The German force that was concentrated in Libya during February and March 1941 was indoctrinated with a zeal for the offensive. This spirit was founded both on an aggressive national philosophy and on a body of tactical doctrine that emphasized the importance of achieving and maintaining the initiative. Officers had been taught that attack and its exploitation were the keys to success in battle. In their service schools they had solved ten offensive problems for every defensive one. While one German training manual did set forth in detail the organization of the defense, this lesson had not been mastered.
But the Germans were to face a new problem in North Africa, where supply by sea and desert logistics largely condition tactics. When they failed to take Tobruk in early April 1941 and were again repulsed on May 1, Marshal Rommel's Afrika Korps1 found itself for the first time seriously on the defensive.
With characteristic German adaptability, commanders devoted themselves to learning the technique of position warfare. While doing this, however, they did not forget their maxim that "The object of the defense is to wear down an attack before launching a counterattack." Led by Rommel and his staff, many lower commanders made important contributions during this experimental period.
The story of the development of German defensive tactics, with its new theories, successes, and failures, has been pieced together from captured German documents. This account is valuable both because it gives an inside view of the enemy defensive system and because it demonstrates the ability of the German Army to learn from experience.
The three maps included in this bulletin were drawn by the Military Intelligence Service, and defensive positions indicated on them are of necessity only approximate. Map No. 1 is included for the purpose of orienting the reader in the North African theater; map No. 2 shows the German front line defenses on the frontier as of November 1941; map No. 3 is included to allow the reader to follow developments in the Gazala-Tobruk sector. Figures are schematic representations of German defensive positions.
Map No. 1--The Libyan Theater
15th Armored Division—8th Tank Regiment, 115th Motorized Infantry Regiment (?), 33d Artillery Regiment, 15th Motorcycle Battalion, 33d Motorized AA/AT Battalion, and services.
21st Armored Division—5th Tank Regiment, 104th Motorized Infantry Regiment, 115th Artillery Regiment, 3d Motorized Reconnaissance Battalion, 39th AT Battalion, 200th Engineer Battalion, and services.
90th Light Motorized Division—155th Infantry Regiment, 361st Infantry Regiment, 361st Artillery Battalion, 190th Engineer Battalion, 190th AT Battalion, and services.