World War II: North Africa--El Alamein and Operation Torch (July 1942-April 1943)


Figure 1.--

British and Italin/Germany armies launched offensives which swung back and forth between Egypt and Libya. It looked like Rommel's Africa Corps might reach Suez in 1942, but the British stopped him at El Alamein. Here the two armies prepared for a massive battle. The Africa Corps supply lines crossed the Mediterranan where with the help of Ultra, the British destroyed large quantities of supplies. The British in turn had longer supply lines, but their new American allies delivered vast quantities of weapons and supplies. This enabled Montgomery's 8th Army to smash the Africa Corps (October 1942). While this made headlines, the more decisive action occurred to the west in French North africa. Amercan and British landings in North Africa known as Operation Torch sealed the fate of the Axis desert campaign. Even if Rommel had broken through to Suez, he would have been forced to turn west to deal with the Allied landings in French North Africa. The Allies driving east from their Moroccan and Algerian beachheads linked up with the Brish advancing west (November 1942). While generally given less attention than other campigns, the Anglo American offensive, joined by the French French played an important role in assisting the hard-pressed Soviets on the Eastern Front. The Wehrmacht's strategic reserve had not yet been committed in November 1942. All rational calculations argued for it to be committed against the Soviets in the struggle over Stalingrad. Hitler instead used major components to hold Tunisia. The Luftwaffe was ordered to launch a massive operation to transport troops to Tunisia and support them. More than 1,000 Junkers transport planes were loss in the effort, planes and crews which could have been used to supply the 6th Army at Stalingrad. The Axis lost 200,000 soldiers at Stalingrad, but 250,000 in Tunisia--about Half Germans. These were losses of such magnitudes that the Germans could not replace them. [Atkinson] North Africa was also notable because the Anglo-American military operation was worked out and the Allied armies first learned the techniques of modern war needed to defeat the Blitkrieg tatctics of the German military machine. The American army obtained its first combat experience in North Africa.

Importance

Many histories of World War II suggest that El Alamein and Stalingrad were the turning points of World War II. Certainly the British victory at El Alamein does not compare with Stalingrad in terms of the massive size of the engamement. It was the Soviets who turned back the vast proportion of the German Wehrmacht. El Alamein and the Torch landings were, however, a vital part of the Allied war effort. They not only did take considerable pressure off the Soviets, but it was in North Africa that Allied commanders, both Americans and British, learned to fight the Germans. It was a huge stratehic error for the Germans. North Africa was at the outer limit of the Axis strategic reach. The campaign in Russia restricted the forces that the Germans could deploy and the Allied naval and air forces limited their ability to supply the forced that they could deploy. Thus Allied commannders learned the techniques of modern worn fighting Rommel and other German commanders that could not bring the forces to bear to defeat the Allies. It is no accident that before El Alamein and Torch, the Western Allies never won a campaign against the Wehrmacht. Afterwards they ne ver lost a campaign. One factor was of course that American industrial capacoty, the Arsenal of Democracy, steadily expnded production. The other key component of victory was, however, the mastery of the techniques of modern war. In addition, Torch brought the French Army back into the Allied camp.

The Desert Campaign (1940-42)

Once it was clear that the French Army was defeated, Mussolini decided to join Hitler and declared war on France and Britain. Even though German armies were pouring through France, Mussolini's attack in the south was unsuccessful. Mussolini also invaded Egypt from Libya, hoping to seize the Suez Canal (September 13, 1940). Although badly outnumbered the British 8th Army not only stopped the Italians but counter attacked (December 9, 1940). The British move toward Benghazi with a series of victories. The Italians are near collapse. Hitler in order to prevent the fall of Libya orders a small armoured force to Libya to support the Italians. The force under Erwin Rommel begins to arrive March 22, 1941. Rommel and his Africa Korps stop the British and even though he has only a small force launches a counter-attack (March 30, 1941). Rommel drives the British back into Egypt. Here Rommel's inovatic tactics and the superority of the German Panzers were critical. ANZAC resistance at Tobruck helps to stop Rommel. A British counter offensive drive Rommel and the Italians back into Libya (November 18, 1941). Rommel strikes and again drives into Egypt (January 21, 1942). This time Rommel takes Tobruk (June 21, 1942). He moves toward Suez, but is stopped after a ferocious battle at El Alamein (July 2, 1942). A standoff occurs as the two armies prepare for a show down. Churchill gives Montgomery command of the 8th Army (August 13, 1942). This is thehighwater of the German war effort. Rommel is only a few miles from Suez and Von Paulitz's 6th Army is investing Stalingrad. Here America's entry into the War begins to swing the ballance. American industry provided Montgomery, with supplies and equipment in massive quantities. The Germans bogged down in the Soviet Union can not devote the men are material needed by Rommel. The British defeat of the Italian Navy in the Mediterrean means that much of the supplies sent to Rommel are sunk. The British are assisted in this effort by Ultra.

First Battle of El Alamein (July 1942)

Rommel's great victory at El Gazala (May 1942) was the masterpiece of his dessert battles, defeating a larger and better supplied British Army. The victory was achieved through his mastery of maneuver and the well-drilled German Panzers. This time Tobruk fell with little resistance (June 1942). With the British in full retreat, Egypt was wide open to invasion. It looked like Rommel's Afrika Corps might reach Suez. OKW, Kesserling, and the Italian Commando Supremo ordered Rommel to pause at the Libyan-Egyptian border for refitting and resupply. Rommel with his ties to Hitler was, as long as he delivered victories, a free agent. OKW from a purely military point of view correct in its assessment. The Afrika Korps was in no condition for a drive into Egypt. Even with the windfall of British supplies, it was in no shape for a major campaign. Rommel was not prepared for a minute to stop. It was not in his mindset to stop. He had the British o the run and he sensed that now was his momment. He was probably right. America was in the War now and convoys from America were steaming around the Cape loaded with the new Sherman tanks and huge quantities of arms, munitions, and other supplies. If Rommel was going to reach Suez it was now or never. It is unclear to what extent this affected his thinking. The primary factor was probably his propensity for attack and the disarray of the Btitish. His assessment was confirmed at Mersa Matruh (June 26-27). The British finally, however, stopped him at First Battle of El Alamein (July 1-15, 1942). A ferocious battle at El Alamein was the key engagement (July 2, 1942). The El Alamein bottleneck depived Rommel of his greatest assett--maneuver. His rapid advance also meant he was beyond the range of Luftwaffee cover. The British wew learning at long last to counter Rommel. Auchinleck employed a new system of concentrating artillery. Rommel had one more crack at the British. The Aftrika Korps was resupplied--to an extent. But here the British had amassed a massive and well supplied force, far in excess of what Rommel could obtain. Not only were the Germans limited in what they could send, but Ultra and Malta resulted in heavy losses to the Italian convoys. And even transporting what did arrive to the Libyan ports required huge quantities of fuel to deliver to the front. Montgomery and the 8th Army was simming in fuel and seemingly inexhaustable deliveries of supplies from America. The Second Battle of El Alamein focused on Alam Halfa (August 30-September 6). His adversary this time was Montgomery who had the advantage of Ultra reports telling gim just where Rommel would strike. It was the Afrik Korps' last possibility for success and it was a total failure. Here the increasing supperority of the British Desert Aitforce was a major factor. Montgomery declined, however, to pursue the retreating Germans. He understood that time was on his side. Rommel was strung out on the end of a lengthy supply line and could barely support his units. Every day, on the other hand, Montgomery grew stronger. Rommel had been perhaps the greatest modern practcioner of German military management, wars of maneuver allowing the Germans to defeat stromnger opponents. At El Alamein manuver was very limited and Rommel came up against the Angl-American way of war--competent British battledield management and inhaustable American industrial production. [Citino] For the moment a standoff develops as the two armies prepared for a show down.

Field Marshall Montgomery

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery achieved the first important land victory over the Germans by defeating Rommel and the Afrika Korps at El Alamein. Churchill had replaced Auchinleck with Montgomery after Rommen had been stopped at El Alemain. Montgomery was the most inspirational British military commander. The 8th Army's victory was due to Montgomery's competent leadership and overwealming material superority as a result of vast quantities of weapons and supplies provided by the United States. Montgomery saw his victory as a result of his brilliant leadership and looked down on mist other commanders--especially American commanders. His arrogant attitude made him extremely difficult to ework with. Alexander was one of the few high ranking officers that was able to manage it with any equanimity--mostly by rarely disagreeing with him. One observr described Montgomery as "annintensely compacted hank of steel wire". Montgomery bridled when Eisenhower was given command of the Allied assault on Hitler's Fortress Europe. Montgomery was the senior British military commander at D-Day. American commanders are generally critical of Montcomery's failure to take Caen with the uinitial landings and subsequent operauions to take the city. The failed Market Garden offensive to cross the Rhine was largely planned by Mongomery. He continued as the senior British commander through to VE-Day.

