Historiography of the Falaise Gap

Discussion in 'Historiography' started by falaisegap, Aug 19, 2010.

  1. falaisegap

    falaisegap Junior Member

    What would you gentlemen say to the suggestion that the 'halt order' Gen. Bradley gave to Gen. Patton at 1130 hours on the morning of August 13th, ordering Patton to stop Haislip's U.S. XV Corps south of Argentan actually came from General Montgomery. There is some good evidence to support this. Dr. Forrest Pogue's 1947 interview with Montgomery staffer Brigadier E.T. Williams, See Carlo D'Este, "Decision in Normandy," p. 451,452, also see Richard Rohmer's, "Patton's Gap," p. 226, 227. Confirmation comes from Freddie De Guingand's "Operation Victory," p. 407, and the War Diary of Air vice Marshal Stephen C. Stafford, from D'Este, "Decision in Normandy," p. 440, 441. And finally the one book which seems to have been grossly overlooked in all this is F.W. Winterbotham's, "The ULTRA Secret," pages 148-158 inclusive are critical to understanding what actually happened.
  2. falaisegap

    falaisegap Junior Member

    General Montgomery was clearly in charge of Allied Ground Operations at the Falaise Gap. He was not releived of this command until September 1st, 1944, when he was made Field Marshal. And even after September 1st, Montgomery's plans seemed to have dominated Allied strategy. Montgomery's Operation Market Garden was approved and Patton's Sure Thing was scotched. It was Montgomery who decided when and how the port of Antwerp would be opened and Montgomery who determined where the major Allied thrust would be made during the Fall and Winter months of 1944/45. In late March 1945 is was also Montgomery who determined when and where the main Allied crossing of the Rhine would occure. We should not underestimate Montgomery's ability to influence Allied startegy simply because Eisenhower was supposedly the Commander of Allied Ground Forces.

    There are two strains of history evolving about the Falaise Gap and this is very interesting to follow. I think the account given by F.W. Winterbotham in The ULTRA Secret [pp. 148-158] deserves more study than it has thus far received. Chins up guys, Winterbotham was a Brit.
    Jonathan Ball likes this.
  3. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    I've moved this to its own thread as it was in danger of being lost where it was.
  4. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I wouldnt be the greatest lover of Montgomery but I get the feeling that there is more than a whiff of "Blame Game" going on here. Correct me if I'm wrong but if this is a Blame Monty for the Falaise gap, then it wont be a very long thread.
  5. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    Thing is with D'Este I always take what he writes with an IV of salt. I mean to 'blame' Monty for Falaise always stinks to me of a total misunderstanding of the tits up that would have occured from friendly fire incidents that would have occured had it been closed any sooner/led to more of a thrust from formerly Pas-de-Calais forces.
  6. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    falaisegap, Message#2;

    What is your point? If you are not trying to make a point, what is your question?
  7. falaisegap

    falaisegap Junior Member

    I've moved this to its own thread as it was in danger of being lost where it was.
    Mr. Reed, yes and thank you.
  8. falaisegap

    falaisegap Junior Member

    falaisegap, Message#2;

    What is your point? If you are not trying to make a point, what is your question?

    The point is that military historians are getting the Battle of the Falaise Gap wrong. Max Hastings, Anthony Beevor, Nigel Hamilton, Carlo D'Este and all of the Americans are simply mistaken in their accounts of the battle. Don't get me wrong; I don't blame Field Marshal Montgomery for this. He said very little about the Falaise Gap. It was Generals Eisenhower and Bradley who have chosen, for whatever reasons, not to tell the truth about what happened. They are primarily responsible for the bad historical accounts of the battle. Still, that does not change the central fact that it was Field Marshal Montgomery who did not allow the Americans to move north of the inter-Army Group boundary just a few miles south of Argentan on the evening of 12 August 1944.
  9. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    What a load of Codswallop!
    Is this another "run the Brits down campaign"

    The reason the Yanks never got there, was because they did not want to...... And that is how we saw it at the time. Monty pressed home his murderous attack, and the carnage inside was beyond belief. Or it was when I was there. The Yanks were off capturing land without an enemy in sight.... That settled their ego far better than joining in the fight to close the bag.
  10. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    I'm no expert on this battle so don't really want to get into the argument about whose fault it was (if it was anyone's) for not "plugging the Falaise gap". All I'll say is that it sounds suspiciously like a mini version of the "controversy" over who didn't pinch out "the Bulge" in early 1945.

    I think the history of such battles tends to focus too much on what commanders did or didn't do or should or shouldn’t have done, all with the benefit of 20:20 hindsight and usually from the comfort of a tenured chair somewhere. Sometimes that isn't helped by self-serving memoirs published by commanders after battles.

    But on holiday in Normandy a few years ago, I visited a small hill called Montormel. That hill sat (and, as hills tend to do, still sits) in the mouth of the Falaise gap. On the top of that hill is a memorial to the Polish armoured units who took and held it, effectively plugging the gap. Those Polish units, together with Canadian troops, held out for days despite fierce assaults by the retreating Germans.

    On checking the internet, this all took place between 19 and 21 August, several days after the "stop order" referred to.

    Many German troops undoubtedly did get away from the Falaise pocket. I suspect that is due to the fact that you can never really completely encircle such a large number of troops. And I suspect that it also reflects the fact that you can never really "close" a pocket unless, as happened on the eastern front, the encircled troops surrender quickly or you are able to blockade them so that they are forced to surrender (which takes time).

    But many more would undoubtedly have got away if not for those Poles and Canadians, an awful lot of whom gave their lives on that little hill in Normandy.

    To me, that is what is important. And not some manufactured controversy about who ordered what and when.
    von Poop, Gerard and canuck like this.
  11. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    I wonder if there are any WW2 German forums discussing who was at fault for letting the BEF get away in 1940 :lol:
    Gerard likes this.
  12. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    I was going to post "Are there any WW2 German forums?" but I suppose there must be. And why not. Bet their moderators have a hard job, though.
  13. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I dont quite get why everyone tries to find out who didnt do what or when in battles such as the Falaise Gap. After the battle, the German Army in France was destroyed as a coherant Army. No repetitions of WW1, the germans were destroyed in the Falaise Gap by both Armies. so the end result was a resounding success. Because everyone seems to concentrate on generalisations "Monty was too slow" or "The Americans were swanning off around France" we end up with bickering about who "didnt do what" instead of proper insights into the battle. What about the desperate defence put up by the germans? no-one seems to talk about that fact. Its the same with any discussion of Allied combined operations. It has the potential to descend into a squabble for credit at the expense of the other ally.
  14. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    I wonder if there are any WW2 German forums discussing who was at fault for letting the BEF get away in 1940 :lol:
    Oh I've seen a few of those threads before on another forum. :lol:
  15. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    Back to the original thread.

    the central fact that it was Field Marshal Montgomery who did not allow the Americans to move north of the inter-Army Group boundary just a few miles south of Argentan on the evening of 12 August 1944.

    Because they would have been blown to bits by the British Medium & Heavy Artillery which was firing at anything that moved
    and had to stop SOS because they were in danger of hitting the US Fdl's where they were, so exacerbating the situation.
    Paul Reed and dbf like this.
  16. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Can anyone really think for a second that the most determined man like Monty, would tell any one to stop.... What a ridiculous idea... Just goes to show how little the present generation knows about Monty.

    Monty was criticise for being too slow. When in fact he carried out his own plans ..That Culminated in the complete destruction of the German armies in France.... But still the ignorant try to vilify his name.

    Monty Took Normandy ten days to a fortnight ahead of schedule, and completed the most thorough, and for the Germans the most shattering defeat.....

    The scenes inside that pocket went on for mile after mile. Complete destruction with the stench of death overpowering..... German dead in bloody great big mounds and spread over the roads and ditches.... Falaise was the very epitome of hell on earth. It was a place of murderous ferocity..

