Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Statistical confusion – whose troops actually did the fighting in World War Two

I was recently researching how many divisions were in action for which nations, at what time and for how long, during the Second World War: and came up with some astonishing misconceptions. (Coincidentally backed up by a recent readers question about who ‘Frenched’… not a term I am familiar with, but I can hazard a guess at its meaning.)

China for instance had theoretically more than 300 divisions, though in fact most were lucky to have the combat power of a Western battalion, perhaps Regiment if they were one of the best equipped. Some of their best ‘Armies’ might have matched a poor Japanese division… maybe. When Stillwell was assigned to rebuild a more useful force on American lines he felt he might assemble about 30 lightweight divisions out of the resources actually available, with no pretence that any of the end products would actually match a Japanese division in the field (even if the Chinese would have let them fight).

The Eastern Front is also a bit fanciful in this regard. Although some German units started each campaign season at or near full strength, for most of the war the vast majority of divisions on both German and Russian sides were perhaps the equivalent of a Western Brigade or Regiment. Many were far weaker (particularly those of Germany’s ‘allies’). As a rule a Soviet Corps might match a weak German division, but you would probably need a small Soviet Army to match a fully mechanised Western division in combat power.

So talk of the Germans having 200+ divisions on the Eastern Front compared to only 80 facing the West tends to hide the fact that a large majority of the Eastern Front units were undermanned infantry, and a far more significant percentage of the units facing West were mechanised, and often at or near full strength. In sheer combat power, the removal of ten percent of divisions (say 20 divisions) from the Eastern Front to face the Western Allies (happened 3 times – Tunisia/Mediterranean 1942, Sicily/Italy 1943, and France 1944) looks a lot more significant if it involves moving 50% of the available Panzers and 70 or 80% of the high quality, full strength, specially equipped, Paratroop or Mountain or Waffen SS divisions. (Though far more Germans – and their Axis Hungarian, Rumanian, Finnish, etc allies – died on the Eastern front than in the west. See my post here for a discussion of the numbers fallacy on the Eastern Front.)

But the really interesting thing was working out the numbers of Western Allied divisions deployed at any point in the war. I, like most others I suppose, knew that American units were not relevant until late1942, but I assumed they formed a large percentage of units in action fairly quickly after that. Certainly I had subconsciously fallen for the idea that by the time of the D-Day invasion the Americans were providing the bulk of the combat troops for the Western Allies. But apparently that is just another example of letting your pre-conceptions run away with you.

Throughout 1942 British Comonwealth troops were fighting, or seriously expecting to be attacked, in French North Africa, Libya, Egypt, Cyprus, Syria (torn between expecting airborne assault, and preparing to reinforce Turkey if that country was attacked), Iraq and Iran (German invasion from the north was attracting more British troop deployment until after Stalingrad than those facing Japan and Rommel combined), Madagascar (fighting the Vichy French to prevent them from inviting the Japanese in as they had done in Indochina), Ceylon (at the time of the Japanese naval raid that looked like it might prefigure and invasion), India, Burma, outposts of the East Indies, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, and other Pacific Islands. A total of 30+ divisions in combat, and another 30+ expecting imminent attack. (This does not include yet another 30 odd British and Canadian divisions in the UK.) Apart from the Philippino forces surrendered early in the year, the Americans had a couple of divisions in action at Gaudalcanal after August, one in New Guinea by November, and late in November a few arrived in French North Africa.

In 1943 the Americans managed to get their numbers up to half a dozen divisions at the front in Europe and the same in the Pacific, but still not matching the British or Indian armies respectively, and barely matching the combined efforts of minor allies like the Free Poles, French, Greeks and Italians etc.

The breakthrough in American numbers was not until after the middle of 1944, when American units started arriving direct to France (which admittedly, was what Marshall had been trying to do all along).

But although American troops may have outnumbered British and Commonwealth troops in France by late 1944, the total of Allied troops, including the Free French, Poles, Czech, Dutch, Belgians, ensured that it was never quite as clear cut a domination as it appears. Devers ‘American’ 6th Army Group that come up from the South Coast was half French after all. In fact in 1945 it became a race to see if the Americans could import new divisions faster than the French could commission theirs (France had 1.3 million men in the field by VE Day). But the Americans fielding 60 divisions in France compared to only 20 British Commonwealth/ minor allies is the figure waved around as significant. (Ignoring that 15 of the American divisions did not get there until 1945, and by the end the liberated French had mobilised a couple of dozen divisions too, making the non-American total more like 40).

So the Americans did predominate in France, but the war was spread a bit further than France. If you take Europe as a whole, then the situation gets more interesting. The Americans in combat in Europe possibly didn’t start to outnumber the total other Western Allies until about the time of the collapse of Germany’s frontiers, and only weeks before the final surrender.

In Italy American troops never played more than a subsidiary part to the operation, and throughout the war even the ‘American’ 5th Army usually had as many (if not more) British, Canadian, New Zealander, Polish, Italian or French troops in it than Americans. Again, it was not until almost 1945 that even the 5th Army was majority American. They rarely made up more than a third of Allied ground forces in Italy.

If we include the Mediterranean/North African/Middle Eastern forces fighting the ‘anti-German’ half of the World War in a combined ‘European Theatre’ (which was one American generals fanciful suggestion when they wanted Marshall in charge of all ‘European’ operations), then American troops do not dominate ever. There are just too many British and French and Polish and Canadian and New Zealand and South African and Indian and Italian and Greek and Brazilian and other troops garrisoning recently liberated places from Morrocco to Iran and Ethiopia to Belgium; and still fighting to secure Greece, Austria, Denmark and Norway. (Note: The Soviets were starting to pile on pressure in Iran and throughout the Middle East already, and Greece was in serious danger of falling behind the Iron Curtain until British troops did some hard fighting.)

The war against Japan is even more deceptive, particularly if you fall for the fantasy that it was a ‘Pacific’ war. Leaving aside the supposed millions of Chinese, the British Empire and Commonwealth already had more than a million men at the front in India, Burma, Malaysia, New Guinea, Indonesia, and in the Pacific Islands, before the Americans had introduced more than a few divisions. Again, it is almost 1945, less than 10 months before the Japanese surrender, before the Phillipines campaign actually saw an entire American army (the 6th) deployed at a single time, instead of just a division fighting on this island for a month, and two or three on that for a few months. Until well into 1943 the Australian Army alone deployed more ground fighting troops against the Japanese than the Americans. The Americans never put more troops into combat against the Japanese at any point than just the Indian Army (which had a total of 32 divisions at its height, several in Europe or the Middle East, but many of which eventually faced Japan).

On a worldwide scale, the point at which the Americans fielded more troops than just the other Western allies (leaving aside the Russians and Chinese, the Hungarians, Rumanians, Yugoslavs, and all the others who fought the Axis), was… well never. The British Commonwealth alone fielded over 100 divisions in 1942 (though admittedly many were weaker garrison forces than proper mechanised field divisions), compared to the American total of 88 by the end of the war. The French had fielded 100 in 1940, and were to field 20+ again just in France by the end of the war. In fact the largely forgotten minor allies, the Free Poles, the Free Italian combat Groups, the Brigades of Free Greeks, Belgians, Dutch, etc, and the South African divisions, the New Zealand divisions, and the Brazilian division, had between them outnumbered the total American commitment to combat in Europe before the last four months of 1944. Add in the British, Canadians and Free French, and the American commitment before mid 1944 looks rather less impressive than is justified by the hype.

I will even go as far as quoting the figures, taken mostly from John Ellis’ World War two - A Statistical Survey, with a little reference to the microfilm archives of the CCOS deployment figures. (Though I foresee problems with comparing apples and oranges, so please do not consider these numbers as more than a very rough calculation. Particularly as some units have to be estimates. The British Commonwealth uniquely deployed ‘independent armoured brigades’ with roughly the same tank strength as most American armoured division, or some German Panzer Corps, or Russian Tank Armies, which I have accepted in John Ellis’ category and loosely called ½ a division. The same goes for the Italian ‘combat groups’ which I have also ranked as half a division. Many Pacific islands were invaded by a couple of American Regiments, which again could be loosely considered ½ of a division. When I say ‘rough’ estimates, I really mean it.)

The United States divisions were ‘deployed overseas’ for a total of about 1,150 months. Of that: Infantry in Europe about 500, infantry in the Pacific 312, armour 158, marines 128, airborne 37 and cavalry 19… roughly. But ‘deployed overseas’ is a bit different from everyone elses ‘in combat’ definition. For instance US 82nd Airborne is listed in Europe for 19 months from July 1943 to May 1945, but it was out of combat more often than in during that time. By comparison the British 6th Airborne, which was also ‘in Europe’ for all those months, gets listed as actually being in combat for three operations – June - September 1944 for D-Day, December - January 1944 for The Bulge, and March 1945 for The Rhine - and only gets credited with 6 months in combat.

This sample is much worse in the Pacific, where more than 20 American divisions are listed as ‘in Pacific’ for several years, regardless that usually only one or two were actually fighting anywhere at any given time. 1st US Marine Division for instance, probably the hardest fighting US dicvision in the Pacific, is listed ‘in theatre’ for 37 months, August 1942 – August 1945: but apparently fought on Guadalcanal for about five months, then on Cape Gloucestor in New Britain between 26 December 1943 and 16 January 1944 (call it two months?); then on Pelelui for a month, and on Okinawa for three months. Total 11 months, or a bit less than 30% of time 'in theatre' actually in combat.

So compared to a grand total of 1,150 months ‘overseas’ for all American divisions of all types, make what you will of these numbers, all months actually ‘in combat’:

Infantry divisions - British 284 months in combat, Indian 282, Australian 183, Canadian 44, African empire troops 68, South Africa 33, New Zealand 35 (Commonwealth total 935 months in combat). Also Free French 75, Free Poles 34, Free Italians 28, Brazilians 10 and Free Czechs 6, + Greeks, Jews (Palestinian Jews), etc. (Total of minors 153+). Total of just the infantry divisions of the non American Western Allies comes to almost 1,100 months in actual combat. (Although the Americans come up with almost 500 months ‘in Europe’, and 312 ‘in Pacific’, it would be extraordinarly generous to suggest that the total number ‘in combat’ came to more than 60% of that. In real terms it is unlikely that the American total in combat came to half of everyone elses 1,100 months.)

How about armour? British armoured divisions/brigades 245 months ‘in combat’, Indian 18, Australian 25, Canadian 31, New Zealander 9, Free French 27, Free Poles 18, Free Czechs 6. (Total 379 months in combat.) American armoured divisions 158 months ‘in Europe’. Again, even being hugely generous, the American total ‘in combat’ is unlikely to be much more than a third of everyone elses.

(By the way I think the Australian and New Zealand numbers in the Pacific theatre are as woolly and questionable as the American ones, but their African/European numbers are definitely correct, and I think the point is adequately made.)
Total non-American Western Allies army troops in combat about 1,500 months. Somewhere between two and three times total American Army and Marines combined.

Now I am not suggesting that the Americans didn’t contribute. They contributed an awful lot. By the end of the war they contributed more fighting divisions than any one of these named nations (finally equalling the combined total of the reduced numbers of full strength units deployed by the British Comonwealth). But over the total course of the war the United Kingdoms of the British Isles alone had more divisions actually at the front for more combat months than the Americans, as indeed did the French Army before their collapse in 1940… In fact India and Australia combined probably put in more divisional combat months than the US, and throwing in either the South Africans, or the Canadians, or even the New Zealanders, let alone all of them, would make it a certainty. (The Americans should be grateful that the Poles collapsed within a few weeks in 1939, because otherwise they too would have contributed more to the total divisional combat effort in the war than the Americans in Europe too. 47 divisions/brigade groups for – lets give American style generosity and call it 2 months each in the 1939 campaign – plus 127 months later by British or Russian aligned forces thereafter, for a total of 221 months.)

[I would be really interested to see if anyone can provide good evidence against any of these numbers. There must be some other good sources out there?]

Nor am I suggesting that the war could have been won without the Americans… though the total troop numbers do make it seem a far closer concept than most pretend. (And I should note that the American ‘in theatre’ concept would make the comparisons ridiculous if it was equally applied to everyone else. More British and Indian divisions were deployed in Iraq and Iran and ready to go to Turkey in 1942 – just in case of the very real threat that the Germans would break through the Soviets at Stalingrad – than the Americans had ‘overseas’ that year, or indeed the next. If you added all the troops waiting for an invasion of Britian in 1940-41, or Ireland, or Iceland; or Cyprus in 1942, or Syria, or Persia, or India, or Madagascar, or Ceylon, or Australia or New Zealand: the British Commonwealth numbers ‘in theatre’ jump to over three times the total American time ‘overseas’.)

I am suggesting that total American contribution to ground combat is vastly exaggerated by most of the literature. Through the war as a whole it amounted to about a quarter of the Western Allied total all up. Until mid to late 1944, the American contribution was minimal, and could have been replaced with other troops. In Europe their contribution really became important starting in June 1944, and in Asia starting November 1944. (But by 1944 there were more French and Italian and Indian and Polish volunteers than could be trained and equipped, so an idle side thought is that perhaps a lot of this American manpower might have been more valuably deployed as an arsenal of democracy workforce from 1942 - 1945, rather than spending years in training as infantry divisions that only got into action in 1945?) It was not until the end of 1944 when the large majority of American divisions started to make their presence felt worldwide (well, Northern Europe and the Pacific at least, if still not the Mediterannean, Middle Eastern or mainland Asian theatre’s)… at about the time when the European battles were mostly won, when Germany was already falling apart, and when Japan was trying to get the Soviet Union to be a go between in surrender discussions.

As usual, the problem is beware of statistics. Impressive sounding numbers of divisions do not necessarily relate to an actual combat value, particularly if they are not often in action. In terms of contributing to winning the war Chinese ‘divisions’ were a joke, Russian ‘divisions’ were an exaggeration, and the vast majority of American divisions were too late to see fighting in the critical years – early 1942 to late 1944 – when the tide was turned.

154 comments:

  1. Great post, but there is no link to any post on Eastern Front casualties.

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  2. The Swedish government was responsible for the most iron ore the Nazis received. Kiruna-Gällivare ore fields in Northern Sweden were all important to Nazi Germany.

    These massive deliveries of iron ore and military facilities from Sweden to Nazi Germany lengthened World War II. Casualties of the war have been estimated at 20 million killed in Europe. How many of them died due to Sweden's material support to Nazi Germany, is not known.


    The Swedish drinking toast (skal) has a rather macabre background; it originally meant 'skull'. The word has come down from a custom practiced by the warlike and terrorist Vikings who used the dried-out skulls of their enemies as drinking mugs, with the evident advantage that the mug held a large quantity of mead and could be easily replaced.

    The Viking raids are remembered: Spanish-speaking mothers warn their children that if they do not behave, the Norwegian (el noruego) will carry them off.

    http://www.thoughts.com/raimo/case-sweden

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  3. Interesting, I would like to see a similar report on the the naval side of WWII.

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  4. Apples and oranges, as you say. An accurate picture would need to account for untrained formations, those ill equipped and a proper defintion for 'at the front' versus 'engaged in combat'. Britain surely had more Divisions formed but untrained and far from the front, than it had trained and equipped divisions in combat, prior to 1944.
    Personnel statistics aside, was not America's primary contribution to WW2 in equipment and money (loaned certainly).

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  5. Good point. 'untrained formations' though, really usually means those that have not experienced combat and thus fall over if the stress becomes too great. The US First armoured division (supposedly professional troops) at Kasserine fits this category just as easily as the Australian 8th division at Singapore or the British 2nd Armoured in Libya. Almost all troops need to be bloodied and hardened slowly if they are not to get into trouble.

    There are exceptions of course. The raw US 1st Marine divisions fought well at Guadalcanal, as did the brand new Australian 7th division at Tobruk. But certainly being thrown in the deep end against more experienced rivals leads to disaster more often than not… (ask the Americans at the Battle of the Bulge).

    Ill equipped is also problematical. The French army collapsed through lack of national willpower and commitment, not because it didn't have more and better tanks and artillery and fortifications than its opponents. Likewise the American army in Italy was still using obsolete 37mm anti-tank guns in 1945 (and thanking God when it captured some lorry loads of Panzerfaust), but still coping ok.

    I think this is another example of sheer numbers being irrelevant. Troops need time to develope slowly and build up experience just as do generals.

    (And yes, one of my sub points was that America was far more valuable as an arsenal of democracy than as a provider of troops for most of the war. In fact the battle of the Atlantic was practically won before America entered the war and gave the U-boats their second 'happy time', so you could even argue that the American entry to the war slowed down allied victory… I might even post on that at some stage.)

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  6. Mr. Davies, you seem to be suggesting that the British Empire carried the brunt of the war against Japan? On the one hand you go out of your way to point out how some American units were only in combat for certain months and yet you completely gloss over the fact the India/Burma front was basically stagnant from May 1942-February 1944 in which the only actual combat was the limited Arakan offensive and the even more limited 1st Chindit expedition. During this period was fought the battles of Coral Sea, Midway, Alutien Islands, Guadalcanal, Santa Cruz, Buna-Gona-Sananada, New Georgia, Bouganville, Tarawa, Cape Gloucester, and Kwajelain. All of which saw Americans in combat. And from the time of Feb, 1944-the end of the war when the Burma front did see significant combat operations the twin drives in the Pacific (which were overwhelmingly American) reached the doorstep of the Japanese home islands themselves. I can't see how anyone could look at these facts and say that the US played a subsidiary role in the war against Japan.

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  7. Umm, I don't think I said the US played a subsidiary role in the war against Japan. In fact the US NAVY played the single most important role in the war against Japan. (And I am afraid that the US Marines who did much of the ground fighting before late 1944 are part of the US Navy.)

    i am suggesting that the US ARMY played a lesser part in the war against Japan until late 1944 compared to the Australians, Indians, or certainly the Chinese. (Though not the US Army AIR FORCE, which was technically part of the Army, this post is specifically about ground troops... Though I might do the naval comparison someone asked for later...)

    I suggest you also consider the differences between quantity and quality. Theoretically the Chinese held the attention of five or six times as many Japanese divisions as did the Western Allies. But the elite Japanese troops that conquored the Phillipines and Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies and Burma and the rest were chewed up by those Western Allies while the lower grade troops in China sat around waiting to enter Soviet prison camps when the time came. (In fact the Soviets eventually deployed more ground troops in combat against the Japanese than the Americans too, but again against sitting ducks!)

    I did a post two years ago about how the masses of footsloggers on the Eastern front were less vital to the Germans than the high tech formations destroyed by the Western Allies that might interest you as a comparison. It was called The Numbers Fallacy, and it was dated March 8 2009.

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    1. Sir, whatever your purposes might be, you speak typical British mindset revisionist history. It seems you need to refer back to your posting title "Rethinking History" and give it a better try. I suppose your background is Australian, but your speech sounds British.

      There are a few, very few, British historians who are true to their work and accurately depict history of WWII. Those who do certainly do not comport with your shell game.

      This game of big divisions and little divisions; quality divisions and poor quality divisions; front divisions and rear, or new, divisions are just bogus. The dodges you place into play are laughable to quality history rendering.

      Churchill had my admiration when I was not old enough to understand. In his dealings with Stalin he was pathetic and even his staff at Potsdam was embarrassed, as was Attllee. My point is that British historians, and their apologists, seem to have a driven need to make their WWII history greater than life. Churchill said, "the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin." Although Brits keep this alive with great effort, the truth is that neither Britain nor France "battles" had significance other than propaganda...when the entire WWII is viewed.

      To view contributions is to look at battles, casualties, territory taken and re-taken, number of combatants, and results produced.

      When the data one relies on is faulty, then the results claimed follow.

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  8. Mr. Davies, you seem to be contradicting yourself a bit to me. First, in your initial post you made no distinction between army and marine troops. You merely said ground troops. While marines are a part of the navy they are by any definition ground troops. Second, you mention that it was 1944 before an entire American army was deployed in combat in the pacific in one operation while ignoring my point that the vast majority of Indian and British forces deployed in the Burma theatre were not involved in combat operations through the entire year of 1943. Therefore I don't see how the Indians can be said to have played a bigger part than the US Army. By my calculation 10 US Army divisions fought in the New Guinea campaign (not all at one time admittedly) in 1943 alone. In the case of the Chinese you say at one point that while they had huge numbers that tied up large numbers of enemy troops, they were also largely ineffective and fought against lower quality Japanese forces. Finally, we come to the Australians who certainly had more forces in the Southwest Pacific Theatre unitil 1944. However, I'm not sure by how large of a margin the difference was. I look foward to your response.

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  9. Perhaps I phrased that badly. I think it is amusing to note that the first hard fighting by US troops in both World Wars was by USN Marines (in Europe in WWI and the Pacific in WWII), but they were still certainly US ground troops.

    However this does not change the fundamental point. US ground troops were never more than a fraction of the forces facing Japanese troops, and never did more than a fraction of the fighting against Japanese troops.

    In pure numbers, the Chinese, the British Commonwealth (Britain, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, even African and Islander troops), and even the Soviets, put far more ground troops into the field against the Japanese than the Americans.

    In actual combat time, the only time that the Americans had more than two or three divisions actually fighting Japanese troops at a single time was when they finally got to the Phillipines in late 1944. Up until then the Americans never had more than a few tens of thousands of ground troops engaged.

    China might have been a moribund front, and Burma often only saw half a dozen divisions in action at a time over the three and a half year campaign, but both fronts tied down, and fought, far more troops than ever faced the Americans in any place prior to the Philipines. (And the Soviet blitzkreigs against the Japanese both before the Americans entered the war and in 1945 were on a scale impossible to match by seaborne invasion.)

    Still I think the Americans deserve a bone, which is why I point out that the 60 pus divisions of garrison troops in China and Manchuria were not as important to the Japanese as the 10 crack assault divisions that conquored the Philippines and Malaya and Burma and the Netherlands East Indies. These key troops were the ones taken out by the British in Burma, the Asutralians in New Guinea, and the Marines at Guadalcanal.

    As the war went on the Japanese lost the ability for effective attacks, and were increasingly sitting duck garrisons to be cleaned up. It was these sad remnants that the US (and Soviet and Indian) armies swept up in 1945, after the crack troops had been broken.

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    1. Nigel, Nigel.

      Para 2-

      You are certainly disingenuous, You say, "US ground troops were never more than a fraction of the forces facing Japanese troops, and never did more than a fraction of the fighting against Japanese troops." The USSR had 3/4 to a million troops on the Chinese border throughout the war. Japan had a million. Neither fought each other (until August 1945). One who is not manipulating might honestly say that when battles are fought on small islands and atolls that only a fraction of two million would be fighting.

      Para 3-

      You say, "In pure numbers, the Chinese, the British Commonwealth (Britain, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, even African and Islander troops), and even the Soviets, put far more ground troops into the field against the Japanese than the Americans." Seems like you are talking troop numbers rather than fighting and combat. Which is it? You are dancing.

      Probably you are referring to the Battle of Singapore when 100,000 British troops surrendered (before they had begun to fight) to a much smaller Japanese force. The 100,000 were in the field. They just laid down and quit. Churchill said that was the worst military action in the history of British arms.

      Para 5-

      "(And the Soviet blitzkreigs against the Japanese both before the Americans entered the war and in 1945 were on a scale impossible to match by seaborne invasion.)" WHAT are you talking about? Khalkhin Gol in 1939? Are you referring to Manchukuo and the Kwantung Army beginning August 1945?

      Nigel...you are about as much a historian as a seamount in the middle of the South China Sea.




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  10. This is an interesting comparison and valid in many ways. One could argue about the changing points of reference (e.g. troops in combat vs garrison), but there is no question the general point is true to an extent.

    Taking this info is a bit dangerous IMHO because, in the Pacific for example, the US faced the bulk of the Japanese navy and air force and, in addition to providing the ground troops, had to build an air force and navy that could achieve absolute superiority there. In addition, not just being the 'Arsenal of Democracy', the US had to convey all the supplies, manpower, equipment plus foodstuffs for the combatants AND the civil populations of the Allies in the Pacific.

    So, while the US could have built a much larger force for ground combat without a doubt, although what use these would have had in the campaigns at the time (more replacements were needed, but could the US have really employed and USED 2-3 more divisions at Guadalcanal, Tarawa, etc.?) is really debatable. So, the Commonwealth maximized their contribution in the ground forces spheres, although the combat divisions were losing effectiveness as time went on at the end of the war. This was only possible because of the conscious decisionmaking and capabilities at the Allied conferences.

    I'm sure a different, more holistic analysis, would probably show a totally different conclusion assuming that these pieces actually say anything meaningful.

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  11. Saying anything meaningful is the point, isn't it? My idle speculation here is just to suggest that the more standard 'holistic analysis' doesn't usually reflect the reality of what actually happened.

    Bad films (Saving Private Ryan for instance) reflect ignorance by those who should know better as much as poor assumptions by the general population. In that film the assumption is that only the Americans contributed to the invasion, with the only reference to anyone else being along the lines of 'Montgomery hasn't even captured Caen… I knew he wasn't as good as people say'. Of course Montgomery was Allied land forces commander at the time, so the soldier talking was in Montgomery's Army Group, and had almost certainly seen and heard Montgomery explaining the invasion to his unit. Ie, the film reflects bad general knowledge, that has become so engrained that it managed to slip by even the supposedly competent historians who consulted on the film.

    IN fact this particular blog issue rose from one of those 'surely that can't be right' thoughts from reading such a poor set of assumptions, and I throw out the rough figures on how many troops were actually engaged where to stimulate some discussion. Hope it encourages you to do a bit of research of your own.

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  12. You have to remember the United States didn't enter the war until the end of 41 and then there was still the draft, training, and then you still needed to organize and transport the troops to the designated locations. Ground Troops are not like tanks or ships. Which can be made and put to work immediately.

    The other countries you mentioned were fighting for nearly 2 and half years before the US entered the war. I guess what you find surprising. I thought made perfect sense.

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  13. How were the Chinese, the British Commonwealth (Britain, India, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, even African and Islander troops), and even the Soviets doing before the US entered the war?

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  14. True, the United States expansion was not ready to go immediately. In fact it took much longer to get large numbers of US troops into actioin than it had in WW1 because of the problems with shipping. (Also in WW1 the forces were largely un-mechanised, and most of the US Armies heavy equipment - artillery, tanks, etc was made in Britain or France, so they didn't have to ship nearly as much.)

    But that just reinforces the point that pretending the US was carrying a lot of the load earlier than it was is foolish.

    In fact the idea that US forces played much of a role at all in 1942 is, as you say, laughable. but many, many commentators imply that by 1943 teh US army was playing a huge role. In fact it was late 1944, often not until 1945, before the US army played the major role on any front (and even then not on most of them).

    My issue is with people who overstate the case.

    (By the way the Soviets had only been fighting the Germans for about five months before the Americans joined up, not years. they fought Japan in 1939, Poland for a few weeks, Finland in 1940 for a few months, but only really got into the war during the German invasion in mid 1941.)

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  15. How were the others doing before Pearl Harbour?

    Well the point above about having to train troops and get them into action is well made. It took the British Empire/Commonwealth a couple of years to get 50 mobile and 50 static divisions put together. They started with 4 in France in 1939. They used a couple in Norway, a dozen in France, and half a dozen in Africa in 1940. They had over a dozen in action in North Africa, East Africa, Greece, Crete, Palestine, Syria, Iraq etc in 1941 (plus 30 odd awaiting invasion in Britain, Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, etc, that were seriously facing front line action).

    The Chinese had a theoretical 100 divisions (read weak battalions to brigades) available before Pearl Harbour. How many were in action at any time is highly contentious. But again the Chinese conflict was not part of the world war until Pearl Harbour, so counting them on the 'Allied' side before the Japanese were even considered to be on the Axis side is a bit tricky.

    The Soviets of course were on the German side between 1939 and mid 1941, so there is only the five months between Barbarossa and Pearl Harbour to estimate how much they contributed to the allied effort. They lost several million men during this period, and still had several million in the field in 1942 (and for the balance of the war - though notably they needed older men, many women, and even children, to flesh out combat formations by the end of the war).

    Of course the Poles had 35 odd divisions in action for a few weeks. The French had 70 available for months, and the Dutch and Belgians contributed another 30 odd for a few weeks (as did the Yugoslavs and Greeks at a later stage).

    So the percentages of who was doing most bounced frantically between weeks when it was France, to months of the British alone, to weeks when the Yugoslavs and Greeks were doing most of the fighting.... briefly.

    All in all it is much harder to do meaningful figures before it settles down into two large teams - Axis and Allies.

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  16. I just ran across your blog. Very interesting and informative, and you just heard that from a Yank who served in the US Army from 83 to 89. I have the impression that you do indeed appreciate the contribution and sacrifice of U.S. Forces in Europe and the Pacific during the Second World War. Especially the Yanks who fought alongside the valiant Aussies, and kept the Japanese out of Australia.

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  17. The more we get people like you, to rant your opinions how inferior Americans are ...lets' face it, that's what your blog is really about, and there are many who rant.
    The more you praise the USA.

    I think the GI's suffered more combat deaths than the UK. (from encyclopedia facts and figures of WW2)

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  18. Yes, I like a good rant. If you bother to read more of my blog you will find rants about politics, sociology, literature, economics, and technology. But I specialise in history, and although I rant about anyone who presents dubious perspectives on history (particularly Australian and British academics recently), there is a special place in my heart to rant about any perspective of history created by the ignorance of Holywood scriptwriters, and accepted uncritically by an even more ignorant general public. American history is in a class of its own in the west for being badly written and badly understood. (And it is simply more fun to shock the poor ignorant Americans who really don't understand their own history than the self righteous Australian and British historians who are consciously trying to distort ours.)

    As for your substantive point.

    The United States, with a population five times that of Britain, but only a fraction of that of the British Empire and Commonwealth, had many more men in action, and suffered many more casualties, than Britain, but not than the Empire and Commonwealth.

    On the point of whether those casualties were sensible, I have some doubts. I will comment on two.

    Getting a ton or two of bombs to the Bombers battle of Germany could be done in one of 3 ways. A Flying Fortress/Liberator in daytime, with huge numbers lost, and 12 or 13 casualties for each loss. A Lancaster at night, with a fraction of the losses, and only 6 or 7 casualties each time. Or in a Mosquito bomber, with a two man crew and only a handful of losses. The fact that American deaths from this campaign were greater than British and Commonwealth does not necessarily reflect any greater value to the war effort does it?

    Then comes deaths of land troops. British generals are often criticised for being too careful with the lives of their men because they knew they were a limited resource, whereas American generals are often criticised for being too casual with the lives of their men because they felt they had an advantage of numbers (and possibly a mass production mindset). But that is probably more of a matter of interpretaion.

    Personally I think that generals who had experienced the horrors and waste of World War 1 (British and French, Italian and even German) were far more careful with the lives of their men than generals who hadn't had much experience (American, Russian, Chinese and Japanese for instance).

    In fact, I would suggest that a heavy butchers bill is not necessarily a sign of productive tactics.

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    1. Per British Lancaster and Mosquito bombers both were fine planes.

      Per your comments about bomber air losses, I suggest you check your statistical sources again. RAF Bomber command had significant losses per their "area" night bombing campaign.

      The most effective strategic targets for air power were German oil and coal to oil facilities. American effort started too late, but it had a huge impact on the ground and the air campaigns both on the Western and Eastern European Fronts. It was very difficult to target these oil facilities in a night raid, although a follow up night raid on already burning oil facilities could be.

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    2. You should also consider that US strategy to win European Theater air superiority was drawing the Luftwaffe up to fight and be ground down in a War of Attrition.

      BTW, the strategy was successful.

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    3. "Getting a ton or two of bombs to the Bombers battle of Germany could be done in one of 3 ways....The fact that American deaths from this campaign were greater than British and Commonwealth does not necessarily reflect any greater value to the war effort does it?"

      Based upon some well reasoned posts, I have to assume this was tongue in cheek to elicit responses, otherwise you don't have much of a clue about WW2.

      I made the posts above in which I challenged part of your post about ETO Air Operations/campaigns.

      Again, the most strategic target that couldn't be manufacturally decentralized were German oil and synthetic oil targets. Even post war Germans in the know, reflected that in their statements.

      British Air Chief Marshall Trafford Leigh-Mallory (hyphenated names are good for higher British society) diverted strategic air power for nonsense D-Day targets. He and Monty, his supporter, cost many Allied lives through their diversion of air powers most important targets.

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    4. I agree with a fair bit of that. (Glad you can recognise 'tongue in cheek', pity more can't.)

      At the risk of setting you off, most bombing, both British night and US day, was hopelessly inaccurate for most of the war. In fact once the British got good 'pathfinders' going in 1944 their night bombing was often more accurate than American day bombing.

      But still 90% of all bombing was 'shotgun' not 'William Tell'.

      Drawing the Lufftwafe into combat was certainly the most valuable part of the day bombing campaign from 1944 on, because the concentration on oil came a bit too late. Germany was already on its last legs by then. In fact the general destruction of transport networks was probably equally important, but even slower.

      Doesn't alter the fact that sacrificial losses of bomber crews (British as well as American) for pathetic results did little to contribute to the war effort for much of the war. The successes of the last year of bombing were, as you note, as much to do with the degrading of effective German defences, as with improving Allied accuracy.

      I suppose the massive losses were all part of learning to do it effectively... a bit?

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  19. All very interesting reading - statistics and so forth, but once again only focusing on the Western Allied contribution to the war, and very little on the Russian contribution. While it is true that for instance the sizes of the German divisions on the Eastern Front were understrength for most of the time, one must not forget that that also applies to their sizes everywhere, especially from 1944 onwards, when they, and especially the Waffen SS divisions, were filled with non-German manpower, often ex Russian POW's and so forth as encountered by the Western Allies in Normandy.

    The fact remains, that to look at WW2 (or any war) in perspective, one also need to take into account the amount of manpower in uniform supplied by each country. While less than 10% of those actually see action and become battlefield casualties and or veterans, the rest contribute to the logistics, etc of those actually doing the fighting in the front line.

    If taking these facts into consideration, it is quite clear that the majority of fighting of WW2 took part during 1941-1945 on the Eastern Front between the Germans, their allies and the Russians. Every other theater of war simply dwarfs in comparison to the amount of troops, material etc involved, and perhaps only the Pacific theater matches it in geographical size (or perhaps bigger). That includes the Chino-Japanese conflict.

    Hitler's support of Mussolini's disastrous debacle in North Africa was simply a waste of Axis manpower and recourses that could have been used more effectively on the Eastern Front, and proved of little value to Hitler's total war efford except providing propaganda material for both sides when the going was good.

    As such, it is doubtful whether the Western Allies, even with the help of the U.S., would ever have been able to defeat Germany and her Western allies on their own without the Russians contribution to the war. As Stalin summarized the situation towards the end of the war: "The British provided the time, The Americans the money, and the Russians the blood."

    One must also take in consideration that except for the Italian campaign, the Western Allies did very little (except for the bombing campaign and the destruction of the Luftwaffe in the West)to contribute to the destruction of Hitler's armies until D-day. D-Day did not come along until the Russians had already outmaneuvered the German forces at Kursk and driven them all the way back to Belarus and the Borders of Poland, and the destruction of Army group Centre during operation Bagration in August 1944 was a far more serious blow to Hitler's forces than the manpower they lost at Falaise. The only contribution the Western Allies could claim until then as far as land forces were concerned, was to tie down a quarter or so of Hitlers manpower to defend Italy, Norway and the Atlantic coastline.

    The lend-lease aid that the West provided to the Russians did not really came into effect until late 1943 after the Russians had already beaten the Germans with their own produced weapons and manpower, so save for ensuring that the Russians had adequate transport and fuel to speed up their eventual advance, those that reckon that the Russians could not have defeated the Germans without Western aid are suffering from a serious case of wishful thinking.

    Of the combatants fighting the Axis, the Russians provided half the manpower, and suffered the worst casualties, military and civilian. The Allies outnumbered the Axis 3 to 1 in uniform, and up to 80% of Germany's land forces were active on the Eastern Front at various stages.

    So for the question - "Whose troops actually did the fighting in WW2" (Allied side), the prize must go to the Russians when we talk Germany. Look at the statistics - that proofs it - period.

    Japan is another matter and here your argument may have some value.

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  20. I'm not certain as to your fixation on comparing divisional units and somehow correlating the quantitative and qualitative variables of these units with a very, very broad brush. I will not attempt to defend Hollywood, as their depictions of any event are uniformly flawed, exaggerated or fictionalized [editorial comment]. I'm not certain as to your notional intent, other than to somehow diminish the role of the U.S. in the defeat of the Axis. Question;
    how did you account for the U.S. Army forces in the Philippines from Dec. 8, 1941 through the fall of Corregidor (May 7, 1942 the terminal date for U.S. resistance)? With the exception of Marines who defended Wake Island, U.S. Army forces in the Philippines engaged in ground combat prior to formations from the U.S. Marine Corp. How did you account for the significant numbers of Philippine divisions? In 1941 Philippine composed units were part of the U.S. Army and from an American Commonwealth nation. Additionally, Philippine forces saw significant combat in the liberation of their homeland still part of a U.S. territory. A point for consideration is U.S. casualties that would have occurred had the Japanese home islands been taken by conventional forces. The divisions of U.S. Army formations created in 1944-45 and units transferred from the ETO would have been significantly if not entirely U.S.and yes, I know the Soviet Union took (and still holds) a few undefended islands in N.Japan. Your analysis needs a well defined nexis or as I have done, you can go off into many what ifs.

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    1. Dear Anonymous, Yes Philippino forces were included in my totals, as I consider American imperial possessions and troops as relevant o US statistics as British or French or Russian or Chinese or German.

      The divisions iin the Philippines were no more effective than the poor Poles, but they do certainly count as much as the Poles (and likewise can no more be written off than the Poles or French or anyone else that contributed.)

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  21. Wow... I guess we Americans might as well have stayed home. Unless of course, you look at what the American forces actually did. The fighting in Burma contributed more to the preservation of the British Empire than it did to defeating Japan. While Commonwealth forces were mucking about in the mountains of Burma to regain their colonial possessions, American forces fought their way across the Pacific right to Japan. The Japanese suffered more casualties just on the island of Okinawa than in the entire Burma campaign. I'll save my rant on The ETO for later.

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    1. Dear Anonymous. My point is actually that any oversimplification is bad history. So under-rating the value of American input is as stupid as over-rating it.

      To emphasize the meaning of this, I will point out that the British preference is to go on endlessly about 'plucky little Britain fighting alone' and rubbish their own efforts (and largely ignore the Commonwealth's efforts that added another 450 million people and their resources to the Allied side); whereas Holywood tends to go into American imperialistic hubris, and vastly over-emphasise American participation or value.

      Both approaches are less than helpful to understanding the truth. Both need to be challenged.

      Two points on your own ill conceived notions.

      1. The vast Allied effort in Burma was not about British imperialism. (The British wanted to invade Rangoon and then Malaya by sea, not piss-fart around in the mountains for years. This would have been more advantageous both as imperialism and as damaging the Japanese. They were largely prevented by King and MacArthur.)

      In reality the Burmese campaign was pushed primarily by the US, which had a hopelessly unrealistic theory about how much value the Chinese were to the war effort. All those millions wandering about in the mountains, and building Burma Roads, and flying supplies across the mountains (the last mostly Americans by the way): were supposedly working to help China, not British Imperialism (which had already announced independence for India and much of Asia along the same lines as the earier Dominions). Though, to be fair, every pressure on Japanese resources contributed to eventual victory…

      2. The ETO. By this you probably mean the European Theatre of Operations, which is my point. Most bad history post D-Day only considers France, and ignores Italy. My point is that of the roughly 130 equivalent Western divisions fighting in the last few months to finish the Germans, approximately half were American, and half not American. (British, French, Canadian, South African, New Zealand, Polish, Italian, Brazilian, Czech, Greek, etc. Even Jewish units from Palestine!) Yet too many histories of the period pretend that it was Americans who did most of the heavy lifting in ground fighting after D-Day. The Polish and Free French efforts get particularly short shift from historians. Again, not helpful.

      Finally, the amusing question of whether the war would have been won more quickly if the Americans stayed home. Co-incidentally, i have already darted a post on whether the US as an arsenal of democracy only might have actually been of equal or greater value than the US as a combatant. A whimsical 'what if' to be published soon.

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  22. You find much the same attitude with regard to World War One: the Americans want to look at the number of men (you can hardly call the vast majority of Americans 'soldiers' since they were totally untrained) present at the Armistice, rather than looking at division-months of combat, since the latter approach would highlight the irrelevance of the US contribution.

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  23. This is a topic that has interested me for years. I agree that the focus must be on applied combat power rather than a mathematical computation of divisions, or simple totals of men engaged.
    It is also true that the British contributions in Burma, et. al., have been denigrated over the years by Americans. I think this is more because as far as the Americans are concerned they believed that the British and their allies were engaged in empire protection/reconquest rather than strictly defeating the Japanese and therefore they have refused to give credit where credit is due.
    As you note, World War II was fought in a variety of theaters and in those theaters in a variety of ways. In spite of Pearl Harbor, the U. S. Navy essentially took back the Pacific early in the war. It took back the North Atlantic, and by doing this, the U. S. Navy allowed the Royal Navy to take back the Mediterranean. Similarly, the U. S. Army Air Force engaged the Japanese through out the war. How can these contributions be calculated?
    Both the Royal Air Force Bomber Command and the U. S. Army Air Force opened a second front in Germany itself almost immediately. While I agree with the Strategic Bombing Survey that in many cases such "strategic" bombing was actually counter-productive, it tied up the Luftwaffe, and thousands of men and guns that could have been used on the other fronts. The German 88 was the premier tank killer of the war, it was also an anti aircraft weapon. The German Army would have had thousands more of them to fire at Russian and American tanks had the strategic campaign not begun. Was the Battle of Kursk won by the Red Army, or by the lack of sufficient 88 mm guns and gun crews?
    I don't know how you quantify the effects of the US Navy and the US Army Air Force on a combat power graph. In the Pacific, part of their work made many Japanese divisions simply irrelevant. The troops on Rabaul were as good as any available to the Japanese Empire but they sat useless on Rabaul throughout the war. By passed. Trapped.
    While it is true that a great many American divisions were still untrained at the end of WW I and WW II, how many British, French, Polish, and other troops were released for immediate combat because their replacements were known to be in the pipe line? Most do not realize that the actual fighting from D-Day to VE Day was only about 11 months. Once the invasion started there really was not a lot of time to get men to the front, and it took Montgomery a long time to open Antwerp, which compounded the difficulty.
    Besides simple numbers of casualties, what was the cause, toward the end of WW II of the sudden severe shortage of infantrymen among the allies? First it was the British cutting the size of their infantry divisions. Then in America there was a search for new sources of infantry. What effect did this have on commanders? Clearly it had an effect on Montgomery. Did it also have one on Eisenhower? In spite of the carnage in WW I, I do not recall reading of similar concerns in that war. What was the difference? In WW I, I believe the difference was American manpower coming on line to more than make up for the losses.
    Can you reliably compare the 101st Airborne Division (my division) with other American divisions much less with other country’s divisions? Keegan tries it in "Six Armies in Normandy", but I do not believe entirely successfully. Nonetheless, the process is useful.
    I would throw one more complication into the mix. In Viet Nam one of my platoon sergeants won and Iron Cross at Festung Breslau in WW II. At the end of the war he told me that his unit fought its way through the Russians in order to surrender to the “Amis”. Clearly this reputation was valuable, combat valuable- but can it be included? I do not think so.
    Thank you for a fascinating article.

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  24. Although I agree to your overall combat manpower calculations for the western allies, I did not see anywhere mentioned the fact that it was the Americans who equipped and financed all those allies (Free Poles, Indians and British, etc)and by that made it possible for them to contribute to combat.
    Also, plain numbers of combat divisions do not tell the whole story. The British Commonwealth did almost nothing to bring about the defeat of Japan. True, the Brits fought some campaigns in Asia, but at that scale and pace they would still be fighting today. It was not until the US naval victories in the pacific that victory over Japan became possible.
    Winston Churchill, fully aware that Great Britain had become dependent on the US for finances and material for the war effort, has fully accepted this position and on several occasions instructed his chiefs of stuff to accept US direction of the war in late 1944.
    Great Britain and the Empire sis a great job of holding out in the west until such time as the US would enter the war and shift the balance in favor of the western allies.
    In my opinion, If the US only acted as "The arsenal of democracy" the outcome could have been different. Without US combat troops on the ground fighting and US generals running the show, the country would not have the political will to go through all the sacrifices necessary to produce the amount of war material needed for victory as well as generate the bond sale, taxes and the financial system necessary to win the war.

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  25. I think if you check you will find that the United States planned to provide 900,000 men for the final invasion of the Japanese home islands in 1945 and the Commonwealth commitment was going to be 1,600,000 men. That was why Truman wanted Stalin in at the end because allied casualties were projected to be near 1,000,000. Of course the Japanese casualties were going to be substantially more because of the large number of military and civilian deaths projected. They were using the Okinawa Campaign as the yardstick for measurement. The Fire bombings and eventual atom bomb detonations fortunately ended the war and saved the total destruction of Japan. No one knew for sure if the limited number of new atomic weapons would achieve a surrender.

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    1. Well, I just (double-)checked and your version is nowhere near historical fact. Your claim "...invasion of the Japanese home islands in 1945 and the Commonwealth commitment was going to be 1,600,000 men" is out by about 1.6 million. The 1945 invasion of Japan proper was actually to include ZERO Commonwealth troops, while the 1946 follow-up into Tokyo would field just 3 Commonwealth divisions alongside 25 US Army and Marine divisions. So maybe some 45,000 Commonwealth troops for the 1946 phase.

      Operation DOWNFALL was the invasion of Japan's home islands comprising opaerions OLYMPIC and CORONET, the planned landings on Kyushu (Nov '45) and Honshu (c. Apr '46), respectively. DOWNFALL was initially a 100% American landing force with minor British Commonwealth air-sea commitment. Largely Australian insistence wrought US permission to land a Commonwealth corps in CORONET. However, that plan was only on condition that the UK-AUS-CAN organize, train, and equip as US-pattern regt, div and corps entities.

      Matt Davies

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    2. I found the same info, that Operation Coronet/Olympic was to be an almost totally American effort, with only a few British Ships....not sure where this Nigel person gets his info...

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    3. Actually I am curious to where Anonymous of Nov 23 gets his figure of !.6 million for the invasion of Japan too. There were certainly twice that in the Burma campaign, and about that planned for Malaya and Netherlands East Indies, but I haven't seen anything like that quoted for 'invasion of Japan'.

      There was a plan to move troops from the West past German surrender, but one of the main problems the British had with shipping hundreds of thousands of troops out east for the end of the war was a lack of shipping. If the plan was 1.6 million, I doubt if more than a fraction of those would have been committed to a campaign in Japan when there was so much other occupied land to clear.

      If anyone has any ideas or references I would be interested though.

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    4. Maybe a relevant reference in my recent reading is Sir Max Hastings' generalist 'Nemesis'/'Retribution' (2007). It contains insidious historical fictions a la "well-meaning, compassionate, but under-resourced Brits" vs "overpaid, oversexed, callous and arrogant" Yanks (as the "usurping new imperialists").

      But a bit of history as antidote. The British, on Mountbatten's orders, re-armed whole Japanese Army and Navy formations in Indochina and Indonesia (elsewhere too?). Hastings mentions none of that, instead noting by contrast that the defeated Japanese: "exerted themselves to aid Ho Chi Minh's nationalist Vietminh and inflict further humiliations on the French". He supports his claim by alluding to Japanese defectors to the VM (as some Japanese also volunteered for Indonesia's BKR/TNI, etc.). So for Hasting's re-write there's nothing of the pitched battles between re-armed and British-controlled Japanese against Viet Minh near Saigon, for example, or correspondingly large British operations using re-armed Japanese out of Medan, for example, alongside Gurkhas, etc., much less on the real atrocity of Christensen's assault on Surabaya (a coastal port city Hastings calls "the Dutch East Indies island").

      Hastings even quotes a French colon in Jakarta to suggest that the Japanese actually "won the war" there all because the Menheers were unable to re-impose their old Apartheid and imperialist regime. By such a blinkered, re-touched view, in homily to those like Mountbatten and Slim, local nationalists and their own massive sacrifices - including their widespread anti-Japanese actions - did not really happen except as Japanese creations!

      Hastings' bizarre double standards apply to his broader take on operations too. On the precautionary flank assault on Peleliu, he concludes with accurate hindsight that Nimitz could have well by-passed the Japanese stronghold (as he seems to identify in the Australians' case on Bougainville). But he makes no such criticism of the yet much costlier and more peripheral quagmire of the British Burma Campaign. Indeed, Hastings' view only expresses condolence for the Burma veterans' deprivation of war glory, and later obscurity at home. Ah, such patrician modesty and humility...

      Obviously Hastings' book (in chapter 14) smears Australians with the Empire's old convict tags while throughout sneering enviously at the US' sheer logistical and organizational might and confidence. Australians must grow up and break from such supercilious, dishonest manipulations; the Yanks' example is far worthier for humanity.

      Matt Davies

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  26. As usual, it always comes down to a "look" at the numbers and the British historians downplaying the US effort. How many British divisions were on all those blood soaked islands during MacArthur's Island Hopping campaign? The plain and simple fact is that America was more worried about Japan than the Germans. The fact is Okinawa, Iwo jima, Saipan, Guadlcanal, Tarawa, the Philippines etc etc etc, it was an American effort so the Brits could keep its troops in Europe. The British Fleet in the Pacific was clearly a sideshow to the USN's role. We didnt need them at Midway or Leyte Gulf or the Philippine sea. You dam Brits piss me off sometimes, if it wasnt for American equipment and supplies and keeping the Russians in the fight, who knows how bad it could have gotten for England. It was America that had the mobility, the power projection, the logistics train that kept England in the fight. The US had 90 division it had to split between the 2 fronts that were on opposite sides of the world. The US ability to keep constant pressure on the Japanese because of its repair facilities was unmatched by any side and the British Pacific Fleet was totally dependent on the US for its supplies. One of the Brit carries went to Okinawa with one of its prop shafts removed due to warping of the hull because of the armored flight decks.....The Invasion of the Japanese home islands, the US planned for 66 carriers and the entire US Navy and 3 complete airforces, the entire Marine Corps plus 30 divisions of the Army retrained from Europe....I have researched and have found nothing that said Britian was to have anything but a support role for the invasion of Japan....Get your facts straight, I have been into WW2 history a good 30 years, we both can manipulate the numbers to any conclusion that best fits our cause, the simple facts are that without the US, England would have had to sue for peace. Now I am not trying to "rub your face in it" but facts are facts...

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  27. The Russians bore the brunt of the Germans, the US took on the great majority of the Japanese those are the undeniable facts. The American artillery and its ability to "mass fires" was unmatched. As I said before, the US repair facilities at Ulithi atoll and later in the Philippines was huge reason for allied success in the Pacific, the US ability to keep itself supplied, repaired was something even the Japanese were amazed at.
    In Europe, the US kept its divisions at more or less full strength with its constant flow of replacments and that was something that amazed the Germans. According to my readings and research over the years was that many historians think that the Americans just smothered its enemies in a mountain of equipment, thats just not the case, the Americans became specialized at tuning their plans to fit the circumstance, and that goes for the European and Pacific Theatres, its was key to allied success after Anzio, after that there was no question who was superior in just about every facet you can name. Once engaged the endurance of the US "Citizen" was on par or better than its enemy.
    " In a study of the Seventh U.S. Army's campaign in the Vosges Mountains (When the Odds were Even), Keith Bonn compares the strengths and weaknesses of the American and German armies which contended for the northeastern corner of France from October 1944 to January 1945. Not only did the Seventh U.S. Army emerge victorious in this campaign, it did so without the aid of extensive logistical and close air support and in terrain and weather conditions that clearly favored a defensive stand by the numerically superior German forces. The divisions of the Seventh U.S. Army, Bonn argues, were more combat effective than their German counterparts in Army Group G. The American replacement system functioned better in maintaining those divisions at an adequate strength level, their uniform organization was superior to the ad hoc organizations employed by Army Group G, and American commanders were more tactically flexible and were able to use their initiative more often than their German counterparts. Bonn concludes that in a campaign fought without the combat multipliers available to other American armies, without numerical superiority, and in atrocious weather and terrain conditions, the Seventh U.S. Army proved its superiority against its counterpart, Germany Army Group G – and it did so when the odds were even".
    So you see "Nigel", one can put these numbers or statistics in any fashion one wants to "win" his case.
    I will always say that American mobility, support and force projection won the day....no other army was able to this like America did

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    1. I think it is not useful to compare a fresh army that has only been in combat a few weeks with the remnants of a boken army that is hanging on by the skin of its teeth after years of appalling losses. I do not really find this a good argument for 'superiority'. (In fact it frankly makes me more impressed with how good the basic German soldier was at overcoming difficulties that would make most other armies give up... note Americans in Phillipines in 1941-2, Australians at Singapore 1942, British in Libya in 1941, Russians in 1941, French in 1940, Chinese, Italians, Poles, etc, etc.)

      "No other army was able to do this like the Americans"? You may have missed German Blitzkreigs in 1939-42, British ones in 1941 and 1944-5, Japanese ones in 1941-2, and Russian ones in 1939 and 44-45, but ALL of them were at least as effective as American ones in 1944-5. (And all of them for similar reasons.. no one was really 'special'.)

      But I do agree that manipulation of statistics can be used for any effect... which is why I like to challenge people with statistical analysis to see if they can or will look outside the box. Some can, but most won't.

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    2. No Nigel, the German didnt have to bring their supplies from the other side of the earth, across the Atlantic. The Americans displayed their natural flair for logistics movement and did it better than everyone. The Germans U-Boat was overcome in the North Atlantic, it was in the interest of the Brits to help out because their supplies coming from America. The plain and simple fact is the AMERICANS beat the Germans in the Vosges, not matter what...THE GERMANS LOST, do you grasp this concept?

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    3. Plus you didnt even address anything I posted....what up with that?...think outside the box?...there are the facts, known facts. The facts are known, why would we need to 'think outside the box" when the history is already written and we know how things transpired...

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    4. LOLOLOL, Yes Nigel, I completely missed the Britsh blitzkreigs in 1941 and 1944-45. Where you referring to the British blitzkreig across the English Channel from Dunkirk in 1941? And the British blitzkreig through Caen in summer of 1944? Or was it the British blitzkreig through the Netherlands in the fall of 1944? And the 1945 British blitzkreig certainly has to be their dash across the Rhine behind the First and Third U.S. Armies. or maybe you were just talking about that mad British drive through Burma.

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  28. The Philippines operations were an entirely US operation, the US Navy, USSAF and a division of the Airborne along with the 158th RCT and other US divisions are the ones that rid the Philippines of the Japanese invader. As I stated before, the US also was alone on Peleilu, Tarawa, Saipan, Guam, Kwajilein, Guandlcanal, Iwo Jima, Tinian, Okinawa and many other of those islands in the central Pacific up to the northern end, how come you never talk about all those islands? The Pacific Theatre would never have been won without the US....I find your research dubious at best and you seem to go out of your way to downplay the American effort at any chance you can....you're research is terrible...grow up Nigel..

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  29. Nigel Davies,

    I think its time for you to re-read the Campaign in Southern France (Operation Dragoon) to see who did what amount of the fighting and how well American Forces did...The more I go go back and re-read some things because of YOUR downplaying the American WW2 contribution, the more I find your words and research to be of dubious quality...

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  30. Also if your purpose is to just say these things about Americans just to piss us off....it worked, but I know my history very well too, and I know who did what and where and for how long....Britain is dam lucky they were separated by the English Channel or Hitler's forces would have rolled thru London as they did Paris...

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  31. It may be that in war looking at the dead rather than the living gives a better statistical analysis of time spent in combat. Thus, the UK's 384,000 military deaths would compare with the US 417,000 and Germany's 5.5 million vs. 9.5 million Soviet military deaths. While there are many factors underlying death totals beyond mere combat (available medical care, imprisonment, etc.) it does bear more than a mere coincidental relationship with time in combat. So that I believe death counts support Davies analysis. To wit, the size of the US Army at the end of the war does not factor in time in combat during the war. Also, German death totals reflect their forces near constant service in combat vs. that of Western allies. Another way that statistics might influence discussions of "who won the war, daddy"?

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  32. Hi! Does the frequency of your posting depend on specific things or you compose articles when you have an inspiration or you create in case you have time? Waiting forward to hear your answer.

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    1. I only blog when I have time (not often), and only to amuse and stimulate debates. I don't have enough invested in these idle twiddles to spend a lifetime arguing with people over them I am afraid.

      When I do blog it is usually because something I have read has aroused my interest or ire.

      If people enjoy a different perspective, that's great.

      If they hate it and make good arguments (particularly throw back interesting perspectives), I love it.

      If they rant back that i am just wrong, wrong, wrong, then that is their privilege, and I usually don't bother responding. (Some people have the truth direct from God, and nothing will ever make them even consider alternative viewpoints. Interestingly in Australia and Britain that means left wingers, whereas in America it means right wingers... if both think I am evil I must be doing something right!)

      But I never delete any comments unless they are obscene - so I have never deleted any that I know of. Even in the most ridiculous rants their are sometimes gems that arouse interest, and people in glass houses...

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  33. This guy Nigel just blogs this nonsense just to get a rise out of people it seems saying this or that about how useless America was during the war to maybe make himself feel better about the commonwealth's lack of capability. He never makes mention of the US repair and supply facility in the Pacific that allowed the US Navy to operate at full strength far from major ports. The US had huge facilities spread out across the Pacific in places like Guam, Ulithi Atoll, Esprito Santo, the Philippines. Places such as these gave the US Navy able to keep constant pressure on the Japanese. Many escort carriers served as aircraft supply ships and didnt take part offensive operations like direct contact with Japanese forces. The amount of service vessels was unmatched by anyone and were an unsung part of US success...The BPF were totally dependent on the US for supplies....and who did what?...I wish this guy Nigel would answer his own blog once in awhile...

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  34. Britain should never have joined the US embargo against Japan. Let the US ban exports of oil and steel if they like: Britain could have stepped-in and made up the deficit - they had plenty to spare. This means no war in the Pacific; no fall of Singapore; no British servicemen dying in Japanese camps. The cost of the war in the Far East to Britain far outweighed the dubious benefits of Lend-Lease.

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    1. Probably depends why you think Britain went to war. If you think it was to maintain an Empire, your solution might be correct (if cynical). If you think it was to fight for people's rights against fascism, then no, that wold be incorrect. David Irving famously stated about WW2 "Britain destroyed two empires, one of them the enemies". This is absolutely correct, but manages to avoid the little fact that the British Empire was being hived off into independent states as fast as was considered possible pre war, with much of theAsian empire due for independence in the late 1940's regardless of any war.

      Cynically,I suppose that Britain could have tried to leave the US to carry the can against a nasty Axis power in the same fashion that the US isolationists wanted Britain to do, but there are two problems with that.
      A: I don't think it would have worked, Japan needed easy conquest and that was only possible while Britain was fighting elsewhere, and
      B: it would have been wrong.

      I suppose I am old fashioned enough to believe that Australia's involvement in 'other people's wars' for the last century has been to the net benefit of mankind, regardless of our own losses as a result. But given the type of people who argue 'let them suffer, we're all right', I will happily hang on to the 'do the right thing' fantasy.

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  35. Dear Sir:
    You throw out a slew of stats, and I have neither the time or the interest in debating them. But I will bring to question one, because it is so starkly false, and perfectly exposes your argument as bogus, and you as either being full of crap, or simply having no idea what you are talking about.

    Your claim: "For instance US 82nd Airborne is listed in Europe for 19 months from July 1943 to May 1945, but it was out of combat more often than in during that time." Well, actually, it was far from "out of combat more often than in during that time." The 82d Airborne Division was actually in combat, and heavily engagded for the vast majority of that time.

    The United States Army specifically defines "front line positions" as "any period of time in which a regimental combat team or larger group of the division is in direct contact with the enemy." Ironically, you chose to highlight the 82d Airborne Division as being in Europe for 19 months (it was actually in Europe until January 1946, but who am I to quibble over 9 months?), otherwise about 570 days. The fact is, (not that you let facts complicate your argument), the 82d Airborne Division spent 422 of those 570 days in heavy combat.

    The 82d Airborne Division arrived in theater in May, 1943, and entered combat on Sicily in July 1943. The division fought on Sicily until August 13 (41 days). The 82d Airborne Division entered combat again in Italy on September 14,1943, and fought in the Apeninne Mountains there until November 25,1943 (63 days). The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment then fought there further from December 6,1943 to January 1, 1944 (27 days). After brief respite, that regiment then assaulted Anzio on January 22,1944, and fought there until March 23,1944 (62 days). In all, during seven months in Italy, the 82d Airborne division was in combat for 163 days out of 210 days in country.

    Meanwhile, the 82d Airborne Division's 505th and 508th Parachute Infantry Regiments assaulted Normandy on June 6,1944, and fought there until July 13 (38 days). So you see, the division that was "out of combat more than it was in combat" was actually actively engaged in two major campaigns simultaneously.

    Reunited, the 82d Airborne's three regiments then assaulted Holland on September 17,1944, and fought there until November 13 (58 days). After less than a month's rest, the 82d Airborne Division again entered combat in the Ardennes on December 18,1944, and fought there until February 18,1945 (63 days). After another brief rest, the 82d Airborne Division entered combat again on April 4,1945, and fought there until the end of the war on May 8 (36 days).

    So seriously, you're either full of crap, or you simple have no idea what you're talking about. I'm inclined to think it's much of both!

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    1. Mr. Thrasherback...

      I feel he just writes these kinds of things just to get a "rise" out of Americans. If you read some of my posts of rebuttal, I more or less say the same things back. If feel he minipulates the facts and statistics in such a way that it paints the Commenwealth in a better light and downplays the US effort in Europe and in the Pacific Theatre. I think its funny when he and his buddies here say the war would have been over sooner if the US had just stayed home. He also fails to mention the US was virtually alone in the Pacific and there was nary a Brit during MacArthur's drive up from the Philippines to Okinawa...I would say a pretty important part of the war...

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    2. Dear Thrasherback (and Kurt),

      thank you for bringing my attention to the updated details on the 82nd. this is one of the first new or substantive points someone has made for a while (bob abidor excepted) that is not just ranting about pet beliefs.

      I like to use the 82nd as a sample because it is one of the best divisions the US supplied to the war (with one of my favourite US generals), and because it fought more actions than most other US divisions in Europe.

      It is interesting to see that US definitions of a 'division' in combat includes 'any unit of Regimental Combat size..' That is certainly how I had to calculate the numbers in the Pacific, but not in Europe (too time consuming for the quick and dirty estimate I did for such an idle reflection, and fairly irrelevant to the point I was musing on). I wonder if you note how that definition reinforces my point?

      According to the article in Wikipedia (much more complete than the original one I consulted when I first did this post I am happy to see), the 504th fighting in Italy as a 'detached unit' for some time (I was not aware of 'detached' qualification previously as it was fighting under other units in Italy), and it was 'reorganised' out of the division when the division went to the UK to prepare for D-Day.

      I counted it originally as part of the troops in Italy, not part of the 82nd, and it is vaguely interesting to see that the exact time it left the division is unclear. (But by no definition was the 'division' was fighting 2 major campaigns at once).

      Meanwhile I am very glad you and Kurt have found each other. The poor lamb desperately needs someone who has the time to take his tirades seriously, and you two seem to be a mutual admiration society made in heaven.

      I may occasionally look to see if either of you ever bring up anything new, but - as Kurt may have noticed by now - I really don't have the time to respond very often. And rarely bother responding to people whose interests are so limited (or spleens so engorged) that they act as if they have never heard of the battles of Matapan, or Taranto, or indeed of any battles at all in Papua and New Guinea. Robust discussion is one thing, mindless ranting another.

      You boys believe whatever pleases you, but I am afraid you shouldn't hold your breath expecting a response from me (I probably won't get back on line for several months, as this is quite a busy period for me).

      Besides, I prefer to let your comments speak for themselves. Really they are quite staggering examples that stand on their own, and certainly need no comment from me.

      Meanwhile I wish both of you joy in your worldview, I really hope you don't blow too many blood vessels.

      As you American's say 'have a nice day'.

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    3. Nigel,
      I am quite familiar with the Battle of Taranto. It was as impressive a Royal Navy victory as Mers-el-Kebir. Even the British Navy was capable of sinking enemy ships at anchor. And Cape Matapan was basically a draw, and that against the Italian Navy.

      And while we're questioning knowledge of operations, have you ever heard of OPERATION SOURCE, or OPERATION TUNGSTEN, or OPERATIONS GOODWOOD I, GOODWOOD II, GOODWOOD III, GOODWOOD IV, or OPERATION PARAVANE, or OPERATION CATECHISM? They are the series of operations launched to sink the single German battleship Tirpitz at anchor in Norway between September 20 and November 12. No less than 8 operations over 2 months to sink a single enemy battleship at anchor. At a time when the U.S. Navy was sinking and loosing aircraft carriers and battleships by the score in a single day across the vast Pacific Ocean. Seriously, on close inspection, the Royal Navy was an embarassment.

      If that's not enough evidence for you, how about the German OPERATION CERBERUS? A fleet of 49 German ships, led by the battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, slipped past the Straights of Dover and through the English Channel into the North Sea without the Royal Navy even knowing. That's equivilent to the battleship Yamamoto and a fleet of 48 ships sailing into San Francisco harbor undetected. Yeah, the Royal Navy was awesome...

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    4. Nigel,

      Here’s a little basic information to help you mis-interpret your stats in the future.

      The U.S. definition of division doesn’t include any unit of regimental size. The U.S. definition of time in combat for a division includes any unit of regimental size. A U.S. Division generally consisted of three regiments, and NEVER (but for the Battle of the Bulge) were three of its regiments willingly committed to combat. Commitment normally consisted of two regiments forward in combat, and one back in reserve. Therefore, an entire division was technically never committed.

      And I apologize, I didn’t know your information was coming from Wikipedia. Had I known that, I probably would never have read it in the first place. But let me correct your Wikipedia argument for the sake of historical accuracy.

      The 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was detached from the 82d Airborne Division and left behind to fight in Italy. It remained a separate organization, and at no time was it attached to any other unit in Italy. It fell under II Corps and VI Corps command within Fifth Army at various times, but neither a Corps or an Army are parent organizations, but rather simply combat commands coordinating two or more divisions. The U.S. Army maintained a number of independent organizations in Italy, the 509th Parachute Infantry, the 551st Parachute Infantry, the 1st, 3d and 4th Ranger Battalions, and the FSSF, and a slew of independent artillery, engineer and medical battalions, all of which fought under various and often changing Corps commands.

      And the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment was never “organized out of the division.” The airborne divisions were re-organized in early 1944 by replacing a glider regiment with a parachute regiment, then adding an additional parachute regiment to its TO&E. The 504th PIR remained within the division structure that entire time, and after arriving in England from Italy acted as division reserve for the Normandy invasion. (You’ll remember that I taught you earlier that American divisions generally kept one regiment in reserve).

      And the time “it left the division” is precisely clear. The 82d Airborne Division’s 505th Parachute Infantry and 325th Glider Infantry Regiments departed Italy on November 19, 1943, on which date the 504th Parachute Infantry operated separate from the division.

      And I don’t know what your point is in raising “Papua and New Guinea.” Papua is in New Guinea, as is Buna and Gona, and I don’t believe there were English (not British) forces anywhere within a thousand miles of that island.

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    5. Nigel,

      I found your blog purely by accident, and the things that caught my attentions was the themes. The theme of using "facts" as you perceive them to downplay America's efforts in anyway you can. I have run my own WW2 History page for nearly 3 years and in that time I have come across Commenwealth subjects (British mostly)on my page that do the same thing you do, show how jealous you are of America's capabilities during the war and constantly complain of the merits Lend-Lease or lack of it saying it bankrupted the UK of all of its victorian era wealth. Well thats just to dam bad, the Commonwealth needed that help and America supplied it to the UK in greater quantities than any other allied nation. Mr Throwback brings up some very good points that you dont seem to have a answer for, you haven't answered any of my questions either. I am a very passionate historian and am very proud of America's role in WW2 because they accomplished great things wether you want to admit them or not. The European Theatre could have been won without American OR British troops, after the Russians initial setbacks and vast material help (I think the Russian aid only helped after their catastrophic losses at the start of Barabrossa, not really much after they got their own factories running)from the US, the Russian steamroller was not going to be stopped by anyone including the Germans, but my main focus in on the Pacific Theatre, where the US did a great majority of the fighting and yes I know the BPF was out there as well, but the US had operations well in hand and could have went along fine without the UK. If one wants to, one could say that Commonwealth help in the Pacific wasn't needed at all.
      I find you to be the same as some of the Commonwealth members I have on my page, arrogant, patronizing and just plain jealous of what America had become after WW2. Maybe its a mirror of how the UK was when it was the colonizing king of the world that plundered and took for itself whatever it needed for King and Country. I am not the one who downplays anything until I came across this blog, I have always been of the opinion that all the allies contributed what it could, when it could, some just more than others....the US and the UK (and her commonwealth) both did well during WW2 and even though the US gets a good bit of "schtick" from the UK, we have been strong allies ever since. I suggest maybe a new blog, maybe one that points out the good in both capabilities and efforts that went to the same goal, maybe on how we worked together against a common enemy not saying this American Division was bad or this American General was inept, we could do this until one of us gets pissed off. I have never been pissed off here at this blog, passionate?....yes, so I think maybe a re-think on your stance of how I perceive events and not rancor...I still find some of your points ludicrous, as I'm sure you do mine, thats life...but I still like to debate them. The reason I have so much time because I am retired at a relatively young age and dont have to work anymore....so just move on let's just have this ongoing debate, and to fuel it a bit more, in my opinion that after Anzio as I have said before, American forces were clearly better in almost every phase of warfare until the US stopped short of Berlin and US dominance was never in question after Midway...like it or not, those are the facts....

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  36. P.S.
    Anyone with the slightest historical knowledge of World War II with regard to casualties and unit deployments would be well aware the British 6th Airborne Division virtually ceased to exist post-Normandy, and its commander Gale was shipped to the Far East. Hence the hasty formation of the previously annihilated in Italy British 1st Airborne Division for Operation Market, which, excepting the 2nd Parachute Brigade, was composed of a bunch of neophyte clowns, leading directly to their self-induced catastrophe at Arnhem.

    Further, no British units, most especially the non-existant 6th Airborne Division, were anywhere near the Battle of the Bulge. The 6th Airborne Division was then reconstituted for Montgomery's staged crossing of the Rhine in Operation Weasel (an appropriate code-name for a Montgomery operation), but it was hardly remnant of the once proud division.

    If you like statistics so much, you should be well aware that the British Army's perfomance in World War II was basically pathetic, and the Royal Nay was absolutely embarassing.

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    1. Perhaps you should look at the 'Erasing the Bulge' map on Wikipedia; Not only 6th Airborne, but 51st and 53rd Infantry divsiions were employed in the counterattack

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    2. Dear Aber

      thanks for trying, but 'there are none so blind as those who will not see', and in this case it is not just American revisionists trying to avoid the truth. If you get out on the ground in Belgium you will find dozens of memorials to Americans who died in this battle, but not a single one to any British troops who died there. That is not on purpose, or a planned result, it is just reality.

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  37. Mr Kurt,
    He also fails to say the British forces had not won a single land or sea engagement until the United States entered the war. They had been defeated in every battle they entered. Maybe the United States just brought them luck, but I'm more inclined to think that in addition to tanks and jeeps, the United States provided them with a sorely lacking pair of balls.

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    1. Mr Thrasher...I run a highly successful WW2 history page on Facebook...its called "world war 2" and the profile pic is a P-51D Mustang with a red-tail and red nose...I get some Brits thats say Midway was the first battle the US won without their help...I find that kinda funny...

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    2. That's funny Kurt. They almost blew it for us on Sicily. They almost cost us the Salerno Beachhead with their ponderous drive up the Italian boot. They very nearly turned Normandy into a defeat at Caen. They extended the war with their embarassing defeat in Market-Garden. They refused to help during the Battle of the Bulge. And it took them forever to get across the Rhine River even after two American armies were across.

      Midway was the first battle we won without their help? Midway was the first battle we won because it was the first battle we engaged. And it was the first in an unbroken string of victories. The British did nothing for us during that war. Just like their long history, the Britain has never done anything for anyone that didn't benefit Britian. Like the American GIs were fond of saying during the war: "The British Army was willing to fight to the last Canadian."

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    3. So its not just me that thinks Monty should have been relieved for Market-Garden?....its really a shame the British Airborne had to pay with their lives for Monty's arrogance...and the US Paras too...It's well known about Monty's cautiousness because of his 1st War experiences, one black mark on an otherwise good combat record...

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    4. Kurt, the British 1st Airborne Division didn't pay shit in Operation Market-Garden. Of their 7,000 some odd casualties, 6,854 were POWs. Actually, 68.5 percent of that division surrendered after initially being prevented by an auxiliary police force and a German Army training and replacement company from reaching its objective.

      I actually believe Montgomery was right. He simply made the mistake of using British troops. For no apparent reason, British Second Army's XXX Corps stopped for the night south of its objective Eindhoven. Then, the next morning was halted south of Eindhoven near the village of Aalst by a pair of 88mm cannons for nearly the entire day. An entire armored corps stopped for eight hours by a two cannons...

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    5. I'm now curious. Market Garden achieved penetration of about 90 kilometers in about 4/5 days. Can you point me to as far reaching and as fast American advance in the period between 17 September 1944-17 February 1945 ?

      M

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    6. Guys, the issue was logistics. More specifically, Antwerp and the need to get that close, large port in order to feed a drive most efficiently into the enemy and finish the European war ASAP.

      Monty failed to clear Antwerp; he didn't even send orders off to clear the Scheldt after British tanks took their first tea break in Antwerp. Likewise to that same end, Monty had made none of the the "meticulous planning" his Brit and Anglophile fans still mythologize in his defence as the ultimate justification for his incompetence.

      Therefore, upon realizing the shock of his colossal Antwerp failure, Monty served up the "bold" (actually desperate and selfish) Arnhem gamble in order to distract from, if not nullify the effects of, that Antwerp-Scheldt failure and its obvious implication of a prolonged European war. Ike had little choice but to agree, especially given the long-established chorus of protest by Allied commanders sickened by Monty's sluggish and unimaginative conduct, by turns wasteful and retentive.

      Most sickening about Monty's Scheldt debacle was the fact that it gave the enemy ample time and space to prepare their defences in Hitler's Westwall, especially in the Huertgen, and a good form-up/line-of-departure for his Ardennes counter-offensive (a move proving that even Hitler realized Antwerp's central importance). But thanks to Monty, Antwerp could barely even function for the Allies by December 1944.

      Monty, the most sackable soldier the Allies never sacked. Of course, Monty proclaimed himself a firm leader (it was all about "gwip", he would repeat), but the only firmness he showed consistently was when sacking officers who showed him up for his incompetence and personal inadequacies.

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    7. BTW Anon-M (28 March): On your Q "Can you point me to as far reaching and as fast American advance in the period...?"

      Your question's a dud. Any actual advance for Market Garden was really at least half American anyway: 82nd and 101st Airborne laid the carpet for XXX Corps and the only ground held from the operation.

      Seems that a desperate British Empire rewriting and rethinking of history intends to deny the Americans not only the facts of their successes and sacrifices, but even the fact of their earnest commitment to an alliance with the very power that would have denied US independence in the first place. Unless you're American, in which case the situation seems sadder still as a forgetting or even self-censoring of US history.

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  38. Well that certainly set you off. What American Revolution has to do with WWII I'm not sure.

    My question was in response to disparaging Monty and the whole of British effort by the above posters.The fact that you evade the question is pretty telling. I'm fairly certain that until the final collapse of Germans in March/April 45 you won't find as fast an advance as Market Garden. Therefore perhaps instead of substituting Guards Armored for American AD in Market Garden we should substitute every American AD in first and third army for Guards given the fact that they were the ones who achieved the biggest advances.


    Regarding the "rethinking" of history, given the nonsense you write about Antwerp and Monty I would say it is necessary. The "popular" version of history (that apparently you and posters above subscribe to) promoted by the hacks like Ambrose does great disservice to British effort in WWII. While I do not agree with everything Mr Davies wrote (especially regarding the eastern front) his posts go long way in correcting the today's dominant view of WWII in the West.

    I'm Polish by the way and have no need of "rewriting" the history to suit BE.

    Regards.

    M

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    1. Dear 'I'm Polish'

      thanks for the comments.

      As a side point I will note that the efforts of the Free Poles are the most under-appreciated contribution to Allied victory of them all. (And that Roosevelt can never be forgiven for selling out Poland to Stalin with his appalling attitude of 'do what you like, but after my mid terms, I need the Polish vote'. Of all the betrayals of the war, that was the worst.)

      Unfortunately this comment will only 'set them off' even more.

      I am entertained by the constant self congratulatory repetition from the characters you are responding to, but I am amazed that they bother. They seem absolutely wedded to a view of the world they got at primary school, and can't really face the idea that they could stretch their viewpoints in any way.

      None the less I am happy to let them drone on (and on, and on...). As you say, there can be no better proof of ignorance and incompetence than endless bluster.

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    2. Endless bluster...thats funny coming from the "owner" of this blog who doesn't even know the subject as much as he thinks he does and calling himself a professor. I call bullshit on that. I'm never going to say I know it all, I can admit it. You're arrogant and your constant downplay of anything American makes all of your conclusions weak at best, to stretch viewpoints when the history is known serves no purpose, its not a constantly changing chain of events, its over the books have been written..... I have never heard more unsubstanciated views. If I want commonwealth unfounded arrogance, I have my own WW2 History page for that, why are trying to re-write history?...its not this way or that way, I get my readings from Offical US History Archives, you know, the "Green Books" and the Archives of about 30 libraries consolidated into one huge resource...I get a laugh out you too...

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    3. N.D., you've just gone ad hominem on your own blog. Sure, you didn't name names but anyone can see just to whom you directed your personal put-downs. I don't agree with Kurt (or Thrasher) on many things; where I thought Kurt's American pride had blinded him on the wider detail of the Arnhem intelligence issue, I substantiated the scandal with detail on the sad situation among the very many British Army intelligence staff affected. But I also believe Kurt was too conciliatory on the matter of Britain's wartime performance.

      Kurt thought my language was just posing - maybe he still does, and such honesty at least commands some respect along with exasperation. I keep his comment in mind so as to try avoiding regional idiom and slang online, and just maybe stay on message better.

      "Set them off" - that's hardly a contribution to scholarly debate. To dismiss commentary as "bluster" is unfair and yes, arrogant. As for "primary school": for my part here the most valuable input to my world view was from quite a few years of exposure to military doctrine. The only element of "primary school" compatible in that regard was where PS assemblies made us salute the Union Jack in the "Australian" flag.

      It's a shame that it got to this, because it's good and right to discuss historical controversies and try sorting fact from fiction. We need such robust debate, including our respective scathing assessments of historical figures, of course. But we get nowhere (except a lost debate) if we merely cling to views by caricaturing our opponents as somehow beneath us, while offering little or nothing to substantiate our claims.

      You should apologize and then we can put our gloves back on, no hard feelings. Just hard facts, and harder analysis and argument.

      And I ask this in sincere appreciation for your provision of this forum and its provocations: that does take "bottle" (sorry Kurt - look it up if you must).

      Melbourne

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    4. Matt Davies...
      I am to assume you are Nigel's brother?...The point of this blog is not Arnhem, its about who did what fighting during WW2. Matt (I will use first name so no confusion with Nigel), Nigel says in one of his entries that WW2 would have been over sooner had the US not become involved. My primary interest in WW2 is the Pacific Theatre because of the US playing the major role in its outcome. I feel we should discuss the known facts and how they affected the wars outcome rather than fanciful scenarios using "what ifs", some people do that on my own WW2 page, and I steer away from those discussions. Its my opinion that if you look the US overall plan the US employed against the J-panese, that in my opinion, it was very efficient and well thought plan. I have said this a few times now, the Commonwealth played a secondary role to the US's lead in the Pacific Theatre and that the Commonwealth was totally dependent on US repair and supply. There were no CW (commonwealth) troops on all those vicious battles during MacArthur and Nimitz's plan. CW troops were only on New Guinea and the smaller Fergusson islands when the plan was started when the Solomons was the starting point in that long road to ultimate victory. I will admit that the US played a secondary role in the CBI as far fighting troops, but it was again US supply that built the Burma road, the CW simply didnt have the ability to get the supplies need to all those remote and far-flung destinations, to me the CBI was more to maintain British influence rather than to win a war. Nigel's claim that the war would have been won sooner had the US not been involved, that is just so untrue in my opinion. There were no CW forces anywhere near all those epic island battle the US fought....Wake, Makin, Guam, Saipan, Tarawa, Tinian, Bougainville, Palau, Betio, Eniwetok, The Philippines, Okinawa....were there any CW combat troops on these islands that bled the US Marines? The US learned VERY quickly the lessons of war against the Japanese and I will say the very same of the US in the European Theatre and Africa. It is of my opinion which is brought to this debate backed by fact that after Anzio, the US was clearly superior to anything the German could muster, plus having to bring the supplies to the ENTIRE allied effort across distances no other country could. The US was not a sideshow in Europe, they were on an even keel to the rest of the Allies in driving Germany to ultimate defeat, but I have always said that Russia bore the brunt of the toughest of German fighting divisions, the CW and America could never have incurred the casualties Russia took during the war, Russia took more casualties than the entire 16 million strong US effort. The US and the CW compared to all major beligerants, "got off" rather light when talking about soldiers KIA. I have said my peace in my thoughts about Arnhem in earlier posts. Most of what I posted about is known fact and are not really debateable because all of us connesuierres(sp?) of this genre know the history very well...

