Anzio and Artillery

An American Ordnance unit that could boast a battle history dating back to Tobruk blamed its presence at Anzio on its proclivity for always being in the worst place at the worst time. At Anzio and Nettuno, two neighboring resort towns on the coast south of Rome, the Allies were pinned down by the Germans for four months on a small beachhead about seven miles deep and fifteen miles wide. Every inch of it was under German artillery fire. Nobody was safe. Depot men, repairmen, truck drivers, clerks, all were as likely to be hit as a man in the front lines. The very sidewalks of Anzio had shell holes in them. Military police were occasionally killed while directing traffic. In the first two months Ordnance lost 14 men killed and 78 wounded. The total battle casualties for the whole period at Anzio, 22 January-24 May 1944, were about 5,000 killed in action and nearly 16,000 wounded.1

Prime Minister Churchill, who by mid-December 1943 had become convinced that only an amphibious end run around the German Winter and Gustav Lines could break the "scandalous" impasse on the Italian front, needed all of his famous powers of persuasion to get the Combined Chiefs of Staff to agree to an amphibious landing in the Anzio-Nettuno area about a hundred miles north of Naples.2 The Allied generals might have been more enthusiastic about the operation, known as SHINGLE, had they been permitted a really strong force of at least three divisions, but the scarcity of landing craft limited SHINGLE to two: the British 1st Division and the U.S. 3d Division, both under VI Corps.3

The landing early on the morning of 22 January 1944 went off well. The weather was good, and the only enemy forces encountered were a few outposts, some drunken Germans riding in a staff car, and a battalion or so of panzer grenadiers sent to Anzio for a rest, many of whom were captured in their beds. Anzio and Nettuno, with their pink and white villas and seaside hotels rising from a beach about three miles long, were like ghost towns because after the invasion at Salerno the Ger-


mans had evacuated the civilians from the strip of land, about twelve miles in depth, behind the coast. Beyond Nettuno in the American sector were farmlands reclaimed from the Pontine Marshes in Mussolini's heyday, a resettlement project on which canals had been dug and modern farmhouses, community centers, and straight, tree-lined roads had been built.4

Here the advance was halted at the end of January. With astonishing speed the Germans brought in divisions from northern Italy, France, and elsewhere, while still holding at Cassino. Thus the Anzio operation did not accomplish its main objective, which was to draw off enough German divisions from the Cassino front to allow the Allies to make a quick breakthrough there. Bitterly frustrating months were in store for the Anzio force until the build-up for the May 1944 drive on Rome was completed. Though the force was not strong enough to break out of the beachhead, it did hold under fierce counterattacks, and throughout the spring managed to contain more than a dozen German divisions that might otherwise have been used against the Normandy landing or on other Allied fronts. This, and the heavy German losses in men and supplies, seemed to Allied commanders to be worth the high cost of Anzio.5

Supporting an embattled beachhead for months on end called for careful planning. One innovation that saved much time on resupply was introduced into the Mediterranean theater by Col. Ralph H. Tate, Fifth Army G-4. Trucks (2½-ton) were packed with five tons each of either ammunition, POL (petrol, oil, and lubricants), or rations— one type to a truck— at Naples, then backed into LST's. When they arrived at Anzio they ran straight from the LST's to the dumps, discharged their cargoes, and returned to an empty LST to be sent back to Naples, refilled with supplies, and dispatched on the next turnaround. A truck-loaded LST could be emptied in about an hour, instead of the twelve hours usually required for a bulk-loaded LST; consequently it was in that much less danger of being shelled and bombed; also, the speed of the operation made for great flexibility, since VI Corps could ask for specific supplies one morning and receive them the next. Artillery, heavy engineer equipment, and build-up supplies came in on Liberty ships and were unloaded by DUKW's and LCT's. Intelligent planning made it possible to land from Libertys and LST's an average of almost 4,000 tons of supplies a day between January and May.6

By the end of January, when the 45th Infantry Division and the 1st Armored Division (less Combat Command B) had


