Operation Tunisia Campaign

The 'Tunisia Campaign' took the form of a series of battles as the Allied forces (primarily British, French and US) fought to expel the last Axis forces (German and Italian) from their final foothold in North Africa (17 November 1942/13 May 1943).

The campaign began with initial success by the Axis forces, but the Allies' massive supply interdiction efforts led ultimately and inexorably to the decisive defeat of the Axis powers. More than 250,000 German and Italian troops were taken prisoner, this figure including most of the Deutsches Afrika Korps.

The first two years of the 'Western Desert Campaign' in North Africa had been characterised by chronic supply shortages and transport problems. The North African coast possesses few natural harbours and the British base at Alexandria on the western edge of the Nile river delta is some 1,300 miles (2090 km) by road from the main Italian port at Tripoli in the Italian colony of Libya. Smaller ports at Benghazi and Tobruk were are 650 and 400 miles (1045 and 645 km) respectively to the west of Alexandria on the Litoranea Balbo (Via Balbia) road, which ran along a narrow coastal corridor. Control of the central Mediterranean was contested by the British and Italian navies, which were equally matched and exerted a reciprocal constraint supply through Alexandria, Tripoli, Benghazi and Tobruk, although the British could supply Egypt via the long route south through the Atlantic, round the Cape of Good Hope, north through the Indian Ocean and finally into the Red Sea and thence the Suez Canal.

The chronic difficulty in the supply of military forces in the desert led to several indecisive victories by both sides and long fruitless advances along the coast. The Italian 'Operazione 'E'' invasion of Egypt by the 10a Armata in September 1940 advanced some 60 miles (100 km) into Egypt and more than 1,000 miles (1610 km) in a straight line from Tripoli, 370 miles (600 km) from Benghazi and 200 miles (320 km) from Tobruk. The British Western Desert Force fought a delaying action as it fell back to Mersa Matruh, then began 'Compass', a raid and counterattack into Libya. The 10a Armata was destroyed and the Western Desert Force occupied El Agheila, some 600 miles (965 km) from Alexandria. With the arrival of the German force of the Deutsches Afrika Korps, the Axis counterattacked in 'Sonnenblume' and in April 1941 reached the limit of their supply capacity at the Egyptian border, but failed to recapture Tobruk.

In November 1941 the British 8th Army recovered, helped by the short supply distance from Alexandria to the front line, and launched 'Crusader', lifting the 'Siege of Tobruk' in the process, and again reached El Agheila. The 8th Army was soon pushed back to Gazala, to the west of Tobruk, and in the 'Battle of Gazala' in May 1942, the Axis pushed the 8th Army all the way back to El Alamein, only 100 miles (160 km) from Alexandria. In 1942, the Royal Navy and Italian navy were still disputing control of the Mediterranean Sea, but the British hold on the island bastion of Malta, and intelligence from 'Ultra', allowed the Royal Air Force to sink more Italian supply ships. Large quantities of supplies became available to the British from the USA from this time onward, and the 8th Army’s supply situation was thus resolved. With the 8th Army no longer constrained, the Axis were driven westwards from Egypt following the '2nd Battle of El Alamein' in November 1942.

In July 1942, the Allies discussed relatively small-scale amphibious operations to land forces in northern France during 1942 ('Sledgehammer', which was the forerunner of 'Roundup', the main landings considered for 1943), but agreed that these operations were impractical and should be deferred. Instead it was agreed that landings would be made to secure the Vichy French territories in North Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and then to thrust east to take the Axis forces in the Western Desert in their rear. The Allied occupation of the whole North African coast would open the Mediterranean Sea to Allied shipping, releasing the huge capacity required to maintain supplies around the circuitous route via the Cape of Good Hope. On 8 November, 'Torch' landed Allied forces in Algeria (at Oran and Algiers) and in Morocco (at Casablanca) with the intention that once the Vichy French forces in Algeria had capitulated, an advance would be made to Tunis, some 500 miles (800 km) to the east.

Because of the proximity of the Italian island of Sicily to Tunisia across the 'narrows', the Allies expected that the Axis would move to occupy the country as soon as they learned of the 'Torch' landings, and to forestall this eventuality it would be necessary to occupy Tunisia as quickly as possible after the 'Torch' landings had been made. However, there was a limit to how far to the east the 'Torch' landings could be made because of the increasing proximity of Axis airfields in Sicily and Sardinia, which at the end of October 1942 held 298 German and 574 Italian aircraft. Algiers was accordingly chosen as the location for easternmost landings. This would ensure the success of the initial landings in spite of uncertainty as to how the incumbent Vichy French forces would react. Once Algiers had been secured, the small Eastern Task Force would be projected as quickly as possible into Tunisia in a race to occupy Tunis, some 500 miles (800 km) distant along poor roads in difficult terrain during the winter rainy season, before the Axis powers could organise their defence of Tunisia.

The Allied planners had to assume the worst case regarding the extent of Vichy French opposition at Algiers, so the invasion convoys were assault-loaded with a preponderance of infantry to cope with the possibility of heavy ground opposition. This meant that at Algiers the disembarkation of mobile forces for an advance to Tunisia would necessarily be delayed. The Allied plans were therefore a compromise, and the Allies realised that an overland attempt to reach Bizerte and Tunis before the Axis powers could establish themselves represented a gamble which depended on the ability of the navy and air force to delay the Axis build-up. The Allies, although they had provided for the possibility of strong Vichy French opposition to their landings both in terms of infantry and air force allocations, seriously underestimated the Axis appetite for and speed of intervention in Tunisia.

Once operations had started, and despite clear intelligence reports regarding the Axis reaction, the Allies were slow to respond and it was not until nearly two weeks after the landings that air and naval plans were made to interdict Axis sea transport to Tunis. At the end of November, the British Force 'K' naval detachment was re-formed in Malta with three light cruisers and four destroyers and Force 'Q' was formed in Bône with three light cruisers and two destroyers. No Axis ships sailing to Tunis were sunk in November, but the Allied naval forces had some success early in December, sinking seven Axis transports. However, this came too late to affect the fighting on land because the armoured elements of Generalleutnant Wolfgang Fischer (from 1 February 1943 Generalleutnant Friedrich Freiherr von Broich’s) 10th Panzerdivision had already arrived. To counter the surface threat, Axis convoys were switched to daylight when they could be protected by Axis aircraft, simultaneously denying the Allies the advantage of exploiting their superior radar in night surface combat. Night convoys resumed on completion of the extension of Axis minefields which severely restricted the activities of Force 'K' and Force 'Q'.

