Patton vs Rommel

I’m not an expert, but I was under the impression that the Allies were intercepting and deciphering operational-level radio traffic, not just strategic communications between Berlin and Theater HQs. And given the lack of land lines in Africa, there would have been a lot of radio traffic to intercept.
So while I don’t know, it seems plausible that signals intelligence could have been important operationally and even tactically in North Africa.

Land lines were laid to almost everywhere they could reach specifically to reduce vulnerable radio traffic. Likewise, runners and couriers were still available as a last ditch measure. Not so good if you had to send a message 40+ miles, but still useful at the front lines to convey small unit orders.

Regardless, Rommel was very, very good, but in Egypt he had reached the limit of endurance. Mongomery may have had a longer supply line, but his troops were actually better supplied due to superior Allied Logistics, plus Hitler refused to either withdraw or substantially reinforce that army (this, in Italy and Russia and France, was arguably the reason Germany lost the war). IIRC, by this time the British were dominating the Med, and the Germans knew they couldn’t leave their rear unguarded since America was coming. Rommel may have lost, but he was in a horrifically bad position which was only made marginally tenable by his earlier victories. He was going to have to fight an enemy who knew when, where, and how he would come, with superior material and scouting.

You’re kidding, right? I’ve yet to see any description of Medenine that fails to mention the great superiority of force possessed by the Allies, especially in artillery.

From the very same NZ History you quoted. At that stage in the game Rommel had no choices left but to surrender or watch his forces be pulverised. A few pages further on we get

A couple of minutes searching turns up the following quote from “Intelligence Power In Peace and War”

or perhaps you might prefer this from “The Contribution of Intelligence to the Battles of Alam Halfa and El Alamein”

Given that people publishing on the subject of military intelligence regard Alam Halfa as one of best demonstrations of its effectiveness, I’m inclined to take their interpretation over yours.

This impression is probably more informed by cryptanalysis’s impact on the Battle of the Atlantic than any land campaign. Histories of Bletchley Park sometimes make it sound like the Allies were reading every transmission from every German outpost, but tactical-level intelligence was rare for land campaigns.

The greatest volume by far of tactical intelligence provided by codebreakers was of U-boat movements. Every U-Boat was directed by Dönitz. Orders went out to the U-boats telling them where to go, when to form wolfpacks, where to patrol, when to take up position on a particular line that convoys were expected to cross, and more. U-boats sent back daily reports and when a U-boat did sight a convoy, it shadowed the Allied ships and sent out frequent position reports to call in more hunters.

This was a huge amount of very detailed communication, and did indeed directly impact the tactical situation.

By contrast, if Rommel had felt it necessary to brief OKW on one of his battle plans, he would fly there himself.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that large-scale operations on land are a different kettle of fish from trying to find a wolfpack in the open ocean. If you give a competent set of staff officers some basic information such as the location, date and force composition of a corps-level attack, they can make a pretty good job of second-guessing what is likely to come at them. There are only so many ways you can shovel tens of thousands of men and all the associated logistics through a given set of terrain.
If you look at Case Yellow, for example, a credible tip along the lines of “Holland a diversion, main thrust Ardennes/Meuse” a week or so in advance would have been enough to turn the Blitzkrieg into a complete and utter disaster for the Germans.

I know.

I’m usually very much a descriptivist as opposed to a prescriptionist when it comes to language, but giving up the older, and to my mind, more elegant definition of Nemesis just chafes my butt.

And I blame Joss because he wrote in the little discussion among the minor villains of Season 6 as to whether they were Buffy’s nemesis, arch-nemesis, or arch-nemeses (plural). Grrrrrr! Argh!

I’ll be quiet now.

Monty gets no great general points from me for his handling of North Africa. Rommel’s supplies were being interfered with to the point of not being resupplied at all, thanks to Enigma. Without fuel and more tanks, Rommel was a sitting duck. The fact that he managed to save 30 or so of his tanks and his own skin was brilliant generalship. With more than a 20 to 1 tank advantage by the end, and having Enigma intelligence, which generally constituted the whole order of battle, Monty should have done better.

But he didn’t. That being said, Monty didn’t screw things up like his predecessors had. But his offensive was pathetic considering what his advantage was and he knew how big an advantage it was. Rommel should not have been allowed to retreat at all.

Patton and Rommel never met in battle. Only in propaganda did it matter. And Patton’s mind.

So, now supply distances don’t matter for the purpose of your arguments unless their to Rommel’s disadvantage? However, I did refer to Rommel’s decision to attack as idiotic.

The Medenine position took nearly a week to set up and reinforce, particularly wit AT artillery, and the advance to Medenine itself was undertaken at General Alexander’s urgent request to Montgomery because of trouble further north. By the time the “Desert Fox” prepared to attack he found he had let things drag on a bit too long. In his own words, from The New Zealand Army documents:

NZETC - Rommel’s comments

Now to deal with this ‘Ultra’ thing which you appear to believe caused victories as per your quote:

Here’s a different perspective on Ultra, its limitations and benefits. Basically it concludes that on a short term, day to day tactical level it had limited benefit, particularly where land engagements were concerned, but it did provide a great advantage in planning things on a long term basis.

