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View Full Version : Who was the best Nazi/German general during WWII?



jhvehicle
07-06-2015, 09:51 PM
I think it would be either Erwin Rommel or Fedor von Bock.
Erwin Rommel because he was an amazing desert warfare general and almost stopped the Allies during the D-day invasion. Fedor because he almost defeated the Russians but Hitler made his tanks go to Kiev.
But my ultimate choice would have to be Rommel.

flamethrowerguy
07-07-2015, 02:48 AM
Spooky...

JR*
07-07-2015, 07:02 AM
Do I detect Deletions ? Yours from the Stygian Depths, JR.

tankgeezer
07-07-2015, 10:01 AM
Mr. Vehicle is another Spammer, we seem to be attracting this sort of late. Soon as they are noticed, we send them to the depths you mentioned.

JR*
07-07-2015, 10:50 AM
Thanks for the explanation, tankgeezer. Just sorry that my post went with it. This was a pretty silly thread proposition - but it might have been a bit of fun, minus Chinese pumps ... JR.

imi
07-07-2015, 02:10 PM
Goering, Guderian, Gille, Rommel, Keitel but many of them was the best

Nickdfresh
07-07-2015, 08:37 PM
Do I detect Deletions ? Yours from the Stygian Depths, JR.

Nein! No deletions...

tankgeezer
07-08-2015, 12:50 PM
Sometimes, the entire thread started by a spammer is removed as part of the banning process. Individual spam, or troll posts are deleted, while leaving the rest of an otherwise legitimate thread intact. In the case of this thread, only the spammer has been given the Hammer.

aly j
08-15-2015, 04:47 AM
Rommel.

He was against hitlers policies of hating jews and killing jew british soldiers but was a true German nationalists and was only fighting for Germany, not hitler.

Also he saved a British Soldier from certain death- he went against Hitler's orders of killing captured jewish british soldiers.

Rising Sun*
08-15-2015, 11:41 AM
Rommel.

He was against hitlers policies of hating jews and killing jew british soldiers but was a true German nationalists and was only fighting for Germany, not hitler.

Also he saved a British Soldier from certain death- he went against Hitler's orders of killing captured jewish british soldiers.

Panicked at Arras in May 1940 and vastly overestimated British forces against him and therefore stalled his advance, aiding British evacuation from Dunkirk.

Lost in North Africa March 1943.

Lost Atlantic Wall defence 1944, which opened way for Western advance to Berlin and eventual Western defeat of Germany.

Hardly the greatest commander Germany had.

Reminds me of a comment attributed to Paul McCartney when asked if Ringo was the best rock and roll drummer in the world. McCartney replied "He's not even the best drummer in the Beatles."

Rommel certainly did well in many battles but, judged against many other German commanders engaged in much larger campaigns, his military significance was fairly minor compared with his exaggerated public profile. Rather like MacArthur on the Allied side.

leccy
08-16-2015, 06:58 AM
Panicked at Arras in May 1940 and vastly overestimated British forces against him and therefore stalled his advance, aiding British evacuation from Dunkirk.

Lost in North Africa March 1943.

Lost Atlantic Wall defence 1944, which opened way for Western advance to Berlin and eventual Western defeat of Germany.

Hardly the greatest commander Germany had.

Reminds me of a comment attributed to Paul McCartney when asked if Ringo was the best rock and roll drummer in the world. McCartney replied "He's not even the best drummer in the Beatles."

Rommel certainly did well in many battles but, judged against many other German commanders engaged in much larger campaigns, his military significance was fairly minor compared with his exaggerated public profile. Rather like MacArthur on the Allied side.

Not just panicked at Arra's but by over-estimating the British force he caused several German Armoured Divs to be re-directed to deal with the new threat. This was the period of the first German halt and allowed the Allies to prepare defences to face the Germans at the ports - (reporting he was under attack by several British Armoured Divs when in fact it was a very weak Armoured Brigade lacking artillery and infantry - coupled with Britain only had one Armoured Div at the time at that did not land in Normandy until the day after the Arras battle).

The constant daring and being at the front meant he was often out of contact with his higher HQ's, his successes were more to do with his HQ Staffs work than his own once battle was joined as he was too busy being at the front and controlling at a more local level.

His early victories and the German cult of personality/heroes meant he was attributed with major victories (which were in themselves not ones) and so increased the thoughts of many that he was unbeatable and could do anything with nothing - part of the reason he was not given as much aid as he wished or really needed - 'he always said a task was impossible then did it (more due to allied fatigue and incompetence than his own brilliance).

Many forget he was beaten in 1941, 1942 and 1943 after panicking in 1940 - there were many German Generals who were militarily more capable than Rommel.

Rising Sun*
08-16-2015, 12:27 PM
His early victories and the German cult of personality/heroes meant he was attributed with major victories (which were in themselves not ones) and so increased the thoughts of many that he was unbeatable and could do anything with nothing - part of the reason he was not given as much aid as he wished or really needed - 'he always said a task was impossible then did it (more due to allied fatigue and incompetence than his own brilliance).

I wouldn't limit cult of personality to Germany.

