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Aftermath of Battle

Discussion in 'War44 General Forums' started by Jim, Oct 13, 2007.

  1. Jim

    Jim New Member

    Sep 1, 2006
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    Found this to be a very good read, but what made think it is a litte biased!!

    On 1st September 1944 Eisenhower took over formal command of all SHAEF ground forces in Europe from Montgomery, to the latter’s intense frustration. In compensation, Churchill promoted Montgomery to Field Marshal, one rank higher than Eisenhower, for whom the new five-star rank of General of the Army was then quickly invented. Meanwhile the Allied spearheads were advancing virtually unopposed towards Germany. Third US Army liberated Chalons-sur-Marne on 29th August, and on 31st August its leading tanks crossed the River Meuse at Verdun. On 3rd September, Second British Army liberated Brussels, with Antwerp following a day later. Commanders talked with some optimism of ending the war in one or two months. Eisenhower was faced at once with a difficult decision. German garrisons still held the ports of Brittany and the Pas de Calais, and all Allied supplies were still coming across the Normandy beaches. Logistic planners advised that the available supplies could not support all four armies at such a rate of advance. The original ‘Overlord’ strategy of a broad front had been based on the fear that the Germans might counter attack a narrow thrust. Montgomery now pressed Eisenhower, to the verge of insubordination and beyond, to abandon this strategy, halt Third US Army, and give priority to a northern drive to be made by Second British Army with First US Army in support. Within a week, Patton, with Bradley’s support, was pressing for the opposite strategy, to give priority to his own “Third US Army driving into eastern France. Both hoped to get across the Rhine and into the German industrial heartland of the Ruhr before Christmas. It was not apparent to Eisenhower, however, that Allied supplies could support even one army on such a drive. For reasons of coalition solidarity and safety he took the politically correct but strategically controversial decision to continue the broad front strategy. The normally cautious Montgomery, trying to force Eisenhower’s hand, attempted to seize a bridgehead over the Rhine in Operation ‘Market Garden’ on 17th September, in which three divisions of First Allied Airborne Army dropped to form a ‘carpet’ through northern Holland along which XXX British Corps could advance to Arnhem. The operation was a disastrous failure, Montgomery’s first and only defeat in a major battle. Characteristically, he described it as a 90 per cent success. By the end of September lack of fuel had slowed the whole Allied advance, giving the Germans time to strengthen their lines, and it was not until a renewed campaign in the spring that the Rhine was finally crossed. But after the Battle of Normandy the only question was how soon the war would end, not who would win it. Germany surrendered unconditionally to the Allies on 8th May 1945.
    Too much discussion on Normandy has centred on the controversial decisions of the Allied commanders. It was not good enough, apparently, to win such a complete and spectacular victor over an enemy that had conquered most of Europe unless it was done perfectly. Most of the blame for this lies with Montgomery, who was foolish enough to insist that it had been done perfectly, that Normandy and all his other battles had been fought according to a precise master plan drawn up beforehand, from which he never deviated. It says much for his personality that Montgomery found others to agree with him, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
    His handling of the Battle of Normandy was of a very high order, and as the person who would certainly have been blamed for losing the battle, he deserves the credit for winning it. Credit should also go to Eisenhower for his skill as a political leader. (In 1952 he was to be elected President of the United States and to spent two terms in office.)
    Those German commanders who survived the war were happy to blame their defeat on Adolf Hitler. Some, with incredible arrogance, even tried to lecture the men who had so thoroughly defeated them on how they themselves might have done it better. Could the Germans have won the Battle of Normandy? They might have had better intelligence developed, to see through Operation ‘Fortitude’. They might have rationalised their command structure and improved their supplies and training. The Allies would not have invaded without air superiority, but it has been suggested that the Germans could have won at least air parity after D-Day by producing and employing as fighters a significant number of their ME 262 jet aircraft, which were already in service. The Germans might have mixed armour in with their weaker infantry formations, raising the overall standard at the expense of a few ‘showcase’ divisions. They might have built the submarines or surface vessels to cut the vital sea link across the English Channel. “There is much that they might have done. But in the actual circumstances of the battle as it developed, there was nothing they could have done to win it. At the level that the Battle of Normandy was fought, the art of general-ship consisted of not letting such circumstances arise. The dispute between Rommel and von Rundstedt over a rigid or a flexible defensive strategy was a massive irrelevance. Nor did any of their replacements have anything better to suggest. In truth, German general-ship in Normandy was of a low order throughout the battle. Patton, who was killed in a road accident in 1945, could have given them all lessons in inventiveness, and in how to get results by disobeying orders.
    Below the highest command level, Allied air power and artillery were the key factors in winning the Battle of Normandy, but they did not win it alone. Cutting off supplies and reinforcements to the German front line was only of value if, at the same time, the Allies were attacking and forcing the Germans to use up their reserves. Inferior in every tank they saw as a Tiger, the Allied infantry and tank crews showed great courage in maintaining the offensive. A large part of the German strength, however, came from the country in which they were fighting. Like the trenches of the First World War or the jungles of the Pacific, the bocage itself became a formidable enemy. It is noteworthy that the Germans themselves had rather less success attacking through it than the Allies, and once without its protection they collapsed at great speed. It is a commonplace that an army reflects its society. Having seldom lost a war, the British Army, in false modesty, likes to praise its opponents and denigrate itself. They were almost the best troops in the world, it seems to suggest, what a pity they were facing us. The American style is more of self praise at the expense of all others, conceding merit to an opponent before a rival. The German approach turns war into a morality play, the tragic defeat of mere mortals struggling with superhuman strength against the impersonal forces of the machine. If the Americans had been as good as they said they were, the British as bad as they said they were, and the Germans as good as everyone said they were, the Battle of Normandy could not have been fought as it was.

    Military Archives
  2. Dave War44

    Dave War44 Member

    Sep 3, 2006
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    Aye, a great piece of writing and some strong opinions !

    The closing statements especially:

    ...seem cleverly journalistic, definitely food for thought. Thinking about an army "reflecting its society" made me think of the Japanese for some reason. And the final sentence is very quotable !

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