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Market-Garden - was this EVER a good idea?


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Initial post: Aug 6, 2012 11:22:01 AM PDT
Hindsight is 20/20. I realize that, and any analysis of the Market Garden operation in 1944 would conclude that the plan had some problems from the get go. But let's look at the best case scenario. The 101st captures the bridge at Son intact, the 82 has the bridge at Nijmegan ready when XXX Corps shows up. The Guards Division rolls up the highway and across Arnhem Bridge to find Col. Frost and his men anxiously awaiting their arrival about 48 hours after their drop.

World War 2 and even just the Western Front was a war fought by armies and army groups. Did anyone actually think that putting part of a single corps across the Rhine river at the end of a 300 mile long tether was going to mean the Germans were suddenly going to throw in the towel and call it quits?

I guess it might have been a decent start, but until the Allies cleared the Scheldt Estuary or made some other way to improve their supply situation, was it really a war ender? As it was the allies ended up with a useless salient in their front lines. Success seems that it would have only made a longer, more vulnerable salient. What was phase two?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 6, 2012 4:09:31 PM PDT
I think Market Garden was a decent idea, but allowing Montgomery to execute it was insane. It was a stretch, and Montgomery and his planners were ignoring intelligence that didn't suit their prejudices and that is what ultimately caused it's failure. There wasn't enough airlift to carry all the troops so the Germans could defeat the Brits in detail. Market Garden counted on everything going right, and that never happens in war.

Posted on Aug 7, 2012 3:32:45 PM PDT
1874Sharps says:
i think it was a terrible plan from the begining, a waste of men and equipment that perhaps prolonged the war by two months. Montgomery was trying to reestablish himself as the Allies top Generalisimo, Caesar, King, and pushed for control, (A Bridge Too Czar?). There is some speculation that the US forces were down on the Brit's for trying to save casualties after the pounding they had taken in North Africa by Rommel and were still sensitive to losses from WWI, and that they were not caring their share of the burden of combat, (though they did get the bunny feathers kicked out of them at Operation Goodwood.) That's also why Montgomery chose XXX Corps to lead the ground attack. Though their tanks were supplimented by American Shermans, an iffy tank at best, many of their vehicles were of really poor design, or unarmored (A Brige Too Scout Car?).
Believing they could supply troops over a single lane, many miles long road that could be pinced off from either side was sheer folly, and so was the faith that the Air Corps could deliever enough ammo, equipment, food and essentials to the troops, (A Bridge Too Hershey Bar?) Remember Goering's promise to keep the 6th army suppled at Stalingrad?

They forgot the two most important maxims of war, "know your enemy," and 'strike for the heart." Frost's 1st Paratroopers landed in the middle of an SS panzer division near Arnhem on R&R from the Eastern Front, even when they found photos of the tanks on their air recon photos. (A Bridge Too FUBAR?).

In the end, it was a waste of everything,esp the airborne troops who only jumped once more. But a waste of an incredible strike force, that could have made a real mark on ending the war. (A Bridge Too Au Revoir.)

Posted on Aug 7, 2012 3:57:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 7, 2012 4:02:23 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
Plus, montgomery, at the time was in a full blown feud with RAF Air Marshals Coningham and Tedder, who were in charge of the tactical aircraft in the RAF (monty was trying to get Coningham fired; in return Tedder was trying to get monty fired). Thus monty failed to fill them in on some of the minor details of Market Garden, such as ...

1. When the operation was going to start
2. What the tactical air cover requirements would be

...until the day before the operation started.

Thus, in a war theater where the Western Allies had overwhelming air superiority, Market Garden goes down in history as the only operation to kick off without adequate tactical air support or even air superiority (the Germans were able to bomb Eindhoven with impunity).

Market Garden was the sort of daring rapid thrust and deep penetration that would have benefited greatly from the tightly coordinated tactical air power that characterized Patton's drives and coordination with Weyland's TAC XIX. Patton and Weyland would have made it work for sure.

monty? What a nitwit.

Posted on Aug 7, 2012 4:06:55 PM PDT
D. Robinson says:
Why was Monty held in such high regard at the time? Was it simply goodwill from the Africa campaign? Was he a supremely skilled asskisser? Why was he given such deference?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2012 4:15:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 7, 2012 4:27:56 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
The idea had some merit. The idea was to open up the port of Antwerp so Allied shipping could pump even more material into Europe faster. This would also be essentially going through the traditional northern invasion route of Europe in reverse, into Germany.

