Daily Items


Topic If Egypt Fails
Date 16-Feb-2014


From Time Magazine, 06-Jul-1942


If Egypt Fails ...

Within reach of his sand-scarred hands Field Marshal Erwin Rommel had the greatest war prize since the Japanese took the Dutch East Indies. If he lays his hands on Alexandria, already within easy bombing range of his forward bases, the Mediterranean will belong to the Axis. Give him Suez, and he will have opened the gate of the Near East, to the Axis.

More than that, the fall of Egypt would be a threat to the entire Russian front, for the eastern European front extends in fact from Murmansk down through the Caucasus to the wreckage of Matrûh.

By the mere threat of an offensive based on Suez, the Axis might well force Turkey out of her stubborn neutrality into collaboration with Germany. Then Russia would have the foe on her left flank, within reach of the Caucasian oilfields. But the threat would be greater than that. Once in the Near East, the German would be near British oil—the great wealth of the Iraq fields. These fields (with Russia's) are the last big oil source for a vast strategic area in which the Japanese have already snatched the rest of the wells. The sub-harried tankers of the United Nations could not make up the deficit for many exhausting months to come.

From Egypt, the Nazis could also swing south, strike at the great U.S. concentration base in Eritrea. From the Near East, they could swing farther east into India, striking at the communications lines of the United Nations to China. Wherever they went, south, east, or both, they could well expect to get some help from the native populations, for the loss of Egypt would strike British prestige a severe blow in all Mohammedan countries.

Yet, except for the taking of the Mediterranean (which could be done at a stroke by depriving the British Fleet of its Egyptian bases) all this would take time—time to organize and employ greater armies than Germany now has on the south side of the Mediterranean. And time would give the United Nations opportunity to organize new resistance at the southern end of the Red Sea and the head of the Persian Gulf. At those two strategic gateways a fight can still be made, which, if successful, will still keep the Nazis and their allies, the Japanese, from joining hands.

But the words of Churchill and Roosevelt last week intimated that the United Nations would stake their forces not so much upon defense in the Near East as on offense in Europe (see below). If it succeeds, Germany will be defeated soon. If it fails, the war may last for many years and the democratic world will bleed.

Second Front

"Coming operations . . . will divert German strength from the attack on Russia."

So President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill promised the world. When they spoke, in a joint statement issued in Washington and London, the United Nations had come on critical days.

If the two Allied leaders can make good on their promise, all the bad news from Libya and Egypt may be discounted: if German strength is diverted from Russia, it will be diverted also from other theaters, including Africa.

How the Allies proposed to relieve Rus sia was plain for all to see. Franklin Roosevelt had just sent Major General Dwight David Eisenhower to England to take command of U.S. forces in the European theater. U.S. ground and air troops have been pouring into Britain and Northern Ireland for months. All the indications are that Russia is to be relieved, first by a searing attack from the air, then by a land invasion, if it is still needed when the bombers have finished their work.

It will have to begin soon. South of Kharkov, Bock had plowed deep into the Russian lines. In Egypt the British faced Rommel with scanty forces and equipment; their loss at Tobruk (Axis version) was 33,000 prisoners, more than 100 tanks. In Rommel's sudden victory Germany could see the start of a great pincer operation.

Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and their military men knew this. They knew the bitter toll of Axis submarines on Allied shipping. They knew, too, that China needs relief and must have it. Knowing these things, they approved this solemn statement:

"The Prime Minister and the President have met twice before, first in August 1941, and again in December 1941. There is no doubt in their minds that the over-all picture is more favorable to victory than it was either in August or December of last year."

The People Approve

If the U.S. joins with Britain in a second front in Europe this summer, it will do so with the backing of the U.S. people. A Gallup poll this week showed that the country, by a 2-to-1 margin, still regards Germany as the chief enemy.




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