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Subject: Were all the German tanks in this Theatre Elite units? rss

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Scott
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This one's for the history buffs:

I'm still reading the rules and I was wondering about the historical accuracy of that. Were they truly elite or was a game design choice so that they appear better?
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Jeff Johnson
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The two panzer divisions in DAK weren't really elite German units. 5th Light Division (21st Panzer) in particular was hurriedly slapped together, and certainly couldn't be considered an elite unit. All the German units in DAK did prove to be good ones, though. They were significantly more effective than British units of the same size, at least until later in the campaign. They had a better tactical doctrine, with more emphasis on combined arms. Better organization as well; British armored divisions of the time were light on infantry (one motorized brigade).

Technically, German tanks were superior; early British cruiser tanks like the A9, A13 and Crusader I/II were lightly armoured and equipped with 2-pdr (40 mm) guns which had no significant anti-personnel capability and marginal antitank capability against the German tanks. Later models with 6-pdr (57 mm) guns like the Crusader III (though it was hampered by the commander having to also act as loader) brought them closer to parity gun-wise; American tanks with 75mm guns had the edge on most of the German tanks in the desert (the Grant was much weaker in other ways than the Sherman, though).

Whatever the reasons behind their superior historical performance, though, in the game it only makes sense to give the German units a significant edge over their British counterparts. RitD's way of doing it (double-step units and higher strength) is interesting because it gives the Germans a larger edge in smaller battles, where it's more likely the British won't get that extra hit, thus making them want to avoid large battles of attrition - this gives the German player an incentive to act historically.

West End Games' Rommel in North Africa does it another way - the German units have higher ratings, but all battles are unit-to-unit and use a differential CRT rather than an odds-based CRT, thus making the difference in combat value more significant. This too models the campaign in an interesting way, with the better units spearheading an offensive until they get worn down.
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Ethan McKinney
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Yeah, British tactical doctrine was very bad. They often treated tanks like massed cavalry, sending them forward at full speed with no infantry support (and often limited artillery support). German use of AT guns was quite sophisticated, even on the attack, and killed far more British tanks than you'd expect (I'm not just talking about the 88s).
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Charlie Sheppard
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British tanks were also limited in their freedom of action. They had to radio their commanders for permission to do anything.
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Rommel himself said that the best tank in the theater is the Crusader. Also, Matilda II is superior to anything the Germans had in armor. WWII German tanks superiority in armor and firepower is itself a big myth. Take France 1940 for instance, the staple German tank of this period was Panzer III, not a match to the best French tanks in armor or gunnery. And there were large number of Panzer Is and IIs -- miserable compared to any French or British tanks. Panzer IV only existed in limited quantity and is only marginally superior in speed.

Later German heavy tanks contributed to the German tank myth, in particular Tiger and Tiger II. It should be noted, however, that by now they were losing and neither were produced in significant quantities. Some 1,300 Tigers were build in the entire war while some 57,000 Russian T-34 were build. A head to head comparison is meaningless for that isn't the way a war is fought.

The success of German tanks was a result of superior application: they were used to exploit the enemy's weaknesses rather than to punch a hole through his strongest defenses. Their true strength was speed, not firepower or armor. However, this idea was not accessible by the common public and the most easy way to explain it away was by saying "they have good tanks."

The same goes for the term "Blitzkrieg" which was really an invention of allied media. "Exploitation of the enemy's weakness" was by no means a German invention and has been around for thousands of years. The German plan for invasion of France was similar to that of WWI, except this time they have found the right tool (tanks) to break the deadlock of firepower in 1914. Schlieffen thought he found it in railroads but railroads did not extend beyond the frontlines. Tank is a locomotive that lays its own tracks.

Blitzkrieg was not a tactic or a strategy. The term wasn't even used by the German during WWII. It is simply a layman's superficial description of an unexpectedly fast war. Fast in comparison to the previous war (human have short-term memory) not neccessarily to any other era. Napoleon started his Russian Campaign on June 24, 1812 and he arrived in Moscow on September 14, 1812. Now, that is sehr schnell.
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Jeff Johnson
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That Rommel quote doesn't sound right to me - where did you find it? The Crusader was a pretty mediocre tank by all accounts, and quickly replaced by the Sherman in British units.

