[Lone Sentry] [Lone Sentry: www.lonesentry.com]

Lone Sentry: Tankers in Tunisia: Part I [original pp. 1-12]


[intro. & contents]
Part 1
[original pp. 1-12]
Part 2
[original pp. 13-19]
Part 3
[original pp. 19-24]
Part 4
[original pp. 24-27]
Part 5
[original pp. 28-30]
Part 6
[original pp. 31-35]
Part 7
[original pp. 35-39]
Part 8
[original pp. 40-44]
Part 9
[original pp. 44-49]
Part 10
[original pp. 49-53]
Part 11
[original pp. 54-60]
[original pp. 61-62]


In this book you will not find the "big picture" of the North African campaign, but you will find the little tricks that saved the lives of fighting men and that may save yours. These men won victory, and you can win if you will do what they tell you.

You ought to feel exceptionally good about one thing — the people in Africa who knew said that the armored replacements had received the training necessary for victorious fighting and were the tops of all American replacements.

You should get ready for battle here. Let SERGEANT DuHAMEL of the 60th Infantry, from an outpost on a mountain peak in Tunisia, tell you in his own words how soon a replacement may be fighting.

"I was sent as a replacement. I sailed from New York 5th March; landed in Oran 19th March; sailed from Oran 21st March; arrived Phillipeville night of 24th March; left Phillipeville by truck 25th March; arrived at a post near Constantine 25th March; left 26th March; arrived Ain Beida 27th March; left Ain Beida 31st March; arrived 9th Division 31st March; was on outpost this mountain 1st April. I am one of one hundred replacements of the 60th Infantry who are on this section of the mountain range."

(See Page 13)*

Six places in less than a month! Direct from New York to a fighting post in Africa from which the enemy was repulsed by hand-to-hand fighting in a night attack on 4 April, the day after this talk. That is how close some of us are to the front.

The outstanding point from all statements was the need for exact discipline. The private soldier felt the need of this discipline, as did the officer, because it meant that he could be sure that the other fellow was doing his part. All through the pages you will read stories which will tell you this.

GENERAL EISENHOWER said, "Discipline is vital. A possible 50% improvement in value of men results from making them tough and well disciplined. See that orders are carried out exactly. We need exactness in uniform and in saluting. Great nervous energy is required of commanders. They must meet requirements and exact discipline and obedience."

GENERAL HUEBNER said, "Discipline is vital. The most important command is right face, that is, to have a thing done at once, immediately."

GENERAL SAWBRIDGE went a little further — he paid a tribute to armored replacements and then said, "Replacements generally lack fundamental discipline. They have not learned initiative or to act for themselves. They wait for a non-commissioned officer."

[*NOTE: The number given below each quotation is the number of the page in this book where the full statement, from which the quotation has been taken, may be found.]

You should think about this; discipline means more than just obeying direct orders, it means doing what you ought to do without orders. The ability to rely on the other men in your company and on the men of all the companies of all the arms that are working with your company to do what they ought to do is what wins victories and costs the enemy lives.

Physical fitness, maintenance of equipment, skill in arms, are important; but above them all is that discipline which makes it possible for each man to depend with safety on all his comrades.

In the modest accounts that follow are stories of the highest heroism. Often you will have to look closely to see how well these men have done. In years to come you will find that many of the men in this book will have won fame for their deeds, for the deeds of which they tell only those parts which they think will be of help to you.

You will learn here of the tanks that burned, of men who were killed, but remember, the enemy paid a high price for them — they paid with the "unconditional surrender" of all of North Africa, with hundreds of thousands of prisoners, and with abandoned equipment that hasn't yet all been counted.

The stories told here were told at the front wherever armored troops were found.


