Operation Sonnenblume (Unternehmen Sonnenblume/Operation Sunflower) was the name given to the dispatch of German troops to North Africa in February 1941, during the Second World War. German troops reinforced the remaining Italian forces in Libya, after the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by British attacks during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The first units departed Naples for Africa and arrived on 11 February.

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dbo:abstract
  • Operation Sonnenblume (Unternehmen Sonnenblume/Operation Sunflower) was the name given to the dispatch of German troops to North Africa in February 1941, during the Second World War. German troops reinforced the remaining Italian forces in Libya, after the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by British attacks during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The first units departed Naples for Africa and arrived on 11 February. On 14 February, the first units of the 5th Light Afrika Division (later renamed the 21st Panzer Division), Aufklärungsbataillon 3 (Reconnaissance Battalion 3) and Panzerjägerabteilung 39 (Tankhunter Detachment 39) arrived in Tripoli, Libya and were sent immediately to the front line at Sirte.Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel took command of the new Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK; the term Afrika Korps became a generic title for German forces in North Africa, in the English-speaking world). Rommel arrived in Libya on 12 February, with orders to defend Tripoli and Tripolitania, albeit using aggressive tactics. General Italo Gariboldi replaced Maresciallo d'Italia Rodolfo Graziani as the Governor-General of Libya on 25 March and Generale d'Armata Mario Roatta, Commander in Chief of the Regio Esercito, ordered him to put Italian motorised units in Libya under German command. On 15 February, the first German troops reached Sirte, on 18 February advanced to Nofilia and on 24 February, a raiding party ambushed a British patrol near El Agheila. On 24 March, El Agheila was captured and Brega was attacked on 31 March. The British failed to counter-attack with their tanks and began a retreat the next day towards Benghazi.Once the British retreated, the tanks of the 3rd Armoured Brigade began to break down as predicted and were unable to prevent Axis flanking moves in the desert south of the Cyrenacian bulge, which left the Australian infantry in Benghazi no option but to retreat up the Via Balbia. Rommel split his forces into small columns and harried the British as far as Axis fuel and water supplies allowed and managed to surround and capture a considerable force at Mechili, which led to the British retreat continuing to Tobruk and then to the Libyan–Egyptian frontier. Axis forces tried to capture Tobruk before the defenders had time to prepare its defences but failed and Rommel had to divide the Axis forces between Tobruk and the frontier.The diversion of so many British units to Greece was the main reason for the success of Sonnenblume, along with the transfer of units to Egypt to refit, the appointment by General Archbald Wavell, the Commander in Chief Middle East, of incompetent commanders and his failure properly to study the terrain. The German ability to mount an offensive was underestimated and the capability, audacity and potential of Rommel to transform the situation was overlooked by Wavell, the War Office and Winston Churchill, despite copious intelligence reports from Ultra and MI 14 (British Military Intelligence). In 1949, Wavell wrote that he had taken an unwarranted risk in Cyrenaica, having formed expectations of the Axis based on the experience of fighting the Italian army; "I had certainly not budgeted for Rommel after my experience of the Italians. I should have been more prudent...." (en)
  • Operation Sonnenblume (Unternehmen Sonnenblume/Operation Sunflower) was the name given to the dispatch of German troops to North Africa in February 1941, during the Second World War. German troops reinforced the remaining Italian forces in Libya, after the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by British attacks during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The first units departed Naples for Africa and arrived on 11 February. On 14 February, the first units of the 5th Light Afrika Division (later renamed the 21st Panzer Division), Aufklärungsbataillon 3 (Reconnaissance Battalion 3) and Panzerjägerabteilung 39 (Tank Hunter Detachment 39) arrived in Tripoli, Libya and were sent immediately to the front line at Sirte.Generalleutnant Erwin Rommel took command of the new Deutsches Afrikakorps (DAK; the term Afrika Korps became a generic title for German forces in North Africa, in the English-speaking world). Rommel arrived in Libya on 12 February, with orders to defend Tripoli and Tripolitania, albeit using aggressive tactics. General Italo Gariboldi replaced Maresciallo d'Italia Rodolfo