WWII: Allied and Axis strategy in Western Europe

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
8,852
The People's Republik of Kalifornia.
#1
Tell me if I have this right:

Eisenhower wanted a broad-front strategy: He wanted to keep pushing the German line evenly at all points. Monty and Patton both favored going with a single thrust: Monty wanted to do it in the North, thru the Rhine and into the Ruhr and Patton wanted to head into the Saar.

Monty criticized Ike for being too cautious. Ike thought the single thrust idea too risky. Well, was it too risky? Could a single thrust strategy have ended the war in 1944? What were the risks? what was Ike afraid of?

On to the Germans. Rundstedt wanted to hold back the tanks from Normandy and other possible landing areas. Rommel thought all tanks should be pretty much on or very near the beaches. Hitler agreed with von Rundstedt and the tanks were held back. And we all know what happens then. But, had Rommel had his way, would the tanks have actually defeated the Allies on the beaches? Or would the Allies overwhelming air and naval support have simply destroyed the panzers sooner rather than later?
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,239
Dispargum
#2
Montgomery and Patton both favored a single or narrow thrust so that they could deliver it. Both of them were willing to compromise sounder strategic principle for the sake of delivering the blow. This is not to accuse either of personal glory seeking, although such may have been present. Rather, both were looking to the post-war world and wanted to position their countries to gain the most advantage in that post-war world. For instance, Patton thought the US should dominate Central Europe after the war which would require the US to capture Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. Patton was not involved in the Yalta talks where Roosevelt gave those three cities to the Soviets.

Churchill and Montgomery thought, probably rightly, that we Americans were naive when it came to strategy. Americans considered war an aberation. Our strategy was to win the war as quickly as possible and get back to peace which was the normal state of human affairs. Churchill and Montgomery took a more Clauswitzian view - that war is politics by other means. Competition between states is normal and continuous. The only difference between war and peace is the level of violence employed. Churchill and Montgomery were convinced the Americans were too short-sighted and would finish the war in such a way that the West would be at a disadvantage against the Soviets after the war. Not trusting American strategy, Churchill and Montgomery sought out ways to fight and win the war on their own, since that was the only way to impose a British strategy on the conduct of the war. Cooperating with Americans meant compromising on strategic principles. Since the British lacked the resources to conduct a broad front strategy on their own, they advocated a narrow front strategy. Eisenhower did indulge the British preference for a narrow front offensive on at least one occasion - Market-Garden. The results were disappointing. Thereafter, Eisenhower insisted on the broad front strategy for the rest of the war.
 
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redcoat

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,491
Stockport Cheshire UK
#3
Montgomery and Patton both favored a single or narrow thrust so that they could deliver it. Both of them were willing to compromise sounder strategic principle for the sake of delivering the blow.
No, they were merely following accepted military practice, you concentrate your forces you don't spread them out.
This is not to accuse either of personal glory seeking, although such may have been present. Rather, both were looking to the post-war world and wanted to position their countries to gain the most advantage in that post-war world. For instance, Patton thought the US should dominate Central Europe after the war which would require the US to capture Berlin, Prague, and Vienna. Patton was not involved in the Yalta talks where Roosevelt gave those three cities to the Soviets.
Both opposed it on military principles rather than political, Monty even suggested that Bradley be in charge of any single thrust if that was needed to get Ikes go ahead.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
8,852
The People's Republik of Kalifornia.
#4
No, they were merely following accepted military practice, you concentrate your forces you don't spread them out.
Both opposed it on military principles rather than political, Monty even suggested that Bradley be in charge of any single thrust if that was needed to get Ikes go ahead.
So it was Ike who was not following accepted military practice?
 

Chlodio

Ad Honorem
Aug 2016
3,239
Dispargum
#5
No, they were merely following accepted military practice, you concentrate your forces you don't spread them out.
So it was Ike who was not following accepted military practice?
There's really no right answer to this question of strategy: If you concentrate your attack in one plance, you allow your enemy to concentrate his defenses there. If you disperse your attack, you force the enemy to disperse his defenses. Neither concentration nor dispersion is inherently superior to the other. It depends on circumstances. WW2 is full of examples of narrow front offensives being pinched off by counter-attacks from the flanks. Take for example the Battle of the Bulge which saw Patton counter-attack from the south. Or Market-Garden which saw the Germans counter-attack both flanks at Eindhoven thereby threatening to cut off 30th Corps which by that point had already advanced to Nijmegan. The broad front offensive was intended to deny the Germans any flank to counter-attack. So yes there is a military principle or maxim out there about concentration of force, but it's wrong just as often as it is right. It's certainly wrong when applied out of context. It's perfectly natural for subordinate commanders to push ideas up the chain of command and to justify their ideas by citing military principles or maxims, but that doesn't make the subordinates right or even genuine. Patton and Montgomery were both disingenuous when they made concentration of force arguments. Their real agenda was to take control over how the war would be fought. It's impossible to know exactly what Patton and Montgomery were thinking, but I suspect concentration of force was only the justification they used to try to convince Eisenhower to agree with them. Clearly the results show that the broad front strategy could win the war. We'll never know if a narrow front strategy could have.
 
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Oct 2015
686
Virginia
#7
The success of the "narrow thrust" was contingent on German disarray after the disaster they suffered in Normandy, and assumed they would be unable to make the flanking attacks noted by Chlodio. That is what influenced Eisenhower to commit to the "Market Garden" plan (along with the need for ports, air bases and to halt "V-weapon" attacks.
 
Oct 2015
686
Virginia
#8
The SHAEF planners, after the establishment of a lodgement in Normandy, contemplated a pause on the Seine to develop logistical support. Then there would be a northern thrust from the lower Seine via Amiens, Maubourg and Liege to the Ruhr industrial area, and a supporting thrust from the upper Seine via Verdun and Metz to the Saar. The Germans would have to commit their forces to defend one or the other of these vital industrial regions and the allies would use their superior mobility and fire-power to destroy them.
However, when the German armies in the West were crushed at Falaise and retreating in disarray, the command decided to cross the Seine without pausing, and exploit the victory to the maximum; hoping to seize the Ruhr and Saar before the Germans could re-organize. In mid August it became clear that logistical problems would soon slow the exploitation and the controversy over "single thrust" began. For the reasons above (and to Patton's diamay - he was much closer to the German border at the time) Eisenhower gave what support he could to Montgomery's northern thrust (fuel, transport, 1st Airborne Army). But logistics and the "Miracle of the West" slowed the advance and allowed the Germans to restore a connected front by early October.
 
Oct 2015
686
Virginia
#9
The Germans compromised on the deployment of the panzer divisions in the West. Three were assigned to Rommels Army Group B, and four were in strategic reserve under Ober Kommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) and three others were in Army Group G. Rommel placed one near Caen, one near Amiens and one between Paris and Rouen. Two of the OKW divisions were in marching distance of Normandy, another was in Belgium and the other south of the Loire. I believe only the 21st Panzer Division at Caen was engaged on D-Day.
 
Nov 2010
1,251
Bordeaux
#10
The Germans compromised on the deployment of the panzer divisions in the West. Three were assigned to Rommels Army Group B, and four were in strategic reserve under Ober Kommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) and three others were in Army Group G. Rommel placed one near Caen, one near Amiens and one between Paris and Rouen. Two of the OKW divisions were in marching distance of Normandy, another was in Belgium and the other south of the Loire. I believe only the 21st Panzer Division at Caen was engaged on D-Day.
Fortunately for the Allies, Hitler also had more 110 divisions tied up on the eastern front, including 35 PzDiv if I remember correctly....
 

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