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tv   Reel America Tunisian Victory - 1944  CSPAN  March 30, 2018 9:03am-10:24am EDT

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cases podcast at c-span.org/landmark cases. >> tunisian victory was a world war ii propaganda film on the north africa campaign co-produced by the british and u.s. governments and released in early 1944. the documentary used combat footage and reenacted scenes, animated maps and segments with president franklin d. roosevelt. british prime minister winston churchill and french president charles de gal. they told the story with alternating british and american narraters. the campaign ended with an allied victory in may 1943. when approximately 275,000 axis soldiers surrendered. this is an hour and 15 minutes. ♪ ♪
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♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ >> 18 hours out. destination unknown. a military secret. the largest overseas expedition
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gua guarded by the american navy. ♪ ♪ >> south wards from britain 3,000 miles way, an even greater convoy twice the size moves in its appointed place across the seas, shielded by the white ensign of the british navy. beyond the horizon, the battle ships. from the depths of aircraft carriers. and from the shore, planes of the fleet airline and coastal command patrol the skies and search the seas. advance outposts have an elaborate protective screen. east, nor'east, the american
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convoy. so west by west the british. nothing like these two armadas had disturbed the waters since the world was made. this is a combined operation, an operation that began some four months earlier in washington, d.c. the president of the united states welcomed the prime minister of great britain. the gravity of the moment had brought them together. the lights burned all night that night in the white house where the two leaders met with their combined chiefs of staffs. for this was the picture taking all too definite form in the minds of the civil, military and naval leaders now locked in secret conference. two axis spearheads were headed east. in the north, pursuing his way through the ukraine. in the south, romel was driving toward the egyptian border. these two spearhead were intended to meet in iran and head eastward towards india.
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in the orient, japan had occupied the coast of china, the east indies, malia, and burma in preparation for the drive westward through india. if these two enemy spearheads were allowed to meet, russia and china, except for their remote optic ports, would be completely isolated. japanese raw materials and german production would be combined. the peoples of europe, asia and africa, 7/8 of the world's population, would be enslaved. by morning, a decision, both bold and revolutionary, bold because in this our darkest hour we dared to take the offensive. revolutionary because that offensive was conceived, planned and executed by the peoples of two nations. the time and the place had been agreed upon.
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the combined operation was acrobat. the two great elements were time and secrecy. 125 days in which to plan and launch an offensive from bases 3,000 miles apart, an operation involving hundreds of thousands of american and british soldiers and sailors, millions of american and british working men and women, only by whose combined efforts could the plan become a reality. but from whom the plan itself must be kept secret. a few score men, no more, knew in its entirety the plan for this greatest of combined operations. in london and washington british and american officers were placed at the joining desks to work through the days and nights of grinding toil that lay ahead, and gradually in the enforced daily intimacy, men grew to know and respect each other. thus was borne the relationship out of which an allied army came into being. to them came hourly reports on the vast undertaking of forging
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the striking weapon. it was a race against time. ♪ ♪ ♪
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>> in the united states, men and supplies poured east toward the atlantic seaport. ♪ >> in britain also, by road and rail, an army was on the move. ♪ ♪ by day and night, records were broken and tonnage was put aboard one ship. for every soldier, british and american, ten tons of equipment.
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on both sides of the atlantic, the effort was tremendous. guns, trucks, aircraft, petrol, water, food, barbed wire, locomotive. of ammunition alone, we shipped 520 different kinds. ♪ ♪ ♪
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♪ and every ship sailed on time, and in absolute secrecy. ♪ ♪
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>> the convoy continued its hidden way. >> my name is mcadams, joe
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mcadams. kansas city, kansas. private first class. i was on one of those ships you're looking at. part of the biggest show on earth and didn't know it. too darn many ships to see all at once. well, we've been hollering for action, now we were going to get it. but we didn't know where. norway, france, italy, china. finally on the 5th day we got the news. i mean, what we'd been waiting to hear. they handed out little guidebooks. i remember the first line, "you are to do due difficult ty in n as a soldier in the united states." gave me kind of a kick. >> what was north africa, what was the plan called acrobat? the convoy from america was heading east, the one from britain heading south.