MacArthur and his sycophantic cabal elevated it almost to a science, albeit a disgraceful one frequently devoid and at times quite the opposite of any factual basis. Unlike Rommel, MacArthur often did little with the relative bounty he was given, from losing his excellent bomber force on the ground in the Philippines at the start of the war to nearly losing Papua New Guinea in 1942 by, unlike Rommel, never getting with even a few thousand miles of his topographically and meteorologically unique battle front and therefore completely failing to understand the extraordinary problems facing his ground and air forces in the terrible terrain and weather conditions which hampered ground and air operations.

MacArthur was probably the least significant, least successful, least competent, most demanding in the sense of wanting more troops and resources, and most whining Allied theatre commander in WWII judged on any military basis. He was also the most shameless, dishonest and outstandingly successful self-promoter with probably the best personal propaganda machine outside Germany. Apart from Eisenhower, MacArthur (who detested Eisenhower from Eisenhower’s prior service under MacArthur, which detestation was fully reciprocated by Eisenhower) was by far the best popularly known theatre commander thanks to his remorseless personal propaganda campaign, which in part was aimed at securing nomination for a tilt at the US Presidency. Admirals King and Nimitz, and especially King, are far less well known publicly but did vastly more to win the Pacific war than MacArthur ever did, especially in the crucial years of 1942 to early 1943 when MacArthur was deluding himself that he was about to make a decisive thrust into distant, impregnable and strategically fairly unimportant Japanese held Rabaul and therefore idiotically denying forces and resources to his only battle front in Papua New Guinea. He went close to losing Papua New Guinea because of his continuing incompetence but was rescued from another major defeat largely by the Japanese diverting forces and resources to Guadalcanal in Nimitz’s theatre of operations and as a consequence of Nimitz’s naval operations in the Coral Sea, at Midway and more locally in more minor operations.

I don't know whether Rommel's popular fame comes from self-promotion like MacArthur or from Gemany's propaganda machine fastening upon him, but of the two Rommel was by far the better and much more deserving of his popular reputation.

The problem with popularly well-known commanders such as Rommel, MacArthur and Patton is that their colourful characters and popularised presentations are mistaken by an uninformed public for outstanding military ability when really they were at best highly competent and notably successful at times and at worst not very good (which can apply to even the best commanders) or, certainly in MacArthur’s case, even utterly useless at critical points and periods. The latter is less true of Patton compared with the failures of Rommel and MacArthur, but he was fighting when the odds were much more in his favour. O’Connor was at least as good in North Africa as Rommel was, but his name means nothing to the public educated by Hollywood films and journalists of limited knowledge spouting the usual uninformed and unanalysed fictions about Rommel, MacArthur, and Patton.

As for Rommel "doing anything with nothing", no Western force went close to the Japanese for really doing quite a lot with not a lot. From ancient memory, the comparative tonnage scales to support ?1,000? troops in the field in Papua New Guinea in 1942 were 4 tons for the Japanese, 19 tons for the Australians and, not surprisingly, considerably more for the Americans. Similarly, General Yamashita declined the offer of at least one (?two? my memory is getting steadily worse) extra division(s) in planning his Malayan campaign, partly because he correctly recognised that the logistical burdens and difficulties would be unacceptable – he was better off with a well supplied smaller force than a poorly supplied larger one.

I don’t know enough about all the commanders in the vast campaigns in Europe, particularly eastern Europe, to pick the best, but in the Pacific War the best land commanders at divisional level and above in the early phase were all Japanese. I’d back any of them against Rommel and MacArthur in any half way equal contest at the time, as indeed the Japanese thrashed an arrogant, over-confident, bombastic and unforgivably ill-prepared MacArthur in the Philippines in the real war and damaged his forces in Papua New Guinea 1942-43 far more than would have been the case had MacArthur been a competent commander focused purely on his battle fronts instead of being more a show pony publicity hound aiming to compensate for his loss of the Philippines by an impossible invasion of Rabaul.

JR*
08-20-2015, 07:38 AM
;)What about -

Top strategist - Manstein

Top Staff Tactician - Halder

Top Army level commander - Runstedt

Top Staff/Logistical commander - Runstedt

Top Defensive Scrapper in Helpful Terrain - Kesselring

Top Defensive Scrapper in Not-Necessarily-Helpful Terrain - Model

Houdini Award (for breakout/escape experts) - shared between Rendulic and Gille

Special Award for Waffen-SS mass murderers - Dirlewanger (Special Mention - Stroop)

Special Mention for Hiding in Giant Concrete Bunkers - shared by Keitel and Jodl.

Best regards, JR.

Nickdfresh
08-22-2015, 07:30 AM
...
Special Mention for Hiding in Giant Concrete Bunkers - shared by Keitel and Jodl.

Best regards, JR.

:mrgreen:

Wasn't Keitel "the grave digger of the German Heer?"

Rising Sun*
08-22-2015, 12:40 PM
The problem with these "best" threads is that there is no correct or definitive answer. One might as well ask "Who was the best rock band in the [insert era]" or "What is the best film ever made."?"

A further problem in the military sphere is that one has to determine the criteria for "best".

Does "best" mean most successful in battle, campaign, or war? Or something else, such as not pointlessly sacrificing troops in a lost cause?

Does "best" allow for surrounding factors such as logistics, relative strength of enemy forces, political support for the general or his campaign, and other factors bearing on performance?

