A Commander’s Willpower vs the Quartermaster’s Advice

“When, after a great victory which has brought the destruction of the enemy, the pursuit is abandoned on the quartermaster’s advice, history almost invariably finds the decision to be wrong and points to the tremendous chances which have been missed.

In face of such judgement there are, of course, always academic soldiers quick to produce statistics and precedents by people of little importance to prove it wrong.

But events judge otherwise, for it has frequently happened in the past that a general of high intellectual powers has been defeated by a less intelligent but stronger willed adversary.

The best thing is for the commander himself to have a clear picture of the real potentialities of his supply organisation and to base all his demands on his own estimate.

This will force the supply staffs to develop their initiative, and though they may grumble, they will as a result produce many times what they would have done left to themselves.” (Rommel, 1953, p.96-97).

Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel (the Desert Fox), World War I junior officer and World War II General, considered a brilliant military commander; adored by his troops and feared by his enemies.

The two pictures below suggest a binary approach to warfare. A brilliant strategy is meaningless without moving stuff (men and materials) to the right place at the right time; and moving a tank to the (correct) battlefield is meaningless without trained and available soldiers to use it! Synergy not binary!

I don’t think Field-Marshal Rommel would have taken kindly to being called an amateur by a quartermaster, or that his quartermaster won his battles for him.

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Rommel, E., Liddel Hart, B.H. (ed) & Findlay, P. (trans) (1953) The Rommel Papers. St James’s Palace, London: Collins.


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