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Unread 07-26-2008, 05:04 PM
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Default Available Online: US Army in WW II MTO NW Africa: Seizing the Initiative by G. Howe

Includes maps and pix about the end of the war in NW Africa. Here's the link:

http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/...NWA/index.html
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Default Kasserine

DEFEAT AT KASSERINE: AMERICAN ARMOR DOCTRINE, TRAINING, AND
BATTLE COMMAND IN NORTHWEST AFRICA, WORLD WAR II
--- A thesis presented to the Faculty of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree MASTER OF MILITARY ART AND SCIENCE Military History by MARK T. CALHOUN, MAJ, US ARMY
B.S., University of Southwestern Louisiana, Lafayette, Louisiana, 1988:

http://www.2ndbn5thmar.com/tank/tire...alhoun1988.pdf

CONCLUSION

"I think the best way to describe our operations to date is that they
have violated every recognized principle of war, are in conflict
with all operational and logistic methods laid down in text-books,
and will be condemned, in their entirety, by all Leavenworth and
War College classes for the next twenty-five years. FN1"
LTG Dwight D. Eisenhower

It is evident that the tankers of the 1st Armored Division who fought in the
Tunisian campaign were limited by numerous inconsistencies in their institutional doctrine, inferior tanks, inadequate training, and the errors of commanders at all levels. All of these deficiencies contributed to the series of defeats suffered by the 1st Armored Division. Is it possible to identify any of these deficiencies as the primary reason for the divisionís defeat at Kasserine Pass? This research indicates that doctrine--both institutional doctrine and equipment--was the Achilles heel that doomed the tankers of
the 1st Armored Division to defeat.

Many contemporary sources point to inadequate training as the reason for the American defeat at Kasserine Pass, emphasizing the low level of readiness upon mobilization in 1941, the short duration of initial entry training (increased from thirteen weeks to seventeen weeks in July 1943 due to lessons learned in Tunisia) fn2, the lack of training on key weapon systems such as newly issued bazookas, and the hasty addition of unprepared replacements to the front lines. Even more significant than these obvious training deficiencies was the fact that the divisionís soldiers had not yet completed the process of battle hardening that all armies must go through when they first experience combat. In all first battles, success or failure upon initial contact has a dramatic impact on 74 morale. In Tunisia, the Alliesí easy defeat of the Vichy French defenders during Operation Torch resulted in widespread overconfidence. This attitude, resulting in a sense of inevitable victory, was exacerbated by the emphasis on haste during the race to Tunis. The result was the destruction of overextended, unsupported American armor units at the hands of highly superior German combined arms forces in northern Tunisia. Whether initial contact goes well or poorly, soldiers must develop a fighting spirit before they can perform as professionals in combat. This fighting spirit cannot be instilled in training, and it did not show itself within the 1st Armored Division until well after the battles of Kasserine Pass were already lost. According to an Army Ground Forces Observer Report of 29 March 1943:

"The prevailing attitude is that the North African operations is [sic] just another maneuver with live ammunition. The enemy is regarded as the visiting team and this not a major game. Even units suffering heavy casualties did not evince hatred of the enemy; there has been no recognizable effort by the high command to evoke a fighting spirit. fn3"

Nevertheless, training was not the primary reason for the 1st Armor Divisionís defeat at Kasserine Pass. Although it faced the many challenges of rapid expansion and mobilization, and lacked battle-hardened troops, the division was built on a nucleus of highly experienced tankers who benefited from a longer period of collective training than most of the units fighting at Kasserine Pass. The division participated in both of the 1941 maneuvers, providing it an unprecedented level of predeployment training, and it made effective use of its opportunities to train in Ireland while preparing for Operation Torch. The real problem with the divisionís readiness for combat in Tunisia was not that it was badly trained, but that it was reasonably well trained in the execution of a fatally flawed doctrine. Tankers were skilled in the use of their tanks--Captain Daubinís 37-millimeter main gun rounds failed to defeat German panzers not because they missed, but because they bounced harmlessly off superior German armor. American tank columns clumsily advanced into one doomed engagement after another not because they were untrained, but because in training they had practiced a doctrine that was not effective against the German combined arms threat they faced. The tankers of the 1st Armored Division fought without artillery and infantry support not because they had ignored their doctrine during misguided training events, but because they had dutifully trained according to doctrine that emphasized speed and mobility at the expense of combined arms. When, as ordered, unsupported armored units engaged the enemy tanks their doctrine had said they would avoid, they lacked close air support not because they had neglected their training, but because the Army Air Corpsí desire for independence had taken precedence over
their participation in the combined arms team.

