WORLD WAR II in 1944 BY MIKE DONOVAN Based on a True Story
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Pacific Scene The 6 Point Plan to Win the Pacific War The Slow US Boat to China Euros - Ike it Is Baby Blitz Anzio Jan-April 1944 Snake Eyes at Monte Cassino Soviet Pasta-Tutes - March 13 1944 The Decline and Fall of Rome - June 4 1044 Gothic Line The Great Escape Patton Leaks Invasion Plans Pikes Pique More Plans for Overlord The Galloping Ghosts of Gallipoli Mess Rehearsal St Paul’s - May 15 Allied Forces and Plans German Plans Weather Men Air Heads Are Against the Invasion Parachute Key Rommel is Late for the Party Calais Deception Artillery Opener D-Day & D-Day+1 Omaha Chelsea Cota Lo Point in the War - July 18 Caen Holds - Monty Explains My Monty and My Method Villers-Bocage - And the Scapegoat - 6. 13-14 Madman Mike Whitman Frankly Obstructionist De Gaulle House Party - June 11 1944 A Story With Bite Manhattan Transfer Vengeance is Mine Sayeth the Fuhrer - The V-1 V-1 Counterstrategy June 18 - Patton Says Ignore the V-1 V-1 Attacks on the Continent “Storming the Beaches - June 19-21 Operation Epsom Salt - The Last Week of June 1944 Infantry Deficit Disorder Patton Arrives in Normandy - July 6 1944 Trying to Break out of the Normandy Box - July 1944 Caen Airfields John Sousa Artillery Chauvinism Allied Strategy After D-Day East Europe Hitler Losing It Life in Germany - A Moving Picture Oradour 6-10-44 The Liberated Brits - German Gentlemen - American Brutes The Yellow Badge of Courage Patton’s Prisoner is Going Down The Fox Catches the Fox - 7-17 Who Shot ER? Churchill Seeing Red Over Normandy - 7-3-44 Operation CHARNWOOD Monty Razes Caen Kluge Takes Over GOODWOOD Badwood Blundermines Undermine Clementine Hates Monty Too Final Score Goodwood Cobra Bites Itself - The St. Lo 500 Friendly Fire for Canada An Arm and An Eardrum - 7-20-44 Von Kluge - Von Suspect Cherbourg Bottled Up Tragic Tale of Timid Tommies Crashing the Beach at Normandy Drop That Anvil - July 1944 Teddy Roosevelt Loses Another Son to War Wayne Maki - July 21 1944 Cobra Springs July 24-30 Exploiting the Breakout - Hedge Bets Brittany Spearheads Brittany is Easy - Change of Plan Avranches/Mortain German Counterattack - August 6-7 Trapped Like Rats in the Falaise-Argentan Pocket Catch a Falling Anvil The Buick Riviera Campaign - Mid August 1944 The Anvil Campaign The Question of Paris “Take the 8:15 Into the City” Patton Runs Out of Gas - No Oil For Blood - August 29 Patton’s Map Patton is Not a Metz Fan Patton Press Conference Convoy! The Red Ball Express Alexander’s Summer Campaign in Italy Battle of Remini - September 1944 Ambulance Chaser Churchill The VIP Treatment Morganthau Plan Morganthau Plan Leaks On to Germany - Who Will Get the Glory? Double-Edged Sword of Allied Bombardments V2 - V3 Dumbarton Oaks Conference - August to October - Georgetown The Energy Crisis The True Meaning of Friendship - Freddie de Guingand OMG - 9-44 Bigmouths of the Schelde The Arnhem-op Outfought and Outcoached A Bridge Too Useless Comedian Bernie Montgomery Victory in Luxembourg The Boer War Platoon Private Lucky The Deserted Fox - October 14 - Heil in Peace Ant Winnie The October Revolution at Auchwitz Lady Lux Clark Grable Patton Gives Orders to God Sorry for the Misunderstanding - No Hard Feelings, Eh? The Eagle Eyrie - December 12 1944 Freddie’s Dead The Surrendering Bastards of St Vith, Echternach, Houfalize, and Clerf The Battle of the Bulge - 12-1944 Monty Cavalry Jesus Christ Himself Retreat is Verboten! Malmedy Massacre - “The 81” Historians on the Attack
The Russian Front and the “Liberation” of Rumania, Bulgaria, and Hungary June 1944 - B-17’s at Poltava Russian-Polish Political Problem 1944 Churchill Goes to Quebec - Sept-Oct 1944 Muscovite Winston Mrs Stalin Europe on a Napkin Back to the Balkans Greek Civil War and the Churchill Enigma Yugoslav Civil War The So-Called Neutrals - Sweden and Switzerland David Irving Might Be a Little Biased Bulge 44-45 Norwind - Midnight Mass Attack
Asia 1944 The CBI -1944 Dracula’s Revenge in Burma Burma Stories
WWII in the Pacific 1944 Kwajalein and Truk Admiralty Islands Campaign June 15 1944 - D-Day for Japan Back to Burma Theatre - The Matterhorn Sanction Battle for Saipan in the Marianas Jive Turkey Shoot Tally Ho June 19 1944 Battle for Guam Battle for Tinian - July 24 to August 1 Stubborn Peleliu - September 15 to October 15 Philippines Decision Liberation of the Philippines Leyte Invasion Battle for Leyte Gulf The Princeton and the Birmingham Crossing the T at Surigayo 1901 Revisited - Battle off Samar Arisan Maru - October 24 1944 - Shark Attack From Hell Land Battle for Leyte Mindoro Divine Wind - Cobra 12 17 1944 Churchill Pacific Chapters More US Politics 1944 National Service Act A Depressing Subject Election of 1944 Monty- Stubborn to a Fault In the Mood - To Get Tortured to Death USSBS - “UZZ-BUZZ” Sources
PACIFIC SCENE I’ve got most of this chapter divided between, first, a long section on Europe, then a long one on Asia. Before we look at Europe in detail, let’s note the situation in the Pacific. The US and the Australians had turned the corner in 1943, switching from defense to offense after the grueling struggles for New Guinea and Guadalcanal in 1942. But the transition from D to O had been slow. 1943 was a year of two parallel slow hard grinds, one up the Solomons and the other cleaning out the north shore of New Guinea. This was not exactly an equal answer to the Japanese 6 months opening drive from December 1941 to May 1942 netting Nippon almost half a hemisphere. But 1943 had been good enough. It was a start. And it was on offense. Now that the entire Solomons and most of the Bismarcks were in the bag, with New Guinea in the mop-up stage, the time had come for a strategic plan for victory. Australia was safe, and its threatened supply line no longer ruled Allied strategic thinking. The women of the US factories were about to start cranking out an amazing fleet of new ships and a swarm of killer bees in new planes. On New Year Day FDR sent Nimitz a telegram that said “Let’s roll.”
THE SIX POINT PLAN TO WIN THE PACIFIC WAR The plan to win the war was a six-point plan 1- Nimitz violently crosses the central Pacific via the Marshalls while MacAarthur establishes complete control of the South Seas. 2- Take back the Philippines 3 - Coastal landings on China 4 - Take back Hong Kong (for Britain) 5 - From China, begin B-29 bombing raids on the cities of Japan 6 - Invade Japan
3,4 and 6 never happened, and 5 just barely. There was some bombing of Japan from China near the end, but I don’t count that. It turned out that the establishment of long airstrips on Saipan in mid-44 was good enough for the long-winded B-29 to reach Japan and return. The invasion of China and staging the 29 from there became a third-rated priority. The first two parts of the plan, plus two atomic bombs, won the war.
THE SLOW US BOAT TO CHINA There were American brass hats who strongly advocated point 3, the US invasion/liberation of China in 1944. Many still insisted after the war that taking coastal China would have been the better choice, because, for one, it would have put the US in a better position of influence in post-war China. The USA wanted to mold China into a “Great Power” and use the friendship gained from the war alliance to anchor American security in Asia. It was the USA that had insisted to Stalin in Moscow that China be included as one of the four of five big powers in the conferences setting up the post-war world. Stalin would have preferred Russia, America and Britian. He had no respect for China but would look the other way if it was that important to Roosevelt. Stalin had respect for France which was all the more reason he was still furious with France for its easy capitulation in 1940. But Stalin was ok with China as a post-war great power. He had some ideas for supporting Mao after the war up his sleeve. America meanwhile based its political vision for post-war China on a military equation that did not exist. America’s generals and admirals were planning to bypass China on the way to victory, while American diplomats were mapping out a post-war plan as if China would be so grateful for being gloriously liberated by the Americans. If the United States had made liberating China anything of a priority in the war, the entire post-war history of China and US-Chinese relations to this very day would be quite different. If civilian and military policy had been better co-ordinated maybe things would have turned out better. Maybe I’ll hit the lottery tonight. Mao’s Communists won the post-WWII Chinese civil-war in 1949, and Truman was bluntly blamed for “losing China.” Letting the China ball roll through his legs was a key reason why Harry left DC with the lowest favorability ratings of any US president. But Truman didn’t lose China. Either no one did or the US Joint Chiefs of Staff did. It was US military strategy in WWII that lost China politically after WWII. And I’m not saying that this or that should have been done differently on that score either, I’m just saying what happened. (The “losing China” business infected American political thinking like a nasty virus for the next 25 years - JFK and LBJ intervened in Vietnam later on in large part because they dared not face a Trumanesque political backlash from “losing” Vietnam” - note that the phrase is not “losing in Vietnam.”)
IKE IT IS Stalin asked Roosevelt at Teheran (Nov 43) who was going to lead the cross-channel invasion of the continent in 1944. FDR said he hadn't decided. Stalin puffed his pipe smoke into FDR's face and said, “so you fellows aren't really serious about the project, then.” That had irritated FDR and he announced, first week in January 44, that the Supreme Commander for the great operation was Dwight D. Eisenhower. General Marshall was in on the decision. There were a lot of generals who had fought more battles than Eisenhower, and were really more up the ladder and deserved the chance ahead of him in some ways. But Ike was able, personable, and didn't have a Patton or MacArthur ego that would lead to trouble. The impetuous and martial generals had to take a back set to a cooperative and efficient clerk who had never really seen combat up close, unless you count the two days he helped set fire to the tents of the 1932 Bonus Marchers trying to occupy Washington D.C. Ike was reliable. He would stick to the plans laid down in Washington. A Mac or a Patton could not be counted on to do that. Those types would think they knew better than Washington, and would change the play at the line of scrimmage. Ike wouldn't. Ike was “reliable” and that term means a lot more than just showing up on time and sober. Being obedient and kissing up to the boss in the corporate world isn't admirable. In a soldier it is, even at the highest levels. That's why Ike got picked over 20 other more famous more experienced, more qualified military leaders. The very modesty that had held him back in times of peace, was his greatest asset in times of war.
BABY BLITZ - JANUARY -TO MAY 1944 Two years had passed since the end of the London Blitz. On January 21 1944 the Aor Chiefs were assembled in London arguing about the usual things. Tooey Spaatz and Butcher Harris (he is euphemistically referred to in most WWII books as “Bomber” Harris) were arguing with Tedder and Leigh Mallory about what Allied bomber power should be used for, when they all got a reminder that German bomber power wasn;t through yet. A large air raid crashed down on London and the brass had to hide under a desk for about 20 minutes and continue their argument about bomber power. Spaatz and harris argued that they could win the war without an invasion being necessary. They would just ruin all German cities and factories until Germany surrendered. No ground war. That would be needless bloodshed. The other side of the argument was that a) Germany was strong enough to hold on and only a ground war could win, and b) Allied 4-engine bomber power needed to be diverted to destroying the railway system in France for a few weeks, in order to prepare for D-Day. Both sides saw the German air raid as proof they were right. The ground-support group claimed that the raid was ineffectual and just a terror tactic. London had survived the Blitz, and it was surely capable of surviving this one, which was after all, just a “Baby Blitz.” The Great Blitz of 1940-41 had accomplished little in terms of halting British military capability. Wasn’t that proof enough that Spaatz and Harris should cool-it with their overestimates of strategic bomber power.? Spaatz and Harris argued that this was proof that the number one mission of SAC was to destroy the German air force. Even if you had to do it on the ground, you still had to completely eliminate the Luftwaffe from the picture before you want to go ahead with that. Neither side wanted to split the difference and have half the bombers hit the German factories that build bombers, the other hit the French railway system. The Baby Blitz lasted from January 21 to May 22 1944 and was a clear failure in that Germany expended a significant amount of air power that would have been 10 times more useful in defense of the continent when the Allies got around to the attack. By 1944 the air defense of Britian was stronger and the Germans hadn’t deployed a four-engine bomber yet, so the attacks could scare people and kill some people, but Baby Blitz had no strategic value points tallied. The Germans lost more than 300 of their best combat planes, including new first-rate Dornier 217’s and FW 190’s. Instead of meeting Ike with about 600 bombers in June, Goering’s Goons would sent up 180, and all because the baby had to smash his bottle. 1,572 British civilians and one guy from Brazil died in the four-month Baby Blitz. The Baby Blitz was just a Hitlerian baby move. The Allies had been raiding German cities so the baby retaliated. He smashed his bottle and ruined his own food in the process. Hitler on his battle map named sections of London after the bombed-out German cities. Camdentown was named Hamburg, and the East End was named Wilhemshaven on his mad-man map. Like that’s going to help one trillionth of an ounce (and in his rattled addled and buzzed narcissist mind it actually does.) The BB was the last conventional terror campaign against the Island for the big baby. But the little man had more tricks up his diapers. After May, the Vengeance Rockets (V-1 V-2) took over the devilish duties.
ANZIO JAN-APRIL 1944 The main story as the New Year opened was Anzio, the Inchon that failed. In 1950 during the low point of the Korean War General MacArthur conceived and executed a brilliant plan to strike amphibiously behind enemy lines. At Inchon he established a beachhead behind the front along the coast and forced the enemy front line to retreat to avoid being surrounded and destroyed. Inchon was a great success. Anzio was the exact same plan, except that it didn't work. More than 4,300 Americans died at Anzio. That wasn't supposed to happen. This wasn't the North Korean Army of 1951 that the Allies faced. This was a much more formidable opponent and the geography didn't help either. The Gustav Line under 'Smiling Al' Kesselring was holding fast in central Italy. Something had to be done to break this WWI type stalemate on the Italian peninsula. The Anzio invaders were supposed hit and hold a beachhead, and then break out, the same way they would later at Normandy. But the Italian land was rugged and challenging and the German counterattack staggering. The Americans and their Allies almost were completely annihilated on the beachhead. Casualties were dreadful. The Anzio beachhead only managed a delayed breakout long after it would have made a difference. So guess who was the big thinker behind the Anzio gamble that failed? It was none other than Winston Churchill. Some British historians don't mention that. Ike was against the Anzio plan because he wanted all of the Allied resources concentrated on the cross channel invasion from England. Ike was also ill at ease about arguing about Anzio because he was about to get bumped up to commander of the Normandy invasion. He was a lame duck General on the Italian campaign strategy table and wanted to remain neutral so he didn't protest. He didn't want to leave his successor without the chance to make his own decisions. Ike only conceded the Anzio plan to Churchill to keep the Brits happy and it blew up in everyone's face. Anzio was 34 miles south of Rome and 57 miles north of the Allied line advancing (or trying to advance) north. Part of the plan was for the Fifth and Eighth Armies under General Clark to attack the Gustav line to the south of Anzio to deter the Germans from counterattacking at Anzio. U.S. General Lucas was in charge of the invasion and military historians have raked him over pretty good for the failures of this famous battle. Lucas was supposed to secure the beachhead and then hopefully advance to the Alban Hills 20 miles to the interior. “Albie” was key to holding the Anzio area, and for staging a march on Rome to settle up with Mussolini for his back in '22. Lucas was allowed to decide for himself whether to hold the beach and fortify it for defense, or to advance most of his force offensively and try and take the Alban Hills. Lucas made the wrong call. On January 22 1944 a force of 5,000 men crashed the beach at Anzio. The invaders did not take decimating casualties on the initial landing and the diversionary attack by Clark to the south took place as planned. But Lucas chose to fortify his position in anticipation of a concentrated counterattack he was sure would come. General Luke didn't exploit the momentary chance to advance and he gave Smiling Al time enough to organize a powerful counterattack on the Anzio beachhead. February 16 1944 was a critical day in the history of the war. That was the day when the Germans came darned near close to driving the Allied Armies at Anzio into the Tyrhhanean Sea. It was a close call but Anzio held on in severe fighting. More than 4,000 Allied soldiers died at Anzio. What happened at Anzio stayed at Anzio. Even though the Americans held, and weren't defeated, captured, or mauled, they effectively lost the contest. An Allied Army trapped and under attack even at a choice location behind German lines was of no help to the overall war effort. Now there were two fronts in Italy stuck in the mud. The Gustav line and Anzio were chewing up bodies and supplies while gaining little or no ground. We hope you're happy now, Winston. Through general attrition backed by superior forces, the Allies did break out of both the Gustav and the Anzio stalemates but it wasn't until May of 1944. By now the war had moved its spotlight to the English Channel. Four months passed by on the Italian front at the beginning of 1944 with no exiting positive results whatsoever. Anzio finished off the verdict on Churchill “soft underbelly” campaign. It wasn't soft. Churchill was soft ... as a Italian grape. Some war writers blame General Lucas for the failure at Anzio. He is the McClelland of the Italian campaign. Luke did his best and acted according to what he knew from the center of the wheel of combat. His diary indicates that he never believed in wisdom of the mission, and some military historians think that this was part of the reason he was defeated. Defeatism breeds defeats, is the theory. But defeatism can also be a wise inner voice shouting the truth in the face of macho mania. If every General was too optimistic that would lead to military catastrophes just as easily as defeatism. Churchill and Lucas combined to take the blame at Anzio but the other team has to get some credit amidst the blame game. The Allies thought that their aerial bombing was demolishing German morale and that fighting was going to get easier with each passing week. Instead the reverse was true. The Germans were getting stronger in spite of their losses. Lucas blamed Churchill for an impending failure even before the Yankee general set foot on Italian soil. He wrote in his diary that the Anzio plan had “a strong odor of Gallipoli, and apparently the same amateur is still calling the shots.” Lucas had a reason for his caution. He was one of the ground commanders at the battle of Salerno. 'Luke' had seen what could happen when a beachhead was not properly built-up to withstand a counter-attack. The Allies had nearly been driven into the sea at Salerno and Lucas was there. Lucas had Salerno on his brain at Anzio. True, the Germans generals confirmed in their memoirs that if Lucas had attacked, he could have not only taken the vital Alban Hills, he could have marched on Rome like Mussolini in 1922. But Lucas chose not to take this gamble, and there is the key. It was a gamble. To the omniscient historians on both sides it wasn't a gamble. But it was. Lucas bet the wrong horse, but it was a gamble. When the results are in, it doesn't look like it was ever gambling. The Germans were nowhere near close enough to make a concentrated counter-attack in the immediate hours after the Allies landed on the beach at Anzio on January22 1943. Lucas did not know that and felt he could not take a chance and get his men chopped like ground beef on the beaches. Also, who is to say that even if Lucas had made the right call and attacked out of his beachhead immediately at Anzio, that the worst fears of caution might have come true, but at a later date. Let's say Lucas took the Alban Hills as all the armchair quarterbacks say he should have. Then he strikes out for Rome as he should have. Now the unforeseen enters the battlefield because the board has changed. The board has gone far past the time-line of revisionists focused on one mistake a month earlier. Hitler has rushed several divisions to the spot and the Fascists re-take the Alban Hills. Lucas is on his heels being driven back to an unfortified beachhead and Lucas looks like the dummy for not holding firm and reinforcing the beachhead before striking out for the Alban Hills. The Gustav Line holds firm and no help can get through to save Lucas. Winston Churchill says that the Anzio plan was perfect but that he had no control over command decisions on the ground and if the wrong one was made, that was not his fault. Some fool-proof plan; Any commander can implode it by making any independent decision. Typical Churchill, the man who never made a mistake, especially when he makes them. Anzio was, however, in an indirect way, a strategic success. Anzio forced the Germans to send divisions stationed in France to central Italy, On the eve of the Anzio Inchon, the German generals were having meetings about moving 8 divisions of the Wermacht from Italy to France to prepare for the anticipated invasion from England. After Anzio the Germans instead moved 8 divisions from France to Italy. That's a swing of 16 divisions in western Europe. 16 less instead of 16 more. That's a 32 division swing. Then there was Churchill's often stated excellent point that the Allied troops would be sitting around doodling for another year if we all just wait for OVERLORD. They should be doing what soldiers do. Put these boys to work anywhere we can find a spot to land 'em.. This was a war of attrition as well as a war of territory gained and lost. Keeping abundant Allied troops employed anywhere was good for the war effort. Beachheads like Anzio also sent another important signal to the Russians that the Allies were doing everything possible to hold up the western end of the log. Churchill often spoke of the shame of sitting around and watching the Russians do all the fighting. WC used this line whenever anyone questioned one of his bold plans of attack. It was hard to argue with his logic and against his revered person in those times. If the Americans had had their way, there never would have been an Italian campaign, and Normandy would have happened a few months earlier and with all the forces of the Allies at its singular disposal. Eisenhower and Marshall favored ANVIL, the invasion of the French Riviera in 43 to the Italian campaign, but baby Winnie usually got his way while always whining that he never did. Churchill used his power and played the 'London Blood' card to get the campaigns in the Mediterranean to go. Anytime he didn't get his way he'd make a speech about the blood sweat and tears of the British people under the rain of Nazi bombs, and you had to back off. Could the war have been won sooner and with less bloodshed if the Mediterranean campaigns of Churchill had never been? I'm asking. The one German failure at Anzio was the little robot bomb known as Goliath. The little invention was the size of a suitcase and moved on little wheels towards the Allied lines packed with dynamite. The Goliaths all failed to explode properly. When Kesselring heard about it, he exploded.
SNAKE EYES AT MONTE CASSINO – FEB 1944 The Anzio attack was supposed to be coordinated with an attack along the Gustav Line to the South. The Germans were holding firm across the peninsula. The battle theatre was commanded by the high ground of Mount Cassino. At the top was an ancient monastery by the same name. It was built in the 500's by the ancient monks of St. Benedict. A New Zealand military leader named Freyburg went to the American commander Mark Clark and declared that Monte Cassino had to be destroyed. He wanted Allied air power to do it. Freyburg believed that MC could not be taken down by artillery fire pointing up steep mountains., Freyburg had no proof that the Germans were using or planning to use the monastery for military defense. He had no proof that the Heinies were even in the building. But Freyburg was using his powers of deduction to come to a plausible conclusion. Monte Cassino had the thickest deepest, and strongest stone walls in all of Europe. The Germans knew the rules of warfare were based largely upon who controls the high ground. Times were desperate for the Wermacht. Conclusion; The Germans were there and had to be blown off of Mount Cassino, and the only way to do it was to use bomber planes. As for civilians, the Germans would certainly have booted them out by now. At worst a few stubborn monks who refused to leave might die along with the Germans, but that was the price of war. Most of the American commanders were not enthused about the Monte Cassino bombing mission, code-named “Operation Snake-Eyes.” But the New Zealand divisions had contributed mightily to the war effort, and going along with a New Zealous idea was part of holding up the American end of a little quid quo pro. At 5:30 in the morning on February 15 1944 the Allies launched an air raid on this one building on a scale that was usually reserved to try and take out the heart of an industrial city. Monte Casino had stood tall for 1,500 years. In five minutes it was reduced to rubble, and then reduced to more and smaller rubble in later raids that same morning. The raid was a total success. Monte Cassino was absolutely destroyed. But no Germans were inside, nor had they ever been. The monks, meanwhile, were safe inside deep underground bunkers with food and plenty of candles. Upstairs, inside the monastery, a sanctuary of the Lord, were 200 Italian refugee civilians. They all perished in the Allied attack on Cassino. It was one of the worst days in American history and certainly in the Allied war effort. It ranks up there with that USAF missile that hit a civilian Iraqi shelter during the first Gulf War and killed hundreds of civilians there. Not only did the raid fail to destroy a German position, the air assault on the Benny Abbey created in the rubble a highly defendable structure. The Germans decided to occupy and defend the abbey two days after it was destroyed. Then they put up a fierce fight to defend it. Stalingrad had taught the lesson of using destroyed buildings for defense, and it was a favored tactic for the rest of the war. The blunder of Monte Cassino is fair game for historians. But the commanders at the time were faced with a lot of things pointing to go. The troops on the ground were complaining that artillery fire was coming from high ground at or near the Abbey. If the Germans weren't in the building, they were holed up at the building's edge. If they weren't, the American troops believed that they were, and that was equally significant. When the grumbling reached the American correspondents, their papers back home picked up on a tough story. Headlines griped how US GI's were dying in Italy because America wanted to respect the sanctity of a monastery. Editorials unanimously called for US planes to destroy the Abbey of St Benedict. If there was a voice of caution or reason, it was not published. It was a big drama unfolding on millions of American breakfast tables, this siege of Benedict Abbey. Political pressure was on the commanders to raise the ante and raze the abbey. No one had proof that the Germans were inside the Abbey but it seemed inconceivable that they wouldn't be. The German asserted that they had left the Abbey alone. What did it matter what they said? The Germans had lied a thousand times since 1933. Why would they pick right now to start being honest? The Allies simply didn't believe that the Germans would not elect to occupy the Abbey and fortify it for defense. The Abbey had been destroyed twice before but that was back in the three digit years. It had stood unmolested since 777. It's a great shame that it happened. The Allies gained nothing from the mission except slaughtering civilians and ruining a great work of architecture and history. Fortunately, most of the great works of art in storage at the Abbey were evacuated before the attack. But the building itself was art. It was decorated in fabulous historic masterpieces of ornamentation. The blunder at Monte Casino also provided the Germans with a fine propaganda story which they exploited. It was easy to make the Americans look like the bad guys with posters showing the action packed story of Monte Casino. But the Monte Cassino tragedy was an accident. Italy had joined the Axis of Evil on purpose. Everybody knew the scoop with Hitler by the time Italy joined up. This Benedictine accident of war was Italy's fault, not America's. Just because Italian people cheered and threw flowers when the Brits, Yanks and Canucks conquered Italy, doesn't mean the Italian people in general weren't partly responsible for the government that ruled them in this era of war and fascism. The government is a reflection of its society, not the whip-master of it. A few million Italian people somewhere along the way had supported this guy Mussolini, and supported fascism. Italy's war guilt is hardly ever mentioned because the German one is larger and much more interesting. But it was Benito Mussolini in the 1920's who practically invented modern fascism and Hitler who imitated him. Then in the 1930's the Austrian student surpassed the Italian master and Mussolini's fascism became the number two to Hitler's. Italy knew very well what deal it was making with the devil when it joined the Axis. Italy allied itself with Hitler long before Japan signed along to make it a three-some. Until things went bad, the Italian people did not seem to mind this world of Italian conquest too badly. When it went sour it was hail to our liberators and hang the Duce. But during the glory years, the Italian resistance movement did not make itself legendary. Italy's conquest of Ethiopia lit the fuse that started the Second World War. Hitler took his cue when the League of Nation's failed to stop Mussolini's acquisition of a Mediterranean African empire. Hitler also took note when England and France were more afraid of losing influence with Italy than they were interested in standing up to her. These two wouldn't even support an oil embargo against Italy. When the western powers and the League did nothing while Mussolini rocked Africa, Hitler knew the hour had come for his day in history. Italy started the Axis ball rolling. Italy also stabbed France in the back in the days of that nation's collapse, entering the war only when victory was easy and certain, an act of national disgrace. Italy had invaded Albania for no reason at all and tried to invade Greece for the same reason. Italy had turned over two or three thousand Jews to the Germans in 1944 for transportation to death camps. The point being that Italy reaped what it sewed in the last months of the war. Monte Cassino was part of that harvest, and the atrocity was not intentional. The Abbey has since been rebuilt and is now a major tourist attraction. I'd sure like to go there and imagine. The Italians proudly point out that the Abbey was rebuilt after the war without a nickel of American money. But the USA gave Italy millions to help rebuild after the war in general. Without that American aid, the Italian government would never have had the pockets to rebuild the Abbey.
SOVIET PASTA-TUTES – MARCH 13 1944 The Americans were divided about maintaining the royal regime of King Victor Emanuel and the nominally democratic Badoglio. FDR said “I want the King out, period.” But many on his team pleaded with him that co-operating with royalty was the most productive choice, however politically distasteful it might be. Then the Soviet Union sold out its principles to gain a foothold in Italy. The Communists “pastatuted” themselves by recognizing the Royal Italian government for the long term. The Italians then allowed an exiled Communist troublemaker named Togliatti to come back to Italy. The Italians rolled out the “Red Carpet” for the Tagster. Palmiro Togliatti was no friend of the west, and no friend of democracy. He was a classic Comintern Commie. But the Viva-Badoglio gang gave him the keys to the city in exchange for Russian recognition. It would now be difficult for FDR to boot the Royals off the boot without creating a rift in the Allied camp. (Pastatute – is show biz slang for any Italian who sells out the race for cheap show biz stereotyping profit, like the actors in the Sopranos or in the Joey and Maria's Comedy Wedding interactive dinner theater.)
MAY 1944 - ANZIO AND CASSINO FINALLY FLANKED The stalled Allies at Anzio and Cassino were steadily reinforced while the stubborn Krauts were holding on with what they had with no hope of further assistance from a Germany collapsing on the Russian front. Superiority in logistics, but not tactics finally broke the stalemate on the stone underbelly of Europe. The US 5th Army concentrated on the west coast, and the British 8th concentrated around Cassino. Much of UK8 had been deployed to the eastern half of the boot and shifted a bit left, like an old Dallas Cowboys offensive line before the snap. (and if anyone objects to my excessive use of sports analogies, they can take a kneel-down and stop reading any time they want.) The Yanks near Anzio were now under the command of Lieutenant General Lucius Trescott. The initial plan which failed would now get a second chance with more power and less resistance. Truscott would breakout of the Anzio box and cut off the road between Naples and Rome, which was supposed to happen in January. The British attacked at Cassino on May 11 and the Germans held again. But Lucius got his attack rolling on May 23 and the Yanks made good the breakout this time. Kesselring’s Cassino line was now Yank outflanked. Kraut Kesselring left the Cassino having lost his credit line. And let me tell you folks, there comes a time when that becomes the only thing one can do. You can’t chase bad money with good. Same with beaten tired and flanked troops. Kesselring’s retreat was more impressive than the Allied attack against him, and he quickly formed another tough line for the next stand. The whole strategic Underbelly campaign was finally making visible progress but that did not spare the final verdict, which is that it was definitely a tactical failure, and probably a strategic one too. You can argue the latter, but not the former. It took three times as long as it was supposed to, it was marred by mass slaughter at Allied expense, and it did not secure the “turning” if Italy until it was too late to make a difference. Other than that, Churchill’s plan worked great! All that force might have been better used in Asia wrapping that one up and allowing the Allies to concentrating everything on Germany in 1945 instead of the other way around. There are some great military historians who argue that the Mediterranean campaign was all in all a great success, but one thing they will find hard to deny. If Marshall and Ike and Churchill and Alexander and everyone else had known how awful a struggle Italy was going to be, they never would have invaded in in full force at all. They probably would have taken Sardinia and then attacked the French Riviera instead, forcing a showdown with Vichy too. Or, as I have suggested, there might have been a major strategic re-evaluation of the Asia theater. One thing we must concede to the Underbellies. The force used there could not have been used to double up the size of the Normandy invasion. There was barely enough logistical room for all the force building up in Southern England for the attack on France. The Allies would have to secure a large beachhead in northern France and get quite a bit much on to shore before any room could be made to land all the force that was in the Mediterranean in the spring of 1944 (even weeks after the D-Day landings, the main problem was not force numbers, but the logistics of getting them onto the continent - something like when everyone thinks there is a world oil shortage when it is only refining capacity that is in crisis.) So the Allied force in the Italian region needed something useful to do. That was part of the equation since mid 1942. Strong forces are ready to rumble now, but not enough for the cross-channel attack just yet. So what do we do with these troops and rockets - let them do R&R for two years or put them to work? That was half the reason for the North African landings in 1942 in the first place. They have to do something. Even those who disagree with the Underbelly strategy must admit that attrition, hardly the primary Allied goal, was at least a positive in bringing down the Reich-rats. Even the troops pinned at Anzio were least it one more banchee hovering around Hitler’s back.
THE DECLINE AND FALL OF ROME - JUNE 4 44 Allied forces entered Rome at long last on June 4 1944, just two days before the Normandy Invasion. The great irony of the fall of Rome is that its timing completely negated its propaganda and political value when, in fact, the entire Italian campaign had been launched for just these goals. Rome was a difficult military victory and a disappointment politically. Rome was supposed to fall long before the big invasion, and thus provide a key milestone on the path to D-Day. Instead its timetable was backed up so far that it ran in to D-Day and had minimal political contribution. FDR got to say, “The first of the enemy capitols has fallen. One up, and two to go” on the radio, but it probably wasn't worth the price in time, blood, and resources to get there. In the short weeks before the city fell, Rome became a chaotic civil war zone of political terror. Rome was more dangerous when the Nazis left than when they were in control. Communists, Fascists, Nazis and the groups who hated them were all at each other's throats as one rule of law departed, and another still hadn't arrived. Many former Fascists were given an offer they couldn't refuse by gangs of angry Italian partisans. The Pope during all of this was a man named Pious XII. The Catholic Church had made many immoral compromises with the Nazis both in Germany and now here in Italy too. Many have taken the Church to task for its complicity in World War Two, and Pope Impious in particular.
GOTHIC LINE - PO BOYS RIVER The German armies in Italy retreated to a new defensive perimeter known as the “Gothic Line.” This was the last mountainous strip due north across the barrel of the Italian peninsula. Behind the Gothic Line was the juncture of Bologna and the Po River valley. If the Allies could break into the Po Valley, they would win the Italian campaign. If not, they'd be stuck on a Bologna sandwich.
THE GREAT ESCAPE Luft-stalag III was the site of the famous “Great Escape.” It happened on the night of March 24. No less than 75 Allied prisoners escaped L-3. This is the famous escape that was made into the excellent movie called The Great Escape, starring Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Denzel Washington. I read the book after seeing the movie, and, of course, the West Hollywood wackos took some liberties with the story. Overall though, it is an accurate historical movie, especially on the bell curve of history movie accuracy. Thousands of Germans were diverted from the war fronts in order to track down and capture these escaped prisoners. These German troops could have been killing the enemy and sparing the lives of many of their fellow Germans. So, essentially, these escapes prisoners were killing Germans and preventing the killing of Allied soldiers. These prisoners were warned that the penalty for escaping was death. The climax of the movie is the machine-gun execution of 50 British escapees on a German roadside rest stop. It was cold blooded murder. Completely unbelievable that they would do such a thing. A war crime of the highest order. The few who weren’t executed were sent back to Luft-stalag III and were furious to learn that 50 escaped prisoners had been shot. The film at the end is “dedicated to the fifty.” In fact, the whole motif if the film, as far as I can tell, is not the greatness of the escape and the pesky damage it did indeed inflict on the German war effort, but rather the moral outrage we are supposed to leave the theater with over the fifty. When I was 12 years old I already knew a great deal about WWII. I saw this movie and loved it but I went home from drive-in feeling disturbed about “the fifty” but for the wrong reasons. I couldn’t believe that they were making such a big deal about a mere 50 men in a war in which 50,000 innocent men, women and children were dying every month. I loved the 50 guys as heroes, but I didn’t share the moral outrage. In fact I found it odd. The escapers knew the rules and they were sabotaging the German war effort and indirectly killing a lot more than 50 Germans. They would have blown up a German gunpowder factory and laughed about it if they could have pulled it off while they were on the run. The way I figured it, these guys should be thankful they were killed without torture. If they had done the same thing to the Japanese they would have been used for bayonet practice, but not enough to quite kill them. I have a lot of admiration for those guys, but they chose to re-enter combat when they chose to escape. The other thing to consider is the desperate situation of Germany in 1944. It was expedient to shoot them rather than use up all the gas and truck space. The transportation situation in Germany at the time was past desperate. And the 50 in the real story were caught and shot at various spots all over Germany. There was no one mass execution of “the Fifty.” If they had been all in one spot, they might have been spared. It was too much work to ship them all back to L-III. The death of one innocent little girl in one concentration camp is a far worse moral outrage to me than the execution of these 50 combative escaped prisoners who had been read the rules before they tunneled out. And no American escapee ever really put a thin wire across a roadway in order to crash a passing German soldier on a motorcycle, kill him, steal his uniform, ride his motorcycle like Evil Keneival, and lead 80 German trucks and motorcycles on a high speed chase across half of Germany to the Swiss border. Steve McQueen wrote that in to liven up the movie, and I, for one, am glad he did.
PATTON LEAKS In March of 1944 Patton was preparing for D-day and deliberately staying far away from the media lights of London. GAP took up at a CP (command post) in the rustic rural suburbs. One day a nearby friendship club for American and British service personnel opened up and Patton gave a short speech. He wanted to say something nice about the grand alliance but he went too far. He said that these friendship clubs celebrating the unity of the two nations was a fine idea because, “undoubtedly it is our destiny to rule the world.” Reporters raced for the telegraph wire. You can imagine the wildfire of criticism that followed when this statement got out. Patton didn’t know that all it took was the presence of a single reporter to send that story fast all over that world the US and UK were to rule. Once again Patton’s off-the-field antics were the talk of the newspapers back in the states. Ike had to step in and cover for him again. The Soviets could not have been very happy about not being included in Patton’s new world order. The rest of the countries of the world couldn’t have been too thrilled about it either. France probably didn't appreciate it, but then again when did France ever appreciate anything except France?
INVASION PLANS Finally, after all the prodding by the Americans and Stalin, Churchill and the British were going to invade cross-channel - some people think to this day they should have and could have in 1943. The one thing that I would stress, that very few books do, is the weakness of the German defenses overall on the five Normandy Beaches. The Allies won the battle of D-Day because of excellent intelligence and deception. Disinformation created the atmosphere for victory. The German defense was second-rate at Normandy. Victory in this case didn't mean reaching geographical target goals on day one, day two or day twenty. Victory meant getting on the continent and solidifying the position at the very least, and by that standard, D-Day was a great victory. The English speaking countries were back, and this time they had 12,000 planes. In the interest of self worship and drama, the documentaries and books about D-Day always stress the tough fighting, the heavy casualties, the incredible heroic courage of the troops wading ashore. Considering the size of the force, and the scope and importance of the mission, the casualty toll on D-Day was not prohibitive. It was well within acceptable limits for risk to gain ratio. The opposition on D-Day was not the cream of the Wermacht crop. The best divisions were either set up to defend the short beach near Caen, fighting the Russians, or locked down on the Gustav Line in Italy. Hitler had 59 Divisions for defending the West Wall and the beaches of France. Rommel and Guderian both thought the Allied attack was going to come to the east near Caen, this was the key to victory. The troops defending the five beaches of Normandy were not top flight divisions at all, and there weren't enough of them. Allied fighter-bombers roamed the coastal areas of France for weeks, destroying almost any train, tank or reuck that moved. The P-47 Thunderbolt was as as fast and maneuverable as a Japanese Zero, and had the bomb capacity of many a medium bomber. It had plenty of range from England to smack up the Germans defenses. The areas behind the Normandy beach were littered with burned out hulks of German vehicles long before D-Day. Roads and railroads were torn up, bridges knocked over. All this plus the incredible naval bombardment, the carpet bombing by 17's and 24's, the paratroop drops on the flanks, the anti-mine companies that cleared minefields, made D-Day a slam dunk win. The weather and some pillbox fire were the biggest problems. The Luftwaffe never showed up. If the Allied deception of the true intended location of the invasion had failed, D-Day would have been another story.
PIKE'S PIQUE One of the most spectacular plans for the invasion plans for Overlord was invented by a British thinker on the staff of Lord Mountbatten named Commander Quigley Pike. In the end his wild idea was never adopted. A piqued Pike wrote an article after the war asserting that many lives would have been saved by his wild invention. This can't be proven or disproved but the story is certainly interesting. Pike's plan was to build virtual aircraft carriers made of, are you ready for this? ... ice! That's right. Pike believed that if wood pulp and other items were mixed in with ice, the structure could be built up indefinitely and would not melt even in the August waters of the English Channel. The bergs would allow aircraft to land and take off close to shore, allowing less refueling and shorter logistics for offensive and defensive missions. The ice carriers would displace more than one million tons (the biggest carriers of the day were about 35,000 tons) and would even have engines at the rear to propel them to and fro. What little melting did take place was proven in experiments to be actually productive. The melted combined materials solidified when they reached the edge of the floating airfields making the ice-craft stronger as it melted a little bit here and there along the journey. It gets even crazier. What about the rocking and rolling of the sea interfering with safe landings and take-offs? Easy. Pipelines would be laid beneath the routes near the French coast. Pike's pipes would take in air from England and the air would be controlled released to form trillions of tiny bubbles that would rise to the surface and stabilize the plane of the iceberg. I couldn't make this up. The British took the idea quite seriously until it was proposed to Ike who burst out laughing. Pike hated Ike for the rest of his life, and never forgave the general for laughing at his idea even though Dwight tried to apologize as Pike stormed out of the room.