As for Alam Halfa, the main reason for the victory was Montgomery ditching that ridiculous and over complicated Auchinleck/Dorman-Smith defensive plan and substituting his own. (Oh please, please Lord, let no one mention that idiot Corelli Barnett).

Now, back to the battles between Patton and Rommel.

Sometimes even great intelligence isn’t enough. Allied code-breaking had pretty much handed them the entire plan for the invasion of Crete. But even knowing what German troops were going to be used and when and where they were going to attack wasn’t enough of an advantage for the Allies to win the battle.

Was Rommel in Egypt as well-supplied as Monty in Tunisia? I think not. Most likely Rommel in Tunisia wasn’t as well-supplied as Monty in Tunisia. Length of supply line can be overcome by having enough materiel and transport, and that made Tunisia-Alexandria a better bet for Monty than Tunisia-Italy was for Rommel.

Caused victories? Caused victories? You are indeed having a laugh. I said decrypts were one of the factors that gave Monty his victories, along with superior quantities of materiel and shorter supply lines. Since you appear to believe that intelligence was irrelevant, force superiority was irrelevant, and supply was irrelevant, I presume you ascribe victory purely to Monty’s god-like genius?

The reputation these two have, and their purported rivalry, is just more of the same stuff that we’ve been going over with Monty. Both of them did well because they were skilled commanders who were given solid military machines and understood how to lead them and how to use them - just like Monty. But it doesn’t mean they were all avatars of Mars in human form.

Wars are generally won by solid, competent commanders who don’t fuck up, who are on the side with the big batallions, and who can leaven sensible risk aversion with a little audacity when it’s absolutely required. But the tag of ‘solid professional who never fucks things up and gets the job done’ doesn’t massage the ego very much, and it doesn’t make for good press. That, along with the drama of long arrows sweeping back and forth over a map of Africa leads to Rommel, Patton and Monty having an over-inflated reputation, IMO.

(Re the Green Hornet and the Desert Fox).

I agree with you 100%.:slight_smile:

I suppose that’s not quite as bad as claims made by some Americans to the effect that:

1- Rommel was allowed to escape with his army intact.
2- Montgomery and the Eighth Army failed to pursue Rommel.

but it’s getting there.

One thing you neglected to mention was how incredibly brilliant the ‘Desert Fox’ was in mobile warfare. He certainly proved it post Alamein.

The battle of Alamein, 23 October to 3 November 1942 lasted twelve days. Montgomery pre stocked the Alamein line with eleven days of all essential supplies so that road transport could devote itself exclusively to casualties (and POWs). He was out by one day.

The outcome resulted in over 30,000 prisoners and 20,000 dead or wounded for Rommel’s forces and the elimination of nearly all his tank and artillery forces. The Eighth Army now moved into the next stage:

Pursuit Phase

Alamein to Tobruk: 4-13 November 1942.
Eighth Army under General Montgomery advanced 365 miles to Tobruk in 10 days meeting with little resistance from the shattered remnant of the Afrika Korps under Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (The Desert Fox) and continued to collect prisoners.

That’s over 36 miles per day.

Tobruk to Benghazi: 14-20 November 1942.
Eighth Army continues to pursue of the remnants of the Afrika Korps led by the Desert Fox and advances a further 305 miles from Tobruk to Benghazi in the next seven days.

That’s over 43 miles per day for another seven days or over 39 miles per day for 17 days and a total of 670 miles.

Due to supply problems that was the end of the pursuit phase.

There was pause of a few weeks while the demolished port of Benghazi was made usable again and supplies had to be built up to enable the advance to continue.

If you know of any advance in military history that went so far and so fast I’d be pleased to hear about it.

Heh. That cracks me up. It’s pretty much a truism that running away like the devil is on your tail, into the safety of your own territory, back towards your own base (so you encounter your supply train as you go) and ditching anything non-essential that might be slowing you down is nearly always faster than following the enemy into their own territory while carting all your own supplies, keeping an eye open for attacks and maintaining your forces in good order. Without a second force present to play hammer+anvil, or some terrain to pin the enemy against, it would be bloody hard to stop Rommel escaping without taking the risk of charging forward at a silly speed.
Besides, why would Monty bother trying some super-cunning manouvre that might go wrong? All he had to do was follow the trail of fear-induced diaorrhea over the horizon at a good enough speed to stop Rommel setting up good defensive position until he was back in Tunisia. Once there, the Axis weren’t going anywhere and the two allied armies could coordinate to crush the Afrika Korps like a bug at a time of their own choosing. Why fight in a hurry using one army when you can do it at your leisure with two? Monty had all the cards and he played them well.

Come to think of it, Torch put the anvil in place and Monty was swinging the hammer. It cracked Rommel’s nuts pretty thoroughly.

Eh, at the risk of hijacking, I’ll just toss in a thread from a while back.

Thanks, Earl, that’s interesting stuff. My aside was based on some fairly critical writing by Carlo d’Este and (more recently, and less damningly) Rick Atkinson.