Afrika Korps: the arrival

German African tank corps Rommel during the Second world war, or the Wehrmacht corps “Africa”, in our online store author’s clothing is dedicated to the design model of men’s hoodies “Africa corps (DAK)”.

Until the order came from Berlin to the German military command in late 1940, nothing was ready to send military units to North Africa. However, the Germans soon received a detailed plan of action. From all available troops was organized a serious selection fighters, which must were be fit on medical indications to fight in conditions deserts. A large amount of equipment and tropical uniforms, along with a variety of military equipment camouflaged to match the color of the sand, were quickly prepared for the North African campaign. The created troops implemented training programs that included the formation of skills such as the ability to fight in extreme heat in large areas with a desert landscape, as well as the ability to cope with combat missions in harsh conditions. There was even a unit that dealt with field hygiene and water procedures, so carefully the German command approached the organization of the campaign.

Once the Africa corps (hereinafter DAK-Deutsches Afrika-Korps) was ready for operations in North Africa, the first part of the trip for the military was overland, and the destination was Italy. They were later transported to the site of the operation by sea and aircraft. Most of the troops during the first phase of arrival at the port of Tripoli, were transferred by sea, but when the increased losses of ships in the process of transporting the contingent, all transport eventually began to be transported only by aircraft.

On 14 February 1941, the first troops of the elite Africa corps docked in the port of Tripoli. That night, thousands of tons of equipment, from guns and infantry vehicles to awnings and mosquito nets, were unloaded onto lighted docks despite the risk of an air attack.

The next day, a military parade was held in the city, which could be seen by astonished Arabs and Italians. Under the sweltering African sun, the Dak vanguard in their new tropical uniforms and cork helmets marched with General Erwin Rommel past the government house and a group of Italian generals standing to one side and saluting. This was the first of many subsequent military parades as the German contingent built up.

Over the next days and weeks, ships and planes arrived and new soldiers and equipment were brought in, disembarking in what had become a routine propaganda parade. Crowds of cheering people, German and Italian national anthems playing on the main roads throughout the Libyan capital accompanied the rattling endless columns of German tanks of the 5th Light and 3rd Panzer division. To the cheering onlookers, there seemed to be no end to this moving military might, but in fact Rommel ordered the tanks to follow around the block in order to impress the onlookers as if it were one huge army. He was convinced, by giving the command to the officers of the Panzer division, that as long as the remaining forces arrived, they should “bluff” in this way, transferring the army to North Africa and not show their weakness to the enemy. In addition to this deception, the General ordered the troops to build hundreds of fake tanks out of plywood and tarpaulin in order to mislead intelligence from the air. In the desert, this so-called” professional army ” was surrounded by real cars and motorcycles that moved around it with real tanks, leaving footprints in the sand specifically for enemy aircraft so they could fix them and take pictures.

Almost none of the soldiers had any experience of fighting in the desert and most of them had no idea what to expect and how to behave. For every fighter fighting in North Africa, the conditions were not familiar, because people have lived all their lives in the European climate. They had to travel great distances, which is especially difficult in the daytime with the scorching sun and cold nights. During the movement they were exposed to frequent sand storms, blinding eyes. To make matters worse, the soldiers did not have to move through the open desert on all sides, vulnerable to the enemy and at risk of “choking” from the fine sand machinery and equipment. An ordinary person who has never been in the desert, it is difficult to imagine how dangerous the desert sand is for the body, which penetrates like water into any unprotected place, preventing breathing, eating, watching, drying the skin, opening the way for infections. Air filters of motorized machines are clogged with sand, engines operate at extremely high temperatures, often break down. Moreover, soldiers accounted for face shortage of drinking water and, as was written higher, with consequences big mechanical burdens on technique and its heightened wear.

The specific difficult terrain for the newly arrived military corps of Africa was also not familiar, especially in combat conditions. Although immediately Rommel from his headquarters in Tripoli went to work and made the most of what was at his disposal. The lack of shelter in the desert landscape and the difficulties of supply were assessed and taken into account. Unlike Poland and Western Europe, Rommel knew that with the exception of a small number of fortified areas hidden on all sides in towns and villages, here in the desert there were no long enough lines of defense that he could attack to find a weak point to penetrate and further use for his purposes of capturing territory. Rommel had gained his reputation as a great tactician fighting against France, and here in North Africa he used to apply the same harsh measures with his new Panzer forces to destroy enemy forces, using tried and tested blitzkrieg tactics. General Rommel wanted his troops to move across the desert in several columns with tanks concentrated in one or two rows. A battalion of 70 or 80 tanks was to form a V-shape with two leading companies and one in reserve. In the desert, a tank battalion was usually used for short attacks, having the full advantage on a given terrain, with tanks stretched out in line in rapidly advancing waves. Both field artillery and anti-tank guns were to be ready for close support of the advancing army and were used to protect the flanks and to secure the open position of the advancing in front.

Despite the methodical planning and tactics employed by Rommel on the battlefield, his troops arrived in Tripoli almost unprepared for the new combat missions. However, the newly created Afrika Korps was to be used as a blocking force that would support the severely depleted and almost defeated Italian army forces in Tripolitania and to prevent further British advance. Any plans Rommel had that could be implemented by his army in an offensive campaign in the desert were ruled out, at least for the time being.

Instead, the General had to watch patiently as his corps slowly formed, at the same time acknowledging the fact that the situation in the desert was deteriorating militarily.

By mid-March 1941, only 150 tanks had been unloaded at the port of Tripoli, most of which were extremely poorly armed, These are the PZ series tanks. Kpfw. I. At that time Rommel could no longer wait and see how the campaign goes into meltdown. He gathered his troops for an offensive in the desert. To be continued….

The history of the German tank corps “Africa” inspired the designers of our online store to develop a model of men’s hoodies “Africa corps (DAK)”.