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Mediterranean Theater of Operations
The Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO) was originally called North African Theater of Operations (NATO) and is an American term for the conflict that took place between the Allies and Axis powers in North Africa and Italy during World War II. It begins with American troops, part of the Allied Expeditionary Force, wading through the surf on the beaches of Northwest Africa on November 8, 1942, in Operation Torch and ends in the Italian Alps some 31 months later with the German surrender in May 1945.
The operational command of the MTO was a combined U.S.-British operational command called Allied Forces Headquaters AFHQ, which planned and directed ground, air, and naval operations and military government activities in NATO and MTO. It was created on September 12, 1942 to launch a combined U.S.-British operation against the northern and northwestern coast of Africa. In February 1943 the authority of AFHQ was extended to include the British 8th Army, command by General Bernard Montgomery which was moving into position for the start of the Tunisia Campaign.
Initially AFHQ was located in London from September until November 1942, it relocated to Algiers in Algeria in November 1942 and remaind there until July 1944. From Algiers it moved to Caserta in Italy until April 1944. Its last relocation was to Leghorn (Livorno), Italy between April 1944 until April 1947.
The initial Supreme Commander Allied (Expeditionary) Force was General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Shortly after the establishment of the headquarters, expeditionary was deleted from its title for reasons of operational security. He then returned to the United Kingdom to assume command of the forces assembling for Operation Overlord. He was succeeded by Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. Wilson's title became Supreme Commander, Mediterranean Theatre of Operations. Wilson was in command for just under a year, until he was sent to Washington in December 1944 to replace Field Marshal Sir John Dill of the British Joint Staff Mission who had died suddenly. Wilson was succeded by Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander who was Supreme Commander and commander of AFHQ until the end of the war.
For administrative purposes, U.S. components were responsible to Headquarters North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NATOUSA), from February 14, 1943 (NATOUSA redesignated Mediterranean Theater of Operations, United States Army, MTOUSA, November 1, 1944). The British components were responsible to General Headquarters Central Mediterranean Forces (CMF), from October 1, 1945.
Headquarters MTOUSA and General Headquarters CMF formally separated from AFHQ on October 1, 1945, leaving AFHQ to consist of a small interallied staff responsible for combined command liquidation activities. AFHQ was abolished, effective September 17, 1947, by General Order 24, AFHQ, September 16, 1947.
Campaigns and Operations
- See also U.S. campaigns in WWII
- Operation Torch (Allied invasion of French North Africa)
- Egypt-Libya Campaign
- Tunisia Campaign
- Operation Husky (Allied invasion of Sicily)
- Naples-Foggia Campaign (Allied invasion of Italy)
- Operation Shingle (amphibious landing in the area of Anzio)
- Winter Line (The western part of the line centered around Monte Cassino, was called the Gustav Line)
- Operation Dragoon (invasion of southern France – one month after the invasion operational command was passed to SHAEF)
Additional British Campaings
For the British the Mediterranean Theatre [sic] was part of a larger theater which included the gographic areas of South East Europe boardering the Adriatic Sea (Balkans and Greece), the Middle East, North East Africa, and the North African Western Desert. The campaings in the MTO, excluding the joint allied operations mentioned above, included:
- The Greece campaign ending with the disaster and evacuation of Crete after the Battle of Crete.
- All of the North African Campaign including the siege of Tobruk, and the first and second battles of Alamein.
- The major naval engagements of the Destruction of the French Fleet at Mers-el-Kebir on July 3, 1940 and the crippling or destroying of three Italian battleships in the Battle of Taranto on November 11, 1940 and the convoys to Malta including Operation Pedestal August 1942
- Also the fortress of Gibraltar and the siege of Malta for which the entire population was awarded the George Cross.
A theater of operations
The term "theater of operations" was defined in the [American] field manuals as the land and sea areas to be invaded or defended, including areas necessary for administrative activities incident to the military operations (chart 12). In accordance with the experience of World War I, it was usually conceived of as a large land mass over which continuous operations would take place and was divided into two chief areas-the combat zone, or the area of active fighting, and the communications zone, or area required for administration of the theater. As the armies advanced, both these zones and the areas into which they were divided would shift forward to new geographic areas of control.
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