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RE: Test Question

 
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RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:02:37 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Rasputitsa

My point is not necessarily that Montgomery was the best commander, but that his record should not be dismissed, as it often is. One of the features of command is self-belief and if that makes people insufferable, then that applies to many, if not all successful commanders.

There probabily is no real answer to who was best, as all commanders had good and bad days, you can point out successes and failures in all of them. However, I would still rate Alan Brooke highly, with a record from 1940, organising a successful withdrawal can be more difficult than organising a successful advance, through to the highest levels of command. Russian commanders achieved success, but at a huge cost, as that was the nature of their war. Allied success later in the war was won with overwhelming air, artillery and naval support. Kesselring and Manstein fighting against all the odds must count somewhere.

But, going back to the start of the thread, PyleDriver is about to capture Moscow, how high does that rate.


This hints at the key point. Exactly how does one define "the best"?

Ultimately, most, maybe all, Generals fight according to preconceived doctrine that governs their responses. Most commentators get giddy about German Generalship, but they fought according to operational methods that emphasised manouver and the sexier side of operational art.

Men like Bradley and Montgomery had completely different upbringings, but knew how to fight within theirown methodoloy and got the job done.

I tend to stick to the traditional view that Manstein was the most capable Commander, on the grounds he showed real Staff and planning talent when he authored the plan for France in 1940; showed dash and agression in the field as a Panzer Corp commander in Army Group North in 1941; fought a campaign on a shoestring reducing fortifications, beating fixed defences and defeating numerically superior enemy groupings in the Crimea as Commander of 11th Army; and capped it all as Commander of Army Group Don by restoring the Southern Front when all seemed lost and winning a victory to cap the effort at Third Kharkov.

Regards,
ID


(in reply to Rasputitsa)
Post #: 61
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:07:48 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: PyleDriver

ComradeP...You said the two key words about Marshall, gamble and success...Patton is my main man, he played that same dice roll...


Never been able to get exited about Patton. He scored a huge success in Sicily advancing across an Island that was falling over itself to surrender, as the real resistance retreated slowly to Messina, defying all efforts to unsettle it.

In Normandy, he walked out of a hole created by Hodges and proceeded to pour men into Brittany when the real prize lay in the opposite direction,, although Bradley has to take some of the stick for that.

In Lorraine, he met fixed defences and was largely stumped. Although a sound staff effort, even the drive north into the Ardennes was three divisions abreast making stiff work of mediocre German units.

Throw in Hammelburg and the business with the Russians and I just have never got it.

(in reply to PyleDriver)
Post #: 62
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:13:04 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Zorch

My $0.02:

Marshall was a great strategist and diplomat, and would have been a good operational commander. I think he would have been more inclined to take risks then Ike was in the fall of '44. He would not have lost focus like Ike did, in letting Monty postpone clearing the approaches to Antwerp and take the lion's share of supplies for his Arnhem fiasco.

It's interesting to compare the WWI records of Marshall, Ike, and Patton...

Some historian said that Monty was 'the best WWI general in WWII'. Too bad for the Brits that he was fighting the wrong war.




Well, as a strategist, Marshall wanted to go into France in 42 or 43. This would have been a fiasco. However, in line with my early point, american doctrine advocated a very attritional style of getting to grips with the enemy's main body and kicking it until it was dead. Therefore, France 42 was doctrinally sound, albeit in practical terms reckless.

I would also challenge whether Ike really lost focus. Whatever Arnhem turned out as, it was the boldest Allied plan of the war by some distance. I think it focused minds in a way that only D-Day did on the Allied side, because it offered a way to end the war quickly.

(in reply to Zorch)
Post #: 63
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:15:42 AM   
Flaviusx


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I suspect Patton is for Brits a little bit like Monty is for us.

(in reply to IronDuke)
Post #: 64
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:23:41 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: ComradeP

If any general thinks it's a good idea to more or less supply an entire corps over a single good road, whilst knowing next to nothing about enemy strength in the area, he's not really a good general.



But this was the essence of German operational method. They threw an Army group over the dirt tracks of the Ardennes in 1940 and won Modern history's most stunning victory. Most people criticise him for his slow, methodical pace, but then seem to criticise him when he goes for broke as well.

quote:

Monty's war record is, to me, not all that special. He had the means to do what he did, and the staff and men to do what he did. He was still learning about modern war in 1942, and his advance from El Alamein was too cautious.


I once said this but then someone told me how fast Eighth Army moved and I was forced to retract.

quote:

Gambling and winning or being bold and being lucky doesn't make you a good general. Proper operational planning and a good understanding of how a war should be fought in your time makes you a good general. Marshall, MacArthur or Monty don't really qualify as good generals in combat. If you win a wargame because you get good rolls, that's much less of a win than winning due to a good strategy.


But what was good strategy? Monty and Bradley fought within their respective operational methods. Neither Commander had the Officer corp, doctrine or operational method to fight like Germans so fought the way they knew how. Fighting like Germans would have risked everything, because the Germans fought like Germans better than the Allies would have done, so "Blitzkrieg" (I hate that word) like encirclements would have often cost more than their standard methodology.

quote:

The idea that Allied commanders knew they were scraping the bottom of the manpower barrel doesn't match with the ambitious and risky operations they planned in 1944.


Well, it was certainly an issue for Monty as he was disbanding divisions in early 45 to flesh out the other formations. Besides, Arnhem really only used the strategic reserve. two thirds of which was American so it was a risk that didn't have much impact on the general manpower issues he faced.

Regards,
ID

(in reply to ComradeP)
Post #: 65
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:26:10 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Flaviusx

I suspect Patton is for Brits a little bit like Monty is for us.


