During WWII, the Allies and the Axis engaged in interconnected conflicts using naval, land and air support throughout the Mediterranean, the Middle East and Africa. Fighting in these operations began on June 10, 1940 – the day Italy joined forces with Germany and entered the war. Fighting in these regions would continue until May 2, 1945 when the Axis forces surrendered in Europe. This did not, however, curtail fighting in Greece. Here, British troops had been sent in an effort to assist Greece and its forces at the beginning of its own Civil War.
Unsettlement in these regions dates back to October of 1935 when Benito Mussolini ordered his troops to invade Ethiopia. They managed to overrun the country within a seven month period and a new empire was declared. Next, Mussolini set his eyes on Albania, an invasion which took place in April of 1939 and secured the victory, this time, within five days.
Soon after, Mussolini’s desire to expand his empire even further – and his desire to match the success of Germany – prompted him to enter into the war with the Axis. He intended on seizing additional territories in southern France as well as the Balkans, Africa and the Suez Canal. However, little was gained. Even once the armistice was signed between Italy and Germany, it wasn’t until German forces were sent to reinforce the Italian-African army that losses in North Africa were returned.
Brief Overlook at United States Involvement
When the United States entered WWII, the US Army and Air Force participated extensively in the Mediterranean, Middle East and African theaters more so than the US Marine Corps. The marines were more involved in the Pacific theater.
Originally, the US Army’s involvement in the Mediterranean theater was known as North African Theater of Operations – NATO. Eventually, it would be referred to as the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. – or MTO/USA. US involvement began with the Allied Expeditionary Force landing on the northwest beaches in Africa in early November of 1942 referred to as Operation Torch. The US was also involved in additional campaigns in the Mediterranean under the operational command of Allied Forces Headquarters (AFHQ).
The Allied Forces headquarters (AFHQ) was created in September of 1942 against two African regions – northern and northwestern coast. Here ground, air and naval operations throughout the Mediterranean Theater of Operations were planned and directed. AFHQ was first headquartered in London (September 1942 thru November 1942), but then it relocated in November of 1942 to Algiers. AFHQ remained in Algiers until July of 1944. In April of 1945, AFHQ moved to Italy.
Determining A Theater of Operation?
“Theater of operation” was a term used by the US field manuals to reflect the land and sea areas that would be involved in any given conflict – whether they were invading or defending. Based on experiences from WWI, the area would be further divided into two major sections 1) combat zone, 2) communication zone. As the conflicts shifted throughout the areas, the zones themselves would also move into a new location.
Throughout WWII, various conflicts erupted throughout Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. The above is a brief overview of some of the involvement in the Mediterranean, Middle East and African Theater of Operations.