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Date: 2024-06-13 Page is: DBtxt001.php txt00016254

History
World War II

World War II ... the performance of Field Marshal Montgomery

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess
World War II Question: Why do the British revere Field Marshal Montgomery even though he was a fairly incompetent strategist and tactician (his failed Operation Market Garden plan, as well as only winning battles when he had superior manpower)? Answer: The questioner doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. Montgomery didn’t only win battles when he had superior manpower.At Alam El Halfa it wa 4:6 against the British. After that from El Alemein Montgomery and the British army moved right up into Denmark, through nine countries, and not once suffered a reverse taking all in its path. Over 90% of German armour in the west was destroyed by the British. Montgomery had to give the US armies an infantry role as they were not equipped to engage massed German SS armour. Montgomery stopped the Germans in every event they attacked him: ♦ August 1942 - Alem el Halfa ♦ October 1942 - El Alamein ♦ March 1943 - Medenine ♦ June 1944 - Normandy ♦ Sept/Oct 1944 - Holland ♦ December 1944 - Battle of the Bulge Not on one occasion were Monty's ground armies (British & US under his command) pushed back into a retreat by the Germans. The Americans under their own command didn't perform all that great east of Aachen, then the Hurtgen Forest defeat with 33,000 casualties and Patton's Lorraine crawl of 10 miles in three months with over 50,000 casualties - a 1985 US Army report on the operation heavily castigated the man. These operations have been erased from mainstream US history, with few American ever hearing of the Hurtgen Forest operation. The US Army were struggling in 1944/45 'retreating' in the Ardennes. The Battle of the Bulge took all the US effort, and vital help from Montgomery and the British 21st Army Group, who took command of two US armies, just to get back to the start line. The Germans took 20,000 US POWs in the Battle of The Bulge in Dec 1944. No other allied country had that many prisoners taken in the 1944-45 timeframe, and just under 100,000 casualties in total. The USA retreat at the Bulge, again, the only allied army to be pushed back into a retreat in the 1944-45 timeframe. Montgomery was effectively in charge of the Bulge having to take control of the US 1st and 9th armies. Eisenhower for the best part of a month never communicated with Montgomery locking himself away - in Paris well away from the war zone. The US 9th army stayed under Monty's control until the end of the war just about. Monty was the one that practically made the Overlord plan what it was.The plan was originally just 3 divisions and army Corp landing on some beaches together.He changed the plan from 3 to 5 beaches and from 3 divisions to 8 as he worried about them being outflanked, and instead of some airborne brigades, it should be 3 airborne divides to assist while each army Corp of the British and Americans should have their own beaches to ease organization.And he emphasized Cherbourg as the key. Montgomery presented his strategy for Normandy at St Paul's school on 7th April and 15th May 1944.UScommander Bradley was there and wrote: ”The British and Canadian armies were to decoy the enemy reserves and draw them into their front on the extreme eastern edge of the Allied beachhead. Thus while Monty taunted the enemy at Caen we were to make our break on the long roundabout road to a Paris.When reckoned in terms of national pride this British decoy mission became a sacrificial one, for which while we trampled around the outside flank, the British were to sit in place and pin down the Germans.Yet strategically it fitted into a logical division of labors, for it was towards Caen that enemy reserves would race once the alarm was sounded.” And here:’I Corps Operation Order No. 1, WO 171/258. The task of 3 British Division is to capture CAEN and secure a bridgehead over the R ORNE at that place........Should the enemy forestall us at CAEN and the defenses prove to be strongly organized 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 it’s forces disposed for mobile operations inside the covering position.CAEN will be subjected to heavy air bombardment to limit it’s usefulness and to make it’s retention a costly business’ There were 8 Panzer Divisions in 12 miles which was a greater concentration of German armour than at Kursk, in fact the greatest of the entire war.Montgomery envisioned a 90 day battle with all forces reaching the Seine.He emphasized Cherbourg, making it clear that the British would hold as many German divisions as possible in Caen or it’s outskirts while the Americans take Cherbourg and go south to break the front without any German Panzer divisions nearby.Result? Exactly that. It actually happened ahead of shedule and with 22% less casualties than predicted. Market Garden (which Montgomery wasn’t even responsible for the planning of) was largely successful.Over 50 miles of German held territory was taken.The towns of Eindhoven and Nijmegen were liberated.It protected the only port taken intact, Antwerp.It prevented the Germans from operating V rocket from that part of holland.it isolated a whole German army.Troops from Nijmegen turned East into Germany. If you’re looking for someone to blame for why it wasn’t a 100% success, that can largely be laid at the feet of Lieutenant General James Gavin of the US 82nd Airboune Division who didn’t move to take the bridge in Nijmegen immediately. Why do Americans revere US generals and leadership after HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of troops were killed and injured after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, Kasserine Pass, the antics of MacKelvie, Rupertus, Dawley, Lucas, Fredendall, Bradley Hodge and Clark, Patton’s Lorraine crawl, Metz, the Hurtgen Forest, the Bulge? asked no American ever.
John Peate
February 7, 2019
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