A little enlightenment please

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by jonwilly, Aug 27, 2011.

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  1. I have never read 'A Bridge too Far' but now where I live we have been subjected to numerous repeats of the film.
    The film maintains that the German High command, Von Rundstedt down where all positive that the next main Allied thrust would be lead by Patton, 'Their Best Commander'.
    The SS Panzer Crops is moved to Arnhem for a rest prior to Patton's Assalut.
    Now I am no fan of Monty, as the wit said 'Who would speak of Uncle Bernard'.

    However I have just read the Osprey book on Commanders, Walther Model.
    The author, Robert Forczyk, states that Model assessed Monty as the next most immediate threat and so moved II SS Panzer Corps to Arnhem, as a mobile reserve while it was being rebuild.
    This is completely alien to what I have been lead to understand.
    Would more informed member care to comment.

  2. I am not aware that Model identified Montgomery, but facing HIM it makes sense he would big up the threat over Patton's.
    As to the SS divisions, I have read repeatedly that they escaped the debacle in France and were sent to the Arnhem area to be reconstituted. It would be sensible from the German point of view to chose an area that would have some tactical utility, rather than one that could not. Given that any deployment is deliberate, Arnhem could have been the two birds stone for the Germans.
  3. Wordsmith

    Wordsmith LE Book Reviewer

    To understand Market Garden, you have to look at the relationships/politics at the very top of the allied command structure. Montgomery (commanding 21st Army Group) wanted to concentrate their forces and attack on a single narrow front. Eisenhower (commanding all the Army Groups) wanted to keep all forces moving forward on a broad front - thus avoiding the political difficulties of concentrating all his resources on either a British or American thrust.

    The relationships between many of the top commanders (despite Eisenhower's great gifts in that direction) were badly fractured. Montgomery thought Eisenhower a great politician, but a poor strategist; Eisenhower thought Montgomery a prima donna. Montgomery (with an entire Army Group) thought himself in competition with Patton (commanding a single Army). Tedder (Eisenhower's deputy) loathed Montgomery for reasons going back to North Africa. It meant personal relationships as well as military considerations would influence Allied strategy.

    At the time Market Garden was planned, the Germans were in headlong retreat after the Normandy breakout - one historian wryly said the 'Germans were losing faster than the Allies could win'. That was because the Allies were outrunning their logistics and lack of supply caused the pursuit to slow. The Germans made use of that pause to regroup and rebuild a defensive line. Some of that was rushing fresh (and ill equipped) troops into a new defensive line; in parallel battered units like 9th SS Panzer were moved to quiet sectors (like Arnhem) to rebuild.

    When Montgomery proposed Market Garden he thought the Germans were still in full retreat and that a bold thrust would rapid break through a weak defensive line. It let him make the concentrated attack on a single line of thrust that he wanted, and it let him monopolise the still limited Allied logistics. From Eisenhower's point of view, the plan was bold and imaginative and - had the Germans been as badly battered as Allied high command thought - it would have ended the war quickly by allowing the allies to capture the Ruhr, the centre of German industry.

    It is human nature to give more weight to things that agree with our point of view and less to those which contradict it. Having become fixated on Market Garden, Allied intelligence (with a few exceptions) then ignored anything that might invalidate the rationale behind Market Garden. This included the stiffening of German resistance, the much shortened German supply lines and the presence of units like 9th SS Panzer who were refitting in a key area.

    The Germans knew they had but a brief pause to rebuild their defences - Rundstedt (then back in command of the Western front) was concerned against guarding against a wide variety of threats. Those included Patton - who'd shown himself a master of mobile warfare. But Patton was only one threat among many and Rundstedt had to guard against them all. So he built up a defensive line with reserves - so he could guard against all contingencies. He often put those reserves into apparently quiet sectors, so they could rearm and refit.

    Market Garden came as a major surprise to the Germans. It was the last thing they expected from Montgomery - normally a slow and cautious general. But Mongomery's basic plan of operations was obvious - the drop zones for the airborne troops made his line of thrust abundantly clear. So they used what ever reserves they had close to that line of thrust - including refitting units. 9th SS Panzer might have been short of men and equipment, it might still be struggling to get back to an operational condition, but it was a formation with considerable combat power against lightly armed paratroops - and it was exactly in the wrong place for the Allies.

