Inspiration for the Day for Feb 17: Home Is Where the Heart Is

Home Is Where the Heart Is

BY MADISYN TAYLOR

A turtle carries its home on its back, as humans we carry our home in our heart.

The word “home” has a wide variety of connotations. To some, home is merely a place where basic needs are addressed. To others, home is the foundation from which they draw their strength and tranquility. Still, others view home as a place inexorably linked to family. Yet all these definitions of home imply somewhere we can be ourselves and are totally accepted. There, we feel safe enough to let down our guard, peaceful enough to really relax, and loved enough to want to return day after day. However, these qualities need not be linked to a single space or any space at all. Home is where the heart is and can be the locale you live in, a community you once lived in, or the country where you plan to live someday. Or home can be a feeling you carry inside yourself, wherever you are.

The process of evolution can require you to undergo transformations that uproot you. Moving from place to place can seem to literally divide you from the foundations you have come to depend on. Since your home is so intimately tied to the memories that define you, you may feel that you are losing a vital part of yourself when you leave behind your previous house, city, state, or country. And as it may take some time before you fashion new memories, you may feel homeless even after settling into your new abode. To carry your home with you, you need only become your own foundation. Doing so is merely a matter of staying grounded and centered, and recognizing that the pleasures you enjoyed in one place will still touch your heart in another if you allow them.

Your home can be any space or state of being that fulfills you, provided you are at peace with yourself and your surroundings. A person can feel like home to you, as can seasons and activities. If you feel disconnected from what you once thought of as home, your detachment may be a signal that you are ready to move one. Simply put, you will know you have found your home when both your physical environment and energetic surroundings are in harmony with the individual you are within.

 

–Daily OM

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Get A Jump On Tomorrow, Your Daily Horoscopes for Monday, Feb. 18

Get A Jump On Tomorrow

Your Daily Horoscopes for Monday, Feb. 18

 

Moon Alert

We have the “all clear” today to shop and do business. The Moon is in Leo.

Aries (March 21-April 19)

Until your birthday arrives, keep a low profile and play your cards close to your heaving bosom. Work alone or behind the scenes. Seek out solitude. Use the next four weeks to set some goals for your new year ahead (birthday to birthday).

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

The next four weeks will be super popular f! Enjoy schmoozing with others, particularly younger people. This is an excellent time to formulate goals and decide how to pursue them. Hint: Your time of harvest is two years away!

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

You look marvellous in the eyes of bosses, parents and VIPs in the next four weeks because the Sun is at high noon in your chart. This happens only once a year so make the most of it. Quite literally, make hay while the Sun shines!

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

Grab every opportunity to travel or take courses for further training because you will want to expand your world in the next four weeks. It’s a great time for writing projects. In fact, March will be a wonderful month to finish something that’s been lagging on forever. (A thesis perhaps?)

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)

You’ll be intense and ambitious in the next four weeks! Your gonads are in overdrive and you’re ready for action! Not only will you be sexually passionate, you will be passionate about everything that you care about. Expect lively discussions about wills, inheritances and shared property.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

This is the only time all year when the Sun is opposite your sign for four weeks! Symbolically, the Sun is your energy and it will now be as far away from you as it gets all year, which means you will need more rest and more sleep. You will also be more focused on partnerships.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

Do what you can to get more efficient and be more productive in the next four weeks. When it comes down to it, you will want to give thought to how you can best run your life so that it flows well. You like an atmosphere that is pleasing, supportive and attractive.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

Lucky you! The next four weeks will be lighthearted, fun-loving and flirtatious! Enjoy the arts, sports events, social outings, the theatre, long lunches and fun dates plus playful activities with kids. This will be one of your most pleasant months of the year!

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)

Home, family and your private life will be your main focus in the next four weeks. Many of you will be involved with a parent more than usual. All of you will enjoy cocooning at home, especially among familiar surroundings. Get cozy!

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

The pace of your days will accelerate in the next four weeks because you will be busy with short trips, errands, appointments, conversations with siblings and relatives plus increased reading, writing and studying. You will feel a strong urge to enlighten others about your views.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

Money issues will be on your mind in the next four weeks. You might negotiate a salary or discuss financial deals. You will also give more thought to your possessions and your assets and how you want to handle things.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)

The Sun will be in your sign for the next four weeks giving you a boost of energy that is a special advantage! It will attract people and favourable situations to you. This is great news for you because it’s your chance to get out there and fly your colours!

If Your Birthday Is Today

Actor John Travolta (1954) shares your birthday today. You are ambitious, hard-working and unique. You are patient but you want recognition and hopefully fame for what you do. Because this will be a fast-paced year, get ready for action. Expect fresh excitement! Enjoy travel opportunities and chances to expand your horizons. Be open to embracing change and new opportunities. Your personal freedom is one of your goals this year.

Source

GeorgiaNichols

Born on the Cusp: Aquarius-Pisces Cusp

Aquarius-Pisces Cusp

Sign Dates And Definition

 

DATES: FEBRUARY 15 – 21

THOSE BORN ON the Aquarius-Pisces cusp are known the natural psychics of the zodiac.

Loved for their compassionate, understanding, and tolerant traits, Aquarian-Pisces tend to have more extroverted personalities than you might imagine for those with such sensitive souls. Being around people can rejuvenate an Aquarius-Pisces, give them a sense of purpose, and relieve stress.

The only problem? This innate desire is often coupled with a sense of isolation … and the feeling of being misunderstood.

SENSITIVITY / ECCENTRICITY / COMPASSION

Though they are goal-oriented, those who embody the AquariusPisces cusp are major procrastinators. Sometimes this procrastination is built-in, given the innate disorganization that disrupts any organic flow that might have carried them to the finish line. But who has time for organizing things when your mind is filled with so many great ideas? There is so much creative energy to this cusp, so much compassion and emotion, that the chores that make daily life run smoothly can easily fall to the wayside.

If you are dually ruled by both Uranus and Neptune, know this: You are loved. You are amazing. You are brilliant, creative, and highly intelligent. You might feel at times that people just don’t GET you. But, hear this: People don’t need to get you. You get them. And that’s your greatest strength.

And if you know a person born on the Aquarius-Pisces cusp, tell them this: You love the way their mind works. You love the way they see the world, and you are grateful to be able to be a part of theirs. Let them know they are seen.

–Astrology.com

Born on February 17, Happy Birthday, Aquarius!

Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday, Aquarius!

IF YOU ARE BORN ON FEBRUARY 17, you are hot-blooded and yes, my dear Aquarius, you are weird and wonderful! It’s not because of your out-going personality, or that you do not care for people knowing your business. It is not even that you prefer to be a loner. You like being by yourself.

People with a February 17 birthday are private and expect people to respect your wishes. (Call before you come as intrusive people are turn-offs for Aquarians.) It is because, Aquarius, you get in a mood and suddenly, your word becomes questionable.

As your birthday horoscope profile shows, you become rebellious, hurtful and angry, almost to the point of doing physical harm to someone. If not this, then you are keeping to yourself. You do not answer phone calls or return messages.

February 17 Aquarius, you can be stubborn and sometimes, you are just unstable. You need not act on your impulses all the time. It is in you. Be strong. Because of this, you do not make friends right away, or at least any real friends. You want them to shed their quandaries but will not allow yourself to be seen as human.

On the surface, many that seek your companionship are willing participants in the dating game until they find out that you value your freedom more than you appreciate them. Aquarians born on February 17 are usually best compatible with someone much like themselves.

You don’t have to work as hard with two Aquarians. You are mirroring so, figuring out where your weakness is or where your strengths are, is easy.

On the other side, Aquarius, you are a do-gooder. The Aquarius birthday analysisfor those born on February 17 shows you are proud humanitarians. You will do something beneficial that will change the conditions of people for the better. You know how to get down to the root of a problem, hear both sides and draw your conclusion before making a decision.

Some of your efforts may be idiosyncratic so expect a negative response or two. That is when you pull your pants up and dig deeper. People should respect your hard honesty. After all, you get the job done.

The February 17 birthday person is full of ideas, and your results are prosperous. What is wonderful about you Aquarius is that you are intelligent, rational, and down-to-earth. Those born on this day are Aquarians that can be trusted. You are always looking for new ways to make money. You have a progressive way of thinking. Aquarians are sophisticated people.

As the February birthday zodiac sign, you will be driven like the wind. Some people never change how their surroundings look. Not you, Aquarians live for a change. You also have a flair that is different from most of ours. It is a drastic change from shopping at Gap.

You have invented your style, which shows your personality off. You love to mix and match the oddest of things. The proof is in your decorator’s tips complete with all the latest commodities. Innovative and unique ideas impress you.

You are advised to stay on the grind and stay away from quick loan services. Avoid the stress so you won’t suffer from headaches and experience sleepless nights.

Aquarians, you need to take good care of your health. You have an appreciation for alcohol. You need to be careful with that especially since you are prone to having some mysterious accidents, some of which can be downright funny stories.

 

Source

SunSigns.org

Your Daily Horoscopes for Sunday, February 17th

Your Daily Horoscopes for Sunday, February 17th

Moon Alert

Avoid shopping or important decisions from 9 AM to 11 AM EST today (6 AM to 8 AM PST). After that, the Moon moves from Cancer into Leo.

Aries (March 21-April 19)

You are restless for change and you want to have a good time! One of the things that might make this day interesting is you will meet someone new and different. This person might be avant-garde or bohemian. In fact, this person might be someone you already know! (Oh wow.) Ken?

Taurus (April 20-May 20)

This is an unpredictable day. Things are unpredictable on the home front especially dealing with authority figures like parents. Be ready for anything. If you are caught off guard by unexpected changes – never underestimate the power of courtesy. Be cool.

Gemini (May 21-June 20)

You are very curious about things today. (Admittedly, you are a curious person every day of the week. “Look – a bright shiny object!”) But today is different. Someone might introduce you to unusual ideas or different ways of thinking. Very thought provoking.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)

Something to do with money, resources, the wealth of your partner, or shared property might be surprising today. When it comes to money, you don’t like surprises. You like to plan for a rainy day and you watch your pennies. Today’s a good day to keep your eyes open.

Leo (July 23-Aug. 22)

The Moon is in your sign today, which makes you a bit more emotional than usual. However, you are probably reacting to what someone else is doing – a partner or close friend, and it is something you didn’t foresee at all. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22)

New technology might be introduced to where you work today because something unexpected will greet you. It might be perplexing or it might be liberating. Keep an open mind — but not so open that everything falls out.

Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22)

A surprise invitation to a social event might delight you today. Admittedly, a scheduled event might be cancelled. Your kids might also surprise you in some way today. Expect to have a vigourous discussion with a female friend. But on the whole, this is a fun-loving day!

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21)

People notice you today, even though your primary focus is to cocoon at home and get away from all this. Mars opposite your sign makes you feel that others are annoying – and they probably are. Look around you because life is quite beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21)

You want to do something different today because you’ve had enough of the same old, same old. Ideally, it would be nice to travel. After all, you are the traveller of the zodiac. But if you can’t travel, you can at least explore your own backyard. Try it.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19)

You might see new ways to earn money today or to make a little on the side. Or possibly, you will spot something that you want to impulsively buy because it’s unusual. Check all financial deals very carefully because things are unpredictable today.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 18)

You’re restless today. You’re full of excitement because you are planning something or you’re hoping for something to happen. This is the kind of day where you can go with your impulses to see where they lead you. Expect a miracle!

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)

It’s Sunday and you want the day off. Have another cup of coffee and read your newspaper or do the crossword so you can relax. You need a break today. Give yourself some time off for good behaviour. You deserve it.

If Your Birthday Is Today

Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt (1981) shares your birthday today. You are hard working and ambitious. You handle problems with dignity and strength. This year hard work and effort pay will pay off. Start by simplifying your life so you can build solid foundations. Focus your energy in one direction. Physical exercise will be important this year. Explore yoga, martial arts or jogging — any physical discipline that you enjoy.

 

Source

GeorgiaNichols

World War Two: North Africa (5-20); Sparring Along the Eastern Dorsal

Fighting To Keep the Initiative; During the period of Allied strategic decisions, reorganization, and accumulation of force which characterized the transition from Operation TORCH to the Allied offensives in March, the Allied Force was sparring for advantage with the Fifth Panzer Army. Each side sought to improve its positions and to seize the initiative.

Allied operations from 27 December to 17 January were essentially for consolidation or improvement of local situations and to keep the enemy under pressure. This was particularly true of the northern zone, where another attempt by the 36th Brigade Group on 5-7 January to capture the enemy’s Djefna position on the road between Djebel Abiod and Mateur, at the defile between Djebel Adjred (556) and Djebel Azag (396), although it came closer to success than the effort in the last week of November, again fell short of the objective. Farther south, the British 6th Armoured Division shifted to the Bou Arada area to keep opposite the 10th Panzer Division, and tried unsuccessfully to drive enemy detachments from their advanced positions on hills east of the road between Bou Arada and Goubellat.

On 11-13 January, two attempts to take the hills revealed how strongly the enemy had organized these positions, with interlocking bands of machine gun fire, and with mortars registered exactly on those targets in defilade from other weapons. Here, as at the Djefna position, the enemy’s shelters were proof against highly accurate Allied artillery shelling, enabling him to put up a strong defense against infantry attacks and to prepare counterattacks quickly to retake positions briefly occupied by the British.

The enemy’s determination to hold these hills may well have been strengthened by his intention of shortly making an attack through the area as part of a projected operation called OLIVENERNTE. By this operation the enemy planned to outflank Medjez el Bab from both the north and the south. Elements of the 334th Division would attack through the mountains to take Oued Zarga and thus cut the road from Medjez el Bab to Bedja. The 10th Panzer Division was to capture Testour and Slourhia just below Medjez el Bab on the Medjerda river, and the 5th Parachute Regiment to take Djebel Rihane (720) and guard the south flank along a blocking position due west of the djebe!. Von Arnim ordered this operation and assigned it to Corps Fischer after receiving Kesselring’s order of 2 January to capture Medjez el Bab. Execution was postponed for about two weeks by continued bad weather and the chronic shortage of artillery and transport. Meantime two limited French offensives, 27-30 December and 12-15 January, gained important positions in the Eastern Dorsal on either side of Karachoum gap and Kairouan pass, defiles which lead from the Ousseltia valley onto the coastal plain and southeastward to Kairouan. Although German reinforcements, sent to bolster the lines of the Italian 1st (Superga) Division in this sector, were able to check any tendency of the French to carry the attack beyond the mountains, von Arnim decided on 13 January to eliminate the developing threat to this part of the Tunisian bridgehead. Troops for such an operation, if the attack was to be timely, had to be drawn largely from the 334th Infantry and 10th Panzer Divisions, so that Operation OLIVENERNTE had to be abandoned.

An offset to the French success northwest of Kairouan was the loss a few days earlier of Fondouk el Aouareb gap to a well-coordinated attack by superior Axis forces. On 3 January, a preparatory air strike in two waves, a powerful artillery bombardment, and a determined tank and infantry assault overwhelmed the French defenders with the loss of more than 300 men and several guns. This assault was made by elements

of the 47th Grenadier Regiment (reinforced) and the 190th Panzer Battalion. Allied air support was credited with knocking out ten enemy tanks in repeated attacks. The enemy gained a stronghold in the area of the Fondouk el Aouareb gap. The French sought to contain the Axis forces at the gap and to prepare for a counterattack with American armor in an effort to recover control of this key opening in the mountain barrier.

