Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Battle of the Bulge: Report on German Army Group B Artillery

From the Foreign Military Studies series Manuscript #B-311 is the post-war report by Generalleutnant Karl Thoholte, General of the Artillery for Field Marshal Model's Army Group B. Some excerpts from the report below:

The artillery of the "Heeresgrupe" had no reserves at its disposal. Any new reinforcements were immediately spoken for and subordinated to Army units immediately.

Volks Artillery Korps

Comprised of only newly organized units.

The fighting strength was comparable to that of a weak artillery brigade.

Training and equipping of the troops had not been completed at the time of its commitment.

Only a portion was fully motorized.

Signal equipment was insufficient and only a few units had a battery with fire control equipment.

Due to the shortage of German guns some units were equipped with French and Russian guns. This caused supply problems in which there were too many types of ammunition to bring forward.

Actual combat strength of Volks Artillery Korps units was from sixty to seventy percent of normal.

Heeres (regular Army) Artillery Units

Mainly composed of heavy field howitzer batteries and ordinary howitzer battalions (which lacked adequate towing capabilities).

Actual combat strength was about eighty percent of normal.

Mortar units were well equipped but were constantly short of ammunition.

Fighting strength for mortar units was one hundred percent.

General Observations

The total number of gun barrels employed in the Ardennes Offensive was about nineteen hundred and each army had about six hundred guns.

The late date at which the artillery was organized caused difficulties.

In Thoholte's opinion the artillery assigned to the offensive "was sufficient for the mission allotted it" but ammunition supply capabilities were lacking.

Observation detachments arrive late and reconnaissance for the offensive was not adequately conducted in order maintain the illusion that any German preparations detected by the Americans were for defensive purposes only. Additionally, there was "no air reconnaissance whatsoever".  The results was that the strength and organization of American artillery remained uncertain until the offensive started.

There were plans for two "Carl" guns (600 mm) and a 305mm howitzer battery for bunker busting missions.  Thoholte believes the Carl guns never were brought up in time.

Probably not in the context of the Ardennes Offensive Thoholte mentioned the promise of "Dora" guns (800 mm) but considered that both the Dora and Carl guns failed to be useful on either front and the ammunition they consumed "in no way paid back their actual effect". Railway artillery, being bound to the rails and sensitive to air attacks "was never capable of effective use".

Perception of American Forces

American artillery had no serious effect on either the 6th or 5th Panzer Army. Observed enemy fires: "..always come from a few batteries all aiming at one target and despite the great amount of ammunition they consumed - they were not effective enough to bring our attack to a standstill".

Unobserved enemy fire (i.e. fire according to plan): "usually concurred at given times and location and was so mechanical in manner that we were able to avoid it after getting used to it somewhat".

The American fire directed by air observation was exceptionally good. Any target aimed at by this method "was usually knocked out".

American radio communications between spotting aircraft and ground troops could often be intercepted and their intended targets warned in time.

American artillery units did not carry out any ground work to reinforce their positions but Thoholte states that lack of ammunition prevented the Germans from taking much advantage.

"The critical moment during the attack came on the third day of action. The American air force, namely, was master of the skies".

No comments:

Post a Comment

Slovakia in WW2: Index

Introduction Turn 1: Infantry Battalion on the Move Organization of an infantry battalion assigned to the Mobile Division late 1941. ...