How many divisions did Rommel have?

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean. Hosted by Andy H
User avatar
D. von Staberg
Member
Posts: 90
Joined: 09 Sep 2003 21:39
Location: Gothenburg/Sweden

Re: Rommel's Chances

Post by D. von Staberg » 25 Dec 2004 16:01

Alte Mann wrote:Andy, I'm getting irked by the continued insistence that Rommel's supply problems were imagined. Please set me straight. What sources should I look at?
The problem Rommel had with supplies was not getting it across to North Africa although Malta took a toll. The problem was getting the stuff to the front, Rmmel simply did not have the trucks required to move the supplies he needed forward. The deeper he got into Egypt the more his supply line collapsed. The Germans calculated that a division in North Africa needed 10 times(!) the number of trucks needed by the same division in Russia. Neither the German or Italians had the kind of number of trucks to spare, especialy when you factor in the need for replacments for trucks lost.

The best study I've read so far is "Malta" by Swedish author Michael Tamelander at the moment only available in Swedish

User avatar
Alter Mann
Member
Posts: 686
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 04:50
Location: Texas County, Missouri

Rommel's Supply Problems, Real or Imagined

Post by Alter Mann » 26 Dec 2004 08:09

I am still having difficulty with the concept that the supplies made it to North Afrika, but not to the front lines. I know I have been through this discussion before on this forum, but I've never been totally satisfied with the results. Either Rommel was wrong in his memoirs, and the people who supported them, or the amount of supplies that reached North Afrika was not sufficient to sustain the German forces there, even in their weakened state.

For instance, if fuel supplies landed in Tripoli were expended by the transport vehicles taking them to the front, there were two possibilities for a solution. Either land more fuel, or send the ships to ports farther east.

The first option may have been impractical due to the lack of trucks, and the Italians never completed the railway that was to replace the truck route. Surely there was some practical way to get the fuel forward.

I've discussed the second option with people here, too. The consensus was that this would be impractical, because, even if the allies didn't have air superiority, the port facilities were not capable of handling the amount of cargo. What about the option of putting the fuel on coastal freighters for the trip east and saving the larger ships for crossing the Med.

Neither of these options address the issue of the Allied, and German, reports of successes against the cargo ships that were used to supply the Axis forces in North Africa.

Maybe I'm just being obtuse. It wouldn't be the first time. :D

User avatar
Andy H
Forum Staff
Posts: 15326
Joined: 12 Mar 2002 20:51
Location: UK and USA

Post by Andy H » 26 Dec 2004 15:35

Andy, I'm getting irked by the continued insistence that Rommel's supply problems were imagined. Please set me straight. What sources should I look at?
Don't, it will do you no good :D
Either Rommel was wrong in his memoirs, and the people who supported them, or the amount of supplies that reached North Afrika was not sufficient to sustain the German forces there, even in their weakened state.
Memoirs by there very nature are to be treated with caution and always needs cross-referencing. Also one must remember that information is becoming available all time either through translations or 'new' documents/information, and that memoirs were written (relatively) shortly after the war's end.
In regards to the supplies reaching NA, it again falls foul intially of the Victors write the history syndrome. The losers version of events tends to follow much later, and many people tend not to read the other sides version of the same events. Also the lack of translations of Italian publications has hampered the balancing version of events.

The Axis was well supplied in % terms of supplies reaching N.Africa. There were however several critical area's where the logistical infrastructure failed.
For instance, if fuel supplies landed in Tripoli were expended by the transport vehicles taking them to the front, there were two possibilities for a solution. Either land more fuel, or send the ships to ports farther east.


Sounds practical, but that would require even more precious fuel being used by Naval escorts to defend against Allied Nanal & Air interdiction. Also many of the ports nearer the front had very shallow harbours which would mean that many of the supplies would have to be re-shipped, thus invoking double handling of goods etc, which would delay delivery and require more manpower.
The first option may have been impractical due to the lack of trucks, and the Italians never completed the railway that was to replace the truck route. Surely there was some practical way to get the fuel forward.
Well what options are there in a perfect world. Air, Sea and Land transportation. Well the movement of supplies by air was inefficent and open to easy Allied interdiction. Also the supply landing strips/bases would become known to the Allies and prove easy targets. We've already mentioned the Sea option above and the problem with the unloading facilities has been stated before. That leaves the land option. Again there were just not enough suitable trucks available to move the quantity of supplies when needed.Plus the well known adage that to move a drum of fuel you have to use one as well.
What about the option of putting the fuel on coastal freighters for the trip east and saving the larger ships for crossing the Med.
This was done, but again the amount of suitable coastal freighters was an issue. When people view a boat they see the ship arriving at port and being unlaoded then sent on its merry way. Well not all ships have deck cranes for getting the cargo on deck from the holds-those relied on dock side cranes. Also not all ports had dockside cranes. Also they (cranes) were easy targets for Allied air strikes.
Just because a ship sails on water, it doesn't mean it can go anywhere where there's water. Some ships had to remain outside the main harbour whilst goods were offloaded onto lighters, because the harbour was shallow or hadn't been dredged etc, So now the supplies are being triplehandled!!!. Also whilst a ship remained outside the harbour it was potential prey for enemy naval vessels, which then required the Italian Navy to remain on station.

