Battle of El Guettar
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
ww2dbaseOn 17 Mar 1943, US 1st Infantry Division the minimally-defended town of Gafsa, Tunisia in preparation for a new offensive against Axis forces in Tunisia. On the following day, US 1st Ranger Battalion moved to the oasis town of El Guettar; the Italian defenders withdrew from the town quickly, but they were able to fortify themselves on hills overlooking the town and to block the El Guettar moutain pass to the south. In response, German General Jürgen von Arnim ordered German 10th Panzer Division to counterattack. The attack began at 0600 hours on 23 Mar, spearheaded by 50 tanks and followed by armored halftracks carrying infantry, supported by artillery. The American front lines were quickly overrun, but as the German vehicles slowed in a minefield behind the front lines, American artillery, anti-tank guns, and tank destroyers were able to damage or destroy 30 German tanks, forcing the Germans to withdraw by 0900 hours. At 1645 hours, a renewed offensive was launched, and it was similarly halted by the unexpected American firepower. Overnight, the Germans joined the Italian troops on the hills to the east, but the Axis forces would not be able to gain the momentum to strike again. Instead, over the following week, the Americans slowly pushed the front lines forward while building up forces at El Guettar.
ww2dbaseOn 30 Mar, 31 Mar, and 1 Apr, US 1st Infantry Division and US 9th Infantry Division, supported by about one third of the tanks of US 1st Armored Division, attacked Italian-held positions at Hill 369; some of the attacks were relatively successful, but ultimately the Italians were able to repulse every attack. On 2 Apr, US 9th Infantry Division was moved to attack Hill 772, leaving only US 1st Infantry Division to attack Hill 369, which was captured on 3 Apr. With tanks of German 21st Panzer Division arriving to reinforce Hill 772, the Battle of El Guettar grew into into a stalemate.
ww2dbaseAt about 1700 hours on 7 Apr 1943, British troops who had pushed Axis troops out of the Mareth Line in southeastern Tunisia linked up with American troops on the El Guettar-Gabès road. This battle showed that the Americans, though still inexperienced, were now able to hold ground against offensives conducted by experienced German forces.
Battle of El Guettar Timeline
|17 Mar 1943||US troops captured Gafsa, Tunisia.|
|18 Mar 1943||US 1st Ranger Battalion captured El Guettar, Tunisia.|
|22 Mar 1943||American troops captured Maknassy, Tunisia.|
|23 Mar 1943||German 10th Panzer Division counterattacked the advancing American troops in the El Guettar region in Tunisia; heavy American anti-tank fire repulsed the German attack.|
|30 Mar 1943||US 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions attacked Italian positions at Hill 369 near El Guettar, Tunisia to little success.|
|31 Mar 1943||US 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions again attacked Italian positions at Hill 369 near El Guettar, Tunisia to little success.|
|1 Apr 1943||US 1st and 9th Infantry Divisions attacked Italian positions at Hill 369 near El Guettar, Tunisia for the third consecutive day to little success.|
|2 Apr 1943||Near El Guettar, Tunisia, US 9th Infantry Division was moved to attack Hill 772; its original objective of Hill 369 was now left to US 1st Infantry Division to capture.|
|3 Apr 1943||US 1st Infantry Division captured Hill 369 near El Guettar, Tunisia.|
|6 Apr 1943||British pressure in southeastern Tunisia caused Axis forces to begin falling back from the El Guettar region.|
|7 Apr 1943||British and American troops linked up on the El Guettar-Gabès road in Tunisia, ending the Battle of El Guettar.|
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Thomas Dodd, late 1945