Tunisia is said to be shaped like a pregnant woman, with its northern and much of its eastern boundary (the head and belly) on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Most of the inland western border with Algeria (the back) lies astride the eastern line of the Atlas mountain range, which runs from the Atlantic Ocean coast of Morocco 1,200 miles (1930 km) eastward to Tunis. This portion of the border is easily defensible at the small number of passes through the mountains' two north/south lines. In the south a lower range of mountains limit the approaches to a narrow gap, facing Libya to the east, between the Matmata hills and the coast. The French had earlier constructed a series of defensive works, 12 miles (20 km) wide and 19 miles (30 km) deep and known as the 'Ligne Mareth' along the plain, to defend against any Italian invasion from Libya.

Only in the north of Tunisia was the terrain favourable to attack. Here the Atlas mountain range ends near the eastern coast, leaving a large area on the north-west coast unprotected. Defensive lines in the north could deal with approaching forces, while the 'Ligne Mareth' made the south secure. In between, there are only a few easily defended passes through the Atlas mountain range. Tunisia has two major deep-water ports, at Tunis and Bizerte, and these lay only a few hundred miles from Italian supply bases in Sicily. Ships could deliver supplies at night, safe from Allied air patrols, and return on the following night, while the passage to any Libya port was a full-day trip, making supply operations vulnerable to daylight air attacks. In the estimation of Adolf Hitler, the German leader, Tunisia could be held indefinitely, thereby upsetting Allied plans for landings in and operations on the European mainland.

By 10 November, Vichy French opposition to the 'Torch' landings had ceased, creating a military vacuum in Tunisia. Lieutenant General K. A. N. Anderson’s 1st Army, notionally British but in fact Allied, was immediately ordered to send Brigadier A. L. Kent-Lemon’s (from 17 December 1942 Brigadier B. Howlett’s) British 36th Brigade Group, which had been the floating reserve for the Algiers landing, eastward by sea to occupy the Algerian ports of Bougie, Philippeville, and Bône, as well as the airfield at Djedjelli, as the first step in the Allied advance into Tunisia. As noted above, the Combined Chiefs-of-Staff had decided that with the forces available 'Torch' would not include landings close to Tunisia. Anderson needed to get his limited force to the east as quickly as possible in an effort to prevent any Axis reinforcement Tunisia, but the Allies had only two brigade groups and some additional armour and artillery for the attack. (After the event, Anderson and Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, the Allied naval commander, expressed the view that without landings to the east of Algiers, the race for Tunis was lost even before it had begun. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commander-in-chief of the Allied Force Headquarters in North Africa, when accepting the Combined Chiefs-of-Staff ruling, pointed out that the decision not to land only to the east of Algiers removed the early capture of Tunis 'from the realm of the probable to the remotely possible'.)

The Vichy French governor in Tunisia, Amiral Jean-Pierre Esteva, was afraid to support the Allies or to oppose the Axis, and therefore closed the Tunisian airfields to neither side. The Germans moved first and by 9 November, there were reports of 40 German aircraft arriving at Tunis and by 10 November, aerial reconnaissance reported 100 aircraft. Two days later, there began an airlift which carried over 15,000 men and 581 tons of supplies, while ships delivered 176 tanks, 131 pieces of artillery, 1,152 vehicles and 13,000 tons of supplies. By the end of the month, three German divisions, including the 10th Panzerdivision, and two Italian infantry divisions had arrived. General Walther Nehring took command of the new XC Corps on 12 November and arrived on 17 November. The Vichy French military commander in Tunisia, Général de Division Georges Edmond Lucien Barré, moved troops into the western mountains of Tunisia and formed a defensive line from Tebersouk through Medjez el Bab.

There were two roads eastward from Algeria into Tunisia, and the Allied plan was to advance along both of these to take Bizerte and Tunis. On 11 November, the 36th Brigade had landed unopposed at Bougie, but supply shortages delayed its arrival at Djedjelli until 13 November. Bône airfield was occupied following a parachute drop by British 3/Parachute Regiment, and this unit was followed by No. 6 Commando seizing the port on 12 November. Advanced guards of the 36th Brigade reached Tebarka on 15 November and three days later the Djebel Abiod, where it met Axis forces. Farther to the south, on 15 November, a US parachute battalion made an unopposed drop at Youks les Bains, capturing the airfield and then advancing to take the airfield at Gafsa on 17 November.

On 19 November, Nehring demanded passage for his forces across the bridge at Medjez el Bab but was refused by Barré. The Germans attacked twice and were repulsed, but the French defensive success was costly, and lacking armour and artillery, the French had to withdraw. Some Vichy French forces, such as that of Barré, then switched sides to join the Allies. But the attitude of Vichy French forces remained uncertain until on 22 November, when the 'Darlan Deal' with Amiral de la Flotte Jean Louis Xavier François Darlan, the high commissioner of France in Africa, placed French North Africa on the Allied side. This allowed US and British forces hitherto needed to secure Algeria to be redeployed to the front. By this time, the Axis had deployed a corps in Tunisia and outnumbered the Allies there in almost all ways.

Two Allied brigade groups advanced toward Djebel Abiod and Béja respectively. The Luftwaffe, happy to have local air superiority while Allied aircraft had to operate from relatively distant bases in Algeria, harassed them all the way. On 17 November, the day on which Nehring arrived, the leading elements of the 36th Brigade on the northern road met a mixed force of 17 tanks and 400 paratroopers with self-propelled guns at Djebel Abiod. The German paratroopers, with Luftwaffe and Italian fire support from the 1a Divisione fanteria 'Superga', knocked out 11 tanks but their advance was halted while the fight at Djebel Abiod continued for nine days. On 22 November, tanks from the Italian 50a Brigata forced US paratroopers to abandon Gafsa. The two Allied columns concentrated at Djebel Abiod and Béja, preparing for an assault on 24 November. The 36th Brigade was to advance from Djebel Abiod toward Mateur and Brigadier E. E. E. Cass’s British 11th Brigade was to move down the valley of the Merjerda river to take Medjez el Bab and then to Tebourba, Djedeida and Tunis. 'Blade' Force, an armoured regimental group made up of 37-mm gunned M3 Stuart light tanks and 75-mm (2.95-in) M3 self-propelled anti-tank guns, was to strike across country on minor roads in the gap between the two infantry brigades towards Sidi Nsir and make flanking attacks on Terbourba and Djedeida.

