Best Tank of WW2 - Page 9




 
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June 17th, 2006  
Doppleganger
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ollie Garchy
Rundstedt was right. Rommel was totally and utterly wrong (as nearly always -- he was better as an infantry officer in WWI). A defence on the coast was the worst strategic decision made on the western front. Getting back to the tank issue, here we see how strategic factors and the usual frictions contributed to the "nullification" of superior German armour quality and tactical policy. [I tried to raise the point, however, that these elements impact our determination of armour quality. I use the words "superior German armour" with caution].

[I could go on and on about Rommel's mistakes. The Brits have loved him for years. No wonder. He was one of the principal reasons for Allied victory].
Rommel being upheld and lauded as a tactical 'god' has long annoyed me. It was Guderian's wish too that German panzers be deployed inland, to allow them the time and opportunity to counterattack and envelop and destroy Allied armoured spearheads as they pushed inland. Guderian wrote in his memoirs that Rommel often didn't understand the tactical possibilities of fast moving armour, ironic when Rommel is often seen as a panzer leader without equal in the West.
June 17th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
Rommel's big problem in the Desert was supplies, that had to be hauled about 1500 miles by road and were a target for the allied fighter bombers. Also with the British reading all the Enigma messages they would pick of the ships that carried the fuel and spare parts for his tanks which restricted his actions.
June 17th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Doppleganger
Rommel being upheld and lauded as a tactical 'god' has long annoyed me. It was Guderian's wish too that German panzers be deployed inland, to allow them the time and opportunity to counterattack and envelop and destroy Allied armoured spearheads as they pushed inland. Guderian wrote in his memoirs that Rommel often didn't understand the tactical possibilities of fast moving armour, ironic when Rommel is often seen as a panzer leader without equal in the West.
Precisely...and it is great to read that the "Rommel-lovers" are declining in number. If we think about German military strengths in 1944, armour quality and tactical fluidity are the big two. Standing against the Allies in a set-piece environment was a poor decision...and one made over and over again. What guided Rommel's decision to stand on the beaches?: (I am guessing and going by memory because I am lazy).

1. A view of tactical airpower that he gained in Africa. Namely, that the Allies would bomb German formations into submission. I guess he forgot to look at the French terrain. No open desert in France. He also forgot to include naval gunfire...which is amazing in and of itself.

2. A belief that the Allies would assemble an overwhelming force and only then move inland. That's was a given, but Anzio demonstrated the inevitability of Allied breakout. The point was: where could the Germans engage the Allies under the best possible conditions?

3. A cynical belief that the German troops could not compete against the motorized Allies. Since Rommel's only experience was as a divisional commander in 1940 and as a corps commander in Africa (making him the highest ranked "minor" of all time), did he really understand higher operational issues? After Alamein, even he was able to "rescue" his troops and move into Tunisia -- despite Montgomery's motorized mass. Rommel should have been demoted and sent to the Russian front to command an infantry division...that would have "learned" him.

Rommel was in all probability thinking about his failures in Africa, blinded by his own self-serving excuses, and also amazed by Kesselring's ops in Italy.

Doppleganger, I have not looked into Guderian for a long time. Why do you think that his opinions fell on deaf ears after...was it...1941? Did Manstein have any opinions that resembled Rundstedt's? Which German "higher ups" really thought about the defence of France? How do you think the Germans should have organized a defence?
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June 17th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
Rommel's big problem in the Desert was supplies, that had to be hauled about 1500 miles by road and were a target for the allied fighter bombers. Also with the British reading all the Enigma messages they would pick of the ships that carried the fuel and spare parts for his tanks which restricted his actions.
Your points are good ones, however:

1) The Germans should not have been in North Africa in the first place. An attack on Alexandria via Turkey-Palestine was a much better option and one that accorded with German strengths. [I am glad, however, that it never took place. I recently read an article that Himmler had already organized Einsatzgruppen to deal with certain civilians in Palestine. Freaks.]

2) Luftflotte 2 (and more) was "wasted" in attacks on Malta and elsewhere. The Germans lost planes, boats, tanks, men, etc. without the promise of a major return. After Crete, a push into Palestine via Turkey would have closed the Suez and invalidated Malta and Gibraltar and all at minimal cost. Again, anyone thinking rationally about German strengths and weaknesses in 1940/41 would have rejected fighting Britain on British terms in the Med. Suicide...even without Enigma.

