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Thread: Patton In Normandy

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    Patton In Normandy

    Gentleman,

    I was reading Carlos D'Este's Biography of Gen. George S. Patton. At one point I stumbled on a problem that I do not have the professional knowledge and training to answer, that is, I really don't understand why did he made his attacks in northern France so far away from the main battle at Normandy.

    When Patton pulled the Third Army out of Avranches, he split his army and made a four-prong attack, VIII Corps to seal off Brittany, as per Bradley's orders; the XV Corps he ordered to envolope the German Seventh Army at its southern flank and block their escape from the Falaise Pocket at Argentan. So far, so good.

    What I do not comprehend is XX Corps' crossing of the Eure River at Chartes and XII Corps' attack through the Orleans Gap. Both objectives are very far away from the main event at the Falaise Pocket. What was the justification for those attacks? Were they a part of the oringal plan that called for a wide encirclement of the West Heer at the Seine River? If that was Patton's mission, were his two corps supposed to be the outer ring of the double encirclement? Or was Patton just blazing through Northern France enjoying himself?

    Thank you for your patience.
    Last edited by Triple C; 06 Jul 08, at 11:14. Reason: Edited for Clarity
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    Triple C Reply

    As I recall the original mission as outlined by Montgomery before the invasion, the Allied armies were supposedly to have secured a broad front investment along the Seine River by D+100.

    COBRA was a variation from Montgomery's original intent. After-the-fact, it achieved a "breakout" which hadn't been envisioned. With it came new opportunities that became evident to Patton almost immediately upon activating command of 3rd Army. Brittany was irrelevant as of 3 August when Bradley amended Patton's original orders at Patton's suggestion. This suggestion was made on 2 August in the presence of Dwight Eisenhower. With his concurrence, Patton's 3rd Army was DIRECTED to the Orleans Gap and the "long" envelopment.

    What is the Orleans Gap? It is the land-bridge largely between the Loire and Seine Rivers demarked by Chartres to the north and Orleans to the south. With the lower Seine bridges down by Allied air force interdiction since before D-Day, the only readily available bridges for a German exodus eastward across the Seine were in Paris. The Orleans Gap would launch U.S. forces beyond Paris, laying the ground for a possible large envelopment along the Seine's east bank.

    Both Eisenhower's CRUSADE IN EUROPE and D'Este's DECISION IN NORMANDY chronicle these decisions adequately. So too Blumenson's BREAKOUT AND PURSUIT. Ton of history written about this phase and who screwed what up.
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    Both Eisenhower's CRUSADE IN EUROPE and D'Este's DECISION IN NORMANDY chronicle these decisions adequately. So too Blumenson's BREAKOUT AND PURSUIT. Ton of history written about this phase and who screwed what up.
    No One 'screwed up'.
    The Normandy Campaign was completed inside the time that was allotted to it and in just 12 weeks the finest Army the Germans could field was completely and utterly routed. I fail to see how that can be construed as a 'screw up'.
    What we do have is a constant attempt (mainly by Patton devotees) to belittle Mongomery's Generalship and advance their man as someone who could have done it better. That is the root of all the argument down the years.

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    What a man Patton.

    I always wanted to copy him.

    The IA thought I was overreaching! )

    I, however, followed him in his concept ''let the enemy worry about his flanks'' and it sent cold shivers up the spine of my seniors. They breathed easy when the operation over and ensured I never got another! )


    "Some have learnt many Tricks of sly Evasion, Instead of Truth they use Equivocation, And eke it out with mental Reservation, Which is to good Men an Abomination."

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    Quote Originally Posted by mkenny View Post
    No One 'screwed up'.
    The Normandy Campaign was completed inside the time that was allotted to it and in just 12 weeks the finest Army the Germans could field was completely and utterly routed. I fail to see how that can be construed as a 'screw up'.
    What we do have is a constant attempt (mainly by Patton devotees) to belittle Mongomery's Generalship and advance their man as someone who could have done it better. That is the root of all the argument down the years.

    Certainly there were some screwups. They happens with any operation of that scale. And a lot of them happened on the American side. Montgomery and Patton were both fine generals. Monty seemed to be more methodical while Patton was more aggressive. Either one can work, but Patton's style probably worked better in France due to the relatively poor condition of the enemy they were facing.

