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

Lone Sentry: Tankers in Tunisia: Part 9 [original pp. 44-49]


[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]

CAPTAIN LAWRENCE PUGH, Company "D", 6th Armored Infantry, near Sidi bou Zid, 14 April 1943.

I believe that kitchen trucks should be in combat trains. Maintenance should be kept as close to the combat area as possible so as to repair vehicles. Moving vehicles back to Maintenance is very difficult. Maintenance is most effective when close to the combat area.

A scavenger truck should salvage parts of knocked out vehicles before valuable parts are ruined by personnel knocking them off with chisels and hammers. In this way vehicles could be rebuilt in the field. I suggest that one company be put in the maintenance battalion to salvage parts. In this way lots of valuable equipment could be saved.

High velocity 37-mm armor piercing ammunition is very effective on the sides of Mark IV tanks. Will pierce 2 1/2 inches of steel at 500 yards.

Armor piercing ammunition for 75-mm howitzer assault guns very effective. Gave 20 rounds to 13th Armored Regiment and they knocked out three Mark IV tanks.

The battalion likes to be led into battle and not driven into it. The battalion commanding officer and the officers should lead. The men have confidence in them. If the men feel that they are licked from the start they give up easily.

CAPTAIN D. A. KERSTING: Recruits need much more night training before coming over. I remember spending only 4 nights out in all my night training, but here we spend 40 nights out of every 45 doing night work; night attack, night patrols, night outpost, etc. Night training should not have to be learned here when the men have to do it for record.

The organization of the unit should be known thoroughly, not only by the leaders but by the privates and by everyone else. You should know what every person does. It will also be good to know the organization of your enemy. This is in addition to identification.

Don't shoot at any plane except when attacked. There should be no shooting at night even if bombed.

All leaders should know compass reading and terrain study thoroughly.

You should always drive without lights except for blackout lights away from front lines.

Everyone should know (1) how to operate radio, (2) maintenance of vehicles.

COLONEL RINGSOK: With regard to wounded. Let the company aid men take care of them. All others should continue their mission. If they stop to take care of the wounded it decreases the fighting strength of the unit when it is needed badly.

Company aid men should be trained as other soldiers in basic arms and principles of the unit, so that in case they ever have to fight they will know something.

When tactical firing begins, the men get excited. Then is the time for officers to calm them. That can be done by simply issuing an order or directive such as 'hit the ground', 'follow', — anything to take the men's minds off the shelling and give them something to do.

There should be means of communication with supporting units, that is, peep to battalion half-track, battalion half-track tO supporting units, and from supporting units to their companies. Each battalion must have a forward and a rear command post. The battalion commanding officer should be with the forward command post.

Frankness with our subordinate leaders is the biggest thing in leadership. The officer should be truthful. If he doesn't know, he should admit to the noncommissioned officers that he doesn't know all the answers and that they must work it out together. An officer can't fool an enlisted man.

[This hospital was less than 30 minutes from the front]
This hospital was less than 30 minutes from the front

You can't impress the organization of the battalion too much in the States. Let them learn it there rather than have to learn it here, for it is absolutely necessary that the men know the workings of a unit when leaders turn up missing in action and subordinates take their places.

In the battle, initially the officers must lead their men. If they see him going the men will follow; but when the battle starts the officer should fall back to the rear. But not too far in back — just back of the front line (5 or 10 feet) so he can direct and maneuver the troops. But initially he must lead.

Tank fire in support of infantry is much more effective than artillery, as tanks can put out pill boxes by direct fire and infantry will advance behind them, whereas artillery is not so accurate.

German machine gun nests can be easily located as they have rocks piled up around the nest to form a little mound. They are never out in the open. The German sniper is good tactically, but a poor shot. The Italian rifle is no good, you must take Kentucky windage. It is powerful and long range. The German grenade is ineffective. It makes a lot of noise but it does not have the power that ours has.

Our rocket guns and rocket grenades scare the German and Italian into surrender when fired at night against personnel. They must be fired so as to strike rocks and explode. They have a terrific explosion and we find them useful in that respect. Keep harrassing the enemy by night firing and patrols. It is awful on their morale and decreases their efficiency.

For physical condition climbing in and out of half-tracks gives the necessary exercise and teaches how to get out, too. It is much better than a long hike. Make your men shave each day, and keep clean. Provide periods for washing and bathing and enforce it. It is vital to morale and discipline.

The meaning of counter-signs should be taught in guard duty back in the States. Also how to challenge and ask for the counter-sign in the dark should be taught.

Know your men. It is quite necessary that officers know their men as completely as possible. Know their faults, their weaknesses, their strong points, and abilities. It pays dividends to take a personal interest in them.

