9th Infantry Division – 1943 – Report of Operations in Tunisia

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October 5 1943 – Reports on Operations, 9th Infantry Division, Southern Tunisia, Northern Tunisia and Sicily, to : Commandant, Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Command during the operation covered in this report, the 9th Infantry Division was a part of II Corps, which was, in turn, a component of the 18th Army Group. Commanding the 9-ID, Maj Gen Manton S. Eddy; Commanding II Corps Lt Gen George S. Patton; Commanding 18th Army Group – Gen Sir Harold RLG Alexander. Directives from 18th Army Group to II Corps were as follows : (1) Use of the 9-ID in conjunction with 1-ID for an attack on the Gafsa – Gabes axis with a view to opening the pass north of Hill 369 (near Kilometer Post 110) to permit passage of 1-AD. This attack to be in three phases as follows : Phase 1 – Secure the road junction north of Djebel Berda and the hills north and south thereof. Phase 2 – Secure position as far forward as the pass between Djebel Chemsi and Djebel Ben Krier, thus opening the path for the advance of the 1-AD to the vicinity of Djebel Tebaga Fatnassa – Phase 3 – Advance of 1-AD through pass to Djebel Tebaga Fatnassa, from Which it would operate against the lines of communication of the Germans. (This phase to be initiated only on order from 18th Army Group.)



(2) To insure the integrity of Maknassy, leave one medium tank battalion, the 60th Combat Team, and two additional artillery battalions in the vicinity of Maknassy. (3) Firm base (Abiod – Sbiba) to be moved to the line Gafsa – Sbeitla. (4) 34th Infantry Division to move from Sbeitla on Fondouk. (5) Attack to begin on 27 or 28 March depending on when it could be mounted.

Division Objectives : The 9-ID objective was Hill 369. Supposed Location of Enemy Prior to Operation. On March 15, Rommel’s main force, consisting of four Italian infantry divisions, two German infantry divisions, the 15.Panzer-Division and the 21.Panzer-Division, together with service and supporting troops, was believed to be concentrated along, or in support of the Mareth Positions. The Centauro Division was believed to be in the Gafsa area. Task forces held the passes at Faid, Maknassy and Fondouk. These positions were well organized for defense. The 10.Panzer-Division was not definitely located, but was believed to be in general reserve somewhere in the Sfax area.

Terrain Study’s A complete study of the terrain over which this operation was conducted is attached to this Report as Appendix B. Immediate Intelligence Prior to Operation, Intelligence reports from adjacent units indicated that the eastern extremities of Djebel Berda, including Hills 369 and 290, were but lightly hold by the Germans.

Division Plan of Operation. II Corps originally ordered the attack for March 27. This was changed to March 28 by Corps Chief of Staff at a conference at II Corps Headquarters in Gafsa on the afternoon of March 26. As originally ordered in Field Order #16. The Division was to attack at 0400, March 27, with regiments in column, 47th Infantry leading. The 47th Infantry was to be followed by the 39th Infantry, which was to advance by bounds and to be committed only on Division order. The amended plan of attack, as ordered in Field Order #16 (Corrected) called for the Division to attack at 0600, March 28.

To avoid a frontal attack in the open terrain, the plan called for assembly at the eastern base of Djebel Berda. The 47th Infantry was to move to the east along the northern base of Djebel Berda and to capture Hill 369 from the west. Due to the open and featureless plain to the north of Djebel Berda, which was wholly under observation by the enemy on the heights, this was considered the only possible route of advance. It was planned that one battalion should advance along El Kreroua and one along Djebel Lettouchi. A third battalion was to follow the left assault battalion in regimental reserve. The 1/39-IR, was to follow the 47-IR by bounds and was to be committed only on Division order. The 39-IR (less 1st Bn) motorized was to assemble in the rear of [2772] as a Division reserve. The Division artillery, augmented by the 17-FAB (less one battalion), was to support the attack, opening fire at 0600 the day of the attacks.

