In July 1943 the Allies launched a massive amphibious assault on Sicily. The invasion proved successful, bringing fame to American Gen. George S. Patton and British Gen. Bernard Montgomery, whose "race" to Messina was immortalized in the movie Patton. But according to Mitcham and Stauffenberg, the Allies lost a significant opportunity for total victory when the Germans mounted a brilliant defense. With only 4 divisions, the Germans held off the invaders for 38 days and then escaped, almost entirely intact, to mainland Italy, dooming the Allies to a prolonged battle of attrition up the Italian peninsula.
In a series of battles marked by daring raids and quick-armored thrusts against a numerically superior enemy, Erwin Rommel, the notorious Desert Fox, and his Afrika Korps waged one of World War II's toughest campaigns in the North African desert in 1942. The Axis campaign climaxed in June with the recapture of Tobruk, a triumph that netted 33,000 prisoners and earned Rommel a field marshal's baton. By fall, however, after setbacks at Alam Halfa and the 2 battles of El Alamein, the Afrika Korps teetered on the brink of defeat, which would come in Tunisia 6 months later.