MORE PLANS FOR OVERLORD The invasion of Europe was planned for 1943 but did not materialize until 1944. The US was rather hoping that the invasion would be a British-led and managed affair but Churchill had the wisdom of John Adams in 1776. Churchill knew that the US was supplying most of the hardware and manpower and he insisted that the operation be led by an American Supreme Allied Commander and an American force commander. The US national morale would be boosted by US leadership and in the long run Churchill knew he would have a better chance at victory with US national good-will in his pocket. Eisenhower became Supreme Commander in Europe and Omar Bradley was to lead the invasion itself. George Patton was hurt by not being picked but too bad about his ego. (I'm currently awaiting the arrival in the mail of War as I Knew It, by George Patton – I can't wait to read it! I have a fairly negative opinion of him, but when I'm done with the book I suspect that will have changed. “Acquaintance softens prejudice,” said Aesop.) The invasion of Normandy was called OVERLORD. A second simultaneous invasion was planned for the Riviera called ANVIL. This second invading force was to march up from the Mediterranean and hook up with the Normandy force on the way to victory. The British saw the ANVIL front as a diversion to support the general attack to the north, a feint in force to relieve the pressure on the expected German counterattack in northern France. The Americans took the ANVIL plan more seriously and saw this second front as a strategic offensive that could easily swing right and liberate Austria, and could also engage the German Army in central France. Ike wanted at least two divisions for ANVIL, a pittance compared to the 15 or so Corps (each with several divisions) that were to come ashore at Normandy. But there was a desperate shortage of capable amphibious assault landing craft and Churchill insisted that two divisions worth for ANVIL was too taxing on OVERLORD. Ike would have to launch ANVIL with one division. As D-Day got closer the landing craft shortage became even more pressing and Ike sadly agreed that the ANVIL would have to hit the southern shore of France shortly after the D-Day invasion. There would be no two front assault on D-Day. Just as there was inter-service rivalry within the American armed forces, and rivalry between British and American forces, there was also a rivalry for supply and support between the Pacific and European theatres. A lot of Pacific people were frustrated that the European war always had to take priority. On the eve of D-day there were American generals in Europe who were unhappy that the Pacific effort was receiving any landing craft at all, while Pacific admirals were shocked that the European Generals would so callously let US Marines die in the action-packed Pacific just so they could have everything they needed in a theatre that was so often stalled. But the Pacific guys just had to hold on with what they had and even had to sacrifice some of their short stock of landing craft for the big one in Normandy.
GALLOPING GHOSTS OF GALLIPOLI One of the reasons for the Allies fear of failure at the beaches of Calvero (Normandy) was the ghost of Gallipoli. In World War One the British had tried a full force amphibious assault at Gallipoli, Turkey. But Turkey mashed the stuffings out of the British at Gallipoli. The whole strategic momentum of WWI underwent a negative sea change for the Entente. Between the wars, all the military scholars concluded that what is, is for a reason, and will continue as is. Since the amphibious assault at Gallipoli was a total failure, then all amphibious assaults were proven too risky to even attempt. So the military professors from then on preached against the choice of strong direct amphibious assault. On top of that, when the Allies tried a cautious experiment with amphibious assault at Dieppe in August 1942, that was a disaster too, lending more juice to the common belief among brass that amphibious assault is a blunder to even consider. Of course, in reality, each place, time and set of combatants has its own dynamic, and the cautious Dieppe raid failed because it was cautious. Nevertheless, the prevailing wisdom even well into the first half of WWII was that Gallipoli had proven in 1915 that amphibious assault was not doable. This was why the between-war US and UK military economy did not produce landing craft in impressive quantities. So when in late 1943, the UK and US began to really prepare for the NEPTUNE/OVERLORD mission, it was like trying to turn a barge around against a current in a narrow canal. There was already an established mass-think against amphibious landing that had to be overcome emotionally and intellectually, while the factories and commanders got to work changing that attitude physically. Today, we know that D-Day worked, as well as Inchon and a few other places. We know from the present that amphibious assault works and we operate with a D-Day complex. That is also partly why D-Day is so glamorized in US history. It seems inevitable now, but in June 1944, people all over the world held their breath and wondered if it was really going to work. The obvious problem was not so much getting ashore, but being able to hold with limited resources during the window when the Germans could bring mass force to bear faster than the Allies could reinforce. That was the window of danger that scared the Allies more than the uncertainty of grabbing a beachhead in the first place.
MESS REHERSAL In April 1944 the Allies staged a dress rehearsal for the cross-channel invasion. A small town in England by the name of Port Jervis was ‘assaulted’ by an amphibious force designed to replicate a slice of the divisions involved. During this rehearsal the naval force was slow getting there because a couple of real S-class Nazi U-boats attacked the dress rehearsal. Two LST’s were sunk. More than 700 men went down to their deaths in the rehearsal, a staggering figure when it is considered that less than 5,000 Americans men died on 6.6 D-Day, most of them on the beach.
ST PAULS - MAY 15 The big meeting of big shots for D-Day took place at St Paul’s School on May 15 1944. I was expelled from St Paul’s School in 1966, but that it another story for another time, about another St. Paul’s. General Montgomery was the leading presenter at this great meeting. Everyone who was anyone n D-Day was there, from Churchill to Tedder, to Bedell Smith to General Simpson. Montgomery had made some strict rules about tardiness, something he had no tolerance for. Anyone who was not present when the meeting started would not be allowed in. Guards were placed around the building so that anyone who arrived late would be denied entrance to the meeting. So Monty is in the middle of his talk with maps, and emotional urgings and strategic planning and there is a loud banging on the door. Monty ignores it. He made his rules. The banging on the door gets louder and more persistent and will not go away. Finally Monty stops, goes to the door to to open it and to yell at whoever is interrupting his great speech with banging. Who is there when he opens the door but General Patton who walks in without a word and takes a seat to hear the rest of the speech. Monty does not verbally chastise Patton for being late. So much for rules. (My St Paul’s was in Cambridge Massachusetts and I was expelled for being tardy too often in one semester. You were allowed 11 times tardy. The 12th time you were expelled.. It was a strange day to be riding the subway to Cambridge, looking at my watch and know that when I arrived I would be expelled from school. I knew I would be better off just going home and asking my mom to call me in sick.)
ALLIED FORCES AND PLANS Air support would be strong for D-Day but it would not be well-rehearsed. The air arm was desperately trying to knock out the V-2 rocket sites all over Northern Europe that were subjecting London to the “Little Blitz.” In the half year before D-Day more than 30,000 sorties were launched against V-2 sites. This prevented Ike and Monty from having squadrons to practice with for the invasion, something all the OVERLORD Lords wanted very much. The planes could be spared on D-Day buy not one d-day sooner. The invasion was scheduled for either June 5, 6, or 7. These were the only three days in the month with favorable tidal patterns for a dawn invasion with some element of surprise. The attack had to come at mid-tide, and mid-tide had to cooperate by coming at dawn. Low tide would have put the assault force too far off the beach. In a sense, low-tide could help. Mines and obstacles would have been visible, but marching a quarter mile from the beach to the shore would likely have given the shore defense a Tarawa style killing field. High tide on the other hand would have launched the force close to the target, but the defensive underwater obstacles would have been fully submerged and undetectable. Too many landing craft would have been demolished long before they reached the shore without the help of a single German gun. So the trick was to hit the shore with enough water to land with, but enough glass empty space to make the obstacles partially visible. Then the obstacles could be attacked and disabled, creating lanes for large scale approach through these safe tracks. A major objective of OVERLORD was the port of Cherbourg. A look at the map would make this seem a bit strange. Theoretically, the Normandy invasion, if successful, would isolate and entrap the city. Cherbourg could be left behind while the breakout from Normandy would race east to victory in Germany. The problem was the amount of long-term huge-scale reinforcement that would have to come into the continent in the aftermath of D-Day. The beaches of Normandy were useful enough for the immediate goal of putting 10-15 divisions ashore and establishing a beachhead. But to win the war the OVERLORD force was only the beginning, and to maintain logistics and supply, a seriously fine port close to England was an imperative, not a wish. Therefore the Allies would take Cherbourg even though it was to the west of Normandy and Berlin was to the east. Cherbourg had to serve as the New York City harbor for the conquest of both France and Germany (Anvil's Marsailles would surpass Cherbourg.) The American half of the invasion would split in two. Two divisions, supported heavily by paratroop operations behind enemy lines would land slightly to the west of the Normandy beach on the southeastern corner of the Cotentin Peninsula. This was Utah beach. The objective of the Utah divisions was to battle their way west and cut off German reinforcements from the peninsula. Then Cherbourg could be invested and taken. From there the sky was the limit on Allied European reinforcements.
GERMAN PLANS Everyone knew on both sides of the channel that a cross-channel invasion was imminent. The Germans had to decide how to play defense. Guderian was in charge, but Hitler put Rommel in the field, which meant that Guderian had a close friend of Hitler overseeing his every move. Rommel pretended he was subordinate to Guderian, but he wasn't. The structure was not good for the Nazis because one bad general is better than two good ones. The Germans also had a coordination problem with sea and air forces because Raeders' navy and Goering's Luftwaffe were problematically independent. Too much branch ego going around in the rival services and it hindered the German war machine in June of 1944, as it had throughout the war. Guderian wanted to fall back from the beaches and form a tougher wall from which to set up a devastating counterattack after the Allies got ashore. Let em come in and then we'll whack em. Rommel disagreed and thought that all the force available should be there to stop them on the beaches. “The day they land will be our only chance to stop them. Even if we win, it will be the longest day.” And now you can rent the movie or read the book, The Longest Day and you'll know who coined it. One revisionist claims that what Rommel actually said, “It will be the end of days,” but that wouldn’t work in a movie title. The end result was a blending of the two General ideas, meaning neither of them were properly attempted. One bad game plan is better than two good ones. The one thing that Rommel appreciated that Guderian didn't was that Allied bombing had so disrupted railroad transport in France that even if Guderian was right he was wrong. The idea of holding back from the front, seeing where the bad guys land, and then racing there to hit them with everything the Wermacht had left was a good idea on paper but wars were fought on the railroad, not on Guderian’s notepad. Rommel knew that his own plan was a long shot, and that Guderian's was impossible. The one thing that both Rommel and Guderian had in common was a belief that the attack was coming to the east of where it did.
THE WEATHER MEN The biggest problem facing the Allies was the weather. The Allied chief meteorologist was Captain Stagg. All Ike asked of his weatherman was smooth seas, a moonlit clear sky, and a tide not too high as to cause me to drown, but not too low as to prevent small craft from getting close enough for successful troop displacements. If the seas were too choppy and they went ahead anyway, the naval gunfire would be far less effective from the rolling ships, plus the guys might be too sick to fight once they landed. On June 2 Stagg reported that the the weather for the next few days was going to be overcast and stormy, and he couldn't be sure at all if there would be any break by June 5 which was supposed to be go-daddy day. Ike ordered the US forces destined for Omaha and Utah beaches to head out into the Channel on June 3 since they had the longest to travel. He could pull them back if the whole thing was postponed. At 345 a.m. on June 4 Stagg told him that the stormy weather was winding down but there was low thick cloud clover, meaning the Allied air power would be rendered useless. Air superiority was the top Allied trump card, so Ike said no, not yet, and he ordered Brad's troops to turn around and make back to the south coast of England. A little after 9 pm on the fourth, Stagg reported to a full meeting of the D-Day brass that the bad weather was beating it to the east faster than expected, and that there would almost definitely be a short window of good weather from late on June 5 to mid-day on June 6. After that it might get stormy again. A great cheer broke out in the room. Ike asked his Chief of Staff Beedle Smith and Marshall Montgomery their opinion. Smitty said it was “riskier than taking a hit on 15”, but it was the best chance they had. “If it gets really stormy in the middle of the sixth, it might be disastrous.” When Ike asked Monty his opinion, the General, who was listening with his head down, looked up and said, “Go for it, man” (And if you understand tone and language in context, you know that these same four words have no resemblance to the modern drunk saying it to another drunk about whether to hurl an empty wine bottle through the closed window of an abandoned warehouse.) If Eisenhower postponed it another day the tides would change and the invaders could not come ashore until two hours after daylight, giving the Germans too much time to organize resistance and counterattack at select spots. Also if the assault landed on the eighth or ninth the British forces would have to land at a different time of morning because of tidal variations. That would give the Germans a chance to destroy one Allied army first and then turn on another with concentrated fire. If June 9 came and went without an attack the mission would have to be postponed until July. This would slow the schedule for a campaign across Europe and leave the Allied Armies still in France at the onset of winter, even if all went well. There was also a security concern over the prospect of postponement. The quarter million troops sealed up in embarkation points in England would disperse back into the towns of England where loose lips might sink many ships. If bad weather might have caused half the attack force to founder without firing a shot, then postponement might be the lesser of two evils. It was time for a gamble, one way or another. At four am on June 5, Ike gave the order in these words, “OK, we'll go.” The armada of 5,000 ships hit the road from ports stretching from the North Sea all the way around to Wales. Stagg's weather report began to look lame as the weather was rough, and it got worse as it chugged along. Then, like a miracle, halfway across the channel in stormy cloudy weather with choppy seas the weather broke for the better just enough to save the day. Not only did the weather not hurt the OVERLORD operation (parachute operations notwithstanding) but it actually served to help a great deal. Because of the bad weather the Luftwaffe did not attack the D-Day armada. Goering’s planes did not attack the moorings in Southern England. Herman’s hellions did not attack on the crossing. They did not even attack in any significance during the landing itself. In fact Nazi recce did not even bother to conduct routine patrols on June 5 nor on the morning of the June 6. The German air arm stayed put at zero hour. When it counted, Goering's Air Force turned into Herman’s Hermits. It was Sicily revisited. The Jerries assumed that if the weather was too rough for them, it also had to be too rough for any enemy attack force. There is no doubt that the German air force would have found the most target rich environment of the entire war if it had committed its resources to stopping the Normandy invasion. But just when a daring risk might have given the Germans a major gain and stalled the invasion, the Luftwaffe instead decided to use caution and fall back to air bases in northeastern France in anticipation of what it thought would be the main allied attack in the Caen area. Of course, in fairness, no matter how you slice it, the Allies did had a 30-1 superiority in the air, which just might have had a little to do with Goering's decision to not risk his air force at Normandy. There had to be something left to defend Germany with if and when it came to that. Ike had 12,000 planes to work with, one for every dollar I made in 1975. The Luftwaffe more or less conceded a beachhead in France to the Allies. Hitler did have plenty of brand new deadly V-1 rockets available. He could have sent them over to hit the force just as it was leaving England. His generals wanted him to, but he wanted to wait until the number of V-1's had been built up to a point where he could conduct a sudden strategic assault on England and win the war through terror. He had Mitchell fever for his V-1's just as when he tried the London Blitz back in 1940. The strategy was as misguided as a malfunctioning rocket. Ike said after the war that if the Germans had hit his force with the V-1's as the Allies were leaving England, the entire operation would have been considerably more difficult. Hitler became a nine year old boy when under stress, and made his military moves accordingly. When things went well, he was 40.
AIR HEADS ARE AGAINST THE INVASION Throughout the Normandy campaign the leaders of the strategic bombers forces were annoyed at being diverted from the task of winning the war through four-engine air power alone. Spaats, Harris and Tedder all resented seeing their bomber toys taken a way and used for ground support, interdiction, and raids on railway systems. They all eventually came on board, but there was a lot of bickering and delay involved. The air heads really thought they could keep bombing Germany from the air and then Germany would surrender. Simple as that. It was the incorrect thinking that began in the 20’s with Douhet and Billy Mitchell. I call it “Mitchellism.” That’s the belief in preposterous exaggerated capabilities of long range heavy bombers. It had infected military air heads for all the years leading up to the war and kept on making people think incorrectly during the war. All the money spent on bombers would have been four times more useful spent on landing craft, and bombing the Germans only made them hunker down all the more. Heavy industrial bombing helped win the war, yes, but about 10% as effectively as the air heads bragged it could and would. And 10% is being generous. Mitchell and Douhet and Severdsky and now their disciples running the murderous air show all believed that the bomber could win the war, and that the whole D-Day Overlord thing was foolish. They thought a ground war was not even necessary! So they sighed and griped and shook their heads when they were asked to take 60% of their bomber power and use it on the French railroad system for a few weeks. Spaats and Harris were thinking, “Damn! Just as we were about to turn the corner and win this thing for everyone with almost no bloodshed, these numbskulls decide to invade the continent, and what’s worse, ask us to help do it!” They cooperated because they had to. There was never a good relationship between Bomber Command and Overlord command. I guess the worst offender was American AAF air head Spaats. Some people thought he was dumb, but I can’t pass judgement on that. Now with my high school report cards, anyway. General Spaats not only didn’t like the invasion, he didn’t like even the British air heads who agreed with him and were also against it. The man had a temper. There was sure to be a good flare-up when Spaats was around. One guy, after a particularly bitter spat, almost spat in Spaat’s face.
PARACHUTE KEY The ket to the entire operation was the initial parachute drops to secure both flanks of the Normandy Beach in order to cut off any potential German counterattack from outside the landing zones. Three entire airborne divisions landed on each side, the two Americans on the west and one British on the east, 24,000 human raindrops in all. The drop was scheduled for the dark hours before dawn. The British rainmen secured their eastern flank without a hitch, but high winds scattered US 82 and 101 all over the area. 82-101 still managed to compensate for their error and secure the west flank also. Major General Matt Ridgeway commanded the 82nd Airborne, and Major General Maxwell Taylor commanded the 101st. Both of these men were to play major roles in future American history. Taylor, during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, argued for a nuclear first strike on Cuba and the Soviet Union, and Kennedy had to cool him off. The first chutes to land were called “Pathfinders.” They had extra pounds, beacon and radar equipment to guide the rest of the planes, and gliders to the drop zones. The Allies also dropped more than a thousand dummy parachute troops deep behind the beach. No, this was not a brigade of troops who liked country and western music, I mean big sacks of cloth - floating scarecrows. Then the Germans came upon the fake troopers and reported back that the Normandy invasion was surely a deception and that the real invasion was, as expected, coming to the Calais area. Very clever! The 82nd had to secure the flooded marshes behind Utah Beach around the town of St. Mere, and along the Merderet River. The landings didn't go smoothly. Casualty rates were almost 50% killed at the St night-Mere, and along the murderous Merderet River. I hate to tell you this next one. Many of the pilots of the airborne divisions lost their nerve when German flack began popping all around their aircraft. They dropped the troops well short of the target. A few girlymen flyboys simply banked and rolled back to England without dropping their chutists at all! I love these stories! These pilots would rather face dishonorable discharge than honorable death. I can't condemn anyone that ran away. Remember the story of the Red Badge of Courage. This book was about a soldier who came out of the Civil War with a stack of medals for bravery. In chapter one, when he faced his first battle he ran like a scared baby. In was only in his second battle that he found his courage. These pilots had never seen hostile fire before.
ROMMEL IS LATE FOR THE PARTY When the Allies landed at Normandy, Rommel was way back in Germany. He figured the Allies would never attack during this spell of bad weather so he was personally far from the front. No need to worry, thought the sly fox. Rommel had long argued with other generals about falling back to a strong defensive line versus going right up the Normandy beaches with a desperate counter-attack. Rommel was right on this one. The one thing Rommel did understand was that if the Allies got ashore in strength and spread out at all, it was all over for Germany. He always urged the Germans to hit the Allies hard as close to the beach as possible. That was the only chance to stop this monster while it was still small enough to smash. But if they did attack, he thought it would be at Calais. Von Rundstedt and Rommel both fell for the Allied deception that the main attack was going to come at Calais. But, to be the neutral contrarian moderator here, after the war Rundy said that the Allied disinformation played little or no part. VR gave the Calais theatre top priority because he and Rommel both figured that would be where the enemy would attack, based on military principles. Rundstedt thinks the credit given to the Calais deception is a bit much. But maybe he just rationalized that one up because he didn’t want history to show that he mad been made to look like a fool. The bad weather gave the Germans a short window to bring their best material up the the shoreline without being destroyed by air. But they missed the bus, partly because no one would dare wake up the sleeping Fuhrer. Hitler needed to catch up on his ugly sleep. Hitler got his nine hours while Dollman’s group and Deitrich’s Panzers sat still. When military historians cite the key reasons for Allied success on D-Day, one of them is Rommel’s absence. And guess why the genius had to be back in Germany. June the 6th 1944 was his wife’s birthday! The desert dunderhead is singing happy birthday to Lucy while the Allies are landing on the beaches at Normandy! And I’m supposed to think he’s a superhero? Sure he did a great job once he got into place in Normandy, but this mistake was a key to the first 48 hours at D-Day. And he also fell for the Calais deception lock, stock, and Lugar.
PAS DE CALAIS DECEPTION I mentioned to you dummies earlier the fictional dummy army at Southeast England. Before D-Day tremendous amounts of military radio traffic buzzed the region with only a moderate attempt at secrecy. Double agents behind enemy lines tipped off their contacts that the main force was destined for Calais. Higher ups were loose-lipped about the Calais operation and it trickled down to the enlisted men who spread the rumor as an unwitting act of duty. The famous General Patton was sent to southeastern England with media fanfare to take command of a “secret” gathering invasion fleet. This phantom invasion force stood pat during D-Day and the next few weeks while the Germans at Calais stared across the Channel and waited. It didn’t really exist. But the invisible divisions in southeaster England nevertheless fought a great phantom battle and pinned 19 German Divisions down at the Pas de Calais when they were desperately needed against the US and UK forces in Normandy. Now, even near the end of July, when Bradley was beginning to break out of the Normandy box, these 19 German divisions still sat and waited at the Pas de Calais for the attack that never came. Chumps! Suckaaas! Over an over, day after day, the master-race stubbornly refused to be drawn to the west to reinforce the desperate Normandy front. Incredibly, the Germans actually thought that the D-Day invasion was a feint! The logic is understandable up to around June 9 1944, but what is less understandable is that after knowing through hard experience the size of the D-Day invasion force, the Germans could still believe late in July that there was a much larger Allied force in reserve waiting to strike Calais as soon as the Panzer divisions cleared out. In life and war, it is consistently stressed that you should never underestimate your enemy. What is less often promoted is the idea that you should never overestimate your enemy. Either extreme can cause problems or even disasters. The western deployment of a majority of those German divisions could have boxed the Allies in Normandy for a long time.
ARTILLERY OPENER The battle was joined before dawn with a massive artillery duel between Allied combat ships and the formidable shore batteries of the German defenders. The goodies had 9 battleships, 23 cruisers, 104 destroyers and 70 corvettes hurling shells along the five beaches and beyond. They had more than 6,300 ships to protect. The baddies had anticipated this terrible naval shelling and had reconstructed most of their pillboxes so that they were triple armor protected from the sea direction. Not even the 16 inch guns from the Iowa class BB's could destroy German shore artillery in advance. The German artillery paid the price for this protection. The field of fire for German guns was reduced to a left and right direction. The frontal position was blocked by the protection. The guns could fight after the Allies landed but could not fight back until the Allies landed. The Allied navy made sure it shelled the Calais area plenty to keep the Germans off guard as to where the real invasion was coming. Even when it was well under way, Hitler and Rommel still thought it was a ruse designed to draw the best German divisions to the west while the real Allied force was to attack far to the eastern shore at Caen. The Germans were afraid of sending top divisions to Normandy and then having them cut off when the Allies advanced near Caen. The reverse was the reality. The Allies used deception to help the cause, making loud preparations for an attack on Caen in the hope that it would draw German Normandy divisions to the east and away from the real target, and it worked. They leaked information about the attack coming where it wasn't. They stationed hundreds of dummy gliders on the southeast coast of England on the shortest straight line to Caen and Pas de Calais.. They placed more than a thousand dummy tanks there too, plus dummy barracks, and dummy transport ships. And the German dummies fell for it. In the D-Day game of cat and mouse, “We made mince-meant out of that mouse.” On 6/6 in the American sector Omaha Beach gave the most trouble. This was where the men most needed Mutual of Omaha insurance. The Utah Beach was relatively smooth sailing. The three British/Canadian beachheads to the east faced much stronger German resistance overall especially in the Caen area. According to Monty’s excuse towel, this was expected and was part of the overall Allied strategy. While the Germans committed their main force to stopping the BC force, the American flank could then wheel against lesser resistance around the southern flank of the Caen theatre and launch the Allied breakthrough to Paris, Berlin, and victory. The British divisions would stop Rommel’s top divisions and form the spoke, while the Yanks were to run around the outer rim. The Germans never launched a major counterattack on the Normandy beachheads. By the end of June a full one million anti-Axis troops had been put ashore on the coast of France. US casualties to this point totaled 9,000 killed and 51,000 wounded, including General Eisenhower who suffered a severe knee injury while disembarking on an LST to make some hands-on observations. It was the same knee that young Dwight had blown out on a football field at West Point ending a potential career in the NFL (no kidding.) The collection of ship that pounded the French ships is impressive on paper, but it was far short of what SHAEF, and especially the British had asked for. There were too many Americans of importance who advocated the assignment of all heavy new battleships to the Pacific. D-Day could have a collection of older battleships and cruisers scraped up from various theatres, each loathe to part with any of them. The USS Texas, for example, one of the duelers of D-day was built before WWI. While it was shelling the Calveros beaches of France, the brand new USS New Jersey was shelling some Japanese island on the other side of the globe. If the world had never gone to war, Texas would have been scrap iron by 1944. It was a motley crew of firepower off the scrap-heap that shelled on D-Day. Most of the heavy German fortifications survived the shelling to a depressing degree for Allied planners. These pillboxes were a real pill. Later inspection revealed some German guns taking 70 or 80 direct hits and not suffering any damage at all! The angle of Naval gunfire made it less effective than both land-artillery air-bombs, especially air bombs delivered by fighter-bombers, as opposed to (allegedly) strategic bombers. The combined USUK navy guns did, however, put a hurt on small German infantry units on the beachfront, both physically and psychologically. The naval barrage also gave the invaders a psychological boost in many obvious ways I don’t have to explain to you. But the primary mission, to take out German defensive power, was not very successful. They were hoping to blanket the Normandy beach with bomb craters and, bingo, easy D-Day. But alas, there was no beach blanket bingo.
D-DAY AND D+1 The British 3rd division had the most trouble near Caen, and the American “Lash” Division had a bad time of it at Omaha. The British “Sword” rusted and the Americans needed Mutual of Omaha insurance. That’s how I try to remember the two of five fronts that struggled on D-Day. The other three, Juno, Gold and Utah, went well for the Allies. The problem on the left flank, at Sword, was the German 21st Panzer group, the so-called “Olympic Division,” The Ultra intelligence had concluded that this force was - 1) weak, and 2) about 35 miles south of Caen at Falaise. It would be no small matter for the Krauts to move that 21st under Feuchtinger up to Caen with Allied air interdiction and naval gunfire trying to stop that movement. (It was called the Olympic Division because General Feuchtinger had been in charge of organizing the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.) Unfortunately for the B3, the O21 was sitting firmly just a mile or two to the south of the center of Caen-town. It was ready to fight and ready to counter-attack. It had 176 tanks. Monty told B3 to expect virtually no tank opposition. He expected B3 to march through Caen on D-day like a silver spoon through a cup of tea. Instead B3 was a plastic straw trying to cut through my grandmother’s two month old holiday fruitcake, the one that sat out on top of the fridge instead of inside it - this was not going to be an easy assignment to digest in any case. One ad for the Allies was that Feuchtinger’s Olympians were split up. The heart was at Caen, but many body parts were scattered in other areas. There was a reserve force to the south, which was a mistake because this was no time for textbook military tactics. The Germans had one chance to throw the Allies back into the sea, and that was going to be a long shot if the Germans struck with every tank they had. To hold back some of the 21st was like saving some of your best pick-up lines for after the bar is closed.
OMAHA The American landing at Omaha was the most difficult. The Americans there ran into a lot of trouble. They had to face a German infantry division that no one knew was there until it was too late. The Germans had a 10-1 numerical superiority plus the high ground and plenty of heavy weaponry. The Americans didn’t land exactly where they planned to, and the tanks in short skirts sank better than they swam. The battle joined in full around 11:30 a.m. on June 6, and between this time and high noon came the showdown. This was a half hour of hell where everywhere a soldier looked around him, men were dying and no one seemed to be getting off the beach. Every company seemed to be pinned down or drowning somewhere. Or worse. One landing craft as just about to open the gate and splash out some troops when a piece of German shrapnel found a lucky bull-eye. It hit the fuel tank strapped to the back of a flame-thrower grenadier. A chain reaction of various ammo igniting marked the end for everyone inside. The gate opened and dying men on fire tumbled out. There were five places pre-designated as ‘exits,” avenues where the invaders could hopefully get off the beach and into the greenland. As it turned out there was one exit open. The others were either blocked, either by Allied bomb damage or German 88’s and mortars.
CHELSEA COTA The great American hero of D-Day was Norm Cota, the pride of Chelsea Mass. With bullets and bombs whizzing by, he personally went up an down the beach explaining to the men that if they if the advanced inland they would probably die, but if they stayed here they would definitely die. Dutch Coda’s exact words have been re-written many times, but he said something dramatic to a lot of people who got up and moved forward because of his inspired leadership. The man had grown up in Chelsea, a city which fronts Boston Harbor. He was not afraid of the Nazis. Coda had already experienced bullets whizzing by his ear when he went to the milk store as a teen-ager. (Pardon the provincialism here, but let’s put it this way. They tried to make one of those abysmal ‘Boston tough guys’ movies about Chelsea but the film crew kept getting roughed up, and their equipment stolen.) Rallying the scared troops wasn’t enough for ‘Stormin’ Norman’ Coda. He climbed off the beach and marched himself personally a half a mile inland. He was a one-man invading army! There were no other troops with him or anywhere near him. He came back and told the other which way was clear. The one he had just done a recon in force all by himself. (And btw, where did you think General Schrartzkoff’s name had originated, from his storming the beaches at Da Nang? It was a spin-off of the nickname of General Coda.) Coda won all the decorations a man can win short of the Medal of Honor, but General Bradley also gave him a serious closed-door hollering lecture on needlessly risking his life when he can do more for the cause by first making sure he stayed alive. The leadership talent at AAA wasn’t all that good. Bradley wasn’t even happy with what he had in the starting line-up. His bench was poor. Cool it Coda! By 5 p.m., things had actually settled down at Omaha Beach. The famous slaughter had taken place in a short fiery window. Casualty figures vary from source to source and method to method, but I’m going to say that 750 Americans died and 1,500 were wounded there in one afternoon. That was pretty bad, but Ike and SHAEF, and Churchill had feared that all five beaches might go like that, and for several days. By that bell-curve, D-day was a B+ for the Allies. By D+9 the entire operation had to face the fact that Overlord’s grade had been demoted to a C-. Monty and the British had been stopped cold by unexpected Panzer division strength in front of the key city of Caen (pronounced ‘cahn’ - How am I supposed to know the difference between that and the Cannes of the film festival which is pronounces exactly the same way? It would be as if Dallas was pronounced ‘denver.’ I find Chinese easier to study than French. Seriously. Chinese is precise. French is a celebration of imprecise.) Robert Mitchum plays Norm Coda in the movie The Longest Day. (Cary Grant plays Rommel and does an amazing German accent.)
THE COTENTIN PENINSULA CAMPAIGN Cherbourg was at the top of it, that’s what made the capture of the Cotentin Peninsula so important. Cherbourg wasn’t a huge port, but it was the only game in town. Utah Beach was the starting point for the campaign. The landings there were much easier than the landings at Omaha, partly because the peninsula itself created a protected geographical region at the inner base. This kept the winds calm and the beaches smooth. But after the initial landing battles, the German defense got tougher behind the beaches at Utah while showing some weakening behind the beaches at Omaha. The original battle plan had been to have one US force march across the base of the peninsula and cut off any German reinforcements, while another force marches up to take Cherbourg. The planners had drawn lines of advance where they expected to be on D+1 and D+2 ect. Where they were at the end of D+2 was a joke compared to where they were supposed to be according to map planning. One of the the problems in the early days of the Cotentin campaign was that no good incompetent lazy yellow 90th Division under it’s pathetically inept commander, General Mike MacKelvie. Eisenhower and Bradley agreed that the 90-boys were performing poorly and that MacKelvie was best suited for desk work. Eisenhower fired the bum. If only I had been in command. The overall commander in Cotentin was Lightning Joe Collins. His war record is so clean that he can only be fairly described as a genuine WWII hero. He led, he inspired, he won. I hate to pick on the 90th Division, but things happen. Poor leadership on top of poor training, combined with that unit being thrust into a position that would have set back a top notch division, plus some divisions getting more green draftees than others, all this combines to set up many situations in WWII when some US Divisions perform so poorly, and run away so often, that the leaders are fired and the division sometimes reassigned to rear-guard duties. I’m not an expert on the what how and why of divisional performance. I just go by what divisions the other military historians like Weigley, Hart, Wilmot, Keegan, and MacDonald are ripping, and I pile on. To be fair, after studying all these battles intently, I would like to cite for excellent performance on the Cotentin, the 505th Parachute Division, and the 39th Infantry Brigade of the 9th Division. My only real question after reading all these highly detailed battle-books is, why won’t the authors and publishers give us the maps we need to follow all these battles? If you’re going to leave us map-less, then just give a general account. The geography of the Cotentin was tougher than expected. The bocage problem, the high hedgerows boxing off the region in tiny quarters making these lands ideal for defense, in the Cotentin was worse there than the bocage problem in the region behind OMAHA GOLD JUNE and SWORD. This too made the quest for Cherbourg tougher than expected. Collins had dealt with tough geography lessons before. His Army division had relieved the 1st Marine Division at Guadalcanal in late 1942 and he had dealt with the mop up campaign in the jungle there for two enlightening months. The hedgerow had nothing on the jungles of Guadalcanal. The entire Cherbourg campaign was probably, all things considered, a strategic failure for the USA. The German commander Sam Swineburg was a stout hearted Hitler-lover. A man with anti-Nazi proclivities might have “mailed it in,” but Swineburg defended Cherbourg as he would have defended his own home. Hitler ordered him to destroy Cherbourg before the Allies finally closed in and he obeyed. Biy did he ever. He really trashed the place. He treated Cherbourg like Keith Moon treated hotel rooms. By the time the Allies took Cherbourg, it was about as useful as a screen-door on a submarine. The US wasted tremendous energy and force taking the Cotentin Peninsula and it was in the opposite direction of Paris and Berlin. The Utah force could have turned left and hooked up with the Brits to drive on the Seine. Instead this huge force turned right, away from the grand military goals, in order to gain a decent port facility. It was sound thinking - one step back, two steps forward - but it ended up one step back, two steps back. Cherbourg was virtually useless for three full months, that’s how effective a job Swineburg did (that’s not his real name ... his real name was Rathund) trashing the place. The stout Hitler-lover fought to the bitter end before surrendering and he refused at gunpoint to issue any orders to other units in the area to surrender. The giant concrete Cherbourg walls that held and protected large ships were destroyed, meaning the area where the ships were supposed to float into were filled with countless tons of concrete. If only the cement-heads in Washington and West Point had realized how easily the place could be rendered useless they would have sent the forces under Collins and Quesada deep to the south and southwest, forcing the breakout much faster than it ended up happening. The US thought it needed to take Cherbourg first before breakout of Normandy, but since they never really made much use out of Cherbourg, the whole campaign was kind of a waste of time and energy. Not as bad a waste of time and energy as watching The Amazing Race, but still, a waste. After the American armies had fought their way up the Cotentin to Cherbourg, they now had to regroup and move back to the south and try to push the German lines back out of bocage country. The US would break to the west into Brittany, and, with a little luck, a little skill and a lot of air superiority, they might break out to the east as well. But first they had to fight their way back down the Cotentin across a broad front with three full corps. Much German strength had been simply bypassed on the way north to Cherbourg. On the way back was different because both new and old divisions were on the line and trying not only to sweep away German resistance, but to get a rhythm going for themselves on the strategic offense.
COTENTIN REPORT CARD - C- The American fighting record in the Cotentin was not all that great. That’s about as nicely as I can put it for you. The American commanders were exasperated b the lack of drive among the American troops. For some reasons, these draftees wanted to stay alive first, and wanted to kill Germans second. Instead of maneuvering to set up the artillery, the infantry waited for the artillery to strike and then tried limited maneuvers in the (supposedly) destroyed areas. Even Patton had to admit to a French General that the Americans have now proven in two consecutive wars, the old axiom that “the worse the division, the more artillery it needs.” In other words, the American divisions were advancing in Normandy at all only because of reliable top-notch heavy artillery. Collins and Middleton did their able best, but they couldn’t get a hundred thousand Americans to fight like caged rabid animals in the Cotentin. American authors hate to face it, but the Germans outfought the Americans in Europe in WWII, plain and simple. Professor Weigley hesitates to condemn the Americans as ‘fraidy-cats’ openly. He prefers instead to tip his cap to the German skills-set,
“The German army’s better formations in the Second World War had no superiors in the world in two military skills particularly: exploiting the offensive breakthrough, and holding ground tenaciously on the defense.”
That’s from page 121 of Eisenhower’s Lieutenants. Well, yeah. That reminds me of the comedian who says,
“I know the one weakness of the Boston Celtics.” “Oh yeah? What’s that?” “Basketball.” Or like my wife saying that, “After living with Mike for 25 years I can honestly say there are only two things about him that annoy me.” “Oh yeah? What’s that?” “Everything he says, and everything he does.’
There were only two things the Germans were especially good at - offense and defense. Thanks for the enlightenment, professor Weigley.
One German advantage was lowland flooding. The base of the Cotetin peninsula was criss-crossed by several marshy rivers. Add heavy rains and German dike blasting and you have one soggy obstacle course. On the few spots where the land was dry enough for tanks, the Germans set up ambush. So the bocage made the rolling hills virtually impenetrable, and the soggy bottom at the base of the peninsula made that one tough sledding too. The Cotentin campaign was a hard fought and most histories of WWII give it one paragraph at the most. The best that can be aid of the American performance overall was that it was a useful shakedown cruise or the invading army. Many mistakes in this rear-guard peninsula campaign were studied and improvements applied. The Vire was the main river to cross. The US Sherman tank could not defeat the Tiger or Panther, so the ideal tactic was to try to block the path of a German tank and then swarm around it. This way the American tanks could exploit their advantage in numbers and speed in order to get a shot in on the vulnerable sides. Shooting a Sherman snub-nosed 75 mm shell at the front plating of a Tiger was throwing a shell away.
CAEN HOLDS - MONTY EXPLAINS The 21st Panzer Group was formidable, even when depleted and when unable to move because of a lack of permission from above. It sat just north of Caen. The British expected to take Caen with minimal effort of D-Day. In a bad case scenario, they would take Caen on D-Day +1. Guess how long it took the British Army of General Montgomery to take the city of Caen. Guess again. Six weeks. Six weeks! Six weeks to take a city that was supposed to fall on day one or two. Ouch! No wonder the British failure is a matter of historical controversy. Monty explains in his memoirs that the master plan never included the presumed capture of Caen. If that happened that would be a fortunate bonus, but the plan was to tie down the Germans so the Americans could pivot around. At the same time he contradict himself by claiming that the biggest problem was that there never was any master plan. Indulge me if I repeat some points, but this story of Caen and Monty’s version of it is about as important a D-Day story as any. I had bought Montgomery’s version until I read some other military historians give the other side of the story. I always feel that it’s important to get the face value memoir version of the big events first, and then reconsider them. Eschew the reverse (don’t do the reverse.)
