World War II (detail from Pearl Harbor photo)

The Mediterranean Theater

Campaign in North Africa

In 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill were becoming personal allies. They agreed to destroy Germany first, then Japan. With Germany battling Russia, U.S. war planners wanted to open a second front in German-occupied France. But Roosevelt deferred to Churchill: the Allies would first attack in the Mediterranean, the “soft underbelly” of Nazi-occupied Europe.

In 1942, untested U.S. troops joined the British, who had been battling Italian and German advances in North Africa for two years. Supported by hundreds of warships and support vessels, plus bombers and fighters, Allied troops put ashore along Africa’s northern coast. Then they pushed east to join the fight against Axis strongholds in Tunisia. Allied air, naval, and ground forces, initially outmatched and often stopped, gradually isolated the Axis army. Months of brutal fighting ended in the war’s first Allied victory, and taught green U.S. troops and commanders hard truths about real combat.

President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill at the 1941 Atlantic Conference off Newfoundland Air transport in North Africa
U.S. transport command plane over Egypt
American P-38 fighters over Tunisia
Americans joining the British in North Africa
American tanks joining the offensive in North Africa
U.S. Army Rangers on patrol
German general Erwin Rommel, the “Desert Fox”

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