U.S. Ambassador Blome visited the Kasserine Pass Memorial today where he laid a wreath in honor of U.S. troops who lost their lives in 1943 at the Battle of Kasserine Pass. In mid-February 1943, German forces pressed into the American-held Kasserine Pass, sparking the first major engagement between the Allied and Axis forces in North Africa during World War II. Thanks to a grant from the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, the Kasserine Pass Memorial bears witness to the site of this pivotal battle.
The Battle of Kasserine Pass
The Battle of Kasserine Pass took place between February 13, 1943, and February 22, 1943, in Western Tunisia and was a pivotal fight for the Allied forces in the North African theater during World War II. However, some scholars have questioned the real victor of the battle as both sides suffered significant losses. On the Allied side there was an immense loss of men and material which required thousands of soldiers to be sent as reinforcements to return the units to fighting strength. While on the German side the strategic objective of breaking through the pass failed because they were not able to capitalize on the damage they caused to the Allied position. The most influential outcome of the battle was that it is resulted in Allied command restructuring their units to work with one another more effectively.
The battle began when the forces of German General Erwin Rommel began to press towards the Kasserine Pass and captured Sidi Bou Zid. Allied forces suffered heavy damage in the first days of the battle and were on the brink of near total annihilation. As the Axis forces pressed forward the Allies were falling back into the passes through the western dorsal of the Atlas Mountains. German forces pressed through the Kasserine Pass and were able to carry out an attack on Allied supplies that were being held in the pass. The day after this breakthrough, Allied artillery halted the German push when Rommel’s lack of fuel forced him to withdraw to the east.
Both sides demonstrated significant lapses, the effect of weather on the battlefield was also on full display. The Allied forces suffered losses due to senior leaderships’ failure to properly carryout reconnaissance of the terrain as well as units being assigned individual missions rather than emphasizing joint action. They also suffered substantial losses because commanders were panicked and did not act decisively. While the German forces suffered from an ineffective supply line and slow high command communication. Heavy rain also slowed the Axis advance, allowing the Allied forces to stop their push.
Following the battle, the Allied forces came away with much needed experience. New commanders were installed to avoid the disaster that had taken place. Allied losses were massive and included the loss of thousands of soldiers and hundreds of vehicles. Despite these heavy losses the German forces were not able to accomplish their goal of capturing vital supplies. The pyrrhic victory at this battle caused Allied forces to improve their command staff and the way units are directed in combat by high level command.