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"German Rearguard Action on British Eighth Army Front" from Tactical and Technical Trends

The following intelligence report on German rearguard defense in North Africa originally appeared in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 29, July 15, 1943.

[DISCLAIMER: The following text is taken from the U.S. War Department publication Tactical and Technical Trends. 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.]


An example of the skillful maneuvers of the German rearguard action, on the British Eighth Army Front (January 1943) emphasizes the Germans practical use of natural cover and natural tank obstacles.

The foundation of tine German rearguard positions was always the 88-mm gun with 50-mm AT guns concentrated within the position. For support, reliance was placed on artillery (105's and 210's, and 75's on self-propelled mounts), tanks, engineers, and infantry well equipped with machine guns and mortars.

The German rearguard screen or protection in the initial stages (open desert) was at first deployed over a wide front. Artillery was here used (including the 88's) at extreme range to hold up the British advance and cause deployment. For this same purpose, mines were effectively used, including dummy minefields.

The Germans moved their tanks to engage the attention of British tanks and OPs while concentrating their antitank guns on the British line of advance, and then withdrew their tanks to hull-down positions.

No attempt was made to withdraw the antitank guns until dusk--in some cases after dark--when the German tanks invariably moved forward to cover their withdrawal.

Except in close country where natural cover and concealment afforded protection, the 50-mm guns were always placed in defiladed position.

A covered route of withdrawal was always provided for the antitank guns. Infantry were placed to protect the antitank guns against infantry attack; the protection was achieved by machine guns and mortar fire from the flanks and not by men in front of the guns.

The Germans made good use of both natural cover and natural tank obstacles in the siting of their guns; however, the damage inflicted was negligible, since it was preferred to hold up the British by firing at extreme range, rather than wait until there was certainty of making a "kill."


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