Use of Smoke during World War II

GoodGuy

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WORK IN PROGRESS Done

Since I did not want to hijack/obscure the SITREP thread, I'm posting details and findings here, to put it up for discussion:

Were gun batteries able to put enough ad hoc smoke on the ground to obscure ... ?

Imho, yes.

The U.S. War Department publication 'Tactical and Technical Trends' No. 6 August 27 1942 said:
PART ONE

Research on German use of smoke as a weapon has produced considerable information on the organization of German smoke units and the large-scale use of smoke in tactical roles.

The idea that climatic conditions in the Middle East made the use of smoke impracticable has been proved by experience to be incorrect. Conditions will vary, but it will frequently be possible to use smoke effectively.

German Smoke-Producing Units (Nebelwerferabteilungen)

Six of these units have thus far been identified in the German Army. It is possible that eventually each Corps will include a smoke-producing unit. These have been identified in regimental chemical headquarters but only as administrative, non-operational headquarters.

Engineer Units. These are believed to be equipped with smoke projectors manned by sections of two to three men. The scale of equipment is not known.

... [ ] Army and corps commanders allot smoke troops, equipment, and ammunition to subordinate formations for large-scale screening operations. The divisional commander usually decides on the use of smoke, and its exploitation by artillery fire and troop movements. In employing smoke heavy concentrations are usually sought. The following uses are quoted:

(a) Attack

(1) Concealment of forward movements, and initiation of surprise attacks.

(2) Reduction of casualties.

(3) Assistance in taking open ground

(4) Covering river crossings.

(5) Blinding enemy positions and observation posts.

(6) Economy of ammunition, and reducing artillery's task.

(7) To some extent replacement of covering fire.

(8) Assistance to the main effort of the attack.

(9) Concealment of weakness in the secondary attack or of gaps in the attacking forces.

(10) Protection of flanks.

(b) Defense

(1) Blinding enemy observation posts.

(2) Concealing activities in the main line of resistance.

(3) Concealing troop movements to prevent observation from ground and air.

Throughout German teaching it is emphasized that smoke must always be laid on the enemy and not on friendly troops. The normal use of smoke to assist daylight withdrawal and to blind the enemy is also mentioned.

An interesting use of smoke is found in the suggestion that screens might be put down purely as a deceptive measure to mislead the enemy as to intentions.

The following principles are laid down for German troops when fighting in smoke:

(1) Smoke impedes defense rather than attack.

(2) Route-finding by compass is essential.

(3) Units should be guided through pre-assigned sectors.

(4) Close combat is decisive.

(5) Careful preparation of fire plans is essential in defense.

(6) Particular points of danger should be protected by units armed with bayonet.

(7) Counterattack should take place, as a rule, after the dissipation of a smoke screen.

(8) Gas masks should be worn until it is definitely known that no chemical warfare gas is mixed with the smoke.

It should be noted that no distinction is made between smoke laid down by enemy or friendly troops.

Instructions have been given for the handling of "smoke acid", which has been described as a mixture of chlorosulphonic acid and sulphur trioxide.

... [ ] ...

Equipment

...

(c) The Improvised Smoke Projector. This weapon can project the Smoke Candle 34, up to a range of 500 meters (550 yards). It consists of a steel barrel, 94 mm. (3.7 in.) in diameter, 4 mm. (.157 in.) thick, and 600 mm. (23.62 in.) long. The base plate, 200 mm. (7.87 in.) square and 10 mm. (.39 in.) thick, is welded on. A bipod is attached to the barrel by a ring just behind the muzzle. The best results are produced when using an elevation of about 45 degrees, which gives the maximum range for any of the three charges which may be used. These charges are made up of 25 (.54 pound), 50 (1.08 pounds), and 100 (2.16 pounds) grams, respectively, of propellant explosive in small packets of gauze or cellophane. The method of operation is to insert the charge into the barrel and drop in the smoke candle with the safety pin already withdrawn; this ignites the charge and the candle is projected to a distance depending on the charge, the angle of projection, and the wind. The rate of fire is 3 r.p.m. The average ranges attainable are:

With 25 grams propellant 100 meters (110 yards)
With 50 grams propellant 200 meters (220 yards)
With 100 grams propellant 500 meters (550 yards)

The most effective use of this projector is said to be the engagement of entrenchments and dugouts, and as a covering for river crossings. It can be mounted in the assault boat issued to engineer units.

(d) Tank-Mounted Smoke Candle Rack. All German tanks carry, projecting from their rear, a rack on which 5 smoke candles are held. These candles cannot be projected but are dropped from inside the fighting compartment. No definite evidence on their effect has yet been received.

A captured German General Order dated April 1942, mentions the fact that the smoke-candle discharger apparatus fitted to tanks has not proved successful and that a new type is being designed.

