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Campaign 152: Kasserine Pass 1943, Rommel’s Last Victory

by Steven J Zaloga, illustrated by Michael Welply

Published by Osprey Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-84176-914-2, 96 pages.

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Mr. Zaloga is, of course, very well known to visitors to this site, especially for his work relating to the US Army in the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations. This latest title covers the US Army’s first meeting with the German Army in Tunisia.

The debacle that the green US troops suffered from February 14 to 25, 1943, has always been seen as a disaster of almost mythic proportions. In fact, what the author shows is a series of tactical defeats inflicted on poorly positioned troops who were burdened with a command arrangement that invited disaster. The Germans, literally at the end of their tether, and also suffering from a command “disconnect”, were in no position to follow up these tactical victories, and soon withdrew. The US Army quickly rebounded and under the command of the legendary George S. Patton, Jr. soon won a victory at El Guettar on March 23. Less than two months later, the Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered.

As usual, the text is very well written in a lively, informative style. There are several segments that warrant mention. At one point an inexperienced US tank battalion is literally erased by well-prepared German Panzers. In another incident, almost the entire compliment of half-tracks assigned to a US armored infantry unit is captured intact, which is why we see quite a few photos of these vehicles in German hands. Another point to ponder is this: it has often been said that the Germans painted a few Tiger Is using captured US paint. Recently, it has been thought that this never occurred, as no clear records have survived and what has been published on the subject has been ambiguous. So, my question is as follows. Since the Germans only engaged combat units and never got close to the US supply echelon, where did the paint come from? But, I digress.

The books graphic presentation is, as usual for this series, first-class. The author uses 76 well-chosen B&W photos, many of which are fresh. They are of a useful size and are well-reproduced, providing a good visual resource for modelers. The photos depict the men and machines of the Allied and Axis protagonists, including tanks, other AFVs, artillery and aircraft. A welcome inclusion is photos depicting Italian ordnance and vehicles. I found a caption error on page 20, top left, where a German PaK40 is misidentified as an ex-Soviet 7.62mm PaK36 (r). The photographs are complimented by five color maps, which will allow the reader to easily follow events as they unfold. The 12 pages of spread color art are divided into three battle scenes by Mr. Welply, depicting the destruction of a US tank battalion at Sidi Bou Zid, the advance of the 10. Panzer Division at El Guettar, and the aerial destruction of the Luftwaffe’s re-supply effort, known as the “Cap Bon Massacre”. The second half contains three CAD “bird’s eye view” maps of the actions around Sidi Bou Zid, Kasserine Pass and El Guettar. Each of these illustrations has extensive text or captions, which further enhance the reader’s understanding of the overall battle. Orders of Battle charts, a chronology, a bibliography and an index will fill in the blanks and also assist the researcher.

This is yet another example of an author who knows his material, using the format of this series to the fullest advantage. Students of history and modelers looking for inspiration will certainly appreciate this one.

Highly recommended.

Frank De Sisto

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