Nationality and accounts of the NW Europe Campaign

127 views
Skip to first unread message

cman...@gmail.com

unread,
Apr 16, 2017, 9:39:54 PM4/16/17
to
It struck me today that pretty much all of the most common battles of the NW
Europe '44 campaign discussed here are unusual in that they were nationally
joint operations: I daresay that participants in this group, over the two
decades that I have been posting here, have spent literally man-years of time
arguing about Anzio[1], Goodwood-Cobra-Falaise/Argentan, and Market-Garden,
largely to the exclusion of much else in that phase of the war[2]. Those three
battles in particular are examples where the outcome wasn't what was desired,
but what also distinguishes them is that they were joint across the US and UK.

It really does seem to be that that distinguishes them: the Huertgen Forrest
was a far bigger catastrophe than M-G, but affected the US only and from
observation of having been here for over 20 years, doesn't get discussed
nearly as much as Market-Garden does. And it's not just any nationally-joint
operation, it has to be specifically US and UK: the next post on the Colmar
Pocket won't quite be the first, but would be damn close.

I think that this goes back to a line I remember from the eminent British
historian H.P. Willmott, to the effect that most histories of the Western
Allies in Europe treat the US and UK as the main antagonists, and the SHAEF
headquarters as the primary battlefront. Instead of focusing on how remarkable
it is that the Allies went from having no troops north of Rome to controlling
the Elbe river in 11 months, without any ability to stock up and prepare
supplies and over the most difficult logistics imaginable, all of the
attention seems to be directed on how Eisenhower supported Patton/Monty (
depending on personal perspective) way too much, and *that* vainglorious idiot
managed to cock up a chance to win the war in six months instead of 11, which
*our* vainglorious idiot would have done, if just given a free hand by
the dumb Eisenhower.

After contemplating this for a while, I wonder why this is. Why is what
appears to be national score-settling so prevalent? Let me be clear that I'm
not just talking about this newsgroup, this is true for published accounts of
the campaign as well. It just seems odd that the US and UK worked so well
together during the war- certainly better than, say, the Japanese Army worked
with the Japanese Navy, both in process and outcome- and yet the books,
movies, and even kibitzing of random internet strangers should be so full of
recriminations and national blame assignment. What happened during/after the
war that led to this state of affairs?

It's extra weird because the US and the UK continued to be close after the war
ended. The absolutely enormous- and absolutely critical- work done by the
Soviet Union to defeat the Germans mostly goes ignored in movies, books, etc.
but that makes sense because the Soviets were our enemies in the Cold War and
did not release accurate accounts, preferring to continue their propaganda, so
for most of the next 40 years the majority of accounts available in English on
the Eastern Front were from the German perspective. The US and the UK,
however, to this day seem to bicker like an old married couple.

Thanks,

Chris Manteuffel

[1]: Yes, technically not NW Europe '44, but just go with it.
[2]: The NW Europe Campaign from D-Day to V-E Day, this time strictly defined
so as to exclude Italy, saw approximately half of all American casualties in
the war. It was most definitely the single most important campaign in the war,
from the Western Allied perspective, so the overall amount of attention it
gets makes sense. I'm just questioning the distribution of attention within
the campaign.

Don Phillipson

unread,
Apr 18, 2017, 12:01:12 PM4/18/17
to
<cman...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:5968c77c-f33b-40eb...@googlegroups.com...

> It's extra weird because the US and the UK continued to be close after the
> war
> ended.

This is open to doubt cf. (1) the US government's assertion of control
of all nuclear science (withdrawing the wartime promise to share results
of all pooled research, then passing the McMahon Act )
(2) UK election in 1945 of an avowedly "socialist" government,
(3) general American hostility to the restoration of the
prewar empires. Effective co-operation resumed only after
(a) the Truman doctrine 1947 (initially concerning Greece),
(b) improvised but successful collaboration in the Berlin Blockade
and resistance to Russian pressure in Germany, leading ultimately
to NATO in 1949. Even so
(4) the supposed "closeness" of US and UK governments
was chilled by Venona revelations that both failed to detect Russian
penetration of Los Alamos and MI6, each free to blame the laxness
of the other . . .

> The absolutely enormous- and absolutely critical- work done by the
> Soviet Union to defeat the Germans mostly goes ignored in movies, books,
> etc.
> but that makes sense because the Soviets were our enemies in the Cold War

It is unhelpful to lump Hollywood's general approach to WW2 with any
consensus of the world population of (national) historians. When Quentin
Tarantino's presentation of WW2 earns a profit in the US entertainment
market, serious historians throw up their hands . . . This is wholly
independent of the temptation (still active) to measure either success
or moral virtue by the number of casualties suffered.

> for most of the next 40 years the majority of accounts available in
> English on
> the Eastern Front were from the German perspective. The US and the UK,
> however, to this day seem to bicker like an old married couple.

Both these points seem normal i.e. what we ought to have expected.
--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)

Rich Rostrom

unread,
Apr 18, 2017, 4:47:20 PM4/18/17
to
cman...@gmail.com wrote:

> ...over the most difficult logistics imaginable,

That is to laugh.

You want difficult logistics, try the Kokoda Trail.

Or the Hump.

Even transport along the North African coast
was harder. "A tactician's paradise and a
quartermaster's hell."