Composition of the 9-ID during the operation covered by this report. The 9-ID consisted of the following units :

a. Assigned
– 9th Signal Company (less detachment)
– 9th Quartermaster Company
– 15th Engineer Battalion (less C Co)
– 709th Ordnance Company
– 39th Infantry Regiment
– 47th Infantry Regiment
– HQ & HQS Battery, Division Artillery
– 26th FA Battalion
– 34th FA Battalion
– 84th FA Battalion
– HQ & HQs Company, 9th Infantry Division
– Military Police Platoon
– 9th Medical Battalion (less C Co)

b. Attached
– 894th Tank Destroyer Battalion
– 17th FA Regiment (less 1st Bn)
– HQ Detachment and Battery A 107th FAB (AAA)
– Battery B, 106th FAB (AAA)

c. Detached
– 60th Infantry Regiment
– 60th FA Battalion
– Charlie Co, 15th Engineer Battalion
– Charlie Co, 9th Medical Battalion
– Provisional Truck Company
– 9th Recon Troop Det.
– 9th Signal Co (10 linesmen, 5 radio operators)

General : The 9-ID entered this engagement less one of its Combat Teams, the 60th RCT (Regimental Combat Team) which had been detached some days before for the operations near Maknassy. Another Combat Team, the 39th RCT, had not served with the Division for a period of nearly six months during a large share of which time it had been employed on the lines of communications, stretched on a front of approximately five hundred miles. Reduced therefore to six and for several days to five infantry battalions, the Division found itself severely handicapped. Moreover the maps which were available were such that they introduced an ever present hazard of grave error; and the enemy holding the high ground as he did made it impossible to move the artillery or assault troops into position except at night.

SECTION – OPERATION

March 27 1943

The attack had originally been planned to take place at daybreak this date, but by early afternoon of the March 26 it was foreseen that the bulk of the Division could not possibly be in position in time. Accordingly, on March 26, at a conference in Gafsa, the Chief-of-Staff of II Corps ordered the attack postponed 24 hours.

March 28 1943

The 47-IR which had moved into assembly positions March 26-27, began its advance to the east by moonlight in the early morning hours of March 28 in a column of battalions. By 0600 the regiment had reached a point about one mile west of El Hamra, which was through error reported to be Hill 369. Its leading battalion was soon stopped by fire from that ridge but the 3rd Battalion the second in the column, maneuvered to the south and the ridge was captured. The last battalion in column, the 2nd, prior to daylight had been directed to maneuver still further to the south through the scattered and difficult terrain near Djebel Lettouchi and Djebel Kreroua. While it was still dark this battalion was caught in a pocket by devastating fire and the personnel of one complete company (Easy Co, 47-IR) was killed or captured. The location of the remainder of the battalion was not ascertained for the next thirty-six hours. Meanwhile the 1st Battalion, 39-IR which had followed the 47-IR, was committed on Division order and instructed to extend the envelopment further to the south. This battalion became lost and was not engaged on the first day.

Plans made at this time for the resumption of the attack on March 29 called for the movement of the 2/39-IR, for an assault against Hill 369 from the north under cover of darkness. Effective at daybreak the attack of this battalion was to be assisted by the two battalions of the 47-IR on El Hamra. The remainder of the 39-IR now reduced to one battalion (the 3rd) was to remain in its present position in Division reserve. The location of the 1/39-IR and of the 2/47-IR, were at this time undetermined.

March 29 1943

Pursuant to the Division plan the 2/39-IR moved in trucks southeast along the El Guettar – Gabes Road. Perhaps due to faulty recon, this truck movement was caught by heavy enemy fire from Hill 290 as it approached that hill. The battalion sustained heavy losses and was badly demoralized, the bulk withdrawing to its original position. During the daylight hours, the 47-IR improved its positions on the El Hamra ridge.

By noon of this day, however, it had become apparent that the division had encountered an extremely heavily fortified position, and by 1700 it was also apparent that the attack had been definitely stopped until regrouping and reorganization could be effected. Later developments during the battle and a later examination of these hills were conclusive in indicating that this area had been heavily fortified over a long period and developed into a virtual fortress. The natural strength of the position had been augmented by numerous emplacements, many of which had been dug into solid rock. The 9-ID was informed by Corps that Col Benson had been placed in command of an Armored Task Force to go through the 1-ID and the 9-ID under Corps control. The artillery of both divisions, in addition to Corps artillery, prepared to support Benson’s force.

