tv World War II Battle of Kasserine Pass CSPAN March 24, 2018 2:59pm-4:01pm EDT
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court, and public policy events in washington dc and around the country. c-span is brought to by your cable or satellite provider. marks the this year 75th anniversary of the battle of kasserine pass in tunisia. it was the first
time the u.s. army fought against german and italian forces in africa during world war ii. next, robert citino talks about the events leading up to and during the six-day battle. thes a senior historian at world war ii museum in new orleans, which hosted the symposium. this is about one hour. robert: good morning. how are you all doing this morning? great. my name is stephen watson. >> i have the privilege of being the president and ceo here at the national world war ii museum
and i am delighted to welcome you to our symposium commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle of kasserine pass. for those of you who come to our programs at the museum, you know we have a tradition and that we like to
start by recognizing any of our world war ii veterans or workers in the audience. i would ask any world war ii veterans or homefront workers to stand to be recognized. i know we have one here in the front. [applause] steve: i would also like to ask all veterans who have served in conflicts or peacetime, please stand to be recognized. we appreciate your service. [applause] steve: thank you. here at the national world war ii museum, it is our mission to tell the entire story of the american experience in world war ii.
while we obviously focus a lot on our victory and the great stories and lasting legacies of the world war ii generation, we don't shy away from america's wartime challenges and failures. during today's and symposium, you will learn about one of the greatest setbacks and our first major encounter with the german army. you will hear about how the u.s. army rallied and how the lessons we learned at kasserine pass and from this battle transformed the u.s. army into a victorious force. we are delighted that today we have the great -- a great group of speakers and historians who would lead us through some really interesting discussions. i want to quickly welcome all four. i want to start with colonel stephen bury, the principal deputy for the war running division. we are thrilled you are here with us today. [applause] steve: i also want to welcome a
military instructor and former infantry intelligence officer leo barron. [applause] and also historian and retired u.s. air force navigator dr. christopher ryan. christopher, welcome. [applause] slidell, soew up in welcome back. of course our very own senior ,istorian, dr. robert citino who will kick things off here in a few minutes. [applause] steve: thank you for sharing your research and expertise. it will be a wonderful day. we also have special guests here today. i'm not sure if he is here yet, but pat waters will be joining us at some point. pat is the grandson of general patton, and he is here today just like you as a world war ii in busiest. he actually -- enthusiast.
he actually spoke at our 2012 world war ii congress, but i'm also sure he's here to make sure we get his grandfather story right. ,at's father, john night water also served in world war ii and was actually captured as a pow at kasserine pass. so it is great pat will be here today and we welcome him back. we also have another special guest who flew all the way from the united kingdom and arrived yesterday, joshua levine. welcome to we are glad you are here. [applause] watched theu have movie dunkirk, you will know was the official historian for the movie, and it was based on his companion book, so we are really thrilled you have taken the time to make your first visit to new orleans and the the national world war ii museum .
welcome. today's symposium is the very first official program of the new institute for the study of war and democracy here at the the national world war ii museum . we launched the institute last march, and really this is a new effort to put a greater focus on how we promote the history of world war ii through research, higher education, public education and public programming , so you will be hearing about some new, exciting things coming from the institute in the future. fewuld like to thank a folks in the institute that have been instrumental in today's program. fornew vice president education and access, colonel pete crane. where is pete? [applause] steve: a gentleman you will be hearing a lot from throughout ono.day, dr. martin like o
[applause] steve: and jeremy collins am director of conference programs. so thank you gentlemen and the entire staff and institute for all of your great work. i would also like to recognize another person you know very mueller. doctor nick he continues to be very involved in the number of projects here at the museum and is also in his terminal part of the institute, so nick. [applause] nksve: and of course tha to our travel team and other staff and volunteers. you all worked hard and i know it will be a wonderful day. i think jeremy was signaling that pat, may walked in and the last couple of minutes? cap waters. hey pat -- pat waters. hey pat. great to see you again. [applause] steve: at this time i will turn it over to martin, who will
emcee for the i program for the day. thank you very much. martin: thank you. welcome, ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests. it is a pleasure to have you with us today and i don't think anybody is more excited than i am. i can't wait to hear from the speakers. my job is the executive director of the institute for war and democracy. we are thend, academic department of this museum and are just absolutely thrilled to be standing up this new department. we endeavor to do several things and are doing some of those. our public programming is something we are proud of and hopefully you will join us again for some additional programing later this year. fundamentally are the concentration of historians at the national world war ii museum, so our first and foremost task is to support the research and historical
requirements the museum has. a number of our historians are here today and i hope you will take an opportunity to engage with them. we are also pleased to be soon launching a historical research service where you can trace the personal history of your world war ii relative. keep an i on us for that and we look for to helping you with that as well. we will be an higher education and learning spaces offering historical courses. keep an eye out for those. we hope you will join those as they become available. we will be producing a lot of content you will see on the national world war reach ii website. lastly, a wonderful public programs. i will come back with an appeal to join the next symposium after this session. this first session as we talk about the kasserine pass 75 years later it is about what perspective do you take.
