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)
Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Dennis Cook / AP

    30 Years Ago: A Look Back at 1987

    Take a step into a visual time capsule, for a brief look at the year.

  • Cris Bouroncle / AFP / Getty

    Peru Suffers Worst Flooding in Decades

    An unusual bout of heavy rains powered by El Niño conditions have drenched parts of Peru with 10 times more rainfall than normal.

  • Guillaume Souvant / AFP / Getty

    Photos of the Week: 3/11–3/17

    A therapeutic greyhound in Spain, a civil defense drill in South Korea, flooding in Peru, a robot-run hotel in Japan, refugees learning curling in Canada, and much more

  • Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty

    In Syria: Six Years of War

    For six years now, Syrians have endured the loss and hardship caused by a protracted civil war.

Join the Discussion