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 Why didn't artillery prevent WW I from degenerating into trench warfare?
DontShootMyDog  [Member]
2/15/2010 4:54:41 PM
Was it just not accurate enough to wipe out a trench?






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SD307  [Member]
2/15/2010 11:16:02 PM
It still isn't

The hole in the ground is still the primary defense against artillery look at the history of modern war chek out

Civil War 1865 Virgia (forget teh town St. something) and grant's seige

Boer war- boer tactics against british

WWI whole thing

WWII Battle of the Bulge, and Italian campain

Korea lots here

vietnam not so much

Even the new arty systems with multi round simotaneous impact are meant to get more bad guys before they get into their holes
4v50  [Team Member]
2/16/2010 12:15:05 AM
Artillery help promote trench warfare. When it's too dangerous to stand, sit or even lay down, you dig in.
SIPCAT-C  [Team Member]
2/16/2010 12:19:10 AM
Originally Posted By 4v50:
Artillery help promote trench warfare. When it's too dangerous to stand, sit or even lay down, you dig in.


texas_mustang_01  [Team Member]
2/16/2010 12:23:19 AM
Unless you hit the hole, you're not doing jack.
BozemanMT  [Member]
2/17/2010 10:51:40 AM
dirt can be busted up, but shelters can be built strong enough not to.
Most of the maginot line still stands.
The big fort at Lige was taken in the 2nd world war by commando/glider attack because artillery did nothing to it. (they fucking crash landed on top of the fort with a glider then installed shaped charges on top and blew it. talk about huge brass ones)

Artillery wasn't really the problem, the problem was one of movement. In WWI, you could only move as fast as a running man, unprotected and an army only as fast as a march. (some armies made 50 miles a day, nothing to complain about),
WWII was about movement (at least in the early part) when tanks could move faster and surround immobile armies. By the end of WWII, armies had learned not to stand still, otherwise they would get surrounded.

deathes in WWI were 9:1 artillery to rifle fire. artillery killed (kills) far more than rifle fire.
InfectiousFight  [Member]
2/17/2010 6:40:44 PM
Then it would be interesting to contrast the Western Front with the Eastern Front, or the fighting with the Ottomans, and determine if the fact that the Western Front was the only one in that WORLD War to descend into the morass of stalemate trench warfare corresponds with a higher density and sophistication of artillery in that theater. I suspect that it is the case, but it's worth investigating. Of course the cause for the differences are much more complex and multi-faceted but this is an aspect I've not heard talked about in-depth.
BozemanMT  [Member]
2/17/2010 9:15:13 PM
trench's everywhere, from gallipoli, to Austria/hungry to even Russia.

although on the eastern front, the trench's weren't as big or as deep (simply too much distance to cover),
heck, it started in the American civil war.
InfectiousFight  [Member]
2/18/2010 8:42:25 AM
Of course there were trenches everywhere, can't have a war without trenches, but having trenches != "stalemate trench warfare". On the whole, the fighting overall stayed "mobile" to a greater or lesser degree in the other theaters.
R0N  [Team Member]
2/21/2010 7:00:09 AM
Artillery of the day was only accurate enough to kill troops in the open (both fire direction, and technically, with the lack of effective air bursting fuzes), with the addition of barbed wire you could fix the troops in the open where machine gun fire and the artillery could kill most exposed troops.

As time went on, the trenches and fortification became developed to the point that even direct hits from the heavy guns wouldn't do anything.
Bohr_Adam  [Life Member]
2/21/2010 7:13:58 AM
Originally Posted By InfectiousFight:
Then it would be interesting to contrast the Western Front with the Eastern Front, or the fighting with the Ottomans, and determine if the fact that the Western Front was the only one in that WORLD War to descend into the morass of stalemate trench warfare corresponds with a higher density and sophistication of artillery in that theater. I suspect that it is the case, but it's worth investigating. Of course the cause for the differences are much more complex and multi-faceted but this is an aspect I've not heard talked about in-depth.


It has been talked about in depth and to death.

