Was Monty Right? (Full Version)

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MrBoats -> Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 3:12:09 AM)

First, thanks very much to all who responded to my "grognards" post. I enjoyed the stories and learned a lot.

Now, a question for all of the WWII buffs: General Montgomery proposed a "narrow thrust" by all of the Allied armies, in which a huge force would have advanced along the Channel coast all the way into Holland, then across the North German Plain to Berlin. As we all know, Esienhower disapproved of Monty's plan, in favor of a broad-front approach. Was Monty right?

I think a narrow front approach would have worked much better. Three or four armies advancing shoulder-to-shoulder on, say, a 100 mile front would have been able to keep the Wermacht off-balance after the Normandy break-out. One army would have been able to cover the inland flank. Antwerp might have been put to use much sooner and the entire logistical system would have been much easier to maintain, given the shorter distances from the beaches and ports to the advancing armies.

For the record, I think that Patton ought to have had Bradley's job, in spite of the controversies. I'm certain that Patton and Montgomery would have worked very well together, and would have at least encircled the Ruhr by the end of '44. I believe that Bradley lacked the imagination necessary to fully take advantage of opportunity.

Of course, the narrow-front approach would have been political dynamite for Eisenhower. It may never have been feasible for that reason, but I think it was the soundest proposal of those Ike had to consider.

Thoughts? It may get a little hot in here, but I'd love to hear from anyone who has an opinion.

Thanks!




Erik Rutins -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 3:19:56 AM)

Well, the real answer is that they needed a better port - the focus should have been on capturing some of the large ports in a better state first. Either strategy could have worked, but without a better supply situation they almost had to focus on a narrow front at that time, which played to Germany's strength in the sense that it let up pressure elsewhere along the thin-stretched front and allowed their reserves to focus more on one area.

Ultimately though, I think the narrow front strategy could have worked, but I think the choice of front was the real problem - the terrain in Monty's sector was really pretty bad as we all now and played as much of a role in defeating Market-Garden as did the Germans. If you can envision an operation of similar scale happening on Patton's front with him maintaining logistical priority from Cobra through to Market-Garden time-wise I think the results would likely have been better. In all areas, the Germans had some better terrain to fall back to, but I think anywhere but Monty's sector would likely have worked out better.




jchastain -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 5:07:18 AM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: MrBoats
I'm certain that Patton and Montgomery would have worked very well together...

I'm a whole lot less certain than you are of that.




2ndACR -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 5:34:38 AM)

Monty and Patton literally hated it each other. Heck, even with priority on supplies, it still took Monty a long time to secure Antwerp.

I do not think Monty knew what he was talking about. I personally think he was an inept commander.




Sarge -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 7:11:38 AM)

The first step in the wrong direction came when Monty was unwilling to modify his planning even after Dutch resistance intel was reporting German movements and even identification of amour units, all shrugged off by Monty .

Armed with photos in hand of reconnaissance flights clearly showing Tanks deployed with in 10 miles of British drop zones Monty in his wisdom again shrugged off the intel and dismissed the Armor as broken down

But the planning of the operation was poor at best .

First day only dropped half of the British abn and zero Polish not to mention the 101st had to wait two days for its artillery ,82nd one day ,Glider infantry four.

Now remember that means all of the above need to split forces in order to secure the drops zones and simultaneously secure their objectives for days.

Next Monty’s Arnhem drop zones where suicidal, and only after RAF command refused would Monty modify. They setteled on a drop something like 10 miles away from the objective , but again British forces need to take their objective plus keep the DZ secure for 24 hours.


All under the knowledge that was the 9th and 10th SS down there in them broken down tanks.





2ndACR -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 7:37:55 AM)

I think Market Garden was one of the hugest disasters of WW2. Courtesy of Monty. Alot of good troops killed and captured because of his "brilliance".




105mm Howitzer -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 7:43:50 AM)

Frankly, I always thought that Monty was over-hyped, by far. El-Alamein was touch and go until nearly the end,when it became clear Rommel could not advance further or do more with what he had on hand. Arnhem essentially proved he had poor concept of Airborne utilization, and as for his competencies in armoured force usage, again questionable. Asking the XXX Corps to go up a narrow corridor, besieged on both sides by crack SS Panzer units in order to relieve Airborne troops, and not stop for anybody was, in my opinion, lousy planning. [:-]
What amazes me is the fact that he received no opposition from his own staff when he concocted this ops. Perhaps everyone was tired of the war at the time, and thought it best to gamble on this operation and end the war sooner.