Photo:  The Anzio-Nettuno area


been brought from Naples, the Allies had at Anzio a force of 68,886 men, 508 guns, and 237 tanks.7 Fascinated by "the steady thundering flow of heavy war traffic," Ernie Pyle stood by a road near Anzio one day and noted, "of the first twelve vehicles that passed each was something different. There was a tank, and a great machine shop on heavy tractor treads that shook the earth as it passed, and a jeep of a one-star general, and a 'duck,' and a famous American six-by-six, and a prime mover trundling the great Long Tom gun with its slim, graceful barrel pointing rearward. Then came a command car, and a stubby new gun covered with canvas—on four rubbertired wheels—and an ambulance, and a crew of wire stringers, and a weapons carrier. Then a big self-propelled gun on tractor treads, and finally another duck to start the heterogeneous cycle over again."8

Anzio was a good test of the flexibility of the Fifth Army Ordnance organization. On 27 December 1943 Colonel Niblo informed the officers of the 45th Ordnance Battalion—the forward battalion support-


ing VI Corps—that they were going to handle Ordnance service at Anzio. Only the headquarters was nominated to go. The companies then under the battalion were relieved, and Maj. Marshall S. David, commanding officer of the battalion, was allowed to select the companies he wanted. He selected from the 42d Battalion the 14th Medium Maintenance Company, which was already supporting the 3d Division; from the 87th Battalion, the 45th Medium Maintenance Company, a good all-around company; from the 188th Battalion, the 3407th Medium Maintenance Company (Q), experienced in the maintenance of DUKW's; from the 197th Ordnance Battalion, a detachment of the 525th Heavy Maintenance Company (Tank); and from the 62d Ammunition Battalion, the 66th and 58th Ammunition Companies. In the assault wave, only the ammunition companies went in entire; the maintenance companies were represented by small advance detachments totaling a hundred men, nearly half of them for DUKW maintenance. The rear detachments were scheduled to proceed overland and join their units as the attack progressed toward Rome.9

When it became obvious that the operation was not going according to plan, the rear detachments were hastily loaded on LST's and brought to the beachhead, arriving in the middle of a storm four days after D-day. The combat troop build-up a few days later of another infantry division, half an armored division, and additional field artillery, tank destroyer, and antiaircraft battalions made it necessary for Niblo to add to his Ordnance strength another medium maintenance company skilled in artillery maintenance, the 101st, an antiaircraft maintenance company, the 262d, and a depot company, the 77th. He also sent in a detachment of the 476th Tank Evacuation Company and a platoon of the 2622d Tank Transporter Company to provide wrecker service for tanks mired in muddy fields or immobilized by mines. Anzio by then had 1,886 Ordnance men, of whom 73 were officers.10

Major David, who landed on the evening of D-day, gave Maj. Madison Post, his maintenance officer, the job of supervising dewaterproofing, and set up the 45th Ordnance Battalion headquarters and the Ordnance depot in a group of buildings arranged in a quadrangle around a courtyard, a compound formerly used by an Italian Army elite corps. Parts were stored in the horse stalls of the stables. Profiting by his experience at Salerno, when he had to break crates open in order to find out what was in them, David had ordered an inventory in a waterproof envelope to be tacked onto each box of supplies; he carried with him a master packing list showing the part number, correct nomenclature, quantity, and box number of each item shipped. This master list was extremely useful in operating the depot.

Across the field from the compound, the 45th Medium Maintenance Company was bivouacked around a villa with palm trees. The men of the 525th Tank Mainte-


nance Company found some buildings at Nettuno with concrete floors that made them ideal for shops; and the 3407th Medium Maintenance Company (Q) set up its DUKW shop area on hard ground north of Nettuno. The 14th Maintenance Company, supporting the 3d Division, was closer to the front than any other company, but nowhere was the front far away. From the roof of the compound Major David could see the front lines and the hills from which the German artillery was methodically shelling the beachhead.11

