Battle of Faïd Pass and Sidi Bouzid
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
In an attempt to prevent the Allied forces from launching an offensive into southern Tunisia, Erwin Rommel ordered General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim to launch an attack on Faïd Pass, which was carried out by German 21st Panzer Division on 30 Jan. General Alphonse Juin of French XIX Corps reached out to General Lloyd Fredendall of US II Corps for assistance, but the slowness of Fredendall's reaction and the swiftness of the German attack caused the French to suffer great casualties and to give up the pass.
To the southwest was Sidi Bouzid, a communications hub and supply depot held by elements of US II Corps. Fredendall had personally set up the defense in the area without visiting the front and without consulting with subordinate officers who had, thus the American defenses were spread wide part at two hills, Djebel Lessouda and Djebel Ksiara.
At 0400 hours on 14 Feb, four German battle groups consisted of 140 tanks from German 10th and 21st Panzer Divisions, under the overall command of General Heinz Ziegler, rushed through Faïd Pass and Maizila Pass toward Sidi Bouzid under the cover of a sand storm; at 1000 hours, the German attack had overcome the small American resistance along the way and reached the Djebel Lessouda hill. While half the German force reached Djebel Lessouda, the other half marched for Djebel Ksaira and Bir el Hafey. By the end of the day, most of the American fighting vehicles had been driven west or destroyed, leaving infantrymen atop the hills of Djebel Lessouda, Djebel Ksaira, and Djebel Garet Hadid with no support.
On 15 Feb, US General Orlando Ward launched a counterattack, which suffered great casualties in the face of German aircraft strafings and bombings and then German tank attacks; at the cost of 46 medium tanks, 9 self-propelled guns, and a number of other vehicles, the Americans captured Djebel Hamra. In the evening, the Germans launched an offensive that again pushed back the Allies. Sidi Bouzid and Sbeitla to the northwest were captured by the Germans by the end of the day. The US II Corps retreated to Kasserine Pass west of Sbeitla by 17 Feb.
Battle of Faïd Pass and Sidi Bouzid Timeline
|30 Jan 1943||German troops defeated French troops and captured Faïd Pass, Tunisia.|
|14 Feb 1943||German troops launched an offensive against American forces at and near Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia.|
|15 Feb 1943||American forces in Tunisia launched a counterattack at Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia. Though achieving some results, the Americans suffered heavy casualties and lost 46 medium tanks.|
|16 Feb 1943||German forces captured Sidi Bouzid and Sbeitla, Tunisia. The British 8th Army entered Tunisia, spearheaded by the 7th Armoured Division.|
|17 Feb 1943||American forces east of Kasserine Pass, Tunisia retreated into the pass.|
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James Forrestal, Secretary of the Navy, 23 Feb 1945