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You've probably beaten Market Garden to death here

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by squidly the octopus, Feb 27, 2015.

  1. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    but as a recent arrival to this forum I shall beat it some more......

    From my study of the operation I can only conclude that there was no one in the Allied command structure with the wherewithal to say no to Montgomery. Why else undertake such a gamble of an operation, in such a hurry, with scant time for planning, limited and/or shoddy intelligence, all while one enjoys a decided advantage in the field? The operation seems to be suited to a desperate army, not the undertaking of a force which holds all the advantages and all the initiative. There was no need for the Western Allies to take major risks at that stage of the war, no need at all. Yet there they were. Was there no one to say all this to Monty? Evidently not. People didn't seem to have a problem saying no to Patton, but Monty was apparently untouchable.

    I find the notion that it was a "good plan" to be plainly preposterous and don't know how anyone could say that with a straight face. All large operations are complex, but they don't all require so many multiple independent objectives to be met in order to attain success, where any 2 or 3 things going wrong (as they always do) can doom the whole thing. This one didn't even look good on paper. The haste with which it was thrown together only made it worse. Even Japanese planners could not have made the plan any more extravagant.

    Yet while the consequences of failure were not crippling - the decisive Allied advantage at that stage of the war permitted a failure or three - the mauling of the British 1st Airborne was appalling and needless. Outside of the casualties, there were virtually no consequences at all. The scapegoating of Gen. Sosabowski, a relative pawn in the operation, makes the whole thing all the more appalling. Were the operation indeed "90% successful" as Monty claimed, there'd have been no need of a scapegoat. And if the 90% claim were accurate, I wouldn't have written this.
     
  2. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Well, it wasn't a major risk. It was a calculated risk. In some ways the Battle of the Bulge only three months later vindicates Monty. The Germans weren't yet beaten and if the allies had gotten across the Rhine in September it would have shortened the war and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. As long as the allies were moving forward, the Germans were unbalanced and could only react. Once things slowed down that fall, the Germans were able to regroup and put up quite a scrap.
     
  3. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    Yes you're right, poor choice of words on my part. The consequence of failure being "only" lives does prove it was not a major risk.
     
  4. green slime

    green slime Member

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    I find your analysis a tad simplistic, and enjoying the benefit of hindsight. without actually offering any alternative.

    Given what was known on 3rd September, what would your suggestion have been? What would you have proposed to Ike instead, and why should he have listened to you?
     
  5. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    All I would have said to Ike is that Antwerp is more important than Arnhem. Ike's broad front idea at that time was the right one IMO.
     
  6. green slime

    green slime Member

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    The broad front idea is open to criticism of needlessly prolonging the war. After fighting for 5 years, Britain is broke, and bled dry.
     
  7. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    In simplistic terms, crossing the Rhine would have forced a concentration of German forces in the north of the Reich for a knockout punch - or an end around by Bradley to the south. Either way, or both ways, it would have ended the war sooner.

    As it turned out, that German concentration was delivered in Belgium 3 months later. It did knock out the German army for the most part, but it was far more costly than the lives lost at Arnhem.
     
  8. m kenny

    m kenny Member

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    Your agenda is plain to see.
    It was a gamble. It did not work out.
    Eisenhower was fully behind the operation and Patton was busy stealing supplies from the other Allied Armies.
     
  9. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    Thinking about the situation in Sept 1944. The German forces were practically considered "dead" after retreating from Normandy, they lost all armor and and vehicles during the way backwards over many rivers. Also the idea of using paratroopers war sorta "necessary" as they were expecting action that had been cancelled several times. As well expecting the war to end by Xmas was more or less in everybody´s mind. Von Rundstedt was a genius who managed to gather troops to make a line to defend Germany. Some German pro units were close to Arnhem getting units back to better condition and practicing maneuvres. Those are the things that were somewhat against each other. personally I consider the fact that the Allied troops managed to get so far was a success. Simply saying that not reaching the Rhine made it a disaster does not work for me. The timing of forces dropped could have been better but then again the German AA was more powerful than expected. Ike´s broad front attack was more or less a Red Army idea as claimed but as we know a strongpoint attack with 5:1 or more is important to make a breakthrough. Not a total success but definitely worth the tryin my opinion. If the troops meant to fre the troops in Arnhem had been able to make way faster it would have been a success.
     
  10. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    To be pedantic, there was someone in the Allied High Command with the wherewithal to say 'No'. Eisenhower. And he admitted as much postwar.
     
  11. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    Not at all, not at all. Outside of Op MG I find little fault with Montgomery (I know everybody was waiting all these years to find out whether or not I approved of his methods). I find a frank statement of opinion to be a good discussion generator, which on this forum usually leads to me learning something I didn't already know, as I'm not going to read all the sometimes dryly written histories some other posters here have read. If Monty is a denigrating moniker that's news to me.

    It was a very out of character operation for him. Typically he was more of a plodder (which I happen to approve of in general, though we've addressed the weight my approval carries). Certainly it's not my point to suggest he was a bad commander (as if it would matter if I did). I find Op MG to have been a brief moment of uncharacteristic recklessness on the part of a number of people. And thus somewhat mysterious in that sense.
     
