What if Montgomery was wrong about Market Garden?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by McPherson, Sep 24, 2019.

?

Was Gavin to blame for the failure of Market Garden?

This poll will close on Apr 11, 2020 at 10:13 AM.
  1. No. he cleared his decisions to delay the assault on the bridge with GEN Browning

    6.5%
  2. Yes. he should have known the bridge was the immediate objective to be seized at all costs.

    16.5%
  3. Failure to take Nijmegen Bridge was just 1 mistake of many and blame goes to several people and fac

    60.0%
  4. How about blaming the Germans, since they put up one heck of a fight?

    34.7%
Multiple votes are allowed.
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  1. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    What if it was not GEN Montgomery's plan (In my opinion, YMMV; faulty concept of operation.), but GEN Gavin at Nijmegen who screwed everything up with not immediately assaulting Nijmegen bridge at once, instead of concentrating on the Groesbeek Heights drop zones defense? Just where did that critical 36 hour delay occur that resulted in the Arnheim disaster?

    Understand that GEN Montgomery is an excellent general and probably one of the top 3 British generals available at the time.

    Nevertheless... I am not too keen on Montgomery as an op-art practitioner, being that I have heartburn about his mistakes during Husky (Hung up around Aetna because he could not use a road net or read a map.), Haystack (Where that 16 hour delay to move north allowed the Germans to concentrate exclusively against Clark and almost destroy the Salerno beachhead.) and especially Overlord (Failure to take Caen on day 1 as part of the Anglo-Canadian plan to get to the high ground beyond the city.) and the subsequent disastrous Normandy campaign he waged (Again Caen with several botched assaults; I'm not ever buying the alibi either, that he used the Anglo-Canadians to draw all the panzers to Caen front since his subordinates and he killed a bloody lot of British and Canadian soldiers with lousy tactics and battleplans and THEY (the generals; not the troops.) failed to close the noose at Falaise after COBRA; not the Americans, who could actually execute an encirclement, but were denied the boundary permission to do it themselves.), but am I wrong about Market Garden? Was it executable as he conceived it, and was it the 82nd Airborne which failed to take its bridge fast enough, was that the key event, that doomed the plan?

    McP.
     
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  2. MKD Well-Known Member

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    Looking at your poll it is a combination of all of the options! I think the overall plan was worth the gamble even though it didn't work out.

    PS - may I ask if you are an American? There is an awful lot of reflection of American historical literature in your statements on Monty especially about Caen

    PPS my view on Monty was that he was a very good general but an absolute Barclays banker and extremely arrogant and full of his own importance.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2019
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  3. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    Yes. I had a family member killed at Salerno. I try to be objective about Sir Bernard Law Montgomery, but he does have the weaknesses I mentioned and they should be noted. I also think that Market Garden may be the one time the Americans got it absolutely wrong. Nijmegen (36 hours) was extremely costly.
     
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  4. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

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    Had 90th Division closed the Falaise gap (verses the remains of the Elite FJs and SS units which still had a lot of fight in them - so that would have gone well) as has been suggested by some historians (and Patton), then it would no longer be the worst division in the then US ETO order of battle as it would have ceased to exist!

    Back to Gen. Gavin.

    A very good general - however I do feel that the principle reason for all 3 main Airborne units was the capture of the principle Bridges to allow the mobile divisions of XXX Corps to advance beyond Arnhem.

    1st Airborne's plan for example was fraught with error, but a reinforced battalion based around 2 PARA BTN did grab one end of the main bridge and did hold it for 3 days so they at least tried to achieve the op despite the poor divisional plan.

    Gen Browning's use of nearly what amounted to a Brigade worth of Gliders to bring his Corps Staff into the AO when it was not really needed might have made a difference had they instead been given to 1st AB!

    It seems that Gen Gavin was more concerned about the heights to the East and did not commit to the Bridge as his principle objective.

    I kind of get it - the heights to the East represented the German boarder and the fear was that the Heer could attack into the flanks of XXX Corps advance.

