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FM 6-20: Tactical Employment
Field Artillery Field Manual, War Department, February 5, 1944
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from a WWII U.S. War Department Field Manual. As with all field manuals, the text may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the contents of the field manual. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


Section I

76. GENERAL. See FM 100-5 for general doctrine governing offensive combat.


a. General. Artillery positions in offensive combat are located well forward, to exploit the range of the weapons and to facilitate cohesion of command posts of supporting and supported units. A field artillery battalion usually occupies a position in the zone of action of the unit it supports. Artillery that has been attached to a corps or division and that will revert upon reaching the limit of its range from initial positions, is usually emplaced farthest forward.

b. Meeting engagements. When the advance guard deploys, any artillery attached to it occupies position at once to cover the deployment; usually the remainder of the artillery of the column also occupies position immediately to furnish support. Units that have occupied positions during the advance guard action may have to displace early in order to be in forward positions to support the attack by the time it jumps off. The artillery moving to positions should be given priority on roads. The early employment of observation battalion reconnaissance and survey elements is desirable.

c. Attack of organized position. The bulk of the artillery supports the main attack and, in general, occupies positions behind it. If the main and secondary attacks are sufficiently close together, the positions should permit the bulk of the artillery to support the secondary attack also. Artillery in position during the operations preceding the attack may have to displace laterally to occupy positions for the support of the main attack.

78. CONTROL. When communications exist through which the division, corps, or force commanders can direct quickly the fire of the bulk of the artillery, control is centralized. When such communications do not exist, control is decentralized. Control of artillery should be centralized as quickly as possible in order that the force commander may have available a mass of fire power to be employed as the situation dictates. In an advance guard action and in a meeting engagement, control is of necessity decentralized. During the progress of the development of a position, centralized control is developed as the situation stabilizes. Prior to the preparation, control is centralized and remains so initially during the attack. As the attack develops and units such as an encircling force become separated from the main attack, control will again become decentralized or partially decentralized.


a. In support of advance guard. In the advance guard action, artillery fires are executed to cover the deployment of friendly troops and to disrupt the movement of enemy formations to meet the attack. Artillery missions include interdiction of routes and assembly areas, neutralization of enemy artillery, fires on enemy forward elements, and the attack of other targets of opportunity.

b. Preliminary combat to develop hostile main position. When the leading troops have gained contact with the enemy covering forces, the bulk, often all, of the division artillery is committed. Corps artillery is engaged as soon as possible. Special attention is paid to protecting the leading troops from counterattack. If a minor break-through operation is necessary to drive in the covering forces, artillery should be a part of the task force assigned that mission; other artillery supports the operation with particular attention to the flanks of the breakthrough. The bulk of the artillery, displaced forward after the covering forces have been driven in, usually remains silent prior to the preparation to maintain secrecy.

c. Artillery preparation.

(1) GENERAL. An artillery preparation, a system of intensive fires delivered during the period immediately before the infantry crosses the line of departure, is designed to secure domination over hostile artillery and infantry. All artillery participates in the preparation.

(2) PREARRANGEMENT. Fires prearranged as to location and time are usually limited to known targets and to areas that are strongly suspected of containing remunerative targets. Certain units are assigned additional missions of attacking targets of opportunity discovered too late to be included in the prearranged fires.

(3) DECISION TO FIRE PREPARATION. The force commander decides whether a preparation is to be fired. He considers whether—

(a) A sufficient number of remunerative targets will be accurately located in time for preparing the fires.

(b) The probable effect of the preparation will justify the attendant loss of tactical surprise.

(c) The ammunition supply is adequate.

(4) DURATION. The force commander also decides the duration of the preparation. In general, a preparation should be long enough to accomplish the effect sought, but not so long as to permit the enemy to change his major tactical dispositions in time to meet the attack. The duration may be governed by the ammunition supply.

(5) MISSIONS DURING PREPARATION. The number of phases, length of phases, and missions are varied to fit the particular situation. In a three-phase preparation the missions might be as follows:

(a) First phase. During the first phase the corps artillery, reinforced as necessary by division artillery, gains ascendancy over the hostile artillery; units not required for counterbattery interdict routes and neutralize enemy systems of command, signal communication, and observation.

(b) Second phase.

1. Corps artillery maintains neutralization of that hostile artillery neutralized during the first phase; executes counterbattery of enemy artillery located after the preparation starts.

2. Division artillery neutralizes enemy systems of command, communication, and observation; neutralizes defensive areas, reserves, and assembled mechanized units; destroys obstacles.

(c) Third phase.

1. Corps artillery continues counterbattery. Corps artillery units not required for counterbattery reinforce the division artillery in neutralizing enemy defensive areas and smoke enemy observation.

2. Division artillery delivers massed fires successively on defensive areas in the forward portion of the enemy position, with priority to known defensive elements that most seriously threaten the success of the attack.

