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Artillery Against Siegfried Line Pillboxes

The following combat report by the 258th Field Artillery Battalion described the effect of short-range 155-mm artillery fire against the pillboxes of the Siegfried Line.

HEADQUARTERS, 258TH FIELD ARTILLERY BATTALION

APO 230, U.S. Army
5 October 1944

SUBJECT: Destruction of concrete pillboxes by short range fire from M12, 155mm Gun, SP.
TO: Commanding General, XIX Corps, APO 270, U.S. Army

1. Between 26 September 1944 and 2 October 1944 this battalion was assigned to the mission of methodical destruction of all pillboxes which could be located on the front or immediate flanks of the impending attack on the Siegfried Line by the 30th Division.

2. During this period intensive aerial and ground reconnaissance, in conjunction with aerial photo study, revealed 49 pillboxes as potential observable targets.

3. Of this number 43 were attacked by short range M12 fire, 1 by direct fire and 2 by 3″ guns of Co A, 823d TD Bn. M12 adjusted using fuze delay, switching to T105 fuze on obtaining the first target shot. The TD company commander fired using one gun, direct laying, firing both HE with fuze CB, and armor piercing shot. Evidence of penetration was obtained on all 46 targets above. For details of each mission, see accompanying annex.

4. Firing was terminated only on evidence that a penetration has been obtained. It has not yet been possible to verify by close-up examination of the targets whether penetration was accomplished in every instance.

5. Terrain considerations affecting this mission differed materially from those encountered in VII Corps penetration of the Siegfried Line. Major factors were:

a. The terrain to the west of the Wurm River, the general front lines, offered a slightly rolling bare plateau approximately 1500 yards wide, dominated by enemy observation, and no positions for direct fire except in its center, which could not be occupied to accomplish the assigned mission because of counter-battery fire immediately incurred. This plateau dropped sharply to the Wurm River, and it was in this valley, dead space from any possible position that the only targets which were found but not fired upon, were located.

b. Enemy observation dominated the entire area and counter-fire was accurate and occasionally heavy, falling normally from 20 to 30 minutes after opening fire.

6. Solution to mission was occupation of positions immediately west of general area of Scherpenseel where sight defilade only could be obtained and short range indirect fire could be employed. Also similar positions were found just south of Nieuwenhegen. In the face of frequently heavy shelling, ground observation was pushed to the edge of the plateau facing on the Wurm River, and aggressive use of air observation was continuous.

7. Following tentative conclusions are submitted as result of accomplishment of this mission:

a. Effective destruction of a point target is a function of range from target, not whether method is direct or indirect.

b. Where short range indirect fire with sight defilade is possible, by expenditure of two or three extra adjusting rounds, the mission can be accomplished without the loss of materiel that is probable consequence of emplacing this gun in appropriate position for direct laying. Two pieces suffered direct hits occupying positions for direct fire, none were lost employing indirect fire.

c. German counter-battery fire could be counted upon not to fall sooner than 20 minutes after opening fire. As a re15ult roving positions were chosen, a box destroyed, and the gun moved out quickly thereafter. Fire would then be opened nearby after a 15 minute additional delay. This procedure avoided destruction or serious damage to materiel in several instances. This method involved no sacrifice of adjusted data since each box, due to differences in site, required a complete new adjustment whether in the same or another position.

d. For quick penetration, fire must be delivered as nearly as possible in line perpendicular to face of the box.

e. HE shell, Fuze T105, does not obtain its maximum effectiveness at ranges under 2000 yards if supercharge is used. Considerable evidence exists that the shell begins to shatter into large fragments slightly before the delay fuze becomes operative, when the terminal velocity is excessive. This was countered effectively in last stages of this mission, by firing normal instead of supercharge at shorter ranges and penetration was found to be better. This matter has not been thoroughly explored and its possibilities are offered as a subject of further study. This experience agrees with that of the 991st FA Bn engaged in a similar mission with the VII Corps. With very little instruction the gunner corporal can be taught to employ the direct laying sight on the M12 (graduated for supercharge) with normal charge.

f. Factors of terrain, angle of impact of the fires, and effectiveness of penetration of various types of boxes at different terminal velocities outweighed considerations of probable error consequent on range of gun from target. This will be noted from accompanying annex which summarizes the essential elements of fires of 27 pillboxes. Data on the balance of the fires delivered is not available but their delivery revealed no considerations not demonstrated in these 27.

g. Air OP conduct of precision destruction fire is highly effective.

h. The 3″ anti-tank gun employed as in paragraph J above can penetrate concrete when it is possible to find positions from which direct laying is possible. Its rapid rate of fire, quick emplacement and displacement, and low silhouette avoided the major difficulties inherent in similar employment of the M12.

i. Direct laying by the M12, as opposed to indirect short range fires, has the sole advantage of greater speed consequent upon the elimination of the factor of communications, and conversion of sensings into appropriate firing data.