The most elaborate and developed trenches were associated with the lines of opposing industrial powers as defined by their capacity to produce artillery shells. In fact, some historians have argued that the inability of Tsarist russia to identify and respond to the need to produce artillery shells on an industrial scale in order to keep up was one of the main factors that doomed the regime.

A lot of people talk about the machine gun, but it was artillery that really defined that war. Each side was convinced that if it could just outproduce and outgun the other, it could achieve a breakthrough. If you look at some of the charts and numbers out there, it is sobering.
Bohr_Adam  [Life Member]
2/21/2010 7:18:49 AM
Originally Posted By BozemanMT:
trench's everywhere, from gallipoli, to Austria/hungry to even Russia.

although on the eastern front, the trench's weren't as big or as deep (simply too much distance to cover),
heck, it started in the American civil war.


It is rather eery how man of the last battled of the Civil war foreshadow combat in Europe 50 years later, and yet nobody was truly ready for it. It wasn't as if it was unforeseen. Jomini predicted the problem during Napoleons time. Arguably, an attempt to avoid the problem is what led to the war, with each side convinced that a quick offensive pre-emptive move was critical to prevent the other from being able to mobilize its war machine. Thus, when things looked ugly, people got scared. To hesitiate too long could mean annihilation.
ArmdLbrl  [Team Member]
3/10/2010 11:30:58 PM
Trench warfare was only a issue on the Western Front, and a few geographically wierd places like Italy, Salonika, Galipoli. In Palistine, Mesopotamia, and the whole Eastern front, it didn't happen.

It was a freak that both sides could find enough manpower to line up shoulder to shoulder from the North Sea to the Alps. It could have been avoided at any time by either side by simply withdrawing a few miles. Sir John French, the first CO of the BEF lost his job for saying just that. But the leaders of France and Belgum were psycoticly adverse to even the suggestion that any more of their national ground be given up without "the shedding of blood".

And it was temporary. By 1917 the means to end trench warfare had been found, the British found a technical solution in the Tank. The Germans found a tactical soluition with their Stosstrupp tactics, infiltration, close air support, massive but highly localized bombardment by heavy howitzers directed by mathmatical survey and updated by continuous aerial survailance.
However both sides lacked the means after three years of wastage to capitalize on it.

Thats where the US Army came in. However we grew our army so fast that it was impossible to impart on the huge number of draftees and national guardsmen the lessons we already knew handed down from the Civil War. And we were short on equipment due to our lack of prepairdness. The US army was not going to be ready to kick the Germans out of France and Belgum until spring 1919. The other allies would not wait, as by then France's army had mutinied once and all the allies were afraid of Bolshivik agitators spreading the Communist revolution amongst the war tired population.

In Russia's battle with Germany and Austria, there were no continuous trench lines. Armies advanced along the axis of the major rail lines and the handful of paved all weather roads. The trench lines ran in arcs radiating from major road and rail centers. Trenches went up when the spring and fall rains turned everything into a morrass and stopped wheeled vehicle movement, offensives resumed again once the ground dried out or froze over. Offensives were carried out until the logistics failed, then stopped until the paved roads and railroads were extended to the new positions and supply stocks refilled. Then, weather permitting, they resumed. And year round huge cavalry armies swepped back and forth across the no-mans land of poor or nonexistant lateral roads between the main armies axis of advance.
Combat_Jack  [Team Member]
3/10/2010 11:32:19 PM
They lacked radios...

ArmdLbrl  [Team Member]
3/10/2010 11:53:32 PM
Originally Posted By Combat_Jack:
They lacked radios...



This is also true. However the ground was equal for everyone in that regard. The British though were the best prepared to conduct mobile operations even without voice radio, though the Germans were fairly good. Witness Tannenburg. Although in their advance through Belgum they were rather sloppy.
Combat_Jack  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 12:31:22 AM
Lacking radios means that you can't integrate fires, which means that there is a natural defensive advantage.

At various times in history the advantage has swung between the attacker and the defender.

