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.