Sadly, most of these doctrinal flaws were no surprise to the men of the 1st Armored Division. While the absolute inferiority of American tanks came as a surprise to many of their crews, most of the fatal flaws in American armor doctrine had clearly shown themselves in training. Unfortunately, the mistakes made during the interwar years were too firmly institutionalized to be corrected during the limited time the division had available for training.

A case can also be made for battle command as the divisionís Achilles Heel. It is true that commanders at every level performed to a less than desired degree, some almost criminally so. Major General Ward, the 1st Armored Division commander, exercised nominal command of a fractured division throughout the campaign. His division was split up before leaving Ireland, with CCB detached to British command during Operation Torch, while the remainder of the division and General Ward followed several weeks behind the initial landings. Even after General Wardís arrival in Tunisia, he was constantly bypassed by Major General Fredendall, the II Corps commander, who sent orders direct to his subordinate commanders, and continued to piecemeal his combat power throughout southern Tunisia. Fredendallís orders were often misguided, primarily due to his isolation in a bunker far behind his front line units, and even General Eisenhower passed up the opportunity to make adjustments to Fredendallís dispositions before Sidi Bou Zid. General Anderson, First Army commander, only made matters worse by insisting on retaining CCB to defend against a German attack through Fondouk that never materialized. Leadership deficiencies at lower levels of command, from lack of cooperation between armor and infantry officers, to alcohol abuse, inexperience and poor decision-making skills, resulted in generally ineffective leadership throughout the division. General Robinett, perhaps the most competent commander in the 1st Armored Division, was detached to First Army until the battles at Kasserine Pass were essentially lost, not playing an effective role in the fight until the defense of the approaches to Tebessa. In addition, his tendency to be outspoken and free with criticism gave him a reputation as a difficult man to get along with and undermined his chances of promoting positive change in the division.

As flawed as Allied battle command was, Rommel and Arnim did their best to level the playing field. Arnim, concerned more about taking his share of the glory than supporting a concentrated Axis effort, repeatedly refused to cooperate with Rommel. He failed to coordinate his efforts in the north with Rommelís attacks in the south, even when Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, commander of all German forces in Italy and North Africa, specified Rommel as overall commander and designated the attack in the south as the main effort. Arnimís refusal to detach key armored units of the 10th Panzer Division, including a battalion of the powerful Tiger tanks, weakened Rommelís forces in the south and resulted in a lack of concentration of effort. Rommelís personal performance was hindered by poor health, despondency over his impending relief, and an uncharacteristic indecisiveness.4 His morale seemed to improve during the period of easy victories at Faid Pass and Sidi Bou Zid, but after the 1st Armored Divisionís determined resistance at Sbeitla, his energy level began to wane. His indecisiveness was evidenced by his failure to concentrate his forces in a single, powerful effort after he had seized Kasserine Pass. One powerful thrust, either north toward Le Kef, or west toward Tebessa, could have resulted in a major victory for Rommel and delayed the eventual Allied victory in Tunisia for months. Instead, Rommel continued to divide his forces, attacking on two axes. Meeting stiff resistance in both directions with insufficient offensive strength, Rommel failed to perceive the fragile position the Allies were in, and withdrew.

While Allied commanders at all levels performed badly, their ineptitude was not the primary reason for the 1st Armored Divisionís defeat. One reason is that the German high command performed just as badly, perhaps costing them a decisive strategic victory in southern Tunisia--but they still beat the Americans badly at Kasserine. In addition, while many of the 1st Armored Divisionís officers were clearly incompetent, and others performed heroically, they all were hindered by the severe limitations of their flawed doctrine. When Allied commanders ordered their tanks to race ahead of supporting infantry and artillery in an effort to seize Tunis before the German reinforcements arrived, they were only making use of their armored unitsí superior speed and mobility, according to current armor doctrine. When Captain Daubinís regiment found itself in the first tank battle between Americans and Germans at Happy Valley, it did not lose a company of tanks in a matter of minutes because of bad leadership, but because it was outgunned and inadequately armored. In fact, Major Tuckís skillful execution of a surprise flank attack inflicted comparable losses on the Germans, who were forced to retreat.

Many commanders demonstrated inadequate leadership, chief among them Fredendall and Anderson, but even the best commanders had to learn how to overcome the inadequacies of their equipment and the inconsistencies in their doctrine--problems commanders would still struggle with in the Ardennes Forest. Because America entered the war already far behind Germany in armor doctrine and tank quality, and because no concerted effort was made to improve the quality of American tanks, armored units
fighting the Germans in 1945 faced many of the same challenges as the tankers of the 1st Armored Division in Tunisia. The superior armor and guns of the German Panther and Tiger tanks meant the American tankers could only defeat them through overwhelming numbers and swarming tactics, resulting in the loss of many American tanks and their crews, used as bait to draw the superior German tanks into flank and rear attacks. fn5