3) Stupid attention-hungry Rommel: The "cons" at German HQ wanted Rommel, once the Germans did commit to Africa, to stay put. All they wanted of Rommel was that he shore up Italian defences and keep the theatre a minor side-show. Rommel, looking to make a name for himself, disobeyed...at frightening cost to the German war effort. The Germans should have sent Paulus...another oaf, but one that would have stayed put in Tripoli.

Conclusion: Italy's idiotic invasion of Egypt (and Greece or even Albania) widened the war, dispersed German forces, ended up defeating Mussolini and seriously eroded the German war effort. None of this was possible without Rommel.
June 17th, 2006  
Doppleganger
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ollie Garchy
Doppleganger, I have not looked into Guderian for a long time. Why do you think that his opinions fell on deaf ears after...was it...1941? Did Manstein have any opinions that resembled Rundstedt's? Which German "higher ups" really thought about the defence of France? How do you think the Germans should have organized a defence?
On 26 December 1941 Guderian was stripped of active duty and transferred to OKH Reserve Pool. He fell out of favour for organising a staged withdrawal of his 2nd Panzerarmee against Hitler's general orders. He was actually dismissed by his commanding officer Gunther von Kluge, not for the first time as von Kluge had dismissed him in France too for refusal to obey orders. On that occasion Hitler overruled von Kluge but this time he didn't. It's probably partly because of the fact that von Kluge hated Guderian with a passion that the latter's influence was reduced. Von Kluge had assumed overall command of Army Group Centre after Fedor von Bock was dismissed and his influence was in the ascendancy. Guderian and von Bock had enjoyed a good relationship and Hitler had felt that both had failed him. However, in 1943 Guderian was back in favour and from then on had reasonable influence with Hitler. He did become Chief of Staff to the OKH after the July Bomb Plot and was 'in theory' in day-to-day charge of the Ostfront until he was dismissed in March 1945.

I'm not exactly sure what Manstein did after he was dismissed in early 1944. He appears to have retired and not made much further comment on the state of the war. Certainly he would have been in agreement with Rundstedt about strategy for defence of France before and after D-Day as he was in favour of giving up ground to force the enemy to overextend, then counterattacking and reforming the line. An example of his famous 'backhand' plan. This is exactly what Manstein wanted the Ostheer to do in mid 1943, instead of pinching out the Kursk salient, which played into the strengths of the Soviets.

We can see than that Guderian, Rundstedt (who had been advised by General Freiherr von Geyr, another talented Panzer commander) and Manstein were all in general favour of a 'defence-in depth' operational strategy, whereas Rommel wanted to deploy almost on top of the beaches. For a man who was supposedly an expert in mobile warfare it was a remarkably uninspired decision. Committing Panzer divisions so close to the beach would negate their main strength, namely that of mobility. In that sense they would be deployed almost as mobile pill boxes. According to Guderian in 'Panzer Leader', ISBN 0-141-39027-1, one of the main reasons for Rommel's favoured strategy was his belief that due to Allied airpower, it would not be possible to move large concentrations of Panzer/Panzergrenadier forces, even at night, hence the reason to have them deployed close to the beaches. Guderian noted that Rommel's experiences of Allied airpower in Africa seems to have left an impression on him. Rommel also had strong faith in the ability of the Atlantic Wall to hold back, or at least seriously delay, any Allied invasion.

The Wehrmacht really had to play to its strengths, or lack thereof, in 1944. It had superior armour like the Tiger 1, which was an excellent defensive tank. It also had dwindling fuel supplies and combat manpower replacements of uneven quality, to say the least. However, using 'Elastic Defence' tactics would have made maximum use of the greater tactical skill and superior weapon systems of the Wehrmacht, like the MG-34/42 machine gun teams and '88 AT teams. It would have made even better use of the bocage terrain of Normandy, which was made for defensive operations. Case in point was Michael Wittman's use of six Tigers to hold up an entire British armoured regiment for nearly 24 hours at the Battle of Villers-Bocage. This was a correct demonstration of how the strengths of the Wehrmacht could be maximised. The Wehrmacht would have gradually retreated, enticing the Allied Armies to overextend their advance, then using the Panzer Divisions stationed near Paris to counterattack and envelop the over committed Allied forces. Such tactics would have limited the possibilities of German disasters like the Falaise Pocket from ever developing.

