How West Africa helped win World War II
In June 1940, when France fell to the Nazi invasion, Italy seized the moment to attack British positions in Egypt, Kenya, and Sudan. By the end of March 1941, Rommel`s troops had driven the British out of Libya and back into Egypt. In late spring, German and Italian aircraft were pummeling Britain`s sea stations in the Mediterranean, making it difficult for supply ships to reach British forces in the Middle East. In desperation, Churchill turned to an underdeveloped, 3,700-mile air route from Takoradi in the British colony of the Gold Coast (now Ghana) to Cairo, Egypt. As the starting point of the Allied trans-African supply line to Egypt that became known as the West African Reinforcement Route (WARR).
GIs recalls North Africa: When German tanks rolled in it was every man for himself
Tank driver Ray Wittich learned that wherever you went, no matter how good your cover was, the Germans would find you and shell, strafe or bomb you, every time. His unit was overrun at Faid Pass as part of the U.S. Army`s disastrous first encounter with Erwin Rommel. Wittich remembers going to sleep, then being awakened by a wounded GI running by, shouting "The Krauts are coming! I mean they`re coming!" German tanks rolled in, and it was every man for himself: "I seen a half-track loaded with guys... and them Krauts, them tanks, they hit that track right in the back and all them guys were gone, so I figured I`m not going up that way."
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Battle of Kasserine Pass: The first face-off between American and German armies did not end well for the U.S.
Wirt Cunningham recalls being at war with untested mechanized artillery against the Nazis who had been waging war for years. At dusk Feb. 14, 1943 he was fighting off sleep when a 91st Field Artillery Battalion guard alerted Cunningham`s anti-tank gun unit of the approach of a 200 German tanks from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel`s Panzer Army.
The location was the Djebel Lassouda Crossroads in Tunisia. The fight was a prelude to the Battle of Kasserine Pass - the first major face-off between American and German armies. The battle did not end well for the U.S., revealing major weaknesses in U.S. armor and weaponry. But Cunningham earned a Silver Star for his actions:
"The main tank force was bearing down at 1,000 yards to my right front and two Mark IVs were coming parallel to my position at about 150 yards. I loaded and fired an armor piercing round into the lead tank`s track knocking it off its bogie wheel. When the tank commander opened the hatch on the turret I put a high-explosive round on the hatch cover. Nobody got out."
Hungarian desert explorer Laszlo Almasy guided Nazi agents through the Sahara
In the 1930s, Laszlo Almasy set out to find the lost oasis of Zarzura - the mythical place mentioned in Arabian treasure books. He explored 2 million square kilometers of the Sahara, drawing maps and seeing places "that no human eye had seen." In 1942, Almasy guided Nazi agents into British-occupied Egypt in a mission known as "Operation Salam." The adventurer worked for the "Brandenburg Division," a legendary German unit that carried out raids behind enemy lines. Almasy`s diaries have disappeared, but reports he wrote for the Nazis were captured and are now locked away in the Imperial War Museum in London.
The Desert Rats and the friend who was once a foe reunite, recall Erwin Rommel
It is a n emotional moment when a band of Desert Rats are reunited with an old foe. German soldier Rudolf Schneider first saw Alex Franks in the Libyan desert 68 years ago. Ambulanceman Franks recalls: "We didn`t so much meet as share a moment together. I ... ran my ambulance into a German tank position." It just so happened that his mistake coincided with Erwin Rommel`s inspection. There was nothing to do but surrender. But the Desert Fox waved him away: ambulances were not tanks, and for the German General there was no honor in capturing medics. Standing next to Rommel that day was Schneider - part of Rommel`s personal battle squadron.
