Overlord - who was right?

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Gassing_Badgers, Jan 4, 2011.

Welcome to the Army Rumour Service, ARRSE

The UK's largest and busiest UNofficial military website.

The heart of the site is the forum area, including:

  1. There has been much made in historical accounts of the conflict between Rommel and von Runstedt's counter-invasion strategies:

    Von-Runstedt reasoned from the Italian campaigns that the Wermacht could not hope to win a defensive battle under the guns of the Allied fleet, and favoured a more mobile defence.

    Rommel on the other hand argued that allied air-power would prevent effective manouevre, and that reserves would never get forward, planning instead to stop the invasion on the coast itself.

    Given that a compromoise solution was reached, and that both cases were correct to a certain extent, did the Germans face a hopeless cause, or could the adoption of a firmer strategy one way or the other have tipped the balance?
  2. So I take it I wasn't the only one watching the Longest Day this afternoon? :D
  3. No, I'm afraid not - although I wish I had!

    Just re-reading Steven Ambrose's "D-Day", in which he seems to second guess everything any non-US commander did, and conclude the allied forces were better than the Wermacht in small-unit actions because we won!
  4. Fang_Farrier

    Fang_Farrier LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    As has been mentioned on here in several different threads, that man is a complete knobhead.

    Either defensive startegy would probably be more effective than a compromise. But the lack of commanders in teh field to use some resources such as the panzers without authority from on high crippled their response.
  5. Don't get me wrong - I do like the book, and I find the personal accounts that he has amassed fascinating. You just have to learn when to ignore his personal opinions and biases!
  6. Rommel might have made a real mess of one or two of the beaches, and caused some temporary paralysis in the allied command (albeit they were actually expecting this response), but the sheer volume of material being put ashore would have meant one or other of the beachheads would have been irreducible. Allied naval gunfire in particular would take a severe toll of besieging German units - as they'd be in range or even under direct fire - and its arguable that German forces would suffer a far more rapid attrition than actually happened when they eventually (and temporarily) contained the combined beachheads.

    Normandy might have been a much messier, bloodier battle with an early German counter-attack, but I'd guess the end result would have been much the same - possibly even fewer German units to escape over the Seine for later re-use.
  7. Whilst not D-Day per'se, i suggest the books by Joseph Balkoski, Omaha beach and Utah Beach, whilst written by an American, he writes without the Ambrose tinted glasses, his Omaha beach is an eye opener, he also did a book, Beyond the Beachhead, which is about the Bocage fighting, another good book.
  8. And outright lies......
  9. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    On balance probably Rommel. He'd come to the conclusion that if the Allies got firmly ashore Germany would lose - because the Allies had more men and material than Germany. Hence all the effort he put into obstacles on the beaches. Rommel wanted to disrupt the assault before it even got ashore. Similarly he wanted to hit the Allies as quickly as possible with a counter attack - which is why we wanted the Panzer divisions up close to the beaches.

    To take polite issue with the OP - the argument was between Rommel and Geyr von Schweppenberg. He commanded Panzer Group West - essential the armoured reserve in France. Both he and Rommel were subordinated to von Runstedt and they were in dispute over how the reserves were to be used. Geyr von Schweppenberg was more conventional than Rommel and wanted to concentrate the armour before a counter attack - Rommel said allied air power would prevent the concentration and that the armour had to be close to the beaches.

    As the Panzer divisions were eventually fed in piecemeal to stop Allied breakthroughs, and as several were significantly delayed on their approach marches (for example Panzer Lehr), Rommel's train of thought appears to have been correct. For example, would a more prompt counter attack have stopped the Americans getting off Omaha beach. Similarly the counter attack by 21st Panzer (which was up close to the beaches) might - if reinforced - have stopped the British assaults at Juno and Sword beaches joining up.

    One problem the Allies had was the relatively small area of the lodgement they had - at least until the Cobra breakout - prevented then from landing all the available forces. Prompt additional Panzer led counter attacks might have kept the lodgement area smaller and given the allies even more problems during their build up.