MY MONTY AND MY METHOD If you want to study Charles Darwin, you read his writings first, and then read the scholars who interpret his work and life. To do it the other way around is worse than reading a biography backwards. I read Truman first, then I read about Truman. I read MacArthur first, then I read about MacArthur. Same for Bernie Law Monty. Let me get my own take on the guy first, then I’ll read your take. The foundation should be absorbed in a fair-minded spirit before we read the academicians. We’re entitled to try our own take on it first before we turn to the cross-legged gatekeepers of knowledge. The gate is always open. That’s the mistake I made with comedian Lenny Bruce. I saw a movie about him with an actor playing him, and read a book about, him and decided that he was an overrated tragic figure who only became famous because he died young. Then, years later, I read his autobiography, How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, and started buying his audio recordings and decided that he was great and that I loved him. I won’t make that mistake again with anyone. So I am not ashamed to admit that I bought into all of Montgomery’s excuses and exaggerations and self-righteous justifications, and I finished his memoirs thinking he was just about the coolest and most heroic guy of all time. Then I began reading books about Monty and saw the other side. But it was important to be fair and set the face-value foundation first, and work from that. I don’t like building knowledge from the outside, heading in. I finished Monty’s memoirs liking him. At the moment, not so much. The stories keep piling up. I knew that Monty would not allow anyone to smoke in his presence, in an era where everyone smoked, and were nerve-wracked because they were going maybe have to die for him. But when I recently learned that no one was allowed to even cough at one of his lectures, my jury was finally in. Monty didn’t smoke, drink or chase women, and annoyed everyone. Ike drank brandy, smoked four packs of Camels a day, dictated letters to Mamie with Kay Summbersbee taking shorthand on his lap, and everyone loved him. Who should be my hero here? Hmmmm. Decisions, decisions. It’s normal for the British brass to dislike some of the top Americans in this WWII story, and vice-verse. Certainly many Brits didn’t like Ike that much. But Montgomery was such a fastidious strutting prig that only about 40% of the British people who worked with him liked him. He couldn’t even lock down his own corral in the approval ratings. Ike owned 99% of the American people who ever dealt with him, a quality that enabled his rapid rise in the ranks in the first place. Monty had a brilliant and effective back-up plan to people disliking him. He looked under the heads of his peers and appealed for his approval to the masses of enlisted men, and he got it. Two things good here now about Monty. One - He was really brave under fire in World War One and Ike never saw any hands-on combat in his entire life. Also, there are times in history where a nation and its army needs an arrogant conceited war-lover. Patton, MacArthur and Monty really inspired their troops, even if they were imperfect in many ways both on and off the field. One bold leader with a hit and miss record does not really have a mere hit and miss record. Not as long as that boldness is inspiring morale. Are you getting “added value” from that commander over and above the decisions they make on the field? In Monty, Patton, Rommel, and MacArthur, you are. So in that sense, I rip Monty while knowing he was a great and gallant man and a leader who knew how to inspire his troops. (I’m also immensely enjoying his book, A History of Warfare.)
VILLERS-BOCAGE - AND THE SCAPEGOAT - 6. 13-14 The British suffered a humiliating setback at the Battle of BV. The idea was to break the stalemate around Caen by a huge envelopment west and south of it, coming in to the outflanking southwest at the key road junction of Villers Bocage. The 7th Armoured Brigade would blitz ahead, skirting down between the American left and it’s own right and come in and take VB from the west. The Germans would smell an impending entrapment and fall back out of Caen. The first part of the plan worked out great. The 7A marched through thinly held territories and liberated Villers-Bocage. The people cheered, the pretty girls threw flowers on the guns, and the local police smiled and helped identify German sniper pockets. The trouble came when an armoured column went out past to village to take an important hill called Point 210. Here the Germans counterattacked (or, a should say, a German - more on that in the next segment) and drove the British back into the town. By the next day, two Panzer divisions were closing in on VB and British General Bucknell decided that his force was useless if if could not continue on past Villers-Bocage. Just to hold the town with the tactical situation deteriorating was not wise. The prize was not worth the effort and risk. The 7A had to retreat all the way back to the American lines near Caumont. After the war, the hindsighters had a field marshall day with General Bucknall. They said he could have easily brought in reinforcements and held Villers Bocage. They also say that he could have continued the offensive within a day or two, and the entire Normandy campaign might have been won four weeks sooner. The critics moaned for decades that Bucknall let the ball roll right through his legs. They also say that if only General Stapleton had been in command, the good guys would have won.
MADMAN MIKE WHITMAN I deliberately misspell his name because I have a comedian friend named Mike Whitman and I couldn’t wait to tell him about this guy when I first read about him. Michael Wittemann was a Panzer tank brigade commander who single-handedly turned not only a battle but a strategic campaign! I can’t think of another example in military history as astonishing, with the singular exception of George Washington at the Battle of Princeton. As a long British column of 19 tanks, plus many APC’s and SPG’s (self propelled guns) moved out on a single road towards Point 210 there was only a force of 5 German tanks to stop them. Four were newer Tigers and one an old Panzer Mark 3. That was a small force to start with. The column took up all the road and Mike Whitman saw it and radioed the others. But they were too far away to get there quick and Whitman had the high ground and the drop. Mike Whitman, in one tank, raced up and down the Bocage where his Tiger had a slight height advantage over most of the targets in the road. He could shoot down and over the hedges at them and they couldn’t really hit back. Plus he had the better tank and was an experienced tank-fighter from long and famous service on the Russian front. In other words he was a crack shot on top of having some immediate physical advantages. Commander Whitmans proceeded to destroy, one shot at a time, more than 20 armored vehicles without suffering more than a superficial hit. The road leading up to Point 210 looked like the 1991 Highway of Death in Iraq. Burning vehicles lines up like a traffic tie up in Manhattan one behind the other. German infantry came up to support him and they killed all the British who tried to escape except one. Only one man got away to tell Villers-Bocage what had just happened. Meanwhile Whitman pulled up to the road and pushed a burning truck into the ditch on the other side. He looked to his right and saw that all was good. Everything was burning. There was only one thing to do now. Turn left and drive into the village and take on the British army. Whitman drove his tank right into downtown Villers-Bocage and continued his amazing story. He shot up more tanks and armoured vehicles without taking any hits. It was King Kong loose in the streets. Finally he ran out of ammo and went back. Now he picked up his four brothers in tank warfare and the five of them went into VB and wreaked more havoc. The next morning the British still technically held on to Villers Bocage but they had lost most of their armour and all of their mojo. There seemed little chance of breaking out past Point 210. There were too many burning metal caskets in the road, just for starters. Michael Whitman perished a few weeks later in another tank battle. His one-man wrecking ball on June 13th had stopped a campaign and proved that fables of war heroes can be real. I’ll take Mikul Vittmunn (how it’s pronounced in German) over Rommel as a hero. I say when you get to the Rommel level of command, you hold some moral political responsibility for military actions. At the tank brigade level, you are “just following orders.” Whitman’s virtual suicide by amazing bravery is more impressive to me than Rommel’s decision to drink the poison to spare his family. I contacted my friend Mike Whitman and he said he already knew about this guy and he feels bad that he has to somehow admire him. Good for my Mike Whitman.
FRANKLY OBSTRUCTIONIST DE GAULLE The USA and the UK created a new pile of French Francs to help stabilize the occupied areas, presuming they would succeed in their advance through France. Charles de Gaulle was going to apply his fame and his leadership to the task of making this currency acceptable to the French people. It wasn’t fluff excess worthless currency borne of desperation, like Confederate money in 1864 or German wheel barrels full of currency in the 20’s that was more useful to keep a fire going than to try and but a piece of bubble gum with it at the store. The problem in 1944 was a near total lack of currency in France. There just weren’t enough Francs to go around. It would help with the occupation and the invasion if there were. More than 250 French agents under de Gaulles command were to go into the Normandy just after D-Day and help distribute and validate the fresh currency. But when de Gaulle found out he was not going to become the dictator of France he had a change of blackheart. He refused to validate the new currency, ordered his agents not to go to France to help out, and told the French people through all available channels that the new currency was bogus and the French people should avoid touching it. After all that work setting it all up he sabotaged it for base reasons. This story was hidden from the American public in the interest of morale, but a lot of important people who had still liked de Gaulle okay, now hated him, and a lot of people that had hated him a little now hated his guts with a passion. Letters to Ike from some of his angry commanders said that de Gaulle was murdering American soldiers. And he was. The occupation was that much more bloody and difficult because the six six jerk gave a new definition to being an uncooperative ally. Charles de Gaulle never loved France! He only loved his ego! Only himself! He never loved France! And at the very least he certainly never loved humanity. At best he loved France and lived and died for it to the exclusion of loving God. At worst he was a narcissist pig who only loved Charles de Gaulle. I’m not viscerally anti-France at all. I want to buy a home there some day (within 30 miles of Aloxe-Corton.) But de Gaulle is poison for moi (me.)
HOUSE PARTY - JUNE 11 1944 If you hate the Nazis and all who fought for them, this is a beautiful story (Present tense; Not “hated” that Nazis. There’s a few of them in their early 90’s still walking the earth with me as of this writing in 2013.) The Wehrmacht high command at Normandy was having a big pow-wow at a house about 20 miles southeast of Caen. General von Schweppenburg was drawing up a plan for a major Normandy counter-attack. But that battle plan never got off the ground, at least not once the RAF did. The French Resistance phoned in the coordinates to London with a message to, “Trust us. They’re all there.” London was iffy on the frog reports. But then one of their own spies confirmed it. A huge RAF raider force schlepped off to attack Schweppenburg’s schweinhnds. The RAF brought down the house. They hit that house with the amount of ordnance more fit for an attack on a big factory, and they hit up-close and personal. Officers trying to flee were strafed down. Out of 44 officers poking over their maps, only three got away alive, and they were badly wounded. One was von Schweppenburg. He couldn’t serve the Fuhrer anymore and had to be replaced. It was his own dumb fault. Lieutenants had begged him to camouflage Panzer Group West HQ house, but dumbkoff failed to heed the warning. Historians have excoriated him (ripped him to shreds) for this failure. Some even criticized him. He took it hard. Von Schweppenburg survived the war but to the end of his days was a von Schwepps bitter lemon. General Dietrich took his place in the Caen sector of the Normandy front. The RAF had literally blown a counter-offensive off the map and decimated German officer talent in Normandy. Smashing up the von Schweppenburg meeting house helped the Allied cause measurably. Even if it didn’t, it was still great. Reading stories like this helps me sleep at night, and makes all the studying worth while. Some people count sheep - I count Mosquitoes, and Mustangs. Take that ya lousy Krauts! Next time, don’t try and conquer the world, okay? Then we won’t have these problems.
A STORY WITH BITE Churchill hit the roof when he first learned that many dentist chairs had been landed in the beaches of Normandy. That was not his idea of a priority item in a time of war. Maybe he never had an abcessed tooth, and maybe he knows how to spell absessed. I have had one and, while I don’t know how to spell it, I know what it does to a person. It incapacitates a person. A few people explained to Churchill that every dentist chair that landed on Normandy equaled a hundred soldiers that did not have to quit the battle down the road. Each chair was more war productive than any single soldier (or any married one either.)
MANHATTAN TRANSFER On June 13, 1944 while the Allied armies were still pinned down in Normandy, the USA and UK signed a document that was almost as significant as the D-Day invasion. On that day Churchill and Roosevelt signed an ‘Agreement and Declaration of Trust.’ At issue was the nuclear bomb under development in the United States. A few liberals were suggesting that US-UK should share this developing technology with the world, which obviously included the Soviet Union. By this signed paper, the UK and US decided to just say no to the USSR and to global sharing. The nuclear bomb or bombs to be used in combat, plus the next generation of bombs expected to be operational after the war, were to be now and forever exclusively controlled by the two English speaking Allies. The Manhattan Project was the name for the top secret scientific and industrial effort producing a-bomb which could shorten the war. The nuke would stop terror through terror. People still debate today whether the bomb should have been used. Was it a mistake strategically? Was it wrong morally? Lets start with money. The nuke project was costing the US two billion dollars when every nickel was needed for bombs, bullets, landing craft and everything else, and when a dollar bought a room at a hotel. Allied leadership never took seriously the idea that if the bomb worked they would then not use it. If they had even entertained such a thought, the money would never have been poured into it in the first place. Americans were living a life of rationing and sacrifices for the war. It would have been absurd to spend two billion wartime dollars on a weapons program and then decide not to use it. And back then, a new car sold for about a buck and a half. So 2 billion is not what you're thinking. There was no liberal protest against the development of the nuclear bomb, mostly because the project was secret, so secret in fact that Vice President Harry Truman had no clue that the Manhattan Project existed. There might have been a protest movement if the bomb had developed publicly. The League of Nations outlawed the use of poison gas after World War I, and surprisingly, not even Hitler or Tojo had used it in WWII (Mussolini did in Abyssinia.) Atomic secrecy was essential. Military concerns sheltered the builders and users of the bomb from political concerns until after the thing was detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The anti-nuclear movement couldn’t get off the ground until the two nukes hand already hit the ground. The Germans were trying to develop the nuclear bomb too, and everyone that counted knew it. Allied airpower targeted German factories that were believed to be part of the Nazi-nuke program. It is worth noting that the day before the Declaration of Trust was signed, the first German V-1 rocket landed in London. The threat of German super-weapons saving the day at the last moment was real, and the need for speed on the A-bomb was underlined in London blood. The V rockets also underscored the absurdity of holding back for high and mighty moral reasons. Maybe the Germans weren’t ahead of the Allies on the development of the nuclear warhead, but they were clearly ahead on the delivery systems.
VENGEANCE IS MINE SAYETH THE FUHRER - THE V-1 In the middle of June, just as the Normandy campaign was digging in, a new weapon made its entrance of the world killing stage. It was the V-1 rocket bomb, and it was a serious item. Some histories of the war treat the V-1 story as a pathetic gesture of a falling Germany, and of no great strategic value except as a terror and a novelty. But the V-1foced change Allied strategy, for it was a terrifying and deadly weapon and scared the people of London just about as much as the Heinkels and Dorniers that had bombed the East Side docks in September of 1940. If you want to see the UK as a place apart from Europe, you could say that the V-1 was the world’s first ICBM. The V-1 was a long rocket launched from France or Belgium or Holland at London and other targets. It was a self-propelled piece of artillery that went 20 times farther and three times faster than any conventional artillery shell in existence. There was a 1,000 pound warhead at the front end, and fin tails on the back end for steering. Thousands of German prisoners were still shockingly arrogant and confident of victory when they were captured at this stage of the Normandy campaign. That’s because Hitler had been promising them for many months that a new secret super-weapon was in the works and was about to be unleashed against the enemies of Germany. They trusted that he wasn’t just making this up, and he wasn’t. V-1 sites were scattered all up and down the coast across the Channel from England. The V-1 was not very accurate, but in terror bombing, that’s not the key anyway. This was a bomber command force, not a couple of novelty gadgets. And no one could shoot these bombers down. Hitler had completed the concept that Joe Kennedy was trying to help implement when his plane crashed. President Kennedy’s brother was flying a bomber loaded with nothing but bombs and was supposed to bail out just before landfall and then let radio ground control guide the pilotless plane into a German target. Kennedy’s plane exploded before it was time to bail out and the young man who was being groomed for President was out of the history books (Jack was all broken up when he heard about it, but not as broken up as Joe.) Hitler took that JK concept and perfected it with the Vengeance One. This time there wouldn’t even have to be a pilot. The racist narcissist drone had deployed the world’s first drone. Not as accurate as the one’s Obama is using, but the concept is the same. Kill with pilotless planes. Somehow I always has a most inaccurate mental image of the V-1 situation in London. I pictured the explosions as being very bad, but I had a vision of 3 or a day striking London. I thought Hitler had a limited supply of these flying bombs. The V-1 was a campaign. It was a steady and terrorizing attack from various locations. A typical day in the V-Blitz saw something like 130 or 140 V-1’s hitting the city, not 3 or 4. The V-1 came in low and you could hear it coming like a train looming up in the distance. You stepped outside your farmhouse and saw it roar by and head off to London to kill people. It terrorized everyone in it’s path many miles before it found a target. British Spitfires occasionally got behind one with perfect skill and too one down, but they were hard to catch. About half were failures for one reason or another Some malfunctioned along the way, and others were so wildly off target that they did not human damage on impact. But one out of two will do for you know who. The people of London had been using the subways to travel for almost two years now. It was sad to have to go back to sleeping in the subways again, like they had done back in 40 and 41. But the V-1’s scared people back into the subways.
V-1 COUNTERSTRATEGY From FDR and Churchill down to corps commanders, it was time to get together and decide what must be done to stop the V-1’s. There was near unanimity that doing nothing and prosecuting the war same as before, was not an option. In this sense, the V-1 campaign was one of Hitler’s most successful ones. The V-1’s forces the Allies to divert a tremendous amount of energy and resources to stopping, or at least mitigating the V-1’s. The first place to turn was the SAC boys. Strategic Air Command was to stop bombing German cities and start pounding these V-1 rocket sites along the coasts of three enslaved countries. The Mitchellites were furious. The leaders of bomber force were all of a mind that bombers were for destroying cities. Military targets didn’t catch fire like cities can, so you get more bang for your buck when you ignite cities rather than submarine pens, rail-yards or V-1 sites. I wish I was joking, but this was really the stated positions of Harris and Spaatz, to name two. They didn’t call him “Butcher Harris” for nothing. Harris was the Brit and the American spaz was Spaats. They both already were up to their necks arguing about losing bombers to ground preparation for the Army, now they had to divert even more for attacks on the V-1 sites. What were they supposed to fry Berliner’s with, one squad of P-47’s? British and American Billy Mitchell worshippers just thought they could win the war and do it easily and quickly, if only FDR and Churchill would say yes to frying all their cities in mass incendiary-bomb air raids. Allied thinking had come a long way since 1942 when both sides were trying precision bombing and trying to avoid civilian casualties. Now they were the grand prize! Terrorize Germany and it will surrender. It’s awful to read about all this and I wish it weren’t so, but when the lefty’s charge that the USUK air raids on Germany were excessive and cruel and probably of limited military value, the lefties are right, and even more than they know it. Most of them probably don’t even know that if the civilian leadership hadn’t pulled the reigns in on them a bit, Butcher Harris and Tooey Spaatz would have pulled off another 50 Dresdens. The raids on the V-1 sites were authorized and the British and American big-bomber nuts did what they were told. Raids on V-1 sites were a constant for months. In the final analysis, the bomber nuts were right, but for the wrong reasons. The diversion of heavy bomber attacks on V-1 sites knocked out less than 10% of them. It was a lot of effort for little result. Probably the best dividend was in morale. The British people were relieved to know that the Allies were pounding these sites with all their might. Patton visited a few V-1 sites when his 3A conquered the Cherbourg area in July. General Patton was crestfallen to see that all that Allied bombing had done almost no actual damage to these weapon systems, even though evidence of air bombardment was everywhere. And I promise that I won’t ever use the word ‘crestfallen’ again.
JUNE 18 - PATTON SAYS IGNORE THE V-1 Patton had every reason to be disappointed to see that the Allied air forces had done almost no damage to the V-1 sites when he inspected them in early August. Back in June in London he had argued against any reaction to the V-1 Blitz at all. He tried to tell people to ignore them. The V-1’s were just a nuisance. They weren’t accurate. Hitler was just trying to distract everyone away from the real mission which was “to march to Berlin as quickly as possible and hang that paperhanger.” Now for my favorite Patton story of all time. On June 18 he is meeting with his aide Everett Hughes, and Alan Brooke in a schoolroom on the outskirts of London. He is arguing for ignoring the V-1 as a nuisance. Brooke is trying to explain that these V-1’s cannot be ignored. Why only yesterday a V-1 had slammed into a church and killed 200 soldiers who were praying to the Lord. Surely he had seen the morning newspaper headlines. “Ignoring the V-1 is an ignorant idea,” suggested Brooke. Patton snapped that war is hell and all that prattle. The V-1 was nothing. Just a nuisance. In the middle of one of these angry Patton sentences a V-1 exploded about 300 feet from the building. The windows of the schoolroom were shattered and there was glass everywhere. No one was hurt, but that was a close one. Outside the window a huge black cloud of smoke appeared. The other two men shuddered and crouched when the bomb went off. But Patton did not blink an eye. He waited until the other two men had gained their composure and then continued with his argument that the V-1 was just a nuisance.
V-1 ATTACKS ON THE CONTINENT The V-1 was more of a nuisance to the Allied armies after they hit the continent than they were a problem striking London. Antwerp ended up taking far more V-1 bomb hits than London. There was a stretch of time in 44 when Antwerp was a uniquely hideous place to be on this earth. It was a battered war zone city under a rain of V-1 day and night with no specific target except terror. Patton’s argument was less on the mark in Antwerp when the V-1’s were hitting Monty’s fuel depots than in London when they were hitting churches. Patton was on the mark by accident. No one knew that the V-1 sites were so well-camouflaged and armor-plated that the air attacks would be ineffectual. In other words, if the air raids had smashed up 75% of the V-1 sites, then Patton would have been wrong about it being wrong to go after them with four-engine air power. It could have been right, but only if it had worked. Since it didn’t work, then he was right. But for the wrong reasons. The V-2 would come later. That one went into outer space before killing people. The V-1 flew so low that people heard the engine and that’s why it became known as the “buzz-bomb.” Later on, when British troops marched up the coasts of Belgium and Holland they were emotionally elated to know they were protecting their own families in capturing the various V-1 and V-2 sites. They celebrated with a V-8 and rum.
STORMING THE BEACHES - JUNE 19-21 They called it the “Great Storm.” The biggest summer hurricane to hit Normandy in 40 years ripped the Allied positions from June 19-22 destroying 800 ships! This was the greatest German counter-attack of the campaign. The storm inflicted 100 times more military damage than all the storm-troopers. The GS damaged the temporary “Mulberry” harbor at Omaha to the point of no return. Approximately 141,323 tons of supplies were lost. The Allies were already in a panic about driving more and more supplies and weapons on to France. Now the storm set back that drive even more. It was not until June 30 that the flow of supply caught up ti where it had been on June 18. One US division was off-shore in ships waiting to disembark when the storm struck. The men had to sit tight in the rolling seas for four days. Many were still seasick for several days after the storm. Every time I do a week on a 145,000 ton cruise ship I still feel the rolling seas four of five days after I get back to land, and that’s without a storm. So I can sort of imagine that left-over illness for the poor guys on a 7,000 ton destroyer. The Great Storm gave Rommel time to strengthen his defenses near Caen, particularly in the region of the Odon River. This little river band, to the west of Caen, was where Montgomery would launch his full flank attack late in June, and Rommel smelled it coming there. The storm hurt the Allies on both ends. It made commanders in London want to throw up almost as much as the forsaken men on the ships in the Channel who actually did. The storm also stopped Bradley’s advance in the Cotentin Peninsula and annoyed Montgomery who wanted Brad to keep going in order to help loose things up for Monty’s endless attempts to break the Caen stalemate. The storm also gave the Germans time to move new Panzer divisions from both Russia and Southern France up to the Normandy battlefront without being smacked relentlessly from the sky. But the storm wasn’t the whole story. Behind it came several more days of heavy rains. All of Normandy was a quagmire. This situation helped the German defenders more than the Allied attackers. One had to move, the other did not.
OPERATION EPSOM SALT - THE LAST WEEK OF JUNE 1944 Monty had tried to outflank Caen with one armoured brigade during the attack through Villers Bocage. That hadn’t worked. Now he planned a second attack for June 24. This time he would use three corps, the 1st, the 8th, and the 30th. This time he was going to give the Jerries the full Monty. The main idea was to break through bocage country, take the river Odon at a point about 12 miles southwest of Caen, thus outflanking it and forcing the Germans to consider abandoning Normandy, and to break out open in the Falaise plain for a rush towards the Seine and beyond. The British could exploit their advantage in armoured vehicles and transport plus air cover much better on the open fields. The Allies gave the three UK corps a heavy opening bombardment, and the Royal Artillery shook up the earth at the German line. The three corps attacked in an operation called EPSOM on June 24. EPSOM advanced somewhat but stalled at a military prize called Hill 112. The two sides slugged it out for more than two days for this useless 112. It was like World War One all over again, just killing and more killing, neither side gaining ground. I’m glad I missed it. The British had made some advances but it wasn’t enough, and the jugger-not was losing power. It was a wrestler punching a wall of jello. The Germans sent several Panzer divisions to seal up the gaps. Then the dreaded s-word started going around. Stalemate. The attack fizzled out, and by dusk on July 1, Montgomery ordered the offensive withdrawn. For the second time. Montgomery had failed to outflank Caen. He had already demonstrated he could not take Caen frontally. Ike, Bradley and Patton were all highly critical of Montgomery for this failure. They had already been on his case and he had reassured them with several brags that this time it will be “a smashing victory.” Yeah, for the Germans, maybe, that’s about it. Actually, Monty could have held firm with a stalemate after the advance, but there was little to be gained from it, Caen would either be outflanked or it would not be, and from the frozen positions at the end of June it would still not be. It was better to retreat than to slug it out for some 1917 no-man’s land around Hill 112 for three weeks. No, thanks. Monty had another reason why he felt he had to withdraw. The British were so short of infantrymen that the were embarking on a new policy of fighting a war while trying to avoid casualties.
INFANTRY DEFICIT DISORDER It seems odd, since war is war, and soldiers die, that’s part of their job, that Montgomery by July 1 1944 had decided to try and fight the rest of the war while trying to avoid British casualties. It was half practical, half political, and a bit shameful. What’s the point in sending the 21st Army into Europe, and what’s the point with importuning Eisenhower and SHAEF with the idea that the British must lead the drive across Germany, if you are knowingly going to hold your punches in order to avoid getting hit? The problem was the British manpower shortages in the infantry divisions. The Royal Army could not replace its casualties, and the Americans could - easily. The Americans were putting new divisions on line every other week while the British infantry divisions lost more and more men and were fighting with empty seats on the bus. There was talk about disbanding some divisions and sending the stragglers to help other depleted ones. Montgomery felt that all his tactical and strategic plans had to come down to trick plays. Just when Germany was extremely vulnerable to simple hard-punching attrition warfare, Monty decides that he can’t afford to take any casualties. I don’t mean that literally, but far below what one side would fairly expect in a red-hot full-scale war. Part of it was a sincere belief that England had done much of the fighting alone for so long that this was no time for them to play cannon fodder for a blind Cold Harbor assault. Besides, genius Monty had 101 trick plays up his beret. Part of it was the political fear of having no power in the post war world because the American Army had to take over most of the British lines too. There is no doubt, though, that Monty behaved like the antithesis of U.S. Grant in the Wilderness. Grant said, damn the casualties, let’s hit them with everything we’ve got every day and let’s see how that works out. Monty was thinking in exactly the opposite direction. Let’s be clever and outwit them and for God’s sake, let’s make sure no one gets killed! So what if we have an enormous material advantage on just about every measuring stick for warfare. Let’s dodge the raindrops and give em hell!
PATTON ARRIVES IN NORMANDY - JULY 6 George had been pacing the floors in England for weeks saying thinks like,
“It’s killing me! It’s killing me! It’s killing me that I’m not killing people. Why am I sitting here in England while Brad and Monty get all the good jobs? This is just simply terrible!”
Personal glory was at least important as winning the war. If Monty had crashed through Caen on D-Day and raced for the Rhine, and if the Allies were in Germany on July 5, a lot of people would have cried with joy in England. Patton would have cried too - tears of anguish and sadness that he had not been there to kill for Christ. There were two main reasons Patton had to stay in England for all of June and some of July. Mostly he was part of the grand deception (FORTITUDE) to make the Germans think the main invasion was still to come. Patton’s presence in England was deliberately made quite public and he was always somewhere on the southeast coast of England just across the Channel from Calais, France. It Patton rushed in and joined the fight, the Krauts would know they had been deceived. The other main reason was that there had not been enough progress made to make enough room for new entire armies to land and operate. The Allies had armies waiting in line to get on to the continent, if the day would only arrive when there was room and transport logistics at the landing zone to do it with. Patton arrived on Omaha beach on July 6. His little plane made a beach landing. US troops joyously surrounded the hero as he stepped out onto the wing and shouted, “I am here! The war is as good as over!” Everyone laughed while Patton kept a straight face. He wasn’t joking.
TRYING TO BREAK OUT OF THE NORMANDY BOX - JULY 1944 The big Allied Normandy 'breakout’ was planned for the beginning of July. The war could go on for years if the Germans cold establish a WW1 type of trench warfare, even if the Allies were pushing slowly on through superior force. A stalemate would give the German scientists time to get thousands of V-1's and maybe a nuke rocket in order. So the goal was a major breakout somewhere along the German lines through which the Allies could pour in mechanized armored divisions. This breakout could leave the Germans no choice but to retreat in a panic. The Krauts could not afford of find the heart of their defensive formations trapped and encircled by the advancing Yanks, Canuks, Limeys and Frogs. The could win, retreat, or get trapped. The breakout target was the 16 mile stretch between St. Lo and Coutances (and don’t ask me how to pronounce Coutances,) but German resistance was stronger than anticipated and an alternative had to be devised. While the Americans were conquering Brittany, the British and Canadian divisions were slugging it out with the Jerries for the city of Caen. They fought hard and took heavy casualties yet after weeks of war had little to show for their efforts. It almost looked as if the Brits were not cutting the mustard. The Americans were occupying and consolidating an entire region to the west and meanwhile Monty’s crew couldn’t even take one city. There was a lot of criticism going around. But the criticism was unfair and wrong. The inch-by-inch struggle for Caen was nothing less than mission accomplished with flying colors. The Brits and the Canadians were supposed to draw off as many German divisions as possible so as to enable the Americans to achieve a breakout with a pivoting swing motion around the Caen front. In the end this is exactly what happened. The Germans were indeed putting the heart of their armored corps into the defense of Caen. The Brits and Canadians faced a mightier force than the Americans did. Ironically, the more the BC mission succeeded the harder it was for them to gain any ground. The more the Germans threw reinforcements into the battle for Caen the better for the Allies, but the worse for the men on the spot. Caen was siphoning off German resources superbly. Ike couldn’t defend Monty in public because he was happy to let the Germans think they were winning a decisive victory at Caen. Criticism of Monty was helping Ike and the Allies. There was a short gap between the American and the UK sectors. With German Panzer divisions plugging into the battle for Caen some generals worried that the Germans might move to fill the gap between the two groups. To solve the problem a ‘rubber division’ sent to fill the no-man’s land. This was a Potemkin Village division made up of inflatable rubber tanks backed up by a lot of radio vehicles sending out thousands of reports and commands to deceive the enemy. The Germans never moved on the rubber gap.
LO POINT IN THE WAR - JULY 18 The Americans under Commander Coda finally took the key town of St. Lo on July 18 1944. St. Lo was a key location near the southeast base of the Cotentin Peninsula. It had been a long sluggish Lo road for the US Army. The Americans had performed poorly. Meanwhile, the Germans had fought well. GI Joe reached few of his planned objectives on schedule, and most of the problem was the lack of resolve in the average young man. The Cotentin Campaign up and down had cost the Americans 40,000 legitimate battle casualties, plus about 14,000 cases of “fatigue.” That’s how many Americans quit the battlefield under mental strain in just the Cotentin Campaign from about June 12 to July 18. There are chinks in the armor of the Greatest Generation. American boys grew up in a land of liberal isolationism. German boys had grown up around a revised and improved Prussian militarism. The Germans weren’t the master race, they were the master brainwashed. These assertions are all based on books and official accounts by American sources, American historians. None of us want to spotlight these facts, but the truth knows no tribe. The 7.18 seizure of St. Lo, (after fierce battles for a place called ‘Hill 122’) more or less wrapped the “Normandy Campaign.” The “Cotentin Campaign” and the “Battle of the Cotentin Plain” are subdivsions of the Normandy Campaign. The next step was to strike further south, hold the line on D, and swing west to clear up Brittany. Bradley dropped hints about also breaking out to the east, towards the Seine, but he officially planned Cobra as an operation to push south and hold, sending a huge wing west to clear up Brittany. Half of “Brad-force” or more would keep and eye out make sure there was no German counterattack. As events would turn out, the opportunity presented itself for Brad to do both, break out to the east and clean up Brittany to the west.
CAEN AIRFIELDS One of the main objectives of the British side of the Normandy attack were the airfields just past Caen. Brit commander Coningham felt that the capture of these airfields was essential to defeating the Nazis. They had toe captured. Monty felt that the capture of these airfields was incidental to the main mission which was to tie up the bulk of the German forces in the east while the US 1st Army swung around and broke through and headed for Paris, The whole controversy over the fact that the British fell short of their objectives at Normandy while the Americans did not, created bitter feelings between the British and the Americans that were never fully repaired. The word got out, and some Americans complained in public, that the British were holding back and letting the Americans do most of the fighting. This was not true, but Montgomery could not well defend himself in public by saying that his entire operation was a great feint to draw off most of the German army. The whole master plan envisaged something of a stalemate at the Caen front while the Americans broke through against a lesser opposition. But to say that would be to tip the Germans off. In act, all this accusation against the British for “failing” at Caen helped the Allies. It gave the Germans confidence and hope that they were doing something completely decisive in holding the British up. So the disinformation from Allied bickering solidified the feint plan. That’s one version of it, anyway. The British failure to take Caen at D-Day is one of the major controversies of WWII.
JOHN SOUSA ARTILLERY American love to celebrate the Fourth of July, and today is a short writing day because I am going out to celebrate with 832,539 others (approximate estimate) on the Charles River in Boston. I'd like to honor the veterans who made this possible by thinking back to noon on Tuesday July 4 1944. Generals Bradley and Gerow were looking at the First Army artillery and thinking that a 48 gun salute to start a deadly offensive might be a fun way to celebrate 7-4. I can't countenance why the town they sought to capture on this drive was so important, but the town of Countances was. Gerow had an idea for Bradley. How bout if we line up every major piece of artillery in the First Army, guns of every caliber, and at exactly noon, we fire them all off at once and “give them a taste of John Sousa.” And so the Allies kept the guns quiet all morning on the Fourth and then killed a bunch of Germans at the crack of High Noon. 1,134 big guns of all shapes and sizes opened up the drive on Countances. On several occasions in my work I have notes a battle on the Fourth of July and made a sadistic joke about how they were celebrating the fourth with their own special brand of fireworks. It turns out that Americans in the field on the Fourth rarely missed the callous joke in the first place.
CHAUVINISM Every American General respected Montgomery’s ability, but his ego was a problem throughout the war. I read Monty's memoir, and came out of it liking him and dislikig him very much simultaneously, - his ego was a problem in the efficient conduct of WWII (as was Patton's and MacArthur's and FDR's on the US end.) Who was actually in command of the Allied invasion forces? Was it Ike or Monty? Or was it Bradley? The answer changed from month to month. The complexities and problems of command structure in the war effort may be important but let’s skip it. It is boring at worst and annoying at best to me. Who is nominally in command at what level over what Army group commanding what divisions with jurisdiction over what decisions, well all I can say is, I read those chapters but it doesn’t mean you have to. But Monty’s ego problem and how he got some of our guys mad at him might be lively enough. On July 27 1944 Monty in a state of high anxiety wrote a letter to Churchill. What was the issue? Was it a lack of air support? No. Was it about a deviation from agreed strategy? No. It seems that Supreme Headquarters had issued a statement that the British had recently suffered “quite a serious setback.” Montgomery was red with rage, more angry than he had ever been with Hitler or over the Holocaust. Apparently in the battle at issue the British had only retreated a mile or so “there is no justification for using such an expression!” Reading the memoirs of the war leaders, the soldiers, and even the later historians of both Britian and America I am constantly disappointed by the rivalries between the two teams. The Churchills and Bradleys are thin skinned to no end about US performance versus British, the ‘my flag fights better than your flag’ competition from generals down to rank and file combatants is endless. Add to that the snooty military scholars who dryly emphasize their own flag’s achievements while subtly de-emphasizing those of the other team, and you have the chauvinist picture. The US and the UK were all on the same team fighting a threat to all that is decent in this world. Why does it matter so much whose country performed better or who got the more glory? After all, wasn’t the sin of German-Italian-Japanese national pride one of the reasons the war started up in the first place? Is it not one of the world’s best quotations that there is no limit to how much we can accomplish as long as we don’t care who gets the credit? British writers who compile full general histories of the war always give token short treatment of both the Pacific theatre and the US participation in the European. If that be your attitude, just write a book about the British war effort. Don’t call it a full history and make it seem as though the British did 90% of the fighting. The same is true in reverse. Too many American authors writing general histories of the war tend to think that the British North Africa campaign was worth 6 pages but the fight for Wake Island worth 12. The alliance between the US and UK is the greatest international alliance in history and I hate to see it denigrated by intra-mural competitive hostility. I found this inter-Allied rivalry a depressing head-shaker even when I read World War II books as a boy.
ALLIED STRATEGY AFTER D-DAY The Americans had an endless stream of genius ideas and executed them with gallantry. The British had a lot of lame and foolish ideas and executed them ineptly. Eisenhower wanted to attack the Reich on a broad front stretching from the north coast to Switzerland. Some others wanted a front to be led by a single spearhead which would run far ahead of the main front, a sort of Anglo-Blitzkrieg, the difference being than main force running ahead of the infantry divisions was an entire Army, not a couple of armored divisions as in 1940. The supply problem was so great that the entire front could not advance at full throttle. The line had to slow down for the slowest armies. When gasoline and other supplies caught up all along the line, the attack could then continue. The line of advance had to stop again and let supply catch up every few weeks. The big-blitz plan envisioned one key army outrunning the supply line of the entire front and knocking Germany out of the war way ahead of schedule. The spearhead would take Berlin while the bulk of the German army was still in the field. With the war so hopeless in general or Germany, the Allies might be able to buck the military maxim that the object of war was not territory, or the enemy capitol, but the destruction of the enemy fighting forces. With Hitler's insanity, the Clauswitz formula was not etched in stone. With a Hitler at helm it did little good to demonstrate that your own fighting forces were now so superior that it was time for the enemy to quit. That had worked for a thousand years but it could never work on the thousand year reich, where it didn't matter that the war was lost. The entire nation was dedicated by oath to the will of one man, a man with an ego the size of 700 professional tennis players combined. So as long as Hitler didn't want to surrender, Germany could not surrender. He was not merely the King of Germany, he was Germany. Sane rules of war need not apply. In this unique atmosphere, destruction of the enemy's fighting forces was merely a means to an end, not the end in itself. Millions more Germans had to suffer and die because AH didn't want to face the hangman. For this war, capture of the enemy's capitol was the only real object of the war. It was Clausevitz standing upside down on his head. Catch the guy and you catch victory in a bottle. The enemy was going to fight until the King was dead or in chains. With Berlin in Allied hands the German fighting forces might well still be large and at large, but any new German leader would surrender quickly once that stupid oath was off the playing board. So for the Allied offense planners, maybe it was better to take a chance. Send either Monty in the North or Patton in the center with the bulk of allied supplies and have them charge Berlin like a boxer trying to end the contest by giving 105% effort in a single round. A lot of people advocated this. Begged and pleaded might be better words than advocated. But Ike was a technician and an organizer, a company manager as soldier. He wasn't going to take a chance. Ike ran the war like a businessman, and the president of General Motors isn't going to invest the entire company bankroll on a bold venture that involves risk, even if that risk is 75-25 in his favor. Conservatives like Ike thought that the plan of a gradual advance on a long front was foolproof, and events would prove that it was. The greatest danger in the field was having an allied army cut off and destroyed, and the broad front concept would make this virtually impossible. We will never know if a bolder plan would have ended the war sooner, saved many more lives, and prevented the Russians from taking over much of central Europe. This historical quarrel is a bit surprising to read at times, because Eisenhower over the long haul of history has come down to us as shining hero in every way. But in the first generation of historians of the post-war world, older scribes who had seen the war years, we find many people giving Ike a rather bad time of it for messing up the grand strategy for the final drive to win the war. Robert Leckie, for example, writes with exasperation that “General Eisenhower was not audacious.” I take Ike's side. Even after reading all the criticisms of his Army years and his President years later, I still buy into the basic shining hero stuff. It requires audacity to remain conservative in a storm of bold radical suggestions.
EAST EUROPE If there was one subject that Churchill consistently proved himself a turkey on, it was Turkey. Churchill wanted Turkey in the fight on the Allied side from the beginning to the end of the conflict, but he never gobbled it up. It was about this time that Churchill made a callous Tallyrand style split of spheres of influence deal with Stalin that FDR did not like but went along with. Russia would have a free hand in Romania if Russia would cease the Communist civil war in Greece and let Britian take over there. But then there was Turkey. Churchill was all exited when he heard that Turkey had broken diplomatic relations with Germany after the Normandy landings. He thought that Turkey might join the war now, but admitted to Stalin that the Turkish price might be too high. They wanted arms, planes, ships, food, and even troops. That might have been viable before D-Day, but now there were no Allied resources to spare. Churchill wrote to Stalin about “the fact that Turkey has broken off relations is a death knell to the German soul.” Stalin saw through Churchill’s coy-boy tricks. Churchill was trying to boost up Turkey diplomatically for the post-war settlement. A Turkey on the side of Russia at the end of the war would be harder for Stalin to intimidate politically in the upcoming Cold War. Stalin would be stuck with the friendship of his enemy. Marshall marshaled his nerve and wrote bluntly to Churchill that Turkey had its chance and now it was too late. Leave it alone. Stalin made it plain in a tlegram of July 15 1944,
“This of course means that the claims of Turkey, which has evaded war with Germany, to special rights in post-war matters, also lapses.” Churchill had met his match, and Stalin was no turkey. He wasn’t falling for Churchill’s innocent suggestions with a sly eye towards the post-war map. Russia had been threatening to Turkish straights for 400 years. Stalin wasn’t about to cancel that concept because Turkey did something late in a war already won, after sitting it out when the Allies needed it. The above excerpt is from Triumph and Tragedy. Romania switched sides in time to escape the wrath of the Red Army, but Bulgaria waited too long. When the Red Army crashed into Bulgaria, the Bulgarian government tried to declare war on the Axis. Nice try, but it didn’t work.
