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tv   World War II Battle of Kasserine Pass  CSPAN  March 29, 2018 12:48pm-1:53pm EDT

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few minutes. and it was an interesting moment to see the -- you've never been at costco in the meat department and seen this stuff, but he was there, what was left of him, obviously a human being at one point, but i sat and asked him, what are you seeing now? where are you? what are you experiencing? are you where you thought you would be? he didn't answer back. he only had half of a face. but it was interesting to be that close to the evil and how willing he was to die. >> that was just a short portion of tonight's conversation with two photojournalists on their experiences covering the battle against isis in the iraqi city of mosul. you can watch the entire event starting at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. up next, military historian robert citino talks about the events leading up to and during the 1943 battle of kasserine
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pass in tunisia. the national world war ii museum in new orleans hosted the symposium, marking the 75th anniversary of the battle. this is about an hour. >> good morning. how are y'all doing this morning? great. my name is steven watson. for those of you that i haven't met, i have the privilege of being the president and ceo here at the national world war ii museum. i'm delighted to welcome you to our symposium commemorating the 75th anniversary of the battle of kasserine pass. for those of you that come to our programs here at the museum, you know we have a tradition and that we like to start by recognizing any of our world war ii veterans, our home front workers we have with us in the audience. i'd ask any world war ii veterans or home front workers to please stand or wave to be recognized. i know we have one here in the
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front, bob wolf. [ applause ] i'd also like to ask all veterans that have served in other conflicts or peacetime, please also wave or stand confl. stand or wave to be recognized. we appreciate your service. [ applause ] >> thank you. the national world war ii museum t is our mission to tell the enstier story of the experience in world war ii t. we focus on the victory and the lasting stories. we don't shy away from america's wall time challenges and failures. during today's symposium, you're going to learn about one of the greatest set backs in the first major encounter with the german army. you will hear about the u.s.
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army ral lied and the lessons we learned from battle transformed a u.s. army into a vick totorio force. we are delighted to have a great group lead us through discussions. i'm going to start with kernel steven barry, thank you we are thrilled you are here with us today. also i want to welcome military instructor and intelligence officer, leo. welcome. thank you. and also historian and retired u.s. air force navigator dr. christopher rine. welcome. i just learned he grew up in sly dell and has connections, welcome back.
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and our own doctor rob citino. [ applause ] >> thank you for sharing your research and military expertise. it's going to be a would noter full day. we have special guests but pat waters will be joining us at some time. pat, is the grandson of general pat ton and he is here just like you as a world war ii enthuse yis and spoke at our 2012 international world war ii conference. he is here to make sure we get his grandfather's story right at the same time. and pat's father, john knight water also served and captured at kasserine pass. it is great that he is here today and we welcome him back.
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we have another special guest who flew all the way from the united kingdom, joshua levine. welcome. we are glad you are here. welcome. if you have watched the movie dunkirk, you will know that it was the official historian for the movie and based on his come pa -- companion book. so we are excited that you are here. welcome. today's symposium is the very first official program of the new institute for the study of war and democracy here at 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,
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higher education, publications and public programming. so you are going to be hearing about new and exciting things coming from the institute in the fup. i wou -- institute. our new vice president, kernel pete crane, where is he? pete. [ applause ] a gentlemen you will be hearing from, dr. martin, our executive director of the institute. and the person i know everybody knows, jer emy collins. and i would like to recognize, dr. nick mueller, my predecessor and our president, ceo. he is involved in a number of
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projects at the museum and an instrumental part at the institute. so nick. and of course, thank to our travel and conference team and other staff involved in putting this on and your volunteers. you have worked hard and i know it's going to be a wonderful day. and pat, maybe you walked in a couple of minutes. pat waters. hey, pat. it is great to see you again. [ applause ] i will turn it over to martin who will serve as your mc for the day. thank you very much. great, thank you steven. welcome ladies and gentlemen. distinguished guests, it is a pleasure to have you with us. nobody in the room is more excited than i am. this is wonderful content and can't wait to hear from the
