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World War Two - Hard Way Back
The second episode of Lost Films, this compelling series of life on the front lines of World War 2, continues the story of the American marines fighting the ferocious Japanese army at Guadalcanal and also tells the story of the Allies engagement with Rommel's Afrika Korps in Tunisia.
It is September 12th, 1942 and the American 2nd Marines are holed up on Guadalcanal, the remote jungle island in the Pacific Ocean. For a month the marines have been desparately trying to hold on to an area surrounding Henderson Airfield on Guadalcanal, but fresh water is running low and dysentery is staring to set in to the troops.
Worried of losing it's vital aircraft carriers to the Japanese fleet, the American naval force that was covering the landing has left earlier than planned, taking with them supplies of food, ammunition, medicine and men, leaving the marines on the island stranded and vulnerable to Japanese attacks. Meanwhile, 14 Japanese ships including cruisres, transporters and destroyers are heading straight towards the island.
On the night of September 13th, over 3,000 Japanese troops attack the 840 man force of marines and paratroopers who are defending a key position south of Henderson Airfield. By morning, over 1,200 Japanese soldiers are dead and just 40 marines have been killed, but the Americans are still outnumbered by more than 2 to 1 and short of food and water.
After the 5th week of leaving the marines to fight alone on Guadalcanal, the U.S. naval force is able to break through Japanese fleet's defences to deliver those vital suppliesand re-inforcements.
By the first week of February 1943, 14 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the island is finally declared secure and the Americans celebrate their first major victory over the Imperial forces of Japan. For the first time the relentless Japanese expansion has been stopped, but the two-front war against the Axis powers is only just beginning.
Meanwhile, crossing the Medittaranean Sea is a massive Allied convoy of ships closing in on the coast of North Africa. The invasion, codenamed 'Torch' intends to land 65,000 Allied troops in the French colonies of Algeria and Morocco, planning to trap the Germans between the Anglo-American army and the British 8th Army which has been chasing the Germans across North Africa towards Tunisia.
The operation comes as a complete surprise to the Germans and the Allies are able to put ashore 33,000 troops at Algiers. Allied armoured divisions push forward and within a matter of weeks are just 20 miles from Tunis, the Germans' main supply port. However, before the Allies can mount a decisive attack on the city, the Germans launch a ferocious attack halting the British in their tracks.
In early March 1943, the British 8th Army pushes north into Tunisia while the Americans batter the German's western flank. In the mountains near El Guettar, American artillery and infantry units repel and push back a furious German counter-attack. It is the first time U.S. forces have defeated the battle-hardened German armoured units in battle. Helpless, the Germans retreat northwards to Tunis with the 39th Regiment pursuing them across the dusty ridges of northern Tunisia, closing in on them at the port while Allied aircraft destroy the German supply lines to Italy and any hopes of escape. After a week of unrelenting attacks from both the air and the ground the last remains of the Nazi's hold over North Africa is wiped out.
On May 7th 1943, British troops march into Tunis while the Americans enter the city of Bezzerta. After 5 months since operation 'Torch' began, Allied troops have forced the Nazi's out of the continent. By July, war planners are plotting America's first offensive in the central Pacific region. That same month, the Allies invade Sicily and after a mere 38 days Sicily falls and 100,000 German troops flee to Italy to regroup. The battle to liberate Europe has begun!