Battle for Kasserine Pass: 1st Armored Division Were Ambushed by the Afrika Corps at Sidi Bou Zid | HistoryNet

Battle for Kasserine Pass: 1st Armored Division Were Ambushed by the Afrika Corps at Sidi Bou Zid

6/12/2006 • World War II

Angry winds from the sahara lashed the mountains and plains of central Tunisia just before dawn on Sunday, February 14, 1943–St. Valentine’s Day. The howling currents and swirling dust cloaked the maneuvers of advancing German armored battle groups. At 0400 hours, with resolute purpose, elements of the crack 10th and 21st Panzer divisions had launched an attack through Faid and Maizila passes. The German tanks were bound for the village of Sidi Bou Zid, where General Dwight D. Eisenhower himself had inspected forward American troop dispositions just three hours earlier.

The panzer groups were implementing a plan personally approved by Adolf Hitler and calculated to relieve the pressure on Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps. To the east, British General Bernard L. Montgomery’s Eighth Army, which had chased Rommel from Egypt, was gathering strength for a final assault. Rommel’s western flank was likewise threatened by imminent Allied incursions through the passes of the Eastern Dorsal, a mountain chain running from the Miliane River to Maknassy. The ‘Desert Fox’ viewed the interminable retreat from Egypt with disdain and longed for an opportunity to resume the offensive. To avoid being trapped in a tightening vise, he turned and struck first. The Kasserine campaign, the first major clash between the American and German armies in World War II, had begun.

The essence of Rommel’s plan was to counterthrust through those mountain passes, penetrate deeply to the northwest and completely disrupt the Allied rear. He meant to deal the Americans a resounding defeat that would instill a feeling of inferiority in the green troops and give his hard-pressed army some breathing room. Facing the Germans were fragmented units of the 1st Armored Division, stretched thin to cover a 60-mile front. It was the first American division to engage the Germans in combat, the first to fight in the desert and, ironically, the only one of the 16 U.S. armored divisions in World War II not to receive any desert warfare training.

On that fateful morning, German Panzerkampfwagen Mk.IVs, backed by new, 60-ton Pzkw. MK.VI Tigers, churned over, through and around the American lines. Lieutenant General Heinz Ziegler, the deputy to Col. Gen. Hans von Arnim, led the attacking force.

Spearheading Operation ‘Spring Wind’ was the 591st Tiger Detachment. The 7th Panzer and 86th Panzergrenadier regiments supported that shock force. Spring Wind had four thrust points: Kampfgruppe (KGr.) Gerhardt rolled around the northern edge of Djebel Lessouda, while KGr. Reimann advanced directly along the road from Faid. To the south, units of the 21st Panzer Division poured through Maizila Pass and divided into two groups to encircle Sidi Bou Zid. KGr. Schuette advanced to the north and KGr. Stenkhoff to the west.

Forward elements of the Americans’ 168th Regimental Combat Team, divided among the Lessouda, Garet Hadid and Ksaira djebels (hills), were bypassed and quickly marooned. At least 2,000 men were trapped. They had been imprudently placed there by the II Corps commander, Maj. Gen. Lloyd R. Fredendall, who had never even visited the front lines.

Strenuous efforts to hold the line continued through the morning. At midday, 51 M-4 Sherman tanks of the 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, rolled out to engage the enemy. A fierce fight ensued, resulting in the loss of 44 of the battalion’s tanks. The noble sacrifice, brilliantly led by Lt. Col. Louis I. Hightower, temporarily delayed the panzers’ progress. But by dusk, the Germans had captured Sidi Bou Zid. Having achieved their objective, they halted, satisfied to consolidate their gains.

At 2320 hours that Sunday, after driving through the night, Lt. Col. James D. Alger arrived at the Tunisian farmhouse that would become the headquarters for Combat Command (CC) C of the U.S. II Corps. ‘Gentleman Jim’ Alger’s 2nd Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, had raced from its concealed bivouac near Maktar to an assembly area at an outpost south of Hadjeb el Aioun. As his tankers refueled, Alger awaited the arrival of Colonel Robert I. Stack and his party from division headquarters. They were carrying his counterattack orders.

The easygoing Alger had walked into a desperate and fluid situation that evening. The Germans knew that the American infantry forces were trapped on the Lessouda and Ksaira hills, and planned to obliterate them. The American commanders in the rear prepared to counterattack the next morning in order to rescue the isolated infantry, retake Sidi Bou Zid and drive the Germans back.

