A soldiers life
A Soldier's Life
     There are many of us that have no idea of what it was like for our fathers, grandfathers, and loved ones who fought in the war.  The words on this page come directly from a veteran that served in combat in Europe from Omaha Beach in Normandy to the Elbe River in Germany.  He served with Battery "A" of the 793rd Field Artillery Battalion of the XIX Corps Artillery and was awarded battle stars for participating in the battles for Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge),and Central Europe .

    Here are Warren Jensen's  words as he typed them  to me in an email from September 17, 2007

Anatomy of a 793rd Artillery Mission
     "This may be more than you ever wanted to know, but I thought that I might "paint you a picture" of a field artillery unit in combat.
    We are traveling on a road to a new gun position somewhere where the higher-ups feel we can do some good.  Decisions are made at Army level, down to Corps, down to FA Group, down to Battalion(Bn), down to Battery(btry), and finally down to individual gun sections.  They plan to place the 793rd in a certain area and gun section sergeants have gone ahead to stakes placed approximately where our guns will be.  The sarge or someone else meets each M-4 tractor pulling our guns and guides them in.  Moves on dark nights get a little dicey.  The 4 guns of each battery are placed to cover a certain sector parallel to each other.

  Gun crews jump out of the M-4, disconnect, and open up the trails of the gun to get it into firing position.
Holes are dug for the spades.(large metal flanges that prevent the gun from bouncing backwards when fired.)
Camouflage netting is placed over the gun, ammunition is unloaded as well as powder tubes and fuses.,shovels, ram staffs, buckets, and our personal gear.  The M-4s move out to the rear area..
An officer arrives and "lays" the gun so that all 4 guns are absolutely parallel.  Holes are dug for the shells while separate holes are dug for powder and fuses.  A latrine hole is dug if there's time.  Individual foxholes will be dug after everything else. Foxholes are continually improved upon even to taking German doors and covering foxholes with dirt for overhead shrapnel protection, all depending on time available. 

  In the meantime, commo(communication) crews from Bn are laying telephone wire from Bn to Btry and from Btry to each gun section.  We hook up our EE8A field telephones and report READY TO FIRE. There is a race between gun crews and the other batteries to be the first to be ready.

   In the meantime, a survey crew(consists of an officer and  a radio operator and a jeep driver)  have driven and walked to a high point which was generally in front of us but could often be behind us.  They are the "forward observer" team and are equipped with a radio and binoculars.  They carefully find their mapped position and begin to scan for enemy activity and targets. 

  At this point, each battery's guns are in place and their positions known.  The FO's position is known.  Each battery Hq has been set up in a house to the rear or in the field and has a Fire Direction Center(FDC) ready to work.  I should mention that Bn. has an air section consisting of two Piper Cub planes that can do spotting and can call in missions from the air, mostly during the day.  Or the FO can spot some activity.  He plots the activity on his map and can then radio in the map coordinates to the FDC.  The FDC then determines the proper deflection setting(left or right) and the proper elevation, the charge of powder to use, the type of shell to use, the fuse setting to be used.  Now the action begins!  Sometimes we were told that the target was a troop concentration, or tanks, or truck convoy, or artillery position or a barrage.

   The first gun section to report in as READY TO FIRE is given the command, FIRE MISSION!!.  This sets up a scramble as the gun crew drops whatever it's doing and runs to the gun---taking off part of the netting, and performing the commands that come down.  CHARGE 5, FUSE QUICK, DEFLECTION ---, ELEVATION ---, ONE ROUND.  This will be a ranging round to see how accurate their plotting was.  We report, "READY TO FIRE", the FO is alerted, "FIRE!", and we report, "ON THE WAY".  The FO spots the round hitting and gives adjustments to the FDC like," Left 100, UP 200.yards."   FDC converts this to new settings for the gun crew and we fire one round again.  If this round is right on target then the rest of the battery's guns are brought in to fire OR the first gun is told to fire 5 rounds or whatever.  If successful, we then get the word, "END OF MISSION"
and we clean up our debris and get ready for the next mission. The gunner had set the deflection, the #2 man set the elevation, the crew had fused the shell, placed it in the breech, powder bag had been added, and the #1 man had placed a fulmite of mercury cartridge in a holder, screwed it into the breech block, and had jerked the lanyard to fire off that baby. To be accurate, the FDC had to know the temperature of the powder bags and  the air density.

    We fired what they call "separate ammunition" versus "fixed ammunition" like a pistol or rifle cartridge.
The shell was lifted out of its hole, placed on a tray designed for 4 men to carry but we generally used 2, and placed at the breech of the gun.  A long, wooden rammer staff was placed at the rear of the shell and on the command, "HOME RAM" the shell was rammed in and seated in the breech block.  The fuse had already been screwed into the nose of the shell.

    The powder charge came in 3-ft. long cardboard tubes with black roofing paper covering it and taped.  There was 1 large segment and 2 smaller segments.  We just used the large one for a Charge 5, and added the smaller ones to make a Charge 6 or the belly-buster Charge 7.  The powder charges were in silk bags and looked like small, 1/2" pieces of licorice with tiny holes drilled thru them.  After firing a round, we had to sponge out the breech block as there might be a tiny piece of the silk bag still smoldering and putting a new, full bag of powder on top would be catastrophic!  KaBoom!!  At the end of a mission we would be left with unused small bags of powder.  We'd dig a smallish hole and toss them in there and have a subdued bonfire.  You could put a canteen cup of water on top of a handful of the pellets and fire it up.  If firing at night and leaving, we would just cover them up in the hole.

   At quiet times(?), we would put a guy on the end of the barrel with a bucket of gasoline, crank up the barrel and swab out the barrel to get rid of the residue that can build up.  Each gun had to have its barrel replaced during our time there.

   Then we'd get the command, 'CLOSE STATION, MARCH ORDER". and the beehive would be activated again.  Sometimes this happened and we hadn't fired a round--things were moving too quickly.  Then all was done in reverse order.  We got the gun closed down, trails together, netting folded up, M-4s came roaring in and we loaded ammo, powder cases, fuses aboard it, hooked it up, closed  our puptents, got our personal gear together, and got aboard the M-4.  I charged up the .50 cal. machine gun on its mount and we were on the move once again.  Night moves were dangerous and we had to make sure we caught up each shovel, rammer staff and such.  The Commo crews came in for their wire or just left it there.  The gun sergeants were off riding with the battery commander to find the new locations for our guns.

   As I look back on it all I realize that it was a ballet-like activity and as we worked together it came out as a smooth, professional movement.  We thought that #1  Gun Section of "A" Battery 793rd FA Bn. was the best of all the gun sections but how would we really know that--it would take someone else to do the evaluating."