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The Truth.... As We Know It


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thandiflight #61 Posted May 23 2012 - 06:14

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An interesting discussion with some intersting posts. Unfortunately there really isn't sufficient space here to write an essay on the Normandy landings and the campaign thereafter but a few misconceptions need to be cleared up:

1) The original plan for the landings in Normandy involved 3 beaches - Gold, Juno and Sword. When it was decided to land a larger force including the Americans (the initial plan was British), two more beaches had to be added: Utah and Omaha. The Omaha landing went badly. The beach was steeper, the forces landed in the wrong place and too far over. The German resistance was stiffer than was expected - esp given the make-up of that force. That the Army got off the beach at all at Omaha is an achievement. It was not Patton's achievement.

2) The fighting around Caens was meant to draw the German forces north and allow Bradley and Patton to flank. Patton gets credit for Bradley's generalship. Monty, on the other hand, did the best he could to completely cock-up the Caens offensive and was held up by a vastly inferior force (in terms of numbers). He was, however, able to write the Hx and made himself look good. Typical Monty. He had the habit of claiming the successes of others for himself. It helped being a mate of Alan Brooke. We won't even get into how Monty got the job in the first place.

3) To declare my bias: as the son of a Para I am not a fan of Monty - it was after all a "bridge to far" that got the Paras killed at Arnhem (irrespective of the fact that they were far too spread out and poorly coordinated to have been effective). Arnhem was all part of Monty's plan - for which he blamed others for its failure.

4)It was the 101st Airborne and Hodges who really deserve the credit for the Ardennes.

5) It has been suggested that the OSS knocked-off Patton. Of course this is completely unsubstantiated - but rather a dead hero than a live embarrassment. And nobody wants to speak ill of the dead. That Patton was a General and that he was at times effective is not in doubt. At least he wasn't Mark Clark.

Had either Patton or Monty had the resources that the German Army they were facing had then I suspect that both of them may have had Custer-like legacies: "glorious failures". Neither of them were a Model or a Bill Slim let alone a Carl Heinz Guderian or (especially) an Erich von Manstein von Lewinski.

the_moidart #62 Posted May 23 2012 - 06:32

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Deconstruction of our preconceptions about WW2 is important. I read an article about this Patton issue in one of my magazines recently, it was probably based off of the same book.

I think the heroicisation of Patton is symptomatic of the larger issue with American coverage of the war: the lack of realization that 4 out of every 5 dead Germans died fighting Russians, and that it was actually on the Russian front that the war was won, not on the beaches of Normandy. Our saving of the free world from the Nazis was made an immovable myth by the arrival of the Cold War.

And response to #3 above, Ike was supreme commander, not Monty. He was aware of the plan and approved of it from day one. There was also the fact that at that stage in the war, with supplies limited, they had no choice but to do a focused one area offensive, especially if it had a chance of working.

FaustianQ #63 Posted May 23 2012 - 06:42

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The_Chieftain, on May 23 2012 - 05:06, said:

I would point out that I never said anything about Monty being better than Patton or vice versa. Indeed, I suggested that Hodges might be a better comparison, but most of the recent posts have been Monty/Patton. I guess it's even more ingrained than I thought!

I can sum this up with my own ignorance - who is Hodges? A wikipedia article doesn't cover it, any good sources?

Further, I think the Patton/Monty comparison comes up because not only is Bradley not known well enough, but his lack of fame is a byproduct of his command and personality. Personal opinion is I think Patton might have achieved more without Bradley, who seems to be simply a worse Monty.

19DELTAPAPA4 #64 Posted May 23 2012 - 06:56

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wahubna, on May 22 2012 - 22:44, said:

Look at the proportions though. I remember reading some stats that in North Africa, Italy/Sicily, and into Europe Monty would hesitate to attack until he had an insane amount of material advantage, only to allow the Germans to harden defenses. Then Monty seemed to refuse to do any sort of attack that might put victory at risk and thus seemed to have insisted on frontal assaults with a HUGE amount of material. I think the real measure of the Monty vs Patton would be the ratios of friendly casualties to enemy casualties of all their battles. I would love to see those ratios, but alas, I do not have the time to compile them. I think Patton was better because Monty seemed to be so spineless and got a lot of men killed with needless frontal assaults.
correct. monty was a " set piece" commander. has to have everything and everyone set up perfectly.which gives the opposing commander to prepare.that's where the high casualties come in. el alamein was a hard fight and closer than it should have been.the problem with the set piece general is,rommel got away.insread of pushing forward,monty stopped for resupply and reinforcements.