He is. I just think you see the cowboy pistols, a couple of good quotes and start getting giddy....

Sicily was a joyride. the breakout was (IMHO) a botched effort although Monty, Bradley and Ike and everyone else should shoulder some of the blame.

Lorraine was a poor showing by anyone's standards and Hammelburg was (IMHO) a court martial offence.


(in reply to Flaviusx)
Post #: 66
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:32:10 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: warspite1

I've missed this thread until now and just read through the posts - a real interesting debate guys.

For my 2 cents Field Marshall Lord Alan Brooke takes some beating. Working with the great man Winston Churchill cannot have been a walk in the park. He also performed very well in France in 1940.

As for Montgomery, I can fully understand why Americans find his insufferable peronality hard to stomach - but that should not deflect from his achievements in the field. To say that he was only successful at El-Alamein and Normandy is rather unfair. The point was made earlier about his [ultimately vital] contribution to the Normandy planning.




Although I defend the good Viscount elsewhere in this thread, this was not that big an achievement. It was plain to everyone (Ike included) that a three division effort was too timid. Once appointed Ground Forces Commander, it was merely Monty's right to point that out. It was a little unfair, though, since COSSAC had come up with a plan which fit the resources they had been told to assume would be available.

(in reply to warspite1)
Post #: 67
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:33:41 AM   
Flaviusx


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He appeals to us at some elemental level. It's not a cowboy thing, exactly. It's more of a mobility thing, this is a country of automobiles and vast spaces. (I myself am a Californian and completely indifferent to cowboys, actually.)

So a general who dashes around is our kind of guy, details be damned.

He was the right guy at the right place at the right time so far as the Normandy breakout is concerned, imo. (And you really cannot pin the Brittany sideshow on him.)

(in reply to IronDuke)
Post #: 68
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:40:47 AM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Flaviusx

He appeals to us at some elemental level. It's not a cowboy thing, exactly. It's more of a mobility thing, this is a country of automobiles and vast spaces. (I myself am a Californian and completely indifferent to cowboys, actually.)


But your armed forces simply didn't operate that way and mobility didn;t always seem to have an objective for Patton.

quote:

He was the right guy at the right place at the right time so far as the Normandy breakout is concerned, imo. (And you really cannot pin the Brittany sideshow on him.)


You can't, but then you can't really pin the breakout on him either. What he did was pursue a beaten enemy. I'd argue (given that the Germans rebuilt their defences in the west in Sepotember 1944) that even that wasn't done that successfully, and if memory serves, the slow and plodding Monty was only a day or so behind in the north.

Mobility is not an end, but a means to an end. Patton had some idea as to the means, but little idea how to use the means to achieve the end.

Then there's Hammelburg which tends to be studiously ignored but was (frankly) inexcusable.

(in reply to Flaviusx)
Post #: 69
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 1:08:59 AM   
Flaviusx


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Things got kind of wild towards the end there which allowed Patton to get away with the Hammelburg business. The press never called him on it or made a big stink of it. And, frankly, the biggest problem with it that most Americans have is that it didn't work. Would've made quite the splash in the headlines if it had. (If you think he'd have been courtmartialed for this, you don't understand Americans very well. The media and public would've loved a successful raid. Probably would've made a Hollywood movie out of it eventually.)

This just wasn't like, say, the soldier slapping business, which crossed a definite line.

As for the breakout, of course the 1st army created the conditions for it (and Monty's entire army group in the east, which after all chewed up the panzers to begin with) but so far as exploiting the hole goes, Patton was the fellow for the job. Failaise didn't come off, no. But that wasn't because of Patton, who would've made it happen if it were up to him.

(in reply to IronDuke)
Post #: 70
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 11:44:50 AM   
Rasputitsa


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quote:

ORIGINAL: ComradeP

Now you're trying to pin a certain sentiment on me. I'm not trying to trivialise anything, I'm saying the difference in combat experience between British and US forces was not as substantial as some historians like to claim. Rather than trivialise the achievements of your (grand)parents, I'm trying to introduce a little perspective into some of the statements you and others make about certain generals.

As to "serious combat": that's not as "thin ice" as you seem to think it is. Today's combat intensity in Afghanistan (for example) is much higher than it was throughout most of WWII. A NATO soldier in Afghanistan now will experience more combat or more intensity in a war zone in about two months than the average European Allied soldier did between the start of WWII and the Torch landings 3 years later. There's a perspective to everything.


I have been avoiding answering this out of respect for our coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but it would be difficult to tell 'European Allied' veterans of the early stages of the war that they had not been involved in 'serious combat'. It would be possible to give examples, but this is not a time for comparing current operations with the past.

The point about best generals is that although, from an Allied perspective, the early phases of the war were marred by failure, it was against a backgound almost total enemy air superiority on all fronts, including the Pacific. This in no way denigrates the achievemants of these commanders. How well would the trusting tactics of later generals have fared against overwhelming air power.

The other feature is that, although professional armies perform quite well from the start, conscript forces take some time to become fully effective. In the sudden death of quick campaigns they don't get the chance to gain experience. This can be seen in conscript armies, from the reservists thrown into combat in France 1940, through Vietnam, the Falklands and up to the collapse of the conscript Iraqi army in the Gulf wars.

So how good is a general, you cannot write off the performances of the early war years, as the heroes of the later war period only look so tall, because they were standing on the shoulders of those who had gone before.