Malta

Malta was the cornerstone of the British campaign in the Western Desert. British possession of Malta and the invaluable naval and air bases there played a major role in interdicting Italian and Germany supply convoys to Libya. And it was supply shortages that played a key role in defeating Rommel and the Afrika Korps. Malta became the most bombed place on earth. German and Italian air forced relentlessly pounded the island. The island somehow managed to with tand the fiercest air assault of the War. The Italians began bombing Malta in 1940. The Luftwaffe joined in the campaign (January 1941) even before Rommel arrived in North Africa. Malta by March 1942 was enduring an average of 10 air raid alerts daily and there had been 117 straight days of bombing. The bombing was devestating. It also prevented supplies, food, and fuel from reaching the island. At one point Malta was near to capitulation, left virtual no fuel, food, or fighters. It was a convoy with an American carrier that finally succeeded in getting needed supplies through. Civilians suffered teribly. They had to move underground. Newsreels in Britain and America showed school children moving rapidly into undergrond bunkers when the air raids sireens sounded. The population was near starvation at one point. The Axis did not, however, launch a parachute assault on the island. They had the capability as shown in Crete. Senior Axis commanders advised just sych an action. After the German terrible losses suffed by the German parachute units on Crete, however, Hitler demured, After the War, historians have taken to summrizing the assul on Cretr as "the wrong island".

The Second Battle of El Alamein (October 1942)

Here the two opposing armies prepared for a massive battle. As thge ininiative of battle shifted from the Germans tgo the British, the same geography that helped the British stop the Germans, helped the Germans porepare for an attack by the builkding British force. The British 8th Army in Egypt under its new commander Lt. Gen. Sir Bernard L. Montgomery methodically prepared a final offensive against Rommel and the Afrika Korps. El Alemaine was the last defensible point before Alexandria and the Suez Canal. To the north of this desolste railway station was the Mediterranean Sea and to the south was the Qattara Depression through which even tracked vehickes could not pass. El Alamein was thus a physical bottleneck that had ensured that Rommel could not use his manuer to defeat the British. Now it restricted the movement of the lrge armored force Montgomery was assembling. For Rommel there was no more defensible position to the West. It was hold the British at El Alemein or be destroyed. The British had stopped the Afrika Korps here in a desperate battle after a string of defeats. They also stopped a second German attack. The the two sides settled down. The 8th Army's supply lines were long, but the supplies cane in vast quantities. Men and supplied flowed into Egypt. Most of the supplies came from America, including the new M-4 Sherman tank in large numbers. Oil was available from Iraq. The situation was very different for Rommel. OKW had instructed him not to pursue the British into Egypt. Men and supplies were limited. The primary German focus was on the desperate struggle in the East. And much of what was sent was sunk by the British on Italian cargo ships crossing the Mediterranen. The Africa Corps supply lines crossed the Mediterranan where with the help of Ultra, the British destroyed large quantities of supplies.Here Malta was a major factor. Oil was a particular problem. As Bengazi was within range of British ar attack, most of the fuel had to be trucked over 1,000 miles from Tripoli. Thus the Germans used up much of the fuel landed, trucking it east to Egypt. Montgomery launched a carefully orcestrated offensive at El Alamein (October 23). It was one of tge decisive nattles of the War. Rommel was recuperating in Germany. He rushed bck only to find the Afrika Korps desintegrating under the assault of superior British forces. Rommel defied Hitler's orders to stand nd fight and oversaw the retreat of his Panzer Army back into Libya (November 4, 1942). It would prove to be the longest retrat in military history. Many of Rommels Italian allies were left in the desert as the Germans comandered all available vehecles and fuel.

Operation Torch (Novenmber 9, 1942)

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill decided that the Allies needed to open a Second Front to take pressure off the hard-pressed Red Army reeling under the German summer offensive driving toward Stalingrad and the oil-rich Caucauses (July 1942). Joseph Stalin demanded an invasion of Europe. Wisely Roosevelt and Churchill targetted French North Africa. American General George Marshall, in many ways the architect of the American victory, was opposed to Totch, considering it a diversion. Roosevelt insisted. While Montgomery's victory at El Alamein often receives more attentiin, it was the Torch landings that were the decisive action. The Amercan and British landings in North Africa sealed the fate of the Axis desert campaign. Even if Rommel had broken through to Suez, he would have been forced to turn west to deal with the Allied landings in French North Africa. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Allied commander to oversee the Torch Landings. The Allies driving east from their Moroccan and Algerian beachheads linked up with the Brish advancing west (November 1942). Although Hitler rushed reinforcements to Tunisia, the end result was the first major defeat of a German Army by the Western Allies.

