The Restored Burlington Northern Depot & WWII Memorial Museum
Kasserine Pass Battle
During the struggle against the Axis, the citizens of Montgomery County Iowa
lost a high percentage of their sons. Many active service participants from the
county were solders in Company F ( Villisca) and Company M ( Red Oak).
During WWII, both units were assigned to the
At the North Africa American Cemetery and Memorial in Tunisia rest
2,841 of our military dead, their headstones set in straight lines subdivided into
nine rectangular plots by wide paths, with decorative pools at their intersections.
Along the southeast edge of the burial area, bordering the tree-lined terrace
leading to the memorial is the Wall of the Missing. On this wall 3,724 names
are engraved. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
Most honored here lost their lives in World War II in military activities
ranging from North Africa to the Persian Gulf.
The Memorial in the North Africa American Cemetery consists of the Court of Honor and
the chapel. The Court of Honor is in the form of a cloister. Within it is a large rectangular
stone of remembrance of black Diorite d'Anzola quarried in northwest Italy;
this inscription, adapted from Ecclesiasticus XLIV, is worked into the
design of the mosaic panel surrounding the base:
SOME THERE BE WHICH HAVE NO SEPULCHRE
THEIR NAME LIVETH FOR EVERMORE.
The rectangular pylons of the cloister are of San Gottardo limestone from the vicinity of
Vicenzain Italy; the main part of the structure of the memorial is faced with Roman travertine.
The pavement is of Sienite della Balma granite from northwest Italy. In the southwest
corner is a Russian-olive tree (Elaeagnus angustifolia). On the west wall of the cloister
facing the mall is this inscription, with translations in French and Arabic:
IN PROUD REMEMBRANCE OF THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF HER SONS AND
IN HUMBLE TRIBUTE TO THEIR SACRIFICES THIS MEMORIAL HAS
BEEN ERECTED BY THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
The Battle of the KASSERINE PASS, Tunisia
19 – 25 February 1943
The name "Kasserine" is generally not remembered as one of the finest hours of the
US Army because of the disastrous battle at Kasserine Pass, where German forces
delivered a crushing blow to the American Army.
However, "Kasserine" was, in fact, a series of engagements between Axis & Allied forces
including the 168th Infantry Regiment, 34th “ Red Bull “ Infantry Division,
that left the US Army still in control of the battlefield at the end of the fight.
At the start of 1943, both Axis & Allies were moving forces into Tunisia as quickly as possible.
German units were ferried across the Mediterranean by all available means. The Afrika Korps
had been pulled back through Libya to the Mareth Line on Tunisia's southeastern border.
The British Eighth Army was slowly moving up behind the German retreat in the east and
Allied forces were being moved from Morocco and Algeria into western Tunisia.
The British First Army was in the north, the American II Corps in the south,
with French forces in between.
In southern Tunisia, the Atlas mountains divide into Y-shaped extensions of the Eastern Dorsal
and Western Dorsal. The Germans controlled the passes through the Eastern Doral,
secured by actions occurring at the end of January, while the Allies controlled the
Western Dorsal, with a strong American II Corps presence in the valley in between.
Axis forces decided to expand their defensive perimeter. For this action, Field Marshal
Erwin Rommel had his 21st Panzer Division, most of the 10th Panzer Division, and units
from the Kampfgruppe DAK (Deutsches Afrika Korps). On 14 February Rommel attacked
through Faid Pass in the Eastern Dorsal, inflicting severe damage on American units in his path.
Within three days, the Germans controlled the valley. The American II Corps suffered
significant losses, including most of its 1st Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division, and the
168th Infantry Regiment, killed or captured. The Allies retreated and began moving units to block
a likely German attack through the Western Dorsal passes at Sbiba Gap and Kasserine Pass.
On 17 February, Allied forces were ordered into Sbiba Gap and Kasserine Pass.
At Sbiba Gap were elements of the British 6th Armoured Division, which consisted mainly of
the British Guards Brigade, to which the 18th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division
was attached. This force was later supplemented by units of the 34th Infantry Division.
At Kasserine Pass was Task Force Stark, which consisted mainly of the 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry,
the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion, 1st Infantry division, and the 19th Combat Engineer Regiment,
3rd Infantry Division, later reinforced by elements of the 3rd Battalion, 39th Infantry.
Rommel, still the Desert Fox, saw an opportunity to boldly strike the Allies, with their green
and untested American Torch forces, and, if successful, cause their retreat into Algeria - an
event that would surely prolong the German presence in North Africa.
He proposed his battle plan, but, fortunately for the Allies, there were dissensions among the
German commanders in Tunisia. Field Marshal Von Arnim, commander of the 5th Panzer Army,
disagreed with details of Rommel's plan and the Axis commander in North Africa,
Field Marshal Kesselring, modified the plan, leaving Rommel somewhat perplexed
and possibly much less enthusiastic about his prospect for complete success.
On 19 February, Rommel renewed the attack. He assigned the 21st Panzer Division to probe
Sbiba Gap and Kampfgruppe DAK to probe Kasserine Pass, while he recovered the
10th Panzer Divisionfrom Von Arnim.
At Sbiba, the British Guards Brigade dug in on the west side of the Sbeitla-Sbiba road,
while the 18th Infantry Regimental Combat Team was assigned more exposed positions
on the east side of the road. The vaunted 21st Panzer Division reached Sbiba and deployed
to the east of the road. Soldiers of the 21st Panzer Division were among the most seasoned
German fighters then in Africa, having been part of the original Afrika Korps.