(in reply to ComradeP)
Post #: 71
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 12:56:20 PM   
ComradeP

 

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quote:

american doctrine advocated a very attritional style of getting to grips with the enemy's main body and kicking it until it was dead


The doctrine was partially based on application of superior firepower to attrite the enemy and cause a knockout blow. The doctrine was not suitable for prolonged fairly static combat operations, because attritional battles automatically hurt the Americans more than the Germans in terms of the quality of their forces. A 90 division army fighting both in the Pacific and in Africa/Europe was not well suited to, say, Soviet style attritional warfare.

quote:

But this was the essence of German operational method. They threw an Army group over the dirt tracks of the Ardennes in 1940 and won Modern history's most stunning victory. Most people criticise him for his slow, methodical pace, but then seem to criticise him when he goes for broke as well.


The operations are not really comparable.

-The Germans knew there were only 2 Belgian divisions in the Ardennes and that they would both be rendered combat ineffective in a day or two. They guessed the French would not intervene quickly enough, but that would have brought the grand total up to only 5, or 6 if the second Ardense Jagers division is included. Facing those 2 to 6 divisions were around 24 German divisions.

In Market Garden, 4 Allied divisions and assorted regiments and brigades faced around 10 seriously understrength "division" equivalents. However, both the Germans and the Allies were not concentrated, so advantages in numbers often could not be applied.

-The Germans were fighting right next to their supply depots with fresh troops.

-The Ardennes didn't have only dirt tracks, there were several good roads as well as railroads, supplies could also come from the North after the forces in or around the fortresses of Liege and Namur had been defeated/contained. Market Garden had little to no alternatives for "Hell's Highway".

quote:

I once said this but then someone told me how fast Eighth Army moved and I was forced to retract.


I meant "cautious" as in: many Germans got away (forcing Monty to keep fighting them over and over, although to his credit he could not be lured into a slow methodical battle not of his choosing, he handled the German counterattacks before the Mareth Line very well), not "cautious" as in: slow.

quote:

But what was good strategy? Monty and Bradley fought within their respective operational methods. Neither Commander had the Officer corp, doctrine or operational method to fight like Germans so fought the way they knew how. Fighting like Germans would have risked everything, because the Germans fought like Germans better than the Allies would have done, so "Blitzkrieg" (I hate that word) like encirclements would have often cost more than their standard methodology.


The Allies greatest advantages were mobility in terms of their total transport pool and firepower. They chose to fight in Italy with a motorised/mechanised force (the problem was especially bad with Commonwealth forces, still equipped for mobile "desert" warfare) and one of the most densely forested areas of Europe. The closing stages of the war in Europe (the battles in Germany proper) showed what Allied mobility could achieve.

quote:

Well, it was certainly an issue for Monty as he was disbanding divisions in early 45 to flesh out the other formations. Besides, Arnhem really only used the strategic reserve. two thirds of which was American so it was a risk that didn't have much impact on the general manpower issues he faced.


It also matters which forces were used, in this case paratroopers that could've been used for speeding up the advance into Germany. The small number of US divisions meant that the paratroopers had to be used as regular infantry after the battle. The battle for Crete had a small impact on the German manpower pool, but it was significant because most of the casualties were well trained paratroopers and their transports (which had already taken a serious beating during the operations around Rotterdam and the Hague).

quote:

I have been avoiding answering this out of respect for our coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but it would be difficult to tell 'European Allied' veterans of the early stages of the war that they had not been involved in 'serious combat'. It would be possible to give examples, but this is not a time for comparing current operations with the past.


The argument concerned how much more combat experience the British had than the Americans. I could compare the initial battles in 1940 with some other WWII operations that showed similarities to current operations too, like the battles in the Ardennes in 1944/1945 and the battle for Stalingrad. Combat becomes more intense if you're located in enemy territory 24/7. In early war battles, forces might fight for a day or two and spend the rest of the week relocating and fighting some rearguard actions.

The British campaigns in Belgium/France and Greece (with the exception of the beginning of the battle for Crete) were not always combat heavy for all units involved in the operation. In both cases, the forces fought for a while and staged an organized withdrawal with rearguard actions. The majority of the battles in the desert were skirmishes, the war was more about mobility than hitting the enemy head on. If you'd count the combat experience of the average British soldier in 1939-1942, most of them would not have been involved in a month of serious combat (30 days which the soldier spend mostly fighting). I'm not saying there was no serious combat at all, I'm saying that the difference in terms of combat experience between British and American forces didn't amount to 3 years which some historians would like you to believe.

(in reply to Rasputitsa)
Post #: 72
RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 2:13:44 PM   
Rasputitsa


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We are not talking about the combat experience of average British soldiers, or any other nationality, apart from the fact that commanders are restricted by the capabilities, or lack of them, of their men. Would Robert E. Lee have been such a great general if his men had not been able to do everthing asked of them (until Picketts charge).

Most 'skirmishes in the desert' involved more tanks that the US inventory possessed at the beginning of the war. The war was much more about logistics, training, air power and artillery. Omaha beach, Achen and the Hurtgen Forest was about hitting the enemy head-on.

'Market Garden' failed at the bridge at Arnhem, XXX Corps made it down the single road, albeit late. Had the airborne drop been made at the bridge itself, in significant strength, then it would probabily been available for the advance to continue as planned. The bridge over the Orne was captured, on D-Day, by troops delivered by gliders landing 47yds from the target. You can have a discussion as to why this did not happen at Arnhem, but it's off thread.

The question is about best commanders and I am suggesting that performance in the early stages of the war should not be ignored. The '44 campaign in Europe may have lasted longer than most, but how much of that time was taken in being bottled up in Normandy and then butting up against the West Wall. The only demonstration of generalship was the brief period of the breakout.