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    No One 'screwed up'.
    The Normandy Campaign was completed inside the time that was allotted to it and in just 12 weeks the finest Army the Germans could field was completely and utterly routed.
    The Normandy Campaign bled 450,000 losses on the Wehrmacht and in that sense it was an operational triumph but the ultimate prize, the destruction of the German West Heer, elluded the Western Allies. As the result of SHAEF's failure to close the pincers at the Falaise Pocket, the OKW was able to withdrawl of some 300,000 German troops to man the Siegfried Line at the nick of time. The motely collection of slapdash German formations would from August to September held the Americans and British at bay and forestalled the imminent doom that the Allies were poised to inflict upon the Germans. A happier conclusion to the Normandy battles would have won the war sooner and save lives.

    What we do have is a constant attempt (mainly by Patton devotees) to belittle Mongomery's Generalship and advance their man as someone who could have done it better. That is the root of all the argument down the years.
    You will not find conspiracy theories to blacken Montgonmery's good name in D'Este's Patton. Both Monty and Patton believed a more coherent approach to the concept of wide encirclement at the Seine River would have led to a more complete victory. Point in fact, D'Este stated that Monty encouraged Bradley to turn Patton loose and let him finish the job. However while Bradley was the more culpable in the failure to execute the "short hook" maneouver that he himself had concieved, it was equally true that Bradley was working under the assumption that Montgomery could seal off Falaise on his own, an assessment that Monty shared with Ike and Brad.
    Last edited by Triple C; 09 Jul 08, at 08:01.
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    D'este is highly critical of Montgomery (and the British) in his Normandy book.
    I do not say Patton or Montgomery were better or worse than each other but there is a lot of very negative 'US' criticism leveled at Montgomery. It is impossible to discuss the Normandy Campaign without it being mentioned that George could have done it better.
    I would say the supply situation was far more damaging to the Allies in September/October than any German resistance. The Russian 1944 offensive was more 'complete' than that in Normandy but the front did not collapse. The refusal to accept the inevitable meant the Germans fought to the end but the end was assured by the 1944 victories in the East and the West. The Germans were just too dumb to accept the inevitable.

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    If you think D'Este is harsh on Monty, wait until you read Max Hastings.

    The story as D'Este as told it in Patton is: Bradley decided to catch the Germans in Falaise instead of Seine. Monty and Ike both agreed that Brad should go at it. Monty called Patton and told him that he was to ignore the unit boundaries between 21st and 12th Army Groups and drive up north to meet his Canadian and Polish pincer. Patton got to Argentan. Bradley suffered from nerves. Without taking consul of Ike or Monty, Brad gave Patton orders to halt, fearing his flanks. Patton fretted but quickly moved on.

    I have not read D'Este's Normandy but I cannot count how many times he called Monty "a consumate professional soldier" and the only equal to Patton in SHAEF.

    I would say the supply situation was far more damaging to the Allies in September/October than any German resistance.
    And whose responsibility was it to clear Antwerp? More to the point, they had the chance to kill the entire Army of the West before the supply crisis affected their operations.

    The Russian 1944 offensive was more 'complete' than that in Normandy but the front did not collapse.
    As Heinz Guderian said, the whole thing tipped over "like a house of cards." That was the first operation in which the Russians suffered less lossess than what they inflicted. They chased the Germans all the way from Baltic States to Poland. That's how many Frances they overran?
    Last edited by Triple C; 09 Jul 08, at 14:24.
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    And whose responsibility was it to clear Antwerp?
    I could argue that the failure to take the Brittany ports (on time) and the decision to pursue other objectives rather than the agreed Operation Chastity plan had more to do with the supply shortage than Antwerp. That however leads us back down the Patton v Monty argument............

    That was the first operation in which the Russians suffered less lossess than what they inflicted. They chased the Germans all the way from Baltic States to Poland. That's how many Frances they overran?
    Again it depends how you set the parameters. In terms of ground taken or casualties inflicted? The Allied advance from Falaise to the German Border was pretty fast even by Soviet Standards. I would say that The Western Allies took a more careful approach because they could do. Far better to plod on and make no errors rather than risk it all for a few moments glory. It worked so it is all one big 'what if' anyway.
    Last edited by mkenny; 09 Jul 08, at 15:58.

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    Brittany ports was too far from the allied armies to be of use. The problem was not the tonnage capacity of the ports. It was the lack of transports to cover so much distance. They had huge depots full with ammunition and fuel in Normandy, but they could not get it to the front where the action was. Hence the importance of Antwerp.

