Excerpted from The Field Artillery School Thesis: Should Observation Aviation be an Organic Part of the Division, by Robert Q. Brown, 1936–1937

Summary and Conclusions – Pre-WWII

The use of observation aviation in open offensive warfare is essential to the success of a basic force. Therefore in order to develop the maximum striking power of our basic force, the division, complete cooperation must exist between observation aviation and the ground troops.

Such cooperation did not exist during the World War [One], nor does it exist today, although it is more necessary for the success of a modern division. This is due primarily to the fact that since the war the army has passed through two distinct periods. First, a period of strict economy, and second, a period of modernization. During both of those periods it has been necessary to sacrifice combined training which is indispensable to complete cooperation.

In considering the employment of any technical arm the controlling factor should be economy of force. Such economy cannot be gained for the field forces as a whole if pilots and planes capable of performing other missions are used on divisional missions.

Organic aviation would not decrease the mobility of the division. This is due to the fact that the increased use of motors has solved many of the problems formerly encountered in maintaining and supplying divisional aviation.

Therefore, I conclude that some form of observation aviation should be an organic part of our division. That by such a reorganization greater striking could be obtained without sacrificing economy of force or mobility.

No other problem now facing the army is more important than this. Upon its successful solution depends in a marked degree the future success of outfield forces in battle.

Liaison has been a difficult feature in regard to aviation during the war and in order to secure the best results it is now being recommended that an observation squadron be assigned to each division as an integral and organic part of that unit, to accompany it wherever it goes. By this means it is hoped that better results will be obtained having the artillery to know its aviators and due to constant training that there will be better efficiency in all its forms. -Lt. Col. Ralph Royce, A.C.

Excerpted from The General Board Report: Study of Organic Field Artillery Air Observation, by R.B. Patterson, 11 January 1946

Conclusions – Post-WWII

  • The system of dawn-to-dusk air patrols provided the field artillery with continuous daylight air observation during flyable weather.
  • The centralized control exercised over air OP sections was sufficiently flexible to provide liaison aircraft for missions required by battalions.
  • Centralized operation from base airfields resulted in improved aircraft maintenance economy of operation for both personnel and equipment, continuous surveillance, and improved airfields.
  • The assignment of several types and models of field artillery aircraft [including “O” designated models] resulted in complicated supply and maintenance problems which did not increase the capabilities of air OP’s.
  • The SCR-610 type radio provided efficient communication, but was too heavy for use in the L-4 type aircraft.
  • Two liaison type aircraft [L-4 and L-5] provided adequate air observation for the headquarters of each field artillery organization.
  • Personnel and equipment authorized air OP sections by T/O&E [Table of Organization and Equipment] was insufficient to permit independent operations at base airfields.
  • Photographic missions [primarily a function of reconnaissance and observation aircraft] were limited by, lack of equipment and trained personnel.
  • Air observers were provided by field artillery organizations on the basis of one observer for each liaison aircraft authorized by T/O&E.


  • Tactical doctrine provide for both centralized and decentralized employment of field artillery air OP’s.
  • Air observers be assigned by T/O&E on, the basis of one per liaison type aircraft.
  • The artillery air OP organization be revised to include additional personnel and equipment to permit either centralized operation from a base airfield at division or group level or decentralized operations at battalion level.
  • An improved, standard type aircraft be developed for field artillery. [the eventual Cessna L-19 as successor to the L-1 thru L-6 series]
  • A lighter weight aircraft radio be developed capable of netting with standard field artillery radio equipment. [led to the development and use of AN/PRC-6 walkie-talkie]
  • Aerial type cameras capable of producing sharp, clear obliques be included in appropriate Tables of Equipment.
  • No change be made in assignment of liaison aircraft to field artillery units. [i.e. maintain their organic placement within artillery divisions]

This final recommendation clearly acknowledges the proven value of organic aviation in the field artillery.

To request a PDF copy of these documents, please use the Donate Now button below.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *