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"Rommel on the Russian Front?" Topic


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©1994-2019 Bill Armintrout
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Personal logo Editor in Chief Bill The Editor of TMP Fezian20 Feb 2019 7:11 p.m. PST

If General Rommel had been given command on the Russian Front, how much of a difference would it have made in the course of WWII?

28mm Fanatik20 Feb 2019 7:33 p.m. PST

It would have made little difference because the German failure on the Ostfront wasn't due to leadership. If Manstein couldn't turn their fortunes around Rommel wouldn't have been able to either.

Even if Hitler didn't interfere with his generals and insist that every German stand and fight to the last man, they would have lost anyway. It would have just taken a bit longer.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2019 8:23 p.m. PST

Rommel was notoriously indifferent to logistics.
Matters would have been worse for the Germans.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2019 9:46 p.m. PST

Hitler and the Nazis would still be in charge so it would have made no difference.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP20 Feb 2019 9:58 p.m. PST

"Rommel was notoriously indifferent to logistics."

Rommel in North Africa did an amazing job considering his lack of resources. The logistics problem had very little to do with him. His supplies were constantly being interdicted by the Allies. The blame is shared by Hitler, the Italian Navy, Malta, Bletchley Park and German intelligence failure to put two and two together.

Lee49421 Feb 2019 12:32 a.m. PST

Rommel was one of the most overated generals of WWII. There are many reasons for his early African victories, most of which were based on British failures of equipment leadership and tactics rather than any contributions Rommel made.

When those shortcomings were corrected by late 1942, Rommel never won another battle, unless you count Kasserine as his victory, again against a very inferior opponent in their first battle. He lost El Alamein, lost in Tunisia, made no contribution to the Italian Campaign and got soundly beaten in Normandy.

He became the darling of western press and historians after the war because of his supposed involvement in the July 20th plot which many now downplay. He was a mediocre general blessed with being in the right place and time to win some easy early war victories and then had the great good fortune to become a martyr when Hitler had him killed.

Bottom line any German forces he commanded in Russia would have failed as badly as those in Africa, Italy or Normandy that he commanded. What did Rommel ever really win?

Cheers!

Lee49421 Feb 2019 12:49 a.m. PST

Sorry. Can't stop gnawing this bone! The Germans knew he was a victim of his own self promotion. If he really was so good when he was whisked out of Africa to avoid that debacle why wasnt he given one of the armies at Kursk to command? Or top command in Italy? Noooo. When the allies invaded he wasn't given command he was again whisked away to Normandy where all the burnt out and battered units were sent to R&R. Why wasnt he given overall command in the West? The Germans put their good commanders in the thick of the fighting. By summer of 44 they just ran out of safe places to stash Rommel where he would be out of harms way. Ok. I'm done. Cheers!

langobard Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 2:14 a.m. PST

None.

Guderian, Hoth and Manstein all commanded far greater panzer forces that Rommel ever had, and all were sacked.

On the off chance that he managed to do anything notable on the Russian front, my feeling is that he would have done something that Hitler would have sacked him for, and probably sooner rather than later.

For commanders on the Russian front it was Hitlers way, or retirement. (If you were lucky you got promoted when you 'retired'…)

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 3:34 a.m. PST

You have to look at the facts.

The German army has only so many weeks of fuel reserves for full mobility of its Panzer force. The rest will march on foot or be pulled by horses and if lucky a few captured French trucks.

There aren't enough troops to completely fill out all three army groups and the overall reserve is minimal at best.

Conditions in the USSR are many times worse than they were in France or even Poland, in France about one in three roads is hardened, Poland is about one in five or worse, the USSR is about one in twenty and there is a difference between an unmetalled country road in France and a goat track somebody marked "road" in the USSR.

The Russian weather in the spring of 1941 is wet and miserable. Many roads are soggy at best.

The USSR has shown it is incredibly resilient and know how to patch many problems. Ditto for the Red Army, it's one thing to knock the stuffing out of an army in the middle of reorganizing with half of its equipment missing and taking on an army that is getting better month after month.

Now, which qualities would Rommel have, that would change the scenario ?

He cannot magically add fuel or conjure troops out of thin air, he can't really drive his army faster than they did in reality because the logistic train is already working at 110% capacity. The panzers must stop for fuel and ammo. And he can't go back in time to fix them and make them run forever without fuel and ammo.

He's not going to magically capture even more Soviet troops or say launch an earlier attack and ignore the conditions on the ground.

Halder, the chief of staff hated Rommel's guts, so even if Rommel agrees with Hitler to secure oil at the cost of everything else and even ignores the somewhat pressing need to destroy the Red Army in the field before even starting to claim the oil fields, he's going to find that all the troops are in Army Groups north and center to force him onto the Moscow strategy.

Interesting note : the fabled Moscow railroad nexus that would have crippled the USSR was already recognized as a major weakness in 1939 and works had been started to add several extra hubs and add bypasses around Moscow. Granted due to the war effort these were not ready until 1942 and really not fully operational until 1943 and by they they were not a critical need, but a handy bonus, but with the Germans knocking on the gates of Moscow, they could have had something operational in 1941. So Rommel driving into Moscow doesn't solve anything, it's a burden on logistics, but the Politburo simply moves to another city. If they could sacrifice Moscow in 1813, the survival of the motherland would mean tough luck to Moscow. Just like what was left of pre-Soviet Russian administration was bottled up in Leningrad and didn't stop the Soviets from fighting on.

You may be a genius, but if your hands are tied …

And then there is the 10,000 smuckaroon question : Why would Hitler promote a good, but not exceptional Division commander to head the invasion of the USSR, bypassing half the general staff, ignoring the guys with batons in favour of a guy who only became general and got a divisional command thanks to his connections to Hitler ?

I'd say you would have to change many more variables before the "Rommel factor" would actually turn the tide.

The Soviets understood very quickly that this was a life or death struggle, there would be no armistice and a watchful peace between two political systems who wanted nothing more than to throttle the other to death. Even a "knock out blow" or the removal of Stalin would not stop any attempts to continue the fight, the allies were ready to take on Germany without the USSR, it held on, so nothing changes much and the Germans still need to secure a huge country, wasting resources against what would be a resistance movement on a scale that would make Vietnam look like a garden party. The US were there to win hearts and minds, not murder everyone … That's the kind of motivation that gets your grandma out of her wheelchair and stab a guy in the eye with her knitting needles …

When people bring up the vast numbers of Red Soldiers being killed or captured in the Summer of 1941 they ignore two factors that are highly important later on. The first is that a huge number manage to escape the encirclement and the Germans not only had burned through their reserves in a matter of weeks, they had a heavy troop deficit at the beginning of 1942.

Rommel was a smart and capable general, but he couldn't change German industry, the size and conditions of the USSR, the resilience of the USSR and the Red Army or fix the inherent problems of trying to fight modern mechanized warfare on a scale that vastly exceeds all your oil production and reserves.

advocate21 Feb 2019 3:46 a.m. PST

PatrickR +1

Fred Cartwright21 Feb 2019 4:42 a.m. PST

He became the darling of western press and historians after the war because of his supposed involvement in the July 20th plot which many now downplay.

It got him killed so I will give him the benefit of the doubt on that one.
I find Rommel a difficult general to categorise. Looking at his battles I see moments of genius interspersed with odd W.T.F moments. Compared to his contemporaries like Monty, master of the set piece battle, but struggled with mobile warfare and Patton good at pursuing a defeated enemy, but when it came to the set piece battle, such as Metz, well out of his depth, I rate him quite highly. His eventual defeat at El Alemein was not of Rommel's choosing. When he failed to break through he wanted to withdraw, but Hitler would have none of it. He did his best to make the axis position formidable and it was a tough nut for Monty to crack, but the outcome was never in doubt.
When it comes to Normandy I have to disagree with Lee494. Without Rommel the Atlantic Wall would have been a paper tiger. It was Rommel who drove the construction of defences and beach obstacles. I also think his strategy of defeating the invasion on the beaches was the right one. He realised better than those generals who were used to Eastern front fighting the strength of allied air power which is why he wanted the Panzer divisions close. Subsequent events proved him right.

ScottWashburn Sponsoring Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 5:24 a.m. PST

I can't see Rommel having much effect if he were given a major command on the Eastern Front. But if he'd commanded a panzer corps during Barbarossa, who knows?

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 5:46 a.m. PST

Why is Rommel so complicated ?

https://youtu.be/Jw1UJCwcgNc

Legion 421 Feb 2019 7:07 a.m. PST

In the long run it would have made little difference. For the reasons many have already noted here. And others …

Fred Cartwright21 Feb 2019 7:17 a.m. PST

Patrick R that is a good summary. Well balanced.

