Book review on Java Gold Blog.
Thanks to Stuart over at Tanknet, I have come across this, and had a bit of a look. I want to note that I am publishing this for research purposes, and not to in any way, shape, or form endorse the content.
It’s a pretty comprehensive collection of this Luftwaffe propaganda magazine, that was published in multiple languages, and also featured a lot of colour pictures. Publication seems to have been bi-weekly, and it is reasonably close to the events, so for CRUSADER it is worth looking through the December to March issues of it.
The magazine carried foto stories of the war, both home and actual front, some political articles, regular columns such as ‘How they gained their Knights Cross’, some funny corners and a crossword, amongst other things.
When reading it we shouldn’t forget that it was a propaganda magazine for the Nazi regime, and anything, both pictures and text, needs to be critically considered in this regard, and with it constantly in mind.
Some sample content related to CRUSADER below:
Cédric found this site, which is well worth going through. These are pictures taken by a soldier of the 1st Engineer Regiment of the Italian army, first on the French border, and later in North Africa. Some very interesting pictures of the retreat in December 1941.
Italian captions only, but maybe automatic translation helps…
The War Against Rommel’s Supply Lines
Alan J. Levine
Four Stars out of Five
This is a very good book providing an in-depth analysis into the battle raging against the umbilical cord tying the Axis forces in North Africa to their base in Italy. In my opinion, no student of the war in the Mediterranean will be able to ignore it.
The book covers the whole of the supply struggle waged in the Mediterranean, but focuses on the period following the Alamein battles and the invasion of North Africa by US and British forces, when it became imperative for Allied planners to prevent a permanent lodging of Axis forces in Tunisia, to the surrender of Axis forces in May 1943. Five out of six chapters are devoted to this effort, while the first chapter provides a concise, yet highly informative and well-researched summary of what went on during 1940-42.
The focus chapters deal with the planning of the invasion of French North Africa, and in particular the role and establishment of 12th Air Force. The author describes well the troubles this formation went through when it was first established, and the very difficult command arrangements at the start of the campaign in Tunisia. The following chapters discuss the invasion, the attack against the build-up of Axis forces in Tunisia, which is rightly described in a very critical manner, the re-organisation of the forces engaged in the logistical battle from January 1943 onwards, and their contribution to the eventual victory. The book gives time to both US and British forces engaged in the battle, and is quite (and justly) complimentary to the Italian effort in keeping the Axis forces in Tunisia supplied.
The author manages well to weave a narrative integrating theatre strategy and individual actions, although at times the information packed into single sentences or paragraphs can become overwhelming. I am also not convinced about the need for as much detail as is sometimes provided and editing could maybe have parsed the text a bit more of unnecessary detail.
The book is very well-researched, going through archival material such as unit records of air formations engaged in the battle, or patrol reports of submarines, and it makes very good use of official histories, of both sides. This is a particularly outstanding feature of the book – where possible, the author made the effort of trying to verify claims made by Allied forces against air and sea targets, by checking the Axis records. While this is no doubt a thankless task, and often a wild goose chase, it is one that cannot be lauded enough. The author has also gone to good length in providing a background on the technical capabilities of the Allied weapons available for the task, highlighting the planes and submarines in particular.
The book sports an index, an extensive literature list, and a good set of endnotes – in other words, it is a serious research work. What is missing is a list of maps, although since there are only two, so maybe that was not considered necessary. Which leads me to: sufficient in number and detail maps are missing, so I recommend having an Atlas of WW2 handy while reading it, unless you have a North Africa map in your head. The selection of pictures is appropriate to the topic, and the quality is acceptable, especially considering the price. What I really would have liked to see are diagrams of air-sea attack formations. These are described verbally, but a picture would help very much in understanding the roles of the various planes engaging shipping targets. But that is really the only major gripe I can think of.
Thanks go to Stackpole for not only publishing a book that is clearly dealing with a somewhat esoteric topic (why bother with logistics – when you could have the umpteenth 750-page colour book about Waffen SS-Tigers?), but making the effort to create a very attractive presentation, and pricing it very reasonably. Highly recommended.
Crusader was unusual in that it brought together a vast number of nationalities in a battle where almost none of them had anything to do with the place they fought over in the first instance. A total of three nationalities on the Axis side, and another 10 on the Allied side.
If anybody has further info on No. 272 Squadron (Blenheims) which seems to have contained a good number of Belgiums, please email me.