      Now Matt, if you really feel you are due an apology by me, then fine.....I APOLOGIZE.....the way Nigel talks about the US effort from a CW view is a typical one, on my own WW2 history page I am the creator and lead admin of, I hear that type of rhetoric on a regular basis. I just know what really happend, the US effort in WW2 was twice or three times the size of Britains and the US production is what drove the allies all the way to Tokyo and to Berlin...

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    5. I will also say that the way Nigel refers to the US and his continual downplaying of the US involvement, and the way I feel he cheapens what the US did actually kind of pisses me off. After reading and posting here I dont get pissed off anymore, he just does it to get a "rise" out of Americans, he did succeed in that for a time from me. Now I just don't care about his conclusions because I am maybe not as well learned about the goings on as to who said what, but I know who did what, and thats really the important part. Over 30 years ago when I first started reading and getting intersted in WW2, it was the amount of ships, planes, tanks, guns etc etc etc is what made me take notice. I also feel the forward supply/repair bases, especially those amazing loating drydocks they towed all the way from the West Coast of the US to have the ability to repair even the largest fleet carrier (like this one

      ....https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151212382099382&set=a.10151212381939382.479829.359212319381&type=3&theater

      The US ability to operate for the whole war by not having to go all the way back to Pearl Harbor and even the West Coast was a major reason for US success. The Japanese were never allowed to "breath", constant and full pressure was maintained against Japan that it was not recoverable and the Japanese were also hampered by an inflexible command and inter-service rivalries. Its my opinion the ability of American command to show flexibility as a battle had unfolded (Europe as well as the Pacific) was something America excelled at. The US also showed a natural flair for a war of movement, that was the type of warfare the US knew how to play. I'm just not sure most can fathom the amount of material the US actually "Lend-Leased" to the rest of the Allies. I have seen the list, I will tell you, it is vast and massive....it is so massive that even though I have studied the list for years, to put it all into perspective is almost immpossible. So whatever you think of my thoughts as I see them, its what I've learned after over 30 years reserach and reading. I know this subject...regardless of what you subjects of the Commonwealth think of me...think what you want, that means nothing to me, as in my thoughts of you. I can definately tell I am not dealing with beginners....don't lump me in that category either...

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    6. No Kurt, I'm not related, and I've never met the man. Your points about "constant and full pressure" from the US against the Japanese is similar to my point to N.D. about Ike's "broad front" approach in the ETO.

      I expect an apology from Nigel, not from you. He should apologize for the personal condescension towards us as contributors, and restore a dialog.

      Nigel, it's your blog so take responsibility for it.

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    7. Matt...

      Yes this is Nigel's "blog", he says that he's a busy man and sometimes won't post here for months. He also says he likes us post our bluster and says I'm a blind American, that maybe so. Its just I am proud as hell as to what America accomplished during WW2 and wether he can admit it not (he won't) America and Russia were the big driving force, Russia against the Germans and America against the Japanese. The Commonwealth did have their great moments, more so in Europe and Africa than in the Pacific. The American fight against the Japanese in my opinion became a personal one. Americans despise cowardice, and to Americans, Pearl Harbor was about as cowardly an act as there can be. So when America threw its heart and soul into the war, it produced a Navy more powerful than the world had ever seen (and has since seen)and filled America with a resolve that would end in only one result. Japan's action in the killings of hundreds of thousands of innocent non-combatants proves to me and to the world they are far from an honorable society. In light of recent speeches by Prime Minister Abe, I still feel that is the case...

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    8. Yes, and many of the empire types love making caricatures of Americans too; it makes them feel like they have supremacy over those that left their system in the 18th century.

      A "bodyguard of lies", and a triumvirate of liars: Churchill, Brooke, Monty, all proud of, and delighting in, their lack of personal integrity and the ensuing waste to so many people worldwide.

      Nigel, with just one life on earth why waste it on concealing and misrepresenting truths of history? That's a very shabby way to die, and there's no going back. It's sad, and suggests that your very mind's been gripped to a system more tightly than if by chains and shackles in a convict ship.

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  40. There was never a question, that is, in the minds of American commanders. It remained for the defeated German army and its apologists to perpetuate a flawed theory that the Army of the United States had blundered its way to victory by throwing mountains of material at the superior but hopelessly outnumbered forces of the Wehrmacht.
    The Army of the United States succeeded in World War II due to its development of combat effective organizations that could not only fight and win battles, but sustain that effort over years of combat. Logistical superiority helped to give American ground combat divisions endurance, but did not assure victory on the battlefield. With only forty-two infantry divisions, sixteen armored divisions, and three airborne divisions in the ETO, American commanders had to ensure that the combat effectiveness of their units matched or exceeded that of their enemies. The key to this development was the transformation of the standard American infantry division from untested organization to a fighting unit capable of closing with and destroying the enemy in a variety of combat environments...

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  41. The US 42 infantry divisions, the 16 armored and 2 airborne does not count the support troops that fed the entire allied effort with logistics that allowed allied armies to keep a constant pressure on Germany. A fact that held true out in the Pacific were the distances were far greater....it was the logisitcs and support that was biggest reasons for allied success, and totally unsung and under appreciated reason for ALLIED victory...

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    1. "Tactics is for Amateurs, Logistics for Professionals" - old soldiers' saying.

      Hi Kurt,

      Your points seem to hit centre with regards US logistics, anti-US condescension, and post-war apologia for the Wehrmacht. I'd argue that we need to really appreciate definitions and implications of logistics in order to grasp just why it matters so much and, therefore, why the US war machine was so relatively successful from 1942-1945 (and often beyond then).

      The efficient movement of all resources is fundamental to success in war. Materiel production, and numbers - including the more nebulous, organizational forms like "divisions" in this article - all mean little if they cannot master time and space, and if an organizational culture inhibit such purpose anyway. Nigel alludes to that dilemma here, but that seems to rather negate his whole discussion.

      The management of time and space, the latter including of course terrain, translates from logistics to tactics very closely, as both demand much the same practical appreciation and empathy of a commander. Top-down ingenuity in warfare is very often such a waste, because the lofty ivory towers and chateaux are out of sight and out of mind at the humble soldier's front line, if not vice-versa. Even 'Mulberry' artificial harbors demonstrated so in Normandy's statistics, where US beach supply exceeded its Mulberry-channeled precedent during the several weeks after the devastating storm wrecked Omaha's 'Mulberry A' soon after D-Day. 'ULTRA' was another over-rated contribution, as when it supposedly forewarned Bradley of the Mortain counter-attack (it did nothing of the sort given the actually negligible lead-times). But British histories almost always tend to celebrate the spotty-boffin gardening types of Whitehall and Bletchley as special, almost mystically endowed war-winners. The British-type histories push such stories at the expense both of practical people, and of simple, irrefutable fact.

      The logistics issue is why I keep denouncing the Monty myth. Monty had a retentive approach to materiel i.e., he was very reluctant to let it go, or to go far. The facts of Monty's failures in time and space, perhaps most conspicuously in his Antwerp-Arnhem debacle, demonstrate just how wrong A.J.P. Taylor was to compare Monty to Wellington. The latter could have hardly found Monty a place even on his more menial staff.

      [BTW Anon-M, please explain why you called my stuff "nonsense": I'd gladly reply]

      Melbourne, AU

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    2. I have absolutly no idea what you just said...I think you're more worried about your very odd vocabulary and sounding more learned than you actually are...

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    3. Nah, it's all just good fun. But yeah, I love to sound edu-muckated.

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    4. "Spotty boffin gardening types".... "because the lofty ivory towers and chateaux"....just say what it is you want to say without all extra flowery words...you're trying way to hard to sound edge-a-muh-kayted...military types are simple speaking, to the point realists, try it, you will get your point across much more clearly...

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    5. You know what a lance-jack is? That's simple military speak where I come from.

      I'm talking sub-cultural English crap (we Australians call it Pommy) - I use it as a kinda mind-poisoning-of-the-enemy approach. I hardly mean it to sit on the blog for full American consumption, as Yanks generally don't need to get it in the first place. Besides, you guys have got your own massive political challenges right now.

      Such Anglo-speak has a whole separate lexicon, quite vast because of the very diverse English/Brit social structures, accents, jealously guarded identities, and so on.

      And the target is not necessarily military types at all, but the many political/apparat types who keep the whole Union Jack-Empire game going, mostly under the radar, and very energetic in keeping some strange military history alive and well.

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  42. I feel especially in the Pacific Theatre that logistics are very under-appreciated. The forward repair basis at Ulithi, Guam (Apra Harbor), New Hebrides, The Philippines and others gave the US the ability to maintain constant pressure on the Japanese with the ability to operate at full strength for the entire war. The floating dry docks that were towed by the ocean-going tugs from the West Coast to those places I mentioned was able to repair any size ship including fleet carriers. I have done much research into the support that was available to the US in the Pacific, and it was immense. By the end of the war the US had 6000 ships of every size and class available. I am more interested in the Pacific Theatre. I have a WW2 History page I run on Facebook with an album of pics of the many repair and support bases, they were huge to say the least and had the ability to repair anything. Some escort carriers weren't carriers in the strict sense, they were floating re-supply ships of planes, some were floating aircraft repair ships. Force projection and mobility was the key to US success to the US. I will always say and have proof that America's repair and support was and still is today the very best in the world

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  43. Re-Antwerp

    1) The myth that 11th Armored stopped for tea in Antwerp is exactly that a myth. It captured bridgehead/s over the river which were subsequently destroyed by German forces which came to the sector 711 division if I recall and other units.

    2) Cutting of beveland (an advance of some 50 kim) would change nothing. 15 army would still escape. The only way to cut off and destroy 15 army was successful Market Garden.

    -Unless you think that 1 division or even corps could cut off beveland than destroy garrisson and then proceed with an amphibious assault against walcheren in a space of few days.

    3) If 21 Army Group had concentrated its resources on Antwerp it still would not have opened Scheldt before end of October but then you would have German frontline 5 km from Antwerp. How you want to operate a port within range of enemy artillery I don't know. Also in that case this where Hitler would have staged his offensive to take out Antwerp.

    4)To carve out the buffer in the autumn weather and after German recovery would be much slower and would take much more casualties than M-G did with no prespocts for bridgehead over Waal.

    Therefore there was no failure at Antwerp. If anyone should be sacked it should be Eisenhower. : ) He had Ruhr given on a plate and did everything he could to fuck it up. : )

    M

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    1. thank you for commenting. And generally I think you make good points.

      Nonetheless my own perspective is that Montgomery's greatest military mistake of the war was not moving faster at Antwerp.

      (The Market-Garden advance, although badly executed by many involved, was certainly a worthwhile attempt to shorten the war. If it had worked, it would be proclaimed as genius by the same idiots who think it was a 100% failure. no sense of naunce in military operations there. Anything that came that close to success was worth trying.)

      But I agree with your fundamental point about Antwerp being an overstretch. At that point the whole front was overstretched. In fact the Allies did not - in 1944 - have the capacity to succeed on a broad front, and subsequently didn't. The morning after Patton's amusing 'shit through a goose' speech, his army hit the Metz forts and stopped dead for 3 months. So did Hodges and eventually everyone else. They all 'failed', but the reasons behind their failure were bad decision making and an almost complete lack of leadership from SHAEF.

      The response of the hodgepodge of overconfident generals to such lack of leadership was to all run around trying to sort out things to suit themselves. Montgomery, Patton, Bradley and others all pulled in opposite directions, and no one bothered to control them. I no more blame Monty than I do Patton or Bradley for a campaign that was a complete shemozzle.

      A halfway competent land forces commander (as was used under the SAC in EVERY other theatre), would have had both eyes on the land campaign. Eisenhower's comments from afar do not qualify as more than an occasional distracted glance.

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  44. You seem confused. Some simple facts for you, "by numbers" and I hope forensic clarity in explaining what was a failure of leadership:

    1. Aug 44: Ike reminds Monty, informally and repeatedly, of Antwerp's crucial importance to upcoming operations across the entire ETO. Monty makes no objection or protest, except for separate distractions with his usual grating pontifications about "single thwust", "single supweme command" of the Allied front, etc.

    2. 1 Sept 44: Ike's SHAEF maritime command and staff advise Monty formally, in writing, of the specific naval considerations in clearing the Scheldt to make Antwerp serviceable ASAP.

    3. > 4 Sept 44: Monty, via Bimbo Dempsey, directly ordered Roberts to halt at Antwerp i.e., NO exploitation even to the local stretch of the Albert Canal (a whole three-day delay for that). 2BR Army withheld from any effort towards Walcheren-Beveland; held for "restoring balance", and preparing inland drive to the Rhine.

    4. 4 Sept 44: Monty writes to Ike to lecture SHAEF about what Monty thinks are the only decisions available to SHAEF, and which SHAEF must make i.e., "single thwust" to Ruhr by Monty and NO "single thwust" to Saar by Patton / Devers (countered politely by Ike a few days later).
    ***Monty telling his superior Ike HOW to do Ike's job.

    5. 17 Sept 44: Market-Garden.

    6. 25 Sept 44: Orders to withdraw remnants 1st Airborne Div from Arnhem and environs.

    7. 27 Sept 44: Monty tasks 1CAN Army to get Antwerp operating as a logistics hub i.e., clear the Scheldt.

    8. 9 October 44: Ike writes Monty in direct and explicit emphasis to order the clearing of the Scheldt so as to operate Antwerp's port.
    ***Ike telling his subordinate Monty to do Monty's job.

    Check lines 3.-7 especially. First a gift to the enemy of three days, then another of over three weeks, to consolidate from headlong post-Normandy retreat and disarray, and make local incursion and counterattack where British command passivity and hiatus presented such opportunity (in other words, almost anywhere in the Scheldt-Antwerp sector.

    But the whole causality outlined above shows clearly how 15th Army - and Student's actually div-minus "1st Para Army" - took Monty's usual gifts of time and space to consolidate Beveland, Walcheren and even the southern Scheldt to prepare a nasty reception for Crerar's 1CAN Army, deny Antwerp's use, and probably worsen Ike's chain-smoking despite his extremely diplomatic forbearance.

    There's no myth on Monty's Antwerp failure. Even the briefing from SHAEF's maritime staff spelt out exactly what was needed to open the port i.e., get out of the city itself and clear the Scheldt. The Wehrmacht took the initiative simply because they could, hardly an unusual decision on their part whenever facing Monty's traveling circus. Of course, Brooke tried to cover himself for posterity by lamenting the enormous failure at the Scheldt, but again he took no responsibility for his protege Monty.

    Similar to his bizarre decisions in Sicily, Monty's erratic grab for both Antwerp and Arnhem made a direct self-contradiction of his own pretentious, severe maxims about "concentration of force". Of course, his pseudo-Clausewitzian and pompous rule was ridiculous anyway, but characteristically Monty transgressed it himself in a situation where it would have actually been apt. But such hipocrisy, as with Monty's careless, disorderly direction of Market-Garden, demonstrated yet again his dysfunctional personality as a commander (or as a common soldier for that matter - it'd be intolerable in a lance-jack).

    And Arnhem finally fell mid-April 1945. What was your point again about the "lightning-fast" rate of British advance in Market-Garden? That's around 100km in 7 months by my count.

    Melbourne AU

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    2. You're right to mention that visit by "Beatle" Smith to Monty and the latter's dismissive response to Beatle's warning.

      But it was even worse than your brief summary would suggest. The entire chain of command - except perhaps Monty - knew in detail of the extreme danger to Market-Garden. Not only did SHAEF G2 warn of much greater enemy strength near Arnhem; it came also from, for example: Monty's 21AG itself; 1st Allied Airborne Army; 1st Airborne Corps; XXX Corps; 504 PIR, and; Bletchley Park through direct ULTRA decrypts.

      Beatle Smith's warning rejected, as with another warning from Brian Urquhart of 1st Airborne Corps, though in Urquhart's case earning him a suspension from duty with the smear of a supposed lost nerve or even breakdown. So it was US and British intelligence staff doing their jobs at many levels of the hierarchy (Beatle's senior G2 was Kenneth Strong, another British officer).

      All in all, one of Monty's greatest square-peg-in-round-hole moments, and probably one of the main reasons that Ike realized Monty was a psychopath.

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  45. Wait so Eisenhower reminds Monty of Antwerp's significance and then confirms running M-G ? : ) Care to show Ike's communication from the period and the objectives he assigned to armies?

    None of your points address the fundamental issue; Antwerp could not be taken "ASAP" if he had done what you're suggesting you would today berate him for being slow and cautious and giving up Rhine and Maas bridgeheads.

    Again; before Antwerp would be opened at least month of time would pass. And allies would be left with autumn weather and german forces 5 km from Antwerp.

    All that said the importance of Antwerp is overblown, 21 Army Group kept up its offensive operations in September, October, and November long before Antwerp was opened. Besides that supplies quickly clogged up in Antwerp because there were no means to transport it to the front. The port capacity was underutilized until 1945.

    Market-Garden achieved penetration of about 101 kilometers that's a fact so I've no idea what the hell you're talking about.

    I agree that Monty often did not concentrate his forces enough but in this case this was justifiable as those ports (not all though) could be opened quickly and were instrumental in supplying 2nd Army in September.

    Sorry for the late replies.

    M

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  46. Dear M

    Yes, and no.

    No, I think Monty's failure to concentrate on clearing Antwerp fast enough was the greatest mistake of his wartime career. (Don't get me started on his postwar career as CIGS though...) He was trying to cut corners (the way his critics always said he should have more) in a desperate attempt to get a quick result, but it was still a mistake.

    But yes, you are correct that the entire Allied group of armies were too under-resourced and too dispersed to achieve everything that Eisnhower's fantastically imagined could be achieved.

    At a time when Ike had stopped paying much attention to a war his cocky staff felt was over, Montgomery and Patton and everyone else were grinding to a halt that would last for months. By the time he noticed it was already too late.

    Montgomery tried to do too much with too little, and failed to achieve everything at once. So did Patton. So did Bradley. So did every other general on the front. They all finished competing for resources, and made the lack of a common goal worse. The blame lies with none of them.

    The blame lies with Eisenhower, who was too busy playing politics (his real job as SAC) to pay more than cursory attention to the front (which should have been run by a land forces commander...)

    ANY dedicated land forces commander would have done. Even someone as limited as Ike's preferred option Alexander, or Montgomery's desperate suggestion Bradley... ANYONE who could concentrate on the job in hand rather than make occasional petulant and unhelpful complaints from his isolated chateau distant from the front.

    You will never get the whiners above to admit it, but trying to blame subordinates for the incompetence of their superiors is always 'the last refuge of the incompetent'.

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    1. Mr Davies thank you for your kind comments.:)

      It seems we will have to agree to disagree.

      Already in 10 September Germans managed to establish more or less cohesive frontline. In November it took about 18 days for Navy to clear the mines. There was therefore no possibility for opening Antwerp during pursuit or before earlier than last week of October.
      Note that 12 Army Group continued its offensive operations throughout this period.

      M-G succeeded in carving bridgehead over Maas, setting the basis for cutting of German forces in Scheldt and clearance of estuary as well as procurement of safe flank on Maas. Neither the casualties nor their ratio were catastrophic compared to plethora of other attacks.

      M

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  47. [Key Terms: Terrain Analysis; Mission Command/Directive Control; Concept of Operations]

    Hmm, the boss blaming subordinates for the boss' failures: Monty was expert at that, apparent even from the main subjects of this discussion.
    1) Arnhem failure = "Polish Para Brigade fought very badly...I do not want this brigade here" (in yet another "Dear Bwookie" letter, even though the Arnhem force was overwhelmingly British)
    2) Scheldt failure = "I reckoned that the Canadian Army could (clear the Scheldt) while we were going for the Ruhr. I was wrong" (even though half the "Canadian" force was British and others)

    Monty "trying to cut corners" over Antwerp? No, he was merely disregarding obvious priorities. Horrocks (on record) knew so when lamenting 2BR Army's giving away the Albert Canal and Beveland, and Pip Roberts no doubt agreed, when halting at Antwerp with negligible enemy resistance but plenty of tanks and fuel to drive on to the Beveland isthmus. 21AG eventually lost almost three months over the combined Scheldt-Arnhem debacle, all due to that further surrender of initiative to the enemy.

