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Rommel pursues a different strategy in North Africa

Discussion in 'What If - Mediterranean & North Africa' started by T. A. Gardner, Jun 29, 2008.

  1. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    After Rommel's second defeat of the British in North Africa around Tobruk that city became sieged once again. The first time this happened the Australians defending Tobruk successfully held off the Germans. This time, the city fell after a several week siege.
    What if Rommel instead of investing Tobruk had pushed the Afrika Korps east after the retreating British and left primarily the Italians to just invest and pin the defenders in Tobruk?
    Instead of the British getting several weeks of respite to build the el Alamein position they are hounded on their heels by the Germans. I suspect that the British would have proved unable in such conditions to establish a defense at Alamein and in not being able to do so would have lost Egypt.
     
  2. John Dudek

    John Dudek Member

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    Off the top of my head, I would think that an unconquered Tobruk, given it's location, would quickly become a major thorn in the supply chain of Rommel's Afrika Korps. I would imagine that there was at least one useable airstrip there to launch British air strikes from.
     
  3. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    German defeat in WW2 in 1945
     
  4. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    I´d recall after the Gazala battle the Germans ( i.e. Rommel ) pushed his tired troops towards Tobruk because he knew he had to be there fast. That´s why I have thought the city fell soon.

    "Just seven days later, on 21 June 1942, in circumstances that even with the benefit of a subsequent formal court of enquiry remain obscure and contradictory, 35,000 Allied troops (including the entire South African 2nd Division), were surrendered to General Enea Navarrini's 30,000 troops."

    Battle of Gazala - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In that sense I´d think just having enough powerful troops would, Italian troops would do, and Tobruk would probably fall. But whether the German troops would be in condition good enough to continue eastwards straight away, I´m not sure.

    One must also remember that about Auchinleck : Here Auchinleck tailored a defence that took advantage of the terrain and the fresh troops at his disposal, stopped the exhausted German/Italian advance in the First Battle of El Alamein ( 1–27 July 1942 ).

    First Battle of El Alamein - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    So Rommel did attack one week after Tobruk fell eastwards.

    Later on Auchinleck was kicked out because he was not believed to be able to win the war. However I think some sources claim that Monty´s victories were prepared by Auchinleck.

    I´m sure we´ll discuss this more later on. Any new info/ideas are welcome! This is just how i recall the situation.
     
  5. Carl W Schwamberger

    Carl W Schwamberger Ace

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    Churchill was disapponted when Auchinleck reported he could not make a large scale and decisive offensive before late August or more likely September. Auchinleck specified the additional reinforcement he needed before he could attack and pointed out those could not be ready before the end of August.

    General Gott was choosen to replace Auchinleck. It is claimed he was no more optimistic about a july or August attack than Achinleck. Gott had been a reasonablly sucessfull corps commander and certainly had experince in the mobile warfare of Africa. Gott was killed in a aircraft crash before he could do anything at all.

    Montgomery appeared to agree to everything. Then after taking command he infuritated Churchill by demanding even more reinforcement than Achinleck and stating he could absolutely not attack untill October. Some say Monty wanted to wait until November, when the Torch operation was executed.
     
  6. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    Ok lets get serious.

    It sounds like a very good idea, why? because Rommel had a smaller more mobile force that would be wholey German, and it did not need to rely on the unpredictable Italians to make mistakes and for Rommel to divert troops to bail them out.

    [/quote=T.A Gardner;299776] Instead of the British getting several weeks of respite to build the el Alamein position they are hounded on their heels by the Germans. I suspect that the British would have proved unable in such conditions to establish a defense at Alamein and in not being able to do so would have lost Egypt.[/quote]

    After reading some stuff on el Alamein the respite that the British got paved the way to lay all those massive mine belts thus forcing Rommel to basically try to outflank the British with a right swing, which failed. Now the British are now facing a full on offensive to the rear of their retreating army.

    I would say el Alamein would have fallen and that Alexandria would have been next, Rommel ever the opportunist would have gone for Alexandria and most likely would have gained Egypt and the Suez Canal.

    Then with their only option the Australians would have had to evacuate Tobruk, leaving it to the Italians.

    With Egypt and the Suez Canal under Axis control, the Axis could have concentrated in eliminating British influence from the Mediterannean, and with eventually taking places like Malta, Crete, Cyprus, Gibraltar, Palestine and Trans-Jordan then maybe fortify North West Africa (in conjunction with the Vichy French), making it hard for Operation Torch to succeed. Would Operation Torch have succeeded had the Allied forces had faced German divisions instead of Vichy French ones.