WAN0145 #65 Posted May 23 2012 - 07:12

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heartvain, on May 23 2012 - 00:29, said:

Exactly how a Coward German General who was in full retreat during the whole western front of WWII Europe and left hundreds of thousands of young German men and boys to face the allies had any idea what was going on on the front lines is beyond us all.
i suppose it's kinda like an anonymous gamer 70 years later commenting about bravery in ww2.

TX_Gunslinger #66 Posted May 23 2012 - 08:25

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"Fundamentally, Patton was the US Army’s best tank general in WWII in a field of… erm… Quick! Name a US ‘tank general’ in WWII other than Patton?"

Major General John Shirley Wood and Major General Robert Walker Grow, Divison Commanders of the most proficient Western Tank Divisions in WWII.

Wood and Grow started the book on American armored warfare with Wood's (4th Armored) cutoff of Brittany while Grow exploited it (6th Armored).  Wood continued to add chapters with 4th Armored's race across France in August and September 1944.  This was the only true example of "high - end" U.S. Armored warfare in WW2.

There is more depth to the history of Wood and Grow than can ever be found in Patton (who, like you say had his good points and contributions).   The singular historical question revolving around Patton, is why did he fire his most proficient Armored Commander in December 1944, ironically 2 weeks prior to the launch ofWacht am Rhein ?  Was it ego?  Was it that Patton was so politically/conciously weakened from his failure to follow his own offensive formulas at Metz/Fort Driant?  

Those folks that only get their history from "The History Channel/Hollywood" - are destined to miss the pinnacle of U.S. Armored tactical success as practiced by Grow/Wood/Abrams/Clarke - the operational mastery of Hermann Balck and Von Manstein - and finally the only force which every fully developed the "Strategic Offensive" - The Soviets.


The United States possessed no one at the Corps or Group level that could be labled an "Tank Expert".  Niether did any of the other allies.  That was the problem.

Chieftan, thanks for the article - great stuff.  May I suggest your next installment be "The beginning and the end of LtGen Leslie McNair" or "How not to listen to your Amored Experts?".   I'm familiar with your previous articles on the dominance of the "Tank Destroyer" concept - but I think you let McNair off way too light :)

We are doomed to repeat the history that we don't understand.

Edited by TX_Gunslinger, May 23 2012 - 08:28.


How_Terrible #67 Posted May 23 2012 - 10:04

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grego34, on May 22 2012 - 22:41, said:

and Market garden was a bust...  British commanded by Monty with his unlimted resources..


No commander in the history of warfare has ever had unlimited resources.

In fact regardless of how many resources he has, no commander in the history of warfare has ever thought that he had enough resources.

Edited by paladin5, May 23 2012 - 10:05.


RustyBucket #68 Posted May 23 2012 - 12:32

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If you want to understand American military leadership you need to look at the past. The actions in WWI and even back to the Civil War show a culture of restraint out of fear of failure. Desperation very rarely creeps into the American Military. The closest it comes is after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the assault on Midway that was turned into an American Victory because a field commander went out on a limb and guessed right and was in position to deal a mortal blow to the Japanese fleet.

The comments about George Patton do not shock or surprise me the Germans far more the students of military history would certainly pay closer attention to the best supplied as well as the fiercest fighters and I think most should agree that the Brits were fighting to pay back for the bombing of London much as we did in the Pacific.

Now this said George Patton who my father-in-law served under in the Rhine River Crossing was a great leader of men in 1940's especially if you take into account the philosophy most Military leaders operated under. Don said he was a great motivator and a strategist likely the best we had and certainly out of the mold of a wild west commander a little of the George Custer in him. Don was wounded 3 times driving a Higgins boat that made 6 trips carrying troops across the Rhine. He stayed with his unit for an additional week fighting with the US 3rd Army. He said he would have followed Patton anywhere he was sent which was high praise in my opinion. Maybe the Germans should have paid closer attention to the 3rd Army in their south and less on the well-supplied Montgomery in the north, if they believed the weaker point was the south and the Americans. They did not which may speak volumes that in the field line troops were finding a new respect for the Americans.

So if you take into account the time frame and where our military came from you can get a greater understanding of how unusual George Patton really was in the American scheme of things.

But as usual we won the war so we write the history and heroes abound.

