U.S. Army Artillery vs. Marine close air support, World War II
I've seen from different sources that Marine close air support in World War II was considered to be more effective than the Army Air Forces was in that role.
Of course it is hard to compare the effectiveness of Marine close air support in the Pacific to the job the Army Air Forces did in Europe. Different terrain, different enemy, different equipment. (I understand that the Army Air Forces had a huge force in the Pacific also but the majority of their effort was in Europe)
Another thing to consider was that the Army Air Forces were not set up to do true close air support. The tactical air forces that were supporting the field armies in Europe concentrated on targets OUTSIDE the range of artillery. It was felt that artillery could deal with the closer range targets, and the attack aircraft would concentrate on targets that were deeper in the enemies’ rear area.
This made allot of sense. The Army had a large amount of field artillery available. Each division had 4 battalions of artillery. And for every battalion the divisions had, their were that many more at corps and army level. A division on the attack, or in a critical defensive position would typically have another 4 artillery battalions attached to it. And using World War II technology artillery is much more controllable than bombs and rockets. With artillery it was much safer to bring rounds in close than it was with aircraft. And communications with the artillery battalions were much more effective than with attack aircraft. You had to use radio to reach the attack aircraft, but you could use radio or field phones to communicate with the artillery units. The system of field artillery observers was more developed than the air control system.
I have no statistics to back this, but I am willing to bet that their were less U.S. "friendly fire" incidents with artillery than with aircraft. Typically an artillery unit adjusts it's fire before firing for effect. A forward observer should notice with the first round that he is getting close to friendlies, and adjust away or call for a check of fire. The most famous friendly fire incident of World War II involved heavy, medium, light bombers, and attack fighter bombers during the opening of operation Cobra in Normandy France. Over 100 U.S. troops were killed including Lieutenant General McNair.
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