March 30 1943

Regrouping and reorganization was partially effected during the night March 29-30, and it was planned to continue the attack of the 1/47 and the 3/47, to the east, employing the 1/39, to envelope from the south around the right (south) flank of the 47-IR. The 3/39, on this date was detached from the Division and for the next two days operated as a part of the 1-AD. The partly reorganized 2/39, was employed in Division reserve. Units of the 1-AD debouched through the 9-ID area about noon this date along the Gafsa – Gabes road in the direction of Gabes. The 3/39, as mentioned above, was attached to this force, which shortly ran into heavy artillery fire and lost five tanks. It was erroneously reported by 1400, that the Division objective, Hill 369, had been captured but that resistance remained in small pockets and wadis in the hills which had been by-passed by the attacking echelons.

March 31 1943

It now became apparent that the report of the capture of the Division objective on March 30 was in error. The hill which was taken on this date was 290 and not 369. Faulty map did not show Hill 290. Corps ordered that the 9-ID renew the attack at 1600 this date. The attack was launched at 1800 with the 1-AD putting on a coordinated attack left of the Maknassy position. The 47-IR’s attempt to take Hill 369 was unsuccessful and the day was ended without appreciable progress.

April 1 1943

The 3/39 was returned to Division control and placed in reserve north of the 47-IR. Unsuccessful efforts were made by the 1/39, on the extreme right to capture Hill 772. The enemy made a heavy air attack in the El Guettar sector but casualties were comparatively few. The 9-ID was notified by Corps to initiate the second phase of operations as had been previously outlined by the Commanding General 18-AG. In this phase it was to secure positions as far forward as the pass between Djebel Chemsi and Djebel Ben Krierthus opening the path for the advance of the 1-AD to the vicinity of Djebel Tebaga Fatnassa. Strict compliance with this directive was impossible however since the position of the Division was still west of Hills 369 and 772 which were desperately resisting capture.

April 2 1943

There was little change in the situation as a whole this date. The 1st and 9th Divisions moved forward to attempt to carry out the second phase of the attack. The Armored Force moved up and established contact during the afternoon. Heavy winds in the vicinity of Thelepte airfield prevented air support until late afternoons. The 9th Division continued to battle unsuccessfully for Hills 369 and 772 suffering many casualties.

April 3 1943

In mid-afternoon this date a heavy artillery concentration, participated in by all of the artillery with the 9-ID plus much of Corps and 1-ID’s artillery, was placed on Hill 369, with the intention of assisting the 47-IR in the capture of the Hill. The infantry, however, was slow in following the artillery preparation, and while some units made progress, the net results were not encouraging. The 18-AG sent a directive to Corps stating that as soon as the British 8th Army succeeded in breaking through the Akarit position, the 9-ID was to move to the V British Corps left flank, to take over the part of the front nearest the sea.

April 4 1943

Having failed the previous day to take Hill 369, it was now planned to capture the hill by infiltration tactics. The entire day was spent in maneuvering to favorable ground but the hill was not taken. The 47-IR sent out two patrols that got to Hill 369 but encountered wired-in positions and returned. The 9-ID continued its attack on Djebel Lettouchi but failed to take it. The Derbyshire Yeomanry were ordered to join the 9th British Corps, being relieved in their area by the 9 Recon. Enemy batteries were very active on our front.

At 2000, Able and Charlie Cos plus the S-1, S-2, and S-3 sections of Headquarters Company, 15-ECB, occupied a defensive position as infantry. This position was jut south of the El Guettar – Gabes road and about three miles east of El Guettar. The mission was to prepare and occupy the position in order to resist a threatened mechanized counter-attack. The position was prepared and dug in by 2330. The following morning a message was received to prepare to pursue the enemy,and trucks were alerted,but this contingency failed to materialize.

April 5 1943

Beginning the night of April 5, the 47-IR was directed to send one rifle platoon, reinforced by light machine guns, forward to positions within supporting distance of the regimental main line of resistance, where, under cover of darkness, the platoons were to dig in and hold their positions until reinforced by other elements of their companies.