Raverdave -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 10:42:14 AM)

Monty was an idiot.  The ONLY reason that he did so well at El-Alamein was that he had some Aussie divisions there to help him. [:'(]




MrBoats -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 11:25:54 AM)

I fully agree that Market-Garden was a giant mistake. The plan relied on the assumption that everything would go according to plan. We all know how realistic that is.

I think that Patton, as overall ground commander for the U.S., would have worked better with Montgomery than did Bradley. I think Patton respected Monty's professionalism and his military "imagination." I agree with Erik that a single thrust along 3rd Army's axis of attack might have succeeded in getting us over the Rhine by the fall. Patton hated the broad front approach as much as Monty did, if I recall correctly.

I remember hearing General Horrocks state that in late August and early September the 30th Corps could have pushed all the way into Germany with enough support. My hypothetical scenario envisions several corps abreast from the Channel to the German border, with the bulk of the force grinding everything ahead of it within 50-60 miles of the Channel. Horrocks may have been a bit boastful, but a larger force might just have pulled it off.

My opinions on this matter are based largely on Nigel Hamilton's 3 volume bio. of Monty, and on Carlo D' Este's biography of Patton. Also, The Supreme Commander by Stephen Ambrose and Eisenhower's Lieutenants by Russel Weigley.




Hartford688 -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 11:39:41 AM)

There was quite a good series over at Armchair General on Montgomery.

For those who did not see it:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Personally, I think he was a much better general than is sometimes made out. Not too many generals have not made mistakes - including costly ones. Not to say that Market Garden was not a mistake. I have also found out that courtesy of 20/20 hindsight and knowledge of the full facts, I am a brilliant general, far better than any of the commanders in WWII.




MrBoats -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 12:01:21 PM)

Hartford688,

Thanks! I just finished the first article and intend to read the others next.

It's funny: Monty was reviled for being a "commoner" in a military system full of aristocrats. Patton was despised for being an aristocrat (or as close to one as we get in the U.S.) in a military system full of commoners. The two generals were quite similar, and shared a total devotion to perfecting their skills.

Monty may have erred in pushing Market-Garden, but what was Bradley's excuse for the Hurtgen Forest? Or, for that matter, the failure to complete the encirclement in Normandy? i don't want to stray off-topic too far, but I think that Bradley was strictly a numbers man with very little imagination.




JudgeDredd -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 12:11:03 PM)

<nothing>




Hartford688 -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 12:14:18 PM)

Actually, even with 20/20 hindsight, and no fog of war, I still suck as a general [:(]




Yogi the Great -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 5:01:19 PM)

Thoughts pretty much in line with some of the comments made.

Narrow front may have worked if placed correctly and Patton in command. 

Monty would be the last that should be in command - his position and power had more to do with politics/popularity then with any actual military ability.




jimi3 -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 5:44:14 PM)

For what is worth, I just finished reading War as I Knew it by George Patton. It is a compilation from his diaries as well as some very interesting personal comments at the end. He didn't have much use for monty. Great book for wargamers.




HansBolter -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 5:45:05 PM)

I'm likely to be lambasted by the Brits for this, but I, personally don't think Monty was ever right about much of anything.

As for the political minefield Eisenhower had to navigate, he was far, far too deferring to the Brits throughout the entire war effort.

Sure, we got our noses bloodied at Kasserine when we were still green, but we proved quickly that we could learn on the fly and soon surpassed the British army in our ability to defeat and drive through the German armies before us. Not to mention that a big part of the reason Rommel had the tactical flexibility to hit us at Kasserine was Monty's stodgy crawl across Africa in "pursuit".

Following the fiasco of Market Garden, Monty sat on his duff, planning his huge "set piece" battle for the Rhine crossing, while several American commanders crossed it "on the fly". Hell, even in the encirclement of the Ruhr, he only went one third of the way around it while Simpson went two thirds of the way. While we're at it let's not forget his failure to close the Falaise Gap and his failure clear the estuary at Antwerp.

Try reading Gavin's memoirs and see how he chafed at the bit being slowed in his advance against the Bulge because he had to adhere to Monty's "tidy phase lines" while Monty pursued the "small solution" (Runstedt's words) of pushing in the bulge rather than cutting it off. Read Ridgeway's memoirs and see how the 18th Airborne corps remained attached to Monty's army following the Rhine crossing in order to attempt to keep Monty moving at a reasonable pace.

The single biggest mistake Ike ever made was giving the resources to the stodgy, slow moving Monty while denying them to the hard charging Patton who had already proven he could blitzkrieg his way through the Germans.

