Encyclopedia of War

World War II
Europe-North Africa1941

Events in Europe 1941

Crete

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Crete was the first great airborne assault in history,thousands of paratroops landed on Crete and British Army positions,
which would see them pull out of Crete to North Africa,But it came at a very high cost to the Germans and an event like this by German forces wouldn't happen again.

German paratroopers were highly trained and Hitler look at these troops as the elite of the German armed forces and were used in Belgium and the Netherlands to great affect during the battles of the low-lands,this was the beginning of a new type of warfare which other nations like the United States would use in later battles

The main aim of this attack on Crete was to capture airfields the code-name was Merkur (Mercury) would come from the air with ten- thousand paratroopers under the command of General Kurt Student which see the use of 75 gilders and at least 500 transport aircraft and protected by bombers and fighter escorts.

The attack would come in two waves the first would be assault on Maleme Khania and Suda bay.
Transport planes would return to bring in the second wave which would assault the airfields at Rethymnon and Heraklion Allied troops stationed at Crete would get further twelve thousand troops from Egypt and fourteen thousand Greek troops.
these forces would be commanded by Major General Bernard Freyberg .

Allied aircraft were forced to leave the island,and leaving troops on the ground with no air-support,
The attack began on the 20 of May 1941 which stared with a heavy bombardment,
But allied troops knew of incoming attack due to cracked codes the were able to intercept,and troops lay in wait with weapons pointing upwards and began to shoot the help-less para-troops while the slowly fell to the ground.

At the end of the freest day Germans troops had failed to capture the airfields,with the huge loses Student continue with the attack by dropping more paratroops on the second day which enabled them to capture Maleme airfield,
he followed this up by sending in the 5th mountain division many of the aircraft who carried these troops crashed but enough got through for them to hold Meleme.
Over the next few days more reinforcements were sent in and slowly but surly started to gain control of the Island with the sky the only way into Crete as the Royal Navy controlled the sea,.by the 27 of may most of the allied troops had been evacuated and the German forces took the final airfield at Heraklion shortly after the remaining British and Greek solider surrender.
Crete came at a high cost and 1 in 4 paratroops would lose their lives this shocked the German high command and Hitler who lost a high amount of his favorite troops and Nazi Germany would never use the kind of aeriel attack for the remainder of the war.


 

Operation Barbarossa

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Named after Frederick Barbarossa the medieval German ruler who is said would rescue Germany in her time of need.
But Hitler would use this to rally his allies in a crusade against Bolshevik'slav people.
Hitler told friends in 1941 that the safety of Europe wouldn't be secured until the pushed Asia back to the Urals and there would no Russian presence beyond that point.

This was the beginning of the most destructive and brutal wars of the 20 century with two of worlds superpowers would come head to head.
The soviets were fair from prepared for what lay ahead of them as German armored divisions using blizrieg raced ahead and surrounded massive numbers of soviets troops and which lead to the surrender of tens of thousands of Russian soldiers.  
The scale of the of the invasion would be the greatest the world had ever seen,with roughly 3.9 million German troops invading a front that consisted of 1,800 km,This ambitious operation involved over 700,000 horses and 600,000 motor vehicles.The army that Hitler assembled was was the greatest ever seen.

On the 22 june 1941 the attack began at dawn Hitler briefed his generals and expected them to follow his orders to which implied he wanted a bloodbath and that harshness is kindness. As German troops pushed forward the were followed by the Einsatzgruppen,these soldiers were death squads who specialized in the extermination of Bolsheviks and Jews under the command of Heinrich Himmler,Hitler knew these orders would be carried out without question.

Under the cover of massive aerial bombardment three main army groups moved across Russian held territory, they had three main objectives Moscow Kiev and Leningrad . Speed was key to the German advance with panzer divisions pushing deep into the soviet union this left alot of Russian troops isolated and made it easy for the slower moving artillery and infantry to pick off any resistance with ease. The tactical efficiency of the German army shocked the soviets,as commanders of Russian troops fled leaving behind troops who could only surrender in the face of the onslaught by German forces.

By July German army group center captured Minsk which lead to the capture of nearly 300,000 soviet troops and some 2,500 tank. Pushing onwards to Smolensk Panzer divisions captured a further 100,000 troops along with 2000 tanks. Army group center having great success only to be halted by Hitler as both armys on there flanks found the going tough with massive strain on there supplies lines.