    One of the biggest worries the Allies had was that the German build up would be faster than what they could achieve. So they had a deception plan - Operation Fortitude. This aimed to convince the Germans that Normandy was a preliminary operation and the main assault was to come in the Pas de Calais. That's some of the background to Geyr von Schweppenberg's decision to keep the reserves back - he wanted then to be able to intervene in the Pas de Calais at need as well as the Normandy beachhead.

    If Germany had pinpointed Normandy as the main assault, they could have moved strong forces from the Pas de Calais (where they were not being used) and built up faster than the allies could land troops. What the Wehrmacht could have done with numbers in their favour is perhaps a more fascinating 'what if'.

  10. I do wonder how he was able to maintain his position as a professor of history at a major University, when his concept of primary and secondary historical evidence is blurred so badly to meet his need to "tell a story"!
  11. I probably agree that analysis (interestingly, Ambrose's interpretation of Rommel's intentions was that he wanted to dig in all his tanks on the coast!), although it would have been equally hard to press home a counter attack in range of the naval fleet.

    I'm guessing the ideal time for counter attacks would have been when the invasion force was just off the beach (and hence out of line-of-sight from the sea), but not yet well enough established to have set up a relaible network of forward observers to bring in accurate naval gunfire.

    I also wonder what might have happened if the Germans had defended forward in strength on the most easily defensible positions (i.e from Vierville to Arromanches), and allowed some penetration on either flank. This might have ensured that the beachead would have remained split for some time, and provided a secure flank from which to anchor both defence and counter attacks?

    Still, so much for armchair generalship - the buggers lost!
  12. I got Utah Beach for Christmas, busy reading it at the moment, very impressed so far. It also covers the US airborne drops on the Cotentin Peninsula.

    Some interesting points:
    1) Though it is well known that the initial landing at Utah was in the wrong place, this was in fact where 4th Infantry Div had originally wanted to land, so they were not exactly unhappy with it.
    2) The bombing mission just before the landing, carried out by B-26 medium bombers coming in parallel to the coast at low level, worked like clockwork. At Omaha the heavy bombers approaching perpendicular to the coast mostly overshot their targets.
    3) The two airborne divs landing in the Cotentin greatly confused and slowed the German response to the Utah landings, even though they didn't succeed in taking all their objectives.
  13. Excellent book is decision in Normandy by Carlo D'Este.
    A Spam, ex-army who writes knowledgeable and critical but fair history. He is very good on who had the best idea for the counter, and as said, Rommel who wanted more panzers up close with authority to join in quickly. No he didn't want to dig them in as I gather Ambrose claims but use them in his classical quick counter mode. He didn't have that and allied airpower made the panzers ineffective as a major counter-attack force due to their lack of mobility and their attrition when mobile during the day. It left the panzer units as the main link in the defence at which they excelled.
    When the panzers did mass for a counter attack at Mortain it led to the great encirclement and destruction of huge amounts of material at the hands of the allied TAFs.
    Whether Rommel could have prevented the landing or thrown thrown back into the sea is moot. Wordsmith makes a good point there and I agree with what he says. They may have blocked a beach or two and caused a longer breakout but the second option of holding back the panzers was shown to be a failure.

    As an aside D'Este also has a few interesting comments on the regimental system and how it fell short in Normandy, especially the cavalry.
  14. I can strongly recommend

    Buckingham, William F. D-Day: The First 72 Hours. The History Press, Stroud, 2009. ISBN 978-0-7524-2842-0

    and if you want to get down amongst the details of what the Funnies were doing

    Anderson, Richard C Jr. Cracking Hitler´s Atlantic Wall: The 1st Assault Brigade Royal Engineers on D-Day.Stackpole Books, Mechanisburg (PA), 2010. ISBN 978-0-8117-0589-9

    is an excellent and detailed book on their activities.