By comparison, NW Europe was _easy_. And Italy
wasn't that much harder. (German demolitions
were not particularly thorough.)
--
The real Velvet Revolution - and the would-be hijacker.

http://originalvelvetrevolution.com

Stephen Graham

unread,
Apr 19, 2017, 12:29:45 AM4/19/17
to
On 4/16/17 6:39 PM, cman...@gmail.com wrote:
> After contemplating this for a while, I wonder why this is. Why is what
> appears to be national score-settling so prevalent? Let me be clear that I'm
> not just talking about this newsgroup, this is true for published accounts of
> the campaign as well. It just seems odd that the US and UK worked so well
> together during the war- certainly better than, say, the Japanese Army worked
> with the Japanese Navy, both in process and outcome- and yet the books,
> movies, and even kibitzing of random internet strangers should be so full of
> recriminations and national blame assignment. What happened during/after the
> war that led to this state of affairs?

Chris,

This isn't as detailed as your post deserves.

Fundamentally, the popular historical conception of World War Two was
set in the 1950s and 1960s. While the intelligence revelations of the
1970s made some difference, it's really less than perhaps is merited.

The hallmarks of the 1950s and 1960s are that the principal Western
Allied commanders are still alive, for the most part. The bulk of the
official histories for the UK and US were published in this period,
which can form the intellectual underpinnings of the arguments. As we
know, both series are reluctant to be critical of their respective
senior commanders.

And the salient feature of the period, as you allude to, is the Cold
War. So when the questions are asked as to how we got into this mess,
what options are available for blame?

You discuss what you're familiar with (the UK and US war records), with
a focus on one theater. And you focus on a couple of major events
because they do offer the opportunity to blame the other guy, as well as
being flashy operations.

We don't discuss the Huertgen Forest because everyone can look at it and
agree that it was just a bad idea in the first place.

Colmar Pocket? Partly that's intra-service rivalry. No-one talks about
the 6th Army Group and Jacob Devers. The relevant volume of the Big
Green Wall, Riviera to the Rhine wasn't published until 1992, nineteen
years after the penultimate volume, The Last Offensive. (I have to
confess that I still haven't read it, though I have an electronic copy
on my iPad.) No-one reads French well enough to read the French
histories, except Louis Capdebosq.

Stephen

cman...@gmail.com

unread,
Apr 22, 2017, 2:38:40 PM4/22/17
to
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 4:47:20 PM UTC-4, Rich Rostrom wrote:
> cman...@gmail.com wrote:
>
> > ...over the most difficult logistics imaginable,
>
> That is to laugh.
>
> You want difficult logistics, try the Kokoda Trail.
>
> Or the Hump.

Okay, to correct what I said, I was trying to say that compared to the other
continental [1] land wars (Eastern Front, France 1940, Japan in China) the
Allies in the NW Europe Campaign had the most difficult logistical situation:
their forces consumed supplies (fuel and artillery ammo) at absolutely
prodigious rates, they had the sea/rail disadvantage, and the transportation
network had been thoroughly wrecked (mostly by them, to be fair).

You are correct that no one was conducting multi-army group warfare across the
Kokoda Trail or the Hump, because the logistics there absolutely forbid it. I
was just focusing on situations where it was possible to conduct that sort of
warfare, and the Allied situation in the NW Europe '44 campaign was the worst
of those situations.

[1]: More than three army/a single army group in scale

Chris Manteuffel

cman...@gmail.com

unread,
Apr 22, 2017, 2:39:21 PM4/22/17
to
On Tuesday, April 18, 2017 at 12:01:12 PM UTC-4, Don Phillipson wrote:

> (4) the supposed "closeness" of US and UK governments
> was chilled by Venona revelations that both failed to detect Russian
> penetration of Los Alamos and MI6, each free to blame the laxness
> of the other . . .

Sure, the the US and UK had their issues, never tried to deny it. But those
issues pale in comparison to the issues between them and France even, leave
alone them and the USSR. I'm sure that there were a lot of hurt feelings after
the war- heck, there were a lot of bruised feelings *during* the war, as
Brooke and Marshall can both attest, but fundamentally, the two nations
continued to align closely, even in the 1950's. e.g. since 1958 the UK has
essentially copied the US warhead design (using their own indigenous fissile
material).

> It is unhelpful to lump Hollywood's general approach to WW2 with any
> consensus of the world population of (national) historians.

When discussing issues of fact, I certainly agree. When discussing how the war
is viewed in the popular memory, the movie Patton contributed far more to how
the war is remembered and viewed amongst English-speakers than any combination
of books. Even on a newsgroup like this you will occasionally see posted falsehoods
invented by the movie (e.g. that German tanks used diesel fuel which made them
burn less than American tanks).

> This is wholly
> independent of the temptation (still active) to measure either success
> or moral virtue by the number of casualties suffered.

Yes, the Soviets suffered far more casualties than the US and UK did, and
largely that was because Stalin was one of the most evil men in history, just
a bare half-step better than Hitler himself. But they did conduct most of the
attrition of the German land forces. Without that the NW Europe '44 campaign
would have been essentially impossible, IMO.

Chris Manteuffel

cman...@gmail.com

unread,
Apr 23, 2017, 12:28:27 AM4/23/17
to
On Wednesday, April 19, 2017 at 12:29:45 AM UTC-4, Stephen Graham wrote:
> Fundamentally, the popular historical conception of World War Two was
> set in the 1950s and 1960s. While the intelligence revelations of the
> 1970s made some difference, it's really less than perhaps is merited.

And the diving into archives and re-analysis driven as a response to the
original historical consensus. I think that there are still a lot of
interesting history work being done on the war, which is changing how we view
the collaboration of the two nations. I know that my understanding of their
relationship has deepened based on works like _Yalta_, _Nuclear Rivals_, and
that of Richad Overy.

> As we
> know, both series are reluctant to be critical of their respective
> senior commanders.

Have just started reading MacDonald's _Siegfried Line Campaign,_ because I am
really curious to see what he says of the Huertgen campaign.

> We don't discuss the Huertgen Forest because everyone can look at it and
> agree that it was just a bad idea in the first place.

