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Subject: German Artillery
Strech Red    7/26/2005 12:19:33 AM
Just finished a book whose title now escapes me, with the over whelming theme that the German was a better tacticians of armed conflict, but primarily he had much better equipment, namely artillery (not to besmirch his battlefield infantry accomplishments). My question is, how did Germany develop such devastating short- and medium-range artillery prior to the commencement of hostilities, and who were the inventors of the recoilless filed piece?
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Carl S    RE:German Artillery   9/22/2005 10:03:28 PM
To answer the last question first. The French were first to field 'modern' artilery with hydralic recoil mechanisms. The French 1898 model 75mm gun with its sliding breech block, extrodinary rate of fire, and accuracy was there first. Other armys were not far behind, the German 77mm gun, the Russian 76.2mm gun, & the British 18 pounder were similar and filled the same role as the standard division artillery by 1914. Above the divsion level was where the French & Germans diverged. The French had only a few modern howitzers & long range guns. Nearly half their medium & heavy artillery were obsolesent models. For the previous fifteen years French doctrine had leaned towards speed and shock on the battlefield. They thought their rapid fire light artillery tactics would smother the German artillery and infantry before they could respond effectively. For this end the French had extra regiments of light artillery in each corps to supplement the divission artillery. This idea worked only in a mobile battle in open country. The Germans ascribed to similar tactics under some circumstances, but they werre trained in other methods for differing circumstaces. ie: the German artillerymen were trained to conceal their guns whenever practical, and the commaders were trained to pick masked positions for the battalions. Above the divsion the howitzer was the primary weapon. Each corps had a a 105mm howitzer battalion of modern cannon that was traned to used indirect fire exclusively from masked positions. The British & the Russians trained in similar flexible tactics and provided modern howitzers (as well as some older ones). In the opening months of WWI the French tactics failed and the techiniques of concealment, digging in, and indirect fire had to be mastered by the French artillerymen. By the end of 1915 the difference between the artillery of the various nations was only in detail. The Germans retained their technical skill, the Brits & French gained some skill, and the Russians lost some through casualties and training problems. In general no one had a gross superiority. In 1916 a obscure German Lt Col Bruchmuller emerged with a revolutionary view of artillery tactics. This man had actually been on the retired list when the war started and was recalled to serve in a late raised reserve artillery regiment. His methods were a complex combination of command and control inovations, more effcient ammo supply methods, unorthodox tactics, and a careful prewar study on the real effects of artillery fire. Against the Russians Bruchmullers methods were extremely sucessfull and he quickly rose to commanding the artillery of entire armys. He developed even newer techniques for organizing devastating army wide artillery attacks. In the west in 1918 his methods were sucessfull in helping to break the Brit & French defenses and just as important as the "Stoss Truppen" tactics of the infantry. The fundamental weakness of Bruchmullers methods was they could not compensate for a lack of mobility. Against the Russians of 1916- 1917 there was time for horse drawn artillery to pack up and manuver to new positions. Against the French & Brits the artillery could not move fast enough to continue its support when needed. A second problem was that Bruchmullers methods were complex and dependant on his peculiar understanding of his weapon. The interwar German artillerymen attempted to retain his methods but never regained the same effectiveness.
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verdunjp    RE:German Artillery   9/23/2005 1:09:33 PM
At the beginning of WW1, German artillery was more efficient only because she had more bigs calibers than the french. On the other hand, the french light artillery (75 mm, exceptionnal rate of fire) was definitly superior to what the german had.
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Carl S    RE:German Artillery   9/23/2005 11:37:39 PM
True the French 75 had a higher rate of fire and if i recall correctly better range than the German 77. The Germans had a brief advantage in their 77 regiments in 1914 as they were better trained in a variety of tactics, vs the French 75 regiments which had become a one trick pony. The result was the German divsion and corps had a edge over the French due to better artillery tactics. My take is this advantage disappeared by mid 1915 as the French adpated their tactics.
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Clackers       11/12/2007 12:14:36 AM
Of course, artillery was at the centre of Falkenhayn's plans to bleed the French white at Verdun ... but Petain's own artillery proved to be just as effective on the attacking Germans and Falkenyhayn had to be sacked ...
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Carl S       11/24/2007 8:30:30 PM
Yes, Verdun illustrated the near parity in artillery.  The differences were in detail  or  nuance, but the overall effect was similar.  by 1918 the differences in detail were leading to a divergence. 
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Clackers       2/27/2008 11:50:14 PM
Yeah, when Nivelle took over from Petain for the counterattacking, he was one of the first guys to properly use a creeping barrage ahead of the assaulting infantry ... prior to that, the skill to do that reliably was lacking in all nations ...
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