The heaviest maintenance job for the first two weeks was DUKW repair. Three hundred American DUKW's were used to land supplies from the Liberty ships anchored far offshore. So many were put out of commission by slippery and congested roads, night driving and unloading, rough weather, enemy action, and carelessness on the part of drivers, that the one DUKW repair company was swamped and had to have help from other Ordnance maintenance companies. Fortunately on this strange topsy-turvy front, where no rules seemed to apply, truck maintenance was not a serious problem. Distances were short, the traffic within the beachhead was severely restricted, and the turnaround trucks that came in on the LST's were serviced in Naples. Fortunately also, Ordnance supplies were plentiful compared with those on other battlefronts. Fifth Army, expecting VI Corps to break out of Anzio in a few weeks, had set the supply level at fourteen days. Major David (with Niblo's tacit consent) had gone far beyond this level, requisitioning at the beginning for thirty days from Naples, sixty days from North Africa, and ninety days from the United States. The supply position was strengthened further in early February when Fifth Army took over resupply, until then handled by VI Corps.12

Supplies were adequate and supply distances were short, but the success of the support operation depended largely on careful planning by Ordnance officers and the initiative and adaptability of Ordnance troops. Entrenching their vehicles and equipment, the troops worked under front-line conditions at any jobs that came their way: repairing DUKW's, fighting fires at ammunition dumps, doing guard duty at Fifth Army headquarters, practicing to convert themselves into combat troops in case of an enemy breakthrough. For its important contribution to the landing and early operations at Anzio, Fifth Army Ordnance Service received the thanks of the VI Corps Ordnance officer and the congratulations of General Clark.13

The Ordnance men slept, whenever they were able to sleep in the noise and frequent alerts, wherever they could. At first they tried abandoned houses and apartments, which offered protection from the cold, damp, sometimes snowy weather.


but soon found they had to go underground in foxholes, slit trenches, and wine cellars. The billets of the 77th Depot Company, for example, ranged all over Anzio—"From deep caves 40 feet underground at the water's edge, through old wine cellars two levels below the street, through rooms in an old medieval fort, through a magazine in an open field filled with Italian high explosives, to the billet of a couple of second looeys on the top floor of the tallest building on the highest hill in the town of Anzio."14

Paradoxically in this strange place, the safest company was the one nearest the front lines because most of the German fire passed over it, to fall on the harbor and port; also, the company at the front had room to disperse. In the crowded area around Anzio-Nettuno were the heaviest Ordnance casualties and the worst cases of "Anzio Anxiety" or "Nettuno Neurosis," caused by the strain of constant shelling and bombing, added to overwork. One night 5O-kilo bombs fell near the spot where two officers of the 45th Medium Maintenance Company were sleeping on cots. One was wounded; the other suffered such a case of shock that he had to be evacuated from the beachhead. At the end of February Major David was relieved and sent down to the Fifth Army Rest Center at Sorrento. He found it difficult to forget "the nightmare of the past month."15

On 1 March Niblo sent Lt. Col. John G. Detwiler from the Cassino front to Anzio to succeed Major David as commander of the 45th Battalion. In March a small detachment from the 2660th Ordnance Base Group (Provisional) headquarters also arrived to serve as an Ordnance advance command post. Early in May Colonel Detwiler was given command of all Ordnance troops at the beachhead, including an ammunition battalion that had been sent forward from Naples.16

The Ammunition Dumps

One of Major David's greatest worries had been his ammunition dumps. Until 2 February he had no battalion ammunition officer and never had enough men to handle the vast quantities of ammunition that poured into the beachhead from D-day on. Of all the cargo aboard the truck-loaded LST's 60 percent was ammunition, and more (about one-fourth of the total amount received) came in on Liberty ships, LCT's, and LCI's (landing craft, infantry). The field storage of ammunition was perhaps the most critical problem for Ordnance at Anzio.17

By mid-March 1944 about 40,000 tons were on the ground in a small area, exposed to enemy bombing and shellfire. On D-day the 66th Ammunition Com-


pany opened a large ammunition supply point, capacity about 20,000 tons, a mile north of Nettuno, and during February that company and the 58th Ammunition Company, broken down into detachments, opened and operated four more, each with a capacity of from 1,600 to 6,000 tons. Working under combat conditions, the men manhandled enormous quantities of the heavy and dangerous material. Between 22 January and 31 March nearly 86,000 long tons were brought to the ASP's.18