So it was actually reading _A Magnificent Disaster_ by Bennett (a Canadian, so
somewhat out of all this) that led me to this whole line of thinking. While he
is generally even-handed, the conclusion that I drew about the battle was that
plan could not be achieved by the forces that were available.[1] It just
doesn't seem possible to me for that plan to work unless the Germans were in a
March-April '45 level of psychological defeat. And the Germans proved
themselves once again the masters of ersatz units, and their decision to fight
doomed the plan.

But some British observers obviously disagree, and argue that if only the
101st had moved a little faster and seized the Son bridge and Eindhoven on D+1
or whatnot everything would have been fine. I guess it's okay to blame another
countries soldiers as well in a way that we are reluctant to blame our own?

[1]: Details: Obviously there needed to be more force to hold Arnhem bridges
and bridgehead and LZ in depth against the German counter attacks, so that
should have been a two division drop. In addition, Groesbeek Ridge really did
need to be held, and having one division try and take the Nijmegan bridges
*and* hold that ridge in strength is just asking too much, so that should have
been two different divisions as well. The 101st was assigned way too much of
Hell's Highway to actually be held so it could certainly use an additional
division as well, but let's not get greedy. As it was, the 3rd Battalion 504th
captured the Nijmegan road bridge only because of an absolutely amazing
display of soldiering- the sort that, if necessary to make your plan work, is
a pretty good sign that your plan sucks.

But, of course, there weren't enough transport aircraft to drop the three
existing divisions, so finding the transports to drop two more divisions was
clearly impractical. My general attitude is that since pilots are so self-
confident, when they say that they can't do something, in general one should
believe them, but even if they attempted a double lift it wouldn't solve this
problem: the two lifts would still be 10 hours apart, which is just far too
much time for airborne troops who so rely on the element of surprise. The
enemy will be on total alert, reinforce all the key points, etc. in those ten
hours, and so you need to be able to drop at least major portions simultaneously. And
doing a five division simultaneous lift was way beyond anything the Allies were
capable of. (Leaving aside that 6th Airborne was still recovering from
Normandy and the 17th Airborne was newly arrived and I'm not sure it was ready
for combat.)

Chris Manteuffel

Stephen Graham

unread,
Apr 26, 2017, 7:56:25 PM4/26/17
to
On 4/22/2017 9:28 PM, cman...@gmail.com wrote:

> And the diving into archives and re-analysis driven as a response to the
> original historical consensus. I think that there are still a lot of
> interesting history work being done on the war, which is changing how we view
> the collaboration of the two nations. I know that my understanding of their
> relationship has deepened based on works like _Yalta_, _Nuclear Rivals_, and
> that of Richad Overy.

It's a great period for history of the war. Enough time has passed to
let it be treated more as history than recent events. _Yalta_ and Overy
have been quite good. I've been reading more heavily on Weimar Germany
and revising some of my thoughts on that period.

It's just taking a while for newer ideas to make their way out into the
world at large.

> Have just started reading MacDonald's _Siegfried Line Campaign,_ because I am
> really curious to see what he says of the Huertgen campaign.

Especially as he was just south of it as a company commander in the 2nd
Infantry Division.

> So it was actually reading _A Magnificent Disaster_ by Bennett (a Canadian, so
> somewhat out of all this) that led me to this whole line of thinking. While he
> is generally even-handed, the conclusion that I drew about the battle was that
> plan could not be achieved by the forces that were available.[1] It just
> doesn't seem possible to me for that plan to work unless the Germans were in a
> March-April '45 level of psychological defeat. And the Germans proved
> themselves once again the masters of ersatz units, and their decision to fight
> doomed the plan.

Of course the presumption was that the Germans were in an equivalent
state to March-April 1945 and would just crack.

I haven't read Bennett. My big research dive on Market-Garden was done
just before he published.

> The 101st was assigned way too much of
> Hell's Highway to actually be held so it could certainly use an additional
> division as well, but let's not get greedy.

In theory, 50th Division and then 8th and 12th Corps on the flanks
should have relieved or supplemented the 101st's defense. We know how
well that worked out.

> (Leaving aside that 6th Airborne was still recovering from
> Normandy and the 17th Airborne was newly arrived and I'm not sure it was ready
> for combat.)

6th Airborne had only been pulled out for rebuilding after Normandy
earlier in September. On the other hand, I'm not sure throwing 17th
Airborne into Market-Garden was any worse than having to throw all those
expensively-trained paratroopers into line as infantry during the
Ardennes crisis.

The really simply explanation I've settled on is having expensive toys
and wanting to do something with them. You look at the trail of
discarded plans for the airborne in August and September 1944 and what
other conclusion can you reach? That and the failure to plan based on
the most-constrained asset: the troop transports. There's also the
question of why exactly you need to drop 1st Airborne Corps HQ on the
initial drop rather than half of a British air-landing battalion.

Geoffrey Sinclair

unread,
May 4, 2017, 11:30:17 AM5/4/17
to
<cman...@gmail.com> wrote in message
news:5968c77c-f33b-40eb...@googlegroups.com...
> It struck me today that pretty much all of the most common battles of the
> NW Europe '44 campaign discussed here are unusual in that they were
> nationally joint operations: I daresay that participants in this group,
> over the two decades that I have been posting here, have spent literally
> man-years of time arguing about Anzio[1], Goodwood-Cobra-
> Falaise/Argentan, and Market-Garden, largely to the exclusion of much
> else in that phase of the war[2]. Those three battles in particular are
> examples where the outcome wasn't what was desired, but what also
> distinguishes them is that they were joint across the US and UK.