BTW, no apologies for the use of Wikipedia as the information appears to be correct. Besides, Wikipedia was found in one study to be almost as accurate as the online edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/GERguderian.htm
http://www.strategos.demon.co.uk/D-Day/Epsom.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Villers-Bocage
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chambois_pocket
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal...l/438900a.html
June 18th, 2006  
Ollie Garchy
 
 
Thanks for the work Doppleganger! All this talk about Guderian & Manstein has sparked my interest.

(1) I did notice that the Wiki article concerning Falaise cited 100,000 German troops escaping from the pocket. That number seriously conflicts with Perseus' Blumenson article that cites OB West reports. The problem with Wiki (I, too, use it all the time) seems to be that the writers are not that rigorous with footnotes.

(2) Some of the latest figures in this thread (like Wittman's Villers-Bocage operation) do not match with what I was led to believe. Some articles have pointed out a 10:1 - 16:1 loss rate for Allied tanks against Tigers. It seems more like 4:1. Now, someone must have compiled a comprehensive day-by-day listing of losses. I'd love to take a look at the stuff. The only questions are who and where? Any ideas?

(3) How are we doing in regards to the tank issue? Should we decide to ignore operational issues and friction and judge tank quality by technical issues alone? If so, we should slowly be able to come to some kind of agreement.

I agree with you, Doppleganger. My favourite for the moment: Panther Ausf. G

I will stick to my anti-Soviet bias until someone can convince me that the article listed below is utterly wrong. If Americans specialists were correct, and "the T-34 was designed with one idea in mind — to provide firepower", then I have to conclude that the T-34 was in real trouble against Panthers and Tigers.

http://www.reformed-theology.org/html/books/best_enemy/
June 18th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
Was Rommel wrong to try and stop the Allied troops on the beaches. Well when they got it right at Omaha he nearly pulled it off, now if he had a few more tanks at hand, you can only wonder just what he would have achieved. Once the allied troops had a foothold then they quickly constructed airfields and every thing else they needed. Rommel was only to aware of the huge tide of men and materials they would face if the Allies made a successful landing
June 18th, 2006  
Doppleganger
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
Was Rommel wrong to try and stop the Allied troops on the beaches. Well when they got it right at Omaha he nearly pulled it off, now if he had a few more tanks at hand, you can only wonder just what he would have achieved. Once the allied troops had a foothold then they quickly constructed airfields and every thing else they needed. Rommel was only to aware of the huge tide of men and materials they would face if the Allies made a successful landing
The implication that Guderian and others suggest is that Rommel may really only favoured placing Panzer divisions up near the beaches because he felt that Allied airpower would make any large scale movements of those same divisions all but impossible. This would suggest that Rommel might have preferred to keep the Panzer divisions as a mobile reserve, if he thought this was practical. Then again Guderian stated that "it is nevertheless a matter of considerable regret that Rommel failed to understand the need for possessing mobile reserves" (p331, Panzer Leader). This suggests that Rommel was not as clued-up about the proper use of armour as is commonly proclaimed. I myself might be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt given his successes in Africa. Guderian too seemed to hold Rommel in quite high regard, aside from the above decision of course.
July 4th, 2006  
LeEnfield
 
 
I think much of this is just bickering between two Generals, rather likle Montgomery and Patton.
July 6th, 2006  
godofthunder9010
 
 
I don't know that there was much bickering between Rommel and Guderian. I think that the problem is that less-clued-in historians shower undue amounts of praise upon Rommel. Many of those same "historians" will have never heard of General Heinz Guderian, the man who made any and all of Rommel's success possible. I think its like Subedai. The casual historian will praise Ghengis Khan, Batu and Ogedai for their brilliance. All three benefitted greatly from the greatest Mongolian battlefield commander of all-time. I think those who have studied it out more get annoyed that Rommel gets more press than the man who actually invented the blitzkrieg Panzer tactics to begin with, and was a better battlefield commander to boot: Heinz Guderian.