    On the strategic direction, Ike and the entire US command and staff knew that the North German Plain was the obvious priority for a drive into enemy heartland, including of course the key Ruhrgebiet. That's why Ike allotted supply priority to Monty's 21AG despite the greater pre-Antwerp/Scheldt distances thereby forced onto Red Ball Express and the airlifts. Stretching back as far as Cherbourg, the logistical challenge meant up to c. 800km of freight. Once Monty botched both the Market-Garden and Scheldt pushes, he effectively ensured an Allied failure to take advantage of Antwerp's potential before Winter set in. Several American commanders knew well in advance that that was very likely to happen anyway, which is one reason for their frustration with Ike over his indulgence of Monty.

    Ike's dilemma was awful: US military doctrine followed old German theory in Auftragstaktik or Mission Commnd (Aust. Directive Control). Accordingly, Ike had to give enough trust in his subordinate's judgement on Market-Garden, notwithstanding Beatle's warning on two enemy armored divisions near Arnhem. If Ike objected too much, that would amount to a no-confidence vote on Monty, or a demand for his sacking, and therefore a no-confidence motion on CIGS and the British ally overall.

    But Ike and SHAEF actually just determined ETO strategy around two obvious criteria:
    1) Indisputable terrain analysis on the North German Plain as the most practical, economical direction to defeat the enemy, and;
    2) The possibility, proven later as near-inevitability, that the British Army was simply not up to the task of maneuver warfare even in that open avenue of approach (as with the Caen failures).
    Hence the "broad front" compromise, or a contingency plan, to allow US armies the chance to seize the initiative to cross the Rhine earlier and drive through Germany first, which is exactly what they later did.

    Ike was not the commander of 21AG; that was Monty's job. But Ike was responsible for setting objectives to 21AG, which he did, and in very straightforward ways as a commander's "concept of operations" narrative when giving orders. Consider again Ike's simple reminder to Monty c. 3 Sept 44: 21AG is to secure Antwerp, breach the Westwall, then seize the Ruhr. Very simple, rather like broad direction to a small child a la: stop at the kerb, look left and right for traffic, cross the road when clear.

    That was just all too hard for a spoilt, attention-seeking problem child like Monty.

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    1. " That's why Ike allotted supply priority to Monty's 21AG despite the greater pre-Antwerp/Scheldt distances thereby forced onto Red Ball Express and the airlifts"


      Please, please show me to how much that "priority" amounted to and from when. In tons and compared to what 12 army group was getting.

      "The possibility, proven later as near-inevitability, that the British Army was simply not up to the task of maneuver warfare even in that open avenue of approach (as with the Caen failures)."

      British army advanced as fast as US army and probably against bigger opposition, (seeing as German forces defending Pas de Calais were in 21 Army Group sector). After Wehrmacht rebuild the line in September they advanced much faster and farther than American Armies. In Normandy they took 40000 less casualties despite the fact that they went against better german units and 75-80% of German tank strength.


      M

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    2. OK, but just briefly (if you want me to do the thorough research for you - tonnage, etc., that should be by contract - I'll charge high)

      1. Ike and Brad grounded three entire US motorized divisions, US tank transporters converted to supply freighters, and 3rd Army down to less than c. half its needs for the period. Much of this was also to cover a recall-style fault in one of the main British Army trucks, which had left a shortfall of c. 1,000 such vehicles in 21AG. Another useful line of inquiry would be Red Ball Express convoy schedules and associated Benzedrine prescriptions.

      2. Check some manuals on maneuver warfare: it's not just about getting from point A to point B fast. It's mainly about interrupting an enemy's processes of command, control, communications and intelligence. The British Army sometimes did quite well at the strategic level against that last part of enemy C3I, but was especially woeful throughout operational levels in the NW Europe campaign. In other words, the Wehrmacht found them predictable and lacking in initiative. My point about Ike's observance of Auftragstakik is apt by way of contrast there.

      Good luck with your apparent rewriting effort on the Normandy Campaign: there's always a spot for such work since Robin Neillands died.

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    3. Shaef started providing 21 Army group with supplies only beginning of 16 September. It amounted to 1000-1100 tons. 500-600 by land and 500 by air. Hodges and Patton both stopped before that priority was enacted. The fallacy that M-G was a main thrust or that it somehow stopped Patton or Hodges doesn't stand up to the scrutiny of facts. Eisenhower dispersed his forces on broad front 21 army Group achieved the most with lesser forces because it concentrated its forces and maintenance. Check for concentration in your manuals on manouver warfare.

      http://books.google.pl/books?id=yHVefm8f3xQC&pg=PA113&dq=market+garden+smith+tons+of+supplies&hl=pl&sa=X&ei=a8trUYPyMsXdOfS_gdAK&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=market%20garden%20smith%20tons%20of%20supplies&f=false

      http://books.google.pl/books?id=QIQ_0WtkGjYC&pg=PT256&dq=market+garden+smith+tons+of+supplies&hl=pl&sa=X&ei=a8trUYPyMsXdOfS_gdAK&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBQ

      http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-E-Supreme/USA-E-Supreme-16.html page 284

      http://books.google.pl/books?id=GB3YPH6_3xkC&pg=PA712&dq=market+garden+500+tons+of+supplies&hl=pl&sa=X&ei=9sJrUZCyNI6xPNCCgcAP&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=market%20garden%20500%20tons%20of%20supplies&f=false

      Wermacht found everybody predictable, when they were fighting in Reichstag ruins they still found everybody predictable.

      Unfortunately haven't had a chance to read Neillands yet but from what I read he seems to me much more objective than Ambrose. And I started my WWII reading with Ambrose : P

      Check number of tanks on 2 british and 1 us army front. Read Buckley's British armor in the Normandy Campaign.

      M

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  48. Yes, Monty certainly concentrated his armour at Antwerp, and had XXX Corps' tanks highly concentrated along "Hell's Highway". Very quickly, his concentration at those points helped restore enemy confidence and deployment in what they later mythologized as "the miracle in the West". 21AG was thereafter so "concentrated" that it actually became congealed until March 1945. If you think that demonstrates maneuver theory and "achieving the most with lesser forces", I can only wish you all the best for your contribution to yet more so-called "revision". It seems an interesting genre of historical fiction, but I think something like "Sharpe's Bedlam", dark tales of torment set in Oosterbeek or Walcheren, would evoke much more historical fact and reality.

    Besides specifying US (not merely "SHAEF") material supplied to 21AG, you missed the extra US transportation to cover an actually enormous total of c. 1,400 British trucks grounded due to faulty pistons in the supplied models and their stock of spare engines. Now that would seem a more fitting context for that term "maintenance", rather than Monty's quaint usage of it in place of "logistics".

    BTW, SHAEF's authorization for 21AG priority took effect immediately on 11 or 12 Sept (not 16 Sept), thereby satisfying Monty's main demand to get his grand push underway.

    Therefore, both Hodges' and (yet more so) Patton's pre-Winter operations suffered from severe privation. We know that the 3rd Army's armor stopped around Metz, and 1st's at Tournai, for example, due to empty fuel tanks. The American commanders went simply as far as they could at the time.

    By contrast, Monty went as far as he felt like at the time. It turned out that the Wehrmacht felt he should only go that far too so that they could restore their entire western front.

    No miracle, unless we just continue (mostly) British apologia for both the Wehrmacht and a stagnant British ruling culture (which certinly includes Buckley's work if his essay of that same title is any indication; I won't get the full book version yet).

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  49. "Besides specifying US (not merely "SHAEF") material supplied to 21AG, you missed the extra US transportation to cover an actually enormous total of c. 1,400 British trucks grounded due to faulty pistons in the supplied models and their stock of spare engines. Now that would seem a more fitting context for that term "maintenance", rather than Monty's quaint usage of it in place of "logistics".

    BTW, SHAEF's authorization for 21AG priority took effect immediately on 11 or 12 Sept (not 16 Sept), thereby satisfying Monty's main demand to get his grand push underway."


    ...
    I provided you with multpiple sources.
    Can you provide a source for that ? Especially the cover for the supposed 1400 british trucks.

    From Ruppenthal Logistical support of the armies:

    "Red Lion convoys began their 300-
    mile runs to Brussels on 16 September
    and continued operations until 12 October.
    (See Map 5.) Normandy Base
    Section organized and operated the service.
    The route turned in a somewhat
    better performance than the Red Ball,
    profiting from earlier experience and
    enjoying certain advantages. Trucks
    carried a high average load of 5.9 tons,
    partly because of the density of the
    cargo. In addition, the operation benefited
    from the fact that all cargo was
    assembled at one dump in the Caen–
    Bayeux area, eliminating delays in pickup
    and loading, and all trucks were
    unloaded at a single dump at the terminus
    of the route.
    Red Lion convoys exceeded their target,
    delivering an average of 650 tons
    per day instead of 500, and handled a
    total of about 18,000 tons. Almost half
    of this consisted of supplies for the two
    U.S. airborne divisions participating in
    the Holland operation, a statistic often
    ignored by the partisans who so heatedly
    criticized this “diversion” of U.S. resources.
    Furthermore, the operation
    took place after the pursuit had definitely
    been halted and both the First
    and Third U.S. Armies had come up
    against the prepared defenses of the
    West Wall. 8"

    21 Army Group Administrative history:. However, part of a fast road convoy designated "Red Ball" was made available by US forces to bring five hundred tons daily into No 6 Army Roadhead. The main delivery from this method consisted of MT 80 and special requirements of ammunition and stores for 82 and 101 US Airborne Divisions. Tank transporters modified for load carrying were also successfully employed and actually, in the eight weeks commencing on 14 September, they lifted a total of 22,450 tons over a distance of 194,000 loaded miles. These methods in conjunction with the air lift mentioned in para 6 proved successful in mitigating the administrative difficulties of the operation.

    The discussion is going in circles now. You continue with statements that have no basis in fact. If Patton and Hodges were so starved out of supplies why did they keep attacking. Not that this was Montgomery's fault as they stopped even before 21 Group got even a drop of US supplies.


    Are you saying that concentration is not one of the main points of manouver warfare?

    The 1400 broken lorries is increasingly likely to be a myth.

    If you don't like Buckley read any other source on the placement of German Panzer Divisions and tank strength.

    M

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  50. It's not that I "don't like Buckley" (I enjoy reading his material, and he's probably an OK person): I criticize military history such as his which refuses to consider seriously the two most obvious factors for analysis of the Caen failure and of Monty's main excuse for it i.e.,
    a) terrain, including communications centres, which all but dictated German armor deployment in Normandy, and;
    b) the Mortain counteroffensive proving conclusively that the eastern sector had not "tied down" or "drawn" German armor in some grand decoy action as Monty claimed repeatedly.

    Buckley also perpetuates a particularly insidious vice, as seen from Hastings and so many others, especially from the UK, where persistent lionizing of the Wehrmacht masquerades variously as chivalry, magnanimity or objectivity. Such apologia is really an avoidance of responsibility to examine the British system and culture, especially in the area of leadership.

    Which of my statements "have no basis in fact", as you allege?

    1. "Red Lion" transport to 21AG was another US truck asset in all except emergency spares for two control points; "Red Ball" was never an organic asset of 21AG. Therefore, sacrificing Red Ball, airlift and improvised convoys to Market-Garden was a cost to US transport assets in flanking armies.

    In the same way, grounding three US motorized infantry divisions depleted US force projection in 21AG's flanking armies, just as 21AG had grounded its VIII Corps for its own priority of pursuit.

    Work it out for yourself: if 21AG starts using SHAEF's Airborne reserve, but cannot cover them with its own 21AG transport reserve, then it's a safe conclusion that 21AG's own transport reserve has been stretched to cover, inter alia, the mechanical failure of one of its main, organic truck assets. That's not to claim that Red Ball and airlift were exclusively and directly devoted to covering broken British transport assets, but such loss to not have had some significant drag on non-organic assets is highly unlikely, if not impossible - and that's despite the thorough, exploded figures there being as yet uncalculated, at least to my knowledge, as in the 21AG Admin reference, Wilmott, Weigley, for examples.

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  51. 2. Ruppenthal's point (in your quote) contradicts his own depiction of operations in his Vol1 (p. 476--7) showing clearly that neither 1st Army nor especially 3rd Army had "come up against the prepared defenses of the Westwall". Revealingly, his footnote and sources date to 9 Oct 44 and overwhelmingly concern records of POL and related admin/log, and NOT the operational detail of 1st and 3rd armies' petering advances to 12 Sept 44.

    Why would Ruppenthal misrepresent that operational reality? Well, he certainly was not the first or only to do so. His first assertion "after the pursuit had definitely been halted" amounts, by itself, to an innocuous truism given the supply lost to 21AG (again the issue concerns mostly 3rd Army and the push to the Saar).

    But I suspect that his assertion about nudging the Westwall was just typical Cold War diplomacy from many US sources keen to keep solidarity with their main NATO ally; not necessarily as the author's conscious design, but more likely as resigned concession by one of his interlocutors discussing operational aspects related to his detailed logistical study.

    Your Q: "why did (Hodges and Patton) keep attacking" (?) It was local attacks, almost always starting from encounter or hasty, generally because of the supply constraints prohibiting any more ambitious by-passing or deliberate penetration of the enemy's reorganization and redeployment lines. Both 1st and 3rd armies were desperate to prevent the enemy from restoring such lines; in Patton's case, the excellent nonconformist G-2 Koch had probably the sharpest awareness of just how serious was the risk of enemy recovery at the Westwall and to its adjacent frontiers from the Moselle to the Scheldt.

    3. You seem to regard "concentration" as a box to tick on a linear form or exam paper titled "execution sequence of maneuver warfare theory"; Monty would have approved, I'm sure. Just don't mention the inconvenient and more complex matters of time, space, and key or vital terrain in such considerations, let alone decision processes. The Master would just get it wrong again as he did when Ike made that limited theatre concentration northeast in Sept 44.

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  52. I do find it interesting that a post on who fought for how long world wide devolves down to nit-picking about how many trucks had broken carburettors in a single campaign. (Yes, I believe that somewhere about 14,000 brand new British trucks had faulty parts at a key point, and yes, I do consider that a perfectly normal logistical issue likely to come up for any large scale operation on any front. I also believe that a better ground forces commander might have adjusted his pans once he realised there might be a problem, but that is more nitpicking.)

    At the risk of starting everyone off again, I will state that the Allied expeditionary force to France lacked the resources for what it attempted - a broad front - and that I don't blame Monty or Patton or Hodges or Bradley for it all grinding to a halt (which it undeniably did, and to which they all contributed at various times in various ways).

    The campaign was a schemozzle, and I blame Eisenhower. He had little understanding of what was needed, no sensible plan, no strategic or tactical ability of note, no control of his field commanders (or indeed of his HQ, which was justly described as a 'cesspit'), and no concept that there were long term political implications for his attitude to the Russians.

    I suppose Ike could claim that his logistics commander - Lee - was imposed by Marshall, and he lacked the authority to sack him, but this does not help Ike's case...

    If you want to keep arguing about a single front in a long war, I would encourage you to consider the larger picture, rather than getting bogged down in minutiae.

    Meanwhile I just note that the arguments against my estimates on who fought where have also devolved down to 'you didn't count these two battalions who fought for 3 weeks on this minor Pacific atol' (I did actually).

    Thanks to those who did suggest new sources for me to check, but I have not come across anything that would imply more than minor changes to my original estimates.

    Enjoy your debates.

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    Replies
    1. Regarding the trucks all the 21 Army Group history says is this:

      "During this intense period of activity the maintenance of vehicles inevitably had to be reduced, but partly due to the majority of vehicles being new no serious ill effects ensued. A major fault occurred in the engines of K-5 4x4, three-ton Austins, 1,400 of which, as well as all the replacement engines, were found to be defective and to have piston trouble."

      It doesn't say that all those trucks broke down. The research done by posters here http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=114&t=163849&start=195 seems to imply that the problem was less pronounced that it is commonly assumed.

      Sorry for derailing your comment section with our discussions :)

      M

      Delete
    2. Dear M,

      thanks for the correction. 1,400 not 14,000. I thought that reference sounded inaccurate.
      The reference you quote is interesting.

      Delete
  53. [From diary of RN's Admiral Ramsay]
    Wednesday, September 13, 1944
    After lunch drove to Shaef & had a talk with Fred Morgan who says that Monty has to some extent gained his way by being given M/T for 21 AG & 1st U.S. Army at cost of U.S. 3rd Army. It will however only take him towards Ruhr & not as he wanted to Berlin. Fred says it is impossible to keep step with the changes in strategy of Shaef. Had talk with Tedder & then with Humphrey Gale. Latter said Monty was now impressed with necessity of getting Antwerp quickly. This is what I am going to tell him about tomorrow.
    ...
    Thursday, October 15, 1944
    Attended high level C-in-C meeting at SHQ, Ike, CIGS, Tedder, self, LM, Monty, Bradley & Devers, Very interesting, exposition of army group fronts. Monty made the startling announcement that we could take the Ruhr without Antwerp. This afford me the cue I needed to lambaste him for not having made the capture of Antwerp the immediate objective at highest priority & I let fly with all my guns at the faulty strategy we had allowed. Our large forces were now practically grounded for lack of supply & had we got Antwerp & not the corridor we should be in a far better position for launching the knock out blow. ... 12 AG, 9th Army now in the line, 3rd Army grounded for want of supplies, 1st Army have withdrawn 6 Divs ready to launch attack to the Rhine with Br 2nd Army on 12th Oct. I got affirming looks from Tedder & Bedell Smith & both of these together with CIGS told me after the meeting that I’d spoken their thoughts & that it was high time some one expressed them.

    Saturday, October 21, 1944
    After lunch called on Eisenhower & had half hour talk with him. He’d just returned from a tour of the armies & said that the ammunition situation was really serious. That not only were the armies short, due to poor L of C, the expenditure of the armies exceeded the allotment of ammo from the U.S. & that the expenditure was in excess of production. I understand that a similar state of affairs exists in UK & the 21 AG has been using as much as 500 tons
    a day whereas the UK turned out only 200 tons. I spoke of Antwerp & referred to the effect of Monty’s disregard of the importance of its capture. he said that Monty was at last fully alive to it, & that 2nd Army would now attack westward to assist Canadian army & that he had given him U.S. Divs to help. I reminded him that I’d warned him 3 weeks ago that 1C Army were underestimating the difficulty of taking Walcheren – I told him that the latest date for the assault on Walcheren was Nov 14 & that I was pointing out the seriousness of the delay to Canadian army HQ. He said that Monty was moving his HQ back to Brussels tomorrow to be better placed for conducting the campaign to free Antwerp. About time too. All along he has persistently ignored the operation & concentrated on his northward & eastward operations.

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  54. „It's not that I "don't like Buckley" (I enjoy reading his material, and he's probably an OK person): I criticize military history such as his which refuses to consider seriously the two most obvious factors for analysis of the Caen failure and of Monty's main excuse for it i.e.,
    a) terrain, including communications centres, which all but dictated German armor deployment in Normandy, and;
    b) the Mortain counteroffensive proving conclusively that the eastern sector had not "tied down" or "drawn" German armor in some grand decoy action as Monty claimed repeatedly.”


    -_- Are we going to go through every campaign of Monty ? There was no failure at Caen. Dempsey and Crerar took on the biggest density of Panzers and not only withstood that concentration but pushed it back and grinded it to the point where those divisions were shadows of themselves.

    a) I don't see where you're going with this. So you admit that British and Canadians faced majority of German armor ?

    b) Oh noes after 2 months US army had to face more than 2 Panzer division what a terrible fate. The forces involved in Luttich were after 2 month meatgrinder and barely had ~ 150 tanks between them. What is truly enlightening is the advance that force managed to achieve.




    “Buckley also perpetuates a particularly insidious vice, as seen from Hastings and so many others, especially from the UK, where persistent lionizing of the Wehrmacht masquerades variously as chivalry, magnanimity or objectivity. Such apologia is really an avoidance of responsibility to examine the British system and culture, especially in the area of leadership.”
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
    British took lesser casualties than Germans despite them being on defense. They also took less casualties than Americans despite facing the German main effort. Doesn't seem to me like there is any issue of leadership.





    “1. "Red Lion" transport to 21AG was another US truck asset in all except emergency spares for two control points; "Red Ball" was never an organic asset of 21AG. Therefore, sacrificing Red Ball, airlift and improvised convoys to Market-Garden was a cost to US transport assets in flanking armies.

    In the same way, grounding three US motorized infantry divisions depleted US force projection in 21AG's flanking armies, just as 21AG had grounded its VIII Corps for its own priority of pursuit.

    M

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  55. cdn.

