The Battle of Kasserine Pass—actually a series of battles in February 1943 when raw American troops had their first major battlefield encounters with the German army—has long ranked as one of the worst disasters ever suffered by the United States Army. Inexperienced and nervous GIs, overwhelmed and beset by rumors and chaos, abandoned their positions, destroyed their supplies, clogged roads in headlong flight, or simply melted away in the night. In 10 days, panicked American forces were hurled back 50 miles, losing 183 tanks and nearly 7,000 men, including 300 killed and 3,000 missing.
“Even these many years later,” General Omar Bradley wrote shortly before his death in 1981, “it pains me to reflect
on that disaster. It was probably the worst performance of U.S. Army troops in their whole proud history.” To Americans back home, wrote historian Martin Blumenson, “the event was incredible. It shook the foundations of their faith, extinguished the glowing excitement that anticipated quick victory, and, worst of all, raised doubt that the righteous necessarily triumphed.”
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