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speakers. -- for shorthand we are the academic department of the museum and we are thrilled to be here. we endeavor to do several things, our public program is something we are proud of and hold up you consider joining us again for additional programs later this year. we fundamentally are the concentration of historians here at the museum so our task is to support all of the research requirements in the historical requirements that the museum has. i encourage you, a number of the historians are here and i hope you engage with them to hear about the institute. we are pleased to be launching a historical research service where you can trace the personal history of your world war ii relative. keep an eye out for that and we look forward to that as well. we will be in the higher education and life-long learning
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spaces offering historical courses and we hope you will join those as they became available. and well be trucing content in the national world war ii museum website. visit that regularly. you're going to see great posts from the wonderful staff members and lastly, our public programs and i'll come back with you with an appeal to join the next symposium after this session. the first session, as we talk about the kasserine battle, 75 years later. it is about what perspective do you take? it looks like disaster and failure in micro. we are going to try to take the wider view to see the lessons you can learn. to help them adjust based on the experience. i think you will walk away with a greatest sense of that. the first session, distinguished scholars will be with you is our
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senior historian of the world war ii museum, rob citino and among other things he is a author of 10 work os f history available outside. he was the recipient of the society military history 2013 distinguished book award and been rated the number one professor in the country by the student rating website, ratemy he is an outstanding human being and we are thrilled to introduce rob citino. thank you. [ applause ] i recently did filming for the museum, wed an electronic field trip and beamed out information on the u.s. home
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front to 40,000 plus, grade and middle and higher secondary school students. i was next to damon single ton and i think he is 6'7" and i was on a phone book. i'm glad to be off the phone book. you have the real me in front of you right here. 75 years ago to the day the united states was at war in the middle east. and thankfully we don't do that anymore. we solved that problem. if only we could say that. i would like to start with a basic question, what were you doing in the middle east in 1943. we were at war with germany with the british at our side and fighting the italian in tunisia, why on earth were we there. we say in professional military education, i taught at west
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point as a visitor and the u.s. army war college. the strategy is paramount. if you don't have a good strategy, nothing else counts. doesn't matter how your operations or tactics if you don't have a strategy. we had a strategy early on in world war ii. courtesy of general george c. marshall. a massive build up of force in great britain in the course of 1942. we weigh them down with the weapons and men and material and that would be operation bolaro following it up in 1943 with the invasion of western europe. a direct cross channel blast into the heart of europe and hitlerism and that would be operation round up. all good military planners plan for eventualities. if it looks like the soviet union or germany was going to
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collapse, we would have operation sledge hammer. those were the three operation plans since 1942 unfolded. sadly, the planners, perhaps or the strategist run away from the rest of the military. the u.s. military wasn't ready to carry out the strategy? 1942 and you can go and you happen down the force. manpower, training, equipment, you name it. just completely unready to launch any aspect, bolaro or round up or operation sledge hammer if it came down to that. nothing ready. our great friend, winston churchill. hi, greg. good to see you greg, church of society. our friend came up an answer, sometimes people don't like what he came up, that's the only possible solution. a landing in french-north africa
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which would go by the name of operati operation torch and we have a schematic of it on the slide. a torch had a lot of operation n al upside. putting a big ally force in north africa. happening far off of the map, probably around the exit sign over here is ramal driving for the canal fighting against the british 8th army and threatening the lifeline of the british 8th army and empire. so this landing in north africa helps solve that problem and putting a big ally force to the rear. he would have no chance but to pull back. he would have one option is that's to make for the city of tunis in tunisia, the only hope of escaping africa. so that's an upside.
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it would give the allies complete control of the mediterranean sea once again and that's a major upside. more important to the british than to the americans. it would reopen the canal, would you send men and weapons through there or down to the western horn of africa, to the coast and into the indian ocean? that's what the allies were doing. taking the cape route reporter than the other route. there's a lot of reasons to do operation torch. there's one other reason and churchill thought it but i think at least in this phase of the war he was too polite to say it out loud. torch would give the rookie u.s. army into the battlefield.
