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Air Attack at Hunt’s Gap

The following correspondent’s report from the UP (United Press) describes the fighting at Hunt’s Gap in Tunisia in February-March 1943. Compare this account of the battle to the German commander Oberst. Rudolf Lang’s account and British observer Howard Marshall’s account.

BRITISH BOMBER SCORES AGAINST 6 GERMAN TANKS
Northern Tunisia Fighters Receiving Allied Air Support

BY EDWARD W. BEATTIE

ON THE NORTHERN TUNISIAN FRONT, March 1.—(UP)—There were six enemy tanks—big boys, probably Mark VI’s—massed north of the Mateur-Beja road when a bomber went in and dropped two bombs squarely into the middle of them.

British soldiers threw their helmets into the air and cheered. And well they might, for troops in this area never before had such air support as they are now receiving.

The British bombers caught Rommel’s supply columns in a narrow valley above. Beja Sunday. There was a thick fog lying across the valley and it was not an ideal day for bombing.

But, starting at dawn, the Allied bombers made eight sorties low into the valley and when they got through, the hair-pin road along which the Axis transport was concentrated was pock-marked with bomb craters.

Enemy Immobilized

I talked to the returning pilots and they said most of the enemy vehicles were stationary and some of them immobilized by the fury of the Allied attack.

The Germans threw an attack against Allied lines above Beja Sunday, using about 10 Mark IV tanks. British Churchill tanks rolled out to oppose them and knocked out three and perhaps four of the Mark IV’s. A heavier enemy attack may come, however, because a force of about 30 German tanks was seen just off the Beja road.

Allied air power was thrown against the Germans as early as Saturday, and ground troops then reoccupied two important positions.

The British early Saturday morning took Fort McGregor—named after a young American lieutenant from Brooklyn—south of Medjez-El-Bab. The American garrison of Fort McGregor was withdrawn some time ago.

British Surprise

The Germans took it Friday. Crack German tank forces and other elements penetrated through a dry river bed to the south. The British surprised them with a counterattack, killed 40 and captured 60.

The British reoccupied Tally-Ho corner after the Germans withdrew into the hills east of the Medjez-El-Bab – El-Aroussa road during the night. When darkness came Saturday, the British were mopping up a few remnants halfway along the road.

The attack toward Beja made little progress Saturday, and was heavily bombed and shelled. The Germans sent forces of roughly a battalion (1,000 men) through the hills between the Beja-Mateur and Beja-Medjez-El-Bab road, intending to cut around the latter around over Zarga. By Saturday night, the battalion had not been in contact with the British, although artillery had shelled the Germans heavily.

Germans Use Planes

The Germans have been using their planes liberally to attack Allied positions and shoot up transport behind the front. They attacked Tally-Ho corner three times without much result.

Roughly, it was estimated the Germans threw 13 battalions (13,000 men), with supporting troops of two divisions (perhaps 30,000 men) into the action on the northern front, but paradoxically, fighting was more restricted Saturday than the day before.

Of an estimated 50 German and Italian tanks involved, It was estimated that at least 15 to 20 have been knocked out.

 

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1 comment to Air Attack at Hunt’s Gap

  • dean

    Interesting – both accounts talk about the missing German battalion sent over the mountains to outflank the British.

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