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"Landing Operations" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report concerning Italian defense against Allied landing operations is taken from captured Italian documents. The report originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 35, October 7, 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.]


Coordination of action of land, sea and air forces, directed toward the accomplishment of the ultimate war aim, is the basic strategic problem. Their coordination for individual undertakings is a tactical and operational problem called combined operations. Besides the most thorough planning, combined operations have other equally important preliminary requisites. First of all, the command of the sea and superiority in the air are essential. Second, the aim of the operation must be clearly understood. Third, the locale of any landing must be thoroughly studied by the army, by the navy, and by the air arm.

The following notes giving the Italian reaction to certain Allied landing operations are taken from translated Italian documents.

*          *          *

a. Lessons of Tobruk Landing - 14 September 1942

(1) Surprise

The success of a small-scale landing depends on the attainment of complete surprise. Daily air reconnaissance before twilight of possible convoy routes is therefore of prime importance in a night or dawn attack. Coast watchers must be prepared to function even under air and naval bombardment and should work in pairs, and if possible under cover.

(2) Organization of Defenses

Command should be unified. Defense plans should be prepared to the last detail but all arms must be prepared to adapt themselves to unforeseen situations.

(3) Air

Air action is particularly effective against ships at anchor and special landing craft.

(4) Naval

It is of greatest importance that ships in harbor should be able to cover the waters of the harbor with fire, particularly the entrance.

(5) Artillery

It should be trained to fire over open sights at targets covered by a smoke screen. Barrages should be laid only when there is no alternative. Artillery is most effective for pinning down attackers at the moment of disembarkation. At night the use of flares dropped from aircraft is recommended.

Battery positions must be organized as all-round defense positions with wire, mines and antitank ditches. They should be covered by the fire of neighboring defense positions.

(6) Counter Attack

To ensure immediate counter attack, reserves should be split up into the smallest units practicable. They should be mechanized, have exact terrain knowledge and if possible, light artillery support. All troops, including services and headquarters personnel should be prepared to join in at the critical moment when the enemy has just landed.

(7) Obstacles

The efficacy of beach mines is stressed.

(8) Communications

Necessity for a maximum number of alternative means of communication, with independent headquarters network.

Very signals should be kept down to the minimum and only a few unmistakable signals employed. Color signals should be avoided as likely to cause confusion.

b. Lessons of Dieppe Landing - 19 August 1942

(1) The enemy can land tanks with the first wave but success is likely only if assault troops have first prepared the way for penetration of tanks inland.

(2) Shingle* is a considerable obstacle to movement of tanks.

(3) No area of coast line should be considered as impracticable for landing.

(4) Air superiority, at least in disembarkation areas, is essential for the success of a landing.

(5) When the forces of the defense are limited, in addition to uniform defense of the whole coast, certain points should be selected for "block defense".

(6) Antitank defense in all areas where tanks can be landed or operated should be disposed in depth, particularly along roads and trails.

(7) Artillery positions must be defended by close-defense weapons.

(8) Infantry and artillery must be fully coordinated.

(9) Reserves for counter attack must be mechanized.

(10) Use of smoke by the attackers is liable to disorganize their troops and to make their air support difficult.

(11) Command of the defense must be unified.

c. Defense Against Parachutists in Africa

(1) All mobile elements must regard themselves as "antiparatroops" as well as operating in their normal role.

(2) All battery positions and all headquarters will have attached a permanent group for defense against paratroops.

*Ground covered with loose pebbles and small rocks.


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