El Alamein

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Bronsky
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Re: El Alamein

Post by Bronsky » 19 Mar 2006 16:20

I agree that Montgomery was a good general, but...
leandros wrote:What Monty also did, as soon as he took over the 8th army, was to establish a proper armoured striking force, much like Rommel had had for a long time.


...except that his "corps de chasse" never got off the ground. Not exactly his fault, and he has been amply excused for failing to pick the right subordinate for that key assignment, but if that subordinate command was so important then Montgomery's failure to make it perform the way he wanted to must be added to his score.
leandros wrote:He made a proper plan - and stuck to it! The new, major item, was that instead of wasting his armour on the German defenses - he let the Germans waste theirs.
Actually, Montgomery's initial plan failed pretty much completely. What he is usually credited for is not giving up but trying something else, i.e. devising a Plan B on the move instead of writing the whole thing off as yet another German tactical victory.

I'm no sure that letting the Germans waste their armor was part of the original plan, as opposed to how things turned out. Theoretically, X Corps should have moved more quickly and engaged the German armored reserves. X Corps didn't get a move on, and German armor impaled itself on entrenched British infantry (though eventually eradicating the salient they were attacking, something that Montgomery's account carefully ignores). Saying that it was part of the plan all along is doing the same kind of rewriting of history that Montgomery himself was so fond of.

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tigre
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Monty at El Alamein

Post by tigre » 19 Mar 2006 19:11

Hello to all.

Surely Monty had its skills, but also he had:

1. Advantage as for human and material resources.(195.000 men and 1029 tanks, 500 of them shermans)
2. advantage as for info about the enemy situation and plans (remember ENIGMA).
3. the RAF ruling over the sky.

The Panzer Armee Afrika had (29.000 men and 230 tanks, germans).

1. almost lost its supply line.
2. lost its info sources (the US militar attache at Cairo, Col Bonner Fellers, was removed and Seebohm was KIA on 10 jul and its interception Coy was destroyed)

Besides, remember that was Stumme who swallowed the Monty's hook. When Rommel went back to Africa (sick) he did the best he could do.

And at last, after four days Monty could not accomplish the initial objectives. Taking advantage of the info provided by ENIGMA that the Panzer divisions were assembled in the north, he shifted the point of attack towards south ( 8 kms between the 164 Le ID and the ID Trentino) and started the operation supercharge on nov 02.

Regards. Tigre.

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Re: Monty at El Alamein

Post by Jon G. » 19 Mar 2006 19:50

Hi tigre,

Digging out Greene/Massignani, some of the numbers you offer can be contested:
tigre wrote:Hello to all.

Surely Monty had its skills, but also he had:

1. Advantage as for human and material resources.(195.000 men and 1029 tanks, 500 of them shermans)
Yes - G/M set the overall strength of the 8th Army on Oct. 23 as 230,000, of which 195,000 are named 'ready for action' Tank strength is set at a round 1,000, and 'perhaps another thousand in rear depots'.
2. advantage as for info about the enemy situation and plans (remember ENIGMA).
3. the RAF ruling over the sky.
As for 2), definitely the 8th Army had the upper hand in the intelligence war by October. For the air situation, G/M quantifies it by measuring the maximum possible sorties that each side's air force could fly as 1,000 DAF sorties against 340 Axis air sorties, which translates into Allied air superiority, but not air supremacy on the same level as, say, D-Day.
The Panzer Armee Afrika had (29.000 men and 230 tanks, germans).
G/M say that the Panzerarmee had 48,854 Germans (32,474 of them fighting men) and 54,000 Italians. They also set the Axis tank strength as 250 German tanks fit for action by the 23rd and an additional 289 Italian tanks. The Italians were reinforced by 48 Semoventi - probably the best Italian AFV in North Africa - prior to the battle.

Basically still an outnumbered and out-tanked Panzerarmee, but not by quite as big a margin.
1. almost lost its supply line.
Not quite 'lost', but the length of the Axis supply line was a big problem. ENIGMA intelligence was precise enough that the Allies could selectively target tankers destined for North Africa, and let other cargoes go through, confident that Rommel did not have the fuel needed to bring all the supplies he needed up to Alamein.
2. lost its info sources (the US militar attache at Cairo, Col Bonner Fellers, was removed and Seebohm was KIA on 10 jul and its interception Coy was destroyed)...
True, Rommel's intelligence about enemy intentions was far less accurate by October than it had been earlier. But Seeböhm's radio intercept company was rebuilt, and battlefield intelligence was good enough to give an overall picture of 8th Army strength, as well as a probable date for Montgomery's attack.