(e) Smoke-Producing Agents. For smoke candles and grenades a solid substance composed of zinc powder and hexachlorethane is used. This is quite normal. The shell is said to contain sulphur trioxide, but a 75-mm. shell which has actually been examined was found to contain oleum. Certain types of smoke generators sometimes use chlorosulphonic acid in conjunction with oleum or sulphur trioxide. In this connection, there have been two recent reports from the Western Desert of a thick cloud over 100 yards deep having the appearance of chlorine, but not in fact composed of this gas. The cloud was said to be used tactically on both occasions, and to be heavier and more intense than clouds normally caused by smoke-producing apparatus. In appearance, however, clouds produced by chlorosulphonic acid could be mistaken for chlorine.

The average height of a normal smoke screen is said to be 10 to 15 meters (32 to 49 feet), and the width 25 to 30 meters (82 to 98 feet). The length is:

Smoke Candles and Sprays 200 - 300 meters (220 - 330 yards)
Smoke Shell 100 meters (110 yards)
Smoke Hand Grenades 30 - 50 meters (33 - 55 yards)

The report from 1942 is very interesting. It shows what information Allied intel branches had gathered, and also shows where German deception had at least partially worked:

"German Smoke-Producing Units (Nebelwerferabteilungen)

Six of these units have thus far been identified in the German Army. It is possible that eventually each Corps will include a smoke-producing unit. These have been identified in regimental chemical headquarters but only as administrative, non-operational headquarters."

This reference shows that the Allies actually bought the pseudo purpose of the Nebelwerfer ("smoke throwers") units, as well as the whole Nebeltruppen (smoke troops) branch, which had already transformed into rocket artillery units. The US War Department's summary actually manages to pinpoint some of the details of the organizational structure of the (pre-war) Nebeltruppen (smoke troops), as it states that they were "regimental chemical headquarters", but then goes on and falsely identifies them as just administrative, non-operational HQs, where it then does not manage to reveal the general structure and the pre-war purpose of the Nebeltruppen as chemical warfare sections responsible for handling/firing chemical weapons and for decontamination. The major shift towards a rocket artillery role with the Nebelwerfer 41, and the fact that every unit in the German Army had a chemical appointee, was not gathered by the Allies either, at that point, obviously.

There is another misconception: The report quotes a captured General order stating that the smoke cups on tanks were not successful. This is not entirely true. The external smoke cups (mounted on the side of the turret) were prone to damage caused by shrapnels and even rifle rounds, where then the electrical trigger could fail. Also, when empty, a crew member had to get out and reload the cups. While failed or damaged cups were not mass phenomenons, it was still disturbing for the tank crews, as smoke cup failures made tactical retreats somewhat more difficult. The new design envisaged the smoke rounds to be fired from inside, through a dedicated smoke cup hatch, which had a kind of flare gun attached to it on the inside (firing the same smokerounds as the external cups, iirc). The gun could be removed. At least the King Tiger received such a hatch.

The report is from 1942, so - of course - Western Allies were less exposed to and less familiar with certain German assets or tactics than the Russians.
 
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PART TWO

The U.S. War Department publication 'Tactical and Technical Trends' No. 6 - August 27 - 1942 said:
"German teaching is that the most effective height from which aircraft can release smoke is 120 to 150 feet or less. Morning and evening (particularly twilight) are recommended as the most suitable times, and little or no wind is considered an advantage. The most favorable conditions for laying aerial smoke screens are the highest possible air humidity, cloudy weather, a temperature not lower than 5° C. (41° F.) and a wind speed for smoke producers of 6 to 21 ft. per second, and for smoke bombs from 9 to 18 ft. per second.

[ ]....

Smoke screens by aircraft are recommended as a means of obstructing enemy antiaircraft defenses as well as of concealing targets from opposing reconnaissance aircraft. Provided that rapid and reliable advance information of the movements of enemy bombers is available, the employment of such smoke screens against actual air attack is also taken into account.

Blinding observation posts and machine-gun posts, obstructing cooperation between the enemy's artillery and infantry, covering withdrawals, and cooperating with naval units in screening ship movements and guarding damaged ships are some of the other functions prescribed by the Germans for their smoke-laying aircraft. It is believed that such aircraft, flying below troop-carrying planes, sometimes emit a smoke cloud through which parachutists descend. Parachutists in Holland are reported to have carried smoke generators.

