753rd Tank Battalion
The M3 Medium Tank used in Italian Campaign by 753rd Tank Battalion
The 753rd Tank Battalion was officially activated on June the 1st, 1941 at Fort Benning, Georgia. The unit was initially only 35 officers and 116 enlisted men since before being converted into the 753rd, it was Company A of the 73rd Medium Tank Battalion. Shortly after activation it was sent to Camp Polk, Louisiana and attached to the General HQ Reserve where they received another 507 enlisted men fresh out of Fort Knox's Armored Forces Training Center. Initially the unit was issued early war vehicles and it wasn't until early 1942 that the battalion began getting modernized with M3 Lee Medium Tanks. From early 1942 to April 24th of 1943 the unit would get issued and trained on the M4A1 Sherman as well as working with other divisions including assisting in tank destroyer training at Fort Hood, Texas.
|M3 Light Tank|
For 33 days the unit would be in transit to North Africa landing near Oran. They would spend 6 weeks in Algeria preparing for the coming assault, Sicily.
What made the 753rd so unique, is that they were designed as a modular combat unit to reinforce infantry and other gaps in the lines. On July 10th at 1400, Company C of the 753rd attached to 3rd Battalion, 157th Infantry make landfall on Blue Beach near Gela, Sicily. Using rapid advance and flanking, they support infantry and destroy five Italian light tanks near the Comiso Airport. On July 11th Company A would land at 00:30 and be followed by Company B with HQ at 12:30.
The 39 day Campaign would find itself as a fast reaction force to respond to urgent calls of armor support. They would end up supporting the 157th, 179th, 180th Infantry Regiments as well as the 16th, 18th, 26th, and the 7th and 30th of the 45th Infantry Division, 1st Infantry Division, and 3rd Infantry Division as well as 3 calls for support from the 82nd Airborne Division. Towards the end of the campaign they were assigned to a task force with the 1st ID around the 70th Tank Battalion and placed under direct control of 2nd US Corps under Lt. Gen Omar Bradley, who would accommodate them for their efforts. This would result in B Company receiving the Presidential Unit Citation for their efforts. They were well liked by the Infantry as they were considered always on hand and dependable. During actions at Messina, their rapid advance and aggressive support of troops knocked out 9 enemy combat trucks and AT guns including two towed 8.8cm guns. The aggressive push forced the troops to abandon up to 32 enemy vehicles including some light tanks. The 753rd was known for pushing their units so hard that in July 23rd a report went to 2nd Army Corps from C Company with the following, "Tanks are Beginning to break down continuously for lack of 50 and 100 hour checks"
Their direct efforts in the 6 week campaign directly resulted in assisting the various Infantry Divisions with up to around 1100 enemy PoW's captured and over 100 enemy vehicles and guns destroyed with 28 being enemy tanks.
|M4A1 Medium Tank|
Many of the vehicles used during the Italian Campaign can be found in game. The M3 Light Tank was used by C Company along with the M3 Medium Tank, and the M4A1 Medium tank with the M3 Light tank were used by A and B Company along side the M3 Medium Tank. The M3 Medium tank was actually preferred by the unit over the M4 Medium tank at the time as the 37mm was effective against Italian armor which allowed them to engage multiple targets at once with the 75mm gun and 37mm. This was especially so at Messina.
The 753rd would time and time again prove their worth, in battles at Salerno, San Pietro, Monte Porchia, Cassino, and Rome. When they got to Rome, the Unit was slightly reorganized. Due to their rapid response nature they expanded the unit with a D Company, replacing their M3 light tanks with M7 105mm howitzers for direct and indirect fire support for infantry and the battalion.
After reorganizing and refitting including replacing their M3 Medium tanks with M4 Medium tanks, the unit would go into France in Operation Dragoon. The 753rd would gain popularity for what would occur during this operation. Task Force Butler with Brig. General Butler of VI US Corps was tasked with breaking north from the beachhead to cut off retreating German Forces. With only a Brigade of troops, the 753rd with Butler would push 235 miles in 10 days capturing key towns and points and inflicting major damage to the German 19th Army. To quote Colonel Anthony Daskevich II at the US Army War College,
"The 753rd provided a major share of the armored firepower of Task Force Butler and played a crucial role in its operations. Over the course of the operation, the 753rd battalion commander and operations officer each commanded separate, independently-maneuvering combined arms teams within the fast-moving operation. The battalion’s actions proved essential to Task Force Butler’s success, inflicting heavy casualties on retreating German forces and destroying large amounts of enemy materiel, particularly in the vicinities of villages of Montelimar, Gap, and Loriel."
From this point on to May 10th, the Battalion would have a unit in combat for over 260 continuously up until near the end of the European Theatre of War.
The unit would later fight in Korea from March 20th 1949 to November 10th 1951.
Time and time again the unit has served with Honour and kept to their mission. To close and support friendly troops and destroy the enemy by use of mobility, firepower, and combined arms.
Author: Stephen "Azumazi" Hembree