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CONVERSATIONS WITH MEMBERS OF THE 3RD BATTALION, 1ST ARMORED REGIMENT,
COMBAT COMMAND "B", 1ST ARMORED DIVISION, MAKNASSY,
SERGEANT SWATZLANDER, Company "I", 1st Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division.
Sir, if I had a brother coming in combat, I would want him to know well the functioning of the tank and all its guns. I would want him to know personal care — just how long to stay with a damaged tank before leaving it. After it has been hit it is a big fire hazard. You stay as long as you can. If you have to leave, you do it quickly.
My tank crew were good; I think they were the best. I think we will lick the Germans.
I have one new man. He is good, learns fast, and works well. He was formerly with the 2nd Armored Division, I believe, and was a truck driver.
Steel tracks are better than rubber track when we don't have hard surface roads.
How do you know how to aim with the different ammunition?
Learn and you know it. I don't follow a table, I never look at it.
I run the tank by the inter-phone. No trouble.
When do you button up?
I stay open.
The .50 caliber guns are good against aircraft, especially to keep them up there and prevent strafing.
I fire mostly individually and not as a section or platoon.
I use cover and concealment as much as possible, but there isn't any right here.
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SERGEANT BECKER, Company "G", 1st Armored Regiment.
Don't lose your head; being jittery in battle ruins a lot of communications. Keep your head — main thing.
We have the right ammunition.
Don't button up your tank or you can't see anything.
M4's are fine.
It's a funny thing, being tank commander. You have got to run the crew, be stern, and show leadership. I had a new driver for an M3 tank. I told him to drive up a slope to a certain place and then stop. He got excited and went all the way up the hill. I told him to back up to the right place. He got excited again and went all the way back down the hill. He wouldn't listen to the inter-phone communication so I hollered to the 37 gunner to stop him, as I had my head out. Finally we stopped him and we drove up to a safe firing place and I asked him why he didn't pay attention to me.
Over night, I explained how I wanted him to drive and how I wanted him to pay attention, and I told him if he didn't I would close his slot up completely and make him drive blind. That fixed him. I think I have a good driver now.
I am lucky, as I have never lost a tank, but how I don't know. We saved two tanks out of the company.
When our platoon leader told us to withdraw, we withdrew by backing up. He became confused, perhaps because his gun was pointed to the side. Instead of backing up he turned at right angles and ran up on a ridge. He didn't come back.
I like the M4. I look at the German tank and thank God I am in an M4. The M3 is nice looking, but should be three feet lower.
I think we will lick the Germans in time. I think we are good.
I haven't heard any news in four days. The rumor in the company is that we had Faid Pass. But our platoon leader says 'no'. ('No' was right.)
You can't do nothing unless you have a good driver. He must go where you want him to go.
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SERGEANT SIPES, Company "G", 1st Armored Regiment.
New men need more training. They haven't enough gunnery and no driving instruction.
I am a tank driver and was in action in Faid Pass. I didn't get my tank out. I button up my tank when not in bad terrain. I fire as a part of the platoon if possible; if not, I fire individually. I fire in hull defilade and fire both while moving and still.
I have learned not to rush into anything you can't see. We fight too fast, should go slower and be sure of ourselves. The best way is to fight as a platoon. Cover each other as they move forward. I haven't been able to use the blitz tactics they taught us. Our tactics is for some in hull defilade as the others move forward.
In my tank an
As a driver, I pick out targets and maneuver into position with the help of the tank commander. I know never to pull up over a hill without stopping in hull defilade and observing first.
I think we have learned a lot and can lick them. It's bad enough to be on the winning side, it would be terrible to be on the losing side.
How close up is your maintenance company?
MAJOR MILLS, Regimental Motor Officer: Just back of companies and battalion when in combat.
COLONEL HAINES: The Battalion had crossed 500 or 600 yards across a bridge which was under fire. The maintenance was also across. A message came in to the Command Post: 'Need some of Pappy's boys'. (Pappy is the motor officer and Pappy's boys are his men.)
I asked if any big boys were needed; the answer was, 'not just yet'.*
[*NOTE: This was a perfect radio message. Here is an example of a bad radio message: 'Colonel, my command post and command half-track are 100 yards down from that tank burning on top of the hill. Jerry is shooting everything that moves in or out here. I am going to wait and move out when I think he can't see me.' I was beside this half-track which had been hit by a splinter when the shot hit the tank. —TJC]
We have two pappy's, but we don't think the Germans know them, or what each does.
The medium tank had damaged a track. We sent a wrecker over under cover of darkness — a distance of thirty miles. The wrecker was not needed, but it did escort the tank back, as it was thought that track would not hang on. The tank had 31 track connection guides broken loose and the tank was started back to the service park on its own power without repair with the wrecker following in case needed. The tank came in without repair.
Where do you change engines?
MAJOR MILLS: Back with rear echelon maintenance if situation warrants it, closer if situation is possible — in regiment.
COLONEL HAINES: The maintenance company got cut up at Sidi bou Zid. They are now doing swell military police duty and guarding mine fields.
We drew 36 M4A2 Diesel tanks from the British. We like them very much.
We don't wear tin hats in tanks, but they are never out of hand's reach.
Make your training program include more battlefield tactics.
More training in:
1. Physical conditioning.
2. First aid (men have saved and can save each other's lives).
3. Marksmanship in major weapons.
4. Observation with field glasses.
5. Estimation of terrain, range, etc.
6. Personal reconnaissance.
7. First and second echelon repair for all crew.
8. All ranks should know how to set up, use, and maintain communications.
COLONEL HIGHTOWER: A lot more and better target practice is needed for tanks. It is better to miss 500 rounds in the United States than one round here.
COLONEL HAINES: The driver is less important than the gunner. The gunner should have a higher rating.
The 'C' ration is cooked by the crew. There should be a cooker in each tank.
COLONEL HAINES: Clothing and combat suits are adequate. Replacements are hard to get.
I had trouble getting one soldier to wear his helmet. He claimed it was too heavy. The other day he came over to me. He said, 'I'll never be without this helmet again. You will never have trouble getting me to wear it.'
'Why?' I asked.
He showed me his helmet. 'See this dent,' he said, 'just look at it.'
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