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"German Soldier Tells of the Battle for Agira" from Intelligence Bulletin, May 1944

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]  
The following description of the Battle for Agira in Sicily by a German soldier was originally published in the Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. II, No. 9, May 1944.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department Intelligence Bulletin publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]



On 27 July 1943, after overcoming strong German resistance, British and American troops reached positions overlooking the town of Agira in Sicily. The following day the United Nations forces continued to bring pressure to bear from the northeast and northwest. In the evening of 28 July, Agira was captured. A substantial number of prisoners was taken, and many German dead were found.

On the 29th a private first class of a Panzer Grenadier unit, which had retreated from Agira to a new position several kilometers away, wrote a brief summary of the action at Agira. U.S. junior officers and enlisted men should find this narrative informative and useful, since it discusses the engagement from the point of view of an enemy infantryman.


For the past two weeks we have been fighting on Sicilian soil. The battle we fight here against British and American troops is tough. Since the fighting is taking place in mountainous, semi-tropical country, we are experiencing special conditions of terrain and climate to which we are not accustomed.

A few days ago, we were still in position on a tactically important height in front of the town of Agira. From this height the road to Agira could be controlled. The town itself had not yet been subjected to fire. However, the British and Americans realized the importance of this town, and made every effort to defeat us in order to occupy it.

Although we were able to hold our position for several days, we were not strong enough to resist indefinitely. Also, the hostile forces had at their disposal an unexpectedly large number of heavy weapons, which assaulted us day and night. With this support, the enemy succeeded in penetrating our positions at certain points during the night and crushing the front line. We then withdrew to the town of Agira, in order to preserve our strength and avoid unnecessary casualties.

There we were able to reorganize and make ready for further defense. Positions were prepared, manned, and improved. We of course expected a new attack by the hostile forces; however, for the time being, the enemy sent out only small forces for reconnaissance. He was being rather careful, and perhaps did not want to sacrifice troops unnecessarily. During this period each side tried to find out as much as possible about the other's positions and strength. Every so often, heavy weapons participated.

Only after some time did our patrols discover that the British and Americans, exploiting favorable approach possibilities under cover of darkness, had occupied several hills close to the town. Our forces staged counterattacks... but not until it was too late did we discover that it was the opposition's intention to bypass the town and block the routes of approach. Here and there, hostile tanks suddenly appeared, light personnel carriers came forward, and hostile artillery placed its "magic fire" [Feuerzauber] closer and closer to our positions. Our casualties and weapon losses increased, and our situation became more and more critical. Since our supply routes were under the steady fire of heavy artillery, we were able to bring up rations and ammunition only in greatly reduced quantities and under cover of darkness.

The situation grew still worse when the hostile forces attacked the battalion echeloned on our right, and forced it back close to the town. The most severe fighting therefore took place near the western entrance to the town, where the attacking forces were strongest. The opposition was able to gain successes at certain points, although suffering losses.

Our defensive line was still intact. We had hoped that we might be able to break contact with the hostile forces after delaying them by house-to-house fighting. Unfortunately, we were prevented from using these tactics, inasmuch as we received an order to the effect that the town must be held for another 24 hours. Now the word was "Hold at any cost." We realized that .the coming night would bring the crisis, upon which everything would depend. It came and passed—more quietly and better than any of us had expected. The British and Americans had penetrated only into the western part of the town, evidently moving with caution, and had established themselves there. We moved around the town, and occupied the northern entrance at dawn. The enemy tried to interfere with this tactical undertaking, but we placed sufficient fire on the attackers to force a withdrawal. We anxiously waited for night to fall. It was our intention to lose contact with the opposition after dark, since our delaying mission had been completed. All day long, every one of us wondered whether the opposition would remain inactive until nightfall and how everything would develop.

At dusk we made our preparations. Evacuating Agira as silently as possible, we made a night march of several kilometers, under very uncomfortable conditions, and took up a new position, where we are at present. It is on a steep hill, and is roughly opposite the same town for which we were fighting so bitterly only yesterday. Looking at it, we have only one thought and hope: to halt, weaken, and defeat the advancing enemy.


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