HITLER LOSING IT Hitler was losing what little sanity he ever had in the head. The big AH may well have been suffering from venereal disease and he was no longer even capable of rational dictatorial decisions. Even his old insane self would have been welcomed at Wermacht headquarters. He ordered German commanders to hold their positions even when retreat to consolidate and maybe even soon counterattack was the obvious wise choice. Impractical macho orders only were going out to the field commanders. Battles were even lost because Hitler was sleeping and no one dared to wake him up to ask him to make a decision. Hitler had already mass murdered millions of Poles, Russians and Jews. Now by refusing to surrender in a lost war he was murdering millions of his own pure Aryan buddies. He'd killed millions of enemies, now he was killing his friends too. The only hope now was for someone to have the chance and the courage to ice the Fuhrer. Hitler had his own Dr. Conrad Murray to give him so many meds that this man, already wacko to begin with, was now a wacko wacked out on meds.
LIFE IN GERMANY - A MOVING PICTURE This wasn’t what the brochure said it would be back in 1938. Allied bombers overhead, no food, no gas, dismal news from the front. In the middle of all this the German civilians were expected to go to the movies and cheer for the lies in the latest Goebbels propaganda film. The Nazis used to show the propaganda film second, after the short entertainment feature. But by 1944 the German patrons were walking out of the theater after the entertainment piece. Only the very young, very brainwashed or very stupid still believed in the movies saying that victory was around the corner. By 44 the Nazi movies had about as many people in it as were watching the war movie in the Texas Theatre when they arrested Oswald. The Nazis switched the order in 1944 and showed the victory-is-here movie first. By that time nearly everyone in the theater knew some soldier who was dead or maimed. It was hard for them to watch, but at least reversing the order made them watch. (There were about 15 scattered patrons in the matinee when Dallas police arrested LHW on 11.22.63.)
ORADOUR 6-10-44 The Resistance kidnapped a high ranking Waffen SS officer named Kampfe on June 9 1944. Word got around that the Resisters were going to execute Kampfe somewhere in high visibility as a warning to the Nazis that their time had come. The Nazis retaliated with one of the worst atrocities of the war, at least one of the worst that didn't involve the systematic extermination of millions of Jews in the camps to the east. If you enjoy a good bottle of red Beaujolais wine, you might have downed a glass of Saint-Julien now and then. About 12 miles to the east of that wine-mecca, in the Bordeaux region, just NW of Limoges is the village of Oradour. It was here that the Nazis took out their revenge for the kidnapping of Major Kampfe. The Krauts entered the village and surrounded it so no one could escape. They rousted the Oradour men to a barn and set up machine guns. Then the Nazis herded the Oradour women and children into the town church. The men in the barn were shot up in the legs so they would not die right away. Then they were doused with gasoline. Apparently the acute petrol shortage in the Nazi military effort wasn't as important as cruelty missions. Needless to say, they set the barn on fire and no one got out alive. The Germans didn't machine gun the women and children in the legs. That would have been mean. Instead they set the church was set on fire and they all died. A few burning women and children climbed dazed through broken pane glass and were shot to death. All 642 villagers in Oradour perished to warn the French Resistance to knock it off. The man in charge of the SS unit that carried out the Oradour Massacre was named Major Dickmann. Sometimes the story writes itself. He would have been tried and executed after the war but he died in battle within two weeks of the massacre. This time he wasn't up against unarmed children and he got what he deserved, although even that was too good for him. (He really should have been turned over to New Jersey's “Ice Man.”) The Nazis razed the village to the ground after all the people were dead. Today the village of Oradour is, like Auchwitz, a Nazi atrocity tourist destination. No one lives there, but travelers must pass through it on the little state highway. The ruins of the church still stand and a burned out car sits in front of it. Such was life under Nazi rule. And the left still points more fingers at Allied bomber raids on Dresden than at Nazi massacres like Oradour and Monte Sole in Italy which most of them never even heard of.
THE LIBERATED BRITS - GERMAN GENTLEMEN - AMERICAN BRUTES I refer not to the British, but to the French citizens of Brittany who were liberated by the Americans. Apparently a lot of them weren’t thrilled about being liberated. And why on earth would they have mixed feelings about being liberated? Probably for the same reason that a lot of people in Iraq and Afghanistan may love democracy and secularism more than religious tyranny, but they prefer islamic tyranny than seeing their villages torn to shreds and their family members dismembered. It doesn’t matter what greater cause was being served in killing your family from the sky. The human is a weakling and would end up hating whoever dropped the bombs. The US Army had to deal with a sniper problem after it conquered the Brittany peninsula. Not German snipers, no. French citizens were assassinating American troops and officers whenever a ripe target presented itself. These people have not been studied by any academics that I know of (maybe Robert Aaron has covered them) so their exact motives are open for consideration. Was it in retaliation for Allied bombing? In some cases, surely it was that simple, but in what percentage of cases? Was there not an overt factor of Nazi-collaborationist/sympathizer in action here? Sometimes we forget in looking at 1944, how much sympathy there was for the Nazis in the French mind set in 1938. We forget how half the French in the 1930’s loved the rise of fascism, they just regretted that it had to be the calling-card of such traditional rivals as Germany and Italy. But France appreciated the qualities of fascism and that is the only thing that explains the inexplicable capitulation of 1940 when France had a giant army still in the field and surrendered anyway. They saw the Vichy deal as part of a great change they wanted to implement in the first place in France. It was a shame that the new way of governing and living had to be implemented by an arch-enemy, but the political and moral changes had to come soon somehow anyway. Hitler had conquered us. We don;t like him, but we like his ideas, heck, we framed Dreyfus while Hitler was in diapers, we’re cool with these guys. So why do we presume that Vichy collaborationists or worse, quislings, couldn’t exist in the scattered bocage of Brittany. What I’m saying is there are two sides to the coin. I accept the Howard Zinn lefty angle that the cold-hearted US bombing was partly to blame for a bad French civilian reaction, and who can blame them? But some of them, to take the Frank Pieto side of things, were just Nazi-loving Frenchies. Zinn would have objected to the execution of some of these French snipers, and Pieto wouldn’t. Frank Pieto was a US Marine who said in an interview after the war that “I had no problem with killing Japs. I used to have trouble sleeping at night because I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning and kill more Japs.” Some see executions in wartime as a war crime, and some don’t. Zinns do, Pietos don’t. The worst part of the record, one that even Pieto’s roughneck leatherneck can’t justify is the rape and murder of French civilians. Apparently a lot of American guys did that. David Irving, the British chauvinist who spares no opportunity to belittle Americans in WWII, spends three pages in The War Between the Generals citing French people claiming/complaining that the Germans had been far more chivalrous and decent as occupiers than the Americans were as invaders. He writes of the American rapists and murderers and what an epidemic this was. Then he mentions that “In all, 454 GI’s were sentenced to death” by US military tribunals.” But he has only been writing about the Brittany campaign, and it reads as if 454 GI’s were executed for rape and murder in the Brittany campaign. “In all” can be applied to the Brittany campaign as easily as in “in all the war.” So he isn’t full of clarity here and I see it as slick and deliberate, not something that probably should have had a slight re-write for clarity. His lack of fair clarity is clarity, for his purposes. He cites not one episode of British troops misbehaving, and rails on and on about the bad American men. Of course, it was for all of WWII that 454 American young men were given the death penalty for crimes against civilians. 70 did “the Sadaam Shuffle” and the rest got the death sentence commuted to prison time. But the way he sets it up, you would figure at least 1,000 Americans should have been executed for rape in Cherbourg alone. The comparison of German occupiers to American invaders is a form of America-bashing that fits David Irving perfectly. He is a known to some as a Holocaust denier who has written books about the Germans that were offensively positive about Hitler. On the other hand, all the great historians still read his books, so he can’t be dismissed, and he’ good. But it’s an unfair comparison even if it’s true. For one thing, this region, even today, is very rural and rustic. There are few cities, and even the towns are still small. This was not an area where the German occupiers were especially brutal. They weren’t even around, for the most part. Life went on as before in most of Brittany on most days before 44. When Patton toured the secured areas in late July he was amazed at what he kept referring to as the “prosperity” as far as the eye could see. The war hadn’t hurt these people much at all. Many officials and top brass wrote of how the people of Brittany were so obviously “well-fed.” Fat cows were everywhere. And then there were the animals. Life was possibly better in parts of occupied northwest France than it had been in allegedly autonomous Vichy country in the south. The two sides had let each other be. German soldiers and French farm folk marked time and ate the plentiful food. Until..... Suddenly in the spring the skies open up and Allied air raids began pounding the railroads and anything resembling a military target, especially a moving one. A Frenchman driving a food-truck from Caen to Cherbourg was likely to be mistakenly strafed and murdered by a Typhoon rocket attack long before D-Day. And how mistaken was it if the guy was feeding Germans troops? After quiet years of marking time in the bocage, war was suddenly hell. Then the invasion came and that made the bombing campaign look like a lame warm-up act. Their villages were devastated, tank battles erupted all around them, artillery duels ruled and ruined the nights, and, to top it all, some drunken GI’s misbehaved and raped and killed civilians. In the middle of all this, David Irving has managed to dig up a few quotes from French people who at the time said that the Germans had behaved far better than the Americans. Well of course they would think that way at that moment in that place at that time. That is such an unfair comparison. One is a skeleton force of occupation troops who pass through the villages now and then, and life is fairly quiet for two years like that. There are so fews Jews around in Brittany, there isn’t any need for violence anyway. The other is a gigantic force of active US combat warriors, slugging it out full scale with the best the SS Panzergruppes have to offer. And in the middle of all this, this DI spends three pages asking the reader why it was that the Germans could behave like gentlemen towards the French people, but the Americans couldn’t? The main answer is because Dave is prejudiced against the Americans, frames all his facts accordingly, and his question is bad. Irving also hastens to quote a US report that “most of these undisciplined acts were caused by colored troops.” Thanks for pointing that out, Holocaust denier. You’re saying that I should be ashamed of my country for the way US troops misbehaved in Brittany as compared to the German occupation troops - while six million old men, women and children were cooking in German easy-bake ovens. The reader is entitled to see a disconnect between Sobibor and the battle for Normandy, but I don’t. I have distance driving glasses on. It’s all part and parcel of the same battle. If we’re going to get high and mighty about war crimes, then let’s do the whole picture. The German soldier swears an oath to Adolph Hitler knowing full well that the Fuhrer is the most vile, and the most dangerous racist in the history of the world. The Nazi party threatened to do away with the Jews in their speeches long before the attack on Poland. How can anyone compare the moral fiber of the German soldier to the American one. Individual American crimes in Brittany do not cancel out and supersede the crime of serving Nazi Germany itself. German adults with any conscience had years to find a way to emigrate, and many of them did. The other men donned the uniform of racist fascism the day they became a soldier. The American soldier didn’t endorse hatred and racism the day he put on the uniform. The German soldier did. Don’t write to me about chivalrous Nazis and American brutes. Some GI’s killed civilians and more of them probably should have been charged with murder. But if you want to get legal about it, let’s take the new improved Nuremburg standard of war crimes and see if we can’t get everyone who ever served in the Wehrmacht indicted for aiding and abetting a conspiracy to start wars of aggression and commit crimes against humanity. Then we can make a new comparison. 10,000 Americans on the stand for war crimes, including everyone that deserved to get caught, and 1,000,000 Germans on the stand for war crimes, not including another million that got away. Give em all 20 years and let em out in four.
THE YELLOW BADGE OF COURAGE Americans often executed Germans after they surrendered, especially in the early part of the campaign to liberate/conquer Europe. It’s one of America’s ugly secrets. Germans did it too, but Americans never had to answer for these yellow acts of cowardice after the war. But hey, most Germans didn’t either, for that matter. Pretty much only the really famous Nazi scums went to trial at Nuremburg. Countless German atrocities against surrendered Americans or Russians or Poles, or Greeks, (ect ect) were never prosecuted. They were too wide-ranged and too difficult to document and prove, especially in the post-war world where everyone was first trying to put all the pieces back together again. It’s fair to say that both sides got away with murder all the time, and that it’s been like that in most wars. But it’s also fair to say that the Americans have managed to bury their own murderous behavior under the rug of history a bit. But there are times when prisoners are a murderous problem. A desperate fight is still on and you’re supposed to monitor, shelter and even feed prisoners, when doing so might mean the difference between life and death for you and the mission. It’s a moral dilemma. These war crimes are not always motivated by savage lust for blood; sometimes murdering the surrendered is an on the spot tactical decision. It’s like the man commanding the overcrowded lifeboat with a storm approaching. Some people have got to die. You know that holding 10 prisoners will probably doom your company and its mission and cost you your life. What do you do?
PATTON’S PRISONER IS GOING DOWN Now here’s another scene for “what’s your take on it?” Patton was angry when he saw the following scene. A German was in a camouflaged pit near a key bridge. He pushed the plunger down, and blew up the bridge. Several Americans were killed and maimed. The German got up and raised his hands in surrender. Patton saw his men take him prisoner and he was livid. He thought that the German had forfeited his right to be taken alive. If the enemy man wanted to be taken alive he should have raised his hands and surrendered before pushing the charge and killing American men. What do you think? Is Patton right? If he is, what was he supposed to do, go over there and shoot Jerry in the head like the South Vietnamese official on the Saigon street killing the VC? If Patton did, and all his men cheered, would Patton then be up for a war crimes trial after the war? Or if he ordered one of his men to do it, or if he saw one of his men shoot the German who had surrendered, would that have led to a war-crimes trial for the man or for Patton as the Ernest Medina of that scene? If Patton had merely heard that a German had blown up a bridge, surrendered and was immediately executed, and he didn’t report it, would Patton have been guilty of an accessory to murder and war crime? Patton was right. They should have fired a bazooka-round through that Hitler-loving rat, and asked him questions later. But just don’t ask me to do it. If I have to pull the trigger, then I say Patton was wrong, and it was only fair and right under the rules of the Geneva Convention to take that German gentleman into custody. In any case Patton may have a right to ask, “Where’s Frank Pieto when I need the bastard?”
THE FOX CATCHES THE FOX - 7-17 On July 17, 1944 a Spitfire on patrol in France shot up the car that was carrying General Erwin Rommel, wounding the Desert Fox in the tail. The pilot's name was Charlie Fox, a Canadian. Fox shot Fox in his touring car. Flying glass and shrapnel injured Rommel in the face but that wasn’t what hurt him seriously. The driver lost control and the car rolled so violently that it hurled all four men to the pavement like toy dolls and then hit a tree. Rommel's head hit the street a thud. He courageously stood up for a moment covered in blood, began to give some orders, and then collapsed. Taken to a hospital, Rommel fell into a full coma.
WHO SHOT ER? The Americans have a standing claim that a guy named Jenkins shot up Rommel's car with the guns of a P-47 Thunderbolt. A South African pilot also says he was the one that shot up Rommel's car. I say it was Wiley Post. In any case the Americans are accused of practically lying to take credit for the attack on Rommel. British logs insist that the only planes to patrol the area were two Spitfires from the Polish brigade, one of which was flown for some reason by a Canadian pilot, Mr. Fox. Then why does the more detailed study by David Irving note an attack earlier by eight enemy fighters that Rommel's car avoided completely, before the attack by two Spitfires later on in the day. Obviously the first attack might well have been American P-47's on several strafing missions. So the Americans were at least honest in thinking they had shot Rommel, where in fact it was the Spitfires. German radio at first reported to the public that Rommel had died in the strafing attack. That strafing attack took Rommel out of active service both as a general and as a conspirator. If Rommel had taken a more active part in the Valkerie plot of July 20, it might have worked better.
CHURCHILL SEEING RED OVER NORMANDY - 7- 3-44 When Montgomery failed to take Caen on D-Day as promised, and still had not taken it when June turned to July, Churchill became very angry with him. Churchill called Monty to a meeting with Alan Brooke present. Churchill proceeded to berate Montgomery for failing to push his offensive forward. Churchill literally red in the face yelling at Monty, and Brooke decided that this was unacceptable. Brooke came to Monty’s defense and got red in the face yelling at Churchill to stop abusing his generals. It was unfair and unbecoming an Englishman. that Brooke came to Montgomery’s defense and the two of them, Churchill and Brooke had such a severe shouting match that Montgomery later wrote that, “I wondered if I might end up having to step in and break up an actual fight, and a fight over me! I could take Churchill yelling at me. It wasn’t the first time. It was watching these two blokes nearly come to blows that was really hard to handle. I got the feeling it wasn’t personal for Brooke, as in, he would have come to the defense of any other British general or admiral with equal vigor. And it looked as if they had argued about this before, like a married couple over some in-law matter.” It was so. Brooke had already stood up to Churchill many times over this. Any time the British failed to advance it was somehow always because they were cowards or incompetents and lacked resolve. They should be sacked and replaced with someone else. Churchill had even made it plain to Ike that if he wanted Monty sacked he just had to say the word and Churchill would do it. Eisenhower was not authorized to do it, but Churchill was almost pushing Ike to give him the green light to “sack the schnozz.” Ike would have none of it, and Churchill was disappointed. Win had never really loved Montgomery. This business of hating, blaming, and berating the generals reminds me of another war leader, with a poor attitude. In May 1945 that other guy claimed that all his generals were cowards and ordered most of them executed. It really all came down to WW One. Churchill wasn’t merely concerned about a potential trench-warfare stalemate, it was a P.M. paranoia. It’s easy to dismiss these fears because we know how much of a material advantage the Allies had, and we know how it all turned out. But I can’t fault him for being paranoid. Back in 1914 the Entente was loaded with confidence and that became a four year stalemated bloodbath. The older guys couldn’t accept the thought of it happening again. There was another big reason Churchill was “how you say.... paranoi” over the s-word ‘stalemate.’ Churchill was afraid that if it became a WWI style deadlock in Normandy for a year, the Eastern Ally would march through Germany, and into France. Yes, the Rooskies might not only get to Berlin before USUK, they might be the first to Paris! Stalin would be new Charles Lindbergh, piloting the Spirit of He Slewus, to Paris non-stop, the first leader in history to pull it off. Again, easy to scoff at now, but a wise and circumspect fear, really, and that’s Churchill screamed at Monty. The Germans had the best army in the world, period. There was plenty to fear besides fear itself.
OPERATION CHARNWOOD - MONTY RAZES CAEN On July 7 the Allies bombed Caen with 800 bombers. There were still a couple of thousand French citizens still living there. Many of them gathered in St. Lashua’s Cathedral and God spared them. Most of the little city was destroyed, but the cathedral made it through. The next day the British advanced into Caen and held the northern half of the city. Monty had promised that he would take it on D-Day and here it was D+30 and he only had the northern half. Within the next few days the British finished the job. Caen was now in Allied hands. But the key defensive positions to the south and east of the town were not only still in German hands, they were in very good defensive positions. If the British took Caen within a few days of landing, it would have meant something. Now it was the useless occupation of a city of rubble with the Germans still close by and guarding the keys to the region; the Ordon River and Bourguebus Ridge. By now Monty needed the Bourguebus Ridge more than he needed Caen. Once again, he had missed the Bourge bus. The name of the offensive to take Caen 33 days behind schedule was called CHARNWOOD. The mass bombing of Caen was militarily useless. Virtually no Germans guns were destroyed, nor Germans killed. But it did rally the morale of the British troops who cheered like juiced soccer fans when they saw the heavy bombers going in and heard the thunderstorms. On top of everything else, the British had failed to even fully take Caen. The southern half (Le Southie) was still the German frontline.
KLUGE TAKES OVER Rommel was out of action for a while, maybe for eternity. His driver also went into a coma and died. Would Rommel live? General von Kluge was pleased to take over military operations in Normandy. Kluge honestly felt that Rommel wasn't a good general. He saw Rommel as an egoist who was so busy having fun with daring gambles that his record added up to counterproductive foolishness. Rommel's payoffs didn't make up for his blunders, except in the western press, and the Wermacht wasn't fighting a war to please enemy newspaper writers in search of colorful characters. Von Kluge wanted to stop the invaders, not win one fancy battle and get headlines. A lot of German generals thought Rommel was an overrated fool, but they couldn’t complain for many reasons. All the military writers love him to this day, and they never factor in the fact that his peers shook their head in frustration behind his back as he tried to throw out the rulebook for one man, as the expense of sound safe logical strategies. When Kluge arrived he actually gave Rommel a stern lecture about his defeatist attitude. Men like Keitel and Jodl and himself, von Kluge, understood that Hitler was right. Only men who believed in victory could achieve it. Rommel listened patiently and did not snap back. The next day he asked von Kluge if he wouldn’t mind touring the battle front with him. It would be best if von Kluge saw the whole situation first hand, even if he was right about Rommel’s poor attitude. After he tour von Kluge was singing a different tune. Even von Kluge now realized that the situation was hopeless. Von Kluge still did his best from then on, but personally, even this sycophant knew that Hitler should throw in the towel. The Allies had so many advantages it was 100% inevitable they would achieve a breakthrough somewhere somehow. The Germans had a few advantages. Morale was one of them, which was insane. They were 2 million brainwashed men. Allied bombers and infantry numbers weren’t going to knock the arrogant Aryan fascism out of these guys. The Germans had the ace gun of the war, the 88. They had the V-2, and they had a very good tan in the Panther. But von Kluge knew this was small potatoes compared to Allied superiority in the air, on the sea, in the supply lines and in numbers, numbers, numbers. When Dempsey and Montgomery resumed the offensive at Caen, for example, Monty hit the line with no less than 2,650 tanks, more than twice as many as he had at Alamein, and this was on a shorter and partial front. The reason Rommel sat there and let von Kluge scold him with a condescending lecture about guts was because he knew what Kulge would think once he saw the reality. No point in defending yourself with words, when the exculpatory facts are right around the corner and can do a much better job of it. And I promise it will be another 2,650 pages before I use the word ‘exculpatory’ again.
GOODWOOD Rick Dempsey sometimes got “good wood” on the baseball when he hit for the Orioles. General Dempsey came up with the battle plan for getting the British into the open and named it GOODWOOD. Dempsey never told a soul why he named it that. Montgomery didn’t love the plan but he went along with it, because he was out of ideas on how to break out of the Caen box without sustaining heavy casualties. Dempsey’s plan was to have armoured divisions form entire corps and do most of the fighting ahead of the infantry. After the tanks and armoured cars had forced an overall German retreat, the infantry would march in. All British battle plans had to include plans to avoid casualties. It’s hard to believe, but its true. The attack of three corps with 2,650 tanks attacked on July 18. The Canadians got a chance to get into the thick of it, after more than half of them had been sitting out in the channel for weeks waiting for room to develop ashore for them. They hit the southern half of Caen directly while two other corps attacked on the east and west of the city. Meanwhile the aerial bombing of Caen had impressed a lot of people, and the Allies marked the beginning of GOODWOOD by obliterating a few key French villages, including Cagny. Heavy bombers knocked Cagny out with a right cross from the clouds, the dirty rats.
BADWOOD The idea of operation GOODWOOD was to do a little tactical Blitzkreign of the German defense behind Caen. This time the Army was to march in within two hours after the air bombardment. At EPSOM the Brits had waited too long to exploit the temporary opportunity and the German had closed ranks in the extra hours. GOODWOOD was an overall failure for at least a dozen major reasons. One of them was moonscape. The bombers had shook up and destroyed a lot of German tanks, no doubt about that. But they had turned farm-fields and roads into moonscape. The rubble from “Super-smash” slowed down the British advance and gave the Germans countless defendable positions. This lesson had been also learned at EPSOM and the so-called “Galaxy Trio” (Tedder/Harris/Leigh-Mallory) made an effort to avert the problem. But it was still a problem for the advancing armies nevertheless. The large mistake was preliminary miscalculating enemy strength across the board. All the top English speaking commanders believed Germans strength behind and southeast of Caen to be about one fifth what it actually turned out to be. The GOODWOOD major offensive was based on a gross overestimation of the opportunity at hand. GOODWILL’s goal was not to take Caen. The Germans had beat it out of there except for a few small stubborn units. The Canadians on the right would sledge-hammer forward and finish that job. The goal was to reach the open tank ground of the Falaise-Argentan plain. The regional guard tower they had to get past was Bourguebus Ridge. All the fighting on the outer rim of the wheel was spoked in the direction of this Fleer-Ultra target. Once past Bourguebus and on the fields of Argentan, the British could employ all their tank and artillery properly. Boxed in near Caen, they had created a traffic jam of unemployed assets falling all over each other, with more at sea waiting to unload someday. The idea of a great breakout was just as much about the rear as it was about looking ahead at Paris and Berlin. The key to a breakthrough was the need for rear logistical room to unload all the Allies had locked and loaded on boats and railroad cars. Just before the attack began, Montgomery gave some “notes” to Dempsey that was going to prove ruinous to the whole operation. Montgomery noted that Dempsey must be careful to make sure all his flanks were thoroughly secure before he advanced too far. In other words, take your whole concept of the armoured blitz and cancel it out by applying contradictory and antiquated principles of war. Monty was being too cautious and conservative. This might have been okay if he had also cancelled the entire operation as part of his memo. But he was telling Dempsey to go ahead with his bold plan to race ahead of his infantry and his flanks, but make sure you slow down and double-back and secure those flanks with your infantry! What kind of mushrooms was Monty on and where can I buy them? One bad plan is better than two good ones, and Monty was clearly telling General Dempsey to go ahead with two good ones. The burdening conditions added on to one plan up to two plans which contradicted and therefore cancelled each other. The GOODWOOD attack proceeded accordingly. The Germans always had time enough to recover from every British penetration, because the advancing tanks had to stop to adhere to Monty’s notes. Covering the flanks was excessively cautious. The Germans were in no position to counter-attack. Monty gave away that extra edge needed for victory because he feared failure more than he craved victory. Churchill watched it come to a stall on his big maps well short of the Bourguebus Ridge. Monty cancelled it on July 20 (Tom Cruise Day) because the German strength was clearly better and beyond all predictions and Monty was not about to fight a war of attrition ahead of his supply line. His own tactics were largely to blame, but he never gave that concept a passing thought. Monty McBrag lied about GOODWOOD for the rest of his life, claiming that it was a great success because it prevented the Germans from switching it’s main Panzer strength to the west. If not for GOODWOOD, that’s what Jerry would (supposedly) have done. Tying up the Germans in GOODWOOD was what made the American COBRA op so successful. Supposedly. But if the Germans had tried to mover the Panzer divisions to the west they would have taken on far more air attack than was affordable. Allied air power was more dominant than words can say, and the OKW considered it semi-suicidal to move divisions across Allied air lines. So they wouldn’t have done it, even if Monty hadn’t attacked. Besides, there was plenty of Panzer power facing the American sector. Monty exaggerates how little Panzer power was left for the western end of the German line. That makes his own theatre performance more noble and the American one less so. Churchill, and Ike were both ripwood with Monty for BADWOOD. Churchill once again hinted to Ike that if he wanted to, he could say the word and Monty was gone. Both men chastised Monty for failing yet again. They did it diplomatically to Monty’s face, and brutally behind his back. Plenty of Brits disliked Montgomery and thought he was a poor general. It wasn’t a matter of American chauvinism driving a jealous dislike. All right, maybe with Patton, and maybe with me too, but you didn’t have to be an American to dislike Monty. I will say that whenever I read Monty in his own writing, I tend to start liking him. When I read about him, it tends to got the other way.
BLUNDER-MINES UNDERMINE The British could not use all they had in the opening attack because of congestion on the few bridges over the Orne River and because of a mining blunder. They had sewn a huge minefield over the very area that 8 Corps was going to begin its advance. No one at brass had told the lower level commanders about the GOODWOOD idea. The ground commanders had sewn these minefields to stop German counter-attacks. Now they had two days to clear these minefields. This was a seven day job in daylight. They had to do it at night to not give away too much activity to the Germans. Montgomery incorrectly believed he was going to have the element of surprise too. The British armour had to file up close into four small openings in the minefields to start a surprise Blitz attack on a wide front of farmland. Is this any way to run a breakthrough strategic offensive? You bet it ain’t!
CLEMENTINE HATES MONTY TOO Churchill’s wife cared for Monty even less than me or Patton combined. If had been up to Churchill’s wife, Monty would have been sacked long before GOODWOOD got off the ground (if it ever did.) She often spoke bluntly to Montgomery when she sensed that Winston was holding back on something that must be said bluntly, in the name of absolute clarity, more than deliberate rudeness. She would blurt out what Churchill was hinting at. One day Mongomery was discussing the war with two of his Army subordinates and the Prime Minister. The butler came in and announced dinner for five. Montgomery said he was sorry, but “I never dine with subordinates.” Clementine blew her stack, shouting ‘how dare you tell me how to run my house’ and a couple of choice things about Monty’s nose. Since reading that story, I have become a real fan of Clementine Churchill.
FINAL SCORE GOODWOOD The British reached Bourgueus Ridge on July but did not seize it and get beyond it. This was ground that Monty had predicted back at St Paul’s Schoolhouse on May 15 would be taken before the end of D+2 at the very latest. The British lost almost 500 tanks in two DUMBWOOD days. German 88’s, and Panthers in little fortified French villages did a number on the British Cromwell tanks. The Allies had expended enough big bomber power to level half of Hamburg on little villages like Soilers, Demouville, Touffreville, and Herb Foley, and for this Monty gained abut one tenth of what he was supposed to. But even though Monty lied jerkily about how it was all part of his master plan, the fact remains that his analysis is correct. Tying down German resources around Caen did enable the Bradley breakout to the West. In addition to attrition while on the move, the Germans knew that if they transfered tank power to the west, they would invite a massive breakthrough by the 21st Army. Even though the push forward was not great, considering all that was lost in taking it, and of course tacking on the failed breakthrough, it was still a victory. Pushing forward at great cost in small increments is not a stalemate. Either side in WWI would have gladly settled for huge ugly brawls in which their side repeatedly gains 15 miles after all the smoke had cleared. Even if there was an interval between offensives of weeks at a time, if the one side knew it would move forward as much as Monty and Dempsey did in GOODWOOD, that side would be happy. The Allies and history set high standards and GOODWOOD comes up short. If you remove all plans and expectations and just look at what happened objectively, from the standpoint of one who never really studied the war, yet can read a war map, it looks like a victory. In the Wilderness sense, it was a victory too. Monty may have employed all this force badly, but at least he went into action (at last) with what he had. Grant in the Wilderness Campaign didn’t put on a particularly good show. But he kept what he had in action and wore down Lee and won the war of attrition. GOODWOOD helped. Tactical failure, overall a minor strategic victory. German Panthers and 88’s may have put a real hurt on the attackers, but there were far fewer of these defenders left when it was all over. The loss in gun power had the generals calling Hitler on the phone and asking for permission to fall back closer to the Seine. That came from GOODWOOD. Hitler said no, of course. He had already lost his hearing from the bomb anyway, so he probably didn’t even hear what was asked.
COBRA BITES ITSELF - THE ST LO 500 The major attack to break out of the Normandy box was code-named COBRA. It was a American campaign and it was to start with a huge air bombardment of St. Lo on July 21. But SHAEF postponed the attack at the last moment, or maybe it would be better to say, after the last moment. Three waves of bombers had already taken off and did not get the word to come back. One of these planes accidentally unleashed it’s load of bombs over the lines of the US 30th Army Division. 131 Men died from the COBRA biting itself. The story was horrific news all over the army, and the Army Air Force. Never again. The attack was re-started on July 25, again with a huge (1,000 plus planes) air raid on St. Lo. This time they would make sure there was no risk of friendly fire because the bombers would smash horizontally along the S. Lo - St. High Highway. There were too many delicate risks when the bombers had to line up the target zone vertically. The first wav would bombe the German-controlled east-west highway, and the next waves would use the smoke line as a target line. But high winds pushed the smoke-line into the American zone and the third wave of bombers unleashed a full attack on its own troops. This time 341 American died from their own bombs. 500 killed by the Flying Fortresses and Liberators, the worst friendly-fire episode of the war and perhaps in all of US military history. Bradley and Ike were devastated. They agreed that from now on, there would be no more heavy bomber-support missions for the infantry. Attack planes and medium bombers like the Mosquito could still step in and help, but no more saturation bombings trying to help out. The brass of the 30th Division drafted a letter asking Eisenhower not to employ any more US bomber support for this unit. It was an insult to the Army Air Force, but almost certainly more done out of fear than from any desire to humiliate those responsible. By this time, the very knowing of an impending bomber support mission would shake up 30th Division morale.
FRIENDLY FIRE FOR CANADA The Army Air Force lent a hapless hand to the British and Canadian offensive near Caen. US B-17’s and 24’s hit some German targets, but two bombers unloaded on Canadian troops. The British all over Normandy were now referring to the “Eighth Luftwaffe.’ But then the RAF did the same thing. They dropped several Wellington-loads on Canadian troops and killed more than 100. Two days later another similar incident, again on the poor soldiers from Canada. The problem of friendly-fire from the sky was out of control. And three strikes in a row against the King-forsaken Canadians, none of whom even had to be there. They were all volunteers (Canada instituted the draft in 1945 but the act raised such a protest that none who ended up drafted actually served and died in battle. So it is and is not true that Canada never had the draft in WWII.) So in addition to the St. Lo 500 you can add the Ottawa 300, the unfortunate Canadians who died from friendly fire in the Normandy sky. All in all it was one more reason to say that Billy Mitchell and all the disciples of air power were wrong. They were wrong about accuracy, and they were wrong about air power being able to win a war. (For that matter they continue to be. As of this writing in 2013 the USA is preparing carrier air strikes against Syria because America doesn’t like the way Syria is suppressing its domestic rebellion. Obama Airlines will likely do more collateral human and political damage than intended. In many cases the wrong people will die.)
A HAIR RAISING - 7 20 44 Some daring men were willing to pull the trigger personally. In mid-44 a handful of brave German officers conspired to frag the master. The German resistance group that sponsored the assassination attempt was led by a Claus von Stauffenberg (Tom Cruse with the eye patch.) If Hitler wouldn’t surrender and spare the country massive needless deaths then perhaps it was time for him to have a chat with Bismarck. Santa Claus von Stauffenberg, a German Army officer went to meet Hitler at the 'Wolf's Lair' near Rastenberg in Eastern Germany on July 20 1944. Stuffed in Stauffenberg's briefcase was supposed to be plans for organizing the home army in a last ditch effort to defend the Reich. But Santa had a surprise toy in his bag; two bombs with Hitler’s name on them. The meeting was supposed to take place in a tightly confined underground bunker, but the July heat led to someone’s untimely suggestion that the meeting be taken upstairs to an outdoor hut. Claus made the best of it and put the blow-up briefcase under the desk while Hitler and seven other high ranking officers in the hut pored over some documents and maps. There was a phone call for von Stauffenberg and he left the room. The call was staged to get him out of there. One of the two bombs in the case went off killing two generals. Hitler was only wounded. Adolph had his outer pants blown off. His hearing was been permanently damaged (no great loss since he never listened to anyone anyway), and his left arm was badly mauled. Adolph got up in the middle of the smoking aftermath and loudly proclaimed this to be proof that he was protected by God. Hitler’s left arm was never the same and he spent the rest of the war with this painful physical handicap and a new even more rotten attitude. His left arm was limp and he was forced to hold it most of the time in public with his right. It’s a good thing for him that the official ‘seig heil’ salute was a right-arm movement, not left. Otherwise Hitler couldn't even heil himself. The men who conspired to kill Hitler were arrested and faced a highly public trial in Germany. Needless to say they did not get short sentences at minimum security facilities with conjugal visits. Clarence Darrow, and a million marks couldn’t have saved them. They were hung slowly on meat hooks while film was rolling so it could be later sent to Hitler. Did he watch these films with popcorn? These poor saints were the only true German war heroes of the entire conflict. Hanging slowly on meathooks was not the worst that Hitler could have done to them. They got off the hook rather easily considering the medieval tortures he could have put them through. They were lucky he let them die. John Toland says that Hitler's left arm was lame in the last year of his life because of too many injections by his quack doctor, and that it was his right arm that was injured in the blast, and only slightly. Most history books say that the blast injured his left arm. Robert Payne agrees with Toland that the left arm was already a wreck before it happened and it got worse as the war went on, and for reasons other than the bomb blast. One thing for sure, everyone’s hair stood up on end when the bomb went off. Everyone mentioned it after. For some reason, whether the bombed fragments killed a man or missed him miraculously, the scientific force of the blast made every man’s hair stand straight up. In most cases their stand-up hair was also on fire. Much of Hitler’s hair went up in flames, and it was standing straight up when it caught fire.
MUST KEEP MY APPOINTMENT The day of the bomb, Hitler had a 3:pm meeting scheduled with the quasi-deposed Mussolini. Ben had taken the trouble to travel all the way to the East Prussian Wolf’s Lair. Keitel told Hitler he would cancel the meeting but the heroic Hitler said no, “I will keep my appointment with the Duce. But I need a little time to freshen up.” The Germans delayed Mussolini’s train by a half an hour to give Hitler a little more time. The bomb had gone off before 1 pm. At 3:30 he greeted Mussolini at the Wolf’s Lair with an attitude at first that ‘ we had a little problem today but it was no big deal. Just a few scratches on me. An internal machine exploded and a few people were hurt.” But soon he had to reveal the truth. He opened up to Musso about what had happened and took him to see the wreckage. Mussolini heard the hard facts now, as he peered into the bloody rubble of the map room. Mussolini looked really depressed from all this (for some strange reason,) so Hitler had to give him the pep talk. “Don’t look so sad, Benito. This is not a sign of doom. This is proof that Providence is on my side. I am the man of destiny. Even in the First World War there were many times I should have died. But it was not meant to be. I was meant to lead Germany to greatness and to victory. This is proof that nothing can harm me on my march to fulfill the destiny of Germany. Divine Providence protects me. Providence is the answer.”
First of all, I’ve played in Providence at least 90 times. Providence is never the answer. - Funny how this Godless man who never went to church, would get all religious whenever it came to winning huge battles in which a hundred thousand people will die to satisfy one of his whims. The ‘bombs can’t kill me’ pep talk actually did pick up Mussolini for a bit. He started to light up and agree that this must be a symbol that all was not lost. Mussolini agreed out loud how Providence was clearly on their side (let them try and close a second show Friday there.) Valkerie Day was the last time the two dictators ever saw each other. Mussolini caught the last train to Clarksville out of East Prussia and made his way back to Italy. Deposed in Rome nearly two years before the end of the war, and marked for counter-fascist execution in 1943, Mussolini managed to hang on as a Nazi puppet in northern Italy for some time. Hitler outlived Mussolini by only a couple of weeks (April 1945.)
THE CONSPIRACY The conspirators thought that Hitler was dead and they proceeded with their coup. They actually stirred up a genuine revolt in three cities, Paris, Vienna and Munich. In these places, Army men went around arresting SS men. But the rebels had no plans to seize key strongpoints like police and telegraph stations in any cities. It was just supposed to be a groundswell of revolution from within and the Nazi regime would fall at last. The plan had slim chance even if they had killed Hitler. Himmler or Goring would have taken over and continued the war. The coup could have advanced far more along of course with a dead Hitler, but I doubt that it would have succeeded, since the conspirators did not plan to take the actual administration of a coup into their own hands. They just wanted to spark one up. It took a while for everyone to realize that Hitler was alive. An armed squad of the SS barged into the hotel where the conspirators were making phone calls and that was that. The Tom Cuise guy, von Stauffenburg was put up against a wall and shot as he cried, “God save Germany from the likes of all of you schweinhunds!” Actually he didn’t get to finish the word ‘schweinhunds.’General Beck was given the option of shooting himself. He fortuitously exercised that option.
DRIVING HITLER CRAZY One way in which the attack succeeded, at least for the Allies, was Hitler’s newfound hatred and distrust for his generals. He already hated some of them and distrusted half of them since about 1934. Now, ten years later, when he needed them most, he hated and distrusted just about all of them. This distrust led Hitler to make a major blunder that affected a hundred battles to come. He decided to take over the personal command of the Army for the rest of the war. The generals would now follow his directions. The Allies had won a great victory by doing nothing. The greatest gun-brains in the world would now take direction from a man who physically ran telegrams across no-man’s in World War One in order to earn his medal. To the best of my knowledge, the only person Hitler ever actually killed in combat was his niece Geli Rabaul. Now he was going to tell Panzer divisions in Normandy exactly where they should move to next. The Germans did a great job defending themselves in this final phase of the war even while following his insane orders. Imagine how well they would have done if the bomb had not gone off, and he continued to defer somewhat to his generals. For starters, the Whermacht probably would not have ordered the two foolish counterattacks (Mortain and the Bulge) which emptied the warehouse of tanks and guns in the name of a short and failed brief drive. Hitler mismanaged the war henceforth by letting his emotions make his decisions, and by not having the West Point/Sorbonne military skills to begin with. Plus he did his Stalin in the 30’s imitation at the worst possible moment. At least Stalin iced most of his military talent before the war began. Hitler was killing or shipping off to Flossenburg most of his best hitters when the war was in the balance at the end game stage. What an Aryan dummy. The Allies had been trying to kill Field Marshall Rommel since 1940. Now Hitler did it for them! Thanks buddy! With enemies like this, who needs allies? Rommel had done a superb job handling German defenses in Normandy. He was the star general of WWII, and the Fuhrer murders him. Arrriiite! Driving Hitler crazy was one of the big Allied gains of the German assassination attempt.
