British seize Tripoli (1-23-43)

Brooklyn Eagle (January 23, 1943)

Battle remnants of Axis army

Encircled men get out of trap, Nazis report

London, England (UP) –
The British Eighth Army marched into Tripoli and hoisted the Union Jack at 5 a.m. today and then sent striking forces racing west of Benito Mussolini’s last African capital in an attempt to encircle and annihilate Axis forces straggling into Tunisia.

A lively battle was said to be developing between the advanced units of the British and the Afrika Korps, presumably west of Tripoli. The German-controlled Radio Paris admitted that the battle had started and that Axis forces had been encircled in the early stages but said that attempts of the British to throw a firm ring around the Germans and Italians had been “frustrated.”

An Italian High Command communiqué admitted the fall of Tripoli, but attempted to convey the impression that Axis forces had retired from the city voluntarily.

The smashing blow to Mussolini’s dreams of African empire was hailed here by War Minister Sir James Grigg as having been an action that firmly turned the tide of war for the British and Russian armies. He paid tribute to the remarkable offensive conducted by Sir Bernard L. Montgomery, Eighth Army commander, who in three months moved almost 1,400 miles across the desert, fighting most of the way.

Officials try to escape

The Axis offered a brief, sharp rearguard defense of Tripoli, but the British pushed through to the city that has been under heavy Allied air attack for two weeks. They found that Italian and German civilian officials had fled from the city to the port of Zaura, 70 miles to the west, and were attempting to escape in small boats. Allied planes attacked the boats and damaged some of them.

Medium bombers and fighter bombers from the 9th U.S. Air Force in Cairo played an important part in the capture of Tripoli and the subsequent drive on west. A communiqué said the American pilots operating west of Tripoli started numerous fires among retreating Axis vehicles. At one point incendiary bombs caused a large explosion and fire on the road leading to Tunisia. All U.S. planes returned safely, the communiqué said.

French move up

Brig. Gen. Jacques Leclerc’s Fighting French forces from the Lake Chad region were reported to have turned toward Tunisia and the Mareth Line, along the border, where Marshal Erwin Rommel was believed to be hoping to hole up for a while and give his Afrika Korps a breathing spell.

A dispatch from a United Press staff correspondent in southern Tunisia had hinted that U.S. paratroops and infantry, along with French forces, might soon stab to the coast, cutting the Afrika Korps off in a narrow, desolate corridor.

Three months to a day from the start of his smashing offensive at El Alamein, more than 1,300 miles to the east, Lt. Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery’s desert-hardened Empire troops were swinging down the narrow, twisted streets of Tripoli, and under the marble triumphal arch that the Caesars built.

A column that had bypassed Tripoli moved ahead on Zaura, 70 miles west of Tripoli, along a road that was a graveyard of Axis tanks, trucks and troops.

Italian Empire gone

Beyond the border lay the old French Mareth Line of forts, Ben Gardane, 20 miles inside Tunisia; Medenine, 48 miles west of Ben Gardane, and Gabes, 45 miles north of Medenine, the first big enemy base and anchor point of the corridor to the north.

The Italians’ once-pretentious African empire was for practical purposes gone.

Only 300 miles by land separated the forces of Montgomery and the U.S. Fifth Army, the British First Army and strong French forces in Tunisia. Only 200 miles separated them by air, and U.S. and British planes from Africa and Tripolitania overlapped in an eternal pounding of the fleeing Afrika Korps.

Rommel’s ultimate plan was presumably to flee to northern Tunisia and join forces with Col. Gen. Hans Arnim in holding a small bridgehead encompassing Tunis and Bizerte. If he could get there, the two Axis forces might total 150,000 men. The Allies were believed to have two or three times that many.

To fight delaying action

At best, it was believed, the Axis planned to fight only a delaying action in northern Tunisia, to give the Germans time to prepare their European defenses before the Allies swarm on to the continent.

Tripoli, besides being a great symbolic victory, was of great potential benefit to the Allies. It has a magnificent harbor, presently clogged with wrecked ships sunk by U.S. and British bombers. Great Castel Benito Airdrome, 10 miles south of Tripoli, will give the Allies a nearby base for operating against the Axis in Tunisia.

