Home » Army » Colonel Gavin, Commander 505th PIR’s summary of battles near Ponte Dirillo

Colonel Gavin, Commander 505th PIR’s summary of battles near Ponte Dirillo

“Elements of the 1st Battalion of the Regiment landed exactly where they were supposed to: on and off the high ground overlooking the airfield about 5 kilometers northeast of the city of Gela. The 1st Battalion, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Arthur F. Gorham, accompanied by elements of the 3rd Battalion of the 504th, engaged a Kampfgruppe[i] of the Hermann Goering Panzer Division at once. There were supposed to be no Germans (except a few technicians) on the island, and I could not believe the first reports that were coming in; the German Panzers were everywhere in large numbers. The troopers went to work and in a short while learned that the Panzer Infantry was quite manageable and our Infantry could stop them. The Tiger Tanks, though, were something else. Equipped with 4-112 inches of armor that on a slant amounted to 6 inches, and 88 MM. guns that the Germans used against the Infantry, and which was probably the most formidable antitank weapon in the world at that time; with an overall weight of 60 tons the Tiger Tank was something that one would never forget after the first encounter. The Germans launched their counterattack in two columns: the western column from the vicinity of Niscemi, and the eastern column from the vicinity of Biscari. This column contained a company of Tigers. It was this battalion that I became engaged with on the morning of July 11th. It was about 10 kilometers east of its planned objective and, from the outset, the German Panzer battle group was astride the road that we needed to get to our objective area where the 1st Battalion had landed. At the end of the day’s hard fighting we made a last counterattack, and the German Infantry broke and ran from the battlefield, and, thus, we were able to join with the 1st Battalion near Gela.”

 

[i] 1. The Kampfgruppe was an ad hoc combined arms formation, usually employing combination of tanksinfantry, and artillery (including anti-tank) elements, generally organiz1ed for a particular task or operation.

Kampfgruppe could range in size from a corps to a company, but the most common was an Abteilung (battalion)-sized formation. Kampfgruppen were generally referred to by either their commanding officer’s name or the parent division.


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