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Rommel vs Montgomery

Discussion in 'North Africa and the Mediterranean' started by donsor, Oct 17, 2011.

  1. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    6th SS Panzer Army was stopped on Ambleve and Elsenborn Ridge that's correct. But 5th Panzer had still a decisive initiative and momentum. After Monty assumed command of 1st and 9th Armies on 20th he immediatly ordered the evacuation of St. Vith bulge (a very sensible decision since the town would fall next day under heavy outflanking attacks of 1nd SS Panzer Corps and salient itself was highly vulnerable despite ressurances from Ridgway ) , began to gather up a powerful reserve (7th US and 30th British Corps ) to meet addition German trusts and counter attack , met 48th Panzer Corps and 2nd SS Panzer Corps in Northern shoulder as they advanced. between 21st 25th December and stopped them.

    The German commander of the 5th Panzer Army, Hasso von Manteuffel said:

    The operations of the American 1st Army had developed into a series of individual holding actions. Montgomery's contribution to restoring the situation was that he turned a series of isolated actions into a coherent battle fought according to a clear and definite plan. It was his refusal to engage in premature and piecemeal counter-attacks which enabled the Americans to gather their reserves and frustrate the German attempts to extend their breakthrough
     
  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    The 5th Panzer Army doesn't even count in strategic terms, which was my point. They were only there to support the flank of 6th Panzer Army which was the main thrust. That thrust was already stopped, decisively, before Monty even entered the picture.

    The entire point of the battle was to take Antwerp. By this point in the war, Antwerp was the main supply port for the allied armies. Taking Antwerp would also divide the allies in half, with those in the northern sector cut off from resupply. Monty may have indeed tidied things up, but he did that after any chance of a German strategic victory was already lost. They had been cut off from Antwerp before Monty came into the picture.

    I wouldn't argue with the view that the initial 24 or 48 hours of the offensive is where the battle was lost, rather than actions along the Ambleve. 6th Panzer Army lost vital time by trying to break through using Infantry before the Panzers were committed. That time was used to move a number of US Divisions into their path to form a secondary line roughly from Chenneaux-Stoumont-Stavelot-Malmedy-Monschau, etc. It was already over by the 20th.
     
  3. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    I have always had decidedly mixed feeling with regard to Montgomery. I suspect he was a better commander than my gut feelings allowed, yet far short of what he often purported himself to be.

    A factor not listed in the woes of the 8th Army (nee' Western Desert Force) was Churchill himself who consistently prior to Montgomery's selection injected himself in the planning and operations of this force by either pushing/demanding offensives before they were ready or stripping the Force/Army of troops when they had the upper hand for "Forlorn Hopes" like Greece. Nor was Churchill's playing Imperial politics terribly helpful when vital AnZac troops had to be withdrawn to placate Australia and New Zealand.

    So lets recap. the British Army had a deeply flawed battle doctrine, Equipment that had reliability problems or was inferior to the DAK's cutting edge Panzers, Troops that, often as not, were rotated out of the theater just as they were getting the hang of desert warfare, a CinC who tried to run the battlefield from No 10 Downing St., German Intell that dissected their deployments and German troops suffused with tremendous confidence and led by a Charismatic, and lets be fair, gifted commander.

    Is it all that surprising that commanders before Montgomery failed to find all the right answers? I am not entirely convinced that had Montgomery been selected earlier he would not have floundered as badly, if not worse, under the same conditions.

    Sometimes a commander attains brilliance by being at the right place at the right time.

    Consider what Montgomery inherited when he took command of 8th Army.

    1) Rommel had been decisively stopped at the 1st Battle of El Alamein (by somebody else). 2) The Qattara Depression robbed Rommel of his favorite tactic so that he had a modern day Agincourt like battlespace. 3) American lend-lease M-3 tanks were superior to Pzkw III's and the the M-4's were at least a even match for Rommel's Pzkw. IV's. 4) The Intell battle was moving in his favor. 5) Rommel was at the extreme end of a shaky and un-reliable supply line. 6) He was fresh and fit while Rommel was considerably run down after a year in the desert. 7) The Divisional musical chairs was winding down and from the time he took command his force was consistently growing in size and seizing control of the air. 8) He had Alexander to shield him from Churchill's unsolicited advice.

    Best of all, 9) he could see and digest all the mistakes of the past.

    This does not make him a "wanker" by any means, just far luckier than his predecessors.

