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Old 01-11-2009, 12:03 AM
 
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Question What was happening in Sub Saharan Africa during WWII?

What was happening in Sub Saharan Africa during WWII? All major Allied theatres were in North Africa.
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Old 01-11-2009, 04:46 AM
 
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While it is true that the majority of the World War II action on the African continent took place in North Africa, there was a smaller war front centered on the Horn of Africa.

Italy had held southern Somalia and Eritrea since the 1890ís. With the invasion and eventual taking of Ethiopia by 1936, the Italians had a significant stronghold in East Africa. At the outbreak of World War II, the Italian forces in East Africa numbered upwards of 280,000 strong, though well over half of them were Askari, or colonial troops made up of loyal Somali, Ethiopians, and Eritreans. The Italians also had roughly 300 combat aircraft at their disposal. Though not as modern as those being operated in other theaters, they were still largely superior to the aircraft the British had based in East Africa. In addition to land and air forces, the Italians also operated a flotilla of naval ships in the Red Sea. This was made up of seven destroyers, five motorized torpedo boats, and eight submarines.

The British and Commonwealth forces combined amounted to only 30,000. Eventually reinforcements arrived from India, Rhodesia, South Africa, as well as Ethopians loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie who had been driven from power by the Italians. But even with this infusion of men, the number of troops available to fight against the Italians never reached much beyond 50,000. Italy had stayed neutral after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, so while concerning, the Italian presence in East Africa was not seen as a major threat to British interests, namely the Red Sea and Suez Canal. However, when Germany invaded France, Italy eventually declared war against Britain and France on June 10, 1940. The British were left questioning which area the Italians would target first; the Red Sea ports, Suez Canal, British Somaliland, Sudan, Kenya, or Uganda.

The answer came on June 13th when Italian forces attacked across both the Kenyan and Sudanese borders and managed to capture several towns and outposts from the British. The Italians advanced no further into Sudan then the Blue Nile and just over 60 miles into Kenya. The next action came on August 3, 1940 with the invasion of British Somaliland. With more men and superior air resources, the Italians were able to force the British out completely by August 19th and British Somaliland was absorbed into the rest of Italyís East African possessions.

Though the Italians undertook some naval operations during this time, their actions were limited and did little to stop the flow of men and material through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. The biggest stumbling block to continued military operations by the Italians was their inability to receive troop reinforcement, weapons, ammunition, and fuel. This left them vulnerable and led to some counterattacks by British Commonwealth forces. The Italians were able to halt and drive back these attacks, but eventually they were forced to withdraw into better defensive positions in an attempt to hold onto Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Eritrea.

Finally, in January of 1941, the British felt that they had amassed sufficient troops and equipment to launch a counter-offensive and drive the Italians out of East Africa completely. The British initially opened two land fronts and slowly took back ground from the Italians. Now the lack of fuel, ammunition, and equipment replacement began to take a toll on the Italians. By the end of January, only 67 of the original 300 combat planes they had were still operational.

Some of the most intense fighting took place at Keren in Eritrea. From February 5, 1941 until March 27, the Italians fiercely defended this key town through which a road and railway ran to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and the Red Sea port of Massawa. Even though eventually defeated, the performance of the Italian forces under the command of General Nicolangelo Carnimeo, was, and still is, considered to be one of the few bright spots of Italian combat fighting skill during the Second World War.

With the fall of Keren and the launching of an assault from the sea by the British against the Italian positions in Somaliland, the end was fast approaching. By early April, the port of Massawa was in British hands, effectively ending any further threat against Red Sea shipping lanes and ports. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa was taken back on April 6th, and Emperor Haile Selassie returned there on May 5th to retake his throne. The Governor-General of Italian East Africa, the Duke of Aosta, decided to make his last stand at Amba Alagi in northern Ethiopia. From May 4th to the 14th, the Italians stubbornly held on. Finally running out of drinking water, the Duke of Aosta surrendered to the British on May 18th. The Italians still held one port, Assab, and two towns, Jimma and Gondar, all in Ethiopia. Assab was taken by the British on June 13, 1941, Jimma surrendered to Free Belgian troops on July 3rd, and Gondar held on until November 27, 1941 when the remaining Italian troops formally surrendered to Commonwealth forces.

With that, Mussoliniís grand African Empire was snuffed out after a mere five years of life.
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Old 01-11-2009, 10:03 AM
 
Location: Victoria TX
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I think the thrust of the question meant to address the fact that virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa was the territory of belligerents in WWII, but did not seem to be engaged in any way. "Sub-Saharan" Africa is generally construed to refer to Bantu lands, which the Horn of Africa is not.

Except for the Italian territories in the Horn of Africa, though, all of the colonial powers of the rest of Africa were either allies (Britain, France, Belgium), or neutral (Spain, Portugal). So there was no direct cross-border threat on any of their territories.