It was a bigger job than two companies could manage. The ammunition men were mostly clerks accustomed to depending for labor on their attached Italian labor companies. David had been refused permission to bring in Italians during the assault phase;19 and only about fifty civilians were available at Anzio. Some help came from the Cassino front on 2 February, when Niblo sent to Anzio 300 men from the Italian labor companies and Capt. James F. Fisher and three enlisted men from the 62d Ammunition Battalion, but this was still not enough. Following a complaint to army by Maj. Gen. Lucian K. Truscott, Jr., who took over command of VI Corps on 23 February, of "deplorable conditions" in the ammunition dumps, Niblo sent to Anzio the 684th Ammunition Company, accompanied by its attached labor company of 140 Italians.20

The arrival of the 684th meant that three-fifths of the ammunition troop strength of Fifth Army was now at the beachhead, since only two out of five companies remained with the 62d Ammunition Battalion on the Cassino front. It soon became evident that an ammunition battalion headquarters would have to be brought forward. None was available. Niblo solved the problem by converting to ammunition work his 87th Battalion headquarters, then administering evacuation and fourth echelon automotive repair at Capua. Transferring its companies to the 197th Ordnance Battalion, he dispatched the 87th headquarters to Anzio on 10 March and attached to it the three ammunition companies at the beachhead. He named Captain Fisher (soon promoted to major) the commanding officer and gave him Capt. Paul S. Blandford, Jr., of the 62d Ammunition Battalion as his executive and "Fire Chief."21

A fire occurred in one or the other of the dumps nearly every night, beginning on 7 February, when the first ASP was hit, until late May. The men fought the first fires with hand shovels and dirt, the only equipment they had. Later they got some 40- gallon foamite fire extinguishers and mounted them on half-tracks so they could get closer to the blaze. But it was the tankdozer that saved the day.22


Fighting fires with tanks, which protected the men, had first been tried in Tunisia. At Anzio Maj. John Merrill, VI Corps ammunition officer, suggested putting a bulldozer blade on the front of a tank to scoop up the dirt.23 Early in April Niblo turned the problem over to his 197th Ordnance Battalion at Capua. Its heavy tank maintenance companies got bulldozer blades from the Engineers and welded them to M4 tanks and T2 tank recovery units (M3 tanks equipped with cranes). Four of these units were shipped to Anzio and distributed among the ammunition dumps hardest hit by fires. They were an immediate success, smothering fires with dirt and extinguishing those that could not have been controlled any other way. In May Niblo was able to obtain from the Engineers kits for installing bulldozer blades on M4 tanks. The kits had been designed in the United States for modifying tanks so that they could excavate mines, and had just arrived in the theater.24

The tankdozer led to the development of the L-shaped storage bunker. In Anzio's dangerous and limited area, where proper dispersion was not possible, the first requirement was to keep fires from spreading from one stack to another. At first straight trenches were dug, but they were often flooded, since the water table at Anzio was very near the surface. Also, there was not enough space between the trenches to fight fires effectively. Captain Blandford developed a system of storing all ammunition above ground in a series of L-shaped dirt bunkers, each containing about 30 tons, with the corner of the L toward the enemy artillery positions for better protection against shellfire. Along the sides were piled large quantities of loose soil that could be pushed by a tankdozer over a burning stack.25

After the tankdozers went into action in April, manned by courageous volunteers from the Ordnance ammunition companies, losses fell from an average of 40 tons per fire to 10 tons. For the whole Anzio period only 3,807.9 tons were lost by fire. Casualties from this source were remarkably light. On 17 March 1944 Pfc. Gordon J. Eigenberger, a first-aid man of the 87th Battalion's medical unit, was killed by exploding 155-mm. shells when enemy bombs started a fire in the ASP north of Anzio, but no other deaths were caused by fires in the dumps. Thirty ammunition men were wounded by shells or personnel bombs— thin-case bombs full of small shot that scattered widely when the bomb burst. Three men of the 66th Ammunition Company were killed on 12 February by personnel bombs dropped on their bivouac area.26

