But in
a "pennywise" T/0 the same is true of all positions
in firing batteries, so where can the men come from? The same applies to officers. The assistant executive is as necessary
as the executive officer. Improvisation works in 3-day maneuvers
but breaks down after months of prolonged combat. The work of
an armored artillery firing battery is very hard work indeed
- plain, hard physical work twenty-four hours a day, usually
operating within range of mortar and small arms.
The Spirit of Armor
It was common practice to provide relief crews for forward
observer parties from the personnel of the firing battery including
relief of the forward observer tank drivers by the drivers of
the self-propelled pieces. This served to weld the whole battery
and battalion into one fighting unit, all conscious of the common
objective. It sharpened the firing battery discipline perceptibly.
Mistakes were not infrequent, but could always be attributed
to tired, over-worked men and the terrible stress of urgency;
they could never be attributed to indifference, carelessness,
or failure to realize the importance of each individual's effort
in the' common end. The firing discipline was superior. The firing
battery was kept abreast of the minute-to-minute developments
up front by means of the radio net. Knocking out a Mark V by
indirect fire was just as real to those men in the battery position
as if they had used a bazooka on that tank. A brisk small arms
fight in the battery areas was an everyday occurrence, not an
occasion for a medal formation.
The armored firing battery embodies the true spirit of armor
- it has all the dash and fire of the old horse artillery combined
with the self-reliance and aggressiveness so necessary to successful
armored action. Close support becomes a very real thing indeed
when all hands know that nothing - enemy infantry, tanks or shell
fire - can stop an armored artillery firing battery.
ORGANIZATION FOR COMBAT
The 3rd Armored Division's initial combat came in the action
north of and preceding the historic breakthrough at St. Lo. Until
the completion of the Battle of Mortain the combat commands were
attached as spearheads to the, infantry divisions. The remainder
of the time in combat the division operated as a whole, either
alone or with another armored division spearheading a corps.
The normal battle formation was two combat commands abreast (each
in two columns, or task forces) with a combat command in reserve.
This formation is almost mandatory in a heavy armored division
to insure rapid deployment and to shorten the columns so that
follow-up troops are within supporting distance.
Since the artillery organization must conform to the division
formation, an artillery battalion was required in each column
or task force. This is a must. The direct support of a task force
by a battery, or from an adjacent column was tried many times
but never worked satisfactorily. A battery is simply inadequate,
due to the necessity of frequent displacement and insufficient
firepower. Similarly, a battalion cannot be depended upon to
support a column other than the one with which it is marching,
since its displacements must conform to the progress of the column.
The two artillery battalions with a combat command were placed
in a groupment under the command of the direct support battalion
commander, regardless of seniority, who worked habitually with
that combat command. The groupment commander furnished command
liaison to the combat commander and was charged with the coordination
and clearance of fires within the combat command zone of action.
During heavy fighting and the initial stages of a breakthrough,
a 155- mm howitzer battalion was often added to the groupment
to furnish general support for the two task forces. This medium
battalion usually marched on the inner (safer) column of the
combat command. Incidentally, the attached 155mm howitzer battalions
were severely handicapped by the lack of armored vehicles and
self-propelled mounts. Towed artillery repeatedly proved itself
very vulnerable to minor hostile action and demanded protection
by supported troops that was not required by armored self-propelled
Range - Critical Factor
The 155mm SP gun battalion was normally in general support
of the division, marching in one of the center columns of the
division in front of the reserve. I cannot over-emphasize the
utility and versatility of the self-propelled 155mm gun, thus
employed. Due to the range and rapid shift, support of any column
was possible even though the division was widely deployed in
depth and width. It enabled immediate interdiction of approaching
hostile columns detected by air reconnaissance, neutralization
(prior to detection or arrival of the armored columns) of vital
points such as bridge sites, defiles, and gaps in encirclements,
and counter-battery when the situation was too fluid to permit
close corps artillery follow-up.
In every instance the long range was the appreciated characteristic
rather than the trajectory ease of selection of the position
area. In addition to the 155mm howitzer battalions in the groupments,
in several instances when the fighting was heavy a group with
the group headquarters was used in general support of the division.
Here, too, range and counter-battery ability were prime requisites,
since the ratio of battalions in the group was usually two 155mm
guns to one 155mm (or preferably one 8") howitzer.
