WWII: Allied and Axis strategy in Western Europe

Apr 2014
318
Istanbul Turkey
#31
Sound like an opinion ,
but certainly a couple of Panzer divisions close to the beaches would have given Eisenhower a serious headache
three waffen SS assembled there meant the landing would be a disaster

the iffy weather made him hesitate , if it wasn't the 6th , the whole enterprise would have been compromised for months
a single landing in the South of France was possible but far from desirable , the Germans could reinforce there faster than he could

should the landing be a failure he would have borne the blame , of course , but this was the least of his problem
the pressure to land was immense but the vision of blood in the water with bodies floating face down could not have been far from his mind
That is why Operation Fortitute diversion operations , British double cross system to manipulate German intelligence , Patton's non existent 1st US Army Group with fake tanks , vehicles in Dover across Pas de Calais , heavy aerial bombing and radar jamming in Calais region etc were so vital. What SHEAF hoped (and achieved with great sucess) was convincing German High Command , Oberkommand West and Army Group B THAT D-Day landings on 6th June was a diversion and real landings would be done to Pas De Calais from Dover (since it was the shortest crossing route) a few weeks after landings in Normandy (which were supposed to divert German reinforcements before "real" landings in Calais according to German strategic rationale) That is why BOTH BEFORE AND AFTER LANDINGS Hitler, OKW and Oberkommand West had been so reluctant to release all panzer divisions at once to Army Group B. They were constantly looking at Pas de Calais till at the end of July 1944 expecting for a second invasions that would never happen. This is what STAVKA (Soviet High Command) would call a "maskirovka" (diversion game) in higest form.

Hitler , OKW and Oberkommand West released 15th Army in Pas de Calais along with reminder panzer divisions only at the end of July 1944. By then Allies securely lodged in Normandy bridgehead , captured Caen and Cherbourg and broken German front at Avranches with Operation Cobra and poised to enter Brittany.
 
Last edited:
Jul 2016
7,781
USA
#32
And thank you to everyone for their responses. But could someone address the 2nd part of the OP?

"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?"
This wasnt true. Hitler made a compromise decision. Rundstedt wanted all panzer divisions to be held in central reserve to mass for a decisive offensive using traditional German concepts of modern maneuver warfare. He was fine allowing the Allies to land and gain a foothold, because once they were assembled and their positions known, he'd mass his forces and engage them in doctrinal battle of maneuver, attempting the grand encirclement using concentric attacks around the flanks with his panzer divisions.

The problem with this idea was that it was massively unrealistic when fighting the Western Allies. Rundstedt's previous experience was never against an enemy who even held air parity, so he didn't realize the impossibility of mobile warfare when enemy have air superiority, or more likely air dominance (as the West Allies did over France since early '44).

Rommel knew, from fighting in North Africa, and even then the Allies didn't have dominance. Rommel insisted that if they let the Allies gain a foothold, there was no getting them out again. But he also believed he could stop that by having a two pronged approach. One, heavily defend the beaches and immediate area around it. Two, spread the available panzer divisions nearby to the suspected invasion areas (there were only four real ones in France) and mass the 2-3 available panzer divisions for an immediate counterattack to drive the Allies to the sea in retreat and evacuation.

Then the overall idea was once the Western Allies were defeated in France, the top tier panzer divisions from OB West would be transferred to the Eastern Front to finally achieve a strategic reserve for further operations to stabilize the front (note, this was before Bagration which foretold that all was lost).

Further problems Hitler faced was politics. Rundstedt was in charge, he was commander of the theater. He wasn't there because he was good but because he pissed off Hitler by continuingly allowing his army group to retreat during the big winter counter offensive in 42-43, which got him and numerous other senior generals and field marshals fired (like Guderian) because Hitler didn't think they were obedient enough.

Rommel, also a field marshal, but less time in grade, was a big media hero but was held in rather low esteem by the senior brass of the Heer's general staff, as Rommel was not staff officer qualified and was considered incompetent and untrustworthy, as his rapid advancement was largely due to Hitler's patronage.

Rommel tried, unsuccessfully to steal Rundstedt's command, instead was given command of the combat unit that would be the main effort to resist the invasion. This constituted the vast bulk of troops in OB West, and since Rundstedt knew Rommel did not follow the chain of command and constantly appealed to Hitler directly to get his way, or just did whatever he wanted, it meant Rommel was effectively independent. This resulted in the creation of Army Group G, which was not army group in size but got the name to at least give Rundstedt something to be in charge of since that army group commander would at least obey him as the theater commander.