    The 2nd Battle of El Alamein elevated Montgomery to great commander status and it can not be denied he won the battle he had to win, but again let us be fair here. In no phase or area of the battle did he not enjoy significant advantages over PanzerArmee Afrika. The battleplan was workman like rather than bold and owed much more to Great War tactics than it did to maneuver warfare that was the cornerstone of Germany's early war victories. His pursuit of the shattered remnants of Rommel's army is justly regarded as "poor".

    It has been said that Rommel was over heralded by his desert victories, and there is some justice for the same to be said about Montgomery. With America's entry Churchill needed a "hero" to laud as much for domestic consumption as he did to stave off the inevitable day when America's industry and manpower would make Great Britain the junior partner in the alliance. Churchill's own writing's make it clear that the issue of American dominance was very much in his thoughts and many of his actions owed as much to preserving British prestige as it did to winning the war.

    Montgomery was in tune with Churchill's desire to win as cheaply as possible and maintain Britain's position as a equal partner in the Alliance. This stance was in conflict wit US opinions on how to win the war that were more in common with German battle doctrine. That this did not lead to a rupture of the Alliance or at least discordant working relationship owed far more to Eisenhower than it did to Montgomery. His threat to go over Ike's head late in the war was particularly tactless.

    His success in later campaigns owed much to the fact he had the luxury of choosing when, where and how to attack. While this is true of most Allied commanders in Western Europe 1944-45, it was vital to someone as meticulous as he was and addicted to methodical battle plans. It is telling that at the Bulge, his first instinct was to "tidy up" the battlefield, whereas Patton's was to counterattack to take advantage of a German vulnerability.

    For Montgomery, losing the battle figured more prominently than exploiting the opportunity it presented. I suspect that Germany, given the choice of either Patton or Montgomery switching sides would have preferred Patton any day and twice on Sunday.

    That being said he was without question a solid, effective commander who won battles the way his government wished him to, which was what counted.
     
  4. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Atkinson, in Guns at Last Light, seems not quite so charitable toward Montgomery, at least in the early stages in Normandy. I admit that I have not read much of the book, but Montgomery comes off as being kind of petty and somewhat indecisive. I'll have to read further to get the full effect about Montgomery's participation in Europe.

    I agree, however, that Churchill and the British press were desperate tor a hero. Montgomery seemed to fill the bill, even if the newspapers had to retract some of what they said. Eisenhower's diplomacy papered over the differences between the two.
     
  5. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    In Western Desert it is true that Montgomery was lucky that he had new and reliable weapons coming from US like Sherman/Grant tanks when he took over the command. Were did all of British tanks were Shermans or Grants ? No only about 400 of them. Rest were again Cruiser models. New 6 pounder anti tank guns and Grant tanks arrived to to replace unreliable 2 pounders British using in April 1942 and 8th Army lost in Gazala despite having them. Better weapons does not mean much if you do not have a good command or doctrine.


    That is another of Monty's gifts. As soon as he took over the command Churchill immediately pressed for attack on Alamein front as soon as possible. Montgomery said definite "No" He quickly realized army was unprepared for a large scale offensive as intended , morale was low , training/preparation was not enough. Auckinleck wanted to delay the attack until September and he lost Churchill's confidence then relieved. Gott was selected to lead 8th Army but he was tired and then killed on the way when he was about to assume command. Montgomery's definite answer not to attack , not to waste his forces in a hasty operation in last defensive line before Alexandria saying that to Churchill then delaying the attack until October until everything from logistics to training and massing enough strength for a certain victory was ready. Let's be fair here. For 18 months a corps sized German unit and its Italian allied formations badly defeated 8th Army in several engagements. Morale and self confidence was gone. Montgomery's self confidence in telling Prime Minister a definite "no" until everything for a sure win was ready, delaying the attack until October speaks much better for him. He knew he had both Alan Brooke and Harold Alexander backing him up so he did not shrink defying Churchill

    German-Italian Army was stopped in First Battle of Alamein yes but that does not change that Auckinleck selected an awful commander (Cunningham and then Ritchie ) and very unreliable corps commanders (Gott , Norrie , Ramsden , Goodwin-Austen ) and staff for leading the army before Gazala-Tobruk battles. The problem was he was both CiC Middle East and meanwhile trying to tutor Ritchie. It did not work. Alexander Montgomery team worked because it did have a clear definition of rank and duties. Alexander became CiC Middle East and Montgomery assumed the command of 8th Army. No more command muddle left because both knew their jobs and responsibilities. More over although Auckinleck stopped Axis advance but he failed in all of his piecemental hasty counter attacks. 14th July battle of Ruweistadt Ridge , 21 July second battle of Ruweistadt , 27 th July battle of Miteirya ridge all of them are defeats for 8th Army. List goes on like that in failed costly counter attacks of British in July. Montgomery stopped all these piecemental useless and costly attacks. Then began to gather up his forces for a one mass decisive battle. He correctly identified it would be an bloody attritional WWI style affair. There was no room to maneuver between Quattara Depression and sea. So only way to overwhelm enemy defense in Alamein would be a head on "killing match" (his phase). It would not be a dashing cavalry like raid of Rommel's. It simply couldn't be. It would be a material war. That's probably why he waited until October until he had an overbearing superiorty in men and supplies to launch Second Battle of Alamein. So is it his fault that he identified battlefield , only viable strategy and acted according to his vision ?

    More over as soon as he assumed command he brought up men he could work with (Brian Horrocks to 13th Corps command , Freddie Guingand to COS of Army ) and got rid of Herbert Lumsden after battle because he was "bellyaching" in his terms. Again self confidence shows. In addition he made a definite cooperation possible with RAF Desert Air Force even moved his mobile HQ next to Desert Force HQ. (Rommel with all of his genius couldn't get along with Kesselring and Luftwaffe and felt "deserted" by Luftwaffe in Alamein despite Kesselring's objections in marching on Egypt and Nile in June ) His insistence to create a fully mobile armored reserve corps (10th Corps ) is also justified as this corps struck the most of the blows in later stages of Alamein.

    Montgomery was also much more better and adapt using intelligence advantages. Both Auckinleck and Ritchie were getting ULTRA feed and they were caught surprised when Rommel struck to Gazala in May. Montgomery always getting the picture of enemy with his trusted intel chief Bill Williams and ULTRA reports. He used them properly unlike his precedessors. This was such an advantage when DAK commander General Ritter Von Thoma was captured in Second Battle of Alamein and dined with Monty he was astonished that "Montgomery knew our positions ans our situation , supply problems etc better than we do !" He was lucky in intel department yes (destruction of German Wireless Intel Unit 621 in First Battle of Alamein and changing 8th Army wireless codes were huge boons ) but he also used that advantage properly

    Most important contribution of Montgomery after raising morale factor was changing the doctrines of British arms. Mine clearing schools were opened up in Alexandria for training. He instructed that 8th Army would fight in large division sized units like WWI style because Germans were much better in mobile warfare and "battle group" tactics. In a static attritional battle though British advantages in material , numbers in large division formations and firepower was more superior. Cooperating with RAF Desert Force , mass fire power and WWI artillery tactics were emphasized in because they worked before and men were confident with these methods. Germans and Italians were not. They were out on a limb after 2000 mile long of supply line because of "laddie marshall's" (Rommel ) and Mussolini's ambition to get Cairo on a white horse. Trying to resist in Alamein on a defensive front with these circumstances under RAF air superiority was madness. Especialy after defeat in Alam el Halfa in September which passed initiative to British whom were massing a huge force to crush their opponents. Montgomery just used the strategic oppurtunity Rommel gave him in a silver platter and exploited it. If that makes Montgomery a bad general well I don't know then...
     
  6. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    One more thing. I think during the pursuit of German Italian Panzer Army after Alamein Montgomery did not simply fail to catch and destroy it , he simply just did not try. I think with good reasons. His "Corps de Chasse" ( 10th Corps which was designed to pursue and destroy ) entered the battle prematurely to achieve breakthrough and became disorganized. In fast moving mobile battle group tactics Germans were still infinately better than British and Monty probably did not wish to get another bloody nose and morale plummated like after Operation Crusader in December 1941. Germans when cornered fought much better from desperation and always tried to break out from any encirclement unlike Italians (Italian units surrendered en masse at Operation Compass when British tanks got rear areas, Germans at the other hand always foughht back at tried to turn tables as happened in Gazala. ) Monty probably knew that he was commanding an army of civilians in uniform and they are not as proffesional as Germans in mobile mechanized warfare. He simply did not trust them or himself on that regard. So re organized Corps de Chasse was not given enough fuel ( with empty fuel jerrycans ) on 5th November. Rain started in 6th November did not help either probably for a fast pursuit so only Axis rear guard was captured.
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    According to Wehrmacht Panzer Divisions:1939-1945 Rommel had 174 Pzkw. III's and 36 Pzkw IV's at the start (total, not operational) of Operation Lightfoot, the remainder Pzkw II's and Italian designs, so a two to one advantage in "Quality" tanks.