Graziani as the Governor-General of Libya on 25 March and Generale d'Armata Mario Roatta, Commander in Chief of the Regio Esercito (Italian Army), ordered Graziani to place Italian motorised units in Libya under German command. The first German troops reached Sirte on 15 February and advanced to Nofilia on 18 February. On 24 February, a German raiding party ambushed a British patrol near El Agheila, on 24 March, the Axis captured El Agheila and on 31 March they attacked Brega. The understrength 3rd Armoured Brigade failed to counter-attack and began a retreat towards Benghazi the next day.Once the 3rd Armoured Brigade moved, its worn-out and under-maintained tanks began to break down as predicted and the brigade failed to prevent Axis flanking moves in the desert south of the Cyrenaican bulge, which left the Australian infantry in Benghazi no option but to retreat up the Via Balbia. Rommel split his forces into small columns to harry the British retreat as far as the Axis fuel and water shortage permitted. Axis troops managed to surround and capture a considerable force at Mechili, which led to the British retreat continuing to Tobruk and then to the Libyan–Egyptian frontier. Axis forces failed to capture Tobruk before the defenders had time to prepare its defence and Rommel then had to divide the Axis forces between Tobruk and the frontier.Sonnenblume succeeded because the ability of the Germans to mount an offensive was underestimated by General Archbald Wavell, the Commander in Chief Middle East, the War Office and Winston Churchill. The capability and audacity of Rommel transformed the situation, despite copious intelligence reports from Ultra and MI 14 (British Military Intelligence). In 1949, Wavell wrote that he had taken an unwarranted risk in Cyrenaica, having formed expectations of the Axis based on fighting the Italian army, "I had certainly not budgeted for Rommel after my experience of the Italians. I should have been more prudent...." Many experienced British units had been transferred to Greece and other units had been sent to Egypt to refit. Some of the commanders appointed by Wavell to Cyrenaica Command (CYRCOM) proved incompetent and he also failed properly to study the terrain between Benghazi and El Agheila, relying on maps found to be inaccurate, when he later arrived to see for himself. (en)
dbo:causalties
  • 103–107 tanks (some damaged and repaired)
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  • *
  • :*
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  • 1941-05-25 (xsd:date)
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  • Axis victory
  • Axisvictory
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  • * 1 armoured brigade (understrength)
  • * 3 brigades
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  • * elements of 2 German divisions
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  • 2019-03-29 04:44:28Z (xsd:date)
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  • Map showing the Western Desert (en)
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  • 103 (xsd:integer)
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  • (en)
  • * 1,760 POWs * (en)
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  • Unternehmen Sonnenblume/Operation Sunflower (en)
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  • --02-06
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  • the Western Desert Campaign of the Second World War (en)
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  • Cyrenaica, Libya (en)
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  • Axis victory (en)
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  • elements of 2 German divisions (en)
  • elements of 5 Italian divisions (en)
  • (en)
  • * elements of 2 German divisions * elements of 5 Italian divisions (en)
  • * 1 division * 3 brigades * 1 armoured brigade (en)
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  • Cyrenaica re-captured by Axis, Tobruk besieged (en)
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  • 10 (xsd:integer)
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  • Cyrenaica Command (en)
  • Italian 10th Army (en)
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  • * Italian (en)
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  • Operation Sonnenblume (Unternehmen Sonnenblume/Operation Sunflower) was the name given to the dispatch of German troops to North Africa in February 1941, during the Second World War. German troops reinforced the remaining Italian forces in Libya, after the Italian 10th Army was destroyed by British attacks during Operation Compass (9 December 1940 – 9 February 1941). The first units departed Naples for Africa and arrived on 11 February. (en)
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  • Operation Sonnenblume (en)
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  • Unternehmen Sonnenblume/Operation Sunflower (en)
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