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Subject: Rommel influenced by Stonewall Jackson? rss

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Given the great historians we have in this forum, thought I'd ask this here...

I'm listening to a (great) audiobook, Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke. There's a WWII section where he describes how Rommel studied Stonewall Jackson's military strategy & tactics, and used them to great effect in WWII against the Americans (and the irony of that).

How valid is this assertion? Any sources on this that anyone could point me to? I found the idea intriguing.
 
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Daniel Blumentritt
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I would definitely say "used them to great effect against the Americans" is exaggerated. Rommel only fought one major offensive against the Americans that I'm aware of - Kasserine - which was a victory, but not the great victory that he needed. One could draw some parallels between it and some of Stonewall's maneuvers, sure, but not enough to make the claim that "Rommel used Jackson's strategy & tactics to great effect in WWII against the Americans". I'm also not sure if he was directly using Stonewall's tactics or not - just that there are some similarities between the Kasserine offensive and the Valley campaign. Rommel was mostly taking advantage of tendencies that he predicted would be followed by an inexperienced army and inexperienced commanders. In at least one notable case, he correctly predicted the American reaction but was overruled from above.

Rommel's most notable moves against the Americans were defensive, turning the Atlantic Wall from a Propaganda Wall into a serious obstacle. Luckily for us, once he was done in Africa they shuffled him around in Italy and Greece for several months before appointing him to a useful job, and then gave him only partial control of the forces he was supposed to defend with.

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Maybe the "great effect" aspect is an exaggeration on my part in trying to remember the passage.

The main point of the passage IIRC was the main character musing that the descendants of Stonewall Jackson's troops were having Jackson's Civil War strategies used against them by the Nazis.
 
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Bob Zurunkel
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Not true. There is no evidence that Rommel ever studied Jackson's campaigns. There is even a myth that Rommel visited the US in the '30s to study Jackson, also not true. Rommel's book, Infantry Attacks, which he used as a textbook teaching between the wars, was based on his own experiences mountain fighting during WWI and makes no mention of Jackson.
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Jason Sadler
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We read Rommel's book in the USMC, despite being a belligerent in his first war. I think military commanders consume everything they can get their hands on and I wouldn't be surprised if maneuver warfare specialists were interested in those long flank runs of Jackson's.

Edit: I have no clue what he did or didn't study. Just some wild-assed conjecture.
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Bob Zurunkel
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BeatPosse wrote:
We read Rommel's book in the USMC, despite being a belligerent in his first war. I think military commanders consume everything they can get their hands on and I wouldn't be surprised if maneuver warfare specialists were interested in those long flank runs of Jackson's.


Not disparaging Jackson or his relevance, and the German military has a long tradition of studying military history. But Rommel could not read English, I do not know if anything about Jackson was available in German at the time, and European history had quite a lot to offer in the military sphere.
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John Middleton
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I thought Rommel spent most of his time buying shoes for his wife?
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Bob Zurunkel
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DegenerateElite wrote:
I thought Rommel spent most of his time buying shoes for his wife?


I hadn't considered that. Perhaps he knew that the battle of Gettysburg took place there because the Confederate Army was looking for shoes, and he wanted to avoid being put in that position.
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Walter Clayton
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I have heard that Rommel and several other German staff were suppose to have studied Forrest.

There was a book:

ROMMEL AND THE REBEL By Lawrence Wells

http://hottytoddy.com/2014/07/21/second-guessing-the-past-th...

But, that's fiction.

But had never heard he, supposedly, looked at Jackson, too.

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Sean Norman
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I'm not aware of any evidence to support that claim.

He doesn't mention anything that would remotely support this theory in his personal diaries & reports documented in The Rommel Papers. If you're interested in his motivations and personal views, I highly suggest giving this a read.

In fact, most of his tactics were based on theories & the development of ideas that were born in the first world war.
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Carl Fung
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First of all, what was Stonewall Jackson's strategy and tactics? Sticking his finger in the air and sucking on a lemon while attacking?

