The Panzer IV tank

This German Panzer IV tank can be seen at the Auto and Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany. It has been restored in the German Afrika Korps desert camouflage of 1941. Their website is

Surviving German Panzer IV tank at the Auto and Technik Museum in Sinsheim, Germany

German Afrika Korps 1941 Panzer IV tank with the long barrelled 75mm cannon.

Why did the Americans lose the Battles of Faid Pass and Sidi-bou-Zid?

Operation Torch was the code name for the American landings in North Africa. British troops landed with them as well but had to dress like American troops so as not to upset the Vichy French of Morocco who were still upset at the Royal Navy blowing up their Navy to stop it falling into the hands of the Germans.

The Americans were very confident as they were equipped with the new M4A1 Shermans which at period of the war had good armour protection and a reasonable main gun. They could face any German or Italian armoured tank with a better than average chance of winning the encounter. They believed they had the superior weapon as it had proved itself in the eastern desert earlier in the year. The American Shermans formed up in a mass wave of tanks and drove full pelt at the enemy positions.

Their confidence was total shattered when on their very first battle at Faid Pass, they were defeated by the accurate long range fire from a well-positioned battery of German 88mm Flak guns used in an anti-tank role. They had driven into an ambush. The Americans could not get close enough to return fire. Their short barrelled 75mm gun just did not have the range. It was a slaughter.

Two weeks later without changing tactics they repeated the same error. This time they encountered the newly arrived Panzer IV tanks that had been upgraded with more armour and a long barrelled high velocity 75mm cannon that could pierce the frontal armour of the Sherman tank.

The American tanks of the 1st Armoured Division drove at speed in a V wedge shaped formation across the desert floor between two ridges at a place called Sidi-bou-Zid. The tanks made an awful lot of dust and failed to notice Panzer Mark IV tanks of the 21st Panzer Division hiding on either side of the valley. The Americans had driven into another Ambush except the danger did not come from the front this time, it came from their flanks. The experienced battle hardened German tank crews let the Sherman tanks get close before opening fire on their weak side armour.

The American tanks at the back of the formation saw what was happening and obviously did not think they would have a chance. They tried to escape towards the north. The Germans drove north to cut off the retreating Americans. A tank duel fire-fight started on the valley floor between the Sherman and the Panzer IV. The American tanks were destroyed.

The last Sherman was hit in the rear at a range of 2,000m by a shell from the new long barrelled 75mm tank gun. About 60 American tanks were destroyed and although the Sherman tank crews were firing back not a single German tank was destroyed. The battle of Sidi-bou-Zid was disaster for the Allies. Twice in two weeks the American’s inexperience had been exposed. During this period over 100 tanks were lost.

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