Patton and Weyland figured out how to defend against getting cutoff in a salient. US tactical airpower was so overwhelming, and the air coordination so good that it was capable of cutting off a counterattack all by itself. Patton used the armed reconnaissance of TAC XIX to cover his southern flanks during his rapid drive through France.

monty never made any use of the tactical airpower at his disposal, simply because he was such a martinet that the only General in the RAF he was able to get along with was Leigh Mallory - which was how he ended up with the idea of using heavy bombers in Operation Goodwood. The tactical airpower in that operation went missing in action early on when the ONLY ground-air coordinator for tactical air strikes was wounded and knocked out of action. Thus Goodwood failed and monty was left to mumble something about oh, it was all to just attrit the Germans so the US could succeed in Operation Cobra.

Can you imagine kicking off a major attack with hundreds of tanks and only ONE air-ground controller handling tactical air support for the entire operation? That's how bad monty's planning was.

Posted on Aug 7, 2012 4:18:26 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
"Why was Monty held in such high regard at the time? Was it simply goodwill from the Africa campaign? Was he a supremely skilled asskisser? Why was he given such deference?"

Yes to both. He was supremely arrogant and pissed off all of his coequals, however. Especially Coningham, the father of British tactical air power. Postwar, when all the major players in the British armed forces were asked by the government to write up their experiences, Coningham wrote such a scathing critique of monty that his writeup was quietly buried and never saw the light of day.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2012 4:28:16 PM PDT
D. Robinson says:
Thanks. All I know of Monty comes from the films " A Bridge Too Far" and "Patton," not exactly the most flattering portrayals!

Posted on Aug 7, 2012 4:54:37 PM PDT
patrick says:
Although I dont fully understand what it was attempting to do, what it assumed, and to what extent vital negative intel was ignored or dismissed explained away as portrayed in the movie, it sometimes seems to me that philosophically it was trying to do to the Germans what Guderian and Rommel had done to France and the BEF in 1940..

And to some extent, yes, it seemed to assume they would be as paralysed and demoralised as the French were in the face of it.

Of course even the German move in 1940 did not depend on a major airborne operation..and hinge heavily on one.
Maybe theyd have said, well, in 1940 the Germans did not have the airborne resources we had in 1944..

What was Monts repsonse to its failure, anyway?
to be handing the enemy such devastating victories so late in the wart and months after D-day..
they must have thought, some of them...are we ever really going to beat these people, or are we going to still somehow snatch defeat or disaster from the jaws, with just a little nudge here and there from them?
Must have been a terrible thing for the local occupied Dutch etc to witness, also..to see all these people come, and woo-hoo, liberation is at hand..
and then see them rolled up like chumps by the Huns again
What the hell must they have made of it..

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2012 5:01:11 PM PDT
patrick says:
General in the RAF he was able to get along with was Leigh Mallory -

a somewhat treacherous sob , a relative mediocrity from the First war , mr "Big Wings" who was the leader of the coup against Park and Dowding, the victors of the BoB..
Sholto Douglas was the other main part too, i think, and Bader looked on dumbly in tacit endorsement..

to blame for the strategic maybe but certainly tactical ineptitude and heavy losses for virtually no gain, of the Rhubard Circuses of 1941..

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 7, 2012 5:10:19 PM PDT
patrick says:
ha...so even the Luftwaffe bombers were able to get in on the act..with thousands of Allied fighters within reach of them..

Posted on Aug 7, 2012 9:42:02 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 7, 2012 9:44:36 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
This is sort of a rehash of a lot of stuff I have posted before on other threads or in response to commentaries to the Amazon review I wrote on Richard Overy's book "Why the Allies Won". So here are some of the references for the main points I made:

Reference that states Montgomery did not notify RAF Air Marshal Coningham about the starting date for Market Garden (p. 34-36)

Air Power at the Battlefront: Allied Close Air Support in Europe 1943-45 (Studies in Air Power)

Biography of Sir Arthur Coningham that describes his fights with monty:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000U0PKSW/ref=cm_cd_asin_lnk

Or, you can read it on Google books:

http://books.google.com/books/about/Coningham_a_biography_of_Air_Marshal_Sir.html?id=QbRn5MwhlWcC

p. 244-245 of Coningham's biography is where it talks about how Coningham ripped into montgomery.

