Alamein, El (ĕl ăləmānˈ, älə–) [key] or Al Alamayn äl älămānˈ, town, N Egypt, on the Mediterranean Sea. It was the site of a decisive British victory in World War II (see North Africa, campaigns in). In preparation for an attack by German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel from Libya (begun May 26, 1942) the British forces retreated into Egypt and by June 30 had set up a defense line extending 35 mi (56 km) from Alamein S to the Qattara Depression, a badland which could neither be crossed nor flanked. If this position had fallen, the British might have lost Alexandria and been forced to withdraw from North Africa. In August, Gen. Bernard L. Montgomery took command of the 8th Army. The British offensive opened on Oct. 23 with tremendous air and artillery bombardments. Montgomery's forces cleared the German minefields and on Nov. 1 and 2 burst through the German lines near the sea and forced a swift Axis retreat out of Egypt, across Libya, and into E Tunisia. Egypt was definitely saved, and with the landing on Nov. 7 and 8 of American troops in Algeria the Axis soon suffered (May, 1943) total defeat in North Africa. For his victory Montgomery was made a viscount with the title Montgomery of Alamein.
See studies by M. Carver (1962) and J. Latimer (2002).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.