As for panzer divisions, Hitler compromised. As other posters mentioned the vast bulk of the panzer divisions were in the east but the most capable were actually in OB West.

German army commanders rated their divisions by readiness in how well they could manage certain operations. Called Kampfwert, rating as I meant capable of full offensive operations, II at limited offense, III at full defensive, IV at limited defense, V at incapable even of limited defense. This wasnt based on opinion or skill or esprit de corps or prior experience, just on personnel strength, especially in the combat units, and serviceability of equipment and vehicles. I can't remember the actual numbers, but OB West had more Kampfwert I panzer divisions than the entire Eastern Front.

Either way there still werent enough to do what Rommel wanted and still have a reserve. Rommel's plan would have maybe two panzer divisions on hand for a counterattack. Based on Sicily and Salerno that wasn't really enough. Especially since about 1/3 of the panzer divisions that would end up fighting weren't even rated combat ready yet, still either rebuilding after being mauled in the Eastern Front or else only recently been formed and still conducting unit training.

So Hitler gave some Panzer divisions to Rommel to position nearby to the coast, under his command, then organized a further four into an operational reserve, with the divisions actually not too far from the beaches, but under his own control as neither Rundstedt nor Rommel had the authority to move them without Hitler and OKW approval.

This happened by afternoon of June 6. Some say those few hours made a difference, I say that's horseshit. The Allies plan was goid, and had Rommel been allowed to do his thing, or if Panzer Group West had been allowed to begin movement earlier, the overall result would still have been the same.
 
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Jul 2016
7,781
USA
#33
I think we can also note that, from a doctrinal point of view, the US Army at the time favored attrition over maneuver. Patton was just a notable exception. So a large front strategy made sense in this context.
A common misconception. After all, what was the point of all those all those armored divisions if maneuver warfare wasn't favored?

British and Americans were never as infatuated with maneuver warfare as the Germans, who saw their high mobility as a major force multiplier to cover up for other weaknesses, while the Western Allies generally preferred firepower and firm logistics as their primary force multipliers.

A keen study of battles where the consensus is attrition warfare was preferred is usually the case where the Allies were purposely fixing the Germans in place through consecutive or dual corps sized attacks with limited objectives, largely to wear them down to the point their operational reserve was committed and fixed as well (like Normandy).

Once that occurred a set piece break out operation would be planned and executed, at which point positional warfare ends and maneuver begins again, this time without the Germans capable of stopping it easily. Otherwise you make a breakthrough and then run smack into the reserve, or worse the exploitation force itself has its flank and line of communication cut, causing a pocket.

Germans, especially early war, for various reasons, managed to exploit breakthroughs without attrition largely because their enemy lacked operational or even strategic reserves, but as soon as they did have them in Russia, then Germany got stopped. Same with opposite. After big Soviet counter attacks following Stalingrad, look at what happened when II SS Panzer Corps showed up as a reserve, Manstein used them and other panzer divisions moved by train from less threatening sectors to form a reserve used to perform the famous "Backhand Blow" at 3rd battle of Kharhov. That's what happens if you don't deal with the reserve before or during exploitation of a breakthrough.
 
Jul 2016
7,781
USA
#34
You have that reversed.
The Broad Front strategy would only work if the Germans were in disarray, otherwise all 3 attacks would fail.
The Broad Front Strategy was the planned strategy for defeating Germany in the ETO following the OVERLORD invasion from when it was first pitched in February 1944 and then formalized by all Western Allies in May 1944.

The original plan was to land the five divisions plus three airborne. Establish a defended foothold and withstand the initial counterattacks they knew the Germans would launch with the panzer divisions. Build up reserve units while British exploited taking Caen on D Day. Americans would push west through Cotetin Peninsula and take Cherbourg and its port (needed for logistics). Then after building sufficient reserve of divisions, especially armored divisions, they'd stage a set piece break out, the British would head to the Seine toward Paris and taking Channel ports (needed for logistics), while Bradley pushed to the Loire and Patton took Brittany and Brest (needed for logistics). Eventually they'd breach (where it was figured the Germans would retreat to after Normandy was lost, forming a defensive line on the river) by D+90. Then pushing further, taking Antwerp, and then Monty would invade Germany from the North through Holland, while Bradley would advance through Aachen to Saar, both army groups heading to encircling the Ruhr, with Devers dealing with Alsace Lorraine.

