General Gause on Rommel

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julian
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General Gause on Rommel

Postby julian » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:01 am

From manuscript D-424 by General Gause

"The command methods employed by FM Rommel in Africa evolved from his almost one-sidedly developed military frame of mind and a certain measure of audacity, combined with ability and flexibility in the exploitation of favourable situations and an extraorinary instinctive sense for terrain and the enemy situation.For instance, on one occasion, the Field marshal and I were completely alone in the desert on our open flank with no enemy in sight.Suddenly he said:' In 30 minutes the enemy will be here.Shortly thereafter,the dust clouds caused by hostile armored reconnaissance cars became visible on the horizon.Similar episodes were a frequent occurence.
........
Rommel had no General Staff Corps training. It might be said that he grew into his missions, from company commander to commander in chief of an army group, through actual practice.To his mind the best solution to all problems was, if at all possible, to be found in attack, speed and surprise.His objective was to destroy the enemyand not to seize or hold any specific piece of terrain.
The germ of the command methods he later developed and perfected was already evident in his work 'Die Infanterie greift an' which caused quite a sensation at the time of its publication.
The conditions of the African theatre enabled Rommel to employ methods different from those he would have had to employ in Europe in commanding an Army flanked by other units and under some superior command.In Africa he was completely independent in his conduct of operations.His next superior, the Governor General of Lybia, was usually hundreds of miles distant, and most of the time no telephone communications existed.Directives concerning the conduct of operations arrived only rarely and then were usually in accordance with his own recommendations.Whenever his opinion on matters of fundamental importance differred from that held at higher headquarters he succeeded in having his way.As Kesselring complains:' Neither discussions nor orders could influence Rommel'.
In the abscence of rear telephone lines, no telephone messages requiring sudden decisions were to be expected and Rommel therefore in his command placed main eùmphasis on his own mobility. Leaving the forward echelon of his army headquarters staff in an established command post, Rommel established himself and a small staff, which usually included me and a number of messenger officers on vehicles.This small command staff was mounted on one or two command cars and five or six Volkswagen for the messenger officers.It was followed by 14-15 motorised radio stations on wheeled vehicles, which maintained communication with the command post, the Africa Corps, the assigned Italian corps, and some of the divisions.German liaison officers with German radio sets were attachede to the Italian corps and divisons.For his own protection, Rommel took only two armored reconnaissance cars, and it must be remembered that he was usually in the foremost lines, sometimes even further ahead and sometimes in the area on the open flank.
This small staff was always on the move, and it was from here that Rommel conducted operations.Radio messages were sent and received frequently while in movement.Since Rommel, as a matter of principle directed operations personally from the area of main effort and based his decisions on his own observations, no time was lost in waiting for reports.
It must be admitted that the method descrived here was inconvenient for some subordinate commanders because Rommel used to interfere in the control of individual unists if he thought it necessary. On the other hand, however, he also accepted exclusive responsability for all tactical and strategic action taken.Basic decisions on the field of battle he left to no other person. Every uinit commander and every man knew that in the most difficult situations, and no matter how heavy the fire was, Rommel would appear in person and would master the situation.Nobody ever had the feeling he was foresaken.It was in this way that his indefinable sway developed, which also influenced the enemy, and which enablec him even after serious reverses to maintain the morale and the spirits of the troops, as evidenced by his recapture of the Cyrenaica in february 1942 although he had received no reinforcements after his difficult winter retreat.In the case of his retreat fom El Alamein to the morale of the approximately 70.000 troops also remained unimpaired'.

To be continued.

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Re: General Gause on Rommel

Postby julian » Fri Feb 15, 2013 7:15 am

D 424 continued.
'As Mussolini put it :' Your withdrawal was a masterpiece Field Marshall'.
These methods of command presuppose a robust constitution, disdain for personal safety, and an almost ascetic frugality.During operations Rommel slept only a few hours each day out in the desert, without any tent or trailer, and ate only cold food without even leaving his car for meals.No cooking utensisls were taken along.
In order to increase the certainty that he would be able to influence the course of events during battle, Rommel had created a special combat group under his direct command.This group was only committed by him personally.Frequently this happened only at the last moment, for example to complete a german breakthrough, to seal off an enemy breakthrough,to repel an enemy flanking maneuver, or to extend his own flank. The unit was approximately a batallion in size and included tanks, armoredreconnaissance cars, and self propelled artillery units well equipped with all signal facilities and was commanded by a high versatile and very young captain.The group had the most up to date vehicles and weapons and ample supplies of fuel and ammunition.
Rommel even used the vehicles of his own command staff, including the radio cars, for tactical purposes, for example to produce dust clouds on a wide frontage alon,g the open flank or in a gap in order to create the impression that a large force was present in the area.
......
While conducting operations in this highly flexible and mobile manner Rommel at no time lost sight of the general situation, in spite of being away from his established command post.He was kept currently informed by means of brief radio messages and did not base his decisions exclusively on fleeting local impressions.
In consonance with the principles generally valid in the German armed forces,Rommel conducted operations with extreme dash and free from any streotype rules.T o retain the initiative was one of his cardinal laws.The genral stength ratios and the supply situationcompelled him almost always to attack numerically superior forces.Thus, in his attackagainst the Bir Hacheim-El Gazala positions, where he sought to force a decision, he delibarately opened the offensive with an adverse strength ratio of 6:9 in tanks.
Determination and flexibility ofcommand had to compensate for what was lacking in materiel. He could not afford to break through the heavily mined British positions, because he lacked the necessary tanks and ammunition for this purpose.His decision to outflank the positions in the south was a grave risk, particularly since all supplies had to be moved around the British flank.Defeat in this battle might have involved the loss of Africa.However Rommel was compelled to attack in order to anticipate offensive action by the British Eight Army and retain the intiative'.