Headquarters, II Corps, opened in Constantine during the first week of January and, as already noted, first prepared to direct Operation SATIN, for the seizure of Sfax.4 The force under its command, as contemplated on 12 January, was to consist of the U.S. 1st Armored Division (Major General Orlando Ward) with the 26th Combat Team (Colonel Alexander N. Stark, Jr.) of the 1st Infantry Division attached, the 1st British Parachute Brigade (less one battalion) for an airborne mission, and the French Constantine Division, plus corps troops. Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division, passed to General Robinett’s control with the return of General Oliver to the United States to take a divisional command. Combat Command B, after commitment under British 5 Corps, reverted to General Ward’s control on 7 January and, beginning next day moved to Sbeitla for participation in the impending French-American attack to regain Fondouk el Aouareb gap and perhaps for flank protection during Operation SATIN.

[Note: General Fredendall’s staff was headed by the following: Chief of Staff, Colonel John A. Dabney; G-I, Lt. Colonel Lon H. Smith; G-2, Colonel B. A. Dickson; G-3, Colonel Robert A. Hewitt; and G-4, Colonel Robert W. Wilson. Other staff officers of Center Task Force had been reassigned to AFHQ, First Army, or the War Department. “Msg, Eisenhower to CCS, 12 Jan 43.]

The remainder of General Ward’s division came eastward from Oran to central Tunisia in early January, as did the 26th Combat Team (less its 3rd Battalion, which had already come up near the end of November). Mobile antiaircraft protection for the armored division was brought to Tunisia from Morocco in two sections: A provisional battalion under Major Werner L. Larson in January; and the remainder of the 443rd Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP) under Lt. Colonel John C. Smith in February. Although the multiple weapons on halftracks, each mounting a 37 -mm. gun and two air-cooled .SO-caliber machine guns, could be used in an antitank role, it was possible only by placing the vehicles down a forward slope, or with their front wheels in a ditch. As antiaircraft weapons, they were destined to reduce the losses from enemy dive bombing appreciably.

Ten days’ supplies of all types were accumulated at a new II Corps depot in Tebessa and at supply points extending eastward as far as Kasserine. A provisional ordnance group, assembled from northern Tunisia and Algeria, established its principal shops in Tebessa. An evacuation hospital and medical supply depot opened in Tebessa. Plans for an attack on Sfax via Gabcs were being perfected by General Fredendall’s staff at the very time when, as noted, the higher command felt obliged to cancel the undertaking and to direct II Corps to “act defensively.”

The Enemy’s Attack, 18-28 January As if to confirm the wisdom of the Allies decision to abandon an attack against Sfax, the enemy on 18 January began an operation to obtain control over Djebel Mansour (678) and over the main source of the water supply for Tunis; the great reservoir and dam on the Kebir river (Barrage de l’Oued Kebir) about twelve miles southwest of Pont-du-Fahs. Another purpose of his attack was to drive the French from the Eastern Dorsal near Kairouan between the reservoir and Kairouan pass.

Von Arnim, on 13 and 14 January, withdrew from Corps Group Fischer the Headquarters, 334th Infantry Division with the 756th Mountain Regiment and two organic artillery batteries. From the 10th Panzer Division he drew the 2nd Battalion, 69th Panzer Grenadier Regiment, the 10th Motorcycle Battalion, and the 501st Heavy Panzer Battalion. In addition, he earmarked for his attack (EILBOTE I) the entire north wing of the 1st (Superga) Division (Group Stolz), and elements of the 190th Panzer Battalion, and of the 20th Flak Division.

To support his main effort, and protect the exposed north flank of the attack, von Arnim ordered 10th Panzer Division with elements of 5th Parachute Regiment and armored Kampfgruppe Burk to execute a secondary drive in the direction of Bou Arada. He put Friedrich Weber in command. The force temporarily organized for the attack was known as Kampfgruppe Weber. Its movements were accomplished by using Fifth Panzer Army transport at night, with the intention of concealing the build-up.

Colonel Weber organized his attacking force in three sections. The first consisted of the newly arrived 756th Mountain Regiment. This was reinforced by two armored sections, consisting of four Mark VI (Tiger) and four Mark III tanks, and engineer, artillery, and antiaircraft elements. The force thus composed was sent to open the pass southeast of Pont-du-Fahs and to take Djebel Mansour. They were to support the movement of a second section, Armored Group Lueder) into the Ousseltia valley.

This armored group consisted of one company of tanks, partly Mark VI Tigers and partly Mark IV’s, and a battalion of armored infantry, with a platoon of engineers and some antiaircraft units. It was to push up the Kebir valley to the road fork at the southwest end of the reservoir, then swing south for about twelve miles to Hir Moussa crossroads. After the mountain regiment had closed to the same area, Armored Croup Lueder would turn east toward Karachoum gap. The third section of Weber’s command was a composite German-Italian infantry regiment of the 1st (Superga) Division, consisting of four battalions and reinforced by a company of 190 Panzer Battalion (Kampfgruppe Stolz). It was to exploit by advancing to the west on an axis perpendicular to Weber’s main effort and thus to complete the destruction of the French units on the Eastern Dorsal. Stolz would then build up a new line seven to nine miles farther west, extending from Djebel Mansour in the north to the heights just west of Hir Moussa. This would constitute the first phase of Operation EILBOTE 1. Finally, the operation might be extended southward to secure the better Kairouan~Ousseltia road which ran through the gap between Djebel HaIfa (572) and Djebel Ousselat (887), connecting the the valley with the coastal plain at Aln Djeloula.

The attacks opened early in the morning of 18 January with diversionary thrusts by parachute infantry and tanks against the extreme south wing of British 5 Corps in the vicinity of the Bou Arada crossroads. Although the British parried these attacks successfully, fighting continued in this area intermittently during the following week without much change in position but with considerable losses on both sides. In the meantime the first section of Weber’s force broke through the French and opened the way into the Kebir valley for the armored force. Lueder, after lending support to this operation, regrouped at 2lO0, then pushed ahead to his objective, the road fork southwest of the reservoir, reaching it by midnight.

Kampfgruppe Stolz, meanwhile, achieved what the enemy considered satisfactory progress in the subsidiary drive across the heights between the reservoir and Djebel Chirich (717) . The enemy’s intentions were still uncertain on 19 January, for although some of his armored forces were observed passing the northern edge of D jebel Bargou ( 1216) into the Ousseltia valley, a report by air reconnaissance of a movement from the reservoir area of an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 truck borne troops made a dual thrust seem possible.

By the end of the day the Axis forces had almost completed the first phase of their operation as planned. With a small but powerful force Armored Croup Lueder blocked the road to Rebaa Oulad Yahia near Sidi Said. The main force had advanced to Hir Moussa crossroads. Colonel Stolz’s battalions had continued to move west and begun to relieve the 756th Mountain Regiment on Djebel Mansour thus freeing these units to follow Lueder. All along the front the French defenders were driven out. The remnants began to regroup northwest of Djebel Mansour and on Djebel Bargou.

One group was isolated on the slopes of the Eastern Dorsal in the area of Karachoum gap. Neither Rebaa Oulad Yahia nor Ousseltia had more than miniature garrisons with meager antitank weapons maned by scanty British and American detachments. A small reinforcement of armored cars and engineers was sent forward by the British to Rebaa Oulad Yahia during the night. General Juin’s appeal for Allied reinforcements, for commitment at a point to be determined after the enemy’s hand had been more clearly shown, brought orders from AFHQ to the U.S. II Corps to divert a suitable force northward for the purpose.

About 1715, 19 January, General Robinett, commanding Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, then in bivouac near Sbeitla, was ordered by General Fredendall over the telephone: Move your command, i. e., the walking boys, pop guns, Baker’s outfit and the outfit which is the reverse of Baht’s outfit and the big fellows to M, which is due north of where you are now, as soon as possible. Have your boss report to the French gentleman whose name begins with “J” at a place which begins with D which is five grid squares to the left of M. Further, CC/B will enter Corps Command net not later than 0900 hours, 20 January. CC/B will remain in contact with the tanks, tank destroyers, infantry, and artillery, with engineer, medical, service, and maintenance companies, in all over 3,400 men, were on the road after dark and reached a point near Kesra before morning. The next day, the force received its mission.

NOTE: (I) CCB 1st Armd Div AAR, 19-29 Jan 43, 12 Feb 43. (2) The components of Combat Command B on 19 January 1943 were: Headquarters Company, Reconnaissance Company, Service Company (less detachment), and 2nd Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment (mediums); 2nd Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry Regiment; 27th Field Artillery Battalion; 60lst Tank Destroyer Battalion (less Company A) : Company B, 16th Armored Engineer Battalion (C); Company N, 47th Medical Battalion: Battery D, 106th Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion: and Company C, Maintenance Battalion. 1st Armored Division.]

SATIN Force at Tebessa.

The situation on 20 January caused General Eisenhower’s advance command post to arrange for co-ordinated resistance to the Axis attack by ground units of French, American, and British nationality, and by Allied air forces. The orders directed British First Army elements to move southeast and south toward the Rebaa Oulad Yahia valley to cut off and block the enemy’s advance there, while Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division, was placed at Juin’s disposition for operations as a unit in either the Rebaa Oulad Yahia or Ousseltia valleys as the situation should require. The arrangement also specified that General Fredendall should assemble an armored mobile force comparable to Combat Command B in the Sheitla area, to be used under his command to join the French in an attack against Fondouk el Aouareb starting on 23 January.

General Juin assigned Robinett’s force to General Koeltz’s XIX Corps for commitment in the Ousseltia valley, to which it was ordered to move during the night of 20-21 January. By 0933, next morning, the force was assembled about five miles southwest of Ousseltia and engaged in active reconnaissance, with the 601st Tank Destroyer Battalion (less Company A) out ahead.

The German and Italian forces, which had met in the northern part of the Ousseltia valley on 20 January after converging on it from the northwest and northeast, had already accomplished most of their mission before the American reinforcements under General Robinett arrived. They had an opportunity, too tempting to resist, to clear the eastern mountain chain completely as far as Djebel Ousselat southeast of Ousseltia village and to envelop French troops caught on the heights by pushing along the ridge as well as attacking northwestward from the coastal plain. Only a shortage of infantry prevented them from mopping up the whole area and establishing themselves astride the passes. By midnight, 20-21 January, Lueder overran the three lightly held Allied roadblocks on the roads leading into Ousseltia village, and reached the Ousseltia-Kairouan road about four miles northwest of the Kairouan pass. During the night only one battalion of the 756th Mountain Regiment, using trucks borrowed from other units, was able to reinforce Lueder. Nevertheless, the enemy could now block access to Kairouan pass from the west. He proceeded to destroy the French units, cut off on the ridge to the north of Djebel Bou Dabouss, assisted by Italian elements attacking from east of the pass.

On the morning Robinett’s command made its slow and difficult march from the Maktar area into the Ousseltia valley, an advance group of the British 36th Brigade, the 5th Battalion, Royal Buffs (5/RB), came up the valley of the Siliana river from Gafour to Rebaa Oulad Yahia before daylight and took up defensive positions north of the village. During the next night, 21-22

January, the British 36th Brigade, which had very recently been relieved after a long period in the line northeast of Bed ja, shifted to Rebaa Oulad Yahia with the 6th Battalion, Royal West Kents (6/R WK), with part of the 12th Battalion, Royal Horse Artillery, and with detachments of engineers and light antiaircraft artillery. They took over the defense of the valley under attachment to the British 6th Armoured Division.

The enemy’s main effort had by then shifted to the Ousseltia valley. General Robinett received orders from General Koeltz at 1245, 21 January, to counterattack eastward along the Ousseltia-Kairouan road. He was determined not to fritter away strength by piecemeal commitment after an arduous march. His counterattack from Ousseltia toward the western entrance of the Kairouan pass began about 1500, after an air bombing and when strong artillery support was ready. It progressed steadily until nightfall against stiff resistance, but did not dislodge Armored Group Lueder from its blocking position along the road. At darkness, the enemy pulled back into a defensive perimeter. This allowed French troops, previously cut off on the heights near the pass, to slip southward and escape.

At 1830, 21 January, XIX Corps put Robinett’s command under the control of General Agathon Deligne of the Algiers Division, units of which had been holding the pass under enemy attack. General Deligne at 0435, 22 January, in conformity with Allied plans, directed Robinett to abandon the counterattack, to adopt defensive measures toward the east, and to drive northward to a point of junction with British forces at the northeastern end of Djebel Bargou.

Combat Command B’s ammunition and supply train failed to get through during the night, so that a dawn attack could not be made. The enemy for his part was weakened by a breakdown of radio communications and by the fact that the direct road between Lueder’s force and the 756th M oltntain Regiment was temporarily cut at Hir Moussa by fire from the 6th Battalion, Royal West Kents. The reinforced 2nd Battalion, 13th Armored Regiment, began a thrust northeastward up the Ousseltia valley at 1430, 22 January only to be stopped soon by stiff resistance.

Late that day, II Corps asked Robinett what reinforcements, if any, he would need to carry out the mission given him by General Deligne. In reply he gave his estimate of the forces opposing his command-one battalion of infantry, two companies of tanks, four 88-mm. guns, and three or four batteries of howitzers of at least 105-mm.against which he had disposed one battalion of armored infantry, one battalion of thirty operational medium tanks, nine self-propelled and six towed 105-mm. howitzers, twelve 75-mm. tank destroyers, and a battery of 40-mm. antiaircraft weapons. The enemy had succeeded in placing his artillery on high ground along the eastern edge of the valley. Robinett therefore reported that any attack whatever northward over the floor of the valley would be unduly hazardous until infantry could engage the enemy in the eastern hills and prevent the flanking fire which might otherwise be expected. To clear the valley, he estimated necessary reinforcements as two battalions of infantry, one battalion of field artillery, and one company of tank destroyers, as well as indirect assistance from an anticipated strong push from the west into the valley by British units.

Elements of the 1st Infantry Division were already being sent from Guelma in Algeria via Maktar to the Ousseltia valley sector in order to take over part of the Allied line formerly held by the French, after Combat Command B should have restored the situation. General Fredendall expected, in the light of decisions taken at a command conference at AFHQ Advance Command Post on 21 January, that his zone was to be extended northward and that these troops would be controlled by II Corps. He expected to command them directly, and to have them operate under Colonel D’ Alary F echet, regimental commander of the 16th Infantry, in co-ordination with Robinett’s forces rather than under Robinett’s command, while the latter was withdrawing.

Fredendall instructed Robinett to discontinue his attack northward, the operation which General Deligne had ordered, and instead to hold Combat Command B near Ousseltia village on the defensive. Robinett’s command was still attached to French XIX Corps and under orders by General Deligne to carry out the offensive, orders he was unable to execute without the reinforcements which, upon arrival would be operating, as just stated, only in co-ordination with Combat Comand B, rather than under attachment to it. While Lieutenant Colonel Russell F. Akers, Jr., an Assistant G-3 of II Corps, attempted to straighten out this tangle, Robinett’s force held its positions.