Rommel arrived during the attack and noted the tough defense at Sbiba. In the meantime,
Kampfgruppe DAK'sprobe, although initially repulsed, showed much more promise.
When the 21st Panzer Division attacked on the morning of the 20th, they fought to within
600 meters of the 18th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, but got no further.
Therefore, Rommel ordered them into holding positions and diverted the late-arriving
10th Panzer Divisiontoward Kasserine. The fate of American soldiers defending
Kasserine Pass is well known. Rommel broke through at Kasserine, then split his force,
sending one group toward Bou Chebka and the other toward Thala.
At Bou Chebka he met determined resistance from Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division,
the 16th Infantry Regimental Combat Team, and Big Red One's Division Artillery. At Thala,
the British 26th Armoured Brigade gave ground grudgingly in a valiant attempt to stem
the German tide. Fortunately, the US 9th Division Artillery arrived just in time.
By the end of the day on the 22nd, it was clear that Rommel's bold plan could not succeed.
His units by then lacked the strength of force, compounded by a crippling shortage
of fuel and ammunition, to exploit his victory at Kasserine Pass.
The Germans broke contact and withdrew.
"Kasserine" was over.
Courtesy of 18th INFANTRY REGIMENT ASSOCIATION
Battle of the Kasserine Pass on Wikipedia
Baptism of Fire: Kasserine Pass, 1943 by Eric Niderost
( especially Part Five – “Concentration of Forces in Tunisia” )
by Dr. George F. Howe
as reported by the U.S. Army Center of Military History
( son of Carl G. Haydon, Company A, 1st Battalion,
168th Infantry Regiment, 34th Infantry Division,
who fought in North Africa and Italy during WWII )
Haydon discusses, was Faid & Kasserine a SUCCESS or FAILURE?
The official motto of the 34th “ Red Bull “ Infantry Division is
ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
U. S. Army 34th Infantry Division Unit Insignia
Blue reflects the Infantry.
The black olla (a Mexican water flask), suggestive of training
in New Mexico during World War I.
The stylized red bovine skull is symbolic of vitality, courage and strength.
The two fasces (crossed diagonally and superimposed by a black olla bearing a
gold fleur-de-lis debruised by a red bovine skull) imply authority and commemorate
the unit’s campaign service in Italy during World War II.
The gold fleur-de-lis alludes to excellence and the Division’s
French Croix de Guerre for service in World War II.
Photograph of 34th Infantry Division Animated Unit Insignia, at Camp Cody,
Deming, NM, 18 AUG 1918. Animated text: Duty, Honor, 34, Country.
The 34th was nicknamed Sandstorm Divisionfrom WWI until renamed
Red Bull Division during the WWII Italian Campaign.
The motto ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK
was adopted by the Division in 1943 and characterized by the nature of the
Division’s combat operations for the remainder of World War II.
*** ADDENDUM ***
Some lessons learned by the Allies, from engagements in Kasserine Pass,
which assisted in the final victory over the Axis.
Kasserine Pass was the only time in WWII the 34th Infantry Division withdrew
(45-50 km). Some contributing factors included units being repeatedly passed to the French,
British, and American II Corps, and the tactical mistake of thin lines of Allied tanks against
massed elements of Panzerarmee Afrika movements. Also, lack of reinforcements, provisions,
and air support (the Luftwaffe was dominate over the battlefield). On 06 March 1943,
newly promoted Lieutenant General George S. Patton replaced Major General Lloyd Fredendall,
as commander of the American II Corps.
For more “lessons learned”,
from the Center of Military History, U.S. Department of Defense.
by Major Scott A. Hasken, US Army.
by Major Shawn P. Rife, USAF, in
Joint Force Quarterly, Number 20 (1998-1999).
“Kasserine Pass is the only important battle fought by the Armed Forces – either in
World War II or since that time – without enjoying air superiority.”
JUN 1861: Company F of Villisca Iowa organized.
AUG 1861: 168th Regiment began its lineage as the 4th Regiment,
Iowa Volunteer Infantry.
MAY 1879: Company K, 5th Infantry Regiment of the
Iowa National Guard organized.
APR 1892: Company K became part of the 3rd Infantry Regiment,
and in late 1893, redesignated as
Company M of the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Iowa National Guard.
World War I: During JUN and JUL 1917, the 34th Infantry Division was formed
from National Guard units of ND, SD, NE, MN, IA; training begins in Camp Cody,
Deming, NM. JUN 1918: the 34th loses nearly all trained personnel in order to
meet requirements of the AEF (American Expeditionary Forces) replacement system.
17 OCT 1918: the 34th is skeletonized.
18 FEB 1919: The Division Record Cadre is demobilized at Camp Grant, IL.
World War II: 34th Infantry Division’s three infantry regiments were
the 133rd, the 135th, and the 168th.
The latter comprised of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Battalions.
Company F was assigned to the 2nd Battalion,
and Company M to the 3rd Battalion.
21st Century: The 34th Red Bull Infantry Division proudly continues to
Serve and Protect the Nation, at home and abroad.
The above Lineage and Honors extracted from The Army Lineage Book,
1953, Volume II: Infantry, U.S. Army Center for Military History.
The document includes “History of the Organization of United States Infantry”.
The Restored Burlington Northern Depot & WWII Memorial Museum