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German Afrika Corps 1941-1945

Deutsches Afrika Korps

Last modified: 2012-11-03 by pete loeser
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German Afrika Corps Fahrzeugerkennungszeichen
(Questionable as a flag)

[Afrika Korps flag] 1:1 Image by Jarig Bakker, 16 Aug 2006

A "Fahrzeugerkennungszeichen" was a sign that was painted on military vehicles in order to identify them.

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Discussion on the German Afrika Corps

While watching an Indiana Jones movie, there was a truck painted with a combination palm tree and swastika (on the trunk of the tree). Although not a flag, it seemed to indicate a Nazi desert corps. Is this a real occurence?
Nathan Lamm, 9 Jul 2002

The Palm tree and the swastika was used as the emblem of the Afrika Korps under Rommel.
Knut A. Berg, 10 Jul 2002

The emblem is real.  It was the emblem of the Afrika Corps commanded by Field Marshal Erwin Rommel. I believe I have seen Afrika Corps flags which used the emblem as well. However, its use in the movie was a bit out of place, as the movie was supposedly set at a time before the beginning of World War II, and therefore before the existence of the Afrika Corps.
Devereaux Cannon, 10 Jul 2002

I am not aware of any Afrika Korps flag that incorporated a palm and swastika device. This emblem seemed limited to tracked and soft-skinned vehicles and not all German vehicles were stenciled as such. Use of German flags in war-time photographs were primarily Nazi swastika flags. During the high-point of the Afrika Korps campaign, tank crews would sometimes wire or tie a Nazi flag to the deck for aerial recognition (See German Vehicle Recognition Drapes). The Italians, it seems did not follow suit. They limited their aerial recognition devices to a large white circle on the top of turrets.
John Evosevic, 10 Jul 2002

It appears that you are correct. The flags I remember seeing were apparently spurious designs marketed in the 1970s.
Devereaux Cannon, 10 Jul 2002

     The Palm and Swastika insignia was originally a vehicle insignia for the 15th and 21st Panzerdivisions, which made up most of "Aufklärungsstab Rommel", and later was used by all units attached to the Deutsches Afrika Korps (DAK), except for the Italian divisions.
     The Palm and Swastika insignia was used to decorate other equipment. It was also used as a newspaper masthead for field newspapers, and was used on DAK souvenir jewelry.
     Photographs of Rommel's Corp Command Flag (a metal plate on a staff affixed to a fender) only show the word AFRIKA stenciled in black on the lower part of a red triangle. The Palm and Swastika does not appear on any of the flags for either the command or staff positions of the unit. This is according to the research I did while I was at the Paramount Flag Company.
     Afrika Korps Flags, bearing the palm and swastika, have been offered for sale. They were part of a series of flags marketed by the Collectors Armory of Alexandria, Virginia in the starting in the 1970's.
     They came in at least three versions, all cotton bunting. They all took the form of a German Panzer Army HQ flag with the palm and swastika insignia in one corner, and a unit designation in the other corner. The first ones were printed in Japan, and are all appoximately 24" square and can be identified by small leather triangles sewn on to both hoist corners to reinforce small white ties.
     The next two versions of which I am personally aware were screen printed exclusively for Collectors Armory by the Paramount Flag Company of San Francisco. This second type was identical to the Japanese made flags except in that the flags were finished with a loop and toggle or heading and grommets. A third type was identical to the second except in that it was screened on to tan cotton instead of white. One of these spurious flags recently sold on e-bay as original.
     The DAK was created 26 Feb. 1941, so the insignia cannot date from prior to that date.
Jim Ferrigan, 10 Jul 2002

I've never seen a photo of a Nazi palm flag. I should mention that I am almost certain that 10th Panzer Division vehicles did not use the Afrika Korps stencil. The 10th Panzer Division was sent to shore up the AK in Tunisia near the end of the North African campaign.
John Evosevic, 11 Jul 2002

This image actually shows a "Fahrzeugerkennungszeichen" (vehicle qualifier). It was a sign that was painted on military vehicles in order to make them distinguishable, it was an identification mark. I don't know exactly which regiment or battalion this particular one belonged to, but it was obviously used in northern Africa by the so-called German "Afrikachor" (Africa Corps). It may possibly have been painted on metal and used as a vehicle command flag, but is undocumented as such. It was manufactured as a replica fantasy flag (as stated above) in the 1970s.
Pete Loeser, 30 May 2011

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