Rundstedt's central reserve

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Mori
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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Mori » 18 May 2021 18:23

Cult Icon wrote:
18 May 2021 17:57
The two encirclements resulted in a huge loss of equipment. If anything there would be more forces available in the West than the II SS Pz Korps.
Quantifying is necessary, I believe.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Juan G. C. » 18 May 2021 19:11

Mori wrote:
18 May 2021 17:30
Thanks, it's good to have a clean starting point. Your whole scenario is well developed.

The development of the Eastern Front campaign is well articulated. The main consequence of all these preventive shortening of the frontline, north and south, is fewer fight. Certainly this should save some German units, but how many Russian units who also be spared? Have you got any idea what's the balance of strength after these moves, especially if it turns out the Russians still have enough momentum left to launch a couple of operations ? I have no idea myself, but this seems to be the logical next step: putting a few numbers to check whether early withdrawal is that much better.

I think it's Weinberg who once noticed that for all the post-war German talk about "shortening the lines", there wasn't ever any mention it would *also* shorten the Russian lines...
Actually Manstein mentions something similar in Lost Victories as one of Hitler's arguments against shortening the front:
Every time a shortening of the front was advocated, moreover, he repeatedly fell back on the quite irrefutable argument that this would release enemy formations as well. What Hitler chose to overlook was that although an attacker may bleed to death before an adequately defended front, any attempt to hold one which can at best be manned on the scale of a safety screen will merely cause the meagre defending forces to be expended at an excessive rate. Assuming, that is, that the enemy does not simply over-run them.
I fear I have no idea either of the balance of strength after the withdrawals. But I think Manstein is right when he says that an enemy may bleed to death before an adequately defended front (which was what he intended by shortening the line).

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Sheldrake » 18 May 2021 19:29

Juan G. C. wrote:
16 May 2021 18:44
In 1944, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander-in-chief West, wanted to form a central reserve around Paris with Panzer divisions and mobile infantry divisions. Unlike general Geyr von Schweppenburg, who also wanted a central reserve but who, in the event of a landing, wanted to let the Western Allies push inland and then figth a tank battle there, outside the range of its naval artillery, Rundstedt wanted to counterattack the Allies in the beaches once they had commited their forces, but before they had been able to consolidate its position there (this difference is usually obscured by the fact that both wanted a central reserve, unlike Rommel). What if he had been allowed to form that central reserve with what he had, and under his command?

IRL Rundstedt gave the order to move to the Panzer Lehr and the 12th SS Panzer toward Normandy two hours before the seaborne landings, when he was informed of the airborne landings (even if he hadn't authority to do that and was countermanded by OKW). In this scenario, it is likely that he would have done the same with the central reserve. How much time would have taken for it to reach the beaches from the area of Paris, when could it have counterattacked, and with which results?

I do not know exactly how many divisions would have made up this central reserve, nor which divisions. According to general Günther Blumentritt, his chief of staff, Rundstedt asked for a central reserve of "five or six panzer and from eight to ten infantry divisions in the area, and to the south, of Paris" (Von Rundstedt, the soldier and the man, p. 183).

PS. No secrets: I admit here that I am searching for a way to defeat the Normandy landings.
Much of the histiography of D Day and Normandy tends to agree with Rommel's logic which led to a thin crust on D Day crushed on the Longest day. The assumption being that no German movement could survive allied air superiority - particularly when guided by Ultra.

But some of this can be challenged. As Nicholas Zetterling has cataloged, Allied airpower was less effective than claimed. There is also the example of Anzio and Operation Perch.

The allies planed to make bold advances inland on D Day with columns penetrating as far as Falaise and Villers Bocage. What if the Germans waited until the allies over extended their lines as they had in the advance from the Anzio beachhead. Around D+6 there was a rough parity in the number of troops inland. What if Runstedt's reserve was deployed against an over extended line of British troops out side naval gun range?

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 May 2021 20:27

Juan G. C. wrote:
16 May 2021 18:44
In 1944, Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, commander-in-chief West, wanted to form a central reserve around Paris with Panzer divisions and mobile infantry divisions. Unlike general Geyr von Schweppenburg, who also wanted a central reserve but who, in the event of a landing, wanted to let the Western Allies push inland and then figth a tank battle there, outside the range of its naval artillery, Rundstedt wanted to counterattack the Allies in the beaches once they had commited their forces, but before they had been able to consolidate its position there (this difference is usually obscured by the fact that both wanted a central reserve, unlike Rommel). What if he had been allowed to form that central reserve with what he had, and under his command?
This looks like a larger traffic jamb for the Germans than OTL. The French roads were not the Autobahn.
Juan G. C. wrote:
16 May 2021 18:44
IRL Rundstedt gave the order to move to the Panzer Lehr and the 12th SS Panzer toward Normandy two hours before the seaborne landings, when he was informed of the airborne landings...
Initially he designated the 15th Army area as the invasion & destination. That idea wasn't dropped until after 04:00. One wonders what the effect of Pz Divs rushing off to Calais & Boulogne at 03:00 would have been. Then turning sharply south at 04:30 as new orders arrive.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Mori » 18 May 2021 20:46

Juan G. C. wrote:
18 May 2021 19:11
I fear I have no idea either of the balance of strength after the withdrawals. But I think Manstein is right when he says that an enemy may bleed to death before an adequately defended front (which was what he intended by shortening the line).
It's very good: you can point what assumption to challenge. And thanks for quoting Manstein, I had forgotten his arguments. Manstein's point of view is severely biased, as you can imagine. Also, there are multiple examples of voluntary withdrawals which did not block the enemy.

For example :
- withdrawal of the Orel bulge in July-August 1943, right after the battle of Kursk. The Hagen line, prepared for weeks at the base of bulge, and supposedly "adequately defended", was punched after a few days of fight
- withdrawal of the small Kovel bulge end June 1944 : the new line didn't block the Russians at all when they launched the Kovel-Lublin operation
- withdrawal of South France after the Provence landings in August 1944 : the Germans couldn't even take advantage of such a perfect defensive terrain as the narrow Rhone valley to stall the US/French armies. They had to retreat to the Vosges, way further than the Seine-Saone line they first wanted to hold

Also note that "no early withdrawal" may well stop the enemy too. Your counterfactual includes an early evacuation of the north of the Eastern front to the Panther line (= border of the Baltic States) in January 1944. This line was were the fight stabilized mid-March 1944, in spite of no early withdrawal. In other terms, it is questionable whether such 'straightening' of the frontline is key to success. I'm not saying it's an idea to discard altogether, just that it's too weak a parameter to get to any conclusion.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Mori » 18 May 2021 20:49

Sheldrake wrote:
18 May 2021 19:29
The allies planed to make bold advances inland on D Day with columns penetrating as far as Falaise and Villers Bocage. What if the Germans waited until the allies over extended their lines as they had in the advance from the Anzio beachhead. Around D+6 there was a rough parity in the number of troops inland. What if Runstedt's reserve was deployed against an over extended line of British troops out side naval gun range?
That's a great twist, and one we hardly ever see mentioned: after a week or so, it would have been much riskier to advance deeply into France than to be contained in a 10-15km deep beachhead. There is certainly something to dig here.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Kingfish » 18 May 2021 23:57

Sheldrake wrote:
18 May 2021 19:29
The allies planed to make bold advances inland on D Day with columns penetrating as far as Falaise and Villers Bocage. What if the Germans waited until the allies over extended their lines as they had in the advance from the Anzio beachhead. Around D+6 there was a rough parity in the number of troops inland. What if Runstedt's reserve was deployed against an over extended line of British troops out side naval gun range?
The question is would Monty overextend?

Several factors would lead me to doubt it. His methodical style emphasizing extensive preparations and 'balance', the experience of fighting Rommel in the North African desert, and knowledge that the Germans have a strong panzer reserve waiting beyond the beaches all point to more of a 'bite and hold" approach.
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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Michael Kenny » 19 May 2021 00:44

Kingfish wrote:
18 May 2021 23:57
Sheldrake wrote:
18 May 2021 19:29
The allies planed to make bold advances inland on D Day with columns penetrating as far as Falaise and Villers Bocage. What if the Germans waited until the allies over extended their lines as they had in the advance from the Anzio beachhead. Around D+6 there was a rough parity in the number of troops inland. What if Runstedt's reserve was deployed against an over extended line of British troops out side naval gun range?
The question is would Monty overextend?

Several factors would lead me to doubt it...............
This is exactly what the Allies thought the Germans would do so far from being a surprise it was factored in right from the start. Its the root of all the 'Monty made his excuses after he was stalled' complaints. The plan was for the Commonwealth to form a shield to defeat any such attack whilst the US Forces went west and secured the Atlantic Ports. The much derided 'draw the German armour to Caen' plan.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Mori » 19 May 2021 07:30

You are correct, but there could also be a situation where such "overextension" just happened on the ground, 'in spite' of Monty. We are more talking of an extra 10km, which can be taken in the course of a day, than of 50km.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Juan G. C. » 19 May 2021 08:03

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
18 May 2021 20:27
Initially he designated the 15th Army area as the invasion & destination. That idea wasn't dropped until after 04:00. One wonders what the effect of Pz Divs rushing off to Calais & Boulogne at 03:00 would have been. Then turning sharply south at 04:30 as new orders arrive.
What is the source for that? The sources I've read say nothing of that. United States Army in World War II: Cross Channel Attack says:
Rundstedt had reacted to the first news of the airborne landings with a quick decision to commit at once all operational reserves within striking distance. (Map XIII) He took this decision, despite uncertainty as to the extent of the Allied landings, on the grounds that whether the landings were major or subsidiary it was still imperative to repel them at once. It was between 0330 and 0400, two hours before the seaborne landings, that he ordered the 12th SS Panzer Division to move immediately toward Caen and the Panzer Lehr Division to prepare for similar movement.96 He estimated that the reported airborne landings were on such a large scale that they could not be a mere deception maneuver and they therefore would have to be reinforced from the sea. The only feasible area for such reinforcement was the east coast of the Cotentin and the beaches between the Vire and Orne Rivers. From observation Allied assault exercises, the Germans were sure the assault on the coast would take place at dawn. Rundstedt wanted have armor at hand to counterattack the first hours. There was therefore no time to debate contingencies. He reasoned further that, even if the Normandy assault were planned by the Allies as a secondary effort, it was probable that they would exploit whatever success it achieved. The attack, whatever its character, should therefore be met with all available force. Rundstedt's reasoning was clear and his action decisive.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Michael Kenny » 19 May 2021 08:11