> [1]: Yes, technically not NW Europe '44, but just go with it.
> [2]: The NW Europe Campaign from D-Day to V-E Day, this time strictly
> defined so as to exclude Italy, saw approximately half of all American
> casualties in the war. It was most definitely the single most important
> campaign in the war, from the Western Allied perspective, so the
> overall amount of attention it gets makes sense. I'm just questioning
> the distribution of attention within the campaign.

I am not sure I could link Goodwood and Cobra as joint, beyond the
Army group being a UK/US one.

I can understand why Goodwood is mentioned via some pre
attack claims made for it becoming the break out Cobra became
a week later, which have been turned into a nationalist race. Claims
that appear to have been made in part to secure the air support,
hence why some air commanders in particular were unimpressed.

21st Army group spent much of the campaign with a US army under
command, either 1st or 9th. One of the more interesting contributions
would be what General Simpson of 9th Army thought of the arrangement.

One of the main drivers in discussions is the appearance of the
partisans, the ones sure it is others that were the failures and the
opinionated, sure they are right, the rest of humanity wrong. You
can see the same thing in joint operations between army/navy/air
with the preferred arm the one let down by the others.

Those with the strongest opinions tend to keep repeating them
long and loud, those whose opinions are furtherest from the truth
need to keep repeating them long and loud in the hope they
become the perceived truth.

The appearance of partisan opinion generally triggers an increase
in traffic, plenty of people want to correct the record.

Trying to come up with a summary of why some events are more
discussed versus others has the problem so many people have
become involved, which means lots of primary and secondary etc.
reasons are invoked.

> It really does seem to be that that distinguishes them: the Huertgen
> Forrest was a far bigger catastrophe than M-G, but affected the US
> only and from observation of having been here for over 20 years,
> doesn't get discussed nearly as much as Market-Garden does. And
> it's not just any nationally-joint operation, it has to be specifically US
> and UK: the next post on the Colmar Pocket won't quite be the first,
> but would be damn close.

Market Garden was the operation of hope, if it worked the allies ended
up with a bridgehead across the Rhine. Huertgen forest was the grind,
with general agreement it was a mistake. Essentially the claim is
Market Garden was close enough it could have worked, Huertgen had
no real chance, so not surprising some decide if only that unit/attack
had worked in Market Garden and ignore Huertgen.

How about the amount of discussion on say the clearing of the channel
ports, excluding Antwerp?

Note how late the US army history came out on 6th Army Group/
7th Army operations. Even in the US it seems to be treated as a
side line, like it followed the other armies around, or the weak
resistance it faced from southern France to the German border
continued all war.

An English language history of the French First Army?

In terms of published histories the main event was 12th and 21st
Army Groups, within them there are the main event battles, Normandy
(though not necessarily all of it, mostly D-Day, the break outs and
pursuit, including the Falaise pocket and as noted the military politics),
Market-Garden (and Antwerp), the Bulge, things like Remagen Bridge
as a small operation. And remember the Bulge has its Anglo American
controversy over that Montgomery press conference.

With side lines into equipment like tanks.

That is not the whole campaign, histories tend to largely skip
when the lines were static, which was most of the time, the
action and movement draw the eye.

> I think that this goes back to a line I remember from the eminent British
> historian H.P. Willmott, to the effect that most histories of the Western
> Allies in Europe treat the US and UK as the main antagonists, and the
> SHAEF headquarters as the primary battlefront. Instead of focusing on
> how remarkable it is that the Allies went from having no troops north of
> Rome to controlling the Elbe river in 11 months, without any ability to
> stock up and prepare supplies and over the most difficult logistics
> imaginable, all of the attention seems to be directed on how Eisenhower
> supported Patton/Monty (depending on personal perspective) way too
> much, and *that* vainglorious idiot managed to cock up a chance to win
> the war in six months instead of 11, which *our* vainglorious idiot would
> have done, if just given a free hand by the dumb Eisenhower.

I would disagree with Wilmot, in that most histories do not treat
the US/UK as the main antagonists. I would agree it is likely anybody
trying to write the history runs into understanding problems. The UK,
Canada, France and US armies, navies and air forces had and still
have real differences in their cultures and therefore how they work
and even how the define success. Understanding one service's way
of war does not transfer to another's, so each publication draws a
form of counter publication.

Overlaid on this is the British could not maintain their mid 1944
army and navy, while the US was still expanding. So British
army formations were broken up or sent to reserve while US
strength was so large and growing that some US divisions in
Europe saw very little combat.

Also of course the military tends to tell its personnel about how it is
the best, or their unit is the best, after all people are effectively
betting their lives so you want to believe about having the best
chance, and how those beliefs flow through into judgements.

As has been pointed out the logistics of some other campaigns,
like the fight across the New Guinea mountains, were harder, it is
also relative, the allies had to supply 3 army groups and 3 tactical
air forces on the continent, across the sea (Britain) or ocean (US),
plus help feed, clothe and shelter large populations, how that proved
a real strain relative to the transport resources actually available,
the major cost in switching transport modes, and the resources
needed to run and repair the transport system.

> After contemplating this for a while, I wonder why this is. Why is what
> appears to be national score-settling so prevalent? Let me be clear
> that I'm not just talking about this newsgroup, this is true for published
> accounts of the campaign as well.

While there are the clearly partisan accounts consider confirmation
bias, once you start looking for something you tend to find it.

There is also the inevitable problem that things like biographies
tend to have an author who has strong opinions on the subject,
and how that flows through. If you admire/dislike someone that
affects the way they are presented.

In day to day terms imagine two politicians from different parties
saying exactly the same thing and how people interpret them
according to party labels, not just the content. Add the way the
system tries to hang labels (slogans) on parties and people.

Also during the war there were very real differences in strategy
and tactics between the US and UK, and exploring them is
fertile ground for the partisan.