As the night of 22-23 January passed, persistent efforts to get Allied aviation to furnish a controlled air support mission next day finally proved successful. The request was approved about 1000, 23 January, for execution at 1230. When the planes arrived, one smoke shell was placed on the target, which then came under accurate bombing. Damage included the destruction of two enemy trucks loaded with ammunition. During the bombing and a subsequent artillery shelling, a truckload of American prisoners of war was able to scatter, and later to infiltrate back to their own lines after darkness. But with its mission and command relations uncertain, Combat Command B lost the opportunity to follow up with an attack to seize the area.

The first elements of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division began arriving before the end of the day, too late to organize an attack for 24 January. They were attached by II Corps to Combat Command B. The principal unit for commitment toward Kairouan pass was the 26th Infantry Combat Team (less 3rd Battalion) commanded by Colonel Stark, which included the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion. The 7th Field Artillery Battalion also supported an attack begun by Colonel Stark’s force at 0900, 25 January. By that time, Weber’s force started its withdrawal, leaving the newly established main line of resistance across the northern end of the Ousseltia valley and along the eastern edge to Djebel Ousselat to be defended by an Italian force consisting of elements of the 1st (Superga) Division and Group Benigni. Stark’s attack first encountered about noon a battalion of Italian infantry which had been recruited in Tunisia, drove it back, and continued advancing through the following night. By the next morning, it had gained the western end of the Ousseltia-Kairouan pass and had come up against a German unit. Its offensive continued during the next two days.

Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, after assisting these infantry operations to a successful outcome at the pass, and after more uncertainty about its mission, received orders from General Koeltz in person to move north on 27 January to clear the enemy from the valley. At 1530, this attack began, and moved smoothly along the western edge of the valley at the base of Djebel Serd j (1357). During the following night, the 1st Battalion, 16th Infantry, and 7th Field Artillery Battalion moved under armored escort to the northern end of Djebel Serdj. The enemy had stepped up his air attacks in the valley beginning on 25 January, but the Allied hold on the southern and western portions was not otherwise contested, and Stark’s progress at the pass promised eventual control not only over its western exit but along its entire length. Combat Command B and the 26th Combat Team (less 2nd and 3rd Battalions) were needed elsewhere, however, so that both were withdrawn from the valley during the night of 28-29 January. While Robinett’s force made a long road march to Bou Chebka, Stark’s shifted to the vicinity of Sbeitia, where it joined Combat Command A, 1st Armored Division.

Before these two forces left, the U.S. 1st Infantry Division (General Allen) with headquarters in Maktar temporarily assumed defense of the Allied line running along the Ousseltia valley and southeast toward Pichon. Colonel Fechet’s 16th Combat Team was to be on the north and Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.’s, mixed command of American and French units, on the south. The French units were to be relieved as rapidly as possible by the 18th Combat Team (Colonel Greer) and a combat team from the U.S. 34th Infantry Division: Eventually the 34th Division was expected to relieve all 1st Infantry Division units and thus permit their consolidation in British First Army reserve. It was during an early stage in these preparations that Combat Command B and 26th Combat Team (less 2nd and 3rd Battalions) returned to II Corps control from that of General Koeltz. Their battle in the Ousseltia valley was ended.

Robinett’s command had lost 5 killed, 54 wounded, and 25 missing, had captured 11 Germans and 28 Italians, and had killed an estimated 205 of the enemy. It claimed to have destroyed six Mark III and three Mark IV tanks, eight 88-mm. guns, one mortar, four 20-mm. guns, and two enemy aircraft. The 26th Infantry (less 3rd Battalion) had lost 7 killed, 47 wounded, and 64 missing, while taking 211 prisoners.

The enemy had dealt a hard blow, especially to the French, one battalion being reduced to only 196 men. His prisoners totaled 3,449. Material captured or destroyed, as reported, included 87 machine guns, 16 antitank guns, 36 artillery pieces, 21 tanks, 4 armored reconnaissance cars, 4 self-propelled gun carriages, more than 200 other vehicles, and over 300 horses. Allied aviation and artillery had inflicted considerable damage on the enemy, but control of the passes west of Kairouan was worth this price to the Fifth Panzer Army.

At the tactical level, the battIe in the Ousseltia valley yielded some valuable lessons to the Allies. The enemy was discovered to have an unexpectedly defensive attitude, for he twice abandoned strongly held positions under cover of darkness without waiting for the Americans to press their attack home, leaving at least ten mobile artillery pieces. The morale of the Italian troops was found to be low; among the prisoners taken were a conscripted Pole, a Yugoslav, and several Austrians. Among the probable causes for this low morale was a failure of supply, many units going without rations for a long period. Another probable cause was the fact that Axis air support was not as strong or as co-ordinated with ground operations as it had been near Tebourba, while at the same time the Allied air effort was noticeably greater. By standing up to the attacking force and refraining from a premature attack or ill-advised armored lunges, Combat Command B had been able to avoid enemy traps and to retain its ability to strike back at a favorable time. Because of the termination of its commitment, and that of Colonel Stark’s Combat Team on 28 January, Combat Command B lost the opportunity of regaining the passes through the Eastern Dorsal before the enemy could become solidly established astride them. The French had fought ably, but they were handicapped by the lack of heavy weapons and means of communication. From now on it would be necessary to reinforce their sector with U.S. and British units until their equipment could be brought up to modern standards.

Changes in Allied Field Command The enemy’s attack from Pont-du-Fahs to Ousseltia in the week following 18 January had far-reaching consequences. It did not, as was once supposed, cause the cancellation of Operation SATIN, for as already pointed out, that decision had been made by General Eisenhower at Casablanca. But it did bring an end, after less than four weeks, to the period of national commands by the British First Army, American II Corps, and French XIX Corps, each directly under General Eisenhower. The enemy’s attack had been well aimed.

Striking first between British 5 Corps and the French, it forced the two Allied forces to attempt the difficult task of co-ordination across their boundaries and, as just shown, even involved American II Corps in remedial measures. General Eisenhower discovered that to control the entire Allied line through his advanced command post would not be practicable. On 21 January he flew with General Spaatz and Brigadier General LAllence S. Kuter to Constantine, met Generals Anderson, Fredendall, Truscott, Cannon, and Juin, and transferred to Anderson responsibility for co-ordinating operations in the three national sectors. General Juin accepted the new situation and General Giraud made no objection.

Unified air support along the broad Tunisian front had proved to be as essential as a single command over the ground forces. During the early part of January, the XII Air Support Command had declined requests to send units over the area for which Royal Air Force 242nd Group held responsibility. The impending operations by II Corps required that its resources for air support be carefully husbanded. In close sequence, Operation SATIN was canceled;

Brigadier General Howard A. Craig, commanding XII Air Support Command, became ill and was relieved by Colonel Paul L. Williams; American air support was furnished over the Ousseltia valley to stranded troops on the heights and to Combat Command B, U.S. 1 st Armored Division; and General Kuter was installed in command of an Allied air support command, charged with controlling Allied operations until the Northwest African Tactical Air Force under Air Vice-Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham should come into being.

It became clear after about four days more that simple co-ordination of forces was insufficient; the situation required command. General Anderson could not maintain the pace which had already taken him over more than 1,000 miles of Tunisian roads in order to confer with independent commanders and guide them toward decisions conforming to a general plan of action. When Generals Eisenhower and Anderson met at Telergma airfield, southwest of Constantine, on 24 January, the next step toward improvement of the command situation had to be taken. The same motives which had induced the commander in chief to transfer Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division, from SATIN Force to French XIX Corps on 20 January now caused him, four days later, to make Anderson “responsible for the employment of American troops” in accordance with general directions from AFHQ. The II Corps was attached to First Army. General J uin was urged to take parallel action for French troops, whose sector was to be narrowed materially. Following a long conference with General Anderson that evening, General Juin yielded, effective 3 February, acting in this vital matter on his own responsibility since General Giraud was attending the conference at Casablanca.

General Eisenhower’s directive to General Anderson followed at once:

The object of your current operations must be:

  1. To re-establish your central forces on the general line: FONDOUK [el Aouareb Jeastern exit of the pass cast of OUSSELTIA the terrain feature DJ BOU DABOUSS (0-85) -road junction 7 miles northeast of ROBAA [Rebaa Oulad YahiaJ-BOU ARADA.
  2. As soon as you have accomplished a, to seize and hold the eastern exits of the passes along the general line: EL GUETT ARMAKNASSY-FAID-FONDOUK.
  3. To protect your right (south) flank with particular attention to the air bases in the TERESSA area. In this connection, I deem it essential that you keep the bulk of the 1st Armored Division well concentrated, so as to be prepared to take advantage of any opportunity the enemy may offer to act aggressively as well as to counter strongly any enemy thrust that may develop.

 

The command arrangements arrived at by you in conferences with General Juin to meet the situation resulting from the enemy breakthrough in the area of the DORSALE ridge arc confirmed. Under these arrangements you are given command of all Allied forces on the TUNISIAN front, including, in addition to the troops presently assigned to the First Army, the II Corps (U.S.), and a Composite Corps (French and U.S.). The Composite Corps will consist ultimately of the 34th Division (less detachments) and certain French elements now in the OUSSEL TIA area, all under a French corps commander. I know that you will be fully sympathetic with the efforts of General Juin to conserve the French forces and uphold the honor of France, and that you will always welcome him at your headquarters and at the front, and afford him every facility which will contribute to that end.

The re-groupment of your forces incident to the above will envisage the relief of all elements of the 1st Division (U.S.) and their movement to an assembly area in the vicinity of GUELMA, where it will later pass to your control prior to the attack. To this end, it is contemplated that the 168th CT (U.S.) will be made available to you for the relief of the 26th RCT (U.S.).

You are to bear in mind always that all operations now to be undertaken are for the purpose of facilitating the launching of a powerful coordinated attack as soon as the weather will permit and the necessary forces and supplies can be assembled in position. In this latter interest we must look well to the security of lines of communication and to increasing by every possible means the daily delivery of supplies in the forward area.

For your information, the Allied Air Force is being directed to continue to pound Rommel’s line of retreat including his critical ports so as to hamper to the utmost his withdrawal. General Giraud has been shown this directive and has concurred in it. The AFHQ orders of 20 January prescribing the transfer to French command of Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division (see page 378 above), had also contained instructions to General Fredendall to assemble in the Sbeitia area an armored force of comparable strength. But a French attack in the Pichon-Fondouk el Aouareb sector starting 23 January, which this U.S. armored unit was to have reinforced, had to be abandoned.

After II Corps had been attached to it, First Army directed General Fredendall to assume command of the ground troops of all three nationalities operating south of a line running through Morsott-Thala-Sbiba (all exclusive), Djebel Trozza (997)-Fondouk el Aouareb (all inclusive), and north of a line from the salt marshes to Gabes.

The mission of II Corps was limited to protecting the right flank of the Allied forces in Tunisia. The French were to be largely withdrawn for rest and rearming, and prepared for the new command arrangements to become effective on 3 February. The decision to withdraw the majority of the French forces from forward areas required a modification of the mission assigned to General Anderson in the commander in chief’s directive of 26 January. As altered, it was:

  1. To protect the airfields at SOUK EL KHEMIS, TEBESSA, and THELEPTE… so that our air forces may operate continuously from them; and to secure the defiles at MEDJEZ EL BAB and BOU ARADA which First Army will require when, in conjunction with Eighth Army, the offensive against the enemy in Tunisia begins.
  2. Without prejudice to the role in a above:

(1) to secure the defiles at present held by the enemy which will improve our position when the offensive begins.

(2) to interfere with the enemy’s lines of communication in the coastal plain. In undertaking minor offensive operations, you are to consider the effect upon morale of costly failures. Sufficient means should be assembled to give reasonable assurances of success.

The revised directive continued with the following admonition: In the execution of the above mission, I deem it essential that your mobile striking forces in the south be held well concentrated so as to strike en masse when the need arises. I realize that it will not be possible for you to withdraw the 1st Division (U.S.) into rserve in the vicinity of GUELMA.

If the dispersion of the 1st Armored Division did not disturb the commander in chief because of its adverse effect on Operation SATIN, it was objectionable because of the fundamental need of covering the south flank. He wished the division concentrated as soon as possible, and repeatedly made his desires known to General Anderson.

[NOTE: (1) Ltr, Eisenhower to Anderson, II Feb 43. AFHQ C-3 Ops 58/2.1, Micro Job 10C, Reel 188D. (2) In addition to Combat Team 18 (strength approximately 4,500), First Army had under command 62,456 British officers and enlisted men on 27 January 1943. Q (Maint) Tab Rpt of Admin Sitrep 10, 1800, 27 Jan 4:1. AFHQ CofS Cable Log.]

The Enemy’s Next Moves

In the struggle for the advantages of position and initiative prior to 29 January 1943, the enemy had gained the larger measure of success. In northern Tunisia, he retained his positions guarding the routes to Bizerte and Tunis. Farther south, he controlled all the important passes giving access to the coastal plain in the vicinity of Kairouan.

His thrust from the north into the Ousseltia valley had forestalled an Allied operation to recover the gap at Fondouk el Aouareb. To protect the line of communications along the coast from Tunis toward Tripoli, which had just become the only source of supplies for Rommel’s army approaching the Mareth Position, the enemy next planned to take control of the routes by which the Allies in central Tunisia could attempt a disrupting attack and subsequently destroy the American forces in the Tebessa area. To facilitate this task Comando Supremo on 28 January ordered the Fifth Panzer Army to take offensive action at three points-the Rebaa Oulad Yahia valley, the pass through the Eastern Dorsal at Fai’d, and the road center and oasis of Gafsa. Preparations for an attack at Fai’d pass were already far advanced.

II Corps Plans

Ten days earlier U.S. II Corps had devised its own program in the light of its new directive to act defensively. If an active defense like that of the enemy was not authorized, the problem for II Corps was to determine what ground it needed to hold in order to protect the southern flank of British First Army. The main corps supply base at Tebessa and a growing airbase at Thelepte were the only installations of consequence in the corps area which required protection. Everything else existed for the purpose of supporting Allied forces holding Fai’d pass and Gafsa, on the one hand, and covering the pass at Fondouk el Aouareb on the other. Mere possession of a pass by one side offered a threat to the other. The French were convinced that both Faid pass and the oasis of Gafsa should be defended strongly. The II Corps could employ elements of the 1st Armored Division (reinforced) to strengthen the garrisons at those two points, or it might attempt to take Fondo uk el Aouareb, Maknassy, or other places from the enemy, or it might hold the division well concentrated and in readiness to fend off any hostile intrusion and to threaten retaliatory action. The last course, although specifically ordered by General Eisenhower, was postponed until after all elements of the 1st Armored Division had had a taste of combat.

 

General Fredendall’s first plan of action preceded the summons to send Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, to the support of French XIX Corps in the Ousseltia valley. It provided for four simultaneous assaults against different objectives, to begin on 22 January. One attack would be launched from the vicinity of Hadjeb el Aioun, in conjunction with General Koeltz’s command, to recapture Fondouk el Aouareb from the enemy. The other three operations were all to be based in the Gafsa area, about 100 miles airline from Fondouk el Aouareb, and to be directed against Maknassy, El Guettar defile, and Bir Mrabott, respectively.34 Mountains and substantial distances would separate each of the three forces engaged in these operations. The overly ambitious project was suspended when Combat Command B, 1st Armored Division, shifted to Maktar en route to Ousseltia.

