Source: National Archives (College Park, Maryland), Rg. 407, 301-INF (16) -3.01, Box 5927, Lessons Learned Tunisian Campaign.


This is part of a large 16th Infantry file of Lessons Learned — Tunisian Campaign in the National Archives. The reports were originally submitted on 12 May 1943.

For another 16th Infantry report, see by Major Herbert C. Hicks.



A.P.O. #1, U.S. Army

May 19, l943

SUBJECT: Lessons Learned During Tunisian Campaign.

TO: Commanding Officer, 16th Infantry, A.P.O. #1, U.S. Army.

1. Prior Training: It is believed that the prior training of this command had reached a satisfactory standard as was indicated by the performance of the troops in their initial battles.

It is believed however that more concentrated training in the following subjects should be conducted by troops before being sent into combat: Night training, patrolling, technique of reduction of hostile machine guns, identification of enemy tanks and aircraft, co-operation between friendly tanks and aircraft.

It is felt that training in technique as it will actually be done in actual combat is more beneficial to the men than the training in theory which was given our troops in the united States.

It is felt that maneuvers larger than one battalion against another wastes the lessons for the men and is consequently of less value in the end.

It is believed that all officers and noncommissioned officers should be given a thorough course and examination in maps and aerial photographs from the point of view of practical application.

It is believed that all personnel should be subjected as closely as possible to the fire of small arms overhead and the bursting nearby of mortar and artillery fire, in order to prepare then for their initial baptism of fire.

It is believed it should be decided while troops are having their preliminary training in what theater of war they will operate.

It is believed that they should be then given the formations and techniques which can be expected from their enemy, and should learn the counter moves against them all. They should learn to identify uniforms, tanks, airplanes, trucks, mines, and the sound of small arms that their enemy would use against them.

It is believed that this could be done for troops which will operate against Germans by equipment which has been captured in this campaign, and by using that equipment on a controlled maneuver which troops should be required then to undergo.

2. Command and Staff It is believed that command of troops in battle should be performed by commanders who have themselves been, in battle during the current war, and that these commanders should be served by staff officers who have likewise served in battle during this war. If commanders and staff officers cannot be had who have recently had battle experience, then it is believed that these officers should be selected from officers who have recently commanded troops in order that orders issued by the higher offices will be practical and realistic. Often the lower echelons felt that higher commanders were solving only a map problem and were not conscientious of the fact that human lives depended upon the orders which originated with those offices.

3. Time Element The experience of this campaign indicated that orders promulgate to the lower echelons almost invariably arrived in their final state after it was too late for the officers and noncommissioned officers who had to perform the mission to do more than execute an order blindly, without proper planning, without proper reconnaissance and without opportunity for map study. Aerial photographs were never available. Warning orders were issued, but in many cases the final orders varied so much from the warning orders that the effort expended in the warning order was wasted and a new plan had to be made up at the last minute without proper planning.

It is believed that decisions should be made early enough to allow complete reconnaissance and complete planning by the platoon leaders and noncommissioned officers who must in the final analysis execute the plan and upon whom the success or failure of the plan depends. 

4. Supporting Weapons Close artillery support during this campaign was always available and was always effective, and was always used to good advantage and accomplished excellent results.

It is believed however that forward observers for battalions should serve with the same battalion throughout in order to build and keep the confidence of the command in the artillery, and in order that the observer is conversant with the situation at all times.

It is believed that each battalion forward observer should have a wire line run to him from the fire direction center which he serves, and not depend entirely upon radio for communication.

It is believed that each artillery forward observer should carry with his radio set a sound power telephone set and a spool of assault wire, to be used from the observation point to the radio set in order to prevent exposure of the observation post by sticking an aerial up which can be registered on by hostile weapons.

It is believed that the practice of firing strange artillery in battle needs improvement. In one battle approximately six battalions of artillery fired in the battalion sector and had to be registered by one observer. The control under those conditions was bad and the result was a number of friendly troops killed and wounded, and a setback in feeling by the troops for their supporting artillery. The heavy weapons company supported the offensive of the battalion but it has decided limitations. The number of personnel in the company is insufficient to carry the guns and sufficient ammunition to keep the guns firing for longer than two hours. This is particularly true of the mortars. Re-supply by transportation during daytime was found to be impractical in most cases, and the small amount of ammunition carried in general had to be saved for use against counter-attack, and hence could not be used to support the assault. The machine guns are heavy and awkward, and when being set up offer an excellent target. If they are brought up by one man load it is impossible to get them in position because hostile fire inevitably opens on them before they themselves can open. After the guns have fired they must be moved or be shot out because the guns smoke and steam, and our gunners invariably shoot bursts which are too long. The best use of these guns was found to be from prepared and dug in positions to cover the advance as far as their effective range could reach, and to leave them in that position until a new similar position could be taken up during which time the advance had to be halted. In the defense the heavy machine gun was very effective, but it is believed that additional thought should be given to the possibility of operation by single guns instead of by sections as we now teach. If one gun is discovered and another gun is near by it will also be discovered. Two guns firing from a specific area makes it almost impossible to prevent their detection.

