The War Illustrated No 145 Vol 6 January 8th 1945

BA:\G ES f lk ,BENGHAZI, TRIP 'MILO IS U P.A 7A O W C U W v’i£ 2 l V niC eJ MAI EUR V J s "'j Tobourby^o'^, M cdjcz-ol-Bab d'o^ 1st AtMY MASSING Kairouanj lossouda .TUNISIA M odonine Zintan M lZ D A *|j T AIRFIELDS Apprvx/rnale Gerrricn .former Line w.u u «Russian Pcnztrationz c=^> Serafim ovich rf8'r,‘ Astakhcv [to!»***/*," A p c s r u k ' Tsymlvansit / «jj Kctslnikoi'o STALIN GRAD for the Russian The retreat o f Rommel from El Agheila on Dec. 13,1942, ami the capture o f Buna the next i!uv, were highly satisfactory events. It would have been more satisfactory i f Rommel had given Montgomery an opportunity o f gaining a decisive victory, but his retreat from such a strong position affords convincing proof that his losses at lit Alamein were not exaggerated. It is also an indication o f the inability o f the Axis Powers to reinforce him owing to the number and serious nature o f their other commitments. The recognized strategy for artnies compelled to acton exterior lines is to maintain relentless pressure at a number of points in order to prevent the enemy concern rating his forces where he is most threatened, or has opportunities for a counter-stroke. This strategy is now in operation, and its cffect in causing the enemy to disperse his resources and in counteracting the inherent advantages he possesses o f rapid movement on interior lines can be seen. The comparatively small size o f the forces engaged in New Guinea should not make usunder­ rate the importance o f the achievements or the difficulties that were overcome. The passage o f the Owen Stanley range, and the attacks on Buna itself under appalling conditions, have shown once again the adaptability o f Australian troops to all sorts o f warfare and their fighting qualities. The desperate fight made by the Japanese adds to the brilliance o f the achievement. In Russia .and in Tunisia the situation continues to develop favourably, although it yetis loo soon to indulge in expectation o f immediate sensational results. *MARBLE ARC H,’a. pretentious Italian mon­ument marking the h alt-w ay line between Tripoli and Egypt, stands near w h a twas the Axis forward fighter base before Rommel re­treated fro mEl A gh eila . Pi:o!o, Daily Mail NORTH AFRICA Information as regards -opera­tions in Tunisia has been s© meagre that at the time of writing (in the middle of December) the situation is somewhat obscure, especially in the southern regions. On the whole, it seems fairly satisfactory., especially since there are indications that in the struggle for air supremacy the Allies are by degrees depriving the enemy of his initial advantages. So long, however, ashe can operate short- range aircraft from the airfields of Tunis and Bizerta decisive supremacy over the battlefield is not likely to be achieved. The Allied advanced forces have had to deal with a number of counter-attacks and though they do not appear to have suffered any serious reverses, they have been compelled to withdraw from their most forward position and to shorten their line. They have, how­ever, inflicted considerable losses on the enemy, and hold positions covering the deployment of the maiil army. Weather has been unfavourable, and the movement of transport columns through the mountains has been difficult, arid will probably bethe main reason for delay in opening major operations. The enemy’s strength is un­doubtedly growing, though at the price of heavy losses on his lines of communi­cation inflicted by the Navy and the Middle East air force. The possibility that Rommel may abandon Tripolitania and attempt to join hands with the Axis forces in Tunis exists but should he attempt to operate in Southern Tunis it is diffi­cult to see how he could be adequately supplied. He would have no estab­lished bases to work from, and his sea and air com­munications would be­come increasingly pre­carious. and the competing demands of Tunisia make it improbable that deficiences, if they existed, have been made good: The chief advantage the Misurata position has is that the 8th Army would again be strung out in its advance, and that its line of communication would belong and difficult, with water supply a particularly difficult problem. Still, it must be remembered that, when we were in occupation of Cyren- aica, Rommel at £1 Agheila was able to o)X mme l”s retreat from El Agheila without attempting serious resis­tance naturally raises the question :Why. did he re­treat so precipitately io that point if he did not intend to make full use of the defensive potenti­alities of the position? I think it is safe to assume that he hoped to receive there substantial reinforce­ments, and that his hopes were disappointed. It maybe that he also hoped that Mont­gomery, flushed with, success, would attack him with weak advanced forces, and without proper preparations—thus exposing himself to counter-attack. If that were so, Mont­ gomery's deliberate procedure made the hope vain. T d o not think that Rommel gained much time by his halt at El Aghcila, since in any case the 8th Army was bound to pause to closeup, to bring the port of Benghazi into operation, and in general to reorganize its lines of communications before embarking on a further advance of over 400 miles into Tripolitania. His halt and final retreat haVe done little more than reveal fully the weakness of the force Rommel now has at his disposal. It is now generally assumed that Rommel will make a stand at Misurata. But would his prospects there be much better than they were at El Agheila, unless in the meantime reinforcements are poured into Tripoli? Misurata is a weaker position than that at El Agheila :and though its communications with Tripoli are shorter, that disadvantage would not be great unless Tripoli is a well- stocked base. Is it likely to be well stocked? I should imagine it is not for while Rommel was in Egypt it seems almost cer­tain that whatever material and supplies were landed or were in stock, at. Tripoli, would have been sent forward RUSSIA The statistics of losses inflicted into Cyrenaica or to even on the Germans in the first more advanced depots, three weeks of the Stalingrad offensive and 1 should be surprised if *in the offensive on the Moscow front arc Tripoli, since Rommel very impressive, and there seems no reason map shows o f the city AREA saw considerable gains forces during Nov. 1942. This Soviet thrusts S.W .courtesy of The limes maintain and buildup a strong striking force under much the same difficulties of communi­cation and with less assistance from sea transport than we may expect. entered Egypt, has held stocks much in excess of those required for Italian outlying posts in the south. Since the Battle of Egypt the increasing risks of the sea passage to doubt their substantial accuracy. I note that Mr. A.T. Cholerton, the very well-informed Moscow correspondent of The Daily Telegraph, evidently considers them reliable. An organization exists apparently in the Red .Army for recording accurately enemy losses. Claims of prisoners taken on 8th A R MY’S ADVANCE TOWARDS TRIPOLI was made possible by hundreds o f Allied bombers and fighters which opera ted from Libyan bases S. of Benghazi. Enemy airfields which follow the Trip o lita n ian coastline were heavily strafed by our planes. The arrow shows the direction o four advance after the network o f minefield shad been crossed thin eEl A gh eila reeio inn mid -D ecem b er 1942. PAGE 450 B y courtesy o f the Daily Mail THE BATTLEFRONTS by Maj.-Gen. Sir Charles Gwynn, ICC.B., D.S,0.
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