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Three German officers confer together atop a tank in North Africa.
|Active||12 February 1941 – 13 May 1943|
|Garrison/HQ||Tripoli, Italian Libya|
| Erwin Rommel |
Ritter von Thoma
|Seal of the Deutsches Afrikakorps|
The Afrika Korps or German Africa Corps (German : Deutsches Afrikakorps, DAK
German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol (Italy), the German-speaking Community of Belgium, and Liechtenstein. It is also one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages which are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch: Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are also strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.
The North African Campaign of the Second World War took place in North Africa from 10 June 1940 to 13 May 1943. It included campaigns fought in the Libyan and Egyptian deserts and in Morocco and Algeria, as well as Tunisia.
World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.
The Afrika Korps formed on 11 January 1941 and one of Hitler's favorite generals, Erwin Rommel, was designated as commander on 11 February. Originally Hans von Funck was to have commanded it, but Hitler loathed von Funck, as he had been a personal staff officer of Werner von Fritsch until von Fritsch was dismissed in 1938.
Erwin Rommel was a German general and military theorist. Popularly known as the Desert Fox, he served as field marshal in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II, as well as serving in the Reichswehr of the Weimar Republic, and the army of Imperial Germany.
Hans von Funck was a German general in the Wehrmacht during World War II, who commanded the 7th Panzer Division and the XXXXVII Panzer Corps.
Thomas Ludwig Werner Freiherr von Fritsch was a member of the German High Command. He was commander-in-chief of the German Army from 1933 until February 1938, when he was forced to resign after being falsely accused of being homosexual.
The German Armed Forces High Command ( Oberkommando der Wehrmacht , OKW) had decided to send a "blocking force" to Libya to support the Italian army. The Italian army group had been routed by the British Commonwealth Western Desert Force in Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The German blocking force, commanded by Rommel, at first consisted of a force based only on Panzer Regiment 5, which was put together from the second regiment of the 3rd Panzer Division. These elements were organized into the 5th Light Division when they arrived in Africa from 10 February – 12 March 1941. In late April and into May, the 5th Light Division was joined by elements of 15th Panzer Division, transferred from Italy. At this time, the Afrika Korps consisted of the two divisions, and was subordinated to the Italian chain of command in Africa.
The Oberkommando der Wehrmacht was the High Command of the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. Created in 1938, the OKW had nominal oversight over the Heer (Army), the Kriegsmarine (Navy), and the Luftwaffe.
Italian Libya was a colony of the Kingdom of Italy located in North Africa, in what is now modern Libya. Italian Libya was formed from the Italian colonies of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania that were taken by the Kingdom of Italy from the Ottoman Empire in 1911, during the Italo-Turkish War of 1911 to 1912. The unified colony was established in 1934 by governor Italo Balbo, with Tripoli as the capital.
The Western Desert Force (WDF) was a British Army formation active in Egypt during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War.
On 15 August 1941, the German 5th Light Division was redesignated 21st Panzer Division, the higher formation of which was still the Afrika Korps. During the summer of 1941, the OKW increased the presence in Africa and created a new headquarters called Panzer Group Africa. On 15 August, the Panzer Group was activated with Rommel in command, and command of the Afrika Korps was turned over to Ludwig Crüwell. The Panzer Group comprised the Afrika Korps, with some additional German units now in North Africa, plus two corps of Italian units. The Panzer Group was, in turn, redesignated as Panzer Army Africa on 30 January 1942.
Ludwig Crüwell was a German army general who served in the Afrika Korps of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves. Crüwell surrendered to the British forces on 29 May 1942 and was interned at Trent Park, the British camp for high-ranking POWs where his conversations were subject to covert surveillance.
After the German defeat in the Second Battle of El Alamein and the Allied landings in Morocco and Algeria Operation Torch, the OKW once more upgraded the presence in Africa by adding first the XC Army Corps, under Nehring, in Tunisia on 19 November 1942, then an additional 5th Panzer Army on 8 December, under the command of Colonel-General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim.
The Second Battle of El Alamein was a battle of the Second World War that took place near the Egyptian railway halt of El Alamein. The First Battle of El Alamein and the Battle of Alam el Halfa had prevented the Axis from advancing further into Egypt.