Large-Scale Use of Smoke

In screening targets covering a considerable area, smoke has been used to a large extent by the Germans for over a year. As early as March 1941, reports were being received of large-scale smoke generators, and it was known then that E-boats were equipped with a smoke apparatus having a gross volume of 20 gallons. In the report of actual use of this apparatus, particular, reference was made to the remarkable rapidity with which the smoke was generated, and to its persistence. The smoke was believed to be produced by chlorosulphonic acid. At about the same time two reports were received from R.A.F. pilots of smoke screens which they had observed over Berlin. Smoke started from a series of straight lines E.S.E. of the city. It produced an effective screen estimated at two miles wide, stretching across the city N.N.W. beyond the Tegeler Lake 15 miles distant from the source, the effective length being estimated in one report as 20 to 30 miles. Another report said that the screen was very dense, effectively covering the town, and that the smoke appeared to come from containers roughly 20 yards apart, quickly merging into one continuous smoke screen. The cloud was dark gray in color.

In January 1942, a captured document disclosed the existence of an apparatus described as the Smoke Generator 41. This was to be used, according to the document, for screening large areas, or for screening for prolonged periods (up to two hours) single buildings, bridges, battery positions, etc. The generator was strong and simple and contained 20 gallons of smoke acid.

The most exact knowledge of German large-scale use of smoke comes from the Brest area where detailed information has been received from reliable sources. Apparently the screen here is put up immediately on the sounding of an air raid warning, and within 20 minutes the docks and town are completely enveloped in smoke. It is reported that the screen is so dense that visibility on the ground is only a few yards. The generators appear to be fairly simple, and alongside each generator there is a 40- to 50-gallon drum for recharging. By this means it is considered that the smoke screen can be maintained at full strength for some hours, and on one occasion the screen was in fact maintained throughout a raid which lasted 4 hours. The apparatus is served by army personnel, three to each generator. The generators and recharging drums are brought up in trucks and placed in position at dusk in the streets around the town and docks, on the breakwaters, and as far as the suburbs of St. Anne (Portzec). In addition about 20 small motor fishing craft, (10 to 12 tons) each equipped with one of these generators, put out at dusk into the middle of the Rade de Brest to screen the wharves. The generators on land are collected by trucks every morning. The smoke itself is described as issuing from the generator in the form of a liquid which immediately vaporizes. It is the color of tobacco smoke, and is odorless and harmless although a little irritating to the throat. If any of the liquid is spilled on the ground everything with which it comes into contact is burned, and grass and green leaves are turned yellow. From the description given there can be little doubt that the charge is either oleum or chlorosulphonic acid, or a mixture of the two. The dimensions quoted for the generator indicate a capacity of 40 to 55 gallons; allowance for air space reduces the actual quantity of liquid.

It is known that the German firm of Stolzenburg and the Czech firm of Chema have produced generators of the type used at Brest, ranging in capacity from 22 to 55 gallons.

Smoke has not been used so far on an extensive scale by any of the other members of the Axis."

Such smoke projectors were also used by the Germans extensively in Norway, to curtain the Battleship Tirpitz before enemy bomber squadrons reached the area. I shortened the report (indicated with " [ ..] ", as it also described smoke canisters and hand grenades, which are not relevant for this discussion.
 
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GoodGuy

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Report from the 21st Panzer Division detailing friendly and enemy (British) tactics, recon level, German supply and recon situations, and early conclusions, written in summer 1942 and derived from Bernd Hartmann's book "Die Geschichte des Panzerregiments 05" (History of the Tank Regiment 05):

I have added a couple of my thoughts, explanations and hints in brackets ( ..) for a better reading eperience
(My translation)

Report from the 21st Panzer Division - summer 1942 - North Africa said:
"1. Enemy tactics and methods of fighting.

Strong dependence of troops on fortified positions, posts, minefields and natural (terrain) obstacles.
Concentrated deployment of troops during infantry attacks, with strong artiller support.

Excessive use of smoke rounds on approach, to fake attacks, but also as pure deception.

Novel smoke round that creates a line of smoke with a length of 400 meters, used to paint a target and used to zero in.

Noticeably bad artillery support for tank attacks. After (tank) breakthrough, the enemy artillery stops firing completely.
Tendency to perform night attacks, where then suppression of (German) artillery is achieved by marking (German) artillery positions with parachute flares and incendiary charges, (both) dropped by planes.

The backbone of the enemy (British) defense is the artillery, whereas not the number of guns, but the large expenditure of ammunition appears to be crucial.
Enemy artillery pieces make use max. possible ranges, to dodge the enemy's (German's) effective artillery ranges.
Outstanding (British) fire discipline. Use of smoke also in critical situations, as well as during enemy (German) attacks, in order to create disorder among enemy units or to curtain disengagement from the enemy.


2. Our tactics and fighting methods.

(According to) The experience gained during the last attacks against (British) fortified positions (suggest that such missions) require sufficient time for preparation.
The lack of artillery oservation materiel (i am guessing that this refers to a lack of aerial artillery obs planes and low amount of heavy armored recon cars with scissor scopes) requires a half-day preparation (for artillery missions supporting major attacks. I am guessing that the few spezialized recon vehicles were shuffled around, which needed time, but it's possible that the Germans chose other means: maybe prepared matrices, slow FOBs on the ground, etc. Quite some (desperately needed vehicles were flown in - using the "Giant" planes and gliders - after Rommel complained to Hitler).

