August 7th, 1944 - Operation Totalize

Discussion in 'All Anniversaries' started by canuck, Aug 7, 2017.

  1. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Really? The two excerpts I posted for m kenny describe a German counterattack penetrating into their lines on and around Pt.122. So to say that there was no enemy opposition in front of Gaumesnil seems a bit daft.
  2. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    That was in the morning and the RRC moved forward in the afternoon, they got their order to move to Gaumesnil at appr. 1400 and when the Coy Commanders went forward for recce they met to their surprise own tanks sitting on their ordered start line 300 y N of Gaumesnil and the tank commander on the spot informed them that Canadian tanks had been all around Gaumesnil but no one as yet had tried to enter the village itself. When the infantry went in they met no opposition. So says the WD but I have difficulties to understand why the RRC did not see the tanks from their positions south of the Point 122.
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
  3. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    RRC received orders to seize Gaumesnil about 2pm. Correct. By the time they had organised themselves to move forward, it would have been after 3pm. They were in Gaumesnil at 3.30. There was no opposition at that time.

    But we know there was opposition before that time as some of it had charged into the RRC lines in the morning and at lunch time Meyer launched KG Waldmuller and Co. north from Cintheaux.

    So how does that make Stacey wrong?

    Which tanks?
  4. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake The Mayor of London's latest dress code

    There is also a British interpretation. In 2009 Ken Tout a veteran of the action took me and the staff of the British Army's Initial Training Group to this spot to tell us about 2nd Northamptonshire Yeomanry's action and how Joe Ekins knocked out three of the five tigers. I suspect both Canadian and British tanks were firing.

    There is the question of whether the operation could have proceeded faster. The result of the OP Totalize night advance was to moved hundreds of AFVs and thousands of men into the middle of a German position containing thousands of soldiers manning hundreds of machineguns, mortars and anti tank weapons. The battle was far from over when armoured phalanx reached its objective. There were subsequent battles for bypassed villages and thousands of individual Germans to be mopped up -flushed out, forced to retreat or incapacitated before their weapons. That took a lot longer than moving a line on the map.

    Op Totalize was a set piece phased battle. Phase 2 was supposed to be a daylight advance supported by the heavy bombers of the 8th AF. It would not have been an easy or wise decision to cancel this in favour of a precipitate exploitation. Imagine the story if the initial forces had plunged on and been ambushed 10 km further down the road.
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  5. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    In his Victory Campaign Stacey writes on p. 224 The armoured divisions crossed the startline for Phase II at 1:55 p.m. "...But resistance about Gaumesnil...held up the advance until ...The RRC captured the village at 3:30 p.m. This eased the traffic situation and tanks were able to help the 10th Inf.Bde get forward..." So IMHO he writes on resistance after 1355 but by whom? The RRC found only a few stray germans in the hamlet who didn't offer any opposition. If the surviving Tigers of Wittmann's force stayed around Cintheaux they would with the german A/T guns deployed around Cintheaux have been a powerful obstacle to the Grenadier Guards but the occupation of Gaumesnil by a canadian would not have made any significant difference to the situation in that case.

    To my understanding those of Grenadier Guards or even Sherbrooke Fusiliers.
  6. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Yes I agree, IMHO the 89. Infanteriediv fought well and play havoc with the II Can Corps timetable and advance of the 2nd Can. Arm.Bde and the 33rd Arm.Bde appr at 0800 would have led to a meeting engagement with the Tigers of 3./sSS-Pz.Abt. 101 and Pz IVs/II./SS-Pz.Abt. 12 supported by A/T guns and at least some JgPz IVs plus appr 1½ Bn of SS-PzGrenadiers, one and several hundred of stragglers from the 89. Inf.Div with fairly strong artillery support in fairly open terrain or ambushes further down the route by the German force. And the Phase II forces arriving to their start line only hours later (around 1330) so the Phase I forces would have hoped support from the Phase II forces only after some 5 hours after moving forward, cancelling the USAAF bombing would have prevented the bombing of own troops and the delays it caused.
  7. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    That understanding makes no sense whatsoever.

    As you have already written, RRC were ordered to move to Gaumesnil at 1400. According to your understanding, 4th Armored Division was given just 5 minutes of attack and hold up before help was sought!!!

    Stacey is using the location 'Gaumesnil' as an imprecise reference to the startline for for Phase II. And the bulk of 4th Armored Division were being held up by enemy resistence and were unable to cross the start line at 13.55. That enemy resistence was coming from the 'trapped' forward line forces about Rocquancourt etc as well as those that put in the first and second counter-attacks against the 'Gaumesnil' line.

    If Stacey has made a mistake, it is the use of a single word. Replace: "But resistance about Gaumesnil" with "But resistance before Gaumesnil".