In spite of dangerous working conditions and storage problems in the dumps, about 52,000 long tons of ammunition had been issued by the end of March. Most of it was artillery ammunition. During the major German offensive, from 16 to 20 February, prisoners taken by the Allied


Photo:  Tankdozer used to fight ammunition dump fires, Anzio


forces said that the "terrific" and "continuous" artillery fire of the Americans caused heavy casualties, cut off food supplies and communications, and brought some units to the verge of panic. At the peak of the attack, for every shell the enemy artillery fired, VI Corps threw back from ten to twenty. The artillerymen of one of the Long Tom batteries, veterans of Tunisia, Sicily, and the Salerno-Cassino operation, told Ernie Pyle that they had fired more rounds "sitting there in one spot on the Anzio beachhead" than they had in the entire year preceding, and that another battery had fired more in four hours one night than in the previous eight months. A tremendous supply of ammunition was needed to offset the advantage the Germans had in possessing guns of longer range and larger caliber.27

Anzio Annie and the Clamor for Heavier Artillery

At the end of the first week of February 1944 the men at the beachhead heard the "thundering scream," as they described it, of enormous German shells, the largest the


Americans had yet encountered on any front. They saw geysers two hundred feet high when the big shells fell into the sea; they saw thick-walled three-story buildings demolished, an ancient Roman cave split open, a whole cemetery plowed up, "unburying the dead." Ordnance experts studying the fragments determined that the shells were 280 millimeters or 11 inches in diameter and fired from a railroad gun with a range of about 63,000 yards or 36 miles.28

By 2 February the Germans had brought down from the north several railroad guns to counter the naval gunfire that Salerno had led them to expect. The largest was the 280-mm. rifle, nicknamed Anzio Annie or the Anzio Express by the Allied troops. With a barrel 65 feet long, Anzio Annie was drawn by a diesel-electric locomotive and accompanied by four cars, one of which bore a turntable on which the gun was mounted to obtain traverse when firing. Another was an air-conditioned car for carrying powder. On 7 February the Germans used 280-mm. guns to shell Allied ships off Anzio and Nettuno. After that date the weather began to clear and the monsters were so vulnerable to air attack that they could probably be used only sporadically if at all. They may have been sent back up the coast as protection against the threat of an Allied amphibious assault at Civitavecchia, which the Germans continued to expect. Two 280-mm. guns were discovered on a railroad siding at Civitavecchia after the fall of Rome. Their names were Leopold and Robert. Leopold was shipped to Aberdeen Proving Ground, where careful study of several unorthodox design features led to the development of the postwar U.S. 280-mm. "atomic gun."29

Because of Allied air superiority, railroad guns had to be kept in tunnels most of the time; they were rolled out and fired at night or on cloudy days and then hauled back into the tunnels. Early in March the German High Command offered to send down to Anzio a 280-mm. railroad battery and one even more powerful, a 320-mm. Czechoslovakian railroad battery; but the commanding general of the German Fourteenth Army at Anzio reported that no suitable tunnels were available, since the tunnel farthest to the south gave an effective range of only three kilometers in front of the main German line of resistance. Two weeks later the Fourteenth Army was expecting a railroad battery of 320-mm. guns, but it does not appear that they ever arrived. The railroad guns most used at Anzio were a battery of 210-mm. kept in a tunnel west of Albano, not far from Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer palace.30

Every time a shell from a large long-range gun hit the Anzio beachhead, and they continued to hit regularly until the breakout in May, the troops blamed it on Anzio Annie, but the Germans had a formidable array of heavy artillery in addition to the railroad guns: 220-mm. howitzers, 210-mm. howitzers, and 170-mm. guns.


Painting:  Anzio Annie, from a German water color

ANZIO ANNIE, from a German water color.