It is felt that our present light machine gun for the offensive is better after the initial base of fire than the heavy machine gun, but the practice of having them accompany the riflemen was found to be a poor practice because they are pinned down by the same fire which stops riflemen and often do not get into action. It is believed that an offensive should move by bounds so that they can be covered throughout by a base of fire which is implaced and ready for operation, and that when the advance cannot be so supported it should be halted. Our enemies placed large volumes of fire on us, established fire superiority, and prevented us from fire and maneuver by their fire superiority. In one case tanks were used to support an advance in our sector, and the advancing troops were directed to follow the tanks at close interval. The tanks were stopped and the riflemen could not perform their mission, but it is believed that they would have suffered heavy casualties from the fire intended for the tanks if they had followed as ordered.

It is believed that the riflemen should follow a different course from the tanks in order to save them from the fire aimed at tanks. In one case, troops of this battalion were counter-attacked after a night attack by tanks and suffered heavy casualties. It is believed that each night attack should be accompanied by tanks or heavy anti-tank guns which should follow closely the attacking echelons. It is believed that our present 37mm gun must be implaced for each mission and must be dug in. It is felt that its use in its present mobile capacity will never be effective. Its use as a direct fire gun using high explosive shells should be exploited. It is felt that the cannon company should be used more as a direct fire weapon from close dug in positions instead of augmenting the fire of the artillery as was the practice in this campaign. It is felt that the liaison between the attacking echelons and the cannon company should be established and maintained. It is believed that close support from aviation should be developed to the point where night attacks can be supported by aviation which would strafe hostile positions, bomb reserves and supply trains, and illuminate the target for the attacking echelon. It is believed that aircraft should be charged with the responsibility of locating, destroying or demobilizing reserves which could be effective against the attacking echelons, and that they should render ineffective the supply lines which the enemy could use.

5. Observation In this campaign throughout there was a contest for observation. Almost invariably our enemies were found to possess superior observation points, and when we captured those observation points the enemy withdrew from his positions. With his superior observation points our enemy was able to shell us on every turn, to bring aircraft against us, and adopt a leisure attitude in the defensive.

Our enemies were found to occupy the rear slopes of their position by day where our artillery was not effective against then, and to depend upon their observation points to warn them in time for them to occupy their forward slope positions.

Our enemies watched carefully for our observation posts and brought fire on them early each time they were discovered.

It is believed that our observation posts should be dug in and wired during darkness and that the wire should be buried to prevent its being shot out.

It is believed that each observation post should be accessible from the rear slopes so that personnel can enter and leave without being detected.

It is believed that no radio set should be placed at an observation post unless an aerial different from the one we now use can be developed.

It is believed that our troops should be equipped with field glasses of a stronger caliber, and that our observation posts should have glasses similar to our present BC scope which will allow the troops to observe without requiring them to expose themselves by sticking their heads up over their foxholes. In any kind of an offensive it is essential that observation posts be effective, well placed, and kept in operation.

6. Communication It was found that wire communication was the only type that could be depended upon. The assault wire was found to be suitable for short periods of time and was strung by the attacking echelons as they moved forward. It was proved advantageous not only from the view point of the communications, but also as a practical guide for use at night in locating command posts and friendly installations. It was found that the assault wire would not stand much abuse, was easily shot out, was easily entangled, could not be re-used, and that it should be replaced by heavy wire as soon as practicable after laying. Our heavy wire was found to be effective but was often laid improperly, so that it was broken by transportation and by tanks.

It is believed that insufficient attention is being paid to the advisability of keeping communication wires overhead. More energy is used in repairing wires than would be required to string it along trees or telephone lines after it has been laid. Track vehicles invariably cropped our wires, a fact which could be avoided by placing wires overhead or by burying them. The use of our 536 radio set was not beneficial to us. Our 195 radio was found to be effective as long as it was used from one hill mass to another. Our 284 radio was found to be usable as long as it was used mounted on a Bantam. Its use by carrying by hand was not attempted.

It is believed that our pyrotechnics were not used efficiently and that they should be improved.

It is felt that flares dropped by aircraft are extremely valuable at demoralizing the enemy and keeping him awake at night and interrupting his supply.

It is believed that our ground flares are not strong enough and that some flare capable of being fired from a rifle or a mortar and having strong candle power should be developed. Communication between aircraft and attacking echelons was never attempted and it is believed that that is necessary to success.

It is believed that each battalion should be equipped with a radio or other similar device by which it can listen to all information regarding the enemy which is received or transmitted within the infantry division. This will allow all troops to be conversant with the situation throughout the division sector at all times without interference with the telephone which may be needed on other missions.