The lessons learnt at the command level (and this is what we are discussing) were invaluable to the commanders of the late war period. Having stood on the beach at Dieppe, earlier this year, it's chilling that anybody could have thought in 1942, that troops could cross that beach and over several hundred yards of open esplanade, whilst overlooked by the headland and castle. However, it did mean that British and Canadian troops crossed the Normandy beaches supported by various armoured engineer vehicles and DD shermans (Hobarts Funnies). Part of the tragedy on Omaha was that the the 1st Div did not have any armoured support (only 1 DD tank made it to the beach), their commanders had not experieced the lessons of Dieppe. The rocket ships that should have cratered the beach, to provide some cover, launched from too far out and blew holes in the sea.

The obvious difficulty in taking a port resulted in the allies bringing two Mulberry harbours with them (the British harbour at Arromanche is still visible) and fuel delivery by pipeline, both are dazzling strategic masterpieces without which no amount of 'blood and guts' and hitting head-on would have helped.

I repeat my proposal that, especially Brooke and possibily Montgomery should be considered, as they are the men who had significant roles in commanding the successful withdrawal from France in 1940 and the successful return to France in 1944.

(in reply to ComradeP)
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RE: Test Question - 6/17/2010 9:14:05 PM   
von Jaeger


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Manstein gets my vote, I think.  In addition to the initial planning for the attack through the Ardennes in 1940, his backhand at Kharkov was superb.   He gave ground with Hitler on his back (good politics here), and a very tricky balancing act with never enough troops, then marshalling his best troops to be in the right place at the right time for the counter, hitting the Russians at the end of a desperately thin supply line when they were exhausted and depleted.   The issue of logistics cuts both ways, both for the attack and defence. 

Look at the result the 4 elite divisions achieved on a man for man, machine for machine basis with some of the successes claimed above.   Manstein executed a successful withdrawal in the face of immense  pressure, then launched a counterattack that effectively destroyed four armies.   His actions stabilised the whole Southern front and set the scene for the Kursk offensive. 

(in reply to IronDuke)
Post #: 74
RE: Test Question - 6/18/2010 10:37:02 AM   
ComradeP

 

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I have sort of a mixed feeling when it comes to Von Manstein's achievements in the Crimea. He eventually did what he needed to do, but it's still up for debate whether Sevastopol could not have been captured in 1941. His response to the Soviet attack across the Kerch Strait was good, but he got lucky as his preparation for a Soviet attack was seriously lacking, not to mention that his counterattack seems to have penetrated one of the sole weak spots in the Soviet lines. The Kerch landings and the counterattacks were a case of almost everything turning going wrong for the Soviets and almost everything going right for the Germans.

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Post #: 75
RE: Test Question - 6/18/2010 2:47:44 PM   
Yank


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Interesting discussion regarding Monty. As always I am impressed by the knowledge on display in this forum. One small point to add to the discussion regarding Monty's performance that I didn't see mentioned is the fact that much of what he did was governed by the increasingly severe manpower shortage the British faced. By the time of Normandy this was particularly acute as I understand it. This constraint significantly influenced his operational method.

The U.S. faced it also, but that was at least partly attributable to the huge manpower commitments for the USAAF and USN.

(in reply to ComradeP)
Post #: 76
RE: Test Question - 6/18/2010 4:31:29 PM   
Rasputitsa


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Flaviusx

I suspect Patton is for Brits a little bit like Monty is for us.


There is no secret that Rommel was greatly admired and respected by British forces (Monty had Rommel's picture hanging in his field caravan). I am not sure what the attitude was at the time, but I think Patton is also respected as a go-getting general. You could say that the mark of a good general is the respect of your enemies and I feel that there was respect between Patton and Monty (it was not clear sometimes who was the greater enemy). If neither had thought much of each other, then they would not have been trying so hard to out perform each other, whatever they said in public.

(in reply to Flaviusx)
Post #: 77
RE: Test Question - 6/20/2010 8:19:25 PM   
Smirfy

 

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Marshall? Not sure about that one, he really had to be argued out of a premature second front. A politician more than a general, not to say he was not an exceptional man but the defects of the equipment he sent men into battle were not rectified until the war was over which is odd given the outstanding equipment that was produced for the other services to overcome shortcomings.


(in reply to Rasputitsa)
Post #: 78
RE: Test Question - 6/21/2010 11:43:50 PM   
IronDuke

 

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quote:

american doctrine advocated a very attritional style of getting to grips with the enemy's main body and kicking it until it was dead


quote:

ORIGINAL: ComradeP
The doctrine was partially based on application of superior firepower to attrite the enemy and cause a knockout blow. The doctrine was not suitable for prolonged fairly static combat operations, because attritional battles automatically hurt the Americans more than the Germans in terms of the quality of their forces.


Why? In 1944, the German manpower barrel was in real trouble. They had largely static forces to act as a tripwire and mobile formations to act as the Fire Brigade. Committing the Fire Brigades with offensive action and then attriting them would never hurt the Americans as it would the Germans. American formations improve after D-Day whereas the quality of German forces steadily declined. The americans could afford the losses, the Germans couldn't.

quote:

A 90 division army fighting both in the Pacific and in Africa/Europe was not well suited to, say, Soviet style attritional warfare.


But it didn't need to be. The American replacement system provided a steady stream of replacements.

quote:

But this was the essence of German operational method. They threw an Army group over the dirt tracks of the Ardennes in 1940 and won Modern history's most stunning victory. Most people criticise him for his slow, methodical pace, but then seem to criticise him when he goes for broke as well.


quote:

The operations are not really comparable.

-The Germans knew there were only 2 Belgian divisions in the Ardennes and that they would both be rendered combat ineffective in a day or two. They guessed the French would not intervene quickly enough, but that would have brought the grand total up to only 5, or 6 if the second Ardense Jagers division is included. Facing those 2 to 6 divisions were around 24 German divisions.


