Operation Ausladung

unloading

This was a German advance by Generalmajor Hasso-Eccard Freiherr von Manteuffel’s Division 'von Manteuffel' of Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim’s (from 28th February General Gustav von Vaerst’s) 5th Panzerarmee toward Djebel Abiod in the Sedjenane valley area of Tunisia as part of 'Ochsenkopf' (i) (26 February/1 April 1943).

In February 1943 Generale d’Armata Vittorio Ambrosio, the Italian chief-of-staff, believed that the 'Frühlingswind' and 'Morgenluft' offensives into the Dorsale Occidentale mountains had inflicted heavy land and air losses on Lieutenant General K. A. N. Anderson’s Allied 1st Army, especially in the fighting for the Kasserine Pass, and thus ordered von Arnim to concentrate the efforts of his 5th Panzerarmee farther to the south against General Sir Bernard Montgomery’s British 8th Army with harassing attacks while at the same time preparing to push the Axis line of the Axis lodgement farther to the west in northern Tunisia. von Arnim received approval from Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring, the Oberbefehlshaber 'Süd', although without first consulting Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel, commander of Heeresgruppe 'Afrika', to ignore Ambrosio’s orders for harassing raids and instead make a greater effort in the north with a pair of complementary operations. These were 'Ochsenkopf' (i) by Generalleutnant Felix Weber’s Korpsgruppe 'Weber' (centred on Weber’s own 334th Division) in the direction of Gafour, Téboursouk and Béja, and farther to the north 'Ausladung' by the Division 'von Manteuffel' against Djebel Abiod.

von Arnim’s concept was tactically sound inasmuch as a German success in the two operations, which were known collectively to Axis higher command levels as 'Ochsenkopf' (i), would have deprived the Allied 1st Army of the good tank country between Medjez el Bab and Tunis.

'Ausladung' started on 26 February as the Division 'von Manteuffel' advanced against Brigadier B. Howlett’s (from 16 March Brigadier R. E. H. Stott’s) British 139th Brigade of Major General H. A. Freeman-Attwood’s inexperienced British 46th Division. The Axis force, fighting in three Kampfgruppen (Kampfgruppe 'Latini' in the north, Kampfgruppe 'Jefna' in the south and Kampfgruppe 'Barenthin' in reserve), made some progress, but it was a slow and costly progress as the German division took El Aouna on 1 March, Sedjenane on 4 March and Tamera on 17 March, and the Division 'von Manteuffel' had been checked by 19 March, although sporadic fighting continued until 1 April as the German and Italian forces were driven back to their start lines after a British counterattack had been launched on 29 March.