Welcome to the WWII Forums! Log in or Sign up to interact with the community.

Rommel's reputation - deserved or political ploy?

Discussion in 'North Africa: Western Desert Campaigns 1940 to Ope' started by brkeseel, Jul 27, 2014.

  1. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,679
    Likes Received:
    276
    On Rommel in Normandy: it may well be that the Germans could have done nothing to prevent defeat but they could have fought the battle much more effectively. Here's some examples:
    1. The KM and Luftwaffe coud have done a better job in providing recon in the Channel.

    2. There should have been a unified command structure on the German side. Thanks to AH the command structure was horribly fragmented.

    3. The German army had a lot of men from Poland and the Ukraine in Normandy. I feel that having Poles and Ukrainians fight in France, for Germany, against the UK and Americans wasn't the smartest move of the war. They surrendered in droves. The should have been placed in the Channel Islands, Norway and other peripheral areas, freeing up good Geman units that would have given a good account of themselves.

    4. The KM had the new "clamshell" mine that was unsweepable. They should have been offshore of Normandy but weren't due to a stupid screw-up. Had these been in place ship losses would have been significant.
     
  2. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2009
    Messages:
    4,997
    Likes Received:
    235
    Overlord and the Panzer controverse have already bee, discussed,but the facts are

    1)Only a few German mobile divisions were operational on D Day

    2)Most of these were located between the Seine and the Loire


    3) Notwithstanding the fables from The Longest Day,on the early morning of 6 june,Rundstedt told the OKW that there was still no certainty that the allied landings were decisive,that it still was possible that they were a feint to lure away the German mobile divisions .
     
  3. bronk7

    bronk7 Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    May 5, 2013
    Messages:
    4,136
    Likes Received:
    214
    Location:
    MIDWEST
    he had to have been pretty good to accomplish what he did in NA,,......
     
  4. steverodgers801

    steverodgers801 Member

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2011
    Messages:
    1,661
    Likes Received:
    69
    I would love to know what exactly made it unsweepable, besides some ones claim with no apparent details on why it was
     
  5. Takao

    Takao Ace

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Messages:
    8,601
    Likes Received:
    1,820
    Location:
    Reading, PA
    IIRC, the Allies nicknamed them "Oyster" mines, not "clamshell".

    I'm not sure what "screw-up" you are referring to. However, the most given "reasonable" explanation that they were not used is because the Germans did not want them falling into Allied hands and being reverse-engineered. Which is much the same as the Allies did with the proximity fuse(the Americans did use pressure triggers on naval mines against Japan in 1945). Others blame Goering for sending the Luftwaffe pressure mine stock to another location because he did not believe that the Allies would land in Normandy. The Luftwaffe pressure mines were sent back about a week later, but the invasion was well under way by that time.


    Because it had a "new" pressure trigger, as opposed to the usual contact, magnetic, or acoustic triggers. At the time, the Allies had no way to sweep for this mine. Although, once discovered, the quickly worked out a way, but it was limited in it's effectiveness - it could only be towed at a speed of 4 knots and it created only a narrow cleared path.
     
  6. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,679
    Likes Received:
    276
    I have read the mines were placed in the shallower waters off Normandy, as well as other places farther north. However, when the Adm. Ruge's staff contacted Rommel's staff, they were told that the Allied landing(s) would take place by May 15th. So, the KM people set the mines to deactivate at that time. Of course the landings didn't come then, so IIRC, the mines were gathered up but hadn't been reset or laid yet. Some were dropped at night by air and did some damage, but nothing like what would have happened had they entered a properly laid minefield. Either this or what Takao said, make it a screw-up.

    By the way, thanks for the nomenclature correction Takao. By the way, didn't those mines have both a pressure AND an accustic trigger? I thought they did so that larger fish or whales wouldn't set the mines off pressure-wise.
     