itwe look at it in micro, looks like disaster, failure. what we will try to do is take that familiar topic and take a wider view to think about the lessons we can learn, the major and important aspects in the long-term that helped american forces adjust based on that experience. i think you will walk away from here with a much greater sense of that. the first session, three distinguished scholars with you will be our own senior historian of the national world war ii to museum, robson tino --robert citino. 10 eminentauthor of works of military history available outside with her other authors today. he was the recipient of the society of military history's 2013 distinguish book award and has at one time been rated the number one professor in the country by the student reading well earnedch is having seen him lecture.
most importantly, he is an outstanding human being and we are thrilled to introduce rob citino. [applause] i've recently did some filming for the museum. we had an electronic field trip the other day in which we deemed out information on the u.s. homefront of 40,000 plus great and secondary school students. i was next to damon singleton. he is a meteorologist in new orleans. 6'7", anyway 6'6", i was on a phone book here it i am so glad to be off the phone back -- book right now. to the day the united states was at war in the middle east. thankfully we don't do that anymore. we solve that problem, if only we could say that. i would like to start with the
basic question, what exactly we were doing in the middle east in 1943. we were at war with germany, with the british at her sides come in tunisia of all places. i think a good why on earth are we in tunisia is a good place to start. we always say in professional military education -- i taught as a west point and the u.s. army war college -- i would say that strategy is paramount. if you don't have a good strategy, nothing else counts. it doesn't matter clever your offices are planners might be. we had a strategy pretty early on in world war ii courtesy of generaly chief of staff george marshall. that would be a buildup of massive forces in great britain 1942. we wait great britain down with
our men, material, operation bolero. we would follow that up in 1943 with an invasion of western europe that is a direct, cross channel blast into the heart of europe. that would be operation roundup. all good military planners land for even trial the's. -- image while it is -- eventualities. we would have a relatively small affair call3ed operation sledgehammer. those were our three operational plans as 1942 unfolded. sadly the planners or the strategist had run away from the rest of the military. the u.s. military was not ready to carry out that strategy in 1942. manpower, training, equipment, you name it, just completely bolero,to launch
roundup, or even sledgehammer. nothing was ready. how great friend winston churchill -- i see greg collins in the audience. the churchill society, good to see you, greg. our friend winston churchill came up with an answer and sometimes americans don't like the answer he came up with them about let's lay it out on the table. landing in french north africa, which would go by the name of operation torch, and we have a simple schematic of operation torch on the slide. a torch had a lot of what we might call operational upside. forceld put a big allied in north africa. what is happening off the map, far off the map, around the exit sign over here, is rommel driving for the suez canal, fighting against the british eighth army, and threatening the
lifeline of the british eighth army and the british empire. this landing in north africa would help solve that problem and put at egg allied force to rommel's rear. he would have no choice but to pullout from suez. he would have one option, make for the city of tunis in tunisia. his only hope of escaping africa if the allies made a successful lending to his west. that is an upside. it would give the allies complete control of the mediterranean sea once again, and that is a major upside, particularly if you are winston churchill. have's more important to the british impart than the americans. it would reopen the suez canal. would you rather sailed men and weapons to the suez or around the western horn of africa, cape of good hope and into the indian ocean? that is what the allies were doing before november 1942, the cape route rather than the suez route. so a lot of operational upside.