VON KLUGE - VON SUSPECT Hitler was suspicious of everyone but Blondi (his dog) in the aftermath of 720. He heard a vague rumor that General von Kluge, the man directing the national defense against the Normans was in with the conspirators, which vG was not. Hitler didn't have enough proof, yet, and he knew that he needed the capable von Kluge to command the front, so he couldn't just order a hit on his leading general. Hitler instead made sure that every order he sent to Kluge was written in nasty, rude, insulting language. Von Kluge got the hint and feared that he would be arrested and executed any day. General Von Kluge now had to keep both eyes on the battlefield all day and then go to sleep with one eye open. This terror probably made von Kluge a less effective decision maker for the rest of the battles.
CHERBOURG BOTTLED UP On July 25th the US Army entered the Citadel of Cherbourg, capturing the commandant and 8,000 German troops holding out in an underground shelter system. The stubborn commandant refused to order other German units in the area to lay down their arms so the mop-up took a few more days, but vital port of Cherbourg was secured. The Cherbourg defenders had presumed they could hold out for some time so they had stocked their bunkers with a lot of food and, more importantly to the GI’s, a lot of wine. A lot of wine. More than you're thinking. This Allied prize had to be rationed out carefully. Ike saw to it that the vino was not hoarded by rear echelon units while the front line guys went sober. The Generals ‘liberated’ the Champagne, the lower officers got the fine Burgundy, the GI’s got the Bordeaux, and the Beaujolais was sent back for the Navy guys. The Merlot was offered to the German prisoners who refused it and complained to the Red Cross. War is hell. Friendly fire was a problem, as it is in all wars. Fighter planes occasionally were culpable, but the bombers made the most errors. They have to work from higher altitudes and hit wide areas with ultra-dumb bombs. The dumb bombs hit the Thirtieth Infantry Division so hard on two occasions in France that it actually refused all bomber support for the rest of the war!
TRAGIC TALE OF TIMID TOMMIES Now a tragic tale to tick a lot of tough Tommies off, but a true one. The British performance, down to the foot soldier, was overall not good. Their morale was poor for a lot of reasons, and that added up to a bad report card. The Americans fought harder, man for man throughout the entire invasion of the Continent. Of course some British soldiers fought courageously (the Royal Artillery in particular) and some Americans were cowards, but exceptions prove rules and on average, the British soldiers in 1944-45 simply did not give it their best. I know that’s a horrible thing to say, but remember, the British admitted it at the highest levels and tried to keep it a secret from the public. They were aghast back in England at the reports coming in. British tank crews were stopping for tea when units were awaiting their arrival in rescue from dire fire. In spots they were trying to sit out the battle. In other spots they retreated when they had no militarily correct reason to. This isn’t some reach of an opinion based on a couple of sources and quotes I patched up to fit my Yankee bias. This was a well-known and obvious fact, and if we are to make heroes out of all of England for facing the Germans alone in 1940, lets give them the proper admonishment for when they came up short in 1944. I first read about this in books by American generals like Gavin, Bradley, Eisenhower Collins and Lashua. So I wasn’t sure if was really so. But now I read of the British at all levels addresing this as an indisputable plague of a fact. British official histories and biased Brit historians have swept this under the rug for decades, but it’s a truth. The British did not exactly fight like maniacs in the last 2 years of WWII. The timing of it all is the first of many reasons why. The British soldiers had a mass-think which said, “we held the Germans off alone for two crucial years. Now it’s your turn to die, Yank. We will fight, but we will be very judicious about when and exactly how much we will put ourselves as individuals into harms way. Let the machines and the Americans do the fighting. We want to get back to Picadilly.” This morale issue peaked during the Normandy campaign and improved somewhat after that. Part of the problem was the way England and much of the world had made super-heroes out of the British Eighth Army and the “Desert Rats,” the 7th Armoured Brigade. This had led to a severe overconfidence problem. Most of the veterans of this Army had seen nothing but the backs of the retreating Germans from November 1942 to May 1943. They thought was was kind of fun to some extent. It certainly helped them with the birds. But the Germans in Normandy were a tougher opponent for many reasons. The desert warriors had plenty of time in England to retrain for new intensive warfare in bocage country against prime-time panzer divisions, but the brass never acted. Montgomery’s army was going to attack the bocage with sand in their boots. They had no grasp for tactics except for desert experience. It was useless, indeed it was even counterproductive to think like desert rats when up against these Nazi rats. British historian extraordinaire Basil Liddel Hart writes in the “we” about the British lack of will to kill,
“Time after time they were checked or even induced to withdraw by bold packets of Germans of greatly inferior strength. Our forces seemed to have too little initiative in infiltration and too little determination. Crucial attacks were stopped after suffering trifling casualties.”
This isn’t some American redneck historian talking, this is the staid Kingman B.L.H.. Hart’s talking about the entire British campaign in Normandy, not one battle. British units would seize an important town or bridge and at the first sign of mortar attack they would give up all the ground they had gained, some of which had been paid for with the help of the blood of Allied airmen. There is a flood of material confirming it in so many ways by so many important people that we just have to call it a fact. They got better after Normandy, we have to add that, but it is a fact that the British Army did not fight as hard as they should have as professional soldiers in the Normandy campaign in WWII. It was an influenza of borderline mass insubordination, something heading in the direction of the US Army in Vietnam in 1971 if if got much worse. As far as using the word “yellow,” that is a word reserved for some of those men who didn’t get their boots to the front lines in the first place. What bothers me about the whole thing is not that it happened. Perhaps there is some logic to the Tommies thinking they had run the gauntlet, now let the Yanks and their machines do it. What bothers me is Monty being so angry that Ike and SHAEF wouldn’t let his 21st Army lead the drive on to Berlin when he knew full Monty well that he was desperately determined to avoid casualties, and his troops had shockingly little elan. Why would he not factor in these two when he argued with Ike’s idea for a broad front was an amateur’s approach. Monty said that the British 21st Army should spearhead the attack on a narrow front. Fine, but not if your guys don’t want to actually throw their spears. The Royal Artillery was an exception. There was little if any “timidity” there, largely because of an historical unity and tradition. They were fighting for the Royal Artillery reputation and they were already a bonded bands of bros. And they were specialists with the pride of the specialist. But the infantry was a mix of jaded unhappy veterans, nervous conscripts, and cannibalized crossover replacements from other branches trying to keep regiments intact. The armoured divisions were similarly dissimilarly mixed. For one thing, cavalry units had only recently abandoned the horse for the tank and had no long snobby tradition like the artillery which had been fighting proud since about 1670. There was never an established tactical style for the tank boys and they could never be quite as sure they knew what the right thing to do was with death around every corner. They were learning and arguing as they fought. The Royal Artillery had no such dilemmas. On top of that there was a pathetic lack of cooperation and communication between tank units and infantry units. They were “stovepiping” their way into and hroughout hot battles, neither side helping the other, nor even letting the other know they were choosing not to help. The infantry and the army were fighting side by side at times with no cooperation or coordination at all. I mean as in none at all. Zero. A thousand guys fighting within sight of their own tanks with each side having no connection with the other. I’m going to quote Brit General Steve Hargas now on the poor tank unit leadership. This is a condensation of two quotes dug up by a better historian. I rarely cite longish quotes, but in this case, for a heavy charge of near cowardice, a serious citation by a British first-hand source is a responsible and necessary approach. The matter is too heavy to cite others in hearsay and paraphrased format. So here is General Hargas, who was on the scene in Normandy, and with no tweaking,
“Our tanks are badly led and fought. Only our superior numbers and our magnificent artillery support keeps them in the field at all. They violate most of the elementary principles of war. They bunch up - they are the reverse of aggressive - they are not possessed of the will to attack the enemy. We suffer because of the lack of the ‘will to fight’ in the Armoured Corps.”
This is a British general talking about his own men! This isn’t cross-country sniping, Americans ripping Brits unfairly with exaggeration and lies of omission, or vice-verse. This is a Brit talking about his own. Shocking! Then he cites examples. “On June 12 I came across a whole squadron of tanks in a field supported by SP guns. They told me that there was a Tiger tank in Verriere about 1,000 yards to the left front and in reply to my query as to why they did not attack they said it was very powerful.”
In another case a British tank sat on a roadblock while Germans armed vehicles drove down a parallel road unmolested and in range.
“The tank did not fire although the target was a perfect one. The infantry Brigade Commander sent down a message asking that the German gun and cars be taken on. The reply was, ‘If I do, he will reply to my fire.’ ”
Again, this is from General Hargas, not Patton or some amateur historian with a 2-dollar US flag in his window. The tank commander is explaining that he doesn’t want to fire at the Germans because he might get killed afterwards by return fire! If there weren’t so many examples like this it would simply be impossible to believe. But it was all true. The British armed forces (airmen and artillery excepted) were obsessed en masse with living through this thing and getting back to the birds with all four limbs intact. It’s a record of shame, no way around it. It takes some of the holy shine off the Battle of Britian.
CRASHING THE BEACH AT NORMANDY By the end of June more men had died in the skies over Normandy in bombing raids and fighter missions than had died on the ground in Normandy.
PLEASE DROP THAT ANVIL – JULY 44 Churchill in early 1944 desperately tried to convince the Americans to drop their plans for invading the Riviera, the plan called ANVIL. The P.M. wanted the Americans to load up from Italy to invade the south of France, but for the armada to keep going through the Straits of Gibraltar, turn north to the Bay of Biscay and instead land in force at St. Nazaire (see map I don't have.) Churchill's argument, which he carried on red-in-the-face with Ike, FDR, Marshall and even Hopkins was based on the false assumption, first of all, that the German forces in the Riviera were formidable and would slow down this southern ANVIL invasion enough that little could be gained in a future link-up with the Normandy armies. Winnie may have been correct in his belief that the Allies needed a huge port to take in supplies, they didn't have one right now, and St Naz would be perfect. We'll give him that one. Ike counter-argued that even if Churchill's idea was sound, there were too many difficulties involved at the tactical level to implement such a grand strategic change on short notice. WSC sent some almost testy telegrams to FDR about this and got a firm no back from the American King. Of all the important Americans only Bedell Smith supported him to drop or alter ANVIL, and since you've never heard of Bedell Smith, that says about as much as you need to know about Churchill’s chances of getting the Americans to change their minds. Churchill, to his credit, gave up when he realized he could not make the Yanks tank, and he gave his customary, “let's pray to God you're right” support to ANVIL. It was on or around July 10 1944 that the USA now had more troops in the combat field than the British did, including all world theatres. This tree was going to grow more and more towards US dominance exponentially, and Churchill was now more than resigned to having to accept American dominance of strategic decisions from now on. It was a drop in pride and power after years of playing WWII like his own personal video game, but Churchill was willing to back down in the name of the assurance of total victory. I'd say he gets points for maturity here. He did manage to get the name of ANVIL changed to DRAGOON. he says it was to insure secrecy in case the Krauts had discovered the ANVIL plans, but the name was changed in protest that he had been “dragooned” into accepting it. Churchill is always first and foremost, a petulant brat. Monty, by the way, mentions in his 1950’s memoir that “to this day, I do not know why it was named DRAGOON.” If it had all been up to Churchill, there would have been no ANVIL for either the Riviera or for St. Naz. He would have kept as many divisions as possible in Italy for a winning drive north and then to the east into the Balkans. Churchill got miffed anytime anyone used the term “into the Balkans” to describe this proposed plan. He only wanted to take the Trieste and the Istria Peninsula. This was hardly the same as driving “into the Balkans,” he said, but, of course, after taking the IP he could then have driven into the Balkans and won his political victories there. Stalin, naturally was opposed to Churchill's plan to drive through Italy and then east “into the Balkans.” The tense confrontational situations that might have arisen “in the Balkans” in 1945 between Allied and Soviet troops are an interesting question for non-factual history. In his book Triumph and Tragedy, Churchill complains and moans about ANVIL so many times, over so many pages, injecting the complaint into the work over so many subjects and pages, that it borders on the infantile. Sorry you can’t always get your way, you big baby. Hey Win, I’ll trade you an ANVIL for SLEGEHAMMER (the plan discussed in late December 1941 at DC between the British and the Americans to invade across the channel as soon as possible, even at great risk.) King and Marshall wanted to fight the Nazis on their own soil and damn the risk. They loved the SLEDGEHAMMER and were angry when the British eventually backed out on a vague commitment to it. It was Churchill who led the campaign against any campaign to win the war with a cross channel invasion. It took him three years to put his sherry and cigar down and get D-Day rolling. The Americans were ready to do it from the very beginning of their entry into the war. The Americans would have gone in on December 8 with 10 rowboats if the British had let them. The British forever ridiculed the American naive belief in attacking even when you’re not fully prepared. Too bad. I’m with King and Marshall. What the hell are we waiting for? Let’s get the bastards or go down trying. Surely the Allies can round up another army if we fail. You’re right, Winnie. If not for stupid ANVIL, your indomitable Eighth Army would have smashed through the Po Valley and broke out towards Vienna before the heavy snows. On the other hand if the Allies 1942 had given it everything they had, and tried to invade Normandy or Caen in August 1942 they could have done it. You accuse the Americans of a blunder of strategy. Well a few historians feel that you made a blunder of fortitude by not risking it all in 1942. You waited two and a half long bloody years for the Allies to make a stand on the continent because you didn’t want to see England drained of the flower of youth in another WWI bloodbath. After the war you claim that the Allies would have been annihilated on the beach in 1942, but how can you know? The combined forces of the USA and UK couldn’t have carved out a beachhead somewhere across the channel in 1942? Who’s to say? We’ll never know. But if the right honourable gentleman is wrong, then the war could have been over much sooner and a million soldiers perished for his timidity.
TEDDY ROOSEVELT LOSES ANOTHER SON TO WAR - 7.12.44 President Theodore Roosevelt lost Quentin in combat during World War One. On July 12 he lost a son to WWII. Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt, the Assistant Division Commander of 1st US Army Infantry died at Normandy. All right, so he died of a heart attack while sleeping in a captured German truck, but he still died in combat. 88 million rounds of artillery will shake up your system, and TRII already knew he had a bad heart when he went on to the beaches at D-Day with his men. TRII won the Medal of Honor. His father also won it for his “Charge up San Juan Hill.” The only other father and son combo to win the gold was the MacArthurs, Art and Doug. Of the two combos, the MacArthur’s are far more deserving. And I did say ‘far’ more. Patton attended the funeral at St. Savuveur Cemetery. He must have felt bad. Patton had tried to get Roosevelt relieved of command because he was not dressed like a soldier at all times and didn’t do things by the book. Patton despised anyone who didn’t worship all the stylish trappings of organized industrial nationalist violence.
WAYNE MAKI – JULY 21 1944 They were called the Maquis (pronounced like the hockey player that Bruin Teddy Green beaned with his stick in the early 70's, Wayne Maki.) These were the French Resistance fighters who hid in the Vercours, the upper plateaus of southern France. It was like the bad movie, Red Dawn. They lived on blueberries and small game, and fought both Vichy France and Nazi Germany from the highlands. They were hip and young and brave and were not going to lay down. They were going to “step up.” The Vercours Maquis were supposed to help out with the Allied Southern invasion of France, code-named DRAGOON (formerly ANVIL.) The Germans surrounded and invested the highlands of the Vercours Maquis in July of 1944. The Resisters pleaded for Allied gliders to land with re-enforcements so they could hold out and help with the upcoming southern invasion. The Germans heard about the Maquis redoubt, and had no doubt about what to do about it. They surrounded and invested the Maquis plateau pad in July 19. On July 21 the brave defenders looked up and saw 23 gliders coming in for a landing. Hoo-ray! Out of the planes stepped German soldiers. The Allies had let them down. It was a free-for all fight on the Vercours Plateau. The Germans were good at what they did, and had better weapons. It was barroom bouncers with guns versus painters with pen-knives. Nearly 700 admirable Maquis died in the action, compared to only 101 dislikable Germans. Historians have had a few things to say about they way the Allies abandoned the soldiers of the Vercours maquis.
COBRA SPRINGS - JULY 24-30 We know about the friendly fire disasters from the air. But the bombers that did hit the targets hit them well. When the Americans fought their way through the bombed areas, they saw devastation and dead Germans everywhere. In spite of the St. Lo 500, the heavy bombing of the German lines was a success. General Bradley attacked shortly after GOODWOOD. The American army was trying to get out of the hopeless bocage country and get the tanks out into the open. Bradley also needed to open up enough room to get General Patton and his Third Army into the action. Room to add more forces was the real problem all across Normandy, not the limited forces available. The Yanks needed to clear out some room to make room for the Army that was going to race for the Rhine. But first, the entire Cotentin and Brittany peninsulas had to be secured. The Americans had enough gas. All they needed was to get out of the little corner the Panzer divisions were trying to keep them boxed up in, and it would be Lucy bar the door. A key geographical target was Avranches, at the cranny where the two peninsulas meet. The offensive was a smashing success, the biggest breakthrough in the entire war against Germany. Cobra exceeded all expectations. It was a rout. Heavy rains delayed the launch of COBRA by a couple of days. The was Omar’s attempt to break the near deadlock in Normandy. If Monty couldn’t break out in the east, maybe his lame contrived theory of the pre-planned Caen pivot might work out anyhow. When the attack began on July 25, it seemed like the Americans were going to get the same results as Monty. The Germans held and inflicted heavy casualties. But, unlike the Germans at Caen, these were not several layers deep in strength. Once the front line of German strength broke near the end of July 26, there wasn’t much left behind it. The Allies went from famine to feast in a matter of about three hours. Just when it looked like another two weeks of hard fighting would produce 15 more miles, the b-word finally started appearing on the lips of American commanders. Breakthrough! Once the Yankees advanced through St. Lo they found little opposition in the path to the key junction of Avranches. They could see that River See was a key and they were going to get there with relative ease. Avranches was secured by the end of July as was the key port town of Pontabault, four miles to the south of it. News of the capture of Pontabault hit Ike and Hitler like a thunderbolt. German generals were wiring reports back to Berlin that included words like “we’re in a panic,” “it’s hopeless,” and the dreaded “time to drink the Kool-aid.” Operation Cobra succeeded by about 110%. Not only did the Americans gain much sudden ground per se, they also opened up elbow room to set two more complete armies in motion. Cobra was like a sci fi monster that took a bazooka shot, and instead of dying, broke up into three monsters. COBRA uncoiled the toughest snake in the American Army for action. Dashing swashbuckler George Patton could now set up his Third Army for a spectacular dash across Europe. Ike, Brad and FDR knew that Patton was a world of trouble for themselves, but they also knew they he was an even worse world of trouble for the Germans. If 1944 had been a time of peace, Patton might have been sacked and found himself working a desk for his insubordination. But in wartime, being a deranged killing machine was a valuable asset. Rommel and the Germans actually feared Patton. His very name was part of why the great Calais deception had worked so well. Patton was seen everywhere in southeast England for weeks, telegraphing to the Germans that he was there on business and that his business was invasion at the shortest point in the Channel. Patton set up for action on August 1. On that day 3A came into existence. It would eventually outflank the entire Normandy theatre and break out across central France. Patton might not have ever admitted it, and he didn’t live to 1946 to begin reading and reconsidering his opinions, but he was the beneficiary of Monty’s adjusted tactic of holding down most of the German forces at Caen to enable the Americans to swing around the cauldron and outflank it all. Monty gets an F- for being such a blowhard liar about it, boasting that he had planned it that way all along, but it worked out to a straight C for Monty in point of fact. Montgomery hardly blundered his way across Europe.
EXPLOITING THE BREAKOUT - HEDGE BETS Ike and Omar had given up on the western route near Countenances. They were still mired in terrain unfriendly to tanks that needed to move, and wanted to break through to solid fields to the south where the tanks could get the chance to work. Ike asked the USAAF to experiment a bit and load their fighters with fairly heavy bombs. Their job wasn’t ground support, but the same job as artillery. They were to get in close and hammer the positions the way artillery or heavy bombers usually did. Hundreds of fighters were used effectively as virtual strategic bombers, paving the way for the breakout. One of the problems plaguing the Allied effort was the hedgerows of the area. Hundreds of tanks were getting stuck on them with their guns pointing to the sky and their thin plated undersides exposed to explosive danger. A sergeant came up with a device that saved the day. He plugged a giant pitchfork onto the Sherman tanks. The tanks went into the hedges and tore them up in a cloud of dust. Sergeant Cullen won a medal for his invention which no doubt saved thousands of US lives. He did not get a free ticket home however. Sergeant Cullen went back to work and lost a leg in a French forest. A ticket back to the States in those days cost an arm and a leg. The advance American divisions began to pick up speed. The soldiers in the TT Corps, called themselves ‘The Brest Men’ as it was their job to capture the city of Brest. The men reached the outskirts of Brest on August 7. The Twelfth Army Group was meanwhile beginning a slow but more powerful movement in the north. This was the core drive for Berlin and victory and it was just now, in early August, getting out of the gate.
BRITTANY SPEARHEADS As the American spearheads raced in all directions across Brittany, the German defense forces scattered to three ports for safety; Brest, St Malo and St Nazaire. French resistance forces as well as formal units of the Free French Army were very active and helpful in this campaign. The Maquis were more than helpful. They scared people. Many small German units refused to budge from their positions to make a wise retreat for the ports. Hitler had ordered each and every soldier to hold his position and give no ground under penalty of death. Thousands of soldiers were more afraid of Hitler than they were of their own commanders so they disobeyed field orders and hampered the German effort to create effective resistance. Reports came to Bradley on the 7th that the Yanks had captured Brest. Omar did not believe it. He knew Brest could put up a better fight than that. He was right, as usual. Patton once said to him, “You’re right Brad. Damn it, you’re always right.” Brest held out and fought hard until September 19. When the fighting ended and the Yanks came in, the city was a useless ruin. Between sabotage and Allied bombardment by land, sea and air, the port was out of order. The US Army invested St. Malo and St Nazaire at the same time as Brest, but these holy ports were left to themselves for the rest of the war. No attempt was made to take them. The garrisons were locked in and could make no trouble, so that was that. It was island-hopping, continental style. But Ike and Omar determined that Brest was different and had to be taken. When it ended on 9.19 the battle for Brest had cost 10,000 US casualties. A lot of Monday morning quarterbacks have since claimed that Brest should have been left alone just like Saints Malo and Naz. The professors scratch their beards in front of the fireplace 20 or 50 years later and say the Ike and Omar made a blunder. By implication they are suggesting that the Generals sent a lot of guys to a needless death or wound at Brest. They say that the US only continued to attack Brest because of pride. But the very siege of Brest was a hot fight while Malo and Nazaire were not. The besieged Brest garrison was made up of top notch parachute divisions commanded by a die-hard Fuhrer-loving general. Brest was fighting back and inflicting casualties. Therefore a larger force was required to hold Brest in line. With artillery firing back from inside the city the Americans couldn’t sit there and file their nails for another 10 months. Ike and Omar needed those troops for the push east. The only way he could free them up for redeployment was to conquer Brest.
BRITTANY IS EASY - CHANGE OF PLAN Bradley knew what to do when he realized the German resistance in Brittany was weak. He would sent only part of his army to to the west to clean up there, while he would direct most of his US 1st Army to the east. This had not been a part of the plan back on the Island in May. No one anticipated that Brittany could be secured without a full corps effort. Not that this situation came up Bradley made a few phone calls and that was that. Monty, Ike, Marshall, Dempsey and Brooke were all in agreement. To heck with Brittany for now, let’s rush into the east and cut off the Germans from below. While they were at it the Allies would also get Patton launched along a line to the the south of Bradley’s Boys. Patton would rush east on a line running Laval - Le Mans - Orleans. Patton’s left flank would meet up with Bradley’s right at the Seine River and the Germans would be totally outflanked on a continental scale. On June 7 the Canadians attacked at Falaise from the north and the left flank divisions of Patton turned straight north and put the sandwich on the pocket full of Germans in what became known as the “Falaise Argentan Gap.” Argentan was the southern end of this 16 mile gap.
AVRANCHES/MORTAIN GERMAN COUNTERATTACK - AUGUST 6-7 The wheel was beginning to turn. The American end of the two pronged assault was turning and slowly picking up speed around the Caen front. What was the German high command to do? There were three basic choices. One: Continue on fighting as things stood and let the Allies decide all the new moves on the board. Two: organize a serious retreat to make a better stand at a better defense line to the east. Three - counter attack and try to reach the sea at Avranches. The first wasn’t as bad an idea as might sound, but it was not anyone’s idea of a great idea either. The second was militarily shrewd but did entail some risks. In leaving their present positions, German units would suffer some losses and would end up leaving heavy equipment. They might be caught in a hastily sprung trap on their way out the back door. The third idea was Hitler’s own. What a surprise. Mr. Macho orders a counterattack. However it wasn’t completely dumb in theory. If it worked and the German army reached the sea off of the town of Avranches the Allies would be split in two. They would then be back in the Normandy box (albeit with a lot more breathing room), but the units in Brittany would be cut off from the main force and the lines of supply to them would be very threatened. In a fantasy session on a map at the Wolf’s Lair the Hitler scheme might have seemed even as proof of his alleged military genius. There was only one little problem with the Avranches counter-attack plan. The Allies had overwhelming physical superiority in all aspects of combat, except tank quality, and that was more than offset by our vastly superior numbers. The retreat plan was a little bit risky, but the attack plan was extremely risky. Hitler’s Avranches plan could only work if the German were truly the master race capable of superhuman fighting miracles. The Avranches counterattack was really a test of his racist theories. It should come as no surprise that of all the plans discussed with his enerals, Hitler’s plan to counterattack was the one adopted. The Avranches surprise offensive was to be the first of two major counterattacks against the USUK alliance, the other coming in the more famous Battle of the Bulge.
TRAPPED LIKE RATS IN THE FALAISE-ARGENTAN POCKET The German counterattack gained some ground at first but came to a halt at the town of Mortain. In the meantime Bradley had sent an entire corps (many divisions) around the southern flank to the rear of the German offensive. Monty’s boys to the north started down from the back and north side in an attempt to close the trap on a large German Army. This Falaise-Argentan trap didn’t quite work completely but was certainly an overall success. The closing trap that never quite shut did manage to squeeze the retreating Germans into one narrow escape pocket from which they became easy targets for around the clock aerial massacre. The Germans extracted most of the troops but little of their precious heavy equipment. The trap bagged thousands of prisoners and many tanks, for which we can all give many tanks. There was some controversy as to how many prisoners were taken if anyone was at fault because the numbers were short. The Allies had allegedly annihilated 16 divisions, so the PW count should be around 90,000. Churchill was asking pointedly after the battle why he was hearing reports of only 20,000 PW’s. But most of the Panzer divisions had been so beaten up that they had only a small fraction of a true division. Some of these Panzer divisions were composed of less than 500 men by the time the British, the Americans and the Canadians closed the trap. The armchair generals are mad at Bradley for stopping at Argentan, and mad at Bradley for not giving British reinforcemetns to the Canadians when they were about to breakthrough from the north. Between these two “mistakes” the Germans managed to rescue some tens of thousands of men out of the trap. How many Germans escaped is still debated. Did 25,000 Germans escape to fight another day? Or did 80,000? In any case the closing of the trap was a great victory but a brutal one, a vicious tale of war. At least 10,000 Germans died in the slaughter at the Falaise pocket. Bradley and the Canadians had a field marshall day slaughtering Nazi enablers with rifles, artillery, and air power. Ike and Brad both testified that when they visited the battlefield in the aftermath is was sickening. Patton would have been sexually aroused by it, but for Ike and Brad, it was sickening. The smell of death was everywhere, partly because the Germans had been reduced to transportation by horse and thousands of these poor creatures died without one of them getting a Hiyo Silver Star (it was Poland 1939 come full circle.) Planes flew over the battlefield and pilots were sick in their cabins from the stench of death lifting 10,000 feet to the sky. Bradley said that at one place he could literally walk a quarter of a mile without his feet touching the ground. Dead bodies were that close to each other in an endless pile. It was the 1991 Iraq Highway of Death to the tenth power. The controversy with Bradley was based on his ordering Patton to stop just as he was about to enter the pocket and start slaughtering people which is what drove that man to get out of bed in the morning. For me it’s to write, for him it was to kill. Bradley explained later that he was afraid of the two armies rushing headlong into each other and causing massive friendly fire casualties in the confusion, like two lineman closing in a quarterback who sets up and the two linemen collide and hurt each other (which is exactly how Dennis Byrd got paralyzed.) Some military historians say that this was excessively cautious on Omar’s part, and that friendly fire would have been minimal compared to how much better the Allies could have trapped the Germans at Failaise-Argentan. But we’ll never know, will we? As for Mongomery’s blunder in timidly protecting his right flank by refusing to allocate some of his best troops to beef up the Canadians at their moment of near-breakthrough, well that’s different. In this case we can be sure that Monty was at fault and committed a blunder. Why? Because this writer is prejudiced against Monty and will never give him the benefit of the doubt, that’s why.
CATCH A FALLING ANVIL In addition to the D-Day landings at Normandy, the Allies had originally planned a simultaneous invasion in the south of France. The invasion of France in the Mediterranean at any point was primarily an American idea, and was generally opposed by British experts. There were exceptions. Beetle Bailey Smith didn’t like the ANVIL plan to invade the Riv, and a couple of key Brits liked it. But Monty and Churchill and General Wilson in Italy were all very much against it. There were times when British or America advisors came very close to talking FDR into supporting Churchill and dropping the ANVIL. But Ike and most of the US brass favored the ANVIL idea and FDR agreed to it before Churchill could push it out the windowsill. But the reasons for opposing the ANVIL were varied and blended.
The reasons for the operation were,
1 - Open up a second front in the south of France to link up with the Normandy armies and smash their way on a total wide front into Germany leaving no reichstone unturned. A narrow front drive to Berlin might leave too much Nazisim intact on surrender day. FDR favored the broad front as much as Ike did, but for FDR it was political. 2 - Open up a second supply line in the south to assist all forces on the continent. Cherbourg was not going to be big enough, and that was before the Allies had to deal with it being so successfully scuttled. Whether Freddie, Win, and Bernie wanted to face it or not, the Allies needed something much bigger than Cherbourg. We might add that this was the very reason the Germans fell for the Pas de Calais deception. They not only fell for Allied disinformation, they knew, logically, that the Allies needed the big ports right across the Channel, just as much as they needed the shorter distance per se. It is, I agree with Weigley “a wonder” that the Germans never really even imagined the Allies might land at the Normandy beaches. But they did have their reasons. The ANVIL plan was the answer the fact that the Allied plan did not include an attempt to seize Le Havre. It also addressed Cherbourg being too small, even when fully operational. 3 - Get the French in the game. The “Free French” were raising and new armies in North Africa and it would be a grand and positive thing to get them into the ground fighting in force. It would raise Allied and French morale, and stir the French people to join the resistance (it was too late for most of them to join the Resistance.) They were logistically right round the corner and it was probably wise to throw them into the less difficult Rhone theatre, as opposed to the tougher fighting near the Channel. So those were the big three - A second front, a second supply line, and a stage for the French to make a solid military contribution towards the liberation of their own country. They ought to. They certainly hadn’t done a very good job defending it in the first place. The first two reasons were the most important and about equally so.
The reasons against the operation were,
1) - The Germans were not holding down that region in strength, and the resources expended would not match the reward. The object of war was to find and destroy the enemy fighting forces, not to claim land up and down the Rhone Valley like Henry Hudson. 2) - Those assault forces would necessarily have to come from the Allied armies in Italy. Churchill is pleading to Ike and FDR that ‘After all that hard fighting up the boot, you’re going to give them the boot and send them off to a front further away from Berlin than Rome is?’ Churchill and Brit General Wilson took pride in trying to win the Italian campaign. It had been “their baby” and everyone was watching to see if they could make it work. Was there really a “soft underbelly?” Could Alexander and Wilson break through to the Po Vally and win the Italian Campaign outright? They felt they could, if they could just get a few more divisions. Instead Ike was ordering them to give up divisions for ANVIL. They were already mired down in Italy, and this would mean the end. It’s easy to understand why the British were, for the most part, very upset with the entire ANVIL plan. It was like playing a guy in one-on-one at something and you’re 4 points down for the whole game, but you know you can take him, and you’ve cut it to one, and his wife pulls up, beeps the horn and he has to run. You don’t get to finish the game. That was Churchill’s proud Italian campaign 1943-1944. Mamie beeped the horn, and Ike had to run. ANVIL will proceed. 3) Iron Curtain Considerations - Although he was still a couple of years away from his Fulton Missouri speech that coined the phrase, Churchill was, nevertheless, seeing the ANVIL idea in 1944 through Cold War colored glasses. He was more concerned with securing Austria and Greece than he was in accelerating the liberation of France by a couple of weeks. FDR saw eye to eye with Ike in not agreeing with this. They felt that they were prosecuting a war and that’s what they focused on. The way Ike and Frank felt about it, even if Winston were to be proven right one much of this, as he in fact was, it wouldn’t matter. Even if Winston produced a crystal ball showing that Stalin and the Big Red Machine was going to “enslave” east Europe after the war, Ike and FDR would have been boy scouts about and said, ‘doesn’t matter.’ To which Churchill would yell, “What do you mean it doesn’t matter!” They would answer, “because our sense of duty requires that in this current situation, there is only one correct way to proceed, and that is, to make winning the war the sole focus of all combined efforts. When any cog in that machine digresses for ulterior slick political ends, it hurts the war effort, even if it delivers. Churchill’s idea was to give Willie Wilson the six or seven extra divisions he was asking, and have them smash the Po. At the same time the Royal Navy and maybe even the British paratroopers too, could attack the NU (northeastern) shore of the Adriatic, a little Inchon in the Med. The two forces would link up and march east to liberate Vienna and Prague before the Rooskies got there. I sometimes think that Churchill was in the right. Many historians still believe that he was, and it all should have been done Churchill’s way. If the naive American cornhusking jitterbugging gum-chewing anvilheads had only listened to the stately British, who knew more about war on their worst day than the Americans did on their best, the whole Cold War, and the concomitant nuclear arms race could have been avoided.
“I HATE ANVIL! I HATE IT I HATE I HATE IT!” Did you ever have a disagreement over what TV show to watch or what place to go, and when you don’t get your way, you go out of your way to dislike whatever is on or wherever you go? I know I have. The British acted like that about ANVIL. If they had never come up with global victory plan to beat Stalin to Prague, they probably would have loved the ANVIL plan, and praised all its logical benefits. But since they did not get their way, they suddenly dismissed every single reason Ike said it was worth doing. I don’t get to watch football, so everything in this movie is corny and stupid. I think that influenced not so much Churchill’s advocacy of his own plan, but very much his excessive distaste for ANVIL. He was just being a big baby and the 11 month old was about to smash a perfectly good bottle because he didn’t get more tea. In fact, obtaining a southern flank in the Mediterranean by amphibious assault could hardly be a more Churchillian concept. The one plan that most wreaks of Churchill is the one he most detests. American brass joked that it was quite ironic that “Now we are the Mediterraneanites!” Churchill at the last moment tried to get Wilson to call off the ANVIL operation after the ships had left ports for attack. Maybe Wilson could think up a good story and divert the troops to somewhere else in Italy. General Wilson let Churchill have it. Not as bad as I just did to my 78 year-old mother in law about 2 hours ago, but he did let him have it. In both cases it was for being the photo in the dictionary beside the word “imperious,” and for never accepting gracefully, not getting your way. Wilson did the British proud by supporting the ANVIL invasion with the same determination and effort that he would have applied if he had loved it. And he hated it. That is being a soldier defined.
WHY CHURCHILL WAS WRONG - SAY IT AGAIN SAM Samuel Eliot Morison has some opinions on this that are very persuasive, at least for me, and I paraphrase the great Naval historian in this segment. His chapter “High Level Wrangling in volume 11 of his History of United States Naval Operations in World War II has some excellent arguments that I do not believe all the other egghead gun-lovers have addressed. For starters, the British were like a basketball coach diagramming a blueprint for victory in the locker room before the game. Big deal. In other words, why did the British presume they could so easily conquer southeastern Europe, just because their map-makers in London diagramed a route and a schedule? My building manager sent us a memo in May about a construction project in front of my Condo. Six to eight weeks. That was 27 weeks ago and it still ain’t finished. History loves Churchill and loves to give him the benefit of the doubt that he could have done all that Balkan business if only FDR and Ike had given him the green light. Why does it never occur to historians that the old axiom that “no ever battle plan ever survived contact with the enemy” applies to strategic battle plans too? The Allies hadn’t met a military timetable yet, what makes the reader think that fate was going to pick right now, in the summer of 44, to begin? A delay of a mere 12 days off of Churchill’s projected timetable to beat Stalin to the
THE BUICK RIVIERA CAMPAIGN - MID AUGUST 1944 Contrary to the wishes of the King (Churchill) the Allies did land in force on the French Riviera in mid-August 1944. How obstructionist was Churchill? US Army historian Charlie McDonald puts it this way,
“Winston Churchill did more than drag his feet on ANVIL. He planted them like a donkey and tugged the other way, almost up to the day of the landings.”
Again, one of the main reasons Churchill and Montgomery too were opposed to ANVIL was the Commies. Churchill was looking ahead to the post-war world and the sad probable necessity of restarting his old political war with the hated “Bolos.” He wanted the Allies to continue to fight its way up Italy an then make a right turn to liberate Vienna and secure political control of the Balkans. The Allied force in Italy had to more or less stall because most of its punch was being siphoned off for ANVIL. Montgomery says in his memoirs (I Love Me! is the title if I recall) that failing to push up the Italian mainland with all possible force was one of the huge strategic blunders of the war. American writers seldom agree and defend the ANVIL especially the way it opened up a large, wide, safe, modern and secure supply line that Normandy did not. All in all, I’d have to say I side with Monty and Churchill on this one. The Cold War was a gargantuan setback for world progress and if the democracies had shoved the Russians out of the way in southeast Europe in 1945, it might have put the Soviets on the weaker, instead of the equal side of the Cold War that started in 1946 and ended in 1991.
THE ANVIL CAMPAIGN The Allies let the French pick up much of the fighting here, since there would be very little Nazi resistance. The French always fought well against weak and scattered opposition when the outcome of the war was already known. So the left flank was composed of the “First French Army” which spread out to attack and take both Marseilles and Toulon, which they did, both of these wonderful cities falling on August 28. On that same dat, far to the north, advance units of GI’s under General Truscott took the important Rhone Valley town of Montelimar. The Germans retreated back up the Rhone in an orderly fashion. They weren’t going to do their “Falaise Pocket” impression in the Rhone. The right flank was the main attack by the “Seventh US Army.” By September 3 the US 7 had liberated Lyon and Bourg. The forces of D-Day Normandy and D-Day Riviera linked up in a somber ceremony on September 11 at a place called Sombernon. If Churchill is right that Anvil was a strategic mistake, here is why. The whole idea of Anvil as agreed at Teheran, was to draw off German forces from the Normandy attack. The Riviera landing was supposed to happen at about the same times as D-Day Normandy and the two were supposed to shut down france in tandem. But it had taken too long to capture Rome, and all spare landing craft had to go to Normandy. So Anvil had been delayed by 8 weeks. Therefore what was the point since by that time the Allies had already broken out of the Normandy box and were opening up the playing field more every few days? By the time Anvil and Overlord hooked up, it was Overlord forces that were drawing German forces away from resistance to Anvil, which was the opposite of the conceptual plan. In the meantime Alexanders’ forces in Italy had been reduced from 265,000 troops to 143,000 troops and his supply and big gun power had been reduced in similar proportion. The opportunity of breaking the Gothic line was now dashed. That extra military strength that went to Anvil too late was the margin of breakthrough that the Allies needed in Italy. Churchill felt that the marginal gains in southern France precluded a strategic global victory via Italy. Churchill used Anvil for an excuse towel for the rest of his writing years after the war for his failed strategy of the alleged “soft underbelly of Europe” meaning Italy. He was wrong that Italy was soft, so when it all worked out to prove him wrong he had to prove that he wasn’t. If you can suffer through his 8 billion page history of WWII you will get the main point that the motif of all the work, and I mean all of it, is that he is right on everything, everyone who ever disagreed with him is wrong on everything, and he can cite hundreds of long tiny font boring telegrams that prove he was right on everything and if only everyone had listened to him and him alone on every matter of any importance throughout the war, it all would have been wound up two years sooner and a million lives or more would have been saved. In other words, I can’t stand that conceited jerk, and have developed a visceral instinct to find the worst spin I can put on any of his arguments. If he told me I was handsome I would prefer to be ugly, just to prove him wrong at least once in his life. But he might have been right, which is the toughest part for me to accept. He wanted to break through Italy in order to get to Vienna before the Russians and to prevent a Communist post-war take-over of all of Eastern Europe. Churchill even told Alexander that if he could get some token forces into the Balkans at a late hour in the war, he had a plan for that. The moment Alexander heard rumors of an armistice or definite peace terms, Alexander should take a few armored cars and race at high speed to Vienna just to have an Allied presence there when the war game of musical chairs comes to an end. General Alexander could be like a 16th century explorer claiming an entire land just by placing his flag there. The Buick Riviera campaign (the term ‘ANVIL’ is no more specifically relevant to the realities on the ground that my chosen term for it - besides, Ike drove a Buick and Anvil was his baby) succeeded. No one could deny that. The Riviera became an excellent import funnel for Allied supplies, politically, the French got the chance to pretend they were liberating their own country by force when they were really an angry mosquito riding the back of a tiger, the front to win the war became continental in scope, and a lot of German guns and men were destroyed or captured. However, in light of the later Cold War later, maybe Churchill was right, at least about trying to get to Vienna and Berlin first being a better goal than wrapping up France more neatly. I am less apt to agree that he was right that if only those forces had been devoted to Anvil, Montgomery would have achieved a smashing breakthrough past the Gothic line and into East Europe. I think Churchill’s real motive for being so obsessed with hating ANVIL both during and after the war was that he couldn’t face being wrong about the soft underbelly of Europe, so he had to devise an excuse which not only explained why he turned out wrong, it explains that he was actually right, but other obstructionists had denied him a guaranteed success.