The 170's, on surrounding hills, possessing a range of about 30,000 yards, did more damage than the railroad guns. On 16 February, when the Germans began their big counteroffensive, they fired 454 rounds from six 170-mm. guns and only 50 rounds from two 210-mm. railroad guns. On 29 February they had eighteen 170-mm. guns, Tom which they fired 600 rounds; and on that day they fired only 12 rounds from their 2l0-mm. railroad guns.31 The railroad guns were freaks; but Anzio Annie symbolized a bitter truth—the Germans had in the 170-mm. a gun that outranged the best gun the Allies had, the 155-mm. Long Tom, with its maximum range of 25,700 yards. It was at Anzio that the clamor for heavier artillery began.32

The 240-mm. Howitzer and 8-inch Gun

On the Cassino front the Allied forces had by 22 February 1944 in addition to sixty 155-mm. Long Toms, twelve


240-mm. howitzers, which had a range slightly less than the Long Tom but a projectile more than three times as powerful. The 240-mm. howitzer and the 8-inch gun were the heaviest mobile U.S. artillery weapons. The designers had intended that both use the same mount, in line with the Ordnance Department's policy of pairing a gun (a long-barreled cannon of high muzzle velocity) with a howitzer (a short-barreled cannon of low muzzle velocity, firing shells in a relatively high trajectory) of approximately the same caliber. Next in power in the gun-howitzer pairs were the 155-mm. gun and the 8-inch howitzer, and last were the 4.5-inch gun and the 155-mm. howitzer, which were considered medium, rather than heavy, artillery.33

The theater had not requested the 240- mm. howitzers. Early in October 1943 the commanding general of NATOUSA had asked the War Department for 55 tubes for 155-mm. guns, needed because the guns had been fired so much of the time at extreme ranges, necessitating the use of supercharge ammunition, that the tubes were beginning to wear out. In reply to this request, Maj. Gen. Wilhelm D. Styer, chief of staff of Army Service Forces, cabled that the tubes were not immediately available and asked whether the theater could use the 240-mm. howitzer for some missions then assigned to the 155-mm. gun.34

At the time, the U.S. commanders in Italy were not eager for the 240-mm. howitzer. General Lucas, then commander of VI Corps, was "doubtful of the value of the 240 howitzer in this country." The Fifth Army Artillery officer thought that both the 240-mm. howitzer and the 8-inch gun would be "quite useful," but that "the road net and mountains make their movement and employment extremely difficult."35 Nevertheless, the theater agreed to accept two battalions of 240-mm. howitzers and also asked for two battalions of 8-inch howitzers, which had a range of 18,500 yards. The four battalions were to be used "for destruction of field fortifications and to relieve 155-mm. M1 units of many missions which are now causing rapid destruction [of] gun tubes."36

Two battalions of 8-inch howitzers were in position on the main Italian front by 20 November 1943 and were immediately successful, especially for close support of infantry, because of their accuracy and power. The 240-mm. howitzers were delayed because the heavy tractor designed to move them was not yet available. The Ordnance Department recommended that the T2 tank recovery vehicle, with modifications, be used. In spite of the Field Artillery Board's objections, the T2 was decided upon, and the 240-mm. howitzers were shipped before the end of 1943.37

Successfully moved by the T2 tank recovery vehicle, two batteries of 240-mm. howitzers were in position near Mignano on


Photo:  240-mm. howitzer in the San Vittore area


27 January and began tiring next day. Both battalions of 8-inch howitzers were in action on the Cassino front by the end of the third week in February. Remarkably accurate, with a very small expenditure of ammunition the howitzers demolished important bridges behind the German lines, notably the bridge at Pontecorvo funneling traffic from the south and west into the Liri Valley. They were extremely effective against big buildings in Cassino and other heavy masonry structures, especially when used with the concrete-piercing fuze. According to a British artillery brigadier, the fire of the 240-mm. and 8-inch howitzer batteries was largely responsible for the ultimate reduction of the monastery at Cassino.38

The heavy howitzers were ideal for the main Fifth Army front, which was "howitzer country," because they could deliver a heavy weight of explosive on the reverse


slopes of mountains. In operations in the high Apennines after the capture of Rome, Maj. Gen. Alfred M. Gruenther considered the 240-mm. howitzer the most generally satisfactory artillery weapon Fifth Army had. Late in March 1944 twelve 8-inch howitzers and two 240-mm. howitzers were sent from the Cassino front to Anzio. In their first mission they demolished a tower in Littoria, a strong German observation point that the Germans had been using to direct fire on the port.39

