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Afrika Korps

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Deutche Afrika Korps ( DAK )

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The Afrika Korps was formed, on February 19, 1941, after the German Armed Forces High Command (OKW) had decided to send an expeditionary force to Libya to support the Italian army, which had been routed by an Allied counter-offensive, Operation Compass. The German expeditionary force, commanded by Erwin Rommel, at first consisted only of the 5th Panzer Regiment and various other small units. These elements were organized into the 5th Light Division when they arrived in Africa in February. In the spring the 5th Light Division was joined by the 15th Panzer Division, though it did not arrive until Rommel had already re-taken most of Cyrenaica and gone back over to the defensive. At this time the Afrika Korps consisted of the two divisions plus various smaller supporting units, and was officially subordinated to the Italian chain of command in Africa (though Rommel had conducted his offensive without any authorization).

Rommel in Africa - Summer 1941On October 1, 1941, the German 5th Light Division was re designated as the 21st Panzer Division, still attached to the Afrika Korps.

During the summer of 1941 OKW invested more command structure in Africa by creating a new headquarters called Panzer Group Africa (Panzergruppe Afrika). On August 15 Panzer Group Africa was activated with Rommel in command, and command of the Afrika Korps was turned over to Ludwig Cruwell. The Panzer Group controlled the Afrika Korps plus some additional German units that were sent to Africa, as well as two corps of Italian units. (A German "group" was approximately the equivalent of an army in other militaries, and in fact Panzer Group Africa was re designated as Panzer Army Africa (Panzerarmee Afrika) on January 30, 1942.)

After the defeat at El Alamein and the Allied invasion of western North Africa, OKW once more upgraded its presence in Africa by creating the XC Army Corps in Tunisia on November 19 1942, and then creating a new 5th Panzer Army headquarters there as well on December 8, under the command of Col.-Gen. Hans-Jurgen von Arnim.

On February 23, 1943 Panzer Army Africa, (now called the German-Italian Panzer Army,) was re designated as the Italian 1st Army and put under the command of an Italian general, while Rommel was placed in command of a new Army Group Africa (Heeresgruppe Afrika) created to control both the Italian 1st Army and the 5th Panzer Army. The remnants of the Afrika Korps and other surviving units of the 1st Italian Army retreated into Tunisia. Command of the Army Group was turned over to von Arnim in March. On May 13 remnants of the Afrika Korps along with all other remaining Axis forces in North Africa surrendered