Time On Target - The Book

The following excerpts from the book are posted here for your reading pleasure.

Introduction

This history of the 945th Field Artillery Battalion began as an idea at the 1992 reunion of the battalion veterans in Nashville, Tennessee. As the suggestion was passed from man to man it became evident that many had stories and memories that they not only wanted, but needed to share. The deep and sometimes painful reminiscing the men have done over the last two years will leave a meaningful and lasting record for their families and descendants. It is their story, the story of the greatest adventure of their lives, the story of the King of Battle.

The field artillery had a critical role in World War II. General George Patton, Third Army commander, said in his biography that "we won the war, and it was largely won by the artillery" (1). The importance of the artillery is often overlooked by those that are not students of World War II; however, every infantry soldier will attest to the importance of the artillery support in battle. An American officer said that "we let the arty fight the war as much as possible" (2). Even the Germans, who were critical of the American infantry, consistently praised the artillery (2). The ability of the American artillery to fire multiple batteries in a "Time on Target" (TOT) mode was particularly devastating, and German prisoners attested to the catastrophic effects of the TOT firing. What we lacked in other areas we more than made up for it with our strong suit - the artillery (2).

Patton was quoted as telling his old French Army friend that "the poorer the infantry the more artillery it needs, and the American infantry needs all it can get" (2). This is not criticism of the infantry as much a compliment to the artillery. Most combat commanders agreed that the artillery was the outstanding combat branch of the American ground forces. American infantry began to dispense with the classical "fire and maneuver" doctrine in favor of a "maneuver and fire" approach - relying on the artillery once they identified the location of the enemy. The artillery was fearsome, and the arrival of the proximity (VT) fuse in late December caused even greater destruction and fear on the part of the Germans.

When the American infantry entered towns and villages the artillery often swept ahead of them, block by block reducing the town to rubble (2). In early November, with the 945th supporting the newly arrived 26th Infantry Division as well as the 35th and 80th Infantry Divisions, a massive artillery bombardment was planned to kick-off an attack. American training and technology allowed 17 Corps battalions and 20 Divisional battalions to coordinate their fire - an incredible achievement with almost 600 pieces participating (2). During the Battle of the Bulge the Germans were breaking through near Dom Butgegnbach, but American artillery came to the rescue with well placed targeting of over 10,000 rounds in an eight hour period. This enabled the 2nd Infantry Division to hold on the northern shoulder of the bulge.

The crossing of the Rhine by the American Ninth Army was witnessed by both Generals Simpson and Eisenhower. 2,070 American guns opened the attack with all of flashes visible along the flat plains on the western bank of the river - 1,000 rounds per minute and over 65,000 total. It was this kind of support that lead to the description of the XII Corps artillery as the "hammer that drove the steel spikes of the XII Corps into the coffin of the Third Reich" (3). Well done men of the 945th Field Artillery Battalion, you have our heartfelt thanks.

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