there are a lot of reasons to do operation torch, but there is one other reason, and churchill thought it, but i think at least in this phase of the work he is too polite to say it out loud. torch would also give the rookie introductionentle to the world war ii battlefield. let them fight in a non-decisive sector. let them earn their spurs theting with the french -- french and italians, and didn't be ready for the event -- main -- 1943-1944.- everyone thought that. enoughwere and politics to say it out loud. i don't know churchill was one of those. franklin roosevelt is not immune to arguments for torch. in fact, he had the basic reason to want to do torch as well.
pearl harbor happened in december of 1941, and as 1942 unfolds over the united states has not fired a shot in anger it against the germans. or have been u-boat battles on the high seas, but the army has not done anything, and neither has the german army been injured by u.s. power at all. roosevelt said we have to come into action somewhere against to some germans in the course of 1942. since we are not ready to invade the continent, torch, north africa was probably the place where that would have to happen. i'd lived in new orleans and every week a new restaurant opens and a soft opening. that is so the chef and servers can figure out what they're doing and the bread does not come out stale and you don't wait 2.5 hours to get seated. a soft opening takes care of all those things. in a sense torch was going to be america's soft opening in world
war ii. so, torch it was. in 1942 spread out across hundreds of miles of north african coast, a logistical and planning triumph. some of these convoys were coming from britain and some from the united states and had to rendezvous on the high seas, which was not easy den and frankly is still not the easy thing to do in the present-day environment. the troops land. there is a western, central, and eastern task force. the eastern commanded by a british officer, that center by our own u.s. officer, and the western task force landing on the moroccan coast. something else to mention about coast is it is taking place in at once,rent seas commanded by general patton. ,hese landings went very well logistical and planning triumph, opposition from the
french was light, and they found themselves hurtling at light speed to the east, racing for their ultimate goal of tunis. if allies get to tunis first, rommel is in big, gigantic trouble and is essentially cut off. tunis as it was called begins in november and lasts into early december. unfortunately the germans win it . they react swiftly and airlift men and supplies into tunisia from the european mainland. it is not rommel. they form a solid defensive line in front of tunis. so we have the race for tunis, the allies coming in quickly, blasting the way a top speed through algeria, getting to the tunisian border within a few days of landing in europe, but unfortunately not in quite swift enough to get to tunis before
the germans managed to put a pretty solid defensive line in front of it. that german force goes by the name of the fifth panzer army. anis certainly not army-sized formation, but it has gone by that designation and we continue to use it. the first blessing is -- lesson is the lending in north africa was supposed to achieve quick victory and get the u.s. forces some practice, bloodless victory over rommel, but within weeks it is evident this campaign will and tell -- entail some hard fighting. the whole part of the campaign was to avoid too much hard fighting on the part of an unready u.s. military force, but that seems to be what is exactly in the offing now. the rains come in tunisia and no one is going anywhere. eisenhower, a relatively untested supreme allied commander -- people know him now, but they don't know if he
is capable of carrying out large military operations. general eisenhower adopts a winter line. fighting continues, but essentially a static line through central tunisia. eisenhowerl for in this campaign. sometimes george marshall is to theng him, get up front line and see what is happening. next week at, what are you doing at the front line so much, get back to headquarters and take care of your paperwork good it is clear everyone in the force from marshall, eisenhower, to the grunt on the frontline, the american military is feeling his way ford in its first be campaign. there are essentially two big mountain ridges which form the back loan i guess we would say of tunisia. they are called dorsal ranges, so there is an eastern dorsal and to the west there is an even larger more difficult mountain range called the western dorsal. eisenhower decides to deploy
forward along the eastern dorsal , a forward position as close as possible to tunis. the americans -- allies had father way forward. it is probably a safer position to occupy the western dorsal am a but that would mean giving up territory you had already taken and having to fight for it all over again once the weather turns. position asrward close as possible to tunis, the british in the north who consider themselves the heavy lifter of this campaign. at the very least they were experienced troops and commanders. we have america second core here i hatesouth, and we have to say a motley collection of light french colonial troops had thrown in their lot with the allies holding the center. under isn't fair, but armed and underequipped is fair, and that's probably the best description we can have at this time. eisenhower's decision has
