No one doubted that the enemy would attack again in central Tunisia; the only question was where. The movements of his mobile, armored troops were attentively watched, for they would deliver the blow. The 21st Panzer Division was known to be in the Faïd˝Maknassy area. The 10th Panzer Division had shifted southeastward from the Medjerda valley so that most of it was in the vicinity of Kairouan, opposite the French XIX Corps. The Italian 131st (Centauro) Armored Division was northwest of Gabès in position extending up toward El Guettar and Gafsa. The 15th Panzer Division was near the Mareth Position in southern Tunisia. There were indications that an attack might be made toward Pichon, either by way of Fondouk el Aouareb gap or by one of the routes north of it. Various signs seemed to point to enemy attacks along more than one axis. The evidence led Col. B. A. Dickson, II Corps Intelligence Officer (G-2), to warn of a main attack on Gafsa from Gabès plus a major diversionary effort in the Pichon or Pont-du-Fahs areas. To the Military Intelligence Division of the War Department, the enemy's situation seemed to indicate a major attack on the Sfax-Tébessa axis and an auxiliary attack from Kairouan moving west and northwest.1
General Eisenhower had hoped that the Allies could stabilize the front and at the same time free a force large enough to retake Faïd pass. In view of enemy capabilities this hope could not be realized. Instead, General Anderson decided to abandon a contemplated counteroffensive from Le Kef to Faïd, to concentrate mobile armored forces at Fériana and Sbeïtla, with forward elements in the vicinity of Gafsa and Faïd, and to hold the existing Allied positions from Medjez el Bab to Pichon against all but the strongest enemy pressures. Provision was made for temporarily switching the bulk of Allied tactical air support, which would
normally be assigned to the northern sectors, to central Tunisia when necessary.2
AndersonŰs revised mission became that of protecting airfields at Souk el Khemis, Tébessa, and Thélepte for continuous use by Allied air units, and of securing the openings at Medjez el Bab and Bou Arada through which the First Army would make its ultimate attack on Tunis in conjunction with Eighth Army. Second in importance only to this paramount role was another mission: recapture of the defiles held by the enemy, in order to improve the Allied position when the final offensive began, and to interfere with the enemy's line of communications on the coastal plain. Anderson was to avoid "costly failures" injurious to morale by committing sufficient forces in any attack. Finally, he was directed to keep the mobile striking forces in the south well concentrated in order to strike en masse when the need should arise, and to forego for the present the intended assembly of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division in army reserve near Guelma.3
Allied Dispositions, 13 February
British First Army undertook to reorganize its 5 Corps front while the enemy's attack was being prepared, partly to restore the many small units separated from their parent organizations and partly to achieve the long-deferred establishment of a substantial First Army reserve. The withdrawal of 10th Panzer Division from positions along the northern front into a mobile reserve farther south, the arrival of the British 46th Division, in the forward area, and the introduction into the French sector of elements of the U.S. 1st and 34th Infantry Divisions--all made it possible to consider withdrawing the British 6th Armoured Division from the Bou Arada valley into army reserve. The division was to be refitted near Rhardimaou with new Sherman tanks which were being brought in via Bône, and was to relinquish its own lighter tanks for use by the French. Orders on 12 February specified relief of the British 6th Armoured Division between 15 and 28 February; the 16/5 Lancers had already begun to leave its old tanks at a depot at Ebba Ksour on 12 February preparatory to receiving the Shermans.4 Forward areas would be held during the reorganization by a smaller concentration of infantry than heretofore. To offset this weakness General Anderson prescribed that each likely route of approach by enemy armor be heavily mined, that the mine fields be covered by infantry and artillery, that a mobile reserve be kept in each sector, and that observation be continuous and be supplemented at night by energetic patrolling. The much desired army reserve, once in being, would make it possible to counter each Axis thrust without improvising formations for each defensive operation.
The 133d and 135th Combat Teams, U.S. 34th Infantry Division, made the long wintry journey from the Oran area to Tunisia during the second week of February. They were ordered to relieve French units from the Algiers Division, and indeed, Col. Robert W. Ward's 135th Infantry had barely completed that process near Pichon before the enemy's attack began. The 133d
Combat Team (Col. Ray C. Fountain) farther west was then diverted to the vicinity of Hadjeb el Aïoun. The 34th Division (General Ryder) took control as the enemy's attack started.
General Allen's U.S. 1st Infantry Division (less Combat Teams 18 and 26) remained under General Koeltz's command and in positions in the Ousseltia valley. The 18th Combat Team farther north was withdrawn on 13-14 February by British 5 Corps into reserve preparatory to transfer to the French XIX Corps. The unit was scheduled to relieve the British 36th Brigade in the Rebaa Oulad Yahia valley later that month. It would thereby extend the American-held portion of General Koeltz's front before the end of February, while the 26th Combat Team would come from General Fredendall's corps about 3 March to relieve French troops scheduled for rest and reequipment. These arrivals would reunite the U.S. 1st Infantry Division after almost three months of dispersal. In the Pichon area was the French Light Armored Brigade which had passed to the command of General St. Didier on 6 February.5
The southern flank of the French Corps was covered on the eve of the attack by Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division. This force, which included 110 medium tanks and 69 guns, and was directly under First Army control, was east of Maktar. Next to it on the south was Colonel Stack's Combat Command C, of the same division, a somewhat weaker group, and south of that unit was General McQuillin's Combat Command A, reinforced by the 168th Combat Team (less 1st Battalion) under Colonel Drake, both controlled by II Corps through Headquarters, 1st Armored Division.6
Headquarters, U.S. 1st Armored Division, near Sbeïtla and the division reserve there were connected through Kasserine with French and American units at Fériana, Gafsa, and El Guettar. At Fériana, a small force of all arms was assembling under command of Colonel Stark. At Gafsa, and southeast of it at the village of El Guettar, was the extreme south wing of the active Allied front. The Allied high command, after some irresolution, determined that Gafsa could not be strengthened enough to hold it against any probable enemy force. In case of necessity, the Gafsa force would be evacuated toward Fériana, where a counterattack in sufficient strength could be mounted. In the Advance Headquarters, II Corps, at the Hotel de France in Gafsa, Col. Frederic B. Butler relieved General Porter and with Colonel Morlière of the Constantine Division directed operations by a mixed American and French command as far as El Guettar.7 The arc from Sbeïtla through Kasserine and Fériana to Gafsa and El Guettar was screened to the east and south by security detachments and beyond them, by roving patrols. The latter were conducted for II Corps by Squadrons B and D, 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry.