The Allies of World War II, called the United Nations from the 1 January 1942 declaration, were the countries that together opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War (1939–1945). The Allies promoted the alliance as a means to control German, Japanese and Italian aggression.
Operation Torch was an Anglo–American invasion of French North Africa during the Second World War. It was aimed at reducing pressure on Allied forces in Egypt, and enabling an invasion of Southern Europe. It also provided the ‘second front’ which the Soviet Union had been requesting since it was invaded by the Germans in 1941. The region was dominated by the Vichy French, officially Nazi-controlled, but with mixed loyalties, and reports indicated that they might support the Allied initiative. The American General Dwight D. Eisenhower, commanding the operation, planned a 3-pronged attack, aimed at Casablanca (Western), Oran (Center) and Algiers (Eastern), in advance of a rapid move on Tunis.
On 23 February 1943, the original Panzer Army Africa, which had since been re-styled as the German-Italian Panzer Army, was now redesignated as the Italian 1st Army and put under the command of Italian general Giovanni Messe. Rommel, meanwhile, was placed in command of a new Army Group Africa, created to control both the Italian 1st Army and the 5th Panzer Army. The remnants of the Afrika Korps and surviving units of the 1st Italian Army retreated into Tunisia. Command of the Army Group was turned over to Arnim in March. On 13 May, the Afrika Korps surrendered, along with all other remaining Axis forces in North Africa.
Giovanni Messe was an Italian general, politician, and field marshal. He is considered by many to have been the best Italian general of the Second World War.
Most Afrika Korps POWs were transported to the United States and held in Camp Shelby in Mississippi and other POW camps until the end of the war.
When Rommel was promoted to the newly formed Panzerarmee Afrika, his command included a number of Italian units, including four infantry divisions. Two Italian armoured divisions, Ariete and Trieste, initially remained under Italian control as the Italian XX Motorized Corps under the command of General Gastone Gambara.
The Afrika Korps was restructured and renamed in August 1941. "Afrikakorps" was the official name of the force for less than six months but the officers and men used it for the duration. The Afrika Korps was the major German component of Panzerarmee Afrika, which was later renamed the Deutsch-Italienische Panzerarmee and finally renamed Heeresgruppe Afrika (Army Group Africa) during the 27 months of the Desert campaign.
Certain divisions were reformed in Europe after the cessation of fighting in Tunisia:
The Battle of Kasserine Pass was a battle of the Tunisia Campaign of World War II that took place in February 1943. Kasserine Pass is a 2-mile-wide (3.2 km) gap in the Grand Dorsal chain of the Atlas Mountains in west central Tunisia.
Operation Sonnenblume was the name given to the dispatch of German troops to North Africa in February 1941, during the Second World War. German troops reinforced the remaining Italian forces in Libya, after the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by British attacks during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The first units departed Naples for Africa and arrived on 11 February. On 14 February, the first units of the 5th Light Afrika Division, Aufklärungsbataillon 3 and Panzerjägerabteilung 39 arrived in Tripoli, Libya and were sent immediately to the front line at Sirte.
Operation Crusader was a military operation during the Second World War by the British Eighth Army against the Axis forces in North Africa between 18 November and 30 December 1941. The operation was intended to relieve the 1941 Siege of Tobruk; the Eighth Army tried to destroy the Axis armoured force before advancing its infantry. The plan failed when, after a number of inconclusive engagements, the British 7th Armoured Division was defeated by the Afrika Korps at Sidi Rezegh.
The Western Desert Campaign, took place in the deserts of Egypt and Libya and was the main theatre in the North African Campaign during the Second World War. The campaign began in September 1940 with the Italian invasion of Egypt; Operation Compass, a British five-day raid in December 1940, led to the destruction of the Italian 10th Army. Benito Mussolini sought help from Adolf Hitler, who responded with a small German force sent to Tripoli under Directive 22. The German Afrika Korps was under nominal Italian command but Italian dependency on Nazi Germany made it the dominant partner.