In such special situations the howitzers were invaluable, but the answer to the German 170-mm. gun was the 8-inch gun, which had a range of 35,000 yards, outranging the 170-mm. by about 5,000 yards.40 The Caliber Board Report of 1919 had recommended the development of a long-range 8-inch gun along with the long-range 240-mm. howitzer, and the Chief of Field Artillery had asked the Chief of Ordnance in January 1940 to procure pilot models of both, but the Army's interest in heavy artillery had lapsed in the early years of the war when the Germans were demonstrating so spectacularly the effectiveness of dive bombers and tanks. It revived after Tunisia, where the U.S. forces had come up against the 170-mm. gun for the first time. Returning from North Africa, General McNair on 15 May 1943 had stated, "Instead of artillery becoming an arm which is tending to fade out of the picture under the pressure of air power or tanks, it is there in the same strength and importance that it had in the [first] World War."41 The 240- mm. howitzer, rather than the 8-inch gun, however, received most of the benefit from the renewed interest in heavy artillery.

The 240-mm. howitzer was standardized in the spring of 1943, the 8-inch gun in December 1943. General McNair considered the ammunition for the 8-inch gun unsatisfactory; there was also trouble with the carriage. Though originally it was thought that the same mount could be used for both the heavy howitzer and the gun, the 65-degree elevation for the howitzer could not be accommodated to the plus 10-degree elevation of the gun, and therefore another carriage for the gun had to be devised.42

Field Artillery officers wanted to wait until the gun and carriage were improved before sending them to the battlefield. The Ordnance Department took the position that although improvements were desirable, the guns ought to get into action. General Campbell urged General Somervell early in July 1943 to speed the production of the 8-inch gun as well as the 240- mm. howitzer; a few days before Salerno General Barnes, the head of Ordnance's Research and Development Division, told the AGF Ordnance officer that the guns were all right "and not to be using them is wasting a tremendous amount of fire-


power which is definitely needed in operations on the continent."43

It took Anzio Annie to clinch the argument, for until she spoke the theater was in no hurry for the big gun. When Brig. Gen. Gordon M. Wells, chief of Ordnance's Artillery Division, visited the Cassino front during Christmas week 1943 he noted that the German 170-mm. gun outranged all Allied artillery in the theater, making it necessary to move the 155-mm. guns far forward for effective counterbattery action; that the 8-inch gun would no doubt provide the proper remedy; and that Fifth Army, though still concerned about the transportation problem, intended to request 8-inch guns "as soon as they are ready for issue."44 A battalion was in fact then ready but it was earmarked for the ETO. Colonel Crawford, Ordnance officer of AFHQ, suggested during the first week of January that some of the big guns might be diverted to Italy, but Maj. Gen. Lowell W. Rooks, AFHQ G-3, replied that though later developments might disclose a need for an 8-inch gun battalion, he could see no prospect of being able to accept such a battalion for several months. Six weeks later, in mid-February 1944, Fifth Army wanted 8-inch guns immediately, to be used by a converted 155-mm. howitzer battalion without waiting until men for an 8-inch gun battalion could be trained and equipped.45

Four 8-inch guns arrived in Italy at the end of April 1944 and were assigned to the 240-mm. howitzer battalions. Two went to the Cassino front, two to Anzio. The ammunition for them arrived just in time for the big guns to add their roar to the great salvo from Cassino to the sea that heralded the beginning of the battle for Rome on 11 May. They silenced 170-mm. guns emplaced deep in enemy territory; they harassed areas the Germans had hitherto considered safe; and to intensify the effect on the enemy's morale, Ordnance troops had bored holes in the windshield of the shell to produce a scream. In the Anzio breakout, beginning 23 May, the 8-inch guns shattered power and railway stations in Albano, cratered roads, and generally hampered the retreat of the Germans. In moving the big guns and howitzers forward on both fronts in the drive for Rome, the T2 tank recovery vehicle justified the confidence the Ordnance Department had placed in it. The use of the 8-inch guns and 240-mm. howitzers on the Italian front was nevertheless comparatively brief. After the capture of Rome, the shipment of guns to the high-priority European theater began and by November 1944 none of the 8-inch guns and 240-mm. howitzers were left in Italy.46


