The central Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid is best known today as the birthplace of the Arab Spring. It was in Sidi Bouzid where a fish seller named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in December 2010, to protest what he believed was unfair treatment at the hands of Tunisia’s corrupt government. The repercussions of that single act of protest reverberated across the Arab world, sparking protests, toppling dictators, and causing civil wars.
But during World War II, Sidi Bouzid was the site of one of the last Axis victories in North Africa and one of the first engagements between American and German forces in the war. It serves as the preliminary round of the Battle of Kasserine Pass, which commenced a few days later. As such it wasn’t a major battle, but it did have some important impacts on the rest of the 1942-1943 Tunisia campaign. Specifically, the Allied defeat here and at Kasserine Pass a few days later led to a substantial reorganization of their North African forces, particularly at the senior officer level. These changes worked out so well that by May the Allies had chased the Axis out of North Africa altogether. Rommel was already gone by then, recalled to Germany in March, but Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine would be the final two victories in his lengthy military career. So in the big picture, the tactical victory the Axis won here paved the way for their strategic defeat in North Africa.
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