Monday, June 18, 2007
15th to 18th December 1941
The High Command in Italy panicked when they realized that Rommel intended to withdraw from Cyrenaica. They sent Field-Marshall Kesselring out to assess the situation and try to influence Rommel. On 15 December 1941, Rommel made plans to withdraw from Gazala overnight between the 16th and 17th. Rommel told Kesseling and his Italian companion, General Cavallero, that the war in the Far East was likely to pull British troops out of North Africa, and they just needed to keep the German-Italian force intact until that happened. Rommel vowed to vigorously defend Tripolitania if he could withdraw immediately. They found out on the 16th that the withdrawal from Gazala had already started. The Italian infantry divisions were headed for Derna by way of Tmimi. The Italian mechanized corps and the DAK were headed for Mechili. Rommel intended to form a defensive front stretching from El Agheila south to Marada. This is based on the account in Vol.III of the Official History.