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and General Anderson met at General Fredendall's headquarters near Tébessa on 13 February to
The Dorsal Positions in Central Tunisia
13˝18 February 1943
review the disposition of forces, American, British, and French. (Map 10.) The Commander in Chief, Allied Force, then concluded that they were "as good as could be made pending the development of an actual attack and in view of the great value of holding the forward regions, if it could possibly be done." During the night, he went forward as far as Sbeïtla and Sidi Bou Zid, getting back to Tébessa a little before daylight. All along the line from Pont-du-Fahs to Gafsa, the word had been flashed from First Army's headquarters in Laverdure late on 13 February that an attack would be made by the enemy the next day.8
The Enemy's Intentions
The enemy had considered making the forthcoming attack ever since Rommel in November first pointed out the advantages of combining his retreating force with that already in Tunisia in order to gain the margin of superiority necessary for a drive into Algeria.9 On 4 February, when the volume of logistical support to Tunisia had not yet reached a level which could sustain a drive for long, Rommel revived his suggestion in another memorandum to Comando Supremo. Rommel then proposed that he leave part of his army at the Mareth Position in order with its mobile portion to strike Gafsa from the southeast while mobile elements of von Arnim's command hit simultaneously from the northeast.10 The situation, Rommel believed, was temporarily propitious. The longer the attack was postponed, the greater the likelihood that the British Eighth Army could hamper its full execution, and the stronger the American forces to be overcome. On the other hand, should no such attack be attempted, the Allies would be far more likely to succeed in pinning down von Arnim's army while striking that of Rommel from both the front and the rear. The conditions for success therefore seemed to be: swift and surprising attack within the next few days; concentrated attack by superior forces; and unified command disregarding the boundary between the two Axis Army zones.
The German high command had already formulated plans to establish a unified command when the presence of two Axis armies in Tunisia made such a headquarters necessary, but at this juncture, conditions made them unready to put those plans in effect. Operations as aggressive as those which Rommel was advocating would lack the degree of control essential to success. As soon as possible, Axis strategy required the extension westward of the bridgehead near Tunis so that it embraced at least the Djebel Abiod˝Medjez el Bab road. The plans for the attacks on Sidi Bou Zid and Gafsa were therefore essentially defensive in concept. Because the Axis command left the ground forces to be co-ordinated rather than commanded, a swift adjustment of plans to take advantage of opportunities could not be made.
Fifth Panzer Army had independent plans for the employment of both 10th Panzer Division and 21st Panzer Division. It also controlled the growing Division Centauro. Its southern boundary extended to the 34th parallel until 12 February, when the area for which Rommel's army was responsible was extended northward to include Gafsa, Sened, and Sfax, covering an area vital to the security of that army but beyond its power to defend effectively against strong simultaneous attacks there and in southern Tunisia. Thus the planning for what Rommel referred to as a "Gafsa operation" involved the use of troops chiefly controlled by von Arnim. The latter was planning to push back that part of the Allied forward line which ran between Pichon and Maknassy, using all his mobile troops not otherwise inextricably committed elsewhere.11
Comando Supremo first ordered an attack against the Gafsa area, primarily to destroy Allied forces, and only secondarily to gain territory. In this operation Rommel would command all armored and mobile elements of the two Panzer armies not absolutely indispensable to operations on other fronts. The 10th Panzer and 21st Panzer Divisions from the northern army and the 15th Panzer Division from the southern force would be supported by Fliegerkorps Tunis.12
When Kesselring, Rommel, and von Arnim met on 9 February to discuss these orders, the most recent reconnaissance reports revealed that American units were leaving Gafsa for more northerly stations. The two army commanders then revised the plans. The attack was now to consist of an initial operation against Sidi Bou Zid by Fifth Panzer Army, using 10th Panzer and 21st Panzer Divisions, and a later joint attack under Rommel's command against Gafsa by a Kampfgruppe taken from the German Africa Corps and supported by elements of the 21st Panzer Division. Comando Supremo revised its directive and Kesselring approved the plans to execute it.13
The armored strength of the Axis forces available for the attack at Sidi Bou Zid exceeded 200 Mark III and Mark IV tanks, plus 11 or 12 Mark VI Tigers. The 10th Panzer Division had 110 tanks in four battalions; 21st Panzer Division, 91 tanks in three battalions; and Division Superga had an attached German company with several Tigers. By delaying the attack on Gafsa until the elements of the 21st Panzer Division could also take part, a force of some 160 tanks might be employed there. The armored units to be drawn from south Tunisia came to 53 German and 17 Italian tanks.14 The Axis forces were matched by the 1st Armored Division, which had 202 medium and 92 light tanks in operation, and lighter armored vehicles and artillery that considerably outnumbered those of the attacking force.15 The American division, if concentrated, could provide formidable opposition
to the forthcoming attack. But since its tanks had lighter armor and guns of shorter range, it would have to outnumber its opponents in a battle if its opposition was to be effective.
Allocation of Axis forces to the two successive operations remained a matter of negotiation for about a week. Rommel was inclined to exaggerate the resistance still to be expected at Gafsa, and in addition to obtaining a promise of the major part of the 21st Panzer Division, nibbled at the rest of von Arnim's mobile armored units. Thus the blow at the southern flank of the British First Army in February originated as two separate, if related, operations under different commands. The first was an effort by von Arnim to complete his hold on the Eastern Dorsal from Faïd north to Pichon, and perhaps to push the Allies well to the west. The second was Rommel's endeavor to disperse and destroy the American II Corps in the general vicinity of Gafsa. When the first had been completed, the second could start, and von Arnim planned, after relinquishing the 21st Panzer Division, to bring as much as possible of 10th Panzer Division northward along the western edge of the Eastern Dorsal to gain full possession of the gaps at Fondouk el Aouareb and Pichon, and to roll up the Allied line north of Pichon. Beyond Sidi Bou Zid and Gafsa, the forces committed to these two operations were expected only to engage in reconnaissance toward Sbeïtla and Fériana, respectively.16
Axis Plans for Taking Sidi Bou Zid and Gafsa
The Fifth Panzer Army's attack against Sidi Bou Zid was placed under the direct command of General von Arnim's chief of staff, General Heinz Ziegler, and designated Operation FRUEHLINGSWIND on 8 February. (Map 11) The 10th Panzer Division (now commanded by General von Broich) was ordered to move from its position near Kairouan by night marches, assemble east of Faïd pass, get through before daybreak, and launch an attack along the Faïd-Sbeïtla road.17 The nonmotorized units of the 21st Panzer Division (Colonel Hildebrandt), which had been stationed near Faïd since 31 January, would participate in a second phase of the attack against Sidi Bou Zid; but the division's mobile elements were to pass along the coastal side of the mountain chain to Maïzila pass, about twenty miles farther south, and then to approach Sidi Bou Zid from the south and southwest.18 The 10th Panzer Division organized three assault groups: groups Gerhardt and Reimann, and a reserve force. Group Gerhardt was to open the operation by crossing Faïd pass, then swinging to the northwest around Djebel Lessouda (644) to neutralize its defenders and to bar intervention from the direction of Sbeïtla or Hadjeb el Aïoun. This force was built around the 7th Panzer Regiment (less a battalion), and a battalion of the 69th Panzer Grenadier Regiment. Group Reimann was to proceed along the highway
Battle of Sidi Bou Zid
14˝15 February 1943