> It just seems odd that the US and UK worked so well
> together during the war- certainly better than, say, the Japanese Army
> worked with the Japanese Navy, both in process and outcome- and
> yet the books, movies, and even kibitzing of random internet strangers
> should be so full of recriminations and national blame assignment.
> What happened during/after the war that led to this state of affairs?

The case study for the real enemy is the other service, not the
people we are at war with, is WWII Japan.

You can turn it around and say it is healthy the UK/US histories
point out the flaws in the commanders and plans.

During the war as far as North West Europe is concerned the personality
of Montgomery looms large, he made it easy for people to dislike him,
that has to feed into histories. The well known move by various mainly
British air commanders to remove him in Normandy was not a US
versus UK but air force versus army.

It is interesting to note how the Overlord supply plan, with its steady
daily advance and neatly marked maps with "here by D+x" has become
some sort of measurement of the Normandy Campaign, that is at least
partly due it being a reason in the push to remove Montgomery. The
saying no plan survives the first encounter with the enemy but the
territorial advances in the Overlord supply plan should have, at least to
D+50 or so. Followed by the disconnect of how the planned D+365
line was reached around D+90.

How about the landing craft allocations? Pacific versus Europe in
strategic terms but usually put as Admiral King or just the USN
versus the rest. Or in historian terms Wilmot versus Morrison,
Wilmot's claim, Morrison's rebuttal.

The human tendency to remember the failures more than the
successes, so those outside the main focus of a given history tend
to be mentioned more when they hurt, not help, before we talk about
offloading responsibility for failures or overclaiming successes.

Publications of diaries, where people often let out their worries and
scathing judgements has fuelled the situation. Once one is published
it tends to result in more in similar style, but with different insults. As
well as that come the memoirs, how self serving they are perceived
to be, how much they criticise others.

The general rule seems to be the further from the front line someone
was the more likely politics, whether with the service, inter service or
inter country became more important as motivation.

Running a military unit in combat takes a real amount of skill, the
bigger the unit the more skill required just to have the unit able to
take part in combat. The difference between the different
commander's performance is real but narrow. As a an analogy
pick the worst performing professional football team of the season
and how badly the team did versus the others in the competition
and then what that worst team would to to a semi professional or
amateur team. I should add the massive amount commentary on
why the professional teams won or lost or better still will win or lose
versus similar opinions in military histories.

> It's extra weird because the US and the UK continued to be close after the
> war ended. The absolutely enormous- and absolutely critical- work done
> by the Soviet Union to defeat the Germans mostly goes ignored in movies,
> books, etc. but that makes sense because the Soviets were our enemies
> in the Cold War and did not release accurate accounts, preferring to
> continue their propaganda, so for most of the next 40 years the majority
> of accounts available in English on the Eastern Front were from the
> German perspective. The US and the UK, however, to this day seem to
> bicker like an old married couple.

As far as I am aware the German Army memoirs tended to put
their disagreements with fellow officers in professional terms,
not personal. They tend to use Hitler as the general purpose
reason for failures. The USSR has Stalin. FDR and Churchill
largely stayed out of military operations, that leaves the various
commanders as the ones how did or did not and so more
likely to have their personality analysed.

I would certainly say some US/UK histories tend to bicker, or are
more open about the way militaries are made up of humans with
flaws and how success and failure can be reduced to was it worth
it? We achieved the mission but note the number of casualties,
success or failure?

Material meant to entertain is the more likely to simplify and stereotype
as well as the tourist accounts are the ones we end up with when we
only have a passing interest in a subject.

Steam trains, most people know they existed, few can say what a
4-6-2 locomotive means, few could name a design. Perhaps the
Flying Scotsman but not the actual locomotive designation, perhaps
how it was so fast and non stop and the way it had a tunnel through
its tender to enable crew relief. How about the special parts of the
line where the engine could scoop up replacement water without
needing to stop? And you can dive into the discussions on who
built the best steam locomotives, or worst, say Francis Webb as
your candidate. Or did you largely skip/discard the information
in this paragraph, because it was not WWII material?

The more the story is simplified the more we end up with good
and bad guy labels, and the human tendency to use us as
examples of good and not us as examples of bad, Overlay that
with a group who are sure they were the best despite what
others or the evidence suggests and the back and forth over
what was a success. Finally add those who want to generate
controversy (it sells) or are partisan.

The histories will concentrate on the "main battles", D-Day, parts
of Normandy, Cobra/Falaise, the pursuit across France (lots
of movement and why did it stop there) Market Garden, Antwerp
and Bulge, hence why 6th Army Group seems ignored. The way
the 1945 battles often seem like they are afterthoughts as the
allies apparently pursued a defeated and depleted Germany army,
ignoring the hard fights to the Rhine setting up what followed.

All the main battles were essentially joint, or at least had enough
of the other country to invite comment. The rest seems to be
human nature given the hundreds of millions able to comment.

After puzzling over this reply for a few days I still do not think it
has come out right, but enough.

Geoffrey Sinclair
Remove the nb for email.

Rich Rostrom

unread,
May 4, 2017, 1:02:01 PM5/4/17
to
"Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:

> Essentially the claim is Market Garden was close
> enough it could have worked, Huertgen had no real
> chance...

Yes, MARKET-GARDEN could have succeeded completely.
(It did capture several bridges and cities, advancing
the front about 70 km. Has anyone made an assessment
of the value in later campaigning of what MARKET-GARDEN
_did_ achieve?)

As to the Huertgen Forest: "no real chance" to do what?
In the end the entire region was taken by the Allies,
though at much higher cost than necessary. Did the
failure lie in not taking the area in the first week
or month? Or with some smaller number of casualties?

