Jump to content

Rommel - The Desert Fox Re visited.

Phil Perry

Recommended Posts

An interesting angle on General Irwin Rommel.




General Erwin Rommel , the Desert Fox , a genius , master tactician and the man of the swift bold attack. He is a legend , ran rings around Generals Wavell , Cunningham , Ritchie and Auchinleck but got his butt kicked by good old Monty ; or at least that is how the story is seen throughout most of the world.


Herr Wilhelm Flicke of the German Intercept Service is not quite so kind to Erwin. As in so many cases , Herr Flicke boils everything down to intercepted radio messages telling one side or the other , all the plans of the enemy. His opinion is that Rommel profited greatly from intercepts from the US military attache in Cairo to Washington and that the Allies realised what was happening just as Monty turned up and stopped the offending messages thereby rendering the Fox blind.


Up until that point Rommel always had his strength in the right places , where the Allies launched their attacks , or attacked the Allies at their weakest points. Once the absence of signals intelligence took hold , he was left to use his intuition and that left him precariously exposed and the result was he got his butt kicked all the way back to Tunisia. It was only when the Americans , and their shoddy radio work , moved into Tunisia from Algeria that the radio interceptions again started to deliver good intelligence. This only delayed the inevitable conclusion to the North African campaign.


The original reason for the fighting in North Africa was that the Axis wanted to push through to the Iraqi oilfields of Mosul and linkup with the Germans fighting their way south from the Caucasus. This would have starved the Royal Navy of fuel oil in the Mediterranean and the Italians could have had their Mare Nostrum , or Italian Lake , to go with their four shores.


Rommel and his Africa Corps had arrived in North Africa in March 1941 to extricate the Italians from the drubbing they were getting from the Desert Rats. After 3 months of fighting and chasing the Italians the British had run out of puff and within 18 days Rommel had driven them out of Cyrenaica when it all came to a standstill.


The US Military Attache in Cairo , an ambitious man , Fellers by name , decided to make a name for himself by sending the most detailed messages possible to Washington and as frequently as possible. He reported on the political situation and everything connected to military preparations and operations. These messages were ciphered but the death of any cryptographic system is found in its frequent use. All of his radiograms were intercepted by the Germans and all were addressed to either the Military Attache or Adjutant General in Washington so easily recognised.


By early June the system had been solved in essence and parts of messages could be read. They were a mine of information. Fellers reported on the reinforcement of British Forces Western Egypt , their equipment , each transport of war materiel that arrived , the withdrawal of the Australian 9th Division from Tobruk and its replacement by British and Polish units and preparations for an offensive whose aim was the encirclement and annihilation of the Axis troops.


All these deciphered messages were passed directly to General Rommel who could use them to his advantage , hence his troops always seemed to be in the right place.


On 18 November 1941 , a British offensive started but Rommel had made good preparations and was able to hold the front for a time. The British made a break south of Sidi Omar but Rommels sent an Italian armoured division to stop the British thrust. On 19 November the British took Sidi Rezegh and on the same day Churchill predicted the impending destruction of the Axis troops in North Africa. Both sides threw more and more troops into battle. Wherever the British started an action, Rommel immediately sent forces to oppose them. He even sent a column behind the British in the direction of Halfaya and broke their connections. He always did the right thing at the right time , small wonder because Fellers was telling him everything the Allies were doing. Fellers was going all over the battle area observing and reporting , not just to Washington but inadvertently also to Rommel.


The Germans intercepted the messages , copied via teletype to Berlin where it was deciphered and sent back to Rommel in the space of a couple of hours. The British were surprised , their carefully laid plans had been thwarted. Auchinleck relieved Cunningham and appointed Ritchie as commander of the Eighth Army. While the battle raged , Rommel spotted a weak point in the British positions and escaped without being detected. Churchill had to tell the House that all had not gone according to plan.


And so it carried on Rommel knowing every move before his enemy had made it. The British were amazed , Rommel seemed to have “second sight”. Whatever the British did , Rommel always acted as if he knew what was going to happen. Then disaster struck in the weirdest way.


On the 27th June 1942 a german radio station , the Deutschlandsender , announced a radio drama. “We are offering scenes from the British or American Information Bureau” the announcer said. The drama had as its subject “Events in North Africa”. One of the characters represented the American Military Attache in Cairo there followed a discussion of his extensive supply of information and the way he sent it to Washington. 36 hours after this radio drama the messages from Fellers to Washington suddenly stopped. Rommel was now blind , as the British regrouped he knew nothing about it.They introduced new units , this remained hidden.


Why should a German radio station give away such a secret even in the guise of fiction. It killed the goose that was laying golden egg after golden egg. There must have been a very high level traitor , or even traitors , at the top of the Nazi Party. The breadth of knowledge required for all the things that were given away during Adolf’s time almost certainly excludes the military so it looks like a Nazi Party member. There are scores of rumours about Martin Bormann and unlike Eichmann , he was left alone by Mossad while he was in South America after the war. He looks a good bet but there is no proof.