However, among Europeans settled in the colonies, they perceived themselves as having the same obligation to the European homeland, to which they retained citizenship and allegiance, and left Africa to join the war effort on the part of the homeland. That was, at any rate, the case in British colonies. So, the effect of the war in Africa, was that the day-to-day management of colonial holdings in Africa was left to the women and the elderly, which no doubt had some effect, but not a significant one.

The Italian territories had virtually no cultural link to the remainder of sub-Saharan Africa, being people of very different racial and cultural persuasion. There was then, and is now, no cultural link between the peoples of Kenya and Ethiopia or Somalia. Since the Germans controlled Tanganyika and Togo a generation earlier, there was no doubt some residual German sympathies in those territories, but probably not expressed very loudly. A very large number of white South Africans were of German ancestry, but then, so were a lot of Americans.
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Old 01-11-2009, 10:09 AM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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There was also fighting in the Middle East as well between the British and the Free French vs the Vichy French in Lebanon and Syria. That is where Moshe Dayan lost his eye while attacking a Vichy French outpost - Dayan and many of the early military leaders of Israel got their start while serving in the British Army in the 1930s and 40s.

The British and the Free French also invaded Vichy French occupied Senegal (West Africa) in 1940 and Madagascar in 1942.

Southwest Africa and Southeast Africa was major campaign in WWI however, a few hundred Germans and 10,000 or so African colonial troops held off over half a million Allied troops from the UK, South Africa, France, Belgium and Portugal for 4 years and was the only German military force that was never directly defeated in WWI. They were also the only German soldiers in WWI who received a heroes welcome and a parade through Berlin. Barack Obama's grandfather served in the British Army's King's African Rifles fighting against the Germans in what is now Tanzania during World War I.
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Old 01-11-2009, 10:41 AM
 
Location: BOY-see
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There was, of course, ongoing naval activity off subsaharan Africa during the war. I believe that both U-boats and commerce raiders caused headaches now and then, and that a few Japanese submarines got as far as the eastern coast. And for a time, new aircraft for Egypt and the Middle East had to be ferried at great effort down to Takoradi (modern Ghana), then northeast across the heart of Africa. SSA also held the sole surviving national territorial outpost of the Belgian Crown, le Congo Belge.
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Old 01-11-2009, 01:48 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyT View Post
While it is true that the majority of the World War II action on the African continent took place in North Africa, there was a smaller war front centered on the Horn of Africa.

Italy had held southern Somalia and Eritrea since the 1890ís. With the invasion and eventual taking of Ethiopia by 1936, the Italians had a significant stronghold in East Africa. At the outbreak of World War II, the Italian forces in East Africa numbered upwards of 280,000 strong, though well over half of them were Askari, or colonial troops made up of loyal Somali, Ethiopians, and Eritreans. The Italians also had roughly 300 combat aircraft at their disposal. Though not as modern as those being operated in other theaters, they were still largely superior to the aircraft the British had based in East Africa. In addition to land and air forces, the Italians also operated a flotilla of naval ships in the Red Sea. This was made up of seven destroyers, five motorized torpedo boats, and eight submarines.

The British and Commonwealth forces combined amounted to only 30,000. Eventually reinforcements arrived from India, Rhodesia, South Africa, as well as Ethopians loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie who had been driven from power by the Italians. But even with this infusion of men, the number of troops available to fight against the Italians never reached much beyond 50,000. Italy had stayed neutral after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, so while concerning, the Italian presence in East Africa was not seen as a major threat to British interests, namely the Red Sea and Suez Canal. However, when Germany invaded France, Italy eventually declared war against Britain and France on June 10, 1940. The British were left questioning which area the Italians would target first; the Red Sea ports, Suez Canal, British Somaliland, Sudan, Kenya, or Uganda.

The answer came on June 13th when Italian forces attacked across both the Kenyan and Sudanese borders and managed to capture several towns and outposts from the British. The Italians advanced no further into Sudan then the Blue Nile and just over 60 miles into Kenya. The next action came on August 3, 1940 with the invasion of British Somaliland. With more men and superior air resources, the Italians were able to force the British out completely by August 19th and British Somaliland was absorbed into the rest of Italyís East African possessions.

Though the Italians undertook some naval operations during this time, their actions were limited and did little to stop the flow of men and material through the Red Sea and Suez Canal. The biggest stumbling block to continued military operations by the Italians was their inability to receive troop reinforcement, weapons, ammunition, and fuel. This left them vulnerable and led to some counterattacks by British Commonwealth forces. The Italians were able to halt and drive back these attacks, but eventually they were forced to withdraw into better defensive positions in an attempt to hold onto Ethiopia, Somaliland, and Eritrea.