The Horny Goat

unread,
May 4, 2017, 3:34:14 PM5/4/17
to
On Thu, 04 May 2017 11:30:14 -0400, "Geoffrey Sinclair"
<gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:

>In terms of published histories the main event was 12th and 21st
>Army Groups, within them there are the main event battles, Normandy
>(though not necessarily all of it, mostly D-Day, the break outs and
>pursuit, including the Falaise pocket and as noted the military politics),
>Market-Garden (and Antwerp), the Bulge, things like Remagen Bridge
>as a small operation. And remember the Bulge has its Anglo American
>controversy over that Montgomery press conference.

This is why General Rohmer's Patton's Gap (which dissected the Falaise
pocket battle and in the end laid 100% of the blame on Monty) created
such a stir when it came out. A (reservist) Canadian air force general
was not SUPPOSED to rain fire and brimstone on Montgomery particularly
in a book where the title seemed to imply the exact opposite even
though it did say in the foreward that he was treating his book as a
'whodunnit' on Falaise. (Or on another matter whether Monty or the
Canadian commanders f***ed up on the land approaches to Antwerp)

Obviously if Falaise had been successful we would not be discussing
Market-Garden and Hurtgen.

Rich Rostrom

unread,
May 5, 2017, 12:10:29 AM5/5/17
to
The Horny Goat <lcr...@home.ca> wrote:

> Obviously if Falaise had been successful we would
> not be discussing Market-Garden and Hurtgen.

????

What is being claimed here? That if the Falaise
Pocket had been completely closed, the German
front in the west would have collapsed completely,
and the Allies would have advanced to the Rhine?

Estimates of the German forces that escaped the
pocket range from 20,000 to 100,000, but nearly
all historians agree that the fleeing Germans
lost nearly all their equipment.

I really doubt that the escapees from Falaise
added very much to the German forces that were
rallied in Lorraine and the Rhineland.

Geoffrey Sinclair

unread,
May 5, 2017, 12:07:18 PM5/5/17
to
I think I should add the battles that attract are the possibles,
where a different result could have happened if only.

"The Horny Goat" <lcr...@home.ca> wrote in message
news:4tvmgctnrku5ptlnt...@4ax.com...
> On Thu, 04 May 2017 11:30:14 -0400, "Geoffrey Sinclair"
> <gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:
>
>>In terms of published histories the main event was 12th and 21st
>>Army Groups, within them there are the main event battles, Normandy
>>(though not necessarily all of it, mostly D-Day, the break outs and
>>pursuit, including the Falaise pocket and as noted the military politics),
>>Market-Garden (and Antwerp), the Bulge, things like Remagen Bridge
>>as a small operation. And remember the Bulge has its Anglo American
>>controversy over that Montgomery press conference.
>
> This is why General Rohmer's Patton's Gap (which dissected the Falaise
> pocket battle and in the end laid 100% of the blame on Monty) created
> such a stir when it came out. A (reservist) Canadian air force general
> was not SUPPOSED to rain fire and brimstone on Montgomery particularly
> in a book where the title seemed to imply the exact opposite even
> though it did say in the foreward that he was treating his book as a
> 'whodunnit' on Falaise.

The attempts to close the gap were initially Canadian operations.
Operation Totalize was done before any ideas about closing a
gap at Falaise, on 7 August, the reported scale of the attack
made the German leadership start talking of withdrawal.

The Mortain counter attack went in on 7 August, when it failed
Hitler ordered a second attack on 9 August. Events overtook
this, and on the 10th Kluge started talking about calling off the
attack, on the 11th the plan was some withdrawals to then
concentrate with the view to launching another attack on the 14th.

On the 13th Sepp Deitrich started talking about evacuating
Normandy. On the same day US XV corps advance was halted.

On the 14th Hitler's orders were for a three Panzer division assault
on US XV corps in the Alencon-Carrouges area. Meantime
operation Tractable was launched with the objective of Falaise,
it came within 3 miles and was halted. The US army advance
towards 21st Army Group has halted.

There are German formations opposing the US forces.

15th August allied landings start in Southern France.

On the night of the 16th the German withdrawal began, on the
same day the US captured Chartres. The Canadians capture
Falaise.

On 17 August Eisenhower was talking about abandoning the
pre invasion plan of consolidating on the Seine to await better
supply lines. US army captures Orleans. The decision is made
to close the Falaise Gap but some distance beyond the Falaise
Argentan line to ensure a firm encirclement.

Early morning 18 August the Polish Armoured Division moves.

On the 19th of August 3rd Army started receiving supplies by air.

On 20 August the Falaise gap was sealed,supported by 45
batteries of artillery the 2nd French Armoured Division and the
US 9oth Infantry division link with the Poles after 2 days of fighting.
The US XV corps established a bridgehead across the Seine
down stream from Paris. SHAEF started talking about going to
the Rhine.

German attacks manage to open gaps that allow thousands
of troops to escape from the pocket.

The allies come up with a plan for the US forces to
attack along the south bank of the Seine, trapping the
German troops outside the Falaise pocket.

On 21 August the Falaise pocket battle is effectively over,
estimates vary over how many escaped, since for example
the Luftwaffe began pulling out its AA formations about a
week before the pocket was closed. Tens of thousands
seems to be the consensus.

On 22 August the US army crossed the Seine upstream from
Paris.

On 24 August the US attack along the Seine bank halts at
Elbeuf, around 30 miles from the sea, German rear guards
setting ambushes have significantly slowed the advance.
Paris is liberated.

Given the situation in early to mid August 1944 why is it wrong
to assume the forces in Normandy, 1st US, 1st Canadian
and 2nd British armies are incapable of closing the Falaise
Gap without the aid of the US forces on the other side of the
pocket? Or for that matter closing the gap as soon as possible
would be worthwhile while the allies realised Hitler was thinking
of counter attack, not withdrawal? Versus a long deep hook
into the rear of Army Group B.