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at a given point west of gibraltar, the british fleet would divide. they would proceed in opposite directions. then the second half would reverse its course and follow the first, passing gibraltar 24 hours behind. thus with clock-like precision, the combined operations would begin with simultaneous landings at casablanca, iran, algiers. iran and algeers. then the occupation of tunisia from which we could cut romel's supply lines across the mediterranean. next trap and destroy romel's africa core between our allied forces and the british army. thus, one arm would be
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amputated and supply lines around the cape of good hope would be shortened by half through winning control of the mediterranean. north africa would be ours with bases from which to stabbed at the heart of the axis citadel. those were the main objectives of the plan called "acrobat." in both convoys, the men kept fit, not knowing the task that lay ahead. for most of them, this voyage was a new experience. they had never been so far from home before. >> that's certainly true of me. my name is george metcalf. i was a green grocer in city street. we had a shop a long time. we're a military family. never met such a collection of blokes as we got on the ship. chaps from glasgow, new york, melbourne, cape town, montreal, chicago, birmingham, it's about time this team of internationals got cracking.
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when i was peeling spuds just now, i made up quite a letter to my girl all about the way these ships zigzag and about flying fish and whales. of course, we haven't seen any yet, but i reckon she'd like to know i'm enjoying myself. and now i got something else to tell her, too. the best news for a long time. i just put it up on the ship's board. ♪ ♪ >> but the 8 th army's offensive was one phase of a larger strategy. included therein, the bombings of genoa. naples. precision bombings of the reynold factory turning out romel's tanks. all these are part of the plan called acrobat, of which the enemy still knew nothing.
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nothing of the submarine trip to africa by general mark clark with a message to be smuggled into france. nothing of the arrival at gibraltar of general eisenhower when he was joined by the general who had received general clark's smuggled message. the enemy knew nothing until the last possible moment when the first half of the convoy from britain steamed past the fortress of gibraltar. >> it was at night that the ships passed through the straits. the time had been carefully chosen, for here in nano waters attack seemed certain. aboard ship and on the rock, everyone stood tall. but the ships moved steadily on. it was as though for the moment the enemy sword had fallen from his hand through indecision. this time it was in rome and in berlin that the lights burned all night. for the first time since the war's beginning, somebody else
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was calling the tune. but before the enemy could collect its wits or its forces, our ships lay as planned off their appointed destination. events planned four months earlier moved. off casablanca stood the convoy of america. to the troops aboard spoke their commander general paton. >> soldiers and sailors, it is not known whether the french african army will contest our landing. but all resistance by whomever offered must be destroyed. however, when any of the soldiers seek to surrender, you will accept it and treat them with the respect you would on a future ally. remember the french are not
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nazis or japs. >> november 8, 1942, orders of the day. the words "play ball" transmitted by the pass pourpor commander signified it was to take place against the enemy. a large light at night signified the enemy agreed to the terms of the ally. ♪ ♪ >> zero out, from america the president broadcast by shortwave. we do not want your land. we fight a common enemy. from london, general charles de gall, do not resist.
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from gibraltar, the general, we welcome the allies to french soil. how would these pleas be answered? >> play ball. >> the fight was on, casablanca. >> meantime at algiers, our landing craft also met fire from batteries soon silenced by ships of the british navy. here, too, the french troops ashore were asked by radio to indicate a friendly attitude by throwing their search light
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beams vertical. it wasn't long before here and there along the coast, search lights were seen pointing to the heavens. as dawn broke, fighter planes from gibraltar fitted with extra fuel tanks took off without even waiting to hear whether the landing fields of algiers had been kept. by 7:00 a.m., resistance at algiers was finished. british and american troops had landed east and west of the city, penetrated 10 to 15 miles, and held the heights and all vantage points. in algiers on that famous november 8, was admiral jean, french vice chief of state under marshal paton. it was under him the french commanding jenna greed to surrender the city. >> meanwhile at oran.
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american para troupes and airborne infantry flown from britain 115 miles away had landed to capture air fields while other american troops had poured ashore on the beaches protected by the british navy. here as in algiers, the fighting lasted only a few hours. but at casablanca, the battle still raged.
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>> batteries and heavy guns of the french battle ship went by, several destroyers, gun boats put out a devastating fire. gunnery from american ships coupled with precision bombing silenced those guns.
