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  • Originally posted by Pruitt View Post
    Do you think Eisenhower sending his supplies and fuel to Montgomery might have influenced this as well?
    As far as I know, Montgomery got his priority in September, once Patton was well in front of Metz.

    Comment


    • Originally posted by Andy H View Post

      Hi DS

      Yep he's been mentioned.

      These 'Best' threads are the low hanging fruit of MH discussion, as often the parameters often shift along national and contextual lines or often ignore actualities in favour of cherished myth and legend.

      Most Generals of WW2 are completely unknown to 99.9% of us. Yes we remember 'famous' generals but seem very myopic in viewing the best Generals as those who commanded the largest formations. There are countless Divisional and Corp Generals who given the opportunity or luck, would have commanded better than their peers.

      Regards

      Andy H
      Thanks for the reply. I have always wondered what might have happened in North Africa if Richard O'Connor hadn't been captured by what were almost the first German troops to arrive. I appreciate that he subsequently commanded a Corps in France without particularly distinguishing himself, but that was after a period in captivity, and in a war changed out of all recognition.

      Of course, the forces involved were much smaller than many of those commanded by people discussed here, but O'Connor had improvisational skills, and the ability to react to situations, which in many ways compared with Rommel in the same theatre.

      As Fortinbras said of Hamlet :- "For he was likely, had he been put on, to have proved most royal,..."

      Who knows? Still it makes a change from arguing about Patton & Montgomery!

      Comment


      • Hi DS

        Yes on another platform sometime ago there was a discussion around Francis Tuker, who commanded the 4th Indian Division during the SWW and that given the chance he would have been a fine Army commander.

        Your point about O'Connor is well travelled as is that of Horrocks and also throw in Lumsden into the mix.

        Regards

        Andy H
        "You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life." Churchill

        "I'm no reactionary.Christ on the Mountain! I'm as idealistic as Hell" Eisenhower

        Comment


        • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

          I'll have what you're drinking!

          In June 1944, the Red Army Offensive Operation Bagration advanced 450 miles in five weeks through Minsk to the outskirts of Warsaw.
          Hi Richard. It's been some time.

          While I agree that the exploitation of Bagration was arguable the best example of a pursuit operation writ large, I am not sure that holding it up against events in the west is an apples to apples comparison.

          The Red Army was able to penetrate the German tactical and operational zones and defeat the few available reserves the Germans had in short order. It was an excellent operation but behind the initial 20 miles of the German front they was little more than a vacuum with no German reserves anywhere close (Soviet deception wins big here as well). The Red Army could roll forward until its fuel tanks ran dry. The strategic depth the Germans could surrender in the east did not exist in west.

          In the west the challenge was different. The Normandy landings were on a narrow front and the landing forces could not, by the very nature of the attack, exploit the initial penetrations of the German front (for a number of reasons). Until the western armies could both expand the lodgment and build up the required mass there was little scope for bringing the weight of allied numerical superiority to bear, much less allow for manoeuvre.

          Much the same as had happened in the east and in Italy and Africa in previous battles, as long as the defence had the ability to commit effective reserve forces to prevent the penetration of the tactical and operational zones, the US and Commonwealth armies would not find room to break free. Terrain hindered the US operations on the right in the bocage, massed German armoured formations held the Commonwealth formations to small gains on the left.

          Once the German reserve were exhausted the western allies broke free and the pursuit phase could begin. Here, much as in the east, the western allied forces advanced into a vacuum but the distance to the next plausible German defensive line and the strategic reserves was shorter than that face by the Red Army. The Germans had no choice but to commit everything they had to border battles in September 44. The US 1st Army ran into fresh German reserves on the border near Aachen just as supplies ran out, the British 2nd Army was brought to halt by similar lines amongst the canals near the Dutch-Belgian border.

