The Germans (15th Armored Division) had established four main stützpunkte:
(1) Halfaya—one battalion (three companies of the 1st Battalion of the 104th Motorized Infantry, and one company from the Italian Battalion de Francesco).
(2) Qalala—one company (6th Oasis Company).
(3) Point 206 (5 miles south of Capuzzo)—one company (probably from the 15th Motorcycle Battalion).
(4) Point 208 (5 miles west of Capuzzo)—one company (machine-gun company from the 15th Motorcycle Battalion).
Each of these stützpunkte had its artillery. Halfaya
had eight and Qalala four
The second element in the German defensive system was a mobile infantry reserve, consisting of 45 companies of infantry, some antitank guns, and some antiaircraft guns. This reserve played an unimpressive part in the battle.
The third element was a tank striking force, which was divided into two parts:
(1) The 8th Tank Regiment.
(2) The 5th Tank Regiment, followed by the two motorized machine-gun battalions, which "clinched" the Germany victory by its wide desert sweep of 55 miles.
"Clinched" is used advisedly, for this result was made possible only by the terrific antitank performance of the twelve 88-mm guns of the 1st Battalion of the 33d Antiaircraft Regiment, attached to the 15th Armored Division. This battalion was distributed as follows:
Halfaya—Four 88-mm and eight 20-mm guns (also covering Qalala).
Point 206—Four 20-mm guns.
Point 208—Four 88-mm and two 20-mm guns.
Infantry reserve—Nine 20-mm guns.
8th Tank Regiment—Four 88-mm and eight 20-mm guns.
The 88-mm gun, the 5th Tank Regiment, and the solid defenses of Halfaya and Point 208 won the battle for the Axis. Documents show that it was touch-and-go on the second day, when elements of the 15th Armored Division very nearly let British tanks into Bardia, being saved only by their 88-mm guns with pick-up crews.
The Germans, whose theory was that the defensive positions should effect a temporary check pending a powerful armored counterattack, had stocked them with food and water for only 2 days. They took a great deal of punishment, but played an important part by gravely damaging the British tank force before the final attack.
An observation post was formed at Sidi Suleiman by the 33d Reconnaissance Unit and a motorcycle platoon, and there is mention of battle outposts, which appear to have been no more than listening posts.
Germany's side of the battle is best studied by reference to the reports of Major Bach and Lieutenant Paulewicz, who commanded, respectively, a battalion of the 104th Motorized Infantry and a machine-gun company of the 15th Motorcycle Battalion, in the two main positions. Four captured documents tell of the futile movements of the mobile infantry reserve, whose commander, Colonel Knabe, was at one time hidden in a hole beneath the main road within the area occupied by the British. The difficulties of the 8th Tank Regiment are also related in this document.
But the most illuminating picture is that of a battery of the 33d Antiaircraft Regiment, which chalked up 92 armored vehicles (including 82 tanks), which they claimed to have completely destroyed with 1,680 rounds of 88-mm shell and 13,500 rounds of 20-mm shell. As the 20-mm fire knocked out only three tanks, the 88-mm guns got a tank for every 20 shells fired in this action.
See The Battle of Salum, WD MID Special Bulletin No. 36, November 17, 1941.
Map No. 2--Egypt-Libya Frontier