Yank Army defeated near Algerian border (2-18-43)

Brooklyn Eagle (February 18, 1943)

Yank Army defeated

Nazis seize three towns near Algerian border

Allied HQ, North Africa (UP) –
German armored forces, slashing to within 14 miles of the Algerian border, have driven U.S. troops from three more towns and the Berlin radio broadcast an announcement today that the High Command now considers the Tunisian offensive ended.

The first reaction here at Allied headquarters to the Berlin announcement was that Marshal Erwin Rommel was not willing to risk further, advance westward in the face of the threat of the British 8th Army, which is rolling up toward his flank from the south.

Meanwhile, a London dispatch said, the German armored forces which attacked U.S. forces were menaced from the rear by the advancing British 8th Army, which entered Medenine, outpost of the Mareth Line, and prepared to hurdle that town in pursuit of Rommel’s rear guard.

U.S. troops, evacuating the towns of Kasserine, Fériana and Sbeitla, retired to strong defensive positions in the 4,000-foot hills west of the triangle formed by the three communities.

Yank casualties heavy

U.S. casualties were reported to have been heavy and our forces were believed to have abandoned a considerable amount of equipment.

The drive which resulted in the capture of Fériana enabled the Germans almost to cut clear across the waist of Tunisia. Fériana is 14 miles from the Algerian border.

Nazis gain 30 miles

The twin thrusts of the Germans against the American lines has now gained a total of about 50 miles in the southern sector and 30 miles in the northern.

Some U.S. troops have already reached the hills west of Fériana, it was said, and now are busy regrouping their forces for a determined stand on the high ground.

The communiqué said:

Fighting was on a reduced scale yesterday. Our fighters were active throughout the day over southern Tunisia. Our heavy and medium bombers attacked enemy airfields in Sardinia. At one airfield bombs burst close to a number of grounded aircraft. Four enemy fighters and one Italian seaplane were shot down by our bombers and their fighter escorts.

Five of our aircraft are missing from these operations. During last night a few enemy aircraft dropped bombs in the Algiers area. There was a small number of casualties and some damage to buildings.

It was said that the Americans made little, if any, attempt to defend Fériana, Kasserine and Sbeitla. Rather, it was an evacuation designed to get the U.S. troops into a better defensive position.

British enter Mareth ‘Verdun’

London, England (UP) –
German armored forces, menaced from the rear by the advancing British 8th Army, have overrun the American defense triangle hinged on Fériana, Kasserine and Sbeitla in central Tunisia, it was announced today.

African communiqués reported British entry of Medenine, outpost of the Mareth Line, which the 8th Army was preparing to hurdle in pursuit of Rommel’s rear guard.

A broadcast Italian communiqué said U.S. planes smashed at Cagliari, Sardinia, killing 100 persons and injuring 235 in a blow against the Tunisian supply lines.

Gen. Sir Bernard L. Montgomery’s veterans, after entering Medenine, “Verdun of the Mareth Line,” were aiming at the heart of that Tunisian bulwark.

Medenine, 63 miles from the Tunisian border, is on the edge of the Mareth Line, which runs along the Mahatma Mountains from Fum Tatawin, 24 miles below Medenine, through a strongpoint at Toujane to Mareth, just below the port of Gabes.

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Tunisia toll heavy, Stimson reveals

Washington (UP) –
Secretary of War Stimson said today that outnumbered U.S. forces had lost considerable ground and suffered substantial losses in recent fighting in Tunisia but that “the Germans apparently have been slowed down.”

Exclusive of this fighting, he placed U.S. Army casualties thus far in all theaters at a total of 41,858.

He said at a press conference that the German attacks in Tunisia, which drove U.S. troops back 35 miles, did not appear to be a general offensive although “the fighting is continuing.” The Axis purpose, he added, apparently was to expand their corridor between northern Tunisia and the Mareth Line in the south.

Sees Yanks relieved

The British 8th Army is moving against the Mareth Line in operations which, Stimson said, may tend to relieve the hard-pressed Americans.

Stimson said in reviewing the fighting:

We thus have suffered a serious local setback in Tunisia. The importance should not be minimized and still less should not be exaggerated. It is one of the battle losses which must be expected in a battle as extensive as the occupation of North Africa which has already encountered substantial successes.

He said:

Many of our tanks were destroyed by German dive bombers.

Indications are that the Germans are employing two armored divisions against American forces. This is considerably greater than our strength in this area.

Exclusive of the current Tunisian fighting, Stimson said the Army has had 41,858 casualties thus far in the war. These losses, he said, break down into 3,553 killed, 6,509 wounded, 25,684 missing and 6,123 prisoners of war.

He said large numbers of the missing are from the Philippines and will probably turn up as prisoners of war when the lists come through the International Red Cross. About 12,600 of the missing are Philippine Scouts.

As for Tunisia, he said the present German successes were not an unexpected development.

Stimson said:

A large formation of Rommel’s forces were able to concentrate against the relatively more lightly held and more extended American lines.