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El Alamein


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The_Chieftain #1 Posted Oct 22 2011 - 15:14

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To give a little background information for those of you who need a primer in El Alamein 101, I hand over the keyboard to guest contributor and historian Dana Lombardy.
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The largest battle fought in North Africa in World War II was Second Alamein, over a period of thirteen days, from October 23 until November 4, 1942. The victory by Lieutenant General Bernard Montgomery’s 8th Army over Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Panzer Army Afrika was seen as a pivotal battle by Great Britain – the country’s first major land victory since the war began 38 months before. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”

Montgomery amassed eleven divisions for his attack. Three of these were armoured divisions, including the famous “Desert Rats” 7th Armoured. Rommel, who had previously earned the name “Desert Fox” for his exploits, had two panzer divisions – 15th and 21st – in the Afrika Korps, plus two German light motorized infantry divisions and ten small Italian divisions (two of those were armored divisions with light armored vehicles).

Although the division count appears equivalent, Montgomery had assembled a huge force: 195,000 men total, including 2,182 artillery pieces, 1,035 tanks (including 252 new American “Sherman” tanks), and 730 fighter and bomber aircraft. Against this Rommel had 50,000 German and 54,000 Italian soldiers, 500 guns, 496 armored vehicles (but only 211 medium Panzer IIIs and IVs – most were Italian light tanks), and 350 aircraft.

Rommel’s defenses included 450,000 mines laid in corridors to funnel attacking tanks into kill zones where dozens of powerful 88mm dual anti-aircraft/anti-tank guns waited. The panzers of the Afrika Korps were used as a counter-attack force to stop and seal off Allied penetrations. After two weeks of hammering Rommel’s line, this battle of attrition finally broke the Axis line. Rommel ordered a retreat with only 35 German and 20 Italian tanks left to form a rear guard. More than 30,000 Germans and Italians and nearly all of Rommel’s artillery and tanks were captured. Montgomery’s 8th Army suffered 14,000 men killed and wounded and 432 tanks destroyed or disabled.

Tank Notes:

Axis Forces. The best tank Rommel had was the Panzer IV F2 with the long L/43 75mm gun but there were only 30 of these available. Another eight Panzer IVs were still armed with the short L/24 75mm. Most German mediums at Alamein were Panzer IIIs with extra armor and up-gunned from 37mm to the L/42 50mm (85 available), plus 88 Panzer IIIs with the latest L/60 version of the 50mm. There were also some Marder tank destroyers with captured Russian 76.2mm guns mounted on a Panzer 38t chassis. All of these counted for less than half of Rommel’s tank force, the majority being light tanks: 20mm-armed Panzer IIs (31 available) and Italian L6/40s; Italian “medium” M13/40 and newer M14/41 tanks armed with a 47mm gun; and a few Italian model 75/18 self-propelled armored vehicles with low velocity 75mm guns.

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Allied Forces. Second Alamein was the combat debut of the American M4 Sherman medium tank. Although it is often compared unfavorably to the German Panther and Tiger tanks it later encountered, the 252 Shermans were effective against all of Rommel’s tanks at Alamein, and the Sherman’s M3 75mm was the best gun in Montgomery’s tank force. Other American-built tanks in the 8th Army included 119 M3 “Honey” light tank with a 37mm gun and 170 M3 “Grant” mediums with a hull-mounted low velocity M2 75mm and 37mm in the turret. Montgomery’s armoured brigades included 216 Crusaders IIs and 194 Valentines with the 2-pounder (40mm) gun, plus 78 Crusader IIIs and six Churchills with the new 6-pounder (57mm) main gun.

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Recommended reading: Alamein by Jon Latimer. Harvard University Press, 2004.

Rilder #2 Posted Oct 22 2011 - 23:41

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Interesting read.  :Smile_great:

Is it just me or is that second picture awesome?

PanzerHale #3 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 00:53

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Behind Stalingrad, El Alamein was probably the most important battle of the war. A brilliant feat of British military work.