Hence, broad front. Lots to do, everyone is going to be busy. Logistics to go to everyone, assuming the ports were taken quickly and intact, had they been then they would have had the ability to supply everyone.

The use of the term in fall of 1944 is a corruption of the original and proper usage, essentially changing meaning to state the debate to stop doing what was planned, to support numerous army groups each pursuing to allow Monty to be the main effort for a single operational thrust to the Ruhr, due to limited supplies and a perceived necessity to hurry operations before Germans reconstituted OB West units.

With Cherbourg harbor wrecked, Brest and most Channel Ports still not taken, the Scheldt Estuary still not cleared making Antwerp useless, in September 1944, it was realized a FRAGO was needed to the plan.

In that situation, Ike was screwed either way. Even if Market Garden worked an Arhem was crossed, Monty really was in no condition to exploit it. The British were impatient because launching sites for V weapons needed to be overrun. Everyone thought the Germans had no strategic reserve left and didn't want to risk a slow operational winter to give them time to rebuild. Ike and Monty's professional relationship was strained, straining the overall alliance, which put further pressure on Ike to appease the British by giving Monty main effort, especially after they backed him previously in his appointment as SHAEF and then again in his riff with Monty over insubordination and disrespect.
 
Jul 2016
7,781
USA
#35
IMO Rundstedt was correct, however as it happened the chain of command was too convoluted and the opportunity was lost. Had OB West been in command, not Hitler, the situation might have been better. There should have been a couple of Panzer corps in reserve in Northern France/Belgium ready to intervene after a landing.

Rommel's idea could have resulted in most of the Panzers in the wrong place, with likely only one Panzer division in Normandy, and probably pinned down by Allied air power
Neither was correct.

Rommel didn't really have enough operational panzer divisions to do what he wanted, even if Hitler hadn't pulled half to form a separate reserve command. But there were only a few locations where a landing could be done that made sense, and all of those sectors (including Brittany, Normandy, Calais, etc) were heavily defended on the beaches and had a panzer division relatively nearby, within a days road march. But it was Rommel trying to limit movement by having appropriate forces closeby to the beaches, knowing the limitations airpower would have on mobility, and the need to prevent the Allies from establishing a foothold.

Meanwhile Rundstedt wasn't going to bother defending the beaches much. Previous to Rommel's winter '43 inspection tour and then recommendations to the OKW, Rundstedt had a rather laissez faire attitude to OB West, which made sense since at that point of the war he probably should have been retired, he had no stomach for continuing the war anymore ("Make peace, you fools!"). But his weakness was never having the experience of fighting a modernized and experienced Western Allied opponent. He was an army group commander in the invasion of Poland, not exactly a tough fight and especially since the Poles decided to commit most of their forces to defend the border and not the interior. He was an army group commander in the invasion of France, where his army group ended up as the main effort/schwerpunkt. And he was an army group commander during the invasion of the Soviet Union before he was relieved. He never faced an enemy that had even local command of the skies for a short time. He never faced an enemy whose logistics were far superior than the Germans. He never faced an enemy who had more firepower than the Germans. Never faced an enemy who was vastly more mobile than the Germans due to massively increased motorization (no horses in the Allied armies...).

Had Hitler not compromised and stripped half the ready panzer divisions for an operational reserve, then maybe Rommel's plan would have the better chance of success. But even those 2-3 PDs that would have been close to Normandy would not have mattered. The Allies would simply have altered their plan to deal with them, they had the manpower, machines, supplies, intelligence, initiative to do it. The Germans did not.
 
Jul 2016
7,781
USA
#36
This wasnt true. Hitler made a compromise decision. Rundstedt wanted all panzer divisions to be held in central reserve to mass for a decisive offensive using traditional German concepts of modern maneuver warfare. He was fine allowing the Allies to land and gain a foothold, because once they were assembled and their positions known, he'd mass his forces and engage them in doctrinal battle of maneuver, attempting the grand encirclement using concentric attacks around the flanks with his panzer divisions.

The problem with this idea was that it was massively unrealistic when fighting the Western Allies. Rundstedt's previous experience was never against an enemy who even held air parity, so he didn't realize the impossibility of mobile warfare when enemy have air superiority, or more likely air dominance (as the West Allies did over France since early '44).

