Friday, January 05, 2007

General Auchinleck was the only general, besides Bernard Law Montgomery, who could beat Rommel in the desert

I would not count Patton as having beat Rommel, as by the spring of 1943, the German position was extremely weak. The reality was, that even in the fall of 1941, the German position was almost as weak. While General O'Connor might well have been capable of successfully facing Rommel, he did not get the chance. He had been sidelined with health problems, and when he did appear, he was captured in early 1941. By November 1941, the British had built up a great force to be used at retaked Tobruk and push the Axis forces back. The only problem is that they did not have a commander in the field able to fight Rommel and the Germans. General Auchinleck as the theatre commander, and he did not want to devote his time to commanding the army. He had thought that he had a good man in Alan Cunningham, but he was exhausted and lacked experience with armoured forces, or even large armies. When Generals Norrie and Gott had frittered away the armoured brigades, Auchinleck's had was finally forced, as he was not going to allow the 8th Army to lose. He promptly defeated the Axis forces and Rommel in the field and eventually pushed them back to the vicinity of El Agheila. When Auchinleck pulled back to his theatre commmander role, Rommel promptly attacked from El Agheila and eventually reached the Egyptian border and beyond. The fall of Tobruk had brought Auchinleck back to the field, where he stopped Rommel in the First Alamein battle in July 1942. At that point, Churchill's political problems led him to sack Auchinleck and bring in a new theatre commander, Harold Alexander. The untimely death of General Gott allowed Bernard Law Montgomery to be appointed to command the 8th Army. Despite all of his problems, he would not lose the fight. He might fumble and regroup, but he ultimately decimated the Axis forces in the Second Alamein. He let the remnants escape, through his over-cautious pursuit. Montgomery did not like fluid battles. Everything had to be "set piece".

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