The Battle of Alam el Halfa took place between 30 August and 5 September 1942 south of El Alamein during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. Panzerarmee Afrika—a German–Italian force commanded by Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel—attempted an envelopment of the British Eighth Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery. In the last major Axis offensive of the Western Desert Campaign, Rommel had planned to defeat the Eighth Army before Allied reinforcements made an Axis victory in Africa impossible.
The Battle of Gazala was fought during the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War, west of the port of Tobruk in Libya, from 26 May to 21 June 1942. Axis troops of the Panzerarmee Afrika consisted of German and Italian units. Allied forces were mainly British, Indian, South African and Free French.
Fritz Hermann Michael Bayerlein was a general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. He initially served as a staff officer, including with Erwin Rommel in the Afrika Korps. He then commanded the 3rd Panzer Division, the Panzer Lehr Division and LIII Army Corps in the European theatre. Bayerlein was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords.
The 21st Panzer Division was a German armoured division best known for its role in the battles of the North African Campaign from 1941–1943 during World War II when it was one of the two armoured divisions making up the Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK).
The 90th Light Infantry Division was a light infantry division of the German Army during World War II that served in North Africa as well as Sardinia and Italy. The division played a major role in most of the actions against the British Eighth Army in the Western Desert Campaign and eventually surrendered to the Allies in the final stages of the Tunisia Campaign in May 1943. It was re-constituted later in 1943 and deployed to Sardinia and when the expected Allied invasion of Sardinia failed to materialise, the division was moved to Italy. It was engaged in actions against the Allies in Italy from 1943 to September 1944 when the division was listed as "destroyed" south of Bologna.
As the number of German troops committed to the North African Campaign of World War II grew from the initial commitment of a small corps the Germans developed a more elaborate command structure and placed the enlarged Afrika Korps, with Italian units under this new German command and a succession of commands were created to manage Axis forces in Africa:
Georg Stumme was a general in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II who briefly commanded of the Axis forces at the beginning of the Second Battle of El Alamein. He took part in the Battle of France, the invasion of Yugoslavia and the invasion of the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, the highest award in the military and paramilitary forces of Nazi Germany during World War II.
Walther Nehring was a German general in the Wehrmacht during World War II who commanded the Afrika Korps.
The Battle of El Agheila was a brief engagement of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. It took place in December 1942 between Allied forces of the Eighth Army and the Axis forces of the German-Italian Panzer Army, during the long Axis withdrawal from El Alamein to Tunis. It ended with the German-Italian Panzer Army resuming its retreat towards Tunisia, where the Tunisia Campaign had begun with Operation Torch (8–16 November 1942).
The Battle of Mersa Matruh was fought from 26 to 29 June 1942, following the defeat of the Eighth Army at the Battle of Gazala and was part of the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War. The combatants on the Axis side were the Panzerarmee Afrika, consisting of German and Italian units. The Allied forces of the Eighth Army comprised X Corps and XIII Corps. The battle developed as the Afrika Korps pursued the Eighth Army as it retreated into Egypt. Rommel intended to engage and destroy the Allied infantry formations in detail, before the British had a chance to regroup. The Axis cut off the line of retreat of X Corps and XIII Corps but his forces were too weak to stop them from breaking out. The fortress port of Mersa Matruh and 6,000 prisoners fell into his hands, along with a great deal of supplies and equipment but the Eighth Army survived.
133rd Armoured Division Littorio or 133° Divisione Corazzata Littorio (Italian) was an armoured division of the Italian Army during World War II. The division was formed in 1939 from the Infantry Division Littorio that had taken part in the Spanish Civil War. It was a reserve unit during the invasion of France when it attacked through the Little St Bernard Pass, which was halted by the French defenders. It then took part in the Invasion of Yugoslavia, fighting at Mostar and Trebinje. It was sent to North Africa in the spring of 1942 where it fought until it was destroyed at the Second battle of El Alamein in November 1942.
Eduard Crasemann was a German general (Generalleutnant) in the Wehrmacht during World War II, who commanded several Panzer divisions. He was a recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves of Nazi Germany.
Heinrich von Prittwitz und Gaffron was a general officer in the Heer (Army) branch of the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. He was commander of the 14th and 15th Panzer Divisions and was killed in action in the early stages of the Siege of Tobruk.