Kasserine Pass, 1943
After the Americans successfully invaded North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942, German and Italian troops were quickly organized to destroy the inexperienced US Army. The Americans were not alone in the region, supported by both Free French and British troops, but the bulk of the fighting at Kasserine was by the American II Corps, commanded by General Lloyd Fredendall.
Fredendall’s opposite was Erwin Rommel, who attacked the American positions in the Atlas Mountains. Rommel pushed against British and American units, who offered stubborn resistance to the Germans despite glaring problems with communication. The American commander remained far behind the lines, which were on terrain of which he had no first-hand experience.
More experienced British units often failed to provide relevant information regarding tactics which they had developed, leaving the Americans in exposed positions and poorly prepared fortifications. American troops had not yet realized the need to dig in deeply and to avoid being bunched closely together when facing enemy barrage. Despite these and other failings, the inexperienced Americans still managed to prevent Rommel from exploiting his initial gains, and eventually managed to stop the German attacks.
The Americans were pushed back more than fifty miles before supporting artillery and counterattacks managed to halt the German thrust. The Americans took heavy casualties in men and equipment, and despite stopping the German attack morale suffered as a result of the losses and the lack of leadership present with the troops.
General Eisenhower relieved Fredendall after Kasserine Pass and he was sent home, in large part because of his failure to instill the necessary discipline in the troops under his command. Fredendall had rarely visited the front lines of his command and was uninformed on many issues which were exposed by the battle. Eisenhower took immediate steps to streamline the Allied chain of command to enhance communications between British, French and American units at all levels, and temporarily assigned a new commander to II Corps – General George Patton.