from Faïd to Sbeïtla toward the southeastern corner of Djebel Lessouda, and then to turn southwesterly for an attack on Sidi Bou Zid. This aggregation included the 86th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (less a battalion) and a company of heavy Tiger tanks, plus one platoon of 88-mm. dual-purpose guns, as well as supplementary infantry, engineers, and artillery. The reserve (Kampfgruppe Lang) consisted of the 10th Motorcycle Battalion reinforced by armored engineers, an antitank gun platoon and two 88-mm. dual-purpose gun detachments. From the hills east of Faïd, most of the artillery of both the 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions would be employed to support the infantry attack.19
The 21st Panzer Division was organized for the operation into two combat teams: Kampfgruppe Schuette (with Headquarters, 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment) and Kampfgruppe Stenkhoff (with Headquarters, 5th Panzer Regiment). The core of each was a battalion of tanks, reinforced with armored infantry, supporting artillery, and flak. Schuette was to open Maïzila pass for the main body of the division, and turn north against Sidi Bou Zid. While this secondary attack was driving the Allied troops back to the village and containing them there, Stenkhoff's group reinforced by a second battalion of tanks, was to execute a wide flanking maneuver. This move would take his force as far west as Bir el Hafey, about 25 miles cross country from Maïzila pass. During this move, whose difficulty was by no means underestimated by General Ziegler, Colonel Stenkhoff's group would be protected on the southern flank by the 580th Reconnaissance Battalion (reinforced). From Bir el Hafey, Stenkhoff was to swing to the northeast and bear down on Sidi Bou Zid. This maneuver, if executed in time, would enable Stenkhoff's group to co-operate with units of the 10th Panzer Division, Group Schuette, and nonmobile elements located at Aïn Rebaou pass, closing a ring around the Allied force in Sidi Bou Zid. A force would be sent to clear the Allies from Djebel Garet Hadid (620) in order to deny its usefulness for observation. If the rather exacting schedule of the operation could be met by the 21st Panzer Division, Combat Command A (reinforced), 1st Armored Division, would be caught and annihilated.20
The other operation, that against Gafsa, was planned and conducted by the German Africa Corps (DAK) staff. The Kampfgruppe DAK which they assembled was a composite German-Italian force in division strength consisting of infantry and armored units supported by artillery, flak, and miscellaneous other detachments. It was placed under the command of Colonel Freiherr Kurt von Liebenstein, formerly commanding officer of the 164th Light Africa Division.21 Kampfgruppe DAK was to move against Gafsa from the southeast. The elements approaching it from Gabès would be joined by mobile Italians at their station near El Guettar. Mobile elements would be drawn from the 21st Panzer Division operating
37-MM ANTITANK GUN (M3A1) AND CREW wait for the expected enemy column through Faïd Pass, 14 February 1943.
in the area of Sidi Bou Zid to reinforce the DAK for its drive on Gafsa. The objective was the Gafsa basin, but Rommel in persistent adherence to his original proposals had in mind the possibility of exploiting as far as Tébessa.22
On 13 February, Rommel, von Arnim, and General Hans Seidemann, the Luftwaffe commander, met General Ziegler and his division commanders at La Fauconnerie east of Faïd pass to review plans, confirm boundaries, and reach full understanding of respective roles and missions. Rommel was inclined to be pessimistic about what lay ahead of the force approaching Gafsa, but von Arnim was confident that the bulk of the American forces would be drawn to his front, and that Gafsa would be lightly held. Ziegler again assured Rommel that the 21st Panzer Division would be detached at the first possible moment to reinforce von Liebenstein. Then Ziegler and Colonel Heinz Pomptow, his operations officer, went to the hills overlooking Faïd village and the Sidi Bou Zid plain for a final reconnaissance before the attack.23
The Battle of Sidi Bou Zid, 14 February
Combat Command A was waiting for the enemy column which came through Faïd pass at 0630, 14 February. Plans had been prepared to cope with possible enemy moves through that defile or through the gaps immediately north or south of it. In compliance with the II Corps orders of 11 February, a "Lessouda Force" of infantry, tanks, artillery, and tank destroyers, commanded by Lt.
Col. John K. Waters, executive officer of the 1st Armored Regiment, had been stationed on Djebel Lessouda, north of Sidi Bou Zid.24 Engineers assisted in preparing defensive positions on the hill. The force sent out patrols each night. The tanks, tank destroyers, and artillery occupied varying positions on the flat during the day, and retired after dark to others within the defensive area where they remained until just before daylight. The Lessouda Force was expected to block an attack until a mobile armored reserve of about forty tanks (3d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment) under Lt. Col. Louis V. Hightower, stationed nearer Sidi Bou Zid than the Lessouda Force, counterattacked. An artillery-infantry observation post on Djebel Lessouda was in communication with the command posts of both Lessouda Force and Combat Command A, 1st Armored Division, in Sidi Bou Zid.
A similar arrangement was made by the 168th Combat Team (less 1st and 2d Battalions) and a platoon of the 109th Engineers on Djebel Ksaïra (560), under Colonel Drake. The 91st Field Artillery Battalion (less Battery B) and 2d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery Regiment (155-mm. howitzers), were placed astride the Sidi Bou Zid-Aïn Rebaou road at the base of Djebel Ksaïra, where they were protected by elements of the 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP). From an observation post there, watchers could note enemy activity along the road to Meheri Zebbeus. On 13 February, a strong northwest wind smothered all sounds except of tank motors to the east after dark, but though faint they were heard and reported. All units were therefore alerted and trains were ordered back to Sbeïtla. At 2130, Colonel Waters conferred at Combat Command A's command post in Sidi Bou Zid with General McQuillin and Col. Peter C. Hains, III, commanding officer of the 1st Armored Regiment. Waters then returned to Djebel Lessouda to await the enemy.25
Elements of the 86th Panzer Grenadier Regiment and the 7th Panzer Regiment began emerging from Faïd pass onto the misty plain about 0630, 14 February. As they started northwestward toward Djebel Lessouda they encountered some of the patrolling tanks of Company G, 1st Armored Regiment, under command of Maj. Norman Parsons.26 Early in the action Major Parsons' tank was knocked out, and with it all radio communications with Colonel Waters was destroyed at a time when light was not yet sufficient for direct observation that far from Djebel Lessouda. The prepared artillery barrage on Faïd pass was consequently not requested. But the Americans soon recognized that a tank battle was in progress near the pass, the proportions of which could not yet be appreciated. "To clear up the situation," Combat Command A sent Companies H and I, 1st Armored Regiment, and most of Company A, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion (75-mm. guns), up the road from Sidi Bou Zid to Poste de Lessouda. As the men got started, the first of several Axis air strikes in the area that day began. Then they were
warned from Djebel Lessouda that about twenty Mark IV tanks were at Poste de Lessouda, apart from whatever force was still engaged near the pass. The American armored force under Colonel Hightower came within sight and range of the enemy a few minutes later, and was subjected to fire from what were believed to be 88-mm. guns and from perhaps as many as four Mark VI Tiger tanks. Hightower's men might have cleared up doubts concerning the strength of the enemy, but they were outranged and were unable to drive him off or destroy him.
The next discoveries reported from Djebel Lessouda were that the first engagement near the pass had ended without information of what had become of Company G, 1st Armored Regiment, and that there was movement toward the northern end of the hill by an enemy force of eighty armored vehicles and trucks. By 0900, the enemy's strength already on the western side of Djebel Lessouda was described as thirty-nine Mark IV tanks, perhaps a few Mark VI's, and mobile infantry. This force moved very slowly southward toward the road from Faïd to Sbeïtla, firing on the slopes of Djebel Lessouda as it passed. Colonel Hightower was warned of the approach of this second force which might cut him off. He redirected Company H, 1st Armored Regiment, to delay the enemy, and with Lt. Col. Charles P. Summerall, Jr.'s, 91st Field Artillery Battalion (less Battery B, which had been in the path of the first attack and was now about to be caught again, this time from the rear) opposed this strong northern prong of the enemy attack by fire and maneuver. American losses were heavy, and, in the last hour of the morning, the unequal contest ended in a withdrawal southwestward.