    As for the Battle of Gazala The 160+ Grant tanks were getting their first baptism under fire and so some level of poor handling by British crews is understandable, whereas the DAK were still operating well proven designs. Setting this aside as I pointed out Montgomery at El Alamein had some 9 'advantages' over Richie's one (Grant Tanks) at Gazala.
     
  8. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    Here I can agree with you almost entirely.

    I say 'almost' for the reason that unlike other previous British commanders he had two well respected allies backing his demand for a delay in Alanbrooke and Alexander. He was in the last defensible position before the Suez Canal and Churchill was running out of Generals to replace the 8th Army commander. Both factors, plus all his senior commanders in the chain of command supporting Montgomery had to have an effect in tempering Churchill in his demands.

    This does not take away from Montgomery's determination to fully prepare, the right choice I agree, but it is also a fact that during the war and after many would describe him as a SOB as he was often tactless in his comments and writings, especially anyone who did not see the war in the way he did. So was he using good judgement, being a jerk or some mixture of the two?

    Honestly I don't know.
     
  9. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    Again I can mostly agree, but I can draw a different interpretation of the same events.

    I do not fault a commander for playing to their strengths and for employing the obvious choice in tactics but it does affect my opinion on whether they are a "Great Captain" or a merely effective, yet unimaginative one.

    Second El Alamein was a "attrition" battle little different from those fought at the end of WWI, but consider his latter battles and they are much the same. Husky had originally called for a more bold plan that offered the quicker capture of ports, Montgomery objected in favor of a much more conservative plan that seemed to many designed to enhance his reputation. This final plan required 8th Army to make repeated frontal assaults on good defensive positions while the US 7th Army was to 'guard his flank'. This was something Patton was not willing stand for and proceeded to do what Montgomery thought impossible, wage a war of maneuver to unhinge Axis defenses. Despite traveling more than twice as far he reached Messina at nearly the same time.

    Afterwards Montgomery claimed that this was all according to 'his plan', but like El Alamein the Axis Army escaped a position where it might have been trapped. No one can say if the original plan had been undertaken that better results gained, but a straight ahead approach attack along a single axis, as Monty originally wished, made German defensive planning much easier.

    It is curious that Auckinleck's attacks were ill coordinated and wasteful of lives and materials, yet Montgomery's similar attacks in front of Caen were a demonstration of high strategy. Did not Auckinleck's attacks do much the same as his before Caen? These again were frontal attacks (Operations Neptune,Perch, Battle of Le Masnil-Patry, Martlet, Epsom, Windsor, Charnwood, Jupiter, and Goodwood) designed to attrit the enemy. At the time he made them he promised to brake though to Caen and out of the beachhead, though he really never did until after Cobra by the American's. As at Sicily, after the fact he stated that all his frontal attacks all part of "his plan" to allow the Americans the chance to make a break though.

    Market-Garden is considered a bold plan by some, but again in effect, it was just another frontal attack upon a severely restricted battlespace with only the employment of Airborne troops distinguishing from his standard attack plan.

    I am not convinced he ever strayed far from the same battle tactics he used at El Alamein.
     
  10. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Don't forget additional 24 long barrelled Panzer-IV "Special" model tanks Rommel had.
    In modern warfare with modern weapons numerical superiority always get negated. With massive deep mine fields , narrow corridors for vehicles guarded by Axis Anti Tank guns and artillery Allied tank numbers meant not so much. It is how Monty and British used them ( repulsing German panzer counter attacks by improvising after trying to carve minefields in Alamein and and stalled ) counted. In attacking minefields against well entached Axis AT position M4 Shermans did not perform more differently than Matilda or Cruiser models.
    For example second day of Operation Lightfoot 24th October on 13th Corps front 30 of them destroyed on minefields by German Anti Tank weapons while trying to attack 21st Panzer.

    On defense AT tanks , minefields and enhached positions always act as force multiplier if attackers came head on which they did in Second Battle of Alamein. It is how you use them , by not wasting them unnecessarily , trading firepower and machines instead of men that counts.

    In Husky there was considerable hesistancy and apprehension among planners. Besides Allied planners still were not sure about quality of their forces especially in amphibious operations. (Remember this was the first large scale sea landing operation to an enemy held shore where resistance would be expected fierce and counter attacks would be sure to come ) 7th US Army would be especially vulnerable close to Italian mainland and out of Allied air cover if it landed to northern shore of Sicily.This was the first large scale invasion of an enemy held shore on his own soil first one in war. Last one tried in Gallipoli in 1915 ended in fiasco ( and in that Allied forces landed in different beaches unconnected and uncoordinated unable to support each other in different bridgeheads ) Allied planners felt that they were taking considrable risk. With Marshall's reluctance to commit in Mediterranean , Eisenhower's inexperience in Supreme Command plus lack of direction and 15th Army Group Commander Harold Alexander's skeptism of American army after the debacle of Kasserine Pass ( which left a very bad impression on him about US commanders and US fighting ability ) it is understable that Allies picked the safe route landing on southern shore of Sicily en masse put up a continous front easier to defend against Axis counter attacks then go north from there. They were not even sure they could hold a bridgehead on Sicily after landing. Self confidence and confidence on their armies their skillls , abilities had not grown yet.


    First Battle of Alamein and Battle of Caen can not be compared in same light. In First Battle of Alamein 8th Army still was displaying callowness in combined arms tactics and machanized warfare. Auckinleck's failed counter attacks did not just waste men/material when it could be ill afforded at that time and shot morale and self confidence of men plus undermining confidence of troops to commanders , they did not gain any ground , they failed to destroy substential German forces ( actually British casaulties were much heavier. For example 44th Tank Regiment lost 98 Valentine tanks in a single night attack against German Italian lines on 23rd July. German Italian casaulties were none. No ground was gained. Italian suffered heavily in First Battle of Alamein between 1st and 19th July that's right. Auckinleck must be commanded for stopping Panzer Army. But he failed to drive them back in terrible performance. And chronic Axis supply situation also played a serious factor in stalling Axis advance due to stupidity of Rommel entering Egypt against better counsel of Kesselring) , they did not serve any strategic or tactical purpose.

    In Caen British and Canadians after landing continued to gain ground albeit slowly and heavier than expected casaulties against entire weight of Panzer Group West , destroy enough German forces with firepower when few replacements were coming for 7th Army and Panzer Group West. Attrition was working in Allied favor in Normandy not the other way around. Operation Epsom was actually a defensive victory for British sucking 2nd SS Panzer Corps into battle piecemental before it was ready , repulsing and then fixing it on narrow Odon river. That was the only reserve Rommel had to counter attack Allied beachhead and it was driven to battle premturely andd lost its oppurtunity to make a difference. ( Monty's reserve he kept 10th Corps during Battle of Alamein actully broke through Axis defense line in fin stage , made the crucial contribution and won the battle ) Even the much maligned Operation Goodwood enlarged Allied bridgehead on Orne enough to deploy 1st Canadian Army , captured rest of Caen along with 2300 German prisoners and pulled all of remaining German reserves on right flank of front at cost of 400 tanks ( more than half of them were recoved and repaired by the way ) That was always Montgomery's strategic intention to fix main enemy armour on right flank while 1st US Army gained ground on west. Three weaks before landings in final conferance on 15th May he explained all of this to Eisenhower , Bradley other commanders and Allied Chiefs of Staffs , Churchill. Even Bradley had commented after conferance "British and Canadians would have to sacrifice themselves for 1st US Army achieving a breakthrough on left."

    Entire Goodwood breakthough business was due to overzealous SHAEF and Allied PR officers , communique and misleading Allied press anxious for a breakthough victory. With V-1 campaign started on London British press was craving for a battlefield success and over running V-1 launcing sites in Pas De Calais. So editors put up premature breakthrough headlines on 19th and 20th July. Monty admittedly did not help his case when he told both Eisenhower and reporters that he was getting through during initial stages of Operation Goodwoood. And prior to that he said he was getting a real show in Caen. Still without British Canadian pressure 1st US Army would be hard pressed to hold on its bridgehead much less breaking through in St. Lo. While US commanders criticize Montgomery about failing to capture Caen for a month they forget that they couldn't reach St Lo for six weeks and suffered heavy infantry casaulties for that (another advantage of Americans was they had manpower to waste on bocage. British did not have that. Thay had to trade tanks , vehicles and firepower vs manpower) due to bocage territory which they did not take account in planning. While 1st US Army was fighting against just two German corps and a panzergranedier division in July British were dealing with seven or eight panzer divisions supported with heavy artillery around Caen region. After Goodwood Montgomery came intense critism and pressure especially from RAF Bomber barons and transport barons like Leigh-Mallory and Arthur Teddler who had personal reasons to dislike him and to discredit him ( Leigh-Mallory was so adapt in high power politics after Battle of Britain in 1940 he organized sackings of both Air Marshall Sir Hugh Downding and Vice Marshall Keith Park real victors of Battle of Britain while Leigh Mallory's group did little. Prior to Overlord he also worried Ike constantly by insisting to cancel airborne landings on Normandy fearing heavy casaulties. Then he did the same thing before Market Garden insisting that RAF Transport Command can not handle much casaulties and landing entire 1st Airborne six miles away from critical Arnhem bridge )
     