          Pursuit transitioned to positional warfare and cycle began again.
          Last edited by The Purist; 26 Jul 20, 12:16.
          The Purist

          Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

          Comment


          • Originally posted by R.N. Armstrong View Post

            That's why one uses maskirovka (deception, camouflage, disinformation, operations security) as well as take risks with density in other sectors along the front, narrow the main sector, conduct artillery and air strikes to reduce the enemy's density in weapons systems in the main effort sector, echelon the offensive force in depth....
            That may be true in the east from 1944 onwards but 1942 and 43 have many examples of Red Army attacks that took some time before penetrating the German front and exhausting their available reserves. Red Army attacks were held by the Germans.

            As late as 1945 at the Seelow Heights, a comparatively 'dense' German defence in good terrain and backed by mobile reserves held the Red Army attack and forced Zhukov to change his attack plan. The German defence was overcome (it was April 1945) but even the massed advantages of the Red Army didn't help break the defence as planned or as expected.

            As I have expounded on in the past. There is no manoeuvre, no exploitation, until the operational depth is penetrated and the available reserves are destroyed. Until then it is positional warfare where firepower defeats manoeuvre. This became more prevalent from mid-42 onwards as the defence adjusted to the reality of the internal combustion engine on the battlefield and firepower was correspondingly increased to improve unit density.


            The Purist

            Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

            Comment


            • Originally posted by Massena View Post
              Patton was an excellent leader and commander. He had more combat experience than either Eisenhower (who had none) and Bradley, and his performance during the Bulge was brilliant, as was his performance in the campaign across France.
              Well, his performance in France and Belgium can hardly be considered brilliant. He was able to motivate his men and was popular with them,... so was Montgomery. Patton was the darling of the US press every bit as much as Montgomery was fawned over by the British papers. Both exploited the coverage to keep them in the public's eye. Fine for a politician, other generals chose to avoid these distractions from the job at hand.

              Patton managed the 3rd Army exploitation post-Cobra but he did not create the breakthrough. Full marks for keeping the army going but then there were three other allied armies also racing east and north, some while still facing organised resistance. A third US army and the French were also racing up the Rhone Valley from Marseilles. So,....

              His handling of the Metz battles was not exemplary. As in Sicily, once he was faced with organised resistance he resorted to rather uninspired frontal assaults. He was able to overcome this resistance through brute force, not through tactical/operational nous.

              Bastogne - Dear oh dear oh dear.

              He gets good marks for calming down after losing 10th AD to 1st Army and looking at the map. His decision on 17 December to have his staff start planning the redeployment of three divisions in case the German attack was not a spoiling operation aimed at disrupting his own offensive was a prudent move. It put him in a good position to attack northward the following week.

              Then again, Montgomery also ordered Dempsey at 2nd British Army to prepare to move 30 Corps to the Meuse as a backstop. Patton and Montgomery had similar responses, both were good moves.

              Unfortunately, Patton's orders to 4th AD "to drive like hell" without proper reconnaissance or planning condemned a very fine division to a frontal assault against a comparatively weak infantry regiment backed up by a few artillery piece and assault guns. It took four days to drive roughly 9-10 miles and open a very narrow corridor into Bastogne.

              Add to that his handling of the fighting after 26 December was equally uninspired and US losses were extremely heavy in the fighting to expand the corridor and secure the town by 03 Jan in the face of German reinforcements. Losses were serious enough that 3rd Army had to pause to regroup and reorganise before the push up the road to Houffalize (10 more miles of slow frontal assault) to finally link up with 1st Army coming down from the north.

              All things considered, 3rd Army did not do anything that 1st Army didn't do during the American counterattacks to erase the Bulge.
              The Purist

              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

              Comment


              • Originally posted by The Purist View Post

                Hi Richard. It's been some time.

                While I agree that the exploitation of Bagration was arguable the best example of a pursuit operation writ large, I am not sure that holding it up against events in the west is an apples to apples comparison.