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-- let them earn the spurs fighting the french and italians and be ready for the main event in 1943 or 1944 and the main event is the landing in western europe. and churchill and everybody thought that and some of them were in politic to say it out loud. i don't think churchill was one of them. franklin roosevelt is not immune to arguments for torch, in fact, he has a basic reason to do torch. pearl harbor happened in december of 1941 and as 1942 infoulds, there's been battles and some struggles on the high seas, but the army hasn't done anything and the german army wasn't injured by the u.s. army. we have to come into action
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somewhere against some germans in the course of 1942. since we are not ready to invade the continent, torch was it. i live in new or leans and every week there's a new restaurant open skpng they have something called add soft opening, the chef can figure things out and the servers and the bread doesn't become stale -- and the soft opening takes care of that. so torch was the soft opening. the land ngs 1942 spread out of many miles of north african coast. a logistical and planning triumph. some coming from britain and the united states and had a rendezvous in the hey seas and it is not easy to do even in the present day environment.
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the troops land and there's a western, central and eastern task force and the eastern commanded by a british officer and the central by our own and the western task force landing on the ma ro can cost, not in the mediterranean. taking part in two separate seas commanded by our own general george patten. so the landings went well. and the opposition from the french was light. and allied forces found themselves hurdling at top speed to the east. one again, racing for the ultimate goal of tunis. if they get there first, they are in trouble. cut off from home. now, the race for tunis as it was called begins in november and lasts into december. and unfortunately, the germans
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with it. they react swiftly, air lift men and supplies into tunisia from the mainland. mainly, flying in from italy and forming a solid defensive line in front of tune minus. so we have the race for tunis and the allies coming in quickly blasting their way top speed through algeria. getting to the border within a few days of landing in europe, but unfortunately, not being swift enough to get to tunis before the germans manage to put a solid defensive line in front so the german force goes by the 5th panzer army. it goes by that designation and we continue to use it. the first lesson is the landing in north africa. the first big point, was supposed to be a quick cheap
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victory. getting practice and a bloodless victory and within weeks it is evident that this campaign is going to entail hard fighting. so the whole point of the campaign was to avoid hard fighting for an unready military force and that's what is the offing now. so by december, the lanes come in tunisia, nobody is going anywhere and eye szand eisenhow. adopting a wasn't are line, winter quarters and fighting continues and a static line through central tunisia. you have to feel for eisenhower in this campaign, george marshall is messaging him saying you are at the headquarters too much. get in the front line and see
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what is happening and next week, what are you doing in the front lines, get back to headquarters. take care of the paperwork. down to the grunt at the front line, they are -- the american military is feeling its way forward in the first big campaign. there's essentially, two big mountain ridges which form the backbone i guess we would say of tunisia, dorsal ranges. there's an eastern and another to the west, and has a larger mountain range called the western dorsal. eisenhower decides to deploy forward. as close as possible to tunis. the allies fought their way forward. it's a safer position to occupy and that means giving up territory you have taken and fight for it all over again once the weather turned better. so we have a forward position as
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close as possible to tunis. you have the british in the north who consider themselves as the heavy lifter, experienced troops and commander. and the american second core under general lloyd here in the south and we have a kind of hate to say, collection of light french colonial troops who threw in the lot -- motley isn't there. giving for the french at this time. eisenhower's decision has im3 i implications. i don't know if it was grasped because it was done in a hurried way. another actor is about to arrive on the stage. when the allies land in northwest africa, operation torch. ramal already in retreat from the big battle that he lost.
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he and his pan zer army hurrying to the west. objective, tune minus. this is a moment where tunis is the focal point of the operations on the western and european front in world war ii. he has for the moment, broken contact with his pursuers. and of course, i had a broken leg in high school, i could have broken contact with montgomery. the pursuit was not his strong suit. not a case of the slows, but pursuit was not a strong point and not compared to a aggressive general like ramal. so the drama is about to take place when ramal arrives in southern tunisia, coming in with the panzer army from the east.
