Montgomery Controversy

Discussion in 'General' started by merdiolu, Dec 12, 2013.

  1. idler

    idler GeneralList

    A lot of the German generals were mined for information after the war the US Army, partly as a measure of US performance but also because of their increasingly relevant experiences against the Russians. There is a caveat surrounding these reports that they may not be entirely objective as the writers may have been eager to please their captors/masters/employers. As an example: Bayerlein, in his post-war reports on Pz Lehr Div, even admits to the US interviewers that he'd told the British what he thought they'd want to hear.
    Combover likes this.
  2. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    The full context:

    The Other Side Of The Hill

    page 355

    What did the German generals think of their Western opponents
    ? They were diffident in expressing an opinion on this
    matter, but I gathered a few impressions in the course of our
    talks. In a reference to the Allied commanders, Rundstedt said:
    "Montgomery and Patton were the two best that I met. Field Marshal
    Montgomery was very systematic." He added: "That
    is all right if you have sufficient forces, and sufficient time."
    Blumentritt made a similar comment. After paying tribute to
    the speed of Patton drive, he added: "Field-Marshal Montgomery
    was the one general who never suffered a reverse. He
    moved like this"-Blumentritt took a series of very deliberate
    and short steps, putting his foot down heavily each time.
    Giving his impression of the different qualities of the British
    and American troops, Blumentritt said: "The Americans attacked
    with zest, and had a keen sense of mobile action, but when
    they came under heavy artillery fire they usually fell back-even
    after they had made a successful penetration. By contrast, once
    the British had got their teeth in, and had been in a position
    for twenty-four hours, it proved almost impossible to shift them.
    To counter-attack the British always cost us very heavy losses.

    I had many opportunities to observe this interesting difference
    in the autumn of 1944, when the right half of my corps faced
    the British, and the left half the American."
    In subsequent comment on the broad strategic situation after
    the collapse of the front in France, Blumentritt said: "The best
    course of the Allies would have been to concentrate a really
    strong striking force with which to break through past Aachen
    to the Ruhr area. Strategically and politically, Berlin was the
    target. Germany's strength is in the north. South Germany was
    a side issue. He who holds northern Germany holds Germany.
    Such a break-through, coupled with air domination, would have
    torn in pieces the weak German front and ended the war. Berlin
    and Prague would have been occupied ahead of the Russians.
    There were no German forces behind the Rhine, and at the end
    of August our front was wide open.
    "There was an operational break-through in the Aachen
    area, in September. This facilitated a rapid conquest of the
    Ruhr and a quicker advance on Berlin. By turning the forces
    from the Aachen area sharply northward, the German 15th and
    1st Parachute Armies could have been pinned against the estuaries
    of the Mass and the Rhine. They could not have escaped
    eastwards into German."
    Blumentritt considered that the Allied offensive had been too
    widely and evenly spread. He was particularly critical of the
    attack towards Metz, pointing out that the forces available to
    defend this sector along the Moselle were better relatively than
    elsewhere. "A direct attack on Metz was unnecessary. The
    Metz fortress area could have been masked. In contrast, a
    swerve northward in the direction of Luxembourg and Bitburg
    would have met with great success and caused the collapse of
    the right flank of our 7th Army. By such a flank move to the
    north the entire 7th Army could have been cut off before it
    could retreat behind the Rhine. Thus the bulk of the defeated
    German Army would have been wiped out west of the Rhine.
    Then the Allies' main attack could have continued towards
    Magdeburg and Berlin, while the side-attack converged in the
    same direction past Frank-furt-on-Main and Erfurt.
    All the German generals to whom I talked were of the opinion
    that the Allied Supreme Command had missed a great
    opportunity of ending the war in the autumn of 1944. They
    agreed with Montgomery's view that this could best have been
    achieved by concentrating all possible resources on a thrust in

    the north, towards Berlin.
    Student, who was placed in charge of that flank with the so called"
    1st Parachute Army", emphasized this point. "The
    sudden penetration of the British tank forces into Antwerp
    took the Fuhrer's Headquarters utterly by surprise. At that
    moment we had no disposable reserves worth mentioning either
    on the western front or within our own country, I took over
    the command of the right wing of the western front on the
    Albert Canal on September 4th. At that moment I had only
    recruit and convalescent units and one coast· defence division
    from Holland. They were reinforced by a panzer detachment of
    merely twenty-five tanks and self-propelled guns !" His front

    stretched a hundred miles.

