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US Army: Lessons from the Sicilian campaign


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Wow!!! Absolutely awesome document, so many gems of information and insight into the operation.

Just briefly skimming over the document I pulled out this one account on the use of aerial spotters for indirect fire.

.We discovered one very effective use of the planes--just put them up in the. air and the German batteries wouldcease firing. Evidently they learned how deadly our counter-battery could be when adjusted with air observation. Whenour division was moving up west "of CAPE ORLANDO, the Germanshad, heavy interdiction fire on the only road over which wehad to advance, ie' sent up a cub plane to try to locate thebatteries. As soon as the plane-was upand was apparentlyseen by the enemy OP's or their batteries, the fire ceased.General Campbell, our Artillery Comnander, then ordered aplane kept up all the time, and so long as the plane wasin sight, not a single round was fired on the road.This was universal experience throughout the campaign.

Can't wait to get more time to read through this document.

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It. ... The heavy weapons company, must be the base of the advance of the entire battalion. Therefore to facilitate the advance of the battalion it must be driven home to those responsible for the organization and equipment of the infantry battalion that the heavy weapons cannot beman-handled and still keep up with the advance of riflecompanies..whenever pack mules...could be secured;they were. furnished to heavy weapons companies and in such instances the heavy, weapons companies had, no trouble keeping up with the rifle companies.

So when do we get mules?

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Pretty cool. Anyone care to answer a question? Ill post the page later I dont remember it off the top of my head but it says that at battles near Caricano (sp?) the US troops encountered 'German 90mm SP guns' that they destroyed in a couple of engagements. What SP guns would this be referring to? I wasnt aware there was a 90mm assault gun in the German inventory?

Some of the stuff is pretty hairy when you read between the lines. ' A mark VI driven off with grenades..' etc.

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Pretty cool. Anyone care to answer a question? Ill post the page later I dont remember it off the top of my head but it says that at battles near Caricano (sp?) the US troops encountered 'German 90mm SP guns' that they destroyed in a couple of engagements. What SP guns would this be referring to? I wasnt aware there was a 90mm assault gun in the German inventory?

Some of the stuff is pretty hairy when you read between the lines. ' A mark VI driven off with grenades..' etc.

What I suspect is being referenced is the Italian Semovente 90/53 in German service. While mostly used as SP Artillery on the mainland there was some direct combat use of them.

Jyri

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General principle that I read in the real-life AAR seems to be: Take the high ground first; advance along ridges (in defilade, so as not to skyline your troops) and take the harder, less-expected and more difficult routes as long as they get you to where you can attack from above. Maneuver is SO important and vegetation so sparse in this arid island that I hope map builders will make sure to make them big enough to allow many alternative avenues of approach.

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It's good to remember that AAR's can be misguiding sometime. Company & battalion leaders might have tried to look reports more nicer than they have been. Specially when talking about enemy forces they encountered and destroyed. It's easy to write AAR with "killed Tiger" and maybe it was already abandoned. History is always written by those how win. We might never know the truth.

I agree that real life AAR's give excellent inside of war but I'm always skeptical for one-sided information.

dpabrams: Open and totally different terrain is giving me too much problems. Got too used for Normandy bocage terrain.

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It's good to remember that AAR's can be misguiding sometime. Company & battalion leaders might have tried to look reports more nicer than they have been. Specially when talking about enemy forces they encountered and destroyed. It's easy to write AAR with "killed Tiger" and maybe it was already abandoned. History is always written by those how win. We might never know the truth.

I agree that real life AAR's give excellent inside of war but I'm always skeptical for one-sided information.

dpabrams: Open and totally different terrain is giving me too much problems. Got too used for Normandy bocage terrain.

Of course AAR's can be misguided but so can many so called history books. Of course to truly verify this document historically you would need to attempt to get similar accounts from different sources from both sides of the operation.

However what makes this document important to me is not that it should be taken as absolutely 100% factual. What makes this important is that its told directly after the battle and not told 5, 10, 20 or 30 years after. Therefore I would come closer to believing this rather than something someone remembered 30 years later while being interviewed by Stephen Ambrose. ;)

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AFAIK the AAR is not about how nice and clever divisional top brass are but about what the useful learnings from the campaign are. Their purpose is applying those learning to the next campaigns in order to win them faster, with smaller loss of life, saving as many lives of American soldiers as they can. Just for that I find it beliable and no one-sided at all.

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Very interesting document, as an indication of how AARs vary it is instructive to compare it with a similar report by Lt Col Wigram, one of the moving forces behind British Army battle drills/schools and C/O of 5/Buffs covering British experiences in Sicily. Some similarities but also differences e.g. The US report sings the praises of the 4.2” mortar whereas Wigram is really quite scathing of the equivalent British weapon as can be seen from the below:

"Four point two-inch Mortars

Very inaccurate - not as quick into action as 25 prs. There is nothing they do which the 25 prs do not do better. If OPs are difficult to come by they are yet another group of people occupying valuable space.

When suitable targets presented themselves they were far out of range, or could be adequately dealt with by the 25 prs. During a three-day battle when I was almost continuously at an OP, the 4.2 mrtrs fired no rounds during the whole period.

They have been used to thicken up fire when concentrations are being put down, but as there is no shortage of guns it is rather a drop in the ocean to add 4.2-inch mortars to, say, 6 Fd Regts and 2 Med Regts. When they are so used they can be very dangerous as they are not accurate enough to do barrage work. During one attack of this kind we were continuously shelled by something very heavy on our own side and we all thought that this was the 4.2-inch mrtr (this may be doing them an injustice)."

I guess the US mortar may have been a more potent piece, it does seem to have a slightly heavier bomb, but they don't seem a million miles apart in terms of performance. Different doctrines perhaps?

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Its seems perceptions of a piece of equipment vary depending on if the user has *traded up* or *traded down*. 4.2 mortars don't don't half the job of 25 pdrs. But what if the unit had traded up from 3 inch mortars? I recall the US had the same problems decades ago with Sheridan light tank. Some people turned in M113 APCs for Sheridans and some turned in M60A1s for Sheridans. Thier opinion of the vehicle was like night and day. :)

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Its seems perceptions of a piece of equipment vary depending on if the user has *traded up* or *traded down*. 4.2 mortars don't don't half the job of 25 pdrs. But what if the unit had traded up from 3 inch mortars? I recall the US had the same problems decades ago with Sheridan light tank. Some people turned in M113 APCs for Sheridans and some turned in M60A1s for Sheridans. Thier opinion of the vehicle was like night and day. :)

Interesting point; I don't know if there is any trading going on here or not, maybe not since Wigram was an Infantry officer and neither the 4.2" Mortars or 25pdrs would have been under command for his unit. I guess there was sufficient support from Field Artillery available that his observation was along the lines of 'why bother with anything less.' The more I read about British infantry operations post about late 1942 the more I move towards the view that massed artillery, primarily 25pdrs, represents the key to open most tactical doors.

For what it is worth he didn't seem to get much ,mileage from his battalion mortars either (see below)

"Three-inch Mortars and Carriers

These were hardly ever used throughout the Campaign as the country was quite unsuitable for Carriers (movement off the rds was impossible), and the three-inch mrtrs invariably found that targets offered were out of range.

Our three-inch mrtrs (5 Buffs) did not fire a single rd throughout the Campaign."

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