implications, and i don't know if they were fully grasp during the planning cycle, because this was done in a relatively hurried way. another actor is about to arrive on the stage. inn the allies land northwest africa, operation torch, rommel is in retreat from the big rattle he has fought at el alamein. his panzer army have been hurrying to the west, objective tunis. this is when the focal point -- it became the focal point of operations on the western front. he has broken contact with his pursuers, general montgomery and the british eighth army. had a course i once broken leg in high school and could have broken contact with montgomery because the pursuit was not one of montgomery strong
suits. a case of they slows, but the pursuit was not his strong point, and certainly not compared to an aggressive and highly kinetic general like rommel. the drama is about to take place. when rommel arrives in tunisia with the panzer army, when he arrives in southern tunisia, he gives axis forces their numerical superiority. --the very least the numeral maneuveral superiority. the americans and british, overall british command, the first army, now we have the panzer army and the fifth panzer army, so if only for a brief moment the allies are outnumbered, which is unusual. something else they did not expect to happen when they came to africa. to exploit that temporary
advantage rommel will need to launch an attack. he will need to do so as quickly as possible before his pursuer arrives, before montgomery arrives in the theater. so rommel has a good staff at his side and they have all the charts and do the math and look at the distances involved and relies you have about two weeks before montgomery arrives in strength in southern tunisia, two weeks. two weeks to make hay while the takeine, two weeks to advantage of this temporary superiority you have one for yourself. map i hope makes clear who is rommel's closest target of opportunity? the americans. the untested u.s. second corps. i will say this, this is not at all how this campaign was supposed to or expected to unfold. i am a german military historian and i write on the german
wehrmacht. the great german philosopher, and i would be remiss if i did not quote him at least once, he says the war is province of uncertainty and you are never sure what you will get. if carl could walk up on stage, i would say one thing to him. you might be wrong in that. you can one thing expect, ned is your plan will not go as you envision it. plan a will require plan b, c, or d somewhere down the line, so we have a very uncertain situation as to what happened. we lost the so-called race to tunis, went into a forward winter line, rommel got away from one country and has a two week window of opportunity and the target in his direct path is the u.s. second corps, not how things were supposed to unfold. well, on february 14, 1943, valentine's day, the wehrmacht launched a dual offensive against the americans.
breezeoperation spring open with a powerful drive by the german panzers against exposed to u.s. positions here. is the american force, the 168 infantry regiment. unready for the german attack. the germans encircled and destroyed an entire u.s. infantry regiment within a very, very brief time, as well as large portions of an armored division. tried tor u.s. armored ride to the rescue of this encircled force and it too ran into a buzz saw of experience in german tank crews and extremely aggressive german officers. colonel waters would be taken prisoner in the course of the kasserine campaign. operation spring breeze goes as
well as any operation in the war. normally i'd like to get more reaction from the audience when we do this, so this is bad, and that is worse. i've been showing that two undergraduates for a very long time. surprised, it seems like the enemy is coming from all directions at once. in this case the enemy was coming from all directions at once. with u.s. attention diverted to , rommel now launched the second operation which went by the name of morning air. ommel panzers, whose tank strike here and the south, catching the defenders completely unprepared and slashing hard into the u.s. rear , overrunning headquarters, supply depots, airfield with aircraft parked on them and unfeeling. this to me is when a force is an operational freefall, when its
airfields are over run and it loses aircraft on the ground to ground troops. and that was happening all over the sector in the early days of the german attack. these two drives, spring breeze and morning air, converge here at a pass through the western village, the small famous kasserine pass. the fact that there are this many people that want to give up a saturday to meet and discuss kasserine pass gives me hope for the future of this country, so i'm glad you are all here. these two drives meet at kasserine pass, and here rommel launches a third operation on february 19 and february 20, smashing through u.s. defenses , leavingsserine pass u.s. troops streaming away in some confusion and littering the battlefield with the wreck of over 200 u.s. tanks. the general gets bad press for this.