I'm getting a little lost here. The point of the German advance was not to cross the Ardennes, but strike the Meuse. Therefore, the French 2nd Army and a lot more besides would have to dealt with before very long. They also planned to force the Meuse by assault crossing, whereas the British planned to drive across the bridges, which they did in many cases on the way to Arnhem.

quote:

-The Ardennes didn't have only dirt tracks, there were several good roads as well as railroads, supplies could also come from the North after the forces in or around the fortresses of Liege and Namur had been defeated/contained. Market Garden had little to no alternatives for "Hell's Highway".


German traffic was backed up halfway across Germany. The roads were so good that the various Divisions got in each other's way attempting to get off some of the roads assigned to them and several "good roads" is hardly the point if you want to move an Army Group over them.

Ultimately, Monty attempted the most audacious Allied operation of the war. It was arguably the most audacious operation of the war. My point was that those that give Monty a hard time for being cautious, reflect on MG's failure, not on the fact it was the most incautious Allied effort of the 20th century. You can't have it both ways.

quote:

I once said this but then someone told me how fast Eighth Army moved and I was forced to retract.


quote:

I meant "cautious" as in: many Germans got away (forcing Monty to keep fighting them over and over, although to his credit he could not be lured into a slow methodical battle not of his choosing, he handled the German counterattacks before the Mareth Line very well), not "cautious" as in: slow.


In which case we can characterise Patton;s breakout as cautious since the only forces captured were generally those penned up in coastal fortresses who did their utmost to become entrapped. Most of the armoured units mauled at Falaise reformed during the mircale in the west after a fighting retreat across the Seine.

quote:

But what was good strategy? Monty and Bradley fought within their respective operational methods. Neither Commander had the Officer corp, doctrine or operational method to fight like Germans so fought the way they knew how. Fighting like Germans would have risked everything, because the Germans fought like Germans better than the Allies would have done, so "Blitzkrieg" (I hate that word) like encirclements would have often cost more than their standard methodology.


quote:

The Allies greatest advantages were mobility in terms of their total transport pool and firepower. They chose to fight in Italy with a motorised/mechanised force (the problem was especially bad with Commonwealth forces, still equipped for mobile "desert" warfare) and one of the most densely forested areas of Europe. The closing stages of the war in Europe (the battles in Germany proper) showed what Allied mobility could achieve.


It showed (as Patton did in Sicily) what could be achieved when only the odd machine gun nest or 14 yr old with a grenade was standing in the way. Anyone could manouver in such circumstances. The Italians overran large tracts of desert in those sort of circumstances.

Before that, the Allies slugged their way through Notmandy, fought a broad front advance to the borders of the Reich then everything collapsed. Arguably, the Ruhr was an operational encirclement, but then everything was over bar the shouting at that point. At Falaise, the Allies demonstrated that real manouver warfare was simply not in their makeup.

quote:

Well, it was certainly an issue for Monty as he was disbanding divisions in early 45 to flesh out the other formations. Besides, Arnhem really only used the strategic reserve. two thirds of which was American so it was a risk that didn't have much impact on the general manpower issues he faced.


quote:

It also matters which forces were used, in this case paratroopers that could've been used for speeding up the advance into Germany.


They were. We dropped thousands of them during the Rhine crossing.

quote:

The small number of US divisions meant that the paratroopers had to be used as regular infantry after the battle.


That wasn't Monty's fault and you can't criticise him for using them as they were originally designed to be used.

quote:

The battle for Crete had a small impact on the German manpower pool, but it was significant because most of the casualties were well trained paratroopers and their transports (which had already taken a serious beating during the operations around Rotterdam and the Hague).


It was significant because it convinced Hitler paratroopers were not a strategic, or perhaps even operational weapon.

quote:

I have been avoiding answering this out of respect for our coalition forces fighting in Afghanistan and elsewhere, but it would be difficult to tell 'European Allied' veterans of the early stages of the war that they had not been involved in 'serious combat'. It would be possible to give examples, but this is not a time for comparing current operations with the past.


quote:

The argument concerned how much more combat experience the British had than the Americans. I could compare the initial battles in 1940 with some other WWII operations that showed similarities to current operations too, like the battles in the Ardennes in 1944/1945 and the battle for Stalingrad. Combat becomes more intense if you're located in enemy territory 24/7. In early war battles, forces might fight for a day or two and spend the rest of the week relocating and fighting some rearguard actions.

The British campaigns in Belgium/France and Greece (with the exception of the beginning of the battle for Crete) were not always combat heavy for all units involved in the operation. In both cases, the forces fought for a while and staged an organized withdrawal with rearguard actions. The majority of the battles in the desert were skirmishes, the war was more about mobility than hitting the enemy head on. If you'd count the combat experience of the average British soldier in 1939-1942, most of them would not have been involved in a month of serious combat (30 days which the soldier spend mostly fighting). I'm not saying there was no serious combat at all, I'm saying that the difference in terms of combat experience between British and American forces didn't amount to 3 years which some historians would like you to believe.


Not my argument, but given only a handful of US Divisions saw action in the Med and when they did get involved, would have suffered combat at about the same rate Allied units had been experiencing since 1939, I don't see the argument. Combat experience is about assimilating battle experience as much as blooding troops. In WWI Pershing ignored all advice and Americans paid for that arrogance when they first went into action. By 1943/44, Britain had a lot of bad experiences and lessons to draw upon. They may well have sounded high handed to proud American warriors, but it was Brits who developed specialised armour for Normandy, added bigger guns to the Shermans and successfully argued for a later rather than earlier D-Day.