    page 352
    General Elfeldt who commanded the 84th Corps, holding that
    sector, at the foot of the Cherbourg Peninsula

    Fortunately the American pressure on his front and immediate
    flanks was not too dangerous-Patton's 3rd Army was moving
    on a wider circuit. "The American troops, of the 1st Army,
    on my front were not at all clever tactically. They failed to
    seize opportunities--in particular they missed several chances of
    cutting off the whole of my corps. The Allied air force was
    the most serious danger.
    stolpi likes this.
  3. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    That says it all I guess…when the enemy knows what would have worked ..Alanbrooke threw up his hands also and thought the war would be extended by another six months

  4. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Now Tom, there you go again. Pulling a Nelson on us by raising a spyglass to a blind eye so as to not gaze upon a sight rather not seen.

    As a veteran of the Tunisian Campaign you can attest that launching a assault against a prepared defensive position is more challenging than to fight a defensive battle as in El Guettar. You can also attest that while Gabes was an objective of II Corps, it would have been impossible to array the whole corps against a single point and fullfill its other commitments. Nor are units who have been in action and movement over broken ground for some 6 months would be at full strength to make such an assault.

    I believe the US 1st and 9th Infantry as well as a Combat Command (1/3rd) of the 1st Armord Divisions took part in the attempted assault. Perhaps 30 to 35,000 men, and not 88,000 as you suggest. You can also attest that Allied divisions of the period had a much longer and larger Logistics tail than their Axis opponents, thereby reducing the numbers of "spear carriers" by percentage actually engaged. This would give the US attack a 4 or 5 to one advantage and not the 11 to one you imply by your numbers.

    It is generally accepted that, all things being equal, a 3 or 4 to one advantage is essential to have a chance of success executing an attack. Over rough ground that US troops had to traverse to reach Gabes, a higher ratio is not uncommon. This also discounts that the attempt was made about a week and a half after victory at El Guettar and some four weeks after the Kasserine rout.

    Compare this to the Some of Western Desert Force-8th Army attacks after stopping a Axis attack. Operation Brevity was launched after a similar period time to prepare and with much the same results as seen at Gabes. Operation Battleaxe launched about a month after Brevity, met with a similar result. It took a 6 month period of reorganization before Operation Crusader could produce a victory. After another success by Rommel who reversed that result, it took 8th Army some three months to prepare its counter attack under Montgomery.

    By those standards a force with only 6 months combat under their belts do not compare all that unfavorably.
  5. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    it really gets to you doesn't it that I continue to belittle the efforts of Patton - fact is he was asked to halt the retreat of the three panzer divisions who had been clobbered by Monty at both Medenine

    and again at El Hamma - no matter how many men were involved and how tired they might have been - or how far away were their supplies - Monty's supplies were even further away - Patton failed

    to throw a cordon over mid Tunisia and all three Panzer divisions escaped to fight some more - that to our minds was a failure… and I am quite sure that had you been there at that time - without all

    your fancy reference books et al- you just might have felt the same as we did much later when he high tailed it to Palermo and Clark did his thing at Valmontone…..what you people forget it that

    the men on the spot know what goes on - AT THE TIME - as they are directly affected - fact is that failures of this kind cost a great deal of unnecessary lives of our comrades and we tend to level that

    at those who fail … you should re - read what M Kenny posts on posting #162..for what the enemy Generals had to say… and please try not to insult me further...