8. From fires that have been executed or attempted by platoons working closely with assault infantry battalions, it is believed that the M12 can be effectively employed in an infantry assault gun role only in exceptional circumstances. It is essential that any such employment be under command and control of artillery officers on the ground familiar with the characteristics of the weapon, as has been the case in supporting the 30th Division infantry, and not attached to the supported units. The number of missions fired in this manner of close support have been too few in number to provide further detailed conclusions.

/s/ BRADFORD BUTLER JR.
/t/ BRADFORD BUTLER JR.
Lt Col, 258th FA Bn
Comdg

Annex:

 No. No. of
Total Rds
No. of
Rds Adj.
No. of
Rds Fuze
Delay
No. of
  Fuze  
CP
No. of
 Penet. 
Shots
Total No.
Target
 Hits 
 Range Coordinates
1   31   10   11   21   2   12   4670 87.22-60.35
2   30   18   19   11   1   9   4750 87.28-60.19
3   22   9   11   11   2   8   4400 86.87-60.00
4   9   5   6   3   2   4   3600 86.03-60.47
5   19   5   6   13   2   7   3640 85.94-60.82
6   17   4   5   12   1   11   3100 85.52-60.47
7   15   5   6   9   2   6   3400 85.02-59.40
8   21   2   3   18   2   12   3400 85.02-59.33
9   23   9   10   13   3   10   2100 85.22-59.32
10   11   4   5   6   2   5   3570 85.17-59.24
11   16   4   5   11   –   3   4250 86.60-61.16
12   14   8   9   5   2   4   4790 87.14-60.62
13   11   4   5   6   –   3   4630 86.97-60.95
14   21   6   7   14   2   6   3660 86.09-60.26
15   11   3   4   7   2   6   3400 85.16-59.27
16   23   11   10   13   3   10   2300 85.20-59.32
17   10   4   5   5   2   6   2700 83.98-56.70
18   21   2   3   18   3   12   3400 85.15-59.34
19   6   4   5   1   1   2   2600 85.10-60.20
20   7   3   4   3   1   2   3560 85.79-61.78
21   19   9   10   9   1   4   4280 86.52-61.70
22   16   7   6   10   2   5   3560 85.68-62.06
23   16   5   6   10   2   6   2660 85.68-62.06
24   8   3   3   5   1   3   2200 85.27-60.30
25   19   9   10   9   1   3   5500 83.96-56.24
26   21   8   9   12   2   8   4980 87.29-60.09
27   33   15   15   18   2   13   2800 85.94-60.94

Source: “Breaching the Siegfried Line,” XIX Corps, U.S. Army, October 1944.
 

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4 comments to Artillery Against Siegfried Line Pillboxes

  • a.p.

    My grandfather served with the 258th in Europe. Fascinating to see this little bit of miscellaneous trivia about the 285th. I have the unit history somewhere, I will see if I can dig it up.

    a.p.
    cleveland, ohio

  • Dan Geraghty

    My Dad (Joseph)and two of my uncles (Tommy & Hugh) were in the 258 th Field Artillery, they also served in the D-Day battle. I would appreciate seeing the Units history if you could post it somewhere.

    Thanks Dan

  • Frank Sclafani

    My dad was with the 258th from 1936 to 1965. When the BAttalion was split in two, 1st Battalion stayed as 258th, and the 2nd Battalion became the 991st F.A. Battalion. The unit history can be found on the 3ad website under WW11/991st.

  • Warren Heist

    My uncle, Frank Kremer, was with the 258th 1941 to 1945. He was assigned to the M 12 with the name Corregidor. We current cataloging his many letters sent home during WWII. Any info would be greatly appreciated.