A battalion commander of a U.S. tank regiment which saw a lot of action
in Tunisia is the source of the following observations on the tactical use of
German 88-mm AA/AT guns against tanks and other vehicles.
* * *
German antitank gunnery has made our reconnaissance a particularly
tough job. They drag their big 88-mm guns (maybe 75's as well--I know they
bring 88's) up behind their tanks and drop them in position. Usually the crew digs
the gun in a hole 12 by 12 by 6 feet deep, practically covering up the shield and
exposing only the barrel of the gun. They are the most wonderful things to
camouflage I have ever seen. They are very low to the ground. You can watch the fire
coming in; little dust balls on the ground give them away and show how low they
are. The gun looks like a pencil or black spot. The shield is level with the piece
and all you can effectively see is the tube. Apparently they use mats to hide the
muzzle blast. When the Germans go into position they'll hide their guns and tanks
in anything, including Arab huts. They dress their personnel in Arab garb while
going to and from their positions. We've found these guns particularly hard to
locate, and they can break up your entire show if you don't pick them up in time.
Once we hunted a gun within a thousand yards for 3 days, and then only found it by
spotting the personnel approaching the gun position.
Generally the Germans try to suck you into an antitank gun trap. Their
light tanks will bait you in by playing around just outside effective range. When
you start after them, they turn tail and draw you in within range of their 88's.
First they open up on you with their guns in depth. Then when you try to flank them
you find yourself under fire of carefully concealed guns at a shorter range. Don't
always bite at the first 88's which shoot at you. There will be several up much
closer. The first 88 that barks and the first tank are generally bait. If they
stage a night attack or late evening attack, and neither side stays on the battlefield,
they will come out and put their 88's in no-man's-land away ahead of their tank
positions. In one instance their tanks were within 1,000 yards of a pass, but their
guns were 4,000 yards on the other side. Usually the Germans will try to suck
you inside of a 1,200-yard range. Over 1,200 yards there is no use in worrying
about their antitank fire because it will bounce off the medium tank at that range.
Under 1,200 yards, watch out. Their gunnery stinks at long ranges. I feel that our
men are better. The Germans frequently use machine guns to range themselves
in, and you can duck their shells by watching that machine-gun fire. When they're
moving they'll shoot at anything that looks suspicious and they'll generally knock
down every Arab house in sight. Sometimes they'll get the range with high-burst
smoke shells; three of these in a line is the high sign for the Stukas.