Afrika Korps

Last updated
Deutsches Afrikakorps
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-784-0223-05, Nordafrika, deutsche Offiziere.2.jpg
Three German officers confer together atop a tank in North Africa.
Active 12 February 1941 – 13 May 1943
CountryFlag of German Reich (1935-1945).svg  Germany
Branch Army
Type Expeditionary force
Size Corps
Garrison/HQ Tripoli, Italian Libya
Colors Yellow, brown
Engagements

World War II

Commanders
Notable
commanders
Erwin Rommel
Ludwig Crüwell
Ritter von Thoma
Walther Nehring
Insignia
Seal of the Deutsches Afrikakorps Afrika Korps emblem.svg

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.

German language West Germanic language

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.

North African Campaign military campaign of World War II

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 1939–1945 global war

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.

Contents

Organization

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. [1]

Erwin Rommel German field marshal of World War II

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.

Werner von Fritsch German general

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.

<i>Oberkommando der Wehrmacht</i> 1938–1945 supreme combined high command of Germanys armed forces

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 1934–1943 Italian possession in North Africa

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 German general

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.

Second Battle of El Alamein major turning point in the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War

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.

Allies of World War II Grouping of the victorious countries of World War II

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 1942 Allied landing operations in French North Africa during World War II

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 Italian general

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. [2]

Composition and terminology

Anti-tank unit pulling a 37 mm gun comes to a halt. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-782-0016-34A, Nordafrika, Halbkettenfahrzeug mit Pak.jpg
Anti-tank unit pulling a 37 mm gun comes to a halt.

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. [3]

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. [4]

Goggles and face covering are worn to protect against sand storms. Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-785-0285-14A, Nordafrika, Soldat mit Sandschutz.2.jpg
Goggles and face covering are worn to protect against sand storms.

Reforming of units

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

See also

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References

  1. Beevor, Antony (2009). D-Day: The Battle for Normandy. London: Viking. p. 405. ISBN   978-0-670-88703-3.
  2. Beasley 2010, p. 262.
  3. Lewin 1968, p. 54.
  4. Toppe 1952, p. 14.

Sources

Further reading