Heavy attacks by dive bombers and fighter-bombers between 1000 and 1100 supported ground attacks on Sidi Bou Zid from Faïd village and Aïn Rebaou pass. These ground attacks were intended to pin down General McQuillin's forces and permit the armored columns to close in from the northwest and southwest. The enemy's drive was recognized as too powerful for the defenders, but they held on under division orders as the situation deteriorated. The 2d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery, was ordered from its exposed positions east of Sidi Bou Zid to an area southwest of the village. As it moved back by batteries, enemy dive bombers repeatedly struck it and eventually destroyed it as a fighting unit.27
At the same time that the 10th Panzer Division and part of the 21st Panzer Division were preparing to attack through Faïd pass, the mobile elements of the 21st Panzer Division had moved southward to Maïzila pass, and after darkness 13-14 February, started through it. The first elements of Kampfgruppe Schuette followed by the 5th Panzer Regiment began emerging from a path through a mine field there shortly after 0600. The soft sand of the road through the pass proved hard going for the tanks and slowed the rate of advance. Reconnaissance to the north revealed no Allied threat. Indeed, no contact with Allied forces occurred until, at 0920, low-flying planes strafed one of the marching columns.28 But at 0940, Company C, 81st Reconnaissance Battalion, reported to the 1st Armored Division that twenty unidentified vehicles were
emerging from Maïzila pass, ten going west and ten north. A little later, Company A in the pass south of Djebel Matleg (477) was cut off and captured with all its vehicles.
The road from Maïzila pass to Sidi Bou Zid ran between Djebel Ksaïra on the east and Djebel Garet Hadid on the west. The elements of Colonel Drake's command which moved onto Djebel Garet Hadid during the morning attack saw an enemy force of about thirty vehicles, approaching along this road at noon, a force they had been warned to expect. They engaged it in the defile, the skirmish continuing throughout the afternoon. This column, an advance element of Kampfgruppe Schuette was joined by the remainder of that group late in the afternoon.29 Meanwhile, Group Stenkhoff, the main force of the 21st Panzer Division, pushed along the northern edge of Djebel Meloussi (622) under the eyes of its commander, Colonel Hildebrandt, screened to the west and south by the 580th Reconnaissance Battalion. Progress was interrupted chiefly by muddy dips in the plain or mechanical failures in some of the vehicles. Opposition on the ground was nil.
Group Stenkhoff reached Bir el Hafey on the Gafsa˝Sidi Bou Zid highway about noon, assembled, and at 1345 proceeded in force northeastward along the highway toward Sidi Bou Zid, some eighteen miles distant.
Reports of the battle filtering through from General Ward's headquarters to that of General Fredendall near Tébessa were sketchy. The successive appearance of the enemy's armored groups left total numbers in considerable doubt. The reported loss of artillery and the identification of Mark VI's among the enemy tanks brought early requests from the division for reinforcing artillery. The II Corps shifted a battery of the 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion and two platoons of Company A, 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, from Fériana to Sbeïtla.
General Ward at first did not consider the situation grave,30 but when towards noon, the loss of about half the tanks of Hightower's 3d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, was reported, along with the fact that the force south of Sidi Bou Zid was described as very substantial, it became clear that not only had Djebel Lessouda been surrounded but that Colonel Drake's troops were marooned on Djebel Ksaïra and Djebel Garet Hadid. It also became apparent that elements of McQuillin's force in and around Sidi Bou Zid were being driven out and would have to move without delay to avoid being caught on both flanks. Authorization to pull out was finally given to McQuillin early in the afternoon. By 1405, Combat Command A's command post was seven miles southwest of Sidi Bou Zid, Hightower's depleted tank force was stubbornly covering the withdrawal of Combat Command A, fighting off a threat from Group Stenkhoff on the southwestern flank, and Colonel Drake's infantry force by division order was necessarily left in isolation until it could be relieved by a counterattack already being planned for the next morning. It could not have withdrawn in daylight without being subjected to repeated air attack and heavy losses.31
FAÏD PASS, looking southwest.
From division reserve near Sbeïtla, General Ward had sent the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry (Colonel Kern), and one company of light tanks during the morning to a crossroads eleven miles northwest of Sidi Bou Zid on the Sbeïtla˝Faïd road.32 It established a protective line west of which Combat Command A could reorganize, after a cross-country retreat via Zaafria. During this withdrawal some vehicles were stalled in soft sand or in the wadies and were left behind to be salvaged after dark. Long-range artillery and tank fire harried the Americans, and some of Stenkhoff's tanks threatened to disrupt the movement by penetrating the southwestern flank. Colonel Hightower's own tank moved to this danger point, where alone it knocked out several enemy vehicles and drove off the remainder; at the very end of the engagement his tank was itself destroyed but its crew escaped. At dusk, Combat Command A, less the isolated troops of the 168th Infantry, began arriving at the rallying point near Djebel Hamra (673), where it reorganized for defense of Sbeïtla.33 Thus, Combat
SIDI BOU ZID, looking northeast.
Command A, which might have been pursued and perhaps destroyed, was able to get away.
At 1705, Group Stenkhoff established contact with elements of the 10th Panzer Division west of Sidi Bou Zid. By nightfall, that village was firmly held by the Germans. Its former Allied defenders had withdrawn toward Sbeïtla or had been caught and isolated on Djebel Lessouda, Djebel Ksaïra, and Djebel Garet Hadid. On the plain west of Sidi Bou Zid, abandoned, burning, or broken-down vehicles marked the route of withdrawal. Combat Command A's losses had been heavy: 6 killed, 22 wounded, 134 missing, 44 tanks, all but 2 tank destroyer guns, 9 of the authorized 105-mm. pieces of the 91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion, and all the 155-mm. howitzers of the 2d Battalion, 17th Field Artillery.34
At 1530, General Ziegler considered that his initial mission had been achieved. He ordered the 10th Panzer Division to reconnoiter
SPAHIS WITHDRAWING FROM THE SIDI BOU ZID AREA, 14 February 1943.
aggressively to Hadjeb el Aïoun, twenty-five miles north of Sidi Bou Zid, the 21st Panzer Division (reinforced) to assemble for an expeditious move against Gafsa, probably starting at noon next day, and both divisions to employ some of their nonmobile units in mopping up around Sidi Bou Zid. The fact that the tenacious defense of Djebel Ksaïra and Djebel Garet Hadid by the Americans was proving troublesome, and the possibility of an American counterattack deterred Group Ziegler from dispersing to any great extent.35
Allied divisional reserves at Sbeïtla consisted of the light tank battalion (1st) of the 13th Armored Regiment at about half-strength; the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry; Company B, 16th Armored Engineers; and two antiaircraft guns of Battery B, 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP). The French units in the area were not equipped with weapons suited to successful counterattack on an enemy who employed Mark IV and Mark VI tanks, 88-mm. dual-purpose guns, and other modern arms. For that matter, neither were the Americans, although they were far more fortunate in their armament and much more mobile than the French.