The northern attack did not take place because torrential rain had slowed the build-up. In the south the 11th Brigade was halted by stiff resistance at Medjez el Bab. 'Blade' Force passed through Sidi Nsir to reach the Chouigui Pass, to the north of Tebourba, and some of B Squadron’s Stuart light tanks infiltrated behind the Axis lines to the newly activated air base at Djedeida in the afternoon and destroyed more than 20 Axis aircraft before, for lack of infantry support, withdrawing to Chouigui. The understrength tank squadrons and three M3 self-propelled guns were to hold the pass against a mixed unit of PzKpfw III medium tanks, PzKpfw IV battle tanks and a small Italian scouting force, with some 15 tanks. Frontal attacks by the self-propelled guns and Stuart light tanks were ineffective, 'Blade' Force losing 12 tanks, but allowed a rear attack by B Squadron firing into the weaker rear armour of the German tanks. Believing he had encountered a much stronger force, the German commander ordered a retreat. The attack of 'Blade' Force attack caught Nehring by surprise and he decided to withdraw from Medjez el Bab and strengthen Djedeida, only 19 miles (30 km) from Tunis. The 36th Brigade’s delayed attack began on 26 November, but the brigade was ambushed and the leading battalion took 149 casualties. Further attacks were driven back from cleverly planned interlocking defences. No. 1 Commando landed 14 miles (23 km) to the west of Bizerte on 30 November in order to outflank the Jefna position, but failed and had rejoined the 36th Brigade by 3 December. The position remained in German hands until the last days of fighting in Tunisia the following spring.

Early on 26 November, as the Germans pulled back, the 11th Brigade was able to enter Medjez el Bab without encountering opposition, and by a time late in the day had taken positions in and around Tebourba, which had also been evacuated by the Germans, and prepared to advance on Djedeida. However, on 27 November the Germans attacked in strength. The 11th Brigade tried to regain the initiative in the early hours of 28 November, attacking toward Djedeida airfield with the help of US armour, but failed. On 29 November, Combat Command B of Major General Orlando Ward’s US 1st Armored Division had concentrated forward for an attack in conjunction with 'Blade' Force planned for 2 December. The Allies were forestalled by an Axis counterattack led by Fischer, whose 10th Panzerdivision was newly arrived in Tunisia. By the evening of 2 December, 'Blade' Force had been withdrawn, leaving the 11th Brigade and Combat Command B to deal with the Axis attack, which threatened to cut off the 11th Brigade and break through into the Allied rear. Desperate fighting over four days delayed the Axis advance and permitted a controlled withdrawal to the high ground on each side of the river to the west of Terbourba.

The Allied force initially withdrew about 6 miles (9.7 km) to the high positions of Longstop Hill (Djebel el Ahmera) and Bou Aoukaz on each side of the river. Concern over the vulnerability to flanking attacks prompted a farther withdrawal to the west, however. By the end of 10 December, Allied units held a defensive line just to the east of Medjez el Bab, and here they began the build-up for another attack and were ready by a time late in December 1942. The slow build-up had brought Allied force levels up to a total of 54,000 British, 73,800 US and 7,000 French troops, and a hasty intelligence review showed that there were about 125,000 combat and 70,000 service troops, mostly Italian, in front of them. The main attack began the afternoon of 22 December. Despite rain and insufficient air cover, progress was made up the lower ridges of the 900-ft (275-m) Longstop Hill, which controlled the river corridor from Medjez el Bab to Tebourba and thence Tunis. After three days of to-and-fro fighting, with ammunition running low and Axis forces now holding adjacent high ground, the Longstop Hill position became untenable and the Allies were forced to withdraw to Medjez el Bab, and by 26 December the Allies had withdrawn to the line from which they had set out two weeks earlier, having suffered 20,743 casualties.

While the fighting wound down, factionalism again broke out among the French. On 24 December, Darlan was assassinated by an anti-Vichy French monarchist and Général d’Armée Henri Honoré Giraud succeeded him as high commissioner. To the frustration of the Free French, the US government had displayed considerable willingness to make a deal with Darlan and the Vichyists. Consequently, Darlan’s death appeared to present an opportunity to bring together the French in North Africa and Général de Brigade Charles de Gaulle’s Free French movement. de Gaulle and Giraud met late in January, but little progress was made in reconciling their differences or the constituencies they represented. It was not until June 1943 that the French Committee of National Liberation was formed under the joint chairmanship of Giraud and de Gaulle, who quickly eclipsed Giraud. The latter openly disliked political responsibility and more or less willingly from that time onward deferred to the Free French movement’s leader.

Considered by most to be an excellent commander, Nehring had continually infuriated his superiors with outspoken critiques. He was therefore replaced when the XC Corps became the 5th Panzerarmee, Generaloberst Hans-Jürgen von Arnim arrived in Tunis unannounced on 8 December to assume command. The 5th Panzerarmee comprised the composite Division 'von Broich in the Bizerte area, the 10th Panzerdivision in the centre in front of Tunis and Generale di Divisione Ferdinando Gelich’s 1a Divisione fanteria 'Superga' on the southern flank, but Hitler had told von Arnim that the army would grow to three mechanised and three motorised divisions. The Allies had tried to prevent the Axis build-up with substantial air and sea forces, but Tunis and Bizerte are a mere 120 miles (190 km) distant from the ports and airfields of western Sicily, 180 miles (290 km) from Palermo on the northern coast of Sicily, and 300 miles (485 km) from Naples on the western coast of the Italian mainland, making it very difficult to intercept Axis transports which had the benefit of substantial air cover. From the middle of November 1942 to January 1943, 243,000 men and 856,000 tons of supplies and equipment reached Tunisia by sea and air.

Eisenhower transferred more formations and units from Morocco and Algeria eastward into Tunisia. In the north, the British 1st Army, over the next three months, received three more British formations divisions (the 1st, 4th and 46th Divisions), joining the 6th Armoured Division and 78th Division. By a time late in March, the headquarters of Lieutenant General J. T. Crocker’s British IX Corps had arrived to join Lieutenant General C. W. Allfrey’s British V Corps in commanding the expanded army. On the British formations' right flank, the basis of Général d’Armée Alphonse Pierre Juin’s two-division French XIX Corps was assembling.

In the south was Fredendall’s US II Corps comprising Major General Terry de la M. Allen’s 1st Division, Major General Charles W. Ryder’s 34th Division and Ward’s 1st Armored Division (although the 34th Division was attached to the British IX Corps to the north). Giraud refused to have the French XIX Corps under the command of the 1st Army and so it, along with the US II Corps, remained under command of Allied Force Headquarters. New forward airfields were built to improve air support. The Americans also began the development of bases in Algeria and Tunisia, to form a large forward base at Maknassy on the eastern edge of the Atlas mountain range, well placed to cut off the Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee in the south from Tunis and the 5th Panzerarmee in the north.