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>> striking inland from the beaches north and south of the city, shot troops cut the railways, other lines of communication. then converged upon the town. two days later, the germans invaded unoccupied france, whereupon admiral declaring prisoner of the axis and himself chief of state, ordered the cessation of hostilities. in proof of the surprise of our landings, german armistice
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commissions were caught flat-footed in each city. their jobs to bleed north africa of her raw materials and farm products. the people of north africa would evidently not sorry to see them go. >> events moved swiftly. to algiers came general anderson commanding the british first army. the general took command of the french land forces. united under general eisenhower, they were ready to take the field. once more, the stars and stripes, union flew side by side. but the enemy had lost no time. across the mediterranean by sea and by air, he was pouring in equipment in.
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despite this, we determined to stop the campaign at once, hoping to reach the distant cities before the enemy's grasp had become too strong. this was a bold decision, for the british first army was as yet little more than one division and the bulk of the american forces were needed to safeguard our position in morocco. we had other disadvantages. roads were poor. railways inadequate. the enemy beyond the mountains had short supply lines from sicily and sardinia. our own stretching forward from the improvised base at algiers were four times the length. even more important, we lacked as yet forward air fields. but as the enemy in tunisia had all the permanent air fields he needed. in less than a month, the weather would break. could our slender force in the last days of autumn achieve a
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flashing success against time and a stronger enemy? with immense energy, the attempt was made. by road, allied infantry, tanks and artillery moved towards the hills. by rail, when the general's men used mountain transport. by air flew british and american parachuters to capture suitable ground for air fields and tactical points nearby. by sea, when commanders, the latter 300 miles to the east and only 60 miles from the tunisian border, here the air field which our parachuters were taking were already under attack.
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it was our only permanent forward air field and had to be fought for repeatedly. if three columns, we advanced towards tunis and bisette. by mid november, a thousand are dead. among them marshal, commander in chief who had made his name infamous at wausau and rotter dam. november the 18th, ten days after our first landings, our mixed force of allied troops had
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crushed the forces of tunisia and skirmishes were frequent. on we went. small units of french, british, americans held up here, gaining there, fighting roads as well as germans, but pushing on. by november the 22nd, we were 450 miles on the road to tunis. 30 miles on the french under the general were holding measure. the french were fighting stubbornly equipped with little more than machine guns and rifles. general anderson promptly moved to support them. together we held measures. henceforth, a pivotal point and
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forced the germans back. but now we went into the plains and were increasingly exposed to the enemy's more numerous tanks and aircraft. november 25th, the first real tank clash. 15 enemy tanks destroyed, and the rest withdrew. and on we pushed towards tunis and bisette, racing against time and the weather. 60 miles from bisette, 50 miles, 40 miles. our supply lines thinning, fewer
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and fewer. 30 miles from bizette. 18 miles from tunis. 16. 15. and from the hills our patrols saw the city. >> but now the enemy attack rose to a crescendo. from the skies a bombardment to which we had no adequate answer. our supplies were far outrun.
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our casualties heavy. even as the goal was in sight, the race had been lost. this first thrust, this adventurous gamble that failed, we fell back to the protection of the hills. but even as we withdrew to regroup our forces, we encountered a new enemy. winter was upon us. our hastily improvised air fields were flooded. our planes earth bound. the roads became running streams. our tanks immobilized. all hopes of a quick victory had finally floundered in a sea of
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mud. but the race for tunis and bizerte had not been in vain. our battle lines ran south through faed, mcmassey and gafsa. along the barrier ridge of mountains known as the great dorsal which separated the german occupied coastal plain from the mountainous regions from the west. german expansion was possible only through a series of passes traversing the great dorsal and all through the winter months we held those passes against inses ant german attack. this was the period referred to by the world as one of military inactivity. a period during which we sustained nearly half the total
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casualties incurred during the whole north african campaign.
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in, not puffing a cigar, we knew something big was cooking.
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in a small sea side hotel at casablanca, discussions began at once, their purpose to design the shape of victory in africa and beyond. first, a meeting was arranged between general de gaulle. out of the meet g, the united command for the new tunisian campaign was created. frz the troops were primarily british. general icen hour continued in supreme command. as his deputy commanders three british officers general alexander on land, admiral cun gham on sea, chief marshal tedder in the air. frz the conference ended,
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mr. churchill greeted the victorious 8th army and explain its vital part in forth coming events. the decisive hour was at hand. battle lines were drawn. in the north stood the british first army. in the center, general cheer ross french troops. in the south americans. further out small group of fighting french had taken up the left flanks of the taerm which faced the mareth line. beyond that, after long retreat entrenched itself. tunisia was drav with german troops, 15/full divisions.