As to the argument that the Brits had a better terrain route than Patton, don't believe for a minute that it wasn't Monty's plan all along when he planned Overlord. He knew fully well that the army on the eastern end of the invasion would be the one advancing through the coastal plain once the east/west line of the invading armies had reoriented into a north/south line for the drive on Germany. And the whole "we planned to pin the German armor down so the Americans could break out" was an after the fact rationalization of his failure to break out on his own. You bet yer sweet bippy he wanted the glory of breaking out of the bridgehead for himself.

It was his hatred of Patton, his chagrin over the huge publicity and popularity Patton was getting for his breakout drive across France, and his deep seated resentment at having been upstaged by Patton in Sicily that drove him to come up with the "daring venture" of Market Garden to get himself back in the limelight.

Well that ought to be enough Monty bashing to get me lynched by an irate British mob so I’ll climb down off my soap box now.

As to the original question, like others posting here, I believe it was a good idea. It just got the wrong commander.




oi_you_nutter -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 6:43:55 PM)

being a brit, while still trying to avoid the them and us arguements:

1) no commander is prefect, Monty was too cautious because he had to be, Patton was more agressive because he could afford to be.
2) Patton was a great army commander, Monty was an ok army group commander. Monty was too rigid and slow against the Germans who were still masters at mobile defensive warfare.
3) XXX corps should have been more aggressive, thats the fault of the order & commanders, not the tankers and PBI. you do not win a war using one corps, sent a bloomin Army and then some more.
4) a Market Garden style operation, in an area where they werent just advancing up one narrow road and with enough resources could have worked: Patton and his 3rd Army should have been the troops to attack and exploit the operation.
5) planned operations go wrong and hastily planned operations can be disasters, thats a fact of war.
6) other Allied commanders made big c*ck ups, it just that Market Garden is the best known.







HansBolter -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 7:03:53 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: oi_you_nutter

being a brit, while still trying to avoid the them and us arguements:

1) no commander is prefect, Monty was too cautious because he had to be, Patton was more agressive because he could afford to be.



While I am extremely harsh in my criticism of Monty, I am at least willing to be fair on this point.

It is absolutely true that the strain on British manpower after so many years at war was a significant factor contributing to the slow and cautious nature of the British army at that time.

This well known fact is something Ike should have taken into consideration in his evaluation of the possibility for the success of Monty's big gamble.

I blame Ike for giving in to Monty as much as I blame Monty for his hubris.




pad152 -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 8:28:00 PM)

I think WWII would have been ended sooner if Patton had the supplies. Monty had a bad habit of never getting or reaching an objective on time, he let the Germans escape in Africa and again France. Eisenhower almost canned Monty after his inaction in France, how he ever thought Monty could/would pull off Market-Garden I still don't understand. Hell Market-Garden might have even worked if it was Patton leading the charge.






Hartford688 -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 8:30:30 PM)

While acknowledging your points that post Kasserine the US forces did everything, and everything the British did was poor, some of your points seem to contrast with Carlos D'Este's article (not that it is necessarily the gospel truth).

He suggested that Montgomery did NOT have a hatred of Patton; plus a rather different view in Sicily; Montgomery supported Patton to take Messina.

D'Este:

quote:

When the three Allied ground commanders met for the first time in the campaign on July 25, Montgomery proposed that Seventh Army rather than his Eighth Army capture Messina. The myth that there was a race to Messina between Patton and Montgomery existed only in Patton’s mind – and was unfortunately embellished in the film “Patton” in which a smirking Monty meets Patton in the city centre as two competing bands drown one another out. The truth was that Montgomery not only never went to Messina nor had any desire to do so but also once he recognized Seventh Army was better positioned to carry out this task, actually advocated that Patton do it!


and:

quote:

One digression before concluding this installment: when Patton got into serious trouble after slapping two soldiers for what he believed was malingering in U.S. field hospitals, an unfavorable remark about Patton appeared in the Eighth Army newspaper. Montgomery’s policy was to give his editor complete freedom from command interference, however, after the story about Patton appeared, Monty summoned the editor for a chat with his very displeased commanding general. As Montgomery’s official biographer has written: “Monty had been genuinely impressed by Seventh Army’s mobility, speed . . . rugged determination and professionalism – and he would have nothing derogatory printed in Eighth Army newspapers [about Patton].”



Also, just goes to show different views apparently from the same person - James Gavin. Again, per D'Este's articles:

quote:

The First Army staff, already resentful of the change of command, is alleged to have been less than pleased to be under British command. Such resentments, and many seem to be of postwar creation, were not evident to James Gavin, the 82d Airborne commander, when he dined with Hodges and his staff several days later. "The staff spoke of Montgomery with amusement and respect. They obviously liked him and respected his professionalism." For his part, Gavin was impressed with Montgomery as a soldier. "I took a liking to him that has not diminished with the years."