The 2/39, moving forward on the right of the 47-IR was to adopt similar tactics in an attempt to progress along the summit of Djebel Lettouchi. The 1/39-IR, was to continue its efforts to capture Hill 772. This plan was never actually put into operation because G-2 reports indicated that the Germans were being heavily reinforced and that a counter-attack could be expected on that afternoon or at daylight the following morning.

Accordingly, to meet this eventuality, all elements of the division were held awaiting this attack. At this time the division order of battle,from left to right, was as follows : … the 3/47-IR was on Hill 290, where it had been subjected to almost continuous shelling for a period of a week. The 1/47-IR and the 2/47-IR left to right were both located on El Hamra. The 3/39-IR was on the northwestern ridge of Djebel Lettouchi; the 1/39-IR was on the western slopes of Hill 772 and the 2/39-IR remained in Division reserve in Oued El Beida. This battalion had prepared plans to occupy a defensive position along the trail leading northwest from Djebel Lettouchi or to counter attack to the northeast should the Germans force the pass north of Hill 369.

April 6 1943

No attack by the Germans developed, and there were early indications of withdrawal of some enemy elements during the night 5-6 April. The 9-ID and the 1-ID on its left, were ordered to attack and secure the general north and south line through north south grid [Y415]. At 1820, orders were received by Able and Charlie Cos, with the S-1, S-2, and S-3 sections of Headquarters Co, 15-ECB, to move to a position on El Hamra and relieve the 2/47-IR, with a mission to hold and defend.

April 7 1943

By 0500 this date the relief by the 15-ECB was completed and the position was completely organized for defense. During the day however it was definitely established that the enemy had withdrawn the Battalion (less Charlie Co which was at Maknassy) prepared to move back to bivouac near Bou Chebka for rest, reorganization and re-equipping.

It became evident from aerial recon and reports from our patrols that the Germans had completely evacuated Djebel Berda and a general withdrawal was suspected. The 39 and the 47-IRs made a rapid advance to the east which was almost totally unopposed. By the afternoon of this day the division had reached its objective along the road east of Hill 369. The 15-ECB, which had been assembled on El Hamra to support the 47-IR was ordered forward as far as crossroads [99] but these orders were later countermanded.

During the night of this date, as elements of the 1-ID moved into the 9-ID’s territory, the 9-ID began to withdraw and advance elements proceeded to the Bou Chebka area. 18-AB instructed Corps that the move of the 9-ID from the Bou Chebka area would not begin earlier than 10 April.

April 8 1943

The 9-ID continued its move to the Bou Chebka area occupying the same general area which it had occupied loss than a month before.

April 9 1943

By this date the 9-ID (less the 60-IR) was completely assembled in the Bou Chebka area where replacements wore received and equipment distributed. The 18-AG instructed the II Corps that the Corps would consists for the next operation initially of the 9 and the 34-IDs and one Armored Combat Command, together with the necessary corps service and supporting troops. The proposed objective for the II Corps on the north front was given as Bizerte. The Commanding General of the II Corps emphasized the necessity of assigning the II Corps an objective important enough to assure full recognition of the part US Army forces had employed during the entire Tunisian Campaign.

April 10 1943

The Maknassy Pass was cleared and orders were issued for the 60-IR to rejoin the 9-ID. Advance elements of the 9-ID departed for the northern front where the Division was to relieve the British 46th Division.

Casualties

(39th Infantry Regiment) : WIA Shell 214; WIA Gsw 67; KIA 39; MIA 84; Injured 58; Exhausted 103; Disease 66 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 95. (47th Infantry Regiment) : WIA Shell 415; WIA Gsw 146; KIA 75; MIA 232; Injured 118; Exhausted 89; Disease 28 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 310. (9th Division Artillery) : none. (26th Field Artillery Battalion) : WIA Shell 10; WIA Gsw 2, Injured 3; Exhausted 1. (34th Field Artillery Battalion) : WIA Shell 1; WIA Gsw 1; KIA 1; Injured 6; Exhausted 4; Disease 3 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 1. (84th Field Artillery Battalion) : WIA Shell 7; WIA Gsw 1; KIA 2; Exhausted 4; Disease 1 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 2. (15th Engineer Combat Battalion) : Disease 3. (9th Medical Battalion) : WIA Shell 4; Injured 1; Exhausted 3; Disease 1 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 6. (Special Troops) : WIA Shell 4; KIA 3; MIA 232; Exhausted 1; Disease 8 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 3.