The attacks on El Guettar defile and Bir Mrabott were dropped but Combat Command A, 1st Armored Division (Brigadier General Raymond E. McQuillin) , was sent to Sbeitla to take over the mission which Combat Command B had been fulfilling there, while the seizure of Maknassy remained on the agenda for early execution. To carry out that attack, General Ward improvised a Combat Command C, 1st Armored Division, under control of a headquarters consisting chiefly of the staff of the 6th Armored Infantry Regiment (Colonel Robert I. Stack).

Before sending this force against Maknassy, and despite the objection of Generals Ward and Welvert that the prospective attack there would thus be revealed, General Fredendall sent elements of Combat Command C in a hit-and-run raid on Station de Sened. It occurred on the night of 24-25 January 1943.

The raiding force, protected by Allied air cover, left Gafsa at about 0400, 24 January. Company C, 81 st Reconnaissance Battalion, took up a position east of Station de Sened from which it could stop any reinforcements coming from Maknas5Y. Battery B, 68th Field Artillery Battalion, opened fire about 1115 from positions west of the objective.

At noon, Company I, 6th Armored Infantry, with one mortar platoon jabbed from the west while the tanks of Company I, 13th Armored Regiment, and the remaining infantry swung around the right flank and struck Station de Sened from the south. The tanks overran some antitank guns at the southern edge and continued among the few houses and the olive trees, while infantry followed mopping up. In a little more than three hours from the opening artillery concentration to the last, the place had been overwhelmed and Combat Command C could reorganize for the return march. By 1800, it was back in bivouac near Gafsa.

Two men wounded, one tank damaged by a mine and another by gunfire, were the 36 Combat Command C for this engagement consisted of: the 6th Armored Infantry (less the 1st and 2nd Battalions and Company G) ; Company C (plus one platoon of Company D), 81st Reconnaissance Battalion; Company I, 13th Armored Regiment; Battery B, 68th Field Artillery Battalion; the 3rd Platoon of Company D, 16th Engineer Battalion; the 2nd Platoon of Battery B, 443rd Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP); and detachments of the 141st Signal Company and 47th Medical Battalion.

only American casualties. Prisoners totaled ninety-six, with the killed and wounded estimated to be about the same number. For the American troops, it had been principally a morale-building exercise. They were better prepared for the next operation. For the enemy, it was a distraction, luring reinforcements to Station de Sened and drawing increasing air activity toward the Gafsa areas, General Fredendall faced an immediate choice between occupying Maknassy and the pass just east of it or strengthening the Allied hold on Faid pass, as General Giraud and General Juin desired. Either operation would be undertaken in the face of known enemy preparations for an offensive toward Tabessa or Gafsa. The 1st Armored Division had been considering operations against Maknassy since early January. Fredendall’s decision was to seize Maknassy, on the ground that such action would effectively protect Faid pass and would inflict direct damage on the enemy:

Maknassy, it will be recalled, is in the southeastern corner of central Tunisia on a plain where the Eastern Dorsal bends to the southwest toward Gafsa. The fertile, irrigated olive orchards close to the village are in turn surrounded by undulating stretches of bunch grass and cactus which stretch not only to steep hills on the east and south but to a screening arch of hills and ridges on the west and north, a barrier which projects from the Eastern Dorsal. A narrow-gauge railroad and highway enter the Maknassy plain at the southwestern corner through an opening at Station de Sened and continue east through a defile between low hills. Entry from the north is made via a pass between Djebel Maizila (522) and Djebel.

The plan for the attack on Maknassy would send two forces against the objective in simultaneous assaults, one approaching from the direction of Malzila pass and the other by way of Station de Sened. At the same time, in reserve, a third element of the 18t Armored Division would be near SbeItla. For the Maknassy attack, scheduled for 1 February, Colonel Stack’s Combat Command C was to march on the previous day from Gafsa along the northern side of the screening hills to enter the plain via Maizila pass, while on the same day, a temporary Combat Command D under Colonel Robert V. Maraist moved from the Bou Chebka area through F eriana and Gafsa against Station de Sened, and thereafter eastward along the route of the railroad to Maknassy.

The Enemy Attacks Faid Pass Before this attack on Maknassy could begin, the enemy launched an attack of his own against Faid pass, committing the 21st Panzer Division, directly under Fifth Panzer Army control, aided by elements from the Italian 50th Special Brigade (General Imperiali) and by army troops. The mission was to control the pass, to install security detachments on the chain of mountains from north of Faid pass to Sened village, and to reconnoiter halfway to Sbeltla. At the conclusion of the operation, the attacking force was expected to withdraw all but strong security detachments. These detachments, with others from Brigade Imperiali. would occupy key points in the Eastern Dorsal. Italians would hold the area of Station de Sened, blocking the narrow plain there and maintaining liaison with Division Centauro east of Gafsa, at a pass between Sened village and Sakket

Faid pass is a broad opening between Djebel Sidi Khalif (705) on the north and Djebel Bou Dzer (473) on the south through which ran the main tarmac highway from Sfax to Sbeitla, and beyond. There were two other gaps in the Eastern Dorsal, which were crossed by inferior roads or trails. The first, about six miles north of Faid pass, near Sidi Khalif, the other just south of Djebel Bou Dzer at Ain Rebaou. A detachment of about 1,000 men from General Welvert’s Constantine Division defended these passes under command of Brigadier General Schwartz. An attacking force, immediately after passing through Faid defile on an approach from the coastal plain, would find, one mile to the southwest, the village of Faid, a small collection of block-shaped, white masonry houses. The road forked at this village, the main road leading seven miles straight across the level plain to Poste de Lessouda while a secondary road ran west-southwest for eight miles to Sidi Bou Zid. Just to the north of Poste de Lessouda is the isolated hill mass of Djebel Lessouda (644) a bold butte with excellent observation over the wide stretches of plain which encircle it. Well to the southwest are a series of similar hills of which Djebel Ksaira (560), near Ain Rebaou pass, and Djebel Garet Hadid (620), west of Djebel Ksalra, are prominent. Sidi Bou Zid’s dark evergreens and gleaming white low buildings are about five miles south of Djebel Lessouda and four miles north-northwest of Djebcl Garet Hadid. Geometric patterns of cultivated fields and orchards are adjacent to bright stuccoed buildings. Elsewhere are the irregular extensive fields of cactus and thin grass which grow generally without the benefit of irrigation. Here was the area in which the U.S. II Corps was to meet its first true challenge.

The 21st Panzer Division, commanded by Colonel Hans Georg Hildebrandt, organized for the attack in two major groups, Kampfgruppe Pfeiffer and Kampfgruppe Gruen. Kampfgruppe Pfeiffer was further subdivided into northern, central, and southern task forces. The small northern task force was to assume protection of the north flank and to hold Sidi Khalif pass. This comprised the 2nd Tunis Battalion (-) reinforced by Italian elements. The center group, directly commanded by Major Pfeiffer, was to attack Faid pass from the east, using the 3rd Battalion, 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (reinforced). One company of infantry from the 2nd Tunis Battalion would climb Hill 644 at the southern end of Djebel Sidi Khalif to strike the defenders of Faid pass from the northern flank at the same time that the attack from the east began.

The somewhat weaker southern task force consisting of the 1st Battalion, 104th Panzer Grenadier Regiment (reinforced) was expected to seize and block Ain Rebaou pass and protect the southern flank against the French on Djebel Ksaira. To the south, nearer Maknassy, Kampfgruppe Gruen (1st Battalion, 5th Panzer Regiment, reinforced) was to make a longer encircling march through Malzila pass. This maneuver would enable it to attack the French garrison at Faid village from the rear and thence to join in seizing the pass. Kampfgrpuppe Gruen would be preceded by the 580th Reconnaissance Battalion as far as a supporting position west of Djebel Boudinar (716). It was then to reconnoiter as far as Bir el Hafey. A division reserve was held near the Sfax-Faid road!

The attack began early on 30 January. The northern and southern task forces (Kampfgruppe Pfeiffer) attained their objectives readily, but the center task force and Kampfgruppe Gruen were held up for five hours. They finally forced a stubbornly intervening French force back into Sidi Bou Zid and, after another one and one-half hour’s fighting, captured Faid village. It was then midafternoon, Kampfgruppe Gruen drove off an American armored force that approached from the northwest, after which the German tanks continued toward the pass in an effort to envelop the defenders.

Mines knocked out four tanks and the effort was postponed at nightfall. By that time they had made contact with the company of the 2nd Tunis Battalion and sealed off the pass on the west. At the eastern end of the pass, Major Pfeiffer’s center task force was twice stopped short; under cover of darkness, it got only 200 yards into the opening before being held up again. The French kept the area illuminated by parachute flares, forestalling night movement up the slopes by Axis troops to positions from which to aid a renewed attack in the morning. Thus during the night of 30 January the French defenders were surrounded but the Germans were far from holding Faid pass.

The American reconnoitering force which had approached Faid from the northwest during the late afternoon was a small portion of General McQuillin’s Combat Command A, U.S. 1st Armored Division, from Sbeitla. McQuillin had been directed to help regain control of the pass. In spite of early and repeated requests from the French, these first American reinforcements had been unable to travel the distance of more than thirty miles in time to intervene before the loss of Faid village or the encirclement of Faid pass. Allied air action also had been too weak to deter the enemy’s advance.

The II Corps’ orders, received about 0930, 30 January, had prescribed that Combat Command A was to counterattack in order to restore the French positions at Faid, but without reducingthe covering force operating northeast of Sbeitla or materially weakening the defense of Sbeltla. At about 1000 General McQuillin dispatched a reconnaissance company to reconnoiter the Djebel Lessouda-Faid area.

Shortly thereafter he sent a group consisting of a company of tanks, a company of armored infantry, and an artillery battery, southward to Sidi Bou Zid ordering them to advance along a secondary route via Bir el Hafey. This reconnaissance company reported by 1400 that the enemy was holding the sector from Rebaou pass to Faid village with infantry and tanks. Meantime enemy air intercepted American efforts to reinforce the advanced groups during daylight. At 1430, therefore, McQuillin decided to postpone his counterattack until early on 31 January. Dividing his command, he ordered a northern group to assemble in the vicinity of Poste de Lessouda, and a southern group in the Sidi Bou Zid area. These movements were to be executed under the cover of darkness.

About 0330, 31 January, General McQuillin, who was accompanied by General Truscott of the AFHQ Advance Command Post, issued orders from Paste de Lessouda for an attack at 0700. One part of his force under Lt. Colonel William B. Kern was to strike through Rebaou pass from Sidi Bou Zid to get east of the enemy at Faid pass and the other under Colonel Stark, to advance against the Fai’d area from Djebcl Lessouda.

[NOTE: 1st Armd Div FO 4, 30 Jan 43. Troops available to Combat Command A were: the 1st Armored Regiment (less the 1st and 2nd Battalions) ; the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry; the 26th Infantry (Jess Company C and 2nd and 3rd Battalions); the 1st Reconnaissance Troop; the 33rd Field Artillery Battalion: the 91st Field Artillery Battalion; Company A, 701st Tank Destroy Battalion; Company C, 16th Armored Combat Engineers; and Battery D (less two platoons), 4+3rd Coast Artillery (AA) Battalion (SP).]

[NOTE: The northern group consisted of: the 1st Battalion (–), Headquarters and Cannon, Antitank, and Medical 26th Infantry: a platoon from the lead 3rd Coast Artillery (All.) Battalion (SP): and II, 1st Armored Regiment, with a platoon 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion attached. The tanks were to leave this force after taking Faid village in order to attack southward along the mountains to Aln Rebaou. The southern group included: the 1st Battalion (less Company B), 6th Armored Infantry: Company G and a platoon from Reconnaissance Company, 1st Armored Regiment: Company A (less a platoon), 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion: and one platoon from Company C, 16th Armored Combat Engineers. Battslion), B, 915t Field Artillery Battalion, Was to support from a position east of Djebel Lessauda.]]

American efforts to relieve the French in FaId pass on 31 January were not successful. The enemy during the preceding night had emplaced and concealed his antitank and heavy machine guns, mortars, and artillery, and had put many of his tanks in defiladed positions. The American infantry, after making a limited penetration into the lower foothills north of FaId pass, was repulsed by a thick curtain of fire. The medium tanks of Company H, U.S. 1st Armored Regiment, were lured within range of well-sited antitank weapons which destroyed at least eight vehicles. The American supporting artillery came under long-range counterbattery fire and was also heavily attacked by dive bombers. The southern force was delayed by enemy aviation and then driven back by the enemy ground troops. By 1400 on 31 January the enemy had succeeded in capturing FaId pass. The American attack not only failed to relieve the French, but also, through absence of Allied air support, failed to prevent the enemy from bringing up reinforcements. The Germans were now firmly established on the Eastern Dorsal from Djebel Sidi Khalif to Maizila pass where they had gained a foothold south and west of that gap.

At 0930 on 1 February Giraud called General Welvert’s headquarters ordering that a strong protest be made to General Fredendall regarding the slowness of American intervention and ineffectiveness of U,S. air and artillery. But by 1 February the French in the pass could not be relieved nor Allied possession restored. Nevertheless, efforts to drive out the enemy were not abandoned.

The Allied Attack on Maknassy Begins

The Germans had struck at Faid pass while the Allied attack on Maknassy was being organized, As a result, General Fredendall faced the difficult tactical decision whether he should send Colonel Stack’s force Combat Command C, to join the counterattack at FaId or use it for the attack on Maknassy.

Generals Giraud and Welvert recommended that the force be brought south of Djebel Ksai’ra to the Ai’n Rebaou area by a route enabling it to strike the enemy from the rear. At 1300, 30 January, Stack received orders by telephone to start northeastward from Gafsa toward the area of Sidi Bou Zid with the mission of hitting “. . . in flank the force of enemy tanks and infantry thrusting at SIDI BOU ZID from the east, and also to strike any force moving from MAKNASSY toward SIDI BOU ZID.” Stack was out of direct communication with McQuillin, during the night of 30-31 January, which Combat Command C spent in bivouac about thirty miles southwest of Sidi Bou Zid. As he was nearing the F ai’d battle area on 31 January, he received radioed orders at 1600 to “turn south and join in co-ordinated effort with Maraist on Maknassy.” During the following night when he was only a few miles northeast of Maizila pass on the trail to Maknassy, he was still out of communication with McQuillin at Faid. Stack, following his instructions, blocked the northern mouth of Maizila pass and prepared for a morning attack, leaving the action at Faid pass to be completed by Combat Command A and General Welvert’s troops.

The orders sending Stack south were based on an overoptimistic concept of what was happening at Ai’n Rebaou, for American troops were then understood to be advancing north along the eastern side of Djebel Bou Dzer when in fact they had been repulsed!” The opportunity for McQuillin and Stack to co-operate late on 31 January had thus been rejected in favor of combining Stack’s attack on Maknassy with that by Maraist’s force, but during the night of 31 January-l February it was still feasible to postpone the Maknassy operation and to recall Combat Command C to the Faid area. General Welvert was so thoroughly convinced of the merit of such a course that he sought out Stack that night and induced him to raise the question again with General Ward. Ward confirmed Fredendall’s orders for Stack to co-operate with Maraist in attacking Maknassy, while McQuillin and French units under General Schwartz made one last attempt to recover Faid pass from its Axis occupants.