During the first half of January, Anderson had with mixed results maintained constant pressure through limited attacks and reconnaissance in strength. von Arnim did the same, and on 18 January launched 'Eilbote I'. Elements of the 10th Panzerdivision and Generalmajor Fritz Krause’s 334th Division attacked from Pont du Fahs to create more space in front of the 1a Divisione fanteria 'Superga' and forestall an Allied thrust eastward to the coast at Enfidaville with the objet of severing the line of communication of Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel’s Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee. The westward thrust against the right wing of the British V Corps at Bou Arada had little success but farther to the south the attack against the French positions around the 'hinge' of the Dorsale Orientale and Dorsale Occidentale succeeded, advancing 35 miles (56 km) southward to Ousseltia and 25 miles (40 km) south-westward to Robaa. The poorly equipped defenders resisted well, but were overwhelmed and the equivalent of seven infantry battalions were cut off in the mountains. Anderson sent Howlett’s British 36th Brigade to Robaa and asked Fredendall to send Combat Command B of the US 1st Armored Division to Ousseltia, to come under Juin’s orders on arrival. Fierce fighting lasted until 23 January before the front stabilised.

It was now clear that there was a lack of Allied co-ordination, and this led Eisenhower, as the theatre commander, to revise the command structure. On 21 January Anderson was made responsible for the co-ordination of the whole front, and on 24 January his responsibilities were extended to include 'the employment of American troops'. That night, Juin accepted the command of Anderson, confirmed by Giraud on the following day, but with forces spread over a 200-mile (320-km) front and poor communications (Anderson motored more than 1,000 miles [1610 km] in four days to speak to his corps commanders) the practical difficulties remained. Eisenhower appointed an air support commander, Brigadier General Laurence S. Kuter, for the whole front on 21 January.

Rommel had made plans for his forces retreating through Libya to halt and prepare defences in front of the defunct French fortifications of the 'Ligne Mareth'. Thus the Axis forces would control the two natural entrances into Tunisia in the north and south, with only the easily defensible mountain passes between them. In January, those parts of the Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee on the 'Ligne Mareth' defences were renamed as Generale d’Armata Giovanni Messe’s Italian 1a Armata, a formation separate from those, including the remnants of the Deutsches Afrika Korps Rommel had deployed facing the Dorsale Occidentale. On 23 January, the 8th Army took Tripoli, by which time the Axis forces retreating through Libya were already well on their way to the 'Ligne Mareth' position. Part of the US II Corps crossed into Tunisia from Algeria through passes in the Atlas mountain range, controlling the interior of the triangle formed by the mountains. The position of these US forces raised the possibility of a thrust eastwards toward Sfax on the coast, to prevent the creation of any link between Messe’s 1a Armata in the south at Mareth and von Arnim’s 5th Panzerarmee in the north round Tunis. Rommel could not allow this and formed a plan for a spoiling attack.

On 30 January 1943, the 21st Panzerdivision and three Italian divisions of the 5th Panzerarmee met elements of the French forces near Faïd, the main pass from the eastern arm of the mountains into the coastal plain. Fredendall did not respond to the French request to send reinforcements in the form of armour of the 1st Armored Division, and after desperate resistance the poorly equipped French defenders were overrun. Several counterattacks, including a belated attack by Combat Command B of the 1st Armored Division, were organised but these were all beaten off with ease by von Arnim’s forces, which by this time had created strong defensive positions. After three days, the Allied forces had been forced to pull back and were withdrawn into the interior plains to make a new forward defensive line at the small town of Sbeitla.

In 'Frühlingswind', von Arnim ordered four armoured Kampfgruppen forward on 14 February into the area of Sidi Bou Zid held by the US 34th Division’s 168th Regimental Combat Team and the US 1st Armored Division’s Combat Command A. The defenders' dispositions were poor, with goupings so dispersed that mutual support was impossible. By 15 February, Combat Command A had been severely damaged, leaving the infantry units isolated on hilltops. Combat Command C was ordered across country to relieve Sidi Bou Zid but was repelled with heavy losses. By the evening of 15 February, three of the Kampfgruppen were able to head toward Sbeitla, 20 miles (32 km) to the north-west. Pushing aside the remnants of Combat Commands A and C, the Kampfgruppen were confronted by Combat Command B in front of Sbeitla. With the help of air support, Combat Command B held on through the day, but the air support could not be sustained and the defenders of Sbeitla were obliged to withdraw and the town lay empty by 12.00 on 17 February.

To the south, in 'Morgenluft', a battle group of the 1a Armata, comprising the remains of the Deutsches Afrika Korps under Generalleutnant Karl Bülowius had advanced toward Gafsa at dusk on 15 February to find the town deserted, part of an Allied withdrawal to shorten the front and thereby facilitate a reorganisation involving the withdrawal of the French XIX Corps d’Armée for re-equipment. The US II Corps withdrew to the line of linking Dernaia, Kasserine 'gap' and Sbiba with the XIX Corps on its left flank vacating the Dorsale Orientake to conform with it. By the afternoon of 17 February, Rommel’s troops had occupied Fériana and Thelepte, about 15 miles (24 km) to the south-west of Kasserine, forcing the evacuation on the morning of 18 February of Thelepte airfield, the main air base in the British 1st Army’s southern sector.

After further discussion, the Comando Supremo issued orders on 19 February for Rommel to attack through the Kasserine and Sbiba passes toward Thala and Le Kef to threaten the British 1st Army’s flank. Rommel’s original proposal was for a limited but concentrated attack through Kasserine to confront the US II Corps' strength at Tébessa and gain vital supplies from the US dumps there. Although he was to have 10th Panzerdivision and 21st Panzerdivision transferred to his command, Rommel was concerned that the new plan would dilute his force concentration and expose his flanks to threat.

On 19 February Rommel, now having formal control of the 10th Panzerdivision and 21st Panzerdivision, the Deutsches Afrika Korps' battle group as well as Messe’s Italian 1a Armatas on the 'Ligne Mareth' defences, launched launched what would become the 'Battle of the Kasserine Pass'. Hoping to take the inexperienced defenders by surprise, he sent the light armour of the 3rd Aufklärungsabteilung racing into the pass. Colonel Alexander Stark’s 'Stark' Force, a brigade group of US and French units, was responsible for the defence of the pass. It had not had sufficient time to organise properly, but was able to call down heavy artillery fire from the surrounding heights which brought the leading mechanised units of the Deutsches Afrika Korps' battle group to a halt. Before these could continue, infantry had to be sent up into the high ground to locate and eliminate the artillery threat. A Kampfgruppe under Oberst Hans-Georg Hildebrand including tanks of the 21st Panzerdivision was advancing to the north from Sbeitla toward the Sbiba 'gap'. In front of the hills to the east of Sbiba the Kampfgruppe was brought to a halt by Brigadier F. A. V. Copland-Griffiths’s British 1st Guards Brigade and the US 18th Regimental Combat Team, which had strong field and anti-tank artillery support and were joined by two infantry regiments of the 34th Division.

