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Old 04-11-2013, 12:41 PM
 
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While pondering the Ike's commanders in Western Europe I have been wondering how the campaign would have been fought by trading overall ground commanders around. Would have Patton or Montgomery been better overall commanders than Bradley? While from a tactical stand-point I can't think of anyone better than Patton, but Patton was politically and personally incapable of running a multi-national force, Montgomery's ego/arrogance would have made him equally ill-suited for the task. And I have some doubts about his tactical skills as well. Based on that assessment (if I am correct and I'm not sure about that) was Bradley Ike's only alternative?

What say you all?
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Old 04-12-2013, 06:10 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
While pondering the Ike's commanders in Western Europe I have been wondering how the campaign would have been fought by trading overall ground commanders around. Would have Patton or Montgomery been better overall commanders than Bradley? While from a tactical stand-point I can't think of anyone better than Patton, but Patton was politically and personally incapable of running a multi-national force, Montgomery's ego/arrogance would have made him equally ill-suited for the task. And I have some doubts about his tactical skills as well. Based on that assessment (if I am correct and I'm not sure about that) was Bradley Ike's only alternative?

What say you all?
The group of American general officers during World War II was largely shaped by George Marshall as Army Chief of Staff, beginning in 1939. So they weren't stuck with Bradley and Patton - those men made the cut by design.

Montgomery, of course, wasn't Ike's choice (he wanted to replace him in early 1945 with Harold Alexander) but such is the nature of an alliance.

Patton's limitations were widely known. Eisenhower even once took pains in a letter back to the states to underscore the fact that Patton was 'sane' (Ike's word); rarely does a commander have to go out of his way to make it clear that one of his leading generals is mentally stable. But Marshall and Eisenhower both saw Patton as so exceptionally talented on his specialty (offense, particularly in the niche of driving and harrying a retreating force) that he was kept on for that purpose. Also, his notoriety amongst the Germans made him an extremely useful decoy in the pre-Overlord deceptions).
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Old 04-12-2013, 11:50 AM
 
Location: Londonderry, NH
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Patton was a warrior. The rest were bureaucrats. The bureaucrats rarely consider warriors completely sane. They are usually correct. Warrior is a form of insanity but can be very useful if they are on your side.
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Old 04-12-2013, 12:07 PM
 
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What amazes me about Patton (not his birth name) was his exploits in WW1, let alone WW2. He was the first and youngest American officer to command American soldiers using tanks, French tanks. And was promoted to b. general, in which he enjoyed for a short time until demoted to major after the war ended (common practice then). My Grandfather was under his command in DC, pre-WW2 (Fort Myer, Va). My uncle was a friend of his son, both met in Vietnam, both commanded Armored Divisions.

Last edited by jmking; 04-12-2013 at 12:50 PM..
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Old 04-12-2013, 01:07 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Siskiwit View Post
The group of American general officers during World War II was largely shaped by George Marshall as Army Chief of Staff, beginning in 1939. So they weren't stuck with Bradley and Patton - those men made the cut by design.
One could argue, quite correctly, that a general staff at any time given time in history "is what it is" out of design.

The point is that amongst equals Ike had a choice between Patton, Bradley and Montgomery to run the western European theater of operations and while I believe that his choice was the correct one based upon the politics and personalities, my question was it be the best decision based upon the war waging capabilities of the three.

Personally, I believe that Bradley's military acume the least effective of the three. Am I wrong or am I right?

Quote:
Montgomery, of course, wasn't Ike's choice (he wanted to replace him in early 1945 with Harold Alexander) but such is the nature of an alliance.

Patton's limitations were widely known. Eisenhower even once took pains in a letter back to the states to underscore the fact that Patton was 'sane' (Ike's word); rarely does a commander have to go out of his way to make it clear that one of his leading generals is mentally stable. But Marshall and Eisenhower both saw Patton as so exceptionally talented on his specialty (offense, particularly in the niche of driving and harrying a retreating force) that he was kept on for that purpose. Also, his notoriety amongst the Germans made him an extremely useful decoy in the pre-Overlord deceptions).
So do you think, Alexander included, would have made a better overall commander?
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Old 04-12-2013, 01:34 PM
 
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[quote=ovcatto;29095933]One could argue, quite correctly, that a general staff at any time given time in history "is what it is" out of design.[quote]

You could argue that.

But Marshall's extensive cashiering of generals, borne out of a very clear template of what he sought in a general officer, to an extent that simply has not happened since World War II suggests less active design and more acceptance of the status quo since that time.

Some leaders carefully shape their organizations to produce precisely the result they desire. And many leaders have a far less clear vision of what they want, and less of an ability to bring it about, resulting in an unintended 'shape'.

It would be folly to argue that they are one and the same.
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Old 04-12-2013, 03:18 PM
 
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Eisenhower's handling of his generals have heard was a plus for Ike.

As to Bradley, the ONLY time I had an NCO make a reply back to me was when I questioned why Bradley stayed in quarters at El Paso with medical people as staff to take care of him during the time he was so elderly. And that NCO respectfully informed me of the love that the American soldiers of that time had for GEN Bradley and he was due for any respect given to him, even then.

