12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 23, 2006
The painful defeat of the US Army in the battle of Kasserine Pass is recounted by Blumenson with exceptional clarity and powerful prose. The author is very critical of some commanders )like Lloyd Fredendall of course) but he pays tribute to other American officers who fought with exemplary courage. The book covers more heavily the US side than the German but it remains one of the best for anyone who wants to analyze that terrible campaign. There is a useful background to the battle, with reference to the status of the old French colonies in North Africa and some material for the role of the British Army. Blumenson prefers to write history seeing the big picture but he does not ommit the view of the common soldier and his experiences. The book loses the fifth star because it does not contain enough maps (although the necessary to follow the action are included) and most of the times the various units are not described with their official designation, for example there is Lt Colonel X's battalion but not its number. There are some black and white photographs of rather mediocre quality.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on October 24, 2007
Rommel's carreer has always fascinated me. He seems to personify the near perfect leader, although he of course has his flaws. His own account (Rommel Papers) of the Battle of Kasserine is a fascinating story and this book by mr. Blumenson adds perfectly. It gives a good account of the activities from the staff down to the common soldier, but only for the U.S. side. No personal German accounts are used and the scope of vision is never switched to this side, except for the commanders. This gives a rather impersonal ghost-like picture of these "professional veterans". Hence the four stars instead of five. Kasserine Pass has been a wonderful read and a thrilling experience.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2010
This narrative is American driven and consumes much of the book but the other four combatants - British, French, German and Italian- are still reasonably represented. Since Kasserine Pass, Kern's Crossroads, Thala, Hamra and Tebessa are in the American sector. where much of the action is, it seems reasonable the Americans receive the greatest attention. I learned more from this book than the other three books read on the topic. Without being caustic, Mr Blumenson clearly describes the problems a new army never in battle faces. The US II Corps' commander, MG Fredendall, as well as his troops were new to battle and the chain of command and the commanders' control of their troops were sometimes found wanting. Their tactical decisions weren't always the best. Besides Fredendall's lack of battle experience, his personal idiosyncrasies were also detrimental to the cause.
Before starting the battle action, a deliberate introduction is provided that starts with Operation Torch landings on French North African soil and the delicate negotiations by Eisenhower and Clark with Darlan. The French were still angry with the British for sinking their key ships and killing their sailors back in July 1940 and it was a major accomplishment to succeed with the landings with little loss of life. Once landed, the author moves on to build profiles of some of the key commanders. With Eisenhower stationed in western Algeria, Fredendall will receive a lot of the attention and there is much warranted criticism bestowed on his command ability. Anderson of the British army is next in line for review then Juin of the French forces. There is much discussion of the friction and command differences of Rommel and von Arnim on the axis side. The lack of a clear cut command structure for the Axis and the interference of Mussolini as well as the hatred and jealousy of Arnim for Rommel will be major stumbling blocks that will cause the Germans to fail in taking the Western Dorsal.
Throughout the book there are probably 20 commanders down to company level that are covered. The inclusion of these key people during battle is what makes the book as good as it is. After the people, the key battle sites, the distances and relationships to each other and the rugged terrain is then covered. Maps, presented throughout the book along with these descriptions, help the reader follow the narrative and understand the significance of each of the battles. The combination of extensive coverage of the key commanders, chain of command and an accurate description of the key towns, passes and battlefields prior to the campaign allows the reader to gain a better appreciation of this relatively complex campaign.
The battle for Kasserine Pass was actually a small portion of the offensive. The Axis offensive started days earlier at Faid, Pichon, Fondouk and moves on to Sbiba, Sbeitla, Sidi bou Zid, Lessouda, Ksaira. In the southern sector, Gafsa, Marknassy, Sened, Feriana, Thelepte, Bou Chebka, El Abiod and Tebessa are discussed. You then have Kasserine, Kasserine Pass, Kern's Crossroads, Thala, Hamra.