he has headquarters maybe 50 miles to the rear of the big fighting. we often think of him holed up in his underground bunker. it is perhaps a little unfair. he had come forward to monitor what was clearly a debacle in the making. yo so cowering in his bunker is not accurate. you also hear he was chain-smoking. no one else did that in 1943. the army ran a nicotine in 1943 and smoking was a sign of manhood, perhaps. but it is clear that freed in doll was not in control of the operational situation. that is equally fair to say. they have broken through, and you can't stop them, he told one of his aides. something you don't want to hear from your general when things are going bad. you are the voice of confidence. we have the plan. they have broken through and you can't stop them. maybe he thought he lost, and it
is clear rommel thought he won. thinking he won, he ordered a series of simultaneous the rest through the kasserine pass -- thrusts through the kasserine pass. you have taken care of everything and it is time to get as far for dish you can. for all of these reasons, what happened over the next few days continues to be shocking to historians. when i read it, i am always a bit humbled. andwestern dorsal peers disaster looming, no good terrain feature between here and , i don't know, algiers -- you would have to go way back. if the united states army does not write it self here, it will be in a many hundreds of miles retreat. moment,his disastrous u.s. defenses finally began to stiffen. begins withlies, it a few good officers, men who
kept their heads about them, and a few good soldiers who have now been in contact with the germans and realized that if they landed a direct hit on one of their tanks that it blew up, they were human beings that died like everybody else. they were not supermen or depths of war your skill. so a few good officers and a few good men, it soon spread to the entire force. the u.s. infantry suddenly fought with more steadiness. infantry and tank cooperation suddenly began to improve. here is one of the big problems of the earlier campaigns, the tanks tended to do their thing and the infantry tended to do it's thing. to intervene, breaking the back of one big german attack after another. each of rommel's multiple drives rommel is moving west, and north at the same time. each of his multiple drives fails completely, especially the major drive against what i guess
would be the largest town in the area. up,o not want to blow that each one of these failed completely. by february 23, february 24, rommel has seen that his window of opportunity is closing. he has not broken through the final american position, nor does it look like he is going to, and who is going to be around in three or four days? montgomery arriving in the theater. on february 23, rommel sees that window of opportunity closing and orders his forces back to their skyline -- start line. that retreat takes place 75 years ago today. literally the anniversary, on february 24. you already heard my friend martin say that you know, we kasserineink of
pretty carefully. taking each element apart and seeing what you can make with it. veryrine requires very, careful parsing. it presents a mixed picture. certainly, most u.s. officers viewed it as a humiliation, and historians, of reading those account within a great u.s. military community, have tended to follow suit. but the problem is the humiliation argument only dwells on the opening moments of the on the firstdwells big battle and then the german drives on the following. by the end, the u.s. army was clearly beginning to pull itself together. they had vast material resources, and logistics like no one else in the world -- still does -- and extremely high levels of firepower, especially the artillery. i have read 200 german accounts
pass, battle of kasserine and everyone says the same thing -- it was the artillery. move, or not see, think. the smallest maneuver, especially in the final battles coming up in the mop up days, you could not get forward against this storm of fire, a storm of steel. so material, logistics, firepower, it was one of the germans would find more and more difficult to counter as the war went on. i think we will end my remarks, and i will happy to take questions after it, by giving rommel the last word. the americans had fought brilliantly at cap -- kasserine. more than anyone in the field, rommel ought to know. thank you very much. [applause]
and i am happy to take any questions you may have. i think the drill here is that my pal jeremy comes around with the mike, right? -- ifk we already have you could please stand. luftwaffe play much role in rommel's offensive? dr. citino: it played an important role early on in the offensive as the germans moved forward. they had the problem that everybody had in north africa, you are away from your airfields. we talk about the benghazi races , where the germans would get far forward, launch an attack on the british, and get our forward. so far from their bases and the british would be falling back on their own supply bases and airfields that the british would turned the -- turn the tables. and then they would go through the same process. so german airpower kasserine at
kasserine -- german airpower at asserine could be described something that was more important earlier in the battle, but it had to do with huge distances and undeveloped infrastructure, which is the context in which these battles in africa are being fought. guests on the second four, i wanted -- second floor, i wanted to point out we have a mic stand in the middle of the mezzanine. we want to make sure you all get your questions asked as well. we will go in the back on the ground floor. with the benefit of hindsight, of course, if you could walk back to the first few on,, february 14 and so what are the two or three things that the troops could have done much better? dr. citino: in general, a sense of tactical preparation -- just being aware that rommel had offensive was on.
there is intelligence going up and down the chain of the germans are massing in front of his forces. frieden dolls intelligence --icer is often infused accused of being an alarmist, but he was passing reports up and down the chain that there were germans suddenly massing at the path. theyermans had already -- have already fought forward to hold that pass, and that was against french troops early on. that was going to be a very, very difficult fight, no matter what you do. but i think your question has to be answered with this notion as well. in the civil war there is something about seeing the elephant. many of you know this phrase. seeing the elephant was a rookie soldier who had never been in battle before and suddenly finds himself under fire. the elephant, because an elephant is impossible to describe.
