Skip to content

Getting it very badly wrong

February 8, 2009

CRUSADER was not exactly an operation that shone a bright light on the genius of the opposing commanders on both sides. Rather the contrary, with the exception of Auchinleck’s bold reaction to the result of the Totensonntag battle (Admission: I do have a lot of time for ‘The Auk’, and consider him one of the great commanders of World War II – he certainly stood head and shoulders and then some over anyone else in the desert, on both sides).

At NARA I have now come across what appears to me to be the most astonishing misreading of the battle, at least as far as I can tell from what I have seen. It shows in my opinion how completely out of touch with events Rommel was during the first two weeks of CRUSADER, until the visit by Montezumolo from Comando Supremo gave him the reality check that he needed to rescue his command, and made him decide to retreat.  The order is from the files of 90th Light and was distributed to all soldiers in the division. Here goes:

The Commander of Panzergruppe Afrika

Command Post, 2 December 1941

21.00 hours

Order of the Day

The battle in the Marmarica has come to its first victorious conclusion. In uninterrupted heavy fighting against a strongly superior enemy, by 1 December we had destroyed:

814 tanks and armoured cars,

127 planes and captured great volumes of war material. Over 9,000 prisoners have been made until now.

Soldiers! This great success is thanks to your toughness and endurance. The fight is not over yet. Therefore continue to advance to finally throw down the opponent!

The Commander

signed Rommel

The war diary of 90th Light has the following entry regarding this communication:

1110hrs – Radio from the Commander in Chief: the battle in North Africa has found its first preliminary conclusion.  This order, which causes great jubilation, is immediately passed on to all units.

One day later the Luftwaffe in Greece was ordered to co-operate closely with the Italian air force to prevent an orderly retreat of the Commonwealth forces by constant attacks.

Two days later the order to retreat was given and Panzergruppe Afrika took the long road back to el Agheila. The reaction to this order is not stated in the 90th Light diary. Fliegerführer Afrika reported that no signs of a British retreat were seen.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2010 6:15 am

    Agree about Auchinleck; not re Rommel. Look at first few days of Gazala-Tobruk battle, May ’42…backed up against his own minefields, looked like a quick disaster. But he improvised a way out, and on to a huge victory; you don’t win by being pessimistic, and I’m sure he still had late, late hopes during Crusader. True, logistical factors had to be explained to him from time to time…

    • Andreas permalink*
      August 12, 2010 9:52 am

      I think we’ll have to agree to disagree here. Gazala was not won by Rommel, it was lost by 8th Army commanders.

  2. August 14, 2010 5:45 am

    Six of one, half-dozen of the other. Here, at least, he was better than they. Sometimes I wonder what R. would have accomplished had Hitler secured his supply lines and given him a real force, instead of the pittance he had to operate with…

    • Andreas permalink*
      August 14, 2010 9:59 am

      With proper supplies he would have stood a very good chance of winning.

Trackbacks

  1. New Zealand Division on Zaafran, 1 Dec 1941 « The Crusader Project

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 32 other followers

%d bloggers like this: