(September 13, 1940- May 13, 1943)
Italy declared war on the Allied Nations (Great Britain and France) on June 10, 1940, and immediately began a campaign against the British in North Africa. Italy had a strong presence in North Africa, and Benito Mussolini dreamed of expanding that presence toward the same territories of the old “Roman Empire.” Chief among the desired territories was Egypt, where British garrisons were stationed to protect the Suez Canal and Royal Navy bases at Alexandria and Port Said. Italy crossed over the Egyptian border from Libya and invaded British protectorate Egypt on September 13, 1940. A British counter-attack in December saw the capture of over 130,000 Italian soldiers. General Erwin “The Desert Fox” Rommel arrived in February 1941 to take command of troops sent to reinforce the Italians. The German units rapidly grew to the size of an Army Corps and were renamed the Deutches Afrika Korps (German Africa Corps). In March, Rommel led an attack on the Egyptian border, where a stalemate developed until the British forced a retreat in November. The two forces conducted a series of operations that frequently shifted the lines of power over the Egyptian border. The Axis powers aimed to control the colonial resources of North Africa, cut off Great Britain from its resources in Asia and Africa, and deprive the Allies of access to Middle Eastern oil supplies while securing if for the Axis. The final Axis offensive of the Western Desert Campaign was launched August 30, 1942. The British halted the offensive on September 3, counterattacking on October 23. By November 2, the Axis troops were forced to withdraw, retreating rapidly across Libya and abandoning Tripoli, the Libyan capital, on January 23, 1943, reaching Tunisia a week later.
Battles - North Africa