443rd AAA Bn in World War II

RHINELAND CAMPAIGN

AAA AW BN (SP) TACTICS CHANGE

On 23 September a letter from VI Corps Commander, General Truscott, changed forever the existing concepts of tactical uses of AAA (SP) gun-tracks. Aware of the exploits of the 443rd and recognizing that growing, Allied air power was gradually reducing enemy air power to sporadic, hit-and-run raids, General Truscott advised all division commanders of the capabilities of the MA (SP) gun-tracks and their possible fuller uses while retaining their effective antiaircraft role. Entitled, "Employment of MA (SP) For Ground Missions", the General’s letter stated:

"I have long felt the need for greater exploitation of our fire power in the attack. We have the means for far more effective use of massed fires of our automatic weapons in close support of infantry, particularly in the AAA automatic weapons battalion, mounted on half-tracks - four .50 cal. machine-guns coaxially mounted and one 37 mm with two .50 cal. machine guns co-axially mounted — capable of delivering tremendous fire with great accuracy and speed. they have generally been used in rear areas, watching for enemy aircraft. Although the need for antiaircraft protection has not disappeared it has certainly lessened greatly and I am sure that this valuable weapon can be used in many ways without interfering to any great extent with its availability for AA protection.

"The determination as to the use to be made of the AAA battalion at any one time rests with the Division Commander. The battalions are trained in the technique of ground fires and AAA AW battalion commanders are available to the division and to subordinate commanders at all times for technical advice on the employment of their weapons.

"Within limitation imposed by their characteristics there is a wide range of uses to which the AAA AW half-track may be put. They can be employed effectively in both attack and defense, day or night, and are most effective under circumstances which demand a high and rapid concentration of reinforcing fires at a particular point. The following data and information suggest a few practicable adaptations to ground missions.

CHARACTERISTICS OF AAA AW MOUNTED ON HALF-TRACKS

M—16 Mount w/armor plating (4) .50 cal. MGs 5000 rnds per min. .50 cal. belts are normally loaded: 1 tracer, 2 incendiary, 2 AP.

T-28-E1w/o armor plating (1) 37 mm gun 240 rnds per min. 210 rnds of HE tracer w/burnout at 3500 yds. 30 rnds AP.

"It is obvious that because of the half-track’s limited, cross-country mobility, the light armor or no armor and its high silouhette, great care must be exercised in using it in the presence of enemy anti-tank weapons. It should not be used to accompany the infantry in attack as is the SP assault cannon but might, however, be moved from one secured cover to another, close behind the assault troops and thus be able to furnish close, supporting fire, particularly for quickly destroying enemy machine gun positions. The M-16 vehicle is better adapted to this type of mission as it possesses some armor and can fire more rapidly and accurately while on the move or at sudden halts. Moved into position at night, concealed and dug-in, this weapon can greatly increase the weight of infantry fire along the line of departure.

"As the nucleus of a strong point or to cover a road block, bridge or similar position it should be carefully dug-in and concealed and covered by infantry small arms. However, the half-track crews are able to furnish some of the small arms flank protection while still able to operate the piece.

"In support of a night attack the weapon may be used to indicate direction and to furnish diversionary fires. Used extensively by the Germans in Africa and Italy often with excellent results.

"In short, I expect each and every commander in the Corps to constantly seek to develop the techniques of combat with all the weapons at our disposal. And remember, the weapons alone will not do the job. Only by a high degree of coordination and teamwork between the infantry and this weapon will success be achieved".

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