In the vanguard of the counterattacking force would be Alger’s 2nd Battalion. It had never been in combat before. The unit had been conducting reconnaissance forays into Ousseltia Valley to the north when the attack through Faid Pass began. At 1500, the 2nd Battalion was ordered to move immediately to Hadjeb el Aioun, and Alger was directed to report to Stack, who had just been placed in command of the hastily assembled CC C. All Alger knew when he reached the command post was that units on CC A’s front had been battered and that an unknown number of Germans had moved through Faid Pass.

Stack and his entourage arrived at the command post at 0230, Monday, February 15. Alger was only given preliminary information during the initial briefing. An hour later, two lieutenants from the regiment’s reconnaissance company gave him a firsthand account of the battle around Lessouda. Despite what they had seen, the two had little knowledge of the German strength and disposition. There were no terrain maps of the area for Alger to review.

The march and counterattack orders for CC C were issued at 0400, from a plan personally drafted by Maj. Gen. Orlando Ward, the 1st Armored Division commander. Ward’s plan was based upon an intelligence estimate of 40 German tanks near Sidi Bou Zid. In fact, as he would later learn to his chagrin, there were more than 100 in the village, as well as emplaced 47mm and 88mm anti-tank guns.

Ward’s order to Stack read as follows: ‘Mission to CC C….This force will move south, and by fire and maneuver, destroy the enemy armored forces which have threatened our hold on the Sbeitla area. It will so conduct its maneuver to aid in the withdrawal of our forces in the vicinity of Djebel Ksaira, eventually withdrawing to the area north of Djebel Hamra for further action.’

Two German armored divisions and part of a third, plus supporting units, waited near Sidi Bou Zid to obstruct Alger’s thrust and foil his mission. Against this formidable force, the Americans were sending an uninitiated tank battalion, reinforced by a tank destroyer company consisting of halftracks mounting 75mm cannons. The frontal movement would be supported by the 68th Armored Field Artillery Battalion, less Battery A, and the 6th Armored Infantry Battalion, riding behind in halftracks.

As the briefing continued, Alger learned that his tank battalion had been ordered to attack in a formation consisting of a column of companies, with the center wing back. Two platoons would be on line in a narrow front to provide depth, with the third platoon of each company toward the center rear in reserve. Each flank was to be covered by a heavy tank destroyer platoon.

The commander of the 1st Armored Regiment, Colonel Peter C. Hains, explained the known geographical contours and features of the area to Alger. He advised him of the deep, irregular wadis in his path and indicated that they were passable at certain points. Only three maps were available, and those were all of a scale that provided little in the way of detail. There were still no terrain maps to work from. Worst of all, there had been no reconnaissance forward from the jump-off point to Sidi Bou Zid itself.

At 0500, Alger returned to the battalion assembly area and issued the march and attack orders to his men. At 0620, his battalion moved out and headed from the jump-off position, three miles south of the road junction later to be known as Kern’s Crossroads.

Between 0700 and 1100 hours, the battalion’s movement along the road to the jump-off point was repeatedly interrupted by reconnaissance operations. As the battalion closed on the crossroads, Alger ordered his reconnaissance platoon to the right flank. He had selected Captain Province M. Winkler’s Company D to lead the attack. Captain John L. Peyton’s Company F came next, followed by the battalion assault guns, self-propelled artillery commanded by Lieutenant Leo J. Farber. In reserve, was Company E, under Captain Harris O. Machus and Major William W. Emory. The 3rd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, and Companies B and C of the 68th Armored Artillery Battalion backed these forward elements. Tank destroyer platoons were located on each flank.

Two forward artillery observers reported to the battalion at the staging area. Alger sent his own radio operator, Warrant Officer Frank D. Leger, Jr., to attempt to adjust their radios to the battalion net. Due to the rush, however, the radios had not been synchronized by the time the attack began.

Alger met with his officers to verify the direction of the assault and confirm the attack orders. In the absence of terrain maps, he used the north nose of Djebel Ksaira as a reference point for his attack.

Company D moved far to the front and east of the jump-off position. Its two leading platoons, on line, preceded the main group by 500 yards, to act as a covering force. Around noon, Alger climbed to a hilltop with Hains and Hightower, and they scanned the attack route east toward Sidi Bou Zid, 13 miles away.