Radio Morocco said the Axis retreat was now a complete rout.


Had no warning

By the United Press

The heaviest blow of the war fell with deadening suddenness upon the hapless Italian people today as their High Command informed them that the British had taken Tripoli, “Jewel City” of the now-vanished Italian Empire.

The Italians had been told little else and there had been no preparation for today’s announcement. Authoritative sources in London said its loss:

…will strike dismay in the hearts of the Italian people, who will see this British victory as the prelude to an attack on their homeland.

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La Stampa (January 24, 1943)

Le truppe dell’Asse si concentrano in Tunisia dopo avere sgombrato la città di Tripoli

Quattro piroscafi nemici affondati da nostri aerosiluranti e sommergibili

Il Quartiere Generale delle Forze Armate ha comunicato ieri il seguente Bollettino N. 973:

Combattimenti tra le opposte unità motocorazzate sono proseguiti nella giornata di ieri a sud di Tripoli: l’aviazione dell’Asse è intervenuta ripetutamente in appoggio alle azioni terrestri.

Questa notte, dopo i duri combattimenti dei giorni precedenti Tripoli è stata sgombrata dalle truppe dell’Asse, che si dirigo no verso occidente.

In Tunisia le truppe italiane e germaniche hanno ampliato vantaggi conseguiti nei giorni precedenti. Un velivolo americano è stato abbattuto dalle artiglierie contraeree di una nostra divisione.

Nella sera del 22 nostri reparti da bombardamento hanno agito sul porto di Bona, centrandone le installazioni e provocando incendi ed esplosioni.

Successivamente, una formazione di aerosiluranti raggiungeva la baia di Bona, ad onta delle avverse condizioni atmosferiche, e, individuati tre piroscafi, li centrava con siluri, affondandone sicuramente due e danneggiandone gravemente un terzo.

Altro mercantile veniva colpito all’imboccatura del porto. Tutti i nostri velivoli facevano ritorno alla base.

Nostri sommergibili hanno affondato nel Mediterraneo due unità mercantili nemiche.

Aerei nemici hanno bombardato Ispica in provincia di Ragusa, Pachino (Siracusa) e Noto. Tre morti e un ferito tra la popolazione civile.

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Brooklyn Eagle (January 24, 1943)

Eighth Army streams through Tripoli

British chase Rommel as U.S., French, halt Nazis in Tunisia

Cairo, Egypt (UP) – (Jan. 23)
The victorious Imperial Eighth Army swept through Tripoli tonight, completing the destruction of Benito Mussolini’s dreams of empire, and on toward the Tunisian frontier and the expected final battle against the Axis in Africa. All day long, dusty, battle-scarred veterans of the 1,500-mile trans-African pursuit of Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps streamed into the queen city of the once-great Italian Empire.

But there was no relaxation of the 30-mile-a-day pace which Gen. Harold Alexander’s forces had set all the way across Africa from their breakthrough and takeoff at Alamein.

Even before the first main troop contingents had rolled into Tripoli, advance scouting forces were driving on relentlessly to the west.

Nazis bolt for Tunisia

The Tunisian frontier lies only 100 air miles west of Tripoli and the remnants of Rommel’s once-proud army were seeking desperately to get across the border and obtain at least temporary shelter 100 miles deeper in Tunisia behind the French-built Mareth Line of fortifications.

The straggling Axis troops were under constant harassment from U.S. and British planes which rained bombs along the road known as the “Hundred Miles of Hell” and dove low over transport columns to rake them with murderous machine-gun fire.

A U.S. air communiqué reported heavy damage inflicted to the fleeing Axis army with many fires started in convoys to the west of Tripoli and one particularly large explosion, possibly caused hv detonation of an ammunition train.

Navy shells Axis post

The Axis, driven buck to air bases in Tunisia, offered virtually no challenge to the Allied rule of the skies.

Along the African coast west of Tripoli, British light naval forces added to the punishment being inflicted on the Afrika Korps.

