I'm not quite sure what you mean by saying "weak", here. If you're using impact-fuzed HE, which was the usual method for bombardments of trenches and field fortifications, a 76mm-HE shell will explode on impact on the fortification's surface, be it made of wood, concrete or other materials (say steel parts/plates from wrecks or scrap material to reinforce a bunker). A 76mm shell's blast radius will then, depending on the target material's thickness (as well as the density of soil layer and/or sandbag protection behind the wall), either remove parts of the fortification or just leave a big dent in there (concrete, earth wall or filling), if the shell does not contain a penetrator and a delay fuze. With such shells it's not about the kinetic energy, but about the amount of HE carried.
With the 76mm field guns, you must have the 76-mm divisional guns M 1936 (F-22), but rather the M1939 (F-22 USV)(Ф-22 УСВ)and especially the SiS-3 (ЗиС-3) in mind, which were issued since early 1942, gradually but continously replacing the other 2 models. So, for the East Front game, we're mainly talking about the SiS-3 and the USV, even though the Germans had captured large amounts of M1939 guns (USV), the USV, as the production figures of the F-22 (M1936) were pretty low.
What you describe as "weak impact" was experienced when the SiS-3 and the USV were used as an AT gun, and that was a result of their shell's weight/size of the chamber: Despite these 3 guns having muzzle velocities of 680 to 720 (M1939 with HE, afaik) meters/sec (2x sonic speed is a pretty high muzzle velocity for an artillery piece), the guns lacked some punch. But imho such lack of punch was irrelevant if used as (HE) inf gun.
What really matters are few simple factors:
a) The trajectory of 76mm hi-velocity divisional guns was too flat to hit field fortifications (trenches, foxholes etc) directly. For the positions deployed at the backsides of a hill or behind the frontal covers, as Germans often did, there was no chance to hit them at all.
b) Even when there was a technical possibility to hit, direct hits against the covered objects were ineffective due to flat trajectories, small weight of the shells and small amount of HE.
c) Contrary to >105mm howitzer artillery, when scoring near hits, the 76mm HE were too weak to destroy or damage trench walls.
d) While there was little to no chance of damaging/destroying trenches themselves, the only natural way to make 76mm shells useful against them was to elevate the point of explosion, hitting enemy manpower, occupying a trench, from the above.
That would mean that they would have had to use delay fuzes. Did they really a) use these fuzes and b) did they have such 76mm rounds at their disposal?
Of course they did, how could they use ricochet fire otherwise? The ancient 3GT fuse was used for ricochet fire yet during WW1, the KTM-1 (mechanical delay) during the early WW2 and improved KTMZ-1 (with dedicated delay mechanism optimized especially for ricochet fire) during the late-WW2.
If I am not mistaken, the usual Russian divisional artillery in 1939 (rifle division) used to involve a light arty regiment and a howitzer regiment, where the light regiment had 1 Bn with 3 batteries of 76mm guns (for guns each), 2 mixed Bns with 1 battery of 76mm and 2 batteries of 122 mm guns each, at one point. They must have reduced the number of 76mm guns ~1940 (minus almost a full Bn?), but even added a 3rd mixed Bn in early 1942, which contained a battery of 76mm and a bty of 122mm.
Whatsoever, even when - due to general reorganizations or due to operational decisions - a rifle division's Howitzer regiment had been taken away, when guard rifle divisions had "only" 3 mixed arty Bns at their disposal, when motorized divisions had 2 mixed Bns, or when Cavalry divisions had 1 light arty Rgt only (16 x 76mm + 8 x 122mm) in 1943, such divisions could still count on organic "hi-trajectory" support with their 122mm guns. For the crucial period in 1941, where arty pieces were rather scarce and put under High Command (usually Army), divisions could count on support by these Army assets (Army's Arty Regiment group or reserve).
Again, let me put it simple. While German division had 36-48 105mm-150mm howitzers capable to deal with entrenched infantry, Soviet division had 8-12 122mm howitzers for the same task. How could Soviet division alter the situation and make it more favourable? The simplest and most effective solution - big guys from supporting artillery - was not always available even in 1944/45, not talking about 41/43. While the ricochet fire, if terrain allowed, did not depend of anything, hence its relatively wide use. I can even recall military schooling movie from 1942 or 1943, named "Artillery fire using ricochets".
Also, according to Glantz, with the Russians trying to refine the operational art of war, reshaping (until 1944) the standard defensive and offensive postures of formations in Winter 1942/1943, involved putting the 122mm in long range support, while the 76mm pieces served as close inf support (~2000 meters) in "infantry support artillery groups", with one group on the left flank and one group on the right flank in a defensive posture, while the long range arty was grouped and positioned behind the division's second echelon, around 5-7 km behind the first line. In an offensive posture, the 76mm pieces would be split into 3 artillery groups (left, center, right) and positioned on the same line as the divisional reserve (a Rifle Bn) 5-7 km behind the immediate mission area, while the long range arty would be combined and placed 7-9 km behind the immediate mission line/area.
All this very interesting stuff is a sheer theorizing and extrapolation of few selected cases to the whole variety. In practice, as a Soviet divisional commander, you often would be using your venerable horse-driven 76mm batteries for various sorts of tasks, with most of that fancy "thousands of roaring guns" thing either lagging behind or out of supply. In particular, for the future East Front title (winter 42-43), in reality there were Soviet artillery units at the frontline that made not a single shot at Germans for periods of 3-4 weeks long due to the absence of shells and/or fuel, as well as there were divisions operating with their 76mm artillery only (with howitzer batteries either lagging far behind the advancing infantry or having no precious 122mm shells to fire.
While it's true that rather flat trajectory artillery may be less effective on trenches and some types of fortifications or conceiled positions, the Germans still hated the Russian "Ratsch-Bumm" guns (dubbed according to the sound of firing the gun [Ratsch] and almost immediate subsequent impact ["Bumm"], due to the speed of the projectile, making it impossible to take cover), plus the Russians DID have high-angle arty suppor in the form of 122mm guns and either an organic howitzer regiment or howitzer support from Corps/Army level. Even though the SiS-3 was pushed towards an AT role, its performance as field gun was way better, imho.
Here you seem to refer to their use for direct fire, which is different tactics from the one discussed above, and has its own limits and lead to high losses among artillerymen as a "side effect".
< Message edited by T-28A -- 12/28/2011 6:41:53 AM >
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