The do it better clearly assumes the US forces could have
advanced further without compromising the strength of the
cordon nor the long hook moves to cross the Seine before
the Germans could mount a defence there. So something
like a quick advance to meet 21st Army Group which then
feeds plenty of troops into the perimeter enabling the US
forces to contract their lines.

Simply put the scale of the fighting indicates it is unlikely
the allies could have easily closed the pocket and the US
forces had the longer supply lines and were competing for
supplies with the forces moving towards the Seine.

Furthermore allied intelligence had reported
there were large numbers of German troops outside the
potential pocket. Finally it made military sense to try and
obtain bridgeheads over the Seine before the Germans
could defend the river properly.

On 1st September the allied forces across the Seine
engaged in the pursuit are 1st Canadian Army 2 armoured
and 4 infantry divisions, 2nd British Army 3 armoured and 5
infantry divisions, 1st US army 4 armoured and 6 infantry
divisions, 3rd US army 2 armoured and 4 infantry divisions,
total 30 divisions, 11 armoured.

> (Or on another matter whether Monty or the
> Canadian commanders f***ed up on the land approaches to Antwerp)

The what if for Market Garden starts well before the landings, the ability
of the troops that took Antwerp to interdict at least the bridges to
South Beveland. Historically lots of 15th Army troops and equipment
were ferried out and helped repel the airborne assault and rebuild the
front line generally. Then comes mounting the operation earlier.

> Obviously if Falaise had been successful we would not be discussing
> Market-Garden and Hurtgen.

No. There were more troops inside the pocket than allied intelligence
thought but still plenty outside, the race to the Seine helped net lots
of German prisoners and even more equipment given the way the
Seine bridges were down. The forces that were in Normandy needed
a lot of refitting and replenishment before being effective again.

II SS panzer corps was outside the pocket.

The allies took around 200,000 prisoners in August and September 1944.

Geoffrey Sinclair

unread,
May 5, 2017, 12:35:05 PM5/5/17
to
"Rich Rostrom" <rros...@comcast.net> wrote in message
news:rrostrom-FFC921...@news.eternal-september.org...
> "Geoffrey Sinclair" <gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:

Deleted text.

Market Garden was the operation of hope, if it worked the allies ended
up with a bridgehead across the Rhine. Huertgen forest was the grind,
with general agreement it was a mistake.

>> Essentially the claim is Market Garden was close
>> enough it could have worked, Huertgen had no real
>> chance...
>
> Yes, MARKET-GARDEN could have succeeded completely.
> (It did capture several bridges and cities, advancing
> the front about 70 km. Has anyone made an assessment
> of the value in later campaigning of what MARKET-GARDEN
> _did_ achieve?)

No, feel free to do so. Generally the lack of movement for
months afterwards and the direction of the advances when
they happened indicate the September advance was not
that important.

> As to the Huertgen Forest: "no real chance" to do what?

That is the claim.

It is not my claim. However only questions rather than
a contribution like the basic facts and therefore some
idea of how good and bad can be judged.

I note the wiki article.

> In the end the entire region was taken by the Allies,
> though at much higher cost than necessary.

So paying a higher cost than necessary is some sort
of success? The idea the thin lines in the Ardennes were
in part due to the forest battles?

> Did the
> failure lie in not taking the area in the first week
> or month? Or with some smaller number of casualties?

How about versus what the original timetable and
objectives were?

How about how suitable the terrain was and the way the
US Army escalated the attacks rather than breaking them
off despite the lack of progress? How about an analysis of
what options were available, in terms of terrain, defences
and troops, including the do nothing option.

Were the forest battles the least worst option or did the
US Army fall into the same thinking as General Haig in
mid WWI, German defences were one big push away
from falling to pieces, therefore keep attacking, for
example.

The Horny Goat

unread,
May 5, 2017, 5:37:50 PM5/5/17
to
On Fri, 05 May 2017 12:35:03 -0400, "Geoffrey Sinclair"
<gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:

>
>Were the forest battles the least worst option or did the
>US Army fall into the same thinking as General Haig in
>mid WWI, German defences were one big push away
>from falling to pieces, therefore keep attacking, for
>example.

To a very large degree that's what DID happen in July / August 1944 in
the west. There were all kinds of Allied speculation that they had had
'one big push' that gave them most of France and the view was common
even after the failure of Market-Garden that the Germans couldn't hold
on much beyond Christmas.

This is why the Bulge was such a rude shock to many western military
soures. Many thought the war was all over except for the shouting when
the Bulge proved the Germans were not quite as finished as thought.

Once the Allies caught themselves (and basically the clouds over the
Ardennes parted enough to let the RAF / USAAF aerial tank busters be
effective the Bulge was over. One can argue that Varsity (the airborne
assault across the Rhine) was completely superfluous - many do - but
at that point it was a case of Germans preferring to surrender to the
Western allies rather than the Soviets.

[We had one former employee who died about 10 years ago who had been a
Canadian military policeman wounded and taken prisoner about 3 weeks
before the end of the war on the East side of the Rhine. He said he
met Canadian POWs who had been captured at Dieppe and had had a very
tough imprisonment - and that he had the world of respect for them -
though by April 1945 the guards were competing with each other to be
"nice" to the Canadians since they all knew the war would soon be over
and their best personal guarantee of safety for them and their
families after the end of hostilities would be an Allied ex-POW
willing to speak to their humane treatment.

He eventually left our employment as he took an apartment with a means
test and the sum total of his old age pension and soldier's pension
with supplements for POW and wounds meant that with his payceque from
us two days a week meant he made too much!