Germany Occupies Vichy (November 11)

Germman Führer Adolf Hitler threatened Vichy leader Henri-Philippe Petain that he would order the Wehrmacht into the un-occupied area of France if the Vichy forces in North Africa did not oppose the Allied landings. After Darlan surrendered (November 11). Hitler ordered the Wehrmacht to occupy Vichy. The Vichy Government did not resist the Germans. Naval commanders, however, scuttled the French fleet to keep it out of German hands, denying thge Germans a major prise. Admiral Raeder in particular had hoped to seize French vessels for his surface fleet.

German Buildup in Tunisia (December 1942)

The Germans prepared to meet the Allies in both northern and southern Tunisia. This was a Vichy Protectorate yhat had not been occupied by the Axis. Hitler decided to divert Luftwaffe trahsports from Stalingrad to rush forces to norther Tunisia. Vichy did not resist which could hve easily been done at the airfields. This prevented the Torch forces from seizing the key ports of Bizerte and Tunis. General Jurgen von Arnium took control of the German forces in Tunisia (January 1943). Rommel and the Afrika Korps reached southern Tunisia (January 1943). Rommel had lost huge amounts of equipment at El Alamein and many men, but he had defied Hitler's orders and extracted much of the the Afrika Korps--at least the German component. In perhaps the longest retreat un military history, he fell back through Libya and decided to msake is stand in southern Tunisia. He used the French fortifications (the Merrith Line) to prepare a strong defensive line. This was a series of strong points and fortificatiins that the french had built against a possible Italian invasion before the War. The German defense of Tunisia was compromised by the conflict between Von Arnium and Rommel. Von Arnium represented the Prussian aristocrats that had dominated the Army before the NAZIs. Rommel was a political general with a middle class background that owed his advance to the political patronage of Hitler.

Impact on the Eastern Front

While generally given less attention than other campigns, the Anglo-American offensive, joined by the French French played an important role in assisting the hard-pressed Soviets on the Eastern Front. The Wehrmacht's strategic reserve had not yet been committed in November 1942. All rational calculations argued for it to be committed against the Soviets in the struggle over Stalingrad. Hitler instead used major components to hold Tunisia. The Luftwaffe was ordered to launch a massive operation to transport troops to Tunisia and support them. More than 1,000 Junkers transport planes were loss in the effort, planes and crews which could have been used to supply the beleagered 6th Army at Stalingrad.

8th Army Pursuit into Libya (November-December 1942)

Montgomery was a cautious camopaigner and did not hotly pursue the Afrika Korps across Libya. The Desert Air Force did ravage the German columns. The Eighth Army finally crossed the Libyan border into Tunisia (February 4). This meant that Libya was finally in British hands. Italy's African empire that Mussolini had hoped to expand no longer existed.

Merith Line

With his strong defensive position at Mareth, Rommel could probe northwest to meet the advancing Americans. He also no longer had the long supply lines that had hampered him at El Alamein. From Mareth, Rommel could switch his forces to the northwest or east as he wished. His supply lines were also much shorter. The battle for the rest of North Africa was not yet over. Leaving much of his forces to hold Mareth, in mid-month he launched an attack against the US Second Corps to the northwest.

Kasserine (February 1943)

Montgomery faced with the Merith Line devoted several weeks in Libya preparing his forces and building up supplies. Arnium and Rommel turned to contront the Allied forces to the west. German forces attacked Allied II Corps at Faid Pass (February 14) and Kasserine Pass (February 19, 1943). The Afrika Korps then headed for Thala but were retired after meeting increased Allied forces (February 22). It is unclear just what his intentions were He appears to have envisioned a break through the Allied lines near Gafsa and then driving north to the coast around Bone. This would have cut off substahtial American and British forces. He did take Gafsa. Arnium and Rommel were unable to closely coordinate operarions. In addition Rommel was unwilling to commit his forces to a major campaign realizng that Montgomery was preparing a major offensive. Kasserine was a major blooding of the American Army. The losses were substantial, but easily replaceable. The real importance of Kaserine was that was an important lesson in modern warfare. America had a lot to learn. Incompetent commanders had to be weeded out. Competent commanders found. The techniques of combined operations, especially close air support had to be learned. From Kaserine there was a steep learning curve. The results would be apparent by the time of the invasion of Sicily (July 1943). Rommel was impressed by how quicklt the americans recovered and their use of artillery. Other German commnders concluded thatv the American Army was poorly led and trained. . After a week of fighting, the Axis forces withdrew. Rommel simply did not have the forces to pursue a major campaign. And he saw the bneed to concentrate on the Mareth defences as Montgomery's Eighth Army finnaly moved into Tunisia.

