The Battle for Africa began during Mussolini's quest for complete control of the Mediterranean. It would restart, however. In El Alamein, full attention was once again turned into the North African theatre of war.
The Axis powers were about to take the crucial area of El Alamein. If the Axis took the area, Alexandria would be just 60 miles away, and Africa would eventually collapse. The area could not be surrounded, or surprised. It would have to meet the enemy head on for a victory. The Axis knew this, but they were confident that they would win. The Axis powers in Berlin and Rome were already celebrating their victory to come. It was supposed to be an easy victory.
In the desert, there were always supply shortages. The troops definitely needed water. The British troops had enough water, but the Axis didn't. Every well around El Alamein was destroyed so the Axis had to transport their water to the area. Gasoline was also needed and vehicles and ammunition were necessities. It was a grudge match . . . Whoever could get the most supplies in would win.
The British needed to keep their position there in El Alamein to thwart off German and Italian troops from the rest of Africa. The troops couldn't "dig" themselves in. The desert was to rough. The soldiers had to improvise with hiding behind walls and other land barriers.
The Royal Air Force also played a key role in the battle. The RAF taunted the enemy from above. They met little resistance due to the fact that the German Luftwaffe was trying to hold off Russia. The RAF constantly dropped supplies to the British troops, and destroyed supply routes for the German and Italian soldiers.
Lieutenant General Bernard L. Montgomery was head of the troops at El Alamein. Montgomery replaced Lieutenant General Gott, who was killed in a plane crash. The battle was about to begin. The enemy was lead by General Rommel, nicknamed the Desert Fox. He was a brilliant General, and so was Montgomery.
The Germans booby trapped the areas around El Alamein and heavily mined the area. It was called the Devil's Garden. Montgomery decided to camouflage Sherman tanks and set up huge guns. He wanted surprise, and he didn't want the enemy to know what he was doing. On August of 1942, the defenses and offenses would be put to the test. General Rommel attacked.
General Rommel's forces would break through the Qattara Depression... they would then head for Suez. The RAF 7th Armored Division attacked Rommel's ground forces. When Montgomery set up his camouflaged tanks, he hoped that Generel Rommel would run into his trap. General Rommel did. To the south of Alam el Halfa, the sand was looser, and the tanks stalled. The General finally threw his forces back to the original lines.
On October 23, 1942, Montgomery decided to go on the offensive. At 9:40 p.m., the offensive started. The Battle of El Alamein was about to start. Thousands of shells were rained onto German positions. It was a perfect surprise attack, which caught the Germans and Italians completely off guard. The British had driven through the Axis lines eventually with light armor at the aid. Montgomery sent his armored and infantry divisions forward, leaving a reserve to stay behind just in case. Tons of Axis tanks lay in ruin and Italian planes were crumped by the British. The Italians found no means of escape. The Axis was in full retreat by November 4, 1942.
General Ritter von Thoma was captured. He was head of the Afrika Korps. In the end, 60,000 axis men were lost, and 500 tanks were in ruin. The British had successfully beat the Germans. The Battle of El Alamein was over.
Pressure was on Great Britain from Russia. Japan was killing the American war effort. Africa was about to be taken over by the Germans. Operation Overlord(D-Day) was already being planned in June of 1942, but what would happen before that? Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill decided that Operation Torch was to take place before October 30, 1942. It was an attack made by the Americans and would block General Rommel and provide key access into the Mediterranean Sea. General Dwight D. Eisenhower would be put in charge of the operation.
Admiral Sir Andrew Browne Cunningham was placed in charge of the British Navy support of the operation. Troops were trained for desert conditions and ammunition, equipment, and supplies were constructed to suit the desert needs.
Operation Torch was the mass invasion of North Africa by American and British troops. The idea of the attack is to make it an American dominant attack due to French interests. The attack was planned, troops were ready, and the Allies were needing the invasion. It was going to happen...
On November 8, 1942, the attack occured. In Casablanca in Morocco and Oran and Algiers in Algeria, 500 warships and 350 transports converged on the beaches. They were met with resistance. Algiers surrendered to the Americans the day of the attack. Oran was more bloodier for the Americans. It was conquered in two days, however. Casablanca was the most resistant of all the landings. If it wasn't for the planes, the American and British transport boats probably would have all been destroyed, but under heavy fire on the beaches, American and British troops prevailed.
The operation was a success. In less then three weeks about 185,000 men, 20,000 vehicles, and 200,000 tons of supplies were aboard the three key targets.