THE QUESTION OF PARIS One the word got around that the Allies had achieved a breakout, the French inside the city of Paris became bold. The French Resistance came out of the woodwork just as the Germans were fleeing. There was a lot of sudden combat in the city just before the Allied troops marched in. Some French historians have the moxie to now claim that the Resistance in fact had won the battle for Paris, not the Allied armies. No wonder the French coined the word ‘chauvinism.’ If a lion runs out of a burning zoo a Frenchman might shout, “And don’t ever try to intimidate me again!” As Patton’s 3rd Army was racing east, Ike had to decide the question of the liberation of Paris. Reporters were asking Ike and Brad when and how soon. But the Allied command had no compelling need or desire to liberate Paris as soon as possible. Bradley had never been there. He wanted to win a war. Paris was no more significant militarily than Cherbourg. Eisenhower wanted to swing his Armies around Paris on both north and south, and he had no ideas of battling to liberate it. The First World War had given Paris an image of Americans to the rescue and marching through the city as heroes. This image had become part of American culture. The new war still had that mindset for a similar scene but it was a completely different situation. Paris was not conquered in WWI. US troops could march down the streets there in comfort and ceremony with no effect one way or another on battle logistics. This time Paris was occupied and the Germans this time were in the middle of a fierce and fluid fight. They were retreating at breakneck speed towards a new line of defense on the German border. Ike Patton and Bradley had a job to do and liberating Paris was not it. Defeating the fighting forces of Germany was. They were planning to surround Paris and leave it there while they continued their hot pursuit of the fleeing Krauts. Reporters asked Bradley if he was going to shell Paris and he said he was not going to damage a cobblestone of the city. The promise was kept. To Ike and Brad, taking Paris would divert several divisions from the chase, and exacerbate the supply problems he was already fending off desperately. Feeding Paris would become the Allied responsibility and he had his hands full already keeping his troops fed. If fighting was heavy, the Americans might even be blamed for much of the destruction. It was cold hearted to leave Paris in German control for several more weeks but the logic was not so callous under closer examination. Battling for Paris could slow down the Allied war effort by several weeks. Was it really in the best interests of the citizens of France to slow down the timetable for V-Day in order to claim a lovely but essentially symbolic prize? Ike thought not and Brad agreed. So that was the plan. Leave Paris alone and isolate the German garrison holding the city, a formidable one we might add. Isolated and not under attack, the divisions holding Paris would be reduced to a flock of German tourists who just happened to have guns. They couldn’t go anywhere. They couldn’t do anything. But events inside the city forced Ike and Brad to change their plan. The FFI and French resistance forced the American hand. The FFI are formally organized Free French military units organized with the help of the other Allies. The resistance became more brave as the liberation armies began closing in on Paris. Beginning around August 7, The Resistance started shooting German troops and blowing up German patrol cars. The German commander of Paris a General von Choltitz had orders from Hitler that if he was forced to evacuate Paris, he should destroy it on the way out. Paris was to be burned razed to the ground like Warsaw. A Swiss envoy approached von Choltitz and begged him not to destroy Paris. The General replied that this was not his intention in spite of the awful order from Hitler. However if the resistance kept blowing up German officers as they sipped coffee in the cafes he would change his mind and do as he had been commanded. So word got out to the Resistance to cool it. If they would hold their fire, the Germans would leave the city, and leave the city intact. It worked for a few days but the sabotage attacks on Germans picked up again. This time it looked like the Resistance was beginning to win the day. The Swiss rep then approached General von Choltitz and asked him to reconsider. The General admitted that the cause was lost but he would “not surrender to an irregular army.” His military pride could not stand to surrender crack disciplined Wermacht divisions to street revolutionaries with shotguns, pipe bombs, and beards. The Swiss rep got a good idea. If he could persuade the Allies to send in a dignified formal military force into Paris to accept the surrender, then von Choltitz would save face and a lot of needless death might be spared. Von Choltitz was agreeable to this if it could be arranged. An emissary from von Choltitz and the Swiss guy made it under a flag of truce to Patton’s CP. The idea was adopted immediately. Eisenhower had any of a dozen divisions US he could have sent in to take Paris but he performed a magnanimous deed and assigned the task to the only legitimate Free French Division, the 1st. It was made up of French free citizens from North Africa and French exiles in England. The 1st was supplied with United States Sherman tanks and plenty of equipment. The 1st FFI had already fought well and fully during the struggle to break out of the Normandy box. So when the French claim that they liberated Paris themselves, it is a clever exaggeration. The Free French liberated Paris because, in spite of quarreling with the Americans, were they still America's friends and the chance to go in first was a gift from Ike, and good for him. The Resistance did more to liberate Paris than the 1st French Division which simply marched in to accept the surrender, and the Resistance forced the US to come into town when Big Sam didn’t want to just yet. Paris was liberated on August 25. Soon thousands of US soldiers were marching down the Champs Elysees while joyous Parisians smiled and cheered. You’ve probably seen these famous photos. But the grunts in the photos are not smiling. It’s not that they weren’t happy to liberate Paris. They were simply tired and sad from the hard fighting and knew that they still had much more work to do which might kill them. They had less to smile about than the mesdames y mademoiselles of Paris. In fact there is more to these pictures than a thousand words. De Gaulle had asked Ike for two US divisions to maintain order in Paris. Ike said no, but he had an idea that might be of assistance to the proud General. There were US divisions just west of Paris that were headed east of Paris to resume the fighting. Ike could have them march in parade down the main avenue with Bradley and De Gaulle at the reviewing stand. They would not lose a step in their movements towards the battle while at the same time lending authority to the tall French patriot. This is what happened. It may have been the only instance in the history of combat that full divisions marched in a ceremonious victory parade parade while on their way to a hot war zone. The Americans who marched past De Gaulle that afternoon were literally in the midst of a full scale battle later that same day! On the other hand it would be equally wrong to minimize their achievements just because they ridiculously maximize them. Ike said that the consistent help of the French resistance and the Free French forces speeded up the war by several weeks. I'm just saying that without Allied armies on the march, the Resistance would have stayed in the woodwork indefinitely. They didn't win Paris until Paris was already nearly surrounded by the American Army.
“TAKE THE 815 INTO THE CITY” That was the code name for the great Paris Railroad Workers Strike of 1944 began. It was the signal to start it up with a work stoppage at beginning at 8:15 on 8.15, August 15. The strike spread to other groups. Many civil service workers went on strike. When it spread to the police the Resistance came out into the open and operated in large groups, conducting sporadic fighting with German units still in the city. Now it was rebellion. USUK did not want de Gaulle installed as dictator just yet, but he was also the antidote to the Communists who were against the Nazis and the capitalist west at the same time. America and Britian knew they could not keep de Gaulle out post-war French politics, but didn’t want to give him a head-start as the dictator of France either. The rebellion in Paris with the Communists almost making it a three way civil war, stepped up the process of getting de Gaulle to Paris. But first the city needed Allied armed forces there to eliminate the German pockets of fighting men scattered around Paris (there were 2,700 in a huge public park on the western outskirts of Paris, the Bois du Boulogne.) Eisenhower had American units within 30 miles of the Eiffel tower, but to got word to French General Leclerc that his division, which was slightly more than 100 miles miles from the Tower could march in and take Paris now. The Americans were deliberately stepping aside and letting the French get all the credit. But the Germans held up well against the Fighting French divisions, and crowd of civilians pouring out to welcome the French tank units made their fighting the Germans more difficult. On August 24, the Fighting French were still struggling on the outskirts of Paris and Ike was getting irritated. He asked Hughes, “Are they planning on dancing their way into the city or fighting?” Ike then ordered the U.S 4th Division to go liberate Paris, “Since the French don’t seem all that interested in doing it.” General Leclerc heard about this and immediately sent out a tank unit to try and slip into the city in the middle of the night and claim it for France. And so the did. A dozen French tanks meandered their way in the middle of the night into Paris. At a few minutes to midnight they claimed Paris liberated. The day of celebration over there is August 25, but the City of Pickpockets was actually liberated by the Fighting French armored column at about four till midnight on August 24. It was like a surreptitious Blitzkrieg. By the middle of the morning of sunny August 25, the people of Paris were crowding the main streets and celebrating. In the middle of it all some fighting was still going on with the stubborn Germans. It was an odd mix to be celebrating a liberation and then stampeding when more gunfire breaks out. The crowds would react in all sorts of ways. They’d often gasp like we do at fireworks displays, except in this case there were people falling dead out of windows to make for a more dramatic show. De Gaulle insisted on a triumphant march under the Triumph. USUK tried to talk him out of it because there was too much risk of sniper attack (especially from people who knew Charlie intimately.) Ike feared an uprising against De Gaulle. He knew how many French factions hated him (something history has forgotten.) It wasn’t just a matter of Ike wanting to protecting him. But de Gaulle got his way and has his big march down the Chump Delysses.
PATTON RUNS OUT OF GAS - NO OIL FOR BLOOD - AUGUST 29 Patton’s Army was so large and wide-spread that it’s hard to write of “Patton’s” movements with total accuracy. One branch of the 3rd Army was crossing the Seine at Mantes while other divisions were still fighting to liberate Brest and Lorient on the Brittany peninsula. But Patton and his main mission was out in front and heading for Germany when the oil-well ran dry. Patton’s southern drive had not been planned in May. Planners were surprised when the opportunity opened up for his famous race to the Rhine. He was advancing in a most un-British manner and by May 29th was convinced that if he got permission from Ike he could bash his way right into Germany in a matter of days. Patton knew that he was moving through land at a pace unprecedented in the history of warfare. He was going to re-write the very concept of mechanized warfare, and out Blitzkreig the Blitzekreigers. Suddenly he got word from an adjutant that his lead corps was out of gas. He grabbed the adjutant by the lapels and shouted it, “How can this be?” with proanity. Germany is sitting there waiting to be conquered. All he needed was a measly 140,000 of Mobil and he’s mobile. He calmed down and apologized to the adjutant, who was used to it and didn’t care (Patton had to be careful - he couldn’t afford another Sicily slap incident or he’d “be peeling potatoes in Muncie by Christmas.”) General Patton was angry to know that the was out of gas, but he went ballistic when he found out why he was out of gas. General Montgomery, his nemesis (not Hitler) had convinced Ike to give the 21st British Army all the gas it needed for Operation MARKET GARDEN. Eisenhower had denied Patton the gas and Patton knew that it was all Monty’s doing. Patton always thought that Ike was too deferential to the British (Not the way Patton put that, but I’ll stick with “deferential.) The gas had to be given to the entire broad front, not to one exciting breakout on the southern wing of it. That was Ike’s feeling anyway. Plus he wanted to give Monty a break after he came close to sacking him. He did it at Patton’s expense. Patton was rip-tide. He says that he could have won the war if Ike hadn’t cut off his allowance. He says that August 29th was the negatively decisive day of the campaign. If MARKET GARDEN had been a big success we’d have to side against Patton. Since MARKET GARDEN was an Allied disaster we’ll (I’ll) have to side with Patton. Hindsight is 20-20, but if Ike had taken Monty’s gas and gave it to Patton, he clearly would have done more with it than Monty did. Monty poured the gasoline hose onto the cement like the guy in The Birds at Bodega Bay. It’s an interesting fantasy to try and imagine what Patton might have done if he got his way. Some gun-head egg-heads say he might have run into more trouble than he counted on. Maybe the Germans would have counterattacked his rear and sealed off his advance divisions, creating more trouble than success. Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly couldn’t have turned out any worse than what Monty did with Pattons 140,000 gallons of gas. Even if Patton found him surrounded and cut off somewhere across the Rhine past Metz, it’s not hard to argue that the Allies had enough land and air resources to bust him free in a jiffy. He also had the ANVIL force coming up from the south to help out in that contingency. Ike ordering Patton to halt at the gates of Metz, and taking his gas away just make sure the stubborn Patton followed the order, is one of the great controversies of WWII from a purely military angle. Patton was already mad at SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force - refreshing never hurts the reader) for ordering him to stop outside the gates of Argentan and Falaise in the earlier pocket campaign. Now he had to stop again when he could almost see the Giant Swastika at the top of Nuremberg stadium. Patton died in December 1945. God only knows how much we would have heard from him over the next 15 years or so on this. Patton was annoyed whenever he got orders from SHAEF to cover his flanks. That meant downgrading his offensive punch in order to prevent the unforeseen. But Patton was sure that the Germans simply didn’t have the ability or the morale right now to do anything but fight defensive fall-back ops. Besides, if the Germans did counterattack on his flanks, he was sure he could scrape up enough might to fight it off and he had air power to compliment. As impressive as Patton’s famous drive across central France was, it would have been even faster if SHAEF had not ordered him to take a deep breath and carve off some of his attack force for flank protection. This tactical issue can be extrapolated to the strategic. Patton wanted to race his entire corps (not his entire “army” which was too widely scattered to be a giant arrow,) right into Germany and to hell with any fear of grand scale counterattacks on his flanks. It was all a matter of blood for oil and oil for blood. I shook my head in disbelief in 1991 when lefty demonstrators were chanting “No blood for oil! No blood for oil” as if a soldier shedding blood for oil to seize or protect oil was an immoral concept. Oil is one of the few things on earth worth shedding blood for. If a burglar kept stealing gas out of your car while you slept, you’d plan ways to catch him and hurt him before the cop arrived. That’s taking food off your family table and that’s enough to drive any pacifist to fight. The war in the Pacific was fought for the oil of the Dutch East Indies. Hitler invaded Russia for the oil of the Baku region. The whole story of the liberation of Europe was centered on gasoline, as was the earlier war in North Africa. And then these moralist pinheads chant “No blood for oil!” like that’s a zinger that no one has a moral answer for. They might as well have chanted “No blood for anything! Absolute pacifism forever! Disband the US military immediately!” The US war machine has been protecting oil for almost a hundred years. That’s an important part its mission.
PATTON’S MAP The Soviets and Americans exchanged military observers. A handful of qualified Americans were on the Russian front taking notes and trying to draw lessons from what they saw. But, needless to say, the Russians treated the American observers rudely most of the time and did not give them the proper access to the battles and the logistical information they desired.. Patton wanted to study the Russian front and was personally insulted by the reports he heard coming out of the Russian front about the way his boys were being treated. When a Russian delegation of observers came to visit Patton near Toul on September 16, he split. He made sure he wasn’t around when they showed up. Patton left them a special battle map to bring back to Russia. It told them nothing. A tourist map had more info on it. Patton changed the name of some of the places on the map. Nancy was re-named Svetlana, and Moselle River was re-named Trotsky River. The Russian observers probably destroyed the map rather than bring it back to Stalin. Sometimes I can’t stand Patton, but in cases like these, I love him. He was one of the only American leaders that “got it” about the Russians. He was one of the few men man enough to understand that their rudeness towards ambassadors was a test, and was indicative of a larger goal of international aggression. FDR and others allowed Stalin to be rude to American emissaries and thought this to be of no large import, just a face-value minor problem. If your boss insults your shirt on day one, you must quit the job and file a complaint immediately. Rudeness is always indicative of a larger threat looming behind it. Bully’s do their work in designed increments (except in the movies when they are “over the top” immediately) The USSR was both the biggest country and the biggest bully in the world in 1944. In 1941 it was Germany, but times had changed and a new King-Bully was in town and his crib was the Kremlin.
PATTON IS NOT A METZ FAN Because Monty and Brad took his oil away, Patton had to stall before the Moselle and short of the target city of Metz. SHAEF wouldn’t give him permission to march, even if he had some gas. The delay gave the Germans time to solidify, reinforce and fortify. When Patton finally got the gas and the green light he was up against a new enemy, was becoming short on troops, and the weather was bad. Several American attacks along the Moselle either failed or gained little ground with casualties. Sometimes entire Army divisions fell back. Patton screamed at the leader of the 35th division for about 35 minutes for letting the Germans push them off a hill. An important attack on Fort Driant near Metz failed miserable. It wasn’t the best time for Patton’s 3rd on the central French front. From September 25 to November 7 1944, the scene there was something of a stalemate. Patton hated stalemates. He only beleived in offensive warfare. He felt, and it make sense, that as long as you can keep attacking the enemy you must do so, because the enemy will not be capable of a well-planned attack against you. So even in failure you win a bit, because the enemy is answering to your moves. Patton was so steamed. He went to sleep at night dreaming of putting Monty in a headlock and giving him a lecture on tactics. Patton felt that if Ike had just given him the gas back on August 29, he’s have been knock knock knocking on Hitler’s door. Patton could have taken Metz with minimal effort, but now it was suddenly a Vickburg or Tobruk. Patton used to say the name Metz with scorn in his voice, because he knew he could have once taken it so easily.
PATTON PRESS CONFERENCE Patton was feeling down about a lot of things. He was furious with Monty for hogging the supplies and he was mad at Ike for never standing up to Monty. Patton was stuck in the Metz-mud. He gave a press conference in which he got testy with a couple of reporter’s questions about whether or not he had “outran his supplies.” He also got some collective laughs with some callous wide-cracks,
Reporter: “Will the Nazis go underground when the Allies get to Berlin?”
Patton: “Yes, six feet underground. [laughter] Now let me ask you a question. Do you know how to save a German from drowning?”
Patton: “Good” (more laughter.)
This was just before September 25, which was bad day for Patton. That was the day when Patton got the word from Bradley that the 3rd Army was no longer to conduct offensive operations in its sector. At least not for now. Patton would disobey that order in short order. He acted with some insubordination when he thought Monty was going to take too many of his divisions away - on the flimsy grounds that he, Patton, wasn’t doing much anyway (thanks to Monty having taken all the gas.) So Patton rushed across the Mosell River so that Monty could no longer justify taking divisions away from Patton on the grounds that they weren’t being used anyway. Patton was in a ‘use them or lose them’ scenario and that was most of the reason he violated orders from Ike and Monty and advanced across the Mosell River. Monty was using every trick in the book to beat Patton and Hodges to the supplies, and Ike was trying to mediate. Patton, meanwhile, was answering Montgomery’s maneuvers, just just being an unruly brat just for the fun of it.
CONVOY! - THE RED BALL EXPRESS Supply was the overwhelming problem for the Western Allies in the fall of 1944. There were enough fighting men (the complaints of some depleted divisions notwithstanding), weapons, and air support. There was enough morale and leadership. There was enough strategy, even after disagreements. What there was never enough of in the fall of 44, were supplies. Every commander claimed that his theatre deserved most or even all of the supplies. If only Patton got all the supplies he could win the war. If only Monty got all the supplies he would win the war. Both even said at some point Ike had to choose one or the other! But Ike split the difference, and tried to balance out the supply spigot with Monty getting more than half, but not a British Lion’s share. Patton and Brad and Hodges would have to drive through central Germany with about 40% of the total supplies, and Monty would have to do his concentrated thrust in the north with only about 60%. He was ticked-off when he only got 69. Montgomery wanted, he in fact demanded, more than 90% (plus total command.) The problem was ports. Cherbourg was still the only large and effective port in Allied hands. It was a blunder that it took so long to secure Antwerp and an even bigger blunder that even then it couldn’t be used because of the infamous blunder of the Schelde Estuary (see section 22b paragraphs 77-93.) For various reasons, German mines, Allies error, and fanatical German morale among the Hitler youth arriving on the scene in large numbers, the Allies in the West didn’t have a supply problem in the fall of 44, they had a supply crisis. The French railway system was in utter ruins. Allied bombardment of the system before D-Day came back to hurt the Allies when they needed to press the offensive after they got out of the N-box. Priority, of course, had been to get on the continent first, and worry about how to advance across it later. If Ike and Churchill needed the reassurance that the French RR system was out of action, even if it did come back to bit the USUK boys later. I wouldn’t call the smashing of the French RR something of a blunder but some historians do. With the railroads out, the Americans had to try the next best thing. The Germans had resorted to ox-carts pulled by horses, but things weren’t quite that desperate for the new invaders. For the Americans and the British intruders the next best thing was the roads. France didn’t have the quality of highways that Hitler and Todt had built, but the Allies improved and created their own make-shift Autobahn, and they named it the Red Ball Express. Creating a road to the front was hard work in many ways. The problem of refugees, PoW’s and scattered US Army units and support personnel clogged up the roads, which were narrow enough to begin with. Trucks broke down far too often and bad weather earned it the nickname the “Mud-Ball Express.” The Red-Ball truck highway ran from Cherbourg all the way to the front lines, and it ran one-way. Trucks that headed back did so off the main roads. Red Ball symbols marked the way in various towns and places on the way. Most of the Red-Ball drivers were African-American troops and many earned medals for their service. By the end of November more than 9,000 disabled US trucks were in junkyards near the front lines. Some historians seem to suggest that the Red Ball Express was so disappointing in terms of supply delivered, that it was a failure. Other writers seem to think it was a glorious American success. It certainly didn’t cure the supply crisis. Patton resorted to stealing. All in the name of fun. His Army found various ways to sneak around and siphon off supplies that were supposed to go to Hodges, or Collins, or Simpson. In a couple of movies, the music gets goofy and we’re supposed to laugh about what a character Patton was, as he pulls some slick trick to get away with stealing booze or gasoline from another unit. I don’t thinks it’s a cute story if you’re one of the guys in the other units that saw their supplies stolen, and then got wounded because they were short on supply. With cold weather coming on there was a sudden shortage of some ammo, especially rounds for the 155mm gun which was doing a bang-up job, better than some of the tanks that fought the Wehrmacht. There was also concern that the men might freeze to death or get frostbite and lose some toes. There was only so much room on the little Red Ball Express and one had to take priority. Blankets or rockets .... hmmm. Bradley and Monty agreed that the blankets could wait. It was more important to kill Germans than it was to keep everyone nice and toasty after a hard-day’s battle. So artillery rounds took priority over heavy coats and blankets. “Our men can take it,” said Bradley. “You’re darned tootin’” said Montgomery. And so, a lot of American soldiers shivered through the nights in the winter of 1944-45 in order to keep them heavily armed. One freighter full of coats and blankets actually sat off shore in Normandy for several weeks while one ammo ship after another cut in line to unload. It wasn’t as bad as the Germans dying in the snow in Russia from cold, but on a 1-10, the USA did about a 3.7 job of keeping the troops warm in the winter campaign to win the war. The supply crisis forced the US Army to choose between bombs and blankets and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it didn’t choose the blankets.
ALEXANDER’S SUMMER CAMPAIGN IN ITALY Churchill pouted and complained that Anvil had ruined his chance to be proven personally and gloriously right after all about Italy. A sure chance to win in Italy had been thrown away for a peripheral campaign on the Riviera. But even an Allied force in Italy stripped to 66% of its former capacity was still strong enough to continue to advance north in Italy. Italy is for the most part a mountainous country. But in northern Italy is the wide valley of the Po River. North of that is the Alps. So the goal was to get past the mountains of Northern Italy and get into the Po valley. Once there, the Allies could make spectacular advances after a year of slow going over the mountains. The question was when? How long would it take to break into the Po. Would the Italian theatre even matter by the time that happened. If it did, if it happened soon, then Churchill would perhaps see his dream come through. The British Eight Army could split up in two directions, one corps headed to Vienna, the other turning the corner and heading southeast into the Balkans. There they would solidify Yugoslavia for non-Communism, win the Greek civil war, and create a well- projected eastern flank against Communist Bulgaria and Romania, two countries Churchill conceded to the Commies in the Cold War he knew was coming.
BATTLE OF REMINI - SEPTEMBER 1944 Alexander’s offensive began on August 26. The decisive battle to breach the Gothic line took place from September 13-21 1944. The city of Remini on the Adriatic coast was ground zero. It anchored the eastern end of the Gothic line. The fighting was fierce and has been compared to that at el Alamein and Monte Cassino. The end of the Gothic line would be the end of the line in Italy for the Austrian Corporal’s mad followers. The British broke through and won at Remini. This battle is rarely mentioned in general histories of WWII. Once the D-Day landings take place, the whole story shifts there, and the rest of the Italian war gets short-changed. Robert Leckie’s 912 page history of WWII has 14 pages on Tarawa and Alexander’s summer offensive and the British Eight Army breaking the Gothic line is not mentioned at all. It never even happened. The entire Italians campaign was going to have to slow down over the winter anyway.
AMBULANCE CHASER CHURCHILL Churchill was there when Alexanders’s offensive began in late August. The P.M. was taken to a concrete three story building close to the front line so he could see and hear the bombs and the carnage with his own eyes and ears. Nazi machine gun bullets whizzed by Winston’s ear as he observed the Eighth Army moving forward, the RAF strafing attacks. and the Royal Navy bombardments of small Italian towns. You know, if this were one isolated incident I wouldn’t mind. But Churchill took these needless personal trips to the front lines to watch the killing too many times. I find these episodes unbecoming of a great man. He never, to the best of my reading, added any useful advice to change the immediate tactical situation. He was just a little boy who wanted to watch the war up close. At least when Patton looks around the battlefield in sadistic joy he admits it and apologizes to God along the way. Churchill takes the same Pattonesque pleasure in the action part, but had no real business being there.” At least Patton was there because it was his job. At one point in 1945 Churchill took a trip to the front line when the Allies crossed the Rhine. He stood on German territory and unzipped his fly and urinated while shouting joyfully to reporters about what Hitler can do with his Third Reich. He asked them not to report the incident and they did not, but I will. A close friend of Teddy Roosevelt once gently chided a friend not to get too worked up at anything the President says. “You have to remember,” he told him, “that essentially, the President is about eight years old.” Sometimes I think Churchill is about seven.
THE VIP TREATMENT Ike and Monty were plagued with visits from VIP’S throughout the campaign without a name, the FRUSUKAUPOCA drive to liberate Europe 1944-1945. There were hundreds more Churchills where he came from. Every other day the tired generals had to give some important person the guided tour. One day it would be Secretary of State Stimson showing up in a helmet to go see that battlefields up close - the next day the president of Mexico, and the next day a famous reporter. Movie stars sometimes showed up, and Montgomery once dined with a surprise visitor named Bob Hope who took two days off from his USO tour to meet the commander and see the front. Montgomery and Eisenhower hated every last one of these intrusions and distractions. It wasn’t like Betty Grable was stopping by. Ike would have made an exception for her. In private both Ike and Monty complained bitterly about these intrusions, but they did their best to play host and tour-guide for leaders and celebrities. They took them around to places where you can actually hear the artillery in the distance. This accomplished nothing except needlessly taxing the mental energies of the two commanders. They gave more interviews than a candidate for high public office. There was one hilarious incident where Bob Hope and Alan Brooke almost came to blows over jokes the American comedian kept making about Brooke’s “Little Fuhrer mustache.” (FRUSUKAUPOCA of course stands for the combined armies of France, The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Poland, and Canada.)
MORGANTHAU PLAN The US Secretary of State was Cordell Hull. But he had no more say in foreign policy than my grandfather Charlie Donovan who was loading shells on the USS Maryland at the time. The real Secretary of State was Roosevelt along with his Secretary of the Treasury Morganthau. Harry Hopkins also had a lot of input. Both had more clout than Hull. No one had ever voted for Hop or Morgy. FDR was never highly knowledgeable about foreign affairs, and the Senate had never voted to authorize Morganthau from Treasury to make foreign policy. But Morganthau certainly did. His qualifications? He was a FOF, Friend of Franklin. Morgy had many more hats than his official one at Treasury. In early August 1944 Morganthau and his trusted Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Henry Dexter White went to Britain to consult with English leaders over the fate of Germany after the war. Hull was ordered to mow the White House lawn. Morganthau asked a lot of common people what should be done with Germany after the USUKUSSSR victory. The answer often came back that Germany should be reduced to nothingness. But the big money people wanted to restore it. Morganthau already knew what he wanted to hear so he was really push-polling bell-hops and taxi drivers to justify decisions he had already reached. Henry M was emotionally charged up from the damage he saw in London from the V rockets. Morgy and White agreed that the thing to do was to slice up Germany after the war into several small countries, and take all industry out of the country on trains and ships to places where it could be used peacefully. The two men went to the American Embassy for a US pow-wow on the plan. Ambassador to Great Britian Winant and his crew listened closely as White took the floor. Germany should be downgraded to a fourth rate power, he ranted. The Ruhr and Saar industrial regions should become pastoral farmlands with chirping birds and tumbleweeds. Winant protested that this would leave all of Europe vulnerable to Soviet domination. Harry White dismissed this argument as nonsense, as well he should have. Henry Dexter White was a Soviet spy serving as a double-agent in the US Treasury Department throughout the war. He was doing Stalin’s bidding and enlisting Morganthau’s help. Churchill’s people had already told Morgy and White that the plan was insane. Yes, Germany had to be rehabilitated. But a strong Germany was essential to European economic recovery and strength, and was also needed as a bulwark against a Communist plague from the east. Soviet spy/US Assistant Secretary of the Treasury HD White heartily disagreed, dismissing fears of Soviet Communism as antiquated reactionary paranoia. Harry Dex knew he had the full support of the naïve Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Dex knew he could put his arguments forth forcefully, without fear of looking foolish. On 8.19.44 Morganthau was back in D.C. and had a meeting with the President at the White House. Henry complained about the lenient treatment the British had in store for post-war Germany. FDR agreed and said he just needed a half hour alone with Churchill and he could change his mind, a preposterous conceit. It was bad enough that he thought he could charm and awe his friend Churchill; what was far worse was that FDR also thought he could do the same with his adversary, Stalin. Modern warfare today emphasize that ‘we are not at war with the [fill in nation] people, only their leaders.’ Roosevelt was in quite the opposite mood when he rapped with Morganthau that summer day,
“We have got to be tough with Germany and I mean the German people, not just the Nazis. You either have to castrate or you have got to treat them … so they just cant’ go on reproducing people who want to continue the way they have in the past.”
Morganthau placed White in charge of a committee to draft a plan for a Carthaginian occupation of Germany after V-day. This came to be known as the “Morganthau Plan” but the head-writer of the first draft was by H Dexter “Red” White. In early September 1944 FDR conferred with his closest advisors at Hyde Park as they went over the Morganthau Plan. Both Franklin and his wife approved the plan. They both agreed that eliminating Germany from the Europe equation would stimulate the economies of England and Belgium, although why they believed this is not clear. Morganthau suggested that a majority of the German people between the ages of 20 and 40 could be expelled from the country and made to work on some grand TVA style project in remote inner Africa. Folks, I'm not making this up. He knew this would be unfair to the children of these adults, but Henry thought a way could be found through that issue, though he never said what that way was. FDR took Morganthau with him to meet Churchill in Quebec in mid-September 1944. The British Prime Minister objected to the Morganthau Plan, saying that reducing Germany to a medieval farmland would be like tying England ‘to a dead body.’ But Morganthau used linkage to loosen Churchill's resistance. Morganthau attached cooperation on his plan to American financial generosity towards the UK after the war. Three billion in new lend-lease aid after the war if you fall in with this. Churchill accepted unhappily. When he went back with the agreement to London, Foreign Secretary Tony Eden hit the roof and the two Brits had an open feud. The plan also faced opposition at home in America. Stimson and Hull at War and State crusaded against the plan. Hull was mad because of the interference of Treasury in affairs of State. This had been going on for too long and Hull soon resigned as Secretary of State. The Morganthau Plan was the last straw for Cordy. Hank Stimson went on record protesting that the Morganthau Plan made a mockery out of the Atlantic Charter and its idealistic promises of freedom for all peoples after the war. The charter specifically gave the same rights to the conquered as to the conquerors. Forcing 40 million Germans to the unemployment line by the calculated destruction of all German industry was not right, Stimson argued.
MORGANTHAU PLAN LEAKS A high US official leaked the Morganthau Plan to the press while Henry was in Quebec with Churchill and the President. There was a considerable negative reaction to the plan from the American press, public and Congress. The details of the Morganthau Plan traveled the globe and landed in Germany. The fact that Morganthau was Jewish played into hands of the Minister of Nazi Propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, who made the most of the opportunity. His theories that the Jewish international money interest were plotting to enslave Germany now looked more than logical to the average German. Goebbels exhorted his people to fight to the last man. They might as well, he explained. Some historians “credit” the Morganthau Plan with inspiring the fanatical resistance of the German Army in the last year of the war. Tom Dewey in the fall campaign for President accused his Democratic incumbent opponent of a strategic blunder in first devising the Morganthau Plan and then letting it leak. The timing of the publicity storm was made the worse by the near stalemate developing at that time on the continental battlefield. This seemed to be no time to inspire the German defenders of Fortress Europe. FDR met with Hull and told his Secretary of State that he did not know how the story had leaked, which was true, and that he had always thought the plan a bad idea, which was not true. Morganthau was left holding the hot potato, drafted by a Russian spy and with his moniker on it.
ON TO GERMANY – WHO WILL GET THE GLORY? With Paris liberated and the Germans back on the heels of their jackboots, the Allies had different ideas about the routes to take and the forces to deploy in order to win the war. The British thought they should lead the way with the bulk of the Allied forces assigned to their route near the coast with the US central forces as complimentary fronts. The Americans on the other hand thought that they should lead the attack with the British/Canadian armies supporting the operation with a secondary front along the coast. In the end it was decided that Monty’s front near the coast was to be the main event in the march to Berlin with American central armies in a complimentary role. But this only inspired these American divisions to fight above and beyond the call of duty so as to outrace the British to the main prizes in Germany. In other words, Monty was scheduled to get there first but the Americans were determined to run ahead of schedule and show the world which was the better fighting force. The national ego competition among the Allies is understandable but a real turn off to read about. Not to say that I wouldn’t have fallen in with it if I had been a Brit or a US soldier. I’m sure I would have resented Monty and the Limeys in their need for all the credit and the glory if I was a GI. And I’m sure I would have resented the big ego of Patton and the Yanks and their need for all the credit and the glory if I had been a Canadian, Brit or New Zealand soldier. The rivalry between the two groups trying to win the war is a dominant theme of World War II especially after 1943. I suppose the only solution to this low base emotion in a war for higher plane ideals would have been to train the forces on an integrated bases and deploy them as combined units. If this idea had been taken up and adopted in late December 1941, then maybe a combined US-UK Corps of several divisions could have operated in harmony and unity of purpose on the continent by the time of the decisive offensive of 1944. But both countries loved their flag more than they loved victory and the idea was as untenable then as it was in 1918 when Pershing was asked to integrate the American doughboys into the French and British divisions, an idea which Pershing rejected as what would be called today a ‘non-starter.’ This ideal dream of integrated Allied units in WWII was not only never adopted, I might be the first person ever to even suggest it. The concept of United Nations had never worked out in peace, why should anyone in 1941 think it might work out in war?
DOUBLE EDGED SWORD OF ALLIED BOMBARDMENTS The cleanup of the Brittany peninsula continued while the bulk of the Allied forces drove to the east. Brest was taken on September 19, but it had been so damaged by our bombing and their scuttling that it was useless as a port and was never repaired or utilized in spite of it’s good location. In fact this would be a problem for the rest of the campaign. Allied bombing was improving by the month as the war progressed and by 1944 it was generally excellent and devastating. Then we marched into the conquered territory and found that we had no infrastructure to work with. We had destroyed it before we came in and now were stuck with our fine work. Ike, Patton, Hodges and Bradley had to deal with the torn up the railroads, bridges and roads that they had torn up themselves before they got there. Yesterdays superb battle report was tomorrows logistical nightmare. Allied bombardment of the continent slowed down later Allied advances about half as efficiently as the German Army.
V2 V3 The V2 was a more dangerous weapon because it was almost impossible to shoot down. This was a truly staggering scientific advancement in warfare. The V2 was a legitimate ICMB. It was launched from France or Holland and shot up into the stratosphere and incredible 50 miles then arched over and crashed into England at 5,000 feet per second. The V2 was silent in flight and no one could know when they were about to strike. The V2 made the V1 look like a paper airplane. The weakness of the V2 however was the same as the V1. Neither were very accurate and could not hit strategic targets. They needed a city the size of London to guarantee a direct hit. That meant that they were nothing but anti-morale bombs for Allied civilians. The war was going so well in general for the Allies however that these bombs could not make a sea change in civilian or military morale, except for the individuals injured or killed. If they had been introduced earlier in the war it might have been a different story. If they had been tipped with a small nuclear warhead they might have won the war. Those who denigrate the morality and effectiveness of the Allied bombing campaign in World War II should focus on the damage and setbacks that these bombings handed to Hitler’s rocket campaign, which was considerable. The scientific war was won by these bombers, even if we concede that they produced disappointing results in other areas of strategic analysis. The V3 was the greatest gun barrel ever told. It was a 400 foot long artillery piece that would be able to shell London in conventional form from unconventional distance. Fortunately for Piccadilly, the experimental models were plagued with bugs and the experimental testing produced poor results. By the time the V3 had any faint hope for successful development and deployment, the Allied armies had already overrun the plants where they were to be produced. It’s a shame that Hitler never built the V-8, because that would have set me up for several solid and easy jokes. These super-weapons were in large part the reason Germany maintained some morale during the losing months of the war. Captured German prisoners were still warning their guards that Hitler was about to unleash new super weapons and soon their guards would be the prisoners. These developing super-weapons were the opposite of “top secret.’ In September 1944 the American Army crossed over into Germany proper.
DUMBARTON OAKS CONFERENCE - AUGUST TO OCTOBER - GEORGETOWN The second tier leaders of the first tier Allied nations met at a mansion in Georgetown D.C for nearly three months to try and work out the political settlement of the post-war world. The the victor go the spoils, but to the victors go who knows what? The victors might fight over the spoils, and it might lead to WWIII. What was this United Nations business and what were the rules? These were the questions to be decided at Dumbarton Oaks. None of the issues were really decided and the conference ended in October in a sort of vague agreement to finish the discussions at the next Summit Conference at Yalta. Molotov Stettinus and Eden were representing Stalin, FDR, and Churchill and the three leaders kept a close eye on what was discussed at Dumbarton. Russia was concerned about the idea that a bunch of small countries could get together at the new U.N. and force the USSR to do things it didn’t want to do. The Soviet Union wasn’t practicing democracy at home, why should it have to agree to its authority at the U.N.? Both the USA and UK still very much wanted Stalin to jump into the war in east Asia as soon as possible after Germany surrendered. One fear was that even if the home islands of Japan were falling, the Japanese Army would hold out to the death in China where they still occupied half that giant country. General Smuts in particular had a paranoid vision of the Japanese fighting on for years in China after the Allies had taken Tokyo. If this was a smart fear then yes, the Allies did need Soviet intervention against Japan. If this was a foolish fear, then Smuts was dragging the USSR into the vortex of a new Cold War in Asia after Japan surrendered. It was also becoming clear during the discussions at DO that Yugoslavia was going to be a problem. Tito was not exactly grateful for British help in the war. All that goodwill when Churchill naively thought he had bought Tito’s loyalty with British ammunition and food was going out the window. Even Stalin was mad at Tito for not agreeing to let Russia be the leader in world Communism. Many insoluble problems were discussed for weeks on end, as though if you talk about an insoluble problem long enough it somehow becomes solvable. The Polish political impasse, for example, was discussed without results for about 800 hours. The discussions at Dumbell Oaks overlapped many political and military events in these three later months of 44. Discussions at DO changed with the latest headlines. When Churchill went to Moscow to kiss Stalin’s mustache in October, the British decided that everything that was happening at Dumbarton Oaks would be a separate thing and would bot be discussed in person between Stalin and Churchill. That should give you some hint that the Dumbarton Oaks Conference is not famous for good reason. It was a debating exercise between second tier politicians designed to give the appearance of diplomatic movement when there was none.
