“In the beginning of December 1942, the position of the Allies in Northwest Africa had been stabilized and the eastward advance of the 8th British Army was continuing. In the ports of Algiers, Oran and Casablanca large quantities of supplies were arriving, in spite of the losses caused by enemy attacks. Nonetheless, Tunisia’s fall even it appeared certain, wasn’t to be immediate. The Germans, by sending reinforcements in Tunisia from the air, had stopped the advance of the Allies from the west and the weather and Algeria’s road conditions didn’t allow them to undertake a serious winter expedition. A better organization and preparation was necessary.
Eventually because of this provisional suspension of operations and because they were still nurturing great hopes for a favorable development of the war in the Russian front, many German chiefs were optimistic for the situation in the Mediterranean. Grand Admiral Raeder, the Commander in Chief of the German Navy, maintained that with the installation of the Axis forces in Tunisia they had counterbalanced the adverse results of the Allied landing in North Africa. The supply lines of its armies had significantly shortened, while on the other hand the enemy’s had lengthened and were more easy to take.
The above German arguments would have been valid if the Axis disposed the means to take advantage of the Tunisian bridgehead. Above all, a significant reinforcement of his air forces was needed, while at the end of November 1942, it only disposed half of the air force of the Allies. In the spring of 1943, the Allied air forces were almost 5 times as much as the enemy’s. The Allies disposed at that time in the area on a constant basis at least 4 battleships, while the Italian –because of fuel shortage- were immobilized. Against the 12 cruisers of the Allies at the end of November 1942, the Italians had 8 in service, reduced to 1 by April 1943, while they also fell short in the number destroyers.
Under these conditions the supply of Tunisia by the Italians, in spite of the shortening of the distances, was becoming problematic and necessitated very important sacrifices and ammunition losses, when they were becoming all the more rare.
Anyhow, from February 1943, when the 8th British Army had reached Tripoli and the Germans had suffered the Stalingrad destruction, it became evident that the battle of the Mediterranean had been definitely lost for the Axis. If it was then decided to orderly evacuate the troops from Tunisia, there would still be possible to save an important part of them. It seems that many in Italy then believed that the fight was lost and that after the total seizure of North Africa by the Allies, the metropolitan land of Italy would be next targeted. The Germans however continued to insist that until the summer of 1943 Russia would submit and the Mediterranean could then be re-gained. They even confirmed that they disposed a secret weapon [the V1 and V2 land to land cruise missiles] that was indeed used towards the end of the war, without succeeding to bend the opponent.
At the end of January 1943, Admiral Raeder resigned and was replaced by Grand Admiral Dönitz. The later visited Italy in March and suggested to Hitler the need to reinforce the air forces in North Africa and – as his predecessor has done- an intervention against Gibraltar. At the same time however he blamed the Supreme Command of the Italian Navy that it was using as an excuse the fuel shortage, to explain the inactivity of the Italian Fleet. He even replaced the German liaison officer Vice-Admiral Weichold for supporting the Italian views, by Vice-Admiral Ruge. In spite of all this, the statistics that the Italians presented show that the fuel shortage was real and the events prove that for the supply of Libya and Tunisia no effort was spared by them, independently of the losses.”