Advance into Tunisia
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseUpon the successful landings in French-controlled North Africa, the Allied forces immediately embarked on a dash for the lightly-defended Tunisia before Axis forces could react. British Lieutenant General Kenneth Anderson was named the commanding officer of the British First Army (renamed from Eastern Task Force) on 9 Nov 1942, and he was to launch the attack on the following day, with immediate targets being Bougie, Philippeville, Bone, and Djedjelli in Algeria. Given that the Allies had just arrived days prior, the attack force was small, consisted of only two infantry brigade groups and one armored regimental group; it was considered a sufficient force, however, as Axis presence in Tunisia was negligible at this time, and the Allies would have surprise.
ww2dbaseOn 11 Nov, the British 36th Infantry Brigade landed unopposed at Bougie. On 12 Nov, Bone airfield was captured via an airborne attack by the British 3rd Parachute Battalion on 12 Nov; men of the No. 6 Commando arrived on the following day to capture the port at Bone. Djedjelli was captured on 13 Nov, behind schedule. Tebarka was captured by the British on 15 Nov, while on the same day an American paratrooper battalion captured Youks-les-Bains, and moved on from there to capture Gafsa on 17 Nov. Also on 17 Nov, as men of the British 36th Brigade marched toward Djebel Abiod, Tunisia, they encountered Axis forces for the first time; the force of 17 tanks and 400 men pinned down the British attack, and Djebel Abiod was not captured by the British until several days later.
ww2dbaseIn the mean time, as the Allies were just preparing airfields in newly captured territory, the Axis had local air superiority. Many attack columns were strafed by Axis aircraft throughout mid-Nov.
ww2dbaseAs the fighting neared Tunisia, the local French colonial government of Tunisia remained passive, refusing to support one side or the other. However, the Tunisians did not deny use of their infrastructure to either side. On 9 Nov, 40 German aircraft arrived at Tunis, Tunisia. On 10 Nov, British reconnaissance flights found about 100 German aircraft operational in Tunis; later on the same day, 28 Italian fighters landed at Tunis. Between 12 Nov and the end of the month, over 15,000 men, many tanks, and 581 tons of supplies would be airlifted to the theater via Tunis by air. German General Walter Nehring, who was to take command of Axis forces in the region, arrived also by air on 17 Nov.
ww2dbaseWhile the civilian colonial government remained passive, the French military went on the move. French General Barré moved his troops into the mountains and formed a defensive line from Tebersouk to Majaz al Bab in Tunisia, ordering that no one, either Axis or Allied, would be permitted to pass.
ww2dbaseOn 19 Nov, Nehring demanded passage from the French defenses at the bridge at Majaz al Bab, and Barré refused. The Axis forces attacked twice and were repulsed both times, but the French had incurred so much casualties that Barré had no choice but to move out of the way. Seeing the Allied movement toward Majaz al Bab, he decided to fall back to Djedeida, Tunisia, which was only 30 kilometers west of Tunis. Meanwhile, the Allied northern flank was bogged down by heavy rain, thus British 36th Brigade did not reach Jefna until 26 Nov, upon which time they were ambushed and suffered casualties. On the same day, 26 Nov, the British 11th Brigade entered Majaz al Bab unopposed. On 27 Nov, German forces counterattacked successfully, capturing 286 prisoners of war from the British 11th Brigade. On 28 Nov, British 11th Brigade, supported by tanks of US 1st Armored Division, assaulted Djedeida unsuccessfully, losing 19 tanks in the process. On 1 Dec, Axis forces launched a major counterattack, led by Major General Wolfgang Fischer's 10th Panzer Division, toward Tebourba, Tunisia, which was successful in pushing back the British 11th Brigade. In early Dec, several Allied counterattacks all resulted in little progress, and in turn losing many tanks and guns.
ww2dbaseOn the night of 16 to 17 Dec, a company of US 1st Infantry Division raided Maknassy, Tunisia, taking 21 German prisoners.
ww2dbaseOn 22 Dec, 18th Regimental Combat Team of US 1st Infantry Division and 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards of British 78th Division attacked the Longstop Hill, and by the next day drove back elements of German 10th Panzer Division. Most of the territory gained in the past few days, however, were lost as the Germans launched another fresh attack. By 25 Dec, the Allies were driven back to the starting point of their offensive for Tunisia.
