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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Chapter 6: More of Sicily

The 3rd learned real fast of the Art of War. The Germans began to call the Third Inf. the Blue and White Devils. The Infantry learned fast it paid to trust the artillery. Stay about 100 yards behind where the shells were landing so the enemy could not recover from the shock before being attacked. It is surprising how little Bill saw of Sicily, Italy, France and Germany. Most of his time was spent in the back of the truck operating the radio. He operated what was called a base set. He would receive messages from the forward observer and relay them to fire control. Fire control would compute the settings for the batteries to set their guns and Bill would relay that information back to the guns. When the guns were fired they would send back "on the way" The forward observer would then observer would report the results. The first round can be off target a little or a lot. If it was off the forward observer would relay the necessary information whether it was left 100, right 75, over short or perhaps on target. If there was a need for very quick response the shells was close enough to do the job the directions would be to fire for effect. In which case the 4 battery guns would fire 3 shells each. In case I haven't said, the batteries were 105 mm howitzers. Howitzers are best for lots of circumstances where there might be a hill in the way of the enemy. Howitzers have greater range than mortars.
They didn't have howitzers mounted on wheels and axles in the Civil War because it the gun fired at too much elevation it would break the axle. Howitzers then were mounted on a base directly on the ground. Very awkward and not mobile. But Bill saw the inside of the truck in most of travels. On the other hand he could sleep in it if he didn't have to dig a foxhole. Not very comfortably though as he slept under the truck a lot of the time.

There were three incidents that were not exactly connected to Bill but is of such a nature that I want to recount it. The Germans were past masters at blowing bridges to impede the advance of the Americans. Sicily was a fertile place for bridges because of it's hilly nature. They blew a bridge on a steep and high cliff. Normally this would take days and days to rebuild. However the 10th Engineers built a new bridge in less than a couple days creating a legend of it's prowess. Then the Third put the Truscott Trot to good effect. The commanding general Truscott created a way or marching that the division could march over 30 miles a day. Very fast the first hour, then a little less the second, then a steady pace the rest of the time. Although there was continual opposition from the Germans all three regiments marched this last 100 miles to Palermo. in 3 days. You must remember that this is with a pack too.

Military guys are as glory seeking as most anyone. It's when they command for glory and not to save their soldiers lives is what I am against. For example Patton had given orders that would allow his tanks to enter Palermo first with News Reel cameras and reporters.

The Third with it's Truscott trott disobeyed orders to hold back and trotted into Palerma and was waiting for the British and American tanks when they came into Palermo Square. Some times Generals seeking glory cause their soldiers to die. Mark Clark the 5th Army commanding general changed orders to make sure his American army got to Rome first. As a result this allowed some Germans to escape capture which allowed them to kill Americans in battles north of Rome.

See my blog of my WW2 and Occupation experiences.