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when he arrives in southern tunisia, he gives access forces for a brief moment, numerical superiorty. one allied army versus two german armies. the first -- the americans and british are in overall british command and now we have a -- the panzer arm yes i and the 5th army here. if only for a brief moment, the allies are out numbered. something else they didn't expect when coming to africa. to exploit that temporary advantage, ramal 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 he has a good staff at his side and they do the math and look at the distances involved and realize you have about two weeks before montgomery arrives
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in strength and southern tunisia. two weeks, what is the phrase, make hey while the sun shines. to take advantage of the superiorty you won for yourself. i hope this map makes clear. who is ramal's closest opportunity? the americans. the second core under the general. this is not how the campaign was expected to unfold. i'm a german military historian, i write on the german armed forces and it is a great -- and i would be remiss if i didn't quote him at least once. the war is the province of uncertainty. you are not sure what you are going to get. if carl can walk on the stage now, i would be thrilled. i would say one thing. you might be wrong, there is one thing you can expect. that the plan may not go as you
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envision. plan a is going to require a plan b or c or d. we lost the so called race to tunis. went into a winter line and ramal got away from montgomery. has a two week opportunity and the untested core under the general. not how things were supposed to unfold. well, on february 14th 1943, valentine's day, launching a dual offensive against the americans. first, operation spring breeze. open with a powerful drive by the german panzers against exposed u.s. positions here. and there's the american force. combat a of the first armor division at sidi bou zid.
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and destroyed it in a brief time along with large portions of an armored division. from there, u.s. armor tried to ride to the rescue of the force and ran into a buzz saw of a tank crews and aggressive officers. waters would be taken prisoner in the kasserine campaign. so operation spring breeze goes about as well as any operation in the war. i like to get more reaction from the audience when we do this. this is bad and that is worst. i've been showing that to undergraduates for a long time. when you are surprised, it seems like the enemy is coming from all directions at once. and in in this case, they were. a well-planned attack. with u.s. attention diverted to
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that sector, right here, ramal launched a second operation. which went by the name morning air. ramal's tanks strike here in the south. catching once again, the defenders unprepared and slashing far into the u.s. rear. over-running headquarters, supplied depots, aircraft and unfueled. this to me, is when a force is in operational free fall. it the airfields are over run and loses them to ground troops. that was happening all over in the sector in the early days of the attack. these two drives, spring breeze and morning air converge here at a pass through western dorsal near the small village of kasserine. here is the famous pass here, why we are gathered here today.
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people want to give up a saturday to discuss this, gives me hope for the future. i'm glad you are all here. so here, ramal launches a third operation, on february 19th and february 20th. smashing through u.s. defenses ats kasserine pass and leaving u.s. troops with confusion and the wreck of over 200 u.s. tanks. the general gets bad press for this. he has a headquarters far to the rear. we say he was held up in the under ground bunker. he came forward to monitor what was a debacle in the making. cowarding in the bunker is not accurate. and you will hear that he was chain smoking, nobody else did
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that. our army ran on nicotine, chain smoking was a sign of manhood, perhaps. it was clear that in the moment he was not in control of the operational situation. that is fair to say, we'll talk about the general later in the day. they have broken through and you can't stop them, they said. that is what you don't want to hear. you want to hear the voice of confidence and we have a plan and we'll get this, but they've broken through and you can't stop them. maybe he thought he lost and it was clear that ramal thought he won. thinking he won, he ordered a series of simultaneous thrust. it is time to get far forward as you can. so, he beat ramal and for these reasons, what happened over the next few days continues to be
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shocking to historians. i know when i read it i am always a bit puzzled. with the western dorsal pierced, no good terrain between here and algeria, you would have to go way back. if the united states army -- it's going to be hundreds of miles of retreat. in this moment, u.s. defenses begin to stiffen. like all rallies, it begins with a few good officers, men who kept their heads about them and a few good soldiers. they were human beings and died like everyone else in battle, not super man. so a few good officers and men, it spread to the entire force. fought with steadiness and
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infantry and tank cooperation began to improve and here is one big problem of the earlier campaigns. the tank decided to do its thing and the infantry did their thing. began to intervene desies sievely, especially the artillery. breaking the back of one big german attack after another. each of ramal's drives. he 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, we don't want to blow up the size and the major drive by the 15th panzer division. each failed completely. by february 23rd and 24th he sees his window of opportunity is closing. hasn't broken through final american position and nor does
