Historiography of the Falaise Gap

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

  1. Paul Reed

    Paul Reed Ubique

    Caen on D Day was an ambitious plan and as Brian has mentioned few realise how tough D Day was for British troops. However, it didn't take 'months' to capture, it actually fell to British and Canadian troops on 9 July.
     
  2. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Lads, what on earth has Caen got to do with the Falaise Gap?
     
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  3. Swiper

    Swiper Resident Sospan

    I have recently been reading German accounts and books on this area as well as more specific areas to me...

    German troops did break through Allied lines in places in Falaise - and to have closed it sooner would have definately led to more confusion. The German forces were in total chaos and command/control had collapsed.

    All the evidence stands that most officers - asides that moron Patton - believed that closing the Falaise gaps was too dangerous due to FF.

    I mean at the end of the day, part of the problem on this discussion is that this is a complex operation full of inaccuracies. Terry Copp argues 53 Div was static for much of the attack, when it was clearly fighting forward each day.
     
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  4. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    I mean at the end of the day, part of the problem on this discussion is that this is a complex operation full of inaccuracies. Terry Copp argues 53 Div was static for much of the attack, when it was clearly fighting forward each day.

    From the 10 Med War-Diary
    Regimental Reps attending conference about the controlling of the 53rd Divisions advance South-East to FALAISE,
    the 53rd were moving so fast that they had to fire green verey lights in order that their troops could be distinguished from the dozens of enemy groups in the area.

    Rob
     
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I don't know how Winterbotham is rated but a very quick glance at The ULTRA Secret has me thinking that he wants us to think that he orchestrated the creation of the pocket. That makes me a little bit suspicious.

    Winterbotham says he and his colleagues were puzzled when they received no news of the expected (by them) American attack on Argentan around 13 Aug:

    Nothing came. It was to be a long time later before I heard the story, as told me by the Americans. Apparently, just as General Haislip was preparing his XV Corps to attack northward to capture Argentan, he had a signal from Bradley telling him to stop offensive operations and to wait further orders. Haislip must have had every reason to be puzzled. Even if Montgomery couldn't make headway from the north to close the gap, what had happened to stop Bradley doing it from the south? It transpired that in the plans for Overlord a line dividing the operational zones of the British and American forces had been drawn and it passed through Argentan, which meant that in normal circumstances Montgomery would have to give Bradley permission to cross this line from the south. As Eisenhower was with Bradley, no doubt he had to advise Bradley to stick to the agreement not to cross the line until Montgomery should suggest it, but I don't suppose that either of them thought that Montgomery would fail to do so.

    So Bradley comes up against his boundary and decides to sit with his thumb up his arse until Montgomery reads his mind and tells him what to do? (I'm not suggesting that's what happened, just how it reads to me.) Why does Bradley not ask if the boundary can be crossed or moved? Even the Anglophobe's favorites (sic), the Desert Rats, had the gumption to ask if they could cross into US V Corps area on their way down to Villers-Bocage.

    In terms of the history, does anyone know what actually happened:
    i) Did Bradley ask Monty, and Monty said 'no' or
    ii) Did Bradley not ask Monty, and Monty said nothing?
     
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  6. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    I said in my earlier post that I wasn't an expert on this (or any other) battle and didn't really want to get into all the "controversy" around this.

    But I did come across this quote from Bradley and thought others might be interested (if, in fact, they don't already know it):
    But by that time, what could have been a great encirclement echoing some of the pivotal battles on the Eastern Front had become something less a victory, but one qualified by the number of German forces that had been able to flee through the gap. The fact that enemy forces did escape outraged American commanders, from the even-tempered Eisenhower and Bradley to the mercurial Patton. They saw it as yet another example of bad generalship by Montgomery, who pressured the pocket's western end, squeezing the Germans out eastward like a tube of toothpaste, rather than capping the open gap. Patton, ever aggressive, pleaded with Bradley for clearance to cut across the narrow gap, in front of retreating German forces, from Argentan north to Falaise. But Bradley wisely demurred, recognizing that the outnumbered Americans might be "trampled" by the German divisions racing for the gap. "I much preferred," Bradley recollected subsequently, "a solid shoulder at Argentan to the possibility of a broken neck at Falaise."

    That's from - D Day: Closing the Gap at Falaise - but sadly no source is cited for the quote. It's from "The U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II - D Day 1944 - Air Power Over the Normandy Beaches and Beyond" by, if I read it right, Air Force Historian Richard P. Hallion. This has the look of a US Official History to my untrained eye but I could be wrong.

    This suggests that Bradley was happy to stop at Argentan. Although it doesn't say if he decided to do so himself or was ordered to, does that really matter if he agreed with the decision anyway?

    But what is interesting is the disagreement about the strategy for the battle generally - the toothpaste tube approach versus a Soviet style encirclement.

    What I've read about the Eastern Front, particularly about the Soviet encirclement of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, is that it was successful because it was a double encirclement. One force facing in to stop a breakout: another force facing out to stop a break in.

