Presentation on theme: "North Africa: The Desert War. December 1940—vastly outnumbered British forces attack the Italian Army. In North Africa, General Archibald Wavell launched."— Presentation transcript:
North Africa: The Desert War
December 1940—vastly outnumbered British forces attack the Italian Army. In North Africa, General Archibald Wavell launched a major attack in December, Operation Compass, which drove the Italians out of Egypt and captured over 100,000 prisoners. Huge British victory—took 130,000 Italian prisoners.
Germany Joins the Fight Concerned by Italian leader Benito Mussolini's lack of progress in Africa and the Balkans, Adolf Hitler authorized German troops to enter the region to assist their ally in February 1941.
Despite a naval victory over the Italians at the Battle of Cape Matapan (March 27-29, 1941), the British position in the region was weakening.
With British troops sent north from Africa to aid Greece, Wavell was unable to stop a new German offensive in North Africa and was driven back out of Libya by General Erwin Rommel. (Desert Fox) By the end of May, both Greece and Crete had also fallen to German forces.Crete
British Pushes in North Africa On June 15, Wavell sought to regain the momentum in North Africa and launched Operation Battleaxe. Designed to push the German Afrika Korps out of Eastern Cyrenaica and relieve the besieged British troops at Tobruk, the operation was a total failure as Wavell's attacks were broken on the German defenses.
Angered by Wavell's lack of success, Prime Minister Winston Churchill removed him and assigned General Claude Auchinleck to command the region. In late November, Auchinleck commenced Operation Crusader which was able to break Rommel's lines and pushed the Germans back to El Agheila, allowing Tobruk to be relieved.
For 14 months the battles in the desert see-sawed back and forth. Fighting difficult in these hot dust conditions. Hard on equipment and men. Victory in the desert would go to who had the most gasoline.
Germans captured Tobruk and it’s gasoline in May, Pushed the British back toward Egypt, but the drive stops near El Alamein in July.
August 1942—Churchill comes to Cairo—reorganizes the British military. Puts Lt. Gen. Bernard Montgomery (Monty) in command of the 8 th Army. Monty is well respected by his men. He is trusted by Churchill. A bit of a prima donna.
October 23, 1942—British strike at advanced German forces. Outnumbered, out-weaponed, and overwhelmed the Germans. Rommel begins a massive and hasty retreat after 1,000’s of casualties.
Rommel lost 60,000 men as he retreats across Libya. Worse yet, on November 8, Rommel learns the U.S. has landed in West Africa.
Operation Torch was the name given to the Allied invasion of French North Africa in November Operation Torch was the first time the British and Americans had jointly worked on an invasion plan together.
Stalin’s Russia had been pressing the Allies to start a new front against the Germans in the western sector of the war in Europe. In 1942, the British did not feel strong enough to attack Germany via France but the victory at El Alamein in November 1942 was a great stimulus to the Allies to attack the Axis forces in North Africa.
Though American military commanders were confident about a successful landing in France, the British got their way when Roosevelt supported Churchill’s request that the Allies prepare for the French North African option.
The Allies planned to invade Morocco and Algeria. Both these countries were under the nominal rule of Vichy France. As the Vichy government in France was seen by the Allies to be in collaboration with Nazi Germany, both North African states were considered to be legitimate targets. 1 st U.S. Parachute Troops
There were about 60,000 French troops in Morocco with a small naval fleet based at Casablanca. Rather than fight the French, plans were made to gain the cooperation of the French army. General Eisenhower was given command of Operation Torch and in the planning phase he set up his headquarters in Gibraltar.
The key to Torch was a successful amphibious landing. Three landing sites were chosen – Casablanca, Oran and Algiers.
The Western Task Force was to land near Casablanca at Safi, Rabat and Mehdia and Major-General George Patton commanded it. 35,000 troops were in this task force.
The Central Task Force was to land at Oran. It was commanded by Major-General Lloyd Fredendall. 18,500 troops were in this task force.
The Eastern Task Force was to land at Algiers and General Ryder commanded it. 20,000 troops were in this task force.
The landings started before daybreak on November 8th. There was no preliminary air or naval bombardment as the Allies hoped that the French based at the three landing zones would not resist the landings.
French coastal batteries did fire at transport ships but Allied naval gunfire retaliated. However, French sniper fire proved more difficult to resolve. Carrier-based planes were needed at the landing beaches to deal with the unexpected and unwanted French resistance.
The resistance put up by the French was more an inconvenience as opposed to a major military problem. The key target for Patton was the capture of Casablanca. This he achieved on November 10th when he took the city unopposed, just two days after landing.
One problem faced at Oran was the fact that the beach had not been suitably investigated by those who wished to land 18,500 men on it and a sizeable amount of equipment. The landing crafts found that the water was unusually shallow and damage was caused to some of the landing craft.
At Oran some ships from the French Navy attempted to attack the Allied invasion fleet but were sunk or driven ashore. French troops at Oran finally surrendered on November 9th after their positions were attacked by gunfire from a British battleship.
Operation Torch also saw the first large scale American airborne drop when the US 509th Parachute Regiment captured two airfields near Oran.
The landing at Algiers was aided by an attempted coup within the city by pro-Allied forces. Therefore, the Vichy government in Algiers was more concerned with putting down this coup than with countering the Allies landing on the beaches.
By 6:00 p.m. Algiers was in the hands of the Allies.
The landings at all three beaches were highly successful. French resistance had been minimal as were Allied casualties.
After consolidating their forces, the Allies moved out into Tunisia. The Germans pounded the American troops with Stukas Also stunned U.S. with the use of the 88 millimeter cannon.
After Montgomery’s success at El Alamein, the Afrika Korps was in retreat. However, the further the Afrika Korps moved west from El Alamein, the nearer it got to the recently landed Allied troops.
Though damaged, the Afrika Korps was still a potent fighting force as the Allies found out at Faid Pass and at the Kasserine Pass. Rommel strikes U.S. troops and sends them back through the pass…many Americans are forced to surrender.
Furthermore, Gen. George S. Patton’s forces are slowed at El Guettar. General Omar M. Bradley (The Soldier’s General) is sent in by Ike to help U.S. forces.
3 months after the defeat a Kassarine Pass, on May 7, 1942—Allies had been reorganized and force a German surrender. 275,000 Germans surrendered at Tunis. Rommel was evacuated to Italy… and Germany was off the continent of Africa.