  11. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    Most of the time during WW2 being a merely effective captain was enough and just the thing Allies needed. Most of the time they were not fighting against overwhelming odds , vital consequences or time limits. As you mention they had the luxuary of picking timing and place of their operations and hold the initiative. Even they did not they learned to cope with circumstances as they gained experience. None of the Allied battlefield commanders needed to be military geniuses or imaginative inventors. They were just required to be good enough to do the job. From military genius regard Patton only some what rises above the rest but his character faults just like other commanders in Mediterranean and Europe casts a few shadows on that subject.
     
  12. belasar

    belasar Court Jester

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    merdiolu, earlier you stated that Montgomery deserved credit for the creation of a Tank Corps ( a Corps de Chasse you called it), yet this is not entirely accurate. Ritchie in his XXX Corps had one at Gazala with two Armoured Divisions (1st and 7th). Granted Ritchie did not use it very well, but can it be said Montgomery did any better with his? You stated he deployed it "prematurely" and without any fuel reserve to exploit a break though. Not very good planning or co-ordination. A flaw that is compounded by his inability to refuel them in a timely manner as the DAK routinely did when ever it was operating in an offensive mode. His Corps de Chasse was relegated to surrounding Italian Infantry that could not retreat in any event for lack of motor transport, a task his Motorized Infantry could have done nearly as well.

    Your comments on the reasons for Auckinleck's failed attacks just after 1st El Alamein are reminiscent of the reason's why his various Caen assaults failed to live up to expectations. Time and again, from day one (Neptune though Goodwood) if an operation failed to reach its objective it was due to some subordinate who failed to "properly co-ordinate his forces" (this would rear its head in Market-Garden when his XXX Corps could not get boats or Infantry where they were needed, when they were needed).

    Montgomery was constitutionally incapable of acknowledging a mistake on his part, either they did not understand what he wanted done or failed to make it happen, never was it his fault.

    Again earlier you said he sacked all the incompetent commanders in 8th Army with people he could work with, but this could have a darker cast to it looking at it from another perspective. There seemed to be two kinds of people in his universe those who accepted his view of the war without question or comment, and those who did not, with little room in the middle. Those who did not often found themselves labeled as "bellyachers", incompetent or "out to get him". To the Bomber/Transport baron's you must add Canadian 1st Army Commander Crerer and Eisenhower among others.

    This from the man who though he should have been SHEAF rather than Ike. His postwar memoirs accused a sitting American President and American hero of being so ill suited to command that he cost the Allies a year longer in the war. The same American President who controlled purse strings that were all but totally keeping England afloat economically post war.

    You don't have to be a nice guy to win wars, but to win an alliance war you need to be at least politic if you have the reins of command.

    You have offered a spirited and passionate defence of Montgomery and it has my respect even if I can't wholly agree with it. I guess it comes down to you seeing a glass half full, while I see one half empty.

    p.s. It seems the transport baron's were right about Arnhem. Sorry I could not resist one last stink bomb :)
     
  13. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    But he had to deploy his pursuit corps prematurely to succeed. 8th Army still could break out Axis defences in Almein until November 1. It had been nine days since initial attack Operation Lightfoot was launched. Momentum of attack was decreasing and initiative was slipping away. British Commonwealth casaulties was getting heavier. And Panzer Armee defying all military logic still holding on a undefensible line at the end of a ridiculously long supply route when it should have been retreating from Alamein long time ago. At that point under pressure from London Montgomery had nothing to lose , he had to put all of his reserves (which he wisely kept out of harm's way till that point ) on battle to achieve breakthrough. Longer enemy resisted more fuel and supplies it would exhaust from scant reserves it had , more of them would be unable to get away. ( events happened like that . 20th Italian Corps almost completely wiped out in southern sector of Axis defense line a much larger force than intended ) Montgomery's mission was getting German-Italian Panzer Army out of Egypt. He accomplished that. Reservations of British tank and mechanized abilities in mobile warfare against a much more talented foe (DAK) on these aspects made whatever left of Panzer Armee to escape from Egypt. We should remember everytime British tried to engage Germans in mobile battle group formations on desert Germans always bested and outfought them even after victorious campaigns like Crusader. Neither Montgomery nor other 8th Army officers still couldn't trust themselves and their troops sufficiently enough to over flank retreating DAK and destroy it. They had defeated enemy in Alamein with attritional WWI style tactics after all. Disorganization of 10th Corps after the battle made pursuit larger than regiment sized formations impossible and British tank officers were still too hesistant at that stage of war. Just like in poker sometimes you leave the table once you got enough winnings.

