Tank Operations in Sicily

Combat Lessons, No. 3 described the fighting on Sicily between U.S. Sherman tanks, Panzer IIIs and Panzer IVs of the Herman Goring Panzer Division, and Tigers of sPzAbt. 504. The Herman Goring Panzer Division lost heavily in the fighting around the Sicily beachheads in July, and sPzAbt. 504 suffered the disastrous loss of 14 of its 17 Tigers.

Tank Operations, Remarks by a Senior American Officer, Sicily: “On the morning of 12 July, at least a company of German tanks with numerous Mark VIs (Tigers) attached, attacked down the Niscemi Road. There was an observation post for our artillery just south of this road from which fire was placed on the tanks with great accuracy by an infantry battalion commander who was the only observer present. At the time he brought the fire down on the tanks they were within 300 yards of his position.

“While this was going on, a company of our Sherman tanks encountered enemy tanks and infantry moving west on the Gela-Ragusa Road and a sharp fight ensued. The Germans lost two Mark VIs, while we lost four Mark IVs (Shermans). The German tanks attacked ahead of the infantry, and without using smoke or reconnaissance. They were stopped by fire from our tanks and artillery.

“In both attacks the Germans followed the roads and were less successful than on the preceding day when they had been deployed and operated cross-country.

“On the Miscemi Road I saw four German Mark IV tanks and a number of Mark VIs and Mark IIIs which had been knocked out. Three of the Mark VIs had been stopped initially by a hit on a track. Another Mark VI had been ditched under conditions that indicated very poor driving and then put out of action by artillery shell fire while immobilized.”

Penalty of Carelessness: “The American tanks lost deserved their fate because they deliberately violated long-standing instructions. They had apparently moved down the valley until they reached a road and then successively moved out on the road to get a view. As soon as they got on the road they came under fire from German 88s at 1500 yards range.

Had these tanks halted under cover on either side of the road and reconnoitered on foot, they would certainly have discovered the German guns which were and still are in plain view.

 

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