Tuesday, June 30, 2009

HG at Salerno

Some extracts from Salerno— A Defender’s View By Winfried Heinemann Army History Spring 2008

..."While the major Allied force did indeed land along the plain south of Salerno, light troops attacked into the mountains west of Salerno. U.S. Rangers first captured the coastal village of Maiori, and British Commandos took Vietri. Both then qickly ascended the dorsal mountain rdge of the Sorrento Peninsula, wresting control of a section of the ridge from the Germans and seizing the heights overlooking the Naples-Salerno road, along which mechanized reinforcements would have to pass. The Germans had not anticipated any assault on these heights and had left the area virtually undefended. Part of their counterattack would now have to be diverted to regain control of the mountainous Sorrento Peninsula.

General Balck’s XIV Panzer Corps reacted by ordering its Hermann Göring Panzer Division to advance into the area, with its armored reconnaissance battalion sent in advance of the main body to operate under the 16th Panzer Division’s command until the headquarters of the Hermann Göring Division reached the area. In particular, the reconnaissance battalion was to stop the Allied advances from Maiori and Vietri. Now, this was no easy task for an armored unit, as the ridge rises steeply on both sides to heights of
over 1,000 meters (some 3,300 feet) above sea level, and the roads were narrow, winding, and difficult to negotiate—ideal terrain for Rangers and Commandos, but not for tanks, especially tanks hampered once again by fuel constraints.17

By about noon, the battalion’s advanced elements established contact with the 16th Panzer Division’s organic reconnaissance element, the 16th Reconnaissance Battalion,
north of the ridge at Nocera, about 13 kilometers (8 miles) northwest of Salerno, as the latter battalion had been pushed that far back during the morning. The Hermann Göring Division’s reconnaissance battalion then tried to dislodge the Rangers
from the ridge south of Nocera but throughout the entire day failed to do so. The push along the road toward the town of Salerno ended at Cava de Tirreni, four or five kilometers north of the objective.18 To reinforce this battalion, the XIV Panzer Corps tasked Col. Wilhelm Schmalz, the Hermann Göring Division’s deputy commander, with forming a regimental-size combat team to assist the 16th Panzer
Division.19 As this would leave the Hermann Göring sector weakened in the face of a possible subsequent Allied landing further north, the corps ordered the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division to send replacements from the Rome area.20"...

..."During the day, the main body of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division arrived in the area between Naples and Salerno, concentrating around Nocera. As the 16th Panzer
Division’s armored reconnaissance battalion was already fighting in that area, Vietinghoff placed it under the Hermann Göring Division’s operational control."...

..."Another change in German command arrangements was implemented on 12 September. The Hermann Göring Panzer Division was relieved of responsibility for the Gulf
of Naples and told to concentrate on winning the battle for the heights north of Maiori and Vietri. The division managed to take and hold the heights above Vietri despite murderous naval gunfire. The 16th Panzer Division’s reconnaissance
battalion, still operating as part of the Hermann Göring Division, pushed south to within two kilometers of Salerno, but it too encountered increasing Allied resistance during the afternoon.32"....

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