To be continued.

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Re: General Gause on Rommel

Postby julian » Sat Feb 16, 2013 6:08 am

manuscript D-424 continued

" In all operations he was compelled to employ his numerical inferior forces in tight concentration in order to achieve a certain measure of local superiority in the area of main effort.He was called the' Master in the Art of Poor Man -Warfare'. Any single reverse could have resulted in a complete catastrophe, and the whole situation in Libya hinged upon the Panzer Army. There could be no hope in a crisis of speedily receiving reinforcements by sea. In spite of his boldness Rommel was not rash. While requiring the utmost personal effort from himself and from every officer and man under his command, he at no time made excessive demands on the troops. His constant close contact with the troops in combat enabled him to recognize in time not only the limits of the units in action but also of the entire army and of the entire military potential available in North Africa.
..........
The question whether Rommels command methods were sound must be answered in the affirmative so far as Africa is concerned.They are vindicated by his successes.
In his operations against the allied invasion of Northern France he employed different command methods but continued to exercise a strong personal influence on the command staff under his control.
In Africa Rommel developed his methods of command unrestrictively in consonance with his nature.These methods would be difficult to teach and can hardly be applied under general circonstances. In spite of uniform training every military commander develops his own particular methods consonant with his mentality.
The campaign in Africa required strong nerves to weather the numerous crises which developed.Rommel believed in his good fortune but did not allow local successes to mislead or failures to discourage him.
The fate of North Africa hinged upon his personality and when the British Eight Army launched its attack in october 1942 he had to leave Semering, where he was under medical treatmentin order to resume command over his army , although his health was not yet
fully restored.
What was the basis of Rommels influence over his troops ? Fundamentally, Rommel was hard, uncompromising and impersonal.
He judged persons solely by their performances and sought favor neither with his superiors nor with those subordinate to him.
In spite of his concern for the welfare of his troops, he scrorned all means to gain popularity. His maxim was that the best way to take care of his troops was to give them the best possible training.What earned him the respect, devoltion and loyalty of his troops was his personal courage and his absoliute reliability in the conduct of operations.His men were proud of and hadc blind confidence in him."

To be continued.

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Re: General Gause on Rommel

Postby julian » Sun Feb 17, 2013 2:23 am

manuscript D-424 continued

" In spite of the performances and sacrifices he expected from them, Rommel felt personally responsible for each and every individual serving and demanded this same attitude in his subcommanders in their attitude toward their troops.Any unit commander who failed to measure up to his high standards in this rrespect was relieved of command immediately and returned to the zone of interior.
......
Rommel realised that the British breakthrough at El Alamein sealed the fate of North Africa, and expressed this conviction on numerous occasions to Hitler and Mussolini. During his retreat from El Alamein to Tunisia higher headquarters continuously hampered him in his free conduct of operations, but he nevertheless succeeded in leading back the bulk of his army, with unimpaired morale over a distance of approximately 1800 miles.
The loss of Africa was not due to any failiure of Rommel as a commander, to his failing nerves or healthhe mastered bouts of ill health by energy or to his pessimism, as some people chose to describe his assessment of the situation based on realistic estimates, but to the overwhelming numerical superiority of the forces put into the field from Egypt and in French North Africa by the western allies against the seriously depleted Axis forces.However the command authorities in Europe failed to realise this fact.
If hr had ben allowed to use his own judgment he would have succeeded,as he stated literally to the present writer, in withdrawing the bulk of his forces to Europe in time.Then, if he had been allowed a free hand, he would have been at least able to offer a more tenacious resistance against an allied attack against Sicily and Italywhich he considered as a logical follow up of the invasion of Northern Africa.
......

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Re: General Gause on Rommel

Postby ljadw » Mon Feb 25, 2013 1:19 pm

One can admire the defense of Rommel (why? had he done something wrong ?) by Gause,but,such defenses are,as usual,exagerating:there was no way that after Alamein,the AK could return to Europe unhurt .And,what about the Italians ? A small detail,but,IMHO,not negligible .


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