We have a system that has never failed to get our battalion ready to move on time. Our scheme avoids disturbing and harrassing the troops until it is time to do something. It gives plenty of time to get ready to move, and also to get the orders down to every man. We work it this way. I have a good radio in my peep. After I get my orders at Combat Command Headquarters, and as soon as I leave there, I call in to the battalion, 'Wind up the phonograph, I have a new record to play.' That is the alert, the battalion gets set to move, and the officers and all concerned in the new orders assemble at battalion headquarters and are waiting for me when I get back.


One of the many interesting parts of our visit to COLONEL RINGSOK's battalion was the fine spirit and morale shown, the enthusiastic leadership of officers and men, their cleanliness and their military hearing. COLONEL RINGSOK has three light tanks in his reconnaissance unit. These are not in the Table of Basic Allowances, but he finds them invaluable in reconnaissance. He doesn't go after big game with them, but uses them to fire on good targets if necessary, and in helping with the mission.

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STAFF SERGEANT FRED W. ERDWINS, Headquarters Detachment, 2nd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry.

I have never seen a man killed in a slit trench, but I did see three men killed who did not start digging as the others did. Entrenching tools are very valuable and almost as necessary as a man's arms.

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PRIVATE BLAIR H. CONARD, 6th Armored Infantry.

In this war there is no front. The enemy may come from the rear as the enemy tanks did to my company. We saw the tanks at the rear, but thought they were our own. One half hour later they moved up and shot hell out of our half-tracks.

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SERGEANT NORMAN ANNENBERG, Battalion Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, Maknassy, 5 April 1943.

At Kasserine Pass, I was with the English in the command post of their tank commander. The command post was well located in a draw between two hills. Although the command post was located between two artillery fires — the fire of the enemy on one side and the English fire on the other — none of it came in to us. This was the situation from the latter part of the morning until about 1600 hours. At this time, the English started to build fires for cooking purposes. In addition, the artillery observer and his assistant, who were directing the English fire, came on to the sky line and directed fire from there. It wasn't more than fifteen or twenty minutes before German artillery fire began to land in the command post. As a matter of fact, one shell landed directly in front of the artillery observer and his assistant and killed them.

About February 16th I was a member of Battalion Headquarters, 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry. Our battalion was part of Combat Command 'C'. On this day we were proceeding across country towards Sidi bou Zid for the purpose of engaging the Germans who were then attacking. At intervals during our journey we were attacked by German planes. There were never more than four planes at one time; usually, only two. Finally towards the late afternoon we neared Sidi bou Zid. The companies of the battalion thereupon commenced to go into position for purposes of the action to follow. By this time German air activity had ceased, so far as we were concerned. Just as the companies finished getting into position, however, a group of at least twenty German planes strafed and bombed us.

About February 18th Combat Command 'C', in particular, was fighting a withdrawing action at Sbeitla. All during this action, the Germans kept sending planes over for the purpose of damaging those units or parts of units which were hampering their advance. During the early part of the afternoon, the Germans commenced to approach Sbeitla in tanks. Our artillery fire, however, began effectively to hamper their approach. Within half an hour German planes had gotten after the artillery.

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LIEUTENANT WILLIAM S. NORMAN, Company "H", 3rd Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, near Sidi bou Zid, 14 April 1943.

You won't get a Goddam thing done to the tanks unless you do it yourself — and don't delay doing it. Bring lots of brushes to clean the guns.

Our supply of gas and ammunition has been satisfactory, but the supply men never get any sleep.

The most important lesson is not to worry. Respect Jerry, but don't worry.

In platoon tactics dispersion is the most important factor, both on march and in bivouac.

In training, get recruits used to sound of artillery shells. Many men shiver and shake and are terrified of artillery fire. But remember when you hear the 'freight trains' coming, most of them aren't coming anywhere near you.

Don't use machine guns from tanks after dark. They give your position away.

At El Guettar on 7 April 1943 we were given a mission to seek out and destroy ten Jerry tanks in a wadi. Our company had sixteen tanks. On arrival we found only one German soldier and he had no arms. He had been on reconnaissance. I took him and carried him on the back of my tank.

Our secondary mission was to rally at the junction of Gabes-Kebili Road. We started with two platoons in the assaulting line. We didn't know what was ahead. I came over a hill and found a Jerry tank with a gun pointed straight at me at about 40 yards range. For a moment I thought tears were running down my legs. But the tank had been abandoned and didn't fire.

Then came the wildest ride I ever had — 40 miles in six hours. We got another mission, after we joined the British 8th Army, of cutting a column on the Gum Tree Road. So the wild ride continued. They finally started putting artillery on us. Our troops were advancing, but everything was mixed up; tank destroyers, heavies, infantry, peeps, half-tracks, and the combat command commander — but most of the radios were out. We finally got there. We had advanced unopposed across 21 miles of desert. The battalion started with about 40 tanks; when we arrived at the objective only 8 were running. The fall-outs were mechanical failures, clutches, sprocket studs, etc., but we had not had a maintenance halt since March 13th, and this charge was on April 7th. We finally got up and shot hell out of the road. Then we groped our way back to the rallying point, out of gas, ammunition, and hungry as well.

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