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it look like he is going to and who is going to be around in a few days? montgomery arriving in the theater. so on february 23rd he sees the window of opportunity closing and orders the forces back to the start line. the retreat back to the start line takes place 75 years ago today. so literally the anniversary on february 24th. you already heard my friend martin say we have to think of kasserine carefully. i like the word parsing. taking it a part and looking at each component and element of it and seeing what you can make of it. kasserine requires very careful parsing. it presents a mixed picture. certainly, most u.s. officers viewed it as a humiliation and historians reading those accounts from within the military community attended to
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fellow suit. the trouble is that the humiliation argument dwells on the opening moments of the battle. dwells on the first big fight at sidi and the german drives the following. and by battles end the u.s. army pulling itself together. it had vast material resources, it had logistics like known else in the world, still does. and extremely high levels of fire power, especially the artillery. i read, i don't know, 200 german accounts of fighting at kasserine pass. and virtually everybody says it was the military. you can't move or see or think. the smallest movement, military maneuver especially in the final battles coming up with ramal in the mop up phase, you could not get forward against the storm of
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fire and steel. so that combination, material, logistics, fire power, was one that the germans would find it more and more difficult to counter as the war went on. and i think we'll end my remarks here and i'll be happy to take questions by giving ramal the last words, the american -- the americans fought brilliantly at kasserine. more than anyone else in the field, ramal ought to know. thank you very much. [ applause ] >> and i'm happy to take questions you may have. i think the drill is that my pal comes around with the mic. >> if you can please stand. >> thank you. played a role in ramal's role --
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>> early on in the offensive as the german's bound forward they have the problem that everyone had, you are bounding away from the airfields. and you talk about the races, the germans getting far forward. launch an attack on the british and get forward and they will be far from the base and british falling back on the supplied bases and airfield that the british will turntables and they would bound forward until they have gone through same process. i think german air power in kasserine is a wasting asset, and it has everything to do with the dynamic of huge distances and under developed infrastructure which is the how they are being fought. >> for our guest on the second floor, i wanted to point out we have a microphone stand in the center of the mezzanine. walk up to it and we want to
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make sure you all get your questions asked rob, we are going to go dead center in the back on the ground floor. >> rob, if you -- with the benefit of hindsight, of course, if you could walk back to the first few days. february 14 and so on, what are the two or three things that the troops could have done much better? >> well, i think in general, a sense of tactical preparation. just being aware that ramal had arrived and that an offensive was in the offing. there is intelligence going up and down the chains that the germans are massing in front of the forces. the intelligence officer is accused of being an alarmist and passing reported specifically down the chain that there were germans at the pass at si
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sidi bou zid. and that was against french trip it is. that was a difficult fight no matter what you do. i think your question has to be answered with this notion as well. we used to say in the civil war, there is something about seeing the elephant. it was a rookie soldier never been in battle and suddenly fines himself under fire. you see the elephant. an elephant is impossible to describe. it has ears, snout and when you describe it, people don't believe what you are talking about. battle is like that. i don't know if anything would replace a baptism of fire for u.s. troops in this period. better tactical preparation and listening to the intelligence officers, i have colleagues here who can answer these questions, things could be done but nothing can replace of having the baptism of fire.
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and you see how quickly u.s. forces -- those who survive, now there's a sense of i am still here and standing carrying a rifle. i see tanks and why are we heading the wrong way? at some point they respond to the officers around them. i don't want to step on leo's toe it is, the speed he is able to right the second core, u.s. troops were looking for that type of leadership. i will let leo handle that subject later. he has written a book on it. >> ground floor to your right. >> he -- what was his background? was he a combat officer in world war i? did he have combat experience? i know he was an outstanding peacetime officer. >> that's how we -- the general did not come from the elite
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circles of the u.s. army. not a west pointer. he was a -- came out of wyoming and his father was the sheriff. if that doesn't give you a sense of toughness and fortitude, i don't know what would. what was his career record? chris, any thoughts on that? >> he flunked out of west point twice. the first time was an accident and the second on purpose. >> i'm not familiar off the top of my head, it made him amongs the professionals, somehow admitted to m.i.t. and attended there for several years and picked up a reserve commission. en don't believe he saw combat. he was a skilled trainer, and went onto the command second army. he was promoted the recognition and talent in that role. >> after kasserine.
