AAA Ground Recognition Signals

The following comments from the commander of the U.S. 5th Armored Division on the proper use of ground recognition signals were published in “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 5, November 22, 1944.

Subject: Use of Ground Recognition Signals
Source: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group

The following extract is taken from AAA Situation Report No. 98, First US Army:

*    *    *    *

“a. The following is quoted from a letter received at this headquarters from the Commanding General, 5th Armored Division:

“‘1. At approximately 1630, 2 November 1944, nine to twelve P-38s approached the CP of the 47th Armored Field Artillery Battalion located in a group of buildings about fifty (50) yards south of paved highway one mile southeast of ROETGEN (K-919273). After circling the CP twice, the three lead planes broke out of the circle and flew off in the direction of ROETGEN. The next three planes made a diving attack of the CP, dropping six bombs. ******* The 440th AAA thereupon fired six recognition flares, at which the remaining planes pulled out of dive without dropping bombs and dipped their wings and left the area.*******

“‘3 ******* AA did not fire on planes, other than recognition flares.’

“b. The AAA complied strictly with standing instructions, by firing flares and withholding fire of their weapons. The friendly A/C, recognizing the signal and the lack of fire from the ground, immediately ceased the attack. This exemplifies the manner in which such incidents must be handled.”


Buckingham I Aircraft Recognition

Buckingham I aircraft recognition from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 6, November 28, 1944.

Subject: Aircraft Recognition
Source: AA Section, Headquarters, Twelfth Army Group.

a. A new type medium bomber, the BUCKINGHAM I, is just becoming operational with the RAF. All AAA gunners in the Theater should be on the lookout for this aircraft.

b. The following information is available on the BUCKINGHAM I:

(1) Type: Twin-engine medium bomber (British).
(2) Manufacturer: Bristol.
(3) Engines: Two Bristol Centaurus.
(4) Wing span: 71′ 0″.
(5) Length: 46′ 6″.
(6) Armament: Forward – 4 x .303
                    Top – 4 x .303
                    Bottom – 2 x .303
(7) Description:

(a) Head on view – A flat mid-wing monoplane, with rectangular shaped fuselage. Two engines, underslung. Dual fin and rudder, outboard of engine nacelles.

(b) Plan view – Two engine nacelles extending almost as far forward as nose of aircraft. Nacelles protrude beyond trailing-edge of wing slightly. Wing is swept back and slightly tapered with rounded tips. Tailplane is long, straight, with square tips.

(c) Side view – Top and underside line of fuselage broken with gun blisters. Oval-shaped fin and rudder.

c. Silhouette views of BUCKINGHAM I are shown in Incl. 1.

Bristol Buckingham Aircraft


Third Army Antiaircraft Claims

Approved claims for U.S. Third Army antiaircraft units from Antiaircraft Artillery: A Brief History of Operations in Europe, 1 August 1944 to 8 May, 1945, Third United States Army.

ANNEX B: Approved claims for all enemy aircraft destroyed or damaged, 1 August 1944 to 8 May 1945, while units listed were serving with the Third US Army. This tabulation does not include a great many additional aircraft claimed, and earned, while units were detached from Third US Army and serving elsewhere. Units not listed made no claims under the Army.

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Loading 37-mm AA Guns on Railroad Cars

Instructions for loading the 37-mm gun and carriage on railroad cars from the WWII technical manual TM 9-235 37-mm AA Gun Materiel, U.S. War Department, January, 1944.


a. General. All loading and blocking instructions as specified herein are minimum, and are in accordance with the Association of American Railroads, “Rules Governing the Loading of Commodities on Open Top Cars,” special supplement, revised, 1, March 1943.

b. Instructions.

(1) INSPECTION. Railroad cars must be inspected to see that they are suitable to carry loads to destination. Floors must be sound and all loose nails or other projections not an integral part of the car should be removed.

(2) RAMPS. Permanent ramps should be used for loading the materiel when available, but when such ramps are not available, improvised ramps may be constructed of rail ties and other available lumber.


(a) Cars loaded in accordance with specifications given herein must not be handled in hump switching.

(b) Cars must not be cut off while in motion and must be coupled carefully, and all unnecessary shocks avoided.

(c) Cars must be placed in yards or sidings so that they will be subjected to as little handling as possible. Separate track or tracks, when available, must be designated at terminals, classifications, or receiving yards, for such cars, and cars must be coupled at all times during such holding and hand brakes set.

(4) PLACARDING. Materiel not moving in combat service must be placarded, “DO NOT HUMP.”

(5) CLEARING LIMITS. The height and width of load must be within the clearance limits of the railroads over which it is to be moved. Army and railroad officials must check all clearances prior to each move.

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German Air Tactics Against Ground Targets

Statistical analysis of Luftwaffe air attacks on ground targets in the Third U.S. Army from Antiaircraft Artillery: A Brief History of Operations in Europe, 1 August 1944 to 8 May, 1945, Third United States Army.