Here's the reference that describes in detail montgomery's many failures at Caen:

British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy)

In another Amazon thread, I duked it out with a pro-montgomery worshipper and here is where I listed for the guy specific quotes from that book detailing montgomery's tactical failures at Caen (including p.36 of that book which talks about how the only forward air controller in the Goodwood attack was knocked out of action early on):

http://www.amazon.com/forum/history/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg20?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx33HXI3XVZDC8G&cdPage=20&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx1C13V2Q0U8KTV

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2012 8:32:24 AM PDT
Smallchief says:
I'd say it was a good idea. The Germans were falling back rapidly, apparently demoralized; allied commanders were talking about ending the war in 1944. In such a case, it's full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.

So, aggressive action to see if you could hasten a German collapse was worth the risk.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 8, 2012 3:06:47 PM PDT
IGS says:
Small I agree with you. There are many calculated risks in war. They are based on incomplete or incorrect information. I suspect that the evaluation was probably flawed. But history is replete with bad plans that have succeeded by the sheer violence of their execution or plans that were acted upon because there were no other choices. Things like the French cavalry charge at Eylau, probably the most spectacular one in history, yet executed not because it was great plan, but rather because it was the only plan.

Posted on Aug 8, 2012 4:55:24 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 8, 2012 4:57:59 PM PDT
patrick says:
I dont know about that..with the war going their way and apparently rapidly drawing to a close, to THEN start taking quite significant gambles..

getting guys killed , and high quality elite troops, who otherwise might have still been alive a few months later..

I remember the old Purnells issue which had the cover story of the Battle of Caen, or something similiar to Caen...it had a German in forage cap with hand raised and eyes bulging , apparently either giving an order to advance or to open fire..it carried the caption..DID THE gERMANS STOP MONTY-OR WAS HE OVER CAUTIOUS?
well, he wasnt overly cautious at friggen Arnhem, was he?
he has both critics and defenders, I guess so does Patton..but is no doubt that the guy was an egomaniac at least, and I dont get the imprerssion particularly inclined to just bloody listen.
Maybe like my old man...seldom right, but never ever in doubt.

as for the counting on the Germans demoralisation..
they should have known those people better than that by now,or given some benefit of doubt, taking in how many times had they grappled with them in the mud and sand, across two wars now?

Posted on Aug 8, 2012 5:09:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 8, 2012 5:15:22 PM PDT
patrick says:
and gambles are fine, and you take the win or the loss on the chin if its a sound reasonable gamble..
there would be unsound gambles which succeed or fail, and sound gambles which succeed or still fail..when youre in front anyway, at most ur probably only entitled to the latter..
And thats b4 you even get the perplexing basic failures in planning and execution that have been raised here...that one about informing Tedder and Coningham of exactly what was going on the day b4 they jumped..

I do think that if a Kraut brasshat was caught at that..he'd be in doubt as whether he was going to end up blindfolded in front of a wall, let alone keep his rank and command..

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012 7:39:29 AM PDT
I find it interesting how discussions on this topic always seems o lead to discussions on Montgomery's skill as a battlefield commander. I actually had a separate discussion going on that subject some time ago. I find that most Americans have a VERY low opinion of Montgomery, while the Commonwealth descendants tend to be more favorable. All seem to agree that Market-Garden was an uncharacteristically risky operation for the ordinarily cautious Montgomery.

On that subject, I'll admit - being an American - that I think Montgomery is GREATLY overrated as a commander. Having said that, let's give credit where credit is due. He's probably considered overcautious because he tended to wait until he had overwhelming force (or thought he did) at hand before he attacked. The Brit's seem to appreciate that being that way tended to reduce casualties. In fairness, if a general (or Field Marshal in his case) has the luxury of using such a tactic, I don't know if you can fault him. It will just never get him rated as a brilliant commander. The same could be said of U.S. Grant in the American Civil War, although his reliance on overwhelming numbers did not fall into the dalliancesque model of James B. McClellan or Gordon Meade. Montgomery wasn't afraid to act, he just preferred to wait until the time was right.

At any rate to the uncharacteristic Arnhem operation. I just don't see it's success being a war ender, although it might have brought the allies a step closer. Maybe ending the war in March, but I doubt that. The fact was that the war wasn't likely to end in 1944 at any rate, nor in 1945 before the winter's end returned operational mobility (with clear skies for the Jabos) necessary for the inevitable final act.