Platoon leaders learned in the North Africa fighting that to lead, you've got to be out in front. LIEUTENANT HILLENMEYER of company "H", 1st Armored Regiment, said, "As a platoon leader, I learned that you've just got to lead your men. When you get out in front, they'll follow you easily. If you're moving in sections, the platoon leader must go in the forward section. And what's almost as important is the fact that every man must know what's going on. You've got to take them into your confidence and explain the show to them. They'll always respond with better fighting."*

(See Page 24)

SERGEANT BECKER of the 1st Armored Regiment told me, and I quote: "It's a funny thing, being tank commander. You have got to run the crew, be stern, and show leadership. I had a new driver for an M3 tank. I told him to drive up a slope to a certain place and then stop. He got excited and went all the way up the hill. I told him to back up to the right place. He got excited again and went all the way back down the hill. He wouldn't listen to the inter-phone communication so I hollered to the 37 gunner to stop him, as I had my head out. Finally we stopped him and we drove up to a safe firing place and I asked him why he didn't pay attention to me. Over night, I explained how I wanted him to drive and how I wanted him to pay attention, and I told him if he didn't I would close his slot up completely and make him drive blind. That fixed him. I think I have a good driver now."

(See Page 28)

[*NOTE: Also see pages 21 and 46. These accounts do not agree and should not agree because all grades must exercise initiative and the application of principles varies according to circumstances.]

I was also told of how PRIVATE MOORE, Company "L", 6th Infantry, led a charge of 20 men to recapture a hill from which his company had been driven. PRIVATE MOORE, through his own leadership, in the absence of any commissioned or noncommissioned officer, gathered together a group of men and charged the hill, all standing up with the exception of two men who crawled up, one to throw hand grenades into a machine gun nest and the other to shoot the enemy when they came out.

LIEUTENANT COLONEL RINGSOK told me: "Frankness with your subordinate leaders is the biggest thing in leadership. The officer should be truthful. If he doesn't know, he should admit to the noncommissioned officers that he doesn't know all the answers and that they must work it out together. You can't impress the organization of the battalion too much in the States. Let them learn it there rather than have to learn it here, for it is absolutely necessary that -the men know the workings of a unit when leaders turn up missing in action and subordinates take their places."

(See Page 40)


"A reconnaissance of the field, if you are lucky enough to be able to make it. is the most important thing I can think of," LIEUTENANT COLONEL HIGHTOWER told me. "In tank fighting nothing is more important than expert reconnaissance of your routes of advance and withdrawal. Several times both we and the Germans have moved up on what we thought was a good clear route only to find a dry wash, nine or ten feet high, blocking our way, causing us to withdraw."

(See Page 19)

LIEUTENANT HILLENMEYER, also of the 1st Armored Regiment, said, "Sir, if we're going to get anywhere, we must put greater emphasis on good reconnaissance. I know of one instance where we went into battle not knowing what was there. We saw the enemy tanks go into Faid Pass and that night we had a dry run back in our concentration area. Next day when the attack came off we found the thing was a blind — the pass was covered with deadly antitank stuff. It plastered our one company that went in."

(See Page 24)

STAFF SERGEANT WILLIAM HAGLER of Company "E", 1st Armored Regiment, related this incident to me: "At Medjes-el-Bab there was little or no reconnaissance. Our infantry attacked in the morning. One platoon of tanks was supposed to follow the right flank, and it was supposed to he protected by another platoon. We had no reconnaissance other than our own on foot. We walked the tanks in. We had no orders other than to await a tank attack. The following morning about 0900 hours, we lost two tanks to the 88-mm guns. The first was the command tank. I went forward to get the crew and lost my tank by three 88-mm gun hits. Subsequently the entire command tank crew was lost by mortar fire. I was wounded and taken to the rear. I am confident that reconnaissance would have saved those two tanks. The light tanks followed us around."

(See Page 33)

LIEUTENANT McCRACKEN of the 1st Armored Regiment told me, "Everyone thought Sergeant Jackson's buddy, Sergeant Hamner, was cracked when he remarked that he saw a building moving around. But it was a German gun position. They are very smart and use houses, sand dunes, or hay stacks as gun positions. The moving building turned out to be a vehicle with windows painted on representing windows of a house."

(See Page 32)

However, it was SERGEANT FRANK SABIN, of Headquarters Company, 6th Armored Infantry, who really summed up the whole subject of reconnaissance when he said, "The battalion commanding officer and the commanding officers of the companies do better when they make reconnaissance. Seems like the battalion does 100% better when they do."

(See Page 41)


In discussing tank tactics with LIEUTENANT COLONEL HIGHTOWER, I was told, "Generally they (the Germans) try to suck you into an antitank gun trap. Their light tanks will bait you in by playing around just outside effective range. When you start after them, they turn tail and draw you in within range of their 88-mm guns. First they open up on you with their guns in depth. Then when you try to flank them you find yourself under fire of carefully concealed guns at a shorter range. We've just got to learn to pick those guns up before closing in on them."