28mm Fanatik21 Feb 2019 8:41 a.m. PST

It's easy to see in hindsight that invading Russia was one of the great blunders that's doomed from the very start, but at the time it was assumed that victory would be secured by the winter in a matter of months, thus rendering a protracted war which Germany had little hopes of winning moot.

Hitler and many of his generals underestimated the Russian will in their mistaken belief that all it will take was a "swift kick in the door for the whole rotten edifice to crumble." Their misguided faith in the superiority of the Aryan fighting man over the barbarians can lead to no other "logical" conclusion.

The problem wasn't the generals; it was this underlying belief based on an irrationally optimistic outlook on their perceived racial superiority (and the slavs' inferiority) that proved to be their undoing.

donlowry21 Feb 2019 9:37 a.m. PST

He would probably have made a pretty good corps commander. But that's about it.

Blutarski21 Feb 2019 9:55 a.m. PST

"A pretty good corps commander"? LOL. I'll need to re-check how he performed in that North African campaign where he gave the British Army all they could handle for a year and a half with inferior numbers, contested airspace overhead, a compromised line of supply, divided command problems and general disinterest on the part of his superiors.

Frankly, if I was ever searching for a commander capable of producing important results with a shoestring military force, Erwin would be pretty high on my list of candidates.

Just a run of the mill soldier? Hah!


B

28mm Fanatik21 Feb 2019 10:31 a.m. PST

Fred and Blutarski are quite correct. One thing ER was very good at compared to his peers is the ability to inspire his men to great feats and go "above and beyond" the call of duty. In addition to his tactical acumen and bravery (he liked to put himself in danger and lead from the front like a company or platoon leader), he possessed a certain charisma and charm beloved by his men. Being from more humble stock, he wasn't the typical "arrogant and aloof" Prussian aristocrat general, which only further identified him with those who served under him.

And the British respected him not only for his genius but because he's a great sportsman and a gentleman who's always fair and played by the rules. While It's popular to dismiss his successes in N. Africa and attribute them to incompetence in the pre-Monty British high command, let us not forget that such "incompetencies" had little trouble dealing with the Italians before Rommel came along.

Alas, all this wouldn't have made a difference on the Eastern Front.

Personal logo Bobgnar Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 1:20 p.m. PST

By 1943, the Germans were running out of their secret weapon, Pervitin, so no general would have made a difference.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 2:56 p.m. PST

It's easy to see in hindsight that invading Russia was one of the great blunders that's doomed from the very start, but at the time it was assumed that victory would be secured by the winter in a matter of months, thus rendering a protracted war which Germany had little hopes of winning moot.

I assume they had books in 1941. They could simply look up the dates 1709 and 1812.

Warfare might have changed but the russian
psyche haden't. And it never Will.

Fred Cartwright21 Feb 2019 3:15 p.m. PST

I assume they had books in 1941. They could simply look up the dates 1709 and 1812

To be fair the Russians had been knocked out of WW1 and the Poles defeated them in 1921 so they weren't invincible by any means.

Mark 121 Feb 2019 3:24 p.m. PST

"Rommel was notoriously indifferent to logistics."

Rommel in North Africa did an amazing job considering his lack of resources. The logistics problem had very little to do with him.


I agree with Winston – Rommel was indeed indifferent to logistics.

Every time he charged into Egypt he ran out of supplies. After the second time, don't you think YOU would have paid attention to the supply constraints?

With his army in Eqypt, 2 out of every 3 gallons (litres, barrels) of fuel were expended transporting the 3rd gallon (litre, etc.) to the troops.

When you are a division commander you can be forgiven for running past the end of your supply line's ability to support you. You shout and hold your breath until you turn blue to get more supplies from your higher ups.

When you are an army commander? Not so much. If you command an army, or in fact the ground forces in a whole theater of operations, you BUILD THE INFRASTRUCTURE to move your supplies, you don't just moan and groan about it.

Rommel focused his creativity on tactics and operational maneuver. He was indifferent to logistics, and repeatedly stumbled on just that issue.

"A pretty good corps commander"

LOL. I'll need to re-check how he performed in that North African campaign where he gave the British Army all they could handle for a year and a half with inferior numbers, contested airspace overhead, a compromised line of supply, divided command problems and general disinterest on the part of his superiors.

I'm with donlowry on this one.

He WAS a pretty good corps commander. I would even preface that with the opinion that he was an inspired division commander (he actions in France in 1940 are really very impressive on the whole).

An inspired division commander. An pretty good corps commander. A disappointing army commander. Put him in charge of the largest theater of warfare in history, with multiple army groups (3 at least, and at times several more) and I predict he would be an abject failure.

It wasn't his gig. He was a tactician. He was a combat leader. Take away his ability to go forward and insert himself at the point of decision, and his primary role is PR. His history shows little of the organizational skills to coordinate multiple corps or armies in action, much less army groups. His history shows little of the diplomatic skills to ensure cooperation with other branches of service (relied on Kesslering for most of that), cooperation with allies (just look at how the Italians saw him), and "management" of his political superiors. In fact he was somewhat reckless on this last point, seeming to delight in extending himself past the comfort zones of his higher-ups and confronting them with the need to support him past their intentions, or see his forces fail. Again, that may make you a stand-out division commander (as your corps or army or army group HQ actually HAS some resources to toss your way to pull your impetuous backside off of the BBQ), but when you command multiple army groups you can't just go daring your masters to toss you a bigger piece of the pie.

In addition to his tactical acumen and bravery (he liked to put himself in danger and lead from the front like a company or platoon leader), he possessed a certain charisma and charm beloved by his men.

Don't dispute any of this statement. But the first part of this statement really hits the nail on the head -- these are the characteristics of a combat leader, not the leader of a theater of warfare. Inspiring the men is always good. Even in the highest levels of leadership, a general who generates confidence and loyalty among the troops is always a positive factor. But a man who's most important contributions come at the front, at the point of decision, CAN NOT command multiple army groups. He can't even effectively command an army, as any reading of the campaign details from Rommel's staff in North Africa will tell. He was OUT OF OFFICE, IN TRANSIT, INCOMMUNICADO on many occasions when key decisions needed to be made. Most often he was at the front, or on his way to the front, not because he didn't have very competent captains and colonels at the front, but because he could not resist being in the action. To his credit he had a strong staff that was not afraid to act on his behalf, but by the end of the North African campaign he was little more than a PR figure, because he didn't know how to lead an army-sized formation in combat.

Would he have made a difference? I think so! Put him in charge of the Eastern Front and the Axis effort would have collapsed sooner -- how much sooner I can hardly guess, but sooner. In fact he probably would have suffered one substantial campaign defeat (due to poor logistical planning and coordination) and then been replaced. But one lost campaign would have probably shortened things up -- a bit.

At least that's my reading.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Fred Cartwright21 Feb 2019 4:06 p.m. PST

At least that's my reading.

I think you need to do a bit more reading Mark.

When you are an army commander? Not so much. If you command an army, or in fact the ground forces in a whole theater of operations, you BUILD THE INFRASTRUCTURE to move your supplies, you don't just moan and groan about it.

When in Africa was he in command of a whole theatre of operations? Answers on a postcard please!

Bill N21 Feb 2019 6:03 p.m. PST

If the goal is to win in North Africa, capturing Alexandria is the first critical step. If Alexandria remains in British hands the Axis is simply fighting a war of attrition over sand. Given the resources each side could contribute that is a campaign the Axis was likely to eventually lose. It seems clear now that the British army wasn't battered enough after Tobruk and they had enough additional resources they could commit so that Rommel's race eastward was a bigger gamble than he thought. However the alternative would have meant facing a rebuilt British army.

Blutarski21 Feb 2019 7:05 p.m. PST

Very interesting essay on 8th Army in NAfrica here – PDF link

B

Lee49421 Feb 2019 7:22 p.m. PST

Alas the Rommel Legend is still going strong 75 years later! Cheers!

Twilight Samurai Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 8:11 p.m. PST

A better question would be, what if Conan had been given command on the Russian front?

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP21 Feb 2019 8:18 p.m. PST

I love people who quote 1812 when evaluating the Russian campaign when in 1918 the Germans defeated Russia while engaged on two fronts. Yes, this is due to the Revolution, but the Revolution's catalyst was the war, and nations forget very quickly why they win if they win.

