Saturday, December 27, 2014

D Day... if the right generals were in charge?

Who should have commanded Allied forces from D Day on, and would the war have been shortened thereby?

(Another 'what if' to stir debate. Stirring the pot as usual... hope you enjoy it.)

Whenever I do a post on 'rating' this general, or that general: the comments usually come down to 'but at this battle they failed, whereas at this battle such and such succeeded'. These comments almost always try to compare apples with oranges, suggesting that someone good at open field pursuit with little opposition, would have done better at an invasion than someone brilliant at tight defensive battles who never commanded a successful advance. In fact the opposite would be more likely, with someone who has good knowledge of how to fight tight engagements probably much better at an invasion than someone who had only ever pursued broken enemies with loose formations in open spaces. Their specific knowledge bases are probably more important than the fact that one had possibly seen only victory, and the other only defeat.

The truth is that any successful high command should maximise the chances of success of any campaign by choosing the 'best fit' for the job.

But that is not how generals were chosen for D Day.

(I would love to start with divisional commanders, but there are way to many, so for space I will start with Corps and Army commanders, and work up to the top).

The outstanding Canadian of the campaign for instance was Guy Simonds. Described by many as the best Allied Corps commander in France, and credited with re-invigorating the Canadian Army HQ when he filled in while his less successful superior Harry Crerar was sick, Simonds was undoubtedly the standout Canadian officer in both Italy and France.

He was however, the youngest Canadian division, corps or army commander, and the speed of his promotions pushed him past many superiors. He was also described as 'cold and uninspiring' even by those who called him 'innovative and hard driving'. It can be taken as a two edged sword that Montgomery thought he was excellent (presumably implying Montgomery like qualities?) But his promotions seemed more related to ability than cronyism, and his achievements were undoubted.

Should he have been the Canadian Army commander instead of Crerar? Yes. Arguments against were mainly his lack of seniority, and lack of experience. but no Canadian had more experience, and lack of seniority was no bar in most of the other Allied armies.

It comes down to the simple fact that the Allied cause would have been better served by having Simonds in charge of Canadian forces than Crerar.

The most interesting British Corps commander was Neil Ritchie. Interesting because he had previously been given unexpected command of Eighth Army at a crucial point of the desert war, and been sacked for failing in this role. In fact his appointment from HQ officer over the heads of many senior battlefield commanders in 1942 had been supposed to be a temporary one, and Brooke had been appalled at such a junior officer being thrown in way over his head and 'damaged'. Once sacked, he was returned to England, where Brooke carefully built him back up through divisional and then corps command, to make him ready for re-entering the war at an appropriate level.

Few would say that Ritchie was the most brilliant corps commander on the allied side, but he did a much better job than many of his contemporaries. His 'reconditioning' proved to be a worthwhile development (underlining how his earlier failure reflects more on his superiors than on him).

Was he the right man for the job? Yes, both due to his undoubted (if painful) past experience, and to his natural ability which had overcome such a past.

As an interesting comparison Gerard Bucknall was sacked as commander of the British XXX Corps during the campaign by the man who had appointed him, Montgomery again. Bucknall had served competently in North Africa, and impressed Montgomery as a divisional commander in Sicily and Italy, but Alan Brooke as CIGS felt that he was unsuitable as a Corps commander, and experience was to suggest that (as usual) Brooke was correct.

Montgomery sacked Bucknall for repeated failures during the breakout operations, and, fortunately, Brian Horrocks had recuperated enough from his North African injuries to take over and re-invigorate XXX Corps for the rest of the war. Brooke didn't hold this sacking against Bucknall, and appointed him commander of Northern Ireland for the rest of the war. Another example of accepting men at their ability levels, and not blaming them for being pushed beyond them.

Horrocks was definitely the right man for a corps command, as he had proved in North Africa, and was to prove again. If he had not been wounded (by a strafing fighter) at Tunisia, he might have been the right man to be army commander too. He certainly was by far the most experienced corps commander, having fought from Alemein to Tunisia, and then from Normandy to the Rhur. It is possible to suggest that he would have been a better commander of the British 2nd Army than Dempsey... if not for his being out injured for a critical year.

Another possibility for British 2nd Army commander was O'Connor, who instead served as commander of VIII Corps. O'Connor was THE outstanding corps commander of the first half of the war, with achievements in North Africa that only Patton came close to matching later. Of course both O'Connor and Patton achieved their most dramatic successes against the Italians, not against the Germans, but both are masters of high speed manoeuvre.

Having said that, O'Connor also succeeded in breaking fortified lines several times in North Africa – a role that Patton notably failed in at the Metz (though we might note that O'Connor faced Italians, and Patton Germans). So O'Connor had been a brilliant Corps commander before most other Allied generals had led a division, and might have been considered a better choice for Army command too.

Unfortunately O'Connor had spent two years in captivity during the middle of the war, and there is some doubt that he was up to even corps command in France. He certainly performed competently – who with his experience would not have – but he lacked the fire of his previous command.

It is also possible that freewheeling corps commander was actually his metier, and army command might have been beyond him? perhaps if he had not had those two years in captivity he may have developed into a good army commander. But he did, and thus he didn't.

Was he the right man in the right place? He was certainly a safe pair of hands, and it was sensible to give him a key role at the start. He proved uninspiring after that, and it was perhaps also sensible to replace him with better goers later. An interesting debate could trend either way, but all in all it was probably sensible to rely on his experience until others proved themselves.

'Lightning Joe' Collins was one of the best of the American corps commanders for the campaign in France, not only through natural ability, but through sheer experience. He commanded the 25th Division on Gudalcanal and then on New Georgia before transferring to Europe to provide a bit of genuine combat experience, and he commanded VII Corps throughout the campaign extremely competently. He was a prime example of using safe and experienced hands to lead new or inexperienced troops into combat. His leadership of Operation Cobra finally allowed inexperienced US units to break experienced (if depleted) German troops, and converted the Normandy siege into the great trans-France pursuit.

Definitely one of the best men for the job in France.

By contrast Leonard Gerow proved to be very competent despite his lack of combat experience. A contemporary of Bradley (who was second to him in the Advanced Course at Infantry School) and Eisenhower (who was his study partner at Command and General Staff school), there was no reason he  could not have finished senior to both, rather than staying a corps commander for his few months of operations. Such is fate.

But he turned out to be a good choice for his role, and proved a safe pair of hands despite his inexperience. A man who might have been a good army commander with more experience.

Interestingly Charles Corlett did not bring XIX corps into action until after the invasion was successful. This is fascinating because he had commanded two successful invasions in the Pacific – Kisku, which proved to be a non event because the Japanese had left, and the much tougher Kwajalein operation, often called 'the most nearly perfect' of all US invasions in the pacific war. Why such a proven invasion commander (he was later to be tasked with planning to invade Japan) was not used for the actual invasion is an interesting question. Clearly he might have been better at that than less experienced contemporaries?