    So? How many were in the hamlet 5 minutes before the RRC arrived?

    I don't understand what you are saying here. One moment the forces in Gaumesnil could have been a "powerful obstacle", the next moment the lack of them would not have made a significant difference???

    OK. So if they cannot see their own tanks 300m before Gaumesnil, do you think they will be able to see German forces leaving Gausmesnil on the far side? Just because hardly anybody was in Gausmesnil when they walked in, doesn't mean to say the place was not teaming with defenders 5 mins before.

    Moreover, the distances we are considering are so small that the German forces seemingly causing problems around Gausmesnil may not have been in Gausmenil itself. For example, the GG WD shows how difficult it was for them to get past Cintheaux. Given how close the two are, problem at one is synonymous with the other.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  8. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I agree that the 'delay' to the advance probably saved the Canadians from a series of 'Worthingtonesque' catastrophys. In my book, Simonds' 'failure' lay elsewhere.
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  9. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Phase I went almost according to plan. Argueably, it went better than expected when considering the low 'butcher's bill'.

    However, Phase II failed for a variety reason that would have had the same impact whether KG Waldmuller had attacked or not. The 'British way' of doing things had still not worked out how to conduct a successful breakout and had only reached the evolutionary stage of sending untrained 'battlegroups' into enemy rear areas.
  10. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    IMHO Brtish had succeeded to make a successful breakthrough on 31 July- 2 August at the early stages of the Oper. Bluecoat but then the counterattacks of the II. SS-Pz.Korps hindered/stopped the advance so badly that it didn't progress to a breakout/disintegration of the german front.
  11. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    IMHO Stacey would not use about Gaumesnil, a hamlet front of the Canadian frontline, if he means the effects of the pockets of resistance behind the Canadian front line troops, simply too imprecise.

    On Gaumesnil, just arrived to pages 180 - 185 of Caravaggio's PhD thesis, it seems that there had been mix-up on who had the job to secure Gaumesnil, maybe as the Halfpenny Force crossed its starline it was noted that Gaumesnil was not taken, at 1430 Phantom J reported that "10 Cdn inf bde [of the 4th Arm Div] attacking GAUMESNIL at 081430B" so at same time as the RRC was preparing to attack the same objective.

    That is a valid point, all I can say that the tank commander informed the RRC officers that the tanks had been all round Gaumesnil, IMHO he would probably said something on the enemy activity in the hamlet if the tank crews had observed some.

    As I wrote "around Cintheaux" and I still think that Can. infantry in Gaumesnil would not have much effect on Tigers around Cintheaux.

    My point was that after looking the British 1:50,000 map from 1944, aerial photos from 1947 and Google Maps vistas, Icannot understand why the RRC did not notice Shermans short distance south of them from their positions S of Point 122. They could not observe what happened in gaumesnil or S of it. Other problem is that the A Sqn/SFR are claimed to have been in the hamlet since before noon.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  12. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    Op BLUECOAT and Op TOTALIZE were examples of successful breakthroughs. They were also examples of failures to breakout. Both exhibited the trait of sending untrained 'battlegroups' behind enemy lines - and hoping for the best.
  13. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    I have not read Caravaggio's PhD thesis and thus have no idea what he/she has written.

    I don't think was a mix-up at all. I think there was a distinct lack of situational awareness from command and a lack of control.

    The original plan was for 14H with B/FGH to "exploit" as far as Gaumesnil at daybreak on 8 August. Where "exploit" means go forward but be back behind the bomb line before it gets too hot. That was part of Phase I. However, during the night, 14H were tasked to support the Essex Scottish elsewhere and nobody thought to retask somebody else (ie. RRC or SF) to "exploit" to Gausmesnil in their place. I suspect the injury to Wyman and the change of command may have played a part in that. Maybe, a message got through to Radley-Walters to do so, or maybe he chose to do so of his own accord. But he only had 2 troops of tanks. Nothing else and, at the appropriate time, he returned back behind the bomb line.

    During the morning, it was decided that Gaumesnil would be a 4th Armored Division objective as part of their Phase II advance. Whether that decision was made because and when command realised Gausmesnil had not been "exploited" by 14H or not, is neither here nor there. Nevertheless, it effectively stood down 4th Infantry Brigade/2nd Armored Brigade from the task. Maybe it was because 4th Infantry Brigade/2nd Armored Brigade were heavily engaged in fending off German counter attacks at the time. Who knows? I'm writing this from memory, but the evidence - and in particular the exact times of this - can be found in the various Canadian formation WDs.

    Then, at 1400 (give or take), the task to advance and hold Gausmesnil is thrown onto RRC. So, off they trot.