He also took great pleasure in taking part in the D-Day memorials in
Normandy as since he was a French Canadian he was far better treated
by the locals than Americans, Brits and Canadian Anglos]

Geoffrey Sinclair

unread,
May 7, 2017, 10:32:08 AM5/7/17
to
"The Horny Goat" <lcr...@home.ca> wrote in message
news:8arpgcp641ejrv7id...@4ax.com...
> On Fri, 05 May 2017 12:35:03 -0400, "Geoffrey Sinclair"
> <gsinc...@froggy.com.au> wrote:
>
>>
>>Were the forest battles the least worst option or did the
>>US Army fall into the same thinking as General Haig in
>>mid WWI, German defences were one big push away
>>from falling to pieces, therefore keep attacking, for
>>example.
>
> To a very large degree that's what DID happen in July / August 1944 in
> the west. There were all kinds of Allied speculation that they had had
> 'one big push' that gave them most of France and the view was common
> even after the failure of Market-Garden that the Germans couldn't hold
> on much beyond Christmas.

I would not put it into the July/August period, more late August,
September and early October, with a steady increase in optimism
after Falaise and the closing up to the Seine.

The Red Ball Express started on 24 August but as of late August
the supply people were over estimating what they had and how
much they could deliver. However on 30 August came the lack
of fuel messages. On 31 August in one of those I wish I had not
said that statements, SHAEF G-2 says "end of war in Europe
within sight, almost within reach". Also 90 to 95% of all US Army
supplies in France are in Normandy.

About this time the supply officers do a calculation on a thrust to Berlin,
assuming the allies make the Rhine by 15 September and Antwerp is
open at 1,500 tons per day. It needed 489 truck companies, 347 were
available, stripping other divisions would give 181 truck companies, airlift
would give the equivalent of another 60 truck companies (2,000 tons/day).
Three British and 2 US corps, 3 to Berlin, 1 to Bremen-Hamburg, and 1 to
Frankfurt-Magdeburg. Ten US divisions (1 in Paris, 9 in Normandy)
grounded and 12 "quiescent" (6 in Brittany, 3 in Frankfurt-Metz, 3 in
Rhur-Koblenz). One US corps would make it to Berlin on reduced rations.

By end August the US supply system has stopped following the
pre invasion steady advance plan, opening dumps that are
rapidly left behind the advancing armies and switches to keep
everything moving pursuit method, just as the advance stops,
it will be some weeks before the stop is accepted as reality
and the system reverts to creating supply dumps near the
front line and stocking them. When reversion to non pursuit
supply is first floated the armies object, delaying the change.

On 4 September the mood of optimism is reinforced by the realisation
the allied armies are closer to Germany than they were on 11th November
1918 and that Germany's eastern allies are deserting it, just like Austria
Hungary in 1918.

On 11th September a patrol of 1st Army are the first US troops into
German territory, near Aachen. Third and 7th armies join hands.
At the start of the Octagon conference the Combined Chiefs of Staff
agree with General Eisenhower's intention to continue to strike towards
Germany as a higher priority than opening the ports. The CCS do note
the ports will be needed before bad weather sets in. Both 1st and 3rd
Armies report they have the fuel and ammunition needed to advance
to the Rhine.

The pursuit had halted, then Market Garden failed. Aachen did
not surrender until 22 October.

> This is why the Bulge was such a rude shock to many western military
> soures. Many thought the war was all over except for the shouting when
> the Bulge proved the Germans were not quite as finished as thought.

I think the amount of fighting when any allied army tried to advance
from mid September to mid December was the reality check. The
German attack was definitely a shock, the allies had been so used
to knowing what the Germans were doing at the strategic level, plus
the belief like the Luftwaffe the German army could or would only defend.

> Once the Allies caught themselves (and basically the clouds over the
> Ardennes parted enough to let the RAF / USAAF aerial tank busters be
> effective the Bulge was over.

I would say the ground defences had stopped the attack before
any major direct battlefield support was given, things like the heavy
bombers hitting the marshalling yards to the battlefield had started
just after the initial attack. The December 23 allied air operations
were heavily opposed, the 9th AF lost 32 bombers plus write offs,
so on the 24th it was more anti Luftwaffe operations.

> One can argue that Varsity (the airborne
> assault across the Rhine) was completely superfluous - many do - but
> at that point it was a case of Germans preferring to surrender to the
> Western allies rather than the Soviets.

Quite costly in terms of paratroops and aircrew versus the amphibious
advance across the Rhine.

> [We had one former employee who died about 10 years ago who had been a
> Canadian military policeman wounded and taken prisoner about 3 weeks
> before the end of the war on the East side of the Rhine. He said he
> met Canadian POWs who had been captured at Dieppe and had had a very
> tough imprisonment - and that he had the world of respect for them -
> though by April 1945 the guards were competing with each other to be
> "nice" to the Canadians since they all knew the war would soon be over
> and their best personal guarantee of safety for them and their
> families after the end of hostilities would be an Allied ex-POW
> willing to speak to their humane treatment.

Some of the British paratroops taken prisoner at Arnhem starved
to death before liberation. The moving of prisoners to try and avoid
their liberation made food and shelter hard to find. And given the
situation militarily pointless.

> He eventually left our employment as he took an apartment with a means
> test and the sum total of his old age pension and soldier's pension
> with supplements for POW and wounds meant that with his payceque from
> us two days a week meant he made too much!

Presumably the usual rules reducing his other payments.

> He also took great pleasure in taking part in the D-Day memorials in
> Normandy as since he was a French Canadian he was far better treated
> by the locals than Americans, Brits and Canadian Anglos]

Knowing the language is always a help. Having the (distant)
relationship even better.
Reply all
Reply to author
Forward
0 new messages