(See Page 19)

LIEUTENANT COLONEL HIGHTOWER then added, "Take it very slowly. Germans do it that way all the time. Do not shift gears once you start, particularly in the dusk, because the backfires will give you away. Keep the tanks out of column at all times. Never travel in column, travel in 'V', line, wedge, but never in column. Stay off the roads. Get off the roads and never use them. In this country, too, we've learned to move slowly so as not to reveal our position. You can't boil up to battle at high speed without broadcasting your coming in a big cloud of dust."

(See Page 19)

LIEUTENANT THOMAS B. RUTLEDGE of the 751st Tank Battalion said, "One thing I learned: the next time we move up, before we close up on the objective, it is a good thing to look down on the ground in front of the objective and if you see anything that looks like the enemy or enemy guns, fire away at it with canister. We were so close that with keen observation, even two or three rounds or some machine gun fire would have downed many machine guns. I believe this would save us a lot of grief afterwards. We know there are lots of mines, but when approaching the objective we seem to forget those machine guns. So, instead of covering the ground in front of the objective with machine gun fire, we thought only of the objective, which was on the hill."

(See Page 52)

SERGEANT LASLEY of the 1st Armored Regiment, who had been a tank commander for eleven months and had been in several actions, told me, "When you are fired upon, if you have a good tank like an M4, you try to find out where the enemy is and fire even before you find a good position. Of course, it is best to get under cover as soon as you can. You should go from one firing position to another as a platoon. But at times, we must go on our own. Some times you must act on your own because you can see the ground that you are going on better than the platoon leader. The driver and assistant driver should assist in picking our targets. They can be on the alert and pick out targets that the gunners can't see."

(See Page 37)

Tactics as practiced by SERGEANT BUTLER'S platoon, of Company "I" of the 1st Armored Regiment, was to have one section of the platoon advance while the other section covered it. He said, "One must act on his own a great deal of the time. You can't wait to be told when to fire or where to fire. When you see something which you think worth firing upon, take the chance. The function of the officer is to keep the men together and tell them what is going on. The soldier has to use his individual judgment."

"You should keep your troops on the alert always, ready for quick movement," SERGEANT BUTLER added as an afterthought.

(See Page 40)


LIEUTENANT COLONEL HIGHTOWER, in talking about our armored tank gunnery, said, "Bore sight to beat hell but don't let the boys try to do it at 1000 yards so the axis of sight and tube coincide, because when you are shooting at 6000 yards there is no telling where it will hit. Keep your sights parallel. Bore sight on a distant object; the more distant the more effective."

(See Page 19)

Listen to what SERGEANT JAMES H. BOWSER of the 1st Armored Regiment says about gunnery: "The gunnery instruction they gave us in the States was good. No sir, I wouldn't change it. There's just one thing you must remember when you're fighting Germans. When you shoot at them they stop and try to kid you into thinking you knocked them out. Then when you turn your back on them, they open up again. Sir, we shoot until they stop and then keep shooting until they burn up. It's a good idea, too, to check your ammunition closely. Once I had to climb out of a tank during an action to ram a bent shell case out of my gun and then hurry back in before the machine guns got me."

(See Page 27)


In tank fighting, one of the most important things is to keep your tank and its weapons in good condition. In many cases you will be on your own, a long way from any maintenance equipment. As LIEUTENANT NORMAN of the 1st Armored Regiment told me, "You don't get a Goddam thing done to the tanks unless you do it yourself — and don't delay doing it. Bring lots of brushes to clean the guns."

STAFF SERGEANT WILBUR R. WHITE of the 13th Armored Regiment said, "When full maintenance is not available, look out for certain things: battery, water, keep check on control boxes in turret."

He added, "The night before this attack (at El Guettar) started, our M3 threw a track. SERGEANT McVEY and I put it back with the tools we had on the tank. The captain complimented us because if the tank had been left, Jerry would have shelled it when daylight came."

(See Page 49)


COLONEL HAINES, Commanding Officer of the 1st Armored Regiment, told me a story of the difficulty he had had for a while getting one soldier to wear his helmet. The soldier had claimed that it was too heavy. But the other day the soldier came to COLONEL HAINES and said, "I'll never be without this helmet again. You will never have trouble getting me to wear it."

