The first attack of the Afrika Korps

The first offensive of the Afrika Korps

In keeping with the German strategy of protecting  their southern flanks and aiding their Italian ally in the Balkans and North Africa at the beginning of 1941 the German Army sent a  force of a reduced Corps strength which included the 5th Light Infantry Division and the 15th Panzer Division, reinforced by the Italian Armored divisions "Ariete" and "Littorio" which for most of the time fought within the overall formation called the "Afrika Korps" commanded by one of Germany's most brilliant commanders – General Erwin Rommel.

For two years  Rommel succeeded with small forces to pin-down the main war effort of England and the United States forces to what the Germans regarded as a relative sideshow –North Africa .In mid- March 1941 a short while after Rommel's arrival in Libya the Afrika Korps launched its first offensive eastwards. The British Middle East Command which had to transfer an army of 57,000 of its best troops and 8,000 vehicles to the aid of Greece in accordance with the decision of the senior political level, defended its achievements of the previous month on the borders of Tripolitania. The defending force was the Western Desert Force which compromised the 2nd Armored Division under the command of General Philip Neame and the 9th Australian Division. The British forces were caught by surprise. After examining the strength of the British forces by means of an armored reconnaissance and advanced guard, Rommel on the 24th of March launched a fast operation of armor maneuver with close air support. On the 30th of March Rommel circumvented the British forces and after a week he destroyed the 2nd Armored Division and General Neame and General O'Conner (Commander of the Western Desert Force) were captured by a German patrol. Rommel reached the Sollum area, on the Egyptian frontier, in mid-April after having advanced 450 kilometers. Rommel was compelled now to make an operational halt in order to stabilize his maintenance lines and thus ended his first offensive.