  6. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    Many of the post war German accounts were also exceptionally self serving. Meyer's two volumes on the 12th SS being a case in point. There was more than a little arrogance amongst the professional officer corps. at having suffered defeat at the hands of Allied 'amateurs' so many attributed their defeats exclusively to Allied material superiority. When General Von Straube surrendered to the Canadians in 1945, he was hopeful that he had at least been defeated by a professional soldier. The 8th Infantry Brigade Brigadier, Jim Roberts, disappointed him by advising, " In civilian life, I made ice cream".
    Arrogance and an air of superiority was quite common among captured German officers during the NW Europe campaign so it is a stretch to believe they would be inclined to praise Allied commanders and even less likely to confess to any errors or shortcomings.
    Combover likes this.
  7. Wills

    Wills Very Senior Member

    Evolved into discrediting evidence to suit- logic versus emotion? Find it odd that German generals would be selective with their memories - the German staff kept meticulous records and diaries in great detail - would they spin a line only to be found out later?
  8. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    Tom nobody is insulting anyone or belittle anyone's efforts. If I gave that impression personally I am sorry. I do not think that was belasar's intention either. Yes historical writing , publications , reviews can be selective according to nationality or which side you are on. Actually in my opinion no commander (despite their kick a... reputation among Axis and Allies) were perfect during war. If in this forum we are doing armchair strategy from our homes about events happened 70 years ago that is because we want to understand that era a bit more. I personally was not there.....I do not think most of us were there either. No one is claiming otherwise.

    Definetely agree on this. German generals memory was very selective and they are quite self serving and apolagic about their wartime records. One should read Albert Kesselring's memories. He claims preperations for a sucessful invasion of Britain was possible and RAF was not a big obstacle.
  9. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    I can accept your reasoning about trying to learn about the era which you and others missed owing to age etc ..BUT.. the Veterans on this forum - and you will note that I capitalize the word

    Veteran as I seemingly have more respect for them as than others appear to be missing in that respect….I do know that all Veterans KNOW the essential difference between Attack and

    Defence and to claim that US 2nd Corps ONLY had an advantage of 4- 5 to one is to MOST Veterans - Laughable…when in fact they were clobbered by an understrength 10th Panzer Division in

    retreat from their own clobbering earlier by Monty who would have given his right arm to have any advantage near to 3 - 1… should also be recalled that Churchill complained bitterly over

    the fact that 8th Army had a total of 160K men appear for rations and pay - but only 100K appear to fight and as History records the joint 1st and 8th Army captured a total of 250k of the joint enemy

    at Cap Bon / Tunis etc doesn't come close to any advantage….and it is well known that there were very few concrete highways in Tunisia so 8th Army must have had the same bumpy and dusty

    paths to follow all the way from El Alamein and fighting in the same slow way as they did in WW1….Monty had this strange idea that he should save his men's lives by using Artillery - Bombs -

    anything that would kill Germans and not in the costly chase to capture territory such as Palermo - Messina - Rome -Paris etc


    follow all the way from El Alamein

  10. merdiolu

    merdiolu Junior Member

    which books do you recommend about Montgomery ? I have "Montgomery" biography written by Roland Lewin , his three volume bio written by Nigel Hamilton and Monty : A Lonely Leader written by Alastair Horne plus "Monty and Rommel : Parallel Lives" written by Caddick Adams. D you know any more resources that might shed any more info ?
  11. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    By no means, but I do object to the use of selected facts, especially if those facts used are intended to present a misleading image to push an agenda.

    Nor do I think much of holding American troops with 6 months combat experience to standards you do not hold British troops to with two, three and in some cases, four times the battle experience.

    How many times did 8th Army attempt to breach the Axis line at El Alamein? Even excluding Auchenleck's attacks after the 1st battle of El Alamein, they were more than the two attempted by II Corps. Even after the breach, 15th & 21st Panzer and 90th Light "escaped to fight some more". Should we then now proclaim it a failure?

    It seems clear that your opinion of American troops and commanders were formed at Kasserine and Gabes and seems never to have wavered since.
    A-58 likes this.
  12. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    If you will sort out your thinking you might find that I have never castigated the American TROOPS per se but rather the American LEADERS so called

    but you are right starting at Kasserine with the so called leadership - then Gabes when Patton took over -and again at Palermo- then with Clark at Salerno -

    Anzio - Valmontone and Florence - Gothic Line etc - back to Patton at Faliase - again at the bulge where he was joined by Collins in disobedience to his new

    Boss - Monty in not complying to create a counter attack reserve….Bradley at the Bulge also - it went on and on….and that was just your MAIN leaders as

    the lower Officer ranks appeared to be even worse…….and History appears to back me up as do the enemy Generals……and the only Leaders of merit in

    the many wars you have failed to win since WW2 were MacArthur at Korea and " Stormin " Norman at Irag 1… go ahead and tell me I am wrong...