THE ENERGY CRISIS The Allies were racing as fast and as hard as they could towards Germany and victory but the attack began to run out of gas. That means literally ran out of gas. The gas shortage that stalled Patton and his friends was worse than the one that OPEC slapped on the US in 1973. At least we were only trying to get to work. The US Army was trying to kill Germans and didn’t have any gasoline to chase them with. We had no oil for blood. These weeks had been heady. The entire front was moving ahead of schedule and Patton was lighting up the world’s headlines with his rush to the east. This was the only period of the war when such advances were achieved by the good guys. There had been a lot of talk among the boys and the brass about ending the war in time for everyone to be home for Christmas. If the gasoline had been there this might have come true. There was little to stop Patton from crashing deep into Germany. But his third army especially out of all the corps groups was short on gas. The boys would be home for Christmas, … in 1945. The Allies had actually counted of fierce German resistance to provide time enough to build up the supply line from Cherbourg and the improvised channel ports as the battle moved on. But the Germans foiled out logistical plan by collapsing with the help oh Hitler’s stupid Avranches counterattack. Now both the Brits and the Yanks were pleading for gasoline and Ike had to decide who gets it. Gasoline, not German resistance was now deciding the entire war strategy in Europe. An underwater pipeline had even been built under the English channel to Normandy. Another pipeline was being constructed from Normandy to the fluid front, but the construction could not keep pace with Patton sitting on top of a tank moving at 22 miles per hour yelling ‘yiiii-haaaa!” The advance had outraced it’s supply lines in a big way. It was a military crisis. Ike had two basic choices. He could move the entire broad front slowly with the gas he had. Or he could give the most gas to Patton and let his impetuous Third Army drive a spectacular spearhead into the heart of Germany well ahead of the rest of the front. He didn’t have enough gas to do both. Eisenhower decided on the broad and slow moving front, and he would give most of the gas to the Brits so they could clear out the Scheldt (the lowlands where the rivers reach the sea), take Antwerp, and thereby revitalize the supply situation. Patton would have to stop for coffee and wait for the war to catch up while he cursed Monty’s name. This precious gas was Monty’s now. It was fourth and one and Monty had to pull off a one yard slug to Antwerp to get more gas and supplies for everyone. The American Generals were not happy but they understood. Instead Monty wasted all the gas on a long bomb that sailed over the receiver’s head, a daring scheme to make him look like a military genius. It was a plan that failed. There is no doubt Monty’s failure at Arnhem prolonged the war. Before we examine Monty’s bad report card it should in fairness be added that Patton’s plan to race to victory ahead of the pack was no sure thing. He complained after the war about how if only he had the gas he could have ended the war so much sooner. But Patton neglects to add that he would have driven straight into much stronger resistance than any Allied Corps had scrapped with to date. Being that far ahead of the front, if anything went bad in the basic fighting, he might have been surrounded and annihilated. And even if he had enough gas to advance, it didn’t mean he had enough to engage in a hard and long fight in some fixed position, and re-supply to an Army that far ahead of the pack would have been an obvious problem. If Patton had been defeated and captured, the post war critics would have said ‘if only they had tried Monty’s plan.’
THE TRUE MEANING OF FRIENDSHIP - FREDDIE DE GUINGAND Monty kept going around to anyone who would listen, including the press, and telling them that Ike’s idea for a broad front approach to the war was so militarily unsound that it proved that Ike had no military experience. Montgomery was no back-stabber either. He kept saying the same things right to Ike’s face in both printed and spoken words. Montgomery complained to all of Ike’s generals too, that the Allies were about to embark on a bad strategic plan. Historians today have their opinions on this. Many Brit historians factually state that Monty’s plan would have won the war sooner, and many American historians say that the Monty plan was logistically unsupportable and therefore, thank goodness Ike got his way. Either way, Monty would not accept Ike’s wisdom, a phrase he considered oxymoronic. Ike always wanted to be a nice guy, and may have let many another less important inefficient ground commander stay on too long because of this personality disorder (in a war, wanting to be nice can be.) Ike could let an incompetent general stay on, but an insubordinate one, that was another matter. Monty’s close advisors tried to warn him that Ike was getting angry with these rockets. But Monty actually liked Ike and thought they connected personally, and that mattered a lot, when it in fact had limited value. Montgomery thought Ike might gripe about the Monty arrows, but he wouldn’t actually do anything about it. Brooke, Guingand and Ismay, to name four, warned Monty that Ike was speaking with Washington D.C. about “sacking the schnozz.” Major General Frances de Guingand (you pronounce it, I can’t) tried very hard to scare Monty into keeping his trap shut. Ike wasn’t going to change his mind anyway about your single-thrust plan, so why snipe about it? Ike was out in the woodshed sharpening his axe and it was time to cool it. Bernie Law replied with a laugh, “rubbish!” Freddie Guingand was Montgomery’s right hand man and a great guy. That sums up everything I’ve read about him. If anyone didn’t respect and like “Freddie G” they were insane. If the Nazis had captured him they would have had to let him go, that’s how perfect this the G-man was. Everyone knew that Monty was about to get fired except Monty. I was at my first college football game in 2010. On the last play with time running out, the BCQB had a man open in the end zone corner and was rolling right and about to throw a game winner. But from diagonally behind, a Northwestern goon was closing in on him. There was a moment when the crowd made a noise I had never collectively heard before, a uniquely styled collective gasp. Everyone in BC stadium knew that the quarterback was not going to get that pass off. Everyone, except one person. That’s about where Monty stood when Guignand flew back to SHAEF to plead for his best friend’s job. Freddie G. rescued Montgomery in the nick of time. He flew back on his own initiative to SHAEF headquarters in Normandy. This next scene belongs in a movie. Freddie tracks Ike down, who is in a tent in dim light . He’s working late. On his squeaky desk he is writing a paper. Freddie Guingand has walked in on Eisenhower while the Overlord is putting the finishing touches on a letter to Marshall and Roosevelt informing them that he relieving Montgomery of command. Of course Ike sat back, took a breath and let de Guingand plead his case for Montgomery. Then he talked Eisenhower into digging up some booze. He pleads his case over a couple drinks. Eisenhower finally agrees to give Montgomery a second chance, provided he behaves himself. Ike didn’t mind disagreement, but for a hundred reasons, behind the back sniping will be tolerated no longer. De Guingand shook Ike’s hand with two of his own near the break of dawn and thanked him for reconsidering. Late that afternoon, on very little sleep, Guingand saw Monty at Monty’s desk and told him that he had just seen Eisenhower and saved his hide. Monty stood up and said,
“Rubbish! What on earth are you talking about? Ike might talk of sacking me, but he never would. That’s just talk. You didn’t have to go and do that.”
“No, you don’t understand. Ike was drafting a letter to Marshall when I walked in his tent. You were a goner.”
Freddie spelled it all out. Monty at one point finally got it and “turned whiter than he already is.” Monty staggered back into his seat, visibly shaken. He didn’t really express any anger at Ike. To his credit, BLM suddenly perceived that the whole thing had been his own fault. General Montgomery quickly drafted a sincere letter of apology to Eisenhower. He would not, and indeed did not snipe any longer in the wrong channels about broad front versus single concentrated thrust, nor about Eisenhower’s inexperience in ground command. Frances de Guingand is the hero here. He changed the course of history with his initiative, and demonstrated true friendship defined. (If only I knew how to pronounce his name. I gave a radio interview on Houston Public Radio last week and two days later I realized I had pronounced the name Caen wrong to 400,000 listeners. I called it ‘cane.’ It’s actually pronounced ‘cuh.’ I insist that Chinese is easier to study than French.) Guingand is my second favorite Frenchman after Paul Reynaud. Eisenhower felt bad and compromised with Monty by green-lighting Montgomery’s pet project, OPERATION MARKET GARDEN. This was a limited opportunity for Monty to at least demonstrate what a bold and well-centered strike in advance of the broad front could accomplish. The electric strike forward could leave the broad front having suddenly to catch up from behind and join the party. Ike was giving Montgomery a limited opportunity to prove he could plan and execute a single-thrust operation.
OMG - 9-44 Monty name it OPERATION MARKET GARDEN. Hollywood made a movie about it. OMG was General Monty’s plan to land several airborne divisions by parachute behind German lines. Ike didn’t love the idea but accepted it as a gamble worth taking. Bradley was against it. If it worked, the Larry Siegfried line, (or “West Wall”) would be outflanked, and the path to Berlin would be more or less wide open out of the coastal northeast direction. Bradley objected because the MG plan bypassed the main objective on the coast which was the lowland area of Holland and the vitally important city of Antwerp. The Allies needed a new major supply port to replace Cherbourg, which was at this point, a place too far. By Monty’s doomed plan, the British coastal force would turn north away from the US group and open a hole in Hodges’ flank. Ike would have to take a division or two away from Patton to plug that gap. Monty’s bad plan also ignored the critical target of Antwerp. Even if his bold plan worked and a path was indeed opened up to Berlin beyond the Siegfried line, the problem of supply would still be as a bad as ever, if not worse. There were no vegetables in the Market Garden, and no gasoline for the gardeners to water the armored plants with. The entire operation was a catastrophe for the Allies and the resources that went into the “Bridge Too Far” could have instead gone into taking out the entrance to the Scheldt, or to Patton who would have know what to do with it. Churchill’s history of WWII treats this huge British blunder as if it barely happened, as if the United States was equally to blame, and completely avoids the term for it OPERATION MARKET GARDEN. Of course, every other operation with a famous code name he mentions by that code name repeatedly, more so than most war historians. But since MARKET GARDEN was a word famous Monty/British blunder all of a sudden its just a battle to mention in passing. Mr. excuse towel blames the weather. If not for bad weather, the airdrop airhead idea would have worked. Churchill blames Ike for failing to control the mouth of the Scheldt. He says that Ike is to blame because too many resources went into the relatively useless salient across the Rhine at Remagen. But it was Monty’s MARKET GARDEN that was really to blame.
BIGMOUTHS OF THE SHELDE Besides, Montgomery and Ike have been found equally to blame for the failure to secure the mouth of the river to Antwerp. Churchill is going against the historical consensus here that both Ike and Montgomery were in positions where they should have realized that this needed to get done, and if either one of them had given the order, it would have been done. It was in Monty’ theatre and and he was Theatre Commander. Ike was the head honcho over everything, so of course he is responsible too. Monty was the one handling the region on the big map. Somehow he doesn’t notice that to get to Antwerp you have to get past the Schelde Estuary which is controlled by the Germans. They were both lamebrains. Not just one. To only blame Ike for the Schelde slip-up is a big mouth blunder. Winnie can add that blunder in his history book to all the ones he made during the war.
THE ARNHEM-OP A closer look now, at the military battle for Arnhem, or, OPERATION MARKET GARDEN. Eisenhower went ahead with it for two main reasons. One - He accepted that Hodges and Patton were stalled at the moment on the outer rim of the Westwall because they had both outrun their supply line. This was especially true after Ike cut it off. So now the entire front from the North Sea to the swiss Alps was in a stall. Ike didn’t love Montgomery’s bold plan, but he thought it was worth a try. The other reason is that Ike and Monty had recently been through a couple of rough showdowns for power and Ike had won both times. The first was the one where “Freddie” saved the day for Monty, which has been noted. The other one, which came just three days before Montgomery proposed the airborne invasion of three bridges deep inside German territory, had Ike at one point touching Monty on the shoulder firmly and saying, “careful now, you know you can’t talk to me that way. I am your boss and if we have to we can take this thing higher up.” With Ike constantly having to humiliate Montgomery because Montgomery kept trying to insult and humiliate him, Eisenhower was eager to do something nice in Monty’s direction. Raising no serious objection and giving the green light to Market Garden, was Ike’s way of mending fences with Monty. The idea was to drop six airborne divisions way up ahead in the map at key bridges. At the same time, a fierce land-offensive with heavy armour would race ahead the 60 miles and link up with the three forces one at a time. The airborne had no heavy guns, only small arms, mortars and grenades. They would face serious fighting to hold on until the cavalry arrived. That was to be expected. But as long as the land-column reached the three bridges one at a time, it would gain in strength as it went along and would break through to and past Arnhem on the Rhine. The big breakout into Germany would be achieved. The three rivers to air-jump and secure (not cross) were the Neder Rijn, the Waal, and the Meuse. Spellings vary on all three rivers, depending on the book or the map. I prefer the Maas River to the “Meuse” because I thought Kevin Maas was a pretty good ballplayer. The key bridge was the most advanced one, over the rive I can neder pronounce, the Neder Rijn. I think it’s the northern branch of the Rhine River in the Dutch language, but I’m not sure. Montgomery expected the fighting to be tough, but he also ignored several intelligence reports that said there were far more Panzer forces near the Neder Rijn region than Commander McBrag was reporting at meetings. Some armchair quarterbacks now say that Bernard would have cancelled the attack if he really had faced-up and accepted these pessimistic report on German defense at the three bridges. Other egg/gunheads say he would have moped around for an hour or s and then would have gone ahead anyway. In any case, FMM did seriously underestimate the forces in the area and those German forces that could get there in a hurry. Montgomery was also counting on overwhelming air support, forgetting that bad weather was more likely than not in this time of the year and at this corner of the continent. Snow, rain, darkness and fog all helped the Germans perform well in the battle for Monty’s Garden. The advance paratroop units at Arnhem, the famous “Red Devils,” never saw the cavalry arrive. The Germans outfought the British Devils and the US 82nd - stopped them cold before they could get anywhere near the advance bridge at Arnhem. The slugged it out on the far end of “the bridge too far” until they were annihilated or forced to surrender. The rescue mission never reached them, and the Germans beat the devil out of the Red Devils. Historian Charles McDonald mocks them repeatedly in his writing as “the so-called ‘Red Devils’ ” but that’s a bit unfair. McDonald was the official U.S. Army historian of the war, and his bias is fairly clear.
OUTFOUGHT AND OUTCOACHED The Germans were fighting for their homeland now, and they all had Hitler’s pistol at their back. They had these two good reasons to fight more savagely than the Allies did, and it’s hard to admit, but they did. The Allies had rushed through France with the help of adoring townspeople throwing flowers and hugs at the passing troops. The German volk had a slightly different attitude. The civilians now helped the defenders, not the invaders. The race across France came to a halt and the Germans fought hard at the gates of their country. Later on, when the Allies broke through these lines, the German machine collapsed. But at the time of Market Garden (9-44) the Germans were still fighting with superior efficiency and tenacity. How could it be that the German soldier fought better? Was it genetic? Was there really a master race factor going on here? No. The German superiority was an end product of the long-standing military culture in Germany. It was not an inherent physical superiority. The German army-man was way ahead because of a mind-set of martial discipline that was deep rooted in all of Germany before World War One began. Schoolchildren in 1913 normally marched in drill formations with real guns in the Kaiser’s streets, an ROTC for 12 year old boys. America didn’t have those roots and it caught up with a lot of GI’s in places like Kasserine Pass and the Maas River. The German High Command had been a major political power for many decades in that country, and the Wehrmacht (Armed Force) from top to bottom was simply more advanced in peace and therefore more prepared for war - Germany worshipped its soldiers in times of peace. Just the opposite in America. The USA not only neglected its military between the two great wars, it did so deliberately act an act of national political assertiveness. There were actually places in the liberal Midwest where diners had signs that said they would not serve military men! It was the opposite in Germany. American soldiers had to train for war in Europe by fighting one, while Germany, with its militarist pride, was already way ahead of the game back on June 27 1914 and on August 31 1939 (If the Germans outfought the US 82nd airborne at the Meuse in September of 1944, and I have to type that up, I’d like to at least like to offer a few thoughts for the excuse towel.) Montgomery blames Eisenhower for the shriveled tomatoes and cucumbers in his Garden. Ike supposedly should have given Monty’s 21st Group all the resources in the Allied armed forces for this one key operation. Then it would have worked great. Yeah, but any almost commander could say that about almost any major battle ever fought.
A BRIDGE TOO USELESS Did Monty’s Market deliver anything useful? Yes. It gave the Allies a salient advance of approximately 63.7 miles. This was a plus, but it was a consolation prize on the back end of a tactical failure. Tactical success for Market Garden was supposed to have led to a strategic breakthrough, so it was indirectly also a strategic defeat. The largest use of airborne troops in history had failed. Only 30% of the 9,300 troops that dropped in on Arnheim got back to Allied lines. Total theatre casualties for the failed operation was 11,850 (the word ‘casualty’ is supposed to always include killed, wounded, or missing - it is often used in error as noting KIA’s only.) Resources that could have launched Patton well past Metz had gone to a dice game that went 7-out at the Neder Rijn. The Hollywood movie that supposedly covers this event is called A Bridge Too Far. There’s a lot of big stars in it, but it doesn’t work for me because Bridge makes it seem like 60 British troops were fighting 90 German troops. Not enough scale. We don’t need a full replica, but come on. Too thin for my taste. Lawrence Olivier is effective yet bit miscast as Eisenhower, but Rock Hudson excels as Montgomery. The acting performances notwithstanding, the rich executive producers should have spent less on star actors and put that money into more scale for the battle scenes. It also wasn’t edifying, not really. So few of these war movies are. Most (Tora Tora Tora would be an exception) take important historical events and turn them into formulaic ‘stuff blowing up’ uselessness.
COMEDIAN BERNIE MONTGOMERY Montgomery may or may not have been a great general, and he may or may not have been correct when he blames Ike for the failure at Arnhem. But one thing is for sure, Bernie Monty he was a heck of a comedian. After sending entire armies to meet death and disaster at Arnhem in an operation that all historians agree was an utter failure, Monty addressed all the troops involved with a letter of thanks and appreciation which read in part,
“There can be few episodes more glorious than the epic of Arnhem, and those that follow after will find it hard to live up to the standards that you have set. In years to come it will be a great thing for a man to be able to say: ‘I fought at Arnhem’ ”
I used to think that George Carlin was the funniest man who ever lived, but now I think it’s a tie with Monty.
VICTORY IN LUXEMBOURG The combined armies of the Allies liberated France, Belgium and the Netherlands, but there was one country that was freed by the United States armed forces alone. That was tiny Luxembourg, which was captured in early October. The ‘Luxors’ as the GI’s called them affectionately, were free at last. They decorated their streets and buildings with gay banners and pictures of their lovely Grand Duchess Charlotte. Many buildings gratefully sported photographs of President Roosevelt. Unfortunately some of the pictures were of Teddy Roosevelt! They didn’t know better; Right name, wrong prez. Except for downtown Luxembourg City, the little nation was barely scratched when the US forces first arrived. Patton was shocked to see that all the combatants had pretty much respected Luxemburg sovereignty as it passed from conquerer to liberator. Luxembourg was a small gentle oasis in a great and violent region, sort of like Austin Texas. There was some fighting later in eastern Luxembourg that spilled over into 1945.
THE BOAR WAR Not everyone in Luxembourg was thrilled with the Americans, however. The Luxembourg Forest was rich with wild boar, and had many streams filled with trout. With the obvious food shortage for the US Army the LF became a prime natural supply depot. The Yanks slayed the Luxem boars as if they had mistaken them for Germans. Two-seater unarmed reconnaissance planes were flying low over the forest and the rear man was gunning down the boar with machine gun fire. The Luxembourg game warden was not happy and he protested the unsportsmanlike slaughter. But the Yanks could give a boars tail what he thought. These hardened soldiers were indifferent to human life by now. US animals weren’t about to weep for these animals. The game warden lost the boar war, and the GI’s were more than happy to munch down their happy-meals of boarburgers and troutfries.
PLATOON The general image of World War II is that the guys in the Pacific took a far higher percentage of casualties in combat than did the guys in Europe. Well, yes and no. The casualty percentage of a US Marine division hitting the beach at Okinawa was much higher than an Army division attacking a position in Germany in 1945. It is often cited that one in three Marines was killed or wounded in some of these island battles in the Pacific. But these Marine divisions were almost exclusively made up of front line fighters. The logistical support came from Navy ships at sea. So their casualty rate would reflect this high percentage since the support people weren’t necessarily part of the division itself. In Europe every person involved in logistical support was part of the division. Plus these Euro division were more heavily armored to fight long campaigns over vast land areas. Tanks, machine gun and artillery units were much of the divisions fighting personnel, and the casualty percentages in the armored units were relatively sane. Logistical support personnel are also thrown into the mix so that the result is a misleading percentages of casualties per 100 fighting men in Europe as compared to the Pacific. The point being this; The infantry platoons in Europe suffered horrific combat casualties, in many places a higher ratio in fact than the Marines of Okinawa. I think the European fighters have never been showered with the gory glory they earned. There’s a hundred documentaries a month on TV showering patriotic praise on the bravery and sacrifice of the Marines in the Pacific. But the same bravery and sacrifice of the men in Europe are seldom sung. In a US Army division in Europe of 14,000 men, only 3,240 were front-line infantry. These 81 platoons did most of the dying, even if we realize that the armored units shared in the fighting. The Army estimated before the invasion of France that 70% of the casualties in Europe would come from the infantry platoons. At wars end the figure arrived at was 83%. Add the logistical support people from the corps level and we get one out of seven men in a corps (remember, a corps is an organized fighting unit of several divisions, and an Army is an organized fighting unit of several corps) are in the infantry. These one out of seven took more than six out of seven of the casualties. Add the Army group level support people and you get one out of ten men in Europe are in the infantry, and they supplied almost nine in ten of the dead. During the breakout from St. Lo the 30th Division suffered 3,933 combat casualties, or at face value, one out of every four men in the division. This alone is a staggering figure, quite comparable to Iwo Jima. But 75% of those St. Lo casualties came from the infantry platoons so the casualty rate for infantry in the 30th for the St. Lo breakout was more than 90%! One could ague that a fighting man had a better chance of living through the entire chain of battles in the Pacific than an infantry man did of surviving a chain of battles in Europe. Perhaps that’s why when we meet veterans of the European war they are seldom front line infantry men. I know this first hand. Since I was a teen-ager I have always tried to make conversation with any man I find out had served in WWII. I rarely meet men who served in infantry platoons in Europe. The only way to meet most of them is to bring flowers to Europe and find their white cross. The infantry platoons suffered in others ways that the percentages do not acknowledge. It was called ‘trenchfoot.’ As the fall began to turn towards winter in 1944 the rains came before the snow. November drenched a million infantrymen in cold rain. They were not dressed for the occasion. The supply problem in general was so severe that it was called ‘the supply famine.’ Ammunition and gasoline were desperately needed to directly take and save lives, so little things like a million clean socks were not high on US Army priority at the moment. By the beginning of December 1944 the US generals realized they had made a mistake. A disease swept the ranks. The prolonged exposure of the lower legs and feet to wet and cold in tight Army boots was damaging the blood vessels of these poor men. Like they didn’t have it bad enough, now they couldn’t feel their legs and feet and fell over when they tried to stand. Trenchfoot took more of U.S. men off the front line than any German counterattack of the war. 12,000 troops, mostly infantry of course, had to be sent back for hospitalization. Most of them were physically unable to ever fight again, and a tragic number were left physically handicapped for the rest of their lives. The trenchfoot losses were not counted as casualties since the injuries had not come from fighting, and none of them won a purple heart for their purple feet. The story only adds to the point that the US Army infantry in Europe were every bit as heroic as the (deservedly) glorified Marines of the Pacific.
PRIVATE LUCKY Robert Leckie is a star WWII historian. Leckie would disagree with the last points. In his history books he includes tales of a certain “Private Lucky,” which is obviously him. He was in the Marines in the Pacific and was wounded. His history of WWII has the Marines in the superior position compared to the Army at all times in every aspect. Some of the things he says are too hot for me to adopt, so I will say a few things now, but remember, I'm speaking for Leckie, not me. The British soldiers in Europe were shamefully irresolute. They didn't fight as a hard as the Americans. They felt that the war was won, they had done five years worth of fighting, and the main thing now was to not get killed. Let the Americans do the dying now. Leckie believes that the British forces near the shore under Monty would have advanced farther and faster if they had fought harder. On the other hand the Americans were loaded with deserters. It was one of the dirty little secrets of the war. USA Deserters were rounded up by the thousands and sent back to the front without punishment, to the astonishment of a few Britons. When a Marine and and Army division fought side by side, the Army division messed things up and didn't show much gallantry, but the Marines fixed up the Army division's mistakes and showed incredible gallantry. The number of GI's who claimed “battle fatigue” was another mark of shame. Leckie cites a figure of 909,000 of the wounded of WWII was from “battle fatigue.” Today they called it TSD, traumatic stress disorder. But a tremendous number of these were feigned illnesses. No wonder Patton slapped that soldier. The real shame was that this malingering was all done openly and there was little social penalty for doing so. The consensus was that it was ok to try and get out of being killed in a war that was already won. It was like jury duty. Every forsaken defendant in America is judged by 12 people too stupid to not find a way out of jury duty. The GI's on the front line in Europe were like that. They had to pass through a series of negative hurdles to get to the front lines. The German soldier on average was well-trained, well-motivated, extremely disciplined, well-equipped, and very combat experienced. The average American soldier was only an average soldier. There was no doubt about it, the average German divisional commander had a lot more to work with in his 15,000 men, than and American general had with his 15,000. And the German always had better tanks. Leckie compares US Army troops in Europe to German Army troops, but he doesn't openly compare US Marine troops to German. On the other hand Leckie can’t stomach Winston Churchill at all and, I like Leck for that. Today’s pop culture had all WWII American vets as saints, and Leckie is telling us otherwise. And he was there.
THE DESERTED FOX - OCTOBER 14 - HEIL IN PEACE On October 14, General Erwin Rommel committed forced suicide in the back of an SS car a few miles from his home. Two army generals, Tom Maisel and Nicky Burgdorf came to visit the hero of North Africa at his home in West Herrlingen and asked Mrs. R. to go upstairs for a few minutes while “the men have a talk.” Maisel and Burgdorf told Rommel that he had assisted the men who plotted to kill Hitler and that he was under arrest. Rommel would go to trial in Berlin and would hang after a shameful spectacle of a trial. His wife Lucy would get no pension, and would probably be sent to a camp. However, the Fuhrer, in consideration for his past services, was giving him the option of a quiet quick suicide. Lucy would get her pension, and Rommel would be buried as a hero with no mention of his assassin associations. They Maisel told Rommel that death by cyanide “will take about three seconds.” But, as Jonestown proved 976 times in 1978, death by cyanide is a bit rougher than that. There's a lot of staggering around and convulsions. It's not pretty. The men took a drive, pulled over near a farm, and the generals stepped out for a walk. An SS officer sat in the front seat as Rommel took the cyanide capsule. The SS driver wept as he saw Rommel die in his rear view mirror. He put the General's hat back on his dead head, and reported to Bergdorf and Maisel that, “it's done.” Hitler was happy that Rommel chose suicide. He knew it would be bad for his war effort to have his most popular general in the prisoner's dock of a Nazi court. After reading the memoirs of several Nazis I have this to say about General Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, the man played by James Mason in the movie The Desert Fox; Rommel, the one general who most opposed to Hitler; and this honorable man finally paid with his life. The top Nazis laugh at this popular western image of Rommel who hated Hitler and was the least Nazi of all the generals. The opposite was true! Rommel loved Hitler and the Nazi Party possibly more than any other German General. He offered to serve as Hitler's bodyguard in the 1930's and held that job for years. He made sure that people who plotted to hurt Hitler were punished without mercy. It was only after the war began going very badly that Rommel suddenly got this noble conscience about the wrong that Hitler was doing to Germany. A lot of documentaries, books and web sites go beyond exonerating Rommel. They make him a hero. I refuse to accept Erwin Rommel as heroic at all. Why should I? Because he took a corps of a meagre two divisions and chased Britian all over Africa for two years with it? First of all, that one went back and forth, and in the last phases Rommel was out-generaled several times. But no one counts his second half performance. The Nazis in passing always speak of Rommel as the one general who believed in the Nazi Party cause more than all the others. And the Hollywood version tells us the opposite. Go to any website and read the lie. Rommel-lovers speak of how he prevented many Jews from going to Concentration camps, at times defying Hitler's orders. Well, he also helped sent plenty of Jews to concentration camps by winning battles for Hitler, protecting Hitler's person, and lending his great name and reputation to the Nazi Party. Even if he saved 100,000 Jews, he was still a major Nazi Party stalwart. Like he didn't know that anti-Semitism in brutal action was part of the deal with the National Socialist Party. Like he didn't know that the man he protected was a rabid anti-Semite with deadly power. Goebbels said that Rommel was a fine general, but that his ability had been vastly overrated by the enemy for propaganda purposes. Goebbels accused Churchill of inventing Rommel's greatness because that explains away all those British defeats in the desert. By calling Rommel a brilliant genius leader, Churchill was letting his own military leadership scorecard have an excuse towel. Who could beat this superhero? I think the little worm is right on this one. Goebbels' nailed it. After the war ended, the Rommel cult grew. The West wanted to find some way to make friends again with the defeated Germans. Kissing up to the image of this one specially exempted Wermacht hero was a good thing for that. Then when the major movie came out about him, the whole Rommel the Great Person (not just Rommel the Great) thing really took off. Now it's common knowledge that he was one of the finest human beings that ever lived. “His men loved him.” Well, some did. Not the ones he got killed or maimed through his reckless ego.
ANT WINNIE Winston Churchill visited Monty in August and handed him a book on war strategy, hoping Montgomery might find some insights that will help him fight the Germans. Was it The Art of War, by Sun Shine? No. Was it The War Memoirs of Julius Caesar? No. Was it On War, by Clauzivitz? No. It was The Life of the Ant, by Mike Maeterlinck. Monty laughed out loud thinking it was a joke, but Churchill said,
“No, Monty, this is serious. Ants fight wars complete with espionage, ambushes, and surprise attacks, battles and sieges conducted by masses of disciplined creatures subordinated to an officer hierarchy and working to a long term strategy.”
Monty said with a slight smile that the Prime Minister has evidently been out in the sun too long.
“Just read the book, Bernie. I read it twice.”
After reading this story I tracked the book down and read some of it. Wow. Like ants aren’t enough of a pain in a picnic, now I have to respect their military organizational skills too? Monty later wired Monty that “I read Maeterlinck and frankly, although a brilliant work, this is too bizarre for me to even think about.” As a boy I used to stand in front of my house and step on any black ant that tried to get from the tree in front of my house to my front steps. I must have killed 4,000 ants in one summer with my shoe, and one at a time. I was a long way removed from the Hindu culture that will not kill any creature, however tiny, unless absolutely necessary. What was worse, I was enjoying it. I was about 11 years old. I still feel bad about that. Now I have to also know that I was killing brave soldiers who were on the march working towards some the completion of some complex battle plan. Monty cites the story with amusement that Churchill actually thought the book could help inspire some new ideas to fight the Germans, but says that the Life of the Ant taught him a few things about the universality of aggression. The title of this segment is a shout-out to my Aunt Winnie. She told me she plans to read my book, and if she really does, she will find this at some point. If she fails to mention this, and claims to have read my book, I will know she is a liar.
THE OCTOBER REVOLUTION AT AUSCHWITZ In October 1944 the prisoner/slaves of Auchwitz death camp revolted against their Nazi tormentors. The killed several guards and demolished one of the four crematoriums. There were reprisals of course, including the hanging of four Jewish heroines. The “October Revolution” didn’t set the 3rd Reich back very far, but it’s great that least it happened. What isn’t great is that this is so little known. We hear too much about how the Jews never fought back. But rebellion at Auchwitz, and the one at Sobibor are very little known outside the circle of Holocaust survivors. Maybe Hollywood can make a big movie about the two rebellions. Then people might actually know about it. I don’t have enough on the Holocaust in most of my WWII chapters because I hate studying it. I do it, but I hate it. How can I look at these pictures and read these stories and not cry? And who wants to cry all day if you don’t have to? So I have bursts where I study it, but then I have to stop. It’s really too much. I don’t get it. How that happened. How that could happen. I don’t get it. I have very little insight on this subject.
LADY LUX The Battle of the Bulge I will divulge. But first the pre-game show. The counter-attack in the Ardennes was the plan of one man. Guess who? Adolph Hitler master-(race)-minded the whole thing. He would drive the Americans back across the Meuse River and march to Antwerp. From there he would seize the offensive with the help of his new super-weapons, the jets and the V’s. The battle ended in failure, but it did start off well and did cause a panic in the Allied brass tents. But it fizzled out and never got across the Mosell at Dinant, and never saw the church spires of Antwerp. The Germans did a fairly amazing job of keeping the American Army off-guard up the very dawn of attack. Every officer who was privy to the counterattack plan had to swear on his life that of he caused a leak, he would pay. Execution. Hitler was not making any idle threats either. The German soldiers at the front did not know they were going over to the attack until the very eve of it. Disinformation camouflage and bad weather all contributed to a vigorous surprise jump-start for the Fatherland-boys. The Allies discovered only two feeble hints that the Germans were going to launch a huge surprise counterattack in the direction of the line of Dinant Namur, and Liege on the Meuse. One badly wounded German prisoner got all wasted on morphine and started mumbling about a huge attack coming. The Army men tried to get more out of him, but the Jerry was so beat, so slurring his words, that an angry Serge had to finally yell a classic, “Get him outa here!” In the other case, a Luxemburg woman who lived in the Eifel reported to the Americans of huge builds up of tanks, guns and troops all through the forest. A colonel and a captain listened, stared at each other, and sent her further back to a higher CP. After she left, the colonel wondered if he should react with military orders to this information. Was there really a huge attack coming? An attack that all U.S. Army intelligence had no idea about, but this one young woman did? Was she telling the truth? “What did you think?” asked the colonel. “Not bad,” said the captain. The colonel then grabbed the captain by the lapels and called him “an imbecile.” The lady from Luxemburg was in a jeep on her way back to the Hotel Brittanique in Spa to meet in person with General Hodges when the attack broke out and made her trip irrelevant. She probably at least saved her own life by getting out of the combat zone in the nick of time. Her service in the cause of justice saved her lovely neck. If the Americans had reacted to her story immediately and went on full alert, she could have saved a few more.
CLARK GRABLE The Germans did some clever things to prepare for the surprise attack. They waited for a long stretch of bad weather before they were willing to signal go. It was classic military thinking flipped inside-out and backwards. Rather than hope for clear weather so that its air could be used effectively, and for dry weather so it could march and fire its guns effectively, General Heinz planned to use bad weather so the enemy could not employ its air arm effectively, and looked for rain so that the enemy could not fire their heavy guns effectively. For secrecy, the troops on the front who were not pure German were pulled back to serve in homeland defense in central Germany. There was no radio communication allowed discussing the attack or any aspect of it. They also gave the Allies a taste of their own disinformation medicine with false radio traffic and dummy Command Posts in places they were not going to attack. The lowest trick in the book was played when they sent hundreds of specially trained Germans fluent in English and with flawless American accents dressed in captured American uniforms behind US lines to harass and mislead. These bastardos were specially trained in little mock Americatowns in Germany so they could pass interrogation by US troops if they were stopped on roads. They tried their best to learn American culture, which was their weak point in detection. Language skills do not cover cultural skills and they knew that. These guys could diagram an English sentence better than the average GI, but they couldn’t tell a suspicious MP what was the last thing James Cagney said in the movie White Heat. When the German attack began on December 16, the word got around fast about these spies behind American lines dressed as Yanks. For a while every soldier and officer became paranoid of everyone else in the Army. “Halt! Who goes there?” “Sergeant Siracco, Sir.” “ Who was the fourth President of the United States?” “James Madison.” “Who won the first Battle of Bull Run?” “The South.” “Not so fast! NOT SO FAST! Who won the National League battling title in 1940.” “That would be Debs Garms of the Pittsburgh Pirates, but what a lousy fielder.” “Pass friend.”
But if the guy had said “Ted Williams” he would have been shot at sunrise. Even generals had to pass the test. General Bradley was asked at one checkpoint to answer a football question. “Name the position on the offensive line between the center and the tackle.” “The guard,” he told the guard. The suspicious American asked the General who was married to Betty Grable. “I wish the hell I was,” said Bradley. “Pass friend.” One suspect answered the same question with, “Clark Grable” and was shot within an hour. One of the key missions for these fake Americans was to assassinate General Eisenhower. That was quite the compliment for the future US president that Germany thought it could almost change the war around if only they could kill this guy. The hit squads were supposedly all over France. They did not like Ike. The Americans countered by having Ike drive around in high profile all over Paris in his famous luxury squad car. The only catch was that the man in the back seat with the window rolled down was a Colonel who happened to be a dead ringer for the man from Abilene. He bravely volunteered to pose as Eisenhower and ride around Paris to draw out the assassins. No one ever took a shot at the phony Ike. The US press would do that when he became President. One other key advantage helped the Germans achieve surprise. When Germans were operating in France or Belgium there were thousands of native spies doing everything they could to gather information about troops movements strengths and plans and pass it on to the Allies. Millions of other civilians were spies of opportunity. If an opportunity to spoil things for the Germans came their way, they wouldn’t hesitate to pass it on. But by now the Germans were falling back and preparing for their counter-attack from inside the German borders. The information-well of French postmen, children and housewives had dried up.
PATTON GIVES ORDERS TO GOD Patton summoned Father Neil O’Neil, the Third Army Chaplain to his CP on a December day and ordered him to pray to God to give him good weather to fight in. The weather had been a mix of snow and cold and rain and it was hurting the war effort. The chaplain protested that he couldn’t consult the Lord in this manner. That wasn’t the way prayer worked. Besides, he couldn’t ask God to help us kill people in, let alone demand it. Patton snapped at the chaplain that this was not a request, it was an order. Pray to God for good weather and compose a prayer for this. The prayer seeking God’s help in obtaining better weather was composed and then distributed throughout the 3rd army. On the back was a Christmas prayer and on the front a prayer to help us smite the evil Germans by making the rains stop. He was praying for a rain of death. The weather improved immediately. It was clear blue skies for six straight days! A few days later Patton summoned Father O’Neill to the CP. Patton was smiling wide and firm as O’Neill entered. Patton patted the Chaplian on the shoulder and said,
“Great job! Great job! You’re about the most popular man in the entire 3rd Army right now. And you’re going to get a medal for it.”
And with that, General George Patton Jr. pinned the Bronze Star on Father O’Neill, for courageously confronting two 88 mm guns, Patton and God. Patton always claimed to have God on his side, which was probably never true. Only God knows. George really did not bow before Allah. He was in this instance indirectly ordering God around by ordering his priest to get some results as God’s intermediary. Patton often commented on how incongruous it was for him to go to Mass on the battlefield while in his back pocket were plans for maximizing German deaths, as if commenting on it covers him on this. Over and over we get comments like this one on page 202 of War as I Knew It, “Christmas dawned clear and cold; lovely weather for killing Germans, although the thought seemed somewhat at variance with the spirit of the day.”
On New Year’s Eve, Patton planned a huge artillery barrage for the Germans at exactly midnight. He was later delighted to hear from front line observers that after the noisemakers stopped they could hear the screams of the wounded Germans in the forest.
SORRY FOR THE MISUNDERSTANDING - NO HARD FEELINGS, EH? Now here’s an incident worth telling because chauvinist American history has forgotten it. But Patton tells it in casual passing in his memoirs so we know it is a true story, (and I don’t have the exact location.) A German brigade was reported to have overwhelmed a US medical unit. After the doctors, nurses and their small armed guard surrendered they all got the Nanking treatment. The Krauts lined up the men and shot them, then raped the nurses until the nothing left to give and stabbed to death. That’s a true story! No, not the fact that it happened, the fact that this story was reported. It was just a crazy rumor and it went around the 3rd Army like wildfire and morale went up, in an evil sort of way. While this story was at a fever pitch in the ranks, the Americans defeated a force of about 1,200 Germans not too far from where the incident hadn’t took place. 800 Germans surrendered. The Americans killed 500 German prisoners after they surrendered. It was just, because it avenged the rape of the US nurses. Womanhood must be protected by chivalrous knights with M-1’s. It was all just a little misunderstanding. Nurses had not been raped. So 500 German men died after surrendering because of a false rumor. They were murdered. Of course, if this had been done in reverse, there would have been a trial for the German colonel and the sarge that was there on the spot supervising the reprisals with a righteous look-away. The West would have written books and movies about it. But its hard to prosecute the winners for war crimes. It’s quite possible that everyone would have been acquitted, even by an “objective” tribunal from neutral states. All these William Calley’s went back to the states after the war and bought hot dogs for their kids at the ball game.
THE EAGLES EYRIE - DECEMBER 12 1944 Hitler finally left the Wolf’s Lair after more than two years in “Eastie” (East Prussia.) He set up a new HQ-CP just east of the Eifel at a spot about 6 miles west of the town of Bad Newsdude. It was an underground bunker that Schpeer had built in 1940. He named it Eagle’s eyrie and I don’t know what that means, but the German word for it is Alderhorst. Goring moved right in to Adelhorst and mismanaged the Battle of Britian from there. Now Hitler took over and planned the big comeback attack to win the war. Herr Hitler summoned all his top generals there for a war pow-wow. Hitler was going to shock the West and counterattack in tremendous force. He would strip the best tanks and guns from other divisions everywhere, and put all his Nazi eggs in one attack basket. Stealth and secrecy were important. Without the element of surprise, an already daring and risky plan might be impossible. The way this meeting was conducted said more about the hopelessness of the Nazi cause than the virtual impossibility of the plan itself. The German generals were inspected for weapons before they entered the conference room. They sat around a large table and listened to Hitler go over the big map on the table and explain the plan. Behind each German General stood an SS officer ready to shoot the general in the head if he reached for a concealed weapon. One general later recalled that he had an itch in his nose but he was afraid to reach for a handkerchief for I that picture says it all about the depth of the abyss here. The man still wants to conquer the world in a big come from behind win, and he wants to do it with a German General Staff that wants him dead. He knows it. They know he knows it. And everyone keeps moving along with military plans as if there ever could be a happy ending here even if this one attack did succeed.