By the morning of 20 February, the bitter hand-to-hand fighting in the hills above Kasserine was continuing while the Deutsches Afrika Korps' Kampfgruppe and one battalion of the 131a Divisione corazzata 'Centauro', as well as more artillery, prepared for another attack through the pass, once it had been joined by a Kampfgruppe of the 10th Panzerdivision from Sbeitla. The morning attack made slow progress, but the intense pressure applied during the renewed attack that afternoon triggered a collapse in the Allied defences.

Having rolled through the Kasserine pass on the afternoon of 20 February, units of the 131a Divisione corazzata 'Centauro' headed to the west in the direction of Tébessa, meeting little or no resistance. Following the Italian division was the Kampfgruppe 'von Broich' of the 10th Panzerdivision, which forked right onto the road to Thala and was there slowed by a regimental armoured group of Brigadier C. A. L. Dunphie’s British 26th Armoured Brigade of 'Gore' Force. Its tanks outgunned, 'Gore' Force sustained heavy losses but bought time for 'Nick' Force, a composite unit from Major General C. F. Keightley’s British 6th Armoured Division with tanks of the 2/Lothians and Border Horse of the 26th Armoured Brigade with extra infantry and artillery that on the previous day Anderson had ordered to leave the Kesra area to bolster the Thala defences, to prepare defensive positions farther along the road. Meanwhile, Fredendall had sent the 1st Armored Division’s Combat Command B to meet the threat to Tébessa.

By 13.00 on 21 February, the Kampfgruppe 'von Broich' was in contact with the dug-in tanks of B Squadron 2/Lothians and Border Horse on the Thala road and was making only slow progress. Rommel took direct control of the attack and had forced the defences by 16.00. However, the 26th Armoured Brigade was able to withdraw in reasonable order to the next, and indeed final, defensive line in front of Thala. Fighting at this position started at 19.00 and continued at close quarters for three hours with neither side able to gain a decisive advantage. 'Nick' Force had taken a heavy beating and did not expect to be able to hold on the following day. However, during the night a further 48 pieces of artillery from Major General Manton S. Eddy’s US 9th Division arrived after an 800-mile (1285-km) journey from Morocco on poor roads and in bad weather. On the morning of 22 February, as von Broich prepared to launch his attack, his front was hit by a devastating artillery barrage. Somewhat surprisingly, Rommel ordered von Broich to regroup and assume a defensive posture, so surrendering the initiative.

The 21st Panzerdivision's Kampfgruppe at Sbiba was making no progress. Farther to the south, the Deutsches Afrika Korps' Kampfgruppe on the road to Tébessa had been halted on 21 February by Combat Command B’s armour and artillery dug in on the slopes of the Djebel Hamra, and an attempt to outflank them during the night of 21 February was a costly failure. Another attack early on 23 February was again beaten back. In a dispirited meeting with Kesselring on 22 February, Rommel argued that faced with stiffening defences and the news that the 8th Army’s leading elements had finally reached Medenine, only a few miles from the 'Ligne Mareth', he should call off the attack and withdraw to support the 'Ligne Mareth' defences, hoping that the Kasserine attack had caused enough damage to deter any offensive action from the west. Kesselring wished the offensive to continue, but finally agreed that evening, and the Comando Supremo formally terminated the operation. The Axis forces from Kasserine reached the 'Ligne Mareth' on 25 February.

Action then abated for a time and both sides gave consideration to the results of recent fighting. Rommel remained convinced that US forces posed little threat, but that the British and commonwealth troops were his equal. He held this opinion for far too long, and it would prove very costly. The Americans likewise studied the battle and relieved several senior commanders while issuing several 'lessons learned' publications to improve future performance. Most important of the changes, on 6 March, was the passing of the US II Corps from Fredendall to Major General George S. Patton, with Major General Omar N. Bradley as his deputy. Commanders were reminded that formations and larger units should be kept concentrated to ensure mass on the battlefield, rather than widely dispersed as Fredendall had deployed his corps. This had the intended side effect of improving the fire control of the US artillery arm, which was already strong. It was also noted that close air support had been weak, but also that this had been hampered by the generally poor weather conditions.

At the 'Symbol' conference in Casablanca during January 1943, the Allies had decided to appoint General the Hon. Sir Harold Alexander as deputy commander-in-chief of the Allied forces in French North Africa. This decision came into effect on 20 February and at the same time, the better to co-ordinate the activities of his two armies in Tunisia, Eisenhower at Allied Force Headquarters brought the 1st Army and 8th Army under a new headquarters, the 18th Army Group, which Alexander was to command. Soon after taking up his new appointment, Alexander reported to London that '…I am frankly shocked at the whole situation as I have found it…Real fault has been the lack of direction from above from [the] very beginning resulting in no policy and no plan.' Alexander was critical of Anderson, although this was later felt to be a little unfair. Once he had been given control of the whole front at the end of January, Anderson’s aim had been to reorganise the front into consolidated national sectors and create reserves with which to regain the initiative, the same priorities articulated in Alexander’s orders dated 20 February. On 21 February, Alexander declared his objective to be the destruction of all Axis forces in Tunisia by advancing the 8th Army to the north of Gabès, while the 1st Army mounted attacks to draw off reserves which would otherwise be used against the 8th Army. The armies would gain airfields for the Allied air forces. The co-ordinated land, sea and air power of the Allies would then close a net round the Axis forces in Tunisia by 30 April, to meet the timetable set at the 'Symbol' conference to allow an invasion of Sicily during the favourable weather of August.

The 'Symbol' conference had agreed to reorganise the air forces in the Mediterranean for a closer integration: Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Tedder was made commander of Mediterranean Air Command, responsible for all Allied air activity in the Mediterranean theatre, and Major General Carl Spaatz became commander of the North-West African Air Forces under Tedder’s supervision, with responsibility for all air operations in Tunisia. By 23 February, Air Marshal Sir Arthur Coningham had succeeded Kuter at the Allied Air Support Command, which became the North-West African Tactical Air Force under Spaatz’s command, with the Desert Air Force supporting 8th Army under its operational control. Coningham found that the air organisation in Tunisia was that of the Western Desert in 1941 when he had first assumed command of the Desert Air Force. The lessons of the 'Western Desert Campaign' had not been used in the 'Torch' planning, which constrained the ability of the air arm, already short of aircraft and supplies, to provide tactical support to the army during the 'run for Tunis'. Coningham unified the British and US operational commands and trained them in new operational practices.

The Axis also created a combined command for their two armies. Hitler and the German general staff believed that von Arnim should assume overall command, but Kesselring argued for Rommel, who was appointed to command the new Heeresgruppe 'Afrika' on 23 February.