The Kasserine Pass: Facing Erwin Rommel`s panzers for the first time
Feb. 14, 1943: American 34th Infantry Division faced off against a battle-hardened German Army in North Africa. In command of Hitler`s Panzers was General Erwin Rommel. In 2002 Joe Boitnott and Duane Stone recalled their face-off with the Wehrmacht at the Faid Pass. "The commanding officer... run out of ammunition and run out of manpower," said Boitnott. On Feb. 25, the battle for the Kasserine Pass was over. "They had more than 6,000 casualties. They`d had units completely destroyed. In terms of yardage lost, it was the greatest defeat for the American Army in WW2," said Atkinson. Dwight D. Eisenhower reacted to the loss, calling in General George Patton.
Battles of the 1st Armored Division recalled
When J.D. Womack was in Italy 6 decades ago, the country was not a nice place for tourists. Drafted into the U.S. Army in Feb 1941, he was assigned to the 1st Armored Division, which was put under British command for Operation Torch (the invasion of North Africa). Womack was in one of the first tanks to hit the beach of Morocco: "The first time... I was so scared I had to reach up and see if my helmet was still there. We fought the French for 3 days [referring to the forces of the pro-Nazi Vichy government]. They were like us. Their equipment was pretty old." One of the most unforgettable memories was "the Stuka dive bombers. That`s the worst thing."
El Alamein battlefield scars - World War II desert warfare
Oct 23 1942: 200,000 Commonwealth soldiers faced 150,000 German and Italian forces in the final desert battle of the North Africa Campaign. 4 months earlier Britain had a depressing defeat with the fall of Tobruk. Previously El Alamein was a barren watering station, but by the time Britain launched its attack, its landscape was transformed into a battlefield of trench warfare for the face-off between Bernard Montgomery and Erwin Rommel. Evidence of the battle is everywhere: billboards warn of active mine fields, the Teutonic-looking German memorial, the white-marble Italian mausoleum and the British and Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.
Project by Italian university to safeguard historical battle site at El Alamein
The University of Padua and the National institute of Oceanography and Geophysics in the port city of Trieste have began a project (including a data bank of geographic information) to safeguard the site of one of the key battles of World War II at El Alamein. The project`s purpose is to access its socio-cultural importance and increase its value as a tourist location. Two key battles were fought at El Alamein in 1942 between the Axis and Allied forces. The research involves mapping out the thousands of battle positions, items and sites where the soldiers set up their camps during the battle.
Nazi landmines block Egypt`s access to natural resources
Desert Fox Erwin Rommel and the British 8th Army left behind about 22 millions mines and unexploded shells in their North African battles of World War II. The explosive relics are preventing Egypt`s access to oil and gas reserves in the desert. Many of the mines are near the battlefield of El-Alamein, where the British Eighth Army forced the Africa Corps to retreat back to Tunisia. Anti-tank mines, anti-personnel mines and unexploded artillery shells block today`s routes because wherever the armies of the Axis powers and the Allies clashed in North Africa, they limited each other`s mobility by minefields.
1942 - Operation Torch
Nov. 8 marks 65 years since the start of Operation Torch - The first offensive by Allied High Command against Nazi Germany and Italy. It was deemed practical to land forces in northwest Africa along the coast of Morocco and Algeria. Both under the control of Vichy France, which was in collaboration with Nazi Germany. After little resistance and much cooperation from the Vichy forces, the Allied soldiers were able to establish a beachhead. As they moved inland, the Allies engaged German forces under the Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. In 1943 battles were fought in Tunisia, including the engagement at the Kasserine Pass.
The British Army`s victory over Rommel`s Afrika Korps at El Alamein (Article no longer available from the original source)
The Duchess of Cornwall attended a memorial service in Thetford Forest to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the start of the battle of El Alamein. Winston Churchill knew it was a crucial victory: since 1940 the British Army had been in a war of attrition. Morale was at rock bottom and the allies had been pushed back by Erwin Rommel`s Afrika Korps to within 30 miles of the Nile. To lose Cairo and the Suez Canal would have been a disaster. But the tide was turning. Richard Heseltine, in 1942 a camouflage expert in the 3rd The King`s Own Hussars, remembers his first encounter with Field Marshall Montgomery.