The village lay across a sun-drenched plain cut by steep ravines and washes. They discussed the terrain, the likely crossing points and the day’s objectives. Next, they pointed out the probable locations of anti-tank guns. However, they had only a vague idea of what awaited them near Sidi Bou Zid.

In fact, the Germans had emplaced anti-tank guns and artillery on high ground positions around the village. Others were established in or near it, covered by buildings, walls, wadis and groves. Furthermore, the full extent of the opposing force was disguised by the geographic features.

Despite many causes for concern, the attack had to go on. After surveying the terrain, Hains turned to Alger and said, ‘Seek the enemy armor and destroy it.’

‘Yes sir,’ Alger replied with a smart salute. They all shook hands, and Hightower wished his subordinate luck and said he hoped they would ‘get 4-to-1’ in their favor. Just as they parted, perhaps foreshadowing what was to come, the crossroads was heavily bombed by 14 Junkers Ju-87 Stukas. The aerial strike scattered Alger’s vehicles and delayed the start of the attack. Damage was slight, but the German pilots were able to transmit the size and disposition of the American force to their tankers waiting in Sidi Bou Zid.

Alger climbed into the turret of the battalion command tank and at 1300 received the order to begin the attack. As Alger’s tank moved into position with Company D, Stack watched the formation pass by from his lofty command post on Djebel Hamra. He was pleased that the attacking force was moving with parade ground precision and keeping proper intervals. It was an organized, perfect, textbook movement–just as if the battalion were going on maneuvers, not rolling to meet a deadly foe. As Stack scanned Sidi Bou Zid through field glasses, the ‘Stars and Stripes Forever’ blasted from a truck radio on the plain below. The small troop moved out into the open desert, fully exposed to the enemy.

By 1350, the lead force had passed south of the town of Sadaguia, and the tank destroyer platoon on the left flank had entered the town. As Company D reconnoitered the first large irrigation ditch and wadi east of Sadaguia to find a crossing, another flight of Stukas dive-bombed the town and strafed the advancing column. The tank destroyer platoon did not exit the town.

Company D found a lone crossing point, and every American was forced to converge and cross at that single location. However, only one tank was lost in the wet irrigation ditch, due to a thrown track.

As his tanks advanced, Alger received a message from Captain Robert L. Sweeney: ‘Our birds will visit the first objective soon. Delay attack until they have completed mission.’ Alger told his commanders that aerial support was on the way. To avoid being caught in the midst of a friendly air attack, the Americans slowed their pace considerably. Unfortunately, the expected airstrike never materialized.

As Winkler’s command tank and the balance of Company D approached the second wadi, they were showered with airbursts. Winkler’s handpicked crew had been together since Northern Ireland. They had endured Stuka dive-bombings and convoy strafings during the long march from Algeria, but they had never experienced such intense artillery fire. Sergeant Everett Gregg, the tank commander, was the assistant driver/gunner that day. Alphonse Urbanovski was the driver. The usual driver, Philip Caldwell, had moved to a trailing tank destroyer to make room for Captain Winkler, who was taking the company into battle. In the turret with Winkler were Lee C. Kaser, the radio operator/loader, and Corporal Robert A. Newton, the 75mm gunner.

All in all, the men were eager to see action and proud of their jobs. ‘We’re damn glad to be tankers,’ Newton wrote. ‘Next to the Air Corps, and we dispute that, we are the elite of the Army. We wouldn’t be in any other branch of the service. There’s a peculiar feeling of pride in being a tanker that only a tanker knows.’

The tankers rolled toward Sidi Bou Zid, confident that their new Shermans would see them through. Winkler’s crew had dutifully maintained their tank for just this eventuality. ‘The great tradition of cavalry from which we evolved is still with us,’ Newton wrote. ‘The mount comes first.’

Winkler’s 1st Platoon, on the left flank, started to cross the second wadi and was fired upon by anti-tank guns trained on the crossing from a range of 350 yards. Shells streamed in from the north and burst all around them. Many even landed on the 3rd Platoon, held in reserve 500 yards back. Both the 1st and 2nd platoons then engaged the German anti-tank guns, knocked out all of them and overran their positions. Four 88mm anti-tank guns and two 47mm guns were destroyed. Approximately 50 enemy personnel were killed.

As the tanks continued to cross the second wadi, the shelling intensified. The heaviest fire poured in from the western slopes of Garet Hadid, southeast of Sidi Bou Zid. Company F’s progress was slowed by the high-velocity pounding. Alger called for counterbattery fire, but there was no reply to his message. He then asked Winkler to use his reserve platoon on the target if possible. Meanwhile, Battery C of the 68th Armored Artillery Battalion, responding to a request from the forward observer riding with Company F, moved up and provided the needed counterbattery fire. Alger’s men continued to scan the skies in vain for air support.

