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Allied"disasters".

Discussion in 'Western Europe 1943 - 1945' started by 4th wilts, Jul 24, 2011.

  1. Duns Scotus

    Duns Scotus Member

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    As the Soviets were our aliies Stalin's half baked offensive against Kharkov just after Stalingrad comes to mind. Also, in my opinion the destruction of Wehrmacht Army Group Centre -fo which the Nazis never, ever recovered was a huge disaster -dwarfing even ''Market Garden'' Dieppe or the Ardennes 1944.
     
  2. redcoat

    redcoat Ace

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    Both the Bulge and Ardennes were not true disasters, they had no major negative impact on the war situation for the Allies, if you want a true Allied disaster try the Battle of France in 1940, Singapore, or the opening phase of the German attack on the Soviet Union.
     
  3. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    The loss of Tobruk in 1942 followed inevitably on defeat on the Gazala line, but the loss of 32,000 Allied troops with the town was mainly due to one man, Winston Churchill. The army leadership in theater had never planned on holding Tobruk or allowing troops to become invested therein if the main battle went against them. There was no longer a "fortress"; defenses had not been maintained, and many mines had been relocated to the "mine marshes" of the Gazala line.

    Gazala IMO was a true Allied disaster, simply because it could have been won but for the failings of the British high command. The troops fought gallantly and often well, but all too often they were fighting as lone brigades against the full power of the Afrika Korps. When everything finally went to pieces, the plan was to fall back to the Egyptian frontier; no one in theater even thought of doing anything else, btu Churchill intervened from London with one of his many signals, this one including "in any event I presume there is no thought of giving up Tobruk". This was based on nothing more than his recollection of the heroic siege the year before, but no one dared tell him that; after a little hemming and hawing it was agreed to leave a garrison based around the inexperienced 2 South African Division - and the rest is history.
     
  4. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Absolutely correct about 2nd Tobruk - in addition the Navy had paid a very heavy price (often forgotten) in the first defence of Tobruk. They simply could not afford a second one and Cunningham made this plain.

    The Failing of the British High Command comes down 90% on to Richie (a stop-gap, inexperienced desk wallah and Ok under Auckinlech's close command to complete the Crusader Operation but who everyone but Churchill and Auk wanted replacing once it was over).

    With Rommel stuck and out of gasoline as usual, all it needed was a concentration of Armour on his supply route and the victory that Richie and Auckinlech had anticipated 24 hours earlier might actually have happened.

    Tobruk is another Winston blunder but not an earth shattering disaster - in my humble opinion that has got to be the Battle of France and the German breakthrough in the Ardenne.
     
  5. harolds

    harolds Member

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    RE: Belasar and SLD's discussion of the quality of the German Army circa December of 1944: While many units were close to nominal strength, the quality of the individuals from private up through Captain was definitely down. After a long war with high casualties this was to be expected, but there were several other reasons:

    1. Hitler's refusal to authorize retreats and evacuations (Stalingrad, N. Africa, Falaise, and others) deprived the Heer of vast pool of trained, experienced men at all levels.

    2. The continual grinding combat on all fronts disrupted the Heer's system of replacement and training. This is where divisions, after a campaign were rested, new replacements absorbed, and unit training with those replacements and old hands took place. This system was good as long as it could be properly implemented and was one of the main reasons for the German Army's superiority through 1943 over its opponents.

    3. The disbanding of some Kreigsmarine and Luftwaffe personnel and their induction into the Heer, was handled poorly. This influx of new recruits, instead of being properly retrained were often shoved directly into the fighting without any training. Naturally, this led to an extremely high casualty rate and wastage of good human material.

    4. On the few occaisions that divisions were properly manned, equipt and trained, they were often shoved into crisis sectors piecemeal and chewed up without ever having fought properly as a division.

    All this had predicable results. You can read many accounts of German infantry attacks during the Bulge and afterward that were clumsy, horrid affairs that were butchered en mass. Generally speaking, the German infantry in 1944 was only good for static defense.
     
