In July 1941, Bastico became governor of Libya. Although he was, in theory, the superior of the Afrika Korps (Africa Corps) commander Erwin Rommel, he and Rommel immediately developed a contentious relationship over issues involving the command and control of the Axis forces in North Africa. Rommel's repeated rebuffs of Bastico's attempts to rein him in, as well as his increasingly ill disguised contempt for the Italian army, led to a series of heated exchanges between the two, with Rommel referring to Bastico as "Bombastico." Nevertheless, the Axis forces were able to cooperate sufficiently to force the surrender of Tobruk in June 1942. As a result, both Rommel and Bastico were promoted to field marshal.
After the surrender of Tobruk in June 1942, Rommel as usual disregarded Bastico's cautious directives and invaded Egypt. Consequently, the Axis forces became overstretched, thus setting the stage for the decisive British counteroffensive at El Alamein in October 1942. In the wake of the Axis defeat, Bastico was relieved of command in February 1943.
Ettore Bastico retired from the army in 1947. He also wrote a three-volume study of the evolution of warfare. He died in Rome on 2 December 1972.
John M. Jennings
Bastico, Ettore. L'evolutzione dell'arte della guerra. 3 vols. Florence, Italy: Casa Editrice Militare Italiana, 1930.; Carver, Michael. Tobruk. Philadelphia: Dufour Editions, 1964.; Greene, Jack, and Alessandro Massignani. Rommel's North African Campaign, September 1940–November 1942. Conshohocken, PA: Combined Publishing, 1999.; Heckmann, Wolf. Rommel's War in Africa. New York: Doubleday, 1981.