The Enemy Retains Fazd Pass

Near Sidi Bou Zid, General McQuillin sent Colonel Stark’s force south by foot during the night to make the next day’s main attack on Ai’n Rebaou, converging on Kern’s axis of approach. The advance on 1 February was not begun until noon when the sun was no longer low in front of the American forces. It opened with an extraordinarily heavy artillery preparation, followed by an infantry assault; the tanks were initially held in reserve for a later sweep against Faid, if it should prove advisable.

The infantry, after first advancing methodically behind the barrage, started up the lower slopes where they were eventually pinned down by machine gun, mortar, and heavy artillery fire as the barrage lifted. At this point fifteen enemy tanks made a sortie out of Faid village and struck the left (northern) flank of the attacking infantry throwing their assault into confusion. The 3rd Battalion, 1st Armored Regiment, was now sent forward to get the attack in motion again but the American tanks were subjected to severe shelling from guns so skillfully hidden that observers and searching American artillery fire had failed to find them. By now the infantry was already falling back. There were no reserves. The 1st Battalion, 26th Infantry, pulled back to positions three to five miles east of Sidi Zid, while the 1st Battalion, 6th Armored Infantry, turned southwest and occupied Djebcl Ksaira.

McQuillin acknowledged candidly at the end of the day that he had failed to accomplish his mission. He pointed out that his right wing had been stopped and the infantry on the left had been driven back “in disorder” from a point close to the enemy’s positions by the sudden attack of nine or more Mark IV tanks which had emerged from concealment., while these enemy tanks were being driven back by four American self-propelled 75-mm. guns, by tanks, and by tank destroyers, and pursued until they reached the cover of German antitank guns, the disorganized infantry had been able to withdraw.

Under orders on 2 February to pass to the defensive, Combat Command A organized positions on Djebcl Ksaira and set up a line east of Sidi Bou Zid while the Allied high command determined where to establish the main line of resistance. The enemy had already moved onto high ground east of Diebel Ksaira and directly south of Rebaou pass, onto the heights north of that pass, and along the western slopes of Djebel Sidi KhaliL His observation points surveyed all approaches to the Faid area. His tanks were withdrawn into the passes, but he emplaced artillery as heavy as 210-mm. howitzers where they could interdict Allied movement toward his infantry positions and outrange American and French guns in counterbattery fire. He remained in Faid village while Sidi Bou Zid was occupied by the Allies.

Operations Southwest of Pont-du-Fahs While the enemy’s attack at Faid pass was succeeding, another attack, ordered by von Arnim on 28 January, directed against Hir Moussa crossroads and the heights northeast of Rebaa Oulad Yahia, was thrown back. Success in this endeavor would have forced the Allied troops in the heights west of the Ousseltia valley to pull back in order to avoid being cut off, but on 31 January the armored force was repulsed short of Rebaa Oulad Yahia at Sidi Said by the British 36th Brigade (with the 2nd Battalion, U.S. 16th Infantry, attached). Although the enemy broke off the attack that evening, his threat brought Combat Command B, U.S. 1st Armored Division, hurrying back from the area southeast of Tabessa to which it had so recently been recalled from the Ousseltia valley. It spent 1 February at Hadjeb el Aloun, and during the next night continued to its new station in the vicinity of Maktar, out of II Corps’ area and in First Army reserve.

[NOTE: ” (1) 6th Armd Inf AAR, 23 Jan-26 Feb 43, (2) Memo, CG CCA to CG 1st Armd Div, in 1st Arrnd Div Sitrc·p, 1-2 Feb 43, (3) 1st Armd Div FO 5, 1200, 3 Feb ·13, (4) Losses reported by the 26th Infantry wen’ 1 killed and 56 wounded and for 6th Armored Infantry 4 killed and 16 wounded. (5) French losses known on 2 February were 905 officers and men, killed or missing in action. DMC Jnl, 2 Feb 43, (6) The enemy reported ,capture of 1,047 prisoners of war (mostly French), 25 armored cars, 12 guns, 2 antiaircraft guns, 15 antitank guns, 8 mortars, 57 machin” guns, 10 trucks, and 5 aircraft either destroyed or damaged. Msg, OKH/ GenStdH/Op Abt, Nr. 1563/43, to army groups, 4 Feb 43, in OKH/GenStdH/Op Abt, File’ Abendorientierungen Afrika, 11-/3, V.43. (7) Msg, CG]]

British 5 Corps (General Allfrey) attempted early in February to get into a position to cut the Pont-du-Fahs-Rebaa Oulad Yahia road at the junction just south of the reservoir. To accomplish this purpose, it became essential to gain control of Djebel Mansour (678) and its spur Djebel Alliliga, commanding the road at a point southeast of Bou Arada. Using elements of the British 1st Guards Brigade and 1st Parachute Brigade, Allfrey’s attack in approximately battalion strength on 3 February did not quite succeed. Reinforcements by each side balanced out during the next two nights. After his counterattack on 5 February gained control of Djebel Mansour, the enemy finally drove the remaining British troops from Djebel Alliliga. The adversaries were left in deadlock fifteen miles southwest of Pont-du-Fahs, but with the Axis in firm possession of the approaches to that town.

II Corps Attack on Maknassy Ends

While the enemy’s initiative southwest of Pont-du-Fahs and at Faid pass drew Allied forces into containing positions, the operations by II Corps to seize Maknassy came to an end.

As Colonel Stack’s Combat Command C opened its attack on Ma’izila pass on 1 February, under II Corps order which General Ward had confirmed during the previous night, it soon found that enemy reinforcements had been brought up during the night. Enemy infantry and armored cars, supported by artillery, counterattacked at 0730. The enemy was driven back, but new divisional orders to Combat Command C to postpone full commitment in the pass kept the forces waiting until afternoon. The course of Maraist’s battle for Station de Sened, of McQuillin’s at Faid pass, and of the enemy attack northeast of Rebaa Oulad Yahia for a time made it difficult to decide the best way to employ Combat Command C. Then at 1400, orders terminating this indecision came through to Colonel Stack: “Secure Maizila Pass, including both exits. Reconnoiter to south with view to attack on Maknassy.” The afternoon assault opened with a twenty-minute artillery preparation followed at 1710 with an advance by the tanks and two companies of infantry on foot.

Other infantry were carried in half-tracks to objectives already captured in order to organize them quickly for defense. Soft ground and antitank fire delayed the general advance, but the troops gained the southwestern side of the pass and part of the northeastern side before darkness forced them to suspend the attack. Preparations were made to complete the task in the morning. Reported losses were 3 killed, 20 wounded, and 43 missing. Combat Command C might reasonably expect to reach Maknassy on the next day. As it prepared for the last phase of its operation, its orders were abruptly revised. Combat Command C was recalled from the pass and sent north to Hadjeb el Ai’oun on the night of 1-2 February as part of a general defensive shift to counter an enemy threat against that sector of the Allied line.

Meanwhile, Colonel Maraist’s force, called Combat Command D, led by clements of the 81 st Reconnaissance Battalion, marched on Station de Sened from Gafsa early on 31 January. The reconnaissance force slipped around Station de Sened to occupy high ground east of it. The infantry was ordered to move in trucks cross country on a wide front to a point about ten miles west of the objective, then to detruck and proceed on foot, attacking from the south with two companies abreast and a third echeloned to the right rear. The tanks were to approach parallel to the road but were to bypass the objective on the north and turn in order to strike from the east. The artillery was to support the attack from position northwest of the hamlet.

The scheme of maneuver somewhat resembled that which had been so successful in the raid a week earlier, but factors in the situation were markedly different. The attack began much later in the day.

Although the tanks and artillery were in position at 1345, the infantry convoy was slow in coming up, kept marching past the assigned detrucking point, and was insufficiently dispersed. From the beginning, heavy enemy air attacks repeatedly harassed the operation, with Allied planes unable to be of help. A dive-bombing attack by eight Stukas at 1330, and another by twenty-four at 1656, stunned the infantry and caused substantial casualties. The troops could not be formed for an assault by 1700; so the entire force was reorganized for the night, and the attack was rescheduled for dawn. The 175th Field Artillery Battalion and the 2nd Battalion, 168th Infantry, were sent up during the night to supplement the 1st Battalion, but except for a small 168th Infantry regimental group with Colonel Thomas D. Drake, and a portion of the 2nd Battalion, the troops were unwittingly guided past the American lines into the enemy’s rear area. In the morning, most of the “lost battalion” was either taken captive or otherwise prevented from taking part in the attack, even though some troops managed to find their way back before noon.

Station de Sened was more strongly defended than on 24 January Combat Command D had expected about 250 men with eight machine guns, four 47 -mm. antitank guns, and two 75-mm. field guns emplaced behind mine fields west of the village. A few armored cars had also been observed there, but the main force was supposed to be east of Maknassy. Actually, the objective was well defended from the start and when the position was threatened, the enemy reacted quickly by sending reinforcements from Gabes.,g In a slow attack on 1 February, the Americans finally penetrated the hamlet about 1640, held the town during the night, and prepared to continue the advance next morning to the cast, where stronger enemy forces had assembled.

“It is of vital necessity for you to get forward and place the infantry on its objective four (4) miles east of Sened Station,” General Fredendall informed Colonel Maraist, “Too much time has been wasted already. I shall expect you to be on the objective not later than 1000 hours, 2 February. Use your tanks and shove. From 1800 hours, this date, (1 February) General Ray E. Porter, USA, will be in command of your operation until completion of your mission, after which you will revert to Corps control in the Gafsa area.

On the same night, General Ward, unaware of these orders, informed Colonel Maraist that the units of the 168th Infantry and 175th Field Artillery were to revert to General Porter’s command after Combat Command D had gained the position east of Station de Sened, and only then was Maraist to move to the Gafsa area to enter corps reserve. The 81st Reconnaissance Battalion would then shift to Sbeitla, where the 1st Armored Division headquarters would open at 0200, 2 February. Maraist was directed finally to secure a position favorable to defense “three to four miles east of Sened Station.” After it had been organized by the 168th Infantry (less the 3rd Battalion), he was to remain in a supporting position until relieved by Porter’s direction.

These confusing orders were issued in ignorance of General Eisenhower’s directive, drawn up in conference with General Anderson and Truscott at Teiergma airfield that same morning, that the central front must be securely held by employing the U.S. 1st Armored Division as a concentrated force, even if that involved pulling back the line from the Eastern Dorsal, evacuating Cafsa, and forfeiting the use of Thelcpte airfield. “If Maknassy is not taken by tonight, the whole division should be withdrawn into a central position and kept concentrated,” Eisenhower had insisted.

The morning attack toward Maknassy on 2 February proceeded rapidly against light artillery and machine gun fire until about0930, when it was interrupted by a very heavy dive-bombing attack on the tanks. By noon, the infantry in force held the ridge east of Sened. The tanks reassembled in readiness to meet a counterattack; the infantry dug in; the 81st Reconnaissance Battalion’s units took up positions protecting the north and south flanks; and the 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion’s reconnaissance elements pushed five miles farther east. The counterattack came about 1600. A dive bombing by twenty-four Stukas first shook up the infantry. When sixteen enemy tanks approached on the left flank, some excited troops started running back and others jammed the road with vehicles headed west. These troops had to be firmly checked and turned around. Five enemy tanks got through to the main position, but were driven off by American tanks and tank destroyers over an hour later. By 1900, the position was generally restored, and held throughout the night.

The attack toward Maknassy was renewed at daylight on 3 February with tanks, tank destroyers, and assault guns out in front of the infantry line to repel any counterattack by Axis forces. Well forward was the reconnaissance unit of 701st Tank Destroyer Battalion, which got within six miles of Maknassy by noon. Artillery fired on elusive enemy detachments, and fifteen American B-25’s bombed enemy tanks near Maknassy at about 1530 and Station de Sened (in American possession) by mistake soon afterward. At this juncture, Maraist’s attack on Maknassy from the west was broken off when orders from II Corps’ advanced command post were received directing Combat Command D’s withdrawal at 1830 to Gafsa. The move was completed before daylight.

Losses inflicted on the enemy amounted to seven light tanks, two French 75-mm. guns, and two 88-mm. dual-purpose guns, considerable transportation equipment, along with a small quantity of ammunition, destroyed or captured, and about 160 prisoners taken. American losses reported included four light tanks, nine half-tracks, one self-propelled 105-mm. howitzer, one 75-mm. pack howitzer, two self-propelled and one towed 37-mm. guns, as well as lesser weapons and transport vehicles. Casualties were 51 killed, 164 wounded, 116 missing.

The force Colonel Maraist and Colonel Stack had encountered was Kampfgruppe Strempel. When American attacks on Sened Station and Mai’zila pass threatened to interfere with the 21st Panzer Division’s operations in the Faid pass area, Colonel Hildebrandt organized a provisional headquarters under his chief of staff, Lt. Colonel Strempel, ordering him to defend at all cost the sector from Djebel Matleg (477) to Djebel Bou Hedma (790), boundary with the Italian Centauro Division. Group Strempel consisted of the 334th Reconnaissance Battalion, 29th Africa Battalion, 580th Reconnaissance Battalion, and miscellaneous units of the Italian 50th Spedal Brigade, reinforced by artillery and flak. The 190th Panzer Battalion, ubiquitous “fire brigade” of the Tunisian bridgehead, was at hand as a tactical reserve held in the Meheri Zebbeus area.

II Corps Goes on the Defensive

At 1200, 3 February, Headquarters, 1st Armored Division, issued new orders based upon the loss of Faid pass and the vulnerability of the poorly armed French forces in the Fondouk el Aouareb-Pichon area to an attack of the kind which had succeeded at Faid.o5 The mission given the division was to contain the enemy from F ondouk el Aouareb gap to Maizila pass, a distance exceeding fifty miles. The division was directed to plan to reinforce the French troops quickly wherever indicated, to engage in active reconnaissance and patrols, to use artillery freely, and to employ mobile striking forces in counterattacks against any enemy penetrations of the eastern mountain chain. At Maktar, in First Army reserve was Combat Command B, still withdrawn from General Ward’s control. 6G Near Hadjeb el Aloun, was Combat Command C, only nominally under division control and directed by II Corps to cover the twenty-mile zone from north of Djebel Trozza to a screening ridge southeast of Hadjeb el Aloun. Combat Command A covered the rest of the chain of mountains as far as Djebel Meloussi, west of Malzila pass. At First Army’s insistence Combat Command D was recalled from its operation toward Maknassy in order to enter II Corps Reserve at Bou Chebka in place of Combat Command B. The 81st Reconnaissance Battalion (less Company B) went into 1st Armored Division Reserve at Sbeltla. The 168th Infantry (less 1st Battalion) was also to pass to direct corps control and to move from Gafsa to Sbeltla and thence to Sidi Bou Zid. The 1st Battalion, 168th Infantry, went into II Corps Reserve at Feriana. Greater mobility in the northern sector was accomplished by the improvement of a road from Hadjeb el Aloun to El Ala, a project carried through by Company B, 16th Armored Engineer Battalion, and units from the U.S. 34th Division.

