World War II Veteran: Elvin Moritz

Moritz and other members of the 168th were surrounded by German troops at the Battle of Faid pass in February of 1943. Major Robert Moore of Villisca was in command of the more than 900 men cut-off from Allied Forces.


On November 8, 1942, Sergeant Elvin Moritz, of Villisca, was among the 160,000 man landing force of Operation Torch that attacked the North African Country of Algiers. As part of the Iowa National Guard, Moritz had been on active duty since February of 1941, as a member of the 168th Infantry Regiment of the 34th Infantry Division. Nicknamed the “Red Bull”, the 34th was made up of National Guardsmen of Iowa, Minnesota and the Dakotas. The men of the 34th were among the first to join with the Allied Forces from Britain, Canada and Australia to fight back against the Axis Powers.

(Elvin Moritz) battle, the British at—it was four o'clock in the afternoon, and they just get out in a bunch have tea—have their tea. Everything quieted down. The Germans quit shooting—nobody was shooting. Everything was just as quiet as could be. I think they had a half-hour break. As soon as the time was up, they was shooting again.

As 1943 began, Allied Forces suffered some set backs. By February, after several months of fighting, Mortiz and the rest of the 168th Company "F" had moved into Northeastern Tunisia, near the Faid Pass. Eventually German Forces managed to surround several Companies of the 168, who were under the command of Major Robert Moore of Villisca. As the sun went down, the group formed two long columns and began to march out of the area. They had walked past several patrols of German soldiers, when a lone sentry ordered them to halt. Moritz told the men to run and the shooting began.

(Elvin Moritz) We’d gone right between two of our own halftracks the Germans had captured. And they were shooting at us with 50 calibers. Then, of course, I was in the lead. One would shoot across this way ahead of me. Then he’d quit and another one would shoot across the other way at him, and I was just zigzagging.

Of the more than 900 men under Moore's command 420 made it to the American lines. Moritz remembers 12 men, including Major Moore, escaping with him that night.

Iowa PBS