    Now, it is written up historically that 4th Armored Division crossed the start line on time at 1355. In reality, it was a single armored battalion with a bit of inf attached that crossed the line on time. The vast majority of the division was still held up trying to get to the start line. Held up due to a variety of factors of which German opposition was one of the key ones.

    At this point in the understanding and analysis of the event, one has to fill in some of the gaps where evidence is missing/lacking/non-existent.

    Stacey has filled in the gaps be looking at the advance of the GG and seeing they, effectively, got nowhere and thus decided that this was down to German opposition before and around Gausmesnil then before and around Cintheaux.

    You have filled in the gaps differently and decided that your gap filling is correct and Stacey's is incorrect. Your gap filling concludes there was no credible forces in Gausmesnil to bother GG's advance. Unfortunately, in my opinion, your gap fill is predicated on a key assumption that I don't believe stands up: if there were no credible forces in Gausmesnil at 1530, there weren't any there at 1400 or 1430 or 1500 etc etc. It also ignores the reality that forces close by Gausmesnil can hold up GG's advance without actually being in Gausmesnil itself. In otherwords, because you cannot positively identify who was there, you make a leap that nobody was there. But consider this, where did the grenadiers fall back to after their counter attack against the RHLI and RRC positions? And where did the grenadiers following up the Tigers skulk away to when the Tigers got into bother?

    Personally, I fill in the gaps with the conclusion that RRC was tasked to support the 4th Armoured Division's Phase II advance because the vast majority of the Division was held up and GG couldn't do a division scale breakout all on its own! The GG WD states the leading element reached Cintheaux (without specifying where exactly in relation to Cintheaux) at 1500. At best, they managed 2 and a bit kms in the previous hour! Remember, they started at 1355. I suspect that slow advance was down to German opposition.

    I know, I've read that too. But I feel it is too great a gap fill to reach the conclusion that this is evidence that nobody was there at 1400 or 1430 or 1500 etc etc. You don't even know what unit the tanks came from. So it seems a bit much to assume to know when he arrived, what route he took and what he did or did not see during his bimble around the Normandy countryside.

    The Tigers had left Cintheaux before the GG tried to pass by it.

    The RRC was sent to Gaumesnil to evict any Germans that were there causing a problem and to deny them the opportunity to use it as a location to cause problem.

    Yes. You have lots of problems because nobody has ever written - or ever will be able to write - a definitive operational analysis of exactly what happened that day. For example, how do you tell the story of what effect Sturm.Flak.Abt.11700 had on the Canadian advance? Or the effect of Pz.Jag.Kp./Abt.1344? What effect did Sturm.Flak.Abt.13300 have on the Polish advance?

    The holes in the evidence dictate that you have to fill the gaps between what we can evidence and all the gap filling narratives by others. Everybody faces the very same issues. However, how you pull your analysis together is puzzling. The RRC not seeing friendly tanks trundle down to Gausmesnil, around Gausmesnil, and then park up 300m north for a rendezvous with them AND Radley-Walters ability to trundle down a similar route earlier in the day without the Germans spotting him SHOULD point you towards the idea that Germans trundling around the area, advancing and withdrawing unseen is a distinct possibility. But you leap in the other direction based upon Google maps etc etc.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
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  14. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Hello Mark
    Caravaggio, Angelo, so he.
    Major Amy later remembered that when he got across the Caen - Falaise higway he saw nothing, not Germans nor Poles, and because he was already "pissed-off" because of the lack of exact enemy info he decided that rapid dash forward was not the order of the day and decided to move forward carefully. The GG WD talk on enemy fire from E making advance E of the highway very difficult so Lt Phelan's troop, which was in the orchard at the SW corner of Gaumesnil was ordered forward and advanced S to west of Cintheaux knocking out 88s and S.P. guns as they went. Nothing on fire coming from Gaumesnil or around it causing problems. Problems were E of the highway and in the orchard N of Cintheaux and W of Cintheaux.

    We agree on why the RRC was sent to Gaumesnil.

    Yes, I'm puzzled why the WD says that the Coy commanders were surprised by the Shermans on their start line but
    IIRC Radley-Walters said that he took his Shermans to Gaumesnil using the shallow railway cutting appr. one km E of the highway as sheltered route to near Gaumesnil, the trees alongside the NW road to Gaumesnil might well have sheltered his force from observation from Point 122 for the last couple hundred meters and as I wrote earlier one could not see what happened inside the hamlet and in the chateau grounds from Point 122.