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Re: El Alamein

Post by Kingfish » 20 Mar 2006 16:27

leandros wrote:
Kingfish wrote:
houndie wrote:So, I hear the battle was very similar to Cannae. More accurately put, it was considered as a copying of tactics, showing tanks roles in modern military. Any comments on this, for instance?
I don't see how. For starters, there wasn't any brilliant encircling moves by an outnumbered opponent. If anything, the allied attack lacked much in the way of flexibilty and manuever, but instead relied on sheer numbers to hammer their way through the Axis defense.

Granted, Monty tried to get around the main defensive belt a few times, the 9th Australian's attack along the coast road being one of them, but for the most part these move were concentrated in one area, making Rommel's task of shifting reserves to the threatened portions of the line much easier.
Monty's tactics at Alamein was more subtle than this - at least according to himself. He had studied the previous battles in the Desert carefully and came up with something different. That he was able to outsmart the Germans regarding where the main attack would take place is one thing. When he finally came through the minefields, after several feints, his intention was to bleed the German armour by NOT advancing, but to dig in. Thereafter he let his armour loose. By going through the center, instead of the usual "left hook", he also maintained the flexibility to turn either right or left after the breakthrough. Another major item in his strategy was to damage the "stacking" of Rommel's units, i.e. intermix between the Italian and German units. After that the Italian part of the front was much easier to penetrate.

What Monty also did, as soon as he took over the 8th army, was to establish a proper armoured striking force, much like Rommel had had for a long time. He also saw to that he had a proper maneuver reserve. Of course, the fact that the battle of Alam Halfa was a success for him did much to improve the morale in the Allied units before their attack. He made a proper plan - and stuck to it! The new, major item, was that instead of wasting his armour on the German defenses - he let the Germans waste theirs.

His strategy was much the same in Normandy where the British pulled the major part of the German on themselves - to better make it possible for the Americans to make their successful right hook.
Not disputing Monty's ability nor plan, just that it didn't rise to the level of a Cannae by any means. Take away the part where the German armor being sucked into the allied defenses (which to his credit was an innovative and effecitve tactic) and you are basically left with a hard grind forward into the German defenses. That Monty succeeded is no surprise given 8th Army's overwhelming advantange in just about every category, as well as Rommel's own supply problems.

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Post by alf » 20 Mar 2006 23:22

Not disputing Monty's ability nor plan, just that it didn't rise to the level of a Cannae by any means. Take away the part where the German armor being sucked into the allied defenses (which to his credit was an innovative and effecitve tactic) and you are basically left with a hard grind forward into the German defenses. That Monty succeeded is no surprise given 8th Army's overwhelming advantange in just about every category, as well as Rommel's own supply problems
I agree Monty's plan was not elegant, it was a WW1 battle of attrition basically at the start. With an attack along the Coastal Rd crumbling the Afrika Korp defences and forcing Rommel to move troops there. Then the main attack through the centre. But all battles when facing fixed lines are crude when there is no room to outflank. The ground posed equal limitations on Monty as it did Rommel, he could only go forward frontally.

IMHO Rommel should never have fought the battle, he should have pulled back closer to Tobruk. He fought on the ground of his enemies choosing and at an end of an extended supply line, the result was inevitable.

Much of Rommels supply problems were of his own making. He argued against capturing Malta after the fall of Tobruk as he said he had enough supplies from there. Malta has almost mythical importance to some, but it was a small island 60 miles from Sicily, cut off most of the time itself and heavily bombed (it was the most bombed place on earth). It's strike force was always small and casualties extremely high.


Image

Shows the USS Ohio, an oil tanker entering Malta harbour a surviovor of Operation Pedastel. She is basically sinking and being held afloat by the two destroyers lashed to her. Thats how desperate Malta' was for supplies nearly all the time itself. http://www.usmm.org/malta.html

British supplies had to go through U Boat infested waters south then around Africa to get to Monty. Thats forgotten, the distances they had to travel.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/wwtwo/ ... maps.shtml is another link of the battle. It's just for people's interest but it does had an animated map of the battle.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 21 Mar 2006 05:32

alf wrote:IMHO Rommel should never have fought the battle, he should have pulled back closer to Tobruk. He fought on the ground of his enemies choosing and at an end of an extended supply line, the result was inevitable.
Possibly, but that course would have been problematical too. By the time he got to el Alamein his forces were pretty well spent, including supplies. To have fallen back then would have meant his army would have been strung out and staggling all the way to the border, easy meat to any pursuing enemy force. At least at Alamein he had a compact front and protected flanks. Probably his best course after the fall of Tobruk would have been the one urged on him by OKH, namely to hold up at the Egyptian border, allow the attack on Malta to go forward while amassing supplies and rebuilding his forces after the Gazala battles.

But that too is not a war winner as most likely it leaves him having to fight Crusader II some time in the fall, probably immediately before Torch or at the same time. Also, that strategy does not offer the chance of a brilliant victory that Rommel thought he glimpsed in the summer of 1942 and that he seems to have craved.

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Post by JonS » 21 Mar 2006 05:38

Alternately, he could have looked to his mission. So, carry out the first part of Mikes outline (hold on the border, take Malta), then fallen back to el Agheila, and rinse and repeat the success of earlier years, or at least avoid becoming an unnecessary drain.

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Post by Michael Emrys » 21 Mar 2006 06:53

I think that when Montgomery took over 8th. Army he was determined to avoid the "rinse and repeat" cycle—also known as the Benghazi Sweepstakes. It's not obvious how he would have done that, given some kind of Operation Crusader II, except of course that Torch changes everything. I'm not sure how long Rommel could have held out east of Tripoli with a new battle going on in his back yard draining off Axis effort. Seems to me that once Torch goes in, he has to fall back all the way to Tunisia anyway. The question would be how fast and in how good a shape. A lot of that would hinge on the success/failure of the Malta operation. But I think it is inevitable that he has to give ground, barring a fluke.

Michael

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Re: El Alamein

Post by Bronsky » 21 Mar 2006 09:03

Kingfish wrote:Not disputing Monty's ability nor plan, just that it didn't rise to the level of a Cannae by any means. Take away the part where the German armor being sucked into the allied defenses (which to his credit was an innovative and effecitve tactic) and you are basically left with a hard grind forward into the German defenses. That Monty succeeded is no surprise given 8th Army's overwhelming advantange in just about every category, as well as Rommel's own supply problems.
Agreed about it not being Cannae - though Cannae is somewhat overdone, not a cheap victory by any means - but he was facing heavily dug-in troops with no room to outflank them.

To Montgomery's credit, he tried a specific approach to tackle that problem. Compare with the Germans treating Soviet prepared defenses at Kursk with "same old, let's just mass more panzer divisions and we'll sweep through since nothing ever stopped 10 panzer divisions before". If Montgomery displayed poor generalship, at least he's in good company then, with Model, von Kluge & von Manstein...

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Post by Bronsky » 21 Mar 2006 09:35

JonS wrote:Alternately, he could have looked to his mission. So, carry out the first part of Mikes outline (hold on the border, take Malta), then fallen back to el Agheila, and rinse and repeat the success of earlier years, or at least avoid becoming an unnecessary drain.
Falling back to el Agheila is not an option given RAF air superiority, because PanzerArmee Afrika only has the one port of Tripoli, which will come under air attack from Benghazi-based British fighters.

Please note that the Axis never considered the el Agheila position as a long-term option, Rommel always counterattacked so as to get at least Cyrenaica back.

So let's say that Rommel pulls back to either Tobruk or Gazala, 8th Army moves to contact. Firstly, it means that if Gazala II is won by the British, Montgomery's depots will be west of Tobruk instead of on the Nile, so there will be no hope of making a stand in the el Agheila / Agedabia sector.

Secondly, all hinges on Rommel's ability to win Gazala II. Given that Gazala I was a close-run thing for quite a while, and that Montgomery was a far better general than Ritchie, I'd say the odds of that occurring are slight. Also, as Michael wrote, Montgomery was determined that Rommel would make no comeback as he had on the wake of Compass and Crusader. He avoided Axis traps during Alam Halfa, and there's no reason to believe that he would have let his armor be lured into an AT trap this time either.

Thirdly, as others wrote, if the Allies capture Tunisia from the west it doesn't really matter where Rommel is because Tunisia makes Tripoli's position intenable and with it the Axis position in North Africa collapses.

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Post by redcoat » 21 Mar 2006 13:40

Here's a little more detail on the ground forces available to each side during the battle.

'Pendulum Of War, The Three Battles of El Alamein' by Niall Barr.

For the 23th October 1942

His figures are;

British Commonwealth forces.

220,476 troops

1,029 serviceable tanks (170 Grants, 252 Shermans, 216 Crusader II's, 78 Crusader III's, 119 Stuarts, 194 Valentines)

Artillery 892 guns

A/T guns 1,451.

Axis Forces
108,000 troops (53,736 German)

548 serviceable tanks (249 German- 31 Mk II's, 85 Mk III's, 88 Mk III Special's, 8 Mk IV's, 30 IV Special's)

Artillery 552 guns

A/T guns 1,063.


Interestingly, Stephen Bungay in his book, ' Alamein' states that, at the 'sharpest end of the front line', while the British did hold a 2:1 advantage in equipment. The 86 infantry battalions of the Eighth Army , about 60,000 men, were facing 70 Axis infantry battalions, 42 Italian and 28 German, with some 45,000 men, only a 4:3 advantage. The rest of the other troops for both sides being involved in the logistic train.

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Post by Jon G. » 21 Mar 2006 14:05

Michael Emrys wrote:
alf wrote:IMHO Rommel should never have fought the battle, he should have pulled back closer to Tobruk. He fought on the ground of his enemies choosing and at an end of an extended supply line, the result was inevitable.
Possibly, but that course would have been problematical too. By the time he got to el Alamein his forces were pretty well spent, including supplies. To have fallen back then would have meant his army would have been strung out and staggling all the way to the border, easy meat to any pursuing enemy force.
Rommel's 1941 pushes to the border were costly affairs in lost tanks and spent gas, although the Halfaya position meant that complete disaster was averted. Rommel appears to have thought that Tobruk in his hands made all the difference between the 1941 battles in Cyrenaica and his 1942 push into Egypt.

Incidentally, Rommel's initial 1941 mandate allowed him to push as far as Benghazi in order to keep Tripolis out of RAF range.
At least at Alamein he had a compact front and protected flanks. Probably his best course after the fall of Tobruk would have been the one urged on him by OKH, namely to hold up at the Egyptian border, allow the attack on Malta to go forward while amassing supplies and rebuilding his forces after the Gazala battles.
With hindsight, Rommel should probably have held at Bardia-Halfaya-Sidi Omar, perhaps going as far as Sollum but no further. That would have allowed him to fight Crusader II on favourable terms in the autumn of 1942; with Tobruk out of the way and the supplies captured there (and the British-built railroad from Tobruk to Egypt), he might have been as strong on the Egyptian border in 1942 as he was at Tobruk in the autumn of 1941, right before Crusader.
But that too is not a war winner as most likely it leaves him having to fight Crusader II some time in the fall, probably immediately before Torch or at the same time. Also, that strategy does not offer the chance of a brilliant victory that Rommel thought he glimpsed in the summer of 1942 and that he seems to have craved.
I don't know how Mongomery would have tackled the prospect of a Crusader II. It's all what-if territory in any case. He might have contemplated an amphibious landing somewhere along the coast of Cyrenaica, or he might simply have decided to sit tight on the Egyptian border while Torch unfolded.

Maybe Rommel's optimism was justified after the Gazala battles, which lasted almost a month. Neither Sollum nor Mersa Matruh held for very long after Rommel had things his way and the Malta plan was shelved.

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Post by Jon G. » 21 Mar 2006 14:50

On the subject of German tank strength Jentz gives the following figures for Panzer Regiments 5 and 8 on the evening of October 23 as:

Available/Operational PzII 33/30 PzIII 96/81 PzIII long 87/86 PzIV 10/8 PzIV long 30/30 PzBef 8/4 for a total of 264 available tanks and 239 operational ones.

It's furthermore stated that 1 PzII, 18 Pz IIIs, 20 PzIII long, 1 PzIV and 10 PzIV long were written off between October 24 and October 29.

At the time of Op Supercharge Nov 2 the following operational strengths are given:

14 PzII, 43 PzIII, 47 PzIII long, 7 PzIV, 16 PzIV long and 4 PzBef for a total of 131 tanks.

From then on Axis tank strength drops sharply; on the evening of Nov 2 Panzer Regiment 8 only had 8 tanks on strength. The Nov 4 figure for this regiment is given as 7 tanks: 3 PzIIIs and one each of PzIII long, PzIV long, PzIV and PzBef.

