Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

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Fatboy Coxy
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Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 25 Apr 2020 23:56

Hi all, I was pondering on the problems faced, using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia during WW2, and have a number of questions.

Firstly, are you defending or attacking that airfield, railway or road, or sea port, this has a major factor on your options. In defence, you may have had time to prepare, so guns and mortars can be positioned and potential targets registered, ammunition stockpiled, lines of communications laid down and improved, and crews given a modicum of creature comforts. In attack, everything has to be carried with you, and orientation can be very difficult the further into the jungle you venture.

Mobility; Moving your piece of artillery into position, and maybe late repositioning it. Firstly, use any river, rail line, road, or track, as far as you can, then what trails are available to move onto. Of course, as you get closer to your enemy’s defensive position, these lines of advance are going to quickly become heavily defended. So now its flanking movements, hacking through jungle. Can your artillery, positioned just off the river, rail, road or track reach the defensive positions or have they got to come as well, is so, your going to need pack mules. So, at this point, what guns/mortars do you need, weight is a big factor, does the gun break down into pack loads?

Supplies; Defence starts with an advantage, but even it will need resupply at some stage. Again, get back to those good avenues of movement as quickly as possible, the river, rail etc. but now its about how quickly supplies are consumed, so number of men to feed, how many rounds for the gun/mortar are being expended. Also, how heavy is each round, everything has to be carried. Which brings me to think of the next bit

Effectiveness of gun; A 2-inch mortar, is really light, use small rounds, easy to move, but not going to do much. However, what is? A 6-inch round will be more effective but the real measure is by weight, because everything has to be carried, so you get a lot of 2-inch rounds for one 6-inch round, you can be less accurate but still do better. Accuracy relies on observation, and in the jungle, the best observation has to be from the air, so how’s that air superiority coming along, are we a contested air space or worse still, operating under an enemy sky. Failing air observation, the defence would probably have the advantage here, using predicted fire and would be sitting on the higher ground, so may have some areas under observation.

So, what guns and mortars were successful, and why?

Did any army have an advantage due to their operational use of their artillery?

Were mortars more useful than gun/howitzers?

How critical was the pack animal to sustained operations?

Regards
Fatboy Coxy

Carl Schwamberger
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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Apr 2020 01:25

Part of the answer lies in the cannons range. The tactical mobility of artillery lies in its range & behind that its response time. Moving battalions of cannon is closer to operational mobility. In the context of your question the planning & execution of engineers mobility ops (road improvement) becomes increasingly important to artillery movement.

I don't have notes at hand for this; there was a Brit or Commonwealth artillery unit installed well behind Japanese lines in Burma. A para dropped engineer unit, including a bulldozer, cleared a landing strip suitable for Dakotas. At this a eight cannon battery of 25lbs was established & used against targets out of the range of the other Brit artillery. This is a extreme case of engineers aiding and abetting artillery mobility.
Fatboy Coxy wrote:
25 Apr 2020 23:56
... Did any army have an advantage due to their operational use of their artillery? ...
In the context of 'jungle' or more properly rain forrest warfare the Brits & US had a advantage. This was in engineering support, that allowed operational movement of multi battalion groups, and robust ammunition supply compared to Japans artillery. Jap[an did have several good modern light cannon, and plenty of older models as well. Transportation and less than robust engineer support limited the numbers of cannon and the daily rounds per cannon.

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Kingfish
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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Kingfish » 26 Apr 2020 02:25

Fatboy Coxy wrote:
25 Apr 2020 23:56
How critical was the pack animal to sustained operations?
The US briefly used a detachment of pack mules during the Guadacanal campaign, but found them more of a liability than an asset. The problem was in the logistics required to keep the animals fed. They could either haul weapons and ammo or their own feed, but not both.
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stulev
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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by stulev » 26 Apr 2020 12:22

The Japanese Model 92 70mm Howitzer could be broken down and carried - I think the Japanese classed them as Mountain Artillery, but they were used in the jungle fighting also.

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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by aghart » 26 Apr 2020 15:04

Moon over Malaya, the book telling the story of the Argyll's in Malaya, frequently mentions the very accurate and long range Japanese mortar fire. The Japanese mortars easily outranged the British weapons. Despite advancing rapidly, the Japanese appeared to have no difficulty in getting their mortars into action, and dropping their bombs right where they needed to be.

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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 26 Apr 2020 19:52

Kingfish wrote:
26 Apr 2020 02:25
...
The US briefly used a detachment of pack mules during the Guadacanal campaign, but found them more of a liability than an asset. The problem was in the logistics required to keep the animals fed. They could either haul weapons and ammo or their own feed, but not both.
Have any sources for this mule use? I've been trying to track down the connection of a deceased veteran to mules in the S Pac.

Mules have a reputation for being robust, but when they land in distant places they are vulnerable to local diseases & there area lot of issues with sick animals. Back in the 1970s a small batch of mules was sent to Afghanistan to assist the 'freedom fighters'. They suffered badly from the local equine maladies. Plus the inclination of a Mule to treat all commands as a object for further discussion put off the Afghanis who were used to their patient Donkeys & Horses.

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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Kingfish » 27 Apr 2020 09:42

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
26 Apr 2020 19:52
Have any sources for this mule use? I've been trying to track down the connection of a deceased veteran to mules in the S Pac.

https://history.army.mil/html/books/005 ... ub_5-3.pdf

Scroll down to page 314
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Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Apr 2020 10:07

Kingfish wrote:
27 Apr 2020 09:42
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
26 Apr 2020 19:52
Have any sources for this mule use? I've been trying to track down the connection of a deceased veteran to mules in the S Pac.

https://history.army.mil/html/books/005 ... ub_5-3.pdf

Scroll down to page 314
Thanks Kingfish, very interesting to read, surprised at the mules being so inefficient. Will look at rest of book later

Fatboy Coxy
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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Apr 2020 10:31

stulev wrote:
26 Apr 2020 12:22
The Japanese Model 92 70mm Howitzer could be broken down and carried - I think the Japanese classed them as Mountain Artillery, but they were used in the jungle fighting also.
I'm a bit confused here. The Model 92 was used as a battalion gun, but the Type 97 81mm mortar was referred to as a infantry gun, and may have been used in its place. The mortar is lighter, and breaks down into three as opposed to 5 parts for the Howitzer, but like all mortars cannot provide direct fire, while the Howitzer can match the mortars plunging fire effect. The confusing is knowing if a unit was armed with the Howitzer or mortar.

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Re: Problems using artillery in the jungles of South East Asia in WW2

Post by Fatboy Coxy » 27 Apr 2020 10:36

aghart wrote:
26 Apr 2020 15:04
Moon over Malaya, the book telling the story of the Argyll's in Malaya, frequently mentions the very accurate and long range Japanese mortar fire. The Japanese mortars easily outranged the British weapons. Despite advancing rapidly, the Japanese appeared to have no difficulty in getting their mortars into action, and dropping their bombs right where they needed to be.
The quick to get into action and accurate fire might be attributed to the Type 89 grenade launcher or knee mortar, each Japanese platoon had one, and accurate fire could be directed by line of sight.

The Type 92 battalion gun, or their Brandt copied Type 91 mortars did out-range the British 3-inch mortar until improvements in 1942

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