World War II – Capture of Tunisia

Last updated on February 17th, 2019 at 09:42 pm

A series of World War II battles that took place in Tunisia in the first half of 1943 resulted in Axis forces being ejected from all of North Africa.

After the Second Battle of El Alamein, Rommel withdrew to the Mareth Line, in southeastern Tunisia. The Mareth Line was a line of fortifications that had been built by the French in order to defend against an attack by the Italians. Here, Rommel’s troops were protected by the Atlas Mountain in the west and by the Gulf of Sidra in the east.

The British were having difficulty obtaining supplies; this made it easier for Rommel’s troops to fend off British attacks.

Meanwhile, however, United States troops were moving from Morocco and Algeria into Tunisia.

Rommel decided that his troops needed to attack American forward supply bases.

British M3 General Grant tank supporting American forces at Kasserine Pass in TunisiaOn February 14 1943, Axis forces launched an attack on the Americans.  The US forces had little experience with armored warfare and were no match for the Germans.

The Americans drew back to the 3.2 mile (2 kilometer) wide Kasserine Pass.

On February 19, Rommel personally led the 10th Panzer Division in an attack on the United States troops at Kasserine pass. The Americans were forced to retreat.

Additional Allied forces then arrived to help the Americans, so Rommel withdrew to the Mareth Line.

With 160 tanks at his disposal, Rommel launched an attack against the British in the beginning of March. His forces were faced with more than 400 British tanks and more than 500 British antitank guns. Rommel’s troops suffered heavy losses.

Montgomery then attacked Axis forces at the Mareth Line with a contingent of Allied troops that included some Free French.

The Allies had Valentine tanks with 2 pounder guns. These could not stand up to with the German tanks. This time, the Allies lost heavily.

While some of the Allied forces were retreating from the Mareth line, Britain’s 1st Armoured Division moved towards El Hamma.   Some of the 1st Armoured Division’s tanks had new 17-pounder guns.  When fighting ensued at El Hamma, the better armed British tanks were able to defeat the panzers.

In early May 1943, the Allies attacked Axis forces at Medjerda Valley. Allied tanks were able to break through Axis defenses. By May 13, Tunis had been captured.  German and Italian soldiers were taken prisoner. This was the end of the Axis presence in North Africa.