On Monday afternoon, 28 February, the Germans set up a smoke screen
about 4 miles long, and maintained it from 1630 until dark. The wind
was favorable, and under cover of this screen, which was blowing parallel
to our lines, the Germans re-aligned many of their units, and got their
artillery in travel positions preparatory to making a push the following morning.
On Tuesday morning, the 29th, I witnessed the use of a smoke screen to cover
a German attack on the Anzio beachhead. The smoke was laid with a 12-o'clock
wind blowing In the face of the attackers. The screen was placed well back
of our front lines, on our main support position. In the cool damp air of
the early morning, this smoke cloud settled down to a solid bank, which
moved across the level fields and passed over our front lines. However, it
was fairly well dissipated by the time it reached the Germans.
From their high observation points in the mountains to the rear, the Germans
were able to see over this cloud and to direct their artillery fire against
specific targets, while, at the same time, the view of our observers was cut
off over that entire front. The Germans made a considerable dent in our
lines; however, this was more than straightened out that night, when our
infantry counterattacked under cover of our own smoke screen and air bombardment.
German platoons and detachments attempt to infiltrate into our lines. When
counterattacked, the Germans usually set up a smoke screen with hand grenades
and small smoke pots in an attempt to cover a withdrawal.
German tanks invariably use their smoke-screen apparatus—that
is, their smoke projectors—when they are fired upon. The tanks then move
to safer places under cover of a smoke screen.
When small German units are preparing a night attack, they almost invariably
set up a smoke screen about half an hour before darkness, and, behind this
screen, move into their new attack positions. Also, smoke screens often are
set up when no attack is intended. This is done with the idea of harassing our
front-line units into making defensive preparations which involve a waste of
time and energy.
Registration is done in the early morning and late afternoon—very frequently
with smoke shells, and sometimes with only two or three rounds. On the Anzio
beachhead, following the attack on the 29th, it was quite noticeable that
the Germans were registering with about three rounds of smoke on all the
crossroads and the various draws that our troops might conceivably use in
a night movement.
About 90 percent of the German smoke shells now being used are
believed to be filled with a brown-tinted liquid which gives off
a dense white smoke. About 10 percent, which are used for harassing
purposes rather than for screening, are filled with white phosphorus. The
use of white phosphorus by the Germans began about three months ago, and
has gradually been increasing. Most of the smoke produced within the
Germans' own lines apparently is created by smoke pots.
The foregoing methods of employing smoke appear to be practically
standard, inasmuch as they have been used in exactly the same way on
the Anzio beachhead and on the Cassino front.