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Hermann Göring Attack
July 11, 1943
At 6:15 AM on July 11, 1943 General Conrath, commander of the German Hermann Göring Panzer Division, started moving his attacking panzer and panzer grenadier columns, toward the port of Gela. The previous day's attacks had been uncoordinated and repulsed by the American troops of the 1stU.S. Infantry Division and the elite 1st and 4th Ranger Battalions. Now, however, after having regrouped Conrath,was ready. He had a powerful panzer force including seventeen of the Tiger I tanks (2/504 Heavy Panzer Battalion). They were almost unbeatable in battle, if they could get to the enemy front lines (they kept on constantly breaking down).
In addition the Italians the day before had severely damaged the Gela pier and do to the poor beaches and wind, no U.S. armor had yet arrived in the Gela beachhead. Patton would need the help from his tanks and naval gunfire support to be able to repel Conrath's counterattack. The German/Italian attack on the 10th was broken up by infantry/anti-tank guns and naval gunfire, which had proved to be invaluable.
On the German right flank the sixty medium tanks of the reinforced IInd Battalion of the HG Panzer Regiment overran the 2nd Battalion of the U.S. 26th Infantry Regiment/1st Infantry Division. General Conrath himself led the column of the 1st Battalion of the HG Panzer Regiment with twenty-one medium panzers and with heavy artillery support. The U.S. 2nd Battalion, most of which were recent replacements, partly broke and ran when confronted by the panzer force. The remaining 50% of the battalion stayed put and put up a fierce firefight, but to no avail. The 1st Division's center was now caved in and was in serious trouble. The 26th Infantry's anti-tank guns had not arrived being sunk on a LST. On the German left flank, Kampfgruppe Links pierced the front line breaking through the remnants of the 180th RCT. Here were the Tiger tanks and they continued on toward Gela driving the Americans to Biazzo Ridge and later penetrated the regimental command post. The Tigers were now about only two miles from Gela.
By 9:30 AM the U.S. positions were being pushed back in all sectors. General Patton had come ashore and gave much encouragement to the engineers attempting to repair the pier so his tanks could land. The U.S. 7th Army formed its final defensive positions on the sand dunes south of the coastal road almost on top of the invasion beaches. The 32nd Field Artillery deployed rapidly after just arriving on shore. In addition the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment and the 18th RCT took up these final positions awaiting the German thrust. The Shermans finally made it ashore but got stuck in the soft sand. The German forces were nearing Gela. Patton needed his tanks desperately.
Casualties, however, were mounting in the HG Panzer Division as it continued to fight toward Gela. The U.S. cruisers Savannah and Boise with the destroyer Glennonpoured round after round into the German ranks. At 11:00 AM the battle reached its climax. The navy could do no more due to the fact that both sides were too close for naval gunfire. The battle was a free for all with combat at close quarters. The U.S. 16th Infantry had been badly mauled with only 2 of 9 anti-tank guns left and had retreated into the U.S. final defensive line. The other units of the 1st Infantry and elements of the 82nd Airborne still held some of the positions in the hills.
Conrath was within 2000 yards of the beach and his gunfire had raked supply dumps and landing craft already. Victory seemed within his reach very shortly and he would push the Big Red One into the sea. The German attack, however, was halted just in front of the final defense line by the combined firepower of the U.S. 32nd Field Artillery Battalion, the 16th Cannon Company, the heavier weapons of the 18th RCT and the 41st Armored Infantry Regiment, plus four Shermans which had finally gotten off the beach. After 10 panzers were knocked out and others damaged, the German tankers hesitated and then slowly retreated. Now there was breathing room for naval gunfire and the Boise opened up on the German forces with its 6" guns. The Germans retreated faster. The American forces did not pursue so at 2:00 PM General Conrath, after failing to get his troops reorganized sufficiently to launch another attack, called off the battle retreating to his original starting positions.
Seventeen Tiger I tanks from German schwere Panzer Abteilung 504 (s.Pz.Abt. 504) fought in Sicily in 1943 against the Allied invasion forces.
When the first elements of s.Pz.Abt. 504 were sent to North Africa, the 2nd Ko. remained on Sicily with 9 Tiger I tanks. With the surrender of German forces in North Africa, the 9 Tigers of s.Pz.Abt. 504 were never shipped, but instead stayed on Sicily. Eight additional Tiger I were shipped to the unit during the summer. By the time of the Allied invasion of Sicily, s.Pz.Abt. 504 was attached to the Panzer Division Hermann Göring with 17 Tigers.
During the attack on the Allied beachhead near Gela, s.Pz.Abt. 504 lost approximately 10 Tigers on July 11-12. Further Tigers were lost in action or abandoned during July and August as German forces retreated. In August, the unit's last Tiger, tactical number 222 from photographs, was ferried across the Straits of Messina to Italy.
Hermann Göring Division
Generalleutnant Paul Conrath
Brigade HQ (for special employment)
1 Panzer Grenadier Regiment
Panzer Regiment HG
Panzer Reconnaissance Battalion
Panzer Pioneer (Engineer) Battalion
Panzer Artillery Regiment HG
Flak Regiment HG(-)
Supply and Service units
115th PzG Regiment - (Schmalz)
2 infantry battalions (Arrived on 11 July)
3rd Parachute Regiment (1st Parachute Division) - (Schmalz)
4th Parachute Regiment (1st Parachute Division) - (Schmalz)
remnants Fallschirm Engineer and MG Battalions, Signal company (1st Parachute Division) - (Schmalz)
Tiger tank company, 215th Tank Battalion
Fortress Battalion 904 - (Schmalz)
Fortress Battalion 923 - (Schmalz)
Fortress Battalion ‘Reggio’ - (Schmalz)
Peter H wrote:I have seen a figure of TOTAL German losses in Sicily of 29,000 men,all divisions and units.The Germans evacuated around 40,000 men.
I think the casualty figure is overstated.This is around a 40% loss rate.
Samuel Mitcham's The Battle of Sicily: How the Allies Lost Their Chance for Total Victory gives around 12,000 Germans killed or captured,add wounded and the figure is around 20,000.This would work out to be around 4,000 killed,missing,8,000 wounded,8,000 captured. With around the equivalent of 4 German divisions involved this would mean losses of 5,000 men per division on average.
Italian losses are given as 140,000(mainly prisoners).Allied losses around 24,000 men.
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