UnknownChemistry #4 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 00:56

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A very fun read. I remember the very first time I found out about this battle was when I was playing COD 2 when I was a kid. http://forum.worldof...e_veryhappy.gif

Could you tell me if this was also the battle where the British used Crusader tanks to charge at enemy panzers (as their guns were not effective enough at long range...)??

owlsy #5 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 01:50

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View PostPanzerHale, on Oct 23 2011 - 00:53, said:

Behind Stalingrad, El Alamein was probably the most important battle of the war. A brilliant feat of British military work.
I agree, Panzerhale. The first real time the Germans got their noses bloodied badly was at Stalingrad. I tend to believe that it was the actual turning point of the war in the east. I had a college professor tell me it was Kharkov, but I think Stalingrad set the stage for that repulsion. I also think as 1942 transitioned to 1943, the allies finally got the upperhand in the war and the Germans, their high command anyway, started to get scared. The failures of the Italians in practically everything they did compounded their fears. I think when North Africa was lost, most in the high command knew it was just a matter of time until defeat came to them. I love to hear the research people have done on this subject because it is so intriguing to me. That is why I really enjoy these informative articles and hope that they will continue to be featured on the WOT Website.

PanzerHale #6 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 02:25

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Its a battle that doesnt get talked about enough though because of the sheer numbers on the Eastern Front. 1940 to 1942 were lonely years for the Empire yet by the time the American's actually got boots on the ground in 1942, the tide was turning due to steadfast hardwork and sacrifice in North Africa and Russia.
I'm very biased but I really do think that the work and sacrifice of the British (Great Britain and the rest of the Empire) while everyone else watched on is forgotten about and maligned. After the fall of France, all the might of Germany and Italy fell on the British and they stood against it.
Even games like WoT do this quietly in adopting the French stream of tanks before British.

Edit, just to add, I'm not slagging off the Americans here, Lend/lease was massively important and its another area that isn't spoken about enough. The British convoys to Murmansk to supply the Russians with lend lease equipment, whether it be American or British helped the Russians out immensely as well as American muscle supplying Britain when our industry simply wasn't up to it.

anglomanii #7 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 03:28

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i have to disagree panzerhale, without the commonwealth in North Africa, Russia would have been in  an even more dismal proposition, closing the Med, would have effectively taken Britain out of the war, and given Germany the middle east securing it's rear and south, secured in it's oil supply and opened another front to attack Russia from below. Germany lost the war when it failed to close the med.

OrangesLuvMe #8 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 03:37

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Quote

Churchill: “Before Alamein we never had a victory. After Alamein we never had a defeat.”

Explain Operation Market-Garden then?

PanzerHale #9 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 04:16

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View Postanglomanii, on Oct 23 2011 - 03:28, said:

i have to disagree panzerhale, without the commonwealth in North Africa, Russia would have been in  an even more dismal proposition, closing the Med, would have effectively taken Britain out of the war, and given Germany the middle east securing it's rear and south, secured in it's oil supply and opened another front to attack Russia from below. Germany lost the war when it failed to close the med.

Your saying the campaign as a whole in North Africa was hugely important. I'm saying the battle of Alamein, behind Stalingrad, was the most important of the war.

the_moidart #10 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 05:47

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View PostPanzerHale, on Oct 23 2011 - 00:53, said:

Behind Stalingrad, El Alamein was probably the most important battle of the war. A brilliant feat of British military work.
That would be Midway (fairly equal forces both of which were trying to have the element of surprise, and in the end came down to luck in spotting).

El Alamein was bound to be a German defeat. Look at the number and quality disparity. Rommel was at then end of his supply chain. With all due respect to the British forces, it would have taken massive allied blunders for Rommel to win. If no one (for some reason) calls Meade a genius for winning Gettysburg by essentially holding the line and shifting resources around at the right time, then I wouldn't say Monty was anything special either.

I would argue the morale effects of Monty and of El Alanine on British forces were more important then the battle itself.

trajan331 #11 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 05:47

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One thing that was not mentioned was that most of the DAK was out of supply or low on supplies.  After Hitler called off the massive air strikes on Malta and cancelled the airborne invasion, the British air and sea forces at Malta were able to choke off supplies to Rommel.  While the DAK couldn't move Montgomery had time to amass a force able to push them back.

weveran #12 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 06:41

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Of the many mistakes Hitler made in WW2 one of the most importantant was believing Franco would support him and secure Gibraltor.

This belief is the most significant issue in this space as the denial of Gibrator would have handed Hitler the North Africa campaign and effectively secured his oil production.

Now if Hitler had invaded Spain........

