Second Battle of El Alamein
23 October - 11 November 1942

The Second Battle of El Alamein represented a decisive victory of the British-led coalition against the German-Italian forces in Egypt during World War 2.

Montgomery Takes Charge of the Eighth Army

In the summer of 1942, Rommel had attacked the defensive line of the British Eighth Army, but was stopped in the First Battle of El Alamein. In the months that followed, the Axis forces in Egypt were in an increasingly precarious situation. Stretching on land from Tobruk to El Alamein, the communications line of the German-Italian army had lengthened very much; also the British had become very efficient in supply's interdiction.

In August 1942, there was a change in the British leadership when, although he had not been the first nominee, General Bernard Montgomery was appointed the commander of the Eighth Army in place of Claude Auchinleck. One of the goals of Montgomery was to give confidence to his men that German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel - the legendary commander of the Afrika Korps - can be defeated.

Battle of Alam el Halfa

Montgomery first drew "the Desert Fox" into a trap, Rommel attacking at Alam el Halfa Ridge, where the British aircraft, artillery, and entrenched armor inflicted heavy losses on the Afrika Korps' tanks, whose movement was confined by the minefields.

Montgomery then began to prepare his offensive, knowing he had numerical superiority in all aspects. His army had received a substantial number of new tanks, including the American M4 Sherman type. The Allied Desert Air Force had strengthened and was flying close to its bases, unlike the Italian and German aircraft, of which a large part was operating from Italy and Greece. The Eighth Army was a multinational force where, alongside the British, were soldiers from Australia, France, Greece, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

By Noclador (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Second Battle of El Alamein

On October 23, 1942, the Second Battle of El Alamein began with the systematic artillery barrage unleashed by the British Eighth Army in support of the infantry and engineers who were creating lanes through the minefields. The artillery, as well as the Allied aircraft, had a critical role throughout the battle in the destruction of the German and Italian defense.

The Commonwealth units launched the main attack in the northern sector of the front. As the engineers were clearing the mines, the British tanks were advancing behind the infantry to repel a possible counterattack of the Axis' armor. After the first two days, the Allies managed to reach in the northern sector an intermediary line, codenamed the Oxalic Line.

Concerned about the weakening of the front in the north, Rommel brought from the south the 21st Panzer Division and, between 26 and 28 October, ordered the execution of several counterattacks which were driven back with heavy losses for the Germans.

On November 2, the Eighth Army launched Operation Supercharge; the British armor failed to make a decisive breakthrough, but Rommel had remained with very few tanks. The Allied pressure continued and, realizing that his army was on the verge of being overwhelmed, two days later Rommel ordered his army to retreat. The mobile German and Italian units retreated hundreds of miles to the west, chased by the Commonwealth's forces, but many of the Axis' soldiers had no vehicles and were taken prisoners.

The Battle of El Alamein was the turning point of the war in North Africa and one of the most resounding Allied victories in World War 2.

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