Allied raids in Dieppe and Saint Nazaire

Oct 2015
865
Virginia
#2
Well, it is hard to claim Dieppe as a "victory" when the loss of more than 3800 men, 100 aircraft, a destroyer and 33 landing craft achieved no discernable gain except "lessons learned".

At St Nazaire casualties were also heavy (169 kia, 225 pow of ~611 engaged, and loss of nearly all the small craft) but at least the objective (the Normandie Dock) was disabled. A victory of sorts.

Is it heretical to question whether any of the WW2 "special operations" by various "private armies" (Commandos, Rangers, SOE, SAS, SBS, "Dam Busters", "Chindits" et al) which resulted in heavy casualties among the highest quality, best trained, most courageous, capable and determined personnel; achieved any strategic result commensurate with resources dedicated to them and the losses suffered? Not to mention the fact that the regular forces were weakened by "skimming" the best people. Couldn't "special operations" have been carried out by regular forces with adequate training, or teams from OSS or SIS?

There is clearly a niche for "special forces" in modern war but didn't the allies overdo it?
 
Last edited:
Apr 2018
695
India
#3
I personally think that you need something that can be termed a battle for it to end in victory or defeat. Both these terms are too absolute and inflexible and hence cannot be used in the complex nature of most of WW2 engagement.

Whether St. Nazair was a success is debatable only if someone looks at it only in retrospect. Both from the PoV of that time and in retrospect one big thing is that Tirpitz remained a fjord cruise service and her only kills were coal sheds in Spitsbergen, once. That's a big success; you really don't want another super raider loose in the Atlantic in '42.

As for Chindits, SAS Desert Rats and likes, you cen't really measure their contribution or success in pure materialistic terms. I mean, it's stupid. If there was this bridge on so and so gorge in so and so province in Burma; and an 80 odd Chindit Party was dispatched from Assam, of whom 40 never came back but the bridge went down with a couple of Jap trucks on it, then we have to delve in the details as to why the bridge was important, how much damage could have happened to the allies if it remained etc etc. It's not so obvious. Special Forces undertake mostly preventive/disruptive tasks which they perform against incredible odds but gets unnoticed. But that doesn't mean they are overrated in any way.

One big reason I consider Commandos, Desert Rats, Chindits or Marauders big successes as their legacy continues to this day. I mean, SAS desert units today are basically the same Desert Rats with advanced tech. Same goes for Indian Army Paras in the western desert. Similary Indian Army shock troops (Ghatak units) in NE today are very much Chindits themselves. You can't even have a discussion on COIN Ops in NE India without mentioning the Chindits once.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,782
Sydney
#4
an operation is not calculated as a "victory " or "defeat"
the proper term is "success" or "failure"

St Nazaire was a rather costly success
Dieppe was the perfect textbook example of a thorough failure ,
not one failure
every aspect of the operation was a failure
from the concept , planning , launch , implementation and withdrawal
it remain a classic in the history of warfare

the only bright spot was the bravery of the men and officers ,
which tend to prove that training and morale are simply not enough to compensate for bad planning
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,260
Dispargum
#5
One aspect of the St. Nazaire Raid - was it even necessary? With hindsight we know that the Germans never had any intention of deploying Tirpitz to the Bay of Biscay, but what did the British know, or should have known, at the time? The withdraw of Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen from Brest back to Germany in February '42 was a major indication that the Germans had given up on that region as an operating area for large surface combatants. The St. Nazaire Raid was conceived, planned, and prepared long before the Channel Dash. I see the raid as an example of military operations taking on an irreversible momentum so that once an operation is put in motion it is impossible to stop, even if the original reason for the operation no longer exists.
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
4,782
Sydney
#6
military plan for the worst , that's legitimate
as for stopping an operation
Dieppe was cancelled at the last moment , the troops were getting on board
then out of the blue it was reactivated a few days later
that's the real mystery
nobody , and I means nobody owned to have done it
 
Apr 2018
695
India
#7
One aspect of the St. Nazaire Raid - was it even necessary? With hindsight we know that the Germans never had any intention of deploying Tirpitz to the Bay of Biscay, but what did the British know, or should have known, at the time? The withdraw of Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, and Prinz Eugen from Brest back to Germany in February '42 was a major indication that the Germans had given up on that region as an operating area for large surface combatants. The St. Nazaire Raid was conceived, planned, and prepared long before the Channel Dash. I see the raid as an example of military operations taking on an irreversible momentum so that once an operation is put in motion it is impossible to stop, even if the original reason for the operation no longer exists.
Yea but if you were a planner in the Admiralty at that time would you have taken that chance? If for no other reason the Germans would never have sent the Tirpitz to the Atlantic for shortage of HFO alone. But it's easy to pass judgements today. In the shoestring year of '42 none of the allies were in any position yo take any chance.
 
Jul 2016
9,676
USA
#8
The overall objective of the Dieppe raid was a pinch raid, to grab crypto equipment, specifically a four rotor enigma machine and code books that they knew would be in the harbor, where the Kriegsmarine command for the area was using a hotel as its HQ.

But the raid got blown up into something far bigger than it was supposed to be, because the objective was rather tough (farther inland, in a contested harbor), and certain politicians wanted unused troops used (Canadians), and because it was thrown together with poor planning and no rehearsals, and because the operation was blown early on when German PT boats spotted the assault force before they were in proper position, so the whole thing should have been scrubbed (as well as not having proper naval or air support).

Because the harbor assault was a total failure, the overall mission was a tactical failure. Because so many of the assault troops were captured in an embarrassing way, it was a major morale failure. Little to no lessons learned were learned, because any basically planned amphibious operation would have known not to do what they did.
 

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