Source National Archives (College Park, Maryland), Rg. 407, 301-INF (16) -3.01, Box 5927, Lessons Learned Tunisian Campaign
HEADQUARTERS 16TH INFANTRY
Office of the Supply Officer, A.P.O. # 1, U.S. Army
11 May l943
S-4 Report on Landing, Occupation and Tunisian Campaign, from November 8, 1942 to May 9, 1943.
Port of Embarkation and Sea Voyage
Embarkation Memorandums published by Division prior to departure added several items of property to T/BA, such as pack water carriers, paulins and several other items that were not issued prior to departure thereby causing confusion during preparation for the move. It is recommended for the future moves that such property be issued in time to be loaded on proper combat vehicles. During the preparation for the move Division Supply Agencies at the Port of embarkation were not prepared or organized to make the proper distribution of property on hand at that time. Requisitions submitted by combat teams were lost, duplicated on some items and not filled on others. Thereby troops were not properly equipped prior to departure and items that were issued in excess were carelessly abandoned.
Recommendations: Division Supply Agencies should be organized and prepared in advance to fill the requisitions properly and to keep records of such issues. Combat teams should be given sufficient time to check, requisition and distribute such properly to proper individuals so that they can be packed properly and on proper ships. Impregnated clothing was issued to troops only to be carelessly abandoned. Individual barrack bags were not properly marked prior to the voyage nor were they properly guarded on board ship by organizations. Several items of clothing were stolen. Type “C” and “D” rations were issued prior to embarkation to troops. Most of the troops consumed these rations prior” to landing. In future moves such rations should either be held in Company reserve or individuals instructed to save such rations for the landing.
There should be more cooperation between T.Q.M.S. and landing team commanders. T.Q.M. did not unload the property needed as planned to priority. Landing Team Commanders asked for ammunition, food and water; individual barrack bags were unloaded instead. S-4 distributing groups did not have sufficient transportation to deliver class I and V supplies to landing teams. S-4 should have at least three (3) 2 1/2-ton cargo tracks to deliver supplies to landing teams during the early stages of combat.
Reorganization and Defense after Landing
Property on board ship was not properly guarded. When combat vehicles and kitchen tracks were unloaded later they were stripped of essential items of equipment. Kitchen trucks were stripped of reserve rations and field range equipment during the voyage. It is recommended for future landings that at least one (l) small Coleman burner, with extra generators be issued per eight (8) men prior to landing, for individual cooking.
Division reserve supplies were not sufficient to re-equip the combat team for future and immediate combat. It required as long as sixty (60) days to replace some items of property lost. Some of these items are: Shoes, in E and EE sizes; helmets; tents, shelter-half; individual intrenching tools; field range accessories, spare parts and equipment; spare parts sets for small arms; tentage and water containers. Some of these items were still lacking when this combat team moved to the Tunisian front.
S-4 was informed by G-4 and Division supply agencies that these items were available for issue in the staging area in rear of combat zone and that about three weeks would be devoted at the staging area to re-equip the combat team. During the motor movement to the combat zone instructions were received from Division Quartermaster to turn all T/BA property that could not be carried on organic transportation in to Division Railhead for shipment. Information was given S-4, that this property would be available at the combat zone. Loading and shipment of this property was under Division control. Upon arrival in combat zone battalions were immediately ordered and committed in the Ossultia Valley sector, Each unit in the regiment left a small detail behind to unload and safeguard the property. The property left behind was: records, personnel section; enlisted men’s barrack bags; officers’ suitcases; infantry intrenching set; extra camouflage nets and other T/BA equipment not urgently needed. During combat the regiment could not spare any vehicles because it was under T/BA allowance, therefore this property remained in storage under Division control and was mixed with other combat teams of the Division. The guard left behind was relieved per Division order and the property was left unguarded. Most of the property was lost or removed by unauthorized persons. Several officers’ bags were broken into and valuable property stolen. Enlisted mens’ barrack bags got wet in transit and were stored in that condition. Fifty-percent (50%) of that property was moldy and ruined. Therefore it is recommended that individuals be issued only one (1) set of clothing that can actually be carried by individuals or transported by organic transportation. One (1) 2 ½-ton cargo truck should be issued to each Battalion Headquarters Company and to Headquarters Company, to carry T/BA equipment. Officers baggage should be stored back in sector supply base in suitable dry storage space and properly safeguarded.
Operations in Ossultia Sector
During this operation our combat team was split up and one (1) battalion was attached to the British in another sector and was supplied by the British. It appears that the British could not supply that Battalion with the necessary class V supplies. Battalion S-4 had difficulties supplying his battalion and had to make several long hauls with supplies from Division and other sector D.P.’s. One battalion, 26th Infantry was attached to our combat team. This and other attached units were supplied by regimental S-4.
Location of Division D.P.’s was close. Class I supplies (rations) were British type and were not distributed properly, types “A” and “B” were used continuously instead of variation.
Kitchen and ammunition trucks were under Battalion control. Battalion S-4’s dumped ammunition trucks and used these trucks to haul water and rations. Regimental S-4 used parts and Service Company supply trucks to haul supplies from Division.
Battalion kitchen trucks were always exposed to artillery fire and front line dive bombing. However, no damage was done. Kitchens should be under regimental control and far enough in the rear to avoid artillery fire. Regimental S-4 should have four trucks instead of one (1) to haul rations and other routine supplies. Kitchen and ammunition trucks should not be dumped and used for other purposes while the combat team is committed in action. Class II supplies were not issued as requested. Shoes, socks, overcoats and blankets were the biggest problem. Repair of field ranges were the biggest problem in organizational equipment.