    Plus knowing that Operation Torch invasion of French North Africa Montgomery was confident retrating enemy remants would be entrapped soon. Usual German ability for fast movement , rains , uncleared minefields , getting Axis rearguard and remants in Alamein to POW cages must also be considered. That is probably why enough fuel was not given to 10th Corps. Allies even British fighting for two years were still hesistant , still learning their trade.
     
  14. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    I will not defend Monty's character. No doubt that he was vain , arrogant , pompous. He was offending to many people without even realizing it. He was acting as if he was still training junior officers about tactics and strategy in Sandhurst. Even before the war he was not popular in British Army officer corps due to his blunt , frank , even arrogant , "in your face" style manners and he was isolated because "he is not a nice chap". Well during the war nice chaps couldn't do the job mostly but Montgomery did. Agreed his diplomatic skills were nil. His patron Alan Brooke British Imperial CiC said summarized it : "He was our best strategist we had since Wellington but he was an absolute disaster in relations with Americans" Later he added : Montgomery had a “lack of tact and egotistical outlook which seemed to prevent him appreciating other people’s feelings.” Beattle Smith Ike's COS remarked to him :"General it great to serve under you , OK to serve with you but hell to serve you over !" His pride issues and keeping army morale up led him claim "everything was according to plan". He did not admit some good or bad deviations might have happened from Master Plan.

    From 21st Century military leadership it is absolutely necessary to be diplomatic in modern military modern generalship. His largest failing was that. He was sufficent even good to lead an army group but of course someone like Ike and his diplomatic skills were definetely needed to lead SHAEF. Monty's insistance to appoint a single ground force commander in ETO was propostrous. He should have known better of course.
     
  15. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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    No army reached its D-Day targets.
    Every Army failed to take it objectives to timetable. In regards to 'frontal attacks on Caen' the pre-invasion order clearly stated that Caen was not an 'at all cost' objective and that if the Germans fought for it then it was not to be forced.



    "20. 3 British Division

    a) The task of 3 British Division is to capture CAEN and secure a bridgehead over the R ORNE at that place.

    b ) The enemy may develop his counter-attack--

    i) Through CAEN
    ii) Across R ORNE at RANVILLE - BENOUVILLE having established himself in the area East of R ORNE from which he can dominate the beaches West of OUISTREHAM and the Northern approaches to CAEN.
    iii) West of Caen, between R MUE and the CAEN Canal
    iv) Any combination of the above

    In cases (ii) and (iii) using CAEN as a pivot, if he suceeds in forestalling us there.

    c) To counter these enemy measure 3 British Division should, before dark on D-Day, have captured or effectively masked CAEN and be disposed in depth with brigade localities firmly established.

    Should the enemy forestall us at CAEN and the defences prove to be strongly organised thus causing us to fail to capture it on D-Day, further direct frontal assaults which may prove costly will not be undertaken without reference to I Corps. In such an event 3 British Division will contain the enemy in CAEN and retain the bulk of its forces disposed for mobile operations inside the covering position. CAEN will be subjected to heavy air bombardment to limit its usefulness and to make its retention a costly business."
    (I Corps Operations Order No. 1, WO 171/258)






    A belief has grown up that COBRA was a sweeping attack around the enemy and into his rear battle that was Patton's forte when in fact it was a grinding attritional 'straight down the middle' battle exactly the same as the one at play around Caen. Once Bradley broke through the German front Patton was fed into the gap. He did not fight his way through.
    The whole Allied strategy was based on attrition and anyone trying to say it was only Monty who attacked when he vastly outnumbered the enemy should check the numbers for COBRA to find out what real 'outnumbering' looks like.
     
  16. LJAd

    LJAd Well-Known Member

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    He was vain,arrogant,pompous ? So were Patton,Marshal,MacArthur,King,etc,etc.

    Popularity is for politicians and Hollywood stars .

    From 21th Century military leadershi it is absolutely necessary to be diplomatic in modern military modern generalship : we are not talking about 21th military leadership but about WWII = 20TH CENTURY military leadership .
     