Rommel knew, from fighting in North Africa, and even then the Allies didn't have dominance. Rommel insisted that if they let the Allies gain a foothold, there was no getting them out again. But he also believed he could stop that by having a two pronged approach. One, heavily defend the beaches and immediate area around it. Two, spread the available panzer divisions nearby to the suspected invasion areas (there were only four real ones in France) and mass the 2-3 available panzer divisions for an immediate counterattack to drive the Allies to the sea in retreat and evacuation.

Then the overall idea was once the Western Allies were defeated in France, the top tier panzer divisions from OB West would be transferred to the Eastern Front to finally achieve a strategic reserve for further operations to stabilize the front (note, this was before Bagration which foretold that all was lost).

Further problems Hitler faced was politics. Rundstedt was in charge, he was commander of the theater. He wasn't there because he was good but because he pissed off Hitler by continuingly allowing his army group to retreat during the big winter counter offensive in 42-43, which got him and numerous other senior generals and field marshals fired (like Guderian) because Hitler didn't think they were obedient enough.

Rommel, also a field marshal, but less time in grade, was a big media hero but was held in rather low esteem by the senior brass of the Heer's general staff, as Rommel was not staff officer qualified and was considered incompetent and untrustworthy, as his rapid advancement was largely due to Hitler's patronage.

Rommel tried, unsuccessfully to steal Rundstedt's command, instead was given command of the combat unit that would be the main effort to resist the invasion. This constituted the vast bulk of troops in OB West, and since Rundstedt knew Rommel did not follow the chain of command and constantly appealed to Hitler directly to get his way, or just did whatever he wanted, it meant Rommel was effectively independent. This resulted in the creation of Army Group G, which was not army group in size but got the name to at least give Rundstedt something to be in charge of since that army group commander would at least obey him as the theater commander.

As for panzer divisions, Hitler compromised. As other posters mentioned the vast bulk of the panzer divisions were in the east but the most capable were actually in OB West.

German army commanders rated their divisions by readiness in how well they could manage certain operations. Called Kampfwert, rating as I meant capable of full offensive operations, II at limited offense, III at full defensive, IV at limited defense, V at incapable even of limited defense. This wasnt based on opinion or skill or esprit de corps or prior experience, just on personnel strength, especially in the combat units, and serviceability of equipment and vehicles. I can't remember the actual numbers, but OB West had more Kampfwert I panzer divisions than the entire Eastern Front.

Either way there still werent enough to do what Rommel wanted and still have a reserve. Rommel's plan would have maybe two panzer divisions on hand for a counterattack. Based on Sicily and Salerno that wasn't really enough. Especially since about 1/3 of the panzer divisions that would end up fighting weren't even rated combat ready yet, still either rebuilding after being mauled in the Eastern Front or else only recently been formed and still conducting unit training.

So Hitler gave some Panzer divisions to Rommel to position nearby to the coast, under his command, then organized a further four into an operational reserve, with the divisions actually not too far from the beaches, but under his own control as neither Rundstedt nor Rommel had the authority to move them without Hitler and OKW approval.

This happened by afternoon of June 6. Some say those few hours made a difference, I say that's horseshit. The Allies plan was goid, and had Rommel been allowed to do his thing, or if Panzer Group West had been allowed to begin movement earlier, the overall result would still have been the same.
A correction, as I typed that up very late at night in between attending newborn twins:

Rundstedt was relieved during the winter of '41-42 after the big Soviet winter counteroffensive, not 42-43, and appointed to OB West in early '42 when it was a backwards post of no real significance. As the Germans did not fear a landing there until '43.
 
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sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,405
Sydney
#37
@ aggienation
" assuming the ports were taken quickly and intact, had they been then they would have had the ability to supply everyone."

all true , however there was a further problem ,

the French Rail had been wrecked with gay abandon by the resistance and then by the German
even having the ports as was devoutly wished would leave the issue of getting the supplies to the front
it is very difficult to provision a corps one hundred km away , never mind three hundred km or even more
the US did it with a fleet of trucks and it was a very slender life line
by the way , holding the ports to the last extremity was Hitler decision
once again he proved somewhat smarter than his old fashioned generals
 
Jul 2016
7,781
USA
#38
@ aggienation
" assuming the ports were taken quickly and intact, had they been then they would have had the ability to supply everyone."

all true , however there was a further problem ,

the French Rail had been wrecked with gay abandon by the resistance and then by the German
even having the ports as was devoutly wished would leave the issue of getting the supplies to the front
it is very difficult to provision a corps one hundred km away , never mind three hundred km or even more
the US did it with a fleet of trucks and it was a very slender life line
by the way , holding the ports to the last extremity was Hitler decision
once again he proved somewhat smarter than his old fashioned generals
Rail was never truly necessary for Allied transportation, they knew going in the rail lines were down, after all it was the USAAF that targeted them with the Transportation Plan. The issue with using trucks, such as the Red Ball Express, wasn't just the amount of trucks it was the length of the journey they needed to make, which was clear across France when it should have been to stockpiles far inland of the major port of Antwerp. Had more ports been opened, more trucks would have been available, more fuel would have been available, routes would be much shorter, dumps would be established closer to the front lines.

