Salerno in the Spotlight

BY WHAT STANDARD could the Salerno landing be considered a “Battle Without a Victor” (July/August)? The Allies’ immediate objective was to land on the Italian mainland; the Germans’ was to prevent the Allies from doing so. From this perspective, the Allies were the clear victors because they met their objective and their enemy did not. It would have been great for the Allies if the Axis had suffered from a wide-scale strategic collapse, leading to a rapid rush up the peninsula. But that is a lot to expect from an initial force of three divisions plus one in reserve at Salerno, together with British landings at the lower end of the Italian boot.



AUTHOR ROBERT M. CITINO is quite correct that Allied firepower saved the Salerno landings. But salvation started a half hour before the first German counter attacks—not some days after the landings there, as implied.

The 151st Field Artillery Battalion of the 34th Infantry Division was part of the initial landing force on September 9, attached to the 36th Infantry Division. They rapidly engaged the first German Mark IV counterattacks, destroying at least seven before mid afternoon, and damaging others. No wonder the 16th Panzer only had 35 tanks operational at the end of the day, as Citino states. I can recall my father, who commanded the 155mm battalion in North Africa (the 185th), commenting long ago to me as a youngster when the 34th’s World War II history came out in 1949, that the 151st should have been awarded a Presidential Unit Citation.



Star Appearance

THE JULY/AUGUST table of contents photo shows German paratroopers riding on armored reconnaissance vehicles near Salerno. I notice the vehicles are marked with white stars. What is the significance?



The white star is primarily associated with American or Western Allied armor, but it does appear among Axis units. In this instance (reprinted above) it identifies one of eight heavy armored cars assigned to the armored reconnaissance detachment of the Luftwaffe’s Hermann Göring Panzer Division, which supported paratroopers.

BAR None

THE JULY/AUGUST “Weapons Manual” compares the belt-fed MG42 to magazine fed opponents like the American BAR and the British Bren gun—apples to oranges.

Magazine-fed weapons are truly squad deployed light machine guns. The platoon and squad-deployed MG42 was primarily a platoon-deployed light machine gun, and should not be compared to automatic rifles such as the water-cooled M-1917, the British Vickers and GPMGs, the Russian Maxim Tokarev, the French Hotchkiss and AA 7.62, and the Japanese Nambu Type II. All fall short of the MG42, but provide more accurate comparisons.



THE TRUE COMPETITION to the MG42 was (in my estimation) the M1919 A6 medium machine gun, which had a folding bipod and a clamp-on metal shoulder stock. The A6 had a handle mounted to the barrel jacket so the gunner could stand and walk. Or it could be used in a prone position, using the bipod to fire it like a rifle.

My outfit was trained on the tripod mounted A4 and, if I remember correctly, we were issued the A6 just after D-Day in 1944 when we were invited to join the fun in France. In February 1945 I was awarded a Bronze Star for carrying an A6 on a combat patrol against a German strong point at the St. Nazaire-Lorient pocket. The A6 handle was a valuable asset, since my assistant gunner/ammo carrier was seriously wounded and several other patrol members were killed.



Chiang: Fighter or Fleecer?

I READ “FDR’S CHINA Syndrome” (July/ August) with great interest, as it included rare Western coverage of Chiang Kai-shek. However, the notion that Chiang didn’t want to fight was a fabrication of Chinese Communist propaganda, and is a great dis credit to the countless Chinese Nationalist soldiers who died for their country.

It’s also worth noting that early American assistance to China in the late 1920s was exchanged for natural resources. And until the end of 1938, American arms dealers were also selling airplane parts and aerial bombs to Japan. Countless Chinese civilians died from Japanese raids. It was not until August 1940 that America halted the transfer of petroleum, metal, machinery, and military supplies to Japan.



“FDR’S CHINA SYNDROME” gives an excellent overview of the American involvement in China. It does, however, understate the corruption of the Chinese officers. Padding the cost for coffins, mentioned in the article, was a relatively minor scheme. In an August 1945 letter to Chiang Kai-shek, General Albert Wedemeyer wrote that when a soldier died, his commander would conceal the death: “His rice and his pay become a long-lasting token of memory in the pocket of his commanding officer. His family will have to forget him.” The letter can be found on page 370 of U.S. Army in World War II: Time Runs Out in CBI.



Murphy’s Croix

PAGE 11 OF THE July/August issue shows a photo of Audie Murphy’s 3rd Infantry Division uniform from the Audie Murphy/ American Cotton museum. Infantry wore blue braid, so the gold or yellow braid on the left shoulder makes me wonder if Murphy was later in a tank or cavalry unit.



The braided cord (left) is the green and red fourragère of the Croix de Guerre, faded quite a bit over time. The 3rd Infantry Division was awarded the fourragère by France for its service during World War I, and it became a standard part of its dress uniform.


The patch in the March/April “Challenge” belonged to Amphibious Task Force 9, not the Alaska Scouts. In the July/August issue, Eisenhower played contract bridge, not contact. DB-7s had two engines, not one.


Originally published in the December 2012 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.