The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II

By Glyn Harper | Go to book overview

NINE
REFLECTIONS AND REPUTATIONS

On November 4, the time had come for Eighth Army to pursue a crippled and defeated Axis force. Montgomery was well aware that Rommel’s army was now gravely damaged and in retreat. He launched two armored divisions, the 1st and the 10th, and the New Zealand Division, with an attached armored brigade, in pursuit. The Panzerarmee’s withdrawal presented Montgomery with a priceless opportunity because, according to many German sources, it was poorly conducted. Afrika Korps’ War Diary reported:

Officers of all ranks had lost their heads and were making hasty and ill consid-
ered decisions, with the result that confidence had been lost, and in some places
panic had broken out. Some vehicles were set on fire on or beside the road, and
guns were abandoned or destroyed because there were no tractors for them. A
large number of vehicles had left their units and were streaming back without
orders.

The Diary also recorded with some surprise, “No contact with the enemy all day.”1

The War Diary of the 90th Light Division chronicled similar conditions, admitting that there was “very little discipline during the withdrawal.” It also claimed German transport and supply units were “fleeing in wild panic.” As a result, its withdrawal from Alamein was “very difficult.”2

The pursuit phase of the Alamein battle has been strongly criticized by many writers who believe that Montgomery acted with undue caution. The British official history made a perceptive observation that, “Whether they could have captured or destroyed more of the Panzerarmee than

-237-

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The Battle for North Africa: El Alamein and the Turning Point for World War II
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Twentieth-Century Battles ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Maps vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction- the Eyes of the Whole World, Watching Anxiously 1
  • One - The Military Background 8
  • Two - The First Battle- July 1942 36
  • Three - "Drastic and Immediate" Changes 75
  • Four - Alam Halfa- Rommel’s Last Attempt 92
  • Five - Preparations and Plans 116
  • Six - Attempting the Break-in- October 23–24 144
  • Seven - Slugging It out 170
  • Eight - Operation Supercharge- The Breakthrough 204
  • Nine - Reflections and Reputations 237
  • Bibliography 257
  • Index 265
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