But that is what senior NCOs do, they teach young LTs.
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Old 04-12-2013, 03:55 PM
 
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[quote=Siskiwit;29096399]
Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post

But Marshall's extensive cashiering of generals, borne out of a very clear template of what he sought in a general officer, to an extent that simply has not happened since World War II suggests less active design and more acceptance of the status quo since that time.
Really...?!? The history of Gulf Wars I & II or the general politics of the pentagon in the post Viet Nam ear would seem contradict that opinion.
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:19 PM
 
14,780 posts, read 43,697,549 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ovcatto View Post
While pondering the Ike's commanders in Western Europe I have been wondering how the campaign would have been fought by trading overall ground commanders around. Would have Patton or Montgomery been better overall commanders than Bradley? While from a tactical stand-point I can't think of anyone better than Patton, but Patton was politically and personally incapable of running a multi-national force, Montgomery's ego/arrogance would have made him equally ill-suited for the task. And I have some doubts about his tactical skills as well. Based on that assessment (if I am correct and I'm not sure about that) was Bradley Ike's only alternative?

What say you all?
In Europe, outside of the brief period between D-Day and September 1944, Eisenhower himself was the overall commander of ground forces as well as Supreme Allied Commander.

For the Normandy Campaign it was not going to be possible to move SHAEF to continental Europe for Ike to take personal control. The invasion and subsequent campaign therefore needed an overall ground commander. The invasion was technically carried out by the British 21st Army Group which contained all of the British, Canadian and American units involved. Of the 10 initial divisions, only five were American. Owing to the 50/50 unit split and political sensitivities, it was decided that the overall ground commander would be British. Following the invasion when SHAEF moved to continental Europe, Ike would take the role of overall ground commander.

Ike personally wanted Alexander for Overlord because he was the most experienced British officer in terms of commanding multi-national forces. He had also developed a good working relationship with Bradley and other American commanders who thought highly of him. He had also commanded the overall invasion of Sicily and Italy, so had experience with amphibious operations. The British balked at Ike's suggestion and refused to move Alexander from his post in Italy thinking him "unfit" for the role in France. The British basically insisted that Montgomery be the overall ground commander for Overlord and Ike accepted.

So, from June 6th, 1944 until September 1st, 1944 Montgomery was the overall ground commander of all forces in France. Bradley was the overall commander of American forces, but he reported to Montgomery and was technically part of the British 21st Army Group. When SHAEF transferred to France on September 1st, Ike took over the position of overall ground commander and had been agreed to previously, though Monty doth protest, lol.

From that point on, Montgomery served under Ike as the commander of the British 21st Army Group. Bradley assumed command of the American 12th Army Group and also reported to Ike. This situation made Bradly and Montgomery equals in the command structure. At the same time the American 6th Army Group under General Jacob Devers that had invaded southern France in August shifted from being under the Mediterranean HQ to being under SHAEF. When Patton's 3rd Army was activated, he was not an army group commander and was simply attached to Bradley's command as part of the American 12th AG.

So, from September 1st on, the command structure was as follows:

Eisenhower - Supreme Allied Commander and Overall Ground Forces Commander
Montgomery - British 21st Army Group Commander, reports to Ike.
Bradley - American 12th Army Group Commander, reports to Ike.
Devers - American 6th Army Group Commander, reports to Ike.

Respectively these groups formed the left (north), central and right (south) of the front in France, all under the command of Ike and none of the individual commanders were greater then the others.

So, given that, we need to rephrase the question a bit...

1. Would another commander have been better as overall ground forces commander versus Ike filling that role himself?

or

2. Was there a better choice for the overall ground forces commander for D-Day?

My answers to those...

1. No. No one could have filled that role better than Ike. It required carefuly balance and restraint and no individual commander had the respect of all nations forces that Ike had. Further as the contingent of American forces swelled it was impossible to keep a British commander in place and I don't see either of the American alternatives being better than Ike. Each of the alternatives also brings in their own issues in regards to being too aggressive, not aggressive enough or being too narrowly minded to see the bigger picture.

2. This one is debatable. Overall though, I think Montgomery was a good choice. He spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the invasion, including drawing up numerous contingency plans if things didn't work out. The way Overlord actually developed (clear through to Falaise) was based entirely on a contingency plan Monty had created if the British got bogged down near Caen. Ultimately Overlord should be viewed as his crowning achievement and best action as a commander.

Bradley very much wanted Alexander and so did Ike to an extent, but I am not sure Alexander was the kind of aggressive commander needed for such an operation. Alexander was a better choice politically and everyone "liked" Alexander, but he was a bit too hands off and rigid when it came to commanding a dynamic battle. The commander of Overlord needed to be well prepared, aggressive and not afraid to give and enforce his orders. Montgomery did that while Alexander would have been inviting Monty and Bradley to tea to discuss that "little bit of trouble near Caen".
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Old 04-17-2013, 12:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by NJGOAT View Post
Overall though, I think Montgomery was a good choice. He spent a considerable amount of time preparing for the invasion, including drawing up numerous contingency plans if things didn't work out. The way Overlord actually developed (clear through to Falaise) was based entirely on a contingency plan Monty had created if the British got bogged down near Caen. Ultimately Overlord should be viewed as his crowning achievement and best action as a commander.
Very much agreed. Not enough people realize how much of the Overlord planning came from Montgomery and his staff. And while staff work is boring and uninspiring, it wins battles.

Interestingly, the one time Montgomery truly deviated from form and made a Patton-like gamble - I'm speaking of Market Garden - the operation went sour.
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