Rommel vs Monty, Round 722

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Alter Mann
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Rommel vs Monty, Round 722

Post by Alter Mann » 10 May 2006 04:11

The Round 722 is to indicate that this isn't the first time a thread has been started with the title "Rommel vs Monty."

From US Army FM 3-90, Tactics:
1-26. The commander should take the minimum time necessary in planning and preparing to ensure a reasonable chance of success. Reduced coordination at the start of the operation results in less than optimum combat power brought to bear on the enemy, but often allows for increased speed and momentum while possibly achieving surprise. The commander must balance the effects of reduced coordination against the risk that the effects of increased coordination will not match the enemy’s improved posture over time. The more time the commander takes to prepare for the operation, including improving his situational understanding, the more time the enemy has to prepare and move additional units within supporting range or distance. Additionally, it reduces the time his subordinates have to conduct their own planning and preparations. If the enemy can improve his disposition faster than the friendly force can, the delays in execution decrease the commander’s chances of success.
I've always had trouble with Rommel getting the short end of the stick at El Alamein. It's probably because I've never really been fond of Monty, but I also realize that air superiority was a significant factor.

Based on the bolded part above, Montgomery did exactly the right thing. Erwin didn't seem to have as good a grasp of the situation. Montgomery could just about wait forever before he attacked because I suspect he knew how little fuel had been making it across the Med. Rommel, on the other hand, had Commando Supremo's promises and little else.

After all these years of denial, I have to say that Montgomery proved to be the better tactician in this battle at least in that he delayed the start until he had what he felt was overwhelming superiority. Frankly, with this new view of the issue, I think he could have waited longer and still have had at least as good odds of winning. I just can't see Rommel's chances getting better with time.

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Post by alf » 10 May 2006 07:43

Montys worse enemy was always his own ego. It puts many people off. It is in the same league as Patton and MacArthur and the infamous General "5th Army" Clarke there. But he was a competent general and his score against Rommel was 2-0. Victory in war is what matters, victory with the least possible losses matter more. Monty was competent. He won and he kept losses down.

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Post by Von Lerner » 10 May 2006 16:57

Many historians believe he was too cautious. But I counter this arugment because he knew that during World War 1 troops of the commonwealth countries suffered massive casulaties because of poor leadership and tactics. Those countries (except for maybe Australia and New Zealand) became less loyal to the crown since they had lost so much of their young generation.

Monty tried to keep casualites as low as possible so it would not anger commonwealth allies. And as alf said he was a very competent commander. Even though his ego was a little too much for American commanders. Patton's ego was a good one, he wanted to fight and "kill Germans" but Monty was just too English, laidback, and twity. Indeed, many people found him incredibly annoying. But that doesn't really take away from his military ability.

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Post by Graeme Sydney » 12 May 2006 22:01

Von Lerner wrote: Many historians believe he was too cautious.
I agree. The criticism of Monty wasn’t that he wasn’t a good general but that he wasn’t a great general (as depicted by his own and the Pommy hype). I fact I believe that Monty was given widespread recognition as an organizer, a trainer, a publicist/morale raiser and as a ‘political’ general able to resist the political pressures of his political masters.

At El Alamein I believe that the main military criticism wasn’t of the preparation but for the fact that he didn’t outmaneuver the DAK and crush and annihilate them when he had the opportunity.

Von Lerner wrote: But I counter this arugment because he knew that during World War 1 troops of the commonwealth countries suffered massive casulaties because of poor leadership and tactics.
I believe that Monty was very conscious of the needless waste of life and it affected his cautiousness and his decision making. However I don’t believe there is any evidence that he was particular sensitive to the commonwealth countries suffering. Indeed, in both wars our lament was ‘our blood their glory’. El Alamein would be a good example where the commonwealth countries forces were used as the shock troops in the most intense action and got very little specific recognition.

Von Lerner wrote: Those countries (except for maybe Australia and New Zealand) became less loyal to the crown since they had lost so much of their young generation.
In the greater scheme of things it probably had negligible effect on the relationship. Growing away is part of growing up (maturing as a nation).
Von Lerner wrote: Monty tried to keep casualites as low as possible so it would not anger commonwealth allies.
News to us. Our impression was the opposite. He was prepared to use commonwealth troops as shock troops (a la WW1)either to preserve own troops or because the commonwealth forces were better shock troops, and without giving recognition. Indeed, denying due recognition.

Von Lerner wrote: ……but Monty was just too English, laidback, and twity. Indeed, many people found him incredibly annoying. But that doesn't really take away from his military ability.
So absolutely true. He never gained much affection from Australian troops. Respect yeah, affection no. His mannerism, voice, stature and pretentious two badge beret didn’t strike any cords with the Australians.

Cheers, Graeme.

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Post by Full Monty » 12 May 2006 23:17

Montgomery was very much a product of the British Army. Inter-unit rivalry meant that co-ordination between infantry and armour, particularly at platoon and company level, was extremely difficult to achieve. Combine this with the vestiges of the crumbling class system and you have an army that lacked the kind of flexibility demonstrated by the Germans and, too a lesser degree, the Americans. Major offensives had to be planned in some detail, any kind of 'free-wheeling' exploitation in the event of a success was discouraged. Montgomery's skills in the planning and execution of 'set-piece' offensives dovetailed perfectly with this. He also had 'grip' - he managed to appear to be confident and in control even when the situation seemed perilous and conveyed that very well to those around him ('Alam Halfa', 2nd Alamein and 'The Bulge' demonstrate that very well). He was not the best Allied commander of the war, he wasn't even the best British commander of the war, but he was as good as any in the ETO, Italy and the Western Desert from 1942-5.

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Post by Legionnaire » 13 May 2006 15:57

Recently I have been reading a series of books by Robin Neillands: Battle for the Rhine 1944: Arnhem and the Ardennes - The Campaign in Europe 1944-45 , Eighth Army: From the Western Desert to the Alps, 1939-1945 amongst others.

The criticisms and myths that people seem to think of Monty in general are cleared up in these books.
Yes he was a vain, difficult and tempermental person to work but also a good solider.
Unfortunately its these character traits that got up the nose(quite rightly) of most american generals(especially patton and bradley) who then put in the knife in. The rest as they say is history.

Montys solidering abilities I think have mostly been covered already in the previous posts of this thread but to sum a few of them up:
a) he did not like to over streach his supply lines
b) he did not take needless risks
c) he was careful with his troops lives and did not throw them away needlessly.

Its these traits that have branded him as cautious, but remember especially at the end of the war the commonwealth countries(especially Britain) no longer had the troop and manpower reserves the americans had.

I do recommend the above mentioned author as he is the most readable I have encountered in some time. (His books also uncovers some truths about market garden which I won't go into here)

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Post by Full Monty » 16 May 2006 09:41

I see Rommel as the antithesis of Montgomery. He liked to lead from the front, he liked taking chances and he preferred to leave the worrying about logistics to someone else. :D I've argued elsewhere that he was best suited to commanding a division or a corps where his quick mind could see an opportunity, he could assemble his forces and take it. Once he was promoted and became more removed from the battlefield his effectiveness diminished.

In my opinion Alam Halfa makes for a good comparison between the two. With the forces virtually equal Rommel tried to employ a flanking move as he had in previous battles, but a combination of the geography of the battlefield and Montgomery's expert positioning of his forces meant it failed. However, in previous North African battles Rommel had turned the battle to his advantage by drawing unsupported British/Commonwealth armour onto his AT gun screen - armour/infantry cooperation not being an 8th Army strong suite. But despite exhortations from his divisional and corps commanders Montgomery refused to 'cut the armour loose' leaving Rommel's panzers to burn in the sun whilst under bombardment from artillery and aircraft. To me it shows Montgomery had learned from the mistakes of his predecessors and ensured that any battles were fought on his terms and not those of 'The Desert Fox'.

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Post by Imad » 23 May 2006 04:35

Legionnaire wrote:Recently I have been reading a series of books by Robin Neillands: Battle for the Rhine 1944: Arnhem and the Ardennes - The Campaign in Europe 1944-45 , Eighth Army: From the Western Desert to the Alps, 1939-1945 amongst others.

The criticisms and myths that people seem to think of Monty in general are cleared up in these books.
Yes he was a vain, difficult and tempermental person to work but also a good solider.
Unfortunately its these character traits that got up the nose(quite rightly) of most american generals(especially patton and bradley) who then put in the knife in. The rest as they say is history.

Montys solidering abilities I think have mostly been covered already in the previous posts of this thread but to sum a few of them up:
a) he did not like to over streach his supply lines
b) he did not take needless risks
c) he was careful with his troops lives and did not throw them away needlessly.

Its these traits that have branded him as cautious, but remember especially at the end of the war the commonwealth countries(especially Britain) no longer had the troop and manpower reserves the americans had.

I do recommend the above mentioned author as he is the most readable I have encountered in some time. (His books also uncovers some truths about market garden which I won't go into here)
Hello Legionnaire
I also recommend Robin Neillands' "Battle for Normandy" if you want further elucidation in that line of argument. Author does quite a job of replying to criticism from certain circles regarding Monty's battlecraft.
Regards, Imad

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Post by demonclaw » 20 Jun 2006 07:28

Legionnaire wrote:s

b) he did not take needless risks
But I would say that Operation Marketgarden was a pretty big gamble
Graeme Sydney wrote:
At El Alamein I believe that the main military criticism wasn’t of the preparation but for the fact that he didn’t outmaneuver the DAK and crush and annihilate them when he had the opportunity.
He did that in France at the falaise pocket and during the battle of the bulge , that was the problem with his over cautiousness .

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Post by Legionnaire » 20 Jun 2006 11:31

Yes Market Garden was a gamble, yet you have to remember that everything that could go wrong did go wrong in that operaton:

a)The majority of the jeeps where lost in the landing of the 6th airborne(and mobility was the key factor in the plans to secure various objectives quickly)
b)the radios did not work - a serious lack of communication
c)some foolish staff officer(US) died in a crash carried all the plans for the operation which the germans captured in a couple of hours
d) unbeknown(or ignored) by intelligence the 9th & 10th SS where present making a huge difference to the expected defences of the area
e) The US Air planners refused the British request for air to ground support from the RAF's 2nd TAF, while the US fighter aircraft were in the air protecting the transport aircraft. The Typhoons and Tempst had struck fear into the Germans in Normandy and would have had a field days against the Panzers that moved forward in daylight to engage the Airborn troops
f)The idea of using the whole parachute corps was a US idea pushed by Generals Marshal and Arnold. The Airborn Army had in the words of Arnold been burning a hole in the allied pocket just itching to be used. (hence the wasteful nature of using up men)

This amongst other things is why Market Garden went wrong. Most of my information comes from the afore mentioned Robin Neillands Book "The Battle for the Rhine 1944"
A most enlightening read.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 21 Jun 2006 04:58

Legionnaire wrote:a)The majority of the jeeps where lost in the landing of the 6th airborne...
I think you mean the 1st. Airborne.
...(and mobility was the key factor in the plans to secure various objectives quickly)
I don't understand what jeeps had to do with this. There would never have been enough jeeps to move a significant portion of the division. Once airborne troops hit the ground, they were basically static. That's why they need to land much closer to their objectives than was often the case in OM-G, and especially true in the case of the 1st. Airborne.
e) The US Air planners refused the British request for air to ground support from the RAF's 2nd TAF, while the US fighter aircraft were in the air protecting the transport aircraft.
Could you expand on that a bit? This is something I never heard before, and I'm not sure just what you mean.

Michael

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Post by Legionnaire » 21 Jun 2006 13:10

lol yes 1st airborne :oops:

In order for the 1st Airborne to quickly take the bridge (Arnhem), a jeep-mounted unit had been sent as part of 1st Airborne.
Unfortunately, most of the jeeps were lost when 38 gliders failed to arrive on the drop zone.

Therefore the advance into Arnhem itself was delayed but also had to be done almost entirely on foot. The few remaining leading vehicles were ambushed on the way to Arnhem. The job of the Reconnaissance Squadron was to move off in jeeps etc. in advance and secure bridges and roads. This they could not do after the loss of their vehicles. (The maps issued to officers also proved to be less than accurate, again delaying the troops).
Therefore, 1st Airborne was forced to advance into Arnhem on foot. Also, only half of the division had arrived on the first day due to the decision by 1st Allied Airborne Army to make only one drop on the first day.
(The Divisional commanders all requested two drops on the first day)

It was necessary for Arnhem to be taken quickly as once the Germans realised that an attack was taking place they could reinforce the town and bridge quickly and mobilise forces to deal with the invasion and make the airborne divisions job much harder taking and holding the bridge until XXX Corp arrived.
This is what Bittrich did, sending the 9th division to form a defensive line stop the airborne approach to Arnhem with only colonel frost and his 500 men managing to get there. (Speed was of the essence you see)

One figure I have been trying to find is the actual amount of jeeps lost.
The only reference I found was the vague term hundreds

So using the figure of a 100 jeeps lost think of how many men could have been transported so much quickly! (3 men per jeep 300! (obviously there is room for more but this is a very careful guesstimate as the original figure is not one I could find any where else))

As for the air support, I obtained that from the afore mentioned book. Once my friend returns my copy to me (I lent it to her) I will give the full quotation (I had to recollect the info from memory and admittedly it is a bit garbled).

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Post by fredleander » 21 Jun 2006 13:27

One of Monty's favourite words was "balance". This explains much of his way of thinking. What he really meant was - having reserves. He planned in such a way that he had reserves to vary/modify his original plan. This was particularly the case during the Alamein battle. He also appreciated his own weakness - which is why he used his newly formed armoured corps with such restraint at El Alamein.

But, he could act rashly when he saw the need for it. In the advance towards Tunis he at one time stripped divisions of their transport capability so that other units could advance more efficiently.

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Post by Uninen » 30 Jun 2006 23:03

To the original post, it was not only matter of air power but number and quality of combat troops, Monty had at El Alamein what around 500 000 (i could be wrong..) best equipet troops of Commonwealth, but Rommel on other hand had one full armored and one light German division lacking almost everything due bad supply situation and also the fact the "Berlin" really didnt view the whole campaing at much prority and large but poorly performing and supplied / equiped force of Italians.

My ill-informed 2 Euro cents,
Regards.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 01 Jul 2006 03:58

Rommel had two German armored, one motorized, and one infantry division plus one parachute brigade at el Alamein. But most of those formations were understrength and all of them were underequipped to some degree. He also had two Italian armored and two motorized as well as two or three infantry divisions. Most of those formations were not very effective either.

Michael

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