Historiography of the Falaise Gap

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

  1. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Johnathan -
    You will be accused of "stirring it" - if you're not careful - everybody and his brother knows that Military Consultants are paid to do just that - tell the film makers on how the Miltary DO things - not to create the scenario or script - the books on both films were written by a disaffected Southern Irishman who had no love for the British - then he died and the last film was directed / produced whatever by his equally malicious widow -

    and indeed as Gerard suggests - John Frost had a good innings as did Roy Urqhart- but without those chapters there was NO film !

    Then Gerard blots his copybook by suggesting that the British made Dam Busters film didn't recognise the 8th US Airforce for ALSO destroying the Ruhr - that film was not about the Ruhr per se but the destruction of the RUHR Dams - of which the US 8th or any other Airforce had any part...probably why they were not mentioned -

    and equally why Drew has never mentioned that any Americans were at Dunkirk with the BEF- same thing - they weren't there !
    Cheers
     
  2. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    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.

    And y'all wonder why so many of us do not like him and are embarrassed by his banal antics.
     
  3. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    George Blackburn in The Guns of Normandy

    "It is irritating to the point of enraging to read critical analyses of the shortcomings of men and officers engaged at the speahead of operations by critics with not a single day of frontline experience. Well-rested, well-fed, safe and secure, writing within the relaxed atmosphere of their homes or offices, with no responsibility for men's lives resting on their decisions...Clearly, when all the sinister mystery is removed from any battlefield as to what the enemy has over there beyond those trees, or among the silent rubbles of that village, or in the dead ground just over that ridge, any fool can decide what should have been done and the best way of doing it.

    And there is something particularly obscene about the works of historians who conduct coldblooded analyses and write without emotion of the accomplishments of units and the "fighting qualities" of men while never giving any indication they recognized and understand the frailty of the human spirit and the resolve of all men, regardless of training and background, when forced to live for days without end in a continuing agony of fear, made manageable only by the numbing effects of extreme fatigue.

    I think I would have keeled over in shock had I come across one historian, purporting to describe the battles on the road to Falaise, who once acknowledged that those battles (like those in every major operation extending over several weeks) were not fought by alert, well-rested, well-fed, healthy men, but by men suffering utter exhaustion, from heat and dysentery and the neverending itching induced by lice and sand fleas, from never being allowed to stretch out and get a night's sleep, and from continuously living with grinding tensions from the irrepressible dread of being blown to pieces or being left mangled and crippled.

    Everyone tends to forget just how awful some aspects were. I had to be reminded of my bout with disturbed bowels by an ex major of the Royal Regiment of Canada. His recall of one man's dysentery-induced expulsion aroused my own memories of the convulsive cramps and feverish, shuddering ague brought on by that damnable scourge that struck the Canadian Army around Verrieres before the drive down the Falaise road began, which worsened as time went on to the point where it came close to putting some units out of action when supplies of medicine to treat it ran out. Yet dysentery, if mentioned at all by historians, is touched on only in passing, as though of no more consequence than some monor irritating inconvenience like lice or mosquitoes.

    What a hellish nightmare it must have been for foot-soldiers with dysentery just to drag themselves over hill and dale, let alone dash here and there for cover when on the attack, and then dig in on the objective to meet the inevitable counter-attack. I wondered then and I wonder still how men found the will to move out from cover and risk death and crippling wounds day after day until they were wounded or killed. I saw them do it when they were so stunned by fatigue they scarcely flinched when an 88-mm whacked an airburst above them. And I saw them do it shortly after some opening rounds of a fire plan fell short, causing a few, overwrought with tension, to cry like babies.

    Armchair strategists writing of those days - whether British, American, or Canadian - have all spent too much time wondering why they were so slow getting down past Falaise to meet up with the Americans. They should have spent more time wondering how men ever summoned up the necessary moral courage and physical stamina to get there at all.

    Those base-wallahs who since the war have dared to criticize the Canadians for not closing the Falaise Gap sooner - inferring from what seems to have been slow daily progress a general lack of aggressiveness - were obviously not around at the time to see and experience what it was like for the troops at the cutting edge of the Canadian army. And while lack of first-hand experience in a writer may be forgiven, no such tolerance can be extended to those pretending to be historians who purposely ignore the evidence provided by the awful casualty rate among the Canadian divisions, which on the road to Falaise and beyond rose to twice the American rate and two and a half times the British rate (a rate the British considered unsustainable, causing them to set up a new category, 'Double Intense,' for measuring the intensity of battle).

    By mid-August the nine 2nd Cdn Division infantry battalions were 1,900 short of establishment in their fighting strength of 5,040.
     
  4. canuck

    canuck Token Colonial Patron

    Part 2

    George Blackburn in The Guns of Normandy

    "As in World War I, some staff officers and field commanders, to escape criticism, blamed the fighting men for failures. Thus we have the ridiculous declaration by Lt-General Charles Foulkes, CO of 2nd Division, that "at Falaise and Caen, we found that when we bumped into battle-experienced German troops, we were no match for them."