Do we look only at wins, or successful losses?

Putting some of these things together, Montgomery could be seen as a very much better general in France in 1940 in withdrawing his formation relatively intact under intense German pressure than Rommel was in failing to continue the pressure he had with Germany's many advantages when Rommel stalled because he exaggerated the British forces he thought were against him.

Situations reversed, Rommel might be seen as doing rather better in 2nd el Alamein with significantly inferior forces to Montgomery. Or Rommel could just be absolved of responsibility, given that he was in Germany for medical treatment for a month before the campaign began and he returned only after it started.

Similarly, Rommel was in Germany on leave on D Day, with his commanders on the Atlantic Wall having failed to implement his orders for strengthened defences which certainly would have made the Allies' assault more costly, although not necessarily unsuccessful.

While Rommel probably shouldn't be blamed for what happened in North Africa while he was in Germany, he is certainly responsible for the failure of his subordinate generals to implement his orders for defence of the Atlantic Wall. The latter failures reflect directly upon him as a commander (as do MacArthur's even more egregious failures in the Philippines but which, thanks to MacArthur's personal publicity machine; a wartime public desperate for positive responses to Japan's seemingly unstoppable advances; and subsequent uncritical popular acceptance of the MacArthurian bullshit from this era) and undermine the uninformed popular perception of Rommel (and MacArthur) as exceptionally competent and successful commanders.

The end result is that if we take Rommel as but one example of a German commander supposedly the best, he is as flawed as the worst on any side at times. And without a win in any of the major campaigns in which he commanded, being France in 1940 when he had all the advantages; North Africa subsequently; and D-Day 1944.

A professional boxer with a similar record of three losses in his only three major bouts wouldn't win a belt. And neither should Rommel.

Doesn't mean Rommel wasn't a great fighter, but he wasn't the world champion either.

Frankly Dude Really
08-31-2015, 07:20 AM
TDo we look only at wins, or successful losses?

Putting some of these things together, Montgomery could be seen as a very much better general in France in 1940 in withdrawing his formation relatively intact under intense German pressure than Rommel was in failing to continue the pressure



oh please... (successful losses...lol)

Frankly Dude Really
08-31-2015, 07:24 AM
Putting some of these things together, Montgomery could be seen as a very much better general in France in 1940 in withdrawing ...
...
The end result is that if we take Rommel as but one example of a German commander supposedly the best, he is as flawed as the worst on any side at times. And without a win in any of the major campaigns in which he commanded,

So subconsciously you are telling us MONTGOMMERY IS THE BEST ????


oh, please...

JR*
08-31-2015, 08:55 AM
"Successful losses" - an interesting concept, and not a simple one. What we are really talking about here is (relatively) successful damage limitation exercises. Since we are speaking of German commanders - some of them were given ample opportunities to display their talents in this direction, owing to the progressively disastrous course of Germany's war, complicated by capricious interference from "supreme warlord" Hitler. In this context, the ability to "fail successfully" could be useful, at least as long as the general in question did not get into trouble through their own fault. Hence my "nomination" for Gille and Rendulic; Their efforts helped ensure that potential wipe-out disasters were substantially moderated - surely worthwhile achievements in the context of the overall disaster. Somewhat reluctant to get further into the controversial "Rommel question" here, but it is worth noting that the "Desert Fox" would not have featured in any table of "Houdini Awards". Rising Sun* is quite right - there can be no definitive list of "the best"; it will always be a matter of opinion. Still ... fun to play ! Yours from Keitel's Bunker, JR.

Rising Sun*
08-31-2015, 09:31 AM
oh please... (successful losses...lol)

Have it your way.

Montgomery getting his formation relatively intact out of France in 1940 was a catastrophic failure.

Given that, could you explain how Montgomery and his formation being captured intact by the Germans would have had absolutely no effect on Britain's subsequent conduct of its war in the next year and a half while Britain and its Commonwealth alone fought the Germans?

Then could you explain how, for example:
1. Germany losing the Battle of the Atlantic had absolutely no impact on Britain's, and its later Allies America and the USSR, ability to wage war against Germany.
2. America's failure to win the Battle of the Coral Sea was completely unimportant in stemming Japan's advance and had no bearing on America's subsequent victories at Midway and on Guadalcanal, and the Allies repelling Japan from Papua New Guinea.
3. How the defeated Netherlands getting its merchant and submarine fleets out of the Netherlands East Indies, not unlike Montgomery getting his formation out of France, contributed nothing to the Allied campaign against Japan, especially in the crucial period 1942-43?

Rising Sun*
08-31-2015, 09:54 AM
So subconsciously you are telling us MONTGOMMERY IS THE BEST ????


oh, please...


If you're going to quote or challenge my posts, at least do it in context and don't corrupt it by leaving out vast slabs of relevant text to suit your facile and uninformative "oh please" / "lol" comments.


[Originally Posted by Rising Sun*]

Do we look only at wins, or successful losses?

Putting some of these things together, Montgomery could be seen as a very much better general in France in 1940 in withdrawing his formation relatively intact under intense German pressure than Rommel was in failing to continue the pressure he had with Germany's many advantages when Rommel stalled because he exaggerated the British forces he thought were against him.

Situations reversed, Rommel might be seen as doing rather better in 2nd el Alamein with significantly inferior forces to Montgomery.

Your two posts contribute only "oh, please" twice; one "lol"; and a demonstrably idiotic comment about my subconscious preference for Montgomery when I contrasted his performance in France favourably against Rommel and the reverse at 2nd el Alamein.

Your silly comments fall a long way short of useful contributions to a serious discussion, about anything.

How about addressing the questions in my last post to demonstrate your ability to make informed analysis rather than empty and pointless comments which are better suited to a grade school Facebook comment than a military history forum?

leccy
08-31-2015, 09:59 AM
Putting some of these things together, Montgomery could be seen as a very much better general in France in 1940 in withdrawing his formation relatively intact under intense German pressure than Rommel was in failing to continue the pressure he had with Germany's many advantages when Rommel stalled because he exaggerated the British forces he thought were against him.

Situations reversed, Rommel might be seen as doing rather better in 2nd el Alamein with significantly inferior forces to Montgomery. Or Rommel could just be absolved of responsibility, given that he was in Germany for medical treatment for a month before the campaign began and he returned only after it started.



So subconsciously you are telling us MONTGOMMERY IS THE BEST ????


oh, please...

Just cherry pick a part of a quote instead of the whole thing and then ignore what was actually said.

oh please....

Rising Sun*
08-31-2015, 11:38 AM
"Successful losses" - an interesting concept, and not a simple one. What we are really talking about here is (relatively) successful damage limitation exercises.

True, at least in retrospect, although not always grasped at the time by commanders facing defeat

Then, somewhat obliquely, maybe there are losing successes.

For example, Germany won in Crete in large part because of its airborne forces but Hitler is said to have forbidden future large scale airborne operations because of the heavy casualties sustained on Crete. Meanwhile, some on the Allied side are said to have been inspired by Crete to bolster their airborne forces which in time played a major part in the invasion of Western Europe.

With less of the "are said to", Japan certainly studied the shallow water attacks from the British raid on Taranto but failed to grasp that the problem with 'sinking' ships in shallow water like Pearl Harbor tended only to ground them, so that they could be returned to service.

Frankly Dude Really
09-07-2015, 07:33 AM
"Successful losses" - an interesting concept, .... Hence my "nomination" for Gille and Rendulic; Their efforts helped ensure that potential wipe-out disasters were substantially moderated ......but it is worth noting that the "Desert Fox" would not have featured in any table of "Houdini Awards". JR.

Actually, Rommel did the same "feat" in N-Africa after Alamein. Constantly retreating with his minimum of forces (of what? a few DOZEN of tanks!) , constantly STALLING the OVERWHELMING but SLOWLY advancing forces of Monty.

Looking at the sheer numbers and air superiority, you would EXPECT (as did the public) that Monty would round up the DAK within a couple of months. Instead it took him (AND the US coming from the west) a good part of a full year.

Frankly Dude Really
09-07-2015, 07:54 AM
Have it your way.

Montgomery getting his formation relatively intact out of France in 1940 was a catastrophic failure.

Given that, could you explain how Montgomery and his formation being captured intact by the Germans would have had absolutely no effect on Britain's subsequent conduct of its war in the next year and a half while Britain and its Commonwealth alone fought the Germans?

Then could you explain how, for example:
1. Germany losing the Battle of the Atlantic had absolutely no impact on Britain's, and its later Allies America and the USSR, ability to wage war against Germany.
2. America's failure to win the Battle of the Coral Sea was completely unimportant in stemming Japan's advance and had no bearing on America's subsequent victories at Midway and on Guadalcanal, and the Allies repelling Japan from Papua New Guinea.
3. How the defeated Netherlands getting its merchant and submarine fleets out of the Netherlands East Indies, not unlike Montgomery getting his formation out of France, contributed nothing to the Allied campaign against Japan, especially in the crucial period 1942-43?

The above is unclear. Are you talking what you believe ? Or are you making an opposite sarcasm point ? which is ?

Any-never-the-none-the-less-way, "best" reads as "better than the rest" and more particular "better than expected" and topping it "better than hoped or ever dreamed of" .
In football terms; that is winning with greater numbers, with better skill, where none had seen it coming.
Which is NOT , LOOSING with less goal difference than "expected".

If San Marino faces Spain and it is "expected" to loose...then for the bookie a loss of 0-5 is no difference to that of 0-10. And a "hard fought inspirational San mArino" grasping a loss of 0-2 is "commendable" but nothing like surprising or extra ordinary.
Now, on the other hand. If San Marino were to WIN with 2-0 then we are talking BETTER than expected.
If they win 8-0 then it is UNBELIEVABLY fantastic.
Along those lines you have to find the best german(or if you will, west ally) commander.

Only the likes of Rommel, Patton, Guderian were able to "be at a place further, deeper , faster" than any expected or hoped for.

Monty never pulled that trick, despite overwhelming forces, because of his very character. He was not a "gambler".
The only time he TRIED it was with Market-Garden and that was a FIASCO. (And more importantly , the ingredients of the fiasco WERE NOTICABLE in the -short- planning phase).
Rommel, Patton, Guderian (etc.) were better gamblers, were lucky -okay- , but were also able to adapt to sudden misfortunes and able to wrestle a victory or safe escape out of a dire situation. And that is what separates the gamblers from the safe bank players.

Rising Sun*
09-07-2015, 11:20 AM
Or are you making an opposite sarcasm point ?

Yes


which is ?

Self evident.


Any-never-the-none-the-less-way, "best" reads as "better than the rest" and more particular "better than expected" and topping it "better than hoped or ever dreamed of" .
In football terms; that is winning with greater numbers, with better skill, where none had seen it coming.
Which is NOT , LOOSING with less goal difference than "expected".

If San Marino faces Spain and it is "expected" to loose...then for the bookie a loss of 0-5 is no difference to that of 0-10. And a "hard fought inspirational San mArino" grasping a loss of 0-2 is "commendable" but nothing like surprising or extra ordinary.
Now, on the other hand. If San Marino were to WIN with 2-0 then we are talking BETTER than expected.
If they win 8-0 then it is UNBELIEVABLY fantastic.
Along those lines you have to find the best german(or if you will, west ally) commander.

Soccer lacks something as a metaphor for war, not least because overpaid prima donnas taking a dive for a slight kick on the ankle falls somewhat short of, say, a bullet in the lung or brain multiplied by a division, corps, army and army group.


Only the likes of Rommel, Patton, Guderian were able to "be at a place further, deeper , faster" than any expected or hoped for.

Which as far as Rommel and Patton are concerned, undermines your own point as they were both egotistical adventurers who outran their lines of supply at critical points and thus compromised their own campaigns.


Monty never pulled that trick, despite overwhelming forces, because of his very character. He was not a "gambler".

I wasn't aware that gambling was a substitute for sound strategy, tactics, staff work, logistics and leadership in military endeavours at any level.

Hitler, Goering, Mussolini, Hirohito and Tojo were all major gamblers, and lousy strategists, tacticians, staff officers, logisticians and leaders.

Look where it got them.

Frankly Dude Really
09-08-2015, 05:55 AM
Hitler, Goering, Mussolini, Hirohito and Tojo were all major gamblers, and lousy strategists, tacticians, staff officers, logisticians and leaders.

Look where it got them.


Well, they are made immortal by tons of books, films and website such as these....
How many actors have played the part of Hitler, Tojo, etc...and how many played the part of...Monty ?

anyway you're digressing...but I find it amusing how you cling on to the supra-natural hero Montgomery and that you have a mission to set a record straight on his behalf..
Hitler, etc above list, are not generals as per topic question. Of course they meddled in strategy, but shouldn't be included as they didnot deal with day to day preparations and formations and directing orders for the army units.


Rommel and Patton are exactly what is desired to stand above the mediocre rest. But it is the "adventurer" aspect that counts, and that is failing on the likes of Montgomery. The aspect "egotistical" can be found with Montgommery too. That is part of a narcissism that befalls any "public" figure, sooner or later.

another assessment to make; of course it is true that Patton/Rommel tactics of deep penetration is straining the logistics at the back, but that is the clever thing of them; ONCE they show their success , AUTOMATICALLY the HQ MUST follow suit and direct more resources in to their direction.
Obviously they can't do it if they were aware that there is no huge potential back up.
Despite a number of smart officers in the next armies it is obvious you will never find a "Dutch Rommel" in their army of 1940 (but e.g. in 1948 Java there was) , or a "Greek Rommel" in their army of 1941. Their army simply was not big enough to allow fancy manoeuvres.
But UK had all the potential (resources, air dominance, logistics) in 1943-1945 in Africa, Italy, France, but no "british Rommel". Why is that ?


An example that springs form my mind, to set Rommel even against Guderian:
During the 1940 moves through Belgium , crossing the Meuse. Rommel was "far" ahead of Guderian , as Rommel put his first tank(s) immediately on the first pontoon barge to cross to the other side , which was against the express "orders" of Guderian who instructed to first put infantry (under enemy fire) across , and after the bridgehead is secure to send over the tanks.
Through this stroke of genius/luck Rommel's first tanks were able to surprise a couple of french tanks that were assembling in a town a few kms away and secure his further progress.

now, would he have put his infantry first, and the french tanks would have immediately set off to counter that threat, then no german Rommel tank would have been able to cross the Meuse (knocking out the pontoons) those two days. And vital defense time woud have been bought by the french.
Probably Rommel would be able to deal with that too (as he had more tanks available at the Meuse banks, by then)...but it means loss of advantage/momentum time.
Rommel and Patton are commanders who deal with problems WHEN they form, not worry about it before it has, or could have, materialized. But that doesn't mean they are ignorant about the risk.

JR*
09-08-2015, 06:45 AM
I don't know. OKH had good reason for apprehension as to the possible result of overly "forward" tactics in the Western campaign. The Franco-British army was, indeed, a formidable force, in numbers and in materiel, if not in effectiveness at command level. The panzers had suffered significant losses in Poland - which was poorly equipped in tanks and lacked an effective air force. Most of the tanks available to the Germans were significantly vulnerable to conventional artillery and even antitank rifles. While consenting to (indeed, making possible) a "blitzkrieg"-type attack, OKH would have been acutely aware of the fact that this approach as developed to that point - encapsulated in Guderian's mantra "where the tanks go, victory follows" - was totally unproven. Also, speaking of Rommel, while he had a distinguished career as a junior officer in WW1, he was "unblooded" as a divisional commander (unlike Guderian, who had fought at this level in Poland). Not surprising, then, that they were anxious to exercise a degree of control and restraint on the front commanders.

Effectively, OKH lost control of the forwardmost units, as both Rommel and (more significantly) Guderian evaded or "bent the rules" in relation to orders coming from the rear (Guderian's "advance reconnaissance, for example). This turned out to be a successful approach, but it could very easily have been otherwise. As it was, both Rommel and Guderian got themselves into a number of dangerous scrapes when exposed to effective Franco-British resistance. Interesting that both commented on the "comfort" provided in such situations by the presence of a small number of PzKpfw IV tanks. The determination and courage of their motorized infantry should, perhaps, be mentioned.

The unvarnished truth is that, instead of the stunning success that eventuated, "Fall Gelb" could have been a disaster. Had French dispositions and staff been just a little better, had the French political system not been rotten as a result of decades of sharp differences through the Third Republic, had French air defense been more effective ... I do not like "what if" very much, but it is obvious that "Fall Gelb" was (as Wellington said of Waterloo) a "very nice" (meaning close-run) thing. I do not believe that Guderian was a gambler; however, he may, in retrospect, be seen as somewhat ... I am tempted to say "deluded", but let us say "over-optimistic", devoted as he was to the "tank=victory" approach. Rommel was not a tank theorist, or even a tank practitioner at the outset of the Western campaign. His actions had the character of rashness - the approach of a gambler.

Expecting incoming fire, JR.

Rising Sun*
09-08-2015, 11:34 AM
but I find it amusing how you cling on to the supra-natural hero Montgomery and that you have a mission to set a record straight on his behalf

I find it puzzling how you can assert that.

It certainly doesn't relate to anything I've posted, or think, know or believe.

But have it your own way. (Sarcasm).

leccy
09-08-2015, 12:47 PM
An example that springs form my mind, to set Rommel even against Guderian:
During the 1940 moves through Belgium , crossing the Meuse. Rommel was "far" ahead of Guderian , as Rommel put his first tank(s) immediately on the first pontoon barge to cross to the other side , which was against the express "orders" of Guderian who instructed to first put infantry (under enemy fire) across , and after the bridgehead is secure to send over the tanks.
Through this stroke of genius/luck Rommel's first tanks were able to surprise a couple of french tanks that were assembling in a town a few kms away and secure his further progress.

now, would he have put his infantry first, and the french tanks would have immediately set off to counter that threat, then no german Rommel tank would have been able to cross the Meuse (knocking out the pontoons) those two days. And vital defense time woud have been bought by the french.
Probably Rommel would be able to deal with that too (as he had more tanks available at the Meuse banks, by then)...but it means loss of advantage/momentum time.


That goes counter to what Rommel wrote about the crossing of the Meuse - never mind that to get a bridge across you have to secure the far bank - which means infantry crossing.

13th May


On 13 May I drove off to Dinant at about 04.00 hours with Captain Schraepler. The whole of the divisional artillery was already in position as ordered, with its forward observers stationed at the crossing points. In Dinant I found only a few men of the 7th Rifle Regiment. Shells were dropping in the town from French artillery west of the Meuse, and there were a number of knocked-out tanks in the streets leading down to the river. The noise of battle could be heard from the Meuse valley.

The situation when I arrived was none too pleasant. Our boats were being destroyed one after the other by the French flanking fire, and the crossing eventually came to a standstill. The enemy infantry was so well concealed that they were impossible to locate even after a long search through glasses....A smoke screen in the Meuse valley would have prevented these infantry doing much harm. But we had no smoke unit. So I now gave orders for a number of houses in the valley to be set alight in order to supply the smoke we lacked.

....With Captain Schraepler, I now drove south down the Meuse valley road in a Panzer IV to see how things were going with the 7th Rifle Regiment. On the way we came under fire several times from the western bank and Schraepler was wounded in the arm from a number of shell splinters. Single French infantrymen surrendered as we approached.

By the time we arrived the 7th Rifle Regiment had already succeeded in getting a company across to the west bank, but the enemy fire had then become so heavy that they crossing equipment had been shot to pieces and the crossing had had to be halted. Large numbers of wounded were receiving treatment in a house close beside the demolished bridge. As at the northern crossing point, there was nothing to be seen of the enemy who were preventing the crossing. As there was clearly no hope of getting any more men across at this point without powerful artillery and tank support to deal with the enemy nests, I drove back to Division Headquarters, where I met the Army commander, Colonel-General von Kluge and the Corps commander, General Hoth.

After...making the necessary arrangements, I drove back along the Meuse to Leffe to get the crossing moving there.

At Leffe weir we took a quick look at the footbridge, which had been barred by the enemy with a spiked steel plate....The crossing had now come to a complete standstill, with the officers badly shaken by the casualties which their men had suffered....

Several of our tanks and heavy weapons were in position on the embankment east of the houses, but had seemingly already fired off almost all their ammunition. However, the tanks I had ordered to the crossing point soon arrived, to be followed shortly afterwards by two field howitzers from the Battalion Grasemann.

All points on the western bank likely to hold enemy riflemen were now brought under fire, and soon the aimed fire of all weapons was pouring into rocks and buildings. Lieutenant Hanke knocked out a pill-box on the bridge ramp with several rounds. The tanks, with turrets traversed left, drove slowly north at fifty yards' spacing along the Meuse valley, closely watching the opposite slopes.

Under cover of this fire the crossing slowly got going again, and a cable ferry using several large pontoons was started. Rubber boats paddled backwards and forwards and brought the wounded from the west bank....

I now took over personal command of the 2nd Battalion of the 7th Rifle Regiment and for some time directed operations myself.

With Lieutenant Most I crossed the Meuse in one of the first boats and at once joined the company which had been across since early morning. From the company command post we could see Companies Enkefort and Lichter were making rapid progress.

I then moved up north along a deep gully to the Company Enkefort. As we arrived an alarm came in: "Enemy tanks in front." The company had no anti-tank weapons, and I therefore gave orders for small arms fire to be opened on the tanks as quickly as possible, whereupon we saw them pull back into a hollow about a thousand yards north-west of Leffe. Large numbers of French stragglers came through the bushes and slowly laid down their arms.

Upon arrival at Brigade Headquarters on the west bank I found the situation looking decidedly unhealthy. The commander of the 7th Motor-cycle Battalion had been wounded, his adjutant killed, and a powerful French counter-attack had severely mauled our men in Grange. There was a danger that enemy tanks might penetrate into the Meuse valley itself.

Leaving my signals truck on the west bank, I crossed the river again and gave orders for first the Panzer Company, and then the Panzer Regiment, to be ferried across during the night. However, ferrying tanks across the 120-yards-wide river by night was a slow job, and by morning there were still only fifteen tanks on the west bank, an alarmingly small number.

First tanks ferried across on the night of the 13th/14th after the infantry were across and had suffered heavy casualties. The infantry stopped a French tank unit with small arms only.

14th May


At daybreak [14 May] we heard that Colonel von Bismarck had pressed through his attack to close on Onhaye, where he was now engaged with a powerful enemy. Shortly afterwards a wireless message came in saying that his regiment was encircled, and I therefore decided to go to his assistance immediately with every available tank.

At about 09.00 hours the 25th Panzer Regiment, under the command of Colonel Rothenburg, moved off along the Meuse valley with the thirty tanks which had so far arrived on the west bank and penetrated as far as a hollow five hundred yards north-east of Onhaye without meeting any resistance. It transpired that von Bismarck had actually radioed "arrived" instead of "encircled" and that he was now on the point of sending an assault company round the northern side of Onhaye to secure its western exit....Accordingly, five tanks were placed under von Bismarck's command for this purpose -- not to make a tank attack in the usual sense, but to provide mobile covering fire for the infantry attack on the defile west of Onhaye. It was my intention to place the Panzer Regiment itself in a wood a thousand yards north of Onhaye and then to bring all other units up to that point, from where they could be employed to the north, north-west or west, according to how the situation developed.


Maybe some confusion about Halder saying that the Armoured Divs would need to wait for the Infantry Divs before attempting to cross, Guderion believed the Armoured Divs could be across in 3 or 4 days without the support of the slower Infantry Divs.

JR*
09-09-2015, 06:38 AM
Another thought occurs. The Western campaign was a very early event in the war, and everybody - including the Germans - were on a steep learning curve as to how "lightening war" would actually work in practice. It had never really been tried before. WW1 precedents were of limited use, given the low speeds and mechanical inadequacies of most WW1 tanks. Poland was not a very good precedent, either, as it was planned (by Manstein and his team) as a WW1-style "kettling"/encirclement exercise, with armoured and airpower embellishments. The main Western campaign was the first real trial of this approach, and that trial exposed areas of significance for such a campaign that had not occurred to the proponents of the "Achtung Panzer" approach - even Guderian.

Apart from the shambolic Netherlands invasion (successful through main force rather than skill), the first indication of the weaknesses of primarily airborne campaigns without sufficient ground support, matters emerging included the full importance of tactical air power in supporting deep armoured thrusts, the critical importance of effective infantry support, the full extent of the limitations of tanks operating in built-up areas (even defended villages), and the logistical and reinforcement problems posed (especially for a largely marching/horse-drawn army) by deep armoured thrusts. All very well for Guderian to push his armour and motorized infantry ever forward, but whether this was justifiable in view of the untried character of "blitzkrieg" is distinctly debatable. When it comes to Rommel - certainly, he must have read "Achtung Panzer" and other ... I am tempted to say tracts from the Lutz-Guderian tendency, but he had no experience whatsoever of this style of warfare, nor even a sound theoretical background in the area, so far as we are aware. In that context, his actions in the course of "Fall Gelb" definitely come over as headstrong and reckless. North Africa, of course, belongs to another conversation ... Yours from the banks of the Meuse, JR.

