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Sunday, March 18, 2018

El-Alamein, the War Museum - Part I, Inside

The War Museum at el-Alamein is likely your destination if you are interested in history or military memorabilia. It is found east of the German and Italian cemeteries and on the opposite side of the road.  It is just east of the large church.

You might find some very poor reviews of the museum on sites like Trip Advisor, based on the previous state of the place.  I believe there were two distinct museums in the past but they have been consolidated and enhanced in a single facility with updated displays.  The entrance presents an ominous tableau of the approaching Axis war machine.

It is probably worth reading up a bit on the history before your arrival as there was a good deal of back-and-forth movement across Libya and the approach to el Alamein.  In the museum there are lots of maps, especially of the nearby area with a commanding view of the desert.

This is the sort of facility where older veterans may wish to spend several hours while the rest of the family can tour it in several minutes.  Plan accordingly, perhaps those not so interested should bring a book.  Looking over the collection of "soldier trash" left behind by the Germans, I naturally wondered if one my old O.D. tee-shirts or razors is sitting in some Vietnamese war museum.  Each item registers with former soldiers and brings back memories.
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Inside are five distinct halls featuring items and descriptions from Italian, German, British and Egyptian perspectives.  The fifth hall is a combined one.

The Italian presence here doesn't get a great deal of attention when Americans write history books.  Italy is probably best remembered for being the first Axis power to surrender and being very quick to switch sides.  But they were a big part of the North African war here, of course.  Do you recall the Italian empire? Did the Italians put up a good fight? (There is a good synopsis here.)

The Italians declared war on Britain in June of 1940.  Most histories describe a poorly led Italian army with woeful equipment and logistics support. Seven months later, this newspaper map depicts the British progress in North Africa.

An accompanying story describes a lone Australian convincing thousands of Italian soldiers to surrender.

Soon, the British had a big problem of what to do with a hundred thousand or more Italian prisoners.  Things would go well for the British side as they mopped things up.

Hitler decided to solve the leadership problem by sending Erwin Rommel and a two German divisions.  But, while this prolonged the Axis presence as the two sides fought back and forth for another three years, even Rommel couldn't make up for the long logistics path to his units and the continuing reinforcements of the Allies.  The museum preserves the memory of three battles, none of which permitted the Axis forces to advance quite as far as el Alamein.

The Italians defiantly left behind a monument (we didn't come across it - this is from Wikipedia) with a comment attributed to Rommel noting that they had suffered from "bad luck," not a lack of valor which prevented their advance to Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez Canal.

Back in the museum, we have maps, pictures, and paintings of the see-saw battles.  A couple of the better ones:
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As a well-trained "U.S. mortar man," I was interested in the several 81mm units on display.
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Communications equipment also draws my interest:
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There is always an interest in World War II daggers so here are  few to view.

And a quick summary of the impact of the war on the Egyptian population.

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