    Work it out for yourself: if 21AG starts using SHAEF's Airborne reserve, but cannot cover them with its own 21AG transport reserve, then it's a safe conclusion that 21AG's own transport reserve has been stretched to cover, inter alia, the mechanical failure of one of its main, organic truck assets. That's not to claim that Red Ball and airlift were exclusively and directly devoted to covering broken British transport assets, but such loss to not have had some significant drag on non-organic assets is highly unlikely, if not impossible - and that's despite the thorough, exploded figures there being as yet uncalculated, at least to my knowledge, as in the 21AG Admin reference, Wilmott, Weigley, for examples.

    2. Ruppenthal's point (in your quote) contradicts his own depiction of operations in his Vol1 (p. 476--7) showing clearly that neither 1st Army nor especially 3rd Army had "come up against the prepared defenses of the Westwall". Revealingly, his footnote and sources date to 9 Oct 44 and overwhelmingly concern records of POL and related admin/log, and NOT the operational detail of 1st and 3rd armies' petering advances to 12 Sept 44.

    Why would Ruppenthal misrepresent that operational reality? Well, he certainly was not the first or only to do so. His first assertion "after the pursuit had definitely been halted" amounts, by itself, to an innocuous truism given the supply lost to 21AG (again the issue concerns mostly 3rd Army and the push to the Saar).”


    We have been over this already. 1 and 3 Army stopped and then resumed their advance (that slowed to a crawl) before a single drop of US transported supplies reached Monty. Eisenhower wouldn't be able to support these 3 grounded divisions forward. And the 450-500 hundred tons that Monty got from Red Lion would barely support single division. I'll have to check who exactly provided the air supply.






    “Your Q: "why did (Hodges and Patton) keep attacking" (?) It was local attacks, almost always starting from encounter or hasty, generally because of the supply constraints prohibiting any more ambitious by-passing or deliberate penetration of the enemy's reorganization and redeployment lines. Both 1st and 3rd armies were desperate to prevent the enemy from restoring such lines; in Patton's case, the excellent nonconformist G-2 Koch had probably the sharpest awareness of just how serious was the risk of enemy recovery at the Westwall and to its adjacent frontiers from the Moselle to the Scheldt.”
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------
    The only thing that may count as local attacks is 1 army's encirclement of Aachen(though I hardly would call it local) and Patton's October butchery. In September both Patton and Hodges wanted and thought they could get to Rhine. The line was already restored back than. In November both Op Madison and Queen + 6 Army Group offensive were full blooded attacks, there was nothing local about them.


    Apologies for keeping you waiting ; )

    M

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  56. Dear M,

    find your points mostly good, but like you can't believe this gets down to whose trucks/tanks were available when and who took casualties where.

    The only point that I found of interest in Matt's quotes from Ramsay (most of which add nothing except to reingforce that the management of the campaign was an ongoing series of arguments between people who could never agree on anything), was the line " Fred says it is impossible to keep step with the changes in strategy of Shaef."

    Ike was a WW1 style chateau general. His HQ was a cesspool of intrigue and backstabbing. He was a disaster as SHAEF.

    I find it very hard to take seriously any of these complaints against Monty or Patton or Bradley or anyone else who was doing their best in difficult circumstances with no leadership or sensible plan to refer to.

    If Ike had had the sense to have a ground forces commander, most of this crap would not even be up for debate.

    I have sometimes seen comments like 'no one could have done what Ike did'. I agree, but not in a good way.

    People who I think would have been better than him as SHAEF, with actual experience, and competence to at least somewhat outweigh their own ego's... well the list is endless. Just a few, alphabetically: Blamey, Brooke, Eichelberger, Juin, Mountbatten, Nimitz, Sikorski, Truscott, Wavell, I could go on for ages without running out of names of people who could have done it better.

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  57. Nigel, all I can say is American Exceptionalism is imbibed with their mother's milk by my fellow Americans. (Although to them my American-ness is suspect as I come from the People's Socialist Republic of California.) And service in the US Army only reinforces this belief. I know because I saw it firsthand.

    Our soldiers in WWII were the best, American democracy is the epitome, Ronald Reagan won the Cold War all by himself, and God is a Republican.

    I'll advise you not to waste a single breath or keyboard stroke engaging those guys. Really. I've been doing it all my life and you will NEVER. CHANGE. THEIR. MINDS. EVER.

    That aside, thanks for the analysis. Very interesting. I've wondered over the years about this very topic.
    I'm going to read these two books next.
    http://www.amazon.com/Why-Allies-Won-Richard-Overy/dp/039331619X/ref=pd_ybh_20
    http://www.amazon.com/Russias-War-History-Soviet-1941-1945/dp/0140271694/ref=pd_ybh_19

    Though they don't directly address the questions in your post but I think they'll have some interesting information.

    Finally, I just have to say that nationalism blinds almost everyone, but especially the victors. When you win there's little incentive for a good after action review. You won! You won because you're better! End of discussion. If you're magnanimous you praise the skill of your opponent. And then remind yourself how much better you are.

    Here's what I agree with. Ike's biggest mistake was not having a land forces commander. But then again, he couldn't. The British would never have tolerated an upstart American, as all Americans were upstarts to them. And the Americans would have said that the British had their chance in 1940 and they fucked it up.
    So Eisenhower had to be a politician. He was a political general but at that level generalship IS politics.
    Montgomery and Patton were both overrated, petulant idiots.
    The allies won because the Soviets broke the back of the German Army, encircling and taking prisoner at least two whole field armies (6th at Stalingrad and 17th in the Crimea, if I remember correctly). These were veteran armies. With some rest and refitting, had we encountered them in the West, we'd have had our butts kicked. Mongtomery and Patton would have wilted before the likes Model, Guderian, Stulpnagel, Reichenau, Runstedt, et al.
    And when we did encounter wily veterans in Italy, we- Americans, British, and the rest- got bogged down.

    That's my opinion on who did the most to defeat the Nazis.

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    1. Dear Fachero,

      fair points, mostly, and thanks for contributing them.

      I will make a few comments on them for your consideration.

      Eisenhower said, repeatedly, that if he had been able to get Alexander, he would have had a ground forces commander. (He said so publicly after the Bulge disaster in particular.)

      Overy's 'Why the Allies Won' is not bad on statistics. It is also representative of some new revision work that scorns the naysayers. (Note that British 'we weren't really any good' dates from the 1950's, and American version was 'f***we were good' until the 1980's, when they too got 'we weren't that good' disease. Overy's stuff targets the American version, but if such things amuse you, you can get one on the earlier British version too - http://www.bookdepository.com/Britains-War-Machine-David-Edgerton/9780141026107 ).

      On the 'we weren't that good' front, the idea that Russia won the war single handed is from that school. Two comments.

      First, the Soviets needed, desperately, Western supplies. The efforts of the Royal Navy and Allied merchant marines to bring the products of the West too Russia were vital to their victory. (Leaving aside the trucks and even boots that made any advance possible, at one point a third of the food for the entire Soviet population was from the US. And all fought through at immense cost - the highest rate of casualties of all services of all nations in the whole war was the British merchant sailors and the U-boat crews!)

      Second, the Allies took on the high tech end, while the Soviet front saw millions of low tech foot sloggers wandering around the way they were in China... easy targets for mechanised forces. On four occassions - North Africa, Italy, Normandy, the Bulge - the Germans withdrew the vast bulk of their modern machanised forces from the Eastern front to be defeated by the Western Allies. (moving 10% of your divisions doesn't sound much, but if it includes 70% of your elite armour and paratroop units, it is incredibly significant.) Even the fact that a million German troops were using the vast majority of Germany's best anti-tank guns and shell production to try and slow the rate at which Allied bombers crippled their cities and industries simply has to help the Russians more than many of the 'we weren't that good' types want to acknowledge.)

      The simple fact is that without Western tech, Germany would have defeated Russia, and without Russian manpower, Germany could have at least prevented Allied invasion from the West. (Note, this is the same situation that applied when British tech and Prussian/Russian manpower defeated Napoleon, and for exactly the same reasons... centrality of operational communications versus multiple enemies always has the same problems... See Japan trying to fight a multi front war as another example. Chinese could not defeat Japanese tech, but Allies needed 80% of Japanese army bogged down in China to be able to nibble at edges...)

      Delete
  58. It seems that the perception that the perception that the western front was minor compared to the eastern front originated from top level US officials during the war. See:
    http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/the-executive-of-the-presidents-soviet-protocol-committee-to-the-presidents-special-assistant/

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    Replies
    1. Interesting, but I think there might have been a lot of propaganda to get a second front behind some of those ideas? Perhaps this can be read as much as part of the British-American debate about when to launch an invasion as any useful statement about what the Russians were doing?

      Just speculating.

      Delete
  59. amazing article, thank you! I was looking for this kind of information but couldn't find it. As for whether the war could be won without American involvement in Europe, I have to disagree. I believe the Russian army did the heavy lifting in defeating Germany and would have taken Berlin with or without allied involvement. The view that western tech helped or that both parts were indispensable is wishful thinking in my opinion. The eastern front has started moving west in winter of 1942/43 without allied help, while little progress was being achieved by the allies on the western front. By 1944 D-Day the Russians were already in Poland.

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    1. Dear Konstantin,

      Fair comment, but a couple of points.

      1. The success of German attacks was always reliant on the top 30-40 highly mechanized divisions that led assaults, not the 200-300 divisions of footsloggers following behind… sometimes way behind. Have a look at the effect on the front on the three or four occasions when the Germans had to move half of those divisions (and half the Luftwaffe) to Italy or France.

      2. I think you really underestimate how much the Soviets relied on Allied support. Their advance would never have happened, let alone got to Berlin, without everything from British boots and fighters to US trucks and even steam trains. Towards the end of the war the entire Soviet population was getting at least one meal a day from American supplies. Even leaving aside all Western Allied military effects on the Germans, without Allied support and supplies the Soviets were not going anywhere.

      Delete
  60. <>

    A good blog but it is not clear why you state this. I have seen you make this comment several times in posts. Presumably Roosevelt's responsibilities lie with Americans so why he should require Americans to die in the interests of the Polish state to which America had made no commitment is not clear - nor the topic of the blog OP.

    Judging from comments from American friends there is enough horror at the Hollywood treatment of ANY topic to think that Americans take it as gospel truth ... but perhaps they do. Wouldn't want to guess whose contribution is most under-appreciated.

    Hagen

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    Replies
    1. Have a look at the effects of the Polish vote on vital states in the US Presidential elections during the war. The figures might surprise you.

      Delete
  61. As a side point I will note that the efforts of the Free Poles are the most under-appreciated contribution to Allied victory of them all. (And that Roosevelt can never be forgiven for selling out Poland to Stalin with his appalling attitude of 'do what you like, but after my mid terms, I need the Polish vote'. Of all the betrayals of the war, that was the worst.)

    Wiped the quote. :(

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  62. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  63. I just saw a program called " WW2 FROM SPACE " on the history 2 channel... It gave a US military break down like this .. In 4 years Uncle Sam gets his fighting force up to 16 million men... The program had said that 49% went to the Army, 28%went to the Navy,19% went to the Air Corps, and 4% went to the Marines... 49% of 16 million is 7,840,000 and a US Army division consist of 17,000 men,so dividing these two numbers up we get 461 divisions...
    There are five different types of divisions in the US Army, Airborne,Infantry,Armor,Cavalry and Mountain..
    I notice that the divisions in Nazi Army was broken down a little different... Air Force,Navy,Infantry,Motorized Infantry,Mountain,and Panzer..
    Although numbers are always fluctuating in War , the largest number given to the Nazi Army from 1939 to 1945 was 20,000,000 that i saw .. Now what percentage went to what element of the Nazi military i don't know... On another chart clearly indicated that the Nazis were at their peek in 1943 with 4,000,000 men in the field and another 2,550,000 in reserve.. 17,000 divided by 6,550,000 = 385 divisions ...
    So i'm gonna buy the," US War Dept.
    Handbook on German Military Forces"..
    Just to compare the numbers ...
    Amazon.com

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    1. Dear T Barry,

      The issue you raise is one of 'teeth to tail', or 'fighting troops to support troops'.

      Mass infantry armies have lots of foot sloggers, supported by the minimum number of logistics personnel to get them their guns, ammo and food. their tail may be as low as 1 to 1. By contrast modern mechanized forces need mechanics and fitters and supplies of spare parts and fuel and artillery shells that are a hundred times more varied, complex, and HEAVY than the PBI (poor bloody infantry).

      The fully mechanised British and American forces in France in 1944-5 had up to a dozen logistics personnel per combat personnel. (Consider the Red Ball Express.)

      In China, or in Russia, or in Yugoslavia 1 million troops was several dozen 'armies' of several hundred thousand mostly useless footsloggers who could not and would not stand up to modern mechanised forces. In France in 1944 1 million troops was about 800,000 'tail' supporting maybe one dozen modern mechanised divisions. But do not doubt for a second which was the most effective force.

      'Blitzkreig' – whether Germans in France and Balkans and Russia; or Japanese in China and Asia; or British and Americans in North Africa and Western Europe; or Russians in Poland and China – relied on better equipped and better supplied troops mopping up vastly larger numbers of PBI.

      Delete
  64. You're all wankers and armchair generals, I was a soldier for 17 years and if any of you have ever killed someone you'll know that war is the worst thing we can do to each other. So stop squabbling about who did what and who's dicks are bigger and just thank god you don't have to cross the wire tonight.

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    Replies
    1. Dear anonymous,

      the problem with armies is always that after years of peace, the generals sent to run wars are often completely inexperienced, possibly ignorant of their craft, and usually constrained by stupid politicians anyway.

      As someone who has taught everything from drill sergeant level to lecturing to officer candidates at Australia's Defence Force Academy and researching for the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at Australian National university, I have sometimes felt that a little less ignorance and stupidity by generals might help the common foot soldier.

      I believe that a reasonable discussion about these sorts of things might even be helpful if it achieves sensible results. Certainly I hope that future generals are a bit more suspicious of 'received wisdom' from books, films, or even out of date soldiers. But I concede that I may be wrong.

      Delete
  65. I wish historian or revisionist regarding WW2 stop trying to belittle the contribution of the nations or groups which participated in the conflict. It does no justice to those who fought bravely and those who died. Americans (Kasserine Pass) and the British (Dunkirk) both had their various debacles. The average German soldier had higher kill ratio compared to average Allied soldier, which is was major blow to the ego for Allied militaries. The German and Japanese Armed force we actually first defeated in battle by Muslim soldiers something always never mention by any western historians. The fact western historians highlight more the contribution of Canadian and Australians, than Asians during WW2 illustrate racial bias rather than real military contribution. The Soviets covered up the casualty figures, but they did make the biggest sacrifice during the conflict and this fact is widely accepted.

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    1. Der Anonymous,

      agree completely with your first half.

      Quite interested in your definition for Muslim soldiers. Do you mean Russian conscripts (and is that 1939 in the East against Japan), British volunteers (as there were some Muslim battalions just like Sikh or Hindu ones in some Indian Army units), or are you referring to something else?

      Commonwealth histories are usually pretty good on the Indian army, and even the African (and Carribean and Middle Eastern) volunteers that fought against the Axis. So are French ones. American less so of course, though they pretend that the Chinese front was infinitely more valuable than it actually was.

      What specifically are you referring to?

      Delete
  66. I think the author of this blog is attempting to legitimize his revisionist ideas by postulating that Britain did most of what could be called "the hard fighting" and this leads me to conclude that he is in complete denial of several simple facts for reasons of national pride or romanticism about the "wartime spirit" or British ingenuity and pluck which is rife in Britain.

    1) Even with US material aid being produced and given to them at full wartime levels Britain could not have won the western war alone. They would have had nowhere near the capacity to train or distribute forces equipped with US equipment and supplies to effectively win the war. Having millions of commonwealth subjects is no good if you can't send them to the field on time, trained and supplied fully.

    2) Britain was the junior partner in the Western Alliance. Every operation from 1942 onwards that gave the British the opportunity to engage the enemy and fight harder as the author is in my opinion attempting to argue, was planned with the knowledge that the US had forces and supplies at hand to ensure that any such operation had a reasonable chance of success.

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    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Your 1. is pretty correct. Britain won WW!, the Napoleonic Wars, and earlier wars, not by providing any more than a small percentage of the land combatants, but by arming others to do the fighting. Britian and US combined could not invade Europe without Russia still fighting for instance.

      Your 2. is sort of correct. Britian refused to invade France in 1942 or 1943 partly because they knew it would fail, but partly because the Americans who wanted them to do it seemed happy for the British to take all the casualties, as there simply were not enough trained Americans to do it yet. (I would also suggest that one of the reasons Britain ran down divisions in Monty's army group in 1944-5 ratherthan use some of the 115,000 trained replacements sitting in England was just conservation of manpower for industry, but part was probably 'let someone else do some of the work for a change'.0

      Delete
  67. 3) Britain was extremely lucky throughout the war and this for me is the single biggest fact overlooked by certain British viewpoints of the war.

    Lucky that the Americans were attacked by the Japanese at Pear Harbour and subsequently had war declared on them by Hitler. This was the single greatest piece of luck the British had, as I doubt the US public would have been easily convinced to fight Germany just for the sake of standing next to Britain and I'm sure the military would have seen no point in starting a second front on the other side of the globe if they were already fighting just the Japanese.

    The US fighting the Japanese also kept the colonies from which the Commonwealth forces drew most of their manpower open. If there was no US-Japanese war the already gutted defenses of the far east would have been easy pickings for the Japanese and I doubt it would have taken the Germans long to convince or suggest to the Japanese to launch a campaign against India, New Zealand and Australia.

    Britain was also lucky that the Germans didn't have the sane leadership, the will or the supplies to roll onto the beaches at Dunkirk.
    German incompetence was a great aid to Britain.

    Goering changed tack in the Battle of Britain and essentially let the RAF of the hook, while Hitler decided to bash Russia and spared the slaughter of the Home Garrison of the UK which was pitifully under-supplied and equipped.

    4) The issue of Eisenhower's leadership seems to be a particular sore point for the blogs author. I think personally that Eisenhower's acquiring of supreme command was another great piece of luck for the UK and the average British or Commonwealth soldier in particular. Prior to and during the Alliance, the British high command and Churchill who in particular had a track record during and prior to the war (Gallipoli ring a bell?) of the most fantastical military adventures and made some hideous and costly blunders:

    The sending troops from the well performing Egypt campaign to the already doomed Greek campaign.

    Force Z got sent to the Pacific and were used as target practice by the Japanese.

    The presumptions and preparations that lead to the disaster that was the defence of Malaysia.

    The insistence of launching the Italian campaign which was supposed to be an attack on the "soft underbelly of Europe" which bogged down significant Allied forces in a country that was well suited to carrying out defensive operations (which the Germans did masterfully) and was not completed even at wars end. I doubt such a distracting campaign could have been sustained without US forces.

    The kind of romanticism with which the war is viewed with by certain sections of British society is hard to ignore. Monty as he is affectionately called was a fumbler. Many feel that he fumbled when he overcame Rommel at El-Alamein and let him withdraw west to regroup in Tunisia only to be finished off decisively after the Torch landings which involved significant US forces, inexperienced as they were but nonetheless a vital component in overcoming the Axis and perhaps dissuading the Vichy garrison from putting up serious resistance.
    I wonder how much resistance the Vichy French would have put up if they knew it was a Commonwealth only force approaching. Perhaps the memory of Mers El Kebil would have given them an excuse to at least try and give the British a bit of a kicking.
    The blunders around the murderous attempts to take Caen and the absolute disaster of Market Garden are two more that spring to mind.

    That's my two cents on the subject.

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    1. British myself I can't help but agree on many points.

      We Brits always seem superbly unthought-through. For example, if at the Falklands the Argentinian bombs had gone off instead of bouncing off ... I lost a good friend who went down with Sheffield (and that warhead didn't even explode).

      I think the whole Brit defense thing can be summed up in the quoted last words of an American Civil War general: "Nonsense! They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist

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    2. Dear Panorama,

      one of the reason the Argentinians had to come in so low was because they had two destroyers fitted with the British Sea Dart (medium to high) defines missile, and knew coming in at a height adequate to arm the bombs was suicidal. At low level, as long as they avoided the newer Sea Wolf armed frigates ( a missile which could intercept a 4.5" let alone a jet, but fortunately for them only 2 frigates had it), and only faced the older Sea Cat armed ships (obsolete by then, but government stinginess meant too many ships still had it), they stood a chance to get an effect like Sheffield (a Sea Dart ship).

