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Why there was no Victory in 1944,
This review is from: Armageddon: The Battle for Germany 1944-45 (Hardcover)
The detail in this book is phenomenal, one minute you follow small groups of soldiers into battle and feel you are there,
the next you are reading a surgically accurate assessment of the big canvas: the failure to finish Hitler's western armies
Most allied generals come out badly, Montgomery especially.
Max Hastings is scathing about Operation Market Garden, partly on the grounds that it should never have taken place, but
more so on the grounds that Montgomery, in failing to capture the coastline north of Antwerp
when it was undefended, failed to open its vital port facilities, resulting in ever lengthening supply lines.
Worse, when its capture was perceived to be vital, it cost 18,000 casualties, and was not open until early November, by
which time victory in 1944 was no longer a possibility.
He is equally scathing about the necessity of the dreadful battle in the Hurtgen Forest, (so vividly portrayed in the film
"When Trumpets Fade") which has received so little attention in previous histories.
Finally, he is able to show the waning of British influence upon their American allies. This was partly due to the fact that
the UK was running short of manpower, and partly due to Montgomery's constant arrogance, particularly after the Battle of the Bulge.
Nowhere was this loss of influence underlined more clearly than in Eisenhower's personal message to Stalin in March 1945,
stating that Berlin was not a target for his armies.
Churchill's reaction, and Eisenhower's lack of "deference" to it, signalled that in future the US and the USSR would be
the big players.
(Churchill's policies in 1941 had been predicated on the assumption that the US would come to the rescue of a beleaguered
UK, but he failed to realise that they signalled the end of Britain's great power status. Was there an alternative? Probably not.)
Hastings book is also marked by a better balancing of accounts between the Eastern and Western Fronts than has perhaps
previously been the case.
The contrast between the cruelty of the fighting - and the treatment of civilians - is starkly emphasised. The conclusion
is inescapable: no Eastern Front, no victory!
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 17 Oct 2009 18:31:12 BDT
Alan Law says:
In truth I have not read this book but it seems like the usual attack on Montgomery. Like the First World War generals he is an easy target and to attack Montgomery is no great feat. In fact it is very reminiscent of the attacks on WWI generals. Presumably in about thirty years time he will receive some praise. If Market Garden had succeeded then he would have been the hero that won the war. He managed his army well. He knew its limitations, he knew what it could do. Some times spectacularly successful, such as 43 Wessex Divisions performance in the Rhineland. Montgomery was arrogant and abrasive, he made mistakes. Had Market Garden succeeded then not opening Antwerp would not have been seen as a failure. Bradley understood what Montgomery was trying to do. Patton did not. As Bradley observed, Patton's greatest successes came when pursuing an enemy who was in full scale retreat. Eisenhower's brilliance lay in his ability to manage his egotistical subordinates. Strategically and tactically he was hopeless. He had no idea how to breach the West Wall and in the end had to wait for Hitler to obligingly sacrifice his troops in a futile attempt to split the allies at Christmas 1944.
In reply to an earlier post on 16 Feb 2011 20:33:04 GMT
I don't think Montgomery comes out too badly.
I think Mr Hastings seperates the man's egomania from his abilities. He had extreme man power shortages that he was keen to keep from the Americans. He knew maintenance of morale for a largely conscript army was critical and that the best way to achieve this was to arrange set piece battlles where he could organise huge materiel advantage and help minimise losses. He did enough to keep the German armour occupied around Caen to allow the American break out. I think Mr. Hastings allows that Montgomery had the grace to admit his mistake after the war about Antwerp.
I'm not sure whether Mr. Hastings addresses the Real Politik that Montgomery also needed to have an army at the end of the war.
I think history will be kinder to Montgomery than the previous histories allow. He did enough, sometimes just enough but maintained tolerable losses and morale and a fighting army to the end.
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