Regards,
ID

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Post #: 79
RE: Test Question - 6/21/2010 11:55:53 PM   
IronDuke

 

Posts: 1577
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Flaviusx

Things got kind of wild towards the end there which allowed Patton to get away with the Hammelburg business. The press never called him on it or made a big stink of it. And, frankly, the biggest problem with it that most Americans have is that it didn't work. Would've made quite the splash in the headlines if it had. (If you think he'd have been courtmartialed for this, you don't understand Americans very well. The media and public would've loved a successful raid. Probably would've made a Hollywood movie out of it eventually.)


I probably don't understand Americans very well. To my mind, 300 American families received a KIA or MIA letter because Patton wanted to get his son in law out of a POW camp.

quote:

This just wasn't like, say, the soldier slapping business, which crossed a definite line.


As above, I really don't understand americans if bitch slapping a couple of GIs crosses a line, but getting 35 killed, and another 250 wounded and captured for personal gain is the sort of thing to be expected when things get wild.

I can't think of another instance during the war where A Commanding Officer used men under his command for personal reasons in this way.

Regards,
ID

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Post #: 80
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 2:14:13 AM   
Flaviusx


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Americans are kinda weird on the whole POW business in general. Not just a WW2 thing, btw.

Once again, the casualties in Hammelburg are the result of a poorly conceived and executed raid; but if it had been done right and the camp liberated, nobody would be very much concerned about Waters having been rescued along with the rest of the camp. The problem was that Patton did it half assed. 

Oh, and, MacArthur's entire Philippine liberation strategy rather trumps Hammelburg in terms of sheer egotism, if you want to get het up about that kind of thing. (Although I'm personally sympathetic to it on political grounds if not military ones.)

I'm not quite sure what you think Patton should've done in Sicily. My own view is that he made lemonade out of lemons.

Once again, Falaise failed not because of Patton. I'd primarily blame Bradley on this, and for the Brittany sideshow. Patton always wanted to complete the encirclement and was restrained from doing so out of Bradley's exaggerated respect for the Germans. Rightly or wrongly Bradley felt it was better to drive the Germans out of the salient and rake them with artillery and airpower, and more or less wreck the Germans in the process. I don't agree with the strategy -- the Germans showed a remarkable ability to reconstitute divisions that weren't completely encircled and destroyed -- but I note this "golden corridor" concept looms large in Asian conceptions of the art of war. It's not totally crazy if you follow Sun Tzu rather than Clausewitz.

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Post #: 81
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 9:03:44 AM   
Rasputitsa


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We seemed to have just replayed all the tensions that hit the allies in the '44 European campaign, so if we haven't resolved it after more than 60 years, there's not much hope now. More importantly, what is the answer to the 'Test Question' ?

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Post #: 82
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 4:17:12 PM   
ComradeP

 

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quote:

Why? In 1944, the German manpower barrel was in real trouble. They had largely static forces to act as a tripwire and mobile formations to act as the Fire Brigade. Committing the Fire Brigades with offensive action and then attriting them would never hurt the Americans as it would the Germans. American formations improve after D-Day whereas the quality of German forces steadily declined. The americans could afford the losses, the Germans couldn't.


In 1944, the Americans could afford the losses. The problem is that the 90 division army and their doctrine were finalized a year before that. A doctrine that works mostly because the Germans lost most of their strength on the Eastern Front (a fact which could never have been correctly estimated when the doctrine and the army were "designed") isn't really a good doctrine.

quote:

But it didn't need to be. The American replacement system provided a steady stream of replacements.


Replacements that had to be shipped across the Atlantic, with in many cases little means of slowly getting accustomed to combat (few chances for field training). The combat in Italy already showed that the US replacement system had its limitations, and that was against a handful of German divisions in difficult terrain. Marshall had all the time in the world to change it between the first landings in Italy and the landings in Normandy, but he didn't.

quote:

I'm getting a little lost here. The point of the German advance was not to cross the Ardennes, but strike the Meuse. Therefore, the French 2nd Army and a lot more besides would have to dealt with before very long. They also planned to force the Meuse by assault crossing, whereas the British planned to drive across the bridges, which they did in many cases on the way to Arnhem.


There were 4 French quality divisions, about a division worth of quality non-assigned troops and 4 poorly equipped or poorly trained divisions within an area dozens of kilometres wide between Dinant and Montmedy. Those poorly equipped or poorly trained troops were mostly static forces supposed to defend certain sectors of the Maginot Line or seperate (not attached to the rest of the line) fortifications west of Montmedy. The Germans basically had air superiority on day 1 and could see what was happening on the French side of the front. With 24 divisions in the first wave, there was a lot less risk involved than what XXX Corps faced on their drive to Arnhem, where commanders chose to ignore warnings of quality troops being in the area, which was especially risky for 1st Airbourne. Had there been any further delays in capturing Nijmegen and the bridges over the Waal, 1st Airbourne would've been done for, the same goes for the Poles.

quote:

German traffic was backed up halfway across Germany. The roads were so good that the various Divisions got in each other's way attempting to get off some of the roads assigned to them and several "good roads" is hardly the point if you want to move an Army Group over them.

Ultimately, Monty attempted the most audacious Allied operation of the war. It was arguably the most audacious operation of the war. My point was that those that give Monty a hard time for being cautious, reflect on MG's failure, not on the fact it was the most incautious Allied effort of the 20th century. You can't have it both ways.


The difference is that the Germans did not move over a single contested road, whilst Monty planned to do so. Traffic jams are a natural feature of large scale military operations in a limited area. The Germans did not have to clean up the logistical mess under fire in most cases, whilst the Allied transport units supplying the forces involved in Market Garden were in many cases at least halted for a short while by enemy fire.

quote:

In which case we can characterise Patton;s breakout as cautious since the only forces captured were generally those penned up in coastal fortresses who did their utmost to become entrapped.