The selection of the time of attack is to be selected solely with tactical point of views (in mind).
The transfer to the assembly area (FUP) has to be executed at a time of the day that hampers observation by the enemy (night, bad visibility - say sandstorm, or in generally bad weather).
The usefulness of mounting riflemen (on tanks) during attacks cannot be assessed conclusively, as there are no sufficient experiences

The considerable ammo expenditure of the enemy requires that our defensive forces have to be kept mobile, in order to prevent that troops and materiel get battered. When fending off enemy attacks behind barrier minefields, the allocation of troops has to be calculated in a way that an enemy breach of the minefields can be denied.


3. Enemy usage of tanks.

Until now, the cohesive deployment of strong tank formations was observed on July 7, 1942, only. Apparently, the enemy generalship is not able to to manoeuvre tank formations fastly and flexibly.
A general observation is that the enemy splits his tank formations.
It is recognizable that the enemy aims to deploy his tanks on the defense in a (far outflanking) forward line, in order to get to the flank of the (German) attackers.
The low amount of appearances of (well) known British Mark IV, V and VI tanks during the last weeks is remarkable. US tanks with 75mm guns (Lee/Grant tanks) are used for combat operations to a large extent (now).

4. Our usage of tanks.

The basic (German) principles of leading tanks (into combat) stood the tests.

5. General issues.

There is a lack of suitable recon materiel. (Again, I am convinced, that - at that point - a lack of aerial recon was the most imminent problem, as there were ground recon contingents. Planes had to either start from bases in Italy, on Sicily, or from desert strips in the hinterland. With planes stationed in Africa, sufficient aviation fuel supply was a universal problem, despite the attempts in Rommel's HQ to try and hoard fuel reserves.)

In the wide desert spaces an immediately reporting aerial recon is indispensable.
The enemy has vastly superior recon means (this major complaint aimed at the high number of British aerial recon planes/missions).


6. Changes and suggestions for improvements.

The riflemen have no AT materiel (close range) {magnetic hollow charges, molotov cocktails}. (the Germans used makeshift cocktails, though)
The enemy (British) AT guns with higher calibres and the (higher) effective ranges of the (new) US tanks require a larger amount of Panzer IV "lang" ("long", means Pz.IV Ausf. F2 with long 75 mm gun).
The absence of smoke launchers or smoke rounds is a (major) deficit
."

The Afrika Korps received some desperately needed material after Rommel had complained to Hitler, but - in general - Hitler denied to send more troops. A number of Panzer IV tanks with the long barreled gun were sent, indeed, as well as magnetic hollow charges (since those were eventually issued in the Russian theater, even though the Germans were reluctant to widely issue them for years, because they feared that the Allies would copy the design, as well as Brandflaschen (molotov cocktails), but - in the main - the promises made by Hitler and the OKW - did not keep their promises. Aerial (recon?) sorties were up'ed to some extent, but not to the level the African supreme command had wished for. After Rommels intel source (in Kairo) was silenced, Rommel virtually turned blind immediately regarding preparation and direction of British major offensives.

While being early and even partially incomplete reports, the intel reports (from the War Department and from the German 21st Tank Division) above show how important smoke was.

While for major offensives the Germans planned and allocated smoke cover (thereby artillery ressources) by using the Corps or Army (artillery) assets, the Russians used the large "Front" (= Army Group) artillery reserve groups (were they drawn from the STAVKA pool?).
On the defense, German smoke screens could be laid down by artillery regiments or their elements (Bns, batteries), whenever a FOB or an infantry commander would order smoke screens.

There was a march order issued by a German Infantry Division titled "Kampfführung im Nebel" (combat and leadership in the fog) which could also be seen as valid guideline for combat inside smoke screens (avoiding friendly fire, taking advantage of fog or smoke screens for surprise attacks, etc.), that was captured and translated by Russian intelligence, and which was recently published (in Russian), after decades of keeping this and other volumes labeled top secret.

Laying smoke from mobile ground devices (artillery guns, mortars, etc.) or by vehicles (smoke cups on tanks, self-propelled guns) as deception, protective measure on the defense or when disengaging, as means to blind the enemy right before attacks, or to curtain FUPs, was a widely used method on the German, the British and on the Russian side, and US troops used smoke extensively when crossing rivers or building bridges. (see next post)
 
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GoodGuy

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.... US troops used smoke extensively when crossing rivers or building bridges. (see next post)

Smoke was also vital for crossing rivers (eg. crossing of the river at the Nijmegen bridge, where 2 Coys could be ferried to the other side of the river, using a protective smoke screen).

