Battle for Tunisia (April-May 1943)

Figure 1.--Here triumphant Allied troops roll into Tunis with their vehicles festooned with brnches May 7, 1943). The Frech populations received them with enthusiasm. Only 6 days later it was all over for the Germans. Only about 700 Germans including Rommel escaped the Allied vice.

The battle for Tunisia involved two prongs. The first prong was the British 8th Army driving east along the coast of Libya in the south. The second prong was Allied 1st Army Torch force diriving west in the north and central area. The 8th Army pierced the Mareth Line (March 31), setting up the final Battle for Tunisia. Actually the Allies in the north had begun the Tunisian campaign several months earlier with an amphibious landing near Sfax in eastern Tunisia (January 5). The two-pronged Allied drive made slow but steady progress in forcing the Axis troops into a pocket along the north central Tunisian coast. The Afrika Korps was forced to fall back north to join up with German and Italian forces holding northern Tunisia--the 5th Panzer Army (April 8). The combined Axis force became Army Group Afrika. Finally the 1st and 8th Armies linked up. Army Group Africa fell back on the ports of Tunis and Bizerte hoping for reenforcemnt and resupply. By this time as Allied air and naval power closed in, only a trickle of supplies were arriving to support the Axis forces. The Germans establish a strong defensive perimter around the two ports. Rommel was evacuated to the Reich. Von Arnim was left to face the growing and well-supplied Allied forces. He had a powerful force and his men were determined to resist despite the weight of the forces against them. The Italians who outnumbered the Germans were much less interested in making a stand. The Allied blockade becomes increasingly effective, isolating the Axis forces which was running out of suplies. The principal strong point defending the Axis pocket in the north was Hill 609 which had stopped the initial Allied drive in 1942. It was surrounded and taken by the 34th American Division (May 1). This was a National Guard Division that had been hammered by the Germans earlier in its baptism of fore. And like a lot of American units had learned a great deal about fighting the Germans. Effective Axis resistance collapsed (May 6). The British 7th Armored Division captured Tunis, the capital of Tunisia (May 7). The American II Army Corps captured Bizerte, the last remaining port in Axis hands. Isolated German resistance continued, but they were surrounded by massively superior forces. Von Armim surrendered (May 12). Some 267,000 Axis soldiers surrender. This was the largest surrender of Axis soldiers until the end of the War. The Axis forces had sustained 40,000 casualties in Tunisia alone.


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Created: 11:45 PM 12/17/2018
Last updated: 11:45 PM 12/17/2018