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Subject: Skipping Artillery Rounds
Carl S    2/10/2007 6:11:07 PM
Picking thru a long book by a Wehrmacht artillery crewman (20th Motorized Div) I found twice mentioned a technique for obtaining airbursts without time fuzes. I'd never encountered this technique & am naturally a bit curious In simple terms: the howitzer (15cm in this description) was fired at a charge/elevation combination that would cause the projectile to strike at a low angle & bounce back into the air. By making the aimpoint at a few meter short in range and setting the fuze to the delay setting it was expected the projectile would explode over the enemy position, gaining a more effective airburst vs a surface burst. As an artilleryman I can clearly see the theory behind this, but am wondering if anyone has any knowledge of this technique. A Russian did make the following remark about it "This was a common tactic in the Red Army. Since the most common artillery piece was the 76mm divisional gun, which couldn't get very well to entrenched infantry, they had to rely on ricochets. Why you'd need to do it with a howitzer is a mystery. " Anyone else ?
 
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flamingknives       2/10/2007 7:20:46 PM
I don't know about German usage, but I've read in a few books that British and Commonwealth tank crews (and presumably US too) in Sherman tanks would use HE on delay and skip the round in much the same manner when facing entrenched Axis positions in North Africa.
 
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neutralizer       2/10/2007 8:48:59 PM
It was in the 'book' for both UK and US arty during WW2, I originally thought it was a US peculiarity until I found a Brit pamphlet mentioing it!  Obviously it needs a fairly flat angle of descent (or a favourable slope), which limited its use.  For UK it required a 'graze' action fuze, or delay for US. 
 
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Carl S       2/11/2007 7:35:56 PM
I absolutly cant recall any refrence to it until reading this German memoir.  Certainly was not taught to the 2dLts at Ft Sill in 1983.  But it seems at least one Wehrmacht battery used it twice, & this other respondent thinks it a common technique in the Red Army.

" but I've read in a few books that British and Commonwealth tank crews (and presumably US too) in Sherman tanks would use HE on delay and skip the round in much the same manner when facing entrenched Axis positions in North Africa."

Do you recall the titles where you read this?
 
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neutralizer       2/12/2007 3:29:17 AM
I suspect instruction on it stopped at the end of WW2, VT made it redundant.  IIRC it was called 'richochet fire'.
 
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flamingknives       2/12/2007 1:51:02 PM
The main one is Peter Beale's "Death by Design". A quote from Lt. Col. George Witheridge:

"This was done by setting the M48 Fuse on delay, rather than point detonation. When the shell struck the ground it rose into the air and burst above the target with devastating effect. I have fired three loads of 75mm HE shell in one action. I have killed an 88mm anti-tank gun at more than 4,000 yd with HE. This method is equally effective against enemy in trenches or slits"
 
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Carl S       2/12/2007 10:10:08 PM
Thanks for the book title.  Definitely something solid I can use later.

This technique is vaguely like our MG training.  Making the initial aimpoint a bit short of the target had the advantage of scattering the rounds across the target & being easier to spot the fall of shot.
 
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flamingknives       2/14/2007 3:38:58 PM
It was certainly a well used tactic  for muzzle-loading cannon firing solid shot. The shot would be aimed in front of advancing infantry with the aim of bouncing it through their ranks. I suspect that this was done as the roundshot might 'rabbit' a little above the ground rather like small-arms bullets are supposed to along walls.
 
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neutralizer       2/15/2007 2:17:43 AM
Not really the same thing.  Richochet HE aimed to get bounce that would activate the fuze, then get the shell into the air where it burst.  Ideally you'd want the shell at 20 or 30 feet above the ground when it burst.  In relity there wouldn't be many opportunities for the right circumstances for all this with fiekd artillery.
 
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flamingknives       2/16/2007 1:22:57 PM
MG rounds don't tend to airburst either, which is the parallel I was drawing.

As for field artillery not being used in this manner, towed field artillery was more commonly used in the direct fire role in WW2, especially against fortified strongpoints.
 
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Carl S       2/16/2007 7:47:07 PM
On a Russian web site I gleaned the following refrences to Soviet artillery use of ricochette fire.  Translating is a bear, but it seems the practice was not uncommon with the 76.2 divsion guns.  They may have been low priority for time fuzes.

"I don't really know what kind of references you're looking for here.  If you just google for "???????? ?? ?????????", you'll find a bunch of articles that mention it." 

Elsewhere I've been show a page from a Wehrmacht aartillery book describing the technique:

.feldgrau.net/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=24167

"The german artillery called this "Abpraller" and was used as you said against soft targets in cover for example.
The fuze was a contact fuze with delay so that the grenade exploded in a certain height over the target."



 
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