    However the operation was a risk which required a rapid advance towards Arnhem and I feel that had the Bridge been taken then fortune would have favored the bold and the heights could have been dealt with after the event as the logistical links in that area would have made it difficult for any large German unit to concentrate and make any meaningful attacks to the West.

    As to blame (which is easy for us up timers), Colonel Lindquist of the 508th Rgt seems to have completely misunderstood his core mission and was apparently surprised when Gavin asked him at 6 pm "have you captured the Bridge yet?" (despite having the majority of his Rgt organized for some time had not moved) and I imagine that Gavin was equally surprised by his answer.

    The Bridge and town was effectively undefended and had they moved faster it might have been a 'cheaper' op for the Division and ultimately

    Unfortunately whatever Colonel Lindquist's faults as a commander it was Gavin's responsibility to ensure that he understood his mission which he obviously did not.

    So there were many main points of failure - but I have always struggled with Gavin's troops not capturing or attempting to capture the Bridge on day 1 and feel that despite everything had XXX Corps been "handed across it" across it earlier rather than the Guards Armored having to fight through the town even after the bridge had been captured then the entire plan 'might' have been more successful.
     
  5. Carl Schwamberger Well-Known Member

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    I feel all the bridges should have been taken in strength on Day 1.
     
  6. David Floyd Well-Known Member

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    Why take the gamble at all? The Allies held massive superiority across the board. Why not focus on clearing the Netherlands and opening up Amsterdam and taking Walcheren?

    XXX Corps was never going to go fast enough to relieve not one, not two, but three widely separated divisions of high quality airborne troops.

    MG was a classic case of senior commanders seeing what they wanted to see rather than making rational decisions.
     
  7. Aber Well-Known Member

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    There's also the blown bridge at Son.

    Most of the problems (drop zones, single lift, delays in flanking Corps, poor communications) are down to hurried and dispersed planning where the commanders intent - take the bridges with surprise, armoured division advancing over a carpet of airborne troops - was not translated into reality. I'd have to check how much this was due to Montgomery delegating to Browning.

    The other issue is the post-war narrative. If the Nijmegen bridge was blown when Guards Armoured captured it, then Gavin's decisions would have come in for a lot more scrutiny.
     
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  8. Draconis Emperor of the North Pole.

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    Is Cornelius Ryan's book "A bridge too far" and the movie based on it considered to be historically accurate?
     
  9. Thoresby Well-Known Member

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    Market Garden was such a mess that there is more than enough blame to go around. The plan was flawed from the start, hurriedly planned and poorly coordinated with the drop zones frequently in the wrong place. However if Gavin and the 82nd had gone for the bridge rather than digging in on the ridge then things would have gone considerably better.
     
  10. Threadmarks: How about a detailed presentation?

    McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    Food for thought...



    You might not agree, or you might, but whatever you think, he does cover the operation and tries (And fails to me, YMMV.), to present a balanced case.
     
  11. Draconis Emperor of the North Pole.

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    It's a long video, but I will view it later today.
     
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  12. McPherson McPherson; a guy who needs a shave.

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    I suppose clearing the Scheldt would be the other option, but that Scheldt option still carries the war into 1945 and it will cost a tremendous number of Anglo-Canadian casualties (See Monty's quote in the OP.). Maybe BLM was thinking about that part of it when he had this brainwave? It was not characteristic to gamble so, for him.
     
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  13. ASDFG56 Proud veteran of Blackbeard and Pittsburgh.

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    Personally, I view Montegomery as akin to a British George B. McClellan; good at organizing and P.R., but not so good when it comes to actual command. That said, MK wasn't necessarily doomed from the start, nor was it complete failure. The plan relied on so much going right, that didn't account for something going wrong, such as the failure to capture the bridge over Waal, the destruction of the bridge at Son, and the XXX Corps being delayed. That said, it did make a hole in the German lines, and liberated parts of the Netherlands from German control. Had contingencies been made and successfully undertaken, we might call it Montegomery's winning gamble, albeit I doubt that the war would have been over by Christmas. One butterfly maybe that Wacht am Rhine might be not conceived because of the need to keep the reserves towards the Northern end of the front, but then of course... well... Hitler.
     
