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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.

LOADING MATERIEL ON RAILROAD CAR.

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.

(3) HANDLING.

(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

Notes:
(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

 

Antiaircraft Rules for Confirming V-1 Claims

German V-1s were fired in attacks against the strategic port of Antwerp after the Allied capture of the V-1 launch facilities used to attack England. Antwerp was hit by over 2,000 V-1s from October 1944 to March 1945. Numerous Allied antiaircraft units were deployed around Antwerp to defend against the V-1 attacks. The following report describing the rules for V-1 claims by antiaircraft units was published in “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 8, December 1944.

SUBJECT: Rules for Confirming Claims of Pilotless Aircraft Shot Down.
SOURCE: Headquarters, Antwerp “X” Command, Operations Memorandum #25.

Operations Memo #25, Hq Antwerp “X” Command, 2 December 44, is quoted:

1. In order that all concerned may be apprised of the conditions under which claims for PAC (Diver) shot down are allowed at this Headquarters, the following rules governing the procedure of the Claims Board established by Operations Memo No 13, this Headquarters, are hereby published:

a. The claim is initiated by unit commander who must cite the basis for the claim.

(1) To substantiate a Cat A claim the statement will be made that a PAC while engaged by AA exploded in mid-air.

(2) To substantiate a Cat 3 claim the statement will be made that a PAC fell as a result of damage sustained from AA fire as manifested in one or more of the following:

(a) Deflection in course.
(b) Definite and abnormal change or cessation in motor sound.
(c) Appearance of fragments of PAC in air.
(d) Definite and abnormal increase in flame area around target.

b. Each claim must be reviewed by commanders in the chain of command. When received at the Statistical Office, the claims board tentatively allows or disallows claim. This does not require a meeting of the entire board but may be done by any one member of the board.

2. All concerned are reminded that the records being compiled, of PAC shot down, are an important military and historical record which will be given the most careful study by higher authority and it is therefore incumbent on everyone in the chain of command to insure that all claims registered are founded on substantial fact. It is considered to be a serious dereliction of duty to enter, or allow, claims which are not so founded.

3. In forwarding claims the commanders concerned will insure that the basis of the claim is fully stated, in order that the claims board may have sufficient data on which to proceed. Prior to 1500 daily, the entire claims board will meet for confirmation of rejection of all claims which have previously been allowed tentatively. After this has been done, credit will be allocated to specific batteries for the PAC shot down.

4. In order to avoid duplication of reports, it is desired to obtain individual battery credits, or PAC Kills, from the daily Statistical Report. To avoid confusion between units “engaging” and units actually “claiming” PAC, Groups and Brigades are directed to plainly indicate on report forms the difference between the two categories.

 

First Army AAA Versus the Luftwaffe

Operational antiaircraft report from “Antiaircraft Artillery Notes,” No. 8, December 13, 1944. This attack was mounted by the Luftwaffe’s Jagdgeschwader 4 (JG 4). The aircraft displayed the black-white-black bands of JG 4.

SUBJECT: First Army AAA Versus the Luftwaffe (SECRET).
SOURCE: AA Section, Headquarters Twelfth Army Group.

a. “Ich habe niemals etwas ähnliches gesehen!” meaning “I’ve never seen anything like it.” This statement by a captured GAF pilot epitomizes the disastrous effort of the Luftwaffe to match its air skill against First Army AAA on the afternoon of 3 December. In this action, the heaviest daylight effort since 5 October, 70 enemy aircraft operated over the front in the First Army area. AAA claim 41 enemy aircraft destroyed and 23 enemy aircraft probably destroyed.

b. The enemy started the attack at 1359 hours when approximately 2 Gruppen entered the First Army area in the VII Corps zone, swung south through the V Corps zone to enter the VIII Corps zone, then reversed to retrace the route, and leave again at the northern part of VII Corps zone. The action lasted for approximately 45 minutes. The enemy chose to operate in concentrated numbers on an afternoon when weather had grounded all our fighters, a fact which the enemy evidently judged would give him freedom in the air to attack targets in the fighting zone and thus slow the threatening ground advance. But the enemy did not reckon with the prepared AAA.

c. The First Army AAA was ready and waiting. The effectiveness of the early warning is demonstrated by the fact that gun crews had four minutes warning of the approach of enemy aircraft. An additional factor in the preparedness was that the area controller had released guns to fire unseen because none of our aircraft were airborne in that area.

d. The cloud ceiling at the time of the action was approximately 1000 feet. The enemy aircraft approached in formations but split up to small individual groups of two’s and three’s before entering the area. The mission assigned was to cover the area “thoroughly and attack any and all targets of opportunity. In attempting to carry out this mission, each aircraft took individual action; more often than not this consisted of violent evasive action to avoid AAA fire. The enemy planes darted in and out of the cloud cover, and even attempted to fly down valleys to avoid our flak. In a determined effort to complete the mission the planes strafed and bombed for 45 minutes, all the time in the face of devastating AAA fire.

e. Fifteen (15) AAA battalions participated in the action. It is not possible to tabulate the claims of each unit at present as claims in many instances are overlapping and the AAA intelligence officers, the air force crash intelligence teams, and the interrogation teams are working overtime to segregate the true facts of the downed planes. Many of the observed coordinates of crashed aircraft are in heavily mined areas or behind the enemy lines and thus are not readily accessible. However, as of 8 December, seventeen (17) crashed aircraft had been located, together with nine live pilots. Units participating in this action were: 116th AAA Gun Bn (M), 555th AAA AW Bn (M), 376th AAA AW Bn (M), 552nd AAA AW Bn (M), 486th AAA AW Bn (SP), 474th AAA AW Bn (SP), 462nd AAA AW Bn (M), 460th AAA AW Bn (M), 387th AAA AW Bn (SP), 438th AAA AW Bn (M), 461st AAA AW Bn (M), 197th AAA AW Bn (SP), 103rd AAA AW Bn (M), 445th AAA AW Bn (M), 377th AAA AW Bn (M)

f. The interrogation of one captured pilot, an extremely experienced one having seen much action on other fronts, produced the following facts: He was shot down by flak after his plane had been hit four times – in the tail, fuselage, wing, and engine. When flak was mentioned, he became very agitated and cursed our AAA fire as being too intense and too accurate. He said that evasive tactics of skidding his plane and jinking, which had worked so successfully on other fronts, was useless here, as evidenced by his being hit and downed. When the flak opened up, it appeared to him that the whole mountainside was alive with fire. He had “never seen anything like it.”

g. The following facts emerging from this action are interesting to note:

(1) Some planes were painted with a replica of the invasion stripes on the fuselage between the cockpit and stabilizer. There were three stripes – black, white, black – each 10-11 inches wide.

(2) Me 109 G-6 and Me 109 G-14 types participated. The Me 109 G-14 had a 20mm cannon mounted between the engine blocks.

(3) First Army policy of preventative maintenance was demonstrated by the fact that the 197th AAA AW Bn (SP) had 36 half-tracks in action without a single malfunction of any type.

(4) The 116th AAA Gun Bn (M) fired some rounds of pre-cut fuzes in gun control at low flying strafing planes. It is reported that one plane was destroyed by this method of fire control. This battalion claims four (4) planes destroyed by unseen fire control.