African Campaign

Aug 6 08:10 2010 David Bunch Print This Article

African campaign During World War II it was very important to both sides to have control of Africa, and especially North Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. Important British and other Allied ships had to pass through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal to reach India and other Oriental countries in the quickest way

African campaign During World War II it was very important to both sides to have control of Africa,Guest Posting and especially North Africa along the Mediterranean Sea. Important British and other Allied ships had to pass through the Mediterranean Sea and the Suez Canal to reach India and other Oriental countries in the quickest way. If the enemy controlled the coast of North Africa, it could send out bombing planes to destroy so much of this ship­ping that the cost would be great both in ships and in lost time. So for three years the warring countries, especially Britain and Germany, fought for the control of Africa. It was one of the most seesaw fights in history. First one side and then the other would seem to win a complete vic­tory, and chase the enemy back for hundreds of miles.

Then the enemy would make a stand somewhere, pre­pare a campaign of its own, and pretty soon it would seem to be winning. United States troops saw their first fight­ing in North Africa; so did Australian troops, who were very important in the North African campaign, as were Cana­dian troops. Some great generals won their reputations in North African fight­ing, including Marshal Montgomery of the British, Marshal Rommel of the Ger­mans, and General Eisenhower himself. When World War II began, in 1939, Italy controlled Libya, stretching hun­dreds of miles along the southern coast of the Mediterranean, and Eritrea, which lies on the Red Sea on the eastern side of Africa. The British had forces in Egypt and also on the Red Sea. Italy was not then in the war. When Italy did enter the war, in May, 1940, fighting between the British and the Italians soon began. In this fighting, the British were soon successful. Their commander was Sir Archibald Wavell. They drove the Italians back five hun­dred miles through Libya, while in east Africa they captured Eritrea and liber­ated Ethiopia, the country that Italy had attacked and conquered several years be­fore.

Much of the African fighting was in the endless expanses of the Sahara Desert, and was ideal for tank warfare. The Italians did not have enough tanks to match the British. More than 300,000 of them surrendered. Then Marshal Rommel and his fa­mous German Afrika Corps entered the fighting. Early in 1941 he attacked in Libya, drove the British back those hun­dreds of miles again to the border of Egypt, and left them holding a small North African town called Tobruk. The seesaw fighting had begun. Sir Claude Auchinleck had become the British Gen­eral in command, and in the fall of 1941 he attacked, drove the Germans back, and captured many of them. In the spring of 1942, it changed again and Rommel scored a great victory, almost capturing Alexandria; the British finally stopped the German advance at the vil­lage of El Alamein, which was to be­come famous for that reason.

The British changed generals again, Sir Harold Alexander becoming the commander and Sir Bernard Montgom­ery taking over the British Eighth Army, which was to become even more famous than the Afrika Corps. General Mont­gomery began planning and preparing for a big attack. For the time being, fighting was at a standstill in the summer of 1942. But this was the point at which the United States started active fighting in World War II. The United States had sent General Eisenhower to England to take command of American forces there, with General Alfred M. Gruenther as his chief of staff. They prepared the great "Operation Torch," at its time the most ambitious landing operation known. In the fall of 1942, the expedition sailed from Britain and the United States— more than eight hundred ships, nearly 300,000 British and American troops.


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