The North African Campaign

The United States Role During WW II

War in the Desert!

The North African Campaign, or Desert War, took place in the North African desert during World War II between 1940 and 1943. North Africa is a region generally considered to include Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and the Western Sahara.

Before World War II, European powers held long-established positions in the region. Algeria was a colony of France, Libya of Italy, and the British held two tiny but strategic points in the Mediterranean -- Gibraltar at the straits opening to the Atlantic and Malta in its center. France and particularly Britain heavily influenced Egypt as a result of their joint ownership of the Suez Canal. German influence was slight and there was no American bases.

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As General Bernard Montgomery took over as commander of Allied forces in North Africa. While British troops in Egypt were pushing the Germans west, U.S. forces under Major General George S. Patton Jr. led the invasion of French North Africa with the code name Operation Torch. There were specific objectives to the operation — to gain French-controlled Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia as a base for enlisting the French empire in the war, to assist the British in the Libyan Desert, to open the Mediterranean to Allied shipping, and to provide a stepping stone for subsequent operations. The Allies hoped to force the Axis armies out of Africa, and also to relieve pressure on the Russian forces, which were struggling with a new German offensive in their homeland. Allied forces landed on the coast of Algeria and Morocco on November 8, 1942. The invasion caught the German high command completely by surprise. Eventually the French forces agreed to cease armed hostilities and allow Allied forces access to Tunisia.
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The Desert Fox

The Deutsches Afrikakorps controlled the German Panzer (tank) divisions was commanded by "Desert Fox" General Erwin Rommel. Rommel thus found himself between American and British forces, and managed to stall the Allies with a series of defensive operations, most notably with the Battle of the Kasserine Pass, in which American defenses crumbled due to the vast superiority of German tanks. The end result for the Americans was more than 1,000 dead, hundreds taken prisoner, and the loss of most of their heavy equipment. While some would call the Battle of Kasserine Pass a German victory, the indirect ramifications of the battle were felt just three days later. The Americans studied Kasserine Pass in detail and immediately initiated sweeping changes by restructuring command and coordinating aircraft with ground forces. That led to the Americans driving Rommel back through the Kasserine Pass towards his prepared position on the Mareth Line. Axis defenses were shattered, and the Allies managed to squeeze Axis forces until resistance in Africa ended with the surrender of more than 275,000 prisoners of war.
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Surrender in Africa

On May 12, 1943, the last organized Axis army force in Africa surrendered. The Allies had killed, wounded, or captured about 350,000 Axis soldiers, and had suffered about 70,000 casualties. After the victory in the North African Campaign, the stage was set for the Italian Campaign to begin.

On The Front-lines With the U.S. Army

At The Front In North Africa With The U.S. Army (1943)

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