30 December, 2011

30 December 1944

438th AAA AW BN
APO 230 % Postmaster, N.Y.
30 December, 1944        1100

Hello Sweetheart –

Saturday morning, reports to get out for today and also the end of the month and a lot of other things to take care of. One thing I don’t have to think about is my tux and whether or not my stiff shirt is back from the Chink’s – because we’re not going Formal tomorrow nite, dear. As a matter of fact – we’re just not going – but I can well remember the times when I was keyed up about such things.

There’s not much along the lines of New Year’s Spirit here at present – although I imagine a few bottles will turn up by tomorrow nite. No mail or anything again yesterday and we’re really starting to miss be coming thru soon.

Hopped around quite a bit yesterday, darling, but hope to take it a bit easier today. Will have to stop now, dear, but not before reminding you that all my love is yours and yours alone for always – sweetheart – just as I know yours is mine. Regards to all –
My deepest love, dear.


about Artillery and AAA
in the Battle of the Bulge

American artillery played a crucial part throughout the Battle of the Bulge. Without the battalions at Brig. Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's disposal, the defenders of Bastogne would probably never have been able to hold against the German attacks. The same was true across the Ardennes front, and although the artillery did not react strongly to the initial attacks on 16 December because the German bombardment disrupted communications and many units were hampered by having to displace rapidly to the rear to keep from being overrun, the guns soon came into their own. Bad weather also hampered observation of fire on the first day. Nonetheless, the artillery at Monschau literally stopped a German attack by itself, and in the V Corps sector, the 99th Infantry Division Artillery helped that green unit to hold its ground for two days, until the V Corps artillery on Elsenborn Ridge began to carry the burden. The weight of fire was tremendous: on the night of 17 December, for example, one V Corps infantry battalion was covered by a defensive barrage of 11,500 rounds. As the American defense solidified, particularly on the northern and southern shoulders of the German penetration, the artillery really began to make itself felt. By 23 December, the artillery brought 4,155 guns into action and fired 1,255,000 rounds of ammunition during the course of the battle.

In many cases, artillery did not need to destroy the enemy to have the desired effect. Often, artillery fire diverted the German attacks from their axis of advance and derailed the German scheme of maneuver, even without causing much physical damage. Most of the firing involved conventional artillery, although some 210,000 rounds of ammunition had been fitted with the new and highly secret VT (variable time) or POZIT fuse, which detonated the shell by external influence in close vicinity of the target, without explosion by contact. The VT fuze allowed artillery to detonate above ground, thus spending its effect much more effectively against troops in the open. Claims were made that the VT and POZIT fuse played an important part in winning the battle. The truth seems to be that, however effective such ammunition was, very little of it was fired before January 1945.

As at Bastogne, artillery took over much of the effective anti-tank combat, with 155-mm guns particularly successful in attaining mobility kills. Artillery was successful not just in the indirect fire mode, however, but also in direct fire. Post-battle examination of destroyed German tanks showed that many of them had been put out of action by howitzer fire. The Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalions assigned to the various corps played an important role as well. Trained to deliver indirect fire in the traditional artillery fashion, the AA gunners also had a 90-mm weapon that packed a powerful punch because of its high muzzle velocity. Antiaircraft batteries were therefore successful throughout the Ardennes in the anti-tank role. Once artillery spotter aircraft were able to fly, the gunners also had considerable success in breaking up concentrations of both tanks and troops before they were able to deliver attacks against American positions.

The many American artillery battalions would have been less effective, however, had they not been directed by the most effective fire direction system used by any nation during the war. American forward observers could call down an enormous weight of fire on their selected targets, mixing divisional and corps fires with the fires of the mortar units organic to the infantry regiments. Indeed, German commanders later criticized American artillery fire as "methodical, schematic, and wasteful." It was also true that American gunners sometimes allowed gaps to develop at division and corps boundaries where they failed to provide overlapping fire between zones. Nonetheless, the system functioned when it was needed, and the successful defense of Elsenborn Ridge by V Corps units (among many similar cases) depended on the accuracy and weight of the defensive concentrations that V Corps Artillery fired, particularly on the night of 17/18 December. Much of the artillery's effectiveness came from well-trained forward observers dedicated to their supported infantry and armor units, for "men counted as much as weight of metal," as the official historian wrote. In the 15th Field Artillery Battalion, to cite only one case, 32 forward observers out of a total of 48 became casualties in six days of battle.

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