Patton shattered a front without reserves, the achievement is Patton's for making that happen, the achievement is the German defence which made it possible to hold the Allies without any substantial reserves at first and basically no reserves afterwards. Patton basically advanced into a void after the breakout, with mostly token German resistance as the non-static forces were relocating.

quote:


Before that, the Allies slugged their way through Notmandy, fought a broad front advance to the borders of the Reich then everything collapsed. Arguably, the Ruhr was an operational encirclement, but then everything was over bar the shouting at that point. At Falaise, the Allies demonstrated that real manouver warfare was simply not in their makeup.


You mean manoeuvre warfare against a foe that would actually have a chance to resist was not really their kind of warfare. The advance across Germany was certainly swift, but the Germans had barely any mobile units left at that point and those that were left had little fuel and could not really operate in the open due to Allied air supremacy.

There's also the point of how "broad front" the advance was. The front was indeed fairly broad, but the Allies had the forces to do it, with the 60-70 divisions they had in France and Belgium in late 1944. The Germans didn't really intend to fight for most of france after Falaise and there were mostly scattered units in Belgium, trying to keep a retreat route open for forces that had either been already destroyed or were withdrawing in a different direction.

quote:

They were. We dropped thousands of them during the Rhine crossing.


If you're referring to Varsity: They were dropped almost directly behind German lines, that's not a deep insertion or a good use for paratroopers, as it takes away most of their advantages and placed them at a disadvantage against organised resistance due to lacking heavy weapons. Of course, German resistance was already breaking apart by then.

quote:

It was significant because it convinced Hitler paratroopers were not a strategic, or perhaps even operational weapon.


Limited Luftwaffe transport production and requirements on other fronts for transport aircraft meant paratrooper operations involving one or more divisions would not be possible, Hitler just saw the situation as it is. A lot has been said about how Hitler changed his mind about paratrooper operations after Crete, but it was one of the few cases where he understood the reality check he had just received.

quote:

By 1943/44, Britain had a lot of bad experiences and lessons to draw upon. They may well have sounded high handed to proud American warriors, but it was Brits who developed specialised armour for Normandy, added bigger guns to the Shermans and successfully argued for a later rather than earlier D-Day.


Yet until late 1944 the British had failed to develop and produce in any significant numbers a tank that could use the 17 pounder, failing British tank production of newer designs being one of the main reasons the Shermans were converted to begin with. The majority of the British tanks were still using a gun type that was close to being obsolete 2 years earlier (6 pounders and short barreled ~75mm guns). I've also always been amazed at how the British failed to develop a truly modern scout vehicle, especially as they had seen captured German equipment so they would know how it should be done. The British equipment list had some serious shortcomings that were never ironed out, in some cases not until after Korea.

(in reply to Rasputitsa)
Post #: 83
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 4:46:07 PM   
wodin


Posts: 7995
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From: England
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Manstein could and should have forced the issue with Paulus to breakout...Paulus never had the backbone but Manstein did...he could have stood his ground and ordered the breakout and dealt with Hitler later....

He comes in for a good critque by a German soldier in http://www.amazon.com/Stalingrad-Memories-Reassessments-Joachim-Wieder/dp/0304363383/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277221290&sr=1-1

A good read.

Manstein was a great general. I also like Patton and I'm english...Monty is lower down in my opinion...Brian Horrocks is a British General I really rate.

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Post #: 84
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 5:22:48 PM   
Rasputitsa


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1st Airborne would have dropped at Arnhem, even if it had been in Hell. These were highly trained and motivated troops, and in September 1944 almost everyone thought that the war was nearly over and didn't want to miss it. Several airborne operations were planned, but then cancelled as the Normandy breakout went faster than expected and the planned drops were overtaken by events. These divisions had been in training forever, they just wanted to go, at any cost.

XXX Corps made it up the road and, had the airborne division landed on the Arnhem bridge in divisional strength, holding it at both ends, XXX Corps could have passed over. They would possibily have been able to hold the railway bridge as well. As it was, fragments of only one airborne battalion made it to the bridge, but they were able to hold one end for several days. The 1st Airborne expended its strenghth trying to hold on to its landing and supply DZs. If these had been around the bridges, everyone would have known where to make the follow-up and supply drops, even with poor radios.

The plan failed not because of the road, but because an airborne division, with almost not transport, was dropped 8 miles from the target.

I have always been puzzled that the allies did not produce better armoured vehicles, until the war was nearly over. I can understand that all equipment had to be sea transportable (imagine taking Tigers in a LCT, or liberty ship) and there was a decision to go for quantity production. However, reading the story of Percy Hobart, it was mentioned that one month before the war started, the UK Ministry of Supply was formed to provide equipment for the armed forces. The Navy and RAF managed to stay out, but the War office lost control of the Directorate of Mechanisation. Anyone who knows how British ministries work will understand what that means, the rest is history.

The other mystery is why, when German 88s were tearing our tanke to pieces, British 3.7 in. AA guns were kept pointing skywards. These guns had equally good ballistic capabilities as the 88 and could have done as much damage.

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Post #: 85
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 6:46:32 PM   
ComradeP

 

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quote:

The plan failed not because of the road, but because an airborne division, with almost not transport, was dropped 8 miles from the target.


Well, I live in Arnhem and I'm not convinced even an entire division could've held the bridge.

In order to capture the bridge quickly, they would've had to land on the Southern end of the bridge (where there's no natural cover to speak of, aside from a few clusters of trees). A landing in the middle of the city wasn't really a good idea and the city center of Arnhem is located just to the North of the bridge, which also meant that was one of the most densely packed areas of the city in terms of buildings. A landing near the bridge would've made it perfectly clear to the Germans what the objective was, whilst the historical landing confused the Germans as much as 1st Airbourne itself.