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  6. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    I wouldn't be so categorical about the missed opportunity! Pushing up along the river Sauer, the Skyline Drive and the river Our up to Neuerburg, the line proposed by Patton,would not have been a cake walk! It might very well have turned into a true disaster! Eisenhower wanted to play it safe, if Bastogne would have fallen to the germans it would have been a terrible boost to the allied morale, the war was won anyhow the more one can imagine that he was careful after having had a bad surprise. Add to that the tensions with Montgomery and some parts of GHQ, I can understand Ike playing it safe.
     
  7. Earthican

    Earthican Member

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    I suppose the "disaster" of Market Garden and the Ardennes could be the Allied intelligence failures.

    For MG, failing to perceive the effect of the escaping Fifteenth Army troops across the Scheldt estuary would have on the operation.

    For the Ardennes, the failure to perceive the scale of the German build up and its potential uses beside a counter blow to an Allied offensive.
     
  8. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Certainly once we let the 101st get surrounded in Bastogne, its loss would have been a blow to Allied morale, and a boost to German, but that just highlights that that was the wrong way to fight that part of the battle. St. Vith exemplified the right way - hold long enough to collect and rally American units falling back from the initial onslaught, inflict losses on the enemy, then fall back in good order before our troops get cut off. At that point the ceding of a town no one had ever heard of was no blow at all; everyone concerned rightly deemed it "mission accomplished".

    There would have been little harm in letting the Germans push west through Bastogne, or as we might say, further into the trap. Patton could have launched his counterstroke along whatever axis was most suitable. If Skyline Drive etc. was not feasible, maybe he would still go to Bastogne; but he'd be doing because it was the best opportunity to cut off and destroy the German army, not because it happened to be where one of our units was in danger.

    It might have been better to have sent the entire 10th Armored Division to Bastogne instead of just CCB, perhaps with some of the 101st's infantry attached if that was considered desirable. Although it seems a bit odd to say it, airborne units are not necessarily "in tune" with mobile warfare. Their training and inclination, whether delivered by air or truck, is to hold their objective until relieved; I even recall someone in the 101st saying they didn't mind being surrounded. They're less inclined to execute a deliberate fighting retreat like 7th Armored & Co. did at St. Vith, even if it is the right move.
     
  9. SKYLINEDRIVE

    SKYLINEDRIVE Member

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    Sankt Vith was as much a "rout turned lucky" as it was a preplanned controlled retreat, the US was lucky that the VGD's went to loot the town instead of pushing on, that the coordination of the german forces was lacking and finally that Remer just did as he liked instead of following orders from V th Panzer Armee. Holding Bastogne was imo a clever thing, it was an important road hub and remained a thorn in the german's side for the duration of the Battle of the Bulge.

    Regarding the intelligence failure, I can't blame anyone, first of all the idea of attacking in the sector was so hare brained that no one with a sane mind would have thought it possible. Second one has to concede that nowadays all the tell tale signs seem to make sense, with hindsight, at the time there were not many people who were aware of all of them and could have made the connection.
     
  10. arthur45

    arthur45 Member

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    In Western Europe, there are several candidates for worst disaster : Overlord, Montgomery's failure to pursue the defeated Germans
    thru Belgium and Holland after the Normandy breakout, coupled with his failure to open the port of Antwerp, and Market-Garden.
    In the case of Market-Garden, the failure was complete but not that many troops were involved. It had a negative impact it had on
    other operations but its hard to quantify how negative that impact really was : German forces had recovered and the Western Allies
    were at the end of their logistical support. Overlord is my candidate for worst impact : Monty promised Caen on D-Day, which would have
    isolated the Germans in Southern France and avoided the two month trench warfare and heavy casualties in the Battle of Normandy.
    The airborne drops can be blamed as a contributing cause - they alerted the Germans and made Monty's promise more difficult to
    achieve. The night drop was a disaster and should never have been planned. Had they dropped at first light, as they did so successfully
    in Operation Market, Overlord would have probably been a success, despite its many blunders.
     