Colonel Vic Senior - Won Military Cross in Tunisia in 1943, dies at 91
Colonel Vic Senior, who won an Military Cross in Tunisia in 1943 and a Bar to it in Greece in 1944, has died at 91. In March 1943 he was at Mareth in command of a troop of 50th Royal Tank Regiment (50 RTR). When Axis forces tried to break through the Allied defences, his squadron attacked an enemy position in the Wadi Melah. His squadron was able to cross the river bed and inflicted severe casualties on the Italians. Later when 15 Panzer Division attacked the bridgehead on the Mareth Line and 50 RTR lost 27 tanks, he took command of the 3 remaining tanks. Enemy infantry worked their way past his tanks, but he gave no ground until he was ordered to withdraw.
Where tanks fought fiercely: Golf and minefields at El-Alamein
The sands of El-Alamein are being readied for tourism, but only once the land mines are cleared. There are 20 million landmines buried in the area. Wartime maps are hardly helpful because the mines have moved due to erosion. "The worst ones are the Riegel mines placed by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel as he was fleeing to Libya," after Allied forces led by General Montgomery, broke the Axis line in Oct 1942. The defeat of Afrika Korps ended the Nazis` hopes of capturing the Suez Canal. The absence of natural barriers led both armies to fortify their positions by mines. Since 1945, 700 people have been killed and 8,000 mutilated by anti-personnel or anti-tank mines.
WW2 in Africa is over; Gen. Von Arnim and 150,000 men captured (Article no longer available from the original source)
Col. General Dietloff von Arnim, the Prussian Commander in Chief of the Axis forces in North Africa, has been captured by the British, on Cap Bon. In all, 150,000 POWs are believed to have been taken since May 5, when the final assaults on Tunis and Bizerte began. This brings to 400,000 the total of Axis prisoners taken since the North African campaign. General von Sponeck announced that he would fight to his last bullet. Then, that Prussian point of military honor having began satisfied by fire from British guns heavier than his own, he surrendered.
1941-1945: Andartiko - the Greek Resistance partisans
Andartiko - the Greek Resistance partisans who fought against Italian and German fascist occupation. Nowhere was resistance as simple as good guys in the hills with rusty rifles, and bad guys wearing swastikas and burning villages, but Greece was particularly complex. Even the Italian decision to invade seems bizarre, motivated by a desire to counter German influence in Rumania. After the Italians were humiliated by the Greek Army, the Wehrmacht stepped in and broke the resistance in April 1941. The Germans turned over most of the occupation to the Italians. At least in spirit much of the Greek population embraced resistance.
Australians denied the advances of the German Afrika Korps (Article no longer available from the original source)
A new book on the Rats of Tobruk fleshes out the Australian legend - the story unfolded over nine months in 1941, when 14,000 Australians denied the advances of the German army in North Africa. The German Afrika Korps, commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, believed that once the Australians who had positioned themselves in the strategically crucial port were dealt with, all Africa would fall into their hands. However Tobruk and the Australians proved a thorn in the side of a previously unstoppable Nazi war machine that had already used its Panzer tanks and blitzkrieg fighting style to take Poland, Belgium and France.
Crete visit brings war days back
In May 1941, Mr Coughlan, "Coggy", was a brengunner in the New Zealand Army`s 19th battalion. To this day his most vivid memory was seeing thousands of German soldiers parachuting down from the sky onto the island, ready to attack. "The sky was littered with them." He was shot through the hand on the first day the battle for Crete began to rage. The makeshift army hospital he was taken to was in a ditch and his wound was never properly dressed. "We woke up one morning and found just two of us were left. Everyone else had moved out overnight and they had missed us."
