World War II: The North African Campaign

Beginning in June of 1940, the North African Campaign took place over the course of three years, as Axis and Allied forces pushed each other back and forth across the desert in a series of attacks and counterattacks. Libya had been an Italian colony for several decades and British forces had been in neighboring Egypt since 1882. When Italy declared war on the Allied Nations in 1940, the two armies began skirmishing almost immediately. An Italian invasion of Egypt in September of 1940 was followed by a December counterattack where 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, British and American forces landed thousands of troops across western North Africa in Operation Torch, which joined the attack, eventually helping force the surrender of all remaining Axis troops in Tunisia in May of 1943, ending the Campaign for North Africa. (This entry is Part 12 of a weekly 20-part retrospective of World War II) [45 photos total]

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1
Australian troops approach a German-held strong point under the protection of a heavy smoke screen somewhere in the Western Desert, in Northern Africa on November 27, 1942. (AP Photo) #
2
German General Erwin Rommel with the 15th Panzer Division between Tobruk and Sidi Omar. Photo taken in Libya, in 1941. (NARA) #
3
Australian troops string out behind tanks in a practice advance over North African sands, on January 3, 1941. The supporting infantry is spread out thinly as a precaution against air raids. (AP Photo) #
4
A German Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bomber attacking a British supply depot near Tobruk, Libya, in October of 1941. (AP Photo) #
5
An RAF Airman places a cross, made from the wreckage of an Aircraft, over a grave on December 27, 1940, containing the bodies of five Italian Airmen shot down in the Desert Battle at Mersa Matruh on October 31, 1940. (AP Photo) #
6
One of the Bren gun carriers used by Australian light horse troops in Northern Africa, on January 7, 1941. (AP Photo) #
7
Two British tank officers, somewhere in the North African War Zone, on January 28, 1941, grin at war cartoons in an Italian newspaper. One holds a Mascot --- a puppy found during the capture of Sidi Barrani, one of the first Italian bases to fall in the African War. (AP Photo) #
8
An Italian flying boat burning of the water off the coast of Tripoli, on August 18, 1941 after an encounter with a royal air force fighter patrol. Just above the tip of the port wing, the body of an Italian airman can be seen floating. (AP Photo) #