In WWI, the defense had a strong advantage because of trenches, the machinegun and artillery.

Interbellum, radios and the tank changed things immensely and the attacker gained the upper hand.

ziarifleman  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 12:42:29 AM
Originally Posted By Combat_Jack:
Lacking radios means that you can't integrate fires, which means that there is a natural defensive advantage.

At various times in history the advantage has swung between the attacker and the defender.

In WWI, the defense had a strong advantage because of trenches, the machinegun and artillery.

Interbellum, radios and the tank changed things immensely and the attacker gained the upper hand.



I wonder how trenches would fare today with modern FCS and radar systems.

My guess is 30 minutes, maybe an hour tops when a battery lights it up.
Combat_Jack  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 12:56:48 AM
The enemy still uses fighting holes...
FDC  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 1:24:43 AM
Artillery and mortars are still area fire weapons systems. While direct hits are easily possible, that is not the goal. There is currently only one precision guided munition available, and even that is only as good as the target location.

It is pretty damn easy to suppress a trench/bunker complex. Knocking one out will take a little adjusting, and a lot more ammo.

ArmdLbrl  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 1:36:57 AM
Originally Posted By FDC:
Artillery and mortars are still area fire weapons systems. While direct hits are easily possible, that is not the goal. There is currently only one precision guided munition available, and even that is only as good as the target location.

It is pretty damn easy to suppress a trench/bunker complex. Knocking one out will take a little adjusting, and a lot more ammo.



The Germans were happy just to create "walls" around the areas they intended to attack, with "box barrages" that cut off communication. The Stosstruppen then crawled up, blew the wire with bangalore torpedos and delivered a close assault with flamethrowers and hand grenades. When the position was taken, flares were fired and the back wall of the box moved to behind the next line of trenches and they began the process again.
No one on the outside of the box could tell what was going on through all that noise and smoke, and vice versa.

But remember, the easiest way to prevent being stopped by the defensive fire complex is to go around it. Lots of the fighting on the Russian front and against the Turks was a replay of the Boer War, punctuated by static periods when the logistic system broke down and the sides would be forced to face each other for a while as they could not supply a turning movement.

The French and Belgans were terrified, after their poor showing in August/September 14', to engage in manuver warfare against the Germans, in the French case this was added to the baggage they were already carrying from their defeat in 1871. Even after they had saved Paris at the First Marne with some brilliant manuvering, the French were only fighting to not lose, to keep the Germans contained. They made no longer term plans, just reacted in the Race to the Sea, did not think about the concequences of what they were doing when compared to the failure of their attacks in the Battle of the Frontiers and the rough handling they had just given the Germans blocking the drive on Paris.

The Germans made a mistake too in continuing their offensives at Ypres and Verdun in 1915 against the Allied trench lines instead of simply going for a full holidng action while they helped Austria put down Serbia and Russia. The men tied up and wasted during that time could only have helped to shorten the war in the East and brought Russia's collapse quicker.

Combat_Jack  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 1:41:18 AM
Those are late war tactics, 1917, spring 1918 offensive, no?
FDC  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 1:49:34 AM
Originally Posted By ArmdLbrl:
Originally Posted By FDC:
Artillery and mortars are still area fire weapons systems. While direct hits are easily possible, that is not the goal. There is currently only one precision guided munition available, and even that is only as good as the target location.

It is pretty damn easy to suppress a trench/bunker complex. Knocking one out will take a little adjusting, and a lot more ammo.



The Germans were happy just to create "walls" around the areas they intended to attack, with "box barrages" that cut off communication. The Stosstruppen then crawled up, blew the wire with bangalore torpedos and delivered a close assault with flamethrowers and hand grenades. When the position was taken, flares were fired and the back wall of the box moved to behind the next line of trenches and they began the process again.
No one on the outside of the box could tell what was going on through all that noise and smoke, and vice versa.


Relatively standard suppressing the enemy with additional considerations accounting for the way the enemy communicated, etc.

Given the communication issues and the fixed positions, that's a valid plan when you have enough guns to do it.

ArmdLbrl  [Team Member]
3/11/2010 2:36:25 AM
Originally Posted By Combat_Jack:
Those are late war tactics, 1917, spring 1918 offensive, no?


Yep from 1917, first used at Riga, then repeated at Caporetto and ultimately in the Spring 1918 offensives that only failed because of the early commitment of the US Army. Which the Germans had hoped would not be ready for combat.

Germany's inability to decide on wether to knock off Russia or France first, delayed the collapse of Russia. The Germans were being opportunistic in entering the war. Their alliance with Austria was an excuse, not a reason to go to war, what they wanted was a settling of scores with France, who's alliance with Russia was also an excuse to attack Germany and win back Alsace-Lorraine and get revenge for 1870. Thus Germany's plans called for only a holding action in East Prussia against Russia while they tried to again knock out France. France this time was a tougher nut, while the huge Russian army was revealed by the massive German victory at Tannenburg to be a hollow entity.

There was much arguement in Germany beginning that first winter of the war, weather to switch to pounding Russia while holding in France as France was going to be a much more costly victory. But what they finally decided was to "bleed France (and England too) white" with their offensives in Flanders and the Verdun salient. The unexpected success of the Russian "Bruislov Offensive" of 1916, combined with the entrance of Italy and Roumania into the war, nearly broke the Austro-Hungarians and made up the Germans minds for them, and in little more than a year they had crushed Russia and drove the Serbian and Montenegran Armies into a form of exile in the Salonika penninsula, which was actually a part of neutral Greece. By November 1917 all of Germany's publicly admitted war aims had actually been met, because they had enabled the victory of their ally Austria and not only protected her from Russia but destroyed her militarily and freed Poland in the process. However by November 1917 the US had been in the war for 5 months. And the Allies had found themselves a "new Russia" with nearly unlimited reserves of manpower, horses and food they were in no mood again to talk. Wilson himself was the only one who might have listened and somehow they didn't find their way to his ear.
akodo  [Member]
4/9/2010 12:14:59 AM
I've heard that catching a unit in the open (which was the original use of airplanes, fly around, see troops close by, fly back with the info...or even fly trailing a long spool of telegraph lines) 25-50% casualty rate could be achieved with conventional artillery

But hit troops in trenches for a day and 1% casualty rates could be achieved. Oh you had some side-benefits like sleep deprivation, and that 1% casualty rate was hell on morale, and it did add up over time, but it was at a level that with a few new recruits coming in here and there, it could be managed.

Now if that artillery was firing GAS CANISTERS filled with MUSTARD GAS, being heavier than air it would naturally seek out the trenches
akodo  [Member]
4/9/2010 12:27:46 AM
Originally Posted By Bohr_Adam:
Originally Posted By BozemanMT:
trench's everywhere, from gallipoli, to Austria/hungry to even Russia.

although on the eastern front, the trench's weren't as big or as deep (simply too much distance to cover),
heck, it started in the American civil war.


It is rather eery how man of the last battled of the Civil war foreshadow combat in Europe 50 years later, and yet nobody was truly ready for it. It wasn't as if it was unforeseen. Jomini predicted the problem during Napoleons time. Arguably, an attempt to avoid the problem is what led to the war, with each side convinced that a quick offensive pre-emptive move was critical to prevent the other from being able to mobilize its war machine. Thus, when things looked ugly, people got scared. To hesitiate too long could mean annihilation.


Trenches were used during the American Revolutionary War to provide cover for besieging forces, giving them cover from artillery fire FROM the fort as they would bring their own mortars (whose arch would neutralize the defensive walls) up. I am sure it wasn't invented there. No, trench to protect yourself from enemy artillery is old.

You mention how the Civil War foreshadowed combat in Europe 50 years later yet no one was ready for it because they were still fighting the LAST war. Our Civil War was so bloody because we were still using Napoleonic tactics for a good bit of it, not realizing that with longer range and more accurate rifles the old methods just didn't work.

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