Rommel as Strategist.




 
--
 
April 8th, 2004  
Jamoni
 

Topic: Rommel as Strategist.


I've been reading "Rommel as Military Commander" by Ronald Lewin, which is an okay book. However, I've noticed that although Rommel displays tremendous skill in attack, and wonderful tactical inventiveness, he CONSTANTLY seems to disregard his lines of communication. Almost every battle can be summed up as:
1. Rommel attacks and beats the British like stepchildren.
2. The Brits retreat quite hastill and in bad order, losing much material and POWs.
3. Rommel pushes his attack as far as possible.
4. Rommel's supply lines are stretched to the breaking point, he has no defensive line to speak of, and is forced to retreat by a weak british counterattack.
I wonder, how different would the war in Africa have gone if Rommel had simply paused occasionally to solidify his position and see to his supplies?
April 9th, 2004  
panzer
 
 
Rommel understood that the war in africa was not one were you could stop and pause your attack to attempt and build defense's, any position in North Africa could be turned on the southern flank except for El Alamein with the Qattara Depression on it southern flank. The war in North Africa both armies were mostly mechanized which made the battles and the entire theater very fluid.........except for the Italians.


For more on rommel I recommend the Rommel Papers.......
April 9th, 2004  
SHERMAN
 
 

Topic: well


Its an intresting Q, jamoni. He might have thought that if he could only breake the brits once, he could oush them all the way.so, maybe its just that monty and his boys fought so hard..?
--
April 10th, 2004  
Jamoni
 
Panzer, I can see how the desert distances magnified the back and forth, and the exposed flank does explain alot. I can see how that would lead to a back and forth as each side progressively outflanked the other. I'm not familiar with the terrain, but didn't he start fortifications at the Gazala line during his first drive? My understanding is that these were only half completed, and his plan had been to fall back to them if necessary, but in the event he retreated completely out of cyrenaica. Was this line not defensible enough, or was it inadequately prepared? I actually plan to read the Rommel Papers next, as soon as I can find a copy.
Sherman, there is no doubt the brits were tough, but I'm discussing the period before Montgomery took control, when the Brits were mostly green, unused to desert warfare, and when their supply situation was roughly equal to the Germans (mainly cause that's as far as I've read ). In fact, I believe it was the Brit's superior supply lines via Malta which led directly to their victory in the desert war.
April 10th, 2004  
panzer
 
 
The line was not defensible enough to hold, the British 8th Army was almost entirely mechanized and rommel knew that any attack on this line which was manned by Italian Infantry which were not mobile would only be a holding attack, while the british armour and mech. units would pull a flanking movement on the southern flank......Rommel would have to counter with his German Panzer units and taking away from the Italians holding the line......ending in either a route like at El Alamein or a withdraw saving his mobile units while sacrificing his Infantry which was the bulk of his force......
April 10th, 2004  
Jamoni
 
I see. It was either organized retreat now, or a rout later. Makes sense, especially in light of the slower moving infantry, which could be screened by the armor during an orderly retreat.
Upon further reading, it's clear that Rommel's seeming overagressiveness was actually BECAUSE of the british advantage in supply. He felt the necessity to keep up pressure, rather than let them stockpile tanks and material. Also seems he was aware of the British commands lack of nerve (before Auchinlek relieved Richie) and their natural desire to plan things out in advance.
April 10th, 2004  
panzer
 
 
British supply was a big issue as well I had forgot about that........good point jamoni
April 11th, 2004  
gjc
 
2 points if I may:

Firstly the nature of desert warfare at that time meant that both sides had stretched lines of communication. The futher each side advanced stretched thier lines of communication whilst compacting that of the enemy. This led to a situation where by pushing the enemy back you were almost handing him the advantage by shorting his lines of supply.

Secondly, there is a maxim that goes, never try and outmanouvre someone who is better at the manouvrist approach than you. Rommel was one of the only true masters of manouvre warfare, both in France and in the desert (although he was never tested in the ultimate theatre - Russia). Montgomery was the first allied commander to realise that Rommel would only be beaten in a pitched attritional battle, previous commanders having tried to outmanouvre Rommel in the desert, hence the situation at El Alamien. Montgomery is a good example of an attritional commander, having learned his trade as a staff officer on the Western Front in World War One. He was also the first allied commander to realise that suuply was as important as combat power.
April 12th, 2004  
panzer
 
 
2 well made points excellent and right on the money!
May 1st, 2004  
rpgincoming
 

Topic: Tobruk


I am just confused as to how Rommel was unable to capture Tobruk when he had the chance. He allowed a much smaller British force to get the best of him. any insights?