    That, of course, took months of planning and organisation (while the Germans were sucked into and pinned down in trying to take Stalingrad) and extremely large numbers of troops, tanks etc. (even by Eastern Front standards). It also took a military doctrine that was content to sacrifice whatever men and materiel it took to win.

    Did the Allies on the Western Front have anything like the numbers to achieve this?

    And, even if they did, numbers alone are not enough. You need plans in place to carry it out. In the fluid circumstances of the breakout from the Normandy beachhead, was it reasonable or feasible to have planned for such an operation? Could the Allied commanders have done anything else when presented, fortuitously, with such a pocket as the one at Falaise?

    In the event, and as Sapper has said, the trapped Germans took an absolute kicking from both Allied ground and air forces. Even though some escaped the pocket, they were driven from France in headlong retreat, never to return. The pace of the retreat was such that the chasing Allied forces (even Patton) couldn’t keep up and had to stop because their supply lines were so overstretched.

    In the circumstances, wasn’t that more than enough?
     
  7. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Monty and 21st Army Group met its 90 day and ultimate target ahead of time.
    true
    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.
    true
    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.
    Best I remember, no landing forces met their D, D+1 objectives.

    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.
    I read this board, and others. I have to strongly disagree with your statement.
    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.
    That road travels both ways.

    I am not interested in discussing actions strictly based on a nationalist basis. No leader was perfect in anything that he does. What irritates me is those who cannot aknowledge failings among the successes. After all, one man's frank assessment is another man's rabble rousing...
     
  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Right back to just after the war, the USA propaganda machine was working overtime in trying to show how the USA had won the war.

    .As to criticising the actions of the British? That has a hollow ring to it when you consider the bloody awful waste of lives on Omaha..... And where were their leaders to get them off the killing ground. Or of the USA Air force, that bombed the living .
    daylights out of their assembled army, just before the planned break out.

    Even with just half a depleted Panzer div to stop them, they still made hard work of it...

    Come to that. What happened at Overloon? Was it the 7th USA armoured that took casualties and departed to the South... never to be seen again? Was it called the "Ghost Division"? Where they failed, we took it on, and suffered twice the casualties and took Overloon by the 18th .....Now safely in our hand's.

    None of the USA invasion areas had anything like the defences that we came across... The evidence is still there for all to see.
    Am I critical of our American friends in battle? NO certainly not. Just lets get the facts right. Great Mates...Really....Just lets get the facts right that is all. I have several pages of our casualties here at my home. I cannot tolerate criticism of their sacrifices Specially when its untrue.
    Sapper
     
  9. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Right back to just after the war, the USA propaganda machine was working overtime in trying to show how the USA had won the war.


    Brian, you have accused the US of this time out of hand yet you've never once provided proof of this. What exactly are you refuting? specifically what works of what writers have you got an issue with? What Hollywood films do you have an issue with and why? No good throwing out assertions without backing them up. I'm not saying you are wrong but without any credible proof you just come across as having a "strawman" argument. Give us some examples to back up your assertions. :huh:
     
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  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    Dempsey's diary for 13 Aug 44:
    1215 - Flew to 21 Army Group and there met C-in-C and General Bradley. We discussed future operations-particularly as regards Army Group and Army boundaries; and the bringing up by Third Army of another Corps directed on LAIGLE.
    So long as the Northward move of Third Army meets little opposition, the two leading Corps will disregard inter-Army boundaries.
    The whole aim is to establish forces across the enemy's lines of communication so as to impede - if not prevent entirely - his withdrawal.

    Hamilton, Monty: Master of the Battlefield 1942-1944

    Another point Hamilton makes is that, at that stage, the Canadians were planning another deliberate, TOTALIZE-style attack to the south with bomber support. He suggests that Bradley preferred not to get his forces too close to the planned attack in the light of recent experience of own goals by the bombers.
     
  11. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Right back to just after the war, the USA propaganda machine was working overtime in trying to show how the USA had won the war.

    .As to criticising the actions of the British? That has a hollow ring to it when you consider the bloody awful waste of lives on Omaha..... And where were their leaders to get them off the killing ground. Or of the USA Air force, that bombed the living .
    daylights out of their assembled army, just before the planned break out.

    Even with just half a depleted Panzer div to stop them, they still made hard work of it...

    Come to that. What happened at Overloon? Was it the 7th USA armoured that took casualties and departed to the South... never to be seen again? Was it called the "Ghost Division"? Where they failed, we took it on, and suffered twice the casualties and took Overloon by the 18th .....Now safely in our hand's.

    None of the USA invasion areas had anything like the defences that we came across... The evidence is still there for all to see.
    Am I critical of our American friends in battle? NO certainly not. Just lets get the facts right. Great Mates...Really....Just lets get the facts right that is all. I have several pages of our casualties here at my home. I cannot tolerate criticism of their sacrifices Specially when its untrue.
    Sapper
    Brian, the 7th Armored was called the Lucky Seventh. The 7th Panzer Division was called the Ghost Division.

    Tell you what, why dont you give the Americans any credit? Both Armies contributed to victory, true? Of course it is.
     
  12. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Gerard.
    Good heavens man, have you never watched the Hollywood wars? Dozens of films every one glorifying the USA. with faint praise for the Brits......

