Battle of Kasserine Pass, M-4 Sherman “early” of the 1st Armored Division, Tunisia 1943
Finally, this one is done. I completed it last night.
I want to start off by saying “Thank You” to David Thomas, for coming up with the idea, organizing it, and leading this Kasserine Pass Group Build from the Front…
which was a lesson learned during the Battle by American leaders the hard way. Many American Commanders never were within miles of the front, and literally didn’t have a clue as to what was actually happening on the ground.
Many don’t realize this, but the Battle of Kasserine Pass was one of the most important battles that was fought by the US Army early on during WW2. It showed the Army what they were up against as far as the enemy they now faced. The battle also showed the leaders just how bad some of the equipment currently fielded by the Army was, and how good the German equipment was.
The Kasserine Pass was another turning point as far as it changed the style of tactics used and shook up the upper echelon levels of leadership. Shortly after the battle was over, many of the “top Brass” were relieved of command due to poor performance.
Unfortunately this was a necessary step made by Eisenhower, if he wanted to win the War against Germany and Italy.
During this time of late 1942 and early 1943, the 1st Armored Division was operating tanks that were no longer suited for battle against a better equipped and better trained Army. The most common types deployed were the light weight, M-3 Stuart, which was great for scouting missions, but not intended to fight one on one against another heavily armed and armored tank.
The other main type fielded was the predecessor to the M-4 Sherman, called the M-3 Lee. This was a medium weight tank, and it had a 75 MM main gun mounted in a side sponson.
This tank was good against lightly armored vehicles, but it lacked a turret that housed the main gun as we know it today. Instead the M-3 Lee had a much smaller 37 MM cannon mounted in a smaller turret that was mounted on top of the hull. You can see both weapons in this picture shown below.
I found this photo that shows the size of the 75 MM main gun rounds carried by the M-3 Lee. They have a much shorter casing than a typical German round of similar caliber. What this means is this: The American 75 MM round was a low velocity round. It lacked the penetration power of a similar higher velocity German round, that had more gun powder behind the projectile that acted as a propellant. When you combined this along with the longer main gun barrels found in most German Tanks, you can see the reasons why the M-3 Lee was destined for failure against the Afrika Korps.
However, when used against the Japanese in the Pacific and CBI theaters, the M-3 Lee and Stuarts did fairly well…
Another bad thing about the Lee and the Stuart is this: If you look close at the construction, you will see the tanks hull was riveted together. This was World War 1 technology at it’s finest. The Titanic also relied on a riveted hull… Once hit by incoming rounds, if the round did not penetrate, often it would break off the inside head of the rivet, causing it to bounce around inside the tank, either injuring or killing the crew.
Plus the riveted armor did not fare well against the daunted German 88… seen in action here in Tunisia in this photo below.
This is often how these American tanks would look like after a single hit from the 88. Normally a fire would start inside the tank, and within mere seconds the whole interior of the tank would be on fire. This would cause the ammunition stored inside the tank to “cook off”, which often resulted in a massive explosion resulting in this;
The M-4 Sherman was a definite improvement over the M-3 Lee. it had the same 75 MM main gun, but now it was mounted in a turret that could rotate 360 degrees, like current battle tanks we see today. It also got away from riveted armor. There were various versions of the Sherman produced. Some had welded hulls with flat sides, (like my model depicts) and others had a one piece cast hull like the one from the 1st Armored Division in this picture below:
The American Forces during the Battle were sent into battle in small forces. They did not have a single massed attack. This was a huge mistake that cost many American lives. I read that during one day of battle, the 1st Armored Division lost 48 M-4 tanks ! Over half of their tanks…
I found these two pictures that show the same Sherman from different angles after it was knocked out by the Germans at the Kasserine Pass.
The M-3 Stuart light tanks didn’t fare any better… Here’s a photo showing one of the many lost during the battle…
Besides the vaunted German 88, the new “Tiger” tank was put into operation here in Tunisia for the first time. This is an actual photo of a Tiger in Tunisia… several were captured later on.
David, you and Michel will probably like this picture…
The Germans also had Mark IV Panzers; some of which were operated in the standard European color scheme of overall Dark Gray like this one here… It didn’t take long for them to get covered with dust !
and Panzer Mark III’s. These shown below were reinforcements being sent to the front…
The US Forces failed to use the terrain to their advantage. Instead they were led into a trap by Rommel. This trap was the “Kasserine Pass”. Typical Americans would go to the high ground thinking it was best. But they did not think about being ‘silhouetted” against the sky, and became easy targets. Another thing the US Infantry failed to do adequately was dig in once they stopped. They often dug what was known as a slit trench. This was not nearly as deep as a typical fox hole.