Which raises the fundamental question, why was the single most experienced and successful American invader (North Africa, Sicily, Italy.. twice) Lucian Truscott, not brought up for the most important invasion of the war? He was a proven corps performer, with vastly greater experience than even the Pacific veterans, and deservedly got an army of his own in 1944. Not only was he the outstanding choice for a corps commander for an invasion, he would have been a vastly superior choice as Army commander to the less experienced (and less competent) Bradley or Hodges.

Admittedly he was pretty hotly engaged in Italy at the time. (And admittedly, his presence had repeatedly saved the situation when other less competent generals had screwed things up), but he was the standout invasion specialist in the US army. If Marshall genuinely believed that Italy was a wasted sideshow, and everything should be focused on France, his being left in the secondary theatre was a pretty strange choice.

Should he have been there? Definitely. Was it possibly helpful that one competent leader was left in 5th army? Probably. Perhaps we need to accept that the best available was simply not available?

There are other corps commanders, but lets move on to the army leaders.

Harry Crerar has been mentioned . Pedestrian might be an acceptable phrase. He was not completely incompetent, but he inspired no one, and his achievements were made to look poor in the few months that Simonds got to stir his command up. Was he the wrong man in the wrong place? Yes.

Miles Dempsey is interesting. Proved quite competent in the end, but hardly inspiring. The need to leave Leese with 8th army and Slim with 14th was probably necessary, and he certainly had a background with combined ops and invasions, but possibly more inspiring leaders were available (Horrocks and O'Connor have already been mentioned), but taking all things into consideration, Dempsey was possibly a safe choice form the dozen or so experienced corps commanders quite ready to run an army. His well organised and fast (200 miles in a single day) pursuit of the defeated Germans across France was actually faster than Patton achieved against considerably less opposition.

Was he the right man for the job? Well he was certainly a competent choice.

Which is quite a contrast to Courtney Hodges, who appears a fairly incompetent choice. He had flunked out of West Point as a young man before re-enlisting as a private and working his way up. As such his final role commanding US 1st Army is quite an achievement. However he led it into battle despite having no combat experience since leading a platoon for a couple of weeks of combat in WW1. He was astonishingly highly thought of by Eisenhower considering his lack of achievement, and Montgomery was at one point amazed to realise that US 1st army had 20+ divisions assigned (bigger than most army group HQ's could handle successfully) whereas US 9th army next door had less divisions assigned than most corps.

Hodges advance across France was nothing special, except for a fairly major disaster called 'the battle of the bulge', where his army survived more due to the individual toughness of a few units, than to any leadership from above. (Monty's contact officers arrived at his HQ to find it completely abandoned, but with all the maps still on the walls... When they finally chased him down, he had taken to his bed in what might have been considered a nervous collapse.)

Hodges next great effort was the disastrous battle of the Heurtgen Forest, one of the last great German defensive victories of the war, and an absolute bloodbath for American forces. (It was later excused on the 'vital need' to capture two damns... but that 'need' was not apparently discovered until the battle was almost over, and the recriminations already mounting.)

Did Hodges have the experience, or skill to run an army? There is little evidence that he did. Did he cause it enormously greater casualties than a more experienced general might have? Almost certainly inarguable. Was he the wrong man in the wrong place? Yes.

By contrast William Simpson might have been a good choice for 1st army, as he proved for 9th army when it came on line. A soldier with actual combat experience in the Philippines, and WW1, he proved a competent and safe pair of hands, particularly in reacting swiftly and smoothly to the Battle of the Bulge. He also worked very smoothly with the difficult Montgomery after that, and was highly rated by Monty as the most competent US general he dealt with during the war.

Should he have been given more experience before getting such a key position? Yes. Did he cope well considering his lack of experience? Very. Was he the right man for such a role? Probably not, but he performed well enough to deserve praise.

Alexander Patch was one of the few American army leaders who were promoted from experienced corps leaders who had seen a lot of combat. His efforts with a division and later corps on Guadalcanal meant he had experience to go with his role. He was hardly outstanding, but certainly a safe pair of hands for such a role. It is interesting that he got an army when Collins and Corlett did not, even though they probably had superior claims to him.

George Patton was of course the other army leader who had seen some actual combat, but that is the only thing you can say about him that won't cause debate. Personally I think he would have been a better choice for Army group commander than his ex-subordinate/now superior Bradley, but that is no great compliment to either.

Patton had a genuine 'nose' for assessing what was going on in combat. On the other hand I think he is hugely over-rated as an army commander, in that he was only ever successful in pursuit of defeated foes.

Despite the propaganda in the film about him, he had nothing to do with the Germans pulling back after Kasserine. He did get to swan around in Sicily collecting Italians who were lining up to surrender as fast as possible, and he also got to go on a scenic cruise through France when there was no opposition to his advance. He proved very competent at pushing such advances, and was happy to make or mend (or steal) anything to keep momentum going. With experience, he might have made a good all round general.

But his only real testing against an enemy prepared and willing to fight was at the Metz, where he failed dismally. Given that this came within days of his 'shit through a goose speech', the fact that he was stopped cold for months and could think of nothing to do about it (to the extent of eventually going to sulk in Paris for weeks), argues against him being a great general.

He was in the right place to lead the troops after the breakout, but he was probably too inexperienced in combat to be given a role that should have gone to Truscott or Collins or Corlett instead.

Wrong man for the job.

Jean De Lattre de Tassigny was definitely the right man. A very experienced combat professional, and one who had the honour of being described by his German opponent in 1940 as having led men who performed like those at Verdun in the previous war. He fought in North Africa, Sardinia, Italy, and France (and later was one of the few success stories in Vietnam), and was always efficient and effective. Right man for the job, and possibly a better candidate to command the US/French Army group than Devers.

Jacob Devers was the Army Group commander no one has heard of. Despite having run all US Army Armoured units for most of the war, he had no real combat experience before being thrown in to command an army group in the invasion of Southern France and the fight up to Germany. Despite being one of the best organisers and administrators and trainers available to the US Army, he had little background to deal with a combined US/French army group, and struggled to stay in charge of the French component (though many others might have too in the last months of the war).

Was he the right man for the job? Probably not. Certainly it is a shame to think how much better he would have been running Eisenhower's logistics than the appalling Lee turned out to be. His skills could have been better employed. But on the other hand, by the time he got into action there was little that he could have done to undermine things anyway.

Certainly a better man than his lack of recognition deserves, despite his lack of experience for such a role.

Omar Bradley is easier. Out of his depth.

He had been quite good running a corps in Sicily, against no opposition from Italians who wanted to surrender. But it can hardly be said that a month of such operations made him an experienced combat leader.

Perhaps if he had been left as an army commander he might have proved competent (with careful mentoring). But he had to be gently pushed to concentrate adequately to achieve things for the breakout, and then he operated like a junior corps commander directing traffic.

Was he experienced enough to run an army group? No. Was he good at it? No. Hodges was poor, Patton did as he liked, and Bradley's organisation and control failed to control them, let alone lead them. He wandered between sitting at Eisenhower's side whinging about not being able to communicate with most of his armies after being caught out at 'the battle of the bulge', to telling Patton he would 'stay away from the telephone' so Eisenhower couldn't order him to stop Patton's insubordination.

Bradley would have been an excellent divisional commander. With more practice, he looked like making a very good corps commander. He was an inexperienced and inadequate army commander. As Army group commander he was terribly out of his depth.

Montgomery... Oh God, Montgomery!

Montgomery was the most experienced, skilled and competent Army or Army Group commander in Europe (or indeed the world). He was absolutely the right person to be commanding an army, and seemed to be quite good at commanding an army group.

But he was not a good choice for 'Land Forces Commander'. He was simply the wrong personality to work with the group such a role needed to co-ordinate.

Nor did he have the strategic vision to relate a tactical campaign to the overall situation.

Having said that, having him as army group commander of the initial invasion, was probably sensible. It needed one strong experienced and unpanicked hand, and even Eisenhower and Bradley (hardly admirers) later admitted that invasion might not have worked at all without him.

And having him as land forces commander afterwards, despite his weaknesses and the trouble it would cause, would still have been better than not having one at all.

But not much.

(In fact his personality was so difficult he may well have caused almost as much damage as Eisenhower's HQ was managing anyway... If not adequately controlled... which meant NOT by eisenhower.)

Was Monty the right man in the right place? Yes. Did he NEED a strong commander? Yes. Did he get one? No. Was that his fault? .... Well again, don't blame a subordinate if his superiors stuff things up...

Monty was correct of course that someone had to do the job of land forces commander, and that it would be better to give it even to someone relatively incompetent like Bradley, than simply pretend it was not necessary.

In fact he would have been happy to have Ike's preferred choice, Alexander, who had never inspired Monty with confidence, but who at least knew what the job entailed, and had an unrivalled ability to get people to work together. (Yes, better than Ike's ability... much better.)

What was absolutely vital was someone who could concentrate on the land battle while the Supreme Commander played politics.

Who was qualified to be land forces commander? Bloody good question.

Alexander is the default choice. He had done it before, and made it work. Was he the best choice? No. too soft and conciliatory, and earlier in the war his juniors (Monty, Patton, Clarke) played him the way Patton later played Bradley. But there are signs that after a few years of experience he was maturing, and might have been up to the job. (Or at least more up to it than anyone else available.)

Who might have done it better? Alan Brooke of course. Possibly his successor at home army Bernard Paget, who, despite limited modern combat experience in Norway, had enormous experience training and organising the invasion armies. Or even Henry 'Jumbo' Wilson who, despite being thrown out of Greece, and running an uninspiring Syrian campaign before taking over 10th army, had at least seen modern combat on large fronts. Otherwise William Slim, the Australian John Lavarack, or perhaps even an experienced American army commander like Robert Eichelberger. Even the inexperienced Devers at lest had the managerial ability to get something done.

As Monty said, anyone would have been better than no one.

Which leaves Supreme Allied Commander.

Much is said about Eisenhowers great strengths. He certainly had buckets of charm, a great work ethic, and an unrivalled ability to co-ordinate disparate characters.

Less is said about his weaknesses. His charm hid ignorance of military affairs; his overwork reduced him to a nervous chain smoking wreck; and his attempts to jolly people along meant he failed to control (or sack) Lee, Patton, Montgomery, or anyone of the many others who eventually gave up on waiting for sensible leadership and just started doing their own thing. (That's unfair, he did threaten to sack Monty... once. Probably the only time of many he needed to make a stand that he actually did... and it would have achieved nothing if he had done it.)

It is inconceivable that anyone as inexperienced and unskilled at military operations as Eisenhower should have been left to play the role of land forces commander... or to pretend he was doing so given that no one actually did the job properly anyway. He did not have the knowledge, experience, or temperament, to command armies in the field.

So his first failure to be an adequate Supreme Commander is that he didn't understand he needed competent subordinates, run by a competent subordinate, and working to a competent plan.

Tens of thousands of casualties can be scored up to this fundamental failing.

So lets imagine for a minute that he had the sense to insist on having Alexander run things, and had concentrated on his actual job. Could he have been a success at being Supreme commander if he wasn't failing at ground forces commander?

Again, probably not. His failure to control or inspire his subordinates is evident from the above. But his failures in the geo-political sphere are even more depressing.

This was the man who had insisted an invasion of France was possible in 1942 when he was at war plans division, only to want to stop an invasion of Sicily in 1943 if 2 more German divisions showed up. This was the man who failed to convince the French leadership (in Gibraltar pre North Africa, in North Africa post that invasion, or in France post that invasion), or the Italian leadership (during surrender negotiations) to play ball in a sensible way. Combine that with his disastrous approach to abandoning Central Europe to the Russians when he could have saved much of it, and you get the impression that he should not have been playing politics at all.

(Which is amusing, because he turned out to be a much better President than he was a general.)

Again, who were better choices?

Again, Alan Brooke, obviously. A much, much more experienced combat leader, and corps, army, army group, and home army commander, with incredible geo-political skill and negotiating experience. (Also a French born, French speaking officer who had fought over very inch of Northern France in two wars.) More importantly, a man who Montgomery, and everyone else, absolutely obeyed, and whose tongue lashings they both feared and respected.

There is no chance that a campaign run by him would have had half the problems Eisenhower's HQ managed to create.

Anyone else? Well again, on the basis that if the person had concentrated on their real job, anyone was better than no one, the list of more experienced and competent generals/admirals (not saying much really), is pretty endless.... Alexander, Auchinlek, Blamey, Brooke, Cunningham, Devers, Mountbatten, Nimitz, Ramsay, Spatz, Wavell, Wilson, etc, etc.

So what would be the ideal listing?

Supreme Commander - Brooke

Deputy Commander - Eisenhower
Air Forces - Spatz
Naval Forces - Ramsay

Land Forces - Alexander

British/Canadian Army Group - Montgomery

American Army Group - Eichelberger

US/French Army Group - de Lattre de Tassigny

Canadian Army - Simonds

British Army - Dempsey

French Army - Koenig

9th US Army - Simpson

1st US Army - Corlett

3rd US Army - Collins

7th US Army - Patch

The weakest part of that list is Alexander who, as noted, may have been coming along anyway. (His final campaign in Italy was a masterpiece, so it appears he had learn't something). 

But the key element is that with Brooke providing the brains and giving clear directions, Alexander would be free to co-ordinate operations. And no one, least of all Montgomery, was going to question Brooke's orders.

Would the war have finished quicker with that list? Yes.

Would there have been less casualties? Probably.

Would Central Europe have been saved from the Russians? Almost certainly.

Would more of Germany finished up in Western hands? Unlikely given pre-arrangements, but possibly.

Would the post war settlement have been better? Very likely.

Would German soldiers have had more chance to surrender to the West rather than fight to the end against the Russians? Definitely.

Was an earlier surrender, or even another coup attempt, more likely? Here's hoping.

But let's repeat the main one... Earlier finish with less casualties? Yes.




PS: Amusingly Patton too (had he got a guernsey as a corps or army commander) would have been delighted to have Brooke in charge. No chance of a broad front strategy, plenty of opportunity for 'blitzkrieg' tactics instead, and no chance of not pursuing the Germans into central Europe. Patton, who had the best geo-political sense of any American general except MacArthur, would have loved it!

58 comments:

  1. Provocative as usual

    I think you underestimate Bradley - his Corps did some heavy fighting against the Germans in Sicily, and overestimate Alexander - the final successful campaign may have had more to do with his CoS Harding? Collins should also get some of the blame for the Huertgen Forest.

    Some names missing as well - Clarke I can understand, but Crocker must be an oversight?

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    1. Dear Aber,

      I stick to thinking Bradley was shaping up as a good corps commander, was pretty inexperienced to be an army commander, (but had potential with the right mentor), and was way too inexperienced to be an army group commander.

      Alexander is interesting. I have trouble with him, and agree his best work was when either McCreery or Harding were his COS. But he had 'grip', and never panicked, and despite my doubts about him, he clearly learned as he went.

      Still I wouldn't call him a great general.

      Nigel

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  2. What a wonderful and thought provoking article! Plenty to think about here. I think you are pretty much correct in your analysis. It's good too to see Patton cut down to size. As he said himself: he was touring France with an army and was probably mentally unhinged too. How the allies must have envied the Germans who seemed to have a conveyer belt system for producing great generals. Still, at least we won!

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  3. What a wonderful and thought provoking article! Plenty to think about here. I think you are pretty much correct in your analysis. It's good too to see Patton cut down to size. As he said himself: he was touring France with an army and was probably mentally unhinged too. How the allies must have envied the Germans who seemed to have a conveyer belt system for producing great generals. Still, at least we won!

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    1. Democracies are always at a disadvantage. They treat their militaries like crap in peacetime, and all the best leaders leave, then they are surprised they have to work with very average people and build from scratch in wartime.

      From the Australian perspective, our senior filed generals were usually from the militia (reserves), and had other careers. this led to some interesting results, with some of the best professional soldiers - Lavarack - struggling for positions, while some of the worst - Gordon-Bennett - got positions they shouldn't have had.

      Monty comment that he gave a Corps in 8th army to someone junior to Morshead bcse he could not believe an amateur would be so bloody good, but soon realised the next vacancy should go to him.

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    2. With regards to AUS, the post WW1 scale-down was both inevitable and unavoidable due to the economic realities of the time. The uneven pace of promotions for junior and field grade Staff Corps officers in comparison to their militia counterparts WAS a major sore point. However, the incomprehensible proclamation at the start of the war that all command positions in the 6th Division (first formation created) can be sheeted straight home to one Robert Gordon Menzies.

      With regards to Gordon Bennett, despite being one of the most senior officers available he was actually "frozen out" of all the original AIF Divisional Commands due to distrust by both the Staff Corp AND Blamey. He only got the 8th Div after White (the recalled CGS) was killed in a plane crash & the original 8th GOC, Sturdee, was promoted to CGS.

      DO have a quibble regarding your 'ambit claims' re Brooke's command experience. His most senior field command was a corp command in France 1940 where we can agree he 'passed muster'. From then until his promotion to CIGS, his commands were UK based Southern Command & Home Forces which whilst demanding, never involved actual "operational command". Therefore we have no tangible proof that of his operational capacity as an army and/or army group commander. As CIGS, we can be thankful he WAS in the chair and was tough enough to rein in the loose cannon at 10 Downing St.

      Re CAN command, perhaps their problems may be partially due to CAN troops/formations being 'held out" of operational deployment until Italy. The CAN government insistence that CAN forces NOT be broken up and deployment "piecemeal" was very understandable given WW1 experiences but their troops and commanders may've valued the 'big match experience'' (and lessons) AUS & NZ troops and commanders obtained earlier in the war.

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    3. Good thoughts, but a quibble about Brooke.

      Brooke's Great War combat experience included such minor details as designing and organising the complex and successful fire plans that the Army and Army Group staffs he worked on used to finally smash through the German lines. He commanded multiple brigades of artillery in plans designed to move the entire Western front further than it had moved in years.

      Compared to that, most of the American generals outlined above commanded perhaps a platoon for a few weeks in WW1. (Many like Eisenhower had never commanded anything in combat).

      I think you can safely suggest that Brooke's operational experience at Army and Army Group levels might have contributed somewhat to him being as successful at those commands as he was at every other task he ever touched? Certaily compared to people who were still successful with no such experience (again, like several of the American generals i refer to admiringly above...)

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  4. Here is what the Germans thought of Eisenhower
    Eisenhower is an expert on operations of armored formations. He is noted for his great energy, and his hatred of routine office work. He leaves the initiative to his subordinates whom he manages to inspire to supreme efforts through kind understanding and easy discipline. His strongest point is said to be an ability for adjusting personalities to one another and smoothing over opposite viewpoints. Eisenhower enjoys the greatest popularity with Roosevelt and ChurchillLuftwaffe Academy Lecture, Invasion Generals, Careers and Assessments, 7 Feb 44, Generalstab der Luftwaffe, 8. Abteilung (hist sec), British Air Ministry files.

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  5. Here is what General Balck the commander of army group g thought of the broad front strategy.
    The Army Group G commander did what he could to wring adequate support from OB WEST, and thus indirectly from OKW. He described what he considered to be an alteration in American tactics. Earlier the Americans had attacked in force in a few sectors, giving the Germans opportunity to concentrate at the points of pressure. Now the Americans tended to break up their former large "assault reserves" and launch a whole series of smaller assault detachments in attacks on a wide front. The superior mobility of the American forces allowed a rapid regrouping after the initial penetrations and kept the Germans constantly off balance. These tactics, said Balck, could be met only by building up strong, armored, counterattack reserves behind all parts of the front. But such reserves, as Balck himself admitted, were not available.

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    1. Ah yes, just before the Germans launched a little battle called 'The Bulge...'

      I think they exploited Ike's 'strategy' brilliantly, despite their weakness, don't you?

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    2. I don't think bulge disproves the broad front strategy. They just caught us with our pants down. We should have been expecting a major counter attack. It was the perfect time

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    3. And it's well documented that Patton's G2 Koch saw the offensive coming but couldn't convince outside 3rd Army.

      Besides, the offensive couldn't have happened anyway if Monty hadn't inflicted the massive time-wasting failures of Antwerp-Scheldt and Market-Garden.

