75 years ago the allied Nations for the first time won a strategic victory over the common enemy. If during the counter-offensive near Moscow red army only managed to push the Germans from the capital, and the following summer, the Wehrmacht reached Stalingrad, the victory at El Alamein led to the surrender of the army of Africa and made possible the allied landings in Italy.
Fighting in Africa was conducted on a narrow strip between the Mediterranean sea and the Sahara, with varying success, including because, as the British, so the Germans could not break away from operational bases – otherwise they would be left without supplies. All that is needed for war had to be transported by sea.
The war here was different not only from the East but from the Western front. The warring parties were cultured gentleman’s attitude to each other. The British made no secret of its respect for the fearless commander of the army of Africa Erwin Rommel and the Germans paid tribute to the prowess of British infantry, known as the «desert rats».
In June 1942, Rommel gets the Eighth army’s defeat at Gazeley, took Tobruk and throws the opponent to the railway station of El Alamein, 250 kilometers East of Cairo. The troops of General Claude Okinaka bear heavy losses. 25 thousand soldiers are captured. However, the main striking force in Rommel’s tank division, is unable to continue the offensive. The Germans have to dig in.
The invasion of the Wehrmacht in Egypt poses a direct threat to the Suez canal – the main artery of the British Empire. And there are far to Iraqi oil. The UK government considers it necessary to eliminate the threat. The leadership of the Yishuv was developing a plan for the resettlement of Jews on mount Carmel, which will become the new masdeu.
«The loss of Tobruk – one of the heaviest blows of the war. Affected the honor of British arms. Defeat is one thing, humiliation is another,» recalled Prime Minister Winston Churchill. As the commander of the Eighth army Okinaka replaced by General William Gott, however, German fighters shot down the plane, which he flies to Africa.
Then the choice of Churchill and chief of the General staff field Marshal Alan Brooke stops on Bernard Montgomery. From this General reputation of a tyrant and the person with whom it is absolutely impossible to deal with. However, he knows how to raise the morale of soldiers and this is now the most important thing.
Upon arrival, Montgomery understands that we must first awaken from his subordinates hatred of the enemy. Ekinlik also tried to do it, even published a special circular with the aim to debunk the myth of the superhuman powers of Rommel. But the new commander could not get at his predecessor.
Despite the fact that the British managed to decipher the German codes, the battle plan was reminiscent of the First world war. Montgomery decided to break through the well fortified defenses of Rommel due to double advantage in manpower and artillery. «The desert rats» was met not only with machine guns and barbed wire, but 500 thousand min.
The offensive, which began on 23 October 1942, is facing significant challenges. Brooke hardly convinces Churchill that «Monty» is the right choice, but admits to himself that he wasn’t sure. Subordinates Montgomery trying to convince him to adjust the plan, but he insists on following orders.
Only when the offensive bogged down, the commander of the Eighth army agrees to amend. Result in a breakthrough of the defensive lines of the enemy. Hitler ordered Rommel to hold the front, but Marshall decides to retreat to Tunisia. The loss of the British Empire – 13 of thousands of dead and wounded. The Germans and Italians lose more than 24 thousand killed and wounded, 35 thousand prisoners.
By this time the American army has landed in West Africa. A week later, after the battle of El Alamein, the Red army goes on the offensive at Stalingrad. Britain, with its limited resources, forced to withdraw into the background. The post-war world will define the USSR and the USA.
However, the battle in the African desert – the first strategic victory of the coalition. «Before El Alamein, we did not have victories, then did not know defeat», – summed up the battle Winston Churchill. This battle is on a par with Agincourt, Waterloo and Trafalgar, and Montgomery included in the Pantheon of the greatest heroes of great Britain, together with field Marshal Wellington and Admiral Nelson. Everyone who knows him, recognizes that he had become even harder to deal with.
Has not managed and without scandal. «Monty», who taught their soldiers to hate the enemy was invited to dinner surrendered commander of the Afrika Korps, General Wilhelm von Tom. Learning of this, Churchill said, «Poor General von Tom as it fell: the defeat, captivity, lunch with Monty».
The commander of the army escaped captivity. In March 1943 Rommel was recalled to Germany, and then, after a short service in Italy, led the defense of France from future invasion across the channel. He was involved in the conspiracy against Hitler that culminated in the assassination attempt on 20 July 1944. However, the extent of his involvement remains unclear.
The national hero of Hitler’s Germany were given the opportunity to avoid a trial, to commit suicide. Thus, the family of Rommel was able to avoid reprisals. The field Marshal took advantage of this offer. The Germans reported that the cause of his death was a heart attack. And when Germany regained its independence, Erwin Rommel became the Foundation of the myth of the apolitical Wehrmacht to faithfully serve the Motherland.
Material prepared by Paul vyhdorchyk
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