01 February 1943 - 13 May 1943
The Tunisian campaign of early 1943 was the final stage of the fighting that had raged back and forth along the North African coast since the first Italian drive into Egypt in 1940. Originally controlled by a Vichy French government, Tunisia had been occupied by German forces following the surrender of Vichy forces in French Morocco and Algeria in November 1942. The combined American and British 1st Army advancing into Tunisia from Algeria hoped to move quickly through Tunisia to meet up with the British and Commonwealth 8th Army advancing across Libya after the victory at El Alamein, thereby crushing the Axis forces between them. This was prevented, however, by the rapid reinforcement of Tunisia with German troops from Sicily and a series of skilfully executed defensive operations. By February 1943 the Allies had lost the initiative in Tunisia and a command reorganisation followed. Gradually, after much hard fighting, the 1st Army advancing from the west and the 8th Army advancing from the south pushed the Axis forces into a pocket around Tunis. The strong and intimate air support provided to the 8th Army made a critical contribution to the success of its operations. Cut off from supplies of rations, ammunition and fuel by an Allied naval blockade, the fate of the Axis forces around Tunis was inevitable; the last pocket of resistance surrendered on 13 May 1943.