3AD Artillery (DIVARTY)
…AND THE THUNDER OF ARTILLERY!!
Packing the power behind the tanks was the 3d Armored Division’s Artillery units with their self-propelled howitzers capable of lobbing shells more than five miles to impact on target, or the Honest John rocket speeding its payload much further. And DIVARTY also polished its battalions and batteries at Graf, undergoing the annual Army Training Test (ATT) to test the men’s ability to “move, shoot and communicate”.
In the swampy center of Grafenwöhr training area was the artillery impact area, a large, flat circular depression surrounded by pine-clad hills. On the surrounding hills, sometimes in sand-bagged bunkers, the forward observers would be stationed, their binoculars aimed at the depression below and a radio set at their sides to relay information back to the fire direction center.
And squatting in the valley to the rear of the forward observers was the self-propelled howitzers, their snub-nosed barrels tilted upwards slightly to lift the shell over the hills. Nearby the fire direction officer would be station to receive information from the forward observers. The FDO would compute the distance to the target, determine the deflection, and compute the elevation to be used (of course the FDO had lots of help and fire direction computers).
When all was ready, the fire command would be given and with a roar that rocked the vehicle back on its tracks, the cannon would belch out its projectile sending it whistling over the pines; and the fire direction officer would await the verdict from the forward observer. It was always hopefully “target destroyed…end of mission”!
Or in the dim light of dawn, a stout truck burdened with the long and slender Honest John rocket would move into position at one end of the range, its caravan of men and electronic equipment assembled earlier, its course plotted, wind direction and velocity computed. And suddenly a tail of fire and smoke would brighten the darkened woods and the rocket would be gone, its impact area far down at the other end of the training area.
After the ATT was over and all of the batteries had been tested for their accuracy in firing and their knowledge of tactics and operations, it would be time to reload the howitzers on the rail cars for the return to the home kasernes to again assume the never-ending cycle of training, maintenance, and readiness.
DIVARTY Personal Diaries. Personal history and stories from those who served with Division Artillery Headquarters.