The Restored Burlington Northern Depot & WWII Memorial Museum

                                        http://depothill.net


                 The significance of Kasserine on development of

                     Close Air Support Doctrine as chronicled in
                          A Historical Look at Close Air Support

                      by Major Scott A. Hasken, US Army, 2003:

 

“Prior to World War II, “All three of the air forces ( American, British, and German )

went to war with close support of ground forces as a secondary mission at best in their

perceived scheme of airpower employment” [ Richard R. Muller in Military Innovations

in the Interwar Period, editors W. Murray and A.R. Millet, 1996 ]…

 

The origins of the militaries current CAS [ Close Air Support ] doctrine can be found

in US experiences in North Africa.  The years of neglect and interservice rivalry over

priorities and control of air assets left the US totally unprepared for combat in the

deserts of North Africa.  The initial air effort was so completely disjointed that it satisfied

no one and did nothing but increase tensions between air and ground commanders.

 

But it was there in the deserts that the Army and its Air Service began to forge an effective

air-to-ground doctrine that laid the foundations for victories in Italy and Western Europe.

 

The Tunisian campaign was where the US Forces cut its teeth on combined arms warfare.

The first few battles revealed tremendous deficiencies in the abilities of the Army

and the Air Service to conduct coordinated, effective combat operations…

 

Kasserine exposed critical weaknesses in training, doctrine, and leadership and forced a
change in the operations of American units charged with responsibility for support of
ground forces.  On 14 February 1943, Field Marshall Irwin Rommel conducted a surprise
attack on US forces.  It was an attempt to prevent the British and American forces 
from combining their forces in North Africa.
 
The performance of US forces during the battle for the Kasserine Pass was so poor that
General Bradley would later write that it was probably the worst performance of the
US Army in its entire history [ A Generals Life: An Autobiography by Omar N. Bradley
and Clay Blair, 1983, page 128 ].
 
Fortunately for the allies the Nazi high command mistakenly forced Rommel to
withdraw his forces after just eight days of fighting.  Despite the organizational changes
[ Allied Commander-in-Chief in North Africa, General Dwight E. ] Eisenhower put into
effect in January [1943], air support during the battle was still inept and not coordinated
with ground forces.  The lack of communications, ineffective coordination, and poor
weather all conspired to make what support was available useless to ground forces.
This poor performance was the impetus to again make major changes, not just 
In the Air Service’s command and control, but also in doctrine…
 
On 21 July 1943, General George C. Marshall received…Command and Employment of
Airpower, for his signature…in bold capital letters in the opening pages… this statement,
or declaration, is made:  “LAND POWER AND AIRPOWER ARE COEQUAL AND
INDEPENDENT FORCES: NEITHER IS AN AUXILIARY OF THE OTHER”.
 
In other words, this was the Army Air Corps declaration of independence from the Army…
 
From the frustrations in the deserts of Africa, to the steady improvements in Italy, to the
lethal synchronization of the armored column support, the Army and its Air Force left a
legacy of uncommon air-to-ground cooperation…Without question the effects of tactical
airpower made significant impacts along the front lines.  Not only was CAS a morale boost
for the soldiers, but it proved just as destructive to the German resistance and will to fight…
 
In only thirty-six months, the Allies had recovered from the disappointment of 
a Brevity and Battleaxe to orchestrate an unprecedented invasion and breakout.”
 
Lieutenant Colonel (as of AUG 2010) Hasken’s entire (75 pp) thesis.

 


The Restored Burlington Northern Depot & WWII Memorial Museum

                                        http://depothill.net

 

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