In last week’s article we saw the overview reports on tank destroyers and armor, together with a summary cover sheet. This week we’re going to drill down a little bit, to see the priorities of individual unit commanders, and also another Q&A.
We start off with the opinion of the senior field commander, General George S Patton:
1. Basic discipline is lacking. Failure to salute is lack of alertness. Close order drill is required to instill confidence in an officer in himself and in the enlisted men in the officers. Precision, unquestioned obedience and responsibility must be stressed.
2. Training in night fighting is necessary. A minimum of two nights per week should be utilized in marching, teaching the approach march, the attack, and the organization and occupation of a position.
3. Physical fitness is an essential. Officers should be able to run a mile in ten minutes with all equipment. They must be enthusiastic fighters. They should carry absolute minimum equipment – a pistol, no carbine or Tommy Gun.
4. Men carry too much clothing. We want killers, not laundry men. Let them carry clothes on their back without barracks bags, trunk lockers, etc. Extra clothing should be carried in Quartermaster trucks for replacement when clothing is soiled. Clothing turned in can be washed, repaired, and reissued. Give them candy but not in the ration.
5. They need real sugar and dextrose for energy. A little rum would not hurt them.
6. Our soldiers are the filthiest, sloppiest, in the country due to the texture and shade of the field jacket material. Men looking like tramps have no pride in themselves nor can they fight.
7. Overseas service should be considered a promotion.
8. Roughnecks and football players, not stenographers and clerks, should be sent to fight.
9. Officers must wear the insignia of their ranks on their helmets. Enlisted men should wear nothing. Hence, any mark on a helmet indicates an officer.
10. Officers in the grade of lieutenant should be sent as replacement to overseas units.
11. Self-propelled tank destroyer weapons are not needed in the Armored Division. Two towed 3” or 57mm anti-tank guns per tank company should suffice.
12. Put tops on the turrets of the M10s and more front armor and issue them as tanks.
13. Never place a cannon where it can see or be seen beyond its lethal range.
14. Sights of at least 4 power with night lighted reticules are necessary.
15. The combination of a 37 mm with twin .50 cal. machine guns is the best anti-aircraft weapon yet issued. The substitution of a 40mm cannon for the 37mm may be an improvement.
16. We need a powerful vehicular mine detector and a more powerful land mine of plastic material containing no metal whatsoever.
17. All troops should be given intensive training in mine laying, detection and removal.
18. A boot about 12 inches in height with raw hide laces should replace the field shoe and canvas legging.
19. Buttons should replace zippers.
20. Sweat bands in helmet liners should be removable for washing.
21. The bottoms of trousers should be reduced to about 17 inches.
22. The Infantry Division needs a reconnaissance battalion.
23. There is no necessity for changing the Armored Division at this time.
24. The 1st Division was in combat 22 days – the 9th Division, 12 days. More personnel is needed by all units for replacement and relief during these long periods of continuous fighting.
For a different point of view, the opinions of MG S. LeRoy Irwin, commanding 9th Division Artillery.
1. We need more range in the division artillery. 4.5” guns will avoid wasting the 155 Gun on minor missions that now only they can reach.
2. We must have some anti-tank protection in divisional artillery. Without such protection, tactical use of the weapons is interfered with. This is particularly true of the medium battalion. One attached battalion of 75mm guns on half-tracks will probably suffice
3. The necessity of observation towers depends upon the theater. The cub airplane should do the job.
(4-12b are on a missing page)
12 c. About 12 binoculars M3 per battery.
d. 1 or 2 high power observation instruments for each battalion.
e. Some additional shielding on the 105 Howitzer – keep the high fire feature on that weapon.
f. An additional officer and three men for battery observation posts since two must be operated 24 hours a day
13. No observation towers are needed in this theater.
14. Keep the 608 radio set in the firing battery and at least 3 in the battalion.
15. Division Artillery needs two and the battalions one RL-26.
16. The carbine does not work when dirty. One battery was overrun when the carbines failed to function.
For the position of 1st Infantry Division, we move to MG T. Dela M Allen, Commanding General.
1. Division Artillery needs 6 more officers, 2 in Battalion Headquarters and 1 in each Headquarters and Service Battery.
2. We should have a larger division reconnaissance unit. Several reconnaissance companies of armored jeeps with scout car command vehicles in each platoon, and a light tank company should be satisfactory.