I find the idea so basic to be not ever considered to be serious. Any professional officer school (and we know the Germans had really good ones) would study all wars greatest hits albums and theorists: Alexander, Napoleon, Jomini, Clauswitz, Frederick, Lee, Grant, Jackson, Tito, but not Jermaine.
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Ah, I found the passage in the book:

...I'd learned a lesson in the Ardennes. When we went up against the panzer corps, we were not fighting only German armor. We had also taken on Stonewall Jackson. Erwin Rommel and his colleagues in martial mischief had studied Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign and had used Tiger tanks in the same way Jackson used cavalry. How egregious can the ironies of history be? Out there in the snowy forests south of the Belgian border, the right-hand man of Robert E. Lee was guiding the Waffen SS against his countrymen, some of them probably descendants of the Confederate soldiers who were with him when he died at Chancellorsville.

Jackson's strategy, as he explained once, was simple: "Mystify, mislead, and surprise."...
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Ronald Hill
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I don't know if this could be answered with any hope of finding the truthful answer, many military leaders have studied previous wars and leaders for centuries. Who knows, it is possible he may have read something in his years with the German military.
I did read, a long time ago, that all the different European military powers had observers in the United States during the American Civil War. The war was studied and the Europeans did not expect on how the ACW escalated with the ferocity and size of the battles along with numbers wounded and killed. However, the Europeans, looked more at the Franco-Prussian War and the Boer War instead of the ACW and the American Spanish War for lessons learned for the 20th Century warfare.

Edit 1: grammar
Edit 2: spelling
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Chris R.
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Westie wrote:
Not true. There is no evidence that Rommel ever studied Jackson's campaigns. There is even a myth that Rommel visited the US in the '30s to study Jackson, also not true. Rommel's book, Infantry Attacks, which he used as a textbook teaching between the wars, was based on his own experiences mountain fighting during WWI and makes no mention of Jackson.


(Well, not according to Flora Mae Davis...)

https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1876&dat=19930530&id=...

"However, the guest may have been the German Embassy Military Liason, Colonel (later Lieutenant General) Friedrich von Boetticher who was known to visit Civil War battle sites."

http://www.highland-inn.com/legends.html

...

There was a fictional book and the Confederate general was Nathan Bedford Forrest. The author was apparently married to William Faulkner's niece.

http://www.nytimes.com/1986/03/16/books/a-nazi-at-ole-miss.h...
 
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"Capitaine Conan," by Roger Vercel (1934).
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I thought I saw in a movie that Rommel slept with a copy of Jackson's book next to his bed. Oh wait...
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Tonny Wille
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
Ah, I found the passage in the book:

...I'd learned a lesson in the Ardennes. When we went up against the panzer corps, we were not fighting only German armor. We had also taken on Stonewall Jackson. Erwin Rommel and his colleagues in martial mischief had studied Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign and had used Tiger tanks in the same way Jackson used cavalry. How egregious can the ironies of history be? Out there in the snowy forests south of the Belgian border, the right-hand man of Robert E. Lee was guiding the Waffen SS against his countrymen, some of them probably descendants of the Confederate soldiers who were with him when he died at Chancellorsville.

Jackson's strategy, as he explained once, was simple: "Mystify, mislead, and surprise."...


That is so wrong. If we talking about Rommel in the ardennes we have to talk about 1940 were the best tank the germans could field was the panzer IVD. There were no Tigers

If we talking of the battle of 44. Well there was no Rommel because he died in octobre.
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calvinboy24 wrote:
... Any professional officer school (and we know the Germans had really good ones) would study all wars greatest hits albums and theorists: Alexander, Napoleon, Jomini, Clauswitz, Frederick, Lee, Grant, Jackson...


Exactly.

There were Prussian military observers in America during the Civil War; perhaps the most notable was the cavalryman von Borcke. Here is a BGG article on the subject:

Two “armed mobs” marching in the countryside -- European observations on the American Civil War

Captain Scheibert wrote a thorough narrative (Of course it was thorough... he was a Prussian officer!) that was widely distributed.




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durchske wrote:
JohnnyDollar wrote:
Ah, I found the passage in the book:

...I'd learned a lesson in the Ardennes. When we went up against the panzer corps, we were not fighting only German armor. We had also taken on Stonewall Jackson. Erwin Rommel and his colleagues in martial mischief had studied Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign and had used Tiger tanks in the same way Jackson used cavalry. How egregious can the ironies of history be? Out there in the snowy forests south of the Belgian border, the right-hand man of Robert E. Lee was guiding the Waffen SS against his countrymen, some of them probably descendants of the Confederate soldiers who were with him when he died at Chancellorsville.