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>> rob, our first question from the mezzanine there. >> good morning. >> hi there. >> as a graduate of the school, i'm proud of their role. what i've been fascinated with is how the early stages of the war that the artillery group was so accomplished that they had the -- these were untrained and untested. how were they so add vanszvance able to respond positively here and throughout the war? >> those are good questions. artillery by definition it is a technical field. for machinists. the u.s. artillery had a system worked out by which multiple batteries across the country side separated from one another can train fire against the same
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target simultaneous using a grid system. that proved to be something far in advance that anybody had. friend or foe in world war ii. everyone copied some form of that system. but you know, i read that german at after german account and many of them use the same adjective. it seemed automatic. like a machine gun. like you tripped a wire, i don't know. you have invisible fence for your dog. so the german soldier would have a electronic wire and fire would rain down like imagimagic. that's how it appeared. u.s. tankers were brave and took time to learn how to cooperate with the infantry and the foot soldiers. i think the saving grace of the
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army in this period while infantry armor got better, the u.s. army it rain down fire like nobody else in the field. thank you for your service. >> we're going to stay upstairs, dave walker has a question from online. >> this is from our facebook audience. >> what impact did the koe talkers have in north africa? and our reaction -- >> i'm not aware that the could talkers were active at all. i have this great table in front of me. you have to travel with me whenever i go. i'm not aware that i think some koe talkers in italy or specific to the campaign in north africa. >> we have one on the ground floor in the back to your left, rob. we'll get you robert. don't worry. >> good morning. >> morning.
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>> so you want to the comment on war and relationship, why did he pick on war so much? i think messed up the kasserine oh if he was. >> general ward. >> general ward? >> why did he do that? >> no one can say they acquitted themes with dignity or grace. i think with some sense, given intelligence, failures or failures to respond to intelligence, i think the troops at sidi defending the pass was up against mission impossible. they had a level of superiorty at the battlefield and ramal regarded as one of the skilled practice tigs ners at armor ware fair and able to acquit himself with more success.
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and able to concentrate on that specific point and battlefield. the americans were holding a pass they weren't. the germans in the mountains and came down and able to have a stationary u.s. force. general ward -- fought well in this particular phase, i would not exactly blame general ward to tell you the truth. i've never been a general so maybe i'm more gentle towards them. i try to look at the overall context. the u.s. army was in a difficult position especially at the opening attack. >> rob, ground floor to your right. >> sure. >> rob, your enthusiasm is infectious. >> thank you. >> was there a weapon at this stage of the war or mass of artillery able to focus and sort
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of gps their fire at a time that was in advance of the other arm m -- armies capable of? >> extremely high velocity if you fire it on the horizontal has a range of infinity and will destroy any tank in the path. what i think u.s. forces realized, maybe they were already beginning to in december and january and realized in the kasserine fight. they realize a 105 or 155 was going to vaporize a german tank. greg, i think what had to happen is this reputation, that germans put together for infallibility and as a ruvulnerability on the battlefield. the soviets learned in november, 1942, at a time in store.
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you can turn german operational methods against them. they come late and has to learn it on the fly, not in the course of a big campaign but in a couple of weeks. i think field artillery direct hits is what german tankers or what commanders of german formations who fought at kasserine would talk about again and again and again. fighting the -- here is one you want to write down. fighting was not easy. it was not easy in the first counter with them was inherently dangerous and you can look at every army in world war ii. ask the french. they stayed in the field for ten days. the vast majority of the force. they started at world war ii with one strategic restreet after the other. landed in norway, had to retreat, landed in france, had to retreat.
