Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pre-Pandemic: "Battle for the Rhine" by Robin Neillands

Pre-Pandemic: Battle for the Rhine: the Battle of the Bugle, and the Ardennes Campaign, 1944 by Robin Neillands, 2005, Wisconsin Digital Library.

I never cleaned up my notes before the Pandemic. Here they are.

Montgomery was a good general. Experienced. Well liked by troops. Skilled at planning. Knew importance of supply. Planned his operations in mind that he had a smaller force and had to probe for weaknesses and then collect his troops in number to attack.

Monty has  a bad rep in the US that exists to today. Narrator started about Monty and I thought "oh, that guy" because his reputation as pompous and ineffective has worked down to dilettantes like myself. Monty's reputation in US based off the memoirs of US Generals who did not like the guy.

Monty knew his shortcomings and could accept criticism.

Complex operations of 7 Allied Armies over 600 miles of front. Supplies only coming in from limited port facilities and rail lines destroyed pre-Overlord.

Market Garden a complex operation filled with minor and major trouble that flubbed things up. Many myths about the operation that author works to dispel. Airborne operation were meant to secure the roads and bridges through Holland so armor and infantry could drive on through. Narrow roads surrounded by marsh or flooded country and not enough roads. Thousands of vehicles were queued up on one road. So, when the dirty rotten stinking nazis set up a good defense on the road everything had to stop until the krauts were removed.

If a bridge was not taken the same delays would happen. Primarily in Nijmegen.

Nijmegen priority was 'immediately capture the bridges' in a thunderclap (predecessor of shock and awe?). US Airborne General Gavin instead focused on first capturing the high ground surrounded by thick woods. Gavin's record seems to be of a General tooting his own horn (author mentions how US Generals would often put down Brit efforts and accomplishments). Gavin cited evidence that 1,000 tanks were in the forest. I'm still a dilettante but think of hiding 1,00 tanks which have, what, 4-5 crew per tank? Then add in all the support trucks for fuel, food, ammunition, spare parts, and transport for all the repair guys and supporting infantry. How would you hide that many people in the woods? Besides, when the first groups of the 82nd got there they said the woods were too thick for tanks to operate in anyway.

Drop zones determined by the air force not the paratrooper or glider people. English 1st Airborne had to walk up to 8 miles to the Arnhem bridge.

About 39 planes taken from troop landings to land a headquarters outfit.

So much of war is dealing with allies. Monty was a great planner and soldier but most US people disliked him. The Americans wanted to run things and get credit. Soldiers and politicians were already angling for post-war life and advancement.

Much is made of Antwerp and what could have been a vital supply port. That the competing Generals each had competing plans. Those plans said that the best place to attack from just happened to be where their army was. Monty's plan of attack through the Northwest made plenty of sense. Monty still gets a bad rap from American Generals who use him as a scapegoat for their own foul-ups. But, hey, the winners write the history.

A description of the different top American generals goes into their strengths and weaknesses. Author praises Eisenhower as being the perfect man for the time and place. But, Eisenhower still had weaknesses: he would not issue clear and direct orders, he would not reign in Generals like Patton and Monty who'd forge ahead and ignore some orders.

Bulge: Omar to blame. But, US generals constantly aware of US press and the interests of Congress. Ardennes was a screw-up and they didn't want anyone looking too closely. Talk about the Bastogne bravery.

Monty again requested to be in charge of more troops after his help in getting rid of Germans. There was still not a coherent structure of command.

Huge losses in campaigns. Huertgen forest with 90% and more as replacements were pushed in and carried out

Patton good but not the god he said. Big successes post Normandy because everyone was chasing a fleeing enemy. Patton was chasing through unwanted or unneeded ground. To have him continue would be to go into Germany against heavy defenses.

Bulge as victory. At the best a draw. Especially if arguing krauts lost irreplaceable men and equipment.

Monty couldn't be blamed for the Bulge. It was all Omar Bradley's blame. Monty took the north flank and Patton the south.

Aka Monty got the shaft. Aka let's clear Monty. A lot of time spent clearing Monty's reputation.

Congress and Marshall pushing US presence. Afraid of fuckups being known. Blame the english and monty.

Huertgen meat grinder. Thick forests and everything marked by kraut artillery. Interlocking defenses.
Replacements come in, die or wounded, more replacements. The goal becomes the battle instead of tactics or strategy. This and the Bulge kill a lot of soldiers. 

EDIT: A lot of information about the campaign heading northwest to free Antwerp's port. Lots of heavy resistance and some amazing stories. Much the estuary and the islands are the same as '44 and you can check the battle locations out on Google satellite view..

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