Operation Flax

Operation Flax is an air operation launched by the Allied during the Tunisia Campaign. The purpose of this operation is to block the air transport routes of the Axis powers leading to North Africa, making the Axis forces either unable to get effective supplies or evacuate from Tunisia region by air. Ultimately, the Allies successfully achieved its goal. Hundreds of thousands of the Axis troops in shortage of supplies and unable to retreat in Tunisia were annihilated.

The war entered into April 1943 when the situation of Tunisia Campaign became clearer. The Axis would not be able to hold Tunisia region, not to mention launch counterattack against and defeat the Allied forces. At this time, the Allies hoped to annihilate the Axis forces in Tunisia to a maximum extent. If the Allies could stop these troops to withdraw to Italy, it would be able to reduce the difficulty of fighting since then. Many of the Axis forces in North Africa had fought for many years and therefore were very experienced. Once these forces successfully returned to Europe, and were re-equipped and resupplied, they would become very powerful combat troops. The number of these Axis forces was about 300,000 people, half of whom were long-term combat troops in North Africa and the remaining troops were reinforcements newly arrived after Operation Torch. But even these newly arrived troops had also fought for a long time in various European battlefields were very experienced.

At this time, the Axis had just suffered a major failure at Stalingrad with 90,000 captured and up to hundreds of thousands of casualties. Whether strengths of air or ground forces had been severely weakened, resulting that the Axis was unable to send strong air forces to carry out operations in Tunisia and unable to seize control of the air to support their own troops and had not enough aircrafts to cover transport planes to evacuate troops. The Allied air forces were very strong and were sufficient to complete the blockade task. Meanwhile, the Allies also carried out large-scale attacks against transport vessels of Axis forces on the Mediterranean and implemented dual air and sea blockade against the Axis forces in North Africa.  

On April 5, the Allied aircrafts encountered a large number of German transport aircrafts as well as the insufficient number of escort fighters in the waters near Tunisia. About eventually half of the German Ju 52s transport aircrafts were shot down by the Allied with the total number shot down of about 14. The Allied at the same time sent a large number of bombers to bomb Axis airports in Sicily and Tunisia, destroying a number of aircrafts parking on the ground. But the two sides had no consistent reports on these actions. The Allies believed it destroyed more than 200 enemy aircrafts, but the Axis data shows that the loss is only less than 30. Afterwards, similar situations continued to appear. There is a battle in which the U.S. military claimed to destroy the enemy aircrafts approaching 150 while the actual loss is less than 40. Nevertheless, the Allied aircrafts successfully completed the tasks of destroying transport of the enemy. In fact, these tasks are not difficult. The Germans dispatched dozens of transport aircrafts, but only had up to a dozen of fighter aircrafts to escort. The Allied effectively made use of its air superiority.

The whole operation ended at the end of April, during which the Allies destroyed a large number of German transport aircrafts and part of the escort aircrafts, successfully cutting off the Axis air transport, resulting that the Axis forces in Tunisia could not make the withdrawal and most of them were captured in May.

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