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This book explores the experiences of the German Afrika Korps soldier during the North Africa campaign of World War II (1939-1945), from the Korps' arrival in the North African theater in February 1941 to its eventual surrender in Tunisia in May 1943, with a particular focus on the intense period of warfare in the Western Desert between 1941 and 1942. Under the leadership of one of the war's most famous commanders, Erwin Rommel, the Afrika Korps grew to include a broad range of armor, infantry, artillery, anti-tank, engineer, communication, supply, medical and service elements. The soldiers of the Afrika Korps considered themselves as part of an elite, a highly select group that had no equal, not only in the German Army, but in the rest of the world.
Although he is mostly remembered for his part in the campaign in Italy from 1943 to 1945, Generalfeldmarschall Albert Kesselring was also chief of staff of the Luftwaffe in 1936-37, playing a crucial role in the shaping of the service for the coming war. As commander of Luftflotte 1 in Poland and Luftflotte 2 in France and the Low Countries, he was responsible for supporting the armoured spearheads of the German Army as they undertook their Blitzkrieg campaigns. With the Fall of France, the Battle of Britain began and Luftlotte 2 was the main force in the air attack against the British air defences, with Kesselring planning many raids. Following the war Kesselring was tried and convicted of war crimes following a number of massacres of civilians in Italy. He was sentenced to death, later commuted to life imprisonment before being released on the grounds of ill health in October 1952. Here Pier Paolo Battistelli provides a detailed study of one of the most famous German commanders of World War II.
Nicknamed 'The Desert Fox' for his cunning command of the Afrika Korps, Erwin Rommel remains one of the most popular and studied of Germany's World War II commanders. He got his first taste of combat in World War I, where his daring command earned him the Blue Max, Germany's highest decoration for bravery. He followed this up with numerous successes early in World War II in both Europe and Africa, before facing his biggest challenge - organizing the defence of France. Implicated in the plot to kill Hitler, Rommel chose suicide over a public trial. This book looks at the life of this daring soldier, focusing on his style of command and the tactical decisions that earned him his fearsome reputation.
This book gives a focused, military biography of Heinz Guderian, perhaps the most highly respected German tank commander of World War II. Guderian was a typical product of the Prussian military elite; the son of a general in the army, there was little doubt that he would follow in his father's footsteps. Some consider Guderian to be the founding father of blitzkrieg warfare, and he certainly brought the whole concept to public attention and prominence, chiefly through the publication of his book Achtung Panzer in 1937. He commanded the XIX Motorized) Army Corps in the 1939 Polish campaign, and Panzergruppe Guderian during Operation Barbarossa. In March 1943 he became chief inspector of the Panzer forces, but even the great tank commander could achieve little more than to delay the inevitable defeat of Germany.
Italian military historian Pier Paolo Battistelli examines the elite and specialforces units of the Italian Army during World War II. This includes a vast array of troop types, including paratroopers, assault engineers, sea-landing and swimmer units, long-range recce and ski units, and even hand-picked Fascist 'Mussolini' units. It also delves into the specialist tank and armoured units that were created to emulate the German armoured units. While the Italian units discussed enjoyed mixed success, the volume draws attention to the incredibly hard fighting done by some in the deserts of North Africa and the frozen wastelands of Russia. Illustrated with rare archival photographs and specially commissioned artwork, this is a fascinating insight into a little-studied aspect of Axis forces.
The Blackshirt legions were raised under army control from 1928, and were employed in 1933 in Libya in counterinsurgency operations against the Senussi tribes; from 1935 in Italy's war against Ethiopia; and during the Spanish Civil War. Following the outbreak of World War II, the Blackshirts fought in North Africa, Greece, Croatia, on the Eastern Front and finally in Italy itself following the Allied invasion.This book documents the experiences of the Italian armed Fascist militia, the Camicie Nere (Blackshirts), from the Italian-Ethiopian war (1935-1936), through the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) to the end of World War II (1939-1945). It explores their origins, development, recruitment, training, conditions of service, uniforms and equipment, battle experience, political and ideological motivation.
Several factors delayed and greatly hampered the development of an Italian medium and heavy tank during Rommel's Desert War in World War II. The first was the strategic stance of the country, focussed on a war against neighbouring countries such as France and Yugoslavia, and ill-prepared for a war in the Western Desert. Since these European countries bordered with Italy in mountainous areas, light tanks were preferred as these were deemed much more suitable for the narrow roads and bridges of the Alps. The failure to develop an effective operational plan for North Africa was another factor behind the failed development of an Italian medium tank, along with the lack of communication between the War Department and the Ministry of the Colonies, which not only had actual command over the Italian forces deployed in the Italian colonies of Libya and in Italian East Africa, but was also responsible for developing their defence plans. Furthermore, the development of the medium tank was hampered by the limited number of Italian industries, whose production was also heavily fragmented - hence the SPA-developed engines, the Fiat and Ansaldo hulls and armour, the Breda and army ordnance guns. All these factors delayed the development of the first prototype of an Italian medium tank - the M 11 - which would only appear in 1937 and did not enter production until 1939.Inspired by its British and French counterparts, the M 11 / 39 was a 11-ton medium tank chiefly intended for use as an infantry tank, with its main gun (a 37/40 gun) mounted in a casemate in the hull and its small turret armed only with two machine guns. Actual production was limited to only 100 samples, 76 of which were sent to Libya and the other 24 to Eastern Africa, as production of the turret-gun-armed M 13 had started in the meantime. In June 1940, when Italy entered the war, her armoured inventory numbered fewer than 1,500 light tanks (including the obsolete Fiat 3000) and the 100 newly built M 11 medium tanks, divided amongst three armoured divisions, three cavalry groups and several independent tank battalions. Unsurprisingly, without a tank school, the Italian armoured force lacked the necessary training and experience in the use of tanks and AFVs, and with the tanks lacking radio equipment, there was a widespread absence of tactical and technical knowledge which, along with the limited effectiveness and numbers of the available tanks, made the perfect recipe for the defeats to come.From the Trade Paperback edition.