Assuming the Germans didn't blow the bridge, and could not reinforce the Northern side in time, the Germans would still be able to concentrate all forces in the area on the bridge, instead of on dozens of kilometres of frontage, facing platoons and companies of 1st Airbourne each fighting their own small scale battle for survival. If 1st Airbourne had been partially dropped South of the bridge and partially North of Nijmegen, the operation might've been possible, especially if the Polish brigade would also be dropped in the area within a day or so.

If 1st Airbourne would've concentrated on the bridge at Arnhem, it would probably have been blown (the same goes for the narrow railway bridge) and it's doubtful whether 1st Airbourne could've held out against concentrated German attacks, especially as it was historically badly mauled by mostly piecemeal attacks. If concentrated at Arnhem, it would also have been easier for the Germans to move along the Rhine to the West, to the next available bridge.

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Post #: 86
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 6:57:42 PM   
Capt Cliff


Posts: 1664
Joined: 5/22/2002
From: Northwest, USA
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Rasputitsa

1st Airborne would have dropped at Arnhem, even if it had been in Hell. These were highly trained and motivated troops, and in September 1944 almost everyone thought that the war was nearly over and didn't want to miss it. Several airborne operations were planned, but then cancelled as the Normandy breakout went faster than expected and the planned drops were overtaken by events. These divisions had been in training forever, they just wanted to go, at any cost.

XXX Corps made it up the road and, had the airborne division landed on the Arnhem bridge in divisional strength, holding it at both ends, XXX Corps could have passed over. They would possibily have been able to hold the railway bridge as well. As it was, fragments of only one airborne battalion made it to the bridge, but they were able to hold one end for several days. The 1st Airborne expended its strenghth trying to hold on to its landing and supply DZs. If these had been around the bridges, everyone would have known where to make the follow-up and supply drops, even with poor radios.

The plan failed not because of the road, but because an airborne division, with almost not transport, was dropped 8 miles from the target.

I have always been puzzled that the allies did not produce better armoured vehicles, until the war was nearly over. I can understand that all equipment had to be sea transportable (imagine taking Tigers in a LCT, or liberty ship) and there was a decision to go for quantity production. However, reading the story of Percy Hobart, it was mentioned that one month before the war started, the UK Ministry of Supply was formed to provide equipment for the armed forces. The Navy and RAF managed to stay out, but the War office lost control of the Directorate of Mechanisation. Anyone who knows how British ministries work will understand what that means, the rest is history.

The other mystery is why, when German 88s were tearing our tanke to pieces, British 3.7 in. AA guns were kept pointing skywards. These guns had equally good ballistic capabilities as the 88 and could have done as much damage.


If the Brit's had not pi$$ed away John Howards Elite glider strike force by putting it into the line it could have been used at Arnhem bridge. An "IF" the ferry's from the south had been properly interdicted by the RAF then the gamble would have worked.

Oh, why wasn't the 3.7" AA gun used by the Brits? Kind of hard to attack with AA guns ... but dam easy to defend with an 88mm.


_____________________________

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Post #: 87
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 7:26:53 PM   
Rasputitsa


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I would not question your local knowledge, as the closest I have come to the site is Google earth. However, it is a requirement of airborne operations to have surprise and land as close as possible to the objective. The Germans realised quickly what the ojective was, which is why Frost's men were the only ones to reach the bridge. The Germans had quickly moved to block access to the bridge by th rest of the division.

Imagine not 600 paratroops at one end of the Arnhem bridge, but a significant part of the division, even with the scattering common in airborne operations, it would be thousands of men in a much larger bridgehead. The gliderborne 6pdr antitank guns caused problems for the Germans, how much more effective would they have been over the open country to the South of Arnhem. The whole of Arnhem would have been turned into a battleground, which the Germans would have had to advance through, losing some of the power of their AFVs. The street fighting would have been more extensive on the Northern approaches to the bridges. It was not an attack up just one road, but a three Corps advance with 12th and 8th Corps on the flanks, even though the 'dash' for the bridge depended on XXX Corps.

There would have been no doubt where the airborne enclave was for follow-up drops, accepting that the losses to AAA would have been higher. It was protection of the aircraft fleet which had a high prority and probabily doomed the operation. There were good reasons for this, as Bomber Command's losses were 50% over the war time period. The Stirling bomber glider tug crews had been through enough.

Comments have been made about the intensity of operations, as compared with today, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without denigrating the courage of our forces today, we would not be there, if we were anywhere near 50% casualties.

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Post #: 88
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 8:09:22 PM   
Flaviusx


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Honestly, as long as Monty kept ignoring Antwerp, it really almost didn't matter what happened at Arnhem. Market Garden lacked the logistical underpinnings to do very much even if they had taken the bridge. He would have been in hold of a nice bridgehead which couldn't meaningfully exploit. Nor have I ever been convinced that the single thrust idea was the right one in any case, too easy to stop.

It was an unsound plan. Visionary and highly impractical. The tragedy of the 1st Airborne tends to obscure this. If Monty hadn't been so blinded by his own glory and the enormous political pressure he was getting from Brooke, he wouldn't ever have done it. For all his flaws, Monty was a professional who prided himself on his grip, and the whole operation really was uncharacteristically sloppy for him. I'm not sure his heart was really in it.

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Post #: 89
RE: Test Question - 6/22/2010 8:32:34 PM   
Rasputitsa


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I think all the allied commanders fell into the same trap of thinking that the Germans were finished and it was really just a short drive into Germany. They underestimated the energising effect of fighting for your homeland. Just as Union forces were energised when Lee crossed into Union territory. Also like a charging guard dog, the allies were yanked back as they came to the end of their supply leash

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Post #: 90
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