When COLONEL HAINES asked him why, the soldier showed him the helmet and said, "See this dent! Just look at it!"

(See Page 30)

LIEUTENANT COLONEL HIGHTOWER told me, "Although we've knocked down several enemy aircraft we find that our men are having trouble with their leads. You've got to shoot planes as you would ducks. The big fault with our antiaircraft fire is that about 60% of it does not have enough lead. Our boys don't seem to realize the speed of those ships. The .50 caliber machine guns, however, will keep them high. German pilots seem to despise the stuff."

(See Page 19)

LIEUTENANT COLONEL HIGHTOWER then added, "We've also learned that it's important for everyone to know what to do with wounds, especially shock. Although I saw one man die of shock from a simple hand wound, I've also seen our men save almost 500 casualties by prompt treatment of their wounds with sulpha drugs and proper treatment for shock. Most of the sulpha drugs are administered by the men themselves. A couple of weeks ago one of my sergeants fixed up a man who had been severely wounded on the head and neck when he was blown off a tank. Today, the man is back in action."

(See Page 19)

STAFF SERGEANT WILBUR R. WHITE said, "When under artillery fire, stay in your tank — it's better than any foxhole." LIEUTENANT HOLTZMAN showed that he agreed with SERGEANT WHITE when he said, "The tank is the best slit trench in the world when shells or bombs are falling. I feel safe in it and stick close to it at all times."

(See Pages 49 and 35)

SERGEANT JOHN T. MAHONEY expressed his views as to personal security by saying, "In a bombing attack, don't try to run too far from your half-track. Go about 20 or 30 yards and then hit the dirt."

(See Page 43)

SERGEANT FRANK SABIN said, "Dig good foxholes. We learned in Sbeitla Valley that foxholes offered smaller area and less chance of getting hit by bombs and shrapnel."

(See Page 41)

LIEUTENANT THOMAS B. RUTLEDGE told me the following incident: "I gave the order to abandon (the tank) to the right because the gun was on the left. As we opened the door, machine gun fire started. I went to the front of the tank to see where it was coming from, and it was coming from both sides. We flattened out and started crawling. I stayed behind the rest with a Tommy gun. The driver was leading. One of those guns saw us and when one man raised up it hit him in the tail, and another man was hit in the back and another in the shoulder. Immediately I ordered everyone to freeze themselves flat to the ground."

(Sec Page 52)

SERGEANT DuHAMEL of the 60th Infantry told me, "We moved up into the hills here night before last. Yesterday I got permission to go out scouting, and took a man with me. Today I came alone and didn't tell them I was coming, because I didn't want one of those other men with me. It was because the men on patrol exposed themselves so much that I went off alone today. The commanding officer of the other company up where I am, a second lieutenant, I overheard saying he wanted to get away from this new group because they exposed themselves so much."*

(See Page 13)

SERGEANT WILLIAM T. ETRITGE of the 6th Armored Infantry had this to say: "Three main things that I think are important: the first is to keep your weapons clean — they won't fire if you don't. Stay under cover. I have had men who were not under cover and they haven't come back. Then get all the fire on the enemy that you can. It is best to keep very quiet. At any time at night whenever you make a slight noise the enemy immediately opens up with machine gun fire and mortars."

(See Page 14)

[*NOTE: On another occasion I was told the story of an American patrol of 12 men who were heard talking while out in front. They never reported back. —TJC]

"You can find anti-personnel mines if you watch closely as you go along. You can see the three prongs sticking out. About seven pounds of pressure will set them off. We have taken them out and put the pins back."

SERGEANT LELAND A. SUTHERLAND also confirmed the need to keep down when he said, "The scouts drew enemy fire. All the machine guns fired and the men had to learn one thing — that was to stay down. I lost three men. I can harp and preach but the men won't get down. I have learned that artillery couldn't hurt you if you just got down in a foxhole while the firing was going on."

"I have no experiences to relate, but have had the hell scared out of me here for a month or so. I have learned that we have to play for keeps. I think that my men are getting smarter now. In our company we have not got many replacements. We got sixteen last night. Everyone felt good to get them. I put my best men with them, I picked a good old man for each new man. The old man showed the new one just how to dig his foxhole and told him everything. We were sorry they were mostly from Cooks' and Bakers' School. We need riflemen."

