NORTH AFRICAN CAMPAIGN

The North African Campaign started as a war between Fascist Italy and the British Empire. Italy and the United Kingdom, which were controlling Libya and Egypt respectively, had entered into a military conflict since June 1940. By the end of the year, the British had defeated the Italians categorically through Operation Compass.

By Jackaranga (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Table of Contents

Western Desert Campaign

In early 1941, the prospect that the Italians to be driven out of Africa made Hitler to support his ally, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini, sending in Africa one of his best generals, Erwin Rommel, along with a small German Expeditionary Corps - termed Afrika Korps. In late 1941, the British Commonwealth forces launched Operation Crusader, obtaining the first victory against Rommel, after a battle with twists and turns, that led to relieving the siege of Tobruk.

Rommel retaliated in the summer of 1942 when he earned the greatest victory of his career in the Battle of Gazala, capturing Tobruk and prompting the British to withdraw hundreds of miles into Egypt.

The North African Campaign's Turning Point

The British decided to stop the victorious march of Rommel towards Cairo at El Alamein, on a defensive line which it was bordered in the north by the Mediterranean Sea and in the south by an impassable depression. As the terrain did not allow him to perform his favorite maneuver of envelopment, Rommel attacked the Commonwealth positions in the center during the First Battle of El Alamein, but his offensive failed and the British Eighth Army counterattacked.

In the autumn of 1942, the British Commonwealth forces, under General Bernard Montgomery, went on the offensive in the Second Battle of El Alamein. With superiority in numbers of men, tanks and aircraft, and a far better supply in comparison with the Axis forces, the British-led forces achieved a decisive victory for the outcome of the war in North Africa.

Tunisian Campaign

During the same period, Anglo-American units landed in Morocco and Algeria by Operation Torch. The two North African countries were then controlled by the French government in Vichy. The French, while initially opposed the invasion, arrived two days after the landings at an agreement with the Allies.

The Axis forces came to be trapped in Tunisia, between the British Eighth Army, which was forging ahead from Libya, and the Anglo-American forces advancing from Algeria. In late February 1943, Rommel won his last victory in the Battle of Kasserine Pass, inflicting significant losses on the U.S. Army, which still lacked experience.

By the end of March, the British Eighth Army had overcome the Mareth Line. The North African Campaign ended on May 13, 1943, when the Axis forces surrendered, the Allies capturing over 275,000 prisoners.

› North African Campaign