The period 1944-45 was one of change for the Panzer Divisions. In summer 1944 the new-type Panzer Division was introduced with a reduction in the number of tanks, a change that was mainly seen in North-West Europe. On the Eastern Front, where the bulk of the Panzer Divisions were still employed, the organizational changes were introduced only slowly, mainly during periods of rest and refit. In 1945 the division was again reorganized with a reduced strength to reflect the deteriorating German manufacturing capability and to incorporate news weapons such as the Panther (Mark V).This volume provides a detailed examination on the late-war changes to the German Army Panzer forces and the formation of new units, from the collapse on the Eastern Front, through operations on the Western Front in Normandy and the Ardennes, to the final battle for Berlin in 1945. The major organizational changes that took place in this intensive period are examined, together with the adaptation of German armored doctrine, tactics, and the command system. Details of unit histories and operations, illustrated in color maps, are also provided in this packed treatment.
At the outbreak of World War II in September 1939, Germany's armored forces - the Panzerwaffe - were still in their infancy. The restrictions imposed by the Treaty of Versailles meant that German tank development had to be conducted in secret. Initial armor campaigns in Poland were not completely successful and changes were needed before the invasion of France.This book examines the organizational changes, developments in doctrine and tactics, and improved command and control that provided the basis for the spectacular success of the Panzer divisions in 1940. Although the Panzerwaffe was still largely inferior to its enemies in terms of both tank numbers and quality, it effectively adapted and developed those doctrines and principles of warfare that had shaped German fighting since the 19th century. Achieving tactical and operational surprise, the Panzer divisions succeeded in breaking through enemy defences in the Ardennes and enveloping a large number of hostile forces at Dunkirk. The legend of the Blitzkrieg was born.
On June 22, 1941 when Germany attacked the Soviet Union, her Panzer divisions were to play a major role in this titanic struggle. At its peak, 19 out of the 21 existing Panzer Divisions were deployed against the Soviets. Although overwhelmed by Soviet numbers, the superior skill and capability of the German Panzer divisions meant that in three months the Germans, with the Panzers as their spearhead had advanced deep into Soviet territory, inflicting terrible losses on the Soviets. However, after these initial successes the German offensive began to falter, culminating in the disastrous defeat at Kursk.In this book, the organizational history of the Panzer divisions is covered, from the early successes of 1941 through to the dramatic re-organization of the Panzer Divisions and the introduction of revised Blitzkrieg tactics as the war began to turn and the Panzer divisions experienced their first taste of defeat. Pier Paolo Battistellii examines the impact of the introduction of the Panther tank shortly before the final failure at Kursk, and goes on to explain the evolution of German armored doctrine, tactics and the command system, providing a detailed overview of the major combat actions of the Panzer Divisions on the Eastern Front.
In 1940 a British offensive in the Western Desert provoked a major Italian military disaster. By early February 1941 the whole of Cyrenaica had been lost, and German help became necessary to avoid the loss of the entire of Libya. On 14 February 1941 the first echelons of German troops hurriedly arrived at the port of Tripoli, starting the 27-month German engagement in Northern Africa. This book covers the complex and oft-changing organisation and structure of German forces in North Africa from their first deployment through to the conclusion of the battle of El Alamein, an engagement that irrevocably changed the strategic situation in the Western Desert.
When Italy surrendered in 1943, it sparked a diverse resistance movement of anti-German, anti-fascist partisans who rose up against German occupation. This book explores the tactics, organizational structure and equipment of the brave Italian resistance fighters, who knew exactly what was at stake when operating against their German occupiers. Beginning with low-level sabotage and assassinations, the groups grew until spring 1944 when they numbered around 100,000, and as the Allies advanced to the Gothic line, a remarkable, unified partisan command structure was created. The partisans began to work in close co-ordination with the Allies, receiving British SOE and American OSS liaison teams as well as supplies of weapons. The German response was eye-watering in its ferocity and brutality, as the SS and Italian RSI looked to eradicate the partisans once and for all when the Allied advance stalled in Autumn 1944. But when the Allies made their final breakthrough in the last weeks of the war the partisans rose in force to pile the pressure on the retreating Wehrmacht. From an expert on Italian military history in World War II, this work provides an exhaustively researched, sumptuously illustrated guide to the men and women who fought a desperate struggle against occupation, as well as the German and Italian fascist security forces unleashed against them.