Campaigns of the Mediterranean Theater
Divisions that Fought in the Mediterranean Theater
Algeria-French Morocco 8 - 11 November 1942
Three days after their victory at El Alamein the Allies opened a new front with an assault on Algeria and French Morocco. Twelfth Air Force, with some units based on Gibraltar, some aboard the invasion fleet, and some bearing paratroops from England, entered combat at this time. The campaign was brief, for the French in Algeria and French Morocco offered little resistance to the invaders.
Tunisia 17 November 1942 - 13 May 1943
Having gained Algeria, the Allies quickly turned eastward, hoping to take Tunis and Bizerte before the Germans could send reinforcements into Tunisia. But the drive broke down short of the goal. In February 1943, after Rommel had been driven into Tunisia, the Axis took the offensive and pushed through Kasserine Pass before being stopped. With Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces in the battle, the Allies drove the enemy back into a pocket around Bizerte and Tunis, where Axis forces surrendered in May. Thus Tunisia became available for launching an attack on Sicily as a preliminary to an assault on Italy.
Sicily 9 July - 17 August 1943
In preparation for the invasion of Sicily the Allies captured the islands in the Sicilian strait, with aerial bombardment forcing the capitulation of Pantelleria on 11 June 1943. By that time Allied air power had begun the attack on Sicily by bombing defenses and airfields. The invasion itself got under way on the night of 9/10 July with airborne landings that were followed the next day by an amphibious assault. The enemy offered strong resistance, but the Allies had superiority in the air and soon had planes operating from Sicilian bases to support Montgomeryï¿½s Eighth Army and Pattonï¿½s Seventh. Interdictory operations against communications in Italy and between Italy and Sicily convinced the enemy that it would be impossible to move strong reinforcements. By 17 August 1943 the Allies were in possession of the island, but they had not been able to prevent a German evacuation across the Strait of Messina.
Salerno-Naples-Foggia 9 September 1943 - 21 January 1944
After Allied bombardment of communications and airfields in Italy, Montgomery crossed the Strait of Messina on 3 September 1943 and started northward. Five days later Eisenhower announced that the Italian Government had surrendered. Fifth Army, under Clark, landed at Salerno on 9 September and managed to stay despite furious counterattacks. By 18 September the Germans were withdrawing northward. On 27 September Eighth Army occupied the important airfields of Foggia, and on I October Fifth Army took Naples. As the Allies pushed up the peninsula, the enemy slowed the advance and brought it to a halt at the Gustav Line.
Anzio 22 January - 24 May 1944
On January 1944, in conjunction with a frontal assault, the Allies attempted to turn the Gustav Line by landing troops at Anzio. But the frontal attack failed, and the Allies were unable to break out of the beachhead at Anzio until the Gustav Line was breached in May 1944.
Rome-Arno 22 January - 9 September 1944
The unsuccessful attempt to break the Gustav Line on 22 January was followed by another unsuccessful effort in March when the infantry failed to push through after bombers had endeavored to open the line at Monte Cassino. Allied air power then began a vigorous campaign against railroads, highways, and shipping that supported German forces in Italy. With supply lines strangled, the Germans could not repulse the new drive launched by the Allies in May. German resistance crumbled. By 4 June 1944 the Allies had taken Rome. But the advance ground to a halt against a new defensive line the enemy established along the Arno River.
North Apennines 10 September 1944 - 4 April 1945
In Italy during the fall and winter of 1944-1945 the Allies used their air power against the enemy communications as ground forces beat against the Gothic Line north of the Arno. Although little progress was made on the ground, the action in the Apennines tied down a large German army at a time when those troops could have been used in decisive campaigns being directed against Germany by the Allies in the west and the Russians on the east.
Po Valley 5 April - 8 May 1945
The effectiveness of interdiction in northern Italy was shown by the success of the final Allied drive in that area in April 1945. With communications shattered, the Germans were unable to move enough materiel to make a stand after being driven from their defensive positions south of the Po. Allied forces crossed the river on 25 April; and on 4 May, at the Italian end of the Brenner Pass, Fifth Army met the Seventh, which had driven into Germany and turned southward into Austria. With the joining of these forces the war in Italy was over.
Sources: U.S. Army Center of Military History; Air Force Combat Units of World War II, Office of Air Force History; and US War Department Battles & Campaigns-World War II; United States Military Academy Westpoint Department of History.