you describe it, people do not even believe what you are talking about. i do not think anything would replace the baptism of fire for u.s. troops in this period. there could have been better preparation, listening to your intelligence officers -- i have colleagues who can answer these questions and more detailed fashion than i can, but nothing can replace having that baptism of fire. and you see how quickly u.s. forces begin to write themselves afterward. both of them survived an initial onslaught and now there is a sense of i am still here, i am still standing. why are we heading the wrong way? they respond to those officers around them. i do not want to step on leo's toes, but with the speed george patton is able to write the second core tells me that the u.s. troops were looking for that kind of leadership. i will let leo and a let subject later, because he has written a book on it. ground floor to your right.
what the hell was his background? was he a combat officer in world war i? he have combat experience? i know he was an outstanding piece time officer -- peacetime officer. dr. citino: general fredendall did not come from the elite circles of the u.s. army. he a west pointer, came out of wyoming. his father was the sheriff of laramie, wyoming. if that does not give you a sense of his fortitude and toughness, i do not know what would. any thoughts on his career record in world war i? he flunked out of west point twice. the first time was an accident, the second time was done on purpose. >> i am not familiar off the top of my head with that experience, but after failing out of west
point, which made him much maligned among the professionals, he was somehow admitted to m.i.t. and attended there for several years, and picked up a reserve commission. combatt believe he saw in world war i. i might be mistaken. he was a skilled trainer in the 20's and their -- 1920's and 1930's, and upstairs that gives him the recognition of talent in that role. ralph, our first question from the mezzanine? >> good morning. of the role. what i have always been fascinated with is at the early stages of the war, that the artillery group was so these wered, that untrained, untested -- how were they so advanced and able to respond so positively here, and then throughout the war? i am just curious about that. dr. citino: those are obviously
very, very good questions. artillery is, by definition, a technical field. st is a field for machinist and tinkerers. before the war began, u.s. artillery already had a system worked out by which multiple batteries stream across the countryside -- strewn across the countryside and widely separate from another could train their power on one single target. that was beyond what the germans or anything had, friend or foe. when world war ii broke out, everybody copied some form of that system. it i have read it german account after german account, and many of them use the same adjectives. seams's --ery the u.s. artillery seems so automatic. you trip the wire, you have an invisible fence for your dog? would trip andier
electronic wire and suddenly firewood rate down as if by matt -- fire would rain down as if by magic. the artillery took some time to study, but u.s. tank crews were always brave in battle. it took some time to learn how to cooperate with the infantry, with the foot soldiers. i think the saving grace of the army in this period, while the infantry got better and cooperation got more harmonious, i think the saving grace was that the u.s. could rain down fire on an adversary like nobody else in the field. will stay upstairs. dave walker has a question from online. this is from our facebook audience. what impact did the code talkers have in north africa? -- messagest is were decoded a lot faster as far as the enemy position. dr. citino: i am not aware that the code talkers were in africa
at all. you will have to travel with me wherever i go. i am not aware -- i think some code talkers service in italy, and in the pacific theater. i know of no code talker activities specific to the campaign in north africa. >> we have one on the ground floor in the very back to your left. good morning. onyou want to comment fredendall's mission? general ward? why did he do that? dr. citino: no one can say that anyone acquitted themselves with dignity or grace in the early moments of the german attack, giventhink in some sense, intelligence failures and early failures to response to intelligence, i think the troops defending the pass were up
against a mission impossible. the germans had achieved a fantastic level of superiority at this place on the battlefield , and i am not sure -- i do not rommelwin was regarded as one of the top minds in tactical warfare. more of the germans were able to concentrate at that specific point on that specific battlefield. we often say the americans were holding the past. -- pss. -- pass. sure general ward, as much as anyone can say that the first armored division fought well in this particular phase of battle, i am not sure i would blame general ward. i have never been a general, so i am maybe more gentle towards them than may maybe deserve, but the u.s. army is in
a very, very difficult position, especially against the opening attack. right.nd-floor to your >> your enthusiasm, is always, as in fact -- is infectious. this is so famous in world war ii. american a comparable weapon at this stage in the war, or just the massive artillery that was able to focus and gps soir fire at a time that was much beyond what other armies were capable of? dr. citino: i do not think the u.s. ever put together an equivalent to the 88, extremely high velocity, antiaircraft, virtually infinite range and will destroy any tank in its path. but what i think the u.s. forces realize, maybe they were already beginning to in december and january, and certainly in the course of the kasserine fight. i think they realize that a
direct hit from a field artillery piece was going to vaporize a german tank. i think what had to happen is this reputation the germans had put together for kind of inallibility and vulnerability on the battlefield, i think the british no longer believed it. the soviets had learned in november of 1942, at the time, they learned it at stalingrad. that i think the american army comes late to this party and has to learn it on the fly, not in the course of a big campaign but in the course of a couple of weeks. i think field artillery, directives by field artillery are certainly what german tank crews and what commanders of german armor formations that -- at kasserine would talk about again and again and again. here is one you will want to write down. this particularly wasn't easy. the first encounter was inherently dangerous.
