Saturday, April 16, 2016

WWII in Colour: Number 6: The Mediterranean and North Africa

Mussolini hoped to rebuild a new Roman Empire, and his goal was to control the Mediterranean Sea and make it Italy's Sea.  He had big dreams but time and time again his soldiers did not prove up to the task.  He first wanted to establish North  Africa as Italy.  He already controlled Libya and Abyssinia (present day Ethiopia) however his forces invading Egypt proved to be a mistake.  Not only did they not gain new territory, when the British counter attacked, they pushed the Italians almost out of Libya.  The British would also invade Abyssinia, and although it would take more than a year, eventually the Italians were kicked out.
The Germans were forced to enter the fray to bolster Mussolini, and moved troops from other theaters.  However, General Erwin Rommel would mount another counter offensive going the other way.  Time and again he would out flank the British and drive them back.  So it was that the British were driven back to Egypt.  However the tide would turn again.  With the Americans entering the conflict, the Americans were able to for a new front, to the west of the Germans, invading across Morocco and Algeria.  The British were able to again push Rommel back.  Rommel was relocated to Germany.  In the meantime Hitler would start a pattern which would become frequent.  He left men in a theater too long, until most were captures.
The Italians also had designs on Albania and Greece.  They were able to conquer Albania, but the Greeks refused to surrender.  Again the Italians faces stiff opposition.  German troops were eventually brought in.  The Island of Crete played a vital role, and came under heavy bombardment  from German planes.  Italy had six large Battle Ships to help in control of the Mediterranean.  Four were knocked out by torpedoes launched from planes from an aircraft carrier.  Another would succumb in surface to surface sea battle.  In the end, the Italians proved more of a liability than an asset to Hitler.

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