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  6. Here is what Rommel thought of the Americans:
    "What was astonishing was the speed with which the Americans adapted themselves to modern warfare. In this they were assisted by their extraordinary sense for the practical and material, and by their complete lack of regard for tradition and worthless theories…
    "In Tunisia the Americans had to pay a stiff price for their experience, but it brought rich dividends. Even at that time, the American generals showed themselves to be very advanced in the tactical handling of their forces, although we had to wait until the Patton Army in France to see the most astonishing achievements in mobile warfare. The Americans, it is fair to say, profited far more than the British from their experience in Africa, thus confirming the axiom that education is easier than re-education".
    [from 'The Rommel Papers', B.H. Liddell Hart (Ed.), pp.521, 523]

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    1. Agree with most of that.

      Again, I note that democracies face a steep uphill learning curve when they have to fight.

      The Americans were pretty lucky that their 'bad' learning experiences were pretty much over in less than a year or so... Philippines, New Guinea, and Tunisia (and Anzio and Salerno I suppose), while the British had to face them for three times that long before things started swinging the allied way.

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  7. It's a little misleading to say Patton didn't capture Metz of course eventually he did. The initial assault at Metz was a complicated situation. Patton knew he had a couple of weeks to tweak his lines at the end of September before his supplies were to be diverted. It was decided one of these limited attacks would be at Fort Driant. During the attack it became obvious that this was an undertaking that could not be accomplished with the resources at hand (overstretched supply lines) The records show that Patton made no attempt to force the attack further, but it appears General Walker of XX corps had his fangs out and did press on longer but eventually had to call it off or risk being insubordinate (Eisenhower had told him personally that he wanted this to be a period of rest for XX corps and the Third Army as a whole. And so the Third Army was told to go on the defensive for most of the month of October while it's supplies and 2 of its divisions were diverted elsewhere. Of course after this period Metz was captured very successfully.

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    1. Yes,. The 'shit through a goose' speech was 'shit'.

      Supplies were not adequate for a broad front advance, and Patton's sulking in Paris for a few weeks before 'success', is part of the entire mess that was a badly planned and led campaign.

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    2. Aside from the initial attack on Metz I haven't seen anything that indicated poor planning. Although it's obvious they were learning as they went. The Germans almost always got the worst of it.

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    3. The Murray & Millett explanation seems to be a very plausible one identifying that old scourge known as 'Perfidious Albion'. ..
      "The major factor in Ike’s decision, which soon led to Operation Market Garden, lay in his belief that Antwerp, because of its port facilities, represented the crucial objective in the puzzle for the coming fall and winter campaigns. His directives to Twenty-First Army Group emphasized that capturing Antwerp and opening the Scheldt River were Montgomery’s most important priorities. However, for one of the few times in his career, Montgomery had his eyes fastened on a sweeping, risk-taking approach to operations. He decided to throw everything he had into striking for the north German plain, leaving Antwerp for solution at a later date.
      Montgomery’s failure to open the Scheldt may have been deliberate—so that there would be sufficient supplies to support only his drive over the Rhine. Then, for logistical reasons, SHAEF’s forces would have had to support his single thrust onto the north German plain. The obstinate refusal of Twenty-First Army Group to support the Canadian First Army, who were supposed to clear the banks of the Scheldt of German forces, as well as Montgomery’s directions that they focus instead on the capture of the Channel ports, provides circumstantial evidence for this interpretation. Not until mid-October, and then only after pressure from the Royal Navy as well as Eisenhower, would Montgomery give priority to supplying the Canadians with artillery ammunition and thus provide them with the support necessary to open the Scheldt".
      W. Murray & A. R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War, Belknap, Cambridge (Mass.), 2000, p.437-8

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    4. "His directives to Twenty-First Army Group emphasized that capturing Antwerp and opening the Scheldt River were Montgomery’s most important priorities."

      This is arguable - Eisenhower's directives at the time also emphasised the Ruhr, the Saar, Amsterdam etc and it is not clear that he told Montgomery that Antwerp was the most important. In addition clearing the Scheldt for shipping could not be done quickly - the waterway had been mined in June and Walcheren Island (an Atlantic Wall fortress) needed a seaborne assault and the landing craft were not available.

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    5. Dear Aber,

      good try, but Matt likes to foam at the mouth a bit, and tends to be pretty selective in how he sees the sources.

      I have no problem with that (I do it too sometimes just to push the boat out), it just adds to the fun of the debate.

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    6. No, the actual mission from Ike was Antwerp and the primary sources are unambiguous on that. Monty was insubordinate and (yet again) would have been sacked but for diplomatic concerns, and the practical challenge of finding a replacement from a British hierarchy obsessed with its own bizarre social strata

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    7. Then you should have no problem providing the documents showing Eisenhower giving Montgomery the mission of opening Antwerp above all other objectives ;-)

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    8. Dear Aber,

      you are correct of course, Ike's directives were sending people in so many directions, with so many priorities, and then with some many theoretical and actual changes to logistical allocations, that it is possible to argue - if you are sell chive - just about anything.

      Matt can definitely find quite a few statements emphasising Antwerp. If he bothered, he could find quite a few emphasising a dozen other things at the same time. But he has often been very selective with what he quotes.

      Having said that, if the war WAS going on into 1945, Antwerp was vital. If the war could be finished in 1944, then moving fast was more important than consolidating. If you want a real laugh , have a look at when Ike's HQ started thinking it might go into 1945? Up to shortly before the Bulge many officers related to his HQ felt Ike had lost interest in the war and was busy planning his Presidential campaign. (See, for instance, Eisenhowers Lieutenants...)

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    9. It is a weak subordinate who blames his superior for priority mistakes especially one who wants to be in charge.
      Luckily Montgomery had an entire Army Group at his disposal one might think capable of doing a dozen things or more at one time. But the question is was he?
      IMO and many others Montgomery's Scheldt problem was of his own making, and a serious blunder, it seems having experience doesn't always make one wise.

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    10. Montgomery did things his way. Methodical and steady, always ensuring that he had a "tidy tail". Hot pursuit was definately not his forte as exemplified post Alamein II. Antwerp and its access were critical factors in the prosecution of the war at that stage - even if rapid advance was to be conducted. How much contemporary and post-war debate was and has taken place over the issue of supplies? Market Garden may not have been necessary if pursuit of the retreating Germans had taken place after the relief of Brussels. Horrocks admitted post-war that XXX Corps could have continued the chase but the thought "just didn't occur to them [British command]". By his account they had fuel and resources for a further 120 mile advance. Perhaps there was a tendency to stop, rest and accept the back-slapping of the Belgians at that point. I regard it as a time when Montgomery's supposed "grip" was found wanting. The same could be said of the prosecution of Market Garden itself. The British pause gave time to the Germans to regroup and refocus - something at which they excelled - and Market Garden suffered the consequences. A catalogue of operational failures and errors committed in the planning and operational phases of Market Garden showed that in many respects, after five years of war, the British Army still had plenty to learn.