German Air Tactics Against Ground Targets in the Third U.S. Army Area

1. Prior to the allied landings of the continent, 6 June 1944, a great deal already was known of the tactics of the German Air Force in attacking ground targets. Attacks of appreciable size had occurred in Italy and Sicily and along the North African coast, and some time had been devoted to their study. Targets of opportunity in forward areas received 63% of attacks, highways and bridges received but 4% of attention, and ports and harbors, airfields and ammunition dumps received 33%, 55% of attacks were by dive-bombing, 20% level-bombing, 10% strafing, 12% unknown, and 3% reconnaissance flights. Bombers made much use of cloud cover and the blinding effect of the bright sun in making their approaches to the target areas. In brief, strong, close-in defenses of all vital objectives seemed dictated by past Luftwaffe performances, with forward zones of divisions, and roads and bridges being of prime importance. An adequate alert status and an efficient warning system were necessary to guard against surprise.

2. Experiences in Italy were, to a certain extent, repeated during the course of Third U.S. Army’s operations on the continent from 1 August 1944 to 8 May 1945. Thus, during periods of rapid and threatening advance, armored spearheads were continually attacked by large numbers of low-flying aircraft which attempted to blunt their thrusts. As rivers were reached, emphasis turned to attacks upon the bridges and crowded bridge areas. It the air effort was particularly large, much of it spilled over into troop and artillery areas of infantry divisions following the armor. Little if any air activity was encountered behind corps rear boundaries during such times. Sole large-scale exception to this was during the initial break-through drive of Third U.S. Army’s VIII Corps down the Cotentin Peninsula. During that period, from 1 August to 12 August 1944, the GAF made a frenzied effort that struck night and day not only at the spearheading armor and motorized infantry, but at bridges, road defiles, dams and antiaircraft behind them up and down the historic Avranches supply route Thus, targets were chosen because of their vital importance, and merely vulnerable targets, such as supply dumps, airfields, and the like were left almost untouched.

3. During periods of comparatively little forward movement, such as occurred along the Moselle River in France, there were few attacks made but, weather permitting, reconnaissance was flown almost daily over division and corps zones while some nuisance strafing and bombing of artillery positions occurred.

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143rd AAA Gun Battalion

143rd AAA Gun Battalion in WW2The website Army Book of Memories tells the story of the 143rd AAA Gun Battalion during WWII from training through the fighting in the Ardennes Offensive and on to V-E Day. The website also includes photographs and a copy of the rare 143rd AAA’s unit history booklet which was published in 1945 after the end of the war.


Employment of AAA in Anti-tank Role

A report on the activities of antiaircraft gun battalions in the antitank role during the Battle of the Bulge reproduced from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” HQ ETO, No. 15, January 1945:

Subject: Employment of AAA in Anti-tank Role
Source: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group

During the recent German Ardennes offensive the 110th and 143rd AAA Gun Battalions, and Battery D, 639th AAA AW Battalion, were placed in anti-tank support of the 30th Infantry Division, in the Malmedy-Stavelot-Stoumont sector. The Division has submitted a report of the activities of these units, and made recommendations for future employment of AAA in an anti-tank role, (See ETOUSA AAA Notes No. 14 for a detailed account of the activities of the 143rd AAA Gun Bn during this action.)

Report of 30th Infantry Division

a. The above listed units were attached to the Division at 210030A December 1944. Prior to daylight of the 21st, liaison was established with the Division by the 11th AAA Group, and by each of the attached units. Upon the arrival of these representatives they were given maps of the area and were fully informed of the tactical situation. A map reconnaissance was made, and officers from the supporting tank destroyer battalion accompanied the antiaircraft officers on their ground reconnaissance, and assisted in the actual placing of their guns in firing positions.

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Digging in AA Half-Tracks

Instructions for digging defensive positions for AA halftracks from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” HQ ETO, No. 8, December 1944:

Digging in Half-Tracks
Source: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group

The principle of digging in equipment is one which all AAA combat units understand and practice. Some units have learned from experience that the deeper one is dug in, consistent with the field of fire to perform the assigned mission, the better protection the crew and equipment are afforded against artillery and mortar fire. As an example of the policy that it pays to dig in deep, Figure 1 shows the plan practiced by the 554th AAA AW Bn (M). Approximately eight hours is required to prepare the emplacement, including sandbagging. This battalion, commanded by Lt Colonel L. V. Linderer, has seen continuous action since arriving on the continent 18 June, being attached to XIX Corps until 5 November when it was attached to the 29th Inf. Div. During this period the battalion has been subjected to mortar and artillery fire on numerous occasions, and to date has suffered no fatal personnel casualties due to this fire.

Digging in AA Antiaircraft Halftracks WW2

(a) Minimum thickness of revetment.
(b) The depth of emplacement and heighth or sandbags will depend entirely on the terrain.
(c) Log or plank for track to rest on.
(d) Floor of emplacement slopes to the center and front to sump hole where water will drain and can be bailed out.


Economical Shooting

Report on a single lucky 40mm shot from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” HQ ETO, No. 15, January 1945:

Subject: More Economical Shooting
Source: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group

The 445th AAA AW Bn (M) claims to have at least tied the world’s record for low ammunition expenditure when one of its gun crews shot down an FW 190 on 1 January with one round of 40mm. The plane came over a heavily wooded area at high speed. Because of the limited field of fire, the gun section was able to fire only one round of 40mm ammunition. The shell hit the fuselage behind the cockpit. Fire broke out immediately, and the plane turned off course, out of control. Front line observers saw the plane crash a few seconds later.


Snow Camouflage for 90mm AAA Gun Battery

Diagram of snow camouflage for 90mm antiaircraft gun battery, from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 9, December 1944:

Snow Camouflage for 90mm AAA Antiaircraft Gun Battery