Battle of Medenine
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseAfter Erwin Rommel successfully halted the Allied advance from French Algeria into Tunisia, he withdrew the Axis forces for a similar counterattack against the Allied forces pushing in from the southeast. The main Allied force threatening southeastern Tunisia was the British 8th Army under Bernard Montgomery, who was indeed in the process of preparing an attack on the German Mareth defensive line. Rommel launched the pre-emptive strike in the morning of 6 Mar 1943. This Axis offensive was codenamed Operation Capri.
ww2dbaseThe attacking force was consisted of German 90th Light Division, German 164th Light Division, German 10th Panzer Division, German 15th Panzer Division, German 21st Panzer Division, and Italian Spezia Division; about 200 tanks were in the Axis assault force. On the Allied side, British 51st (Highland) Division (under Major General Douglas Wimberley), British 7th Armoured Division (under General George Erskine), and New Zealand 2nd Division (under Bernard Freyberg) guarded the main defensive line, while British 4th Light Armoured Brigade (with Free French troops under its organization) guarded the open southern flank.
ww2dbaseThe attack began at 0600 hours with German tanks at the spearhead, under the cover of fog. The Allied troops, benefitting from cracked German codes, were prepared for this potential attack. German assault columns were met with heavy artillery fire that destroyed many tanks and dispersed infantry formations. At 0830 hours, half of the Panzer III tanks attacking Tadjera Kbir, Tunisia were wiped out, leading to a withdraw on that sector. Between 0900 and 1000 hours, a renewed Allied artillery bombardment further disrupted German infantry movements. In the late morning, the Allies thwarted an Axis attempt to move along the road from Foum Tatahouine to Medenine. In the afternoon, an attack force of 1,000 infantrymen supported by tanks nearly reached Tadjera Kbir when it, too, was beaten back. By the end of the day on 6 Mar, Rommel had determined that he did not have initiative on the field and decided to cancel Operation Capri. Between 7 and 8 Mar, as the Axis forces fell back toward the Mareth Line in stages, Allied forces probed the rearguard units, resulting in several small engagements; poor weather prevented the Allies from giving chase after 8 Mar. The Axis forces returned to the Mareth Line by 10 Mar.
ww2dbaseThe three German armored divisions lost about 40 tanks during this failed assault.
ww2dbaseRommel later wrote that the
Last Major Update: Mar 2011
Battle of Medenine Timeline
|6 Mar 1943||Axis forces launched a failed pre-emptive strike, Operation Capri, in southeastern Tunisia near Medenine. The operation was canceled by the evening as Rommel concluded that his forces did not have the initiative of battle.|
|7 Mar 1943||Rearguard of the retreating Operation Capri forces engaged pursuing Allied forces in small-scale combat south of the Mareth Line in Tunisia.|
|8 Mar 1943||Allied forces pursuing the retreating Operation Capri forces gave up the chase due to poor weather in southeastern Tunisia.|
|10 Mar 1943||Axis forces participating in the failed Operation Capri attack in southeastern Tunisia fell back to the Mareth Line.|
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Joachim von Ribbentrop, German Foreign Minister, Aug 1939