DrinknCoffee #13 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 07:20

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View Postowlsy, on Oct 23 2011 - 01:50, said:

I agree, Panzerhale. The first real time the Germans got their noses bloodied badly was at Stalingrad. I tend to believe that it was the actual turning point of the war in the east. I had a college professor tell me it was Kharkov, but I think Stalingrad set the stage for that repulsion. I also think as 1942 transitioned to 1943, the allies finally got the upperhand in the war and the Germans, their high command anyway, started to get scared. The failures of the Italians in practically everything they did compounded their fears. I think when North Africa was lost, most in the high command knew it was just a matter of time until defeat came to them. I love to hear the research people have done on this subject because it is so intriguing to me. That is why I really enjoy these informative articles and hope that they will continue to be featured on the WOT Website.

Many factors went into the defeat of Germany, I would say the battle of Kursk was the turning point on the Eastern Front. They lost a large part of their armoured force and thus ability to check the Russian in terms of steel on steel. Stalingrad was a huge defeat but was mostly felt in terms of manpower and prestige. The subsequent Kharkov Operation (Manstein) checked the Russians, bled them dry and balanced out this loss in manpower.

SHISHKABOB #14 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 07:50

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View PostOrangesLuvMe, on Oct 23 2011 - 03:37, said:

Explain Operation Market-Garden then?

I guess it's considered an operational failure as it wasn't necessarily a pitched battle like the second battle of El Alamein was. I think the purpose of operation Market Garden was to secure bridges across the Rhine river into Germany which would allow the Allies to push into Germany more quickly and thus end the war by Christmas. There were a lot of parts to the operation and not all of them were big stand and fight battles like at El Alamein.

you could consider it a defeat in some ways, though, sure. But it wasn't the kind of defeat Churchill was talking about.

dolph #15 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 08:31

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View PostSHISHKABOB, on Oct 23 2011 - 07:50, said:

I guess it's considered an operational failure as it wasn't necessarily a pitched battle like the second battle of El Alamein was. I think the purpose of operation Market Garden was to secure bridges across the Rhine river into Germany which would allow the Allies to push into Germany more quickly and thus end the war by Christmas. There were a lot of parts to the operation and not all of them were big stand and fight battles like at El Alamein.

you could consider it a defeat in some ways, though, sure. But it wasn't the kind of defeat Churchill was talking about.

Yeah, even being such an operational failure, they still were able to take ground and rescue what's left. It would have been a complete failure if all allied units were destroyed and the line was pushed back. But after that market-garden, there weren't any other bold operations or insertions that were done throughout the war. It was then mostly about advancing the front lines slowly and surely and not risking as much.

FryaDuck #16 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 09:08

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The Chicken - WarGammings military specialist who won't touch anything he may get pulled up on.

Minor Insults towards the Mod/GM/Dev/Admin team.
Non-constructive post.
1 day R/O.

Edited by SgtGrunt, May 05 2012 - 09:59.


Cobaltz #17 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 09:27

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Good read!

anglomanii #18 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 13:24

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View PostPanzerHale, on Oct 23 2011 - 04:16, said:

Your saying the campaign as a whole in North Africa was hugely important. I'm saying the battle of Alamein, behind Stalingrad, was the most important of the war.

i'll make it simple, El Alamein, was the most important battle of the war. there I said it thats my honest opinion. all subsequent allied victories stem from this battle.. draw lines where ever you want, IF the DAK won at El Alamein (even as impossible as it may have been) the UK would have been effectively curtailed in it's war effort. and Russia would have found it's self in a seriously bad position, victory may not have been unobtainable but it may have delayed things too long to a point of stalemate..  or worse.

Eric301 #19 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 14:50

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There was a Greatest Tank Battles on History TV about El Alamein, it was a good one.http://cdn-frm-us.wa...Smile_great.gif

OrangesLuvMe #20 Posted Oct 23 2011 - 18:40

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View PostSHISHKABOB, on Oct 23 2011 - 07:50, said:

I guess it's considered an operational failure as it wasn't necessarily a pitched battle like the second battle of El Alamein was. I think the purpose of operation Market Garden was to secure bridges across the Rhine river into Germany which would allow the Allies to push into Germany more quickly and thus end the war by Christmas. There were a lot of parts to the operation and not all of them were big stand and fight battles like at El Alamein.

you could consider it a defeat in some ways, though, sure. But it wasn't the kind of defeat Churchill was talking about.

Fair enough. I guess I consider it a defeat because Allied Command had such high hopes for it (end the war by Christmas) and obviously that didn't happen. But I guess in the grand scheme of things it wasn't a huge setback to the Allies like El Alamein was for Rommel.




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