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  14. David Floyd Well-Known Member

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    I agree with that. That said, Eisenhower had to ultimately approve MG. I completely understand that Britain was casualty adverse, but at the end of the day 1st Airborne was basically destroyed and the Scheldt still had to be cleared.

    I dunno. I do know politics played a big part, but that doesn't change the fact that MG was a mistake.
     
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  15. Cryhavoc101 Well-Known Member

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    There is another aspect here.

    A4/V2 rocket attacks on London - it was feared that London would be absolutely smashed (again) and that there would be massed casualties

    A lot of the Launch sites were in the NL and the operation effectively stopped them from being launched from those locations

    So I do wonder how much the V2 attacks drove the op due to political pressure?
     
  16. nbcman Donor

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    Monty was most definitely wrong. If they would have struck north from Antwerp in early to mid September 1944 and not invested / attacked the French channel ports, the defenses in the Scheldt were weaker (only 1 division in front of XXX Corps, the weather was far better than early October, and the 15th Army could be caught trying to withdraw as opposed to getting into defensive positions along the Scheldt with additional reserves from Germany.

    Even if they got across the Rhine, the Allies were running on fumes by September and were not going to be able to keep rolling eastward. So they would have had a bridgehead over the Rhine that they maybe could hold and still no port of Antwerp. Optimism and ignoring the limits of logistics is no way to run an Army Group - or SHAEF.
     
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  17. Nick P Donor

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    Some years ago I read a very good study of how the Wehrmacht got its act together very quickly when the attack started. They were highly experienced at putting together small or reduced units and moving them into suitable positions for the battles they faced, especially learning from the mess of the Eastern Front. IIRC they had units of clerks, cooks and remnants of armour and artillery units that had been withdrawn for rebuilding from the French battles. The German command were surprisingly swift at getting those forces into action effectively.
    It was this effort that stopped the Allied advance and allowed for the German reinforcements to retake Nijmegen.

    I forget the title but it may have been It Never Snows in September. Black and red cover, very dry writing, rather technical.
     
  18. Dave Shoup Banned

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    Available at the time? Maybe, maybe not. Eisenhower thought Alexander was equally capable at the Army Group level and better at coalition warfare, and there were others who look like they'd have been capable enough at the army or army group level, but whose records are obscured by the shadow Montgomery casts, appropriately or not.

    Browning was the corps commander, the senior officer in the field, and - by definition - was of a rank (lt. general) and background that he should have been able to work directly with BLM as AG commander, Dempsey as army commander, and Horrocks as peer-to-peer corps commander; Gavin assumed command of the 82nd in August as a brigadier general, was committed to MARKET-GARDEN in September, and didn't get his second star until October. IF - and its a large IF - the 82nd was not doing what all those worthies thought it should have been doing, it was Browning's responsibility to direct Gavin otherwise.

    The reality is that given the situation the Allies generally and the 21st Army Group specifically found themselves in NW Europe in the autumn of 1944, clearing the Scheldt and putting Antwerp into operation was the number one priority for Montgomery's command. Absent the port, even if the 2nd Army had been able to seize control of all three bridges, where were they going to go from there? Kind of a long way to encircle the Ruhr (from the north only, apparently) or drive to Lubeck (much less Berlin) or whatever Phase 2 was supposed to be, in winter, absent Antwerp to keep the supplies coming.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2019
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  19. Dave Shoup Banned

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    Opening up the Scheldt for Antwerp, but yeah. The entire operation was a solution looking for a problem.
     
  20. Dave Shoup Banned

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    Antwerp and the Marseilles-Toulon complex were the largest ports the Allies had access to in 1944; the war in NW Europe was going to require two campaign seasons, and thus last until 1945, no matter what they did.
     
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2019
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