On the Axis side:
Germans (15th, 21st Panzer, Div. z.b.V. Afrika/90th Light)
Italians (Armoured Div. Ariete, Mot. Div. Trieste, Trento, Inf. Div. Bologna, Brescia, Pavia, Sabratha, Savona)
Libyans (native troops, auxiliaries)
German (submarines, MFP lighters)
On the Commonwealth side (counting formations at least battalion size or large naval units from destroyer or up or air units from Squadron up):
British (1st and 7th Armoured, 70th Infantry)
Indian (4th Infantry)
South African (1st and 2nd Infantry)
New Zealand (Infantry)
British (22nd Guards, 1st and 32nd Army Tank)
Polish (Carpathian Brigade)
Free French (Groupe Larminat – official name apparently Corps Francais du Western Desert) involved in the end of the siege of Halfaya
Czechoslovak (under command of the Polish Brigade)
South African (various)
Rhodesian (No. 237 Squadron, engaged in tactical recce)
French (Groupe de Bombardement ‘Lorraine’ from the start and later Groupe de Chasse Alsace)
Australian (No. 450 Army Co-Operation)
Australian (Cruiser HMAS Hobart, Destroyers HMAS Nestor, Nizam, and Napier, Sloops HMAS Parramatta and Yarra)
Dutch (Destroyer HrMS Isaac Sweers, submarines)
Polish (submarine ORP Sokol)
Greek (Destroyer Panther of 1911 vintage, Torpedo-boat Niki of 1906 vintage, and the modern Kondouriotis and maybe Spetsai – ironically, the latter two built to Dardo-class specifications in Italian shipyards in the early 1930s)
South African (22nd and 25th A/S Groups with 7 whalers in total, 166th, 167th M/S groups of converted whalers)
There are some interesting discrepancies in the statistics.
The first set of numbers is from the Panzerarmee War Diary, drawn up shortly after the battle.
OR = other ranks (soldiers who are not officers)
KIA = killed in action
WIA = wounded in action
MIA = Missing in action
German losses (Officers/Other Ranks – Share of total strength on 18/11/41)
KIA 104/1,032 (7%/7%)
WIA 144/3,339 (8.5%/7%)
MIA 201/9,940 (10.5%/20%) (of these 4,500 Bardia/Halfaya)
Total 449/14,311 (14,760)
Italian losses (Off/OR – Share total strength on 18/11/41)
KIA 85/951 (3%/1.5%)
WIA 155/1.967 (4%/3%)
MIA 1.172/17.382 (34%/30%) (of these 8,000 Bardia/Halfaya)
Total 1,412/20,300 (21,712)
Axis total: 1,816/35,060 (36,876)
Axis Material (Share total strength on 18/11/41)
Tanks 220/120 (85%/80%)
Guns 42/181 (40%/48%)
Aircraft 170/105 (160%/150%)
The Panzerarmee War Diary assumes Commonwealth losses as this:
1.623 armoured vehicles (tanks/AC/carriers)
2.500 motor vehicles
The British official history, which is based on German/Italian records and of course the Commonwealth unit records, gives the following losses to mid January, without Rommel’s counter offensive.
Total strength/KIA/WIA/MIA/Total/Share of strength 18/11/41
Axis total 119,000/2,300/6,100/29,900/38,300/32% (13,800 of these MIA
British losses 118,000/2,900/7,300/7,500/17,700/15%
The counter offensive at end Jan. was no big deal for either side interms of losses, apart from the ca. 1,000 POW of 7th Indian Brigade,which was encircled east of Benghazi but able to break out. Nevertheless this must account for most of the discrepancy in the POW numbers of the Commonwealth forces.
Now for the real puzzle: Italian numbers for Italian losses are much higher than either the British or German numbers:
Italian losses from Italian Official History 15/11/41 to 15/1/42
Autom. support weapons: 3.200
Tanks 63 medium/187 light (all light tanks lost)
Armoured Cars 25
Anti-Aircraft guns 320
Guns all calibres 584
Motor vehicles 5.000
The Italian official history also gives Axis strength as higher than the British OH:
Italians 100,000 (they count everyone including chaps in Libya, is my guess)
As you can see there are significant discrepancies in the numbers, and the KTB of PAA has to be seen as the absolute lowest for the Axis losses. It is likely that the most relevant number is the one from the British official history.
If anyone has further insight, please contact me.