American observers were recently allowed to inspect the training center
of a Red Army artillery unit and to observe gun crews and staffs in training.
The unit inspected was a 152-mm gun-howitzer regiment, designated as
Army artillery. The regiment was composed of three battalions, of three to
four batteries each.
A four-gun battery in firing position was inspected. Each gun crew was
composed of nine men. Characteristics of the gun were as follows: weight,
8 tons; range, 19,500 yards; weight of projectile, 88 pounds.
The distance between the guns of the battery was 30 yards. Each gun was
emplaced in a pit with 5-foot revetments built up on all sides. On either
side of the entrance to the gun-pit were dugouts where the gun crews could
take refuge during heavy enemy shelling.
An observed gun crew executed march order in 4 1/2 minutes; the
normal time is 6 minutes. The barrel was pulled back into traveling position by
hand wheels on either side at the breech end of the cradle.
In gun drill, 17 seconds elapsed between rounds in dry runs. One member of the
crew handed the charges to another who placed them in a shell case. The
shell case was inserted in the chamber after the projectile had been rammed
The group then inspected a battalion fire-direction center in a shallow
dugout in the side of a hill about 150 yards distant from the gun position. This
center consisted of an officer, assistant, and two telephone operators with two
telephones connected to a switchboard. On a plane table was a firing chart
called a "planshot" built on a 1,000-meter grid system on which were plotted
battery positions located by adjusted data on the base point.
Regimental and battalion OP's were then inspected. It was explained that the
regimental CO and the battalion CO are always at their respective OP's. Several
periscopes with single eyepieces were spaced about 10 feet apart. Their
readings were recorded and plotted, and the location of points in the target area
were determined trigonometrically. On hand at each OP were
cards 6 x 4 inches, showing locations of points with respect to the OP and an RP.
Rockets are fired from the regimental OP to indicate direction to other
observers in order to facilitate quick orientation.
According to the officer conducting the inspection, Lt. General Tikhonov, assistant
inspector of the Red Army artillery, the training center was so
conducted that it was possible to organize and train a regiment
of 152-mm gun-howitzers in 8 weeks, even though none of the
personnel had had any previous artillery training. In order to
achieve such results, however, a training schedule calling for 15 hours of
training a day was necessary. If the personnel had had previous artillery
training, a regiment could be organized and trained in 4 weeks.
The General also stated that at the siege of Sevastopol the Germans had
used a weapon, presumably a howitzer, with a caliber of 615 mm. The Germans
were also employing 320-mm mortars on the Eastern front.
Little was learned about the so-called secret Soviet "weapon of hell" or "Katyusha (little
Katherine)," except that it was a type of mortar of tremendous size, handled by
special troops who withdrew the weapon to the rear after it had been fired, in
order to prevent its capture. It was stated that the Germans dropped pamphlets
stating that further use of this weapon would result in the employment of gas
by the Germans.