The MegaMilitary Project | Online Edition #315

World War II African Theater

Italian troops had moved into Egypt in September 1940, going for the Suez Canal. The British counterattacked, eventually forcing the surrender of Mussolini’s troops in February 1941. Hitler, however, was not willing to let the British defeat his Axis allies. He sent in the crack armored Afrika Korps under General Erwin Rommel. The Germans went on the offensive in February 1941, pushing through Libya.

Even though Rommel was outnumbered, the German general could shove the British right back into Egypt. On June 21, 1942, the British garrison of Tobruk fell with 33,000 men. The British were humiliated. In late October, the Allied forces were under new command. The British were determined to take back their ground in Egypt. Allied forces, led by British General Bernard Montgomery, got ready for an offensive.

Montgomery, who believed in having overwhelming superiority in a battle, had it in spades. The Allied army boasted 195,000 men and a thousand tanks. Its crushing offensive finally broke the Axis back at El Alamein. German and Italian casualties were over 90,000. El Alamein was the first decisive victory on land for the British.

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