Allied Preparations for Counterattack
To make the next day's counterattack, General Ward brought south from Hadjeb el Aïoun Colonel Stack's Combat Command C, and via II Corps got First Army to release to him the 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment (Lt. Col. James D. Alger),
from Combat Command B near Maktar. The arrangements were completed shortly after noon, 14 February. Alger's battalion took to the road that afternoon using the new twenty-two-mile route between El Ala and Hadjeb el Aïoun which had been constructed by American Engineers.
The enemy was much stronger than the Americans realized. Among other indications of their misapprehension was the small size of the reinforcement requested. General Welvert emphasized to the Chief of Staff, French XIX Corps, that all of Combat Command B should be sent to Sbeïtla and early on 14 February, in view of what seemed to him the slowness of II Corps' decisions, tried to expedite action at General Anderson's headquarters through French channels.36 But First Army would not release Combat Command B from Maktar for commitment near Sbeïtla even on the basis of the situation as estimated late on 14 February. No unit of the 10th Panzer Division had been identified in the Sidi Bou Zid attack. The total number of tanks, computed at from 90 to 130, could be those of the 21st Panzer Division and the separate 190th Panzer Battalion only, without including any from the 10th Panzer Division. If that calculation was correct, the Allies reasoned, the 10th Panzer Division was remaining opposite the French XIX Corps for an attack there, and Combat Command B would be needed in the area. Indeed, it was decided that Alger's battalion would have to be replaced, a requirement which First Army was happily able to meet because it had anticipated some such need and on the previous day had called back the 16/5 Lancers Regiment from Ebba Ksour, where it was engaged in exchanging old tanks for new.37
General Eisenhower left II Corps headquarters late in the morning of 14 February and with Truscott and others drove to Constantine, sight-seeing at Timgad en route. The word of an attack at Sidi Bou Zid was not believed to indicate a major offensive. But as news came to the AFHQ advance command post on the next two days, General Eisenhower participated in the decision to hold Allied strength in central Tunisia and to evacuate Gafsa. The enemy's power and apparent intentions indicated that Gafsa could not be successfully defended but that there was time for an orderly withdrawal spread out over two successive nights. All supplies and transportation equipment could be removed and the place booby-trapped and mined. First Army's orders to bring back the French on the first night and the Americans on the second were questioned by II Corps on the ground that secrecy could not be maintained and that the enemy would interfere with the second night's operations.
The actual evacuation of Gafsa was accomplished during the night of 14-15 February, a night of rather confused and excited activity, especially on the part of civilians who could remember the brief Axis occupation of the preceding November. The troops pulled back as far as Fériana. The medical services of the 51st Medical Battalion and 48th Surgical Hospital moved farther back.
The railroad bridge north of Gafsa was prematurely demolished before all the rolling stock had been removed; it was therefore taken west to Metlaoui where it was concealed in a tunnel. In the old Kasba of the abandoned town six tons of French ammunition were blown up, unfortunately damaging adjacent buildings and injuring their native occupants.38 Last to leave Gafsa was the 1st Ranger Battalion. The movement to Fériana was covered on the east by Squadrons B and D of the 1st Derbyshire Yeomanry.
While the U.S. II Corps pulled in its southwestern flank from Gafsa and extracted reinforcements from north of Sbeïtla, its northern boundary was shifted so that after midnight, 14-15 February, Thala (north of Kasserine), Sbiba (north of Sbeïtla), and Fondouk el Aouareb gap, all fell in the area of General Koeltz's Corps.39 First Army suspended all scheduled reliefs of French units and arranged to cover the gap between Djebel Trozza (997) and Djebel el Abeïd (697), south of El Ala, by the U.S. 133d Combat Team, and to block the road leading into Sbiba from the east with a French force, the 1st Battalion, 1st Algerian Infantry, and with artillery, tanks, and antitank guns. East of Kasserine village, the 19th Combat Engineers (Col. Anderson T. W. Moore) began to arrive that night to organize a defense line.40
Late on 14 February General Fredendall received the following instructions from First Army:
As regards action in the Sidi Bou Zid area, concentrate tomorrow on clearing up situation there and destroying enemy. Thereafter collect strong mobile force in Sbeïtla area ready for action in any direction. Press on with defenses as ordered . . . 7 February. . . .41
The decision to counterattack with Combat Command C, reinforced by the 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, had been adopted before this optimistic directive was received. During the following morning, while the counterattack was being launched, General Fredendall's order to General Ward specified:
Desire you carry out plan to withdraw 168th Infantry from positions on Djebel Lessouda and Djebel Ksaïra. Place 168th Infantry on new position Djebel Hamra. Details of withdrawal left to your judgment but should be designed for maximum security of infantry withdrawing.42
General Ward defined Colonel Stack's mission in the following terms:
MISSION TO COMBAT COMMAND C
This force will move south, and by fire and maneuver destroy the enemy armored forces which have threatened our hold on the Sbeïtla area. It will so conduct its maneuver as to aid in the withdrawal of our forces in the
vicinity of Dj Ksaïra, eventually withdrawing to the area north of Dj Hamra for further action.43
Colonel Stack's orders had to be prepared with the aid of two small-scale maps of the anticipated battle area, and in lieu of adequate reconnaissance by Stack's own attacking force, of supplementary data provided by two officers of the Reconnaissance Company, 1st Armored Regiment, and by Colonel Hains, all of whom had been in the preceding day's battle. Stack understood the enemy's strength to consist of forty tanks north of Sidi Bou Zid and fifteen to twenty tanks south of it, belonging to enemy units not yet identified. By pushing a column through or beyond Sidi Bou Zid, he might succeed in screening the withdrawal of the southernmost American groups under Lt. Col. John H. Van Vliet, Jr., on Djebel Ksaïra and Colonel Drake on Djebel Garet Hadid. The Lessouda Force under Colonel Waters could be assisted in a subsequent and much easier operation.44
The Counterattack at Sidi Bou Zid, 15 February
Combat Command C, including Alger's 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, reinforced, after its arrival from Maktar, marched south from Hadjeb el Aïoun on 15 February over a fairly direct road to an assembly area northeast of Djebel Hamra.45 Leading elements reached the assembly area by 0945, but the column was strafed by enemy planes near the end of its march and did not complete reorganizing until just after noon, when it began the attack.
From Colonel Stack's command post on Djebel Hamra, the battlefield stretched out below with unimpeded view for miles through the clear dry atmosphere of a sunny afternoon. Even through field glasses, Sidi Bou Zid, about 13 miles distant, was a tiny spot of dark hued evergreens and white houses behind which rose the hazy slopes of Djebel Ksaïra. At the left was Djebel Lessouda, toward which the road from Sbeïtla extended as straight as a taut string, and from which Colonel Waters radioed reports of what could be seen from its heights. On the right, the road from Bir el Hafey slanting northeastward to Sidi Bou Zid could be identified, and roughly parallel with it, the long ridge of Djebel el Kebar (793). There was considerable mirage. The dips and folds of the plain were for the most part gradual, but several steep-sided deeper wadies creased it in general from north to south. The monotonous brown-gray of the landscape was marked at various points by patches of darker cactus, by the geometric figures of cultivated fields and orchards, and by small clusters of low, block-shaped white buildings. At 1240 the attacking formation started over this expanse with great precision until its vehicles were reduced by distance to the size of insects, and obscured by heavy dust.
In the lead were the tanks. They started slowly southeastward in column of companies, led by Company D, followed by Company F, the assault guns, and Company E in that order. Tank destroyers were grouped on each wing. The artillery and then the infantry in half-tracks followed. At 1340 a formation of ten to twelve enemy fighters and nine enemy bombers swept over the column for the first time, strafing and bombing it near Djebel Hamra. An hour later the Germans dive-bombed Sidi Bou Zid well in advance of the American force, and at 1630 subjected the infantry to another bombing just as it passed through the artillery positions.46
While Colonel Stack's force was delayed by enemy air attack, the Germans found time to prepare for their scheme of defense. Three companies of Group Stenkhoff were to strike the American south flank while elements of Group Gerhardt, from a position northwest of Sidi Salem, were to envelop Combat Command C from the north flank. Three heavy and two light batteries began firing briskly on the attacking force after withholding fire until it had neared its objective and its tanks were all in range. Stukas joined the ground forces in opposing the American advance. Enemy planes were also used to divert attention from a slow shift by elements of the 5th Panzer Regiment aimed at turning the southern flank.47
A steady stream of radio reports from Djebel Lessouda and Djebel Ksaïra to Combat Command C via the 1st Armored Division described enemy movements and indicated that the Axis forces, although large, were considerably dispersed. Colonel Stack was urged to push on aggressively while he retained this advantage.48 Colonel Alger's tanks could cross the series of wadies in the path of attack only at a few points. Toward these crossings his armored units converged in temporary concentrations before again spreading out in attack formation. While Company D, 1st Armored Regiment, was reconnoitering to find a way across the first great ditch, at a point a little beyond the village of Sadaguïa on the left flank, a tank destroyer platoon entered that village and there the enemy's first resistance, a Stuka attack, knocked it out. The tanks, with one exception, crossed the first wadi successfully and after fanning out resumed the advance toward the second. As they arrived at the one good crossing point there, the enemy opened up with air burst and then with antitank artillery fire. On the northern flank, an enemy battery including four 88-mm. and two 47-mm. antitank guns had been waiting in concealment. Before their fire took effect, they were observed and overrun by the advance platoon of Company D, 1st Armored Regiment. The air burst, coming from artillery pieces emplaced on the shoulders of Djebel el Kebar and other vantage points to the southeast, forced the tank crews to "button up" and to continue movement with restricted vision. While Company E, in reserve, remained near the second wadi, Companies D and F, and the assault guns pushed on. Batteries B and C, 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, took up firing positions and began counterbattery fire, or shelled enemy tanks, in response to calls from forward observers in the leading American vehicles. As the infantry began to pass through the artillery, an air attack struck the area and threw the troops into some confusion.
The tanks arriving at the third wadi came under much heavier fire, especially on the southern flank. Company D on the north was able to send tanks into the village of Sidi Salem, where they shot up the buildings and a motor pool to the east, and stopped the progress of an enemy tank force trying to pass the village's northern edge. But when Company D tried to emerge northeast of the village, heavy fire from the north drove the tanks back to cover. Company F moved toward the area south of Sidi Bou Zid along a route in defilade pointed out by Colonel Alger. Alger's tank, while heading back toward Sidi Salem to rejoin Company D, was knocked out. The radio operator was killed but the others survived, only to be captured. Company E, in the meantime, came forward and pressed toward the village and then, about 1630, encountered the spearhead of an enemy armored force striking from the northern flank. Company F became involved at about the same time against a similar thrust from the south. On either flank, the enemy sent additional enveloping forces. That at the south escaped detection until it had reached a threatening position from which it was finally driven off by Battery C, 68th Armored Artillery Battalion. The threat nonetheless remained and caused the attacking American forces to start a hurried withdrawal. The enemy's slowly advancing column, reinforced with Tiger tanks, heading toward the deep northern flank in the area of Kern's Crossroads, was reported from Djebel Lessouda in time for Combat Command C to commit its reserve company of medium tanks (Company G, 13th Armored Regiment) to try to intercept it. The company took a course too far to the northwest and missed the enemy, who turned southward into the battle area, thus avoiding also some long-range fire from the 91st Armored Field Artillery Battalion near Djebel Hamra.
At 1645, Colonel Stack reported to General Ward that it had become doubtful that Combat Command C would reach Djebel Ksaïra before sundown. A few minutes later, when Colonel Alger was asked by Stack to report his situation and to state what help he could use, he replied laconically: "Still pretty busy. Situation in hand. No answer to second question. Further details later." Then his radio went silent. His further details were reserved until the year 1945, when he was released from imprisonment and could supply an account based on the recollections which he and his fellow captives from the battalion had shared during the intervening period. By 1740, the armored infantry was escaping the threatened envelopment. The tank battalion, whose losses were already severe, started back through a gantlet of enemy antitank fire from which only four emerged that evening. A few dismounted crews also escaped. After darkness had fallen, the 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion (less Battery A), marched from the battlefield where it had been briefly cut off at dusk, leaving the enemy in possession and many fires blazing. The Germans energetically salvaged both their own equipment and that left behind by the Americans, but two months later, more than forty rusting tanks were found when the Allies recovered control over that region.49 Thus on the second
successive day, a small American armored force had been driven from the battlefield with heavy losses. The estimate of the damage inflicted by Combat Command C, 1st Armored Division, upon the enemy was thirteen Mark IV tanks, five 88-mm. and ten other artillery pieces damaged or destroyed, and upwards of fifty men killed. The 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, on 16 February reported 15 officers and 298 enlisted men missing in action and one officer wounded and evacuated.50
The Allies were slow to realize that they had lost another tank battalion. The enemy's motor pool near Sidi Bou Zid continued to burn into the night, but the Americans interpreted it as a group of German tanks. "We might have walloped them or they might have walloped us," reported General Ward to II Corps as late as 2230 hours that evening. Through messages dropped by air on Djebel Lessouda before darkness, he had, however, ordered Colonel Waters to get his force back during the night.51 The enemy had been surprised at the weakness of the counterattack and remained alert for a second wave of attack. He knew exactly from captured orders the units which had been fighting thus far.52 The Allies, however, were maintaining a defense line near Kern's Crossroads east of Sbeïtla and reorganizing for defense, as already noted. In fact, at the highest levels a decision of the greatest moment to subsequent operations had been made during the day.