"Balanced Artillery Firepower"

For most of the Italian campaign, the brunt of the long-range heavy artillery duels was borne by the 155-mm. Long Toms. Massed close behind the front lines and fired for 90 percent of the time (instead of the conventional 20 percent) at maximum range with supercharge ammunition, they performed nobly. This unorthodox use, which had begun in Tunisia, soon wore out the tubes. A correspondent who visited an Ordnance heavy maintenance company near the Volturno River has left a vivid description of the tube-changing operation, which "looked like a meeting of dinosaurs. Heavy wreckers with long-necked cranes sparred and maneuvered through the mud. One eight-wheeled wrecker with an enormous boom backed up to the gun and the boom was hooked to the worn-out gun barrel. A second wrecker edged its way up, until its winch was in position to ease the great gun carriage forward. When the old tube had been extracted, the new one, as long as a telephone pole, and weighing 9,500 pounds, was lifted into the air. To act as counterbalance for the heavy breech end while the tube was being lowered into place, a group of men jumped up and sat astride the muzzle end of the gun like a row of schoolboys on a seesaw."47

Tubes and other gun parts wore out so fast that the criteria of supply—the time factor and the number of guns—were meaningless. When this became apparent in the fall of 1943, Colonel Niblo came forward with a suggestion that the time factor be ignored and that the supply of gun tubes, gas check pads, and other items be based on the only factor that really counted—the number of rounds fired. Aware that tubes began to wear out after about 1,200 rounds, causing thrown rotating bands and short bursts, he suggested that with every 1,200 rounds of 155-mm. M1 gun ammunition requisitioned, one gun tube and three gas check pads be authorized.48

Colonel Crawford at AFHQ followed up with an official recommendation that spare guns or gun tubes and spare gas check pads be provided on the basis of the amount of ammunition manufactured for the weapons, and General Wells, chief of Ordnance's Artillery Division, backed him up. Unfortunately, the policy could not be put into effect because there were not enough of the items, especially the tubes, in the United States. The stalemate at Anzio and the increased effort on both fronts brought alarming demands for tubes. NATOUSA asked for 192 in February 1944—96 for immediate replacement and 96 to be shipped not later than 15 March. That many were not available. By robbing the Navy, the European theater, the British, and troops in training in the United States, 144 could be made available, but only 48 replacements could be provided by 15 March. Colonel Niblo therefore had to inform the Fifth Army Artillery officer that for two or three


Cartoon:  "Ordnance? Ah'm havin' trouble with mah shootin' arn." From Up Front by Bill Maudlin. Copyright 1944 by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.  Copyright 1945 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.  Reproduced by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.

From Up Front by Bill Mauldin. Copyright 1944 by United Feature
Syndicate, Inc. Copyright 1945 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.
Reproduced by permission of Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc.


months restrictions would have to be placed on firing the Long Toms.49

This experience confirmed Niblo in the belief that firepower was the sum of five factors: first, a complete round of ammunition; second, a gun tube that had not reached the limit of its serviceability; third, equilibrators (if applicable) to elevate the muzzle properly; fourth, a recoil system that met certain standard pressure tests; and fifth, a serviceable gas check pad. He was convinced that gun tube, equilibrators, recoil system, and gas check pad must be arranged for, beginning with the manufacturing program and ending with the distribution over the zone of combat, in proper proportion to the amount of ammunition supplied. He called this concept "balanced artillery firepower," and it was the subject of considerable discussion in Ordnance supply circles in May 1944.50 As yet it was only theory. As the battle for Rome began, a battle in which artillery was to play a great role, Niblo was forced to confess that "we are keeping just one jump in front of the sheriff in trying to make our ammunition, tubes and recoils balance out and still meet tactical demands."51





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