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Time on Target

Discussion in 'Military Training, Doctrine, and Planning' started by Riter, Jun 26, 2020.

  1. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    Was the U. S. Army the only one to do Time on Target (ToT)?

    That is, the largest guns were further back and would fire first.
    Medium guns that were closest fired next.
    Finally, small mortars would join in.

    The idea was to have all the shells land on target at the same time.

    I haven't seen anything suggesting the Germans or Soviets did this. Thoughts (for any power) on ToT?
     
  2. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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  3. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    OK, invented by the Brits in N. Africa.
     
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  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    According to Pemberton 1950 May 1942 with the use of the BBC time signal to synchronize Gunner time.
     
  5. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    Just learned that ToT was developed as part of US Artillery docctrine in the 1930s. So much for the British cliam.

    Artillery Innovations in WWII
     
  6. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    Used by Britain and France in WW1
     
  7. Riter

    Riter Active Member

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    Cite?
     
  8. OpanaPointer

    OpanaPointer I Point at Opana Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    No site handy but having the opening barrage first round land at the same time to achieve surprise was a standard tactic. (From memory, my WWI books are not available right now.)
     
  9. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    Read any good account of the 1917 Messines barrage in which heavy & medium artillery, mortars and machine guns were integrated to hit the same target together and what's more lift the whole thing and lay it down further forward as the attacking troops advanced. The French were able to do this albeit on a much smaller scale at the Somme in 1916 and the Germans opened the Kaiserschlact in 1918 the same way. US artillery just needed to catch up
     
  10. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The idea of all the rounds landing at the same time was developed during the Great War. However, communications were based on line, dispatch rider or runner. The Time on Target procedure in WW2 drew on the flexibility and responsiveness provided by radio communications.

    British and US practices may have developed in parallel. I don't know when the US Field Artillery adopted wireless as a primary means of communication,. but they entered WW2 with flexible fire control procedures.. The British adopting a very different concept of fire control - after the shock of Dunkirk.
     
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  11. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yes indeed. The problem was not really getting all the rounds on target at the same time, but doing so quickly and accurately, especially on targets of opportunity. The Great War methods required extensive survey, per-registration of known targets by each battery, and extensive planning. The methods developed independently by the British and Americans, emphasized speed in getting steel on target, rapidly massing all the guns of a battalion, and later multiple battalions, on targets that were not per-registered or even moving.

    It required excellent, redundant communications, quick survey methods, and "computers" - analog style - to plot fires.

    The U.S. Army Field Artillery School began experimenting with ground and airborne radio for FA observation and communications in either 1923 or 1926, I forget which now. By 1928 it was accepted practice. That was also the year Major Carlos Brewer became Director of the Gunnery Department at Sill and began experimenting with methods for rapidly computing massed fires, creating the nascent Fire Direction Center. By 1931, when Brewer was relieved by Major Orlando Ward, the practice was accepted at the School, but it took a while before full acceptance by the Office of the Chief of FA (there was hesitance to "take away the authority" of the battery commanders by centralizing fire direction under the battalion commander).
     
  12. harolds

    harolds Member

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    I remember this from when I was in the artillery branch. We were still using the guns and fire control methods that were used in ww2, except some of the guns were self-propelled. IIRC, we still did a did at least one registration daily. If you had good met info then you could increase the times between registrations.

    The difference between WW1 and 2 is that instead of arty being grouped together, batteries and Bns were spread out. That meant every battery had a different ToF. However, each battery had its own FDC so each battery could compute its own fire solution. These were checked by the Bn FDC which actually had a plot table for each battery. The guns were laid on the target and loaded. Each battery knew the ToF down to the second. A second by second countdown was begun (usually over wire) and the batteries fired at the proper second.
     
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  13. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    In 1915 the French began broadcasting time signals from central wireless stations. These signals acted as a means of coordinating complex artillery fire schemes over a wide area, they were later used by the British (and the Germans who also built a Zeppelin navigation system around them).