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  4. Another reason for Arnhem was that the Allies had the airborne Army of 1st Brit, US 82nd and 101st and Polish Paras plus gliders waiting for a role. Thus when the plan was put forward, Eisenhower agreed as he had an asset that could be used without diluting any ground forces in Theatre and other than allocating supplies to the thrust also meant that no further US troops would be transferred to Montgomery from either Bradley or Patton.
  5. the_boy_syrup

    the_boy_syrup LE Book Reviewer

    Plus the Airborne armies had an awful lot of men sitting in England doing nothing since returning since D Day.
    IIRC Ambroses Band of Brothers stated the 101st had been put on standbye about 10 times only for the allies to over run the DZ.
    He stated the airborne cheifs were champing at the bit to go as the war was by passing them.

    Had it came off surely Montgomery would have eclipsed all the others including Patton and Ike in teh history books?
  6. Debatable, since the Americans had a huge propaganda machine in operation by 1944/5, and it was already erasing the British contribution from the popular record.
  7. The Yanks were more savvy with the papers than us Brits. Re above regarding the airborne, it should also be noted that consideration was being given to revert (certainly on the British side) some of the airborne back to Infantry as we were short on the ground and some Divs, Bdes were already being cannibalised/amalgamated to keep the front units up to strength.
  8. 1 Allied Airborne Army also included 52 (Lowland) Div; two brigades of which were scheduled to fly into Arnhem by Dakota once a glider-borne US airfield construction unit had built an aistrip on the LZ. Thankfully (for 52 Div), this bit of the op was cancelled after repeated delays and the loss of the LZ.
  9. Great synopsis of the time and events but you forget the 15th. (?) German Army, pushed out of area around Antwerp that very suprisingly and cleverly buggered up the road march to Arnhem. The failure to destroy or contain them in the Antwerp pocket was the major issue (and that was largely the Canadian's fault). Funnily they rarely get a mention, the SS get all the glory for beating the Airborne divisions. But the land thrust was severly impeded by the 15th.

    Also, as to Monty being slow and cautious leader, it should be remembered that he commanded both army groups from 6 June to 1 Sept. 1944, his plan was to allow the Germans to grind against the British thus allowing the US (Army Group that he commanded) to breakout. He was also accutely aware of the logistic problems of trying to do everything everywhere. This is strategy based on 2 army group situation, prior to this and since no British General (except him briefly in the Battle of the Bulge) has ever commanded 2 Army Groups.

    As has been pointed out by another poster the US PR machine felt it best to ignore the command structure and rather pander to US home grown sentiments and electioneering.
  10. I've got a book titled 'Arnhem 1944' by a William F. Buckingham in which he contends that the real damage to the British 1st Airborne Division was caused by Boy Browning being a bit of a knob (I'm paraphrasing), the troops being over-confident and under-trained, the distance from the DZs (obviously), he wondered why a coup de main attack at the southern end of the bridge wasn't considered, or why the DZ allocated to the Poles wasn't used for the British drops. He also argues that it wasn't crack SS troops who obstructed the advance in the first instance but scratch units cobbled together out of sick-chit and rear echelon types who fought out of their skins long enough to screw the main advance to the bridge.
    It would be interesting to hear what other ARRSERs made of this book which was quite different from others I've read on the battle, whether the author was being provocative for the sake of it or whether his points were valid.
  11. No disrespect to all but I did find the comment
    "Debatable, since the Americans had a huge propaganda machine in operation by 1944/5, and it was already erasing the British contribution from the popular record."
    most illuminating.
    The film shows the Yanks all but perfect and most British efforts as 'Nice try but'.
    The Model book explains how the bulk German troops post the Falaise Gap where mainly newly raised second rate troops, ex Hitler youth very inexperienced and raw. It suggests that any major assault would of broken through the defenses of Germany apart from the fact that the allies where very short of supplies, especially petrol.
    As has been mentioned the line in which the troops where dropped gave away the intention of the plan from day one.
    But I am still left to understand if it was Model's belief to thwart a Montgomery Offensive via Arnhem or just pure luck on stationing II SS Panzer Corps there.