WalterLai wrote:
Take France 1940 for instance, the staple German tank of this period was Panzer III, not a match to the best French tanks in armor or gunnery.


In 1940, it's true that the Germans were slightly outnumbered and had slightly inferior tanks (one on one) than the Allies - although the better French tanks (S-35 and Char I) were significantly hampered by having one-man turrets. It's also irrelevant.

In North Africa, prior to the two battles of El Alamein, where Grants and Shermans were first used in large numbers, German tanks were superior to the British. Not so superior as to make things a foregone conclusion, but by a margin significant enough to model in the game - and they still had the edge in tactics as well!.

The most numerous German tanks were Pz IIIs with a 50 mm gun; the most numerous British tanks were Crusaders or earlier cruiser tanks with 2 pounders.

Pretty much the only advantage the Crusader had on the Pz III was speed. It had significantly worse mechanical reliability, less armor, and a much worse gun than the Pz III. The Pz III could engage and destroy Crusaders at significantly longer ranges than vice-versa. And the Crusader was the best of the British cruiser tanks - earlier models were slower, and so inferior in all respects.

It's true that the Matilda was hard to take out with the 50mm gun, but Matildas were infantry tanks, not the cruiser tanks that formed the strength of the large British tank formations, and only a small fraction of the British strength. It too was stuck with a 2pdr gun. There's an optional rule in RitD that makes the I-tank brigades double-step units too, if you want.

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I read it in The Rommel Papers, a compilation by Liddell Hart of letters and notes by Rommel. Rommel was especially impressed by Crusader's speed. Don't have the book with me but trying to find an online version now.

The 50mm gun came in two flavors, the shorter L/42 and the longer L/60. However, most of the Panzer IIIs in North Africa had L/42 -- L/60 being reserved for the invasion of Soviet Union.

I read in Panzer Battles by Mellenthin, who was Rommel's aide in North Africa, in Liddell Hart's History of the Second World War, and in The Rommel Papers that the L/42's prowess was actually a misattribution of the German practice of mixing anti-tank guns with tanks (and most were 50mm or 75mm instead of the more famous 88mm). The British, on the other hand, treat AT-guns as defensive weapons in defensive locations.
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Jeff Johnson
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It's the relative superiority that matters.

The 50mm L42 wasn't a great gun - Russia certainly showed that - but in Africa they didn't have to take on T-34s. Against the lightly armoured British cruiser tanks, it was fine.

Similarly, the Pz III wasn't a great tank, and wasn't all that more heavily armored than the British tanks - but against the 2 pdr, it's armor was fine.


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stuart cudahy
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A tank kills tanks---the germans for half of ww2 knew this. Concentration of power. Schwerpunkt.
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Lee Massey
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It's interesting that the British were the first ones to develop the tactic of luring the German tanks on to hidden AT guns. Then for some reason they forgot to continue the tactic and the Germans adopted it to good effect with the dreaded 88's. shake
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Lee Massey
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[q="WalterLai"]Rommel himself said that the best tank in the theater is the Crusader. Also, Matilda II is superior to anything the Germans had in armor. WWII German tanks superiority in armor and firepower is itself a big myth.
Quote:
Take France 1940 for instance, the staple German tank of this period was Panzer III,
not a match to the best French tanks in armor or gunnery. And there were large number of Panzer Is and IIs -- miserable compared to any French or British tanks. Panzer IV only existed in limited quantity and is only marginally superior in speed.

Later German heavy tanks contributed to the German tank myth, in particular Tiger and Tiger II. It should be noted, however, that by now they were losing and neither were produced in significant quantities. Some 1,300 Tigers were build in the entire war while some 57,000 Russian T-34 were build. A head to head comparison is meaningless for that isn't the way a war is fought.

The success of German tanks was a result of superior application: they were used to exploit the enemy's weaknesses rather than to punch a hole through his strongest defenses. Their true strength was speed, not firepower or armor. However, this idea was not accessible by the common public and the most easy way to explain it away was by saying "they have good tanks."

The same goes for the term "Blitzkrieg" which was really an invention of allied media. "Exploitation of the enemy's weakness" was by no means a German invention and has been around for thousands of years. The German plan for invasion of France was similar to that of WWI, except this time they have found the right tool (tanks) to break the deadlock of firepower in 1914. Schlieffen thought he found it in railroads but railroads did not extend beyond the frontlines. Tank is a locomotive that lays its own tracks.