Table of Contents ** Previous Chapter (20) * Next Chapter (22)
1. (1) MS # T-3 (Nehring et al.), Pt. 3a. (2) AFHQ Rpt, G-2 Estimate of Axis Offensive Capabilities After Panzer Armee Rommel Is in Occupation of the Mareth Line, 7 Feb 43. AFHQ Micro Job 26, Reel 72 Spec. (3) Msg 1784, USFOR to FREEDOM, 1700, 17 Feb 43, sub: Axis forces in North Africa. Non-Current Permanent Rcd File, Misc Cbls--1942˝43, AG 311.22. (4) II Corps G-2 Estimate 8, 7 Feb 43; II Corps Periodic Rpts 39, 13 Feb 43, and 40, 14 Feb 43; 1st Armd Div G-3 Periodic Rpts 16, 9 Feb 43, and 18, 11 Feb 43. (5) DMC Jnl, 9 Feb 43. (6) Msg, XIX Corps to II Corps (G-3), 2100, 9 Feb 43, in II Corps G-3 Jnl, 0641, 10 Feb 43. (7) Interv with Col B. A. Dickson (Ret.), 13 Dec 50.
2. (1) Ltr, Eisenhower to Fredendall, 4 Feb 43. OPD Exec 3, Item 1a. (2) Msg, Adv CP Allied ASC to CinC AF, 6 Feb 43. AFHQ CofS Cable Log, 46.
3. Dir, CinC AF to CG First Army, 11 Feb 43. AFHQ G-3 Opns 58/2.1, Micro Job 10C, Reel 188D.
4. (1) First Army Ops Instruc 14, 12 Feb 43. DRB AGO. (2) Info supplied by Cabinet Office, London.
5. (1) 133d Inf and 135th Inf Hists. (2) 1st Inf Div G-3 Rpt of Opns, 15 Jan˝8 Apr 43. (3) XIX Corps Jnl, 1˝13 Feb 43.
6. (1) II Corps AAR, 2 May 43. (2) 1st Armd Div Tank Status Rpt, 12 Feb 43, Entry 210 in II Corps G-3 Jnl.
7. (1) II Corps AAR, 2 May 43. (2) Msg, Truscott to AFHQ G-3, 6 Feb 43. AFHQ CofS Cable Log, 49. (3) Phone Conv, CG First Army to G-3 II Corps, 1355, 8 Feb 43, in II Corps G-3 Jnl. (4) II Corps FO 1 (Stark Force), 14 Feb 43. (5) DMC Jnl, 9 and 12 Feb 43. (6) Interv with Brig Gen Frederic B. Butler, 11 Jan 50.
8. (1) II Corps G-3 Jnl, 14 Feb 43, Entry 306. (2) XIX Corps Jnl, 13 Feb 43. (3) Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 16 Feb 43. Copy in WDCSA 381 Africa. (4) Generals Patton and Smith were at Eighth Army headquarters in Tripoli; General Clark was ill; and General Alexander and Air Chief Marshal Tedder had not yet assumed their new commands.
9. See pp. 322-23 above.
10. Memo, German-Italian Panzer Army to Comando Supremo, 4 Feb 43, in Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Anlagenband 8, Anlage 995. A blow through Gafsa and Sbeïtla on Tébessa was earlier described as an objective of second priority on 19 January 1943 in OKW/WFSt, KTB, 19 Jan 43.
11. Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Band 2, 3-13 Feb 43.
12. Rad, Comando Supremo to German-Italian and Fifth Panzer Armies, 8 Feb 43, in Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Anlagenband 8, Anlage 1016.
13. (1) Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Band 2, 9 Feb 43. (2) MS #T-3-P2 (Kesselring), Pt. 2. (3) MS #C-075 (Kesselring), comments on MS #T-3 (Nehring et al.), Pt. 3a.
14. Memo, Kraeftegegenueberstellung, 19 Feb 43, in OKH/GenStdH/Op Abt, File Tunis, 10.XI.42-2.V.43.
15. (1) 1st Armd Div Tank Status Rpt, 12 Feb 43 Entry 210, in II Corps G-3 Jnl. (2) Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 21 Feb 43. Copy in CinC AF Diary, Bk. V, p. A-240-2.
16. (1) Rad, Comando Supremo to Fifth Panzer Army and Panzer Army Africa, 11 Feb 43, in Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Anlagenband 8, Anlage 1038. (2) Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Band 2, 11-13 Feb 43.
17. Von Broich took command when General Fifth Panzer Army, KTB IV, 1 Feb 43. Fischer was killed on 1 February by an Italian mine.
18. FO, Fifth Panzer Army, Nr. 260/43, 8 Feb 43, in 21st Panzer Div, Ia, KTB˝Anlagen, Nr. 9, 1.I.˝31.III.43, Afrika (cited hereafter as 21st Panzer Div, KTB Anlagen, Band 9).
19. FO, 10th Panzer Div, 9 Feb 43, and supplement, 12 Feb 43, in 21st Panzer Div, KTB Anlagen, Band 9.
20. (1) FO, 21st Panzer Div, Nr. 102/43, 12 Feb 43, in 21st Panzer Div, KTB, Anlagen, Band 9. (2) Gefechtsbericht ueber die Kampfhandlungen im Abschnitt Faïd vom 13-18.II.43 (cited hereafter as Gefechtsbericht Faïd), in Fifth Panzer Army, Anlage zum Kriegstagebuch IV A (cited hereafter as KTB, Anlagen, Band IV A), 1.-26.II.43, Anlage 117.
21. (1) Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Band 2, 10 Feb 43. (2) MS # D-124, Beitrag zum Vorstoss ueber Gafsa gegen den Kasserine-Pass (Generalleutnant Freiherr Kurt von Liebenstein).
22. (1) Rpt, German-Italian Panzer Army to Comando Supremo, 16 Feb 43, in Panzer Army Africa, KTB, Anlagenband 9, Anlage 1081/4. The Gafsa operation was termed Unternehmen MORGENLUFT. (2) FO, Panzer Army Africa, Nr. 1, in Panzer Army Africa, Anlagenband 8, Anlage 1028/1.
23. (1) 21st Panzer Div, KTB, 13 Feb 43. (2) Gefechtsbericht Faïd.
24. It consisted of the 2d Battalion, 168th Infantry (reinforced) (less Company E); Company G, and Reconnaissance Company, 1st Armored Regiment; Battery B, 91st Field Artillery; and one heavy platoon of Company A, 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion.
25. (1) Rpt by Col Hains, 12 Mar 43, in 1st Armd Div Hist Rcds; 1st Armd Regt AAR, 10 Jul 43; CCA 1st Armd Div AAR, 23 Jan-26 Feb 43. (2) Interv with Col Hains, 26 Apr 51.
26. (1) See n. 24. (2) Ltr, Col Louis V. Hightower to Col Hamilton H. Howze (then G-3, 1st Armd Div), 1 Jul 46. In private possession. (3) Info supplied by Brig Gen Raymond E. McQuillin (Ret.). OCMH.
27. Ltr, Lt Col Henry P. Ward to Col Charles E. Hart, 16 Feb 43, in 17th FA Regtl Hist.
28. (1) II Corps G-3 Jnl, 14 Feb 43, Entry 314. (2) 1st Lt Frank S. Sears, Supply Operations in Combat, 1 May 48. The Artillery School, Gen Instruc Dept. (3) 21st Panzer Div, KTB, 13-17 Feb 43.
29. (1) 21st Panzer Div, KTB, 14 Feb 43. (2) Memo, Col Drake for G-2 WD, 14 May 45, sub: Account of 168th Inf Opns 24 Dec 42˝17 Feb 43. DRB AGO.