3. A platoon of self-propelled 75 mm Guns, equipped for indirect fire and having a low silhouette, should be part of each battalion heavy weapons company.
4. We don’t need a separate anti-tank unit.
5. The Field Artillery requires more anti-aircraft protection unless normal anti- aircraft units are to be continually available for attachment.
6. The division needs a Quartermaster Battalion, at least one more truck company.
7. Division engineers must consider themselves combat troops and not principally construction troops.
8. Never attach infantry to armored units, make the attachment in the opposite direction.
9. Sound and flash units should be available to divisions when operating away from corps.
Another missing page eliminates the remainder of his opinions, while the tail end of another survey is simply “Wire is still the most useful means of communication. We need plenty of it”.
Then we move to Colonel Lambert, of 1st Armored Division’s CCA:
1. The 75 mm Gun in the M4 tank should have its muzzle velocity souped up and the reticules in the direct fire sight graduatedto include 5000 yards. Some vertical reference line must be included in this sight reticule. The engraving should be as fine as possible so as not to obscure the target.
2. The M4 tank telescope sight should have a 3ft. maximum height adjustment and be capable of being withdrawn when not in use. The British periscope installed in top of M3 light tanks is excellent. Bakelite replaceable sight heads fog on the inside.
3. All tank guns, 75mm and up, should be equipped for indirect laying. Some means of boresighting the 37 mm gun in the light tank after changing sights should be provided. The elbow telescope sight on the M7 seems to be satisfactory.
4. We like the M4A2 tanks better than the M4s. The Diesel engines of the former handle better and are less of a fire hazard.
5. The new AT-HE ammunition disintegrates Mk. IV tanks at close ranges. We have no dope on long ranges.
6. Each tank company should have 4 57 mm or 3” towed guns for antitank work. Armored limbers or caissons like those towed by the M7s should be issued to carry their ammunition. Each gun should have a crew of 6 men and a chief of section.Ammunition should be supplied in the following percentages: HE 50%; AP 40%; WP 10%.
7. The tank battalion needs 105 mm Howitzers instead of 75 mm Howitzers on half-tracks. One platoon of 3 per battalion is enough.
8. The 105mm Howitzer on a light tank chassis should be better than the M7. Our 81mm mortar platoon needs more range. It is satisfactory when stationary but is no good when moving.
9. We need an armored car of the multi- wheeled type, protected from air attack and armored to turn .30cal. armor piercing ammunition, and capable of operating at 20 M.P.H. over rough country. It should be able to carry at least 3men and the driver.
10. Some sort of command vehicle is needed. It should look like other vehicles with enough room for 5 men. It should be equipped with map tables and lighting equipment.
11. We have received no 522 radio sets nor Krypton lights.
12. We are wearing out our primary engines in charging radio storage batteries. We need a small gasoline driven generator outfit.
13. More binoculars are badly needed.
14. The M2 compass is satisfactory but should have a luminous needle and some luminous reference points on the dial.
15. A small cooking outfit should be issued each tank.
16. The cub airplanes were used for route reconnaissance, message service, and surveillance, and are very valuable. They were not used for adjustment of fire due to hostile air activity and the availability of excellent ground observation posts.
17. A combat command needs about 50 miles of·W-110 wire, a 12 drop switchboard, and about 10 telephones. No wire equipment should be issued to lower units.
18. Command tanks should be provided with mountings for either a SCR-193 or SCR- 245 radio set in addition to the mounting for the SCR- 528.
19. The switches used to control the firing mechanism and power traverse in tanks are no good. If thrown quickly, the contacts fuze.
20. The metal used in the oil coolers of the final drive and engine corrodes in spots due to salt spray. The oil pressure then blows through these corroded spots.
21. The clutches in the M4 tanks almost lock due to the entrance of sand and grit. The M3 tank clutches are much superior int his respect. These clutches should be sealed.
22. A 24 hour march means 72 hours of maintenance work. Provide tank trailers like the British to reduce engine hours and track mileage.
Finally, before I leave this particular survey, a general Q&A from Ground Requirements Section, Headquarters, AGF. As with all the others, the date on this is 15th June 1943
1. The following replies to specific questions are submitted. These replies embody the consensus of officers interviewed in the North African Theater.
2. What is the thought regarding the use of self propelled artillery for tank destroyers? The British believe self propelled artillery to be suitable for support of armored units only.