  13. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran


    This is very strange as you have so many books on Monty especially Nigel Hamilton's trllogy as I cannot imagine anyone having such a divergent

    view of the man - and I am assuming that you have actually READ them all - and not just collecting them…..probably you might understand Monty and his

    character if you were to read the background of the desert war from Wavel's initial take over in the desert with O'Conner's victory at Beda Fomm then the

    interference of Churchill and Eden's Greek and Crete adventures plus the Somalia lands and take over by Auchinlek and the disaster of the Crusader battles

    and Auchinlek's departure - the Gott death - and eventual take over by Monty under the new strategy of Alanbrooke to finally win against many obstacles of

    lesser men even of our Allies...

    So avail yourself of the trilogy of Barrie Pitt "Crucible of War" ISBN 5576-232-6 and others breaking down each command - might also help others who don't understand what he actually DID..warts an'all...

  14. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Tom since you attach such importance to this post, I suppose I must address it directly.

    First however, I think I should point out that post war re-interpretation by German officers concerning the employment of mobile forces seem to have under gone something of a rehabilitation since Post no. 70 where the same poster as this excerpt called me to task for falling into the trap of accepting post war German re-interpretation with excessive abandon.

    Lets examine the first paragraph shall we.

    In it Rundstedt praises both Patton and Montgomery equally, but does offer one qualification in that "Montgomery was very systematic" he added "That is alrighrt if you have sufficient forces and sufficient time" (italics mine).

    Blummentritt's observation is a bit more detailed, and seems to echo that of Rundstedt, but also must be questioned in part with his flat statement that "Field Marshall Montgomery was the one general who never suffered a reverse". This is valid only if you exclude 'Market Garden' and 'Pugilist'.

    Blummentritt compares British and American battle doctrines and if I may be allowed some latitude it can be distilled down to this. Americans using speed and movement to slash at its prey, drawing off when the prey turned its full attention on its attacker only to seek out another weak spot to strike again. In all not unlike the way a pack of wolves bring down big game. The British latch on, biting deeply and refusing to let go until its prey is exhausted, much like a terrier.

    A simple comparison, but not without merit I think.

    In the balance of the excerpt, Blummentritt offers the opinion that the best course for the Allies would be to follow a plan supported by Montgomery. A strong force, in this case 21 Army Group with the US 9th Army attached to ward his exposed flank, given every aid to launch a directed assault designed to seize the industrial heart of Nazi Germany and capture Berlin before the end of the year and bring the European war to a close.

    This idea seems to ignore his own (and Rundstedt's) appreciation of the merits (and shortfalls) of each Allied army. Namely this would ask the terrier to act as a wolf and the wolf as a terrier. A rather dramatic change of doctrine into areas where neither army has had overmuch success.

    It also seems that Blummentritt had no appreciation for the Allied logistical problems. By late August and early September, when Blummentritt's proposed offensive would begin, Allied armies were outrunning their supply's and forward movement grinding to a halt. 21 Army Group had yet to clear the Scheldt Estuary and Antwerp, though taken, was useless for supplying the Allies. The Scheldt would not be cleared until after Operation Market-Garden.

    Speaking of Market-Garden, it took a total effort to supply a 7 division attack to seize Arnhem, how exactly could Eisenhower supply a strike force of three armies with perhaps 30 odd divisions on a sustained advance over some 500 miles in the late fall and early winter?

    Nor is the German Winter offensive factored here. If the Franco-American armies are stalled to provide enough supplies for Montgomery's drive on Berlin how does the allies counter a German attack along a long flank over friendly and much more suitable ground for Panzers? Blummentritt seems to have forgotten about the formation of 5th and 6th Panzer Armies, who even if not used to cut off an Allied bulge, could be placed between Berlin and 21 Army Group.