Not all tanks shipped to North Africa after Torch went to Tunisia. Trickles of reinforcements still reached Rommel. According to Jentz Rommel got 22 PzIV long in 'late December' 1942 and six PzIII arrived at Benghazi on Nov 8. Interestingly enough a Panzer Abteilung 190 had been formed to be part of the 90th Light Division. However events overtook this, and the unit ended up as II Abt. in Panzer Regiment 5.

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Post by Kingfish » 21 Mar 2006 18:18

alf wrote:I agree Monty's plan was not elegant, it was a WW1 battle of attrition basically at the start. With an attack along the Coastal Rd crumbling the Afrika Korp defences and forcing Rommel to move troops there. Then the main attack through the centre. But all battles when facing fixed lines are crude when there is no room to outflank. The ground posed equal limitations on Monty as it did Rommel, he could only go forward frontally.
Agreed on all points, but would add that I believe the attack frontage should have been widened to include a major push to the south by XIII Corp, and not the "hold the enemy reserves" attack which was too limited in nature, but a major push just like XXX Corp to the north.

I would have deployed the Free French and Greeks to cover the Ruweisat ridge, thus freeing 4th indian to join XIII Corp. Together with 44th, 50th and 7th Armored, this Corp would first wait for XXX Corp to establish its lodegment and had absorbed the 15th Pz and Littorio counterattacks, then commence with their own breakthrough.

IMO, this would have presented Rommel with a huge problem, since his own fuel shortages prevented him from moving his reserves around too much.

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Lightfoot - Oct 1942

Post by tigre » 22 Mar 2006 17:09

Hello to all, here an article`s excerpt taken from " Corps and Division passage operations - El Alamein, 1942" written by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas V. Morley, US Army - MILITARY REVIEW-April 1991.

Eighth Army Plan.

The British plan called for a main attack by two corps in the north, with a supporting corps attack to pin the enemy’s mobile reserves on the southern axis. This operation, Lighfoot, would be executed on the night of 23 October, a night with sufficient moonlight to assist the infantry attack. In the north, 30 Corps, composed of four infantry divisions augmented with two armored brigades, would make the initial night attack to open two axes through the German defenses for the passage of the armored corps.

This phase, called the break-in, was to be completed early enough before dawn on the 24th to allow 10 Corps to get forward of 30 Corps’ position and establish a defense to destroy German counterattacks. “30 Corps operations were to be designed to ensure that 10 Corps could pass through the gaps made in the minefields.” It was essential for the leading armored brigades of 10 Corps to be in their forward positions ready to fight at dawn without becoming embroiled in the fighting en route. With his infantry divisions destroying the German defenses (the crumbling operation) while the tanks were destroying the German mobile forces, Montgomery believed that Rommel would be destroyed.

“Whatever happened, the Panzer Army would be forced into committing the reserves at a time when its whole front line was under pressure, so that it would have to dance to Monty’s tune.”2
The 10 Corps, composed of the 1st Armored and 10th Armored divisions, was to pass through 30 Corps on two broad axes that incorporated six, later seven, lanes. The armored units had to aggressively move through these restricted lanes and occupy positions forward of the infantry objective lines. The passage operations had to be executed almost flawlessly to get the large number of 10 and 30 corps’ vehicles through the lanes overnight. 30 Cops would be focused on getting to its final objective while bringing forward its essential support vehicles-AT guns, artillery and attached armor units. 10 Corps would be following in long columns on the seven lanes.

Eighth Army had assigned two linear objectives across the German defenses, roughly aligned to the perceived defensive belts. The primary mission of the infantry units was to reach these lines in accordance with the assigned time lines. Yet the Army plan did not specifi the exact mission of the infantry units regarding the defensive strongpoints. In practice, the small
numbers of infantry involved—less than 200 men in some battalion-restricted these units to merely reaching their objective lines. They lacked the strength to clear all enemy positions that could affect the lanes. Also, the final objective line was more terrain– than force-oriented.

The infantry units had no plans to move forward of the Oxalic line to destroy AT positions to facilitate the passage of the 10 Corps. In fact, 30 Corps would only clear enough lanes to get its own supporting tanks and vehicles from the start line to the final objective.

Execution follows. Regards. Tigre.
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