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World War II in Africa

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World War II was a global conflict from 1939 to 1945. The European theatre (see World War II in Europe) included North and East Africa.


In the 1930s, most of Africa was divided between European colonies and protectorates. Ethiopia, which had famously resisted colonial forces, became part of the Italian Empire in 1936. Fascist Italy had an ambition to restore the Roman Empire encircling the Mediterranean Sea.

The Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal were strategic objectives.

There were some predicted scenarios where the Axis could seize the Suez Canal for transportation between Europe and the Pacific theatre (or at least prevent the Allies from doing so). This never happened, with the exception of the Yanagi missions, where submarines made shipments between Germany and Japan.


  • Tobruk, Libya: An Allied stronghold.
  • El Alamein, Egypt: The Allies held back the Germans here in a battle which is regarded as one of the turning points of the war.
  • Casablanca, Morocco: Famous from the 1942 film Casablanca, as a sanctuary for well-off refugees from France, on their route to neutral Portugal and the United States.
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