El Alamein

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El Alamein:

see Alamein, ElAlamein, El
or Al Alamayn
, town, N Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. It was the site of a decisive British victory in World War II (see North Africa, campaigns in).
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, Egypt.

Alamein, El

(ĕl ăləmān`, älə–) or

Al Alamayn

(äl älămān`), town, N Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. It was the site of a decisive British victory in World War II (see North Africa, campaigns inNorth Africa, campaigns in,
series of military contests for control of North Africa during World War II. The desert war started in 1940 and for more than two years thereafter seesawed between NE Libya and NW Egypt.
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). In preparation for an attack by German Field Marshal Erwin RommelRommel, Erwin
, 1891–1944, German field marshal. He entered the army in 1910 and rose slowly through the ranks. In 1939, Adolf Hitler made him a general. Rommel brilliantly commanded an armored division in the attack (1940) on France. In Feb.
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 from Libya (begun May 26, 1942) the British forces retreated into Egypt and by June 30 had set up a defense line extending 35 mi (56 km) from Alamein S to the Qattara Depression, a badland which could neither be crossed nor flanked. If this position had fallen, the British might have lost Alexandria and been forced to withdraw from North Africa. In August, Gen. Bernard L. MontgomeryMontgomery, Bernard Law, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein
, 1887–1976, British field marshal. Educated at Sandhurst, he entered the army in 1908 and served in World War I.
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 took command of the 8th Army. The British offensive opened on Oct. 23 with tremendous air and artillery bombardments. Montgomery's forces cleared the German minefields and on Nov. 1 and 2 burst through the German lines near the sea and forced a swift Axis retreat out of Egypt, across Libya, and into E Tunisia. Egypt was definitely saved, and with the landing on Nov. 7 and 8 of American troops in Algeria the Axis soon suffered (May, 1943) total defeat in North Africa. For his victory Montgomery was made a viscount with the title Montgomery of Alamein.

Bibliography

See studies by M. Carver (1962) and J. Latimer (2002).

El Alamein

 

(also al-Alamayn), a village in northern Egypt, 104 km west of Alexandria. During World War II, the British Eighth Army, commanded by General B. Montgomery, conducted an offensive operation west of El Alamein that lasted from Oct. 23 to Nov. 4, 1942. The offensive was carried out against the Italian-German tank army known as the Afrika Korps, which was under the command of the German field marshal E. Rommel.

Rommel’s troops were offering resistance west of El Alamein along a fortified line 60 km long. With 12 divisions that included two motorized divisions, four tank divisions, and one brigade, the Afrika Korps numbered approximately 80,000 men and had 540 tanks, 1,219 artillery pieces, and 350 aircraft. The Italian-German command was unable to reinforce this force during the operation, because the Soviet-German front was absorbing almost all reserves. The British Eighth Army, which consisted of ten divisions, including three tank divisions and four brigades, had been brought up to a strength of 230,000 men, 1,440 tanks, 2,311 artillery pieces, and 1,500 aircraft.

After beginning their attack late in the evening of October 23, the British forces attempted to break through along a 9-km sector of the front. With only 50 guns per kilometer of front, however, the British artillery was unable to neutralize the enemy’s fire system, and the British troops managed to drive only a small wedge into the enemy’s defenses during the night. After the British introduced three armored divisions they had been saving to exploit a tactical success, the enemy brought reserves up to the penetrated sector and launched a series of counterattacks. Consequently, the British troops penetrated to a depth of only 7 km by October 27, and the offensive was temporarily halted.

On November 2, the Eighth Army resumed its offensive under air and offshore-artillery support. Rommel attempted to thwart the Allied advance with counterstrikes from deep behind the lines. The attacks by the Italian-German tank divisions were repulsed, however, and Rommel’s forces sustained heavy losses.

The British Eighth Army advanced another 5 km in the direction of the main thrust, and, on the morning of November 4, mobile units achieved a breakthrough. Advancing rapidly to the west and the southwest, they threatened to outflank the Italian-German forces. Rommel began a hasty retreat to Libya.

The victory at El Alamein was a turning point for the Allies in the North African Campaigns of 1940–43. Having lost 55,000 men, 320 tanks, and approximately 1,000 guns, the Italian-German army was forced to abandon plans for offensive operations once and for all and to begin a general retreat.

REFERENCES

Istoriia vtoroi mirovoi voiny 1939–1945, vol. 6. Moscow, 1976.
Playfair, I.S.O., and C. J. C. Molony. The Mediterranean and Middle East, vol. 4. London, 1966.

N. M. CHEREPANOV

El Alamein

“Desert Fox” outfoxed; Allies gained upper hand (1943). [Eur. Hist.: Fuller, III, 494–502]

El Alamein

, Alamein
a village on the N coast of Egypt, about 112 km (70 miles) west of Alexandria: scene of a decisive Allied victory over the Axis forces (1942)