When building pontoon bridges, all Armies would also put up smoke screens, either by using mobile smoke devices or by using smoke generators that looked almost like power generators, as well as by firing (artillery, mortar) smoke grenades, first to protect the assault elements and then to protect the engineers actually placing the pontoons and laying the bridge, and third to deny observed fire.

Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. (09/18/1947 - 02/28/1964)
Title "Soldiers of the 161st Chemical Smoke Generating Company, U.S. Third Army, move a barrel of oil in preparation to refilling an M-2 smoke generator, which spews forth a heavy cloud of white smoke. These men are engaged in laying a smoke screen to cover bridge building activities across the Saar River near Wallerfangen, Germany" :

1024px-%22Soldiers_of_the_161st_Chemical_Smoke_Generating_Company%2C_U.S._Third_Army%2C_move_a_barrel_of_oil_in_preparation_to_refill_-_NARA_-_531229.jpg


The follwing picture of airborne operations was taken during the landing at Nadzab, New Guinea, in September 1943. The giant smoke screen completely "shielding" the para landing must have been laid by naval artillery. There seems to be no Japanese AA fire:

Description: "Dwarfed by and silhouetted against clouds of smoke (created to provide cover), C-47 transport planes from the US Army Air Forces drop a battalion of the U.S. 503rd Parachute Regiment at Nadzab. A battalion dropped minutes earlier is landing in the foreground. General Vasey was in the plane from which the photograph was taken
Date 5 September 1943".

Awm_128387_nadzab.jpg


That said (and shown), it is self-evident, how important the use of smoke was. All Navies used smoke devices on their destroyers, not just for self-protection, but also to curtain or obscure capital ships. The Germans probably used fixed and mobile smoke devices to the largest extent. In Russia, both the Germans and the Russians depended on smoke screens to provide cover for troops in the open steppe.

Even the small American and British boats and landing vehicles crossing the river Rhine and other rivers were equipped with smoke launchers that would lay down smoke on the opposite river bank.

US tanks (gradually?) received smoke cups somewhere between late 1943 and 1944. There are several pictures showing large tank pools parked in Europe, where (on the pictures) every say 5th to 7th Sherman tank had smoke cups. There are also reports that crews removed their smoke cups (reason unknown, my guess would be that they suffered a similar effect as the Germans: the trigger mechanisms tended to fail if hit by shrapnels or bullets, or got triggered by these, resulting in getting blinded by their own smoke) again.

Despite the technological progress that enables crews of tanks, planes, helicopters and other vehicles to see through smoke screens (eg. using FLIR), smoke screens still play vital roles today:

"HAT YAO, Thailand (Feb. 4, 2010) Republic of Korea amphibious assault vehicles release a smoke screen before hitting the beach during a Cobra Gold 2010 amphibious landing demonstration at Hat Yao Beach during. Cobra Gold is a joint and coalition multinational exercise hosted annually by the Kingdom of Thailand. (US Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Denver Applehans/Released)":

US_Navy_100204-N-7843A-121_Republic_of_Korea_amphibious_assault_vehicles_release_a_smoke_screen_before_hitting_the_beach_during_a_Cobra_Gold_2010_amphibious_landing_demonstration.jpg


These look like the AAV-7A1 of the South Korean Marine Corps, where each one is equipped with a fuel-burning smoke generator. In addition, each AAV can fire smoke grenades from 8 smoke grenade launchers.
 
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GoodGuy

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I'd question whether smoke shells or flares have a significant place in an operational level game.

Considering the extensive use of smoke on the German (maybe starting in 1941 or 1942), the Russian (used throughout the war afaik), the British (mainly in North Africa, and during Cobra - afaik), the Russian and the US side (maybe starting around fall 1944, especially during Market Garden and in the Hürtgenwald battles), it is clear that defensive and offensive smoke was a vital tool.

Yes, the game is an operational level game.

Large scale smoke screens, just like large-scale artillery attacks, both as preparative strikes right before the actual ground offensive, were ordered, requested, approved or facilitated by the operational commander/command. While local commanders could request smoke (from attached and subordinated units or from units held back by higher echelons) as tactical aid, large scale smoke was definetely a tool available to (and used by) the operational commander.

Rommel ordered smoke (when enough smoke rounds were available) to allow German infantry troops to approach enemy positions (desert terrain is pretty flat and rarely offers cover, in the main at least, so an infantry soldier is a pretty easy target in the desert) at all.
The Brits in the desert did the same (and - thanks to their excellent supply situation - they used smoke excessively, as the translation of the report of the 21st Panzer Division above demonstrated), or shifted to night attacks, as daylight attacks without smoke produced a lot of casualties in the open terrain. Later in the war, Russian pincer movements and attacks with multiple waves would have turned out to be the bone crusher attacks performed by the Russians in 1941 and 1942, without proper use of smoke.