I still think that the supply problem being the allies biggest impediment, the assets could have been better utilized to clear the Scheldt estuary. The Germans recognized this which is why they chose the Wacht am Rhine operation to seize Antwerp. Whether such a less glamorous operation would have gotten Eisenhower to rob Peter Patton to pay Paul Montgomery is another question though. Maybe Market-Garden was just a necessary try, rather than a good idea.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012 12:21:28 PM PDT
Johann,
Montgomery was a hammer general. His only tactic was to hit the enemy with the biggest hammer he could, if it failed, he would simply put together a bigger hammer. I'm not a Monty expert, but in my reading, I've never seen any sign of either tactical or strategic expertise in any of his battles. The only reasons he was a success were first being lucky enough to the the only British general in the Western Desert to take over with a position that Rommel couldn't outflank and right on top of his logistical base, and secondly he was in command when the flood of US Lend-Lease was furnishing him essentially unlimited numbers of Tanks, Artillery and Ammunition which he squandered in wasteful frontal attacks into Pakfronts and minefields. Everything he attempted in Normandy was either a outright failure, too bloody, or at best, a practical failure.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 9, 2012 12:50:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 9, 2012 9:14:20 PM PDT
IGS says:
Re Montgomery.

He is Wellington. He is a quintessential British soldier. Caution. It is actually born from the historic nature of the English army. For centuries Britain was a naval power. Centuries. The lion's share of spending was devoted to the maintenance of that navy. The army was rather an afterthought. An "in case we need one" affair. That is why England played such an ancillary role in European wars, they were rather an ally, added to an existing (or provoked) war. That was one of the reasons we won the war in the late 1700's. The lion's share of their military was involved in India and also distracted by instability in Europe which they could ill afford to neglect.

But that cautious nature is antithetical to modern warfare. He did not take chances. It cost him opportunities. On the other hand it made the opportunities he availed himself of generally successful.

When you look to the desert conflict it is instructive to compare his actions to that of O'Connor who existed there previously. He nearly the Italians off the continent. In two months, the XIII Corps/Western Desert Force had advanced over 800 miles (1,300 km), destroyed an entire Italian army of ten divisions, taken over 130,000 prisoners, 400 tanks and 1,292 guns at the cost of 500 killed and 1,373 wounded. He did this with 30,000 guys. Moreover he would have finished the Italians off entirely except that Churchill requested an all available hands diversion into Greece to combat the German attack on Crete. He was forced to come to an entire halt.

The Americans would have loved him. Had their been no Crete, there never would have been and Afrika Korps, no lionization of Rommel, no Monty. Unfortunately, he spent the war in a POW camp. He was not the typical English officer however.

Posted on Aug 9, 2012 7:09:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 9, 2012 7:10:53 PM PDT
patrick says:
Yes, O'connor was a swashbuckler alright..

taken prisoner,i think maybe with another general maybe Neame??? by "an enterprising German patrol" appearing at their HQ unexpectantly..im not sure how many Germans and vehicles, and whether the brass there had any Plods looking after them at all.

there were far too many 'enterprising" damn Jerries at that time..

I think O'connor escaped at least once, maybe got back into combat even, only to be captured again? or else maybe just retaken from the escape..maybe he was in an Italian pen..maybe even in Italy itself.

Posted on Aug 9, 2012 8:57:35 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Aug 10, 2012 7:04:25 AM PDT
DarthRad says:
Igs'.

People like to use "overly cautious" to describe monty, but that is a not a good description. I would really suggest reading this book:

British Armour in the Normandy Campaign (Military History and Policy)

The most precise description of monty would be "egotistical and grandiose control freak terrible at planning the details".

I think it is easy to understand that if you are a control freak but are unable to get the details EXACTLY right, you are going to have lots of Jimmy Carter - like moments such as Operation Eagle Claw in the Iranian desert.

monty was not cautious so much as he just insisted that his subordinates and soldiers follow the battle plans he drew up EXACTLY to the letter. He absolutely could not stand the idea of anybody under his command taking the initiative and coming up with a creative solution of their own.

monty DID have BIG IDEAS, and big plans for Normandy, much like Market Garden. The British side of Normandy ended up being a series of multiple operations, all planned out by monty's staff and given neat sounding code names, and none of which completely achieved the original stated objectives. Combined together, their semi-failures and partial successes had the effect of "attriting" the German forces (while also "attriting" the British-Canadian forces at the same time) and slowly pushing them backwards. Which was why he ended up saying that was what he was planning all along. But, a close examination of the battle orders of these operations clearly show that the operations all simply failed to reach their final objectives.