    Another problematic senario out of all this is that with the tide turning against the British in the Mediterannean could have Spain finally come into the mix.

    v.R
     
  7. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    It is that week of delay that is critical. Had Rommel immediately pursued the British into Egypt and just invested Tobruk he likely would have pushed them back to the outskirts of Cairo and Alexandria. Had this happened, Tobruk would fall on its own.
    Alexandria would be abandoned as a naval base taking all the shipping and equipment that wasn't nailed down (and alot of what was nailed down) with it. This would have left Tobruk with just what supplies were on hand and with none coming.
    Even if the British eventually are able to fend off the Germans their not having a sound position on which to anchor a solid line would have been sufficent to allow the Germans much of the advantage they needed.
    The big question in this is could Rommel hold the ground? With his supply lines even more tenious than they were historically could he take Alexandria? If so his supply problems are largely over and he wins for the short term.
    The US could still land behind him as they historically did. This would end any further moves East as Rommel would have to deal with the US troops to his rear. But, in the interm he could have wreaked havoc on the British in Egypt.
     
  8. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Definitely I agree that Rommel´s time window was after Gazala to win all he can in the fastest possible time. I recall Rommel forced his troops to attack towards Tobruk because he knew it would save alot of German blood.

    However, is it possible Rommel also needed this to move ahead again?

    "Tobruk fell on June 21, and the Axis forces captured 2.5 million gallons of much-needed fuel, as well as 2,000 wheeled vehicles."

    World War II: North Africa Campaign » HistoryNet - From the World's Largest History Magazine Publisher
     
  9. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    I like what von Rundstedt posted (the serious one, of course.) However, TA did point out that Rommel had a supply problem. Would consolidating his available supplies for a smaller mobile force to pursue the British be enough to overtake the British rear? It's possible but I have to doubt that this would be strong enough. It could harass the British but then this mobile force when in contact would be open to air attack.
    von Rundstedt did pose a good possibility though. I have to admit that even if Spain just went through a civil war, it's within the realm of possibility that a German success in taking Egypt could entice the Spaniards to join the Axis.
     
  10. dcboys1979

    dcboys1979 recruit

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    In the end, the strain on Rommel's supply line was his achilles heel. Besides, that pesky little corporal in Berlin annoyed Rommel so much that I believe it clouded Rommel's judgement.
     
  11. von Rundstedt

    von Rundstedt Dishonorably Discharged

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    I can understand what you say, but the main focus of what i said is that without the Italians (laying seige of Tobruk) that Rommel can dictate policy without worrying about the consequences of having the Italians in the mix, and also a pure German force although smaller can me moved and directed better, then all that fuel that the Italians would not need would be brought forward to supply the Germans, giving the Germans more fuel.

    Also the German Luftwaffe would be in a better position as well, as the Italians realistically need no air cover, the RA could be sent to bolster the Luftwaffe, giving the Axis several hundred more planes to face the RAF.

    This is also on top of what T.A. Gardner already has indicated, the British in the rear echelon does not have time to lay in vast belts of mine fields and anti panzer traps, because Rommel has given no respite to the British, also you mentioned supplies, supplies could be a problem, but Rommel never in that past let that little detail worry him, also as they overun the British they the Germans would pick up caches of British supplies in Fuel, truck,tanks, anything that runs on petrol can have their fuel tanks drained. And if the Australians do manage to surrender their supplies would be shipped to the Germans.

    In this case i don't think so, if Rommel was pushing the British out of Egypt and gained valuable strategic positions, Hitler would use Rommels victories as pure propaganda and give Rommel anything he wanted, with Germany finally established in North Eastern Africa/Middle East Rommel would be elevated to Godhood.

    v.R
     
  12. Falcon Jun

    Falcon Jun Ace

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    von Rundstedt, nice explanation, as usual. Rommel did have the potential to run roughshod over the Allies but The Allies had an ace that Rommel didn't have, which was ULTRA.
    I have to concede, though, that ULTRA does have a limitation. With Rommel in this scenario highly mobile, the Allies might not be able to disseminate the needed intelligence information fast enough to the commanders in the field. Therefore, it's possible that even with the Allies having ULTRA, Rommel might succeed with a healthy dose of supplies and a lot of luck.
     
  13. stevenz

    stevenz Member

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    The Qattara Depression would have posed problems for Rommel because it was considered inpassable by tanks it would have taken away his strength of being able to out maneuver the 8th army he would have had to attack front on and a wounded animal is not something to be taken lightly the British still had plenty of tanks,anti tank guns, artillary,machine guns and air power and it is suprising what armies can do in desperate situations.
     
  14. T. A. Gardner

    T. A. Gardner Genuine Chief

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    What does the Quattara Depression have to do with this hypothesis? If the British cannot form a stable line between it and the Med then it becomes irrelevant as it no longer pins one flank of the British position.
     
  15. stevenz

    stevenz Member

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    It has plenty to do with it because Rommels strength was his ability to outmanuver the British with the Depression stopping the outflanking it took away his best strength forcing him to attack front on the hardest type of attack to carry out and even worse do it with heavily depleted forces and the narrow frontage from it to the coast which is why the british chose to stand there made it even worse for an attacker.

    90th Light by the time it got to Alamein had around 1600 men fit for action and both panzer divisions wouldn,t have had much more and the germans would have been lucky to have had 60 running tanks.


    And who says the British can,t form a stable line if they can the depression is relevent if they can't your right it is not it is amazing what armies can achieve under the worst situations and with there backs to the wall they wouldn't have layed down.

    The germans by themselves did not have the forces available to them to achieve victory in Egypt Rommel needed at least twice what he had so he could fight one corps and hold the other in reserve giving his people a rest rotating them in and out of battle but he couldn't do it he had to ask the same divisions to attack over and over again and in the end he run them into the ground his forces were spent by the time they got to Alamein and even if he had left tobruk to the Italians he still would have got to Alamein with tired heavily depleted divisions in no state to engage in sustained high intensity combat operations out numbered in all areas infantry,artillary,tanks and getting pounded from the air and fighting with an over stretched supply line.

    It doesn't point to success.
     
  16. lunatic

    lunatic Member

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    With the resources Rommel had, he achieved wonders, thanks mostly to British incompetence. He was able to survive only because he captured a lot of British supplies and vehicles in Gazala, Benghazi, etc,. He simply could not afford to waste invaluable resources besieging Tobruk and did not have enough airplanes or heavy artillery to capture it. He never had enough trucks, fuel, men, planes, cannon or tanks (relying mostly on Italian tanks during 1941 and 42). At the same time the British were receiving lots of troops from India, Australia, etc, and huge amounts of supplies from the US.
    Rommel was doomed the moment he was sent so far from Germany with a ridiculously small force and only after most of the Italian troops and equipment had been lost. Like most of Hitlers campains, Africa was not well planned, it was only a stopgap measure to prevent Italian collapse. Hitler sent too few troops with very little equipment too late.
    Had Hitler not wasted 2,000 invaluable planes and aviators in the BoB, fighting against the only air force with Radar and central command control in the world and had Hitler prevented the Italian debacle in Libya and not wasted a whole crucial year with most of his huge army without action, but instead sent 30,000 trucks, 1,000 planes and cannon, 600 tanks and 150,000 men to strengthen the Italian forces after France fell and before Mussolini ruined everything in Libya and Italy, Malta and Egypt would have been easily captured. In 1940 Malta and Egypt were extremely poorly defended with very few and obsolete biplanes. The hundreds of Italian planes, reinforced with 1,000 German planes would have been unstopable and easily neutralized the Royal navy around Malta, allowing its invasion and leaving Alexandria 3,100 from Gibraltar completely isolated. With Malta in the hands of the Axis and with Alexandria receiving supplies only around Africa (unable to even fly supplies over the Med), Egypt was not defensible.
    By attacking in 1940 (when he still had oil from Stalin) with a massive force where Britain was weakest, Hitler and Mussolini would have dealt a deadly blow. Instead, Britain was allowed to keep a tiny Island 100 km from Sicily but over 1,500 km from either Gibraltar or Alexandria. Italy lost over 100,000 men and a lot of equipment in Libya in 1940 and 41, the Italian navy was wiped out from Malta and all the Italian and German forces were eventually lost in Africa and then Italy. Ironically, the equipment captured from Italy in Libya was used by the Greeks to defeat Italy in Greece (which should not have been invaded).
    The Axis had plenty of resources to defeat Britain in 1940 but wasted them daftly by attacking the strongly defended Britain, instead of the weakly defended Med, allowing Britain time to receive help from teh colonies and America. The supposedly formidable RN would have been useless against 1,000 German planes in Sardinia, Sicily, Libya, Pantelleria, Malta, etc, Most importantly, after capturing Egypt, Persian oil would have been within reach of the Axis, as would be an attack on the Soviet oil fields from Persia.
    While the Stukas, Ju-88s, etc, were useless against the RAF in Britain (fodder even for the Hurricanes), they would have been invaluable against the RN and British army in the Med and then against the Soviets from Persia.
    Had Britain been displaced from Egypt, Iran, etc, it is unlikely that the American public would have allowed Rossevelt to continue giving billions of dollars in aid to Britain. With middle east oil and with the Italian army almost intact, a much stronger LW and Rommel´s forces available for the eastern front the Axis would have been much stronger in 1941. Capturing Baku early in Barbarossa would have been a major problem for Stalin.
     
