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Uncle Jasper: Researching History


Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

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29 July 2023page first published

833 hits since 29 Jul 2023
©1994-2024 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian writes:

I previously wrote about the military records that authenticate my Uncle Jasper's service in North Africa. We know he received a shrapnel wound on March 24, 1943, in Tunisia.

In this follow-up article, I'm exploring what combat he might have been involved with. We know he was classified as 'cavalry' at this time, and he was either with the 34th Infantry Division or 1 Commando.

Resources

My first goal was to reacquaint myself with the general history of the Tunisian campaign, especially with regard to the two units mentioned.

Online resources were the easiest to check, and included Wikipedia articles and U.S. Army Campaigns of World War II: Tunisia (U.S. government pamphlet, available via the Wayback Machine website).

I also used my local library. My village library is tiny, but it is tied in to all the libraries in the county. Using the library website, I ran a search that suggested two books: Against All Odds (Alex Kershaw) and The Allies Strike Back, 1941-1943. Volume 1 : The War in the West (James Holland). I requested both books, and picked them up from my local library.

The Allies Strike Back

Against All Odds looks like a terrific book, but it barely mentioned Tunisia.

The Allies Strike Back was a high-level look at the entire war in this time period. It was good for background, and it did mention the 34th Infantry Division a few times.

34th Infantry Division

The 34th Infantry Division was a pre-war National Guard unit, which could quickly be put into action. Uncle Jasper, like many of the men, was a pre-war member of the National Guard. In November 1942, the "Red Bulls" landed in Algeria and fought as part of Operation Torch.

In the opening stages of the Tunisian campaign, units were committed piecemeal and mixed up one with another. Apparently part of the 34th Division was in Tunisia at this time. After the fighting at Kasserine Pass (9-25 February 1943), the rest of the 34th was committed to Tunisia and allowed to operate together within II Corps (Patton).

We know that the 34th attacked on March 27th at Fondouk Pass. However, that is several days after Uncle Jasper was wounded.

1st Commando

Formed in 1940, 1 Commando spearheaded the Algerian landings in Operation Torch. They were the first unit to wear the distinctive green beret. Wikipedia mentions elements of 1 Commando fighting at 1st Sedjenane in Tunisia (ending March 4th). The unit then returned to England; it's not clear if they were still in Tunisia by March 24th when my uncle was wounded. One source says they returned on 24th April, but it is not clear if this is the departure date or the arrival date.

Next Steps

Now I need to find material focusing on the units involved. For example, Osprey has at least two books about the commando units. There have been several 34th Infantry Division resources online, but the links have gone bad.