    In the early 1920s the French adopted the doctrine of Methodical Battle devised by Petain who considered that artillery firepower was the deciding factor in modern warfare. Methodical Battle was intended to organise and co-ordinate this firepower. It involved the use of complex set piece artillery barrages in which ToT was but one factor. However by 1940 it had never been seriously reviewed or revised. It was designed for the set piece battle where decisions could be taken at a more deliberate pace[1]. These conditions did not exist during the Battle of France where individual French units found themselves paralysed whilst they waited for written instructions to arrive by courier from a commander desperately trying to get enough information over an inadequate communications system. By the time tactical instructions arrived they were out of date and the Germans were ‘knocking on the back door’.



    [1] Ahstrom & Wang, Group Think, page172
     
  14. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    Britain's artillery arm underwent an incredible expansion between 1914 and 1916 but the increase in numbers left it deficient in expertise , experience and technique. This was painstakingly built up allowing set piece artillery barrages which included ToT techniques by Messines in 1917. Improvements in such technologies as sound ranging and flash spotting allowed the elimination of much registration by Amiens 1918. However whilst the knowledge was retained after 1918 much of the actual experience and hands on capabilities was allowed to wane in the inter war period and had to be built up again peaking in 1942
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2020
  15. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    The British entered WW2 with artillery superficially organised in a similar way to the US Artillery. Batteries, commanded by a major of 12 guns in troops of four, commanded by captains - who would also be the FOOs. Computation by the Battery Command Post with corrections for e.g. charge temperature applied by Troop command posts. Two batteries to the Regiment. This structure was partially driven by the theoretical advantages of the 12 gun fire units and partially by the need to make the small number of men capable of commanding a battery cope with the massive expansion of the Army in 1939.

    The Battle for France in 1940 demonstrated the limitations of this structure for providing close or direct support to the infantry. An Infantry division of nine battalions was supported by six artillery batteries which did not provide the level of liaison. By 1941 most of the British field artillery was reorganised into regiments of three batteries of eight guns. This provided a quite lavish and high powered level of liaison with the infantry.
    The other big problem in 1940 was communications. The radios had been issued to two regiments in 1928 and across the regular artillery in 1938. However, the vast expansion of the artillery arm in 1939 was not matched by allocations of radios. Furthermore, training with radios had been forbidden in France during the phoney war on security grounds. So when the Blitzkrieg started communications went back to 1918. HJ Parham a CO was one of the few artillery commanders who had trained his unit to use radios and achieved good results with regimental 24 gun concentrations. When he became CRA of 38th Division he demonstrate the 72 gun fire unit and the techniques were adopted. This was a key development. One blind alley that the British had explored post Dunkirk was that the Division was too big and unwieldy for a mobile battle and that artillery should be devolved under command of brigades - like German Kampfgruppen. The ability to apply the artillery of a division and then corps was the glue that enabled a division to fight as a division.

    The big difference between the British and US methods was that in the US system, the authority to fire the guns rested with the FDC. Relatively junior observers requested fire. Under the British system, there was a difference between an authorised and unauthorised observer. Authorised observers ordered fire. A commander was always authorised to fire his own troop/ battery/ regiment. Authorisation was delegated to the observer best placed to control the fire. It may seem hair splitting, but when I attended by young officer's course in 1979 many of our instructors had Vietnam experience. One Australian put it like this. There should be no difference in theory, but under the US system the FDC can waste time deciding whether you really need five rounds of fire for effect and whether HE might be better than the WP you ordered. By the time they have made a decision, the opportunity is lost.
     
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2020
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  16. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    I am not sure that either I or the Regimental historian would agree with your very simplified description of British Artillery development. Gunners at War by Bidwell or Firepower by Bidwell and Graham offer a more rounded analysis.

    The British Army largely turned its back on the lessons of the Western Front. Between the wars British defence policy was based on deterrence, with the RAF and Navy having priority. The politicians grasped at the ideas peddled by the airpower and armour enthusiasts that these technologies allowed war to be fought cheaply and quickly avoiding any repeat of the Western Front. The British Army was to be highly mechanised and operate according to the ideas of LIddell Hart's indirect approach. Art a strategic level there was no plan to form an Expeditionary Force until March 1939 and no need for massed artillery.
     
