CAIRO, Oct. 26, 1942 (UP) - Allied troops swarming through widening gaps in the north, central and south sectors of the Egyptian front, have captured 1,450 Axis prisoners, routed Nazi tanks in the armored clash, and are pulverizing the enemy line with the greatest British artillery blasts since the battle of the Somme in World war I, it was revealed Monday night.
American tank crews, which held one sector of the front line, were presumed to be in the thick of the battle.
German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's frantic efforts to rush reinforcements and supplies across the Mediterranean cost him further heavy losses as Allied planes shot down four Junkers-52 troop-carrying planes and damaged several more, and blew up a munition ship near Tobruk, a port so vulnerable to air attack that Rommel would not use it unless his needs were desperate.
Tanks made in the United States and Britain, and British, Indian, Australian, South African, New Zealand, and fighting French troops are storming ahead side by side through the breaks in the Axis barbed wire and mine fields under artillery barrages that rock the buildings of Alexandria, 80 miles away. Offering protection overhead are U.S., R.A.F. and S.A.A.F. air forces that completely rule the skies.
Our tanks, following the infantry spearheads, met one force of Rommel's panzers which fled after a sharp duel, leaving many blazing tanks on the field, according to a front dispatch from United Press Correspondent Richard D. McMillan. The clash was in a gap held by British and Australian troops. The main tank battles are yet to be joined, however, as Rommel so far has risked only groups of "mediums."
The 1,450 prisoners were rounded up between the start of the offensive Friday night and 6 p.m. Sunday. They included Germans, mostly of the 164th infantry division which was moved to Africa from Crete in mid-summer, as well as Italians. Many were so taken by surprise by the first great Allied assault that they were captured in their pajamas.
Although enemy air opposition was comparatively feeble, seven Axis planes were shot down in the desert Sunday, in addition to the four Junkers transports bagged off the coast. U.S. P-40 fighter pilots got four of the seven in raids on two airdromes. The day's air score for the Mediterranean area was 14 lost by the Axis, including three shot down at Malta, and three planes lost by the Allies.