British Assault on the Merrith Line (March 1943)

As the 8th Army approached, Rommel attacked positions forming in front of the Mareth Line. The British easily repelled the attacks. This was Rommel's last action in North africa. He was recalled to Germany (March 9). The overall German commander in the south, Kesseling, felt that Rommel had lost his fighting edge. Hitler concurred. His recall was explained on the basis of his health. Montgomery launched his offensive (March 20). British and Indian units attacked along the coast. The New Zealanders moved to outflank the Germans. This attack was coordinated with the Torch force. The regrouped U.S. II Corps alongside the British First Army to the northwest was attacking towards Gafsa and Gabes. This threatened the German, threatening to cut off the Afrika Korps from the Axis forces in northern Tunisia. The 8th Army broke the Merith Line (March 29). The Afrika Korps inckuding both German and Italian forces withdrew to a defensible position north of Gabes at Wadi Akarit. The 8th Army attacked the Wadi Akarit defences (April 5). This was the Battle of Gabes. After heavy fighting, Axis forces abandoned their defenses and retreated north.

Allied Linkup (April 1943)

General Harold Alexander was put in command of land operations of the Allied forces pushing east from Algeria. The Allies driving east from their Moroccan and Algerian beachheads linked up with the Brish advancing west nd after breaching the Merith line, north. Units of the U.S. II Corps finally met 8th Army units at Gafsa (April 7).

Final Axis Redoubt (April 1943)

The Americans and British began the drive on northern Tunisia. The British after breaking thriugh at Gabes took Sfax (April 10). General Arnium after Rommel's departure assumed command of the German forces and concentrated along with Italian units in a 100-mile defensive arc around the ports of Tunis and Bizerte at the northeastern tip of Tunisia. The British First Army breakthrough at Fondouk failed to cut off the retreating Axis forces. The Italians and German forces sucessfully established their strong defensive arc--the last Axid redoubt in North Africa April 14). The Axis defenssive line ran from Enfidaville in the south, through Longstop Hill and then to the northern coast west of Bizerta. The Axis was outnumbered, but it was a substantial force and thecGermans in particular were well trained and willing to fight. To do so, however, they needed to be supplied. The rest of the North African campaign involved the Allies attacking the fixed German defenses while the Royal Navy effectively cut the Axis forces off from supply.

Naval and Air Blockade

The success of the Axis forces in Tunia was premised on the ability to supply them by sea. Supplying Rommel's Afrika Corps by sea was a much more complicated operation, especially after he advanced into Egypt (July 1942). Supplying Tunisia was a much more limited operation, especially as airfields in Sardinia, Sicily, and Tunisia covered the sealanes into Bizerte and Tunis. Troops could be ferried by air, but heavy equipment and supplies in quanity required sea transport. Much is made about the U-boats in the North Atlantic, although they failed. Very little is made about the Royal Navy submarines and other units who effectively cut off the Axis forces in Tunisia from needed supplies. The Italian merchant marine had been badly damaged in the failed attempt to supply the Afrika Korps. The Royal Navy and other Allied units sank over 500 Axis (mostly Italian) merchantmen of 560,000 tons throughout the Mediterranean. The Luftwaffe and weakened Italian fleet was unable to protect the Axis shipping to Tunisia. Axis supply ships were sunk by Royal Navy submarines and other units. Tiny Malta played a key role in supplorting the blockade.

Axis Surrender (May 1943)

The Allied armies continued the drive on the shrinking Axis enclaves in northern Tunisia. The British took Bizerta and the American Tunis (May 7). The 3-year North African campaign finally ended at Tunis and Bizerte in Tunisia. Italian Field Marshal Messe ordered the remaining German and Italian troops to surrender (May 13, 1943). The prisoners included 130,000 German and 120,000 Italian prisoners. Among the prisoners were General von Arnim and 25 other axis generals/ The surrender marked the end of the once vaunted Afrika Korps. All of North Africa from Casablanca to Alexandria was now in Allied hands.