  12. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    It's not mysterious at all. The allied advance had strained the supply chain to the breaking point. Monty's plan offered a quick advance into the Reich, at the risk of relatively few men. It failed, but everyone involved knew it was risky from the beginning. As it was, the lack of supply did dictate a halt in operations and it did give the Germans the breathing space they needed to regroup. Monty foresaw that. Ike foresaw that when he approved the plan.

    Monty wasn't a "plodder." He was what we today would call "risk averse." When he had the supply, the men, the fuel, the air power, he saw no reason to take risks. When that equation changed (as it did in September, 1944), he was bold enough to throw the dice. If any blame can (or should) be assigned to the failure of Market Garden it would have to go to some of the subordinate commanders. The 82nd under Gavin did everything except take the bridge they were assigned. XXX Corps under Horrocks showed a remarkable lack of initiative in the drive. The plan itself was reasonably sound, but the execution of that plan lacked something.

    There's a lot of crap thrown at Montgomery. Much of that is simply national rivalry, and some because he was an egotistical jerk who made himself a target, but when you dispassionately examine the record he was a pretty damned fine general!
    .
     
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  13. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    And that's the thing.... even with Arnhem in Allied possession, there'd have been the same supply problems there were before the operation kicked off.
     
  14. KodiakBeer

    KodiakBeer Member

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    Perhaps, but they would have been across the Rhine - in September, 44! All of the enormous effort to cross the Ruhr, and then finally the Rhine in March, 45, would have been accomplished in a stroke 6 months earlier in the war. It also outflanks any German supply for troops further north, and troops still blocking Antwerp - which was the key to the supply problem, anyway.
     
  15. squidly the octopus

    squidly the octopus New Member

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    I'd put the blame squarely on Allied intelligence estimates of German forces in and around Arnhem, which gets back to it being a "rush job" as I mentioned. Had German opposition been what was expected, I suppose Frost's paras could have held onto that bridge for a week or more, and the problems to the south wouldn't have prevented the mission from being accomplished.
     
  16. Martin Bull

    Martin Bull Acting Wg. Cdr

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    It's been discussed many times before : the situation in NW Europe at the time was almost unbelievably fluid (Falaise was only one month beforehand). If everything had gone to plan it could have worked. But the plan was very rushed and was almost totally lacking in contingencies - everything had to work, and thereby was the fatal weakness. As was felt at SHAEF at the time, 'the Germans were finished'.

    We have the luxury of knowing that this was far from being the case. As Ike said after the war, it was a risk worth taking at the time - but it went wrong. That's war.
     
  17. KJ Jr

    KJ Jr Well-Known Member

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    Good point. Many who study the operation fail to see the chain of effectiveness the operation would have had if it was successful.
     
  18. Triple C

    Triple C Ace

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    I vaguely recall that by September, Ike suspected the demise of the German army was greatly exaggerated, and believed he must approve Monty's operation to preempt a German revival. Russel Weigely identified major flaws in Market-Garden's execution and rejected the Field Marshal's explanations as spurious, but iirc even he agreed that it could work and no fault should be attached to Monty for making an attempt. None of the allied generals had a military alternative at the time.
     
  19. Terry D

    Terry D Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it has been done to death. I have little interest in any of the controversies associated with the operation, which are seldom resolved and often serve mainly to stimulate ill will among the controversialists. I will add the only the following:

    1. When asked who lost the battle of Gettysburg for the Confederacy, Rebel General R.S. Ewell allegedly said "I always thought that the Yankees had something to do with it." Give the Germans credit. They staged an impressive recovery from a terrible defeat in France, and their reactions to Market-Garden were swift, aggressive, and generally successful. Model, Student, Bittrich, Harmel, Von Zangen--all did well, and so did their troops.

    2. Important parts of the battle are left out of too many accounts. The focus on the land advance has always been about XXX Corps, and you don't hear nearly as much about VIII and XII Corps. I don't know much about them myself. The slenderness of the XXX Corps corridor was a major factor in the failure to reach 1st Airborne in time, but I wonder if things could have been different if the flanking corps could have kept pace. I have heard vaguely that they lacked strength and ran into greater opposition than they expected, but I don't know the details and none of the books I have seen on the subject provide them. (Farrar-Hockley, Ryan, Wilmot hardly mention the flank corps, and in that they are echoed by more general histories of the war.)

    3. Another and equally important part of the battle is left out, too. Most accounts of Market-Garden end with the withdrawal of the remnants of 1st Airborne from Oosterbeek. In fact the battle went on for some weeks after that, as the Germans staged large-scale counterattacks along the corridor and against the XXX Corps position on the Island betwen Nijmegen and the Rhine. This prolonged counteroffensive gained nothing, and it failed at very heavy cost to the Germans. I don't have the raw numbers, but if you look at the battle from the viewpoint of attrition then the German losses in this last phase have to be weighed in the balance when assessing Market-Garden as a whole.
     
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  20. harolds

    harolds Member

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    Has anyone thought that It might have been a good thing that M-G failed? Had it succeeded, and Monty had gotten across the Rhine and tried his single "full-blooded thrust", it would have considerably simplified the German defensive problem. It could have ended up being a bigger blood-bath. For M-G to have succeeded the German forces would have to have been somewhere else, say Germany and would have been available, along with other units, to attack the British ever-extending flanks.
     

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