Jackson's strategy, as he explained once, was simple: "Mystify, mislead, and surprise."...


That is so wrong. If we talking about Rommel in the ardennes we have to talk about 1940 were the best tank the germans could field was the panzer IVD. There were no Tigers

If we talking of the battle of 44. Well there was no Rommel because he died in octobre.



It all sounds like a CSA fan who grew up in Lexington, Va in the 20s and 30s projecting on an adversary - calling all German Generals "Rommel" and every tank a Tiger - it is Kelly's Heroes meets Ghost Tank...
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John Middleton
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It sounds like fanfic....
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Bob Zurunkel
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To sum up:

Rommel never mentioned Jackson in his writings.

German observers wrote reports about the Civil War that may have discussed Jackson.

Rommel may have read those reports at some point in his career.

To conclude from that that Rommel based his maneuvers on a study of Jackson's campaigns is an untenable position.
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Thanks for the posts!

Sounds like the author is playing fast and loose with history and taking a lot of liberties... something that should be mentioned in an Introduction if it isn't already.

durchske wrote:


If we talking of the battle of 44. Well there was no Rommel because he died in octobre.


From the context of the novel I think it would've been '44. The actual WWII events take up a relatively small portion of the novel, so maybe he figured he couldn't have a WWII section and not name-drop Rommel. whistle
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Bob Zurunkel
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JohnnyDollar wrote:
Thanks for the posts!

Sounds like the author is playing fast and loose with history and taking a lot of liberties... something that should be mentioned in an Introduction if it isn't already.

durchske wrote:


If we talking of the battle of 44. Well there was no Rommel because he died in octobre.


From the context of the novel I think it would've been '44. The actual WWII events take up a relatively small portion of the novel, so maybe he figured he couldn't have a WWII section and not name-drop Rommel. whistle


He's clearly talking about 1944; however, he does say "Rommel and his colleagues", so he doesn't actually put Rommel there, even though it's easy to get that impression.
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Bill Eldard
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Westie wrote:
DegenerateElite wrote:
I thought Rommel spent most of his time buying shoes for his wife?


I hadn't considered that. Perhaps he knew that the battle of Gettysburg took place there because the Confederate Army was looking for shoes, and he wanted to avoid being put in that position.


And, of course, Jackson missed the battle of Gettysburg due in no small part to his untimely death at Chancellorsville.

I would think that the greatest inspiration for Rommel (and Heinz Guderian) was the German army's experience in the First World War. Most of the great panzer commanders of early WW2 had been infantry officers who now embraced the agility and speed which tanks, trucks, aircraft, and wireless communications, forged together synergistically by Guderian's doctrine, afforded them to restore maneuver to the battlefield in such a way as to create an asymmetric advantage over their opponents at least through mid-1942.
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Bill Eldard
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durchske wrote:
JohnnyDollar wrote:
Ah, I found the passage in the book:

...I'd learned a lesson in the Ardennes. When we went up against the panzer corps, we were not fighting only German armor. We had also taken on Stonewall Jackson. Erwin Rommel and his colleagues in martial mischief had studied Jackson's Shenandoah Valley campaign and had used Tiger tanks in the same way Jackson used cavalry. How egregious can the ironies of history be? Out there in the snowy forests south of the Belgian border, the right-hand man of Robert E. Lee was guiding the Waffen SS against his countrymen, some of them probably descendants of the Confederate soldiers who were with him when he died at Chancellorsville.

Jackson's strategy, as he explained once, was simple: "Mystify, mislead, and surprise."...


That is so wrong. If we talking about Rommel in the ardennes we have to talk about 1940 were the best tank the germans could field was the panzer IVD. There were no Tigers

If we talking of the battle of 44. Well there was no Rommel because he died in octobre.


Exactly, Tonny. Moreover, the Waffen SS formations in the 1940 invasion of France consisted of two motorized infantry divisions (Verfugung and Totenkopf) and the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler motorized infantry regiment. These units were hastily formed and trained when the war started and characteristically led by officers of little or no combat experience, military education, or imagination, whose outmoded tactics caused needless casualties among their troops. In other words, the leadership of the Waffen SS units in 1940 was inferior to that of the Army at large. To ascribe their performance as Stonewall-inspired is ridiculous.
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