  7. brkeseel

    brkeseel New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2014
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    2
    I agree - German military doctrine at the time catered not at all to the operational objective of maintaining a passive defence line. However, 'passive defence' is precisely what Rommel was sent to North Africa to implement. Is it fair to ascribe Rommel's actions purely to the influence of the operational doctrine he spent his career an adherent of? Did his education render him incapable of interpreting a reasonably plain objective, albeit one foreign (and perhaps even somewhat repugnant) to him? I think a fair verdict is one that acknowledges the internal inconsistencies in German military doctrine where defensive action is concerned, while also remembering that Rommel basically disobeyed his orders from the beginning of Operation Sonnenblume, directly and indirectly. I'd say one of his biggest faults was his absolute disregard for the intent of the strategy makers, their mandate to determine that strategy, and his imperative to implement it. He had operational goals of his own that weren't derived nor consonant with those of Berlin and this, in large part, determined his failure in North Africa. Of course had Operation Barbarossa proceeded and concluded as Hitler intended, the logistical support would likely have been sent and Rommel may have gained an unintended windfall for the German war effort. But the very fact that the OKH was reluctant to commit to offensive action in North Africa was due to the imminent Eastern offensive that would require the greatest priority of resourcing. There's a clear causal link - Rommel's overall failure in North Africa is a rather simple story to follow.
     
  8. albowie

    albowie New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2015
    Messages:
    19
    Likes Received:
    3
    I think he was a great field commander and tactical General however most of his success in the Western Desert was amplified by the appalling lack of Command and control of the British Forces particularly Gazala and Crusader where they could not get their units together in force but squandered them in Regt packages.
    Rommel had something that is rarely mentioned in his Signals intelligence which was so good that he generally knew exactly what the British were doing before the British Generals! When the Australians captured this unit completely in the opening stages of the 2nd Battle of Alamein Rommel never recovered and never pulled of a brilliant masterstroke. He was a genius at looking at the intelligence picture and the forces arrayed against him and acting decisivly to achieve victory. He was not such a genius when faced with Strong Defences like Tobruk and botched this campaign as he did at Medinine where the tables were turned and the Allies knew about his attack and layed an in depth ambush with layers of AT guns and Artillery including the new 17 Pdr AT gun.
    If Rommel did have more of his Armour forward in Normandy on D-Day it would have been smashed by the Naval gunfire support and Air Power.

    Like Patton his Reputation is far greater than the facts
     
  9. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,679
    Likes Received:
    276
    @al: The British Forces in Africa were seldom "weak" as some have said. They did have some operational and institutional hang-ups that made it hard for them to act in the cohesive manner that the German panzer forces did. But more often than not they were stronger than the German/Italian army facing them.

    Signal intelligence is a great thing. Rommel benefitted from it certainly. We benefitted from it Alamein, El Guettar and Medinine. When you know your enemy's strength and dispositions for an attack, it's hard to lose.

    Speaking of Medinine, had Rommel been in control of ALL of the Axis forces, there wouldn't have been a Medinine battle. Von Arnim wasn't exactly cooperative and denied Rommel certain forces when told to give them up by Kesselring. That delay short-circuited Rommel's plan at Kasserine by allowing the Allies time to recover their poise.

    People tend to bash Rommel for not "not understanding logistics". Nothing could be farther from the truth. Logistics was on Rommel's mind every day. Also, in the German Army tradition, he was given a general staff trained officer as his chief of staff who made up for that deficiency. It's just that the German panzer generals pushed harder than Allied generals in this stage of the war. They did more with less.

    I still feel that Rommel's plan for Normandy gave the Germans the best chance for success. Had a panzer corps (or more hit the beachheads on the afternoon of D-Day or perhaps the very early morning of D+1, major damage on the invaders could have been inflicted. Remember a battalion of panzers got between two of the landing beaches on Normandy on D-Day but pulled back. Rommel was right on the money when he said that if forces weren't close to the invasion area when the battle started, they wouldn't get to their jump-off points in time. In this, history proved him right.

    During the war Rommel climbed from panzer division commander to army group command. Given what he had and what he faced, I feel he did a very credible job. Did he make errors-oh yes, but so did most generals. Going from a corps command which was a hands-on, lead-from-the-front type of job to army commander which was more of a desk job, he naturally had to make some adjustments, but after a bit, he did so.

