[lit-ideas] The Kasserine disaster, and then Patton

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <Lit-Ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 11:08:00 -0700

I'm 405/541 through Rick Atkinson's An Army at Dawn, The War in North
Africa, 1942-1943, far enough to be impressed with Atkinson and to order his
sequel, The Day of Battle: The War in Sicily and Italy, 1943-1944.  


As the war in Tunisia wore on, I ran out of succinct little excerpts worthy
of quoting.  Reading about  the Battle for Kasserine Pass was depressing.
Perhaps the most literary section was Atkinson's description of the reaction
in one small town in Iowa, Red Oak, to the telegrams it received regarding
all those from that town who had died in Tunisia.  


Tunisia was a disaster for the allies and yet, strange to say, technically,
they won.  They did everything wrong and were defeated and pushed back but
the Germans were having their own problems.  They had better leadership and
better trained soldiers, but they too suffered supply problems and they too
had bickering going on among the top leadership.  Rommel pushed through
Kasserine Pass, but some American reserves under what was for them at the
time a rarity, good leadership, showed up and provided resolute opposition.
Rommel toted up the ammunition, tanks, and gas he had left and decided he'd
better pull back.   He gave up Kasserine Pass: this pass that had been a
disaster for the allies, especially the Americans.


Kasserine was a milestone for the Americans.  Eisenhower at last had
evidence about who was and who was not a good commander.  Unfortunately for
him, the one he had placed in charge of the U.S. forces, Fredendall, was
not.    Anyone familiar with an outline of the war will wonder where Patton
was.  He wasn't at Kasserine.   When Kasserine was going on, he was "hunting
boar in the Moroccan outback."    Eisenhower knew Patton was good, but
Fredendall had seniority and Fredendall also had found favor in high places,
especially from Eisenhower's boss.    Fredendall had seniority and so had to
be given his chance.  Lots of men died to give him that chance but at last
the evidence was overwhelming:  Fredendall and several others who had done
poorly against the Germans in Tunisia needed to be replaced.  It was after
Kasserine that Eisenhower sent someone to look for Patton.


"'With sirens shrieking Patton's arrival, a procession of armored scout cars
and half-tracks wheeled into the dingy square opposite the schoolhouse
headquarters of II Corps at Djebel Kouif on the late morning of March 7. . .
.  In the lead car Patton stood like a charioteer.  He was scowling into the
wind and his jaw strained against the web strap of a two-starred steel


'He is indeed picturesque,' [General Orlando] Ward told his diary.  One
Captain spoke for many young officers: 'Patton sure scares the shit out of


Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto




Other related posts:

  • » [lit-ideas] The Kasserine disaster, and then Patton