  17. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    I agree. We are looking whole Montgomery contreversy from 21th century hindsight. Now a days a modern general or commander have to be diplomatic along with anything else especially in coalitions and alliances. Montgomery was anything but diplomatic. Not just to Americans but even to his own peers. His boundless self confidence sometimes passed the level of egoism and beyond and he was very vocal and displeasant to everyone he was working with. One British said about him "An efficient little sh.." (though as long as he got results in battlefield efficiently being a sh.. is a reasonable price I think ) Ike said "Monty is a pscyhopath" once. (to earn such insult Montgomery must have pushed Eisenhower to the brink ) The problem is while he won his battles , from American persective he was not efficient. He seemed plodding , over cautious , slow , deliberate. Not like Patton/Rommel like fast maneuver , cavalry like ligtening moving , romantic , flamboyant , theatrical attention seeking type press and editors love. Montry's operations involve "tidying front" , limited withdrawal to save forces , defensive battles and attritional warfare as much as attack / advance albeit in a sometimes in a slow methodic and mostly unimaginative way. That did not sit well with US commanders at all who were impressed German style mission oriented command control , constant attack/gaining ground/hold initiative , mobile warfare thinking. ( this was adapted by NATO later ) SHAEF staff and Allied commanders/ staff officers were mostly hand picked by Ike himself whom he served together before war in US or class mates from West Point or sent from Marshall's hand picked list of apointees. They knew each other and familiar each other's capabilities. They were from same enviroment. Monty was even more outsider among these American staff officers and ground commanders who were from a complately different military culture. Combined with his egoism and arrogant behaviour which he could not check it was easy for them to first dismiss him as a bad commander or a mediocre one at best as Patton described him. His nationality and overbearing behaviour made his image even more negative from American perspective who did not trust British , dismissed their capabilities , love to downgrade them due to national jignoism and consider their post war aims unreliabe and incompatible with US. From their perspective they created solutions and won victories Monty and British couldn't. They were providing majority of resources to fight Axis. They should have been ones to run war. For them Monty spoke too much and doing too little on battlefield. A lot of US commanders also had personal grudges against him (Bradley who despised Monty because he felt Monty was undercutting him and trying to take over his command by appointing himself as a Supreme Land Commander , Patton who had a personal glory rivalry with him in PR and felt Montgomery was unimagintive / slow )

    It is interesting how these personal views grew more and more into public opinion with published accounts , memoirs , discussions and bickering about controversial decisions and create myths or prejudices among historians , ameteur strategists and general readers. I mean I just finished "Guns at Last Night" written by Rick Atkinson (not a bad book but US focused though it tries to be balanced on Monty issue ) and its reader reviews were remarkable : A US reviewer from Alabama whom I asked his opinion said "Montgomery should have been sacked , demoted and shot because he was incompatent and his decisions did nothing but extend the war." Another one I spoke online actually suggested during the war British Army down to divisional and regimental level should have been directed by Americans because British and above Montgomery were more trouble than they worth.
    (shakes head) I wonder how that would work out for British/American alliance.

    Montgomery was egoist , unbearably smug and arrogant. He couldn't get along with any of his peers. But how was he differrent from Ernest King , Halsey , Doug MacArthur , Patton , Mark Clark etc. Most of them get free pass from US reviewers
     
  18. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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    I really believe the root of the US problem with Monty was his refusal to accept he was in any way inferior to them. That sort of attitude went down badly with those who believed they were your saviour.
    When the Bulge started and Monty held that press conference it went down very well in the USA. It was Bradley who lost the plot over the imagined insult of losing troops to Monty. He initiated the counter attack that slandered and vilified Monty out of pure spite. It may well be that ego played a big part in the catfight but it was not confined to Monty. Bradley seems to have been one of the main mover in the Monty-hating obsession that dominated much of the post-war US version of WW2.
    I fear this thread will end badly. The depth of the hatred for Montgomery is frightening and some on the critics come across as deranged lunatics.
     
  19. Don Juan

    Don Juan New Member

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    Actually, I think a lot of the hatred may have been inspired by Montgomery's post-war behaviour. He gave some pretty vehemently anti-American television interviews in the 1950's that were poorly received by both the British and American establishments. I've seen one of them, and have been hoping they would get posted at Youtube, but no sign of them so far.

    You can actually understand why the Americans would dislike him if you watched the one I saw. Not that this has anything to do with his qualities as a commander, but there you go......
     
  20. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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    It all started long before that. Bradley was far from a bystander in all this and he was obsessed with settling the score for the humiliation (as he saw it) of losing an Army to Monty during the Bulge.
    I would be interested in seeing these 'anti-American' clips. I suspect they will turn out to be just as bogus as the claims he said he won the battle of the Bulge.
     
    4th wilts likes this.

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