The battle action while not in exacting detail was very good and was presented in interesting prose. Since defensive positions were so important for the Allies, the author presents an interesting sidebar on the different mines, constructing and placement and protection of mine fields. It is also shown how poor supply lines caused great troubles for the Allies despite General Eisenhower working hard to improve them.
Its also shown that the British, French and the Americans couldn't work closely together, that each commander was more worried of his position and troops at the expense of the others. This relationship won't be improved much for the rest of the war.
In Aftermath the cost of the campaign is presented for both sides. The Axis had relatively few casualties while the Americans had much heavier casualties in men and tanks. A thorough evaluation was performed and much was learned. General Eisenhower quickly set out to have the shortcomings of the Americans and the other Allies rectified. New commanders replaced ones found wanting, new and improved equipment and tanks were sought and the men would have better training. The US intelligent officer had grossly misjudged Axis intent resulting in poor deployments and was replaced.
Rommel was physically and mentally burned out and was hesitant and over cautious. He was also angry how he was being treated. Ever since the defeat at El Alamein, Rommel's star had fallen drastically and he no longer had preferential treatment that he was used to.
After Rommel called off his offensive, the author briefly describes the last two months in Africa when Patton, Juin, Anderson and Montgomery closed in on the Axis. Also in Aftermath, the author briefly describes how key officers like Patton, Bradley, Anderson, Kesselring, Rommel and others fared throughout the rest of the war.
I found this book highly engaging and informative and is highly recommended for anybody wanting to read about the finally months of the war in North Africa.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
"Kasserine Pass" is an in depth study of the events leading up to and concluding with the battle of Kasserine Pass. The work is much broader than the title would indicate. Author Martin Blumenson sets the scene by describing the forces, military and political, Italian, German, French, American and British which would lead to the dramatic battle.
The real action of the book picks up when the focus of the forces shifts to Tunisia. Germany, looking for a victory to compensate for losses at El Alamein and in Russia, decided to take on the green Americans coming from the West. Blumenson tells how Rommel set up the attack and how American blunders set the Americans up for defeat. U. S. General Frendendhall is shown as having deployed many of his forces to hilltop locations where they could be isolated and destroyed. The fighting is shown as having occurred over about a month, not in a single, decisive battle. In a series of attacks, the Germans handed the Americans a thorough thrashing and a well heeded wake-up call.
Victory brought Gen. Rommel little to celebrate. In the wake of victory, German supplies to North Africa were restricted to support other theatres. Rommel was called back to Germany to be saved for battles to come.
For the Americans, George Patton was brought forward to remold the ruined units into the army that would drive across Africa and Sicily.
Martin Blumenson's work is a well written account. It provides a detailed account of the personalities and events involved in the first major American battle of the War. Of particular interest is the occasional reference to prior armies, particularly Carthaginian, who had fought over the same ground. This is an enjoyable and valuable resource for anyone with an interest in the North African theatre of World War II.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 28, 2013
This review is based on an older edition (Tower, date obliterated) so perhaps the later edition has maps. I would have given a 5-star review, but the lack of any maps at all to go with the very complex group of locations pivotal to the military activity is simply inexcusable. I had to dowload 3 different maps from the internet and still wasn't able to find all the sites mentioned. As a result, it was very hard to get a good picture of who was doing what where.
Having said this, the writing is excellent, the flow and pace quick and fluid, the characterizations detailed (Fredendall, in particular, was beyond belief) and the descriptions vivid and gripping. Altogether a great read and a compelling story, well told. It motivates the reader to do further research into the bios and careers of some of the military figures mentioned.
Oddly, my copy had a headline on the back cover: "Patton's Greatest Victory." But Patton was only mentioned a couple of times in passing, and at no time was any action or order by him discussed or described. Name recognition for PR purposes? Totally unnecessary in this excellent book.
Also oddly, the product description on Amazon says that "the author explains why Dwight D. Eisenhower and George S. Patton, previously untested, emerged as important military leaders." In fact, this book does nothing of the kind. But it really doesn't matter."