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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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Kasserine Pass is well known as the place where US forces first met heavy Axis opposition after the Torch landings. The Sherman got its first battles under US command in this campaign, and Tigers were encountered for the first time.
The Germans had won the race to secure Tunis, foiling Allied ambitions to cut them off. French forces already in North Africa had been kept under-equipped and in some cases had opposed the US landings, but had now swung to the Allied side and were in action against the Italians. Meanwhile the British 8th Army was closing in from the east. Both sides were planning ahead, the Allies trying to pincer German forces and the Germans trying to create strong defensive positions and to counterattack.

First blood came at Faid Pass. A German and Italian attack was initially stalled by French units, but they eventually encircled the French forces. Confusion among the US commanders led to an ineffectual attempt to relieve them and retake the pass. This convinced the Germans that the US units were inexperienced and thinly spread, weak enough o offer the opportunity of a successful major attack.

Conflicting German and Italian plans were eventually sorted out and coordinated, so the attack began with an assault on Sidi bou Zid. US tanks were outnumbered and forced to withdraw after losing most their Shermans. A counterattack was a total failure, with the US tanks again being shot apart. This kind of shambles prevailed for several days, with poorly trained and inexperienced US units being completely outclassed by their attackers. After this hardening experience the US commanders began to learn lessons and the follow-up Axis attack on the Kasserine Pass met much stronger opposition from well-led units, leading to its failure.

The story doesn’t end there. Other battles were going on in Tunisia, with British units now involved as well as French and US, and the whole position was in flux with Axis thrusts and Allied counters all over the place. Suffice it to say that the end result was the capitulation of Axis forces in North Africa.
This book does an outstanding job of presenting the campaign in a readable and clear fashion, with supporting maps and birds’-eye-views to clarify the various actions. Mr Zaloga is not afraid to point out the failures of US doctrine and training that led to so many losses, and praises the commanders that fought their commands effectively. There’s a good selection of photographs for the general reader, and although many will be familiar to armour fans they should remember that this is a battle story not a modellers’ photobook.


John Prigent

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