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  8. Do you really think Eisenhower had the authority to "save" central Europe?

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    1. No. he was supposed to follow the orders of his military and political superiors. Such as the orders Churchill and Brooke were trying to give him to advance further, which he ignored (with Marshall's collusion because Roosevelt was so sick he was not contributing).

      Did he have the authority to decide to ignore such instructions? No.

      Did Marshall? No.

      Did he have the authority to communicate directly with Stalin? No again.

      He did what he wanted to, with or without authority, and made excuses later.

      If he had been right I would congratulate him on ignoring interfering busybody politicians (but still suggest he should be court-martialled). But he wasn't right, he was just self-righteous.

      He later admitted how wrong he was.

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    2. Maybe he was wrong maybe he wasn't. How do we know what a show down with the Soviets would have looked like? Maybe it would have started WW3.

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  9. The following is an interesting take on Metz: I want to check what Koch had to say about that Ardennes-Alsace choice.
    "Meanwhile, the withdrawal of the C-47s to get ready for the airborne
    operation ended the airlift of gas to Patton’s forces. By the time Third
    Army’s advance resumed, German forces defending Metz were already es-
    tablished. Whatever opportunities existed for further exploitation on the
    Western Front were rapidly disappearing. But Patton, directed by Bradley
    and Eisenhower and misled by the U.S. Army’s reading of European geog-
    raphy in the interwar period, was already driving at the wrong objective in
    moving against Metz, even before he lost his fuel. He might have had a
    better chance to reach the Rhine had he pushed toward the Ardennes, the
    very area through which the Germans had stormed in 1940. Equally useful
    to the Allied cause, Patton might also have closed up with the forces of
    Sixth Army Group which were advancing up the Rhone River valley. The
    failure to close that gap allowed much of Army Group G to escape despite a
    clear warning from Ultra that sizeable numbers of Germans (more than
    50,000 troops) were eluding capture."
    W. Murray & A. R. Millett, A War To Be Won: Fighting the Second World War, Belknap, Cambridge (Mass.), 2000, p.444

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  10. I must apologize this is the quote from the blog I was referring to in my statement about Metz
    "But his only real testing against an enemy prepared and willing to fight was at the Metz, where he failed dismally. Given that this came within days of his 'shit through a goose speech', the fact that he was stopped cold for months and could think of nothing to do about it (to the extent of eventually going to sulk in Paris for weeks), argues against him being a great general"
    It nowhere states Patton did not capture Metz.

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    1. Yes, no static from me on your essential point: blogger Nigel's just trolling (he admits as much in his "about me" statement). And it seems clearer now that Patton's concern for momentum was wholly justified and, if heeded, would have yielded such greater results than anything practically achievable even from a successful Market-Garden.
      The Murray & Millett quote is meant more to indicate that brilliant flexibility of the pivot to Bastogne, in an earlier, easier shift north, was not really available to Patton earlier given the tacit understanding with SHAEF - it would have been impossible for Patton and Koch to justify even if they had made contingency planning that much sooner than they did.
      I believe the more serious point in my quote is about the escape of Army Group G stragglers. Of course, that would have also required mercurial flexibility, intense diplomacy with Brad-Devers-SHAEF, and at least as intense an effort with 3rd Army's staff work and logistics. The speculation may be idle given practical time constraints on operations and communications at the time.
      But the whole matter is really one of debating degrees of success anyway. On Patton's 3rd Army, there's nothing near even a portion of the serial failure of Caen-Falaise-Antwerp-Arnhem.

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    2. Yes Hugh M. Cole's volume addresses the gap between Patton's and Dever's forces and if I recall correctly the reason for not closing it up tighter sooner, was how thinly his army was spread out (over 90 miles plus a screen of over 400 miles at the river iirc). He feared a counter attack, and we know his right flank was indeed counter attacked by sizable forces in mid thru late September (disorganized and ineffectual as it was).

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  11. I don't think it's fair to characterize the Third Armies Lorraine campaign as a mistake or a failure. The Lorraine has historically been an invasion route. It's terrain was seen as the most suitable for mechanized attack aside from the route through Belgium and the north German plains that Montgomery was to take. A brief look at a terrain map will bear this out.
    Third Army's Lorraine campaign unfortunately was the victim of a few circumstances beyond Patton's control.
    1. Supplies at the beginning of the campaign were inconsistent to say the least.
    2. Third Armies supplies were eventually redirected almost completely and Patton was directed to go on the defensive for almost the entire month of October because of this.
    3. Resumption of the offensive in November coincided with the rainy season. The rains of November 44 and into December were far far higher than normal in the region. This dramatically decreased the effectiveness of the Third Armies armored columns and it's mobility, restricting it's use to the main roads where of course the stiffest resistance would meet them. The unusually bad weather also had the effect of severely limiting the support XIX TAC (Third Armies air support )was able give for most of the campaign as well as grounding air observation planes for artillery.
    The consequences of these events was that Third Armies Lorraine campaign was to be mainly fought by infantry slogging through the thickest mud without air support, without artillery air observation and with what armor support could be provided from the hotly contested main roads.
    Given these conditions I submit that the Lorraine campaign was a success given the number of prisoners taken and the number of enemy formations destroyed. But alas no major breakout was to be achieved. By the time they were possibly in a position to exploit their gains and approaching the "West Wall" (the most heavily manned part of the wall it should be noted) in mid December as the ground was hardening...... Bulge and the redirection of the entire army front.
    So while the Third Armies slog through the Lorraine might be characterized as heartbreaking, tedious, and even gorey I would be hard pressed to call it a failure, for even in the face of these obstacles they made steady albeit slow progress.

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    1. Apart from quotes of Balck and Rommel, it's important to recall that Rundstedt, OKW and Hitler all agreed that Patton would be the most logical, "most likely course of enemy action" as their overall estimate of Allied intentions from Sept '44. They expected Patton to make the main push to the Saarland, and prepared Balck and the armor reserves accordingly for the Lorraine frontier.
      The Olivier movie 'A Bridge Too Far' dramatizes the record via a depiction of Rundstedt in a casual comment over the map table dismissing the notion of a Montgomery-led drive as ridiculous and out of the question. But the essential point is accurate, and not only from notes on Rundstedt.

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  12. If you would like to read a most factual and detailed history of the Lorraine campaign I suggest Hugh M. Coles volume of the same name.
    It is a bit of a tough read as the author makes no attempt to make it entertaining. However his notations are meticulous and the source material comes from official records and interviews.
    The book makes only the most obvious inferences that are always disclosed. A more meticulous and careful historian you may never find.
    Here is a link to the volume. http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USA/USA-E-Lorraine/index.html#X

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    1. Thanks for the link: a good source and one written with the clarity and sobriety due to such a subject. "Entertainment" in historiography is over-rated and often just plain dangerous.
      I must still sometime try out the old S&T wargame "Patton's 3rd Army" based on the Alsace-Lorraine campaign.