  11. scipio

    scipio Member

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    Others like me think that was why the Germans were stopped. Forget the Monty publicity garbage and he made the right decisions at the right time.

    German strength was lower after the Bulge than before but the Allies were on a high.

    This is the wrong question - the most serious allied defeat was the Battle of France.

    For the Armerican and British - none after the Japanese were contained at Midway and Kohima, only a few set-backs.
     
  12. canambridge

    canambridge Member

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    In reality, the western allies didn't suffer any major disasters after the summer of 1942. The May-June Gazala & Tobruk battles, Dieppe in August. after that it was pretty much a catalog of missed opportunities. Perhaps the Aegean battles could be considered disasters.
    If Market-Garden and the Bulge are your yardsticks for disaster then there quite a few just as bad. Of those two, market-Garden provided the least "payback" in terms of casualties inflicted for those received.
    Incidentally, in response to a question raised by 4th Wilts earlier, there was an alternative to Market-Garden, many, including Dempsey, Br 2nd Army CG, and Browing, Br I Airborne Corps, wanted to strike through Wesel. Dempsey thought he had Montgomery convinced when he and Browing went to meet Montgomery. in Time and V2s argued for western Netherlands and Dempsey never even got to submit his plan for Wesel to Montgomery.
     
  13. merdiolu

    merdiolu Member

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    I would qualify Operation Market Garden as an operational and strategic failure. It was not a "disaster" in tactical , strategic or operational sense. It was planned in haste with mistakes during victory fever of Allies in 1944 summer , and executed poorly. Yes almost destruction of 1st British Airborne was a tragedy. 30th Corps inability to cross Rhine was a failure. But maybe this failure worked for Allies advantage since under re organized and re vitalized Wehrmacht pressure holding a corridor from Belgium up to Arnhem and Issel might have been problematic at best. 30th Corps and rest of 2nd British Army would stretch beyond its limits and might even be encircled beyond Rhine since German CiC West would use every available resource to contain and erase a bridgehead on Rhine once Allied momentum was spent. But still an 80 km long corridor was carved , North Brabant and parts of Groenigen provinces (up to Waal) in Netherlands were liberated , Eindhoven air bases were captured , an important salient in Nijmegen and Groesbeek was captured , was hold and from this salient 21st Army Group outflanked West Wall in Operation Veritable during February 1945. Although failure of operation to cross Rhine and march Ruhr was clear (it was never realistic on that regard anyway ) these gains are better than nothing.

    "Wacht am Rhine" code name for Ardennes Offensive was a huge defeat for Germans in both tactical and strategic sense though. Wehrmacht spent all of its available strategic reserve that could be gathared during breathing time of 1944 fall with a stupid Hitlersque gamble. Casaulties of Allies were replaced easily. German casaulties couldn't. Just for a impossible strategic and political target (which was Antwerp) due to Hitler's stupid insistance Germans suffered more than 104.000 casaulties including 46.000 prisoners and the strategicly worthless ground they gained in initial stages of offensive was lost to them after a few weeks of fighting. And I am not even taking Operation Nordwind casaulties where another 26.000 German troops fell. It did not even slow down Allied advance on Rhineland and beyond since winter conditions put a temporary halt on Allied operations on ETO anyway. That is when Red Army was preparing Vistula-Oder Offensive in Eastern Front and every soldier and gun and tank Germans had were desperately needed to hold the line in Eastern Prussia and Pomerenia. As writer John Toland remarked Allies benefitted Wacht am Rhine most since most of the German reserves were wiped out in open fluid battles in Belgium and Luxemburg. 5th Panzer Army and 7th German Armies turned into a shadow of themselves after Bulge. A German prisoner captured during initial Rhineland battles in 1945 said to his captors "You can walk from here all the way to Cologne. Nobody is going to stop you." 6th SS Panzer Army which also taken huge casaulties in Ardennes sent to Eastern Front after the Bulge (where they participated another equally botched offensive operation Operation Spring Awekaning to retake Hungarian oil fields due to another crazy scheme of Hitler. After that Hitler ordered all SS men in 6th SS Panzer Army to rip off and thew their ranks and decorations )

    Battle of Bulge was an Allied victory. Yes casaulties were heavy but they could be replaced. It was not a crushing or a sweeping success like Tunis bag or Fall of France but a victory neverthless. And a catastrophe for Germans. Once you waste your strategic reserve like that you can not hope take initiative anywhere anymore.

