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Thread: Field Marshal Erwin Rommel

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    What makes you think that? Does the overall German war strategy strike you as sound? They did what seemed best at the time, but that was not necessarily what was best. The supreme command made mistakes too - Fall Blau is good example of this. The axis of advance was wrong. The Germans marched directly on the Caucasus while they could've moved to Astrakhan and the Caspian sea, thereby cutting off the Caucasus from the rest of the USSR - then the Caucasus would've fallen too eventually and lots of prisoners could've been taken. That was the smarter move and not harder than directly conquering the Caucasus, on the contrary. But what about Stalingrad then? In this scenario the city is a mere footnote in history, Stalingrad was undefended during the crucial first weeks of Fall Blau - yet the Germans and especially Hoth wasted all their time on the Don, and with movements southwards.
    Yes, but we only know all of this with hindsight.

    Had Stalingrad fallen (as it easily could have done - the 6th Army occupied ≈90% of the city!!) then you and everyone else would have been talking about a German masterstroke.

    Instead, today's Internet generals are telling us all where the Wehrmacht got it wrong. The above is just one of dozens of scenarios and nobody will ever know whether these 'alternatives' would have worked. All that seems certain - to me at least - is that the German High Command would have studied the various possibilities before taking any major decisions and if plans such as the above were rejected then there was probably a valid reason.

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    Do you agree with this list? How to compare these men against Patton (USA) or Montgomery (UK)?


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    Quote Originally Posted by SaxonPagan View Post
    Yes, but we only know all of this with hindsight.
    Hindsight does not apply to my two remarks. Either the Germans discover operation Uranus/strengthen their flanks or they don't, either they march to Grozny first or they march to Astrakhan first.

    The best way to take over the Caucasus when you invade Russia from its western flank is the same now as it was in the days of Napoleon. What remains constant in warfare is geography and terrain. And today Russia's south is more vulnerable than ever due to the positioning of the borders - if that narrow gap between Kazachstan and Ukraine is sealed off, Russia's south is lost. If NATO were to invade Russia today, they'd go for the direction of the Caspian Sea and Astrakhan and divide the country in two different areas. It's a Russian nightmare. They're the most vulnerable in that area.

    Quote Originally Posted by SaxonPagan
    The above is just one of dozens of scenarios and nobody will ever know whether these 'alternatives' would have worked.
    Not all options are equally good. Some decisions were just as mistaken back then as they currently seem. Reaching Astrakhan was never a problem, the Germans knew they could take it and it would have worked with far more ease than what they were trying to achieve historically. The Soviets were really weak on their southern front when Fall Blau commenced, so the Germans reaching Astrakhan was feasible and they could've done that easily enough, while taking an undefended Stalingrad along the way. Instead they opted to go for the Causasus directly and the changed their plans in the middle of the offensive and moved on a well-protected Stalingrad. Let's not forget that this was Germany's last chance to NOT lose WW2. All of the OKW knew that the allies would be too strong to take on starting from 1943. It's not a laughing matter, this the single most important military operation Germany carried out in its history with the exception of the Schlieffenplan (1914) and Operation Michael (1918). Everything else pales in comparison.

    The benefit of having an alternative objective for Fall Blau, namely Astrakhan, changes everything. By using the shoulder of the Caspian Sea as a flank a Stalingrad-like scenario in southern Russia can be excluded - it would not have happened there - the Germans would've been able to concentrate their forces on much smaller fronts and the Soviets would've been prevented from encircling the Sixth Army because they're not gonna cross the Caspian to land a massive forces in barges behind German lines which they can not supply. It's infinitely better option than the one the OKW went with.

    But the real beauty is that after taking Astrakhan, the Germans can move against a much weakened, largely unsupplied Caucasian front, which is separated from the rest of the U.S.S.R. And then Fall Blau is a smashing hit. If it all works out Germany then has still a chance to decisively beat the U.S.S.R. a year later, in 1943. The chance of this approach being successful is bigger than the chance of failure. And then the Third Reich may even be around today.

