Constant and aggressive observation and liaison are absolutely necessary. At no time has this unit found it possible to operate with less than 3 liaison officers: one with each supported battalion9 and one with the combat command. Normally 3 forward observers are out, one with each tank company together with its associated infantry company; but many times the exigencies of the situation have made it necessary to place observers with infantry companies as well and even with platoons with separate missions, so that as high as 9 observers have been out at one time! Added to this demand on officer personnel is the necessity of relieving observers.
We have found it almost mandatory to relieve forward observers after from three to four days in line. From an already insufficient T/O it has been extremely difficult to meet these requirements. It has made it necessary for the battalion to operate without an S-1 and without one or more battery commanders for long periods of time. The battalion AOP (Air Observation Post) made a further demand for officers not provided for: it is necessary to furnish an observer for each pilot, as in combat it has been found impossible for the pilot to fly and to observe both ground and air.
by Lt. Col. I. B. Washburn, Battalion Commander of the 71st AFA Bn.
L-4 Pilots *Click on these four pics below to enlarge
Lt. Donald Barry (Tank A22) Lt. Alan Davies
Lt. DeSales Harrison(Tank B22)1,7 Lt. William Henry (A Battery
Lt. William Hentschell11 Lt. William Martin(C Batt. R.O.) 1
*Note: R.O. stands for Reconnaissance Officer
The Forward Observers would generally be assigned to one of the (3) M4 tanks or (2) L4 planes of the 71st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, observing enemy movements and calling in artillery support from the (3) 105mm Howitzer batterys that the 71st had, when needed. They could also be in a Jeep at a forward position or observation post11, doing the same task.
The tank crews generally stayed together and in the same tank, while assignments for the Forward Observers varied somewhat depending on the situation. Below are examples of crew compositions taken from various sources as noted. I’m sure there were other combinations as battlefield conditions dictated. Lt. McWain explained to me that the 22 designation on his tank stood for Forward Observer. The 71st tank would be the same type and look the same as the supported tank platoon, so as not to stand out and become a higher priority target to the enemy. A Forward Observer tank would go on patrol with a platoon of (5) other tanks from, usually the 81st Tank Battalion. That platoon's officer would also be in contact with the 71st tank, in case he needed their guns for a particular situation. Lt. McWain told of one occasion in a Forward Observer tank on patrol, "We were surrounded by the Germans and were firing our 75mm cannon and 30cal machine guns at direct targets while I was calling in artillery fire at the same time."
*Note: Even though the Lt. (Forward Observer) was in charge of the tank, when he was riding in it, the Sgt. carried the title of Tank Commander and was in charge at times when the Lt. was not in the tank, as an example, for perimeter security.13 G.B.