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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. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Somewhere I published the British figures (and not wiki) but as usual I can't find them now - pretty sure that the British Army was about 200,000 strong, the navy slightly more men and the Raf very small. So what was the US Army size?
     
  2. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    Not sure on the sites validity, And it only seems to show figures based on what the various countries fielded as they started to become involved in the war, Not after.

    WW2 Armed Forces - Strength, Organisation, Orders of Battle.

    LJad, You are correct, Malta it seems was more a propaganda victory then a tactical victory for the Allies as it only sunk 15% of Axis supplies.

    For those debating Monty's leadership, Was he a great general? No, But he was a good general. He learned from earlier mistakes and would not be drawn out into Rommel's little traps or engagements, He let Rommel attack and whittle down his forces before he went in on the offensive. So he could command an army, Just didnt seem to come up with anything at all amazing or war changing, In fact towards the end he completely stuffed up (Market Garden). Rommel was a good army general, But he was a great general when given a Corps. He was not used to or suited to commanding so many men and having to supply them over such a vast distance but in any case he did wonders with what he got, He just had to learn to hold back at times.. Always seemed one would launch an offensive then the other, Taking turns, Should have let the Allies launch two offensive then he goes.. His forces would have been larger, and reserve supplies greater.

    As for when operation Torch became involved, American ground support? Negligible. They more just filled a gap, There main support was massive amounts of air assets and the logistics to keep a second British army supplied as well as there fleet units. Take away America's logistics, There air assets and ships.. And the Axis would be able to break through the blockade as it would lose more then half of its forces with out Americans being there.
     
  3. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    You are ignoring the Territorials, the Commonwealth guards, and the BEF which were all separate units. The British standing army was probably about 200,000 but that ignores the rest of the forces they could call upon. The American Army had been limited to 180,000 post WW1 and never got over 176,000 men and officers until post draft and then they only started to grow in trained troops by 1942 really.

    Our (USN) navy and the Royal Navy were pretty much equal in manpower and ships, the US Army however also counted our air corps (USSAC) as part of the Army, not the Air Forces as a separate group. The British had two at least two air arms, the naval fleet air and the land air. We (America) weren't even in the running for "air forces" compared to Britain, Germany, or even Italy in numbers.
     
  4. TiredOldSoldier

    TiredOldSoldier Ace

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    IMO without ULTRA Malta would just be an overexposed trap, as the British commanders evaluated pre war, it was the possibility, given by signal intelligenge, of putting to sea only when a target was actually there that made it effective, had they had to patrol normally to search for targets the attrition of Malta based naval forces would have been unaccepatable, it was pretty high as it was. Currently looking at the ufficio storico's book on the mines war and the chances of running into a freshly laid minefield at every sortie were pretty high. The effects of the "on route" losses was impoortant but not decisive, Rommel's was a good general and very aggressive (he had to take risks to achieve something as he was usually in numerical inferiority and knew he would loose a straight attrition battle) but had a tendency to blame the Italians when his gambles failed.
    BTW what Rommel actually did was very close to what's describedy in the OP, by the end of the Gazala battles the Afrika Korps (or was it already Panzerarmee Afrika?) badly needed time to reorganize and repair danaged vehicles, the final assault on Tobruk was mostly Italian troops, besides the bad idea of leaving a strong force in your rear, though I doubt they could have kept the small airfiels inside the perimeter operational, and given the equipment quality imbalance in mid 1942 Italian infantry would be hard put to contain a 30.000+ men force, another consideration is that without the large amounts of equipment and supplies captured at Tobruk the axis forces would probably be too weak to push forward, if you look at pictures of axis columns from the period the are lots of allied vehicles!.
     
  5. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    I was already suspicious after his first post,but now,I am certain :there is a provocative troll(or a trolling provoker)at work ;it is reminding me on some one on the International Miltary Forums who also was posting lunatic things ,always doing blahblah about billions of $ and the stupid Monty.
    About the rubbish of the thousands of American planes in NA :maybe first posting some proofs ?
     
  6. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Actually, I will stand by my statement that England rebuilt their army after Dunkirk.

    An Army, or rather an effectuve one, consists of three interdependant elements. People, organization and equipment. Certainly Britain saved most of the BEF personel at Dunkirk, but the unit formations all suffered high casualties (KIA's, WIA's and MIA's), enough such that unit cohesion was beginning to stretch. No they wern't all about to throw down their rifles and give up, but any combat formation that begins to lose in excess of 10% of their effectives in battle losses, loses the abillity to operate as a fully effective force beyond the ability to hold a fixed peice of ground. Lose enough and you cannot even do that.

    The evacuation at Dunkirk, though a magnificent achievement, shattered the otherwise superb organization of BEF. There is no way cramming men upon anthing that could float from destroyer's to motor launches to fishing boats could lead to anything else. It would take time and effort simply to organize these men and send them to their proper units at their reassembly points. Until they reached these units and the full extent of casualties were known (many men fought with wounds that normally would have seen them evacuated to the rear) the British High Command had no true idea how many replacements were needed to return these divisions to combat effectiveness.

    As you correctly pointed out they left all their equipment behind. Except for rifles, mess tins and the odd machine gun everything that a modern motorised army of 13 divisions had to be replaced. This is a veritable mountain of truck's, tank's, gun's, radio's, kitchen's and supplies that all had to made good. On paper these division's still existed but they were a far cry from an effective combat force. Meshing new recruits with a collection of either new or mothballed weapons from reserve arsenals or America would take time. As this, at least for the short term, was something of a miss-mash of equipment time and effort would be needed to get the most out of these so that they could effectively fight rather than just resist. As replacement equipment of modern designs reached these units, again time was needed to train the replacement's in their use. For a period of months these formations were constantly evolving, training and re-equipping to return to the condition they enjoyed on May 9th, 1940.

    One final point is worth mentioning. The men of the BEF were a a superbly trained force, but as they learned in France there were elements of modern mechanized warfare they still needed to master to stand toe to toe with the Whermacht. Co-ordination of Armor, Infantry, Artillery and Aircraft into a effective combined arms force that could attack or defend on the modern battlefield had to be learned. The North African Campaign would demonstrate that the British Army still had much to learn in this arena. By 1944 the Anglo-American armies were teaching the Whermacht what 'Blitzkreig' could really be, but this would take time to come to pass and the BEF of Dunkrk fame was not capable then of doing this.

    So yes, I stand by my arguement that the British Army 'rebuilt itself' after Dunkirk. In my opinion there is no shame in this and much credit, for to admit that you must change, effect that change, and overcome the enemy that forced that change upon you in a matter of a year in a half is nearly as much a miracle as Dunkirk itself.
     
  7. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    About the manpower:
    in april 1939:the British regular Army was 224000 men,the Territorial Army:421000.
     
  8. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    belasar, You are quiet correct, They had the personal, But they lacked any organization and equipment, The organization could be quickly sorted out, The equipment would take months. So for the time being there army was more suited to the trenches of WWI then the open warfare of WWII.

    I wouldn't go so far as to say the Anglo-American armies were teaching the Wehrmacht what 'Blitzkrieg' could be, They already knew what it could be, The had over run Poland, France, and a sizable chunk of Russia with it, But in those days they had aerial superiority where as when the allies started to truly use 'Blitzkrieg' to effect, They had the aerial superiority and the Germans didn't. Simply, The allies just reversed it, They didn't show Germany how it could be improved, They just copied them so to speak.

    Cheers, von_noobie (Matthew)
     
  9. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    About the "other strategy":from "Rommel Demythologized"(on this forum,by Volga Boatman),maybe to sympathetic to the Italians,but whatever:between june 1940 and may 1943,2.345.381 tonnes of supply were sent to NA on Italian ships,of which 315.426 were lost (14 %)
    IMHO,Rommel using an other strategy would result also in Tunisgrad (may 1943).
    The point is that,the AK remaining at Tripoli or advancing till Alamein,the Germans could not send/supply more men :the Axis would remain the weaker party .
    In 1941,the average strength of the AK was 34000 men,while it lost 12540 combat losses and 57250 non combat losses (sick):NA was no paradise.
    1n 1942,the average strength of the AK was 43000 men,while combat losses were 25239 and NCL 62907.
    A defensive strategy meaned :waiting till the enemy (already stronger) was becoming that strong that defeat was
    inevitable.
     
  10. von_noobie

    von_noobie Member

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    So simply put, unless Rommel received more supplies earlier, And greater air support.. Which would mean diverting resources from Barbarossa, NA could not be won. Not when fighting on 2 fronts. As soon as the Yanks had landed in Morocco Hitler should have started polling out all the men he could.
     
  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    .

    I agree totally with this statement.

    The BEF was not a superbly trained Army - Monty considered it "unfit for battle".

    It is a credit to the heroism and sacrifice of individuals and units that it fought a successful rearguard action without at any time dissolving into a rout which would have been only too easy.

    One of the most effective commanders was Monty himself. His action in command of 3rd Division in plugging the 20 mile gap to the Sea caused by the surrender of the Belgians, is a suitable response to the criticism than he could only fight with superior numbers after a slow build up - he was imaginative and his troops were well trained, well led, fast, flexible and without this action we might now ruled by National Socialists.

    Getting back to your thread - there were very few British Tanks but these caused Rommel a very uncomfortable time at Arras (and Rommel was nothing special in this Campaign - certainly no better than the other German tank commanders) However British tanks were poorly organised, poor doctrine and lacked any co-ordination with each other never mind the arty and infantry plus lots of other problems too long to list here.

    Yes lots to learn. However, the learning was pretty complete by the time 8th Army under Monty (plus excellent co-ordination form Broadhurst, Raf) arrived at the gates of Tunisia - and Rommel was destroyed and never regained his old drive and flair.

    At the end of the Sicily campaign, the Americans (who Monty complimented as very fast learners and superbly equipped by their rich Nation) had caught up.
     
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  12. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    The losses it inflicted also caused significant problems logistically as they made it difficult to tell what would get through. If it wasn't for the losses the axis could have figured out what they need and sent that. But since losses would mean that unknown critical supplies would be lost they had to send more of everything or potentially do without.
     
  13. lwd

    lwd Ace

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    And your point is?
    Considering they lost I wouldn't say so.

    While planes were important they hardly won the war by themselves. Indeed they rather obviously couldn't have.
    "Thousands of American planes"? I'd like to see some documentatin for that.
    Survived? Perhaps, but it would have have been a bleeding ulcer for the axis military. I'm not a great fan of Monty but he had already defeated Romel before the US landed in North Africa. He may have taken longer to do it but he knew that he had the advantage and as long as he didn't do anything stupid he would win. Without the US Romel would have still been in the positoin of rat in the coils of a constrictor.
     
  14. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Thanks Clint and LjD. I think the figure I had was for 1938, which represented the last year of Peace and I think the territorial element was a lot less. Yes there was the Commonwealth but this was not immediately available and I mention the 2 Divisions of Canadians in 1940.

    Overall the sizes of the US and British professional army was minuscule compared with Germany, France and Russia - btw Belgium had a bigger army than Britain.

    I am going to be criticised for this but the quality of the Territorials left a lot be to desired (often described as weekend warriors) - the equivalentish of the National Guard but I bet a lot less well trained and armed.
     
  15. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    On the other hand...
    1)At the moment of Torch,AK was retreating,which did not meant,that the war in NA was lost:AK also was retreating the year before
    2)Without the sending of the 5PzArmée to Tunis,it is highly dubious that more than a small % of the AK could escape :the Torch units would arrive in Tunis before the AK
    3)By sending reinforcements,the war in NA lasted for an other 6 months,which was one of the reasons for the delay of Overlord .
    Whatever,these are the results from the Abwicklungsstab Tunis,who had as mission to clarify the losses in NA(army figures only)
    Strength on 1 april 1943 (including the reinforcements after this date):130.O61
    I did a (uncomplete ) compilation :
    AK (=15 Pz,21 PZ,90ID,164 ID) :54000
    5 PZA(=10 PzD,334 ID,units of the 999ID and of the division von Manteuffel):48000
    Others(impossible to allot to the AK or the 5PZA):28000
    This is without the LW and KM.
    Now,the losses :it is of course impossible to give the losses of the AK/5PZA,thus,only total figures
    Dead:3238
    POW:95943
    Missing:3293
    Not clarified:2435
    Between 1 april and the capitulation (13 may) :25152 men (including wounded) returned .
    IMHO,a not unreasonable guess would be that after Torch,Hitler did send to NA
    48000 men (strength on 1 april)
    +14000 (=the half of 28000)
    + ? (losses of 5PZA between november and april
    + ? (LW personnel)
    Let's say :a total of 80000 men ,of which 70000 were lost,gaining Germany a delay of 6 months .
    PS:the Ramcke Brigade (for the AK) and the Hermann Göring division (for the 5PZA)are not included,neither for the strengthfigures ,neither for the loss figures,because these units belonged to the LW
     
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  16. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Captured and wounded from the Ramcke Brigade were 2000 to 2200 at El Alamein - presumably a bit higher by end of Campaign in Tunisia.
     
  17. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Nothing to argue here for me. It would have been better to say disiplined as opposed to trained, for as you mentioned British forces held greater cohedion than say French forces south of the break through and that is too their credit. The pity is that France ran out of room as they too were adapting and showing a far better effort during the final German attacks.
     
  18. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    I would like to know, also.

    Lunatic, expound upon your statement, please.
     
  19. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Agreed as well - In the second half of the campaign, Fallrot, despite the by now facing overwhelming advantages enjoyed by the Wehrmacht (ie 100plus Divisions and Armour versus 60 Divisions of France), the French actually performed better as the casualty figures and anecdotal evidence suggests.

    The beauty about Russia is that it its so big that there is time to retreat and build a new Army.
     
  20. Gebirgsjaeger

    Gebirgsjaeger Ace

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    NA wasn´t to win for the Wehrmacht. They had the same problem at there like at any other places they´ve been. Hitler started the battle but it was getting boring to him because he was much more interested in his favourite place of war: Russia! If he had the will to end the struggle, he had the options to send more troops and supplies, but he left this mainly for the Italians. Its the same like the Operation Seelöwe, he started the Eagle Day and as he had seen that this isn´t working out like a Blitzkrieg, he looked for the next target. He was not consistent in his actions.
     

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