The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man… Thomas Robert MALTHUS

All About Erwin Johannes Eugen Rommel(11)…

END of AFRIKA CAMPAIGNS…

Having reached Tunisia Rommel launched an attack against the U.S. II Corps which was threatening to cut his lines of supply north to Tunis. Rommel inflicted a sharp defeat on the American forces at the Kasserine Pass in February.

Rommel immediately turned back against the British forces, occupying the Mareth Line (old French defences on the Libyan border). But Rommel could only delay the inevitable. At the end of January 1943, the Italian General Giovanni Messe had been appointed the new commander of Rommel’s Panzer Army Africa while Rommel had been at Kasserine, which was renamed the Italo-German Panzer Army (in recognition of the fact that it consisted of one German and three Italian corps). Though Messe replaced Rommel, he diplomatically deferred to him, and the two coexisted in what was theoretically the same command. On 23 FebruaryArmeegruppe Afrika was created with Rommel in command. It included the Italo-German Panzer Army under Messe (renamed 1st Italian Army) and the German 5th Panzer Army in the north of Tunisia under General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim.

The last Rommel offensive in North Africa was on 6 March 1943, when he attacked Eighth Army at the Battle of Medenine. The attack was made with 10th, 15th, and 21st Panzer Divisions. Warned by ULTRA intercepts, Montgomery deployed large numbers of anti-tank guns in the path of the offensive. After losing 52 tanks, Rommel called off the assault. On 9 March he handed over command of Armeegruppe Afrika to General Hans-Jürgen von Arnim and left Africa, because of health reasons, never to return. On 13 May 1943, General Messe surrendered the remnants of Armeegruppe Afrika to the Allies.

Some historians contrast Rommel’s withdrawal to Tunisia against Hitler’s wishes with Friedrich Paulus’s obedience of orders to have the German Sixth Army stand its ground at the Battle of Stalingrad which resulted in its annihilation. Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, appointed overall Axis commander in North Africa, saw things differently. He believed the withdrawals, some of which were carried out against his orders, unnecessary and ruinous since they brought forward British airfields ever closer to the port of Tunis. As far as he was concerned, Rommel was an insubordinate defeatist and string-puller. The increasingly acrimonious relations between the two did nothing to enhance performance.

Role of Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) in North Africa…

Axis…

The Axis had some major SIGINT successes in North Africa. They intercepted the reports of the U.S. military attaché in Egypt, who was briefed by the British on their forces and plans.Some authorities believe this information explains much of Rommel’s success.

In addition, the Afrika Korps had a Radio Intercept Section (RIS) attached to its HQ. The RIS monitored radio communications among British units. The British were very „gabby”, and most of this chatter was in clear, allowing the Germans to identify British units and deployments. During the first Battle of El Alamein, a British counter-attack reached the HQ. The RIS was wiped out in the fighting, with much of their files captured. This alerted the British to the problem, and they tightened up on radio chatter. The loss of this source is also considered an important factor in Rommel’s later lack of success.

Allies…

Allied codebreakers read much enciphered German message traffic, especially that encrypted with the Enigma machine. This ULTRA intelligence included daily reports from Africa on the numbers and condition of Axis forces. It also included information about Axis supply shipments across the Mediterranean. This information enabled the weak Allied air and naval forces there to intercept and destroy much of these shipments. To protect the source of the intelligence (ULTRA), Allied air and naval forces were forbidden to destroy the convoys carrying war supplies to North Africa until a flyover to „discover” the convoy was arranged and completed…

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