                The Red Army was able to penetrate the German tactical and operational zones and defeat the few available reserves the Germans had in short order. It was an excellent operation but behind the initial 20 miles of the German front they was little more than a vacuum with no German reserves anywhere close (Soviet deception wins big here as well). The Red Army could roll forward until its fuel tanks ran dry. The strategic depth the Germans could surrender in the east did not exist in west.

                In the west the challenge was different. The Normandy landings were on a narrow front and the landing forces could not, by the very nature of the attack, exploit the initial penetrations of the German front (for a number of reasons). Until the western armies could both expand the lodgment and build up the required mass there was little scope for bring the weight of allied numerical superiority to bear, much less allow for manoeuvre.

                Much the same as had happened in the east and in Italy and Africa in previous battles, as long as the defence had the ability to commit effective reserve forces to prevent the penetration of the tactical and operational zones, the US and Commonwealth armies would not find room to break free. Terrain hindered the US operations on the right in the bocage, massed German armoured formations held the Commonwealth formations to small gains on the left.

                Once the German reserve were exhausted the western allies broke free and the pursuit phase could begin. Here, much as in the east, the western allied forces advanced into a vacuum but the distance to the next plausible German defensive line and the strategic reserves was shorter than that face by the Red Army. The Germans had no choice but to commit everything they had to border battles in September 44. The US 1st Army ran into fresh German reserves on the border near Aachen just as supplies ran out, the British 2nd Army was brought to halt by similar lines amongst the canals near the Dutch-Belgian border.

                Pursuit transitioned to positional warfare and cycle began again.
                Good to hear from you. Actually the best pursuit example is probably the Vistula-Oder Operation which the Soviet Army, post WWII, studied as the model for warfare in Western Europe in the 1970's-1980's. However, I chose Bagration because it was in the same period, mid-1944. And the contrast was after the breakout from Normandy with use, or rather lack, of armor forces and breakthrough/pursuit by 4th Armored Division at Nancy in August 1944, when the lead element of 4th AD was brought to fight the encirclement at Nancy vice continuing a pursuit to the German border.

                *A good read on the operation is Combat Studies Institute (CSI) monograph, "The 4th Armored Division in the Encirclement of Nancy by Dr. Chistopher R. Gabel, available on line at CSI.
                Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                Comment


                • Originally posted by Doveton Sturdee View Post

                  Thanks for the reply. I have always wondered what might have happened in North Africa if Richard O'Connor hadn't been captured by what were almost the first German troops to arrive. I appreciate that he subsequently commanded a Corps in France without particularly distinguishing himself, but that was after a period in captivity, and in a war changed out of all recognition.

                  Of course, the forces involved were much smaller than many of those commanded by people discussed here, but O'Connor had improvisational skills, and the ability to react to situations, which in many ways compared with Rommel in the same theatre.
                  ...
                  Good morning DS.

                  A pleasure to see you still around.

                  O'Connor is one of the great "what if" generals and his fate was unfortunate.

                  Still,... that doesn't mean his plan to drive on Tripoli would have succeeded.

                  By the time the WDF had wrapped up the battle at Beda Fomm and move on to El Agheila the Germans had already arrived in Tripoli with their lead combat formations. O'Connor's forces amounted to little more than a motor infantry battalion, a few batteries of guns and an ad hoc formation of armoured cars and light tanks supported by a few worn out Cruisers.

                  He likely would have been forced to turn back once mobile German formations supported by the Italians were encountered.

                  O'Connor's unfortunate legacy for the desert army would be the lessons learned from Compass.

                  Dispersal against Italian air attacks (not often recounted in the usual narrative) led O'Connor and his subordinates develop the use small columns of infantry and guns supported by a troops of armoured cars that could and did run circles around the foot bound Italians. Except when fighting for the fixed Italian positions in the various camps, Bardia and Tobruk, the British, Indian and Australian troops could use their mobility (and dispersal) to out manoeuvre the Italians.

                  The British did not use combined arms techniques as the light tanks and cruiser were very much employed as mechanised cavalry, screening, scouting and harassing the enemy. The British still tended to have the infantry/gunners and tanks fight two battles on the same piece of ground

                  This scenario changed in mid-February with the arrival of the Germans.

                  The dispersal of forces meant that the equally mobile Germans, who used geographical dispersion but tactical concentration, were to continually catch the British columns and other formation in penny packets. The fighting throughout 1941, right up through Crusader and to early 1942, found the British trying and failing to implement the Compass model and/or trying shoe horn this model into a British version of German method

                  It would take further lessons from Crusader and then Gazala before the British began to enforce British doctrine on the battlefield and thus gain control of the battlefield. Auchinleck did this at 1st Alamein where Rommel was checked and then locked into a no win situation.

                  Could O'Connor have done better? That's probably unknowable but the battles may have been different.
                  The Purist

                  Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                  Comment


                  • Originally posted by The Purist View Post

                    That may be true in the east from 1944 onwards but 1942 and 43 have many examples of Red Army attacks that took some time before penetrating the German front and exhausting their available reserves. Red Army attacks were held by the Germans.

                    As late as 1945 at the Seelow Heights, a comparatively 'dense' German defence in good terrain and backed by mobile reserves held the Red Army attack and forced Zhukov to change his attack plan. The German defence was overcome (it was April 1945) but even the massed advantages of the Red Army didn't help break the defence as planned or as expected.

                    As I have expounded on in the past. There is no manoeuvre, no exploitation, until the operational depth is penetrated and the available reserves are destroyed. Until then it is positional warfare where firepower defeats manoeuvre. This became more prevalent from mid-42 onwards as the defence adjusted to the reality of the internal combustion engine on the battlefield and firepower was correspondingly increased to improve unit density.

                    Actually, there was use of maskirovka from late 1942 thru the end of the war on the eastern front. I chronicled a major force shift under maskirovka by the 1st Ukrainian Front in Late October 1943, in which the Third Guards Tank Army was shifted from the Bukrin Bend to north of Kiev for the major attack in November across the Dnepr River. The German Eighth Army held on its situation map the 3rd GTA in their sector from 31 October to 6 November 1943. The account is available on-line (and free) from Combat Studies Institute in the monograph, "Soviet Operational Deception: The Red Cloak" by (then LTC) Richard N. Armstrong. Enjoy the read.
                    Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                    Comment


                    • No argument there. The 3 GTA was slipped into the Dnepr bridgehead and broke out (or over) four depleted German infantry divisions. It was well done.

                      But that was not my point. I was highlighting the fact that even in the east, Red Army attacks could not exploit a breakthrough until 'firepower' had defeated the enemy depth and reserves. Manoeuvre then followed.

                      Take, for example, Operation Kutuzov, which began in mid-July just north of Kursk fighting. Despite significant Red Army commitments, and the fact Orel was not very far away, the city was reached and liberated only on 05 Aug. It took the Red Army forces more than three weeks to defeat the German defence in depth and mobile reserves that could be transferred from other sectors.

                      Once these reserves were exhausted the Red Army rolled forward, expanding their summer offensive across the southern front all the way to the Sea of Azov (offensives "exploding like popcorn" from north to south). This was possible because unit densities were by this time quite low yet time and again, German defences would hold until their reserves were exhausted.

                      Then it was time to retreat.
                      The Purist

                      Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                      Comment


                      • Originally posted by Andy H View Post
                        Hi DS

                        Yes on another platform sometime ago there was a discussion around Francis Tuker, who commanded the 4th Indian Division during the SWW and that given the chance he would have been a fine Army commander.

                        Your point about O'Connor is well travelled as is that of Horrocks and also throw in Lumsden into the mix.

                        Regards

                        Andy H
                        Tuker certainly had the egotism to be an army commander but he remained only as GOC of 4th Indian Division from 1941 to 1944 so maybe his superiors thought he lacked something? Horrocks probably at his limit at Corps command. I'd throw Lumsden out of the mix, unimpressive as a divisional commander at Gazala and Mersah Matruh, at Alamein he was prone to gad about the desert out of contact with his Tac HQ and self-selected for the sack by his pessimism and negativity.

                        Comment


                        • Originally posted by The Purist View Post

                          as long as the defence had the ability to commit effective reserve forces to prevent the penetration of the tactical and operational zones, the US and Commonwealth armies would not find room to break free. Terrain hindered the US operations on the right in the bocage, massed German armoured formations held the Commonwealth formations to small gains on the left.

                          Once the German reserve were exhausted the western allies broke free and the pursuit phase could begin.
                          German reserves in Normandy were certainly not exhausted by the time of the breakout. It's just that they were either pinned to or en route to the Allies left flank armies leaving insufficient forces to oppose the Allies right flank armies.

                          Comment


                          • Originally posted by The Purist View Post
                            No argument there. The 3 GTA was slipped into the Dnepr bridgehead and broke out (or over) four depleted German infantry divisions. It was well done.

                            But that was not my point. I was highlighting the fact that even in the east, Red Army attacks could not exploit a breakthrough until 'firepower' had defeated the enemy depth and reserves. Manoeuvre then followed.

                            Take, for example, Operation Kutuzov, which began in mid-July just north of Kursk fighting. Despite significant Red Army commitments, and the fact Orel was not very far away, the city was reached and liberated only on 05 Aug. It took the Red Army forces more than three weeks to defeat the German defence in depth and mobile reserves that could be transferred from other sectors.

                            Once these reserves were exhausted the Red Army rolled forward, expanding their summer offensive across the southern front all the way to the Sea of Azov (offensives "exploding like popcorn" from north to south). This was possible because unit densities were by this time quite low yet time and again, German defences would hold until their reserves were exhausted.

                            Then it was time to retreat.
                            Yes, it was July 1943, and the counteroffensives around the Kursk salient which was the point on the eastern front that the Red Army gained the strategic offensive. The Soviet tank armies which were a key to major breakthroughs and movement into operational depth went through a significant change for a more homogeneous force structure. The tank armies at Kursk and subsequent counteroffensives were still having difficulties--some of which was leadership.

                            While there were good tank army actions in late '43 and through winter of 1944, by the summer of 1944, the Soviet offensives and use of the tank armies were successfully making significant breakthroughs and penetrations. And as noted above, the Red Army Vistula-Oder operation in a strategic direction that was narrowed by the Baltic Sea and the Carpathian mountains proved to be a good model for breakthrough and pursuit led by four tank armies (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th).
                            Leadership is the ability to rise above conventional wisdom.

                            Comment


                            • Originally posted by Gooner View Post

                              German reserves in Normandy were certainly not exhausted by the time of the breakout. It's just that they were either pinned to or en route to the Allies left flank armies leaving insufficient forces to oppose the Allies right flank armies.
                              Regardless, they were no longer capable of stopping 1st US Army (later, 3rd Army) to the west from breaking free and driving into Brittany and around their centre and left. With German 7th Army exhausted and depth of the front penetrated the remaining reserves were no longer capable of successfully intervening. All the German reserves could do was block the British and Commonwealth armour from closing the trap from the north for another week or so.

                              The Germans would never again be able to create such density on any front, except for brief periods.
                              Last edited by The Purist; 27 Jul 20, 22:53.
                              The Purist

                              Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assault of thoughts on the unthinking - John Maynard Keynes.

                              Comment


                              • Originally posted by The Purist View Post

                                Regardless, they were no longer capable of stopping 1st US Army (later, 3rd Army) to the west from breaking free and driving into Brittany and around their centre and left. With German 7th Army exhausted and depth of the front penetrated the remaining reserves were no longer capable of successfully intervening. All the German reserves could do was block the British and Commonwealth armour from closing the trap from the north for another week or so.
                                Yes. After the breakout the Germans could do little better then the French did in 1940.

                                The Germans would never again be able to create such density on any front, except for brief periods.
                                To be fair, the US never recreated the density in attack they had during Cobra either.

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