[Lone Sentry: WWII Tactical and Technical Trends]
[Lone Sentry: Photos, Articles, and Research on the European Theater in World War II]
Photos, Articles, & Research on the European Theater in World War II
Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Intel Articles by Subject

"German Close-Quarter Fighting and Withdrawal" from Tactical and Technical Trends

A WWII U.S. report on German tactics in Battle of Primosole during the WWII Sicilian campaign, from Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 40, December 16, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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.]


During the Sicilian campaign, perhaps the best example of German tactics in close-quarter fighting and withdrawal was furnished in the Battle of Primosole.

After the initial assault by Allied troops on the morning of 15 July 1943, which was brought to a standstill, the Germans made no attempt to defend the river line but concentrated on holding a position in the vineyards and ditches on each side of the road, north of the bridge. This position was based on a sunken track which afforded cover from view and in the banks of which shallow trenches were dug. The track ran west from the main road about 200 yards north of the river. The Germans also made much use of ditches running east and west from the main road. Pillboxes in the area were not used by the Germans as they had been engaged by 75-mm gun fire from Allied tanks.

The Germans were equipped with a very high proportion of automatic weapons, particularly light machine guns. During the night fighting, light machine guns fired on fixed lines very close to the ground, causing wounds to feet and legs and preventing crawling. The fire was coordinated with the firing of flares. Bursts of 10 to 15 rounds were fired at a rate of one burst about every minute.

In daylight, machine guns were well concealed in commanding positions in ditches and along the sunken track. Much use appeared to be made of alternate and supplementary positions, for each machine gun appeared to fire first from one location and then another. Never more than two or possibly three machine guns were firing at any one time, giving the impression of a very small force, whereas in the length of the sunken track alone (from 200 to 300 yards) the number of rifles and other weapons counted and the number of prisoners taken showed that there were at least 50 to 60 men.

Individual snipers armed with light machine guns, sub-machine guns or rifles were concealed in the vineyards and trees forward of, and on the flanks of the Germans' main position. The mission of these snipers was probably to protect the German flanks and to serve as a nuisance against Allied troops.

During the first part of the battle the Germans had very few mortars. Only one is known to have fired, and its fire was inaccurate and did not appear to be observed, probably because of the closeness of the fighting.

Grenade throwing pistols and rifle grenade dischargers, both types of weapons throwing a high-explosive grenade approximately 20-mm in diameter, were used at close quarters to put down a heavy concentration of HE. Many stick and egg grenades were also used.

The Germans had four or five 88-mm guns and one or two antitank guns of small caliber, 20 mm or 37 mm. These guns were used principally to cover the main road. No attempt was made to conceal them, probably because they were brought up in great haste, when the Germans discovered the presence of Allied tanks and realized that bridge demolition work was impossible. But demolition charges and magnetic antitank grenades were used by individual Germans who concealed themselves in ditches by the side of the road and in culverts under the road and engaged our tanks at close quarters.

The German withdrawal from their defense. position was at the rate of five to six miles daily, each movement being to a previously selected position. Such positions were chosen for their commanding nature, affording good fields of fire for machine guns and good observation posts for mortars. Sometimes they were based on natural antitank obstacles such as river beds. Towns and villages were not used as centers of resistance except where commanding positions over a bottleneck could be obtained by occupying houses on high ground. On one occasion the Germans occupied a line of houses built on a very high ridge. A sunken road behind the houses provided good lateral communications and a covered line of withdrawal.

Patrol reports and reports from civilians indicated that the Germans usually withdrew in the early morning, between 0200 and 0400 hours, the last elements to leave often being covered by a few tanks. The Germans gave no sign of their withdrawal, such as increased shelling and machine-gun fire at the end of day and intervals during the night. Such fire had marked their withdrawals in Africa.


[Back] Back to Articles by Subject | Intel Bulletin by Issue | T&TT by Issue | Home Page


Web LoneSentry.com