History - War at a Glance
         back  close  next
Rommel Leaves North Africa

As the British Eighth Army continues to advance, on January 23 the Germans evacuate large quantities of supplies out of Tripoli and demolish many of the port facilities. Three days later, after arguments with his nominal commanders (the Italians), Rommel is relieved of command. He is to be succeeded by General Messe of the Italian army; Rommel refuses to hand over command.

Axis forces mount a major attack against U.S. II Corps west of Faid. The attack begins only after Rommel and von Arnim (Fifth Panzer Army) argue over the plan of attack; General Zeigler is in direct command, and he selects von Arnimís more conservative plan. Regardless, the attack smashes through the inexperienced Americans, destroying two-thirds of the 1st Armored Division. Rommel quickly requests permission to step up the attacks, but there is no quick decision from Berlin. When the attack does begin again on February 19, it is aimed at Le Kef at the insistence of the Italians. The attack on Le Kef is what the Allies expect, and the two passes leading there are well defended. The attacks near Sbiba are fought off by British and American units, but at Kasserine Pass the Americans initially hold the Germans and then break in panic.

During the night of February 21, General Irwin arrives at the front with an American artillery regiment, having covered 800 miles in four days. They go into position opposite Rommelís forces. Infantry reinforcements also arrive at the front. The next morning, a counterattack by the infantry and the devastating fire of Irwinís artillery convince Rommel that the Allies are stronger than they really are; he calls off his attack and begins to withdraw.

Rommel is named commander of Axis forces in North Africa, a position he will hold for just two weeks. He decides to consolidate his forces as quickly as possible to strike at Montgomery. The Eighth Army has outrun its ability to resupply and has only two divisions forward. By early March, the Germans have consolidated enough forces to attack near Medenine. The attack is a failure. The Germans have little spirit left; in fact, the veteran British and New Zealand units cannot believe they are fighting the same foe that drove them back into Egypt. British antitank gunners destroy 50 German tanks, leaving Rommel with only 100.

On March 9 Rommel leaves North Africa for good. On his way back to Germany he meets with Mussolini in Rome and Hitler in East Prussia; despite his best efforts neither leader agrees to withdraw from North Africa.

topSee Next
The Allies Attack