Image size: 1600 x 1103 pixel. 397 KB
Date: Thursday, 1 January 1942
Place: Somewhere in North Africa
Photographer: Kriegsberichter Leutnant Erwin Seeger from XI. Fliegerkorps
A Fiat-Ansaldo M13/40 of XX Armored Corps. XX Corps, consisting of the Ariete and Littorio Armored Divisions and the Trieste Motorized Division, (formerly the Corpo d'Armata di Manovra) was the Italian counterpart to Rommel's Afrika Korps. While the main body of the Italian Army was plagued by corrupt officers, anti-fascist elements, and low morale, the XX Corps was well regarded by Rommel, and despite being armed with increasingly outdated equipment, performed well during Rommel's offensive in early 1942, moving with the panzers through Libya into Egypt. At the First Battle of El Alamein, XX Corps lead the attack on the Ruwisat Ridge on July 3, 1942, because Afrika Korps had only twenty-six panzers left after three days of battle. XX Corps was utterly destroyed by the 2nd New Zealand Division supported by British tanks. Ariete Division was most severly mauled, losing almost all its guns. By July 8, 1942, the whole of the Italian Army had on hand fifty-four tanks and forty anti-tank guns, out of an authorized strength of 430 tanks and 120 anti-tank guns. Because Axis supply favored Italian units, XX Corps could mount combat operations during the second battle of El Alamein; it was mostly destroyed on November 4, 1942, when the Ariete Division's 120 obsolete tanks were ordered to stem the tide of the British advance. The M13/40s and even older designs lacked armor and firepower to stand up to the new American-built, British-crewed M3 Grant and M4 Sherman tanks and concentrated artillery. In an after-action report, the commander of the Ariete Division reported, "the Ariete tanks had to receive very hard blows without any chance to inflict any damage to the enemy." The remnants of XX Corps retreated with Rommel all the way to Tunisia, surrendering in May 1943. Rommel wrote in his diary, "In the Ariete we lost our oldest Italian comrades, from whom we had probably always demanded more than they, with their poor armament, had been capable of performing." The photographer, Erwin Seeger, was assigned to the Kriegsberichter (War Correspondent) Abteilung (unit) of the Fallschirmjäger (Paratrooper) Armeeoberkommando (Army High Command) at XI Fliegerkorps. German Army combat photographers also carried arms, and he fought in Arnhem during Operation Market-Garden in September 1944. A book of his North African photos, "Bilder eines Wustenkriegs: Der Afrikafeldzug Erwin Rommels aus der Sicht des Ebinger Kriegsberichterstatters Erwin Seeger" (Pictures of a Desert War: Erwin Rommel's Campaign in Africa from the Perspective of the War Reporter Erwin Seeger) was published in Germany in 2005.