Division Artillery Control
The battalions, groupments or group were in direct or general
support at all times rather than attached, and were under division
artillery control. The direct support commanders were given much
latitude on displacements, quantity of fire and clearance to
fire in their assigned zones. They also established the combat
command no-fire-lines. Even during the wildest pursuits the establishment
of no-fire-lines and clearances of fire were rigidly enforced.
During fluid situations the principal duty of the division artillery
fire direction center was the clearance and coordination of fires.
No Small Task
Keeping track of all elements of a rapidly moving reinforced
heavy armored division is no small task. All of the technique
and functions of an infantry division artillery fire direction
center were maintained on the move by a mobile armored fire direction
center and by radio communication. The one consideration of location,
overriding all others including command post security, was good
radio communication with all elements. Our command post was seldom
near the division command post. Command liaison with the division
commander was maintained by the division artillery commander
and with the division command post by the division antitank officer-an
amusing TO position, incidentally, in an armored division. Clearances
for close support bombing missions were obtained through division
artillery fire direction center. Although the air support was
excellent, the coordination and speed of delivery could have
been improved had there been an air direction center working
in close con junction with the division artillery fire direction
At this time I want to pay tribute to Brig. Gen. Williston
B. Palmer, Corps Artillery Commander of the VII Corps. In every
operation the corps artillery support was superb. Anything asked
was given regardless of whether it was fire support, attached
battalions, or corps artillery in direct support. The type and
quantity of artillery support was tailored to the need, if it
was available in the VII Corps or in First Army. Hence the problems
of division artillery organization for combat were those of balancing
requirements and available road space, but not availability.
In my opinion the flexibility of General Palmer's organization
and his instant grasp of the progress of battle played a very
material part in the consistent success of all VII Corps operations.
On the Ground
The bulk of the observation was by means of the forward observer
and the Air OP, or a combination of the two. I believe that providing
an adequate number of forward observers was the most constant
problem that faced us. Although we operated under T/Os which
provided three battalion forward observers in addition to the
battery reconnaissance officers and a theater allowance of an
additional observer per battery, there were never enough forward
observers. Provision must be made for a forward observer in each
combat company, regardless of whether it be infantry, tank, or
reconnaissance. There must be a liaison officer provided for
each combat infantry, tank and reconnaissance battalion. Also,
there must be sufficient observers available to provide relief
and replacement within the battalion.
Share the Load
Every battery grade officer, except battery executives, was
subject to his tour of duty as a forward observer or liaison
officer. In spite of this rotation policy, there were never sufficient
officers available to provide relief for the observers after
their three or four days of action, which is the desirable maximum.
The same relief policy should apply to the enlisted personnel
of the forward observer parties. Although we did our best to
provide an observer for each combat company, this was impossible.
But a~ least two observers were always provided per combat battalion.
Every attempt was made to keep the observers and liaison officers
with the same units, except for relief or rotation, to insure
better liaison and closer cooperation. The Division Commander
very wisely required the observers to be with a unit, whether
in reserve or in combat. This not only insured some rest (since
the observers came out of line with their task force) but also
guaranteed that artillery observers would be present when any
unit was either attacked or committed on short notice.
However, this policy brought up many problems, ideal solutions
for some of which were never found. For example, the composition
of the combat commands varied from time to time due to the change
of proportion of armor to infantry and to the rotation of depleted
units. This resulted in liaison officers' and forward observers
working with battalions other than their own. In fact, after
several weeks of continuous action the observers and liaison
officers were pretty well scrambled within the division. No difficulty
was experienced in obtaining prompt fires but great difficulties
were' experienced in getting proper relief and replacement of
these officers under such circumstances and in the resupply of
their sections. Since this flexibility of observers and liaison
officers must be maintained, I believe that special observer
equipment (tanks, armored cars, etc.) should be included in the
T /E of the supported unit, which should be responsible not only
for its replacement but also for the supply of gasoline, oil,
radio, rations, batteries, and other such supplies. In the later
stages of combat this principle was voluntarily accepted by the
supported units, to the great simplification of our supply problems.
However, we never evolved an adequate solution to the problem
of prompt relief and replacement of observers and liaison officers
when working with artillery battalions other than their own.