    The Allied advance from Falaise to the German Border was pretty fast even by Soviet Standards. I would say that The Western Allies took a more careful approach because they could do.
    You seemed to have misunderstood me. The issue does not lay with the advance from Falaise to the Sigfried Line, but what happened when the allies assaulted the fortifications and was stopped cold.

    The assault on Germany's borders was not supposed to be slow. The determinant factor of the pace of American advance through the Sigfried Line was German resistance, not SHAEF strategy. At the German MLR the speed of American Armies was slowed to a tenth of what it was in the golden months from up to fifty miles a day to five, at the best cases.

    There was nothing deliberate or cautious about the battles of the frontiers. The orders of every Army and Corps attested this. They were to attack with the outmost violence and make all possible haste.

    I would say that The Western Allies took a more careful approach because they could do. Far better to plod on and make no errors rather than risk it all for a few moments glory. It worked so it is all one big 'what if' anyway.
    No it didn't. The failure to break the Germans resulted in the bloody battles of Roer, Hurgenwald, and Ardennes.
    Last edited by Triple C; 10 Jul 08, at 09:07.
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    Brittany ports was too far from the allied armies to be of use. The problem was not the tonnage capacity of the ports. It was the lack of transports to cover so much distance. They had huge depots full with ammunition and fuel in Normandy, but they could not get it to the front where the action was. Hence the importance of Antwerp.
    That is why Operation Chastity was planned. The Intention was to use the rail system outside of Northern Fance to get the supplies (landed direct from the USA) moving. If Chastity had been implemented then the US Troops would have had their own supply lines via Quiberon Bay and The UK would have used the Normandy beaches. A decision was taken to ignore the Chastity plan. I leave you to find out the who and why.
    Far too much is blamed on Antwerp and Chastity ignored. I dare say not many even know of Chastity.
    Last edited by mkenny; 10 Jul 08, at 16:24.

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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    No, I don't know aboutmuch operation chastity. Building an artificial harbor doesn't look too much a brilliant idea.
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    Senior Contributor Triple C's Avatar
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    mkenny,

    After some quick research into Chastity... was this the mission that Patton abandonned in Britainy? That mission by most historians' assements was obsolete when Middleton made the St. Lo breakethrough.

    You can call the Battle of Falaise Pocket a success or Chastity a missed oppertunity. But you cannot have it both ways. Those missions are not mutually compatible. Patton could seize the initiative to outflank the Germans, or he could capture Brest by using his tank divisions in a series of slugging matches against fortress troops in the Peninsula to seize a port that might have the potential to be exploited by a gimick. He could not do both and one of the missions is more important in my opinion then the other.

    How do you call it?
    Last edited by Triple C; 15 Jul 08, at 11:42.
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    I see it this way. There was a plan where a harbour was to be built at Quiberon Bay. The shipping and equipment was in place ready to be installed. This was a massive project that was needed to ensure supplies were adequate for the advance into Germany.
    A (low level)decision was taken to ignore this plan and as a consequence supplies landed were lower than planned. Patton later complained he was short of supplies. Montgomery is usualy blamed for this shortage because he did not take Antwerp in time. Taking stock of the 'new' information on Chastity who do you think was more to blame for the lack of supplies?
    Their is no concensus that the breakthrough made Chastity 'obselete' and it is a much disputed in print.
    My contention is that Chastity was planned so as to make sure sufficient supplies were landed to support the advance. If you change the plan then you should not complain because you suffer the consequences. More to the point don't blame someone else for your self-inflicted problems.
    I am always amazed that so few seem to know about Chastity or its cancellation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Triple C View Post
    Patton could seize the initiative to outflank the Germans, or he could capture Brest by using his tank divisions in a series of slugging matches against fortress troops in the Peninsula to seize a port that might have the potential to be exploited by a gimick. He could not do both and one of the missions is more important in my opinion then the other.
    Chastity was no gimmick. An entire artificial harbour was built and was ready to be installed. The shipping was allocated to build it and it was a massive operation in terms of planning and resources. You could argue that other objectives made it unnecessary. I would argue the severe supply problems experienced are confirmation that Chastity was needed. Some Historians even argue that a desire for glory was a significant factor in Chastity's demise.

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