On top of that, the game allows for detaching units. While the friendly AI performs best at the Regimental level, imho, the game allows to control individual Coys.
This actually makes the game more realistic, of course, since WWII-armies did not deploy their regiments in a "napoleonesque" manner, means where whole regiments in rectangle formations were facing each other, with arty guns firing from behind, - in WW II - single Coys needed to cover sectors or strongpoints, were on occupation duty or sent to screen enemy lines. Very realistic, IF the player makes use of the feature.

But since there are these underlying tactical elements in the game, the game needs to cater for (some of) these, too as there are not just entire divisions or regiments roaming on the screen.

Sidenote: said:
With the current organization of the estabs the game also does not correctly represent the German use of IG Coys. The Coys were split, (all of) their high calibre (field) guns were combined and then employed and controlled by the regimental comannder - either to support individual Bns, or to fulfil other tasks set by the regimental commander - , the le.IG 18 guns were then supposed to either provide general support for the Bn or to give direct support to particular Coys. The corresponding field manual put this as option, but this was actually the most widely used type of employment.

While this might sound like going too much into detail for an operational game, this absolutely lovely and detailed game creates ahistoric moments: IG Coys did not bring their field guns to or closer to the frontline, just their le.IG 18 guns, if at all. Only when strongpoints could not be cracked, and when arc or even direct fire from the le.IG 18 failed, when support from the artillery regiment was unsuccessful or not available, only then (when everthing else failed) the Germans would bring their IG coy field guns closer to the front. This also happened when no AT guns were available, during enemy tank attacks.
I outlined the distances (from the frontline) at which artillery pieces were placed behind defensive (static) frontlines in a different thread somewhere.

If the game would allow to form new units (say Kampfgruppen, forming new arty groups - like the IG distribution described above, Feldersatz units as reserve pool from which the player can draw ON THE FLY, etc.), which would be on my personal wishlist, the player could decide for himself how he would want to employ such pieces (current full IG coy, or splitting them - where a part would be directly attached to the Regimental HQ, and the rest kept on the Bn level). Until then, the scenario creator has to do it for him.

While each flare fired from units on the frontline was probably able to illuminate a strip of say 80-150 meters (descending from a height of 150 meters), which would be my personal guess, a flare dropped from planes or fired from artillery pieces (height 150-300 meters) probably illuminated a larger strip. While this can be abstracted to some extent (it doesn't have to be rendered, a glow/illumination circle on the map would be some "luxury" thing), the game could actually still consider visibility changes in the "nightfighting code", means there could be a routine that would change the modifiers when flares would be fired (say on enemy contact and if the enemy INF unit is inside the effective weapon range; duration 15 seconds and 30 seconds, with an X amount of flare rounds carried by the troops). Flares fired (or ending up) over dense woods would only illuminate the edges, but not the soldiers inside the woods.

Except for say encounters between US and Japanese forces, and between US and British paras and the Germans during the initial para landings in Normandy, where in quite some battles only muzzle fire, tracers or explosions illuminated the scenes, night encounters - in the main - were not affairs where two opposing elements wandered around blindly.

There are documents/infos detailing how many flare guns and how many rounds a given German Coy had as initial loadout, and there are probably similar documents from other Armies.

Now, smoke can't be abstracted. It would have to be rendered, and imho it should be in the game.
The absence of smoke is like a missing function, to me.

When people started to ask for "off-board" smoke in the Matrix forums, back then, I was not a fan of the idea, as I also doubted that an operational game would need smoke.

After research, stumbling over veteran accounts and documents, during the last few years, I have come to the conclusion that smoke is a desired and important feature that should be in the game.
The creators of the Close Combat series put in smoke from the get-go, if I am not mistaken, as smoke was also a vital tool on platoon level (single tanks or tank platoons, infantry platoons, mortar platoons, etc.), where the tools ranged from stick and egg hand grenades, cans, to even larger canisters (almost the size of a German fuel canister), in all armies. You might say now that CC is a tactical Coy or even platoon level game. Yes, that's correct, but smoke was deployed on all levels, historically.

If smoke should ever get into the game, it should not be off-board smoke (maybe except for coastal landing scenarios, say Normandy, Pacific, etc.), because the artillery pieces firing smoke were occupied and busy with laying smoke barriers, and did not have the capacity to fire HE at the same time, usually. So, HE bombardment, smoke screen, infantry attack, in that order (for offensive tasks), and for defensive tasks smoke and then HE right after, to disrupt and tear apart attacking enemies (maybe even a mix of smoke and HE, like the germans did, occasionally).
 