The German tankers would run over these slit trenches with their tanks and turn, grinding the tracks into the sand. You can guess what happened to the poor foot soldier then.
Due to obvious training and doctrine faults, many of the new Sherman M-4’s were lost here too.
Most deployed here ended up like this one… after an internal explosion tore the turret off. However, the hull and turret remained mostly intact. Compare this picture to the one above where the tank was obliterated. This is how much better the armor was on the Sherman when compared to the Lee. They still didn’t stand a chance against the 88 ( or the 75 MM high velocity like the Panther carried)…
The Germans gave the tank a gruesome name. They called them “Tommy Cookers”, for obvious reasons. It was also called the “Ronson” since it was like the well known cigarette lighter made by the Ronson company. Their sales slogan was “Lights the first time, every time !”… You get the idea behind that one.
My Dad served in the much improved Sherman’s during the Korean War, as well as the M-26 and M-46 tanks. He told me that a lot of the “old timers” told him that once your Sherman was hit, you had mere seconds to get out alive”.
After the battle of Kasserine Pass, the Germans captured a lot of Allied vehicles and put them to use. This gave Rommel a much needed boost since most of his equipment had been damaged or destroyed. Plus the Germans were not receiving adequate supplies, so they were not hesitant to put Allied equipment into German service.
Here’s a picture of Rommel talking to a group of German soldiers just after the battle. You will notice that some are riding in a captured American M-3 half track vehicle…
The US Army took a good hard look at itself after the battle was over. It had to if it was going to win against the battle hardened Afrika Korps. Changes needed to be made, and they were. These changes effectively made the Allies a much better fighting force.
I built my Sherman as part of the “Kasserine Pass” Group Build. Here is a link to the construction log:
I am currently finishing up a German Panzer Mark III, that is also part of the Kasserine Pass GB. I took a photo showing the differences between the two tanks for a comparison. These are both 1/35 scale kits.
I am not very good at painting figures. I wanted to give it a try however to see if I could get better with practice… The whole crew.
The Gunner and Tank Commander.
The driver and Bow Gunner / Radio Operator. (sometimes called the “Assistant Driver”).
I zoomed in on the .050 caliber “Ma Deuce” for these next two pictures. I tried something new here too. I used “Gold” colored Bare Metal Foil to represent the brass casings of the .050 caliber ammunition. I tried using the “Copper” color on the projectile portion, but the piece was too small to work with. So I ended up painting the bullets instead…just as I painted on the connecting links.
and added a decal for the ammo box that represent the lot number and type of ammunition.
I painted the tank in overall Olive Drab. Then I added the decals, which worked great. Once the various bits like crew storage was added,
and a spare oil can… complete with “leaking oil” from the pour cap. There are also some places on the tank where I came back after the dusting, and painted on straight OD green with a brush. This makes it look like the crew has knocked off the dust as they moved about on the tank. If you look closer, just ahead of the large yellow “3” on the side of the hull, you will see some small scratches where the dust has been scraped away as if the tank brushed up against some small branches or other desert shrubbery.
I gave the tank a light coat of tan that was highly thinned.
I “dirtied” up the front slope,
As I progressed to the rear of the tank, I sprayed on more paint to make it look like the dust had accumulated much thicker.
The OVM tools were coated with dust too… Here you can see where fuel has been spilled on the tank if you look really close…
Here’s another picture showing how I added crew items to the rear deck. Most often these things were covered in tarps to protect them from the elements and dirt.
If you look really close, you can see how I made it look like fuel was spilled on the tank during the refueling process.
Here’s the same thing, but from the other side… spilled fuel, and dusty tools.
This next photo is a close up of the front slope after the dusting process was completed. It kind of gives you a feel for just how nasty the desert can be.
In hindsight, I probably could have saved some time by not painting the suspension or sprockets. I gave the whole suspension (which was modified form the kit parts by swapping out the truck assemblies from a Tamiya M-3 Lee), the tracks and the sprockets a heavy coat of “dust”. It almost covers everything…as seen here in this close up.
These next photos give you a walk around of the tank in general.
I hope you enjoy this one as much as I have building it.
If you haven’t checked out the Kasserine Pass Group Build, I strongly recommend that you do. You don’t know what you are missing if you don’t ! I highly recommend it.
As usual, comments are encouraged.