    Quote Originally Posted by SaxonPagan
    Had Stalingrad fallen (as it easily could have done - the 6th Army occupied ≈90% of the city!!) then you and everyone else would have been talking about a German masterstroke.
    No, then Fall Blue is still a failure and Germany lost the war, it doesn't matter whether Stalingrad is taken, it's all about the Caucasus. Stalingrad has almost no relevance in comparison to what is at stake. The Germans would have taken a heap of rubble on the Wolga which costed them countless lives - but decisive victory would've remained out of reach. And all of a sudden it's 1943 and the war is lost. And that would've been evident to the OKW too. They shouldn't have attacked Stalingrad with so much emphasis on taking the city itelf in the first place. It was a dumb idea back then as well. They should've seized it when they could or bypassed it. Tell me which brilliant commanders miss the opportunity to take an objective when it's undefended, instead attacking it frontally at the costs of tens of thousands of lives after it has been properly fortified... only to not take it anyway. The Germans should've learned their lesson already back in 1939 when they attacked Warsaw with a panzer division, then called off the attack straightaway as it got stuck in the suburbs.

    Quote Originally Posted by SaxonPagan
    Instead, today's Internet generals are telling us all where the Wehrmacht got it wrong.
    You're in this thread too, telling us why the OKW got it "right" - despite the fiasco of Fall Blau and with little appreciation of the whole campaign. As if its failure was just a coincidence, an accident de parcours, something that happens like concending an owngoal in extra-time during a football match. Nope, the Germans were asking for encirclement by sticking their neck out that far, it already happened to them the winter before around Moscow and up north and they would always run that risk whenever they advanced without taking necessary precautions against encirclements.

    You love talking about these subjects as well, here you are doing it - if we can't discuss the merits of stategies and armies we can do away with WW2 military discussions entirely. Rommel and the Wehrmacht are not above criticism. The Wehrmacht was tactically superior, operationally pretty strong and weak in the strategic domain, quite like the imperial army that came before it. I prefer the facts as opposed to (post-)WW2 myths. What good is it to believe Rommel and the OKW were flawless when they were deeply flawed?

    Quote Originally Posted by SaxonPagan
    if plans such as the above were rejected then there was probably a valid reason.
    The reason was not valid, the OKW made the mistake of going directly for its ultimate objective without properly taking care of its flanks. Certainly they considered alternatives like going for Astrakhan but they were too tempted by the prospect of seizing the Caucasus by a coup de main. Yes, they messed up. The German command structure was excellently educated, but the longer the war dragged on the more sloppy and desperate it got - which is perfectly logical. A country which begins to lose a war sees its military and its planning slowy fall apart.
    “Remember that all worlds draw to an end and that noble death is a treasure which no-one is too poor to buy.” - C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

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    You're in this thread too, telling us why the OKW got it "right" - despite the fiasco of Fall Blau and with little appreciation of the whole campaign. As if its failure was just a coincidence, an accident de parcours, something that happens like concending an owngoal in extra-time during a football match. Nope, the Germans were asking for encirclement by sticking their neck out that far, it already happened to them the winter before around Moscow and up north and they would always run that risk whenever they advanced without taking necessary precautions against encirclements.
    I'm not claiming the OKW got it right (..which goes without saying since the operation was a failure!) I'm just saying that they had all of the information to hand and the best military strategists in Germany at that time decided on this particular course of action.

    Do you think that all those Prussian generals didn’t appreciate the dangers of encirclement? They would have probably learnt this stuff during their first week at the Kriegsschule but in war you sometimes have to take gambles and they were counting on capturing Stalingrad. After several months of intense fighting they were unable to do so and their weak flanks were eventually exposed to a counter-attack, as we now know.

    Okay, credit to the Russians here. Their resistance was stronger than anticipated and there was always this risk, as the OKW would have realised. They clearly felt that their chances of taking the city were significantly greater than the possibility of their weak spots being exploited later on, and had they succeeded then the latter would never have become a factor and nobody would have mentioned it to this day.

    Look, in 1941 on the march to Moscow the Wehrmacht encircled the Red Army on numerous occasions but 12 months later they’d run out of steam and the opposite took place. These things happen and it’s often just a case of who has the fresher troops, heavier firepower or superior numbers.

    Anyway, my whole point was that it’s one thing being involved in the actual events and quite another to present theories on the Internet almost 8 decades later when you know the outcome of the battle (ie what ‘mistakes’ to avoid). This is all I’m saying, and since you like football analogies let me remind you of the Panenka penalty. He’s now a legend because he tried something innovative and it worked in a major final, but had he failed then the legions of armchair experts would have condemned him for being so stupid. I can definitely see some parallels here!

    You love talking about these subjects as well, here you are doing it - if we can't discuss the merits of stategies and armies we can do away with WW2 military discussions entirely. Rommel and the Wehrmacht are not above criticism. The Wehrmacht was tactically superior, operationally pretty strong and weak in the strategic domain, quite like the imperial army that came before it. I prefer the facts as opposed to (post-)WW2 myths. What good is it to believe Rommel and the OKW were flawless when they were deeply flawed?
    Yes, I do enjoy these discussions and I’m not averse to you taking digs at Rommel either but, once again, he was a field marshal in the Wehrmacht whereas you have no formal military training. He was far from flawless but the chances are that his decisions were not as amateurish as you portray them (..as an amateur yourself). Sure, I accept that he was a bit ‘unconventional’ at times – these are often the individuals who rise to prominence, for better or for worse - and it all depends which side you want to focus on. If you want to emphasise Rommel’s faults and limitations then fine, but I still find his overall contribution to have been overwhelmingly positive despite this.

    I also prefer facts to myths and Rommel’s genius is not a post-WW2 myth by any stretch. He ascended to the very top of his profession during WW2 itself so whatever embellishments his reputation may have undergone since, the fact remains that he became one of the Wehrmacht’s most illustrious figures based purely on merit in the first place. Who knows? It may have been yet another OKW cock-up to promote him to this rank whereas you feel he was only fit to be a divisional commander. Again, I tend to go with the decision of experienced professional soldiers who would have been far more aware of his abilities, first-hand, than anyone who is around today.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SaxonPagan
    Yes, I do enjoy these discussions and I’m not averse to you taking digs at Rommel either but, once again, he was a field marshal in the Wehrmacht whereas you have no formal military training.
    Yes, but I'm not making it up on the go. I read the accounts and books of historians and experts. You haven't. I didn't come up with the Astrakhan idea myself. The fact you can not refute anything I said about Fall Blau nor have a basic awareness about its objectives means you probably should stick to talking about things you do know something about. Instead you gotta talk about me, again.

    I'm just saying that they had all of the information to hand and the best military strategists in Germany at that time decided on this particular course of action.
    And they still messed up on an epic scale. The best strategists turned out to be really poor strategists - German strategy in both world wars is widely viewed as being of very poor quality, not because of chance or happenstance, but fundamental miscalculations. The OKW became complacent after the Fall of France, unlike after the Fall of Poland - when they were unhappy with the performance of the armed forces and completely revamped them. They should've done the same thing before invading the U.S.S.R. The Germans were already experiencing serious logistical problems when they pushed beyond Normandy in June 1940 and which would only repeat themselves when they pushed far beyond Minsk in the U.S.S.R., just worse. They learned far too little from Fall Gelb because of misplaced arrogance.

    Do you think that all those Prussian generals didn’t appreciate the dangers of encirclement? They would have probably learnt this stuff during their first week at the Kriegsschule but in war you sometimes have to take gambles and they were counting on capturing Stalingrad. After several months of intense fighting they were unable to do so and their weak flanks were eventually exposed to a counter-attack, as we now know.
    Yes, I do think that because that's the way it was. These generals didn't appreciate the threat, underestimated the soviets and were taken almost completely by surprise. No, in war you do not gamble, unless you're a very poor military or political leader. You're turning all military principles and Sun Tzu on their head. Namely: avoiding battles you can not win and winning the war before it starts. Bewegungskriegs, the German doctrine, is the complete antithesis of urban warfare.

    Stalingrad could've and should've fallen without a single shot being fired. That the Germans fought for Stalingrad at all or ended up in a situation where such a large encirclement was possible is the failure of the German army and German strategy and disposition.

    They clearly felt that their chances of taking the city were significantly greater than the possibility of their weak spots being exploited later on, and had they succeeded then the latter would never have become a factor and nobody would have mentioned it to this day.
    Stalingrad is unimportant. Fall Blau is about seizing the Caucasus, Stalingrad is a waste of time and a diversion. Taking Stalingrad would've had little impact on the campaign in the Caucasus. Like I said: they would've still lost the war despite taking Stalingrad, but taking over the Caucasus would've given Germany an opportunity to avoid the nightmare of 1943-1945 - and the OKW fully realized that. And yet...