    Blummentritt also seems to not understand the difficulties in commanding citizen soldiers raised from democracy's. Eisenhower had not one, but two masters to answer to in FDR and Churchill, who in turn had to answer to Congress and Parliament, which in turn answered to an enfranchised public in both counties. This does not take into account France and its prickly leader De Gaulle who wanted all of France liberated as soon as possible and this included Alsace-Lorraine.

    Throughout Blummentritt's comments the capture of Berlin is repeatedly raised. How much of his comments had to do with ending the war early and how much had to do with sparing eastern Germany from the not unjustified wrath of the Red Army?

    It took the Red Army about 350,000 casualties to capture Berlin, this being during the late spring/early summer of 1945 and after Hitler expended the last reserves of Panzers in attacks in the Ardennes, Alsace-Lorraine and Lake Balaton, Hungary. . Could 21 Army Group achieve this feat with fewer losses in the late fall and early winter of 1944 with a shaky line of supply? Could Britain accept these kind of losses when it was disbanding veteran divisions simply to keep others at an acceptable strength? How would these 21 Army Group vets feel about yielding ground they fought over to placate the Soviets?

    Blummentritt and those who buy into his opinion on how the war could have been won give Eisenhower something of a bad rap. He fashioned his assets to best use and account for his shortfalls. Something that his critics seem to miss is that his "Broad Front" strategy resembles nothing so much as the same employed by Montgomery in command of 8th Army and 21 Army Group.

    If Montgomery's command style was conductive to limiting loss of life while getting the job done, how can Eisenhower's be all that different?

    Attached Files:

  15. TTH

    TTH Senior Member

    I don't think I am missing the point. I can understand and sympathize with your desire to see Montgomery portrayed more accurately. As far as that goes, I wish you and Mr. Neillands well. I don't know how much success you are likely to have in your endeavor, though. Certainly it won't be quick. Much, if not most, of what you are reacting against is not so much history or even bad history as sub-history, the pseudo-historical legendry that you find in bad movies and on crackpot websites. Such stuff is almost beneath criticism, in that criticism is unlikely to affect it. I have encountered people who hold such views, and arguing with them is often a sheer waste of time. It's like arguing with a drunk or a communist.

    There are a great many historical legends about WWII, and the Black Legend of Monty is by no means the most virulent or persistent of these. Other legends include the Roosevelt Conspiracy Theory of Pearl Harbor, the French-Were-Never-Any-Good-At-All or Surrender Monkey Thesis, The German Army Had Clean Hands Mea Non Culpa, and so on. The best way to counter such idiocies is not to yell at the idiots (that brings you down to their level) or to try and shut them up, but to write better histories refuting them. Thanks to the wide availablity of previously classfied material, it is easier to do so now than it was 50 years ago. In my own book I tried to do just this, offering a corrective to previous views of the combat performance of the British and Australian armies.

    When enough good books are written, legends can slowly fade away, or at least fade out of historical respectability. Nobody worth his historical salt now believes that the German Army had clean hands, though that view is still well-entrenched among the pimply youth on the Wehrmacht fan sites. The Stupids will always remain unconvinced, and I think you have to allow for that at the start.

    The other thing one has to do is to be fair to the other fellow's best arguments. With Montgomery, you have to admit that his operations were at times open to legitimate criticism and that his personality was highly objectionable. The man was his own worst enemy in a lot of ways (this was true of Patton also), and this has tended to blind people to his real virtues.

    However, once you have conceded what in fairness needs to be conceded, you can point to rest of the facts and say "nontheless..." There, you are on safe ground. Montgomery WON, as did Patton and Eisenhower. People rave about Manstein, Rommel, and Kesselring, but I have never understood why; they were all losers.

    I understand that you feel passionately about this, but you mustn't let that passion betray you into losing your temper and overstating your argument. I feel you may be in danger of this already, when you write about people who 'peddle their vile inventions.' With all due respect, these men may be propagating historical legendry but they are not selling drugs or pornography. One's opponent may well be a bigot or a fool, but you mustn't let him drag you down into the same gutter.
    A real historian has to play the gentleman, and often this means assuming (or, at least, pretending) that one's opponent is also a gentleman who is simply mistaken.

