KASSERINE PASS SURVIVOR EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT

HERE’S A GREAT ACCOUNT FROM A SURVIVOR OF THE US’S FIRST MAJOR LAND BATTLE AGAINST THE NAZIS – THE DISASTER AT THE KASSERINE PASS

THE DESERT FOX, Erwin Rommel. He dealt the US its first defeat in WWII on the ground.

THE DESERT FOX, Erwin Rommel. He dealt the US its first defeat in WWII on the ground.

James Serano served 33 months overseas in WWII. It is a miracle he survived. Seventy years ago, in February 1943, he felt the full might of Erwin Rommel’s Panzer force. The citation for his Silver Star, earned for bravery during the battle on 19 February 1943, reads: “While assigned to Company B, 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion, 2nd Armored Group, Sgt. Serano displayed courage and devotion to duty when he voluntarily hauled ammunition to the guns of his company, which were subjected to heavy artillery and machine gun fire…He freely offered to drive an abandoned vehicle to haul ammunition. He quickly loaded the truck at the ammunition dump and arrived on the scene just in time to permit the guns to remain in position. The company was about to withdraw for lack of ammunition when he appeared. By his ambition and courage, the guns remained in position and held off a strong hostile tank attack.”

He was on a hillside when the combat became most intense. “We were shooting at tanks coming up the valley, holding the German army back until Gen. George Patton could get there. Combat engineers were supposed to blow up the pass, so we were stuck there at the pass. For two days, we were constantly shooting at the enemy.”

At one point, he heard a cry for help. Someone was needed to set up a machine gun. “I had to run across this big open space. Someone shot at me and I was knocked unconscious. I was shot about 6 feet into the air, but when I came to, I didn’t have a scratch.”

He carried on and set up the machine gun. Not long after, the gun was hit. “The gun went up in the air and came down on all three of us. No one complained and after checking each other out, we realized that no one was hurt.”

“Someone said, ‘Let’s get this machine gun back in order and kill the [expletive]. I was down on my knees feeding the gun when we ran out of ammunition. In the meantime, our commanding officer was calling over the radio that we needed ammunition. Every vehicle has a radio, but nobody moved to do anything. I was out of ammunition and had nothing to do, so I thought, I might as well go.”

Serano ran across the battlefield and met up with his unit’s reserve. The reserve troops had several trucks, one of which had ammunition in it. “I said, ‘Let’s go!’ to the truck driver, and he said, ‘I can’t go unless I get orders.’ I told him to give me the truck, but he refused. I put a rifle to his head and said, ‘You’re going to go one way or the other.’

“He said, ‘You’re crazy,’ and jumped out of the vehicle. I took it down the pass. I had only one thing in mind, to get the ammunition to them.”

He managed to but so fierce was the German attack that he and others were forced to withdraw.

“It was a hell of a day.”

James Serrano with his Silver Star

James Serrano with his Silver Star

About alexkershaw

WRITER AND JOURNALIST AUTHOR OF NEW YORK TIMES BEST-SELLERS ABOUT WWII
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