Total for the Division : WIA Shell 655; WIA Gsw 217; KIA 120; MIA 316; Injured 186; Exhausted 207; Disease 111 and Return to Duty (Clrg Station) 425. Note : the losses of the 60th Infantry Regiment, detached during this operation, are not included in this report.

Loss of Battalion COs

During this operation the casualty rate among infantry battalion commanders was extremely heavy. During the battle, of the six infantry battalion commanders present, five were rendered ineffective by wound, injury, capture or other reasons. These were : 1/47-IR – Maj Herbert N. Turner, Injured; 2/47-IR – Lt Col Louie Gorshenow, Captured; 3/47-IR – Lt Col John B. Evans, WIA Evacuated to USA; 2/39-IR – Lt Col Walter M. Oakes, Missing and 3/39-IR – Lt Col John T. Keeley, Exhaustion.

In this action it was found that the rocky nature of the ground made wire lines apt to break and snare more often than usual, while the lack of cover made the use of 1/4 ton vehicles necessary. Thus, the work of repair crews that need the normal aid of a 2.5 ton truck became much more difficult. Too, the large number of tracked vehicles in this section caused a far greater number of cuts and breaks than could possibly have been foreseen : a situation which was solved by having several lines to a unit so that the circuit could be constantly kept open. Also when a tank movement was anticipated, a jeep with a trouble shooting unit was sent to follow the attack. At one point in the engagement, the 47-IR repair crews became so exhausted that a detail of one officer and sixteen enlisted men from the division was sent to help them. As the attack progressed, the rugged nature of the terrain made it necessary to carry wire forward by hand. Message Service was routine in this battle, with one exception. With constant danger from strafing planes it was found advisable to send two men in each jeep, rather than one as had been customary, to provide lookout protection. The switchboard at the division was dug in seven or eight feet and, thus protected it was able to continue operations under the most difficult conditions.

The terrain encountered by the medical units was, of course, identical with that over which the infantry regiments were fighting : sparsely vegetated and without cover except for that afforded by defilade of rocks and wadis. The weather during the day was hot, and the air was frequently filled with swirling dust and sand. At night the temperature fell so suddenly that the men in the front lines had difficulty in keeping warm with the limited amount of equipment they carried. Evacuation was accomplished from the forward areas as much as possible by the use of litter jeeps. Due to the rugged terrain, this at times necessitated hand-litter carrying to a point at which the patients could be transferred to the jeep. Mules were used on a small scale, but hand-littering of patients to an advanced ambulance loading-post, with infrequent use of the the wheeled litter-carrier, was the mainstay of the forward evacuation system.

Night evacuation, which was the rule, was accomplished by the use of trucks, ambulances and litter-jeeps, and it was necessary for the battalion aid-stations to care for the wounded throughout the day in slit trenches,since enemy air activity was pronounced twenty-four hours a day. In one twenty-four hour period there were over thirty enemy raids, all of which resulted in bombs being dropped within sight of the stations. It was observed that approximately 90% of the casualties had taken, on their own initiative, the sulfa drugs contained in their First Aid packet, prior to being seen by medical personnel. In the Clearing Stations, walking-wounded and the more seriously wounded were treated separately and the shock cases treated together systematically with plasma averaging about 1000 cc per patient. In general only such measures were taken as would insure comfortable transportation of the wounded to the rear. All wounds were checked for bleeding, sucking chest wounds were sutured against a gauze pack, splints were checked and adjusted to insure against impairment of circulation. Morphine and plasma were given as needed.

Hot fluids and light foods were given freely. (The men often appeared more interested in the food than in their wounds.) During the latter part of the operation, when casualties began to decrease, the exhaustion states were held in the Clearing Station and treated with heavy sedation. Approximately 40% of these patients were returned to their original duty. The number of exhaustion-states was low. Factors contributing to exhaustion seemed to be : (1) Fatigue, (2) Loss of officers. (In some units the number of cases increase with the number of officer losses), (3) Exhaustion states in officers. (These seemed to have an infectious effect upon the men). During the battle of El Guettar the collecting companies evacuated 1095 casualties from the battlefield. (From 1200, March 28 to 1200 April 8). After hostilities ceased and the enemy withdrew, the collecting companies went over the battlefields to assist burial parties in locating and disposing of our own and enemy dead.

During this operation, Charlie Co of the 15-ECB, was attached to the 60-IR at Maknassy. Little engineer work was required during this battle and consisted principally of small mine detection parties for checking and clearance of routes. On April 4 at 2000, Able, Baker Cos, with the S-1, S-2, and S-3 sections of Headquarters Company occupied a defensive position as infantry. This position was just south of the El Guettar – Gabes road and about three miles east of El Guettar. The mission was to prepare and occupy the position in order to resist a threatened mechanized counter-attack. The 1-ECB occupied a position on our left. The position was prepared and dug in by 2330. The following morning a message was received to prepare to pursue the enemy and trucks were alerted,but this contingency failed to materialize. On April 6, at 1820, orders were received to move to a position on El Hamra and relieve the 2/47-IR, with a mission to hold and defend. By 0500, April 7, the relief was completed and the position fully organized for defenses. During that day it was definitely determined that the enemy had withdrawn and trucks were ordered up to the position. The following morning the Battalion, less Charlie Co, moved back to bivouac near Bou Chebka for rest, reorganization, and re-equipping.

During this battle the Military Police of the Division were used to operate the Command Post guard, regulate traffic, furnish special convoy details, maintain camouflage discipline, provide personnel for traffic control points and as special guard for the Commanding General, maintain straggler patrols and a prisoner-of-war control station. Stragglers and Prisoners : (1) Straggler patrols covered the main roads (trails, ravines, river beds, and so on, should be covered too, but in this instance sufficient personnel was lacking) from the Division CP to advance of the light artillery positions and as far back as Corps Headquarters, returning stragglers to their units.

In this operation a number of Arabs, more of a nuisance than a menace, were apprehended in forward positions and returned to the prisoner-of-war control station for interrogation before being turned over to the French police. (2) During this battle the Military Police processed a total of 505 prisoners : 58 Germans and 447 Italians.

During this operation the cemetery was located at Gafsa. Native labor was recruited by the Graves Registration Officer when necessary, and 177 soldiers of the 9-ID were buried there. The problem of sufficient personnel was at times acute at the Graves Registration Office when all the duties of the section implicit and implied, of the section pressed for attention simultaneously.

During this part of the operations in North Africa (French Morroco, Tinisia, Algeria), the 9th Cavalry Reconnaissance Troop was detached from the 9th Infantry Division and operated under the control of the II Corps (Patton) in the Faid Pass sector where it relieved the a British Army unit (Derbyshire Yeomanry) on a 35-mile front. A separate report of this action is being also rendered by this unit.

Units serviced by the 9th Infantry Division Ordnance Company, the 709th Ordnance LM Company, during this operation included the ten major units of this division plus four attached units, including a tank destroyer battalion and two anti-aircraft units.

Vehicles serviced during this operation included all types of government vehicles. A total of 265 major repair jobs (jobs requiring at least one and one-half hours time) were done during this period. Examples of this type of work included replacing a clutch assembly on a 2.5 ton GMC truck; rebuilding a 2.5 ton motor; replacing front and rear boogies on a 2.5 ton truck

The number of artillery pieces in the Division for this operation were : 24 105-MM (Howitzers); 12 105-MM (Howitzers) (2/17-FAB attached); 12 155-MM (Howitzers); 4 105-MM (Howitzers)(SP); 16 75-MM (Howitzers Pack); 18 75-MM (Guns)(SP); 54 37-MM (AT Guns), for a total of : 140 pieces.