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no scratch troops these, the battle wise veterans together with seven italian divisions, were armed with the most modern types of equipment, including the newest fighters and bombers. the german orders were hold tunisia at all costs. keep control of the mediterranean. standing behind his line, he saw he must soon be faced with an attack as well as an assault by the eighth army. he therefore struck first. it was an endeavor to remove the menace behind him. on february the 14th, the blow was struck. heavy armored columns burst out of the pass in the mountained
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area and through into the valley beyond. in the face of their onslaught, allied armor withdrew. by the 21st, the enemy had forced his way through the pass, and his armored columns were advancing in a three-pronged thrust. one main column aimed at tebessa, our supply base in southern tunisia, and another at thala, a key town in our lines of communication. almost within sight of his objective, he was halted. american, british, and french forces all stood immovable against the final impact. and in counterattack broke it. while allied air power pounded the lines of communication and supply. the threat was ended. advancing past destroyed german armor, we reoccupied the pass, and by march the 17th, the original battle lines had been restored. as soon as he saw his westward thrust was doomed, he made an abortive attack south against the eighth army.
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the germans unveiled a new tiger tank. the british, the new 17-pounder anti-tank gun. 52 tiger tanks were left burning. from then on, the initiative was ours. of the various strategies which might now be employed against the enemy, general eisenhower chose one which envisionaged the entire military situation in terms of a cylinder. the western wall, allied land forces along the great dorsal. the northern and eastern allied and sea power in the mediterranean. the seaports of tunis and bizert were to act as the intake valve
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through those which minute troop s which were to escape to be sucked into the cylinder. at the bottom of the cylinder stood the powerful british eighth army to serve as the piston, which in its upward stoke would push the enemy into an ever smaller space. still in possession of the enemy were certain high hills to the west of tunis. their capture was an essential part of the entire strategy, for these hills were the spark plug, which when the piston had forced the enemy into a state of high compression would explode in a combustible mass. that was the final strategy. to succeed, perfect coordination would be necessary between land, sea, and air forces. the northwest african air force was divided into five major groups of which three were combat. the strategic air force under general jimmy doolittle.
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these were the big boys, the long-range bombers, pounding away at enemy bases and shipping. the coastal air force under air marshall lloyd. day and night fighters, these, protecting ports and convoys. and finally the tactical air force, a new conception of air power, developed by the british in the middle east. all fighters and attack bombers, british and american, were placed under one command so that we could strike with the full force of our flying artillery when and where it would do the most good. air marshall cunningham in command of this group and general alexander in command of all ground forces lived and worked side by side in a tent camp in the tunisian mountains. theirs was a complete partnership, and in it lay the pattern of ultimate victory. by the middle of march, the stage was set. the first move was up to air marshall cunningham. in a continuous 24-hour assault, the fortifications were pounded from the air.
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♪ then general alexander gave the signal for the piston to begin its upward stroke. >> montgomery, looking ahead, had planned the battle three months before. he would strike after a barrage and in moonlight. but simultaneously, he would begin an outflanking movement on the left. the frontal blow had to cross a gorge the wadi zig-zaou and create a bridge undercover of
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which tanks and artillery could cross before the enemy's counterattack could be made. three days before the attack, it rained heavily. [ gunfire ] ♪
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♪ >> next morning our men were holding on like bulldogs. only four tanks had got across, but with these and their own arms, our infantry kept the bridge head intact. the enemy now withdrew armor from other sectors and threw it in. [ gunfire ] as this battle raged, our outflanking left hook by general fryberg and his new zealanders reinforced by the first armored
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division was raging across 150 miles of desert. the blow was now struck by 50,000 men on the ground and by bombers, fighters, and tank busters from the air. the germans pinned down, moving their armor too late. the new zealanders, henceforth to be known as the left hookers, drove through.
