The battle for North Africa was a struggle for control of the Suez Canal and access to oil, the strategic commodity due to the increased mechanization of modern armies. Both the Axis Powers and the Allies were completely dependent on the Middle Eastern oil. On November 8, 1942, five days after Montgomery’s victory in Egypt, US forces stormed ashore in Morocco and Algeria as part of Operation Torch. American forces first encountered the Germans at the Battle of Kasserine Pass (February 19-25th) On February 14, 1943, the Germans launched a two-pronged offensive, and by February 18, Kasserine Pass was in Axis hands, and U.S. ground forces had suffered their first major defeat of the war. Rommel’s Afrika Korps routed Major General Lloyd Fredendall’s II Corps, in a humiliating defeat. After the defeat, Lieutenant General George S. Patton replaced Fredendall.
Despite the victory at Kasserine, the German situation continued to worsen due to poor logistics and lack of manpower. On March 9, 1943 General Rommel departed Africa, citing health reasons, and turned over command to General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim. The combined British and American forces pressed the remaining German and Italian troops, and ensured they could not escape by sea. After the fall of Tunis, the Axis forces in North Africa surrendered on May 13, 1943, and 275,000 German and Italian soldiers were taken prisoner. Strategically, the North African campaign was critical for the Western Allies. The victory was the first decisive defeat of the Axis Powers. Tactically and operational levels, several factors conspired against the Axis despite Rommel’s leadership, and the superb fighting of the Afrika Korps. In the end, the Allies achieved victory by sheer mass and reliable logistics.
This interview is with Mr. Francis Anderson, a World War II veteran, who successfully evaded capture from German and Italian forces during the battle for Kasserine Pass.
To hear the full interview or see more amazing stories please visit The Frontlines thefrontlines.com. Thank you.
Nathan W. Tierney
WWII History in the Classroom
Witness to War Foundation
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