The Americans next problem were the French. They would resist the Americans because their General in Africa General Giraud, decided that he wanted to lead all the forces. Eisenhower disagreed, and the French decided to go about their resistant ways. But Admiral Jean Francois Darlan changed all that. He was in Algiers when the Americans attacked. He was convinced to join the Americans when he learned that France had been taken over to protect the North African campaign. When Darlan learned this, he joined the Americans and British forces. The French stopped any further resistance on November 10, 1942. After only a few days, the Americans had occupied 1,500 miles of new territory. Operation Torch was running smoothly with only 860 dead.
Next step was to decide what to do with Operation Torch. Now that the Americans were in Africa, what were they going to do with the opportunity? One option was an attack of Italy, which was decided on. This decision came when American and British head officials met from January 14-24 of 1943 at the Anfa Hotel in five miles from Casablanca. The conference was lead by Roosevelt and Churchill, and all their top military aids and Generals. After Italy was decided upon, Germany's fate was unveiled. After Germany, Japan would be taken care of. A little easy spoken, but the experience would be a little tougher.
On January 20, 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower was given complete control over French, American and British forces in North Africa. This decision would be a wise on considering the planning and tactical and strategic value of this great mind.
When Hitler learned of the attacks on North Africa, he sent reinforcements into Tunisia and Tunis. Over two divisions were sent in to defend the key points. Germany would hold the ports until General Rommel counterattacked Great Britain. The attack would be a failure, but Hitler did count on this.
The Americans began setting up the invaded cities for defense. Railroads were fixed, and harbors were reconstructed. The next step for the Allies was Tunisia. Under Lieutenant General Sir Kenneth Anderson with three brigades of infantry, an attack was waged on Tunisia. By November 28, Anderson was only twelve miles from Tunis. The Germans counterattacked setting Anderson at a trip. He set up a line from Medjez el Bab to the Mediterranean Sea. Reinforcements were pumped in for both sides. There would soon be a great battle, and it would change the African campaign as to who is who. Rommel eventually joined the German troops, and made it a fair game. Rommel was convinced that Germany was losing in Africa and told Hitler to evacuate, but Hitler did nothing.
Rommel attacked the Allies during January 12 and January 24 of 1943. The Allied lines of Faid Pass were disrupted forcing the Americans back to Kasserine Pass. Rommel's forces threatened Tebessa and Thala which could have seperated the Allied armies and threatened the American Operation.
Rommel had brought chaos to the Americans. From February 14-23, 192 Americans were killed in battle. Over 2,400 prisoners were taken. The loss of Kasserine Pass was contributed to bad weather for airplanes, faulty military work on part of Anderson taking over Tunis, lack of intelligence, and not enough manpower to take on Hitler's troops.
The Allies reacted swiftly. From Oran came in reinforcements who walked into battle which took the bulge in the Kasserine Pass. Allied planes bombed the Axis lines repeatedly while thousands of trucks and troops poured into the Allied war effort. The Germans then constructed the Mareth Line to stop a two front war in North Africa. This line was to stop Montgomery, who defeated Rommel's troops in late 1942. Montgomery took Tripoli on January 23, 1943, and was "chasing" Rommel's defeated army through Africa. The Mareth line was reached by late January of 1943, and Montgomery's troops prepared until March for an attack.
The attack came on March 21 when a head on attack was waged. Another attack was made at the south of the Mareth line. The success of the mission was great. Rommel's troops were forced to retreat to Cape Bon Peninsula. Montgomery was closing in on the Axis from the south.
The hole in the Kasserine Pass was eventually plugged up with reinforcements, and American and British forces were once again united. The key points were Hill 609 and Longstop. They were seesaw battles but Hill 609 was won by the U.S. 2nd Corps, and Longstop was won by the British First Army. On May 7, 1943, Anderson finally broke through to Tunis causing great damage to the Axis effort. The same day, the American 2nd Corps reached Bizerte after taking Hill 609. German and Italian forces surrendered. Unfortunately, General Rommel escaped.
It was the end of the Afrika Korps. The Mareth line was broken. Italy was devastated, and would never recover. Over 250,000 Germans and Italians were captured in Tunisia. The Allies suffered 70,000 casualties. On May 20, 1943, a Tunis parade was made by the Allies celebrating the victory.
For the Axis, Operation Torch was a crippling blow. With North Africa in the Allies hands, Italy could be invaded, the Balkans could be invaded, and Germany could also possibly be invaded. Now what?