  17. RichTO90

    RichTO90 Well-Known Member

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    Yep, but to a degree that was mitigated somewhat by the system of allocating artillery by mission: direct support, reinforcing fires, and general support. Invariably, in WW2, a US Army infantry regiment of three battalions had a direct support 105mm battalion, with each battery tasked to support one battalion and on call to that battalion for support. In most circumstances, the D/S battalion also had either a battery or battalion available as reinforcing fires, normally adding a second battery available immediately on call. The G/S is where it got complicated and where most of the decisions on priorities of fire were assigned. The divisional D/S 155mm battalion was normally in G/S of the division as a whole, but normally was tasked to the point of main effort, but typically an entire FA Group of typically three 155mm and one 8" howitzer battalion would be G/S to a division, with...so most of the decision making on fire support was how much would eventually be brought to bear, but at least two battalions (24 howitzers) were usually immediately available to the regiment.

    The line of authority on calls for fire were a bit different, since typically it was the Battery X/O in the US system who was the F/O as liaison to the supported battalion, while the Battery C/O remained at the battery...more or less the reverse of the British practice, if I understand correctly.

    I believe the main limitation in the American system was the limited number of FO teams. The American battalion officially had only three, while the British had at least four if I understand it correctly.
     
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  18. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    A British infantry division with nine infantry battalions would have three artillery Regiments in Direct Support. Each Regiment of 24 x 25 pounder would have six Troops = six FOOs and three BCs who could also operate as an FOO, but were the main LO with the infantry battalion commander and a CO who could also act as an FOO - and occasionally, did such as on 8th June 1944 at point 103 when COs of 86 and 147 were both conducting shoots against the Panzer Lehr. The divisional artillery provided eighteen FOO parties plus nine BCs and three COs parties. Reinforcing field and medium artillery could provide additional OP and LO parties, e.g to an armoured brigade placed under command of the division. These were usually from the Army Group RA an artillery brigade establish on the basis of one per corps and one per army.

    One big difference was the US division's integral spotter flight of ten light aircraft. British Air Op Squadrons were assigned at Corps level.

    Both the British and US had a generous allocation of artillery observation liaison, communications and logistics compared to the Germans.

    The FOOs supporting each infantry battalion also brought two extra senior captains embedded with the leading infantry companies. Infantry officer casualties were particularly high and FOO casualties. In an article for British Army Review in the 1990s Sidney Jary aWW2 veteran and the author of 18 Platoon wrote about the support the moral support from the older FOOs. Jary had a new Company commander who turned out to be a poor leader. Report via the Gunner channels brought this to the attention of the battalion CO.
     
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  19. ARWR

    ARWR Active Member

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    John Ellis in 'Brute Force' describes how British artillery doctrine was built up until 1942 and how this then diverged from armoured doctrine creating problems in June/August 1944. However this is a whole new discussion from that kicked off by the OP. The point I was making was that the British Army had had both the knowledge and the operational expertise for ToT in WW1 but had lost the latter by 1939 and had to rebuild it. Monty was quite fond of the set piece artillery battle and I think that there would have been a degree of sympathy between the Monty of 1942 and the Petain of 1917.
     
  20. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    John Ellis Brute Force view of the allies has been overtaken by more nuanced analysis. You could read Stephen Hart Colossal Cracks, or anything by John Buckley or Terry Copp. If you are seriously interested in artillery in June/August 1944 You could read Gunners in Normandy following the link in my signature block. I have no idea what you are referring to in terms of diverging doctrine. It is not something I found researching the subject.

    Regarding the point you were making. As Rich has explained in post #11, TOT is about multiple fire units responding quickly and accurately to targets of opportunity. In WW1 a formal fireplan had pre -planned targets engaged on a TOT. As I explained in post #10 armies relied on line (wire) communications backed by dispatch rider. 'TOT is capability that occurred to artillerymen once they had put the fire units, observers and and FDC on a radio net. In other words: the British did not have TOT in the post WW2 sense in WW1.
     
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