Austin Bay

Tunisia was where the allied strategic trap closed on the Axis forces. The Anglo-American forces of Operation Torch had marched east from their Moroccan and Algerian invasion beaches. Torch gave the raw American Army hard but useful combat experience. An untested general, Dwight Eisenhower, commanded the operation. A proven warhorse, George Patton, commanded the unit invading Morocco.

Torch also demonstrated an impressive American strategic audacity, one 70 years has refined and extended. The troop convoys carrying the Moroccan invasion force assembled along the U.S. East Coast, and then went nonstop to Africa. America had the confidence, and equipment, to launch an intercontinental amphibious assault.

The U.S. attack on Algeria included a parachute infantry assault launched from bases in Britain, 1,600 miles away. The paratroopers' planes scattered en route, their drop went awry, but the failed gamble provided an education in complex modern combat operations.

Winston Churchill recognized Second El Alamein's significance. Adolf Hitler's Nazi war machine had been dealt a military defeat of immense consequence. Eventually, the Axis would quit the continent. Their Big Lie propagandists could not mask a continent's loss.

Churchill understood Torch's strategic implications. Moreover, on the Eastern Front, the Russians had the Nazis bogged in a grinding battle of attrition: Stalingrad. El Alamein, however, was a victory for his Britain, the nation that had stood alone against Hitler. Assessing 8th Army's Egyptian victory, on Nov. 10, 1942, Churchill said, "This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

For Sir Winston, the long road to Berlin began at El Alamein.

Austin Bay

Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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