Shoe repair facilities should be available at all times. Shoes that are partially worn could be turned in for repairs and give double wear. Individuals that wear shoe sizes that are not normally carried in stock should be transferred from a combat unit. Spare parts should be issued to maintain field ranges OT repaired in Division maintenance on short notice. Fire units were turned in to Division for repairs and frequently Division held these fire units for ten days before they were returned. Movement to Kasserine Pass was ordered and completed satisfactorily. However, nearly all organizations abandoned food, clothing, equipment and ammunition in that sector. Unit commanders have a habit of accumulating extra items mentioned above during defensive phase of combat. Steps should be taken by all concerned to correct this. During the battle of Kasserine Pass, kitchen and ammunition trucks were under the battalion commanders control. Kitchen areas were bombed during nights with no effect, because cooks used flashlights and were careless during total black-out hours.
Rest Period and Reorganizations
Prior to departure from Kasserine Pass, G-4 directed that requisitions be submitted immediately for all shortages. Wiile the regiment was still in the front lines unit commanders were not able to make a careful check on clothing and equipment, therefore they submitted incomplete and hasty requisitions. Upon arrival in rest area fifty-percent (50%) of these requisitions were filled. Barrack bags were delivered to men. Several bags were lost. Another check had to be made and individual clothing and equipment requisitions were immediately submitted. However, they were not filled prior to departure to El Guettar. Shoe repair and bathing facilities were excellent during the rest period, unit commanders who send shoes for repair and clothing to be laundered do not have the property properly marked therefore the losses are quite large. Unit commanders must check to see that all such articles are properly marked or tagged before they are sent out. Movement to Gafsa was completed on schedule. During the battle of Gafsa some units were bivouaced in watties. At night, during a rainstorm, vehicles were damaged and equipment lost in a flood. Steps should be taken to avoid such areas in a rainstorm. Salvage of the flooded area was satisfactory. Replacement of lost items by the Quartermaster was also satisfactory.
Battle of El Guettar
During this battle kitchen and ammunition trucks were under the control of the battalion commanders. One (1) kitchen truck was hit by dive bombers, the reason being that the kitchen truck was not properly camouflaged. Camouflage did not blend with the terrain. Engineer camouflage officer should be prepared at all times to change the color of nets to conform with surrounding area, or units should be issued camouflage paint on short notice to paint vehicles and camouflage equipment
Police of Battle Area and Salvage of Equipment
At the conclusion of this battle regiment was ordered to police the battlefield area, the field was policed satifactorily. Kitchen, ammunition and Supply trucks were used for this purpose. Unit commanders erred by turning into salvage dumps arms and equipment that could have been used to complete T/BA allowances. Combat regiments should not be used for policing but salvage should be done by special corps troops. Movement back to rest area was satisfactory. Barrack bags’ were delivered to men in that area. Men were instructed to remove and keep what articles were needed, and to turn the rest in for salvage. Battalion and company commanders instructed the men to keep one (1) suit of fatigue clothes, extra shoes, socks and underwear. These items were later abandoned on the battlefield. Regiment remained in rest area only three days and was therefore not properly equipped for the next battle. Such items as intrenching tools, field range accessories, spare parts and equipment were still lacking during the battle of Tunis. During this battle kitchens were under regimental control. Hot food was de1ivered to men in front lines morning and in late evenings, “C” or “K” ration were used for noon meals and, on several occasions, when hot food could not be delivered. ‘K’ rations are recommended when where hot meals cannot be delivered. Hot food was delivered to men in 1/4-ton trucks (Jeeps) in food containers. Half-tracks were used to bring food and ammunition to front lines over mountain trails and rocky terrain. This proved very satisfactory. It is recommended that six half-tracks be issued to a regiment for this purpose. Kitchen train under regimental control proved very satisfactory. Trucks were well dispersed at all times. However, lack of camouflage was noted. Nets were not properly blended with the terrain. All vegetation was green in this sector and all camouflage nets were of the desert type, therefore they were useless. Our air superiority kept enemy aircraft away and saved the kitchen train.
Supply Recommendations for Future Campaigns
Troops should be equipped before battle. Essential items only should be carried. Spare parts should be issued to make minor repairs on arms, fire units and vehicles. Prior to, or during, rest periods, unit commanders should be given warning and sufficient time to check, inspect and submit correct requisitions. Division supply agencies should be prepared to fill these requisitions immediately and not two weeks after units get into battle. If requisitions are not filled until then, men who needed these items are either M.I.A, K.I.A., or in hospitals and the property must be turned back.
It is recommended that troops in cold climates be issued combat suits and mackinaw coats instead of present clothing authorized. Shower points should be available to men where possible. Men should be permitted to leave soiled clothing at shower points rather than abandoning it at first opportunity. Clothing left at shower points should be collected by the Quartermaster, renovated and re-issued for further use. Clothing and equipment of men M.I.A., and K.I.A., and in hospital, should be turned in to Quartermaster in bulk for re-issue. Replacements arriving from hospitals and replacement centers should be completely equipped for immediate combat. A soldier without proper equipment is a burden to unit commanders rather than a help.
There is not sufficient personnel attached to the Division for this purpose. Often bodies were allowed to be exposed for three to four days because personnel was not available to remove same. It is recommended that in future operations at least twelve (12) men and one N.C.O. be attached to each regiment at the time the regiment goes into combat. This detail should have one 2 1/2-ton truck for their use exclusively.
In the Tunisian campaign a supply route was built by attached Engineers after great hardship and work. As soon as this route was completed all organizations in the Division began to use it to such an extent that often our own combat teams were held up by some other outfit. This should not be the case and each outfit should have its own supply route and if one route is to be used by the complete Division then it should be built and maintained by the Division Engineers and not by regimental engineers, with Division M.P. to control traffic.
HERBERT C. HICKS JR.
Major, 16th Infantry