The most recent German memory was a victorious one. That had to color the thoughts of the Generals. At the time of the Russian Invasion, France was defeated, Italy an ally, and Britain effectively bottled up. The Germans were overconfident, but failure in Russia was not a sure thing if they could have won quickly, which they clearly did not.

No one predicted the Fall of France until it happened. The Germans believed they could have won, and with a few lucky breaks they just may have been able to pull it off.

Stalin was no Alexander. The Soviet reaction to losing Moscow cannot be known in hindsight as it is possible that it could have gone either way. We will never know.

Rommel was a risk taker. Under the right circumstances, that pays off, but unless you win, it eventually catches up to you.

Rommel at the outset of Russia or in 1942 might have pulled off amazing feats, but Rommel 1943 and beyond would have just been one more German general in the grinder.

Practically, however, it is very likely he would have had little effect at all.

Cuprum21 Feb 2019 9:29 p.m. PST

In my opinion, one cannot regard Russia's withdrawal from the First World War as a pure victory for Germany. Russia was pregnant with a revolution a long time ago. The first all-Russian uprising happened back in 1905. It was crushed, but the problem was not solved. She just swept under the carpet. At the first serious voltage the flame flashed again. And this time the discontented people were already armed and had experience of war.

Fred Cartwright22 Feb 2019 2:25 a.m. PST

Alas the Rommel Legend is still going strong 75 years later! Cheers!

All the legends are. A lot of people still think Patton was a great general!

Keith Talent22 Feb 2019 2:32 a.m. PST

"When in Africa was he in command of a whole theatre of operations? Answers on a postcard please!"

Ummmm he was in command of all ground troops in NA after February 43 when Armeegruppe Afrika was formed…prior to that he had always been theoretically subordinate to the Italians.

He was one of the outstanding divisional commanders of the war, but wouldn't have made any impact in Russia.
Total war in the largest military campaign in history wasn't about good or bad generals anyway, lets say he (or anyone else) was a total genius at army level command, it would have made no difference whatsoever in Russia

Yankees Supporting Member of TMP22 Feb 2019 6:11 a.m. PST

The Germans had the American diplomatic codes that where stolen from the Egyptian embassy before the American entered the war. The British where giving all there military information to the Americans, unit sizes, supply, battle plans because we where going to enter the war. this info went straight to Rommel, he new everything (He was not a Fox). The British keep telling them to change the codes. The Americans once they entered the war still did not change them. Finally before El Alamein they did.

Rommel was blind and was basically destroyed.

Russian front. He would have been destroyed, or sacked.

Fred Cartwright22 Feb 2019 6:23 a.m. PST

Ummmm he was in command of all ground troops in NA after February 43 when Armeegruppe Afrika was formed…prior to that he had always been theoretically subordinate to the Italians.

Exactly so. Italian control was a bit more than theoretical. The logistics and substantial forces were under direct Italian control. By the time he had full control of all forces they were back in Tunisia and logistics was not an issue, at least as far as the army was concerned, as whatever they could get across was easy to distribute to the units. At no time was he in control of the whole theatre, that was Kesselring's job.

Legion 422 Feb 2019 7:17 a.m. PST

Alas the Rommel Legend is still going strong 75 years later!
Yes as noted so does Patton's and even Monty's !

A better question would be, what if Conan had been given command on the Russian front?
Nah … he had no experience in leading large numbers of troops. Or knowledge about combined arms warfare …

Blutarski22 Feb 2019 7:40 a.m. PST

Yankees wrote -
"The Germans had the American diplomatic codes that where stolen from the Egyptian embassy before the American entered the war. The British where giving all there military information to the Americans, unit sizes, supply, battle plans because we where going to enter the war. this info went straight to Rommel, he new everything (He was not a Fox). The British keep telling them to change the codes. The Americans once they entered the war still did not change them. Finally before El Alamein they did.
Rommel was blind and was basically destroyed."

The interesting thing is that Rommel's supply situation in the first half of 1942 was actually quite good. The logistical problems facing Rommel after Gazala arose from a combination of factors. Withdrawal of LW air strength from the Med theater plus British ability to read the Axis mail combined to make possible a highly effective interdiction of Rommel's supply line.

Was Rommel a compulsively rash gambler who paid no attention to his logistical situation? Or did he just have a talent for pushing his men to go the extra kilometer? I don't consider that the "rashness" case really stands up to objective scrutiny. These sorts of issues involve a very large number of moving parts.

Strictly my opinion, of course.

B

Blutarski22 Feb 2019 8:16 a.m. PST

From Michael Carver's "El Alamein"

"His (i.e., Rommel's) one doubt was supply, above all petrol. The ability to press on the first morning, to force a mobile battle on the enemy and to exploit the confusion he would cause rested on petrol and the assurance of its supply until he reached the British forward base.

There was no sign of the arrival of the petrol Rommel needed. As he saw time slipping away his anxiety aggravated his already poor state of health. On August 22nd, Rommel represented to von Rintelen the minimum demands which he said were essential if he were to launch the attack (i.e., Alam Halfa), which could not be postponed beyond the end of the month. These included the assurance of certain minimum stocks of petrol and ammunition, the latter to be at least four days' supply, over and above that held by units. On the 27th, when the full moon had already arrived, Kesselring flew to see him. Rommel's complaints were bitter. In the end he extracted a promise from his superior that in a situation of extreme crisis Kesselring would send over 500 tons a day by air.

As the last days of the month went by and the moon began to wane, there was no sign of the petrol or the ammunition which Comando Supremo had promised. Rommel knew that, if he did not attack, all his hopes of defeating 8th Army, and indeed his chances of avoiding defeat himself, would pass.

<<<snip>>>

In response to a final desperate plea from Rommel, Cavallero informed him on August 30th that tankers full of petrol would arrive under escort at Tobruk and Benghazi within a few hours, at the latest on the next day. That day also Kesselring transferred to Rommel 1,500 tons of Air Force petrol. This gave him his four days' supply in addition to the two or three days' supply with units. Certain of only a week's petrol, but with the somewhat slender assurance of more in the offing, Rommel gave the order for the attack. The die was cast. Everything he had was at stake."

> Blutarski note about 60pct of Cavallero's promised petrol delivery was sunk en route.

B

28mm Fanatik22 Feb 2019 9:26 a.m. PST

so does Patton's and even Monty's!

I would say Rommel and Patton more so than Montgomery. Monty has a lot of fans in England of course, but his cautiousness and meticulousness aren't exactly considered to be exciting or interesting attributes.

Posterity seems to be kinder to the daring and bold risk-takers who often "disregard" logistics and throw caution to the wind. Rommel and Patton represent this breed. "He who dares, wins" and "Fortune favors the bold" as they say.

Lee49422 Feb 2019 11:17 a.m. PST

Fred. Re Patton. At least George C Scott did a "great" portrayal! Cheers!

Mark 122 Feb 2019 1:03 p.m. PST

When you are an army commander? Not so much. If you command an army, or in fact the ground forces in a whole theater of operations, you BUILD THE INFRASTRUCTURE to move your supplies, you don't just moan and groan about it.

When in Africa was he in command of a whole theatre of operations? Answers on a postcard please!


OK. Fred, that is an interesting position.

Are you saying that Rommel was not the de facto commander of Axis ground forces in North Africa from 1941 to 1943? That your readings have brought you to the conclusion that it was in fact the Italians who gave the British fits in North Africa for 2 1/2 years?

I await the analysis that leads you to that conclusion with baited breath.

-Mark
(aka: Mk 1)

Silurian22 Feb 2019 3:25 p.m. PST

I think Rommel was certainly too rash, and gave insufficient thought to logistics until he absolutely had to.

His first attacks on Tobruk in 1941 were hasty and repelled. His dashes for the wire were impulsive and lacking recce, so failed. He very nearly, and stupidly, got himself and his staff captured. At this point his supply situation was still pretty good he didn't take time to secure some significant British dumps, and air support was as least on a par with the British.
He may even have won 1st Alamein with a little more recce.

This is not to say he wasn't a really good general with some inspired successes (coming back from El Agheila); held in awe by friends and foe (though quite aloof unlike Monty, according to some accounts). But he's a bit overrated in my opinion.

Maybe that impulsiveness could have taken Stalingrad?

Lion in the Stars22 Feb 2019 3:54 p.m. PST

I don't think any tactical or operational genius could have won in Russia, the problems were strategic and political.

The Army equivalent of Admiral Yi Sun Sin ( link ) couldn't pull that miracle off!

Fred Cartwright22 Feb 2019 4:17 p.m. PST

I await the analysis that leads you to that conclusion with baited breath.

It is quite simple really Mark. Let's take Op Crusader for an example. For that battle Rommel was in command of Panzergruppe Afrika, with 15th and 21st Panzer, 90th Light and the Italian 55th ID. Under direct Italian command were the Italian XX and XXI Corps, which included all the Italian Armoured and motorised divisions! While at times he exercised operational control of Italian divisions, they were not subordinated to him on a permanent basis. What he never had control of was the logistics train which depended on Italian shipping and Italian trucks. When faced with a British Offensive Rommel didn't have the luxury of sitting and waiting until his supply situation improved he needed to use the fuel and ammunition to give him operational manoeuvre freedom to oppose it. So the Rommel called all the shots and cared nothing for logistics is a rather simplistic view. In fact the axis never got to grips with the supply situation in the med. The Italians were chronically short of fuel and Hitler wasn't interested in helping them from German supplies.

Blutarski22 Feb 2019 5:46 p.m. PST

General Ettore Bastico was technically Rommel's boss from July of 1941.

B

28mm Fanatik22 Feb 2019 11:02 p.m. PST

Logistics and supply had always been a problem for Rommel because North Africa was a sideshow to Hitler and never a high priority. Rommel first appealed to Kesselring (who was sympathetic but couldn't do anything) then had to fly to Berlin to plead his case with Hitler personally. Hitler would listen, pat him on the back for doing a good job and promise more supplies which never materialized.

Legion 423 Feb 2019 8:15 a.m. PST

Monty has a lot of fans in England of course, but his cautiousness and meticulousness aren't exactly considered to be exciting or interesting attributes.
Yes, that is true and with all from the UK on TMP. I thought it was worth mentioning. But yes Monty was much more measured, and a little more old school in some situations, etc. But as we see, he generally got it done.

At least George C Scott did a "great" portrayal!
He was a better Patton than Patton !

Logistics and supply had always been a problem for Rommel because North Africa was a sideshow to Hitler and never a high priority.
"Amateurs study tactics, Professionals study Logistics" … But like many on many fronts, e.g. Slim in the CBI, you do what you have to do with what you have on hand.

But as we know in the long run logistics is the critical factor in being successful. E.g. the WWII IJFs, in the PTO, their motivation, spirit, willingness to die for the Emperor, etc. could only go so far. Their logistics had to have been some of the worst in WWII.

donlowry23 Feb 2019 9:57 a.m. PST

The question didn't specify at what level Rommel would be inserted into the Russian Front. The idea of him commanding the whole front is fantasy -- Hitler did that himself!

I don't think being a "pretty good corps commander" is an insult. Yes, he was a very good division commander, but as Mark said, his forte` was leading from the front, improvising, pushing the extra mile(s). Kick him up to army or army-group level and he has to be more of a planner, less of an improviser. Maybe he could have been another Manstein, but we'll never know for sure.

Murvihill24 Feb 2019 5:59 a.m. PST

The myth is that the British inflated Rommel's reputation to excuse their performance in the desert. So which is true, was the Eighth Army competent but outfoxed by a superior general or was it a bunch or rank amateurs playing at war until Monty came along? The intelligence excuse doesn't wash, both sides were reading each other's mail. Knowing what the enemy is doing and taking advantage of that knowledge are two different things.
As far as Russia, I agree that Rommel would have been given a corps at first, probably ended up with an army. My prediction: While the tactical narrative would have been different the end result would not.

Lee49424 Feb 2019 6:59 a.m. PST

Not to be harsh but unless you were a theater commander like Eisenhower, as a simple army commander however great or terrible you were might influence a battle but was not going to affect the outcome of the war. Look at Percival and Singapore or MacArthur and the Philippines (1942), neither affected the outcome of the war. So Rommel as an Army or even Army Group Commander in Russia maybe wins you a few more defensive victories. But doesnt alter the outcome.

And again if Rommel was so great and could do so much with so little why didn't he beat the Allies in Normandy? If you say its because the Germans were so outnumbered that just proves my point about how many factors besides generalship determine outcomes. If you say it's because he was overated then why would you expect any better on the Russian Front?

QED. Cheers!

Fred Cartwright24 Feb 2019 11:11 a.m. PST

Not to be harsh but unless you were a theater commander like Eisenhower,

If you are a theatre commander like Eisenhower don't think you would have much influence on the outcome of the war either! :-)

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