It was this tendency to overplan everything and yet somehow come up with lousy operational and tactical plans that resulted in a consistent record of underachieving his goals.

So that's what people really mean when they say Montgomery was too "cautious" - he tended to wait too long to formulate his battle plans, he actively discouraged individual initiative on the part of his battle commanders and the result was usually far short of what was hoped for.

montgomery was NOT Wellington. An examination of his operational plans at Normandy shows an appalling lack of understanding of basic tank warfare tactics. Operation Goodwood required the British tanks to charge through hundreds of yards of open country where they would be sitting ducks for the German guns. monty thought the heavy bombers would wipe out the German defenses - they did not, as the Germans simply withdrew their defenses in layers so as to not have them all wiped out in one bombardment. Then he included only one air controller in the attack, who was wounded early on in the battle and so they lost their ability to direct tactical air strikes.

Of course, montgomery did not actually draw up these plans himself - his staff did. And that was the difference between montgomery and Patton. Patton had a keen eye and appreciation for great staff, people who would plan and win the war for him while he took the credit. montgomery wanted only people willing to accept his total control of everything. This as you know has a strong tendency to result in the brightest people getting out as quickly as possible leaving only nitwits willing to put up with such a terrible boss.

Posted on Aug 18, 2012 11:08:53 AM PDT
Ideally, the US would have landed on the left flank (= East side) at D-day. This did not happen because the British concentrated on the East side of England in '40. Any German invasion would probably have come there, across the narrowest part of the channel. US troops then went to where there was still room for their bases in the Western part of England.

On D-Day UK troops landed on Eastern beaches and US on Western. Otherwise they would criss-cross with dangers of collisions, and have longer voyages exposed to mines & other hazards.

However, after D-Day, Patton's 3rd Army arguably should have been landed on the extreme left flank. I imagine this didn't happen for logistic reasons - its easier to supply if all US troops are in one area. It would also have led to awkward command issues - do you put 3rd Army in Monty's Army Group, at least until US 9th Army lands?

Still, there were some big advantages I can think of to putting the best Western Allied blitzkrieg leader on the extreme left flank:

1) Historically, any 3rd Army breakthrough would run away from their
supply bases. In contrast, if they were on the coast, there was the
potential to capture ports as forward supply posts.

2) With left flank protected by coast, a breakthrough is less dangerous
than historically with both flanks exposed.

3) Left flank is better tank country.

This relates to Market-Garden because with US 3rd Army in Holland,
any airborne op to seize bridges would probably have been less far
behind enemy lines. It also would have had a more aggressive leader
leading the drive to relieve the airborne.

In addition, Antwerp approaches probably would have been cleared
faster. I have read that Monty did not make that a priority because
his Army Group did not need Antwerp for supply.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 11:26:38 AM PDT
There weren't any headlines to be gained for clearing the approaches to Antwerp.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2012 12:07:34 PM PDT
True, for just clearing the approaches to Antwerp there would be no
headlines. However, IIRC Hastings "Armageddon" states that in early
Sept., this could have been done with little opposition. This would
have the added benefit of blocking the escape routes of a large Germany
Army. They later escaped across the Antwerp approach channel.

If that had happened, and created a big pocket - that would have
created headlines. AFAIK there were very few times the Western
Allies managed to surround large amounts of German troops.

The only two I know of are the Falaise pocket and at the very
end in the Ruhr. This is in contrast to the Eastern Front in
which I believe it was fairly common for Germans and Soviets
to surround large numbers of enemy troops.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 23, 2012 2:07:51 PM PDT
PS,
The terrain on the Eastern Front was far more favorable to sweeping envelopements than the terrain in Western Europe. Plus the American generals weren't trying to capture German troops, they were trying to capture territory and end the war quickly.

The point I was trying to make was that Monty wanted the headlines for "liberating" Antwerp, not to capture a working port. From my reading, he never even considered that the Germans would occupy the approaches to deny the use of the port to the allies.
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Discussion in:  History forum
Participants:  20
Total posts:  190
Initial post:  Aug 6, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 14, 2012

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