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  13. Glad your enjoying it Matt, Hugh M. Cole wrote many volumes about the U.S. Army in WW 2 they are all fantastic. Let me know how your like the game if you try it. I'm on Google plus.

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    1. i agree with a lot of that.

      All comes down to 'broad front strategy' not a good idea... Certainly not if you want to win the war earlier.

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    2. But then you allow the enemy to concentrate there defenses further increasing the chances of having your spearheads cut off. Like the third battle of Kharkov.

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    3. And especially so when the Wehrmacht had its back on very short lines of communication, making more possible the fast concentrated counterattacks around 'Hell's Highway' / Nijmegen-Arnhem, and the smaller counterstrikes at Paderborn and Hammelburg - the latter launched from conveniently sited training bases.
      Yes, 'Broad Front' was best - Monty's contrary approach via his 'thwust' at Arnhem proved so beyond doubt

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  14. I'd like Nigel to do a roast of the American general I think most deserved it Mark Clark. Insubordinate and a glory hound. His march through Paris perhaps cost many more months of fighting in Italy, it also cost the Allies an opportunity to open a southern front into Germany. What was his punishment for this blunder? He received command of an entire army group. How could this be? Lucian Truscot was incredulous at his decision to redirect his attack. Did it go higher? Did George Marshall order it, or maybe maybe even Roosevelt himself? It makes my brain explode even thinking about it.

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  15. David, to be fair, it's probably more that Clark was appointed to Fifth Army precisely because he was a tad knuckleheaded. After all, the entire campaign, urged by the British (Churchill, Brooke, Alex, etc.), was knuckleheaded in concept from start to finish. Italy's terrain all but prohibited modern mechanized warfare, compelling instead the technological and logistical equivalent of sumo wrestling in which the defender is anchored to giant boulders and perched on a steep hillfort.
    Marshall could only have appointed someone with a bloody-minded approach to command, and Clark may have been the best suited of any for the whole distasteful diplomatic compromise with London that the Italian Campaign was.
    Clark's diversion to Rome was perhaps a sop to his own troops, and to a US public, all thoroughly sickened and demoralized by such a wasteful campaign in such a bad choice of Europe's terrain, delaying victory.

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  16. Dear David,

    Yes, Clarke was an idiot. I do note he worked hard, and after all the dismal failures 'his' army had, it was almost amazing that he kept them moving at all.

    But he disobeyed direct orders to go to Rome instead of cutting off the retreating German army group and ending the Italian campaign, and the best Allied General in Italy - Lucian Truscott - thought his behaviour unprincipled and unacceptable.

    Truscott wanted to follow Alexander's orders.

    Strangely I also agree with Matt that the approach to the italian campaign was all wrong.

    either they should have stopped once they had knocked Italy out of the war and had the southern plains for Allied bombers to operate from; or they should have used their amphib resources to better effect. (But the problem there was that when they did use amphib, they left Clarke in charge, not someone competent like Truscott or McCreery.)

    Advancing one mountain range at a time was the worst of all world's.

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  17. Warfare is a fascinating subject. Despite the dubious morality of using violence to achieve personal or political aims. It remains that conflict has been used to do just that throughout recorded history.

    Your article is very well done, a good read.

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  18. Hello,

    An interesting piece. A few remarks to complement your analysis.

    On Crerar. Part of the job of the most senior Canadian guy is not military: there is some diplomacy with British or other allies, and there is the whole 'upward management' of the political guys in Canada. It is worth checking whether Simmonds could handle these tasks as well as Crerar before concluding. I'm not saying Simmonds would have been or bad there - as I have no idea -, just that this part of the analysis lacks.

    The Hodges-Simpson comparison completely misses the point. Both officers have an astonishingly similar career until summer 1944. They both lack any combat (save for old memories of WWI vintage, and at a junior level), and are put into army leaders at about the same time (August 1944 for Hodges, September for Simpson). Yet their performance is worlds apart. There is almost nothing to save of Hodges leadership and his achievements are minimal or accidental (Remagen); while not only is it hard to find any mistake in Simpson work but also Simpson scores one a couple of smashing victories against the Germans (operations Grenade and Plunder, Grenade being especially challenging. All that to say that the real thing to investigate is what made 2 officers with similar background and experience so different when hitting the ground? And why didn't their hierarchy spot Hodges deficiencies?

    About de Lattre: I invite you to have a closer look at his campaign from October 1944 on. Unfortunately, you will realize there are quite a few errors, for example failing to exploit after a breakthrough by his 5th armored division (actually: sending explicit orders to stop, orders that have been puzzling everyone since), and a not so brilliant conduct of the Colmar pocket thing in 1945. De Lattre actually proves an outstanding leader when he fights vietcong in Indochina in the 50's, defeating the guerrilla in a very original way at Nasan, for example.

    In 1944-45, the obvious alternative to de Lattre is not Koenig but Juin.

    About Bradley; you may add that Bradley was the only one at army group never having to manage more than a single nationality [well, except for 1 free French division]. Devers and Montgomery - especially Montgomery - faced the issue and managed pretty well. Montgomery could have troops and officers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and even Poland under his command and have them all work together towards a common goal. Bradley never had to face such challenge.

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    1. Dear le lecteur,

      good points, though as an Australian, we are just used to our corps or even divisional commanders doing the diplomacy thing as part of their job, so I don't worry too much about that for the Canadians. (In fact it would back up my argument that Crerar probably should have been at HQ, and Simmonds running the army in the field - just as I think Ike should have stuck to politics and had a land forces commander...)

      Good point on Juin, certainly more experienced than Koening.

      Excellent point on Bradley. It would be interesting to not that despite Monty's many outrageous shenanigans, literally dozens of nationalities worked well together under him. The Americans who tried to command multiple nationalities in the field had much more mixed results. Fail marks definitely to MacArthur, Clarke, Stillwell, and possibly Devers. There is nothing to suggest that Bradley would have been any good at such things... though I suspect Patton might have been, and both Truscott and Eichenberger definitely were.

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  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  20. Hey Nigel,

    A bit of late comment, but how about Troy H. Middleton? Pretty much no-one has ever heard of him and yet Wikipedia article on him is bigger than Patton's(?). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy_H._Middleton

    You've probably heard of him, as he commanded the US VIII Corps in North West Europe and the 45th Infantry Division in Sicily and Italy. And apparently was considered to be a Corps Commander of "extraordinary abilities". He seemed to have plenty of combat experience so he would be a very good choice in my opinion.

    Also, have you heard of Walter Krueger? He also seems like a forgotten WWII commander that definitely deserves more recognition as commander of the US 6th Army in the Pacific.

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    1. Dear Uknown Sept 25,

      yes I like both, and both would have been better and more experienced choices for army commander than Hodges.