Note that this is the same James Gavin post Market Garden.

For all his other faults, he at least was generally right up with his troops:

quote:

With the exception of Patton, Montgomery was the only senior commander to regularly visit his troops at the Ardennes front. Montgomery’s presence and his decisions to reassign responsibilities and realign units of both First and Ninth Armies was precisely the fitting remedy. For American commanders, to cede ground was considered sinful, however, after visiting St. Vith and determining that if the 7th Armored remained it would be annihilated, Montgomery decreed that further defense of the town was futile and, with Hodges’s concurrence, ordered what was left of the division to withdraw to new positions on December 22. The 7th Armored’s brilliantly orchestrated defense of St. Vith against near-impossible odds had stemmed the advance of Manteuffel’s Fifth Panzer Army until December 23, when the last elements evacuated the shattered town. The defense of St. Vith was a key factor in the German failure in the Ardennes. The official U.S Army historian wrote that Montgomery’s decision reflected his "ability to honor the fighting man which had endeared him to the hearts of the Desert Rats [of the British 7th Armored Division] in North Africa: ‘They can come back with all honor. They come back to the more secure positions. They put up a wonderful show.’" 7 The defenders of St. Vith were unambiguous about their feelings toward the field marshal. "Montgomery saved the 7th Armored Division," said Robert Hasbrouck


Sorry for the long post. But apparently not all Americans (and among them people with much real experience) had such contempt for Montgomery.

I am, of course, an irate Brit![:'(] And no, I do not think Montgomery was the best general in the world, but a darn sight better than most make out.




oi_you_nutter -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 9:51:10 PM)

great thread, lots of lively thought provoking discussion.

the comment by HansBolter that Ike is also at fault is spot on. Ike had the power to veto Monty and concentrate the support elsewhere.

Monty is an easy target, part of it is myth and part hollywood with the Patton - Monty friction acting as a great military soap opera plot.








MrBoats -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 10:24:34 PM)

I, as a Native American (born here and descended from generations of Americans), must agree with Hartford688. Martin Blumenson and Carlo D' Este, both distinguished historians, have praised Monty according to his accomplishments. I believe that they both have described the extent to which Patton and Montgomery cooperated throughout the war. Both of the generals had enormous egos, and I would take their in-war comments about each other with a large grain of salt. I think Patton, in particular, suffered from extreme emotional swings and bitterness toward the end of the war.

Monty (again, as with Patton) was probably his own worst enemy. He seems not to have had very much tact at all and his criticisms of the American military created powerful enemies. But his military genius is apparent. He may not have bagged Rommel's forces after Alamein, but he sure as hell kept Rommel from baaging the British forces in the summer of '42. The capture of a quarter million Axis troops in the Spring of '43 would not have been possible without the earlier British victories. I am reminded of the criticisms of General Grant after the 1864 campaign settled down to a siege. Grant MIGHT have destroyed the Army of Northern Virginia sooner, but he did pin Lee down for a year and bring about the end of the war in cooperation with the other Northern armies. Monty might have beaten Rommel sooner, but he did achieve the ultimate goal of evicting the Axis troops from North Africa, in cooperation with the other Allied armies.

As for Monty's plan for Normandy -- I think he fully intended to break out at the east end right away. His contention that events went according to his plan all along was an unnecessary lie. Monty had plenty to be proud of, but also had the determination always to be right.

Americans glorify the common man too much when it comes to warfare. I respect GI Joe as much as anyone, but leaders like Patton knew how to harness the power of the US Army and direct that power against the enemy. We did not win the war by asking Sgt. X what the strategic objectives ought to be. We won because Sgt. X and his squad fought like hell for the objectives assigned to them by their leaders. Ike and Bradley wasted far too many men by bulling forward all along the line, dispersing our power over too broad an area. But they had an army of Andy Rooneys writing glowing praise for public consumption. Rooney's comments about the U.S. winning the war in spite of Patton were ridiculous.

Sorry to vent so much, but I believe that the war could and should have been over much sooner.







Panzeh -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 10:32:26 PM)

Monty's only huge mistake at market garden(I am going to ignore 20/20 hindsight) was that he used his weakest and least experienced airborne division to take Arnhem.  It's not that the british paras sucked, but that the US paras had more experience and more men available.  I think the operation would have been successful had the 101st AB and 1st AB been switched.




Joram -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 10:48:15 PM)

This is of course going off-topic but I'd disagree with that.  The 1st AB supplemented by the 1st Polish AB Brigade did a heroic job given the short end of the stick they were dealt.  Indeed they made a couple key mistakes in selecting their drop zones but once on the ground, they did superb.  Also keep in mind that the head of the 1st Allied Airborne Army was lead by an American.  

