Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
North African Campaign
The fighting in this region began with Italian attacks on British occupied areas. Following the terrible reverses suffered by the Italians, the German Afrika Korps came to their assistance. Following a back-and-forth control of Libya and parts of Egypt; British, Empire and Commonwealth forces eventually pushed the Axis Powers back to Tunisia. Landings in north west Africa by United States and British forces in 1943 pincered the Axis forces and drove them out.
During the period from 1940-1943 this was the only theatre in which the Western Allies were able to engage German and Italian ground forces.
East African Campaign
- Main article: East African Campaign
The success was short-lived, however, as Commonwealth forces counter-attacked from Sudan in the north and Kenya in the south. The attacks were of great success and resulted in total Italian defeat only 94 days after the initial invasion.
Western Desert Campaign
- Main article: Western Desert Campaign
On September 13th, Italian forces stationed in Libya launched a small invasion into British-held Egypt and set up defensive forts at Sidi Barrani.
Allied forces, though greatly outnumbered, launched the counter-attack Operation Compass. It was more successful than planned and resulted in massive amounts of Italian prisoners and the advance of the Allied forces up to El Agheila . This stunning defeat of Italian forces did not go unnoticed and soon the Deutsches Afrikakorps, commanded by Erwin Rommel, were sent in to reinforce them.
Although ordered to simply hold the line, Rommel launched an offensive from El Agheila which, with the exception of Tobruk, managed to press the Allies beyond Salum, effectively putting both sides back at their approximate original positions.
During the following stalemate, the Allied forces reorganised as the Eighth Army, which was made up of units from the armies of several countries, especially the Australian Army and the Indian Army, but also including divisions from the South African Army, the New Zealand Army and a brigade of Free French under Marie-Pierre Koenig . The new formation launched a new offensive and recaptured almost all of the territory recently acquired by Rommel, failing only to take the garrison forces at Bardia and Salum. Once again, the frontline was at El Agheila.
After receiving supplies from Tripoli, Rommel again attacked. Defeating the Allies at Gazala and capturing Tobruk, he drove them back to the border of Egypt where he was stopped by the First Battle of El Alamein.
At this point General Bernard Montgomery took over as commander of Allied forces in North Africa and, after victory in the battles of Alam Halfa and Second El Alamein, began to the push the Axis forces back, going as far as capturing Tripoli.
- Main article: Operation Torch
In an attempt to pincer German forces, American forces landed in Vichy-held French North Africa under the assumption that there would be little to no resistance. Though there was more than anticipated, eventually the French forces agreed to cease armed hostilites and allow Allied forces access to Tunisia.
- Main article: Tunisia Campaign
Though Rommel was now pincered between American and Commonwealth forces, he did manage to stall the allies with a series of defensive operations, most notably with the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, but he was flanked, outmanned and outgunned. After shattering the Axis defense on the Mareth Line , the allies managed to squeeze Axis forces until resistance in Africa ended with the surrender of over 275,000 prisoners of war.
After victory in the North African Campaign, the stage was set for the Italian Campaign to begin.
- North African Campaign timeline
- Military history of Germany during World War II
- Military history of Britain during World War II
- Military history of Italy during World War II
- Military history of Egypt during World War II
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