(See Page 16)

STAFF SERGEANT SEABORN DUCKETT of the 6th Armored Infantry wanted me to tell you this: "The first thing is to keep your head and have good concealment. Keep your eyes open because the Germans are pretty smart and you have to keep awake to get them. At Kasserine Pass I know we lost some men by going to sleep. You got to be awake all the time.* We lost men by wanting to go to sleep. They seem to get the idea that they should have rest more than anything else. They don't get scared until it's too late.

"Up at Kasserine Pass a man didn't carry out orders that he should have, orders to move to the top of the mountain, and some of those that went to sleep didn't come out. It is necessary to obey orders."

(See Page 17)

PRIVATE JACK MOORE of the 60th Infantry, who led the charge I have already referred to, had this to say, "It seems like everything the enemy uses is designed to harrass a man. They start firing at night and the guns seem to crack overhead, and it makes it seem as if they were right on top of you. The tracers seem to have curves on them. But if you wait, and take it easy, you can soon tell where they are. They have snipers that don't have much of a chance of hitting anything but scare the hell out of you. I am not afraid of it now anymore but last Monday we took a pretty good beating from their artillery. It was our second attack, and many men were pretty scared, but you readily realize that if you are in the ground it is pretty ineffective."

(See Page 17)

[*NOTE: Another story of guards not being alert to investigate noise or trouble: Eight Italians came into an American position, killed two officers and four men, and captured six men. This incident was later reported to higher headquarters as an attack by forty enemy tanks.]

STAFF SERGEANT FRED W. ERDWINS of the 6th Armored Infantry told me, "I have never seen a man killed in a slit trench, but I did see three men killed who did not start in digging as the others did. Entrenching tools are very valuable and almost as necessary as a man's arms."

(See Page 47)

PRIVATE BLAIR H. CONARD, 6th Armored Infantry, said: "In this war there is no front. The enemy may come from the rear as the enemy tanks did to my company. We saw the tanks at the rear, but thought they were our own. One half hour later they moved up and shot hell out of our half-tracks."

(See Page 47)

LIEUTENANT WILLIAM S. NORMAN, 13th Armored Regiment, suggested, "In training, get recruits used to sound of artillery shells. Many men shiver and shake and are terrified of artillery fire. But remember when you hear the 'freight trains' coming, most of them aren't coming anywhere near you." Then he added, "The most important lesson is not to worry. Respect Jerry, but don't worry."

(See Page 48)


Many men offered suggestions for increasing the efficiency of the basic training they had taken here at Fort Knox. I mention a few of them here to show how these battle scarred veterans are thinking.

When I spoke with SERGEANT SWATZLANDER of the 1st Armored Regiment, he said to me, "Sir, if I had a brother coming in combat, I would want him to know well the functioning of the tank and all its guns. I would want him to know personal care — just how long to stay with a damaged tank before leaving it. After it has been hit it is a big fire hazard. You stay as long as you can. If you have to leave, you do it quickly."

(See Page 28)

When I asked SERGEANT HAGLER of the 1st Armored Regiment what was the most important thing for a tanker to know, he answered, "Everything. Every man must know his job and the tank commander must know them all."

(See Page 33)

LIEUTENANT HOLTZMAN suggested to me, "Try to arouse interest in learning first aid. The most valuable asset when a tank is hit is to know the use of sulpha powder and pills and the treatment of burns, puncture and laceration wounds." He also added, "Everyone in the armored force should be able to drive a tank. Everyone should be able to do everyone else's job so that he can carry on under casualties."

(See Page 35)

SERGEANT FRANK SABIN of the 6th Armored Infantry had several things to say: "I wish I had learned in the States to have a lot of real fire over my head. We got scared awfully at first. Any kind of firing over your head would help. It would still pay if you lost one or two men when you considered whole armies. The way to do it is to crawl and see where they hit, then either cross to the right or to the left. Just look and use your head. As soon as they fire fall flat on the ground, and when they reload jump up and run while they do. Experience and guts count.

"The driver should be ready no matter what happens. Should know all guns, etc. Back in the States they didn't teach that, but we have to know it here. In garrison I didn't care so much for work, but I do here, I don't mind it here. New men aren't well-trained. I had a hard time when I was first in the front lines. I was gun shy, scared. New men should work themselves in. They shouldn't be in too big a hurry. They must be cautious."

