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Fire Direction

Military Handbooks: The Plattsburg Manual

A company that cannot start firing or stop firing, that cannot fire

faster or slower, that cannot distribute equally its fire over an

opposing target, that cannot switch its fire from one place to another

and make bull's-eyes, would be as unsuccessful in battle to-day as

Harvard's football team would be, without practice, in its final game

with Yale. The team work in no department of athletics is as necessary

or vital
s that of a military force, the teamwork of a military

machine. The first is a sport, a limited time being involved. The second

is a question of life and death to the nation.

It requires a nice and cool judgment, under actual conditions of war, to

point out and distribute properly the target to the different groups, to

find the exact range, and give all these instructions (directions) that

will be necessary to produce an effective fire upon the enemy. Who is

responsible for giving these instructions (fire direction), and exactly

what are all the conditions that must be fulfilled in order that each

individual on the firing line may know exactly where and how to fire?

The captain (company commander) is responsible for all. In the military

world there is no such thing as shifting responsibilities. The commander

assumes full responsibility, whether things go right or wrong. He must

handle his job through his subordinates (platoon leaders). 1st, He

points out the target to his platoon leaders. 2d, He assigns a part of

the target to each platoon, in such a manner that the entire target

(objective) will be covered (fired upon). 3d, He determines and gives

the men the distance to the objective (range). 4th, He indicates the

kind of fire to be employed (that is, whether each man will fire as he

pleases, fire five shots and then stop, et cetera). 5th, He indicates

when the company is to commence firing. 6th, Thereafter the captain

observes what effect his company's fire is producing, and corrects

flagrant (material) errors. He prevents the exhaustion of his ammunition

and distributes such extra ammunition as may be received from the rear.