Fighting in North Africa started with Italian dictator Benito "Il Duce" Mussolini attempted to expand his turf in North Africa by invading Ethiopia in 1936. With the British colonies battling back, Hitler decided to aid his Axis friend and send German troops to assist. The British and the Italians battled back and forth for acres of sand. Things started to change when Erwin Rommel arrived in February of 1942. The legend of the "Desert Fox" and the Africa Korps spread.
In June 1942, the seaport of Tobruk fell to the Germans. With few options Winston Churchill sent Bernard Montgomery to lead the British forces in North Africa in August 1942. With Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa by Allied troops) planned for late fall, Montgomery attacked the Germans at El Alamein. With limited supplies and without the reserves requested from the Fuehrer, Rommel sought to withdraw. Hitler would not hear it, and the Germans suffered a rout. November 2nd the British claimed victory.
OPERATION TORCH - November 8, 1942
As the Allied landings occurred in North Africa the Germans were hardly beaten. Troops were sent from Sicily arriving in Tunisia to stem the invaders. The Germans marched westward as the Allies battled north and east. They clashed at Kasserine. In February 1943, after several defeats Rommel left the Africa Korps and returned to Germany. By May, Tunis fell to the Allies. May 13, the weary Africa Korps surrendered in Hammamet, with a quarter of a million prisoners captured.
September 3, 1943 - Italy
After North Africa, the Allies moved on to the island of Sicily in July 1943, and Italy September 3, 1943. As the Allies moved onto the boot the Italians had had enough and signed an armistice. The capitulation by the Italians far from ended the battle in Italy. Under the command of Field Marshal Albert Kesserling the Germans made the Allies pay for every inch gained as the moved north through Italy.
The Allied forces debated a simultaneous landing in Southern France to coincide with the D-Day operation. In the final plan it was too complicated and there were insufficient forces to pull off both landings at once. The U.S. was heavily involved in Italy prior to D-Day, in fact, as General Mark Clark triumphantly entered Rome the D-Day invasion made it a mere WW-II footnote. One should not mention the Italian Campaign and not make note of the 442 "Go for Broke" Regiment. The 442 was composed of Americans of Japanese descent (Nisei). The 442 was one of the most highly decorated units in the European Theater.
Gerard Henry Fanning
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