12. GERMAN SALVAGE PROCEDURE IN THE DESERT

The following intelligence report on German salvage of enemy equipment was originally published in Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 9, October 8th, 1942.

It has been stated that Marshal Rommel, in planning his campaigns, puts great emphasis on the capture of British equipment and supplies, and that the acquisition of large quantities of such booty has been one of the important factors in the success of his past operations in North Africa.

The importance of captured materiel in the German supply system is illustrated by a field order issued by Rommel on May 23, 3 days before the start of the German spring offensive. The order states: "The shortage of raw material and supplies in Africa makes it necessary to take every opportunity of seizing enemy equipment and supplies. Units may take with them only such amount of captured materiel as will not impair their operational readiness; all other booty will be dealt with by a special Salvage Section (Beuteberge-Abteilung) of Panzer Army Headquarters.

"A guard is to be left over all dumps and stocks. The Salvage Section will make arrangements for the security and removal of all dumps and will provide technical personnel and transport. It is to be in direct communication with the forward troops. Captured supplies are to be marked in light blue paint with the words 'Tedesco' (Italian word for German) and 'Erfasste Beute' (captured booty). Strong disciplinary action is to be taken in the event of any misuse or destruction of salvage."

On several occasions during the course of the offensive, it was observed that, at the conclusion of an engagement, enemy salvage parties appeared on the battlefield and began recovery of transport and antitank guns before the evacuation of prisoners of war had been completed.

On the other hand, the Germans are equally thorough in measures taken to prevent their own materiel from falling in serviceable condition into British hands. For example, German vehicles used in the desert are equipped with demolition or incendiary bombs, and drivers are instructed to destroy their vehicles prior to capture. Similarly in a recent visit to the El Alamein battlefield, it was noted that captured Axis tanks, motor vehicles, artillery, and anti-tank guns in large numbers had been destroyed prior to capture.

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A communications vehicle in operation, April 1942.

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