As indicated in the previous article on antitank tactics used by the Russians, tanks
must be supported by other arms. A series of incidents involving destruction or loss
of American tanks in the Solomons is reported by a member of our armed forced. This
report shows the importance, at least in close country, of closely supporting tanks
On Guadalcanal a platoon of six light M-3 tanks was sent to aid the
infantry forces fighting to the west of the Lunga River. Headquarters tank and
tanks Nos. 1, 4, and 5 were moved forward in column to attack enemy machine
guns on the edge of the jungle across a clearing from the infantry. Tank No. 4 went
into the jungle and has not been found since. Tank No. 5, after entering a
short way, backed out of the jungle without having found any targets. The driver
of Tank No. 5 said that near the edge of the jungle, the Japanese threw grenades
under the tracks. The explosion of the grenades would cause the tank to jump
somewhat but did not cause any noticeable damage. This tank was stationary
when it was hit on the right forward side of the turret. The shell penetrated the
tank and hit the opposite turret wall where it exploded. The driver estimated
that the antitank gun which hit his tanks was about 100 yards away. Filling from
the shell ran down and began to burn with a yellow flame and bluish smoke. The
driver stated that the fumes were sharp and stifling and caused the mouth to
dry and pucker. Almost immediately after the first hit, a second hit was received
in the right side of the turret. The shell penetrated and spattered filling around,
which likewise began to burn on the floor and on the top of the ammunition
lockers. Efforts to put out the fire were unavailing and the survivors jumped
out of the tank and started for the rear. Japanese troops were moving toward
the tank and shortly after it was abandoned, the driver saw it burning fiercely, but
did not know whether the Japanese had thrown gasoline on it or not.
The Headquarters tank was disabled by a hit on the right sprocket wheel
while about forty feet into the jungle.
Tank No. 1 was circling in the open field in rear of Tank No. 5 when it
was hit in the turret. The lieutenant and radioman were killed but the tank was
recovered. Fire in Tank No. 1 was extinguished without great difficulty. The
diameter of the hole in Tank No. 1 was slightly larger than that of
our 37-mm shell.
The company commander estimated that from the number of hits received by his
tanks, and the location of the tanks when hit, the enemy had five antitank
guns. The caliber of the enemy guns was believed to be 47-mm.
Comment: This is the first (at time reported) encounter with the
Japanese 47-mm antitank gun. It easily penetrated turret armor of
light M-3 tanks. The action of the shell after entering the tank
seems to indicate an explosive filler made from a picrate derivative. The enemy
apparently waited for a close range shot before opening fire.
There was no evidence of the use of the magnetic tank grenade although some had
been captured previously on Guadalcanal (see sketch below).
Mutual support between tanks and infantry in close terrain is still a