These dispositions were intended to hold as much as possible of the forward areas while the Allies prepared for sustained, aggressive action in the month of March. As soon as an opportunity for a blow at the Axis line of communications on the coastal plain should present itself, the forces could assemble west of the mountain barrier, in which all the gaps were held by the enemy, and fight its way through whichever gap seemed to offer most hope of success. But it was hardly to be expected that the enemy would quietly permit strong forces to be organized for the purpose of piercing the barrier and wreaking havoc in the rear of Field Marshal Rommel’s army. The loss of Faid pass, moreover, made the Allies so much more vulnerable to hostile, disruptive incursions that retention of the areas east of the Western Dorsal was correspondingly more hazardous. The dispositions described above were risky, and the result of difficult decisions reached by Anderson, Fredendall, and their chiefs of staff, on the evening of 5 February.

Anxiety about the Axis forces at Faid led Fredendall not only to assign specific responsibility for containing them to the Commanding General, 1st Armored Division, on 10 February, after a visit to his command post near Sbeltla, but in addition, to issue orders very specifically controlling the means made available there. On 11 February, Major Warren Hugulet, liaison officer of the 1st Armored Division, brought to Sbeltla the following directive from General Fredendall:

HEADQUARTERS II CORPS

APO NO. 302

11 February, 1943

SUBJECT: Defense of FAID Position.

TO: Commanding General, 1st Armored division.

  1. You will take immediate steps to see that the following points concerning defense of the FAID position are put into effect:
  2. Scheme of Defense.’ D.J. KSAIRA on the South and DJ LESSOUDA on the North are the key terrain features in the defense of

FAID. These two features must be strongly held, with a mobile reserve in the vicinity of SIDI BOU ZID which can rapidly launch a counter attack. Plans for all possible uses of this reserve should be prepared ahead of time. A battalion of infantry should be employed for  the defense of D J. KSAIRA, and the bulk of a battalion of infantry together with a battery of artillery and a company of tanks for the defense of DJ. LESSOUDA. Remainder of artillery is at present satisfactorily located. It should, however, furnish its own local protection,and be prepared to shift rapidly.

  1. Additional Reserves: The 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry, now under your control, should immediately send a liaison officer to Hq., CC A. Inasmuch as this Battalion will likely be employed by McQuillin should an attack in the F AID area develop, the Battalion Commander, in collaboration with McQuillin should prepare plans for the use of his Battalion. These plans should ensure rapid movement and employment of this Battalion once it has been ordered.
  2. Reconnaissance: It is extremely important that reconnaissance and counter reconnaissance be conducted by you from HADJEB EL AIOUN on the North to the pass between DJ. MAIZTLA [Djebcl Maizilal and DJ. GOULEB on the South. In this area strong listening posts should be established 24 hours a day from which raids, when appropriate, can be conducted. It is essential that this reconnaissance and counter reconnaissance link up with that now being conducted by the 1st British Derbyshire Yeomanry. The force now at McQuillin’s disposal is not sufficient for the area for which he is responsible. The bulk of your 81st Reconnaissance Battalion should be used in the area HADJEB EL AIOUN-MAIZTLAGOULEB PASS.
  3. Patrols: It is vital that strong infantry foot patrols be sent forward at night from DJ. LESSOUDA and DJ. KSAIRA. These patrols must be offensive. They must keep track of the enemy’s strength and organization. They should be especially watchful for any attt’mpt of the enemy to debouch from the passes at night. They must take prisoners. It is also important that these patrols locate the presence of minefields, if any, in areas like the gap between DJ. RECHAIB and D J. BOU DZEL [Djebel Bou DzerJ. The latter would, of course, be of great importance in the event we decide to capture FAID.
  4. Use of Wire, AT Mines, Trip Wire, etc: I desire that you make maximum use of all available means to strengthen the positions outlined above. The necessary materiel is available and should be used immediately.
  5. Photography: I have instructed my G-2 to furnish you as soon as possible a photographic strip covering the area: Pass at

T8358-FAID PASS-REBOU [Ain RebaouJ-MATLEG PASS. I have asked that every effort be made to secure good pictures of the Pass at T8358, FAID PASS, and MATLEG PASS.

I desire that a copy of this directive, together with your own comments, be sent to McQuillin.You will inform me when the instructions enumerated in this directive have been complied with.

R. FREDENDALL

Major General, U.S.A.

Commanding.

[The following was written in longhand: ]

In other words I want a very strong active defense and not just a passive one. The encmy must be harassed at every opportunity. Reconnaissance must never be relaxed especially at night. Positions indicated must be wired and mined now. L. R. F.GS

The note of hopefulness with which January had opened, and the high expectation of II Corps of carrying the battle to the enemy, had led early in February to temporary frustration. The enemy was still calling the tune. Until the Allies were strong enough to resume the offensive in March, they would have to fight the enemy where he chose to attack, and when.

SOURCE: Northwest Africa: Seizing The Initiative In The West; by George F. Howe (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: North Africa (5-21); Axis Strike II Corps

World War Two: North Africa (5-19); New Situation: Axis Reaction

World War Two: Gilberts & Marshalls(16); Kwajalein: The Third Day

From the line of departure of 3 February to the northeastern extremity, Kwajalein Island curved and narrowed for about 2,000 yards. Halfway along the lagoon shore was Nob Pier, while on the ocean side the distance around the outside of the curve from Corn Strong Point to Nathan Road, which extends across the island from Nob Pier, was approximately 1,500 yards. The island was over 600 yards wide where the day’s advance was to start but narrowed to almost 300 yards at Nathan Road.

 Nathan Road was the day’s first objective. At the left, between the lagoon and Will Road, the band of buildings that had begun near Center Pier continued unbroken. Another concentration of buildings lay in the middle of the island some 250 yards north of Nora Road, in a diamond-shaped area of approximately 250 by 350 yards. Here, according to a captured enemy map, were the headquarters, communications center, shops, and other installations of the Admiralty section, as distinguished from those related to the airfield.

Except along its southeastern side, the area of these buildings had been cleared, and a loop of secondary road connected it with Will Road. The third aggregation of enemy buildings to be encountered in the area before Nathan Road was the southern section of the heavily built-up area that stretched to the end of the island. Buildings extended, within a grid of cross island and north-south streets, from a wooded area some 500 yards south of Nathan Road to the northern highway loop. Halfway between Nora and Nathan Roads, among the southernmost buildings of this northern aggregation, was Noel Road, which also linked the two main island highways.

Photographic reconnaissance of the part of Kwajalein Island yet to be captured on 3 February had been limited by the heavy woods. Coastal installations stood out most clearly, and these appeared to be considerably stronger on the ocean side. South of Nathan Road two concentrations had been detected along the ocean shore. The first, organized around 300 yards of trench, lay parallel to the shore, 600 to 900 yards beyond Corn Strong Point, from which the right elements of the 32nd Infantry were to start. In the narrow area between the trench and the ocean, two covered artillery positions and five pillboxes were anticipated. Immediately beyond the trench the second concentration, designated as Nap Strong Point, consisted of nearly 400 yards of organized positions in which three heavy and five light machine gun emplacements had been observed and at least one pillbox was expected.

The Plan for 3 February

The two regiments faced, on what was expected to be the last day of attack, the island’s area of densest construction. Estimates of remaining Japanese fortified positions other than those along the shores had been made from information supplied by Japanese prisoners and the captured Marshalls natives but, although the latter had warned of reinforced concrete shelters among the other structures in the northern portion of the island, their actual number and strength was not anticipated.

Progress on Kwajalein Island on 3 February required co-ordinated movement through strong defenses and heavy concentrations of enemy troops. The axis of advance would turn gradually from northeast to north, as the troops advanced along the narrowing curve of the island. Except for a brief loop to the east to bring all of the Admiralty area into the 184th Infantry’s zone, the regimental boundary continued along the middle of the island. To make the swing along the island’s curve while maintaining alignments of the two regimental fronts demanded greater rapidity of advance in the 32nd Infantry zone.

General Corlett’s plan for 3 February anticipated rapid occupation of the rest of the island. It called for a “vigorous attack,” beginning at 0715. At 0700 a ten-minute artillery preparation would begin in which the eighteen heavy regimental mortars would supplement the division artillery in hitting Kwajalein Island, while the naval gunfire was being directed on Burton Island. During this preparatory fire, the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, was to pass through the 2nd Battalion and jump off from the line of departure at 0715, Company A on the right, Company B on the left, and Company C in reserve. Each company was to have a detachment of the 13th Engineers, a platoon of heavy machine guns, and one 37-mm. antitank gun. The engineers were to prepare the charges to blow up enemy shelters. Each of the leading companies would be supported by four medium tanks, and in addition two light tanks would operate with Company A on the right.

The 32nd Infantry’s attack was to be carried by the 3rd Battalion, Company I on the right along the ocean shore, Company K on the left between Wallace Road and the regimental boundary, and Company L mopping up behind Company K. One platoon of medium tanks and two light tanks were to support the assault, with a second platoon of mediums in reserve. A destroyer would furnish naval gunfire on call, and air support would continue as on the previous days. The 1st Battalion was to pass through the 2nd Battalion and follow in close support, covering any gaps in depth that might develop.

The Attack of the 32nd Infantry

The execution of the plan began at 0705, with the ten-minute preparatory fire. The troops jumped off on schedule while the artillery continued to fire ahead of the troops in a creeping barrage. When the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, had come abreast of the 32nd Infantry, the latter moved forward across a hundred yards of brush to a woods that had been under bombardment. No fire was received until the troops had pressed though the woods for another two hundred yards. Only ruins of a few structures were found there, but about 150 yards to the northwest was the corner of the Admiralty area, where a large concrete pillbox partly commanded the 32nd Infantry’s route of advance. Protected by the trees, most of Companies K and I passed beyond this installation, while Company K’s support platoon and two of the medium tanks turned left to attack it.

Driven into the open by demolition charges and 75-mm. shells, the enemy occupants ran out one by one to seek shelter among nearby buildings. Lieutenant Colonel John M. Finn, executive officer of the 32nd Infantry, and Captain Sanford I. Wolff, observer from the 33rd Infantry Division, shot them as they ran. The Japanese buildings on the left flank could not be cleared unless Company K moved into the field of fire of Company A, 184th Infantry, which was just beginning to push along the southwestern edge of the Admiralty area. A local arrangement was therefore made by Colonel Finn and 1st Lieutenant Norvin E. Smith, commanding Company A. Company L, 32nd Infantry, with the support platoon of Company A, 184th Infantry, would mop up the building area by house-to-house action; the remainder of Company A would continue north, and in so doing protect Company K’s left flank. Company L would also maintain connection between the two battalions. The arrangement in effect modified the regimental boundary.

Enemy positions in the 32nd Infantry’s zone were not only scattered but also such as to enable rapid movement without detailed search of all cover. The more thorough mopping up could be done by support elements. General Corlett ordered the 32nd Infantry to “keep smashing ahead.” The growing gap between the leading elements of the two regiments was, however, a cause of increasing concern to Colonel Finn. By shortly before noon the right wing had pushed through the first aggregation of defenses along the ocean shore and had reached Noel Road. The 32nd Infantry’s line bent southwest from that point to a point about two hundred yards north of the Admiralty area. The 184th Infantry’s lines extended from the southwestern edge of the Admiralty area southwest to the lagoon shore about a hundred yards from Nora Road. Between the two regiments there was a vertical gap including most of the Admiralty area. To care for this and any other strain on the lengthening gap between the two regiments, the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry, had been sent forward at 0900. Early in the afternoon Company B relieved Company L, which had been mopping up in the Admiralty area; Company L then moved north to fill in the vertical gap; Company C filled in south of Company L along the gap; and Company A, in reserve, stood ready to shift to the south of Company C should the gap become longer.

Had the enemy defense been co-ordinated, the long spearhead on the eastern side of the island might have been struck effectively from the west, but actually the danger most apparent to the 32nd Infantry’s command was that of fire from the zone of the 184th. In fact, small arms fire from the 184th’s zone did fall from time to time east of the Admiralty area. As the 184th Infantry swung north, the line of fire could increase this risk.

The Morning Action in the 184th Infantry’s Zone

The division plan for 3 February had envisioned heavy opposition in front of the 32nd Infantry and very little of consequence facing the 184th. Within thirty minutes of the move northeastward, however, the 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, had run into the first of the many surprises it was to encounter during the day.

The Early Phase of the Attack

After passing through the 2nd Battalion, 184th Infantry, and continuing into the area temporarily penetrated on the previous afternoon, the 1st Battalion had reached the line of departure at 0715 in accordance with orders. The advance was started without supporting tanks, which had failed to arrive because of a misunderstanding about their rendezvous with infantry guides. In the first 150 yards Company B, along the lagoon, and Company A, at the right, advanced through rubble and broken trees west of Nora Road without more than scattered rifle fire from Japanese riflemen and occasional light machine gun fire from pillboxes.

Their momentum carried them on for another seventy-five yards with such rapidity that the prospects for swift advance seemed excellent. Company B cleaned out an air raid shelter with grenades and shot down fleeing Japanese wearing arm bands like those of the American troops. Both companies were advancing over ground that had been under American mortar fire just before the jump-off. At 0806 enemy opposition was reported to be weak.

Then Company B looked ahead at a sight for which no warnings had prepared them. As far as could be seen along either side of Will Road—along the lagoon and in the Admiralty area—amid dust and smoke, lay the dense ruins of frame structures, the shattered walls of concrete buildings, some of them very large, and a confused tangle of trees and rubble. Interspersed among the wrecked buildings were several underground shelters with great earthen mounds above them, and concrete blockhouses, intact and active. At the nearer edge of this formidable barrier was a great, round blockhouse of reinforced concrete; fifty yards beyond the blockhouse, among the buildings, two huge shelters could be seen side by side. Thick, reinforced concrete, steel plates, logs, and a blanket of sand several feet thick had enabled them to withstand artillery fire without significant damage. Smaller bunkers at their right were part of the system of organized defensive positions that the men of Company B had to reduce. As the line approached the blockhouse, enemy fire strengthened.

The Split in Company B

Captain Charles A. White, the Company B commander, had placed two rifle platoons in line at the start of the morning’s attack. The blockhouse was almost entirely in the zone of the 1st Platoon, on the right. Just to the east of the built-up position lay a long, open corridor where a building had once stood. All that remained was the concrete floor.

The company had come up to the block-house with no supporting weapons. Before any attack was made, it was decided to wait until the heavier pieces could be brought to bear. 1st Lieutenant Harold D. Klatt, commander of the 1st Platoon, upon receiving a 37-mm. antitank gun, the first heavy weapon to be brought up, moved it to the entrance of the blockhouse, and the crew fired several rounds into it. Nothing seemed to happen as a result of these shells, so the gun was withdrawn. While the 1st Platoon had been working on the position from the right, the 2nd Platoon, under 2nd Lieutenant Frank D. Kaplan, had meanwhile swung more to the left toward the lagoon, partly to pass the blockhouse and partly to follow the curve of the lagoon shore.

After his 1st Platoon had withdrawn its antitank gun, Lieutenant Klatt decided to bypass the position to the right and leave it for the tanks and reserve company to finish when they came up from the rear. To keep from being too badly mauled by the enemy still in the blockhouse, however, the platoon had to take maximum advantage of cover. Lieutenant Klatt ordered his men to move by bounds, swinging just to the right of the open corridor provided by the demolished building’s floor. Several things happened now almost simultaneously: In the course of moving forward the 1st Platoon broke up into small groups and thus became a whole series of more or less independent bodies, each engaged in some small mission; the Japanese in the blockhouse, seeing that they were about to be bypassed, evidently decided to make some attempt to get out and back to other positions in the rear; and Lieutenant Klatt discovered that he was actually lost—in the piles of rubble and debris that littered the whole area. Although the men of Lieutenant Kaplan’s 2nd Platoon were not more than twenty yards away on a straight line, they could not be seen; nor could Lieutenant Klatt’s operator reach them on his radio.

