Desert warfare was strangely similar to war at sea

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

Rommel immediately grasped the essence of the war in Libya and Egypt, Bevin Alexander explains (in How Hitler Could Have Won World War II) — everything depended upon mobility:

“In the North African desert,” he wrote, “nonmotorized troops are of practically no value against a motorized enemy, since the enemy has the chance, in almost every position, of making the action fluid by a turning movement around the south.”

This was why the Italians had been beaten almost without a fight — they had moved largely on foot; the British were in vehicles. Nonmotorized forces could be used only in defensive positions, Rommel saw. Yet such positions were of little consequence, because enemy motorized units could surround them and force them to surrender, or bypass them. In other words, foot soldiers in the desert had no impact beyond the reach of their guns.

Rommel discerned that desert warfare was strangely similar to war at sea. Motorized equipment could move at will over it and usually in any direction, much as ships could move over oceans. Rommel described the similarity thus: “Whoever has the weapons with the greatest range has the longest arm, exactly as at sea. Whoever has the greater mobility…can by swift action compel his opponent to act according to his wishes.”

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