JR*
09-22-2015, 07:28 AM
Probably shouldn't but ... referring back to the MacArthur/Rommel question, there were differences as well as similarities. MacArthur was a sort of military Donald Trump (corn cob pipe instead of toupee). His unabashed personal self-promotion, set in the context of the US political system, certainly promoted his reputation on the homefront and indeed in the US Forces (below command level at least), but did not substitute for real achievement and lost him the trust of his political masters (for obvious reasons). Rommel's case was a bit different. He certainly had a talent for promoting himself - but this was largely exercised in a relatively "modest" way, not least through the exploitation of his political contacts. It should never be forgotten that, at the time of the war's outbreak, Rommel was commander of Hitler's Heer bodyguard and, in this capacity, accompanied Hitler on his visit to the Polish front. Rommel appears to have been comfortable in the Nazi inner circle, and made important contacts. Apart from Hitler himself (who liked this smart young WW1 hero), he seems to have become genuinely friendly with Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, who became, in effect, his political patron. There were some drawbacks to being Goebbels' "client"; Hitler certainly regarded his Propaganda Minister's talents for his immediate task as vital, but there are several instances to indicated that he did not always respect his judgment regarding the abilities of individuals in the subordinate shark pool of Nazi politics. Not in the case of Rommel, however.

Arguably, the crucial event in Rommel's career was his appointment to command 7th Panzer Division in the Western Campaign. Accounts from Rommel's family make it crystal clear that this was obtained through the influence of Hitler and Goebbels. There was no obvious reason why Rommel should have been entrusted with one of the Heer's strongest panzer divisions. Rommel's son, Manfred, remarked in postwar interviews that, without political intervention, his superiors would have given him a Mountain Division - totally logical, since Rommel was a WW1 infantry hero, and had established himself between the wars as an expert on infantry tactics. The rest was "history", however one wants to view it. One thing is certain - Hitler's personal liking for Rommel, and the friendship of Goebbels, ensured that from then on, Rommel's reputation would be promoted strongly by Goebbels' propaganda machine, which craved "poster boys" at all levels. Thus, Rommel did not need a personal propaganda machine in the MacArthur sense (indeed, this would have been counterproductive, in the Third Reich context). He could "surf" on the official propaganda machine, which ensured that his reputation was promoted both in the Wehrmacht and on the homefront. The fact that most of his senior colleagues had little regard (perhaps too little) for his abilities (some regarded his activities as "insane") meant nothing in the face of his political backing, and his favorite status for the propaganda machine. It is easy to see why, at the end, Rommel's army peers were little inclined to help him avoid destruction, even where some (for example, Runstedt), might have helped.

Rommel was better, I think, than many of his colleagues thought. However, the fog of propaganda and self-serving memoir makes it difficult to appraise his talents fully. He certainly made his mistakes ... JR.

Rising Sun*
09-22-2015, 09:07 AM
Probably shouldn't but ... referring back to the MacArthur/Rommel question, there were differences as well as similarities. MacArthur was a sort of military Donald Trump (corn cob pipe instead of toupee).

I think that's unfair to MacArthur.

Unlike Trump, he actually served his country in three wars (three more than Trump did while managing to do very little with the fortune left him apart from building his unjustified conceit and burdening bankruptcy administrators with denying his workers and contractors their just pay).

Trump's comment that he preferred his war heroes not to be captured reflects the arrogance and insensitivity of, so far as military experience goes, a privileged and stupid nobody with no understanding of the miseries inflicted upon McCain or the lesser demands put upon ordinary troops in war. Or even peace. Like LBJ, Reagan and sundry others with no war or even serious military service, he is naturally among the most belligerent when it comes to sending other people to die in his cause, and worse as a draft dodger who carefully avoided the war McCain served in.

The man is beneath contempt.

Then again, Bush II carefully avoided service in Vietnam, so maybe that qualifies Trump to become President to start more stupid wars with no defined end and, years later, failing to achieve it after bleeding the patriotism of the lower classes in pursuit of the indefinite end.



His unabashed personal self-promotion, set in the context of the US political system, certainly promoted his reputation on the homefront and indeed in the US Forces (below command level at least), but did not substitute for real achievement and lost him the trust of his political masters (for obvious reasons).

That was much more from the end of 1943 when, in retrospect, he had some not terribly brilliant successes than at the start of the Pacific War, when he had none which were all due to major failures by him as commander.

MacArthur certainly had some real achievements from late 1943 onwards, but these were as much due to the resources given to him in response to his endless beseeching for more resources as to any brilliance in his not very distinguished or clever climb through Papua New Guinea, often on the backs of the Australian troops he used for the hard work and never acknowledged in pursuit of his self-aggrandising MacArthurian (as distinct from American, as he was much more concerned with MacArthur than America) ambitions.

In the same campaign, whether Papua New Guinea or North Africa or anywhere else, if opposed to each other, I'd back Rommel every time against MacArthur. MacArthur consistently lost, indeed squandered, every advantage he had in the Philippines against the Japanese. Rommel was much better at doing more with less, despite some major failures.

MacArthur certainly presided over some important and successful campaigns in the later stages of the war when the tide had already turned against Japan, but the commanders who turned that tide were Nimitz and King much more than MacArthur who at the critical times was engaged in typically grandiose plans to conquer Rabaul when he couldn't even manage a competent campaign on Kokoda much closer to his Brisbane base from which he consistently failed to send adequate resources to Kokoda.