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♪ the line had been turned. the piston was on the move. its speed made possible by the feats in road building of the south african engineers. air and naval forces shelled and bombed all along the sea wall. our fighters struck at their transport planes, still pouring men in through the intake valve, knocking them out of the sky by the hundreds. [ gunfire ]
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on land, the british first army was a constant threat in the north, while in the center, the french attacked. and further south, the americans had broken through, thus enforcing constant pressure all along the land wall of the cylinder. [ gunfire ]
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april 7th, an american patrol of tanks striking eastward met patrols of the british eighth army advancing northward. >> we got quite a bang out of meeting these guys. 2,000 miles they'd come, fighting all the way. yes, sir, we got a real bang out of it. these are the guys that broke the back of the africa corps. ♪ >> still, the piston pushed relentlessly on. april the 10th, april the 12th, and on april the 20th, after exactly 30 days of fighting in
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pursuit, the eighth army had driven the enemy into the hills beyond, and in its wake was a great homecoming. >> what got me was watching those villages coming back. mostly on little donkeys, piled up with so much stuff you'd wondered how they'd carried it. reminded me of the bible somehow. you know, the donkeys and the hills behind, and these folks trekking home. there was one old chap, spoke a bit of english, and he comes up to me and says, thank you, thank you, thank you. then he started shaking hands with us. i thought he was never going to let go. and as we watched him going down the old system, he says, you know, george, i had a buddy killed the other day, and i was
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pretty sore about it. but now all these poor devils coming home gives the old thing a kind of a meaning. well, then when we went down to the village, it was just the same down there. little jewish boys taking off the yellow stars they'd been made to wear as if they was lepers. then our army doctors attending to the women and youngsters, just as if they was on the panel back home. i certainly felt less blown off. i certainly did. >> the rapid advance of the eighth army had left the american divisions far behind the battle area. general alexander now switched these divisions to the north. this remarkable 200-mile march to the first army's line of supply was accomplished without once interrupting the eastward flow. and this in complete secrecy. the piston had completed its upward stroke, a desired state of enemy high compression had been achieved, now to capture the spark plug. the vital hills west of tunis.
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>> this led to a number of major battles of which five were typical. hill 609, longstop hill, goubellat plain, djebel. the eighth army struck at takrouna. the french 19th attacked general mansour. [ gunfire ] on the goubellat plain, the sixth armored division striking toward tunis had drawn upon it most of the enemy's remaining armor. ♪
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♪ in three days of struggle, our main purpose was accomplished. meantime, the british 78th division was pressing the attack on longstop hill. [ gunfire ]
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[ gunfire ] [ gunfire ] for 12 days, the hills echoed with gunfire. positions were taken, lost, and retaken. when the german lines broke at last, their dead lay in
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hundreds, unburied, on the battlefields. as our infantry went forward, engineers and pioneers built roads across the mountain tops for vital supplies to reach them. in 14 days, they built 11 miles. meanwhile, further north, the americans had embarked on their place of the campaign. this started with the assault on hill 609. long-range artillery started the attack.
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[ gunfire ] [ gunfire ] >> left eight. baker, baker. [ gunfire ]
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[ gunfire ] >> we took hill 609. there weren't as many of us guys when we got to the top as there'd been at the bottom, but we took it. >> thus, one by one, the strongholds in the mountains fell. the germans had been outfought, now they were to be outwitted. general alexander knew their
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fear of the 8th army, so he reinforced that fear with heavy bombardments and local attacks from montgomery's front. at the same time, he secretly transferred the 4th indian and 7th armored division in the north once the main attack was to come. >> spark plug was ours, and we were now ready to explode the combustible mass. now to pour on the power. now to give the apostles of power an education in the use of it. british and americans in the air
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with everything that could fly. british and americans on the ground with everything that could shoot. french artillery, french infantry. the british navy. all poured forth their concentrated fury. this was blitz warfare such as the inventors of the blitz had never dreamed of.
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♪ the nazi's challenge to the fight of the free world or surrender was being answered. [ gunfire ] ♪
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[ gunfire ] [ gunfire ] >> after only eight hours
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fighting, the hard trust of german resistance was shattered. our armor crashed through. the americans policed their way in. the british smashed right through the center to capture tunis. then a british armored column crashed across the neck. another british column raced around the tip of the cape to prevent any evacuation. the whole axis mass was split into four segments.