Finally, in January of 1941, the British felt that they had amassed sufficient troops and equipment to launch a counter-offensive and drive the Italians out of East Africa completely. The British initially opened two land fronts and slowly took back ground from the Italians. Now the lack of fuel, ammunition, and equipment replacement began to take a toll on the Italians. By the end of January, only 67 of the original 300 combat planes they had were still operational.

Some of the most intense fighting took place at Keren in Eritrea. From February 5, 1941 until March 27, the Italians fiercely defended this key town through which a road and railway ran to Asmara, the capital of Eritrea, and the Red Sea port of Massawa. Even though eventually defeated, the performance of the Italian forces under the command of General Nicolangelo Carnimeo, was, and still is, considered to be one of the few bright spots of Italian combat fighting skill during the Second World War.

With the fall of Keren and the launching of an assault from the sea by the British against the Italian positions in Somaliland, the end was fast approaching. By early April, the port of Massawa was in British hands, effectively ending any further threat against Red Sea shipping lanes and ports. The Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa was taken back on April 6th, and Emperor Haile Selassie returned there on May 5th to retake his throne. The Governor-General of Italian East Africa, the Duke of Aosta, decided to make his last stand at Amba Alagi in northern Ethiopia. From May 4th to the 14th, the Italians stubbornly held on. Finally running out of drinking water, the Duke of Aosta surrendered to the British on May 18th. The Italians still held one port, Assab, and two towns, Jimma and Gondar, all in Ethiopia. Assab was taken by the British on June 13, 1941, Jimma surrendered to Free Belgian troops on July 3rd, and Gondar held on until November 27, 1941 when the remaining Italian troops formally surrendered to Commonwealth forces.

With that, Mussoliniís grand African Empire was snuffed out after a mere five years of life.
Thank you. What about the Germans? Was there a German presence in Sub-Saharan Africa?
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Old 01-11-2009, 05:05 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by blank check View Post
Thank you. What about the Germans? Was there a German presence in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Interesting topic...I'm no war historian, but there MUST have been German (Nazi) activity in Southern Africa....wasn't today's Namibia a German colony at the time? I know it was ONCE....and still has a German cultural presence. I SEEM to remember that when the Nazis lost it, the administration was turned over to South Africa, who governed the place as a 'dependency' and called it "Southwest Africa".

Others may add to this...or correct me.
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Old 01-11-2009, 06:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by macmeal View Post
Interesting topic...I'm no war historian, but there MUST have been German (Nazi) activity in Southern Africa....wasn't today's Namibia a German colony at the time? I know it was ONCE....and still has a German cultural presence. I SEEM to remember that when the Nazis lost it, the administration was turned over to South Africa, who governed the place as a 'dependency' and called it "Southwest Africa".

Others may add to this...or correct me.
Apparently I got my Wars mixed up. The Germans lost the place (Southwest Africa) in WW I....by WW II, apparently the Germans were long gone and it went though THAT war as a dependency of South Africa.

My mistake....German is STILL (I believe) an official language in Namibia..
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Old 01-11-2009, 10:47 PM
 
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Originally Posted by jtur88 View Post
I think the thrust of the question meant to address the fact that virtually all of sub-Saharan Africa was the territory of belligerents in WWII, but did not seem to be engaged in any way. "Sub-Saharan" Africa is generally construed to refer to Bantu lands, which the Horn of Africa is not.
As the original poster referenced war activity in North Africa, this implied (to me at least) that the basis of the question was to whether military action was taking place elsewhere on the African continent. Thus, I answered as I did. If that was not in fact the information the OP was seeking, then I apologize for the mistake.

Also, from both maps and online entries, the Horn of Africa, and more notably the countries that make up this geographic area, are included in the region known as "Sub-Saharan" Africa. Sudan and Kenya are as well. Since Axis and Allied forces were engaged in combat activity in those countries, "Sub-Saharan" Africa was a theater of operation for a brief period at the outset of the Second World War. Of course, it is often overlooked or lumped in with the much larger operations taking place in North Africa.
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Old 01-12-2009, 05:11 AM
 
Location: On a Long Island in NY
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TonyT View Post
As the original poster referenced war activity in North Africa, this implied (to me at least) that the basis of the question was to whether military action was taking place elsewhere on the African continent. Thus, I answered as I did. If that was not in fact the information the OP was seeking, then I apologize for the mistake.

Also, from both maps and online entries, the Horn of Africa, and more notably the countries that make up this geographic area, are included in the region known as "Sub-Saharan" Africa. Sudan and Kenya are as well. Since Axis and Allied forces were engaged in combat activity in those countries, "Sub-Saharan" Africa was a theater of operation for a brief period at the outset of the Second World War. Of course, it is often overlooked or lumped in with the much larger operations taking place in North Africa.
It's one of the more overlooked campaigns along with the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands and the subsequent near disastrous battle to recapture them, the Papua New Guinea Campaign and the China-Burma-India Campaign the latter 2 were mostly fought by British and British Empire troops (mainly Indians and Australians).
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