During the Second World War, the North African Campaign took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 16 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts (Western Desert Campaign, also known as the Desert War) and in Morocco and Algeria (Operation Torch) and Tunisia (Tunisia Campaign).
The campaign was fought between the Allies and Axis powers. The Allied war effort was dominated by the British Commonwealth and exiles from German-occupied Europe. The U.S. entered the war in 1941 and began direct military assistance in North Africa on 11 May 1942.
Fighting in North Africa started with the Italian declaration of war on 10 June 1940. On 14 June, the British Army's 11th Hussars (assisted by elements of the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, 1st RTR) crossed the border into Libya and captured the Italian Fort Capuzzo. This was followed by an Italian offensive into Egypt and the capture of Sidi Barrani in September 1940 and then in December 1940 by a Commonwealth counteroffensive, Operation Compass. During Operation Compass, the Italian 10th Army was destroyed and the German Afrika Korps—commanded by Erwin Rommel—was dispatched to North Africa—during Operation Sonnenblume—to reinforce Italian forces in order to prevent a complete Axis defeat.
A see-saw series of battles for control of Libya and parts of Egypt followed, reaching a climax in the Second Battle of El Alamein when British Commonwealth forces under the command of Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery, delivered a decisive defeat to the Axis forces and pushed them back to Tunisia. After the late 1942 Allied Operation Torch landings in North-West Africa, and subsequent battles against Vichy France forces (who then changed sides), the Allies finally encircled Axis forces in northern Tunisia and forced their surrender.
The Axis, by fighting against the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front, provided relief for the British and later American forces fighting in North Africa. Information gleaned via British Ultra code-breaking intelligence proved critical to Allied success in North Africa
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