    Overall, Rommel's "genius" was in three areas: First, he could motivate troops. Secondly, he could innovate tactics when needed. Third, he could intuitively understand things that other high ranking officers could not. An example was that after his experience in N. Africa he understood that the war from then on was going to be different and sweeping armored attacks would probably not happen again. In fact, he understood that the essentially, the war was lost.
     
  10. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    22,310
    Likes Received:
    1,052
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    However, without Rommel the Atlantic wall would have been a shadow of what it was in June 1944. I guess without own air force to protect the counter attack the Germans could not win the day but Rommel made the defence line at least more real than than the photos from Calais. The Hitler mistake was to keep part of tanks under Rommel, part under von Rundstedt and the major decision power for himself. If there had been one commander only for the counter attack that would have been a big difference whether the idea would be Rommel´s or von Rundstedt´s. And with the 15th Army helping, who knows. But I am not sorry the nazis lost.
     
  11. lwd

    lwd Ace

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2007
    Messages:
    12,312
    Likes Received:
    1,232
    Location:
    Michigan
    That they were on his mind doesn't mean he understood them. Indeed if he did then he was reckless.

    My understanding is however that the "in the German tradition" the logistics officer is suppose to figure out how to enable his commanding officers plans not push the point that said plans are not supportable.

    I don't think that's an accurate summary. It may be true in detail but not all the parts are there.
     
  12. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    64
    Location:
    Istanbul Turkey
    Rommel's reputation also comes from Allied press and political/military establishment. Unable to explain defeats and check ups in Western Desert despite appearent numerical superiorty of 8th Army between 1941 April-1942 July , they made a Superman myth out of Rommel and Afrikakorps. It was an effort to save face for them. British Army problem (which they could unable to admit because it would imply pre war unpreparedness) was about doctrine , organizastion , deployment and use of their forces proper and efficient way and quality of equipment. Once they took care of this mostly by issuing orders , directives and objectives and giving better equipment , preparing plans according to existing doctrines and capabilities of their forces after Montgomery took over in August 1942 they seldom lost an engagement. German Army tactical and operational doctrine on small unit scale was superior (mission oriented approch : Give an objective and leave your subordinates free to get that) Rommel was product of this doctrine system unlike autocratic British doctrine. Rommel at the other hand tried to command Panzer Army and later entire Army Group B as if still commanding a panzer division. He continued to give orders and issue objectives beyond means of his forces capabilites , logistical resources. When he returned France he was all awed by Allied air forces but he never took care on strength of their naval gunnery (which defeated sudden panzxer counter attacks on Sicily and Salerno ) So all of his ideas about meeting the enemy on thr beach was faulty anyway. Much was made Hitler's oversleeping and his authority on Panzer Group West or communication problems-which was partly Rommel's responsibility or Fortitude deception-which he swallowed or his absence during D-Day-due faulty weather forecast another German Army failing he was at Germany to celebrate his wife's birthday or Allied air superiorty. The problem was Germans lost most of their advantages before Allies landed on D-Day. Allies were throughly prepared in Normandy Campaign and prepared for all possibilities eventualities. Germans including Rommel were not. They were playing a make a wish game.
     
  13. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    22,310
    Likes Received:
    1,052
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    Indeed. Interesting that de Gaulle was about to say to his men incl resistance and the men who were waiting on the beaches to direct the Alleid troops that they should not help at all. Why not? because there was the occupation money made for France. De Gaulle would have none of that. Without the local help where to go?
     
  14. Triton

    Triton New Member

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2015
    Messages:
    197
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    Germany
    He suggested, that close contact between the troops would make naval gunfire and at least level bombing impossible. The losses from friendly fire would have been unacceptable.
    Generals from the eastern front hoped for a decisive tank battle far away from the landing beaches, won by superior german tactics, superior tanks and easier supply. They couldn't imagine, what complete air superiority meant and railroad supply lines were useless in these conditions.

    Rommels lived and died about 25 Miles away from my home. Last year i visited his home town and saw the house, where he lived but missed the memorial at the location where he was forced to commit suicide. He was loosely involved in the military resistance, a fact which boosts his popularity today. There are some TV-documentaries about his life and even a movie about his last months. So he can easily be regarded as the most famous german General today, others like von Manstein, Paulus, Guderian, Keitel or Jodl are only known to people with historical interest.

    He was a stubborn character and always tried to surprise and fool the enemy and even the german High Command, very untypical for a german General. But he benefits in great extend to it. Allied intelligence could read his orders from Berlin and their troops were prepared, but Rommel didn't care about his orders and often did the opposite and catched the Allies with their trousers down. And I'm sure, this was great fun for him.
     
  15. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    64
    Location:
    Istanbul Turkey
    E

    Either in Pacific or Mediterranean once any Allied bridgehead established was squashed enough , Allies poured through all firepower they had even at the risk of friendly fire casaulties to check enemy. That was their standart operational doctrine. (check out Operation Cobra in Normandy) And British by reading his mail also sunk most of his supply ships in Mediterranean during North African campaign. He never suspected it instead blaming Italians leaking information. Oh Rommel himself caught pants down in Normandy on June 1944 to celebrate his wife's birthday while window of oppurtunity for invasion was still open...

    Actually Von Rundstedt idea of stopping or at least stalling invasion was more credible. By making an elastic defence , retreat in a controlled step by step and retreating advancing in phases in interior of France Second Front could be very expensive for Allies. (Germans actually did that in 1918 exhausting Alled advance until November 1918 long enough for armistace and sparing German territory despite Allied manpower , material and air superiorty again back then) Instead Rommel's push of panzers for a counter attack close to sea and Hitler's "Stand or Die" orders doomed them. Instead for fighting in phase lines and defence lines they massed everything to Normandy and lost there.
     
  16. harolds

    harolds Member

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2011
    Messages:
    1,679
    Likes Received:
    276
    Merdiolu: Let's get the whole story out! Rommel went to Germany I believe, on June 4th because: His weather experts said the storm would be severe at which time the KM admiral on his staff (Ruge) stated that in such weather an attack would be highly unlikely. Therefore, Rommel went to Germany, not just to have a good time with his wife, but also to meet with Hitler in order to lobby for more troops. We know now that Eisenhower, with better weather forecasting facilities knew there would be a short break in the storm. Thus the famous decision by Ike.

    As far as him being foolhardy and impetuous: Sometimes yes. His risk taking on one occasion lapsed into just plain gambling but German officers and panzer generals in particular took risks if they thought they could win thereby. In fact, after the war Von Manstein made the comment that Germans were more prone to take risks than were people in other countries. If you guess right, you're an absolute military genius. If you're wrong, you are considered a dumb Sh#t. If you opt for safety your name is McClellan.
     
  17. m kenny

    m kenny Member

    Joined:
    May 26, 2003
    Messages:
    1,645
    Likes Received:
    225
    Rommel was reading the Allies mail. He knew exactly what they were going to do.
     
  18. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    22,310
    Likes Received:
    1,052
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    I recall it was Napoleon who asked about a General he was about to appoint to a special position that "Is he lucky,too?". I think this is a good question always although the luck has also something to do with several special qualities. For instance Paulus was a great staff officer but could not handle the fast changing situations and take the charge of orders by himself. Just my opinion.
     
  19. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

    Joined:
    Oct 14, 2007
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    64
    Location:
    Istanbul Turkey
    If he opted to believe reports of Kriegsmarine weather reports which long ceased to be accurate since loss of weather stations on Greenland and employed Ruge who did not do his homework about Allied amphibious capabilities or checked even simple things like moon tide bearings etc (simple conditions for a mass airborne naval amphibious operation ) or checked Allied record of landing even in turbulent weather and left his post despite all that it is Rommel's gaffe not anybody else's. Stop childish accusation of "you are no general" No but I did my military service and did academic study on military strategy. And read a lot on that regard. So mud slinging messenger would not do any good..
     
  20. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2002
    Messages:
    22,310
    Likes Received:
    1,052
    Location:
    Kotka,Finland
    I always thought Ike was taking a gamble. Not sure how long he thought about it in real life before saying " We´re going" but in the movies he seems to be taking a 50-50 risque at least. Maybe dramatized?

    Anyway, with the storm of 19th June if the Mulberry harbours had been lost would there have been a plan to send the needed supplies to troops by other means? Dakotas? Sinking ships to create more harbour area?
     

Share This Page