The men of the 1st Platoon gave their full attention to their own situation. Their most immediate problem seemed to be the elimination of the Japanese who were trying to escape from the blockhouse. Wherever they could, the men took up firing positions and cut down the enemy, one by one, as they appeared at the entrances.

Elsewhere, Japanese in trees, in numerous supporting pillboxes and shelters, and even under and behind the rubble piles, began a counter-fire on the little groups. Some of the platoon broke off fire at the blockhouse and began to search through the debris for the sources of the harassment. Others crouched in shell holes or behind the piles of rubble trying to find the enemy from the relatively protected vantage points. Meanwhile, medium tanks had at last moved up the road from the rear and approached the blockhouse. There they stopped and sat idle since neither Lieutenant Klatt nor any of his men could get to them to tell the crews what had to be done.

The truth is that it would probably have made little difference at this point whether the infantrymen could have reached the tanks. The improvised telephone sets that had been installed on the rear of the tanks for the Kwajalein operation were usually shorted out because their boxes were inadequately waterproofed. The only sure way for Klatt to have contacted a tank would have been to rap on its outside with a rifle butt. This would have entailed stopping the tank and opening its hatch while the infantry and tank commanders conferred. In a close-fire fight such as this, the danger to all parties concerned would have been too great to warrant the risk.

While the 1st Platoon had been working around the right of the big blockhouse, the 2nd Platoon had moved to the left and then halted to reorganize and wait for the 1st Platoon to re-establish contact. Ahead of his men, Lieutenant Kaplan could see nothing but debris. From the littered ground and from a small wharf that jutted out into the lagoon, rifle fire was being received in fairly heavy volume. To eliminate this, the platoon commander decided to call in artillery fire, but he asked the artillery forward observer to confine it, if possible, to the area between the lagoon and the road. He did not know exactly where the 1st Platoon was, but suspected it might be ahead of him. When the fire was finally brought in, some of it spilled across the road and began bursting within 20 to 25 yards of Lieutenant Klatt’s men. Klatt sensed that the bursts were from American artillery, and, as they appeared to be getting closer, he yelled for his men to pull back behind the blockhouse. In one case four men had just left a crater when the exact spot on which they had been lying was hit by a shell. The 1st Platoon reorganized and took up a position approximately on a line with the blockhouse.

The Second Attack

More than an hour had elapsed since the company first entered the area, and battalion headquarters was beginning to notice that there had been no advance in the Company B area. Headquarters called Captain White so frequently for information that the company commander finally left his command post to join Lieutenant Klatt in the debris ahead. Before he left for the front line he committed part of his 3rd Platoon along the lagoon shore where, according to an air observer, some Japanese were gathering for a counterattack.

Upon his arrival at the front lines, Captain White reorganized his whole line, bringing up machine guns to cover the gap between his two assault platoons and lining up the tanks for a co-ordinated drive against the numerous shelters that lay ahead. Because of the failure of previous tactics against these positions, the tanks were now to precede the infantry, moving slowly and firing all their weapons at targets of opportunity. The infantry, under cover of this fire, would move directly up to the shelters and throw in satchel charges. Company B’s second attack began at approximately 0945. Two hours and a half had elapsed since the initial effort had begun, and no appreciable gains had been registered since the company had first reached the fortified area.

The new tactics proved unsatisfactory from the first. The fire from the tanks was directed at random and proved to be more dangerous to the infantry than the action of the enemy. When Captain White sought to co-ordinate the work of tanks and infantry, the problem of communications again became a major one. The phones on the rear of the vehicles would not work, and the company commander had to scramble up on the top of the turret and beat a tattoo with the butt of his weapon to get the attention of the men in the lead tank. By the time he had told the commander what he wanted, the whole platoon of tanks had become separated from the infantry, and each tank was proceeding on an independent mission. For the time being, the value of the tanks was lost to the infantry. Moreover, the two assault platoons, pushing through the rubble, had themselves once more become separated and all co-ordination between them was lost.

On the left, between the highway and the lagoon, all of the 2nd Platoon and part of the 3rd were driving forward steadily. Each pile of debris was investigated, blown up with satchel charges, and then set afire. Working in small groups, the men on the left moved forward one hundred yards in an hour. Conditions were such that two details working less than ten yards apart did not know of each other’s presence. The high piles of splintered wood and smashed concrete, together with the dense smoke that now covered the area, isolated and split up the various actions. Japanese who fired from under the debris, sometimes at almost point-blank range, had to be routed out.

On the right, Lieutenant Klatt’s platoon had also separated into small groups to carry the fight to the shelters and piles of debris in its area. Captain White, after his episode with the tanks, tried to re-establish a solid company front and sent his runner to Lieutenant Klatt with orders to close the gap between himself and Lieutenant Kaplan. Klatt replied that this was impossible until the big blockhouse, now to his left rear, had been cleaned out. White, upon receiving this message, ordered his runner to take a detail from company headquarters and see if he could knock out the blockhouse. The runner, together with the company bugler and the mail orderly, moved up with two satchel charges and threw them inside. There was a terrific explosion, but there seemed to have been little damage done to the position. The company’s executive officer reported that there were many signs of Japanese still inside, and a platoon of Company C was brought forward to work on the position and keep it under surveillance. Enemy soldiers were still being killed there late in the evening as they tried to wriggle out and escape.

Captain White had followed the action at the blockhouse by again trying to get the two assault platoons of his company in direct contact. He moved up the road and found Lieutenant Kaplan. After failing once more to get satisfactory co-ordination in tank-infantry efforts, the company commander began the task of extending the 2nd Platoon’s right flank to meet Lieutenant Klatt’s left. Between Will Road and the point at which he judged the 1st Platoon’s right elements to be, there were three large shelter-type buildings, one close to the road and the other two well back from it. The latter were definitely concrete reinforced shelters, but the former could not be identified.

There appeared to be no enemy in any of these shelters, but to make sure a 37-mm. antitank gun was brought forward and placed on the road to bear on the nearest building. It fired several rounds of high explosive and canister, which completely wrecked the structure and set fire to it. Much to the chagrin of the whole company, the building was later found to contain virtually all the sake, beer, and candy that the Japanese had on the island. Only a few bottles of beer were saved.

Meanwhile, without the company commander’s knowledge, a small patrol of the 1st Platoon had reached the farthest inland of the two remaining shelters. Two of the men, Sergeant Melvin L. Higgins and Private Arthur T. Contreras, after taking cover in a shell hole and surveying the two buildings, decided to throw satchel charges in the main entrance and see what would happen. By this time the company had used so many of the charges that it had exhausted the supply in the regimental dump. The company executive officer, however, had brought up several blocks of Composition C, a high explosive, and members of the company were improvising satchel charges by tying the blocks together and putting them into gas mask carriers. Two of these improvised charges were now made up, and each of the two men ran twenty-five yards over to the entrance, threw one in, and ducked back to the cover of the shell hole. The explosion shook the building but caused no appreciable damage. Another charge was placed with the same apparent lack of effect. As he ran back for cover, however, Higgins noticed two Japanese machine guns between the left-hand building and the road.

There seemed to be no enemy around these weapons, but almost directly behind them was a little trench, which made Higgins suspicious. Instead of running over to the guns, he went over to one of two medium tanks nearby, talked the crews into opening their hatches, and pointed out the machine guns. The tank lumbered toward the position. As it did so, a white flag began waving a short distance behind the guns.

Nevertheless, the tank opened fire and a few moments later Sergeant Higgins crawled forward and found twelve dead enemy soldiers directly behind the guns in a camouflaged ditch, from which they could have fired at anyone curious enough to approach.

The action of the tank had, it appeared, opened the way for a resumption of contact between the two platoons. Without either knowing of the other’s actions, Kaplan and Klatt each sent patrols to find the other. The group from the 1st Platoon consisted of only two men, Staff Sergeant Roland H. Hartl and Private First Class Solteros E. Valenzuela. That from the 2nd Platoon was composed of ten men under the command of Sergeant Warren Kannely. Both groups were concerned with the shelter into which Higgins and Contreras had just thrown charges. Neither group knew of the other’s presence. Sergeant Hartl’s group reached the building first. Hartl came up to the front entrance from the southeast side. The building was, therefore, interposed between himself and Kannely. Hartl and Valenzuela crept up to the entrance, looked in, and saw nothing. Hartl got to his feet, nonchalantly pulled the pin on an offensive grenade, and tossed it in the door. Then the two men sprinted out of sight from everyone around a big pile of rubbish, and Hartl stopped and took a long drink of water from his canteen.

At the moment Sergeant Hartl’s grenade exploded, Private First Class Harold S. Pratt was creeping up on the entrance from the opposite direction with another improvised satchel charge. He had not seen Hartl, nor had Hartl seen him. Only a moment after the grenade exploded, Pratt heaved his charge in the entrance, yelled “Fire in the hole” at the top of his voice, and ducked back toward the point where Sergeant Kannely and his patrol were hiding in shell holes, twenty yards away. At that moment several things happened quickly.

The charge exploded. Japanese came streaming out of the shelter at two entrances, shooting rifles, brandishing bayonets, and throwing grenades as they rushed pell-mell toward Sergeant Kannely and his men. Sergeant Hartl dropped his canteen, and he and Valenzuela dove for the shell craters in which the 2nd Platoon’s patrol was hiding. Sergeant Higgins and his group on the opposite side took up fire on the screaming Japanese. For ten minutes the whole area was a melee of struggling men. Grenades were exploding and rifle bullets flying in all directions. One Japanese machine gun opened fire from beyond the shelters and enemy soldiers began taking up the fire from under heaps of wreckage and from trees nearby. The combined action of Kannely’s and Higgins’ groups soon killed all the Japanese who had come from the shelter, but in the process Kannely and two others of his group had been killed and several seriously wounded, including Valenzuela. The remainder were now under heavy fire from enemy machine guns and riflemen. Pratt crawled back to the road and asked Captain White, who was still standing near the wrecked and burning storage house, to send tanks, machine guns, and litter bearers into the area. He explained what had happened. The company commander immediately sent two tanks off the road toward the shelters. The tanks soon drove the Japanese out of their hiding places and silenced the machine guns, but in the process also fired on Sergeant Higgins’ group, which was still hiding on the opposite side of the shelters. Neither Higgins nor any of his men could see the tanks or the machine guns, but they could hear them; and the volume of fire meant only one thing to them, a Japanese counterattack. Technical Sergeant Ernest Tognietti, the platoon sergeant, who had now come forward to join Higgins, ordered a withdrawal to a line of machine guns that Lieutenant Klatt had set up forty yards to the south of the shelters. Behind this defensive position, the platoon leader reorganized his platoon and ordered the men to hold.

In the 2nd Platoon area, meanwhile, Lieutenant Kaplan had still been trying to push his men forward on the lagoon side of the road beyond the sake storage house. Because of the debris he had not seen the action involving Sergeant Kannely’s patrol and was unaware of the casualties incurred there. When the opposition of the Japanese became stronger along his immediate front, shortly after this incident, the platoon leader came back along the road to see Captain White and find out whether he could have more tank support. The company commander informed him of Kannely’s death and of the fact that only two of the ten men sent to the right of the road were left. He advised Kaplan to hold up his attack until the whole company front could be reorganized. It was now 1230. Before Company B could launch a third attack through the area, the whole attack plan for the 184th Infantry was changed.

Action of Company A

At Nora Road, Company A, 184th Infantry, had also found a totally unexpected group of buildings, pillboxes, and shelters through which it moved during sharp fighting. Enemy riflemen behind fallen trees and piles of debris kept up a heavy fire as six or more defended points were brought under control. When two medium tanks and one light tank, with one self-propelled 75-mm. howitzer, reported at 0830, they joined in the attack. The company’s progress was more rapid than that of Company B, past whose right wing it continued as far as the Admiralty area.

The eight large structures and twelve or more smaller buildings of this area had been thoroughly bombed and shelled, but active blockhouses and shelters were scattered among them. To comb the enemy from the wreckage and clear out the shelters was certain to take a long time and perhaps more than one company’s strength. Company A suffered several casualties as it began the task, although resistance was less determined than that encountered by Company B. Company A pushed about a hundred yards beyond the Admiralty area before it was ordered to advance slowly rather than move too far beyond Company B. At its right, Company K, 32nd Infantry, continued to advance and took over a wider front. Company A’s right platoon was pulled back behind the left and Company K moved forward somewhat to the west of the established regimental boundary.

The Revised Plan of Attack

Company B, 184th Infantry, was faced with a situation that it could not handle alone. It could not move ahead, leaving mopping up to supporting units. The enemy was too numerous and too firmly established and the terrain continued to be so badly disrupted that co-ordinated action could not be maintained. Shortly before noon, the regiment produced a revised plan of attack. The 2nd Battalion, 184th Infantry, was to move through the right wing of the 1st Battalion and then swing left, taking over the entire regimental zone from a line a hundred yards southwest of Noel Road. The 1st Battalion was itself to swing left and shift the direction of its attack to a broad front parallel to the lagoon. This order was modified by a division order at 1225. The 2nd Battalion, 184th Infantry, was limited to a northern boundary that curved from Noel Road to the juncture of the lagoon and Nathan Road. The 32nd Infantry was to take over all the island north of that point, pinching off the 184th’s zone there. The 1st Battalion, 184th Infantry, was to attack toward the lagoon but over a less extended front. By 1330, maneuvers to carry out the new plan of attack were in progress.

Execution of Attack in the 184th’s Zone

At the time when the revised plan of operations was adopted, the enemy was being engaged along an irregular front that extended from the Noel Road line on the ocean side to the northwestern edge of the Admiralty area, and thence westward to the lagoon at a point about a hundred yards north of Nora Road. The 32nd Infantry was three hundred yards nearer Nathan Road than the 184th, the right wing of which was in turn well ahead of its left and able to advance more freely. The 2nd Battalion, 184th Infantry, which had been mopping up in the rear, moved forward at once, only six hours after being relieved, with Company G at the right, Company F behind G, and Company E at the left. The battalion was to march along the eastern edge of the regimental zone to the area in which Company A was operating, to pass through or around Company A, and to swing northwest toward Nob Pier and the lagoon. It expected to reach the northern edge of Company A’s area at approximately 1430. Shortly after the 2nd Battalion moved off in the attack, Companies A and C were to turn west and approach the lagoon with the former on the right. Company B was to serve as the hinge, furnishing fire in front of Company C from the south until Company C itself masked B. Then Company B was to swing around to the lagoon beach.

As the 2nd Battalion approached the Admiralty area about 1400, a conflagration among its ruined structures made movement through it impossible. Company E kept to the left of it; Company G, followed by Company F, went to the right, losing contact. Company E had expected to reach a line at least partly held by Company A. A guide was killed on the way forward, and the company moved uncertainly through the welter to what was thought to be its line of departure. Company A was not there; it had already been pulled back in order to reorganize for its new attack toward the lagoon. A gap between Company A and Company E thus developed directly northwest of the burning Admiralty area. Company G and Company F passed by Company A over ground well east of the regimental boundary, then turned northwest toward their line of departure. When Company G renewed contact with Company E, after at least half an hour, G had lost touch with the left-hand elements of the 32nd Infantry.