    For everything that stood in Monty's path was swept away in an orgy of death and destruction. A wall of fire and steel that rolled across the countryside, destroying everything in its path.

    Monty destroyed their armies in the most pitiless onslaught imaginable. No quarter given.... Sweep the ground clean of the enemy....EVERYTHING was destroyed ... Nothing was left, except the dead and the mangled remains of the paraphernalia of war....

    And I witnessed much of it first hand. I doubt that the German army ever received such a bloody murderous onslaught. .And Monty rammed it home without mercy.

    Even then his armchair critics kept sniping at him. Even today it still remains.
  17. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Monty Took Normandy ten days to a fortnight ahead of schedule, and completed the most thorough, and for the Germans the most shattering defeat.....

    Hi Brian,

    1944 is four years too late for me but wasn't Caen 3 Div's objective on D-Day?

    It wasn't captured until quite sometime later IIRC -July or August?

    I know it's Wikipedia but I assume its reasonably accurate?

    Battle for Caen - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  18. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Monty and 21st Army Group met its 90 day and ultimate target ahead of time. What went on in between was Monty and 21st Army Group drawing the German Armoured Divisions onto itself (and destroying it piecemeal, not letting it concentrate) in order to allow the Americans to break out of Normandy, which in time they did. This was acknowledged by Eisenhower and Bradley in later life.

    Monty gets criticised, mainly on the other side of the pond, for not having met the D +1, D+5, etc. land grab targets, including clearing Caen. To Monty these targets didn't matter, they were merely guides, what mattered was the total destruction of the German Army's capability to wage war in Normandy and France; and this he achieved in no uncertain terms.

    In my opinion the man was the most competent military leader the Western Allies had in the Western Theatre of Operations and I think some of his US critics know he was, but still he gets 'rubbished' by them and unfairly so.

    I don't see people in the UK queueing up to criticise the US contribution and we could, but its not the way, generally, that we treat our Allies. Conversely, the same cannot be said about certain elements (and let me be clear on this, it is only certain elements, not all) in the US, who don't analyse their own generals with such vigour, but appear to spend their lives running down the personalities and achievements of the British and particularly Monty. This is what gets a lot of Brits saying 'oh no, not again' or fuming like Brian.

    To my mind, the fact that these individuals want to run down Monty's and the British Army's achievements is a back-handed compliment to him and the British Army. They are, either, jealous Anglophobes or revisionists trying to make a 'fast Buck' out of controversy.

    Here endeth my two pennies worth!


  19. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    That is right Drew, They sent bicycle troops to get Caen. . But then the Panzer's turned up. and actually reached the coast..

    I am not much pleased by your insinuation that our troops failed in their attacks. What you, and others, should remember that Sword was the most heavily defended area anywhere on the invasion coast.....

    When we came to "Hillman" (barring the path to Caen) we found a huge defensive position bristling with guns of every description, in an area 650 meters by 450 meters. No one could ever bypass a position of that strength. When they got there they found not one bomb or shell had fallen on the area. (Part of it is still there)

    That was where Lt Arthur Heal RE of my company, worked his way through the defences under heavy fire to create a Sheep track into the centre of the site.
    He should have had a VC. Instaed he gota CdeG

    When you level criticism... think first... Nowhere on the invasion coast was there defence in depth, like that the Sword beach companies had to face up to.

    Then you may also remember that we took on the Panzer's, while the Americans tried to take Cherbourg and break out. They took a real beating from their own air force, that meant we had to continue taking on the best while they reorganised.

    Then all the American army had to face was HALF a depleted Panzer div, the rest were around us getting themselves ground down.
    You may not know it Drew, but the area North of Caen was a murderous killing ground. Where the stench of death never left.

    So if you want to have another pop at Monty, or his forces? I have plenty more here to remind you of. For that was real war on a massive scale.....
  20. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot 1940 Obsessive

    Hi Brian,

    I've not had a pop at Monty....I just thought the British were a couple of months late taking Caen as originaly it was an objective for D-Day.

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