The 8th Army had been consolidating in front of the 'Line Mareth' defences since 17 February, and on 26 February launched probes to the west. On 6 March, three German armoured divisions, two light divisions and nine Italian divisions launched 'Capri' as an offensive to the south in the direction of Medenine, the most northerly British strongpoint. The Axis attack was repulsed with massed artillery fire, and 55 Axis tanks were knocked out. With the failure of 'Capri', Rommel decided that the only way to save the Axis armies would be to abandon the campaign, and on 9 March he travelled to Italy for discussions with the Comando Supremo in Rome. Finding no support for his ideas, he travelled on 10 March to see Hitler at his current headquarters in Ukraine in an effort to convince the German leader to abandon Tunisia and return the Axis armies to Europe. Hitler refused and Rommel was placed, in strict secrecy, on sick leave, whereupon von Arnim became commander of the Heeresgruppe 'Afrika'.

Montgomery launched 'Pugilist' against the 'Ligne Mareth' defences on the night of 19/20 March 1943. The 8th Army’s XXX Corps began 'Pugilist' along with Major General J. S. Nichols’s 50th Division. The British forces penetrated the line held by Generale di Divisione Nino Sozzani’s 136a Divisione corazzata 'Giovani Fascisti, and established a small bridgehead to the west of Zarat on 20/21 March. However, the combination of the terrain and rain prevented the deployment of tanks, aircraft and anti-tank guns, which left the infantry isolated. A determined counterattack by the 15th Panzerdivision and the 136a Divisione corazzata on 22 March recaptured much of the bridgehead. The XXX Corps prepared a new attack towards Tallouf, in which Major General F. I. S. Tuker’s Indian 4th Division was to make a night attack on 23/24 March around the inland end of the line. This was to coincide with the wide left hook manoeuvre Montgomery was planning with a new 'Supercharge II' operation. In this latter, on 26 March Lieutenant General B. G. Horrocks’s X Corps drove around the Matmata hills, capturing the Tebaga 'gap' and the town of El Hamma at the northern extreme of the line, thereby rendering continued Axis retention of the 'Ligne Mareth' pointless. On the following day German and Italian anti-tank guns checked the X Corps' advance, so gaining the time required for a withdrawal. In the next 48 hours the Axis defenders pulled out of the 'Ligne Mareth' to establish a new defensive position 37 miles (60 km) to the north-west at Wadi Akarit near Gabès.

The reorganised US II Corps advanced from the passes once again and got behind the Axis lines, and the 10th Panzerdivision counterattacked in the 'Battle of El Guettar' on 23 March. The German tanks rolling up leading units of the US forces ran into a minefield, and US artillery and anti-tank units opened fire: the 10th Panzerdivision rapidly lost 30 tanks and retreated from the minefield. A second attack supported by infantry late in the afternoon was also repulsed, and the 10th Panzerdivision retired to Gabès. The US II Corps was unable to exploit the German failure and each attack was stopped by the counterattacks of the 10th Panzerdivision or 21st Panzerdivision up the road from Gabès. The level of co-ordination of the Allied ground and air forces remained unsatisfactory. The 8th Army and the US II Corps attacked for the next week, and on 28 March the 8th Army captured El Hamma, forcing the 1a Armata to abandon Gabès and retreat to the north in the direction of the 5th Panzerarmee. The Axis forces abandoned the hills in front of the US forces, allowing the Americans to join the British forces in Gabès later later in that same day. Lieutenant General Sir Bernard Freyberg’s New Zealand 2nd Division and Major General A. H. Gatehouse’s 1st Armoured Division pursued the Germans 140 miles (225 km) to the north into defensive positions in the hills to the west of Enfidaville, which were held until the end of the campaign.

In the north, mistakenly believing that the Kasserine battles had forced the Allies to weaken the north to reinforce the south, on 26 February von Arnim launched 'Ochsenkopf' against Allfrey’s V Corps across a wide front. The main attacks were delivered by and commanded by General Weber.[67] The main attacks were made by Generalleutnant Friedrich Weber’s Korpsgruppe 'Weber', which comprised Weber’s own 334th Division, newly arrived elements of Generalmajor Paul Conrath’s Division 'Hermann Göring' and that part of the 10th Panzerdivision not involved in 'Frühlingswind'. Weber’s force was to advance in three groups: a central group moving to the west toward Medjez el Bab; a second to the north advancing to the south-west on the route from Mateur to Béja, some 25 miles (40 km) to the west of Medjez el Bab; and a third pushing to the west 25 miles (40 km) to the south of Medjez el Bab. The northern flank of Weber’s corps was to be protected by Generalleutnant Hasso von Manteuffel’s Division 'von Manteuffel (ex-Schützenbrigade 'von Broich' advancing to the west in 'Ausladung' and forcing the Allies out of their advanced positions opposite Green Hill and the Axis-held Jefna station.

The object of 'Ausladung' was to gain control of the vital town of Djebel Abiod. This attack by the Division 'von Manteuffel' made good progress across the French-held and lightly defended hills between Cap Serrat and the railway town of Sedjenane. Costly counterattacks on 27 February and 2 March by part of Brigadier R. C. J. Chichester-Constable’s British 139th Brigade of the 46th Division, No. 1 Commando and supporting artillery delayed the Axis advance. Withdrawal of the French battalions in the Medjez el Bab area to join the XIX Corps left little opposition to the German occupation of the high ground dominating the town, which was left in a dangerous salient. As a result, the British abandoned Sedjenane on 4 March and the 139th Brigade was pushed slowly back over the next three weeks some 15 miles (24 km) toward Djebel Abiod.

The main 'Ochsenkopf' offensive led to fierce fighting: the Kampfgruppe 'Lang' attacking in the northern sector was delayed by a small force of artillery and one battalion of the Hampshire Regiment for a whole day at Sidi Nsir and Hampshire Farm before they could be overcome. This delay was critical and as a result the British force was able to prepare a significant killing field at Hunt’s Gap, an area between Medjez el Bab and about 15 miles (24 km) to the north-east of Béja. In the southern attack, the Kampfgruppe 'Audorff' made some progress westward toward Medjez el Bab, but a British extemporised force, Brigadier N. Russell’s Y Division, was able to repel the southern attack, particularly after two Churchill infantry tanks shot up an entire German transport column at a place called Steamroller Farm. The final attack by Lang’s battered force was stopped at Hunt’s Gap by Brigadier M. A. James’s 128th Brigade of the 46th Division with substantial artillery, RAF air cover and two squadrons of Churchill tanks from the North Irish Horse under command.