30. Rpt by Gen Welvert, in DMC Jnl, 14 Feb 43.
31. (1) Entries 303, 307, 309, 334, 335, and 353, in II Corps G-3 Jnl, 14 Feb 43. (2) Ltr, Col Hightower to Col Howze, 1 Jul 46. In private possession. (3) 168th Inf AAR, 12 Nov 42˝15 May 43.
32. This point was known thereafter to the 1st Armored Division as "Kern's Crossroads."
33. (1) Based on AAR's of CCA 1st Armed Div, 168th Inf, 3d Bn 1st Armd Regt, 1st Bn 6th Armd Inf, and Co A 701st TD Bn. (2) M. Sgt. Clarence W. Coley, A Day With the 1st Armored Division, 6 Jul 51, in George F. Howe, The Battle History of the 1st Armored Division (Washington, 1954), pp. 150-53. (3) Info supplied by Gen McQuillin, 13 Jan 51. OCMH.
34. (1) Rpt by Col Hains, 12 Mar 43, and Rpt by Col Hightower, 1 Jul 46, in 1st Armd Div Hist Rcds. (2) 10th Panzer Div, Ic, Taetigkeitsbericht, 14 Feb 43, lists the following Allied losses: 71 prisoners, 40 tanks, 7 armored personnel carriers, 15 self-propelled mounts, 1 antitank gun, 9 machine guns, 1 prime mover, 4 trucks, and 18 other vehicles. (3) The initial estimate of Combat Command A's losses in personnel was 62 officers and 1,536 enlisted men killed, wounded, or missing in action (see Msg, G-3 1st Armd Div to G-3 II Corps, 0745, 16 Feb 43, Entry 116 in II Corps G-3 Jnl). Of these, 573 were 1st Armored Division troops (see 1st Armd Div G-3 Jnl, 14 Feb 43).
35. Gefechtsbericht Faïd.
36. (1) DMC Jnl, 14 Feb 43. (2) Phone Convs, Fredendall to Ward, 1250 and 1305, 14 Feb 43, Entries 318 and 330; Phone Conv, Anderson to Fredendall, 1300, 14 Feb 43, Entry 329; Rad, Adv First Army to II Corps, 1322, 14 Feb 43, Entry 346. II Corps G-3 Jnl.
37. (1) Phone Conv, Col Arnold with Col Williams, 1900, 14 Feb 43, in II Corps G-3 Jnl. (2) Info supplied by Cabinet Office, London. (3) Msg, Eisenhower to CCS (Review 30), 15 Feb 43, NAF 149. (4) Adv First Army Sitrep, 1700, 15 Feb 43. AFHQ CofS Cable Log, 97.
38. (1) Ltr, Eisenhower to Marshall, 16 Feb 43. Copy in WDCSA 381 Africa. (2) Msg O-409, Adv First Army to II Corps, 14 Feb 43. AFHQ CofS Cable Log, 96. (3) Msg, CG II Corps to CG First Army, 0035, 15 Feb 43, Entry 2, in II Corps G-3 Jnl. (4) Adv First Army Sitrep, 1700, 15 Feb 43. AFHQ CofS Cable Log, 97. (5) Memo, Brig Whiteley for G-2 and G-3 AFHQ, containing Phone Conv, Whiteley with Brig C. V. McNabb, 1850, 14 Feb 43. AFHQ Micro Job 26, Reel 71 Spec. (6) DMC Jnl, 14 Feb 43. (7) II Corps AAR, 2 May 43, par. 5. (8) 175th FA Bn War Diary, 14-15 Feb 43. (9) Msg, II Corps Surgeon to G-4 II Corps, 1950, 14 Feb 43, Entry 386, in II Corps G-3 Jnl. (10) Rpt by Capt John D. Upton, in 19th Engr Regt (C) Hist Rcds, Oct 42-Jan 44. (11) Interv with Brig Gen Frederic B. Butler, 11 Jan 50.
39. Msg, II Corps to CG 1st Armd Div, 2010, 14 Feb 43, Entry 369, in II Corps G-3 Jnl.
40. (1) XIX Corps Jnl, 14 Feb 43. (2) 19th Engr Regt (C). Hist Rcds, Oct 42-Jan 44.
41. Msg O-409, Adv First Army to II Corps, 14 Feb 45. AFHQ CofS Cable Log, 96.
42. Msg. CG II Corps to CG 1st Armd Div, 1120, 15 Feb 43, Entry 17, in II Corps G-3 Jnl.
43. Original in CCC 1st Armd Div Opns Jnl, Feb 43.
44. Msg, Lt Col Hamilton H. Howze to CCC 1st Armd Div, 1350, 15 Feb 43, and Phone Conv, Cols Williams, Hamlett, and Arnold, 1900, 14 Feb 43, in II Corps G-3 Jnl.
45. For the counterattack of 15 February 1943 at Sidi Bou Zid, Combat Command C consisted of: the 6th Armored Infantry (less the 1st and 2d Battalions); the 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, Company G, 13th Armored Regiment; the 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion (less Companies A and C); the 68th Field Artillery Battalion (less Battery A); the 1st Platoon, Company D, 16th Armored Engineer Battalion: the 1st Platoon, 443d Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP); a detachment of Company B, 13th Armored Regiment; and Company A, 47th Armored Medical Battalion. See II Corps G-3 Jnl, 1420, 15 Feb 43, Entry 28.
46. CCC 1st Armd Div Jnl, 15 Feb 43.
47. (1) Gefechtsbericht Faïd, 15 Feb 33. (2) Interv with Col Hains, 26 Apr 51.
48. Msg, CG 1st Armd Div to CCC, 1422, 15 Feb 43, in CCC Jnl.
49. (1) CCC 1st Armd Div Jnl, 15 Feb 43. (2) 10th Panzer Div, Ic, Taetigkeitsbericht, 15 Feb 43. (3) Ltr, Col Drake to Gen Ward, 15 Jan 51. OCMH. (4) Interv with Col Hains, 26 Apr 51. (5) Rpt by Lt Col James D. Alger, The Attack on Sidi Bou Zid by the 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, 15 Feb 43. In private possession.
50. (1) Msg, CO CCC to G-3 1st Armd Div, 1348, 16 Feb 43, in CCC 1st Armd Div Jnl. (2) The Germans themselves claimed to have salvaged every tank of their own, but listed as American matériel captured or destroyed: 39 tanks, 17 armored personnel carriers, 4 antitank guns, 3 self-propelled mounts, 8 machine guns, 1 105-mm. howitzer, and about 100 vehicles. 10th Panzer Div, Ic, Taetigkeitsbericht, 15 Feb 43. (3) The estimate at 0325, 16 February, by G-3, 1st Armored Division, was 46 medium and 2 light tanks, 130 vehicles, and 9 self-propelled 105's. II Corps G-3 Jnl, 16 Feb 43; Entries 76 and 87. (4) See sketch map, Howe, The Battle History of the 1st Armored Division, p. 164.
51. Phone Conv, Gen Ward with Col Akers, 2220, 15 Feb 43, Entry 65, in II Corps G-3 Jnl.
52. (1) Lt Col James D. Alger, The Attack on Sidi Bou Zid by the 2d Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, 15 Feb 43. In private possession. (2) 10th Panzer Div, Ic, Taetigkeitsbericht, 15 Feb 43.