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Hi Gunnar, just wanted to add something published by the War Office in 1951: The Development of Artillery Tactics and Equipment. Brig A.L.Pemberton, M.C., 182-183; Tunisia:

"Hitherto artillery smoke shell had not been extensively used: in the desert, because H.E. shell and even normal troop movements produced more than enough obscurity in the form of dust clouds; in Tunisia because of the tendency for the smoke canisters to roll down the mountain sides; and in both because of metrological conditions, which sometimes made the behaviour of smoke unpredictable. With the transfer of operations to the European theatre, the opportunities for using smoke would be much greater."

Regards

Tim
 

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Same source regarding attack on the Gustav Line, pp214-215:

"... In these circumstances it became more important than ever to blind the enemy observation posts on the Monastery feature and to neutralize the machine-guns and mortars that lay behind it. From first light 12th May onwards, continuous smoke screens, which could be stopped at call, were put down on its north-western and south-western slopes by the 3rd Carpathian and 4th British Divisional Artilleries; and four separate heavy battery concentrations were fired by 7.2-in., 8-in. and 240-mm. hows. during the attack of 2 Polish Corps and subsequently at hourly intervals during daylight. In addition, smoke generators, operated by a L.A.A, regiment, were used to screen the river crossings, artillery positions and supply routes. Altogether some 800 tons of smoke were used on these two corps fronts between 12th and 18th May, and 135,000 smoke shells were fired in five days. But the complete screening of so commanding and steep-sided a feature was impossible to achieve. As so often before, the smoke canisters were found to roll down he mountain side and thus create unpredictable gaps in the screen."

Regards

Tim
 

TMO

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Same source, pp237-238:

"... One of the quickest and most economical ways of achieving results was the use of smoke screens, as was demonstrated by the First Canadian Army when it resumed its thrust towards Falaise in mid-August. The plan was to by-pass the resistance astride the main road and come down on the town from the N.E., and at 1200 hours on 14th August, as the massed armour moved to the assault, both its flanks were covered by smoke screens, and in the barrage that preceded it, smoke was mixed with the H.E.

The results, even allowing for some exhaustion and lowered morale on the part of the enemy, were distinctly encouraging. The casualties suffered by the attacking troops were light and all objectives quickly taken. By the end of the day an advance of some five miles had been made and the Canadians were only four miles short of Falaise itself.

Similar results were obtained at the crossing of the Seine and of other rivers, where enemy defences were not very strong and were quickly rushed with the aid of a judicious mixture of smoke screens and feint bombardments.

Smoke screens were also frequently used in Italy at this time. During the advance to the Gothic Line, 13 Corps, in course of a hard fight at Arezzo on 15th July, recaptured with the aid of a smoke screen, a key feature that had fallen to an enemy counter-attack. The feature in question, known as "Hill 501", was quickly enveloped in a blanket of smoke and the enemy ejected by a second attack by 1st Guards Brigade.
 

TMO

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Continuing:

"During the September fighting on the right flank of the Eighth Army, 1 Canadian Corps found itself attacking strong enemy positions on the Fortunata Ridge at Rimini, from which its own troops were completely overlooked. Once again artillery smoke screens provided a satisfactory solution to the problem, their effectiveness being ensured, as usual, by observation - and if necessary correction - from air O.P.s. During this month the 25-pdrs. of the 1st Canadian Division fired 25,000 rounds of smoke out of a total of 262,000.

Yet in the opinion of at least one senior artillery commander, the overall use of smoke in N.W. Europe was less than had been anticipated; and this he attributed to the fact tat, in spite of all the attempts to simplify the procedure, the production of a quick and accurate smoke screen was still a bit too difficult for the average gunner of this period.

At the other end of the front in Italy, the American Fifth Army halted at the river Garigliano for the winter and depended, for the maintenance of its forward positions, on the use of bridges that were in full view of the enemy. During daylight, therefore, a continuous smoke screen was maintained and behind it movement was able to go on with impunity."

Regards

Tim
 

GoodGuy

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Hi Gunnar, just wanted to add something published by the War Office in 1951: The Development of Artillery Tactics and Equipment. Brig A.L.Pemberton, M.C., 182-183; Tunisia:

"Hitherto artillery smoke shell had not been extensively used: in the desert, because H.E. shell and even normal troop movements produced more than enough obscurity in the form of dust clouds; in Tunisia because of the tendency for the smoke canisters to roll down the mountain sides; and in both because of metrological conditions, which sometimes made the behaviour of smoke unpredictable. With the transfer of operations to the European theatre, the opportunities for using smoke would be much greater."