    The area between Gaumesnil and Point 122 was open fields, so I doubt that tanks, StuGs or gun tractors could move there unnoticed, small band of infantry maybe, depending on the agricultural cycle in Normandy in 1944. I have trying to spot "enemy" light infantry from a corn field while lying on a low rising, counting cars, tractors and lorries driving along a country roads between fields etc so I still have some idea what one can see and what not in open countryside, or in a forest or in a hilly country. And I recon how difficult the area S of Caen was for an attacker when the defender had powerful A/T weapons and fast firing mgs.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  15. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Once regarded as the seminal history of Canadian operations, I think Stacey's work has been shown to be incomplete, biased and being written in 1948, not having the benefit of all sources. His assertions have been challenged and often eclipsed by many fine historians afterwards.
  16. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    All of the Commonwealth official histories were written to celebrate the victory and to honor the efforts of the troops who made that possible. They are fairly detailed accounts of which units fought were and when and their various movements back and fro. They are not an operational analysis looking in depth into any given engagement and they certainly do not entertain discussion about why or how certain results were achieved. Failures are generally noted by 'meeting greater opposition than expected'. They were/are biased by default and incomplete by design.
  17. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    That is after passing Gaumesnil and thus has nothing to do with the speed of advance prior to passing Gaumesnil.

    Indeed. Despite Amy not seeing any Germans, they were there. Not only were they there, but they ripped RRC apart to the extent that they gave up on that route.

    More evidence to encourage us to be wary of the 'nobody there' claims.

    Not a surprise given that by that time RRC were sitting in Gaumesnil.

    The RRC makes no commentary on the opposition encountered between the start line and Cintheaux. But it took them an hour to move at the very most 2.5km.

    Other than adding more evidence that movement was possible in the area without being 'seen', what has this got to do with the later events?

    Now I'm totally confused. The tanks supporting RRC's entry into Gaumesnil managed to bimble around unseen. It's evidence you're using but seem incapable of understanding for some reason.

    However, I don't see how it is relevent to whether RRC would have 'seen' German troops leaving Gaumesnil for Cintheaux.

    Stacey's claim ...
    ... includes some gap filling that may not be historically accurate. The wording is a bit loose and, for somebody who has made the effort to read up the WDs themselves in detail, may appear a bit inaccurate. For example, GG were starting their attempt to bypass Cintheaux at 1500 so RRC moving into Gaumesnil at 1530 seems a little off.

    However, you claim that he is incorrect with respect to resistance from Gaumesnil holding up the advance. That is his gap fill and no evidence seems to exist to prove one way or another. But it does not seem to be an unreasonable gap fill. Your claim that his is incorrect is based on your belief that your gap fill is correct. In my opinion, your gap fill is less reasonable than Stacey's.
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  18. MarkN

    MarkN Well-Known Member

    The Op TOTALIZE plan was for 4th Armored Division to be formed up on the start line no later than 0600B.

    In reality, the first unit to reach the line was the GG who went straight across it. The 4th Armored Brigade Ops Log has an entry timed 1426 that GG crossed what they considered to be the start line. Bear in mind that is the time of receipt of the message - not necessarily the time the line was crossed.

    The same source notes an incoming message from GG timed 1459 "Held up by halted vehicles in single file. Do we go right or left of them?" This makes little sense.

    Then, at 1515 from GG, "Fetch SUNRAY [MarkNote: Booth]. SUNRAY here. Enemy armor halted at GAUMESNIL. 1 tank brewing possibly 2 others. Shall we still push on?"

    Then, at 1520, "Position forward troops LANDI [MarkNote: Gausmesnil] plus 300 yds." The furthest forward they had reached by this time was 300 yds past Gausmesnil. In otherwords, they have managed a total of less than 1km since they crossed the start line.

    And then, af 1526, "4 enemy tanks in area 081551. They are burning."

    The next message recorded from GG, at 1600, "Moving slowly now."

    With the benefit of decades of hindsight, we are comfortable with the reality that these tanks are the Tigers brewed up a little earlier in the day. However, even as burning hulks, they seem to be what caused GGs slow advance and the lack of clarity and thread of the messages coming back to brigade HQ seem to suggest that GG were engaged with them. Indeed, GG may well have been engaging them thinking there were still active.

    From that exchange, I do not see that Stacey was too wrong in his words. He filled the gaps with a reasonable explanation.
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  19. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Not according tothe map on the page 185 in the Caravaggio's PhD thesis, taken from the History of Canadian Grenadier Guards. According to the map CGG moved to E of the highway N of Gaumesnil

    Or simply that human memory is fallible.

    I'm simply wondering and WDs have also mistakes as all human products. But I must say that the Canadian WDs seems to be much more informative than several British ones, which sometimes give only barest set of facts. But after all men were there for fighting not to write complete and error free sources for later historians.

    Yes, it is only my interpretation based on the sources I have, Stacey surely had access many more primary sources but he wrote a book on the whole campaign and we are no talking on a miniscule detail of one battle.
  20. Juha

    Juha Junior Member

    Thanks a lot for that!

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