Divisional antitank weapons should be towed guns. The divisional antitank defense should be supplemented by larger caliber, harder hitting, highly maneuverable weapons assigned to tank destroyer units. For speed of emplacement and displacement these should be self-propelled. For ease of digging and concealment the silhouette should be as low as possible.
3. The British state that they can put a towed gun into action as fast as a self-propelled gun but that the self-propelled weapon can displace more rapidly. Is that statement correct?
The statement is in general correct. The value of the self propelled gun lies in the fact that it can move rapidly and easily from a defiladed position in readiness to an adjacent firing position, fire and then withdraw to defilade or displace to a new position more quickly than can a towed gun.
4. What anti-tank or tank destroyer weapons should the armored divisions have in addition to their normal supporting artillery?
The armored divisions prefer towed 57mm or 3” guns for this purpose. Two to four of these guns per tank company are desired. One armored limber or caisson per gun should be issued with the guns. Ammunition as follows: HE 50%, AP 40%, and WP 10%.
General Gaffey recommends one battalion of self-propelled 155mm howitzers in each armored division for general support missions.
5. Is there need for an armored car and if so how much protection is desired?
A general requirement for such a vehicle does exist. It is to be utilized by reconnaissance units, observing parties and commanders’ parties. It should be armed with a .50 calibre machine gun, low in silhouette and capable of 20mph speed cross country. It should be armored and angled to turn .30 calibre armor piercing ammunition.
6. Is the use of 8 inch guns and 240mm howitzers contemplated in North African Theater?
A study is now being made by the Fifth Army and II Corps regarding this requirement. 8-inch howitzers were repeatedly requested by II Corps.
7. Which type of weapon is desired by battalion commanders for anti-tank use; high or low muzzle velocity; 75mm or 3 inch caliber?
High velocity weapons are universally desired. Neither the 75mm nor 3 inch guns are desired in the battalion due to size and weight of both piece and ammunition. A low silhouette, easily concealed, dug in and man-handled weapon must be provided to the battalion. The present 37mm gun with increased muzzle velocity and free traverse, or the 57mm tube on the 37mm gun carriage with muzzle brake and free traverse is desired.
In the regiment, either the 57mm AT gun or the 76mm or 3 inch gun on a 75mm field howitzer carriage is desired.
8. How is the 25 pounder AT gun performing?
This weapon is the standard 25 pounder field gun equipped with muzzle brake and souped up ammunition giving a muzzle velocity of 2000f/s. It will theoretically pierce 73mm of armor at 1000 yards at 20 degrees to normal impact angle. There are none in service and probably none will be produced – Lt Colonel Dobinson RA Ln O British Eighth Army at Headquarters II Corps. The 17 pounder is the pet anti-tank weapon of the British and is a superior gun.
9. Have we enough artillery and the proper calibers and types in the theater?
There is not enough artillery in the theater. The artillery available is outranged by the hostile artillery with the sole exception of the 15mm M1 gun. The complete absence of the GHQ echelon created a demand by each subordinate unit for the weapons normally assigned by the next higher echelon. General John A. Crane recommended that the Corps Artillery Brigade consist of two 155mm M1 gun regiments and one 8 inch howitzer regiment. Three division artillery commanders recommend divisional artillery consisting of three battalions of 105mm howitzers each containing 4 six gun batteries and two 155mm M1 Howitzer battalions one battery of 4.5 inch guns to be included in one of these latter battalions.
Additional light, medium and heavy artillery would have been desirable. It is believed that GHQ artillery units of those calibers should have been present to reinforce organic divisional and corps units. Unless additional light and medium artillery is to be available for reinforcing divisional artillery, additional artillery of these types must be included in the organic divisional artillery.
The long range character of the Tunisian campaign resulted in demands for increased range in our artillery. The 155m M1 Howitzer and the 4.5 inch M1 gun would have been most valuable. Many missions fired by the 15mm M1 gun were within the capabilities of the 4.5 inch gun but could not be reached by any other artillery weapon in the theater.
In general the towed weapons available were well suited to the terrain and for the mission fired. It is doubtful whether self propelled mounts of the medium or heavy calibers would have been of sufficient value to warrant the additional shipping space required. This is due to their restricted range which is inherent in self propelled weapons.
10. Do we need more 15mm M1918 howitzers in the theater?
Yes. See preceeding paragraph.