Andy H

User avatar
DrG
Member
Posts: 1408
Joined: 21 Oct 2003 22:23
Location: Italia

Post by DrG » 26 Dec 2004 21:00

As rightly pointed out by Andy there were coastal convoys along the coasts of Libya (1940: 244; 1941: 280; 1942: 231; 1943: 1), but also smaller freighters need port facilities to be unloaded. The only way to transport supplies nearly everywhere (provided they are not too heavy, unless already loaded on a truck) was using landing crafts. These landing crafts had been built in Italian yards or transported to the Mediterranean from Germany through the internal channels of France for the planned occupation of Malta. When Operation C.3 / Herkules was cancelled, it was decided to use these units (the German Marine Fährprame, MFP, and Italian Motozattere, MZ, based on the former).
Supermarina, because of the presence of British airplanes and small units (MTB, etc.) was against the idea of coastal convoys to the east of Bengasi, but adm. Weichold didn't agree and thus, on 19 May 1942, it was agreed that convoys from Tripoli to Bengasi would have been Italian and from Bengasi to the east would have been German. On 23 May 1942 the Germans created the Führungsstand Nordafrika des Deutschen Marinekommandos Italien, in Derna. Then, on 10 July, given the difficulities encountered by adm. Weichold and the political problem caused by the presence of a German indipendent command in an Italian area of interest, the Regia Marina created in Marsa Matruh the Gruppo Flottiglie ASI (commander: rear adm. Carlo Giartosio), formed by the 14 MAS (MTB) of the 5a Flotmas and the first 11 (then increased to 65) MZ of the 1a Flottiglia MZ. Since 4 July also the 3rd German S-Boote Flotilla was operating in the waters of Cyrenaica.
Last edited by DrG on 27 Dec 2004 14:31, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Alter Mann
Member
Posts: 686
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 04:50
Location: Texas County, Missouri

Rommel's Supply Problems

Post by Alter Mann » 27 Dec 2004 04:52

Thank you, DrG. That was a piece of the puzzle that I hadn't seen before. It was difficult for me to believe that it wasn't at least tried, even though Andy's point about cross-decking is well taken.

It appears, then, that the best option would have been to complete the railroad and find some locomotives for it somewhere.

I'm still a little concerned about the actual amount of supplies that made it to North Afrika, especially as compared to the amount shipped.

One other thing that bothers me a little is that I seem to remember reading that the other large German unit sent to North Afrika (don't remember the designation.) Edit(Just read that it was 5th Panzerarmee, under von Arnim, which arrived on 10 December, 1942.) did not suffer from the shortage of supplies and material that the Afrika Korps did, and did not make any effort to assist Rommel at first. The second matter is not so important, but how did they get their supplies without facing the bottlenecks that Rommel did. Or did they require less because they were not originally in combat?

Jon G.
Member
Posts: 6647
Joined: 17 Feb 2004 01:12
Location: Europe

Re: Rommel's Supply Problems

Post by Jon G. » 27 Dec 2004 05:25

Only a few brief comments on my part - this topic has been gone over before I believe :D
Alte Mann wrote: One other thing that bothers me a little is that I seem to remember reading that the other large German unit sent to North Afrika (don't remember the designation.)
5th Panzer Army.
did not suffer from the shortage of supplies and material that the Afrika Korps did, and did not make any effort to assist Rommel at first. The second matter is not so important, but how did they get their supplies without facing the bottlenecks that Rommel did. Or did they require less because they were not originally in combat?
This formation had access to the formerly neutral ports of Toulon (larger and more accessible than Naples) at the European end, and Bizerte, Sfax and Gabés at the Tunisian end. These ports had been off-limits to Rommel, and would in any event not have solved his supply problems because they are so very far away from Egypt.

The DAK was much too far away for any support from the 5th Pz. Army to be practical; furthermore this formation did not have the additional problem of excessive distance from supply head to the front.

I know I've advertized this book before - but get hold of Martin van Creveld: Supplying War. Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton. Even if your book budget allows you only one book in 2005, this should be at the top of the list :) It was quite a revelation to me. .

User avatar
Alter Mann
Member
Posts: 686
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 04:50
Location: Texas County, Missouri

Rommel's Supply Problems

Post by Alter Mann » 29 Dec 2004 11:30

Thanks for the reminder, Shrek. This time I will listen, and get the book. :D

Return to “WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean”