The Breakout Of The 1st Marines From The Chosin Reservoir: An American Epic Of Courage – Part 20

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US Army 155mm Howitzers in Battery, Korean War

Artillery has been called the “Queen of the Battlefield” for good reasons. In both World War One and World War Two, half of all casualties were caused by artillery fire. The most successful ground fighting arm of the American Army in Europe in World War Two wasn’t the infantry — it was the US Field Artillery.

Suffering only a 2% casualty rate in Europe, soldiers in US field artillery units deployed together for the entire war. This allowed for an accumulation of ability and experience unmatched in any other of the fighting arms. (US Army rifle companies in Europe regularly suffered 100% casualties in a few weeks of heavy fighting which would mean the entire unit had to be reformed with replacements few of whom knew each other.)

American field artillery could not only put a literal curtain of fire in front of endangered American infantry units but could fire hundreds of barrels of artillery at one time with all the shells timed to hit the same place at the same time through a process known as “Time on Target.” A massive fire of three hundred of four hundred barrels was called a “Serenade”. You can imagine the astounding shock of being a position suddenly hit with 300 artillery rounds within a minute and a half or so.

This skill with artillery continued into the Korean War and subsequent US wars although there was marked deterioration in the US Army artillery in the years immediately following World War Two.

Across the litter on Iwo Jima’s black sands, Marines of the 4th Division shell Japanese positions cleverly concealed back from the beaches. Here, a gun pumps a stream of shells into Japanese positions inland on the tiny volcanic island., ca. 02/1945

[Images courtesy of Korean War Weapons and History and the US National Archives.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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