The fighting lasted until 5 March when, in terrible weather conditions, von Arnim terminated the operation. The failure had cost the Axis heavy losses in infantry as well as tanks, particularly the loss of many of the new PzKpfw VI Tiger heavy tanks, and 'Ochsenkopf' thus became the last major Axis offensive by the 5th Panzerarmee. On 25 March, Alexander ordered a counterattack on the V Corps' front and on 28 March, Anderson attacked with the 46th Division, with Brigadier G. P. Harding’s 138th Brigade, the 128th Brigade in reserve and reinforced by Howlett’s 36th Brigade, Brigadier E. W. C. Flavell’s 1st Parachute Brigade and French units including a tabor (battalion) of specialist mountain-warfare Moroccangoumiers, and the artillery of two divisions plus more from army resources. In four days, the attack succeeded in recapturing all the ground which had been lost and took 850 German and Italian prisoners. On 7 April, Anderson tasked Keightley’s 78th Infantry Division with the clearance of the road linking Béja and Medjez el Bab. Supported by artillery and close air support, the division advanced methodically some 10 miles (16 km) through difficult mountain terrain over the course of the next 10 days, clearing a front 10 miles (16 km) wide. Major General J. L. I. Hawkesworth’s 4th Division joined the fighting, taking position on the left of the 78th Division and pushing toward Sidi Nsir.

The salient at Medjez el Bab had been relieved and lateral roads in the V Corps area cleared so that Anderson was able to turn his full attention to the orders he had received on 12 April from Alexander to prepare the large-scale attack, scheduled for 22 April, to take Tunis. By this stage, Allied aircraft had been moved forward to airfields in Tunisia to undertake 'Flax' to prevent the aerial supply of the Axis forces in North Africa, and large numbers of German transport aircraft were shot down between Sicily and Tunis. In 'Retribution', British destroyers operating from Malta prevented the Axis maritime supply, reinforcement or evacuation of Tunisia. Admiral Sir Andrew Cunningham, Eisenhower’s naval take force commander, issued ordered his ships 'Sink, burn, capture, destroy. Let nothing pass', but very few Axis ships even attempted to make the passage across the Mediterranean Sea. By 18 April, after attacks by Montgomery’s 8th Army from the south and flanking attacks by Crocker’s British IX Corps and Général de Corps d’Armée Louis Koeltz’s French XIX Corps d’Armée, the Axis forces had been pushed into a defensive line on the north-eastern coast of Tunis, attempting to protect their supply lines but with little hope of continuing the battle for long.

Alexander planned that while the US II Corps, now commanded by Bradley, would attack in the north toward Bizerte, the 1st Army would attack toward Tunis and the 8th Army would attack to the north from Enfidaville. Anderson would co-ordinate the actions of the 1st Army and US II Corps. Anderson’s plan was for the main attack to be in the centre of the V Corps’s front at Medjez el Bab, confronting main Axis defences. However, Crocker’s IX Corps on the right would first attack to the north-east with, by speed of movement, the intention of getting in behind the Medjez el Bab position and disrupting the Axis forces' armoured reserves. The US II Corps was to make a double thrust: one to capture the high ground on the V Corps' left flank and the other toward Bizerte. The French XIX Corps d’Armée was to be held back until the IX Corps and the 8th Army had drawn in the opposition and then advance toward Pont du Fahs.

The Allied forces had reorganised, and during the night of 19/20 April the 8th Army captured Enfidaville against Generale di Brigata Giuseppe Falugi’s 16a Divisione motorizzata 'Pistoia', which counterattacked several times over the next three days and was repulsed. At the same time the action at Takrouna also took place. The 8th Army’s northward advance had pinched out the US II Corps' eastward-facing front line, allowing the corps to be withdrawn and switched to the northern end of the Allied front. von Arnim knew that an Allied offensive was imminent and launched a spoiling attack on the night of 20/21 April, between Medjez el Bab and Goubellat, on the IX Corps' front. The Division 'Hermann Göring', supported by tanks of the 10th Panzerdivision, penetrated up to 5 miles (8 km) at some points, but could not force a general withdrawal and eventually returned to its start line. No serious disruption was caused to Allied plans, except that the first attack of the offensive, by the IX Corps, was delayed by four hours from 04.00 on 22 April.

On the morning of 22 April, the 46th Division attacked on the IX Corps' front, creating an opening through which the 6th Armoured Division passed by the fall of night, followed by 1st Armoured Division, striking to the east for the next two days but not rapidly enough to forestall the creation of a strong anti-tank screen, which halted its progress. The battle had drawn the Axis reserves of armour to the south, away from the central front. Seeing that no further progress was likely, Anderson withdrew the 6th Armoured Division and most of the 46th Division into army reserve. The V Corps' attack began on the evening of 22 April and the US II Corps launched its offensive in the early hours of 23 April in the 'Battle of Hill 609', in which this feature was captured and thus opened the way to Bizerte. In hand-to-hand fighting against the Division 'Hermann Göring', the 334th Division and the 15th Panzerdivision, the V Corps with the 1st, 4th and 78th Divisions supported by army tanks and heavy artillery concentrations, needed eight days to penetrate 6 miles (9.7 km) and capture most of the Axis defensive positions.

The fighting was mutually costly, but in the 'Battle of Longstop Hill', Longstop Hill was captured, opening the way to Tunis, and Anderson felt a breakthrough was imminent. On 30 April, after a failed attempt by Brigadier L. O. Lyne’s 169th Brigade of Major General E. G. Miles’s 56th Division, which had just arrived more than 3,300 miles (5310 km) from Syria, it had become clear to both Montgomery and Alexander that an 8th Army attack to the north from Enfidaville, into strongly-held and difficult terrain, would not succeed. Alexander therefore allocated to Montgomery a holding task and transferred the 7th Armoured Division, Indian 4th Division and the 201st Guards Motor Brigade from the 8th Army to the 1st Army, joining the British 1st Armoured Division, which had been transferred before the main offensive.

The redeployments had been completed by the night of 5 May. Anderson had arranged for a dummy concentration of tanks near Bou Arada on the IX Corps' front to deflect Axis attention from the arrival of the 7th Armoured Division in the Medjez el Bab sector, and achieved a considerable measure of surprise as to the size of the armoured force when the attack began. The final assault was launched at 03.30 on 6 May by the IX Corps, now commanded by Horrocks who had taken over from the wounded Crocker. Allfrey’s V Corps had made a preliminary attack on 5 May to capture high ground and secure the IX Corps' left flank. The British 4th Division and Indian 4th Division, concentrated on a narrow front and supported by heavy artillery bombardments, broke in the defences a hole through which the 6th and 7th Armoured Divisions passed. On 7 May, British armour entered Tunis and US infantry of the II Corps, which had continued its advance in the north, entered Bizerte.