Cahill_USMarshall #69 Posted May 23 2012 - 13:02

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grego34, on May 22 2012 - 22:41, said:

and Market garden was a bust...  British commanded by Monty with his unlimted resources..

I was just sitting here reading all this and thinking to myself the same thing.

Cosmeister #70 Posted May 23 2012 - 13:14

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A few quick points...

1.  Just as Chieftain said that the bulk of forces were arrayed against Monty with remainders for Patton, one has to remember that the REAL bulk of forces were allocated to the eastern front and the remnants left to hold off the western allies.  Remember, if the Germans lost, they wanted to lose to the western allies, not to Russia.

2.  While the defense of Bastogne and the units opposing the German armor certainly halted the advance, remember the two main things that killed it.  One was a desperate lack of fuel.  And the second was the weather cleared and the air force came in and destroyed the tanks.

3.  The north always did have the heavier defenses due to the important asset there.  Number one on the list were the channel ports.  Remember that the Antwerp ports were demo'd by the Germans.  I think by the time of Operation Market Garden they were still hauling most of their gas from Normandy.  Hitler had ordered every port to be turned into a fortress.  In fact the Canadians did much of the liberating of Dutch towns and hardly had as easy a time as some might think.

4.  Much was made of how long it took to take Caen.  Everyone said it was VITAL to take Caen.  So is it at all hard to imagine that the Germans may have realized this and put more effort into holding it as long as possible.  Was Monty inept in his failure to secure it or was there simply a very effective defense?  Look at the areal shots of the landscape after they carpet bombed the defenses with Lancasters!  And yet the defense held.  Similar tremendous defensive efforts were made in Italy at Monte Cassino, etc.

And 5.  You can most definately use the opposition's own intelligence and reports as primary research.  For example, if General A wins a battle was it because his plan was brilliant or he was a great general, or did his opponents simply think he wasn't a threat and put less emphasis there and focused forces elsewhere?  It's amazing how many war "myths" we have these days.  I watched a relatively new multi-part war documentary and saw many of the same myths being bandied about.  But if you look at the other side you can get a more complete picture of what actually happened.  I was reading an interesting account that someone put together on another site about the Saar Offensive based on the german reports that gave a much clearer idea of what really happened rather than the usual 3 or 4 paragraph treatment you see in most places.

Edited by Cosmeister, May 23 2012 - 13:15.


Hitman1386 #71 Posted May 23 2012 - 13:17

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The_Chieftain, on May 23 2012 - 05:06, said:

I would point out that I never said anything about Monty being better than Patton or vice versa. Indeed, I suggested that Hodges might be a better comparison, but most of the recent posts have been Monty/Patton. I guess it's even more ingrained than I thought!

This is true. Hodges was under rated by Historians just like . Mostly because of the Cult of Patton/Monty/ Rommel. No one really talks about men like Brian Horrox, Guys Simmons,  C. Abrams orLeclerc . They were not Army Commander, but all three were very good Corps commanders.

Cosmeister #72 Posted May 23 2012 - 13:56

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I forgot to mention Sicily.  The way things worked out it did take too long to halt the German withdrawal.  Maybe if he had his way and was allowed to land at Palermo as he wanted he might well have gotten to Syracuse in time.  I imagine logistically it would have been harder to support two widely separated invasion forces though.  It would be hard to know if his plan could have stopped the evacuation.  Maybe landing in Palermo would have tied down forces that were retreating along the north roads.  Maybe the landing might have been repulsed by those forces.  Who knows?

But the fact is he didn't stick to plan.  I'm sure the Germans were probably amused when Patton took a portion of his forces out of the fight that mattered (fighting through the middle of the island to support Monty's advance on Syracuse to prevent the evacuation) to drive off in the opposite direction and take a tour of the coasts.  Yes, he beat Monty to Syracuse but it was still too late to stop the Germans.  Maybe the operation as a whole might have gone better had he stuck to plan.  Driving your force the long way around an island with your enemy retreating even faster in front of you doesn't sound like the best way to trap your enemy.

DingBat #73 Posted May 23 2012 - 14:09

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MrCabinetry, on May 23 2012 - 13:02, said:

I was just sitting here reading all this and thinking to myself the same thing.

This is another campaign that has been done dreadful damage by the movie.