Lieutenant Colonel Carl H. Aulich and the forward echelon of the 2nd Battalion, 184th Infantry, command post came up to a tentative location northeast of the Admiralty area amid heavy rifle fire, smoke, and confusion. Attempts to co-ordinate the movements of the 2nd Battalion with those of Company A, with which it was to maintain contact on its left, proved inordinately difficult.

About 1545 Company A was joined by two medium tanks and Company C by two mediums and two M10 (Wolverine) tank destroyers. The attack was mounted by 1605 on the western edge of the built-up Admiralty area along a three-hundred-yard front, with Company A’s right wing somewhat south of Noel Road. Ten minutes later the advance toward the lagoon began. From the line of departure to Will Road, a distance of about seventy-five yards, movement was steady and opposition quickly overcome. Will Road was crossed shortly after 1630. The enemy was much more firmly established between the highway and the beach, in pillboxes, blockhouses, and strong shelters. Mortar fire on this area kept the enemy down until the tanks and infantry approached. The co-ordinated work of tanks, infantry, and demolition teams ran smoothly. At 1800 they were at the lagoon.

Company C began to mask Company B’s fire about 1630, releasing the latter to re-form on Company C’s left wing, in the vicinity of Will and Nora Roads. Company A received a counterattack from about twenty of the enemy on its right flank, just as its advance was ending, but destroyed the attacking force. There was still no contact with Company E. Company E had started its attack before those of either Company G or the 1st Battalion. At 1440 it began moving northwest.

Somewhat more than half an hour later Company E was reported to have crossed Noel Road, with Company G on its right. Two medium and two light tanks, taken over from the 1st Battalion, moved forward with each of the companies, and each had one squad of engineer troops with demolitions. Enemy rifle fire was heavy. The men broke up into small groups, proceeding unevenly in the general direction of Nob Pier. Between 1830 and 1900, Captain Peter Blaettler, Company E’s commander, was seriously wounded.

Control from the battalion command post had been lost—that element was hugging the ground to avoid sharp fire from enemy riflemen. Colonel Aulich had become separated from the main part of his battalion and was to remain so until the next morning. To all intents and purposes he had lost command of his unit.

The 2nd Battalion’s attack was pushed along the eastern side of Will Road toward Nathan Road, but as sunset approached it became evident not only that Company E would not reach Nob Pier but also that across Will Road on the left flank there was an area with many strong enemy defense positions too powerful to be occupied in the forty-five minutes before dark.

Action of the 32nd Infantry After Change of Plans

The 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, with the support of Company C of the same regiment, pushed rapidly toward Nathan Road to execute its mission under the revised plan of attack, which became effective at 1330. On the extreme right wing, Company I achieved excellent co-ordination of infantry-engineer teams with medium tanks, and rapidly reduced Nap Strong Point, which proved to be only weakly defended. The company was reported at 1355 to have reached Nathan Road. Company K, in the inner zone, had much more difficulty. Its route lay through a maze of ruined buildings, debris, connecting trenches, and still active pillboxes, as well as shelters crowded with hiding enemy. The terrain and poor communications prevented tank-infantry cooperation, and while the tanks were reducing enemy positions the infantry had to work near rather than with them.

Company K was about two hundred yards to the left rear when Company I reportedly reached the road. Company L, in fulfillment of an understanding reached during the morning by the two leading battalions, was withdrawn from the Admiralty area to cover the gap on the left of the 3rd Battalion’s front when it was found that Company A, 184th Infantry, had pulled back for its new mission under the revised plan. Behind L, Company C, in support, received heavy rifle fire from the left, by which Captain Charles W. Murphy, Jr., the company commander, was wounded.

Company B and then Company A, 32nd Infantry, were both committed to mopping up the Admiralty area, from which they moved north toward Noel Road. As the reports sent back to regimental headquarters were persistently conflicting and confused, it proved impossible to coordinate company movements. Perhaps even more important was the battered and shattered condition of the terrain. The terrible pounding to which Kwajalein had been submitted by artillery and naval shells was not an unmixed blessing to the infantry. The difficulty of getting around the rubble and other physical impedimenta tended to diffuse units and keep their flanks dangling. In the middle of the island near Noel Road the conditions of battle and terrain made co-ordination almost out of question since enemy fire was being delivered against the advancing battalions from positions between them and even to their rear.

Company I, 32nd Infantry, remained near Nathan Road, unable to advance until the line at the left came up. General Corlett came ashore and at 1640 held a telephone conference with his assistant division commander, General Ready, Colonel O’Sullivan of the 184th Infantry, and Colonel Logic of the 32nd Infantry. He was reassured concerning the progress of the attack. Thinking ahead to the remaining enemy blockhouses and other concrete positions that might still be in the northern portion beyond Nathan Road, General Corlett arranged for naval gunfire to be spotted. This fire, from a heavy cruiser, was to be controlled through the naval liaison officer with the 32nd Regiment, and it was to be delivered wherever the regiments desired. The regimental commanders later decided, however, that they were not yet in position to use this support. The main effort, they felt, had first to be the straightening of the line across the island.

Between 1630 and 1730 Company K was moved up beside Company I by a maneuver that enabled Company I to furnish protection for its rear while it moved. Company L then advanced along the same route. As it moved, fire hit it from its left flank, possibly originating among friendly troops. The company did not complete its mission. It stopped for the night in the middle of the island between Noel and Nathan roads and its exact position was not accurately reported until next morning.

Situation on the Night of 3 February

All planes had returned to their carriers by 1857. The 3rd of February had been a quiet day for the planes over Kwajalein Island, where patrol and observation duty rather than air strikes had occupied them. Admiral Reeves’ carrier group, part of Task Force 58, departed during the evening for Majuro to refuel. One group of small escort carriers remained to furnish protection for the remainder of the battle for Kwajalein. The lagoon anchorages had filled steadily during the day. Transports carrying the reserve force, which it was clear would not be committed in this action, came into the lagoon from their previous station east of the atoll. All the transports of the attacking force were also at anchor. One group was so nearly unloaded that it could plan to depart for Funafuti early in the morning.

The eight LST’s and three LCT’s of the Kwajalein Island Defense Group, which arrived about noon on 2 February, had unloaded enough men and material to undertake the general defense of the western end of the island as far as Wilma Road. The group had brought ashore and emplaced its 40-mm. antiaircraft batteries on the western beaches. During the day, Green Beach 4, the westernmost portion of the lagoon shore, became the principal scene of shore party operations. Pontoon strips brought by LST’s were lashed together to form the first of two causeway piers there, and progress was well advanced toward the completion of a good road connection from the beach to the island’s highway system. All beach and shore parties were consolidated. One of the transport groups shifted its unloading operations from Carlos Island to Kwajalein Island. The hospital ship Relief anchored in the lagoon at noon and began to take aboard the casualties already in the sick bays of the transports and to receive others directly from the beaches.

Those on Kwajalein Island were carried directly from beach to ship in landing craft, thus avoiding the previous days’ delays caused by transferring the wounded from LVT’s to boats at the edge of the reef. Heavy engineer equipment began to come ashore, although the main stream of such traffic was not to be released until the beachhead was better prepared.

The advance along the axis of Kwajalein Island on 3 February had progressed about 1,000 yards. The hard fighting had been more costly than on either of the preceding days. Fifty-four were reported killed in action, and 255 wounded of which 60 were returned to duty. The enemy, however, had paid heavily in lives as well as in lost ground. The 32nd Infantry estimated that 300 had been killed on its side of the island, and the 184th estimated at least 800 and perhaps 1,000 in its zone. In the one huge blockhouse alone, 200 dead had been found, many of them evidently suicides.

Neither of the regiments had reached Nathan Road in spite of optimistic reports to regimental headquarters. The 32nd Infantry was on one of the smaller streets among the cantonments, a road that paralleled Nathan Road about 150 yards south. At the extreme right of the eastern zone was Company I and at the left of the zone, Company L. Holding a line that folded back from Company L’s left flank as far as Carl Road were Companies B and A. Companies K and M were bent back along the ocean shore. Company C, which had been supporting the 3rd Battalion during the afternoon, was to be placed across the zone behind the two forward companies despite some remaining uncertainty about its release for that mission by the 1st Battalion, which was expected to lead the assault next day, and even though no one knew exactly where Company L was located.

In the last minutes of daylight, largely on the initiative of 1st Lieutenant Ramon Nelson, a platoon leader temporarily in command of Company C, that company started marching to its widely dispersed position while its other officers were still in conference with battalion and regimental commanders over the orders to move. Its elements were separated during the movement and its exact situation was not well understood at regimental headquarters until next morning. From Carl Road back to Wilma Road, the 2nd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, covered the regimental zone; and from Wilma Road to the end of the island, on order of General Ready, the division’s shore party provided defense of supply installations.

The 184th Infantry was about seventy yards farther south than the 32nd Infantry. The two leading companies, E and G, had pushed into an area between Will Road and buildings on the left of Company L, 32nd Infantry. West of the highway, as well as in front of the two companies at the north and in the un-cleared buildings on the east, the enemy had control. A gap actually existed in the rear of Company E in a portion of the island over which no contact with Company A had been established.

Thus, the energetic push toward Nathan Road and Nob Pier had moved these companies into a salient. Heavy and light machine guns were set up to cover the areas at the left and front, but from the ruined structures on the right, rifle fire on Company G was heavy and incessant during the night, its accuracy improving with approaching daylight. The 3rd Battalion, 184th Infantry, held the sector from Nora Road to the western edge of Center Pier. Defense of the supply installations in the remaining portion of the island as far west as Red Beach 1 was the mission of the shore party and, in part, of the 184th Infantry’s Cannon Company.

Eagerness to reach the Nob Pier line on 3 February had induced the leading elements of both regiments to advance with all possible speed, without paying full attention to local security. Night found them in positions in which they were intermingled with the enemy, sometimes at such close range that fighting was restrained for fear of damage to friendly troops. At many points along the front, and at several spots in the rear, flickering fires lighted up adjacent areas and silhouetted moving men. Typical of the experiences all along the line on this evening were those that befell Company C, 32nd Infantry. This unit had begun moving into position across the rear of the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, at approximately 1930. It was then nearly dark.

There had been little time to investigate the ground the company covered, but in the gathering dusk, three large Japanese shelters and one pyramidal tent were found in the defensive area. The men of Company C felt that Japanese were still hiding under the canvas and were reasonably certain that the shelters contained several enemy soldiers. The men were torn between two courses of action: clean out the enemy, or simply let them remain where they were until morning. Because the company radio was not working and no information could be passed on to neighboring units that Company C was actually moving in across the rear of the front line, the latter course was chosen. There was some fear that firing in the rear might be misinterpreted by the forward companies. Any pitched battle in the area would be almost certain to draw heavy American fire from the front and flanks.

Company C “bedded down” in the midst of the enemy. The darkness and uncertainty of its position prevented its digging in. Behind the men of Company C were 150 yards of ground filled with debris that had not been investigated or cleaned out. On the right, 150 yards away, Company K had placed its flank on the ocean shore and extended forward and inland in a great arc. On the left, its exact whereabouts unknown to Company C, was the 184th. To the rear, two great fires burned brightly, casting a red light over the whole area. At five-minute intervals flares and star shells from the mortar sections and ships drifted over the front, and sometimes directly over troops in the eastern zone. From 2000 to almost 0300 moonlight also faintly illuminated the area.

Whenever the illumination became unusually bright, enemy machine guns swept Company C’s area, and from time to time mortar shells and grenades landed among the men. American BAR’s, directed against scattered Japanese, threw bursts of fire from the company’s rear. When fire became too heavy in certain parts of their area, elements of Company C tried to move to more favorable positions. Somewhere during these movements six men of the mortar section of the weapons platoon were killed, although their presence was not missed until next morning. Japanese were in the areas south of the front line in greater numbers than on either of the preceding nights of the Kwajalein Island operation. They prowled in the forward area all night. Some incidents occurred as far to the rear as Corn Strong Point, more than a thousand yards from the 32nd Infantry’s advanced position.

Japanese came out of shelters, screaming and yelling, throwing grenades, and charging at the men in foxholes. They fired rifles and threw grenades from buildings that offered places of advantage. In a pocket northeast of the Admiralty area, they greatly harassed the companies near them.

Attacks from the north and from the lagoon shore were also attempted by enemy troops at various times during the night. Just after sunset, a bugle could be heard sounding among the enemy shelters near the base of Nob Pier, and shortly afterward a headlong counterattack by screaming Japanese was made toward Company E and Company G, 184th Infantry. As the Japanese tried to cross Will Road, they were cut down to the last man. Five prospective attacks were broken up before they were actually in progress by barrages along the entire front from mortars and from the supporting batteries of artillery on Carlson Island. Just before 0400, nevertheless, heavy enemy mortar and dual-purpose gunfire, which struck Companies I and L, 32nd Infantry, was closely followed by a surprise attack by an unknown number of enemy.

This effort was beaten off and no other was tried for an hour. Then a second organized attack came and was also repulsed by Companies I and L. Sometime after midnight, an effort by a group of the enemy to come ashore from the lagoon reef at a point opposite Company A, 184th Infantry, was foiled by automatic fire. Infiltration by individual Japanese was repeatedly stopped in the Company A area. In the morning twenty-seven enemy dead were found there. About 0530 an attack by from thirty to forty Japanese upon the front line of Company E, 184th Infantry, wilted under the bursts from the machine guns set up there. This attempt was the last of the night’s futile sorties by enemy groups. From various positions beyond Nathan Road, enemy machine gun, mortar, and artillery fire was directed into the forward area at irregular intervals during the night, sometimes coinciding so closely with the fire from Carlson Island that Japanese monitoring of the artillery radio was suspected.

The 49th Field Artillery Battalion fired 1,492 rounds of ammunition on Kwajalein Island between 1800 and 0600, and the 47th Field Artillery Battalion fired 716. In position near Carl and Will Roads, the six 81-mm. mortars of the 3rd Battalion, 32nd Infantry, sent approximately 1,500 rounds into the enemy area after dark, and the 60-mm. mortars with the companies were also active. Harassing fire ceased at 0600 as the artillery was made ready for the morning’s preparatory fire at 0700. The 49th Field Artillery Battalion, however, shelled the northern end of the island during that period in the last of several attempts to silence enemy guns.

Thus as dawn broke on the morning of 4 February the men of the 32nd and 184th Regiments prepared to make their final drive to the northern tip of Kwajalein Island. The complete capture of the island was taking longer than had been expected. In spite of the excellence of both naval gunfire and land-based artillery, this northern sector of Kwajalein had proved still to contain a sizable number of Japanese well concealed among the damaged buildings and in underground shelters and pillboxes. Infantrymen, engineers, and tanks, working separately and in co-ordination, still had to feel their way cautiously among the remnants of the enemy’s defenses. Another hard day’s fighting remained ahead.

SOURCE: Seizure of the Gilberts and Marshalls: BY; Philip A. Crowl, & Edmund G. Love (United States Army Center of Military History)

World War Two: Gilberts & Marshalls(17); Kwajalein Island Secured

World War Two: Gilberts & Marshalls (15B); Kwajalein: Second Day’s Action