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broef up and had to retreat. at this timing on creek, got hit and had to retreat again. back every friday. so and those smaller forces swept up in the first encounter. the big one was the soviet army. they left the force with 4 million casualties. 3 million who were prisoners of war. one battle after the other. so now it is the americans turn and all of the first encounters, the americans can brag that theirs went the best. difficult early moments, a difficult week, perhaps. but then, ultimate success. when i was growing up and started studying this stuff, i heard it was a defeat all the time. it is not a defeat, it was a
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wake up call about seriousness of purpose on the battlefield. always have your eyes open when in contact with the germans. those are good lessons to learn. a defeat, it wasn't. the use of artillery, that was the improveization at the time. worked well enough. we were never forced to double up and make it an antitake down at the same time. >> we have a question on the ground floor with bob wolfe here. >> are you going to ask this in english, bob? >>. [ laughter ] >> you mentioned the technical aspects of the artillery. do you want to comment on the manpower situation where the artillery and the air -- leaving the infantry disproportionately whatever -- >> that was a diplomatic way to put it.
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that is a good question. they went into the world war ii envisions a war having highly -- playing an important role on the modern battlefield. if you show special apptyty dudes. that would be the tangs or the artillery or the u.s. army air core and forces. so we right now, as we say that we go back and forth on that. we are channeling the great britainish historian of world war ii written on the anglo-american alliance. en spent a lot of time criticizing the war. as much as i have great admiration for his work, i would have a bit of push back on that. whatever category you are rated
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in a psychological tests that you happen to be taking, i look at the combat record. i fail to see where u.s. infantry falls down in the course of the war. infantry by itself, the queen of the battlefield and now it was one of the supporting arms that had to work in concert with the artillery and the armor and air. combined arms warfare, no longer infantry warfare. i come out with a hefty does of admiration for american infantry, particularly, the way it learned to stand up to a german panzer attack. i agree and what we are seeing is incontrovertible fact about skimming. i'm not sure it is proved to be as important as the overall shaping of the u.s. forces. >> we have a question upstairs. >> hi, bill.
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and i'm a retired premium veterans army. >> we have to talk. >> in 1978, we had several conversations because he went to gunnery school before vietnam and battlefield commission in europe after d-day and you covered all of the basis. i was going to save my remark until the end. he told me about africa and the kasserine, he was not at the kasserine pass battle but he was in north africa and until the end of the fighting, they went to sicily, italy and d-day. artillery, and he said we had the training. just like the training armor did. we put it to work. what you said earlier, i'm going to reemphasize, they looked at their boots and said, wow, i'm here in the sound. 800 to 1,000 miles back to the
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atlantic and further from home and i can't swim that far. >> that's good. >> you have to remember the old guys and how they grew up. i'm son of a world war ii vet, younger brother served and i'm 10 years younger than the guys who would have been in vietnam. i have the same mentality as my dad and uncle. whenever i serve some place, i tell my guys, we'll figure a way out because we are here and some way somehow. my uncle says, they mention in the history books, we got our noses blooded at kasserine, my uncle says we got our behinds whipped, keeping it clean. >> thank you. >> the old guys, they hated to lose a fight. hated to lose anything. that's why we do it. a lot of this in our society
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today, e changed. i hate to say. i haven't and a lot of people here haven't. back then, we were going to fight and we were going to win -- >> bill, i'm going to get to a question. >> i was going to save it, but now i can open my mind. >> we appreciate your comments. >> i think one thing the american military forces had, whether it was the army or navy all through force. americans are improvisers so yeah, our early battles don't go well is and thank god we had the atlantic and pacific oceans on the side. and eventually we figure it out. sooner rather than later. think about the germans, which i do a lot. they are good early. they think about war a lot. the world war i and two armies, during peacetime.
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their campaigns are front-loaded hitting you every which way. that's a wasting asset as you are in contact with the germans. you get to learn something about the way they make war and pick up pointers. and you are able to use those less sons you are learning in the early defeats to go onto victory. i would rather be the force that has ultimate victory than the one who gets style points early on in the war. as they won their share of style points. >> there we go. >> hi. as you said, the british started disastrously and we are in retreat quickly, what was the relationship between the brits and the u.s. at this point in north africa? >> yeah. it's -- we famously say this was the closest wartime alliance of all time. i would support that. i think it was of all time.
