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North Africa

P-40s at their airbase in Egypt, October 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)

P-40s at their airbase in Egypt, October 1942. (U.S. Air Force photo)

P-40s of the 66th Fighter Squadron take off on a mission over North Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo)

P-40s of the 66th Fighter Squadron take off on a mission over North Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Loading bombs onto a P-40 in North Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Loading bombs onto a P-40 in North Africa. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. Forces Invade French Africa, Open Second Front. (U.S. Air Force photo)

U.S. Forces Invade French Africa, Open Second Front. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Boeing B-17F-5-BO (S/N 41-24406) "All American III" of the 97th Bomb Group, 414th Bomb Squadron, in flight after a collision with an Me-109. The aircraft was able to land safely. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Boeing B-17F-5-BO (S/N 41-24406) "All American III" of the 97th Bomb Group, 414th Bomb Squadron, in flight after a collision with an Me-109. The aircraft was able to land safely. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-24 of the 376th Bomb Group, 515th Bomb Squadron, taking off. (U.S. Air Force photo)

B-24 of the 376th Bomb Group, 515th Bomb Squadron, taking off. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Part of a nose door taken from the P-38F "Daisy Mae," flown by Maj. Joel Owens, World War II ace and a former commander of the 27th Fighter Squadron. Owens gained his victories in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. The door was donated by Maj. (Ret.) Joel A. Owens Jr. on behalf of the 27th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- Part of a nose door taken from the P-38F "Daisy Mae," flown by Maj. Joel Owens, World War II ace and a former commander of the 27th Fighter Squadron. Owens gained his victories in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. The door was donated by Maj. (Ret.) Joel A. Owens Jr. on behalf of the 27th Fighter Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- British battle dress and goggles and U.S. flying helmet worn by the donor, Col. Maurice Elstun, on combat missions in North Africa in 1942-1943. When his 93rd Bomb Group was sent from England to Northwest Africa, it was scheduled for only a 10-day period, so most men of the 93rd took few clothes with them. However, the 93rd was soon sent to a base near Torbuk, Libya, for permanent assignment where the only uniforms available were British. These items are on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

DAYTON, Ohio -- British battle dress and goggles and U.S. flying helmet worn by the donor, Col. Maurice Elstun, on combat missions in North Africa in 1942-1943. When his 93rd Bomb Group was sent from England to Northwest Africa, it was scheduled for only a 10-day period, so most men of the 93rd took few clothes with them. However, the 93rd was soon sent to a base near Torbuk, Libya, for permanent assignment where the only uniforms available were British. These items are on display in the World War II Gallery at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. (U.S. Air Force photo)

In the spring of 1942, the German Afrika Korps, commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, "The Desert Fox," had advanced eastward across North Africa to El Alamein, deep inside Egypt. The British called for U.S. aerial assistance and by July, the AAF had become sufficiently strong to join the RAF in attacking Axis airfields, supply, munitions and fuel dumps, harbor facilities, and shipping.

With its logistical system thoroughly disrupted, the Afrika Korps was forced to retreat westward on Oct. 23, 1942. RAF and AAF pounded German and Italian airfields daily to prevent the Axis from employing its own airpower. Once the enemy had retreated beyond an airfield, RAF and AAF units moved in to occupy it. By the end of January 1943, Axis forces had been pushed back more than 1,000 miles to the Tunisian frontier.

On Nov. 8, 1942, while the Afrika Korps was retreating westward from Egypt, the Allies invaded French West Africa. Amphibious landings were made at Casablanca and Oran despite strong resistance by Vichy French troops, but within several days, the area was secured by U.S. and British troops. Axis forces were now caught between Allied armies to the east and west. Allied units at Oran immediately began driving eastward to occupy Tunis so as to prevent the Axis from evacuating its forces. However, Germany and Italy began flying men and weapons into Tunis and Bizerte by Ju-52s from Sicily, and they transferred large numbers of fighters and dive bombers to Tunisian airfields.

For the next six months, Axis forces, bolstered by the Afrika Korps which had retreated from Egypt, battled Allied forces on the frontiers of Tunisia. In cooperation with the RAF, the AAF used every type of airplane available, P-38s, P-39s, P-40s, Spitfires, B-17s, B-24s, B-25s, B-26s and A-20s, to provide direct support for ground forces and to bomb Axis ports, ship convoys and supply depots. By late March 1943, the Germans were using 500 planes to airlift reinforcements from Italy to Tunisia, so on April 5, the AAF began a campaign to cripple the aerial lifeline. By nightfall, 201 enemy airplanes had been destroyed. The Axis continued to suffer staggering losses, both on the ground and in the air, and daily the Allies closed the ring around the enemy. The AAF and the RAF won supremacy in the air, and early in May, German resistance on the ground began to collapse. By May 10, 1943, the last German unit of appreciable strength, the 15th Panzer Division, surrendered. The Axis had been driven from Africa.

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Other Resources
USAF Historical Study No. 105: Air Phase of the North African Invasion (Provided by AFHRA)
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