Ethiopia demand Italy`s compensation for 500,000 lives lost (Article no longer available from the original source)
Italy paid Ethiopia $5 million after a 1947 peace treaty, although the Emperor Haile Selassie had demanded $600 million. 70 years on, memories are still fresh in Ethiopia of the 1935 invasion ordered by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, whose forces used mustard gas and other chemical weapons in the country then known as Abyssinia. When Addis Ababa fell, Ethiopia formed part of Italian East Africa with Eritrea and Italian Somaliland until its liberation by WW2 allies in 1941. Mussolini`s troops torched 2,000 churches and killed 5 million cattle, 70 million sheep and goats, 1 million mules and horses, and 700,000 camels during the campaign.
The fascist invasion of Abyssinia (Article no longer available from the original source)
Abyssinia had been one of the few states to survive "the scramble for Africa" by the major European powers in the late 19th century, having defeated Italy at the battle of Aduwa in 1896. Now Benito Mussolini, Italy`s fascist dictator, dreamed of taking revenge and carving out a "New Roman Empire" in East Africa. The Abyssinians were left isolated in the face of fascist Italy`s far more technologically developed war machine. The Italian military used poison gas to wipe out the Abyssinian civilian population. The Italians bombed civilian targets, hospitals and even the International Red Cross.
William P. Yarborough: The plan for the airborne phase of North Africa
Soldiers paid tribute to a pioneer of modern warfare as Lt. Gen. William P. Yarborough was laid to rest. From the earliest days of paratroop experiments, his hand touched every part of airborne: he worked out the designs for jump uniforms and jump boots. He designed the airborne insignia, the famous jump wings of the parachutist`s badge. He developed the initial concept and plan for the airborne phase of the WWII invasion of North Africa, then as executive officer went with that task force on its flight over Spain toward target objectives in Algeria - the longest operational flight ever made by parachute troops.
War hero killed German soldiers disguised as a Nazi paratrooper
A New Zealand war hero broke the international rules of combat by killing German soldiers in WWII while disguised as a Nazi paratrooper. The claim appears in a newspaper report about a new book. Alfred Clive Hulme was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest British and New Zealand bravery award, for his actions in the 1941 Battle of Crete. It is there that he killed 33 German snipers and other soldiers while dressed as a German paratrooper.
Battle for the Desert - footage from the frontlines of WWII
Some of the most famous battle footage from the frontlines of WWII is included in this five-hour marathon of newsreel and documentary film. The highlight of the first disc is Roy Boulting’s Oscar-winning 1943 morale-booster Desert Victory. Using footage shot in North Africa by cameramen of the Army Film and Photographic Unit (4 of whom were killed during the campaign), it tells the story of the Allied defeat of Rommel`s Afrika Korps and climaxes with the Battle of El Alamein.
Operation Mincemeat - How a Corpse Saved Lives in WWII (Article no longer available from the original source)
In the spring of 1943, after the campaign in North Africa, the Allies began to plan the invasion of Hitler`s "Fortress Europe." The best target was Sicily: It would provide a springboard for the invasion, and eliminate the Luftwaffe`s presence. Allies faced three obstacles: (1) Sicily is a mountainous island which favored the defenders. (2) The Axis knew that it was logically the next move. (3) The invasion, codenamed Operation Husky, required a build up which would likely be detected. Sir Archibald Cholmondley, of the British Intelligence interservice XX Committee conceived the idea to plant false documents on a dead man and let them fall into the hands of the Germans.
Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Gibbon: Leading a tank attack near Tobruk
Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Gibbon was awarded a DSO for leading a tank attack near Tobruk in 1941, and a Bar for escaping from a German PoW train in 1943 and leading a group of officers to safety in Yugoslavia. On Nov 29 1941 Gibbon was commanding "A" Squadron of the 44th Royal Tank Regiment, attached to the New Zealand Division. As part of the first phase of Auchinleck`s "Crusader" operation, which lifted the siege of Tobruk, the New Zealanders joined the garrison and were soon deployed on the gravel ridge of Sidi Rezegh; they were attacked from three directions by the 15th and 21st Panzer Divisions and an Italian unit.