Hitler moved divisions from Army Group Center to other army groups,with this move Army Group South started to have more success but frustrated Army Group Center which halted their advance on Moscow. On the southern front on the 26 September five Soviet Armies were trapped at the river Dnieper near Kiev some 650,000 troops surrendered.

As Army Group North began their siege of Leningrad in October,the Luftwaffe battled for control of the air, downing some 4,500 soviet planes with a loss of under 2000 of German planes,Meanwhile Army Group Center got their orders to carry on with the advance on Moscow, and got within 40 miles of the capital before they encountered stiff resistance from Russian forces.

Stalin after seeing the Nazi advance through his territory and soviet casualties reaching the 3 million mark half of which were prisoners and most would never to get home,refused to leave the capital and decided to face the crisis head, this defiant mood passed down through his armed forces and give them courage to stand with him.

Hitler's advance started to slow with the winter and the fact that most of territorys they had passed through looked at the Nazi's as liberators,but as Nazi's reviled there true intentions and their support quickly evaporated, Also Hitlers hope that the soviet's would collapse in the face of the German onslaught,but he wouldn't have the success see in Poland and France,the Soviet Union had a determination and were prepared to face annihilation. German troops wearing their summer uniforms froze in the harsh Russian winter and the war turned into a war of attrition.


North Africa 1941

Libya

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North Africa falls to the British and Australians. At the beginning of World War II, Libya was an Italian colony and Tobruk became the site of important battles between the Allies and Axis powers. Tobruk was strategically important to the conquest of Eastern Libya, then the province of Cyrenaica, for several reasons. Tobruk's natural and deep harbor,this meant that ships could drop anchor even if the port was bombed, This made Tobruk an excellent port to resupply for the desert war but both allies and axis wanted and would lead to many battles over this port. The harbor and Tobruk itself had been heavily fortified by the Italians prior to their invasion of Egypt in November 1940.the cliffs around Tobruk also give some natural defense. Tobruk was also on a peninsula, allowing it to be defended by a minimal number of troops, which the Allies used to their advantage when the port was under siege.

Italy and Libyan forces invaded Egypt in September 1940 but stopped their advance and dug in at Sidi Barrani,British troops launched a counter-attack (Operation-Compass). The Italians not long before had occupied southern France and invaded Albania. The British attack involved surrounding two Italian camps with their backs against the mediterrian and with nowhere to run the had to surrender,Italian forces then retreated to El Agheila. British Australian and Indian forces captured Tobruk on the 22 of January 1941.

Italy now asked their allies Germany for aid,which the Germans answered their call and sent an army corps Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK) and the Italians sent several more divisions which landed in Libya another Italian ally. Lieutenant-General Erwin Rommel took charge of these divisions,Rommel then drove the Allies back to the Egyptian border,which left Tobruk isolated. Australian 9th Division, the Australian 18th Brigade and some British tanks and artillery were the defenders of Tobruk as came underseige from Axis forces.

Erwin Rommel(The Desert Fox)

It was during the War in North Africa that he earned the name the Desert Fox ,but he commanded the 7th panzer division during the invasion of France 1940.

On the 6 of February 1941 he was given his orders to lead the Afrika Korps,and was sent to aid the Italian's Forces which had been driven back by the British troops in Operation Compass.
March 1941 Rommel started an offensive using the 5th Light division and two Italian divisions.

This was a minor action by Rommel but British forces had been weakened by the withdrawn of troops who were sent to Greece,The British fell back and began to build defenses at Mersa el Brega.

Rommel decided to push on with his attack and try and stop Allied forces from constructing large scale fortifications. Fierce fighting began with Germans troops gaining a victory within a day. Rommel again pushed on to Agedabia deciding not to hold of till may. The British commander General Archibald Wavell ordered a withdrawal to Benghazi to avoid being cut off by Rommel s thrust but overestimated the size of German forces. Rommel saw that the British reluctance to fight moved to capture Cyrenaica still with only light forces at his command. Italian armored divisions continued to purse the retreating allied forces while the German 5th light division moved on Benghazi.


 

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1942