you can look at every single army in world war ii -- ask the french what it was like to fight them the first time, they stayed in the field for 10 days. the british? the british started world war ii with one strategic retreat after the other, landing in norway, had to retreat. landing in france? had to retreat. , drove up the balkans and back down, had to retreat to crete. british expeditionary force? no. back every friday. [laughter] dr. citino: in the smaller forces were swept up in this encounter, but the big one is the soviet army and their initial encounter in 1941 left the doors with formally -- the force with 4 million casualties, 3 million of whom were prisoners of war. so now it is the americans'
turn. after all of those encounters, the americans can brag that is was the- there best. maybe a difficult week, but ultimate success. when i was growing up and studying this stuff, kasserine pass was a defeat. but it is hard to say it is a defeat when an enemy commander troops to thes start line 10 days later. always have your eyes wide open when it is in contact -- when you are in contact with the germans, those are all good lessons to learn. thathe use of artillery, was our improvisation at the time. it worked well enough that we were not supposed to double up bring inrcraft and tanks at the same time. >> i have a question on the ground with bob wolf. dr. citino: is it in english, bob? [laughter] >> you mentioned the technical
aspects of the artillery. would you want to comment on the manpower situation with the artillery and the air force screening of a category 1 -- leading the infantry, whatever. that was certainly a diplomatic way to put it. that is a good question. the u.s. military went into a warwar ii envisioning that would require highly trained technicians, the technical arms would play increasingly important roles on the modern battlefield. specialf you show one ands, your category two were cleaned often to the technical arms, whether that was tanks, artillery, or the u.s. army air corps and later u.s. army air forces. so right now, as we say that, we go back and forth on that, we are channeling grace from that
facing. the british historian from world war ii who has written widely on the anglo-american alliance has spent a lot of his time -- i would not say denigrating, but criticizing the fighting skills of u.s. infantry in the course of the war. as much have great admiration for sir max's work, i would probably have a bit of pushback on that. whatever category you were rated in a bevy of psychological tests that you happen to be, taking -- happen to be taking, look at the combat record. it came out of the war with the reputation that infantry by itself, it used to be the queen of the battlefield, and now it was just one of the supporting arms. it had to work in concert with the artillery and the armor in the air. combined arms warfare is no longer infantry warfare, but i come out of my studies with a hefty dose of admiration for american infantry, particularly the way they learned to
stand up to the fierceness of a german panzer attack. what we are saying is uncomfortable -- and controversial fact -- inco fact is not what it appears to be. marine, priored service army. dr. citino: we have to talk. >> mile goal is there. when i went to artillery officer basic in 1978, we had several conversations, primarily because he ran a gunnery school before he went to vietnam. he was in battlefield commission once he got into europe after d-day. you covered all the bases. i was going to save my remarks for the end, but he told me about north africa, especially kasserine. he was not at the actual kaczor battle.erine pas
at the end of the fighting, they would to sicily, italy, and england, he would go to the day. artillery -- he said we had to train him just like the infantry and the armor did. we finally put it to work. what you said earlier i will reemphasize -- they looked at their boots and said wow, i am here in the sand. a hundred-1000 miles back to the atlantic, and farther than that to home and i cannot swim that far. you have to remember these old guys and how they grew up. i am the son of a world war ii younger brother served and his second wife. 10 years older and i would have been in vietnam. but i have the same mentality as my dad and my uncle. whenever i serve someplace, it is like i tell my guys. we will figure a way out because
we are here. my uncle said for a long time, we start this in rotc. we got our noses bloodied at kasserine. my uncle said no, we got our whipped. and these old guys hated to lose anything. a lot of our society hasn't changed, i hate to say. changed, a lot of people here have not changed, but back then we were going to fight and we were going to win. dr. citino: i want to get to a question on the floor. >> i wanted to wait until the mindbut now i can open my for the rest of the day. dr. citino: one thing the u.s. military forces have always had, the fourth,