Here are some realities about Market-Garden:

1. The 1st Allied Airborne Army, 50,000 crack airborne troops, were cooling their heels in England
2. Prior to MG, there were several planned operations to drop 1AAB behind the enemy. These operations were cancelled as the Germans were retreating too fast
3. The pressure to deploy the 1AAB was tremendous. It WAS going to happen, it was just a matter of when.
4. When German resistance began to firm up around the Dutch border, it seemed like the right time.
5. The movie claim that the British didn't know where Bittrichs 2 SS Pz Korp was is bullshit. The British knew very well as XXX Corps had been pursuing them since the breakout.
6. Despite the name, the 2 SS Pz Korp was a joke. 1 division was little more than a headquarters cadre. The other could field one battalion sized battle group. Of the German tanks destroyed by 1AB in Arnhem, none were from 2 SS Pz Korp.

MG was a terrific gamble, but one partially forced on the Allies by geography, politics, and logistics. in the end, the joke was on everyone as, even then, the Germans were pulling back reserves for Wacht am Rheim. A breakout of any substance was unlikely as the Germans would simply have committed those reserves earlier. The interesting point for speculation is that, had this happened, the Bulge would probably have never occurred.

gobucs23 #74 Posted May 23 2012 - 14:11

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Did someone really say canada wow what a joke!!!!

Rhomer #75 Posted May 23 2012 - 14:19

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Its worth remembering that the Germans, in general, were disdainful of ANYTHING American. The American soldier did not impress them, the leadership did not impress them and our equipment did not impress them. It was a product of institutionalized underestimation at its finest. Right up until the end of the war when these 'inferior soldiers led by inferior officers' were knocking down the gates of Berlin did the Germans RARELY hold in high regard any of their opponents.

The same effect can be see in American leadership in regards to its Vietnamese opponents, going on record as to expound how ineffectual they were but always admonishing the ranks to be wary and respectful of their enemy in memos and action orders that tend not to be part of the official line.

Cosmeister #76 Posted May 23 2012 - 14:43

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How are the Canadians a joke?

And I believe it was the Soviet forces who knocked down Berlin's gates.  And while Americans hate to hear this, the truth is Germany would have fallen if D-Day had never happened.

Rhomer #77 Posted May 23 2012 - 14:57

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Cosmeister, on May 23 2012 - 14:43, said:

How are the Canadians a joke?

And I believe it was the Soviet forces who knocked down Berlin's gates.  And while Americans hate to hear this, the truth is Germany would have fallen if D-Day had never happened.
I didnt mean to insinuate that American troops were the ones to invade Berlin, the Germans thought Soviet generals were rubbish as well. Even as those very same generals choked the life out of the 3rd Reich.

Admiral_F_J_Horne #78 Posted May 23 2012 - 15:06

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lol I find it amusing how people from the east seem to know more about American History by getting their information from a book. It has been proven that Authors of books have in the past and still currently write to change history to indoctrinate, influence and change young minds for their own agenda in hopes of changing the world into their Marxist or Socialist fantasy utopia.

Anyone with half a brain should know to take a movie with a gain of salt. I don't know one friend that believed every single detail in the movie Patton to be historically factual. It was more entertaining.

I personally get my facts about US history from the library of congress.  Even today's schools are indoctrinating our children with fudged facts to change history to fit a growing problem spreading or shall I say, trying to spread across the world. I don't get it from someone who writes a book unless that book shows me documents to back it up.  I certainly don't believe anything from someone who writes about a topic without showing where he got his information. Saying he got his information from and expert doesn't mean its the truth. Oh and saying it his opinion but at the same time saying  it's true because some expert told him so doesn't mean squat in my book. We know everyone has an opinion but why work so hard to use it to change a viewers mind unless you have your own agenda in doing so.

Show me documents, video and audio, not words.



Truth has no agenda.
.

Cosmeister #79 Posted May 23 2012 - 15:11

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Yeah, what passes as "history" today is amazing...

Admiral_F_J_Horne #80 Posted May 23 2012 - 15:15

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Cosmeister, on May 23 2012 - 14:43, said:

How are the Canadians a joke?

And I believe it was the Soviet forces who knocked down Berlin's gates.  And while Americans hate to hear this, the truth is Germany would have fallen if D-Day had never happened.

You don't know that, you have no way in knowing how things would have been if it wasn't for D-day.

It's like saying if the US hadn't drop the big one on Japan. North America would be under Japan rule now. YOU DON"T KNOW THAT!

Anything can change the tides or war, anything.

The Germans were very close to the bomb themselves. At the time we didn't know how close but lets say D-Day wasn't successful. Russia could have had the big one dropped on them and Russia would be Germrussia today, but we will never know because don't know.




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