Rommel tried a strong thrust to the south , it failed , the next day he tried a major attack near El Alamein but had to withdraw. Both sides now beefed up their forces , Mussolini went to the Egyptian front so he could be present at the entry to Cairo. This was when he had his white horse ferried over so he ride triumphantly into the Egyptian capital. Rommel was appointed Field Marshall and Montgomery was placed in charge of the Eight Army. In November the British started the Battle of El Alamein and Rommel’s great retreat began. Simultaneously the British and Americans landed in Algeria and Morocco.


Deprived of his signals intelligence Rommel just kept on retreating , things did not improve until they met the Americans in Tunisia as they move in from Algeria. Then some signals intelligence resumed , not from Fellers but from the American Army and their not quite secure use of the wireless.


It seems that Rommel was not quite the genius that history tells us , obviously a great leader of men but perhaps not quite the tactician we are led to believe. Herr Flicke traces his stories through the medium of signals intelligence and is sure that it decides everything. This is obviously far from the truth but as they say , forewarned is forearmed.


Well Chuffed 2018


Going postal blog.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Phil, very informative. So it was a combination of slack U.S. security and pesky German hackers.

A Combination of a few things by the look of it Willie. . .I still believe that Ol' Irwin was a bloody good tactician though. . .AND he didn't Like Adolf !


If anyone is interested, BP has a Three Part story about German Codebreaking in very surgical detail ( Smart Ar$e he is ! ). . .fascinating stuff. and we thought we were the Bees Knees due to the capture and cracking of an Enigma machine. . . .The Germans had been reading Several of our codes for a while - fortunately, they never cottoned on that we'd cracked Enigma. . . .



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Rommel gets poor marks in a Len Deighton book where he debunks most of the generals of WW2.


Recently I read that Australians used a tactic against Rommel where troops hid underground while the first Germans went overhead . Then the Australians came out from under their lids and got the Germans from behind.


Apparently the Viet Cong copied this idea years later.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

We can all be thankful that his Afrika Korps didn't get the materiel support it needed, otherwise they might have taken Suez and gone on to claim the oilfields of Iraq. The Med. would have become an Axis lake, Nazi Germany would have had plenty of oil and the war might have gone on for a decade, with perhaps a negotiated peace to Hitler's advantage.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Its a sad story about the Gigant powered gliders carrying fuel to Rommel. Beyond the range of their own fighters, they passed through the range of Spitfires based in Malta and they were sitting ducks.


And, old K, don't forget the Americans had the atom bomb in 1945, persuaded by a German Jew called Einstein.


Who knows what would have happened? A nuke on Berlin?


Even without using the atom bomb, the material superiority of America was overwhelming. My once next-door neighbor Ludwig was, in 1945, an 18 year-old German who finished the war with 300 or so other Luftwaffe groundstaff, told to defend their ground at all costs.


Well the Americans came at them with 3000 tanks plus everything else.


As an aside, Ludwig sure would have illustrated Nev's point about how nobody ever got an informed vote about going to war. Ludwig never would have voted for war or for Hitler. Not now or in 1939 or any other time.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

...Even without using the atom bomb, the material superiority of America was overwhelming...

Quite true, Bruce. They sold over half a million Studebaker trucks to the Soviets, plus thousands of fighters. They churned out machines of war far faster than the other team could destroy them.

Hitlers grant strategy might have worked, except for his colossal arrogance. Had he treated the Slavic people they overran just a little better than Stalin had, they might have risen up and helped sweep away their Soviet oppressors.


Had the Japanese expanded into Siberia instead of SE Asia, they might have encircled and eliminated the Soviets; the Axis powers would then have been in control of the world's greatest resource base.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Well a not so united Europe. Brexit is just the beginning, Italy has had more governments than most have had hot dinners, Greece is broke, the refugee issue is dividing all of the members, there is the right wing resurgence all over and Germany is struggling to find the funds to pay for everything.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

BUTGermany Did win the war in the end. Just look at the UK in the 50s


All the money poured into Germany, after the war, put it on a better economical position than the commonwealth countries.


And now it's Hitler,s dream of a united Europe.



Spacey is right!


The European Commission has announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which was the other contender. Her Majesty's Government conceded that English spelling had room for improvement and has therefore accepted a five-year phasing in of "Euro-English".


In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make sivil servants jump for joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of the "k", Which should klear up some konfusion and allow one key less on keyboards.


There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f", making words like "fotograf" 20% shorter.


In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent "e" is disgrasful.


By the fourth yer, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".


During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and everivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. ZE DREM VIL FINALI COM TRU!



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...