At 1420, the hamlet of Sidi Salem came into view. By 1430, Company D had finished crossing the third wadi on the village’s west side. It was then that the Germans unleashed the full fury of their emplaced artillery. Dense fire poured in from Sidi Bou Zid, which was still three miles to the east. Stukas rolled down from the sky, adding to the onslaught.

Alger instructed Company F to roll off to the right in order to cover the southern flank. He also directed the company to prepare to sweep toward the western slope of Garet Hadid to destroy the enemy artillery installations that were wreaking such havoc on the battalion. Company E was ordered to remain in reserve, behind the second wadi.

Company D, with Alger in tow, reached the edge of Sidi Salem at 1500. Enemy tanks and wheeled vehicles appeared to the south and charged toward town. Alger’s tank and the right flank platoon of Company D engaged and knocked out two German tanks and set some of the other vehicles on fire. They then moved slowly into the town.

By 1515, Company D’s occupation of Sidi Salem was completed. Winkler’s tanks moved through the town, smashing machine-gun nests set up in houses. While the American tanks moved to the east of town in an aggressive reconnaissance, Alger turned back to check on the progress of Company F.

Just east of Sidi Bou Zid, Lieutenant Kurt E. Wolff, a German tank commander, was about to pour himself a cup of coffee when his communications officer reported clouds of dust on the western horizon. The Germans knew that the dust meant the Americans were coming. Through binoculars, they counted 30 American tanks approximately 5,500 yards away from their position. Two German companies were farther south, and a complete German tank regiment was poised to the northeast. In 10 minutes, the Americans would be close enough for him to open fire.

As Wolff climbed into his tank and ordered the engine started, his commander wheeled by and called out his orders: ‘Drive straight at the enemy and stop him. The 1st Company will be led into their flank. Do not retreat under any circumstances.’

There were 14 tanks in Wolff’s center company, including Tigers. The Germans’ first objective was a flat hill overgrown with cactus astride Djebel Lessouda. It offered some cover, and ahead of it lay a level plain approximately 900 yards across, which each of the American tanks would have to pass if they did not turn off.

South of Sidi Salem, the 68th Artillery Battalion was still effectively engaging the enemy artillery on Garet Hadid with counterbattery fire. Companies E and F were trying to overrun anti-tank batteries north and south of the village.

As Wolff’s tank reached the hill, he could see the white stars of American Shermans as they plunged past him on the right, showing their broadsides. The Americans were apparently preoccupied with KGr. Gerhardt to the north and failed to detect Wolff’s company in the center. The main body of the American force throttled back, then halted 3,000 yards away. Wolff’s group slowed, awaiting orders.

At 1545, Winkler’s 1st Platoon reported the movement of enemy tanks along the road to the northeast. The strength of the panzer force was then undetermined but would later be estimated at 30 tanks. Moments later, Peyton reported an enemy force of 25 Pzkw. Mk.IVs thrusting from the south parallel to the Bir el Hafey Road. He coaxed Company F into defiladed positions southeast of Sidi Salem. Tank guns flashed as the Americans and Germans began firing at one another. KGr. Stenkhoff’s panzers had been discovered–but too late.

There was little cover for Company F’s tanks as the Germans drove into Peyton’s force with fierce determination. They were now in position to turn Alger’s southern flank.

Alger joined Company E in maneuvering from the west edge of Sidi Salem to engage KGr. Gerhardt, which was moving steadily toward them from the north. Winkler’s 1st Platoon caught four German panzers moving through a cactus patch and knocked them out. Two additional enemy tanks were later destroyed in the same position. The balance of Winkler’s tanks opened fire from the cover of the village, with the 3rd Platoon destroying eight enemy tanks. One of Company D’s tanks was engaged by seven panzers. The outgunned American tank was able to destroy one of its tormentors before it was wrecked.

As he watched the action unfold, Wolff’s mind raced. When would the order to advance be given? The southern force had already broken through the American perimeter. Suddenly, his radio crackled with the order: ‘4th Company, attack!’

Wolff joined his group in a dash across the broad plain, and they were soon within 2,500 yards of the Americans. The Germans were mystified that the Americans seemed oblivious to their advance–not one of their turrets turned to face Wolff’s advancing armor.

Wolff’s men kept estimating the distance to the white stars, asking their lieutenant excitedly when they could fire. Their armor-piercing rounds were already loaded in the firing chambers, but they were still 400 yards too far away for effective fire.

German artillery positioned in and around Sidi Bou Zid opened up with a murderous barrage as the advance continued and Wolff’s tanks drew closer. Finally, the order to fire was given. Wolff’s company poured blistering shells at the Americans. In an instant, red flames and black smoke appeared on the horizon.

Stack looked on in horror and disbelief as the German force came into view and began cutting into the American tanks. Alger had been sent directly into the jaws of an ambush. The 2nd Battalion would be crushed in a flanking vise by an overwhelming armored force, while simultaneously being hammered in the center–a classic encirclement.

At 1615 Alger lost contact with Winkler. By then, the opposing tankers were fighting at point-blank range. Unbeknown to Alger, Winkler had his head down in the turret when an armor-piercing round exploded in the tank with a brilliant red glow, a splash of molten metal and an eruption of fire. The compartment was immediately engulfed in flames. Kaser was killed instantly by the blast. Winkler’s face and hair were seared and his eyes were burned shut. Newton was scorched on the face, hands and chest. Both Gregg and Urbanovski suffered superficial head wounds. The survivors bailed out of the stricken tank as the battle raged around them.

When they were on the ground, Winkler asked who was there. The crew said all but Kaser. He asked them to check on Kaser but one or more came back and told him it was no use. At Winkler’s request, Gregg led his blinded commander to the nearest officer’s tank to check in by radio with Alger. Winkler was unable to reach Alger on the radio but talked briefly in person with a Lieutenant Holder of Company E. Gregg then suggested that Winkler try to walk out while Gregg returned to the tank to help Newton and Urbanovski put the fire out. He said that they would pick up Winkler if they could douse the fire and restart the engine.

Meanwhile, Stack radioed Alger for a situation report. ‘Still pretty busy. Situation is hard,’ Alger calmly replied. That was Stack’s last communication with the 2nd Battalion commander. Moments later Alger’s radio antenna was blown away by a tank shell.

At 1645, armor-piercing rounds struck the engine compartment of Alger’s tank, starting a fire. The early Sherman was nicknamed ‘the Ronson’ due to the propensity of its lightly armored gasoline engine to burst into flames. Now, Alger’s command tank was ablaze. Immediately afterward, two armor-piercing rounds ripped through the south side of the turret, killing radio operator Leger. Alger and the rest of the crew jumped from the flaming tank and tried to work northward to join the remnants of Company D.

The hostile armored force now bored in on the American flanks. Multicolored tracer shells streaked through the sky as the Germans rampaged at will among the burning M-4s. The survivors retreated west through lanes of heavy pursuing fire. Soon the envelopment was finished. Just four of Alger’s Shermans and some scattered crews returned as night descended.

One of the tanks with a knocked-out gun picked up Winkler, who had walked west alone, guided only by the warmth of the setting sun on his scorched face. Alger and his crew were quickly spotted by Germans and captured, as were Gregg, Newton, Urbanovski and most of the battalion’s dismounted crews.

The 68th Armored Artillery Battalion and the 6th Armored Infantry were cut off and threatened with encirclement. Nevertheless, the American artillery continued directing a steady stream of fire at the approaching German panzers, then only 2,000 yards away. Two guns disappeared in brilliant flashes of fire, while the others withdrew into defilade.

Stack was heartsick and had seen enough. Alger’s entire battalion had been annihilated. At 1800, he ordered immediate disengagement and withdrawal to Kern’s Crossroads. The American infantry trapped on Djebels Lessouda and Ksaira were written off and told to get back as best they could.

The Germans were elated. They had decimated an entire American tank battalion. Acrid, dark gray and black smoke filled the air. The American tanks huddled beside the wadi Oued Rouena, at the edge of Sidi Salem, flames flickering in the desert night.

As the victorious panzers droned and prowled around the village searching for stragglers, Wolff roamed from company to company asking his men and himself: ‘Did you ever see anything like it? Did you ever see anything like it?’

In just two days, the strength of the 1st Armored Division had been depleted by a total of 98 tanks, 57 halftracks, 29 artillery pieces and 500 men. Instantly swept away were 100 of its highly trained tank crews. These were the darkest days of the division’s history. Alger later likened his doomed attack to the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava during the Crimean War, lamenting that ‘there was little or no foresight in planning or execution of the operations.’


This article was written by Robert A. Newton and originally appeared in the September 2002 issue of World War II magazine.

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38 Responses to Battle for Kasserine Pass: 1st Armored Division Were Ambushed by the Afrika Corps at Sidi Bou Zid

  1. […] – Canuck Baseball in Wartime Battle of Dieppe at Axis and Allies Battlefields of WW2 by Paul Reed Battle for the Kasserine Pass BBC – Children of World War 2 BBC – History – Countdown to World War Two Sunday 3 September 1939 […]

  2. […] Nephew Robert Newton wrote an article on the Afrika Corps ambush at Sidi Bou Zid. First published in World War II magazine (2002), it is now available on […]

  3. […] Nephew Robert Newton wrote an article on the Afrika Corps ambush at Sidi Bou Zid. First published in World War II magazine (2002), it is now available on […]

  4. Thomas Todisco says:

    To whom it may concern my dad was there. He was wth the Second Armored Division “HELL ON WHEELS” 702nd Tank Destroyer Battalion, 195TH Anti Aircraft Battalion under general Patton. I can remember him saying that if the Germans had a few more tanks…….. then he just shook his head negatively. My dad was a Staff Sargent, he was on a half track with a 50 cal. machine gun in his hands. He went on to Sicily, landed at Anzio, went on to Holland , Belgium, D-Day + 2, fought in the Adennes, Battle of the Bulge, (was called back twice) backed up the 82ND and 101ST Airborne, Liberation of France, crossed the Rhine River, and ended up 60 miles outside of Berlin, where he was told to stop, while the Russians got the credit. He is 92 years old, I take care ofhim 24/7. Respectfuly, Tom Todisco

    • w.e.Miller says:

      My Dad, J.Welton Miller, also with 2nd armored, start to finish passed away peacefully April 28, 1998. –
      Greetings to your father…

  5. J Stadler says:

    Question on the Tiger unit mentioned in this article, I have always read it was the sPzAbt 501, not 591. I’m assuming this is a typo as I have no record of a Tiger unit with that number.

  6. Richard Arant says:

    My father, T/4 Henry L. Arant, radio operator, Co A, 701st Tank Destroyer Bn, was at Kasserine Pass and was later wounded at Anzio. He died at his home in Louisville, KY, on 16 August 1991.

  7. danny miller says:

    My dad, T5 William Miller was a halftrack drive with the 6 th battalion.
    He was captured at Kassarine Pass. He was taken to a prison camp in Italy and he escaped after being there at the camp 6 months. He remained behind the lines for 12 more months before getting back to US forces.

  8. Martin Hill says:

    My father, T4 Martin Raymond Hill, was a radio operator with Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, at the Kasserine battles (Newton’s article only details one of the battles). Dad landed at Oran and after North Africa, went on to Italy with the 1st AD: Salerno, Naples (where he was injured), Anzio, Rome and up to the Po Valley. He passed away in 2002.

  9. Laura LaBarbera says:

    Hi My Dad, Anthony LaBarbera was in the 1st Armoured Division, battle of the Kasserine Pass, and was captured. He spent two years in a German Prison camp. Anyone out there still around from that battle? Would like to get in touch!

    • Suzanne Reynolds Ashmore says:

      Hi Laura, My dad was captured on 14 Feb at Sidi Bouzid, He spent 27 months at Stalag 3B in Furstenburg, Germany up near the Polish border. My dad was with the Iowa National Guard, 168th Regiment, Co 3, 2 Bn. They were part of the 34th (Red Bull) Division. I am now just starting to research info and have already learned a lot. Please contact me if you want.

    • Suzanne Reynolds Ashmore says:

      My father was captured on Feb 14, 1943 at Kasserine Pass and spent the next 27 months as a “Guest of the Third Reich” in Stalag IIIB, Furstenburg, Germany. Yes, there are some still alive. Please contact me if you wish.

      • Joek Hulsmann says:

        Hi Suzanne, I’m investigating the circumstances of the dead of Bernard Erickson from Minnesota, 16th Engineer Batallion of the 1st Armoured, also POW in Stalag 3B. He must have been captured in the attack described above, because he’s reported POW since 17 FEB1943. He’s last been reported at March 8, 1946 (!), but that’s probably the date he was declared dead, one year after his last known report date. His name is now on the Wall of the Missing of the American Miltary Cemetery in Margraten, The Netherlands. I’ve adopted his name as a token of our eternal gratitude for the sacrifice of our liberators.

