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This page deals with the United States Army's Mediterranean Theater of Operations. See Mediterranean Theatre of World War II for more details of other campaigns in the theater.

The Mediterranean Theater of Operations, United States Army (MTO USA) was originally called North African Theater of Operations (NATO).[1] It is the American term for the theater of operations between the Allies and Axis Powers in North Africa and Italy during World War II. US operations in the theater began with of the Allied Expeditionary Force, which landed on the beaches of northwest Africa on November 8, 1942, in Operation Torch. They ended in the Italian Alps some 31 months later with the German surrender in May 1945.

Command structure

The operational command of the MTO USA was a combined U.S.-British operational command called Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ, which planned and directed ground, air, and naval operations and military government activities in the North African and Mediterranean theatres of operations.[2] It was created on September 12, 1942 to launch a combined U.S.-British operation against the northern and northwestern coast of Africa. In February 1943 the authority of AFHQ was extended to include the British 8th Army, command by General Bernard Montgomery which having advanced westwards after the Second battle of El Alamein was approaching the border of Tunisia where the British, American and French forces in British First Army had been fighting the Tunisia Campaign.

Initially AFHQ was located in London from September until November 1942. It relocated to Algiers in Algeria in November 1942 and remained there until July 1944. From Algiers it moved to Caserta in Italy until April 1945. Its last relocation was to Leghorn (Livorno), Italy between April 1945 until April 1947.[3]

The initial Commander-in-Chief, Allied (Expeditionary) Force, was General Dwight D. Eisenhower.[4] Eisenhower as Supreme Commander had the ultimate responsibility. The British General Harold Alexander was Deputy Commanderin Chief, and was responsible for the detailed planning and preparation, and the actual conduct, of combat operations. In effect, he was the ground commander.[5]

Shortly after the establishment of the headquarters, expeditionary was deleted from its title for reasons of operational security. Having overseen the Tunisia campaign, the invasion of Sicily and the invasion of Italy, Eisenhower left AFHQ and returned to England in late 1943 to assume command of the forces assembling for Operation Overlord, the Allied landings in northern France. He was succeeded at AFHQ by Field Marshal Sir Henry Maitland Wilson. Wilson's title became Supreme Commander, Mediterranean Theatre of Operations. As such he exercised strategic control over the campaign in Italy. He strongly advocated the invasion of Germany via the Danube plain (instead of invading southern France), but this did not take place when the armies in Italy were weakened to support other theatres of war.[6] Wilson was in command for just under a year, until he was sent to Washington in December 1944 as head of the British Joint Staff Mission. Wilson was succeeded by Field Marshal Sir Harold Alexander who was Supreme Commander and commander of AFHQ until the end of the war.

For administrative purposes, U.S. components were responsible to Headquarters North African Theater of Operations, United States Army (NATOUSA), from February 14, 1943 (NATOUSA redesignated Mediterranean Theater of Operations, United States Army, MTOUSA, October 26, 1944). The British components were responsible to General Headquarters Central Mediterranean Forces (CMF), from October 1, 1945.


Headquarters MTOUSA and General Headquarters CMF formally separated from AFHQ on October 1, 1945, leaving AFHQ to consist of a small interallied staff responsible for combined command liquidation activities and commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William Morgan as Supreme Allied Commander Mediterranean.[7] AFHQ was abolished, effective September 17, 1947, by General Order 24, AFHQ, September 16, 1947.

Campaigns and operations

See also U.S. campaigns in WWII

A theater of operations

Chart 12.- Typical organization of a theater of operations as envisaged by War Department Doctrine, 1940

The term "theater of operations" was defined in the [American] field manuals as the land and sea areas to be invaded or defended, including areas necessary for administrative activities incident to the military operations (chart 12). In accordance with the experience of World War I, it was usually conceived of as a large land mass over which continuous operations would take place and was divided into two chief areas-the combat zone, or the area of active fighting, and the communications zone, or area required for administration of the theater. As the armies advanced, both these zones and the areas into which they were divided would shift forward to new geographic areas of control.[8]

See also


  1. Ernest F. Fisher, Jr. (1993). United States Army in World War 2, Mediterranean Theater of Operations, Cassino to the Alps: With a Portfolio of Maps. Government Printing Office. p. 9. 
  2. Steven J. Zaloga (2011). Eisenhower. Osprey Publishing. p. 16. 
  3. Marcia Kurapovna (2009). Shadows on the Mountain: The Allies, the Resistance, and the Rivalries that Doomed WWII Yugoslavia. John Wiley & Sons. p. 135. 
  4. George F. Howe Northwest Africa: Seizing the Initiative in the West: Organizing the Chain of Command of the Allied Force Center of Military History, 1991
  5. Garland, Albert N.; Smyth, Howard McGaw. The Mediterranean Theater of Operations: Sicily and the Surrender of Italy (Paperback). Government Printing Office. p. 55. 
  6. Ernest F. Fisher, Jr. (1993). United States Army in World War 2, Mediterranean Theater of Operations, Cassino to the Alps: With a Portfolio of Maps. Government Printing Office. p. 258. 
  7. Mead, Richard (2007). Churchill's Lions: A biographical guide to the key British generals of World War II. Stroud (UK): Spellmount. p. 520. ISBN 978-1-86227-431-0. 
  8. Armfield, M.A., Blanche B.. "Medical Department United States Army in World War II: Chapter VII: Prewar Army Doctrine for Theater". 


Further reading

  • O’Hara, Vincent P. Struggle for the Middle Sea: The Great Navies at War in the Mediterranean Theater, 1940–1945. (Annapolis: Naval Institute, 2009. xviii, 324 pp) ISBN 978-1-59114-648-3

External links

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