    Look, in 1941 on the march to Moscow the Wehrmacht encircled the Red Army on numerous occasions but 12 months later they’d run out of steam and the opposite took place. These things happen and it’s often just a case of who has the fresher troops, heavier firepower or superior numbers.
    Fresher troops, heavier firepower, superior numbers - none of these things were the issue during Operation Uranus, which is what you're talking about. And the Germans should've invested far more time in finishing off these encircled Soviet troops even if that means a slower advance, instead many of these encircled troops escaped and lived to fight another day and trap German troops themselves later on. Just finishing off these encircled troops could've already meant that Germany defeats the U.S.S.R. instead of the other way around. Yes, offensives always lose momentum eventually, but that was not the case yet for Fall Blau, the Germans were still gaining ground where it mattered.

    Anyway, my whole point was that it’s one thing being involved in the actual events and quite another to present theories on the Internet almost 8 decades later when you know the outcome of the battle (ie what ‘mistakes’ to avoid).
    Individual soldiers who were there during the campaign can tell you less about the big picture than amateurs and historians do today. They could've told you the story of their war and what the campaign was like, yet they're not more qualified than you and I to speak about the movements of 100.000s of soldiers.

    This is all I’m saying, and since you like football analogies let me remind you of the Panenka penalty. He’s now a legend because he tried something innovative and it worked in a major final, but had he failed then the legions of armchair experts would have condemned him for being so stupid. I can definitely see some parallels here!
    But a Panenka penalty is a dumb idea and an idiotic gamble! And panenkas go wrong all the time. You lower your chances of scoring a penalty by trying one - whereas a penalty which is aimed at one of the corners of the target will always result in a goal provided the ball has enough speed so the goalkeeper can not react. Who says that? Professionals. And if you've ever kicked a penalty - or a winning penalty for an amateur cup - and I have and I played with and against Belgian U-18 members - then you should know that too. An amateur can figure that out as well. Panenka himself had one major advantage: that of surprise. He wasn't gambling. Today any goalkeeper expects a panenka, making it less probable to score that way. If I was a football manager and a player of mine tried a panenka in game he'd start on the bench during the next game. And I was saying not to compare war to football and that I do not like that kind of analogy.

    I also prefer facts to myths and Rommel’s genius is not a post-WW2 myth by any stretch.
    He was not a genius, that is part of the (post-)WW2 mythology. Edgy kids on the internet may still believe that though.

    He ascended to the very top of his profession during WW2 itself so whatever embellishments his reputation may have undergone since, the fact remains that he became one of the Wehrmacht’s most illustrious figures based purely on merit in the first place.
    He should have never risen to the top, I already explained why Hitler's favorite did.

    Sure, I accept that he was a bit ‘unconventional’ at times – these are often the individuals who rise to prominence, for better or for worse.
    How do you know that, being an amateur? How do you know he was unconventional? You read it. Well, I read some more than you have. That's why I know better. Rommel wasn't unconventional per se, he stuck to what he learned as an infantry officer and a divisional commander - that made him an unconventional corps commander.

    Who knows? It may have been yet another OKW cock-up to promote him to this rank whereas you feel he was only fit to be a divisional commander. Again, I tend to go with the decision of experienced professional soldiers who would have been far more aware of his abilities, first-hand, than anyone who is around today.
    Again, the professionals say the same thing, not least of all the officers who served under him. There are plenty of people who worked with him who have criticized his overrated capabilities throughout the years. Sometimes people he criticized for doing exactly what he did himself when he was a divisional commander - as their priority was their own division or unit, not the corps or the army. You are not aware of this. Read some newer material.

    If you want to emphasise Rommel’s faults and limitations then fine, but I still find his overall contribution to have been overwhelmingly positive despite this.
    His record is so-so. But he was great at winning battles, he was tactically strong.

    He was far from flawless but the chances are that his decisions were not as amateurish as you portray them (..as an amateur yourself).
    Rommel was unqualified to lead anything more than a division, but an amateur he was not. However, as an amateur yourself, you should perhaps not have opinions on anything other than matters you have professional experience in - and certainly not lionize Rommel - I can employ that argument against you too, you know. And next time you criticize a footballer or a politician or have any opinion on history, I'll use the very same argument against you. It's bollocks, but there you go. We'll have much less to debate on Skadi if we follow your reasoning.

    I also like to remind you that complete amateurs have defeated professional armies on every level in the past, including the strategic realm - war is not a science, but an art - in that regard it would be like football indeed. All great footballers and great artists were already great when they were amateurs, they just needed some refining. But that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a right way and a wrong way of doing things - Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" makes that crystal clear.
    “Remember that all worlds draw to an end and that noble death is a treasure which no-one is too poor to buy.” - C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle

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