Blitzkrieg was not a tactic or a strategy. The term wasn't even used by the German during WWII. It is simply a layman's superficial description of an unexpectedly fast war. Fast in comparison to the previous war (human have short-term memory) not neccessarily to any other era. Napoleon started his Russian Campaign on June 24, 1812 and he arrived in Moscow on September 14, 1812. Now, that is sehr schnell.

According to some sources, the main German tank in France 1940 was the PZ II.
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Wulf Corbett
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Oakfed wrote:
Pretty much the only advantage the Crusader had on the Pz III was speed. It had significantly worse mechanical reliability,

It should be noted that the Crusader's mechanical unreliability was partially, if not primarily, caused by the field engineers removing the speed limiters!
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As explained by Lidell Hart, the two pdr is actually better than the L42 of Panzer III!

In other words, Maltilda II had better armor and gunnery than Panzer III. German tank superiority is a myth.
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Stu Hendrickson
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Don't fixate on which units had which tanks and when.

Instead, look at the EFFECT the double-step Germans has on the game:

The Italians melt away and the British have to attack with great superiority. This latter is realistic because, by all accounts, the British were not able, even by 1945, to attain a tactical competence of small unit support that the Germans had in 1941 ! It also forces one to be cautious on attack- just like Monty was historically.

Stu
 
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Lee Massey
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WalterLai wrote:
Quote:
German tank superiority is a myth.








It was the German concept of Blitzkrieg that was revolutionary!
 
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JackFlash wrote:
It was the German concept of Blitzkrieg that was revolutionary!

The German never officially used the term "Blitzkrieg" nor was their concept revolutionary. Their success was the result of innovative application of an old invention (tanks) to an ancient concept (mobile warfare).

"The same goes for the term "Blitzkrieg" which was really an invention of allied media. "Exploitation of the enemy's weakness" was by no means a German invention and has been around for thousands of years. The German plan for invasion of France was similar to that of WWI, except this time they have found the right tool (tanks) to break the deadlock of firepower in 1914. Schlieffen thought he found it in railroads but railroads did not extend beyond the frontlines. Tank is a locomotive that lays its own tracks.

Blitzkrieg was not a tactic or a strategy. The term wasn't even used by the German during WWII. It is simply a layman's superficial description of an unexpectedly fast war. Fast in comparison to the previous war (human have short-term memory) not neccessarily to any other era. Napoleon started his Russian Campaign on June 24, 1812 and he arrived in Moscow on September 14, 1812. Now, that is sehr schnell."
 
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ratbulogg wrote:
Don't fixate on which units had which tanks and when.

Instead, look at the EFFECT the double-step Germans has on the game:

The Italians melt away and the British have to attack with great superiority. This latter is realistic because, by all accounts, the British were not able, even by 1945, to attain a tactical competence of small unit support that the Germans had in 1941 ! It also forces one to be cautious on attack- just like Monty was historically.


You are of course right. By saying that Germans do not have better tanks, I was trying to prove exactly your point.

Too often have wargames of this level (operational?) indulged in dirty details such as weapon types and cool unit designations. RitD isn't one of those games.
 
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It is interesting to note that, by the time the Germans began to produce tanks that inspired today's German tank myth -- namely Tiger and Tiger II, these were unwieldly and heavy tanks with big guns -- they had already abandoned the tactics of the early victories, tactics that created the Blitzkrieg myth.

We are talking about two things here: the early astounding victories which were fought with miserable excuses of a tank created the Blitzkrieg myth; whereas the late war monster tanks with no blitz created the tank myth. People mixed the two up today and think that the latter were responsible for the former: good tanks make great victories.

Rommel said of British Matilda II as "[its] only real use was in a straight punch to smash a hole in a concentration of material." This is an perfect description of late war German tanks.

In my first paragraph I said "abandoned the tactics". It is not my intention to make you believe that tactics are Pokemon balls you have in your pockets, to be hurled at the enemy at opportune moments in order to stun him. They are not. Tactics are reactions towards an ever changing situation, subjected to objective circumstances. The late war situation and material constraints did not allow the Germans to pull off one of their early war victories and they had to resort to defensive tactics and monster tanks. Whether if a different approach would be more effective is open to debate, though.
 
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