"This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."
-- Winston Churchill, November 10, 1942
Spring 1942. Throughout the world, the Allies retreat before the inexorable march of Fascism: Singapore falls to Japan; the Wehrmacht lays siege to Leningrad, captures the Crimea, and advances on Stalingrad; Greece and Yugoslavia fall to the Nazis; the American Pacific Fleet lies in ruins; and in Libya, Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps faces off against the British Eighth Army. Over the next twenty weeks, a series of battles fought in North Africa's Western Desert will become the pivot point of the Second World War.
In part, The End of the Beginning is the story of those battles: Rommel's surprise attack on the Gazala Line in May 1942, the fighting retreat of the British Eighth Army under General Sir Claude Auchinleck, and the fall of Tobruk after a siege lasting 240 days; the blockade of Malta and the Pedestal convoy that finally relieved the island; Auchinleck's brilliant last-ditch battle to hold Rommel at El Alamein, Rommel's final attacks at Alam Halfa Ridge, and then Montgomery's destruction of the Afrika Korps at the second battle of El Alamein in November.
But, like the best works of popular history, The End of the Beginning is more than a simple chronicle of battles won and lost, of the decisions of statesmen and generals. Its stories are told from the perspectives of the men and women who spent these pivotal months on the very tip of the Allied spear, with raw, personal experience documented on virtually every page: Peter Vaux, the intelligence officer of the British 7th Armoured Division, plotting the defeat of the Afrika Korps in a desert wadi named El Alamein; American merchant marine cadet Lonnie Dales sailing in the Pedestal convoy in an attempt to relieve Malta and, after his ship is sunk, volunteering to man the antiaircraft gun on the crippled oil tanker Ohio; Flight Lieutenant Ken Lee flying ground support missions by day, exploring the fleshpots of Alexandria by night; Alex Szima from Dayton, Ohio, one of Darby's original Rangers, joining the Canadians in the failed raid on Dieppe, and probably becoming the first American to kill a German during the war; Mimi Cortis, a Maltese nurse in one of the island's supply-starved hospitals. These stories give an unmatched depth to the consequences of the disputes between Churchill and his senior commanders; the shuttle diplomacy between London, Washington, and Moscow by FDR confidant Harry Hopkins; the deep conflicts between Montgomery and his predecessors; and the extraordinary American intelligence blunder that betrayed the Eighth Army's plans to Rommel.
Showcasing the latest scholarship and the authors' own original research, packed with edge-of-the-seat first-person experiences, and intercut with the pace of popular fiction, The End of the Beginning is an extraordinary assessment of one of the most important campaigns of the Second World War.