americans are kind of improvisers. our early battles often don't go well, and thank god we have the atlantic and pacific oceans on either side. on some point, we usually figure it out, and it is sooner rather than later. in that sense, think about the germans. they are good early. they think about war a lot, at least the world war i and world war ii german armies. they think a lot about war their peace times, so campaigns hit you every which way. but that is kind of a wasting aspect as you are in contact with the germans, you get to learn something about the way they make war, maybe pick up some pointers that might be useful for you. you can use those lessons you learn in the early defeats to go on to bylsma in victory. i would rather be the force that has ultimate victory rather than the one that gets style points early on in the war, as germans had certainly one in that aspect. say, the british
started far more disastrously. they went into retreat very quickly. what was the relationship between the brits and the u.s. at this early point in north africa? we famously say this was the smallest world time -- wartime -- closest wartime alliance of all time. strategic planning, regular get-togethers by the political leadership, the union was an ally, but we had none of those things with the soviet union. having said that, official policy was the closest military alliance of all time, but i am talking about the army, the armies in north africa. different policies, procedures, and a different kind of culture. the british stereotype about the americans were they were hopeless amateur that waited without thinking and had to run
away. the american stereotype of the british -- they are slow, overly methodical, i cannot tell you the number of american service personnel who told me the british stopped routinely, right in the middle of a battle. i had a hard time finding the actual records, but maybe on some level. so that was the stereotype that both sides had on one another. you could find british offers in northwest -- british africa who northwest referred to the americans as our italians. and that is unfair to everybody. and i gave you a long disposition on the fighting qualities of the italian army. for a force that was not ,quipped for a big, banging conventional warfare, they made a better fight than one would think. so it is unfair to the italians, unfair to the americans, and his eighth lay common -- is a silly comment anyway. there was tension on the lower
levels, and even occasionally, if montgomery rubbed every american he met the wrong way, there was something in his dna -- an americana officer and the number he could not be in the same room for five minutes without getting angry at each other. it is something specific to montgomery. that is a good point. the next big campaign -- i do not want to get ahead of ourselves -- we will clean up tunisia in may of 1943. sicily, big campaign is and there, the hostility between american and british troops was often expressed in the most vivid possible terms, including some very salty language by general patton, which i would love to say right now if we were not on c-span. of course, that was his mo. so the tensions between the two are definitely there. there is a very famous account that eisenhower was once giving u.s. officers a dressing down because he had called a british --.cer you son of a
man, i opposite -- sorry got carried away. and he said i don't care that you called him a --, but why did you have to call him a limey? it is a tense environment, we will blow up at each other every now and then, but we cannot blow up on the basis of nationality or the alliance unravels. without british as an unsinkable aircraft carrier in the north sea, we cannot invade. i do not want to belabor the point, but i will give you more on the inter-ally tensions. a big battle in december at long stop hill, where the allies formerly realize they lost the race to tunis. the british unit takes the hill on christmas eve, and is relieved by an american force, gets attacked and loses the
hill, and the same british forces have to trudge back up the hill on christmas to bailout their friends in all of drab -- all live -- olive drab. this is my first example of being the bad cop so we stay on schedule. the gentleman in the green shirt will get the first question for the roundtable discussion, i promise you, but martin has to close out. dr. citino: a great group, thank you very much. [applause] >> you're watching american history tv, 48 hours of programming on american history every weekend on c-span3. follow us on twitter at c-span history for information on our schedule, and
>> on book tv, michael wallis recalls the life of frontiersman and politician, david crockett. he also discusses other western figures and the wild west. talk at thethis tattered cover bookstore in 2011. it's about an hour. michael: thank you, so much. it's great to be with you, and it's wonderful to come into a city with there's rain.