Meanwhile, in North Africa…
Yeah, it’s been a while since we’ve said anything about it, but Allied forces (predominantly U.S. and British) had been working for six months to expel the German and Italian forces from the northern coasts of Africa. Opposing armies and navies had worked at the end of extremely long supply lines trying to outfit and feed their soldiers.
At the same time, U.S. soldiers and their commanders had been doing a lot of “under-fire” training…making decisions, making mistakes, regrouping, and trying again. Tremendous frustration and repeated defeat had given way to a more cohesive, more effective machine that was fighting an ever-weakening foe.
And as April gave way to May, the Allied goals of capturing Tunis and Bizerte had become a reality, as they had moved to within shouting distance of both targets. The Germans, who had seen their stream of supplies reduced to a trickle, were now only fighting to prolong the inevitable.
Early in the morning of May 6, 1943, the final Allied offensive in North Africa began. Simply called Operation Strike, it called for the American II Corps to make for the port of Bizerte. In the meantime, the British First Army, located 30 miles south, was bearing down on Tunis. The British Eighth Army, still further south, acted as a diversion in order to tie up as much of the German 5th Panzer Army as possible.
The Germans collapsed and, on May 7, 1943, both Bizerte and Tunis traded hands. The German 5th Panzer Army, the only cohesive enemy force left on the continent, had been pushed back to the Cape Bon Peninsula. I’m guessing that many a German soldier looked longingly to the northeast, toward Sicily, hoping for a Dunkirk-style miracle that wouldn’t be coming.
It would take another week to finalize things, but the Axis presence in North Africa was finished.
Recommended Reading: An Army at Dawn