    Gerd Von Rundstedt commented that "Ardennes was the Second Stalingrad for us" Hasso Von Manteuffel cmdr of 5th Panzer Army which bore the brunt of Ardennes Offensive was even more bitter when he said "After Ardennes Hitler started a corporal's war just like he wanted ! There were no more big operations or maneuvers for us. Just a series of violent , but small scale engagements without any clear aim."
     
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  14. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    Hear hear. I think the Allies won the battle of the Bulge by any measure one chooses. Hitler's decision to launch this offensive which sapped the last major armoured reserves and fighter force may have shortened the war.

    I am not sure that in the great scheme of things Market Garden counts as a "disaster", except for the 1st Btish Airborne Division, one cog in a rather large allied machine. It was always a risky operation only justified by the perceived opportunity to end the war in 1944. Given the scale of Western Front by September 1944 the losses were not particularly excessive. C15k casualties over a week is less than two D-Days.

    Disaster looked like Singapore (80k surrendered), Dunkirk (loss of all heavy equipment and surrender of all allies on mainland Europe) or for the Germans Stalingrad (240k casualties), Tunisia (300k casualties) or the Falaise Pocket - Seine (50k+ casualties and the destruction of almost all AFVs and the fighting elements of 10+ divisions) or even the less well known Mons pocket which resulted in the surrender of 15k Germans in September 1944. Market Garden looked more like the RAF's battle for Berlin.
     
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  15. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    I think Battle of the Bulge rates as an Intelligence 'Disaster", but not a battlefield disaster. France 1940 a disaster, but Dunkirk a victory.
     
  16. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    Agree with Belasar, although Churchill doesn't agree with us...Dunkirk was not a battle lost but part of fall of France which was a great loss...Britian withdrew from the battle. Not a victory as such...but paved the way for victory...without the withdrawal from the Battle of France then the whole war could well have taken a different much more sinister turn....For the British people it was salvation not defeat.
     
  17. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I don't think Dunkirk was a victory, but it wasn't a disaster, either. The withdrawal of British troops from the continent allowed later victories, however. I think urqh has a good handle on Dunkirk. Since the bulk of the British army survived, they lived to fight another day, and boy did they ever.
     
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  18. Buten42

    Buten42 Member

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    I failed to see any mention of the disaster of the Battle of the Hurtgen Forest. This massacre was overshadowed by the Bulge, just as the taking of Rome was overshadowed by the invasion of Normandy. As General Harmon said in his book, "...no one cares to dwell on how three gallant American Infantry Diviions- the Second, the Fourth, and the Twenty Eighth- had the heart chewed out of them" He goes on to explain how a "heavy armored columns advancing on either side of the forest could have performed a double envelopment of the dams and made the infantry action unnecessary."
    What a terrible price for the foot soldier who died for no reason in that terrible place.
     
  19. Carronade

    Carronade Ace Patron  

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    Hurtgen was a debacle. I think it was an example of Eisenhower's broad front strategy carried to an extreme. The strategy was basically correct, but Ike and his subordinates went too far in insisting that all the armies advance in lockstep. Ultimately that led to each army trying to advance in its sector, even if that sector involved complications like the Hurtgen or the Roer dams. Surely in several hundred miles of front there were better opportunities to take the offensive, which as Harmon points out would eventually unhinge German defenses in sectors like the Hurtgen.
     
  20. green slime

    green slime Member

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    A few more Allied disasters:

    Failure to retake the Maleme Airfield. (and the subsequent loss of Crete).

    Battle of Gazala and the fall of Tobruk.

    The destruction of the Abbey of Monte Casino.
     
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