Six days after the fall of Tunis and Bizerte, the last Axis resistance in Africa came to an end with the surrender of more than 230,000 German and Italian troops to become prisoners of war. Major General Lucian K. Truscott, commander of the US 3rd Division, and Major General Ernest N. Harmon, commander of the US 1st Armored Division, reported that German resistance in the American sector ceased on 6 May and German troops started surrendering in large numbers. On 8 May, the 334th Division surrendered to the British forces between Mateur and Tebourba. At 10.00 on 9 May, Bradley’s US II Corps cornered von Vaerst and what remained of the 5th Panzerarmee, which surrendered before 12.00. At least 12,000 Germans surrendered in the sector commanded by Generalmajor Fritz Krause, the higher artillery commander in North Afroca and de facto commander of the 164th leichte Afrikadivision and 34th Division: of the initial batch of 25,000 prisoners, fewer than 400 were Italian. Around 22,000 Germans in the mountainous Zaghouan sector also ceased fighting on 11 May and surrendered with their equipment to the Free French.

British and Commonwealth forces reported the seizure of 150,000 Axis troops in the German-held sector from 5 May to 12 June. von Sponeck, commander of the 90th leichte Division, had surrendered unconditionally to the New Zealand 2nd Division after threatening to fight till the last round, and von Arnim surrendered to the Royal Sussex Regiment. Commander of the 1a Armata, Messe held the line to the north of Takrouna and on 12 May cabled the Comando Supremo vowing to continue the fight, but at 19.55 in that evening, after the German collapse, Mussolini ordered Messe to surrender. On the following day, the 1a Armata was still holding opposite Enfidaville, but 80,000 men were surrounded. The RAF and artillery continued their bombardment and at about 12.00 the 1a Armata surrendered to the 8th Army. Together with von Liebenstein, Messe formally surrendered to British and New Zealand forces.

In 1966, the British official history decided that '[h]ad the Allies been able to get a tighter stranglehold on the Axis communications immediately after the ''Torch'' landings, they might have won the gamble of the Tunisian Campaign by the end of 1942 and victory in Africa as a whole might have been close. Conversely, the Axis might have staved off for a long time their defeat in May 1943 had their forces received the supplies they needed.' Almost 30 years later, a US historian was blunter with the words that the 'decision to reinforce North Africa was one of the worst of Hitler’s blunders: admittedly, it kept the Mediterranean closed for six more months, with a negative impact on the Allied shipping situation but it placed some of Germany’s best troops in an indefensible position from which, like Stalingrad, there would be no escape. Moreover, Hitler committed the Luftwaffe to fight a battle of attrition under unfavourable conditions and it suffered losses that it could not afford.'

The Axis gamble failed, and at the cost of heavy losses in men and matériel had only slowed the inevitable. The Allied gains were considerable, centred on control of the North African littoral and the opening of the Mediterranean sea to maritime traffic. Somewhat paradoxically, even the US defeat at Kasserine may have been advantageous: Rommel and other the Axis commanders were lulled into a false impression of US capabilities, while the Americans learned valuable lessons and then implemented positive changes in their command structure and tactics.

With North Africa in Allied hands, plans quickly turned to the invasions of Sicily and Italy. A victory march was held in Tunis on 20 May, in which units of the 1st Army and 8th Army, as well as representative detachments of the US and French forces, marched past with bands playing and Eisenhower, Alexander and Giraud taking the salute.

Allied casualties of 76,020 included the losses incurred by the 1st Army from 8 November 1942 and the 8th Army from 9 February 1943. British and commonwealth casualties amounted to 38,360 men: 6,233 killed, 21,528 wounded and 10,599 missing. The Free French suffered 19,439 casualties: 2,156 men killed, 10,276 wounded and 7,007 missing. US casualties amounted to 18,221 men: 2,715 killed, 8,978 wounded and 6,528 missing.

From 22 to 30 November 1942, the RAF flew 1,710 sorties and lost at least 45 aircraft, and the USAAF flew 180 sorties and lost at least seven aircraft. From 1 to 12 December, the RAF flew 2,225 sorties and lost a minimum of 37 aircraft, while the USAAF flew 523 sorties and lost 17 aircraft. From 13 to 26 December, the RAF flew 1,940 sorties for a loss of at least 20 aircraft, while the USAAF flew 720 sorties for the loss of 16 aircraft. From 27 December 1942 to 17 January 1943 the RAF flew 3,160 sorties and lost 38 aircraft, while the USAAF flew an estimated 3,200 sorties and lost 36 aircraft. From 18 January to 13 February the RAF flew 5,000 sorties, excluding those against shipping, for the loss of 34 aircraft, while the USAAF flew an estimated 6,250 sorties for the loss of 85 aircraft. During the remainder of February to 28 March, 156 Allied aircraft were lost. Between 29 March and 21 April, 203 Allied aircraft were destroyed. From 22 April to the end of the campaign, 45 bombers and 110 fighters were lost: 12 bombers and 47 fighters of the RAF, 32 bombers and 63 fighters of the USAAF, and one bomber of the French forces.

The Axis armies suffered casualties of between 290,000 and 362,000 men. The precise losses are uncertain, but it is estimated that the German army suffered 8,500 men killed during the campaign and the Italians 3,700 men killed; another 40,000 to 50,000 Axis soldiers were wounded. The British official history recorded that the Allies took 238,243 unwounded prisoners: 101,784 German, 89,442 Italian and 47,017 others. The US official historian recorded the capture of 275,000 Axis soldiers, the 18th Army Group calculated the capture of 244,500 prisoners including 157,000 Germans, Rommel estimated that 130,000 Germans were taken prisoner and von Arnim estimated 100,000 Germans and 200,000 Italians taken prisoner.

The Luftwaffe lost more than 2,422 aircraft in the Mediterranean theatre from November 1942 to May 1943. At least 1,045 aircraft were destroyed. From 22 to 30 November 1942, the Luftwaffe flew 1,084 sorties, losing 63 aircraft including 21 destroyed on the ground, and the Regia Aeronautica recorded the loss of four aircraft. From 1 to 12 December, the Luftwaffe flew 1,000 sorties and lost 37 aircraft, including nine on the ground, while the Italians recorded the loss of 10. From 13 to 26 December, the Luftwaffe flew 1,030 sorties and lost 17 aircraft, while the Italians lost three. From 27 December 1942 to 17 January 1943, the Luftwaffe lost 47 aircraft, while Regia Aeronautica losses are unknown. From 18 January to 13 February, the Luftwaffe lost another 100 aircraft, while Regia Aeronautica losses are unknown. From 14 February to 28 March, 136 German aircraft were lost and the Italians lost 22. From 29 March to 21 April, 270 Luftwaffe aeroplanes were destroyed and 46 'operational aircraft and almost their entire remaining air transport fleet' were lost. From 22 April until the end, the Luftwaffe lost 273 aircraft: 42 bombers, 166 fighters, 52 transport aircraft and 13 observation aircraft, while the Regia Aeronautica recorded the loss of 17 aeroplanes. More than 600 aircraft were captured by the Allies.