Africa to the Alps
The Army Air Forces in the Mediterranean Theater
By the time the United States declared war on Germany and Italy onDecember 11, 1941, most of Europe had fallen under the dominationof Adolf Hitler, dictator of Germany’s Third Reich. In the west, onlyGreat Britain, her armies expelled from the European continent, re-mained defiant; in the east, Hitler faced an implacable foethe Sovi-et Union.While the Soviets tried to stave off a relentless German at-tack that had reached Moscow, Britain and her Commonwealth alliesfought a series of crucial battles with Axis forces in North Africa.Initially, America’s entry into the war changed nothing. The Unit-ed States continued to supply the Allies with the tools of war, as ithad since the passage of the Lend-Lease Act in March 1941. U.S.military forces, however, had to be expanded, trained, equipped, anddeployed, all of which would take time.With the United States in the war, the Allies faced the question of where American forces could best be used. President Franklin D.Roosevelt and British prime minister Winston S. Churchill had al-ready agreed that defeating first Germany and then Japan would betheir policy, but that decision raised further questions.Roosevelt wanted U.S. troops in combat against German troops assoon as possible. Josef Stalin, the Soviet leader, demanded a secondfront in northern Europe to relieve pressure on his armed forces.Churchill, fearing German power in France, hoped for a strike at theMediterranean periphery of Hitler’s conquestswhat he called the“soft underbelly” of Europe.Churchill proposed an invasion of northwest Africa for late 1942and Roosevelt agreed. As a result, American forces were soon ontheir way across the Atlantic, beginning a Mediterranean journey thatwould involve them in nearly three long years of combat.
Africa to the Alps
describes the participation of the Army AirForces in the war in the Mediterranean theater of operations, as it de-veloped a practical air-ground doctrine, established an effective inter-diction strategy, and gained valuable experience in airborne opera-tions and close air support of ground troops.