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tactical and operational, strategic planning, regular get to togethers and the soviet union was the ally. now having said that, official policy was the closest military alliance of all time and the two forces, army now, the armies in north africa. different policies and procedures and different kind of culture. there's a stereo type about the americans, hopeless amateurs, weighed in without thinking and ran away. the british, they are slow and overly methodical, i can't tell you the number of u.s. service personnel said that the british army stopped for tea in the middle of a battle. i had a hard time finding the records of this. maybe on some level. that was the stereotype of both sides had. you can find british officers in north africa, both before and up to kasserine who would sometimes
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refer to the american army as our italians. you probably know. that's unfair to everybody. by the way, i give you a long diskwi sigs of the fighting -- for a force that was lightly equipped or big banging warfare, gave a better account. and it is unfair to the italians and americans and it is a silly comment anyway. but -- those sorts of things. there were tensions on the lower levels and occasionally, montgomery rubbed every american he met the wrong way. there was something in his dna in the american dna, american officer in montgomery could not be in the same room without getting angry with one another. >> -- >> something specific to montgomery. good point. the next big campaign, sicily
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and the hostility between american and british troops was expressed in the most vivid possible terms including salty language by general patent which i would love to say right now if he were not on c-span. [ laughter ] >> that was his m. o. a very famous account that eisenhower given the u.s. officers, he called a british officer you -- and the officer said, i couldn't. i got carried away. i didn't mind that you called him that, but did you have to call him that. in orde in other words, there's going to be disagreements. we are going to blow up on each
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other sometimes, but we can't -- without britain as an unsinkable aircraft carrier, we can't inprovide. it is obviouses and strategy 101. interally tensions. a big battle in december. when the allies realized they lost the race to tunis. british unit takes the hill on christmas eve and relieved by an american force and gets attacked and loses the hill and same force had to trudge back up the hill on christmas to bail out their friends. that was not a happy moment in the alliance and there's many more like that in the campaign. >> rob, this is the first session. i'm going to be the bad cop. the gentlemen in the green shirt will get the first question for the round table discussion.
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i promise. martin has to close out and get to the next session. >> great group. thank you very much. [ applause ] here is a look at the prime time programming. "american history tv" tonight starts with the 75th anniversary of the battle of kasserine pass during world war ii. a discussion at the national world war ii museum in new orleans for military his store i don't know robert citino on the pass in tunisia in february, 1943, american histy tv prime time begins at 7:00 eastern. a look at recent fairs and festivals, including a discussion on immigration and race relations from the festival of books. former senior editor, and then a discussion on political candidates and elections from
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the 2018 writers festival in california. from the savannah book festival, offering communication strategy psychiatries in her book, "we need to talk" and from the festy call, catherine smith talks about her book, "the gatekeeper" and the experiencing on isis. you will hear from victor blu. human rights and the protection of civilians and mitch, a retired lieutenant kernel who transitioned from to a new career. reporting on war, conflict and disaster. here is a preview. this is a still, a photo from my phone. the rebel and the foreground is the armor isis military car
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boem. a suicide vehicle born improvised explosive device. s-vbid. detonated improvised explosive device, an s-vbid. debt tated and proviced and explosive was just meters away from the blast. and expecting the rubble, the isis fighter driving the vehicle and not only a suicide car bomb, but he was wearing a suicide vest and he had a folding stock ak-47 with six magazines so that if the car broke down, he would run out towards the good guys and detonate himself, and if it did not detonate, he had an a o automatic weapon. he was ready to die. i will tell you, that most of him was splattered against a wall laying in the courtyard and i sat and talked to him for a
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few minutes. and it was interesting if you have not been to costco at the meat department, but what was left of him, i said, what are you seeing now and where are you? what are you experiencing? are you where you thought that you would be? and he didn't answer back, because he had half of a face, but it is interesting to be that close to the evil and how wil g willing he was to be. >> that is a short portion of tonig tonight's conversation with two photojournalists on their experiences covering the battle against isis in the iraqi city of mosul. you can watch the entire interview at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and the commanders of world
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war ii tonight, you can see the world war ii battalion interviews. this is about 40 minutes.


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