    They even won Burma..... Bot to mention how they captured the Enigma Code machine. They insisted that on Sword we had it "easy" Just goes to show how ignorant they were.

    They done a great job of trying to destroy the Brits reputation, with "A bridge too far"
    Absolute nonsense. One moment they were accusing Monty of being too slow, the next that he was too reckless over the long, but golden chance to end the war by Christmas at Arnhem. By breaking through into the Northern German plains.

    WE had chased the enemy across France, and into Holland...What would you do then Sit on your hands because it was too difficult to go further???

    If youi had taken the trouble to read my posting ?? I paid them fulsome praise, I fought along side them and we got on very well Great.

    While we are about it, is there anything in my posting that is not true????
    Sapper
     
  13. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Here are the Military Consultants who worked on the movie A Bridge Too Far

    Colonel John Waddy
    Major General John Dutton Frost
    General James M. Gavin
    Lieutenant General Brian Horrocks
    Major General Roy Urquhart
    Brigadier J.O.E. Vandeleur

    I would like to think five of them at least would not have participated in a venture that was "trying to destroy the Brits reputation"
     
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  14. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Sapper -
    as always - I am with you 100% - but my only contribution will be that - like Idler - when he quotes Dempsey on the boundaries etc - but it is some time since I read that particular book but my memory is that Dempsey had experience of Patton in Sicily and was aware of a boast by the same Patton that he would continue at Falaise by pushing the Brits into the sea like another Dunkirk and so he - Dempsey - asked the plug to be pulled just in case Patton tried it on ! So it was all Dempsey's fault !

    Supplementary Comment - and NOT designed to cause a fight Owen -- is I can't wait until Drew finally gets past the BEF and starts on the Italian campaign and asks why did we take five months to get past a Monastery on some kind of hill.....
    Cheers - love to Shiela - Tom
     
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  15. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    is I can't wait until Drew finally gets past the BEF and starts on the Italian campaign and asks why did we take five months to get past a Monastery on some kind of hill.....



    I got major giggles now.
    ;)
     
  16. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    It will never happen - I'd rather be a master of one trade than a jack of all....Besides I know where I stand with the BEF - we lost ! ;)
     
  17. Steve Mac

    Steve Mac Very Senior Member

    Lost? I always thought it was a strategic withdrawal, whilst carrying a bloodied nose! :wink:
     
  18. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Gerard.
    Good heavens man, have you never watched the Hollywood wars? Dozens of films every one glorifying the USA. with faint praise for the Brits......



    While we are about it, is there anything in my posting that is not true????
    Sapper
    Thats because most of them arent about the Brits, Sapper!! :lol:. Hollywood is an American Industry and most of their war movies are from theUS perspective. "The Longest Day" was adapted from a book, as was "A Bridge too Far".

    I've yet to see a British film in which the Americans are glorified, if we take your logic and roll with it then "The Dambusters" is no better than any Hollywood production, and why?? Because there is no praise in it given to the US 8th Air Force!!! You'd think that the RAF single-handedly destroyed the Ruhr!!
     
  19. Gerard

    Gerard Seelow/Prora

    Gerard.
    Good heavens man, have you never watched the Hollywood wars? Dozens of films every one glorifying the USA. with faint praise for the Brits......

    They even won Burma..... Bot to mention how they captured the Enigma Code machine. They insisted that on Sword we had it "easy" Just goes to show how ignorant they were.

    They done a great job of trying to destroy the Brits reputation, with "A bridge too far"

    No they didnt. Frosts brigade was shown in a very favourable light. As was Urquhart. I do take your point about "stopping for tea" though.
     
  20. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Right back to just after the war, the USA propaganda machine was working overtime in trying to show how the USA had won the war.

    .As to criticising the actions of the British? That has a hollow ring to it when you consider the bloody awful waste of lives on Omaha..... And where were their leaders to get them off the killing ground. Or of the USA Air force, that bombed the living .
    daylights out of their assembled army, just before the planned break out.

    Even with just half a depleted Panzer div to stop them, they still made hard work of it...

    Come to that. What happened at Overloon? Was it the 7th USA armoured that took casualties and departed to the South... never to be seen again? Was it called the "Ghost Division"? Where they failed, we took it on, and suffered twice the casualties and took Overloon by the 18th .....Now safely in our hand's.

    None of the USA invasion areas had anything like the defences that we came across... The evidence is still there for all to see.
    Am I critical of our American friends in battle? NO certainly not. Just lets get the facts right. Great Mates...Really....Just lets get the facts right that is all. I have several pages of our casualties here at my home. I cannot tolerate criticism of their sacrifices Specially when its untrue.
    Sapper

    Brian,

    I'm sure Barack Obama will correct all those misconceptions and give the U.K. it's proper credit after all these years.

    Oh, wait, maybe not:

    Barack Obama’s top 10 insults against Britain – Telegraph Blogs

    I guess it will always be a love-hate relationship. If only Lady Diana had commanded the ground forces in Normandy. Patton would have killed himself to get his photo taken with her.
     

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