      Middleton, as Wik says, "logged 480 days in combat" in WWII, more than any other US general. (In fact almost as many as some well known British generals.) This certainly fits my concept of combat experience being vital to good leadership.

      Kreuger also saw a lot of combat in the Pacific, at least after his army became operational in mid 1943, though personally I rate Eichelberger - who had been in combat since 1942, and always had superb relationships with his allies - as better and more experienced for command in Europe.

      In fact Eichelberger may have worked much better with Kreuger as an army commander than Bradley ever could with Patton...

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    2. Hello Nigel here I am again with another random post on your blog. This one is a another quote from the official US ww2 history. I think it gives some insight into Montgomery's IMO glory mongering and an example of why American generals didn't like him much.

      "General Simpson settled on a plan to cross the Rhine between Duesseldorf and Uerdingen, then to turn north to clear the east bank for further crossings and to gain relatively open country along the northern fringe of the Ruhr. It was a stratagem that hardly could have failed, for Hitler's refusal to agree to timely and orderly withdrawal behind the Rhine had left his field commanders little with which to defend the historic moat and in early March totally unprepared to counter a crossing.
      Yet Simpson's superior, Field Marshal Montgomery, said no. To a bitter Ninth Army staff, his refusal rested, rightly or wrongly, on the effect an impromptu American crossing might have on the Field Marshal's own plans for staging a grand set-piece assault to cross the Rhine on a broad front.20"

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    3. Hello Nigel here I am again with another random post on your blog. This one is a another quote from the official US ww2 history. I think it gives some insight into Montgomery's IMO glory mongering and an example of why American generals didn't like him much.

      "General Simpson settled on a plan to cross the Rhine between Duesseldorf and Uerdingen, then to turn north to clear the east bank for further crossings and to gain relatively open country along the northern fringe of the Ruhr. It was a stratagem that hardly could have failed, for Hitler's refusal to agree to timely and orderly withdrawal behind the Rhine had left his field commanders little with which to defend the historic moat and in early March totally unprepared to counter a crossing.
      Yet Simpson's superior, Field Marshal Montgomery, said no. To a bitter Ninth Army staff, his refusal rested, rightly or wrongly, on the effect an impromptu American crossing might have on the Field Marshal's own plans for staging a grand set-piece assault to cross the Rhine on a broad front.20"

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    4. I am certainly not going to deny that Monty might have been playing it too safe... On the other hand I also believe he was absolutely right to attempt Market-Garden, which is the stick too many people were beating him with (then and now) as being overly risky...

      I think that might be a case of damned if you do, and if you don't...

      In further reflection on the complaints against Market-Garden - too little strength on too easily blocked an axis - I will note in passing that 9th Army was a hollow shell for most of this period. It sometimes had a nominal 4 or 5 divisions in a theoretical 3 corps, while Hodges' 1st Army usually had about 20 divisions in its theoretical 3 or 4 corps. Had Ike not been artificially undermining 9th army for his own reasons, then it might have been a formation you could have unleashed in its own offensive...

      The dirty politics within and between 'Allied' generals by this stage (or indeed between supposed subordinates either between or within armies) was undoubtedly compromising the war effort.

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    5. Hello Nigel, back again. After reading the official US army history "Breakout and pursuit" My opinion about broad front vs narrow front, has altered a bit. I'm now of the opinion that a temporary "narrow" front in late August early September might have achieved the desired affects but certain factors, it seems to me, could have derailed it.
      1. At the time of the critical supply problem at least on the US side tanks, half-tracks, and trucks were in desperate need of overhaul. Do you know if British and Canadian equipment was in a similar state?
      2. The plan as far as I can tell basically called for the immobilization of Third Army. Was this the only unit to be affected? Would that have been enough? If you know of a book that details the narrow front plan in depth can you link it please I'm having trouble finding details (or any book about Montgomery's Western Europe campaign that is an official or semi official history as free of opinion as possible)
      3. It seemed to take only days for German defence to reform during the supply shortage. Could a narrower thrust, that would have inevitably faced even more opposition due to dwindling pressure elsewhere, have the shoulders to keep its neck from getting severed. Seeing as how the Ardennes might have been the perfect jumping off point for such a counter attack, his did Montgomery's plan account for this,in my opinion, inevitability?

      Your opinion is greatly appreciated.

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    6. Oh I'm not a Montgomery hater I think he was a brilliant man. My Jan 24 post was in reference to the exploitation of operation grenade not Market Garden. Montgomery's Rhine crossing was what was referenced in the quote.
      I will say this about him however it seems to me that as far as employment of his British forces went it seemed that he always had one arm tied behind his back. This might be accounted for by the political factor of trying to keep his casualties down which correct me if I'm wrong came straight from Churchill himself. I have seen some reference to this in the official US histories. Do you have any information regarding this directive or can you refute it? I have only seen a few references to it, one being a conversation between him and Eisenhower where Eisenhower stated that US forces would soon be able to bear the brunt of the fighting but until then he needed British forces to pick up the tempo of operations.. or something to that effect. This was during the middle of Normandy operations before Cobra. Any thoughts?

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    7. Dear David - your March 24
      I actually think the broad front strategy in France was as counter-productive as Hitler's broad front strategy in Operation Barbarossa. In both cases, and for the same reason, the generals should have followed a collapse with a Blitzkreig for the vital points while morale and ability to recover was at its weakest.

      I am with Montgomery and Patton on that.

      I will draw your attention to the fact that I include Southern France in the 'broad front'.

      I am with Montgomery (and Brooke and Churchill) as well as Patton in thinking it dragged far too many resources away from the crucial area even going inlayer rather than simultaneously .

      Consider the extra resources - navy, amphib, troops, air, etc - thrown at speeding the advance along the coast and clearing Antwerp, rather than wandering around the French massif trying vainly to catch withdrawing Germans who might actually have been better outflanked elsewhere?

      Your 27...

      Yes his hands were tied. The BCOS were starving him of replacement infantry despite having 115,000 trained replacements available in the UK.

      In their defence, they were assuming the war against Japan would take another 2 years, and they couldn't throw all their eggs in one basket.

      In a more cynical sense, they were also pretty relieved that after 4 years of their carrying the can with only a few American and allied divisions to help, someone else was going to be picking up the tab for most of the casualties for a change.

      But it is fair to suggest that by this point of the war skilled British manpower should be reserved for production, and unskilled French or North African or Italian manpower pumped into combat... (Certainly that is why the US only managed 88 of its proposed 300 division army, and were better off for it. The British were probably delighted to be able to pull back some industrial muscle once others could take up some slack in the field.)

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  21. What I have always had trouble understanding is why The Bulge, given its depth and extent wasn't pincered off rather than being pushed back as it was - allowing for the survival and redeployment of the German forces engaged. I have never come across any commentary on this issue. One of the arguments for the broad front campaign was avoidance of such a risk to the Allies. The Eastern Front saw many instances -by both Germans and Russians - where salients were cut off and surrounded.

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