Last Major Update: Feb 2011
Advance into Tunisia Interactive Map
Advance into Tunisia Timeline
|10 Nov 1942||Allied forces in French Algeria pushed into Tunisia. In response, Axis transport aircraft were being prepared to bring in reinforcements.|
|11 Nov 1942||British 36th Infantry Brigade landed at Bougie, Algeria unopposed.|
|12 Nov 1942||British 3rd Parachute Battalion conducted an airborne attack on Bone, Algeria, capturing the airfield.|
|13 Nov 1942||In Algeria, men of British No. 6 Commando captured the harbor of Bone, while other troops captured Djedjelli.|
|15 Nov 1942||British troops captured Tebarka, Tunisia and American paratroopers captured Youks-les-Bains, Algeria.|
|17 Nov 1942||American troops captured Gafsa, Tunisia and British 36th Brigade engaged German forces at Djebel Abiod, Tunisia. German General Walter Nehring arrived in Tunis, Tunisia to lead a counterattack against the Allies. The Italians formally absorbed the French Protectorate of Tunisia into the borders of Italian North Africa.|
|19 Nov 1942||Axis forces under General Walter Nehring attacked and penetrated the Vichy-French defense line at Majaz al Bab, Tunisia.|
|21 Nov 1942||German Paratroop Engineer Battalion "Witzig" and Italian 1st Paratroop Battalion attacked British troops near Djebel Abjod, Tunisia; initially successful, they suffered heavy casualties when the British counterattacked later in the day.|
|26 Nov 1942||British 36th Brigade reached Jefna, Tunisia and ran into a German ambush, suffering heavy casualties. Meanwhile, British 11th Brigade captured Majaz al Bab unopposed. The 1st Battalion of US 1st Armored Regiment boldly raided the Axis airfield at Djedeida, shooting up 23 Ju 87 dive bombers and 14 Bf 109 fighters.|
|27 Nov 1942||German forces in Tunisia counterattacked, capturing 286 men from the British 11th Brigade.|
|28 Nov 1942||Infantry of British 11th Brigade and tanks of US 1st Armored Division attacked Djedeida, Tunisia unsuccessfully, losing 19 tanks in the process.|
|29 Nov 1942||British 2nd Parachute Battalion was dropped near Depienne airfield, Tunisia.|
|30 Nov 1942||British 2nd Parachute Battalion reached high ground at Prise de L'Eau in Tunisia one day after having been dropped into the country.|
|1 Dec 1942||German 10th Panzer Division launched a counterattack in Tunisia, pushing back British 11th Brigade. Meanwhile, British 2nd Parachute Brigade crossed Miliane River south of Oudna airfield and continued northwest toward El Fedja.|
|2 Dec 1942||British 2nd Parachute Battalion engaged elements of 3rd Battalion of German 5th Parachute Regiment at El Fedja, Tunisia.|
|3 Dec 1942||British 2nd Parachute Battalion reached Ksar Tyr, Tunisia.|
|4 Dec 1942||British 2nd Parachute Battalion linked up with US troops near Medjez-el-Bab in northern Tunisia.|
|16 Dec 1942||Overnight and into the next morning, men of US 1st Infantry Division raided Maknassy, Tunisia, taking 21 German prisoners.|
|22 Dec 1942||Elements of US 1st Infantry Division and British 78th Division launched an offensive in Tunisia.|
|23 Dec 1942||German 10th Panzer Division took back American and British territorial gains in Tunisia made on the previous day.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945