        Do you know anything around the last days of Stalag 3B? Was there a death march? Would you know any still living POW’s? I really hope you can help me out, very much appreciated!!

        Joek Hulsmann

      • Michelle Nyberg says:

        Just an FYI, I met a man this past weekend that was at first in the 4th armored and then merged into the 1st armored. As talked of in this article he was captured and was a POW in Poland. He is 98 and my daughter and I will be interviewing him this Monday. He still has a mind like a steel trap. Still drives!!. I will ask him some of these names. I can’t release his name as I don’t have his permission but I will ask and get back to you if he knows anything about these brave men.

  10. […] HyperWar – Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West America in WWII – Facing the Fox – Battle for Kasserine Pass Freedom is precious and many gave their lives for it. It is the duty of the future generation […]

  11. Donnie George says:

    My Dad, and hero, landed at Oran on Nov 8, 1942. He was at Kassarine. His unit was 1st battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division. Does anyone have specifics on the role that this regiment played at Kassarine and other battles in Nort Africa?

  12. Martin Hill says:


    Check out this book: The Battle History of the 1st Armored Division, by George F. Howe, published 1954 by Combat Forces Press.

    It’s a detailed history of the 1AD during WWII and covers all campaigns.

  13. Lawrence Gwozdz says:

    My Dad was in the 68th Armored Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Armored Division in World War II. His name was Ted (Theodore) Gwozdz, a Tech Sergeant. He died of cancer in 1950 when I was only 2 years old. Anyone have any information on the role he may have played?

    His Son, Larry Gwozdz

  14. Suzanne Reynolds Ashmore says:

    My dad was captured Feb 14, 1943 at Sidi Bouzid. He was with the 168th Regiment, Company E of the Iowa National Guard. He was sent to a German Prison, Stalag 3B, where he stayed until liberated by the 33rd Soviet Army in May of 1945. He was discharged shortly thereafter at Camp Chaffee, Arkansas. My dad were never speak of his time in the war, but by reading articles such as this I have been able to piece those parts of his life together that I thought would be lost to me forever. My journey has just begun.

    • Mark Colley says:

      Hi Suzanne,

      I have since found out that my uncle, Pvt. Lewis Colley from Alabama was in Company F, 1st Regiment, 1st Armored Division. He was reported as MIA and eventually presumed killed on 2/15/43 near Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. It seems the major battle on this date was the disastrous American counterattack where they ended up surrounded in a German ambush.

      I am the next of kin and very little information is known so I am trying to find out through individuals and forums such as these for anything that might be relevant. I wish I had started this journey years ago but better late than never.

      • Suzanne Reynolds Ashmore says:

        Hi Mark, please contact me via my e-mail address and I will be glad to provide you with the information I have.

    • Mark Colley says:


      That would be fantastic, thanks. I am not sure what your email address is if different from posting here. Please advise, thanks.

    • Mark Colley says:


      My email address is

      Any information you would share is most appreciated, thanks in advance.

  15. Mark Colley says:

    To anyone reading this,

    I am looking for any information on my uncle that was killed Feb 15, 1943. He was Pvt. Lewis Colley from Alabama. Little is known about what happened and I am trying to find out, any information would be most appreciated, thanks in advance.

  16. charles gilles says:

    charles gilles 752nd armored battalion co.c tank commander, charles is my dad he is presently 94 yrs. old. hope to hear from some that my know of this group.thanks joe gilles

    • Diana Schultz says:

      My grandfather is Stanley L Schultz, who is , unfortunately, in his final days (maybe weeks?) I was looking for stories online that I could read to him. Stanley served with the 752nd tank battalion of the 1st armored division, like your father, Charles.

  17. Irvin Moran says:

    Hi Mark,
    My uncle and namesake, Irvin VanNest, was also killed on February 15, 1943 outside of Sidi Bou Zid. He was a tanker in G Company, 13th Armored Regiment of the 1st Armored Division as part of Combat Command C. While it can be somewhat difficult to ascertain details of events so long ago, it is possible. You need to know exactly what outfit he was in. If he was K.I.A. on February 15 1943 in North Africa, he was most likely involved in this battle which involved many different American units. When you know the unit you can then research military unit histories to get a detailed description of the casualties that took place on that day. The chances of finding someone out there at this point in time who actually served with your uncle is extremely unlikely. Hoped this helped.
    P.S. Four (4) other tank crew members where killed at the same time as my uncle on that day, and of course I have never discovered their identities –what would be the chances…………

