On February 11th 1943, Darby’s 1st Battalion Rangers conducted their first night raid of WWII on a rail town in Southern Tunisia called Sened Station. They did not have the technology or weapons that modern-day Rangers are blessed with, but their willingness, tactical knowledge, and mastery of the night was very similar to the Rangers of today.
During this time of the North African Theatre, General von Arnim was commander of the 5th Panzer Army under Erwin Rommel. Darby’s goal was to attack two encamped companies of Italy’s élite Bersaglieri mountain troops. The Axis elements were not using the railroad due to Ally air cover, but von Arnim knew that he must protect a potentially vital route to the sea.
By disturbing the Italian presence at Sened, the Italians would be forced to call for Panzer reinforcements that were very limited and thus disturb the plans of the 5th Panzer Army. Instead of doing a “hit and run” style of raid on Sened, Darby’s men would have to stay on the objective long enough for the Germans to commit their tanks to the Italians. Although the Italian troops were considered élite, they lacked the patience and planning to support observation and listening posts around their position at Sened Station.
Do to lack of aircraft given to Darby, he was unable to do an aerial recon and thus needed to perform a leader’s recon by foot before setting the assault in motion. The night of the 10th, Darby, along with a small element, traveled 12 miles over the rocky and open terrain of Southern Tunisia to gain observation of the enemy’s post. Once Darby had determined the best method for eliminating the Axis forces, he and his men, consisting of Companies A, E, and F, bedded down in a small ravine about two miles from enemy forces.