The Allies were not supposed to breach Germany in late '44, they weren't logistically set up for it. Similarly to how German logisticians flat out told the OKH of limitations on how far the German forces could advance into Russia during Barbarossa, which they flat out ignored it causing the disaster in front of Moscow in the winter. They reached Clausewitz's famous "Culmination Point," when they come to their absolute maximum advance before tiring out/running out of manpower or supplies, and at their most vulnerable to counterattack. The Western Allies were in the same situation in autumn of 1944, and that ONLY because the ports weren't opened yet and they were still relying on an artificial port that was only supposed to be used for a few weeks, not for half a year.

The original plan was the most workable strategy. Spend the first year after invasion shoring up a major front, opening up ports, getting logistics on track, liberating France, etc. Spend the next year breaking down Germany's door. Take the Ruhr. See how things go from there. The only reason they didn't follow it was because the German collapse in August '44 created a temporary giddiness that the war could be over by Christmas if they kept up the pressure. One of those times when positive thinking is bad, it was completely unrealistic, the Western Allies weren't ready to invade Germany yet unless Germany was truly tapped out of manpower and reserves, which it wasn't, as shown in September 1944.
 

Menshevik

Ad Honorem
Dec 2012
8,910
The People's Republik of Kalifornia.
#39
Rail was never truly necessary for Allied transportation, they knew going in the rail lines were down, after all it was the USAAF that targeted them with the Transportation Plan. The issue with using trucks, such as the Red Ball Express, wasn't just the amount of trucks it was the length of the journey they needed to make, which was clear across France when it should have been to stockpiles far inland of the major port of Antwerp. Had more ports been opened, more trucks would have been available, more fuel would have been available, routes would be much shorter, dumps would be established closer to the front lines.

The Allies were not supposed to breach Germany in late '44, they weren't logistically set up for it. Similarly to how German logisticians flat out told the OKH of limitations on how far the German forces could advance into Russia during Barbarossa, which they flat out ignored it causing the disaster in front of Moscow in the winter. They reached Clausewitz's famous "Culmination Point," when they come to their absolute maximum advance before tiring out/running out of manpower or supplies, and at their most vulnerable to counterattack. The Western Allies were in the same situation in autumn of 1944, and that ONLY because the ports weren't opened yet and they were still relying on an artificial port that was only supposed to be used for a few weeks, not for half a year.

The original plan was the most workable strategy. Spend the first year after invasion shoring up a major front, opening up ports, getting logistics on track, liberating France, etc. Spend the next year breaking down Germany's door. Take the Ruhr. See how things go from there. The only reason they didn't follow it was because the German collapse in August '44 created a temporary giddiness that the war could be over by Christmas if they kept up the pressure. One of those times when positive thinking is bad, it was completely unrealistic, the Western Allies weren't ready to invade Germany yet unless Germany was truly tapped out of manpower and reserves, which it wasn't, as shown in September 1944.
Can I infer from this that even if Market-Garden was successful that it wouldn't have made much of a difference in the grand scheme of things? Even if all the bridges were captured and they had a bridgehead across the Rhine, could the logistical situation support further advances into German territory in late September?
 

sparky

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,405
Sydney
#40
Following the Wehrmacht utter disaster of Bagration and the attempted coup against Hitler
a sudden shattering of Germany fighting forces was a distinct possibility

to cover such a scenario ,there was a bit of a race to grab as much territory as possible
Churchill didn't abide by the Elbe line of sharing Germany ,
he was pushing hard and successfully for advancing on the Danish border , hence Market Garden
this annoyed Stalin no end , he had some harsh words for one of his favorite general Rokossovsky who got tangled in the Prussian marshes
while there was no intention whatsoever of trying to beat the soviets to Berlin
Vienna and Prague were another kettle of fish
 

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