(See Page 41)

SERGEANT GEORGE CLELAND, 6th Armored Infantry, said, "Men in the States should be trained to dig foxholes. It will save lives. Foxholes are better than slit trenches because they protect a man more and you can fire out of a foxhole and you can't very well out of a slit trench.

"If I went to the States to train men the first thing I would stress to a new man is leadership. I would make the man have confidence in his leader, and train him in every weapon, camouflage, and to dig foxholes; also to cover up tin cans. (Tin cans reflect light and give away positions.)

"If you are going to harden a soldier up, keep him hardened up and don't let him get soft. Start hard training and keep it up. Men should be hardened before they go into combat.*

"In the States we didn't have enough night training. Men should be trained in use of stars for navigation. All men should be trained to know organization in the States."

(See Page 42)

SERGEANT JOHN D. MAHONEY of the 6th Armored Infantry said, "I found at Maknassy that too many men stand around the observation point and give the position away. We lost a man in a counter-battery fire that way.

"We have the most need for training in the .30 and .50 caliber machine guns. Not all our men can read a compass or a map. We should have had some training in booby traps. Don't pick up things. Watch where you step.

"I don't think the recruit training is tough enough. The new men are too soft. The more training the better. We need harder training right now so we won't get soft. Every man should know how to fire every gun in the battalion and be able to operate the radio."

(See Page 43)

LIEUTENANT KENNETH D. WARREN of the 6th Armored Infantry had the following suggestions with reference to training: "Some of our replacements have been riflemen only. We need men trained in the machine gun and in the 37-mm gun. We have had to train most of our mortar men. None knew the 75-mm gun. Men should be trained to dig in a machine gun as well as themselves. A machine gun that can be seen will draw fire just as a vehicle will."

(See Page 43)

[*NOTE: At another time I was told of a battalion which had to hike 31 miles in mountainous terrain and then enter combat without any rest. —TJC]

CAPTAIN D. A. KERSTING told me, "Recruits need much more night training before coming over. I remember spending only 4 nights out in all my night training, but here we spend 40 nights out of every 45 doing night work; night attack, night outpost, night patrol, etc. Night training should not have to be learned here when the men have to do it for record.

"The organization of the unit should be known thoroughly, not only by the leaders but by the privates and by everyone else. You should know what every person does.

"Don't shoot at any plane except when attacked. There should be no shooting at night even if bombed. All leaders should know compass reading and terrain study thoroughly. You should always drive without lights except for blackout lights away from the front lines."

(See Page 45)


To the things the soldiers and officers at the front in Tunisia tell I add the following observations:

The American tin hat is the finest military washing and laundry equipment ever given a soldier. With it soldiers can keep themselves and their clothing clean. Remember a dirty soldier is a bum and mighty liable to be a sick bum.

Our American soldiers have been our best diplomats in Africa. The soldiers like children; they have given them part of their rations to eat, a piece of candy or a piece of chocolate. The kindliness of our soldiers to these people has made friends not only of the children but of their families and all the people, and this is a priceless asset.

The smart American soldiers learned to give respect and consideration to people who talk and dress differently from themselves. The dumb American soldier is liable to jeer at anything strange. This dumb American soldier must be taught very carefully to have good manners, otherwise he can do more damage in a few minutes than a hundred smart men can ever atone for. You can figure for yourself how you would feel if a British soldier, or a French soldier, or an Arab soldier, jeered at the way you trained, or shot, or talked, or ate. Our soldiers and our officers do represent our country and they absolutely must represent it properly.

A British officer of the widest tank experience told me that our M4 tank was the finest tank in the world. He thought it was better than anything else the United Nations had and was better than anything the Germans had. He thought it would be the best tank for the next five years. The American soldiers in Africa who fought in these tanks feel the same way. The confidence and satisfaction of our soldiers in their equipment was well expressed by SERGEANT BECKER when he said, "I like the M4. I look at the German tank and thank God I am in an M4."

(See Pages 56 and 28)

Brigadier General

Captured German Mark II Tank now used in training at a North African Replacement Center

Outpost on Djebel bou Douaou — 3 April 1943


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