Regards

Tim

Hey Tim.
EDIT :
That section is interesting. According to German unit reports, the British forces used smoke often in North Africa, whenever they saw fit, but the section above suggests that (British? US?) forces didn't feel like having to use it, due to the large dust clouds created by vheicle movement, or even found it to be counterproductive with the slopes in Tunisias mountain ranges, according to your find, it seems.
This contradicts the German reports, but there is a chance that the Author only has the few major operations in mind (eg. El Alamein, Tobruk's defense and it's recapture) where smoke was used, and then comes to the conclusion that overall (for the entire desert campaign) smoke didn't play a major role.
I am not sure what to conclude here. Just the summer 1942 report of the 21. Panzer Division paints a different picture. And I could probably dig up more German sources stating the opposite regarding British smoke. If that section refers to the amount of German smoke, then that would hint towards the possibility that the German smoke rounds supply situation did not improve after the report was sent in. (The report complained about a general lack of smoke rounds).

Continuing:
During this month the 25-pdrs. of the 1st Canadian Division fired 25,000 rounds of smoke out of a total of 262,000.

That is quite some expenditure. That's almost 10% of all shells fired.

Yet in the opinion of at least one senior artillery commander, the overall use of smoke in N.W. Europe was less than had been anticipated; and this he attributed to the fact tat, in spite of all the attempts to simplify the procedure, the production of a quick and accurate smoke screen was still a bit too difficult for the average gunner of this period.

That's basically what i suspected during my research and from what I gathered from German sources, that Allied forces in NW Europe did not use Smoke excessively, except for some US units during particular missions, unlike the Germans and the Russians.

EDIT: On the other hand, that's just the input from one or another senior commander, some Army sectors might have used some more smoke.
German unit war diaries report about enemy smoke screens that were laid before strategic hills (overlooking the respectice areas) in France, in the Hürtgenwald and in or right behind the Ardennes (the metereological tower) on that one hill - forgot the name - that provided far sight of up to 30-40 kilometers overlooking the Ardennes , were attacked.

The attack on Hill 400 (near the town of Bergstein, and called Burgberg - "castle hill"), with 1 bigger Bunker and Arty obs elements on top, in the Eifel Region, overlooking the complete Hürtgen Forest area, was recreated in either one of the Call of Duty Series, or in a Medal of Honor Game, with the massive smoke screen that prepared the infantry attack uphill.
Despite the Allied suspicion that the Germans had put artillery pieces up there, as US units in the forest kept getting hit by really accurate arty fire, the Germans had never placed artillery pieces on the hill top, there was a just a mobile Arty observation detachment that guided multiple artillery units able to cover the entire forest area.
While the Americans had ignored the hill for the longest time (since aerial recon never found/observed artillery pieces on there), a number of bomber strikes were ordered (which did not keep the germans from using the hill). The arty obs post was on the roof top of the bunker near the hill top, the bunker is still intact and the roof top still serves as viewing platform for the public today.
Eventually, the 2nd Ranger Bn was dispatched to eject the germans. The long range artillery observers were evacuated before the attack started, afaik. At the time of the US form-up, the other bunkers at the hill served as posts for the different staffs of the Grenadier-Regiment 1055 (of the 89. Infantry Division) and as shelter and barracks for the 2nd Bn of Grenadier-Regiment 980 (272. Volksgrenadier-Division), afaik.

Generally, in the Hürtgen Forest, major Allied attacks (through clearings, canyons and small rivers, where the Germans had good LOS/LOF) had to be carried out with smoke cover, to reduce casualty numbers (which were extraodinarily high, already) - to some extent, at least.

At the other end of the front in Italy, the American Fifth Army halted at the river Garigliano for the winter and depended, for the maintenance of its forward positions, on the use of bridges that were in full view of the enemy. During daylight, therefore, a continuous smoke screen was maintained and behind it movement was able to go on with impunity."

That backs up my statement in one of the previous posts, that US forces put quite some effort into protecting completed bridges, bridge building missions and crossing of rivers by laying smoke screens with projectors.
 
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GoodGuy

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Same source regarding attack on the Gustav Line, pp214-215:

"... 135,000 smoke shells were fired in five days."

That's a massive amount of shells.

"First Canadian Army when it resumed its thrust towards Falaise in mid-August. ...., both its flanks were covered by smoke screens, and in the barrage that preceded it, smoke was mixed with the H.E."

That's actually what the Germans did, too, but more often with a somewhat different twist, as I outlined before: First the smoke screen, and then a full HE barrage into the bulk of the attack waves of the Russian troops.

"As so often before, the smoke canisters were found to roll down he mountain side and thus create unpredictable gaps in the screen."

That's evil. But unlike the US troops in Tunisia, the Allied forces at Monte Cassino kept trying to maintain the screens.
 
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TMO

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Not tactical, but don't forget Operation Plunder crossing of the Rhine where extensive use of smoke was used to hide Allied preparations.

Regards

Tim
 

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