Article from Jim MacClay, staff.
Digital conversion by Vic Damon, staff.
 Memoirs Index      NEXT

Newly added in April, 2010:
Bio & Photos of Frederic J. Brown

Colonel Frederic J. Brown
Commander, 3AD Artillery, WWII
Published in The Field Artillery Journal
Washington, D.C.
September, 1946, Issue


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 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" armored divisions.

The 54th, 67th, and 391st Armored Field Artillery Battalions were organic to the 3rd Armored Division.

- Col. Devere Armstrong


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 action.

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 organic units.

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 training.


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 belief.

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.

Hang Together

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.


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.

Column Support

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 artillery.

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 center.

Backing Superb

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

Never Enough

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.

Same Unit

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.

Miscellaneous Problems

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 phosphorus.

We also felt a definite need for a true incendiary or inflammable shell.

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 appropriate fuse.

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 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 TOT's.

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

Return to Top

Memoirs Index      NEXT