11. What mounts are being used for firing the .50 caliber machine gun against air and ground targets?
M24 truck pedestal mounts and M32 truck cab mounts are issued for this purpose. An insufficient number of both types were available. The field artillery units in particular require a ground mount for this weapon inn order that the guns carried on prime movers may be dismounted and used to protect the firing battery when in position.
Field artillery batteries in position are favorite targets for hostile air attack and hence must be provided with an adequate means of defense against this type of action. General characteristics of a mount suitable for this purpose have been prescribed by the Field Artillery Board.
12. Is the Field Artillery receiving the benefit of the Air Corps reconnaissance and photography?
Only indirectly. Air reconnaissance information is furnished to the higher echelons as are some photographs. The type of photographs are suitable for G-2 purposes only and are not usually furnished the Field Artillery. No photographs for conduct of fire, so called battle strips, pin points or wide angles were furnished. The entire subject of air reconnaissance and photography in connection with the operations of ground forces must be carefully studied with view to obtaining the full benefit of this type of information service for ground forces. The formation of an air unit under control of the corps commander similar to the British Reconnaissance Wing is recommended.
The lack of air photographs suitable for artillery firing has resulted in the demand for a hand held camera and mobile darkroom in the divisional artillery air observation section.
13. Are diesel engines a hindrance or an asset in this theater? How many are there? What is their life and what are their fuel and maintenance problems?
Diesel engines are installed in the remaining TD-18 tractors of the 36th FA and in the seventy two M10s received. These engines are considered satisfactory and are preferred to gasoline engines by the tank destroyer units. The M4A2 tanks with diesel engines arriving in the theater are preferred to M4 tanks with gasoline engines due to the reduced fire hazard, fuel economy, increased speed given the vehicle and easier handling. (General H. J. Gaffey and Colonel F.C. Haiunes, 1st Armd Div). No recurring mechanical difficulties were reported, the average engine life being approximately 250 hours without overhaul. Some means of reducing smoking of diesels should be devised. No difficulty with fuel supply has been encountered as already various oils, lubricants and grades of gasoline must be applied.
14. Are command posts tents required in the theater?
Yes. Two divisions have received a partial issue of these tents. In open country they are dug in and well dispersed hence offer unrenumnerative targets for air attack. The tent as issued is satisfactory and well liked.
And thus brings to an end the documents I’ve come across in the Archives related to this report.
A couple of observations.
Mark2 over on the NA forum has gone over the previous week’s article with an assessment as to which of the suggestions put forward were actually implemented. An overall view of the reports from NATO should be a valid reminder that though everyone focuses on the major end items like tanks, one can never forget the details like transports, radios and lights.
Obviously, it took until the last decade or so to field mine detectors which could identify a mine quickly: Ground penetrating radar. However, one cannot fault a line commander for identifying a need and sending it up: He has no way of knowing if it is not technically feasible.
The levels of emphasis on rear area security for both anti-tank and anti-aircraft capabilities is interesting. Not just the MGMC half-tracks, but the need for .50 cals and mounts to shoot them from. Obviously the emphasis on anti-air became reduced as the Luftwaffe was removed from play, but I did find it interesting that the divisional artillery thought it worthwhile to use a full battalion of TDs , as opposed to letting the manpower loose on other targets. The shortage of long-range artillery was also interesting, I would be curiouis to know if any of it was counter-battery done by sound spotting, and the effectiveness of it.
It is a shame that the rationale behind the tanks towing AT guns was not further explained. Especially given that the majority of the ammunition loads was suggested to be HE: What would they want to do that a regular tank gun could not?
Some of Patton’s comments are valid enough, (And some predictable enough given what he thought important), but I’m not sure the officers on the front lines were incredibly enamoured of the concept that “Anyone with a mark on the helmet is an officer.” I can only assume that German and Italian snipers would have loved that idea. On the other hand, it would seem to me that the solution for Irwin’s “Carbines don’t work when dirty” is “clean them.”
Overall, it appears that the NATOUSA was happy enough with the front-line equipment and organisation, but it was the supporting assets which needed more work. Also of note, to that point, the TD concept wasn’t entirely villified. There seemed to be a general consensus that some tweaking was needed, but not to the extent of getting rid of them, General Patton’s opinion notwithstanding.
For the forum thread, click Bob.