World War II: The North African Campaign


The North African Campaign began in June of 1940 and continued for three years, as Axis and Allied forces pushed each other back and forth across the desert. At the beginning of the war, Libya had been an Italian colony for several decades and British forces had been in neighboring Egypt since 1882. The two armies began skirmishing almost as soon as Italy declared war on the Allied Nations in 1940. Italy invaded Egypt in September of 1940, and in a December counterattack, British and Indian forces captured some 130,000 Italians. Hitler's response to this loss was to send in the newly formed "Afrika Korps" led by General Erwin Rommel. Several long, brutal pushes back and forth across Libya and Egypt reached a turning point in the Second Battle of El Alamein in late 1942, when Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army broke out and drove Axis forces all the way from Egypt to Tunisia. In November, Operation Torch brought in thousands of British and American forces. They landed across western North Africa, and joined the attack, eventually helping force the surrender of all remaining Axis troops in Tunisia in May of 1943 and ending the Campaign for North Africa. (This entry is Part 12 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II)

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