Africa Europe

The Second World War in Europe and North Africa Part I

Strategic plans of the anti-Hitler coalition: After the USA entered the war, the United States and Great Britain joined forces in close strategic planning and warfare. At Churchill’s first stay in Washington, D. C. (December 22, 1941 to January 14, 1942), the body of the “Combined Chiefs of Staff” was created, a joint body of the British and American United General Staffs; in addition, the fundamental strategic decisions for the years 1942–44 were reaffirmed: Germany remained the main adversary, the elimination of which would also accelerate the collapse of Japan. On the occasion of the second meeting in Washington (June 1942) both decided to land in North Africa. The starting point for the offensive against Germany remained – in addition to the Eastern Front – the British island. A successful landing on the continent required extensive preparations in terms of material and personnel (arrival of the first American troops in Northern Ireland on January 26, 1942). On August 19 In 1942, a British-Canadian landing operation at Dieppe, carried out as an exploration company, failed. Since September 1941 demanded Stalin the establishment of a second front to relieve the Red Army, a measure which the Western powers promised him first for 1942 and then for 1943 after the USA entered the war. During this time the USSR bore the brunt of the war against Germany on a front up to 3,500 km wide. However, they could concentrate their forces on this one task, while the Western powers were engaged in many widely spaced theaters of war at sea, in the air and on land at the same time. Since they had to organize their supplies worldwide, the activities in the individual combat areas were interdependent.

Sea and air warfare: Since the elimination of the barriers set by the non-warfare of the USA, the successes of German submarine warfare against the Western allies increased. After a final increase in the German sinking numbers from August 1942 to March 1943, however, a turning point became apparent; From March 1943, the allied newbuildings of merchant ships were higher than their losses in this area. Since then, the German submarine losses have increased so much (especially in May 1943: 38 boats) that the commander of the submarines (and Raeder’s successor as commander in chief of the Navy from January 31, 1943), K. Dönitz, on May 24, 1943 the fight against the Allied convoys in the Atlantic broke off.

According to ANYLISTINTHEUS,German surface warfare had practically come to an end since the sinking of the battleship “Bismarck” (May 27, 1941). “Ultra”, the successful attempt by the British to decipher the German radio code, played an important role in the German defeat in the submarine war. Although the Reich leadership was convinced, with the Enigma Having an absolutely secure encryption device for the most secret radio messages from the Wehrmacht and SS, the Polish secret service had already succeeded in 1939 in replicating the device and handing it over to the British. Thanks to the extensive efforts of a group of specialists in Bletchley Park (British eavesdropping center north-west of London), German radio messages could be deciphered as early as May 1940. This gave the Allies an important advantage in waging war (a secret kept by Great Britain until the 1970s).

The British air raids against the German cities took place after Arthur Travers Harris (* 1892, † 1984) in February 1942 had become head of the British “Bomber Command”, with the transition to area bombing the character of terrorist attacks (Lübeck 28/29 March 1942, first 1,000 bomber attack on Cologne 30/31 May 1942). 1942), but without achieving the desired psychological effect on the German population. Since mid-1943, the Allied air offensive steadily increased in force. British warfare retained its focus of attacking large German cities; i.a. Hamburg (July 24–30, 1943: 30,000 deaths) and Berlin (November 18–3 December 1943: 27,000 deaths) were hit particularly hard. From the spring of 1944, under the influence of the Americans, the focus of the air raids shifted to the destruction of the German fuel, air armament and ball bearing industries. The Romanian oil region was also from April 5th. Systematically attacked in 1944. A rapid decline in production was the result. Speer told Hitler that the war was thus lost in terms of production.

The turning point in North Africa: In the Mediterranean region, the situation initially changed in the German favor in the winter of 1941/42 after the British were forced to withdraw a considerable part of their forces to Southeast Asia in order to prevent the Japanese from advancing further. The German-Italian troops under Rommel, pushed back to the Great Syrte between the end of November 1941 and the beginning of January 1942, were able to advance to the area west of Tobruk (February 5, 1942) and prepare a major offensive for the summer.

The offensive of the Rommel Army, begun on May 26, 1942, was surprisingly successful at first (June 21, surrender of Tobruk), but then got stuck on June 30, off El-Alamein, west of Alexandria. A continuation of the offensive in the direction of Cairo and the Suez Canal had to be broken off on September 2nd.

The visible change in the European-African arenas occurred in October / November 1942. On October 23, the 8th British Army (B. L. Montgomery) began a major attack against Rommel’s Army, which abandoned the El Alamein position on November 2, evaded westward in stages and thus evaded complete annihilation. At the end of November 1942 she was back on the Great Syrte. Meanwhile on 7./8. 11. A large-scale American-British landing in Morocco and Algeria under the command of D. D. Eisenhower (Operation “Torch”) takes place.

With that, the Mediterranean was chosen by the Western Allies for a battle of wear and tear on a grand scale. The aim was to completely knock Italy out of the field and tie up so many German forces that afterwards (originally planned for 1943) the invasion of France from the British island could follow. Marshal Pétain ordered the French North Africa Army to resist the Allied invasion; but after fighting in Oran, in Algiers and in the Casablanca area, the resistance was stopped on November 10, 1942 on the instructions of Pétain’s deputy, F. Darlan. Darlan was recognized by the US as the de facto head of state in French North Africa. Rivalries between his successor H.-H. Giraud and de Gaulle did not end until the summer of 1943 with the elimination of Giraud and the enforcement of de Gaulle in the entire French colonial empire.

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