Axis Losses

Hitler bought time, by rushing troops to Tunisia in response to Totch. The price ptoved to be very high. The Axis lost 200,000 soldiers at Stalingrad, but 250,000 in Tunisia--about Half Germans. These were losses of such magnitudes that the Germans being bled by the Red Army on the Eastern Frcould not possibly replace them. [Atkinson]

Allied Military Capabilities

North Africa was also notable because the Anglo-American military operation was worked out and the Allied armies first learned the techniques of modern war needed to defeat the Blitkrieg tatctics of the German military machine. The American army obtained its first combat experience in North Africa.

Importance

The North African campaign is usually discussed in terms of the strategic importance of Suez, Middle Eastern oil, and India. This is of course true, but North Africa was where the Allies learned to fight the NAZIs. The French had not learned the lessons of Blitzkrieg from Poland. Neither did the British from the fighting in France. The Soviets were also unprepared. NAZI strategy was to quickly defeat an opponent before he was fully prepared for modern war. It was a slow learming process, but by mid-1942 the lesssons had been learned. [Barr] Thankfully the lessons were learned in time. In many ways this is the most important aspect of the Dessert War. First the British and then the Americans learned the tactics of modern war. These lessons would have been much more costly had they not been learned in a theater where the Germans fielded a relatively small force and had great difficulty supplying even their small force. One of the most difficult lessons to learn was how to use tanks. The Germans found that head long tank charges were not the most effective. It was better to allow the opponent to commit his tanks and destroy them by angti-tank guns and then deploy your tanks. The British survived because of the Channel. The Soviets because of the huge expanses of the Soviet union, weather, Hitler's mismanagement and the timely appearance of the T-34 tank (which was at firfst poorly used). It was during the fighting in North Africa that the British and Americans learned effective battlefield tactics. Luckily for the Allies they were able to learn at the maximum extension of Axis power where the Germans were not strong enough to force a decisive conclusuion to the campaign. The First Battle of El alamein was the first use by the British of these effective tactics. It was in effect Erwin Rommel himself who taught the Allies how to fight.

Logistics

Rommel's tactical brillance in the end could not overcome the Afrika Korps logigistical problem. Rommel in fact not infrequently ignored seemingly obvious logistical contstraints, seeing them as the responsibility of the High Command. (This was one reason he did not focus on Malta.) The Afrika Korps required about 70,000 tons of supplies every month. Obtaining those supplies proved to be a logistical nightmare. Logistics presented special problems in the Western Desery because of the harsh environment. The combatants could not source critical materials locally. Here the British were at a great advantage. An oil pipelibe from northern Iraq provided fuel in abundance. Fuel was a huge constraint for Rommel. Rommel was never given the material support needed to achieve victory in the Desset War. The Germans bogged down in the Soviet Union could not devote the men are material needed by Rommel. And a very substantial part of what was sent was interdicted by the British through air and sea attacks. Virtually all od Rommel's supplies were delivered by Italian merchant vessels. Supplying Rommel involved four steps: 1) loading trans portsin Italian ports, 2) crossing the Mediterrean, 3) unloading in North Africa, and 4) moving the supplies forward to front line units. Each of these steps involved substantial problems. The Germans made some progress in addressing these problems at various times, but never solved all four at the same time. The Italian ports were notoriously inefficent. The Italian merchant marine had been substantially reduced by Mussolini's rash entrance into the War. The Royal Navy sevely damaged the Italian Navy in major engagements, sevely impairing its ability to protect shipping across the Meiterrean. Armed with Ultra, the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force had great success in interdicting the supply ships. The Italian ports in Libya had a limited capacity. The ports in Tunisia were much larger, but as Vichy was officially neutral, they were off limits. Finally there was the huge problems of moving the supplies forward. As Rommel fought many of his important supplies at considerable distance from his Libyan ports, considerable quantities of the supplies delivered, especial the petrol, had to be expended just in transporting the supples. Here America's entry into the War begins to swing the ballance. While the Afrika Korps was a theater of secondary importance for the German High Command, for a time it was the main theater for the Allies. This meant a torrent of arms and material was dlivered to the British 8th Army. American industry provided Montgomery, with supplies and equipment in massive quantities.

Sources

Atkinson, Rick. The Army at Dawn: The War in North Africa, 1942-43 (Henry Holt, 2002), 681p.

Citino, Robert M. Death of Wehrmacht: The German Campaigns of 1942 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 2007), 431p.







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Created: 4:02 PM 12/7/2004
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