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the end came quickly. >> by tens, by hundreds, by thousands they came. on foot, in trucks, and behind their bands. the greatest mass surrender of fully equipped troops in modern history. we had lost nearly 70,000 men, dead, wounded, and missing. 35,000 british, 18,000 americans, 15,000 french. but for every man we had lost, the enemy lost five. and at the end, 15 full divisions, 266,000 of their best men, laid down their arms. >> no men riddled with disease and shrunken with hunger, fighting to the last bare
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handed. educated in the school for power, they were quick to recognize superior power. and when they did, they quit. quit cold. this is the end of the axis african advancement. >> after all the racket, seems funny, don't it, joe. so quiet. >> yeah. >> what's biting you, joe? >> i don't know. i can't help thinking all the hard work that went into those burnt out tanks and half tracks and airplanes, gone for nothing. >> had to be done. >> oh, sure it did. but still in all, think of all the trucks and automobiles and things, all that junk might have been. >> i know. bloody shame. >> just because he was told that he was a superman.
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>> well, he never figured things out for his self, never argued the same as we do. too bad he didn't hear some of our arguments at the old dog and fox back home. >> i guess that's the real difference between us and them. we argue, they don't. >> and when you don't argue the toss anymore, you aren't upper man anymore. you're just a blooming tool like a spanner or a sore. >> maybe they like it that way. >> maybe they do, but suppose somebody tried to use you or me like that, joe. suppose somebody said put that fella's eye out or turn a hose pipe on that jew or that whoment. would we do it? >> what do you think? >> you and me, joe, we may not always think alike, but we do think. you and me and old alfonz.
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the rest we certainly think, all right. >> you know, george, i got an idea. why can't we, after the war, the same work gang, i mean, keep on swinging together. what couldn't we do? >> you mean build more houses and have wars? >> yeah, that's it. >> and ships, thousands of ships. >> right. >> and food so nobody would be hungry no more. >> yeah, building things up instead of blowing things up. like, i don't know, like dams in the desert and roads through the jungles. maybe bridges cross all the oceans. we could do it, i bet you. >> yeah, do all the jobs at once and knock the block off anybody who wants to start another war. and bring the smiles back to the kids' faces all over the world. >> boy, what a job. >> but just now, joe, it's the same rough road, the same road you and me have just come. the same bloody hard road.
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and for quite a while yet. >> boy, oh, boy, what a job. bringing back the smiles to kids' faces. ♪ [ sheer [ cheers and applause ] >> africa is free, and europe that much nearer freedom. the liberating hosts are on the wing.
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we'll show you a symposium on lincoln's life, career also relations with his cabinet and congress in 1862. american history tv prime time begins friday at 8:00 p.m. eastern on c-span 3. >> this weekend on the c-span networks saturday at 9:20 p.m. on c-span, same sex couple for refusing to make their wedding cake. from the national constitution center in philadelphia. and sunday at 6:30 p.m., daniel mark. chairman of the u.s. commission on international freedom and
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around the world. saturday on book tv. c-span 2 at 10:00 p.m. eastern, on afterwards, james swanson talks with associated press writer jesse holland about events leading up to the assassination of martin luther king jr. second lady karen pence and her daughter, charlotte, share stories about their pet rabbit, malon bundo. tulane university professor on moonshine drivers and the origins of nascar. and sunday at 8:00 a.m. about the annual white house easter egg roll that began in 1878 and the changes that have been made along the way. this weekend on the c-span network
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networks. >> high school students from around the country were in washed for the annual united states senate youth program. we met with them as they shared thoughts about government and politics. >> i'm passionate about daca. 700,000 men, women and children's lives hang in the balance because our congress can't find a solution. >> climate change. the notion that we're the only country in the world that is not in the paris climate accords is a travesty. every other country has recognized the detrimental impacts and taken steps to address it. currently we've not stayed on course with the other countries. >> we are the richest nation in the world. yet we have citizens who go bankrupt trying to cover basic health care costs. and i think that's an outrage and we should be ashamed.
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>> coming up next, from a recent forum on the presidency of abraham lincoln, discussion on his relations with his cabinet and congress, with african-americans and with abolitionists. edwin stanton and his role in the aftermath of abraham lincoln's assassination. >> for the 21st annual symposium and ford's theater society. next, william harris, author of lincoln and congress, talks about the congress of 1862 and its actions to have president lincoln's secretary of state, william stewart, replaced. this is about 45 minutes.

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