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Operation Vulcan was the final ground attack by the Allied forces against the Italian and German forces in Tunis, Cap Bon, and Bizerte, Tunisia, the last Axis toeholds in North Africa, during the Tunisia Campaign of the Second World War. Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel believed that the Axis position in Tunisia was untenable, and he had recommended the evacuation of all German troops to Italy, where he believed they could be more useful. His advice was rejected by Hitler. In addition, the Germans did not actually have the sea shipping capability or the control of the air to do this.
The fighting was heavy, with German units in well-prepared and dug-in defences. In the advance on Tunis, the British 4th Infantry Division, part of British IX Corps under Lieutenant-General Brian Horrocks was confronted by German paratroopers of the elite Hermann Göring Parachute Division. The British attack was costly, and previous attacks had been repulsed with heavy losses.
At the "Cactus Farm", the British infantry was faced by fierce defensive fire from well-concealed German paratroopers. Consequently, Churchill tanks of the 12th Royal Tank Regiment, part of the 21st Tank Brigade, advanced without any infantry support, and the tanks were assaulted by the defenders using Molotov cocktails and sticky "teller" anti-tank mines. Twelve tanks were destroyed and in some cases, their crews were rescued from the burning wrecks by the German defenders.
On 6 May 1943, at the culmination of Operation Vulcan, the British First Army, under Lieutenant-General Kenneth Anderson, took Tunis and American troops reached Bizerte. By 13 May, all of the Axis forces in Tunisia surrendered. By the close of the operation, nearly 240,000 German and Italian troops were captured.
In April, a major Allied air force effort (Operation Flax) had cut off Axis supplies to North Africa. U.S. II Corps, commanded by Major General Omar Nelson Bradley, surrounded the last defenders at Enfidaville, ending the Axis effort in North Africa. Operation Retribution and the control of the air and of the sea prevented any large-scale evacuation of Axis troops to Italy.
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