(6) ARTILLERY PREPARATION IN ATTACK OF ORGANIZED POSITION. In an attack of an organized position, the artillery must batter the enemy strength to the point of complete collapse before friendly infantry is committed to the assault. Profitable targets are located by interpretation of air photographs, by sound ranging and flash ranging, and through other intelligence agencies. If the secondary attack is to be launched prior to the main attack, the preparation on the front of the secondary attack precedes that on the front of the main attack; it is participated in only by artillery whose positions are such that firing from them will not disclose the location of the main attack.

(7) ARTILLERY PREPARATION FOR PENETRATION. The artillery preparation preceding a penetration is in general longer and more violent than that preceding an envelopment. The bulk of the preparation fires is placed on the front and flanks of the intended penetration. In its final phase the preparation maintains ascendancy over hostile artillery in order to minimize any counter-preparation.

d. During attack.

(1) During the attack artillery fires are delivered to—

(a) Assist the advance of the infantry by attacking defensive areas and emplaced weapons.

(b) Assist the infantry in gaining fire superiority on each successive objective, so that the leading echelons can close to assaulting distance.

(c) Protect the supported units during periods of reorganization.

(d) Assist in breaking up counterattacks. This requires that concentrations on likely areas and routes for counterattacks be prearranged so as to mass artillery on the counterattack before it gets under way.

(e) Continue the neutralization of hostile observation.

(f) Continue the neutralization of hostile artillery.

(g) Prevent the enemy from disengaging his forces.

(h) Assist the supported units in holding the ground gained.

(2) These fires may be in the form of successive concentrations, rolling barrages, or a combination of both.

(a) Successive concentrations on known or suspected enemy locations are used when the hostile dispositions are either known or can be deduced accurately from a study of the terrain.

(b) A rolling barrage is utilized when information of enemy dispositions is insufficient to justify successive concentrations and when ammunition is plentiful.


a. Advantages and disadvantages. Registration increases the accuracy of subsequent fires, permits placing unobserved fires closer to friendly troops than would otherwise by justifiable, and saves ammunition. Unrestricted registration discloses the artillery positions and thereby reveals the deployment of the force, indicates the commander's intentions, and invites untimely neutralization of our artillery. The disadvantages of registration can be minimized by using special registration positions (FM 6-40), by keeping the number of registering batteries to the effective minimum, by registering as late as practicable, or by registering many units simultaneously.

b. Decision as to registration. The force commander makes the decision as to whether registration will be restricted or prohibited. It is rarely necessary to prohibit registrations completely. When registrations are restricted, the force commander determines the time they may begin and time by which they will be completed.

c. Procedure. The technique of registration is covered in FM 6-40. Coordination with the supported unit is necessary to prevent registration fires from endangering friendly covering forces and patrols. Units that have not been able to fire prior to becoming actively engaged should register at the first opportunity that presents itself during the action.

81. PREPARATION FOR ATTACK. Preparations that the command makes before the occupation of final assembly positions include the systematic organization of ground observation, the completion of the signal communication system, organization of the command for combat, organization of the ammunition supply, assembling supplies and equipment in forward areas, the movement of the artillery into position, and the coordination of the supporting fires of all arms. Engineer units clear obstacles and assist in the movement of tanks, artillery, and heavy transport. Operations that might reveal the attacker's plan must be carried out secretly or deferred as long as possible.

Section II

82. GENERAL. See FM 100-5 for the general doctrine governing defensive-offensive operations.

a. Defensive phase. The amount of artillery supporting the defending force is the minimum necessary for the successful execution of the defensive mission. The remainder of the artillery is usually held in reserve in locations that provide positive concealment; or a part may be emplaced in concealed positions to support the contemplated attack and required to remain silent during the defense.

b. Counteroffensive phase. The artillery is employed as in offensive action. The following factors are essential to the effectiveness of its employment:

(1) A thorough knowledge of the counteroffensive plan.

(2) Complete preparations, to include observation, positions, routes, survey, prearrangement of fires, and coordination of fires with those of other arms.

(3) A careful computation of time and space factors.

(4) Secrecy of execution.

Section III

83. EMPLOYMENT OF ARTILLERY IN PURSUIT. See FM 100-5 for general principles relating to pursuit.

a. Direct-pressure force. Often some of the artillery supporting the direct-pressure force must be attached to the elements that are making the most progress. Long-range artillery remains under centralized control. Its missions include interdiction of routes of retreat.

b. Encircling force. Artillery with an encircling force is nearly always attached. In general, considerations of fire power, mobility, and ammunition supply make the 105-mm howitzer the most suitable weapon. Other considerations permitting, the units that are least actively engaged are selected. The supply of ammunition and fuel to the encircling force artillery must receive major consideration.


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