Afrika Korps

Last updated
Deutsches Afrikakorps
Afrika Korps emblem.svg
Seal of the Deutsches Afrikakorps
Active21 February 1941 – 13 May 1943
CountryFlag of Germany (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Branch Army
Type Expeditionary force
Size Corps
Garrison/HQ Tripoli, Italian Libya
ColorsYellow, brown
Engagements World War II
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Erwin Rommel
Ludwig Crüwell
Wilhelm Ritter von Thoma
Walther Nehring

The Afrika Korps or German Africa Corps (German : Deutsches Afrikakorps, DAK Loudspeaker.svg listen  ) was the German expeditionary force in Africa during the North African Campaign of World War II. First sent as a holding force to shore up the Italian defense of their African colonies, the formation fought on in Africa, under various appellations, from March 1941 until its surrender in May 1943. The unit's best known commander was Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.

Contents

Organization

The Afrika Korps formed on 11 January 1941 and one of Hitler's favourite 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. [1]

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. [2]

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. [3]

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.

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.

Most Afrika Korps POWs were transported to the United States and held in Camp Shelby in Mississippi, Camp Hearne in Texas and other POW camps until the end of the war. [4]

Composition and terminology

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. [5]

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. [6] [7]

Anti-Jewish violence

Robert Satloff writes in his book Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands that as the German and Italian forces retreated across Libya towards Tunisia, the Jewish population became victim upon which they released their anger and frustration. According to Satloff Afrika Korps soldiers plundered Jewish property all along the Libyan coast. This violence and persecution only came to an end with the arrival of General Montgomery in Tripoli on January 23 1943. [8]

Reforming of units

Certain divisions were reformed in Europe after the cessation of fighting in Tunisia:

See also

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This is a timeline of the North African campaign.

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:

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Battle of the Mareth Line

The Battle of the Mareth Line or the Battle of Mareth was an attack in the Second World War by the British Eighth Army in Tunisia, against the Mareth Line held by the Italo-German 1st Army. It was the first big operation by the Eighth Army since the Second Battle of El Alamein ​4 12 months previously. On 19 March 1943, Operation Pugilist, the first British attack, established a bridgehead but a break-out attempt was defeated by Axis counter-attacks. Pugilist established an alternative route of attack and Operation Supercharge II, an outflanking manoeuvre via the Tebaga Gap was planned. Montgomery reinforced the flanking attack, which from 26 to 31 March, forced the 1st Army to retreat to Wadi Akarit, another 40 mi (64 km) back in Tunisia.

Battle of Medenine World War II battle

The Battle of Medenine was an Axis spoiling attack at Medenine in Tunisia on 6 March 1943. The operation was intended to delay an attack by the British Eighth Army on the Mareth Line. The British had been forewarned by Ultra decrypts of German wireless communications and rushed reinforcements from Tripoli and Benghazi before the Axis attack, which was a costly failure. General Erwin Rommel, the commander of Army Group Africa (Heeresgruppe Afrika), could not afford to lose forces needed for the defence of the Mareth Line and the effort was abandoned at dusk that day.

Georg Stumme German general

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Battle of El Agheila

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).

Battle of Mersa Matruh

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 Axis Panzer Army Afrika (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 was too weak to stop the British from breaking out. The fortress port of Mersa Matruh and 6,000 prisoners were captured, along with a great deal of supplies and equipment but the Eighth Army survived.

References

  1. Beevor, Antony (2009). D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. London: Viking. p. 405. ISBN   978-0-670-88703-3.
  2. Pier Paolo Battistelli (20 January 2013). Rommel's Afrika Korps: Tobruk to El Alamein. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 12–. ISBN   978-1-4728-0081-7.
  3. Bruce Gudmundsson (30 August 2016). Inside the Afrika Korps: The Crusader Battles, 1941-1942. Frontline Books. pp. 19–. ISBN   978-1-84832-996-6.
  4. Beasley 2010, p. 262.
  5. Lewin 1968, p. 54.
  6. Toppe 1952, p. 14.
  7. Ian Baxter (30 January 2019). The Armour of Rommel's Afrika Korps - Introduction. Pen and Sword. ISBN   978-1-5267-1380-3.
  8. Robert Satloff Among the Righteous: Lost Stories from the Holocaust's Long Reach into Arab Lands 2006 page 44

Sources

Further reading