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German Methods of Warfare in the Libyan Desert
Military Intelligence Service, Information Bulletin No. 20, July 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.]

Section V. Lessons from the Defensive Action Fought Between 15th and 17th June, 1941 (Salum)1

"15 Armored Division
No. 580/41 (secret) Ia.
     Divisional Battle H.Q.
25 June 1941. (SECRET)

"In spite of our great defensive victory in the Battle of Salum from 15-17 June 1941, we must reckon with the possibility of further British attacks in the near future. It is therefore necessary to learn from the recent actions those lessons which are important, so that when next the enemy attacks, we shall be able to beat him off even more successfully than this time.


"Only in a few cases were omissions made in reporting the location, time, and direction of observed enemy columns. It is particularly important that patrols, including standing patrols, should keep in contact with the enemy and report continually on the latter's further movements.


"The value of the preparation and construction of our defense areas was fully demonstrated. The crews of the light and heavy infantry weapons and of the antitank weapons were protected by their antitank trenches even after enemy tanks had broken into the defense areas, and could continue offering resistance to the enemy with relative immunity to themselves. Such antitank trenches are to be dug at all defense areas.

"Many enemy tanks were put out of action by the spirited use of close-combat weapons. Knowledge of these weapons will shortly be disseminated by a course run by the 33d Engineer Battalion.

"It was further demonstrated that the siting of all antitank weapons must provide for all-around defense so that they can be used to engage tanks which have broken into the defense area.

"The personality of the officer commanding is the most important guarantee for the successful defense of the position.

"The strength of our defense areas consisted chiefly in the surprise effect obtained from their siting. In particular, the well-camouflaged defense area at Point 208 remained completely hidden from the enemy, even after he had penetrated into its neighborhood. Wherever high stone walls still remain, they must be removed as quickly as possible. They are to be used only in constructing dummy positions. In the construction of present positions camouflage must be taken into consideration from the start in order to keep them hidden from enemy reconnaissance from the air.

"To increase the element of surprise, all antitank weapons should open fire only when they are certain of success. Even after 88-mm. (3.46-inch) antiaircraft guns have already opened effective fire, the 37-mm. (1.48-inch) and 50-mm. (2-inch) antitank guns must remain silent so as not to be observed by enemy tanks. Only at a distance of a few hundred meters are they to open fire on the heaviest English tanks with the antitank shell No. 40.

"The battle situation on other sectors of the front may necessitate detachments in the defense area being withdrawn and used in a mobile role. Mobility and adaptability must therefore be assured throughout the garrison.

"During the battle the 8th Tank Regiment successfully engaged an enemy, greatly superior in numbers. In the course of the action, it cooperated skillfully with other arms and gained valuable experience in the performance of its own weapons against the heaviest enemy tanks. The general lesson to be drawn is:

"If a tank regiment is being held in readiness behind a defensive front as a mobile counterattacking force, all preparations must be made to insure a rapid start. Every quarter of an hour saved is of great value.

"To halt when under enemy artillery fire is always wrong. Experience also shows that when on the move, widely dispersed tank units are harder to hit, and also harder to locate in the desert. Their strength is usually overestimated, as the enemy mistakes wheeled vehicles for tanks.

"A sudden dash in one direction has also shown itself to be the best course in the face of artillery fire and against enemy tanks which attack from several directions. In such cases limited objectives are preferable.

"Covering fire is to be provided by the majority of 88-mm. (3.46-inch) antiaircraft guns and artillery; some of these weapons are to accompany the tanks into action. Tanks can often leave the initial firing to their accompanying antiaircraft artillery. Strict economy must be observed in the use of the antitank shell No. 40.


"The static artillery is an integral part of the defense area. Its task is to prevent the forming-up of tanks and motorized infantry; to scatter enemy columns pushing past the defense areas, and compel them to turn about; to engage enemy infantry attacks against the positions (at night by means of a barrage if necessary); and also to destroy at close range tanks which have penetrated within the defense area.

"Preparations must be made for the rapid removal of the artillery for mobile action outside the defense area should the commander give such an order.

"The commander of the supporting artillery must maintain close touch with the commander of the tank unit. As a rule, he should remain within close proximity to the latter. The supporting artillery, it is to be noted, must always provide protection to the tank unit when called upon, without, however, interfering with the mobility of the tank regiment when such protection is required. Care must therefore be taken that a proportion of the guns are always ready for action, should favorable targets present themselves.

"The tasks of the supporting artillery are as follows:

"The destruction of enemy tank units which are forming up for a tank battle.

"The engagement of enemy artillery and antitank weapons which are threatening the tank unit.

"The annihilation of infantry on mechanized transport; in special cases the engagement of tanks at close range; as a specially important task the engaging of a retreating enemy after a successful tank attack has been made by our own tanks.

"As a general rule, it is not the task of the supporting artillery to engage at very long range enemy tanks which have already deployed.


"Motorized infantry units are usually self-contained. They are to be handled in such a way as to insure sufficient protection against enemy tank attacks from the front or from the flanks. Open formations are preferable so as to keep down losses in the face of enemy attacks.

"The principle that rapid movement, with vehicles well spaced out, is the best protection against enemy artillery fire applies also to motorized infantry units. Only in exceptional circumstances should men get off their vehicles.

"The Divisional Signal Company, with its limited resources, did all it could to facilitate the transmission of orders during the battle. In the future even more care must be taken to see that the higher command can listen in to the radio communications of as many parts of the Division as possible, especially to those of the patrols of the reconnaissance unit. This must be achieved with the minimum number of radio trucks.


1. Translation of German document captured in Libya.

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