No Substitute for Experience
The forward observers and the liaison officer worked as a
team under the direct supervision of the liaison officer. Only
experience and situations dictate where an observer should be,
and it took considerable time to learn how to use them. Too often
the inexperienced company commander placed his forward observer
on an outpost or roadblock where he was hit by the first burst
of automatic fire. Also, green forward observers sometimes construed
their mission as that of a liaison officer or company commander
rather than the individual who actually adjusted fire. Being
in contact with the company commanders, either on the ground
or through the supported battalion commander, the liaison officer
was invaluable in correcting such errors.
The utility of a forward observer in the lead tank is short
lived. Short lived also is the utility of the lead tank if the
observer rides in the tail tank. Unfortunately, only experience
can develop an aggressive, canny forward observer, and a fine
shot -- always at the right spot, always anticipating the next
move, and always keeping the fire direction center busy. Incidentally,
forward observers should have the same type tank with the same
gun, the same radio equipment and the same special equipment
as the unit they are supporting.
In the Air
Air observers were less of a problem. They suffered few casualties
and required less relief. Eventually each battalion discovered
"naturals" at air observation, who remained on this
assignment more or less permanently. Due to the scarcity of officers,
non-commissioned forward observers were frequently used and they
proved to be excellent air observers.
Up at All Times
Air Op pilots and planes were a different story. Whereas four
hours a day is about the limit of flying time that could be required
of any pilot without causing undue pilot fatigue and excessive
attrition of planes, the long periods of daylight of the spring
and summer in Western Europe necessitated from 12 to 16 hours
of flying a day. Under these conditions three pilots per battalion
are necessary, and four are desirable. To meet our pressing needs
in rapidly moving situations, the organic planes were supplemented
by planes and pilots from corps artillery units.
In stabilized situations, the planes were normally pooled
under division artillery control, insuring economy of personnel.
But in typical armored action, it is necessary for each task
force to have a plane up at all times. Therefore, control of
planes was released to battalion commanders and the division
artillery field was used merely as a safe haven if the direct
support battalion commanders were not able to establish an airfield
of their own by nightfall. May I observe, here and now, that
the observers, liaison officers, and pilots were indeed the fighting
artillerymen of this war. They did a truly magnificent job.
Maps were available in sufficient quantities but not always
in the scale desired. The 1: 100,000 map was always available.
The 1:25,000 and vertical air photos were very desirable for
the slower fighting, but the 1: 50,000 was the best scale for
all-around use. The problem of map stowage on long drives was
very difficult for the observers, particularly the tanks. Gridded
oblique photos were very convenient .hut difficult to provide
in sufficient depth for armored action.
Fire planning and the use of pre-arranged fires were standard
procedures. The supported units were briefed and furnished overlays
even in fluid situations. Defensive fires were planned for each
objective and verified by firing as soon as the objective was
reached. The most important ritual of the day was the firing
in of defensive fires. Time after time this kept us on objectives.
The supported troops were keenly insistent on the perfection
of fire planning.
When advancing in column, the advance guard battery was accompanied
by the battalion survey officer, battalion reconnaissance officer,
and a small advance element of the fire direction center. Upon
going into action, positions were selected for the remainder
of the battalion, a rapid position area survey was run, a battalion
base point selected and located by a rapid survey, if necessary,
and a fire direction center established with data plotted and
capable of immediate operation. Hence the other batteries could
roll right into position and shoot. Each battery registered as
soon as an interval in firing allowed. This procedure was repeated
several times a day, day after day. In the last position of the
day, every attempt was made to get a metro message and establish
a metro K for night firing.
Even after a large quantity of proximity-fused ammunition
had been fired, there was still a decided preference for time
fire when it could be adjusted and when the target was not close
to our forward elements. The air observers wanted to stay close
to the target just out of small arms range. Naturally they preferred
time to proximity fuses, and it was used extensively in such
cases. Incidentally, time fire over "buttoned up" tanks
was our answer to the Panzerfaust teams in the foxholes.
Radio was the normal and wire the supplementary means of communication.
Full wire nets and wire-laying equipment normal to an infantry
division artillery were necessary during stabilized or slow-moving
situations. In moving situations, however, complete dependence
was placed on radio, with very successful results. This was due
to the excellence of the equipment, the number of channels available,
and the proficiency of all personnel in radio operation which
combined to give flexibility and reliability of communication.
On the other hand, radio maintenance is a very serious problem
and requires 'not only skilled personnel but a large supply of
spare sets and parts. I believe this is due to the rough usage,
vibration in the tank sets, and constant road travel rather than
to inherent defects in the sets. Whereas the nature of the repairs
varied greatly, the most consistent troubles were broken tubes
and crystals due to blast of incoming shells.