    "Bumped into"? Foulkes infanty brigades were never out of contact with the best troops...from when 2nd Division entered battle, south of Caen, to Falaise and beyond. And it was the German elite SS units that were shredded, defeated, and herded to their destruction in the Falaise pocket - not the other way around!

    But historians have lent status to such myths, thus guaranteeing their perpetuation by writers following behind, while largely ignoring the fact that the greatest failure in Normandy was the tanks, not the heroes who manned them....Every man in every armoured division, from the Officers Commanding down to the lowliest driver, within hours of arriving in Normandy, was aware that in any confrontation with German tanks, few Allied tanks would live to fight another day....Suppression of the facts may have been justified at the time to prevent demoralization of the Allied armies, but the irrefutable fact that our tankmen were equipped with grossly inferior weapons which which to push through the German Panthers and Tigers on the road to Falaise should not have been ignored by our historians. To have done so is inexcusable."
     
  5. Jonathan Ball

    Jonathan Ball It's a way of life.

    Tom

    Not trying to stir anything but if people wish to accuse me of doing so then so be it. The point I was trying to make was that Richard Attenborough chose to surround himeslf with predominantly British military advisors. Even the score to the film was written by a Market Garden Veteran, John Addison, who wrote the music as "as a tribute to his fellow tankers of XXX Corps"

    And I thought that it might be useful to add the following as an indicator of Attenborough's intentions. It's from the BFI's Sight and Sound magazine, hardly a bastion of revisionist history and is from Bill Goldman, the scriptwriter..

    "Attenborough felt to tell the story correctly a three-hour movie was required. He wasn't about to 'Hollywood-up' the Battle of Arnhem. This was complicated for me as I had never written a story that long - most movie scripts have to be brought in at 1 hour 50 minutes. It was a different type of script writing than I was used to"
     
  6. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    What annoys me; is that 99% of the authors that write about war and conflict have never heard a gun fired....... Yet these pompous buggers write stuff about the life and deaths of brave men, as though they have had battle experience.

    That is further complicated, by numerous quote from passages from other authors books. Each time a little gets added. taken away, or twisted. So what evolves is a right old mish mash of authors prejudices.....

    Oddly enough when faced with the experience of men that fought, and were wounded on the ground! , they much prefer the narrative of these authors who's only ambition is to make MONEY from their books..

    Even to believing every word they write.... Then here we have a situation where if a fake veteran was found posturing in his medals and uniform.... he would be subjected to a great deal of animosity... Yet when authors write their "own versions" of what took place.. All the barmy lot believe them "hook line and sinker"....
    Odd very odd.
    Sapper
     
  7. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Brian - Paul Reed and many other members on here write books about WW1 and WW2 and have never seen action as far as I'm aware. What books I've read by them on 1940 France have been very good too.

    If the veterans like yourself don't write books (for whatever reason) then who will?
     
  8. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    My distaste is for the American authors not our own historical writers.
     
  9. Drew5233

    Drew5233 #FuturePilot Patron 1940 Obsessive

    We have American authors on here too, One recently received an award for his book about the (I believe) British Army at the end of the war.
     
  10. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    So what? That does not detract from the fact that the USA film industry and their authors have so changed the actual history, that their version is now the accepted version of events...NOT the true one.

    History is now the accepted American Legend. Film created......
     
  11. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    The Film industry employs script writers for entertainment in order to make money, I for one certainly do not confuse it with fact. Sapper, the way you've expressed yourself it seems that you have a poor opinion of the rest of us - who apparently are incapable of telling the difference between 'history' and a film, or 'history' and opinion. Some of us had our interest in WW2 piqued by pulp fiction and blockbuster films, and were later quite able to sort the wheat from the chaff.

    Measuring an entire nation's authors by the Holywood yardstick is a little unfair. I'd rather read a bad book than none at all. At least it creates debate. I'd be interested in which authors you particularly find so offensive in their opinions and why. As you yourself have said before - sources please?

    I go along with what my father once said when asked about A Bridge Too Far ... "It's only a film." But then he would know, his platoon having been on the backs of the leading 2IG tanks on 17 Sept 44. And I have Cornelius Ryan and his wife to thank for recording the thoughts of Dad's best mate, his platoon commander and his CO, when no-one else bothered.
     
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  12. falaisegap

    falaisegap Junior Member

    We have American authors on here too, One recently received an award for his book about the (I believe) British Army at the end of the war.

    It is unfortunate but one does have to take the writer's country of origin into account when reading his/her stuff. There is a definite political tweak given to many accounts of the war in Europe - on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The redeeming thing about history is that none of us has the final word. Military history is an evolving process. Those things which get our blood pressure up today, will probably not make a footnote 100 years from now.
     
  13. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    I could choose to get all bent out of shape by the way the South is portrayed in TV and movies by people who have never even lived here, but I don't. I know how the people I live around conduct themselves.