    • Mark Colley says:


      Thanks for your response. I have been able to find out that my uncle was in Company F, 2nd Battallion, 1st Armored Regiment of the 1st Armored Division. He was MIA/KIA on 2/15/43. I reached out the Nat’l Archives folks who told me all his records were destroyed in a fire in the 1970’s. I was able to find some communications provided after the war, basically closing the file on him from the army. It looks like he was in Capt. John L. Peyton’s company, the southernmost battlefield unit of the 3 assuming he was in the counterattack assault on that day just northwest of Sidi Bouzid. I know many were captured that day as well as MIA/KIA, it looks like this company lost 16 tanks that day.

      • Christie Scott-Swentko says:

        I’m sorry, I don’t mean to butt in but I seen you guy’s were talking about this battle that my Grandfather was also in. My Grandfather survived this battle and made it home in 1944.
        But I did run across something that may be helpful to you both. A man made a page telling people how to track down their relatives information regarding WWII and talked about how the fire did destroy almost all the records but did say to ask for the morning reports from the comanders and such.

        “Step 5: Obtain the Morning Reports — You must know his company (squadron, troop, etc.) to do this most efficiently. For most soldiers, that is on their discharge (step 1 above).”

        I’ll attach his link for you both to review and maybe it could be helpful and if not maybe it can help someone else down the road. Wishing you both luck with finding all the information your looking for.

  18. Irvin Moran says:


    Glad to hear that you were able to ascertain your uncle’s unit and some background information. In my research on my uncle’s unit and the events of February 14th and 15th, 1943, I have some information on the 2nd Battalion of the 1st Armored Regiment of the 1st Armored Division. I could probably write a page or more on it (more than this forum site probably wants) so if you are interested in it and want to give me an email address, I will write it up and send it to you. It has been interesting to hear from someone who also lost a relative in that battle.

  19. Mark Colley says:


    Would really appreciate any information you would share. Email address is


  20. CSM(R) Paul Belanger says:

    Unfortunately, my father passed before I could really understand all that he had been through. I was with the 1st Division from the landing in Africa until victory in Germany fighting in all the major campaigns including North Africa (Kasserine), Sicily, Normandy, the Bulge, Rhineland, etc. A true American hero from a generation of heroes. Rest in Peace Dad.

  21. CSM(R) Paul Belanger says:

    Unfortunately, my father passed before I could really understand all that he had been through. He was with the 1st Division from the landing in Africa until victory in Germany fighting in all the major campaigns including North Africa (Kasserine), Sicily, Normandy, the Bulge, Rhineland, etc. A true American hero from a generation of heroes. Rest in Peace Dad.

  22. Christie Scott-Swentko says:

    Hello everyone!

    My Grandfather fought in WWII.

    Sergeant Ralph Scott

    CCA, Sixth Armored Infantry, 1st Armored Division.

    He started off at Fort Knox, Kentucky in November 1940 and trained and then went to Northern Ireland and from there to Algeria.

    His Battles and Campaigns included: Algeria French Morroco; Tunisia; Naples – Foggia; Rome – Arno. And he headed back to the states in May 1944.

    I was only 7 when my Grandfather passed away so I never had the chance to talk with him about the war and I can honestly say I never heard him ever talk about it. He was a very kind, gentle and soft spoken man and was so well liked by everyone who knew him.
    My Grandfather was born and grew up in Slaughters, Hopkins County, Kentucky, USA and was the very first person in his County to volunteer to join the war.
    He passed away from prostate cancer which spread into lung and brain cancer and God took him home in September 1981, he just turned 65.
    He is buried at New Salem United Methodist Church in Slaughters, Kentucky.

    • David Baker says:

      My dad was also 6th armored infantry. He was a seargent and attended the 1st OCS class held in England. He was assigned to the 1st AD and landed at Oran. To the best of my knowledge while with CCA. he was present at Fiad, Sidi Bu Zid, and Kassarine, however, other than being an Infantry platoon leader, I have no other specifics. He finished the African Campaign and landed at Anzino. His name was Cecil Budgnot Baker, Budgenot being a Cherokee Chief. Any help or knowledge would be appreciated.
      David W. Baker
      CWO5, USAR, Retired

  23. mike says:

    Sir my grandad was a tech sargent in the 752nd currently doing research as he passed while i was deployed.

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