From the division artillery point of view the defect in the
tables of equipment for radio equipment, as provided in Europe,
was the inadequacy of numbers and power of radios for the division
artillery headquarters. Radio communication with the corps artillery
fire direction center was never satisfactory, nor was the communication
with the liaison officers at adjacent divisions. But these and
our other radio difficulties should be readily I surmountable.
In fact, I am of the opinion that we should anticipate eliminating
wire communication entirely from armored division artillery,
with the advent of built-in security devices.
It is essential that armored artillery have a rolling reserve
of ammunition in battery positions. Faced always with the possibility
of being cut off for two or three days from re-supply, two or
three units of fire should be available. This may sound like
a generous estimate and unnecessary in case of breakthroughs
and encirclements, but in such cases gaps or traps are formed
and every attempt is made by enemy forces to break out, withdraw
or disengage at night. Heavy night fires are therefore necessary.
In the Falaise Gap, by corps order, the division artillery fired
100 rounds per gun per night for four successive nights, to deny
exit from the gap which the ground forces were trying so hard
to close. The vivid accounts of prisoners and the numerous fires
observed at night along the interdicted routes testify to the
usefulness of such firing.
Expect Long Hauls
An ample battalion ammunition section is also a must in armored
action. It will always be impossible to push ammunition far enough
forward, in offensive operations, appreciably to shorten the
inevitable long hauls for the breakthrough troops. The battles
of Mortain and Falaise Gap were fought, for example, with ammunition
hauled directly from the beach, and in the final operation on
the Elbe River, much ammunition was hauled by organic transportation
from the west bank of the Rhine. To insure the supply, this transportation
must be organic. The addition of a stray truck company at the
last moment is risky business. The accomplishments of our battalion
ammunition sections frequently astounded me, especially when
they managed to find and deliver ammunition, when the battalion
had moved as much as fifty miles since last seen by them and
was, sometimes, cut off. In· the Ruhr encirclement an
assistant supply officer and ammunition sergeant of one battalion
were killed fighting their way through with general purpose vehicles
loaded with gasoline and ammunition.
The armored artillery organized under the new tables and the
towed battalions usually had to be augmented by trucks taken
from other units in the division, often cutting down their own
possibilities of ammunition re-supply - another example of the
"pennywise" T/0. The half-track, of course, is not
suitable for the long haul. We tried unsuccessfully to get ours
replaced by 2 1/2 -ton trucks.
Ammunition supply at gun positions was never adequate. For
example, although the overall theater ammunition picture may
have been very rosy on V-E Day, on the last day the division
was engaged on the Elbe River one battalion was down to 10 rounds
per gun in the position area, and all battalions had been on
a very short supply for the preceding week.
The supply of white phosphorus was always short, and we never
had enough to exploit its possibilities. On many occasions one-third
of all ammunition fired could very profitably have been white
We also felt a definite need for a true incendiary or inflammable
Lot variation and the general quality of the ammunition improved
greatly during the course of the war, although it never reached
a satisfactory standard. Occasionally there would be one lot
of ammunition available for very close support fire.
A satisfactory solution was never found for the smoke shell
problem. We could not afford to load down the ammunition train
with a shell that was of no value for other than screening purposes.
Aggravating, from a supply viewpoint, was the fact that when
screening smoke was needed, it was needed in large quantities
and usually on very little notice. Also at times a large supply
of colored smoke was necessary for target identification to close
support aircraft. To carry the requisite number of the various
types was obviously an impossibility. A possible solution is
to develop a standard base ejection or nose-ejection shell case
which can be loaded in the battery position with the color desired
whether it be incendiary or colored smoke, together with the
Many problems of ammunition handling are aggravated by the
very nature of armored action - that is, frequent displacement
and large expenditures in a short period of time. For example,
every effort" was made to carry the ammunition in the cardboard
containers as long as possible to prevent damage to the case,
but there is the difficulty of opening the standard carton or
sorting out the various types in the carriage for rapid and heavy
expenditures. Darkness adds to the difficulty and confusion.
In the armored artillery no provision can be made for neatly
laid out gun emplacements with ready racks and ammunition storage
pits. For these reasons every care must be given to the design
of carriage and improved facilities for the members of the gun
section and for ammunition storage.