    I recently saw a video posted from Top Gear. It showed Alabama in such a poor light. I shook it off, because I know that for every incident like that demostrated in the clip, there would be 100 of the opposite, with the actors being treated cordially. That is just the way it is-they sell to their audience and there are ignorant people everywhere you go, probably even within walking distance of that show's producers.

    Brian, even as a child watching those movies, I understood that they were just movies and not necessarily factual. I remember watching the infamous scene in the movie The Battle of the Bulge (1965) where the German tanks were stopped at the fuel dump when the soldiers that were guarding it rolled barrels of fuel down a hill and blew up the tanks and their crew. I knew even then as a small boy that it was total BS.
     
  14. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin

    I could choose to get all bent out of shape by the way the South is portrayed in TV and movies by people who have never even lived here, but I don't. I know how the people I live around conduct themselves.

    I recently saw a video posted from Top Gear. It showed Alabama in such a poor light. I shook it off, because I know that for every incident like that demostrated in the clip, there would be 100 of the opposite, with the actors being treated cordially. That is just the way it is-they sell to their audience and their are ignorant people everywhere you go, probably even within walking distance of that show's producers.

    Brian, even as a child watching those movies, I understood that they were just movies and not necessarily factual. I remember watching the infamous scene in the movie The Battle of the Bulge (1965) where the German tanks were stopped at the fuel dump when the soldiers that were guarding it rolled barrels of fuel down a hill and blew up the tanks and their crew. I knew even then as a small boy that it was total BS.

    Jeff,

    I treat all war films as purely entertainment, no matter where produced.

    Films purporting to be documentaries, when not sticking to the facts as known can be criticised.
    But no-one is perfect and how many times do we read a book and see something written that is not correct or a photograph labelled completely incorrectly.

    I usually mark the page and write in my correction.

    From my past visits I only have positive remarks to make on Southern Hospitality.

    Regards
    Tom
     
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  15. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Old Hickory Recon

    Jeff,

    From my past visits I only have positive remarks to make on Southern Hospitality.

    Regards
    Tom

    If you visit the deep South again, please set aside some time to visit with me. I could teach you our secret handshakes and what-not.
     
  16. Rob Dickers

    Rob Dickers 10th MEDIUM REGT RA

    To me its simple, if you are serious about the study of a ww1/2 battle or engagement you do a number of things full stop.

    1) You read the best possible account you can find of the action, preferably by someone who took part.
    2) If possible,you talk to a veteran/s who was there at the time.
    3) Study the Diaries of all the Regts involved.
    4) Study the Issums of all the Regts involved.
    5) Study the Sitreps of all Regts & Commands at the time.
    6) Formulate it into a report, book or web-site.
    7) Be prepared to be criticised and told you've got it wrong by everyone & anyone in the military history world.
    :) Bob's your uncle.
    Rob
     
  17. sapper

    sapper WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    If I get very annoyed at times? WHO ME???....No not me! NEVER! ....It is because I hate to see the sacrifices of our men, and our allies, belittled. They paid with their lives for the privilege of letting us argue!

    Being a veteran I have had friends from around the world visit my family and myself....From many different Countries. We cherish their friendship.
     
  18. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    How is any criticism of any general, his tactics, or motivations in any way belittling sacrifices made by those who followed his orders. I fail to see the link.

    If that was the case then all the points made about eg Clark and Patton would apply to the men who served under them. Surely not.
     
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  19. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Dianne
    I don't think that Sapper - or myself have ever critisised the men under either Clark or Patton in fact they were very quick to learn which showed up against the British Army which had to RE-learn the way to fight the enemy - so it was a case of education as opposed to re - education....in most cases - - the Generalship of those two were always brought into question because it cost lives of those who had no say in the matter - not that we ever thought it was democratic - but those two acted like despots at times.

    On the authorship of many - Sapper has good points inasmuch as SOME authors tend to read another Authors books - and accept that as gospel - thus the fiction and revisions were made - in my own case - I was reading a book one day when it struck me that this was an absolute fictional account of the death of my Troop Leader....I found the writer and gave him hell....he apologised - but the damage was done and so I wrote the TRUE version of that day- which is now in the common domain and can be read in the BBC series Archive under the title of " The Battle at San Martino " in the Gothic lIne on 17th September 1944 - if anyone is at all interested.

    BBC - WW2 People's War - The Gothic Line: The Battle for San Martina

    So how many future authors will take on his fiction ?
    Cheers
     
  20. dbf

    dbf Moderatrix MOD

    Tom
    I never suggested that you had criticised men. It just reads like Sapper thinks all those who criticise Generals are belittling the men. If he intended to mean something else, then with all respect, it's not very clear.

    I am not happy with sweeping generalisations about authors (are there any good ones?), whole nations or indeed their leaders, or the idea that films are mistaken for educational tools by gullible post war generations. Specifics are what interest me. I am aware of the example you gave. However, it must be pointed out that if an error led you to publish a correct version in response, then is that not a good thing in the end?

    Regards

    PS I'll edit the link into your post.
     
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