NOTE: The numbering is incorrect in the original, with two 6’s, and is retained here.

6. Evacuation The evacuation of the wounded imposed a hardship upon the medical detachment as organized because of insufficient numbers of litter bearers.

It is believed that six litter bearers should be used for transporting each litter case instead of four which we are now using, and it is believed that the battalion surgeon should have a reserve of litter bearers upon whom he can call if the situation requires it.

It is believed also that sufficient litter bearers should be made available to the surgeon so that the dead can be removed from the battlefield at the same time that the wounded are removed.

It is believed that the graves registration personnel should be required to remove the dead from the vicinity of the battalion aid station and be responsible for their interment and the preparation of their graves.

It is felt moreover that the appearance of American graves and grave yards was inferior to the graves and grave yards of our enemies, and that ours should be improved.

It is believed that the practice of unit burial is impractical and impossible of execution, and brings a definite hazard to the morale and limiting efficiency of combat troops.

It is believed that prisoners of war and civilian labor can be utilized by graves registration service to good advantage.

7. Replacements The replacements given this command during the Tunisian Campaign were improperly trained and of low caliber. In many cases they were of a greater hindrance than they were help because they had to be trained during battle when time could not be spared. They could not be depended upon for the duties which we were accustomed to expect from our men. They were not received in the quantities needed and were sometimes given on the eve of battle.

It is believed that the card specialists numbers used by our personnel system can be used and should be used.

It is believed that the personnel responsible for furnishing replacements and other similar rear echelon functions should be more closely associated with combat, and should make a daily visit to the command post where accurate figures on casualties will be available.

8. Mail Service It is felt that the mail service is a decided morale influence and should be encouraged whenever possible.

Our enemies were always found to possess, when captured, recent letters and documents which indicated that their mail system was efficient. In many cases mail was distributed to our troops only while in rest areas.

 The practice of delaying outgoing mail works a hardship on the whole morale of the troops and causes anxiety on the people at home which did not seem to be necessary.

It is believed that cable facilities could be made available so that the troops can send messages by that method.

9. Functioning of the Regimental Administrative Center: It is believed that the administrative centers should be more closely associated with the troops. In the Tunisian Campaign administrative centers accumulated their work, and showered it on troops during their rest periods to the point of interference to the rest of the command.

It is felt that the work of administrative centers should be fluid and up to date, and that personnel should keep close enough liaison with the troops to make this practical and possible. The work of administrative centers was delayed many times to the point of being inefficient and ineffective, and a harassment on the troops.

10. Citations and Awards: It is believed that the presentation of awards should follow more closely the citation itself. In some cases the deed has been forgotten before the award was presented. This may be caused by existing law or by inefficiency in the administrative offices but the result to be anticipated by awards is often missed completely.

It is felt that the division commander should be empowered with the ability to present any decoration except the Medal of Honor, and even then he should be able to present something which could be a token of that medal, and it is believed that medals should be awarded while the facts of the deed are fresh in the minds of both the recipient and the witness.

11. Prisoners of War: Our present procedure for the evacuation of prisoners of war requires the troops capturing the enemy to escort the enemy as far back as the division prisoner of war inclosure. That means that capturing troops are not available for continuing an attack at a time when the enemy is weak and his weakness should be exploited.

It is believed that transportation and personnel for evacuating prisoners should be available to the attacking echelons and should be as far forward as the battalion rear command post.

12. Maps and Aerial Photographs: In the initial stages of this campaign no maps of a scale larger than 1/200,000 were available, and then in insufficient numbers to see that all personnel were equipped with them. Not until this command operated in a sector where the British had reproduced maps were maps of a scale 1/25,000 available. Aerial photographs were never available in any quantity. It is impossible for even the higher echelons to make sound decisions and plans if their maps are not accurate and of a scale which will show all the details required. Maps must be recent and up to date. The ones we used were old and in some cases extremely inaccurate. It is recommended that American troops not be submitted to battle in the future unless recent small scale maps and aerial photographs can be made available to the officers and noncommissioned officers who will lead the assault in ample time to afford thorough and detailed, study.

13. Laundry and Dry Cleaning: The problem of the change of unserviceable, unclean, and disreputable clothing which was found to exist during battle and after has not been solved. The barracks bag was a source of moderately clean clothes until the barracks bags were confiscated toward the end of the Tunisian Campaign. After that, there was no method by which an enlisted man could expect a change of clothing because none were available. Neither could he expect to have laundry work performed because he had no set of clothing which he could change during the process.

It is believed that some system could be devised so that men during rest periods could be given a complete change throughout of clean clothing, and their soiled clothing should be removed to a point where it could be renovated and laundered while the soldier was going through his next battle.

It is believed that the problem of laundry and dry cleaning could rightfully be placed upon those persons responsible for the rear echelon activities in regiments and higher commands.                                          


Lt. Col., 16th Infantry,