During this operation a total of 1489 tons of ammunition was expended. The distribution was as follows : 219.466 rounds 30-cal. (5-rd clips for 03-rifle); 311.220 rounds 30-cal, (8-rd clips for M-1 rifle); 411.750 rounds MG ammunition 30. cal; 129.783 rounds MG ammunition 50. cal; 3425 Hand Grenades (MK2 frag); 83.700 rounds 45. cal ball (T sub MG and pistol); 1652 rounds 75-MM guns, s.c. HE; 498 rounds 75-MM gun (AP); 3208 rounds 75-MM Howitzer (Fuze M-48); 20 rounds 75-MM Howitzer (Fuze M-57, smoke); 744 rounds 40-MM (AA); 30.255 rounds 105-MM Howitzer (Fuze M-48); 4778 rounds 105-MM Howitzer (Fuze M-54); 3953 rounds 105-MM Howitzer (Fuze M-57,smoke); 2233 rounds 155-MM Howitzer (HE); 208 rounds 155-MM Howitzer (smoke); 2727 rounds 81-MM mortar (heavy); 10.844 rounds 81-MM mortar and 6884 rounds 60-MM mortar. Note : the biggest days in this operation for ammunition expenditures are : April 1, 562 rounds 155-MM howitzer (HE); April 3, 5075 rounds 81-MM mortar (light) and April 3, 5884 rounds 105mm Howitzer (Fuze M-48).

During this operation the point of supply for the 9th Infantry Division Quartermaster was at Gafsa. Rations were furnished by types as follows : B Rations 422.576; C Rations 160.526; U Rations 800 and British Compo. 57.741. A total of 872.594 items of PX supplies (gum, shaving cream, tooth powder, soap, etc.) were issued. The following amounts of gasoline, oil and lubricants were issued : Gasoline (V-80) : 194.635 gals; Oil : 3.458 gals; Grease : 1.952 pounds and Hyypoid (Universal) : 680 gals.

Conclusions

As a result of the action the following lessons are learned : (1) Early seizure of the dominating observation is an essential prerequisite for a successful advance. As long as such observation remains in the hands of the enemy, further progress is impossible. An examination of the area over which this battle was fought all at once indicate the dominating characteristics of Hill 772 which was undoubtedly the key to the position. Although small detachments of the Division, including artillery observers, occupied this bill early in the battle they did not maintain their positions there and the significance of the hill was not fully realized until later. This hill is the focus from which radiates three subordinate hog–back ridges, namely Djebel Lettouchi Djebel El Kreroua and Draa Saade El Hamra all of which lead more or less directly towards Hills 369 and 290. Had the initial attack been planned to capture Hill 772 and then to work generally east along the connecting ridges toward Hill 369, it is possible that the positions might have been captured despite the handicaps under which the Division was laboring.

(2) Early reconnaissance and an opportunity for commanders of all grades to perfect their plans and to issue orders are essential. Such an opportunity was not afforded prior to this operation, a fact which in some cases led to devastating results.

(3) A determined enemy cannot be blasted out of a prepared position with artillery fire, however effective that fire may be. And the artillery of the 9th Division, with its attached units, gave a convincing demonstration of effective fire. The artillery fire must be followed so closely by the advance of infantry that the defenders, driven into their holes by the artillery fire, will not be able to man their weapons after the artillery fire lifts, in time to withstand effectively the infantry assault.

Final Observation

The 9th Infantry Division, operating for the first time as a Division, had entered the Battle of El Guettar severely handicapped. Despite this fact and despite the fact that the Division was guilty of the mistakes expected of a unit in its initial engagement with the enemy, the operation proved to be an eventual success. The conduct of the individual soldier was reassuring and gratifying. Opposing crafty and veteran soldiers, our troops showed courage and ability. With one battle behind them they were new ready to enter the next operation a wiser and more able fighting unit.

Manton S. Eddy
Major General, USA
Commanding

For all purposes :
European Center of Military History
Gunter ‘Doc Snafu’ Gillot
rue des Thiers 8
Francorchamps 4970
Belgium
Email : gunter [at] eucmh.be





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(NB : Published for Good – March 2019)

 

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