Alamayn, al-

views updated


Village in northwest Egypt, on the Mediterranean, northeast of the Qattara depression, site of the battle of El Alamein, where the British drove back the Germans in a pivotal battle of World War II, 23 October4 November 1942.

General Bernard Law Montgomery's British and Commonwealth Eighth Army met and overcame General Erwin Rommel's GermanItalian Afrika Korps at al-Alamayn, approximately 80 miles (128.7 km) west of Alexandria. The retreat of Rommel's forces ended the Axis threat to conquer Egypt and seize the Suez Canal. Montgomery had some 195,000 men, 1,150 tanks, and 1,900 guns against Rommel's 100,000 men, 530 tanks, and 1,325 guns. Montgomery attacked at 9:30 p.m. on 23 October with an artillery barrage from 1,000 guns. The Afrika Korps held and counterattacked on 27 October. Montgomery resumed the offensive the next day, with a weeklong tank battle. British air superiority and force of numbers wore down the Afrika Korps, and Rommel withdrew a few miles to the west on 1 November. Another attack on 3 November resulted in Rommel's ordering another withdrawal, at first countermanded by Adolf Hitler, but finally approved. Montgomery's pursuit on 5 November stalled because of a rainstorm, and Rommel was able to disengage his force and retreat to the Libyan border by 7 November. The Afrika Korps had 59,000 men killed, wounded, and captured and lost some 500 tanks and 400 guns, against Eighth Army losses of 13,500 men, 500 tanks, and 100 guns. Moreover, most of the British tanks were reparable while Rommel had only twenty operational tanks at the end of the fighting.


Pitt, Barrie. The Crucible of War. London: Cassell, 2001.

Daniel E. Spector