[Lone Sentry: Artillery in the Desert]
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Artillery in the Desert, Military Intelligence Service, Special Series No. 6, November 1942
[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the wartime U.S. War Department publication. As with all wartime intelligence information, data may be incomplete or inaccurate. No attempt has been made to update or correct the text. Any views or opinions expressed do not necessarily represent those of the website.]


a. General

It would be an error to attempt to portray any set German organization for tactical purposes. The German varies his organization and the relative strengths of different arms in any force to suit the particular terrain, the nature of the hostile defense, and the missions.

b. Armored Division

The following scheme of organization, subject to many modifications, appears to approximate the normal German armored division as used in the desert:

(1) Headquarters with immediate radio communication to subordinate units and to air reconnaissance and combat support.

(2) Reconnaissance unit.

(a) Armored car company1 of about 25 armored cars, usually in the proportion of one 8-wheeled car to two 4-wheeled cars.

(b) Support group of motorized infantry including infantry- gun platoon, one antitank platoon, one engineer platoon, and one platoon of heavy machine guns.

(3) One tank regiment of two battalions, each of two Mark III and one Mark IV companies. Each battalion has from 65 to 80 tanks.

(4) One motorized artillery regiment of three battalions, each of three batteries of four guns each; two of these battalions are armed with 105-mm gun-howitzers, and one with 150-mm howitzers.

(5) One motorized infantry brigade, of one motorcycle battalion2 and of two regiments of two battalions each.

(6) One antitank battalion of three companies of at least 10 guns each. The battalion usually includes some antitank guns on self-propelled mounts.

(7) One light antiaircraft battalion of three companies of twelve 20-mm AA/AT guns each.

(8) One signal battalion; containing a most efficient radio intelligence interception detachment3 whose interception of enemy messages has been of great value to the German forces.

(9) One engineer battalion, containing a tank engineer company whose task is the support of the tank regiment. This company has two platoons mounted on Mark I tanks, one on armored engineer vehicles, and one on trucks.

(10) Service units. The number and strength of the various services in Libya is not accurately known.4 The Germans have an excellent tank recovery and maintenance system. Gasoline and ammunition supply vehicles accompany tanks units, and the replenishment system is well organized.

c. German 90th Light Division (Afrika Korps)

Throughout the Libyan campaigns the 90th Light Division has operated in the closest conjunction with the 15th and 21st Armored Divisions and has furnished the larger portion of the infantry component of the German "Afrika Korps." In its recently reorganized form, the strength of the division has been estimated at around 12,000 officers and men. The division has a tank battalion and probably between 2,000 and 3,000 motor vehicles.

A large number of auxiliary infantry weapons are included in this division. It would appear, indeed, that the rifle had been relegated to a role of subsidiary importance—a weapon solely for close combat. The backbone of the divisional artillery appears to be the 150-mm assault guns on partially armored self-propelled mounts. The mobility and armor of these weapons permit unusually heavy fire support for the infantry at every stage of battle.

The antitank armament of this division has been strengthened beyond that of any other known German division.

1 Some reconnaissance units have two armored car companies.
2 It is believed that Volkswagen have been substituted for the motorcycles, which are unsuited for desert terrain. The Volkswagen as modified for army use is similar to the U.S. "peep." The Volkswagen weighs about 1,400 pounds and develops about 25 horsepower.
3 See paragraph 14 e, below.
4 See paragraph 19, below.

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