The publicity which dive-bombing has received in the present war has led
some to declare that "land artillery" has been superseded by the "artillery of
the air". The importance which the Russians attach to artillery is indicated in
the following excerpts from a translated Russian article.
* * *
Experience has shown that repulsing the first large scale enemy attack is
repulsing the offensive in general. Counter-preparation is perhaps the decisive
factor in disrupting the opponent's attack.
In preparing to repulse the German offensive on the Orel-Kursk sector,
we were fully convinced that the artillery in the counter-preparation would first
and foremost neutralize the enemy artillery and mortars. Certainly, troop
concentrations, troop headquarters, and road-junctions should also be kept under
fire. However, these problems were considered as supplemental problems. It
was necessary to take into consideration the fact that in the event our artillery
thoroughly neutralized the German artillery and mortars, the enemy infantry and
tanks would be without fire support, and his attack would be greatly weakened. In
accordance with this project, a plan of artillery counter-preparation was drawn
up in the artillery units long before the beginning of the engagement. This plan
was distributed to the battery commanders who prepared details pertaining to
The positions of the enemy's artillery and mortars were placed on each
battery commander's map. The commander knew that at a definite signal his
battery was to fire at a specific target for a given length of time, with a definite
number of rounds.
It stands to reason that this plan was flexible and that it was modified
according to our knowledge of the disposition of the enemy installations. Particular
care, for instance, was taken in the evaluation of the opponent's firing positions in
order to distinguish between main, secondary and dummy positions.
It is not enough to prepare a detailed plan for artillery counter-preparation;
it is necessary to determine the exact time of commencement. The artillery
Counter-preparation that is too early or too late will not give the desired effect.
The commander must have exact information as to the beginning of the enemy
offensive. On the Orel-Kursk sector the time was determined on the basis of
reconnaissance data, confirmed by examination of prisoners of war. Based on this
information the signal was given for the artillery counter-preparation.
The order in which the firing was to be carried out was as follows: To
begin with, all the guns fired a five-minute preparation on the enemy batteries.
The target, rate of fire and number of rounds was definitely agreed upon before
hand. Immediately following this, a twenty-minute concentration was placed on
the same objective by a considerable part of the artillery. Finally, another
five-minute concentration was fired. During this period fire was placed on assemblies
of enemy infantry and tanks. Our bombers raided the enemy headquarters,
communication centers and tanks. The result was that a large number of artillery
batteries and observation posts were neutralized. This, of course; was reflected
in the German artillery-preparation; it was light and disorganized. The activity
of those German batteries which had not been destroyed was disrupted.
Despite large forces of tanks and planes; the latter of which operated against
our front line in groups of 10 to 15 the Germans were unable to. pierce our front,
because their artillery at the very beginning of the offensive had been neutralized
and was unable to support the attacking troops.
As practice shows, it is chiefly artillery that disorganizes the defending
system of fire. Because of our artillery counter-preparation, the Germans were
unable in any way to disrupt our system of fire and the defenders confidently met
the enemy tank and infantry. Once more it was confirmed that a fortified zone
can never be breached with success with weak artillery, despite the fact that large
concentrations of tanks and planes take part. Therefore, the primary object of
the defending force during the first period of the battle is the neutralizing of the
The effectiveness of the artillery counter-preparation depends primarily
upon how well the reconnaissance of the opponent's artillery has been carried out.
On the Orel-Kursk sector our reconnaissance succeeded in correctly determining
the dispositions of the enemy artillery and relaying the information in time. This
gave the opportunity of modifying the plan of artillery counter-preparation so that
it was most effective when finally carried out.
This successful artillery counter-preparation, compelled the enemy to
modify his tactics to his disadvantage. Thus, since the German artillery and mortars
had been neutralized early and thoroughly they were forced to use their bomber
planes as a substitute for artillery preparation. This reduced the activity of the
German air force in our rear and allowed us to maneuver with more success.
In this example we have observed the artillery counter-preparation carried
out on a large scale. Small-scale or individual counter-preparation is organized
if the opponent is preparing to carry on active operations on a narrow sector of
the front or if the enemy counterattacks after our troops have captured certain
positions. Naturally, reconnaissance is a determining factor in such a situation.
It is imperative to keep in mind the fact, that it may be impossible to
anticipate the enemy artillery-preparation and we will have to commence our
counter-preparations under enemy fire. There should be special signals and a
specific plan for such an eventuality. It must be emphasized that the greatest
number of artillery and mortar batteries should be used in order to make the
counter-preparation definitely successful.