  17. Carronade

    Carronade Ace

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    I see the original post is from 2008; but if we're going to resurrect it we should start by noting that the "siege" of Tobruk in 1942 lasted a little over one day and that the supplies, especially petrol, and vehicles captured there were largely what got Rommel to Alamein.
     
  18. lunatic

    lunatic Member

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    The 8 month siege of Tobruk in 1941 provided the British in Egypt invaluable time to receive huge amounts of supplies, lay lots of mines, build fortifications, train troops, tankers, pilots, etc, and cost Rommel lots of his best troops and equipment without any gains at all, so it was devastating for Rommel. In 1942, with the Soviets and Americans in the war, Rommel was more of a nuissance than a threat to Egypt. Rommel barely arrived in el Alamein twice, with worn out tanks, no fuel, water, etc, only to face formidable forces. In contrast, had the Axis captured Malta and Rommel arrived in Libya with plenty of resources in 1940, before the italians lost over 100,000 men, almost all their equipment and much of their navy, and when all of Libya was in Italian hands, the unprepared British would not have stood a chance.

    By the way, the costly 8 month siege of Sevastopol and the siege of Leningrad were also devastating for Barbarossa. Germany's strength was the Blitzkrieg not siege warfare.
     
  19. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Yea but the Italians losing all those men and equipment you can blame on Mussolini, The Italian commander of the 10th Army Rodolfo Graziani told Mussolini that they lacked the supplies and motorization to defeat the British, While at the time the British where much smaller they where almost entirely motorized and well supplied. Hell when Italy declared war elements in Libya didn't know about it until they where attacked/captured in raids by British forces.

    Simple matter of fact is, By the time Rommel was in NA with sufficient forces, Barbarossa was already underway, With so much of there transport fleets tied up there he would be unable to supply a force large enough to defeat the British, Not in the way he did warfare. What they should have done, Give Rommel a Corps command and place above him a competent General (Preferably German, My knowledge is small o the Italian leadership but from what i gather there leaders where similar to that of the British in WWI, Being given command based on there location in society) that can command the main body of troops, See to the logistics etc and allow Rommel to pursue his niche ability in mobile warfare but be able to rein him in when needed. Was a competent general when given an army, Knowing what needed to be done (He did marvelous job with what he had on the Atlantic wall) but he was a Great general when given a small mobile corps.
     
  20. lunatic

    lunatic Member

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    Balbo, Graziani, etc, repeatedly told Mussolini that without enough trucks, tanks, modern artillery, airplanes, etc, the Egyptian campaign would fail, but il Duce was too stupid to listen and thought that tens of thousands of men with obsolete cannon sufficed and Hitler was too proud to consider useful the Italian army and too stupid to insist on a coordinated and well planned attack with overwhelming force, prefering to waste away his invaluable planes and pilots over Britain, Norway, Greece, etc, his navy in Norway and keeping his huge army idle during the most crucial time in history. Somehow, the delusional Führer insisted than Britain had to sue for peace just because France had been defeated, without being Britain defeated in the Med and middle east.

    Mussolini wasted the surprise element by invading an already defeated France, instead of entering the war by invading Malta with German support.
    Mussolini then wasted a huge army in Libya, lost his fleet to biplanes at Taranto and then invaded Greece at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way, thus creating a new enemy and a huge problem for Germany.

    However, all those mistakes of Mussolini and Hitler should eclipse the fact that the Axis had overwhelming resource and location superity over Britain (their only enemy) when France fell.
     

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