If inconsistent doctrine and inferior tanks were the reasons for the 1st Armored Divisionís defeat at Kasserine Pass, why did so many after action reviews focus on American training deficiencies, and why were so many commanders relieved? One possible explanation is that officers within the 1st Armored Division failed to relay their concerns about the inferiority of their tanks up the chain of command. To believe this explanation, one has to assume that the American high command was more easily convinced that their soldiers and commanders were incompetent, than their equipment was inferior. This explanation is made even less likely when reading Eisenhowerís instructions to Major General George S. Patton upon his assignment to relieve General Fredendall as II Corps commander. In his instructions, Eisenhower instructed Patton to stage demonstrations of the M3 Stuartís 37-millimeter main gun penetrating the armor of captured German Mark IV panzers for as many of his soldiers as possible. fn6 These demonstrations were intended to restore American tankersí lost confidence in the Stuart tank. Messages from Eisenhower to the War Department expressed his reservations about the quality of American armor and antitank forces as early as February 1943. Clearly, Eisenhower was aware in the early stages of the Tunisian campaign that American tank crews had lost confidence in their tanks, and he had passed on these concerns to the War
Department in an attempt to take corrective action.

The more likely explanation is that in the immediacy of the crisis in Tunisia observations of poor leadership and faulty training demanded immediate action, and that action had some chance of generating positive results. Flawed doctrine and inferior equipment, the result of a two decade-long series of institutional errors, were less obvious problems, and were much more difficult to address. Although the inferiority of American tanks was soon apparent, it would take months to see the results of design improvements in the field, even if the War Department made a concerted effort to build better tanks--which it did not do. The flaws of inconsistent armor doctrine were less obvious, and were equally difficult to correct--particularly while engaged in combat against a skilled enemy. Only through the lengthy process of learning the hard way, modifying existing doctrine with techniques developed in the cauldron of combat, would American armor doctrine change.

The inferiority of American tanks and armor doctrine continued to be a problem well after Kasserine Pass, even after lengthy combat experience improved the quality of American commanders, and reform of initial entry and unit training improved basic soldiering skills throughout the army. As late as 1945, American tankers fighting in the Ardennes complained that their Shermans were severely outclassed by German Tigers and Panthers. Eisenhower, who had stubbornly resisted efforts to increase gun caliber and armor thickness on American tanks, fn7 asked the commanders of the 2nd and 3rd Armored Divisions to investigate the continued complaints about Sherman tanks in March 1945. Their reports back to Eisenhower were scathing condemnations of the Sherman tank. One armored battalion commander expounded on the price his unit paid for being equipped with the M4 Sherman:

"This battalion has lost 84 tanks through enemy action in nine months of combat. In a tank versus tank action, our M4 tank is woefully lacking in armor and armament when pitted against the super velocity 75-millimeter or 88-millimeter gun of the German tank. Greater maneuverability and speed have failed to compensate for this deficiency, and our tank losses in the Belgian Bulge were relatively high, even when we were in defensive positions. Crews recognized the deficiencies in our tanks, and know that success on the battlefield is attributable to our superiority in numbers of tanks, and resolve to sustain heavy casualties in men and tanks in order to gain objectives. fn8"

It is hard to understand why the War Department did not answer the tank problem with a concerted effort to improve the firepower and survivability of American tanks as the war progressed. The explanation is possibly the fact that it just wasnít necessary. As the American involvement in the war in Europe grew, Germany had already suffered the key reversals of fortune at Stalingrad and in the Atlantic War. Americaís wartime economy was in full production, and it was an easy matter to produce large numbers of M4 Sherman tanks to replace those lost fighting the superior but less easily replaced German models. Rather than outclassing German armored forces, we simply overwhelmed them. The fact that training improvements and battle hardening of American soldiers and commanders did not negate the obvious inferiority of American tanks and armor doctrine aptly demonstrates that the fatal flaw at Kasserine pass was doctrinal.

Problems in doctrine, training and battle command all contributed to the American defeat, but it was the inferiority of their equipment and the inconsistencies in their doctrine that doomed the tankers of the 1st Armored Division to defeat, and continued to plague the U.S. Army until the end of the war. As future leaders confront the issue of change in the army, it is imperative that they remember the lessons of Kasserine Pass, and avoid the errors of the interwar years that sent countless young men to combat in World War II with inferior equipment and illogical doctrine. Success in war depends upon preparation in peacetime. Readiness requires a rational doctrine that will enable our forces to fight effectively against any threat, and equipment that is suitable to the execution of that doctrine and capable of defeating whatever enemy we might face in the future. If we subordinate doctrine to the whims of institutional bias, and develop equipment that is only effective against an enemy that fights in accordance with current American concepts of opposing forces doctrine, the U.S. Army could well find itself fighting a different war than the one we prepared for, much as we did at Kasserine Pass.
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