A durable accurate fast fuse setter should be built into the
carriage. Powder loaders and scavengers should be developed for
separate loading types on self-propelled mounts. The' accuracy
of the 105mm could be materially improved. However, the fragmentation
of the present HE shell is ideal for close support missions.
Any added range without sacrifice of desirable characteristics
would certainly be welcomed.
MORALE AND WILL TO FIGHT
Morale and the will to fight are vital to any combat unit.
Seeking increased efficiency and flexibility, we artillerymen
have adopted the separate battalion organization. The results
were outstanding, but the costs were appreciable: in part, at
least, we paid in the coin of morale, particularly in corps and
army artillery units.
It is almost impossible to build pride of unit in a battalion
with an astronomical number, one of hundreds in a 'theater where
accomplishments are publicized in terms of the armies, corps
and - to a lesser extent - the divisions. Divisional artillery
had a much simpler problem since the battalions very properly
identified themselves with their supported unit, and of course
the division. The division patch was the pride of all.
Pride of unit is a powerful but an intangible thing. There
was at once personal honor at stake and blood-in-the-eye - even
to a replacement in an ammunition train - if an outsider ever
suggested that anything could stop "Old Spearhead."
Likewise, it was all your life was worth to tell a Seventh Field
Artilleryman that the Sixteenth Infantry wasn't the finest infantry
regiment in the Army.
To my mind, pride of unit is the most cogent reason for an
artillery division organization for corps and army artillery
units, with battalions permanently assigned, and a commander
who trains and fights his division. Just the minor matter of
allowing corps artillery units to wear a corps shoulder patch
effected a noticeable improvement of morale. Had I been able
to hand our division's patch to the attached units, they would
have been mine. Little wonder that some units were below standard
in morale; they were kicked around from corps to corps and from
army to army; little wonder such units were oftentimes slow on
We of the armor had an advantage in maintaining high standards
due to the spectacular nature of our role and the fire and dash
of armored action. The men saw themselves as physically fighting
and winning and thereby gained a will to fight. By personal experience
and intuition they came gradually to realize the importance of
the individual to the team, and of the vital importance of maintaining
the initiative. Lulls in action irritated them. "Let's get
going" ... "Let's get the war over" ... "Keep
rolling" ... "If we stop tonight, there'll be more
out there in the morning" - these were common cries. This
inward drive of the individual together with an earned sense
of battlefield superiority, camaraderie, and the fear of letting
the outfit down, are the things that make the will to fight.
We have a glorious tradition in the Artillery; the tradition
of Knox, Pelham, and Reilly, the tradition of the horse artillery,
and now the tradition of the armored artillery. It is a thing
we must nourish and strengthen-that willingness to fight it out,
whether it's with rammer staffs or direct fire from Long Toms.
Our doctrine must reflect it; we must have aggressive doctrine,
more close support, more use of direct and assault fire. We must
talk less of "a battery seen is a battery lost" and
more of "the first round off wins the fight." We must
not bury ourselves in a rear echelon attitude and consider that
it is the infantry's job to win a battle, that a SWIA is a major
catastrophe, and that one only displaces after solemn assurances
that it's safe.
Once you have the morale and will to fight, all other problems
are simple. Individual training, team training, coordination
of the teams, supply, indoctrination of, the replacement - these
things then all fall quickly into their proper perspective.
Upon induction, the individual should be trained as a fighting
soldier, and told that he will personally engage the enemy, and
that his life will depend upon his courage, skill and intelligence.
He should be taught to fight as a member of a small team, thus
giving him proper orientation on individual and team effort,
leadership and discipline. Make him a soldier first, then classify
him and make branch assignments.
Another fundamental that must be revitalized is the care of
the individual's weapon - its care and preservation is a matter
of his preservation and comes before his care. Wrong is the soldier
who thinks that we have outgrown the tradition of keeping the
powder dry, of sleeping on the rifle to protect it, of caring
for the horse or the gun or the battery before either the individual
cannoneer or the battery commander. These things are as old as
war, but it seems that each generation must learn them the hard
way. They are fundamental to soldiering, and - notwithstanding
MTP, MOS, global warfare and atomic something-or-others - we
artillerymen must keep our feet on the ground. In our best tradition,
we must turn out proud, tough, aggressive outfits of fighting
soldiers, equipped with the latest developments and competent
to use them, whatever trend they may take.
- Col. Frederic J. Brown, FA