      The problem of course was not the lask of technological edge by the RN, but the refusal of the government to pay for refits. Of course but for government stinginess, the CVA-01 and her sister (or at least Eagle and Ark royal) would have been around anyway.

      All democracies suffer from having to send their militaries into harms way less than half prepared when something 'unexpected' turns up... (read completely expectable, but governments have stuck their heads in the sand to avoid seeing any possibility that they should spend an adequate amount on defines).

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    3. To return to Anonymous points 3 and 4...

      Point 3 is all over the place, but a few comments.

      Yep, Allies very lucky Axis had bad leaders. given the stupidity of Allied elected leaders 1918-1941, very lucky indeed.

      Japan never had resources to invade Australia or India, no matter what fears there were at the time, whether or not US in war. In fact the US as a neutral on the Japanese flank would have been more of an anchor on Japanese action that the USN defeated at Pearl and mostly pulled back and Philippines falling to Japs. Not sure I take the idea that the US could/would/should have surrendered at that point very seriously...

      Germans never had the capacity to invade UK, no matter what fears there were at the time.

      Agree Greece was a forlorn hope, but it was done for moral reasons... I realise that Americans did not enter the war until they had their teeth kicked in, but Britain entered voluntarily because it had made promises to Poland and Greece and actually felt it should try and keep them... Foolish nobility perhaps, but if you aren't fighting for a principle, what are you fighting for?

      Agree Force Z was supposed to be a 'fleet in being', not be risked. Until the other 8 capital ships en-route arrived it was foolish to take risks. But then Doolittle raid was another stupid but magnificent risk, and one of the oat effective of the war.



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    4. Your point 4 continued

      knocking Italy out of the war was immensely helpful. Not just their large navy, but the 80 divisions that the Germans had to replace in Italy, the Balkans and on the Russian front. But I agree fighting up the spine of Italy was dumb. There should have been more invasions NOT of Italy. The Allies had the ships to go around the Germans again and again (its called 'Island Hopping' in the Pacific where they attacked weak and isolated garrisons instead of bashing fortified lines), but the Americans considered it all a distraction, so bloody frontal attacks were the 'compromise'!

      Monty and Ike are usually called by nicknames because their names are easily identified in their shorter versions. General Smith isn't called Smith because no one has any idea which of the several general Smith's we could be talking about.

      North Africa invasion was not necessary to war, except as a way to get Roosevelt some relief form domesticc and Soviet political pressure by getting some American troops into action. It was largely a waste of effort and resources, but did give the few Amercnas involved (one corps within Andersons 1st army) some experience that they needed way more training and experience before invading France. Like the Dieppe dice roll, its did a lot to prevent the pointless slaughter of the 1942 or 1943 invasions of France that Marshall and Ike were stupid enough to think were possible.

      Caen was vital to the allied (yes Monty's) plan to HOLD the German armour away from where the Americans were supposed to break out. It is unfortunate that when the rest of the German armour was held back, the only Panzer division committed on D-Day was 21st at Caen. It is not surprising that Caen did not fall as a result, but gratifying that the immediate committal of German armour did not have the same effect as in the Italian invasions under Clarke. But the tremendous bloodbath (and the attrition tactics) at Caen broke the German armour and allowed Bradley to break out (eventually). This is the price of beating an enemy who isn't willing to roll over to script.

      I have never understood the fascination with the failure of Market Garden. The Metz attacks failed disastrously, and the Hurtgen Forest was a far far more bloody disaster, but the romance of the para's captures the imagination. (As does the romance of the glamorous defines - The Bulge - an equally overoptimistic risk by the Allies.) Yes, not every attack succeeds. Yes you have to take risks to win. If it had worked it would be acclaimed. It didn't. Tough. Next...

      As to failures of British (and American) high command in the early years of combat, this is inevitable when democracies are not prepared for war. Politicians finish up demanding more from their militaries than their militaries are trained or equipped to deliver. You can see this in France and Egypt an dMalaya, and in the Philippines and at Pearl Harbour and Gudalcanal. Democracies that shortchange their militaries in peace, and then whinge about the results in war, deserve the greatly increased wartime suffering they have effectively voted for in peacetime.

      Britain, US, Australia, France, everyone...



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  68. My Dad spent 4 years in Asia in WW2 — most of that time in Burma/India (the Forgotten Army)(14th). He was very disparaging of the US ground contribution, apparently "Merrill's Marauders? Hah! They were there for just a few weeks then flown back to the States in triumph ..."

    In fact the only Yanks he had any respect for were the conscientious objectors drafted in as stretcher bearers and medics. The greatest respect, in fact.

    Deceased now, I can still hear his parody in an American accent: "Goddam! No comic books or bubble gum for three whole weeks—hell Man, this is REAL war~!"

    'Nuff said ...

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    1. Well, the USAF was pretty helpful in Burma (from the original Flying Tigers to the latter transport command), even if too much effort was wasted on trying to do something useful with the Chinese.

      But for a comparable anecdote I remember a New Zealand army caption I know commenting on American troops going on strike in Veitnam when their ice-cream machine broke down.

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  69. Wow. That's some read. I read every single comment from top to bottom. I admire your strength of character Nigel. Dealing with hot heads and superior Yanks takes something special. I don't have it personally. I quietly fight the fight in Wikipedia where I am actively updating data and references related to British Empire contributions to the war.

    It is interesting to note how dreadfully inadequate are even the friendliest sources. When investigating Canadian contributions to the war I've looked at original factory notes and company histories and found 25-50% discrepancies in production volumes compared to the major historic sources. It seems that many of our secondary source materials, (tertiary at best really as they are based largely on official government histories), were hardly thorough in their calculations -using, for example, production orders, instead of actual factory output to calculate production volumes.

    One fine example of how skewed the figures are relates to money. Everyone imagines that the US was an economic powerhouse. Britain's GNP in 1938 was $284B (international dollars 1990), while the US was about $800. Apples to oranges. The GNP of the British Empire was $700B in 1938. The US was hardly in any manner "dominant".

    Here's another good example. Canada contributed tens of thousands of troops to the defence of the Americas. We sent garrison troops to Bermuda, the Bahamas, British Guyana, Jamaica and Newfoundland, occupied Iceland for 6 months, helped push the Japanese out of Alaska, and had sole responsibility for north west Atlantic defence for most of the war. These are almost unheard of, even in Canadian sources. But the kicker is that even the best official sources don't reveal the simplest information, such as how many Canadians occupied Iceland? (~2,700 by the way).

    Try finding out how many New Zealanders served in Burma, or how many people worked in the largely unrecognised construction brigades (otherwise known to Yanks as "SeaBees") supporting the Empire in Africa, the Middle East, India and Burma (~20,000,000), or how many combat troops the Empire fielded (~15,000,000). Once you start looking at the sources of data, and compare apples to apples, the size of the British Empire contribution becomes ridiculously large.

    The British Empire is really too big for most historians of WWII to comprehend and integrate into their work. The British Empire at War Research Group in the UK (http://britishempireatwar.org/) and various online "memorials" set up in New Zealand and Australia for example, are starting to shed light on these hidden histories.

    It would be nice to see some of your material in publication so it can finally be quoted and start to enter the record.

    In the meantime, good luck and don't stop doing what you are doing.

    Robert

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, and I agree about the difficulty of getting a handle on anything as diverse and underplayed as the production or military efforts of the entire British Commonwealth of Nations. Few even notice that the only reason only 15 million combat troops were recruited is that there really was no possibility of transporting more than that to where they were needed while the Commonwealth was largely responsible for transporting Americans across the Atlantic and supplies to Russia and everything else. Indian recruiting for instance could have been two or three times what it was (as it was in WWI) without scratching the surface of even the 'martial castes' like the Sikh and Ghurkha's!

      On the other hand you can't blame some people for being outraged at some of what I say… I make some of it a bit outrageous on purpose to inspire debate, or at least thinking...

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    2. Did my original question post?
      If not, here it is again.
      How many divisions could an Industrialized nation support per million?
      Using Finland as an example, my guess would be 3 million (4.5 in a short term crisis)?

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    3. Dear Christian,

      how long is a piece of string?

      Does your nation want just light infantry divisions (China), heavy infantry but with horsed transport/artillery (Germany/Russia), motorised infantry divisions (Britain/US), or proper armoured divisions? For one good armoured division the money, industrial resources and logistics and combat manpower involved in keeping it in action would be 3 or 4 Brit/US infantry divisions; 5 or 6 German or 8 Russian ones, and maybe 12-15 Chinese ones.

      Also does your nation need a navy or airforce? Are you an industrial power that needs to keep millions of people in reserved occupations to keep industry going, or does the RN drop off US manufactured equipment for your pathetic Chinese infantry to fail with?

      Only the US, Britain, Japan, Germany and Italy tried to have effective Armies, Navies, and Air Forces simultaneously, and Italy failed. Russia didn't try, and China couldn't have dreamed of it.

      Marshall initially proposed a 300 division US army. That was progressively cut back as more and more demands for industry kept arising, initially to 240, then 160. At the end of the war the US Army was 88 divisions, and having a hard time getting replacements for combat units. Could they have done 400 on manpower alone, yes certainly. Were the 88 highly mechanised ones they did have a better investment, yes certainly. Is it possible that the Allies would have been better off with much less US combat divisions, and lots more US industry, navy, air force and shipping effort, almost certainly...

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  70. Secondly, if the point of this blog (which has been a great discussion btw) is to be jingoistic, then I would merely point out that the result of WW2 was to replace Europe as the center of global power with one quasi European power and one non European power in the short term, and allow for a more reasonable division of global power in the long term.
    Considering those results, assertions that the British did 'most' of the fighting just make the British seem foolish.
    Still generally speaking, but a touch more specific, I would offer these observations.
    The power of military decision against Japan was entirely American.
    The power of decision against Germany was 75-80% Soviet.
    In other words, without the US, The Japanese Empire wins. The Soviets defeat Germany , but it takes much longer and is far costlier.(to be fair, without the British, the Soviets may not have won at all).

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    1. Dear Christian,

      personally I have no truck with crap like 'Superpower'. No nation has ever, EVER, had the ability to dictate to the world. Not the US during Korea or Vietnam, not Britain during the 19C, certainly not Russia in the 70's, and certainly not China in the future. Crap.

      No nation could win World War Two alone. NONE. Britain could not do it without France or Russia to help, even with the US neutral. Similarly the US could not win without Britain to help, regardless of the Russians.

      Britain in the interwar period was in the position where the British taxpayer was sick and tired of being world policeman for the last 200 years and wanted out, even at the cost of stupid disarmament treaties and the disasters that led to. (And they were delighted to dump it on the Yanks post war, and let them enjoy the dubious joy of being everyone's favourite nation to complain about for a while.) If you want to imagine how war weary the British were at the time of the Abyssinia crisis in the mid 1930's, have a look at how Americans regard going back into Iraq now!

      Having said that, you are delusional in believing that the military decision against Japan was entirely American. Completely ignoring that 90% of the ground fighting was won in New Guinea, Burma, China and Manchuria by non Americans. (Air war about 40-50% - particularly 1942 and 1945, less 1943 and first half of 1944 where Americans did in fact dominate air combats. Sea war about a quarter to a third… but ignoring of course the British, Australian, Dutch, Netherlands navies who did almost as much of the fighting - and almost as many of the losses - in 1942, and also did an unrecognised amount in 1943-5. But most of the major sea battles from mid 1942-late 1944 were also mostly American victories… As were all the sea battles against Germany and Japan British… which does not for a moment undermine the value of USN escorts and escort carriers for finally winning the battle of the Atlantic!)

      You also need to understand that although 75% of Germany's 'poor bloody infantry' were lost on the Eastern Front, the Russians would never have survived (British fighters and tanks and even boots in 1941), let alone fought their way to Germany (American trucks and even food in 1944-5), without the British and Americans taking on 90% of the German navy, 75% of the German airforce, and half of the German mechanised and specialist units - Panzer, SS, Para - while leaving the horse mobile German, Hungarian and Rumanian infantry on the Eastern front. Without British American bombing, shipping, and supplies Russia would still be fighting in the rubble of Moscow.

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    2. Hmm, that bit about sea battles should read 'all the sea battles against Germany and ITALY were British... (not Japan there).

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  71. I am very curious about the Divisions (number and type) you mentioned that were stationed close to Turkey.
    I have only skimmed most of this blog, but I would love more information on this subject which I know next to nothing about.

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  72. Pretty hard to find complete order of battle, particularly as most 8th army units were 'worked up' or 'rested' with 9th army at some stage.
    See the Syria campaign for the various units that fought the Vichy French. they include -
    7th Australian infantry
    Brigades from 1st Free French infantry
    10th Indian infantry
    Brigades from 8th Indian Infantry
    'Habforce' British 4th cavalry BDE and Arab Legion
    6th infantry
    Australian 17th Bde
    5th Indian bde group

    Otherwise these units were 'under command' at various stages:
    Ist Cavalry became 10th armoured in August 1941.
    5th Infantry
    6th infantry
    7th infantry
    8th infantry
    15th Armoured later 15th infantry
    50th infantry
    56th infantry
    5th Indian bde
    1st Free French infantry

    The garrison on Cyprus was usually a division or two, and are also technically 9th army, and tenth Army next door in Iraq consisted of some of these and some other units… their 1942 order of battle in Wikipedia includes:
    Tenth Army commanded by General Sir Edward Quinan
    British III Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir Desmond Anderson
    5th Infantry Division, Major-General Horatio Berney-Ficklin
    56th (London) Division, Major-General Eric Miles
    Indian XXI Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir Mosley Mayne
    Indian 8th Infantry Division, Major-General Charles Harvey
    Indian 10th Infantry Division, Major-General Alan Blaxland
    Indian 6th Infantry Division commanded by Major-General J.N. Thomson
    31st Indian Armoured Division, Major-General Robert Wordsworth
    10th Indian Motor Brigade, Brigadier Harold Redman

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  73. I will come back later and point out how you are confused by your own narrow WW2 statistics later. Much of it smacks of double speak to me.

    That said, take a look at my posts about ETO Strategic Bombing targets (above), and how Leigh-Mallory (and his main backer Monty) diverted Allied Strategic bombing that would have resulted in less Allied soldiers lives lost and a shorter war, per their own power ground pounding nonsense.

    Please respond.

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    1. Statistics are always dubious. Lies, damn lies, etc. But a lot of what is published is hopelessly misleading. (And my stuff that provides more 'hidden depth' may be equally misleading... don't know how you can solve that one.)

      I agree that strategic bombing for tactical purposes was wasteful. But it did fit 'concentration of force' I suppose. Though a few more explosives planted by French resistance would probably have been more effective.

      By the way, I get to this blog maybe once a month. And I only respond to comments I think worth responding to. (An awful lot are not.)

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  74. Mr Davies,
    I think you made several very interesting and good points. However, as other posters noticed, it seems to me that you are overrating a bit the Commonwealth contribution, and downrating the US one. In particularly, I don't understand how you come to the conclusion that 'The British Commonwealth alone fielded over 100 divisions in 1942 (though admittedly many were weaker garrison forces than proper mechanised field divisions)'. As long as I know the Commonwealth never fielded 100 divisions at any time during WWII, unless you aren't talking about 'divison equivalents', i.e. including non divisional units (for instance counting 3 regiments or brigades as equivalent to one division). In that case, however, we could calculate that the US Army fielded at least 180 divisions, as over 50% of the US field army was actually organised in non divisional units.

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  75. Need more exact figures e.g combat casualties/per units/month. I'd put casualties on three main group: fierce battle, normal battle and trench warfare. Everyone who have any idea won't deny how brutal first real slaughter of WW2 - The Finnish-Russo Winter was. The whole war either normal battle or especially during Feb 10th - 13th March 1940. There was also fierce stage between 10th of Dec and Jan 5h.

    Finnish casualties (combat deaths)/divisions on front line:

    30.11 -31.12.1939 :............. 5 464 / 9(div) = 607 (per division)
    01.01 - 31.01.1940 :............ 3 160 /10 = 316
    01.02 - 29.02.1940 :............ 9 074 /12 = 756
    01.03 - 13.03.1940 :............ 7 377/13 x 2*) = 1 134

    (Winter War ended 13th of March, less than half month. However I checked casualties until 16th of March to get most of those later died of wounds). There were surely no trench warfare for any those 9-13 divisions. Actually all them faced some of the most horrific slaughter scene of war especially since early Feb 1940. However i would suggest that casualties like 500 combat deaths/division/month is proof of fierce battle during WW2.

    Continuation War (between Finland and Soviet Union) was even more separated with fierce battles of summer 1941 and summer 1944. Between them was long period of trench warfare, especially from summer 1942 to early June 1944.

    01.07 - 31.07.1941 :................ 6 677/16 (div)*) = 417 (over 700 for those attacking)
    01.08 - 31.08.1941 ................. 8 582/16 (div) = 536
    01.09 - 30.09.1941 ................. 4 951 (16 (div)**) = 310 (over 500 for those attacking)

    *) 7 in trench warfare, 9 in offensive
    **) some 5 div halted their offensive in Karelian Isthmus until reaching the old Finnish-Russian borderline (HQ order), also some divisions in Syväri(Svir) halted their offensive before mid September.

    Trench warfare (with only some smaller restricted combat action):

    01.06.1942 - 31.05.1944:.................. 8 232/~15 div/24months = 23 combat loss per month per division

    Summer 1944:

    10.09- 09.07.1944 : ..........................11 156/16 div = 697
    10.07 - 09.08.1944 : .......................... 4 328/16 div = 270 (some 500 for those in fierce combat action)
    10.08 - 05.09.1944 (ceasefire 5th of Sept).......743/16 = ~ 50 (less than month period)

    (division strength some 20% lower in 1944 than in 1941-42 but actually there were 13 infantry divisions, one armour division and 7 infantry brigades and 50% more artillery battalions)
    ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Hope those combat loss figures (all combat deaths, not just "killed in action") and huge differences (combat, fierce combat, trench warfare) can open some talks how to handle issue like "division in front line".

    For Finnish Army World War Two was about 641 "division months"in front line. 42 in Winter War, 589 in Continuation War and 10 in Lapland War. The price: 81 896 combat deaths between 30th of Nov to 25th of April 1945 giving average figure 128 combat deaths per division per month with huge differences between long trench warfare period and some 9 months of bloody carnage (Winter War, summer 1941 and summer 1944). Extremum, more than thousand combat deaths per division per month in Feb-March 1940.

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  76. I guess Red Arm with average 40 divisions took combat death casualties of more than 1000/division/month. (Latest Russian study suggesting that at least 150 000 Soviet soldiers were killed, that number might have been even 200 000 in Winter War).

    I have also latest Russian study suggesting that 113 000 Soviet soldiers were killed in Karelian Istmus and Karelian front in June-August 1944. Comparable number of Red Army divisions using 12 000 men measure /div giving perhaps 35 (actually there were much more but average of division about 6 500- 7 000, tens of separate brigades and regiments of armour and artillery). Average losses (deaths) about 1 000/div/month ( some 1 400 in June-July).

    For Germans butchers bill is showing average figure: 330 combat deaths/division/month. (using average 170 divisions in east and 2.4 million deaths untill 31st of Dec 1944).

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    1. All combat deaths for Finns during 1st of June - 12th Sept 1944 were showing figures: 16 602 based on this database:

      http://kronos.narc.fi/menehtyneet/

      So the kill rate between Finns and Red Army has been 1:6,8 ( if following those Soviet statistics checked in Russia some decade after Krivosheev's studies).

      That loss rate is surely not suggesting much progress in combat kills of Red Army. Likely two direction traffic: better mobility and weapons but worse level of troops generally and especially those replacement troops.

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  77. Perhaps the way Red Army lost their last five battles against Finns in July-August 1944 will open blue eyes of so many westeners to understand how poor Red Army was during the last half of the war. Both Finnish and German military HQ knew their better mobility and growing number of armour and air craft. But they knew something very special - remarkable low level of their reserves (hardly trained at all) and growing problems with food supply, malnutrition.

    How can anyone claim Red Army being better and better while using soldiers born in 1891-1927 (in 1944 campaign) and executing tens of thousands of soldiers during when driving to eastern Europe.

    It's time to debunk the myth of Red Army "becoming better and better". Facts are suggesting something very different.

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  78. Combat casualties is of course one method to estimate the role of division on battleground. I'd more likely use combat loss percentage. The strenght of units, brigades and divisions were very different. Most studies are hardly carefully checking strenght of German, Red Army or what ever. Real strenght of German division might have something between 13 000 to about 3000. For Red Army it may have been 1500 to 10 000. Thats average lossed of deaths like 200/division/month could tell about very fierce battle (or not).

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