bigpigeon.us webpage WWII - Germany > The MTO > MTO Overview > Background, updated by RAC 11 Aug 2022.
I hope the following will help my visitors better understand the Mediterranean Theater context.
Only the following Mediterranean Sea areas remained in Allied hands throughout World War II:
In particular, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia were French colonies, occupied by the Vichy French military, which was friendly to Nazi Germany.
Clockwise around the Mediterranean from the west using the above map:
- Spain was recovering from its devastating civil war of 1936-1939. The authoritarian government of Francisco Franco remained neutral during World War II, although a division of Spanish volunteers did fight against Russia on the Eastern Front from 1941 to 1943.
- Southern France was part of the area of France controlled by the Vichy French government, which was sympathetic to German ideology.
- Italy was part of the Axis group of countries.
- Albania had been absorbed as a protectorate of Italy in 1939.
- Yugoslavia and Greece had been subdued in early 1941 by German and Italian forces.
- Turkey remained neutral during most of World War II.
- Syria and Lebanon were under control of Vichy France until captured by British forces in June and July of 1941.
- Palestine was in British hands.
- Egypt was a client state of Britain. However, coastal northwestern Egypt was occupied at times by Italian and German forces.
- Libya was an Italian colony.
- Morocco and Algeria were French colonies loyal to Vichy France until the November 1942.
- Tunisia, also a Vichy French colony, was occupied by German military from November 1942 until May 1943.
Italy in the Mediterranean, 1911 - 1942
The Loss of the Balkans, 1939-1941
The Balkans occupy the large European peninsula east of Italy shown on the accompanying map.
The Near East, 1941
The Anglo-Iraqi War, May 1941:
- A coup in Iraq in April led to British action against Iraqi military forces. At the request of Iraqi leaders, German aircraft then intervened, using bases in Vichy controlled territory.
- However, British forces prevailed in this short-lived conflict.
- To prevent future German or Vichy intervention in the near east, British forces, primarily from India, attacked Syria and Lebanon on 8 June.
- Vichy forces surrendered on 14 July.
- As a result of the British victory, Syria and Lebanon were now garrisoned by Free French forces.
The Desert War in Libya and Egypt, 1940-1942
This series of battles in northeast Africa ended at the climatic Second Battle of El Alamein 150 miles west of Cairo, Egypt in October and November 1942. At El Alamein, General Bernard Montgomery's British Eighth Army won a decisive victory over the combined German and Italian forces.
After their defeat at El Alamein, the Axis army began a long 1,400 mile retreat to Tripoli at the western end of Libya.
After the November 1942 British victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in Egypt, German and Italian forces began a long retreat westward across Libya and then into Tunisia, where they joined the Axis forces that had been sent to Tunisia after the Allied invasion of French North Africa, also in November 1942.
Rommel's retreat had just begun when British and American forces invaded Morocco and Algeria in northwest Africa on 8 November 1942.
Sources for the WWII The MTO Overview > Background webpage:
- The webpage header photo El Alamein Mine Explosion is courtesy of World War II Wiki.
- The Axis vs British Empire Forces in North Africa, 1940-42 map is courtesy of asisbiz.com.
- The Second Battle of El Alamein slide was found at https://slideplayer.com/slide/4321227/ and is courtesy of Angelica Higgins.
- The Rommel's Retreat from El Alamein to Tripoli map is courtesy of legendsofmen.com.