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9
British sources say these are Italian soldiers, killed when shell fire from British artillery pieces caught their ammunition column Southwest of Gazala in the Libyan battles of January, 1942. (AP Photo) #
10
One of the many Italian prisoners of war captured in Libya, who arrived in London on January 2, 1942. This one is still wearing his Africa Corps cap. (AP Photo) #
11
Batteries of an advanced Italian position near Tobruk, Libya, on January 6, 1942. (AP Photo) #
12
British Blenheim bombers setting out on a raid in Cyrenaica, Libya, with their escorting fighters, on February 26, 1942. (AP Photo) #
13
A British patrol is on the lookout for enemy movements over a valley in the Western Desert, on the Egyptian side of the Egypt-Libya border, in February of 1942. (AP Photo) #
14
"Buss" Mascot with an R.A.F. Squadron stationed in Libya, on February 15, 1942, takes a few personal liberties with the pilot of an American-Built Tomahawk plane somewhere in the Western Desert. (AP Photo) #
15
This hydroplane is part of the R.A.F. rescue service in the Middle East. It operates on the lakes of the Nile Delta for the assistance of pilots who may make forced landings in the water. Consisting of a cabin mounted on seaplane flats it is driven by an aircraft engine and propeller mounted in the stern and steered by an aircraft rudder. There are also rudders on each of the floats. The top speed of the craft is about fifteen knots. Photo taken on March 11, 1942. (AP Photo) #
16
Experienced in desert weather flying, a British pilot lands an American made Kittyhawk fighter plane of the Sharknose Squadron in a Libyan Sandstorm, on April 2, 1942. A mechanic on the wing helps to guide the pilot as he taxis through the storm. (AP Photo) #
17
A wounded British warrior in Libya lies on cot in a desert hospital tent, on June 18, 1942, shielded from the strong tropical sun. (AP Photo/Weston Haynes) #
18
Britain's General Bernard Montgomery, Commander of the Eighth Army, watches battle in Egypt's Western Desert, from the turret of an M3 Grant tank, in 1942. (AP Photo) #
19
Truck-mounted anti-tank guns, used as highly mobile, hard-hitting artillery units, speed over the desert and attack the enemy from all sorts of unexpected quarters. A mobile anti-tank unit of the Eighth Army in action, somewhere in the desert, Libya, on July 26, 1942. (AP Photo) #
20
This view of an air raid on an Axis plane base at Martuba, near Derna, in Libya on July 6, 1942 was made from one of the South African planes which took part in the raid. The four sets of white streaks in the lower half show the dust of Axis planes speeding along the ground to escape as bomb bursts appear near them and in upper center. (AP Photo) #
21
During his stay in the Middle East, Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill paid a visit to the Alamein area, meeting brigade and divisional commanders, visiting a gun site, and inspecting personnel of Australian and South African divisions, on August 19, 1942 in the western desert. (AP Photo) #
22
A low-flying Royal Air Force plane escorts rolling trucks of a New Zealand unit on the move in Egypt on August 3, 1942. (AP Photo) #
23
A British unit in a U.S. built M3 Stuart "Honey" tank patrols at speed in Egypt's Western Desert near Mount Himeimat, Egypt, in September of 1942. (AP Photo) #
24
A wounded German officer, found in the Egyptian desert during the first two days of a British offensive, is guarded by a sentry while awaiting backup, on November 13, 1942. (AP Photo) #
25
Some of the 97 German prisoners captured by the British forces in Egypt in a raid on Tel El Eisa, Egypt, on September 1, 1942. (AP Photo) #
26
An Allied convoy, escorted by sea and air, plowed through the seas toward French North African possessions near Casablanca, French Morocco, in November of 1942, part of Operation Torch, the large British-American invasion of French North Africa. (AP Photo) #
27
U.S. landing barges speed shoreward off Fedala, French Morocco during landing operations in early November, 1942. Fedala is about 15 miles north of Casablanca, French Moroccan city. (AP Photo) #
28
Allied troops land and follow the spider webs of footprints left by first parties near Casablanca, French Morocco, in November of 1942. (AP Photo) #
29
Under the watchful eyes of U.S. troops bearing bayonets, members of the Italo-German armistice commission in Morocco are rounded up to be taken to Fedala, north of Casablanca, on November 18, 1942. Commission members were surprised in American landing move. (AP Photo) #
30
French troops on their way to the fighting lines in Tunisia shake hands with American soldiers at the rail station in Oran, Algeria, North Africa, on December 2, 1942. (AP Photo) #
31
A U.S. army soldier with a sub-machine gun and another in a jeep guard the looming S. S. Partos which was damaged and had capsized against the dock when the Allies landed at the North African port, in 1942. (AP Photo) #
32
This German had sought cover in a bomb shelter, attempting to escape an Allied attack in the Libyan desert, on December 1, 1942. He did not make it. (AP Photo) #
33
A U.S. Navy dive-bomber uses a road as a runway near Safi, French Morocco, on December 11, 1942, but hits a soft shoulder in the takeoff. (AP Photo) #
34
B-17 bombers, of the U.S. Army's Twelfth Air force, dropped fragmentation bombs on the important El Aouina airdrome at Tunis, Tunisia, and covered the airdrome and field completely. On the field below enemy planes can be seen burning, on February 14, 1943. (AP Photo) #
35
A United States soldier advances cautiously at left with a sub-machine gun to cover any attempt of the German tank crew from escaping their fiery prison inside their tank following a duel with U.S. and British anti-tank units in Medjez al Bab area, Tunisia, on January 12, 1943. (AP Photo) #
36
German prisoners captured during an Allied raid on German-Italian position in Sened, Tunisia on February 27, 1943. The hatless soldier stated that he was only twenty years old. (AP Photo) #
37
Two thousand Italian prisoners march back through Eighth Army lines, led by a Bren gun carrier, in the Tunisian desert, in March 1943. The prisoners were taken outside El-Hamma after their German counterparts pulled out of the town. (AP Photo) #
38
This pattern of anti-aircraft fire provides a protective screen over Algiers at night. The photo, recording several moments of gunfire, shows a defense thrown up during an axis raid upon Algiers in North Africa on April 13, 1943. (AP Photo) #
39
Italian gunners man their light field piece in a field of Tunisian cactus, on March 31, 1943. (AP Photo) #
40
General Dwight D. Eisenhower, right, commander-in-chief in North Africa, jokes with four American soldiers during a recent inspection of the Tunisian battlefront, on March 18, 1943. (AP Photo) #
41
A German soldier lies sprawled against a mortar after a bayonet attack in Tunis, Tunisia, on May 17, 1943. (AP Photo) #
42
Wildly enthusiastic citizens of Tunis greet the victorious allied troops who occupied the city. A British tankman gets a personal welcome from a Tunis resident in Tunisia, on May 19, 1943. (AP Photo) #
43
After the surrender of Axis forces in Tunisia in May of 1943, Allied forces took more than 275,000 prisoners of war. Shown here is one roundup of thousands of German and Italian soldiers in Tunisia seen in an Army Air Forces aerial shot, on June 11, 1943. (AP Photo) #
44
Actress-comedian Martha Raye entertains servicemen of the U.S. Army 12th Air Force on a makeshift stage on the edge of the Sahara Desert in North Africa in 1943. (AP Photo) #
45
After the defeat of Axis forces in Northern Africa, Allied troops prepared to use the territory to launch attacks on Italy and other parts of southern Europe. Here, a U.S. Air Transport Command plane, loaded with war supplies, flies over the pyramids at Giza, near Cairo, Egypt, in 1943. (AP Photo/U.S. Army) #

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