For Market-Garden at least, there were failures all across the board so you can't really pin that one just on Monty.




HansBolter -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 10:50:35 PM)

I did indeed list only the negative aspects of other commanders relations with Monty.

While I pointed out how Gavin chafed at the bit at being held to Monty's phase lines I neglected to point out that Gavin thought very highly of Monty and was honored to serve under him.

He was particularly impressed with the techinque Monty used to keep his finger on the pulse of operations. Instead of waiting for the reports to come through the chain of command from operational staffs, he positioned his own "observers" (spies if you will) with the various subordinate commands to report directly back to him with timely updates.

Monty wasn't all bad and I apologize that my rant made it seem I believed so. I just get so incensed over how spineless Ike was in not standing up to the pressure from Monty and Churchill. Now don't get me wrong, while I don't think particularly highly of Monty, I practically worship the ground Churchill walked on. Churchill had such amazing geoplolitcal savvy, while Roosevelt was so geoplolitically naive. Roosevelt had his head in the colonial era, more concerned over his impression that all Churchill wanted was the reestablishmment of the British colonial empire, when what Churchill was really trying to do was keep the coming Iron Curtain as far to the east as possible.




MikeBrough -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 10:51:17 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: MrBoats

Sorry to vent so much, but I believe that the war could and should have been over much sooner.



Agreed, MrBoats, and that's what Monty was trying to achieve. Market-Garden was his big gamble. He believed that, if successful, it would finish the war before Christmas (very debatable). He also knew that, if the gamble failed, the war wasn't lost.

In all, Allied forces lost fewer than 18,000 men during MG. Admittedly, the majority of these were the cream of the British forces but there was unlikely to be another oportunity to use them before the war ended. Further, Eisenhower had been under considerable pressure from all quarters to use the airborne forces since they were withdrawn after D-Day.

Callous reasoning on Montgomery's part but c'est la guerre.




Bazooka Bob -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/19/2007 11:51:42 PM)

One of Monty's biggest failure is the fact after capturing Antwerp, he failed to order that the seaward approaches be secured to open the harbor up as a major supply point.  This is related to MG.  The approaches were not secured until some time in October leading to major supply issues in November forcing the Allies to stop at the German border leaving them open for the counteroffensive.  Hindsight, I think, proves that the narrow thrust would have been vunerable to counterattack for the long flank. 

I strongly recommend reading A Soldier's Story by Omar Bradley.  He talks of his relationships with Patton and Montgomery.  He states that he would have preferred Harold Alexander instead of Montgomery.  Most of the issues with Monty is the fact that he failed to stop most of the PR controversies that popped up around him.

Just my comments and opinions.  Enjoy




sullafelix -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/20/2007 1:03:20 AM)

Leaving the Monty ?'s aside. I don't think a narrow thrust was ever even thought of because of politics. There was no " Rush for Berlin " because FDR had sold out middle and eastern europe to the Soviets. Patton's repeated efforts for a single thrust were based on the assumption that we had to grab as much territory as possible before we went to war with Russia. He was not thinking of a political separation of Europe.

I've always thought this was so strange on FDR's part because he went out of his way to let the British know that we were not fighting to reconquer their empire in the Pacific, or at least dominant role in the pacific.

El Alamein is a very bad example to use on good generalship. Even a mediocre genaral could have won with the preponderance of men, tanks and complete air cover.




Sarge -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/20/2007 1:13:23 AM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: Joram

For Market-Garden at least, there were failures all across the board so you can't really pin that one just on Monty.




Why ?

His planning of Market Garden was pretty pathetic , Monty and his staff worked from conception to implementing the ABN operation with in weeks .Virtually zero training was done leading up to D-day for the Airborne and Transports actually leading the way.

I see hindsight and 20/20 in attempts to sugar coat Montys incompetence in the planning phase . Its only hindsight if Monty was looking at zero or bogus intel not to mention his outright dismissal of the red flags being brought to his attention .
He may have been cautious in many aspects , but in MG his lack of planning skills can only be viewed as reckless.







Joram -> RE: Was Monty Right? (10/20/2007 3:28:38 AM)

Well, the buck certainly can stop there for the poor planning but it wasn't Monty doing all the tactical planning it was his staff.  Just as he's culpable for their actions, Eisenhower would be culpable for Monty's.  That's what I'm saying.  It was a failure in leadership at many levels and would be unfair to pin it just on Monty.  With that said, I don't disagree with a lot of criticism of his abilities, but I also don't care for laying all the blame on one guy when there's plenty of blame to spread around.




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