They blasted at Zuara, a small harbor about 65 miles west of Tripoli, which remains the only port east of Gabes in Tunisia, which the Axis can employ for even small coastal shipping. The British ships suffered neither damage nor casualties.

Both fighter and bomber planes also attacked Zuara, causing great damage to small ships attempting to scurry out of the harbor.

Other squadrons raced ahead to Ben Gardane, just over the Tunisian frontier, where Rommel was reported to have located his advanced field headquarters, and blasted the newly-established German airdrome there.

With their range steadily increasing through the use of advanced airfields in Tripolitania, Allied planes dropped bombs rom Sicily to the Tunisian shores.

Allied intruder planes took the air over Sicily during the night, inflicting heavy damage on railroad targets and store warehouses, while long-range fighters carried out daylight attacks on Axis shipping along the Tunisian coast.

Two columns enter city

The entry into Tripoli of advance Imperial elements started at 5 a m. today with the British coastal column moving in through Castel Verde, the big Axis air base site, and the southern column through Azizia.

The troops found the city itself little damaged. However, the Germans carried out extensive demolition of the dock and storage facilities.

The Germans fought a strong rearguard action to delay the British entry as long as possible and afford additional time for the escape of their troops into Tunisia.

British engineers were expected to lose no time in starting the rehabilitation of Tripoli port facilities.

After you, Duce

By the United Press

Berlin today let Rome take the Axis honors in announcing the fall of Tripoli.

Despite the fact that Marshal Erwin Rommel is in command of the joint German-Italian forces in North Africa, the first Axis admission of the fall of the city came from Rome.

German news agencies circulated the report of the capitulation under a Rome dateline and the initial version of the day’s Nazi High Command communiqué did not even mention the loss.

Several hours later, a “corrected” version of the communiqué was circulated by radio which included the news of Tripoli.

Allied HQ, North Africa (UP) – (Jan. 23)
U.S. and French troops, fighting side by side, stopped a German drive today along the mountain ranges that line the Ousseltia Valley southwest of Pont du Fahs, while elsewhere in Tunisia, Allied planes blasted Axis airdromes, supply lines and communications.

The Allied forces were reported to have bent back both prongs of German tank and infantry attack. A British and French spearhead halted the northern German thrust along the Kebir River Valley and drove the enemy back four miles. Fighting was last reported in progress six miles north of Rebaa.

There were indications that the Germans had abandoned the northern drive and were concentrating toward Ousseltia. This attack, too, stalled in the mobile battle with the Americans and French.

‘Chutists rounded up

German parachutists dropped behind the Allied lines were rounded up quickly with the aid of French gendarmes and Arabs, an Allied spokesman said.

Positions changed quickly in what was described as a “fluid battle.” Allied bombers and fighters bombed and strafed German communications at the northern end of the Ousseltia Valley in an effort to halt reinforcements. Warhawk fighters flown by Americans and members of the French Lafayette Escadrille attacked vehicles and machine-gun posts, while Douglas A-20s scored direct hits on German tanks 17 miles northeast of Ousseltia.

Raid Tunis airdrome

Between 15 and 20 enemy machine-gun emplacements were destroyed.

U.S. planes destroyed nine Axis aircraft and damaged five in yesterday’s operations. Allied losses were placed at five planes.

U.S. heavy and medium bombers made three strong attacks on the El Aouina Airdrome at Tunis within three and a half hours, causing heavy damage to planes on the ground and to airport installations. Flying Fortresses, Mitchells and Martians, escorted by Lightning Fighters, set fire to buildings and parked planes.

Fifteen Messerschmitts challenged the raiders. Three were shot down and four damaged. One U.S. medium bomber crashed in flames.

French troops were reported holding a height southwest of Pont du Fahs.

The Méharist Camel Corps, cutting across the Libyan desert from southern Tunisia, was reported by the French to have captured the oases of Seheuet and El Barka, near Gat, taking more than 200 prisoners.

The Royal Navy announced that a British submarine operating in the Tyrrhenian Sea off Italy had reported sinking two Axis merchant ships and an anti-submarine schooner. A trawler was also hit and driven ashore.

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