    And one more caution, too. While you may be right that much of the worst anti-Montgomery sentiment is found on American sites, try to keep the discussion focused on the facts rather than on the nationality of Montgomery's critics (and admirers). That was at least partly why I pointed out that many of Montgomery's greatest critics were British, including some of his own colleagues. To be sure, nationality must be given some weight. Anglophobia was indeed a problem in the American high command, as its opposite was in the British high command, but over-emphasis on the national factor will quickly turn the discussion into Us-Versus-Them. I see that happen all the time, even on these boards, and when tribal loyalties are invoked the truth always loses out.

    Keep emphasizing the strength of Montgomery's record and your argument will remain strong. I don't think you will have much luck with the ignorant and the bigoted, but a re-examination of Montgomery would be a good subject for a book.
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  16. Smudger Jnr

    Smudger Jnr Our Man in Berlin


    An extremely well constructed post.

  17. m kenny

    m kenny Senior Member

    Criticism is not the problem. It is the idiotic complaints and those outnumber the ordinary criticism by a large margin.

    For years I did that. However there comes a time when you have to call a spade a spade. I sat silently and did the usual polite thing and chided the transgressor for his latest 'stopped for tea' joke. I was sure his countrymen would rebuke him for his rudeness but it never happened.

    This book:

    says the author gained his initial insight when an employee at Carlisle took him aside when he was there one day and explained the great Monty conspiracy to extend WW2. I do not think staff at Kew would be so bold.
    It is the elephant in the room. Ignoring it does not work. It is time those who promote such a view are prepared to be equally insulted by the reply. If their argument has any merit then they should have no problems providing the facts. If not they can slink away.

    If only it were just ignorant bigots.

    Gerhard Ludwig Weinberg (Weinberg currently is the William Rand Kenan, Jr. Professor Emeritus of History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has been a member of the history faculty at UNC-Chapel Hill since 1974. Previously he served on the faculties of the University of Michigan (1959–1974) and the University of Kentucky (1957–1959))
    claims in his 'A World at Arms' (1994) that Monty was in a "complete panic" on December 25, 1944, and called for vast withdrawals of Allied troops in the south in order that there could be an offensive in the north (his sector) in the spring or summer of 1945.

    The Bulge campaign and Monty's command of US troops is the cause of the vitriol and I agree with Moorehead when he says (in his 1946 biography of Montgomery) that the Ardennes battle was "clouded by the crisis at the time and seems to have become more clouded by prejudices and emotional rivalries ever since".

    I agree not every US author is hostile.

    Robert E.
    Merriam, Dark December
    "to criticize Montgomery for not counterattacking in “the midst of the hell swirling around him is only to indicate ignorance of the situation............noting that Monty was an egotist "hardly needs repeating," .................“the brutal criticism of Montgomery‘s tactics does not square up with the facts."

    Hugh M. Cole (The Ardennes: Battle of the Bulge)and Russell F. Weigly (Eisenhower's Lieutenants. The Campaign of France and Germany l944-I945) are balanced but they are very much in a minority.
  18. Joe Brown

    Joe Brown WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    I feel profoundly lacking in knowledge and skilled analysis about the Second World War having read with much awe the erudite contributions from scholarly historians.

    However, my own earlier contribution and belief still holds good for me. I respected Monty and like those with whom I served in the infantry Battalion felt confident in his leadership and willing to be led by him.

    When I first met my future Mother-in-Law -- a lady who at the outbreak of the War quickly donned her helmet and equipped with her gas rattle and extinguisher was out on the streets whenever the sirens went in the little village close to Newcastle- upon-Tyne, Blythe and the River Tyne ready to give of her all in the protection of her little community -- but remember her exclaiming 'Good Old Monty!' And, so say I.

    Joe Brown.
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  19. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter Patron 1940 Obsessive

    Apparently they never forgave him...


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  20. belasar

    belasar Junior Member

    Finally! Some real meat! Misappropriation of US Government property! :biggrin:

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