The days and weeks following the British led Eighth Army’s spring 1942 defeats at Gazala and Tobruk, followed up by the long retreat east has often been held up by some as one of the key points in the war when the Axis could have achieved perhaps a decisive victory in North Africa and severed the British Empire’s jugular at the Suez Canal.
In reality, the otherwise triumphant German General Erwin Rommel and his Panzerarmee Afrika hardly possessed the logistical backing or combat capability to accomplish such a goal.
On February 6, 1941 Adolf Hitler ordered Lieutenant General Erwin Rommel to Africa in command of Germany’s nascent Afrika Corps. Consisting of the 15th Panzer Division, and a motorized division, the 5th Light Division, the Afrika Corps was meant to stabilize the Axis position in North Africa against British Commonwealth forces that had spent the winter of 1940-41 decimating Italian forces in the region.
Rommel wasted little time upon his arrival at Tripoli on February 11, 1941. On February 16th Rommel dispatched to the front the only German forces he possessed and immediately available for
The Battle for Kasserine Pass began on February 14, 1943 and to this day ranks as one of the worst American military performances in the twentieth century. That said, as bad as the Battle for Kasserine Pass went it could have been a lot worse. Instead, and saving the Allies from a more significant defeat, the Germans undermined their own chances to create a significant operational and even strategic level success because, in part, and as was all too common during the Second World War, they failed to create a unified command with clearly defined and agreed upon objectives.