In the following article reproduced from the Soviet Red Star, a Russian
major emphasizes the decisive importance of close and rapid cooperation between
artillery and tanks in the attack. The methods outlined are, in effect, an application
of the same principle of cooperation so often stressed by the Germans.
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Tanks are protected by armor, and are armed with guns and machine guns.
In comparison with other services, tanks have many advantages in the way of
maneuverability and striking power. Many military leaders placed all their hopes
on armored forces, allowing only a secondary role to artillery. However, the
experience gained in this war has shown that the role of artillery is not lessened
by the presence of large numbers of tanks. On the contrary, it is increased. Tank
attacks demand efficient cover by artillery fire. As a rule, tank attacks without
the support of artillery come to a standstill.
Modern defense consists, above all, in antitank defense. The presence of
various means of defense against armor, disposed along the front and in depth,
well camouflaged, enables the defense to resist tank attacks in mass. To disclose
and overcome all these means is not within the power of tank troops themselves.
Observation from tanks is difficult. Their range of fire is limited; accuracy
of fire is comparatively poor. It is difficult to aim from a fast moving tank,
which sinks into hollows and climbs obstacles. Forced halts even momentarily,
increase the vulnerability of tanks. In such circumstances their advantages such
as maneuverability, armament, striking power, cannot be fully utilized. Assistance
is provided chiefly by the artillery.
The question arises of the efficient employment of artillery in support of
the tanks. First, let us remember the varied nature of the tasks which the artillery
can carry out. Artillery fire still possesses the greatest power and range. It
can cover the movement of tanks to their assault positions, to their objectives
and in the actual attack. It can put down concentrations after the attack, hold up
enemy counter-attacks, and cover the evacuation of damaged tanks from the
battlefield. The artillery prepares the breakthrough of massed formations of tanks, as
well as assists in the movement of individual tanks. The methods employed are
varied, depending on the size and characteristics of the task. Fire concentrations,
changes in trajectory, lifting fires as the tanks move forward, displacing forward
with the tank attack--all these may come into play.
The artillery missions must be planned for all aspects of the battle. The
enemy will endeavor to forestall and break up our tank attack. For this purpose
he will use long-range fire of two or three batteries, aimed at the route of
approach of the tanks, at the areas of concentration and at assault positions. He
will also use aircraft for this purpose. Therefore, the first task for our artillery
is to cover the approach of our tanks and their concentration by means of counter-battery
fires and antiaircraft defense.
While silencing the enemy batteries it must be remembered that long-range
fire originates from reserve positions, of which there will be several. These
must be located beforehand, so as to be able to reply immediately to the enemy's
opening fire. Enemy batteries will not fire accurately without observation. Consequently,
during the period of artillery reconnaissance of the hostile defense
position and later, the enemy's observation posts must be destroyed or rendered
Counter-battery fire must also be used after the tanks have started to
advance. The Germans meet attacking tanks with a barrage at a distance of
2 1/2 to 3 miles. Our artillery must then endeavor to intensify its fire against
enemy batteries, force their gun personnel to take cover in trenches, and hinder
the enemy's fire control.
The principal and most difficult task of the artillery is to disorganize the
enemy's antitank defenses. Often our gunners open fire against the front line of
defense, thinking that antitank guns and obstacles are situated there. Actually,
the greater part of antitank obstacles are below the ground, camouflaged. Ammunition
should be saved at the beginning of the battle for a more opportune moment
for destroying hidden objectives.
As the tanks approach the forward edge of the enemy's defenses, the work
of the artillery becomes more complicated. The requirements are speed and
flexibility of fire control. The tanks will be meeting with obstacles. Enemy guns,
situated in the immediate vicinity of the forward edge of their defense positions
will open up. Our batteries will have to change over to firing on the forward edge
of the hostile position and their fire must accompany but not damage our tanks.
The method of accompanying fire is the systematic concentration on certain
targets. The effort to attain accuracy must not entail any delay. Often a
complete barrage of bursts is most desirable, especially as the Germans have
now abandoned their system of an interrupted line of defense. Intensive fire,
opened without delay, even if inaccurate, will reduce the effectiveness of his
When attacking tanks are accompanied by artillery fire, the latter is
provided by all the guns giving close support to the infantry, as well as by part of
the long-range batteries. The latter's task is, chiefly, to isolate the attack
objective throughout the depth of the enemy position, to neutralize the reserves
thrown into the gap and to prevent counter attacks. Fire is controlled from
command posts, well forward. Attention must be paid to signals and fire correction
by forward observers in tanks equipped with radio.
Targets which appear after a barrage has been fired, or targets which have
been hiding in shelters, or defended positions which are situated outside the areas
taken under fire, must be dealt with by support weapons. Such support guns
accompanying the tanks must quickly destroy anything obstructing the tanks in
After a thrust into their positions the Germans immediately organize a
counter-attack with the help of reserves placed well to the rear. These counter-attacking
groups consist chiefly of tanks. In one action, five of our tanks, accompanied
by four guns, were counter-attacked by 18 enemy tanks. Our antitank
weapons moved at a distance of 400 to 500 yards from our tanks. As the Germans
devoted all their attention to our tanks, our guns opened fire on them. After firing
30 shells, two enemy tanks were on fire and four others damaged. The rest withdrew
and our tanks successfully completed their task.
Recently, increasing attention has been paid to tank support artillery.
Methods are being studied of the best cooperation with tanks. In this connection,
the following is an example:
An infantry unit was ordered to capture an enemy position in a village.
Tanks took part in the battle. A battery of 45-mm guns was detached to accompany
the tanks. The guns were towed by the tanks by means of cables, and the
crews, armed with automatic pistols, together with part of their ammunition were
carried on the tanks. It looked like an artillery raid. Approaching the forward
edge of the defense, and after taking the front line of trenches, the gunners shot
up the Germans with their automatic rifles while defended positions were dealt
with by the tank personnel. Later the tanks met with obstacles and the Germans
started a counter-attack. Our gunners then unhitched their guns and firing over
open sights, they drove back the enemy. This may not be a typical example, as
these gunners were acting as infantry, but the fact that the guns were towed by
tanks, and crews carried on the latter, is worthy of attention.
The usual method of moving guns behind tanks is for them to advance by
their own traction, at distances of 200 to 300 yards from the tanks, in bounds
from one position to the next. In this way the guns can cover the flanks of the tank
units from counter-attacks and from flanking defense positions, which are the
most dangerous of all for tanks.