It must be noted that both 21 Pz Div on June 6th and 12th SS on June 7th were stopped by relatively small Allied forces. It is more than likely any June 6th German attack would be defeated.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Sheldrake » 19 May 2021 09:13

Kingfish wrote:
18 May 2021 23:57
Sheldrake wrote:
18 May 2021 19:29
The allies planed to make bold advances inland on D Day with columns penetrating as far as Falaise and Villers Bocage. What if the Germans waited until the allies over extended their lines as they had in the advance from the Anzio beachhead. Around D+6 there was a rough parity in the number of troops inland. What if Runstedt's reserve was deployed against an over extended line of British troops out side naval gun range?
The question is would Monty overextend?

Several factors would lead me to doubt it. His methodical style emphasizing extensive preparations and 'balance', the experience of fighting Rommel in the North African desert, and knowledge that the Germans have a strong panzer reserve waiting beyond the beaches all point to more of a 'bite and hold" approach.
Monty did occasionally over extend and was inclined occasionally to impulsive actions. The board front advance to Catania and Op Market Garden come to mind.

In the scenario postulated there would be huge pressure from the rear to dash forwards and liberate France. Look at how everyone goaded Lucas and castigated him for not trying to dash for Rome with his inadequate resources.

Could or would Eisenhower resist the pressure to push forwards, to take a risk and save lives?

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Mori » 19 May 2021 12:02

Michael Kenny wrote:
19 May 2021 08:11
It must be noted that both 21 Pz Div on June 6th and 12th SS on June 7th were stopped by relatively small Allied forces. It is more than likely any June 6th German attack would be defeated.
No doubt. The mass of Allied troops on the Normandy ground at the end of June 6th is just too huge to be defeated immediately. Things are a little different by D+6 or so, as someone noted above.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Juan G. C. » 19 May 2021 12:16

Mori wrote:
18 May 2021 20:46
Juan G. C. wrote:
18 May 2021 19:11
I fear I have no idea either of the balance of strength after the withdrawals. But I think Manstein is right when he says that an enemy may bleed to death before an adequately defended front (which was what he intended by shortening the line).
It's very good: you can point what assumption to challenge. And thanks for quoting Manstein, I had forgotten his arguments. Manstein's point of view is severely biased, as you can imagine. Also, there are multiple examples of voluntary withdrawals which did not block the enemy.

For example :
- withdrawal of the Orel bulge in July-August 1943, right after the battle of Kursk. The Hagen line, prepared for weeks at the base of bulge, and supposedly "adequately defended", was punched after a few days of fight
- withdrawal of the small Kovel bulge end June 1944 : the new line didn't block the Russians at all when they launched the Kovel-Lublin operation
- withdrawal of South France after the Provence landings in August 1944 : the Germans couldn't even take advantage of such a perfect defensive terrain as the narrow Rhone valley to stall the US/French armies. They had to retreat to the Vosges, way further than the Seine-Saone line they first wanted to hold

Also note that "no early withdrawal" may well stop the enemy too. Your counterfactual includes an early evacuation of the north of the Eastern front to the Panther line (= border of the Baltic States) in January 1944. This line was were the fight stabilized mid-March 1944, in spite of no early withdrawal. In other terms, it is questionable whether such 'straightening' of the frontline is key to success. I'm not saying it's an idea to discard altogether, just that it's too weak a parameter to get to any conclusion.
I agree that a voluntary withdrawal and shortening of the front does not necessarily stop the enemy, but when it does not, probably not withdrawing wouldn't have stopped him either, and perhaps the result would have been worse. For example, in the case of the Orel bulge, the Soviets intended to encircle and destroy the German forces there, so the withdrawal prevented this.

It is also true that there are situations when a withdrawal isn't necessary to stop the enemy (the Soviets in the bulge of Kursk is for me an even better example). But I am not sure a withdrawal of Army Grupo North to the Panther line wouldn't have been better than not withdrawing.

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Re: Rundstedt's central reserve

Post by Michael Kenny » 19 May 2021 12:26

Mori wrote:
19 May 2021 12:02


No doubt. The mass of Allied troops on the Normandy ground at the end of June 6th is just too huge to be defeated immediately. Things are a little different by D+6 or so, as someone noted above.
The whole scenario is unrealistic. For it to have any chance the Allies have to fail to notice extra Panzer Divisions in France or -even more unlikely-decide not to take any action to deal with said threat. Neither is even remotely a possibility. The whole invasion planning was done precisely so that there was always a big enough force landed that could deal with any realistic German threat. Thus I handwavium a larger force landed that could deal with X number of panzer divisions arriving within X number of days after the landings.
Problem solved.

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