[Lone Sentry] [Lone Sentry: www.lonesentry.com]

Lone Sentry: Tankers in Tunisia: Part 8 [original pp. 40-44]


[intro. & contents]
Part 1
[original pp. 1-12]
Part 2
[original pp. 13-19]
Part 3
[original pp. 19-24]
Part 4
[original pp. 24-27]
Part 5
[original pp. 28-30]
Part 6
[original pp. 31-35]
Part 7
[original pp. 35-39]
Part 8
[original pp. 40-44]
Part 9
[original pp. 44-49]
Part 10
[original pp. 49-53]
Part 11
[original pp. 54-60]
[original pp. 61-62]

SERGEANT BUTLER, Company "I", 1st Armored Regiment, Maknassy, 4 April 1943.

I was the tank commander of a medium tank. We did reconnaissance work. I was in action at Faid Pass.

At Faid everything was vague. We didn't have enough information concerning where the enemy was. If we could get correct information in this respect, we could do a better job.

For example: (pointing to a map) When we first moved up here (southeast of Sidi bou Zid) we were told that there would be one 105-mm gun and several 88-mm guns, and that is all. Then we went on a reconnaissance (north of Sidi bou Zid) and found many heavy mortars and ground guns, probably 47-mm guns. This was in the Pass. When we left and tried to get out we were attacked by Messerschmitts and Stukas. This shows that the German air and ground forces are well coordinated. Finally we got out and withdrew to the vicinity of Sidi bou Zid. We were told that we'd have an alert the next day. They seemed to know something was going to happen, but they didn't know what. Then after the fireworks started we went towards the oasis along the North road. My tank was the point, in support of the colonel. We were told to pull off the road because we had been fired upon. Here is where we lost most of our tanks, because we pulled off the road and stopped. I believe that tanks should keep on moving, even if slowly. Thus, for example, the other day we were in a scrap near the bridge. We tried moving around and didn't get hit at all.

The tactic we use is to have one section of the platoon advance while the other section covers it.

I'd say one must act on his own a great deal of the time. You can't wait to be told when to fire or where to fire. When you see something which you think worth firing upon, take the chance. The function of the officer is to keep the men together and tell them what is going on. The soldier has to use his individual judgment.

You should keep your troops on the alert always, ready for quick movement.

At Faid we were too close to the Pass. We didn't get a chance to maneuver. They came around on the left and cut us off in retreat. We ran through the German lines and up into the mountains. Most of the company did likewise. We were pretty much depleted.

We have plenty of artillery here now. Infantry should be used for reconnaissance up mountains, etc.

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LIEUTENANT COLONEL RINGSOK, 6th Armored Infantry, and members of his Battalion, 14 April 1943.

It is recommended that each Battalion or Unit Commander have a mounted radio (510) on a 1/4 ton vehicle to be used in reconnaissance and to keep contact with his company commanders. Reconnaissance should be as complete as possible. If the enemy line is 600 yards distant, reconnaissance should go up 558 yards away.

The 1/4 ton vehicle can go almost any place that a man can. When the terrain becomes such that the peep cannot be used, the 510 can be dismounted to make a 509, and communication continued. I strongly recommend the above.

The Germans will infiltrate into our line and stay there all day, firing the machine-pistol indiscriminately. He may not have a target but he does it for the nervous effect it produces on us. Our defense for that is to have each platoon do a mopping up job until it contacts the adjacent units and the area is cleared of such people. We use the self-propelled 37-mm gun on the carrier to do this and take in prisoners. We back it up and fire canister into the holes when we find the Germans.

The Germans will become discouraged by continuous firing of weapons. It is terribly annoying to them. So now, throughout the night, we have members of the squads take turns at firing the machine guns. It also helps keep the men awake and on the jobs. At no set time, but off and on and many times during the night, the guns are fired.

Something else to consider is the ease with which you can use indirect firing with the machine gun. Indirect firing can be most advantageously used and it does not need to be made complicated. We simply go out where we can see, and fire, and make records of it on stakes, and at night when we wish to fire a certain distance, we just elevate to the desired height as shown on the stake. We were using indirect firing one night to good advantage when we were firing on a road. Evidence was seen the next morning when we saw a truck burning on the road. The firing cut a supply road three miles away.

The German flares and night signals gave my battalion a lot of trouble at first. The Germans fire flares continuously all night long, mostly to annoy and disturb troops. My troops, at first, would cease firing and attempt to G-2 what the enemy meant. But really, in most instances, it didn't mean anything but was meant to distract the troops. And it will distract them unless you teach them to pay no attention to it, but to continue the battle and fire flares in return. After all, you can't do anything after the flare is fired.

We fire lots of flares in the battalion now, and when Jerry fires at us, we fire in return.

I got my men used to the German flares by getting all I could, including those I could borrow from the British, and we fired them all night at Jerry. Now we take flares with us and fire them at Jerry at night. We do this on all the nights that we don't use them for signals, then we use them only for signals. But my men now pay no attention to the enemy flares.

We were taught to fire the ground signal projector and white illuminating flares to mark front lines, but they will light up our area 200 yards square and will show the enemy our position rather than show us his. They should be shot out in advance of our positions and fired so that we are in the dark and the enemy is illuminated.

CAPTAIN D. A. KERSTING: Need to know how to operate all weapons.

COLONEL RINGSOK: In battle, the first time men are under fire, issue some kind of order — give them something to obey and take their attention.

CAPTAIN KERSTING: Need battle inoculation.

Need a good obstacle course training in the States.

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SERGEANT FRANK SABIN, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, 14 April 1943.

Dig good foxholes. We learned in Sbeitla Valley that foxholes offered smaller area and less chance of getting hit by bombs and shrapnel.

I wish I had learned in the States to have a lot of real fire over my head. We got scared awfully at first. Any kind of firing over your head would help. It would still pay if you lost one or two men when you considered whole armies.

I had rather go in my peep than walk when on reconnaissance.

Flares keep the Germans guessing. Don't shoot them over the front lines of a troop. Shoot 200 or 300 yards in front of our front line troops so it lights the enemy.

The first time I went through crossed machine gun fire, COLONEL RINGSOK taught me to use my head. I went through it 12 or 14 times. I also led 8 or 12 men through. The way to do it is to crawl and see where they hit, then either cross to the right or to the left. Just look and use your head.

As soon as they fire fall flat on the ground, and when they reload jump up and run while they do. Experience and guts count, faulty leadership hurts.

Get men who have been in action, change things that men don't need, and teach slit trench, teach gun positions and how to shoot all guns. Teach machine gun position, which we didn't learn to make.

Our battalion officers and noncommissioned officers are good in battle. The sergeants took over the officers' jobs and the corporals took over the sergeants' jobs. We didn't lean the organization of the battalion in the States. We learned it here and now everyone knows where he should go should the next leader go down.

They didn't teach terrain in the States. The colonel teaches me the terrain and the enemy situation.

The battalion commanding officer and the commanding officers of the companies do better when they make reconnaissance. Seems like the battalion does 100% better when they do.

All men in the Command Post should be ready for rear-guard action. They should have holes dug in just like the men in the front lines in case of envelopment.

The driver should be ready no matter what happens. Should know all guns, etc.

Back in the States they didn't teach that, but we have to know it here.

In garrison I didn't care so much for work, but I do here. I don't mind it here.

There should always be a stragglers' post. A sergeant could collect the stragglers and send them back. At first we didn't have a straggler's post and we had men and vehicles 150 miles back. COLONEL RINGSOK once collected a bunch of artillery stragglers and gave them rifles and we had a big battle.

If we stay there and fight the Germans will back up.

New men aren't well trained. I had a hard time when I was first in the front lines. I was gun shy, scared. New men should work themselves in. They shouldn't be in too big a hurry. They must be cautious.

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SERGEANT GEORGE CLELAND, Company "D", 6th Armored Infantry, near Sidi bou Zid, 14 April 1943.

When you push the enemy back the ground between your position and the enemy's position should be checked for snipers. I think patrols should be equipped with additional fire power.

The hardest thing for my squad to do is stay together.

Men in the States should be trained to dig foxholes. It will save lives. Foxholes are better than slit trenches because they protect a man more and you can fire out of a foxhole and you can't very well out of a slit trench.

If I went to the States to train men, the first thing I would stress to a new man is leadership. I would make the man have confidence in his leader, and train him in every weapon, camouflage, and to dig foxholes; also to cover up tin cans. (Tin cans reflect light and give away positions.)

If you are going to harden a soldier up, keep him hardened up and don't let him get soft. Start hard training and keep it up. Men should be hardened before they go into combat. Physical training on a boat is fine, but weapon training is wasted.

Flares should be used at night to confuse the enemy. They are very effective. You should also fire machine guns at night even if you don't see the enemy. It has a very effective demoralizing effect on the enemy.

In the States we didn't have enough night training. Men should be trained in the use of stars for navigation. All men should be trained to know organization in the States. The half-tracks carry enough ammunition. Peeps should have trailers to carry ammunition from half-tracks to the guns.

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SERGEANT JOHN D. MAHONEY, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, 14 April 1943.

The 75-mm howitzer is good for Mark II's and III's. We got three German tanks with high explosive ammunition, and one lucky shot got a Mark IV.

In a bombing attack, don't try to run too far from your half-track. Go about 20 or 30 yards and then hit the dirt.

I found at Maknassy that too many men stand around the observation point and give the position away. We lost a man in a counter-battery fire that way. At El Guetter we had the only other counter-battery fire.

We have the most need for training in the .30 and .50 caliber machine guns. We have men who don't even know their nomenclature and functioning.

COLONEL RINGSOK: Many recruits have never fired .30 or .50 caliber machine guns or driven half-tracks.

SERGEANT MAHONEY: Training in bivouac is good. It keeps men from being lazy. It keeps them refreshed on nomenclature.

Not all our men could read a compass or a map. Our new officers are medium good and good.

There should be a Coleman stove in each half-track to heat food. They would not give our position away like open gas flame does.

Assault gun platoons should be taught the use of air bursts. We also need fuse setters. We have improvised some, but they are too slow for fire for effect.

The half-tracks have taken a beating, but they're OK.

We should have had some training in booby traps. Don't pick up things. Watch where you step. Stay in half-track when possible.

I don't think the recruit training is tough enough. The new men are too soft. The more training the better. We need harder training right now so we won't get soft.

Every man should know how to fire every gun in the battalion and be able to operate the radio. A man doesn't need to know functioning or too much nomenclature, just know how to clear jams.

COLONEL RINGSOK: Before an action, we assemble the squad and platoon leaders and give them the 'big picture.' When the platoon commanders become casualties, 30% were at El Guetter, there is no one to give them the big picture then. And it helps to know who is on your right and left and what they are doing. This class, I believe, has paid big dividends.

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2ND LIEUTENANT KENNETH D. WARREN, Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry.

Some of our replacements have been riflemen only. We need men trained in the machine gun and in the 37-mm gun. The replacements we got in the States knew their weapons better than those we got since we've been here. We have had to train most of our mortar men. None knew the 75-mm gun.

I'm convinced that we have the finest weapons. The 37-mm gun is good. Against personnel close in use canister. The armor piercing is good for tanks at close range.

On replacement training — I don't know how you can introduce men to the shock of battle. When you are being overrun is the time training counts.

At Medjez-el-Bab where we were being overrun, no one knew what was going on.

Regarding this shock of battle, how are you going to train men to meet this? Our company was in a fire fight, and tanks which had by-passed them overran them from the rear.

Replacements need more training in arms. We have infantrymen who had never had any training in armored force tactics, and armored infantry is a lot different from regular infantry.

Men should be trained to dig in a machine gun, as well as themselves. A machine gun that can be seen will draw fire just as a vehicle will.

The enemy will shell you from his tanks and he's good with his mortars too. Recruits need general training, especially in how to place and use their weapons.

COLONEL RINGSOK: We've had to run a training center in our trains, and that's no good.

We did more damage to the vehicles in the 40 miles cross-country east of El Guettar and the 70 miles coming out of Kasserine than was done in all the other 4000 miles.

The men must be impressed with the importance of taking enough ammunition and other supplies every time they detruck. They're too slow in detrucking. Equipment must be ready at all times to detruck. Men are too unwilling to leave the half-track — it means they have to carry their own stuff.

We have enough equipment, but it's not always in the proper place. At Medjez we had to pull a short notice attack and it turned out that the men were out in the cold rain for three days without raincoats or blankets.

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SERGEANT PUDIMAT, Company "E", 6th Armored Infantry, Sidi bou Zid, 14 April 1943.

Weapons should not be regarded with fear, but with caution. The mortar must be fired approximately 400 yards behind lines and in defilade.

I placed an 81-mm mortar approximately 20 yards in front of our lines during the Kasserine battle and wiped out a German command post and inflicted 150 casualties on the enemy. If a sound power phone was used the 81-mm mortar could be moved to various positions and communications could still be maintained.

A great deal of practice is needed in scouting and patrolling.

I have found that men make use of terrain for cover and concealment only when fired upon.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL RINGSOK: At present four officers are studying until midnight to learn armored infantry tactics. These officers were trained in 'A' Company of the Maintenance Battalion.

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