FREDDIE’S DEAD Hitler had only one hope to win the war. He simply needed a little help from Fred. He constantly explained to the faithless that Frederick the Geat was losing the war but fought on anyway. There was no hope. But he just fought on because it was his duty to fight on. Then Russia changed sovereigns and Prussia was saved. But if Frederick the Great had quit, then his nation would have been totally defeated. Fighting on was the only way to get that lucky break. Hitler explained to everyone that the alliance between democracy and Marxism was perfidious. It was the area where Germany would get its lucky break. Britian and the United States and Russia were borderline enemies all and if Germany could shock the alliance with a a bold attack, that creaky alliance might crack. That would be like the break that Frederick the Great got. This time Hitler would give his lucky number a little push with the Ardennes counteroffensive.
THE SURRENDERING BASTARDS OF ST VITH, ECHTERNACH, HOUFALIZE, AND CLERF The Battle of Bulge is associated of course with the “Battling Bastards of Bastogne.” America celebrates that one town that held on and forgets the other places where Americans surrendered or were defeated. The German attack caught the American 99th and 106th Divisions completely off-guard. The German attackers also had a 2 and a half -1 advantage in troops and a 2-1 in tanks and heavy guns. Plus the US GI’s were green. Bradley had assigned the new guys to this sector so they could gain some initial experience in a relatively quiet war zone. He was assigning a World Series start to a rookie battery fresh from AAA and he didn’t know it. The Germans were expecting to march across a broad front to the Meuse. Hitler’s exact orders to start the attack were “Forward to and over the Meuse!” The fact that we remember this as the “Battle of the Bulge” indicates in map terms, that the attack was a strategic failure from the start. History does recall the sudden counterattack and the panic it caused in newspaper headlines and brass tents everywhere. And the German attack did advance a considerable distance at a time everyone thought Germany was beat. But only the middle part of the line advanced much at all. The north and south corners at Monschau and Echternacht, held strong. The men at Echternacht surrendered, but not before stalling the German advance decisively. Hence the bulge. The flanks of the German line did not advance and the center did. There’s your “bulge.” If the attack had succeeded there never would have been a bulge. The battle would have been a battle of the Meuse River from Dinant to Leige. The Germans advanced, but the American resistance was fierce, even back on their heels. Little battles all around that the Americans eventually lost, were nevertheless contributing to victory. The only chance for the Germans was for a smashing breakthrough. So all the little battles the Americans put up were victories in a sense. They were inflicting attrition on an enemy that could afford none, were upsetting the schedule, and, as noted, pinched off the corners of the attack and created the Bulge. I feel that America celebrates the one gang that held on at Bastogne and neglects to praise the men who fought hard to slow the Nazis down. There’s too much worship of total victory and too much hatred of anything that remotely smells of defeat. There was a lot of fighting in a place called the Schnee Eifel, for example, and General Al Jones made a decision to surrender 8,000 men. Army historians slap Jones around a bit for surrendering. He didn’t live up to the Bastogne standard. But the men at the Schnee Eifel were totally surrounded, whereas Bastogne was almost surrounded. There was still a small gap to the south from which they could be, and were, rescued. Charles McDonald calls this “the most serious reverse incurred by American arms in the war against Germany.” I’m sure if he were in command, they all would have fought to the death, and he would never have had the chance to write his history books.
THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE - 12-1944 In December the Germans launched their final serious offensive operation of the war, a counterattack in the Ardennes forest. 30 divisions were engaged on each side. The attack was a surprise and a success, at least for a little while. The Wermacht drove a huge ‘bulge’ into the Allied front line, hence the name. More than 600,000 American men fought in the BOB. The Germans lost 100,000 killed, wounded and captured. It was the last throw of the dice for Germany and it came out box cars. Hitler expended all the resources he needed so desperately for a long hard defensive struggle on an exiting but hopeless offensive gamble. There would have been no gamble had they been directed towards defense. German military resources would have been put to maximum use. All of his generals were against the idea. So it was the sane High Command versus the insane high commander. On the other hand, you could argue that Hitler was the only one that was being sensible. Why not take a 100-1 chance on victory instead of prolonging certain defeat? Like his stupid Avranches/Mortain counterattack, the Ardennes counterattack had some merit in theory. The plan was to send the best of his remaining fighting forces on the attack into the center of the Allied line and make a bee-line towards the port of Antwerp. This was the main supply depot for the Allied armies. Antwerp had the gasoline and other supplies that the Germans needed even more desperately than Monty and Ike did. If Hitler could stay on the offense until the Wermacht reached Antwerp he might be able to turn the war around by cutting the Allied armies in half and hijacking their supplies at the same time. What else was left for a man in his position, a man who would surely hang at the end of the war of captured alive? Even knowing in retrospect that the attack failed after some shocking initial success, what was the alternative? If Hitler wisely husbanded his defensive resources in tight by-the-book fallback positions, could he win the war? No way. He could prolong it and kill that many more Americans, Canadians, Frenchmen, Brits and New Zealanders; but could he win the war? The answer was obvious. There’s not doubt that Hitler threw away his last hope for a truly effective defense of Germany when he committed his best divisions to this famous gamble on offense just to the west of Germany’s borders. If only real life were like the movies, the Ardennes counterattack would have worked for Uncle Addie. For anytime someone in a movie says “It’s a million to one shot, but it’s the only chance we’ve got,” that of course means the plan is undoubtedly absolutely going to work, and spectacularly. In real life it means what it means. General Bradley feels guilty in his memoirs about the initial Allied failure at the Battle of the Bulge. He always stresses that he was not the only one that underestimated German counterattack capabilities. Omar reminds us that Montgomery and Eisenhower also felt that the Germans could not make any major offensive moves in its present condition. All three then were wrong, although history puts most of the blame on Brad, hence his touchy self-defense. One fallacy about the Battle of the Bulge is that a German counter-attack caught the Americans completely by surprise. That’s only partly true. The US Army did actually expect a German counter-attack and even anticipated that it would probably come in the Ardennes. But they thought it would be a limited counter-attack designed to force Patton to slow down and backtrack in his full steam advance on the southern flank. Patton’s 3rd Army group was so ahead of the rest of the war that Bradley, in trying to think like a German, deduced that if he were in Rundy’s shoes this is what he would do. A counter-attack would force Ike to order Patton to double back and take the 3rd army train off the track for a few precious weeks. The 3rd Army could not afford to risk being cut off and the counter-attack would have to be stopped per se. 3rd Army would be ordered back for both reasons. The Army brains trust were confident that the expected counterattack could not get very far with its deteriorating and desperate forces. They felt that the US deployments were more than a match for any German counterattack anywhere. They were perfectly willing to call Patton back to help and let the Germans win their limited strategic objective of slowing the Allies down. Ike was worried that Patton was (as usual) too far ahead of his supply and sanity lines anyway. When the Germans finally attacked it was the last Blitzkrieg, and for a little while was working so well that some of the men in the Wermacht must have felt that happy days were here again. On December 16 1944 the Germans launched through the Ardennes forest. At the point of attack the Americans fell back and regrouped along several lines. (The German code-name for the attack was Dechmach Humpfel - DESPERATE HOPE.) But while the central US armies were absorbing the attack and falling back, their positions were growing stronger as the attack was growing weaker. The Wermacht did not have the resources to maintain its strength as it advanced. Generals Marshall, Eisenhower, Bradley, Hodges and Patton all knew this, and while they were a bit upset with being thrown back, it does not appear that anyone ever believed for a moment that the Germans could reach the port of Antwerp of even Liege for that matter. The Meuse River was a key half way point, and they in the end got within 10 miles of that but with little force left at that advanced mark. The Wermacht was living in the past. In 1940 they had broken through the supposedly impenetrable Ardennes and had routed the French. But that was against the inflexible Maginot Line and against a large French army with old equipment, outdated tactics, a weak French air force, and a French army that really didn’t seem to hate the Germans all that much. Even if their plans worked out, the Germans could only advance in a strong but moderately sized line. Their front at best (without the reverse ‘V’ “bulge”) would still have the Germans vulnerable to massive broad flank attacks, especially to the south because that’s where crazy Patton’s 3rd Army group was. As Patton watched the German attack develop he commented to Bradley, “This time the Kraut’s stuck his head in a meatgrinder.” In their rapid advance, the Germans had bypassed and surrounded the Allied occupied fortress town of Bastogne. The Nazis had bypassed the Bastogne stronghold like Nimitz island-hopping in the Pacific, but unlike Nimitz, they could be bit from behind. The Battling Bastards of Bastogne were surrounded, yes; but they consisted of an entire corps, anchored by the 101st Airborne Division. Eisenhower knew that the Bastogne ‘garrison’ was surrounded, but he never really feared for their survival. Besides, Patton was on the way to relieve Bastogne, so no worries, mate. General McAuliffe, in charge of the surrounded divisions inside the Bastogne area was offered surrender terms by the German commanding the investing forces. “Nuts” was his famous one word reply. In the northern area of the advancing German bulge, the US Army stubbornly held on to the communications crossroads town of St. Vith. The Germans had to eventually continue around and past this thin counter-bulge, like a gutter rain stream going around a popsicle stick. So while the all of nothing German offensive continued to advance, it had already left two key military objectives behind. The first key goal of the ‘krauts’ was to reach the Meuse River, sever Allied communications there, and then race for Antwerp. The attack was moving forward but losing power. Ike and Bradley were confident that, while the Germans might possibly smell the campfires of Dinant on the Meuse one day, they would never reach the river. But Marshall and the brass brains in Washington were alarmed that the attack was actually succeeding. The generals on the ground were irritated by this dramatic and sometimes very public panic and gloom portrait being promulgated. They felt that the press and the civilian leadership simply did not understand the real situation in the field. The writers at the Scribe Hotel in Paris were adding fuel to the alarmist fire, giving the Battle of the Bulge the Tet Offensive treatment.
MONTY CAVALRY The two main problems in the US camp, especially on the northern side of the Bulge were communications and a lack of reserves. Both problems fed on each other. The bad weather helped the Germans and worsened Ike’s communications problem. For these reasons Supreme Allied Command asked Montgomery’s 21st Army Group in the North to assume temporary command of the northern sector of the Battle of the Bulge. Monty had communications and Monty had reserves. Bradley reluctantly allowed “Schnozzola” to take command of all American Armies in the battle except Patton’s 3rd. The Field Marshall took over and the first thing he did was delay committing any of his troops until he had casually finished mopping up spots on his own front. The US generals were livid. The fight here was desperate, Monty had been summoned to help and now he was dallying to make sure his own front was spotless while the Germans attacked Americans in full force. By the time Mr. Pause Delay entered the fray, the battle had already been won by the Yanks and his help wasn’t really needed anymore. The turning point came at the west end of the line when the Second Panzer division and clashed with the US Second Armored Division for three days of Christmas, December 23-25 1944. It was 2 against 2. The advance of the German attack was been officially stopped on Christmas morning. Santa had arrived at Hitler’s house with a card for Hitler that read, “Happy Holiday Hitler! The advance on Antwerp has been repulsed and thrown back. Now you have lost all 24 of your best divisions for homeland defense.” In the meantime the newspapers and radios of the world were singing of how Monty had saved the day. Montgomery then gave a Commander McBrag press conference that has to be read to be believed, “Von Rundstedt … obtained tactical surprise. He drove a deep wedge into the center of the US First Army … the Germans had broken right through a weak spot and were headed for the Meuse. As soon as I saw what was happening I took certain steps myself … And I carried out certain movements … so as to meet the threatened danger. … I was thinking ahead. Then the situation began to deteriorate .. national considerations were thrown overboard; General Eisenhower placed me in command of the entire Northern front. … You thus have the picture of British troops fighting on both sides of American forces who have suffered a hard blow. The battle has been most interesting; I think possibly one of the most interesting and tricky battles I have ever handled.”
This guy must have 30,000 mirrors in his house, and no windows. The excerpt says it all about General Monty and why Patton, Churchill, and Leigh-Mallory all couldn’t stand him. These quotes are almost unreal, like a character you’re too obviously supposed to dislike in a badly written movie. No wonder that this press conference made the American officers and enlisted men in the field very mad at Montgomery. Monty was also speaking with an implied aura as if he had been given permanent command of all the Allied armies in Europe. He had only been given temporary command because he had a communications advantage and reserves. Bradley immediately gave his own press conference in which he emphasized that the command structure in place when the Bulge Battle began would soon be restored. It was. But the British press were giving Monty the ticker tape parade in their pages. They were calling for the hero Monty to lead all troops for the rest of the war. Bradley went to Eisenhower and told him that if he were placed under Montgomery’s command he would ask to be sent back to the states. “After what has happened, I cannot serve under Montgomery,” he said firmly. Patton grabbed Bradley’s arm and backed him up. “If Bradley quits, then I will be quitting with him.” As the Bulge was winding down, Churchill saved the situation with a humble anti-chauvinist speech in the House of Commons on January 18 1945. Winston was well aware of the ill-feelings building between the two brasses. This speech was his finest hour,
“ I have seen it suggested that the terrific battle which has been proceeding since December 16 on the American front is an Anglo-American battle. In fact, however, the United States troops have done almost all of the fighting and have suffered almost all the losses. … Care must be taken in telling our proud tale not to claim for the British armies an undue share of what is undoubtedly the greatest American battle of the war, and will, I believe, be regarded as an ever-famous American victory.
Good for Churchill for saying that. Win was trying to win a world war, not medals for Monty or any other commander under the Union Jack. If Marshall and Ike had been willing to threaten Patton with dismissal for his misbehavior, Churchill was equal to the task on several occasions with his prima donna Montgomery (it must also be said that on several occasions, in private, Montgomery put Churchill in his place too, saying he would bunk no interference in his military decisions and would resign immediately if Churchill didn’t back off.)
JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF There are few if any people in WWII who seem to have been so universally disliked as JHCL. General John H. C. Lee was in command of supply during the drive across Europe. GJHCL’s record is not a good one. He gave the rear guard sitting around in Paris all the comforts of home while men in the front lines were desperate for this and that. A lot of historians go after this guy pretty good. Max Hastings slaps him around senseless in several paragraphs. He apparently was brusque, arrogant, conceited, pigheaded, corrupt, and inept. Plus he didn’t like baseball! General J.H.C. Lee had a 40 year Army career and fought bravely in World War One. But as a general in World War II he is one of the jerky boys. Even a nice guy like Eisenhower disliked Lee, and it was he who first nicknamed him - after Lee’s initials - “Jesus Christ Himself.” I might have liked the guy and stuck up for him if I’d actually known him, but there’s your history consensus.
RETREAT IS VERBOTEN! Hitler forbade retreat. All generals and officers and even 16 year old enlisted-boys had to stand and die at their post. Every time a battalion retreated they were disobeying a direct order from the Fuhrer. And they had sworn an oath to defend him personally with their own very life. Dopes. But of course Adolph had chosen retreat for himself back in the 1920’s when he hit the dirt in terror during the Beer Hall Putsch while other reb Nazis marched forward amid gunfire. What is really creepy is reading of instances when Monty and Churchill both issued similar orders, Churchill to the defenders of Singapore in 1942, and Monty to some of his troops at Alamein. I expect this ‘die where you stand’ nonsense from Nazis. I am disappointed to hear of it from those trying to stamp out the Nazis.
MALMEDY MASSACRE - “THE 81” The worst atrocity of the Battle of the Bulge was the Malmedy malady, a mass murder of US PW's. On December 17 an SS commander named Peiper ordered the execution of a band of Army brothers after these Yanks surrendered near the Belgian town of Malmedy. The SS opened up with machine guns on the herd of surrendered GI's. There's a lot of gory details, like the officer who went among the bodies asking if anyone needed medical attention. When a wounded man moaned “yes! me!” the officer looked him up and shot him in the head. A few did survive by playing dead in the pile, and a few others broke for the woods where a handful made it out alive. One group fled into a Belgian Cafe, the “Dew Drop Inn” The Germans found them, set the cafe on fire, and shot the men one at a time when they fled the fire. Many Germans went on trial in 1946 for the Malmedy Massacre. 11 SS men got the death sentence and 22 others long prison sentences. By 1956, however, all of them were released. By then it was more important to make friends with the German people in the fight with Communist Russia, than it was to punish German war criminals. There's guys in Texas who served 15 years in prison for selling their neighbor a hit of LSD, and in Germany guys who murdered 81 prisoners served 11. Peiper was the celebrity of the freed killers. In 1974 Communist underground rebels paid the Peiper. They set his house on fire while he was sleeping and he never got out. An autopsy revealed that Peiper had a bullet wound in his chest. Fires, can do that, you know. I feel the same way about the Malmedy Massacre that I feel about “The Fifty” in the movie The Great Escape. The Fifty were escaped Americans who were shot when captured by the Gestapo. The film was dedicated to “The Fifty.” Big deal. With the millions of civilian, battle, and PW deaths happening all over the world, I fail to see why I am supposed to single this incident out as the one that stirs my soul. Any one village in Poland in 1939 alone suffered more than the 81 dead men of Malmedy. Then you get to six million Jews, 20 million Russian peasants, the 1.3 million who died in air raids from both sides, (that's my rough estimate, by the way,) the Rape of Nanking, and I sort of don't get it. After describing 30 million deaths for one rough page after another, the historian breaks out the violin music and give us an extensive account of a mass murder of 81 American fighting men captured in the heat of battle at Malmedy. That's supposed to be the thing that finally moves me. I was moved when the Japanese bombed Shanghai in 1931. The Malmedy Massacre was horrible and was the worst atrocity committed against American prisoners in WWII. But I think the moral of the nearly cult level study of the Malmedy Massacre and the Great Escape is that American lives are more scared than lives of distant lands and races. It reminds me of the fake Dover Delaware newspaper headline spoofing provincialism, DOVER MAN FEARED MISSING AS NUCLEAR BOMB DESTROYS NEW YORK Malmedy is kind of like the Wilmington man. Hitler, by the way, had given expressed orders to all commanders to shoot all captured American prisoners during the Battle of the Bulge. Perhaps Peiper was not completely evil.
HISTORIANS ON THE ATTACK I wish someone from Togo or Nepal would write a 1,200 page history of the wartime alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. Then someone might give me the info without the flaming arrows. American historians attack the British and the British historians attack the Americans. By reading the incendiary cheap shots at the Americans by British historians, I end up a reactionary and contribute to the problem rather than the solution. I’m an American and I can’t apologize for that. But that’s why I say in all sincerity that we could use a Russian or Brazilian or Cambodian scholar to give this subject a couple of years and give us a fair minded history. I can’t find one. Maybe a history supervised by a British and an American University board for editing and criticisms for objectivity. I gets tiring, and it even gets tiring to take my own side’s side. Can’t you historians all just get along? Historian Charles B. McDonald (U.S.) complied a list of all the consecutive times BLM ordered a needless retreat, and then the Americans disobeyed or overruled him, and then the attack advanced very successfully, proving General Montgomery wrong and afraid. Let's face it, that's what they are saying in so many gentler words. I'm not saying that about Monty. But a few American military historians do. Obnoxious snob? Yes. Yellow coward sort of General? No. Then the British historians make Ike a clown, Patton a fool, Bradley a timid rube, and Hodges a dimwit dolt. That’s the charming spirit of the US-UK alliance as it has tricked down into dozens of history books. They don’t see war forest or the alliance trees. The British and American historians often hate the other more than they hate the Axis. They don’t notice the complete absence of any emotional rage towards the Nazis and how awkward it looks in totality when combined with the constant anger directed by the British at the Americans and the Americans at the British. No WWII history by a writer from a participant nation is free of the polemic. Seeing what leaks out even while they try to non-polemic is still plenty polemic.
THE RUSSIAN FRONT AND THE “LIBERATION” OF RUMANIA, BULGARIA, AND HUNGARY When the Russians conquered Romania, Hungary surrendered without a fight and volunteered to fight with the Russians. Hungary had only allied itself with Hitler at gunpoint, and hoped that all was forgiven and Russia would allow it to switch sides again. There were no Hungarian clubs in the United States, rooting for those poor people, like in the 1800's. I'll cover some basics, but if someone would please write a good 600 page book on the history of these three countries in World War II the world needs it, and I'd read it till I drop to sleep. It's one of the missing link in WWII studies in the USA. I have never seen a History Channel documentary on that subject, ever. These countries also connect to Yugo and Greece, so it's an important and underdeveloped field for the young historians. Get movin! Yako Malinovsky headed the Red Army group that switched oppressors for the Hungarian people. I refuse to always say “liberated.” Mik von Horthy was the leader of Hungary. It was a “kingless monarchy.” MVH was a naval admiral who ruled Hungary with the powers fo a royal king. The Nazis had stayed out of Hungary as long as Hungary followed Hitler's foreign policy wishes and supplied the Wermacht a division of troops. But after Normandy, and with the Red Army approaching, Hitler sent the German troops in to satisfy their Hungar. Color that state of Hungary Nazi red. Under duress, but Nazi red. Von Horthy was ready to give in to the approaching Russian army and Hitler knew it. He sent his super-hero Skorzeny to Budapest to prevent the defection of Hungary to the Soviets. Otto Skorzeny was a legendary German war hero and adventurer who had rescued Mussolini from the Partisans in impressive fashion with a glider commando raid. But Skorzeny couldn't cover all the problems with a single airborne battalion which was what he had to work with in Budapest. Skorzeny cornered von Horthy into backing down, but von Horthy's son took over and began to negotiate with the Soviets. Hitler then came up with this Mickey Mouse plan to have Skorzeny kidnap the son and bring him back to Germany. The name for the plan to kidnap the regent son was called “Mickey Mouse.” Skorzeny met with von Horthy Jr. and had him arrested, wrapped in a big yellow quilt, and smuggled out of Hungary to the Reich. When father von Horthy heard this he refused to be blackmailed, and informed the Crown Council that Hungary should surrender unconditionally to the Russians, no matter who has to do it.
JUNE 1944 - B-17’s AT POLTAVA The Americans had asked for use of Russian air bases to help with the bomber campaign against Germany. These would be ‘shuttle bases’ allowing USAF bombers to hit Germany and continue on to Russia for a landing. This would increase the range of the bomber operations by decreasing the length of the return trip. The Soviets reluctantly agreed after much haggling over gifts in exchange. For some time Stalin demanded Russian air bases in Italy as part of the bargain. Four air bases were finally allowed in the Ukraine for shuttle bombing. About 95 B-17’s finally made it to Poltava in the Ukraine. The Americans asked for anti-air defenses and some Russian fighter plane protection for the base, but this was flatly refused. US requests to conduct air reconnaissance missions was also denied. The first squadron of B-17’s was attacked by ground fire from the Russians. Several US planes that tried to conduct air reconnaissance were attacked by Russian fighters, the planes landing with hundreds of bullet holes. On June 22 1944 the German air force launched a major raid on the US B-17 base at Poltava. Nearly every bomber was destroyed while German fighters shot up the pilot barracks at will. There had been a reason why the Americans wanted air recon, fighter protection and anti-aircraft batteries. The shuttle bombing campaign was a lost cause. The pilots were sent back to Britian to be refitted for other missions. Each pilot was given a top secret debriefing in which he was ordered not to discuss the Poltava raid in public and to not be critical of our Soviet Allies. The FDR foot slurping of the dastardly Soviet regime reached all the way into the world of the individual pilot. Stalin could have rubbed a piping hot spaghetti dinner into FDR’s face and the Dutchman would have thanked him and asked for some grated cheese with that. FDR had a limitless supply of ‘other cheeks’ to offer Stalin throughout the war whenever another US interest took a punking. Stalin had to be exhausted from all the slapping he dished out.
RUSSIAN - POLISH POLITICAL PROBLEM 1944 In late July 1944 the Poles heard radio broadcasts from Moscow informing them that help was only a few miles away. The Russian army was here to the rescue. Sure enough Zhukov’s big guns could even be heard in the distance. The radio told them that now was the time for the long planned Warsaw uprising. So the persecuted Poles in Warsaw rose in rebellion. The rebels called themselves the Polish Home Government. The PHG was represented in London, but not recognized by the USSR as a political body with any rights to head the Polish state now or tomorrow. As the Russian Army reached the gates of Warsaw in 1944 the Poles in the city, led by Bor Komorovsky, broke out in a spectacular uprising against their German occupiers. After six years of genocidal oppression the Poles were now finally on the offense. The Germans were taking plenty of casualties. At that very moment Stalin deliberately halted the Russian advance so that the Poles could not win. Stalin wanted to take over a helpless Poland, not a proud one fresh from a resistance victory. He wanted the Russians to liberate Poland, and did not want to let the Poles claim credit for liberating their own capitol. Instead the Russians waited until many thousands of Polish patriots had been killed, before moving in. The Warsaw uprising (read the novel Mila 18) fell short. The vengeful Nazis razed Warsaw to the ground one block at a time. Only when the German and literally destroyed the city did the Russians resume the offense in the east. The Allies were angry with Stalin for this and Stalin said too bad. FDR was sincerely upset with Stalin but poor Franklin still didn't get it. FDR still believed that Stalin could be courted into joining the family of nations after the war so he let Stalin get away with the murder of Warsaw. Churchill on the other fist, wanted the rest of the coalition to take a firm diplomatic stand against Stalin over the Polish question, but Winston was a lone wolf. Churchill did not trust Stalin as far as he could throw Kate Smith in a winter jacket, but the PM needed the support of the USA more than he needed to be proven right on Poland and on Stalin. Churchill acquiesced in the pattern of Stalin bullying the naïve FDR who actually thought that he and Joe were friends. He really did. On August 1, 1944 20,000 Poles staged their long awaited Warsaw uprising. The Russian army stopped dead in its tracks 12 miles from the city and let the Poles fend for themselves. The world watched in frustration and horror as the Poles fought their Nazi overlords against insurmountable odds for weeks as the Red Army whistled and played dominoes within artillery striking distance of the city. The Americans and the British requested Russian permission to help Warsaw with air power. Would Stalin allow the Allied planes to land in Russia at the stretch end of their fuel run? - No Half of the Polish rebels were killed and a majority of the rest were wounded. The rebels inflicted many casualties on the Germans but on their end it was carnage. The Nazis then razed Warsaw to the ground with a merciless that would make Sherman tremble. What was going on? The Warsaw revolt was an act of political resolve against two invaders, Germany and the USSR. Germany was actively oppressing the Poles. The Soviet Union had done so in 1939 and was about to enter the city. The rebellion was indirectly directed politically at Moscow, which is why Moscow stabbed the rebellion in the back. It was better for Stalin to let the Nazis chop up the Polish political problem for him, then Stalin could chop the Nazis after they were done with the Poles. It all worked out quite well. Stalin wanted a Communist government in the new liberated Poland, one that he could control at the least, one which he created from the ground up at the most. The USUK allies had officially sponsored the exiled Polish government in London (the PHG) as the true government of Poland. USUK expected this London government to take over in Poland after the Russians liberated it from the Nazis. It was a naïve hope. Stalin gave lip service throughout the war to the London Polish Home Government. He knew he could always stage a political fight with it later and then rescind the agreement over the contrived issue. Or, if it came down to it, he could simply change his mind and play tough guy without even a pretension of propriety. The British took the London Polish government quite seriously, since it lived in London and more importantly, since the British had entered the war in the first place strictly in defense of Polish independence. Churchill was going to be damned if he would take his nation to war in 1939 to stop one oppressor of Poland only to later endorse a different oppressor of Poland in 1944 or 45. FDR was a problem for Churchill on Poland. FDR agreed with Winston on the necessity of a truly independent Poland after the war. This was right according to the sacred Atlantic Charter. But FDR was not as adamant about it and actually wanted a strong Soviet Russia to be one of the four policemen of the world after the war, especially in Europe, an idea that gave Churchill the dry heaves. To Roosevelt, looking the other way on Soviet spheres of influence in eastern Europe might be the price of obtaining the good will of the USSR at the new United Nations. FDR hinted to Stalin more than once that he felt this way but, he confided in Joe, he could not say anything until after the election of 1944. There were 8 million Polish voters in the USA and FDR had to win at home before he could treat with Pal Joey over the Polish question. Poland had been the most problematic issue of all for the diplomats at Versailles in 1919. It was going to destroy the Grand USUKSR Alliance in 1944-5. (SR stands for Soviet Russia.) Great Britian meanwhile asked Stalin for permission to drop supplies and arms to the fighting Poles trapped in the Warsaw ghetto. The planes would have to land in Soviet Russia after deliveries. There was not enough gas range for two way trips. Stalin said no and Churchill was furious. Churchill wanted to drop the supplies and land the planes in Russia anyway, and if one plane or crew were mistreated he would pull the Allied convoys out of the Murmansk run to Russia. Stalin knew that these urban warriors were 98% loyal to the London Polish government in exile. He was liquidating his potential future political opponents by baiting them into an uprising and then letting Hitler’s SS do the work of the NKVD for him. Stalin would cleanse Warsaw politically without spending a ruble or a life of his own money. It was a great idea by a brilliant politician and it worked beautifully for the scum. Churchill asked FDR to go along with the defiant gesture towards Stalin. If Roosevelt would agree to it, the US-UK would send in large air fleets to relieve the Polish garrison with food and ammo. These planes would continue on to Russia and land there with or without Russian permission! And if the Russians resisted then whatever happened happened. Churchill told FDR that the US Army Air Force can surely handle itself if the Russians started shooting at American planes trying to land. Naturally, FDR completely wimped out. He told Churchill he couldn’t risk damaging relations with the USSR. The post-war utopian world was more important than 300,000 Poles about to be betrayed by the same allies who supposedly went to war in 1939 to save Poland. The Poles were about to be massacred by the Nazis in one of the great horror shows of WWII. At one point Churchill had a meeting with all the important political leaders of Britian and he never saw a room full of people so angry in his entire life (for me it was after an open miker named Rotco Dam insulted the audience for 15 minutes and was amazingly obscene too. They booed him off the stage.) The British leaders were all for Churchill’s plan to stand up to Stalin and let the relief planes land in Russia in defiance Stalin, but Churchill had to tell them that FDR would not go along. I’m rough on Churchill many times for kissing up to Stalin when I wished he got tough with him. I’m rough on Churchill’s shrewd 19th century diplomacy style division of post war Europe into spheres of influence, feigning a new way of optimism while planning the old way of cynical pessimism. But at times I have to ask myself, what choice did Churchill have when FDR was always going to out-wimp him at every turn? How could the P.M. strategize getting tough with Stalin when he knew that the partner with greater strength was only going to pull the tough guy rug out from under him with relentless pro-Soviet, Harvard-lib pro-Stalin pink naivete?
CHURCHILL GOES TO QUEBEC AND MOSCOW – SEPT-OCT 1944 The Prime time Minister went to Quebec in September for a late war conference with FDR. Britain was on the verge of bankruptcy and wanted assurances from the United States that a monetary system would be established after the war that would assist in Britain's economic survival. It was at this meeting that the groundwork was laid for the later agreements at Bretton Woods.. Churchill had to save face, since he was coming hat in hand for US help, so he proposed that the British put together a fleet of warships and sent it to help the US in the Pacific War. Roosevelt liked the idea, but the US Navy talked him out of it. The Navy not only didn't need Britain's help at this point, they didn't want to have to try and co-ordinate the activities of two Navies in the Pacific. The logistics would be a big pain in the neck. Churchill also wanted the Royal Air Force to participate in the bombing of Japan. Churchill’s chapter on this conference is offensive. He’s the one that fought tooth and nail to concentrate all efforts on Europe while the Americans fought it out alone and undersupplied in the Pacific. Any time a MacArthur or a Nimitz wanted materials to help the desperate situation, Churchill stood alone demanding that all resources must go to Europe first, and he usually got his way. Now that the USA had done most of the hard core fighting he wanted Britian to jump in while Japan was being routed in order to cash in after the war ended, and for no other reason. But he pretends always to have noble and courageous motives. On the bombing campaign against Japan he writes,
“An RAF bomber force of no mean size could be made available, and would feel honoured to share with their American colleagues the dangers of striking at the heart of the enemy.” As if he was really thinking in terms of sharing the “danger” at this point. WSC will pull out any trick in the book. It was all about Churchill not wanting to preside over the disintegration of the imperialist British empire, and nothing more. He wanted the Americans to do most all of the fighting in Asia and then the Little Red Johnny Bull Hen shows up to eat the bread after Sam baked it for four tough years. The USA did not need one single British plane or warship in the fall of 1944 in the Pacific. Reminds me of comedian Don Gavin, who drove cross country with another comic. After Don drove from Boston to Barstow California, the other comic took over, drove the last 3 hours and talked for years about how “we drove cross country.” Gavin made the other guy pay with a funny bit about it on stage. Churchill wanted Britian to drive it home from Barstow, and to then share equally the spoils of a war that Britian did not fight equally. I’m not saying Britain didn’t do any fighting in the Pacific, but New Zealand and Australia did more and they weren’t seeking pig imperialist gains when it ended. But the UK was. Churchill’s 4,000 page history of WWII is so slick and sleazy I can’t read 60 pages without having to set it aside just to calm down. He never even mentions that Britian was seeking financial help at Quebec. Never let a true story get in the way of the British ego. And of course, he never mentions that all the help he was offering was not needed, and was not logistically viable even if it was needed. The Burma campaign came up a lot at the Citadel in Quebec. Churchill writes in Triumph and Tragedy that
“The Burma campaign was the largest land engagement of Japanese forces so far attained.”
This is deliberately misleading, exaggerating the scope of the British contribution in Asia. Bill Clinton, “Slick Willie” can’t write that slick. Slick Winnie knows that the Americans overall engaged 20 times more Japanese land troops than the British did. But he juggles stats to say that in this one area, Britian engaged the most, as if that means Britain did the most. His entire six volumes is filled with these slick tricks. His resentment and jealousy of the USA is boundless while he pretends that his admiration and respect is so. Churchill was surprised that the US Secretary of the Treasury Mr. Morganthau was with President Roosevelt at Quebec while Harry Hopkins and the Secretary of State were not. After the Quebec Conference, Churchill met with FDR at Hyde Park before sailing back home with daughter Mary on the Queen Mary. This was in September and this time Harry Hopkins was there. Hopkins was having the usual HH health crisis, but Churchill also got the impression that Hopkins had fallen out of favor with FDR and was only now coming back in.
MOSCOVITE WINSTON From Quebec, Winnie flew to Moscow to consult with Stalin at the Kremlin. They discussed the future of Poland. Somehow this rabid anti-Communist conservative became partly convinced that this was a new and more decent Stalin he was talking to. Stalin had a 100% Communist Polish government all set in Moscow waiting for him to install it in Warsaw when the Russians won Poland. Churchill had a 100% anti-Communist Polish government all set up in London waiting or Churchill to install in Warsaw when the Russians won Poland. Do you see anything wrong with this picture? Which government was really going to set up in Warsaw after the Red Army suffered 200,000 casualties in the 1944 Battle of Poland? Stalin assured Churchill that the next government of an independent Poland would be all inclusive. The Communists would dominate the government, but would not control it completely. Non Communist Parties would be represented in the new Polish Diet, including members of the Polish exile government in London. Ha ha ha ha! Was this British leopard really changing his spots and taking Stalin's word of honor as being worth more than one tenth of one ruble at the height of war inflation? Some British historians (esp. Mark Arnold-Forster) show their apologist bias when they claim that Churchill believed Stalin. Winston wasn't that naïve. These historians are, but Churchill wasn't. Churchill was pretending to believe Stalin's sincerity the way FDR really did in order to at least save a piece of the East Europe pie for the good guys, and that piece was Greece. Churchill had long had a Balkan complex. He had wanted to invade the Balkans after the Allies had won half of Italy. If Churchill had won his way the D-Day invasion would have been put on the back-burner while a Balkan invasion was put on the front-burner. Ike and Marshall had to strong arm Churchill away from an invasion of Greece in 1944 and make him go along with D-Day. If Churchill had his way, the Red Army would have been in Paris while the Allies were rolling up the Balkans. Since he couldn't invade Greece because the Americans wouldn't go along with it, he would play Stalin's game for the political permission to control Greece for the Allies. Churchill sold out Eastern Europe in order to get Greece. He agreed that the USSR could have the predominant interest (conquest) in Poland, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria, if Stalin gave him Greece. This was partly because his ego was still hurt from his blunderheaded and disastrous decision in 1941 to take an Allied army on the winning march in North Africa and ship it across the Mare Nostrum to Greece to stop the Nazis there. The Nazis beat the living tea out of Britian in Greece in 41 and, as a bad bonus, the failure in Greece ruined Wavell's offensive in North Africa. Now in 1944 Stalin handed him the right to liberate and politically influence Greece in exchange for Churchill's whistling past the graveyard lost freedom of the rest of East Europe. Churchill threw Poland, Hungaria, Bulgaria, and Romania under the bus in exchange for control of Greece. I like Greece. My dentist is Greek and he doesn’t charge me to replace fallen fillings. But I don’t think Greece is worth the trade off of the rest of Eastern Europe. Stalin had his eyes on the Balkans too while pretending it was just there. The Soviet Union could have taken Berlin in 1944 with an all-out drive of its top armies. But Stalin was using the military situation to achieve the historic Russian goals in the direction of the Mediterranean. Churchill may have had it wrong when he insisted that the Allis should invade the Balkans in 44. But he had it right at the least when he said that Stalin was going to try and take the Balkans if he didn't cut a deal and trade the rest of EU. Stalin knew that if the war ended and the Nazis were still garrisoning Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia, then he might lose them. The Allies might even allow free elections and genuine democracy, and Stalin couldn't have that. Free elections might include Communist parties in a coalition government, but that was chump change compared to complete authoritarian control in the wake of a victorious “liberation” army. So after Warsaw, the Red Army headed southwest with half of its divisions to liberate the Balkans. While the western press was focused primarily on the race to Berlin between the Yanks and the Russians, there was a second race going on between Churchill and Stalin for political control of the Balkans. If the Red Army had raced west to beat Germany only, it might have overshot the runway and lost the chance to control much of the Balkans.
MRS STALIN Churchill brought his wife Delilah to Moscow with him. When he was planning the trip he thought this might be a delicate matter, “as there was no Mrs. Stalin.” But it turned out that Stalin was not offended at all and welcomed Mrs. C. coming to Moscow. That sentence stuck with me. “There was no Mrs Stalin.” Gee, what woman wouldn’t want to marry that wonderful man? How could such a catch get away and reach old age all alone, with no one to cuddle on cold nights? Stalin was cute, romantic, friendly, and trustworthy, a big strong athletic sort of guy, and you could always speak your mind with him without fear of consequences (sarcasm.) I wonder how much of history would have been different if Stalin had scored himself a really good-looking wife in 1925. I wonder the same about FDR.
EUROPE ON A NAPKIN Stalin proposed to divide post-war Europe into spheres of influence. He drew the new boundaries of these spheres on a napkin and handed it to Win. Churchill agreed to the napkin. The fate of millions was decided on a bloody napkin. I’ve heard of ballplayers being traded on a napkin over dinner between team owners, but this is another level.
BACK TO THE BALKANS The British returned to Greece and the Balkans in the fall of 1944 after their embarrassing expulsion in 1941. First came Crete. Allied ships surrounded the German garrison at Crete, so there was no chance for them to escape. British marines hit the Greek beach on September 24, 1944, at around the same time Mac was going back to the Philippines. The hills of Greece were little better suited for mobile war than Italy and it took the Brit troops two weeks to reach Corinth even though the German resistance was passive aggressive. The Tommies took Athens on October 14. Meanwhile the British didn't have the forces to spare for a full capture of the Crete garrison or a total occupation and administration of the large island. When British forces landed on Crete the Germans surrendered to them. But these prisoners could not be fed, housed, clothed, or transported to an off-island PW camp. The Germans were simply allowed to go about their lives on Crete until the war ended provided they didn't start any trouble. British troops lived on one side of Crete while the surrendered Germans lived on the other. The situation was in-concrete.
GREEK CIVIL WAR AND THE CHURCHILL ENIGMA This one would spill over into the postwar world and some say it was the place where the Cold War began. A civil war came erupted in Greece in the aftermath of liberation. Events there were complex. The Brits had a war to run and didn't need to have to fight revolutionary Greek organizations conducting guerilla operations. There were factions fighting factions fighting political parties fighting oppressors. There was revolt against the against Brits, the Greek royalists, the Germans, and the Russians. There was left versus right, royal vs progressive, Soviet imperialists vs British imperialist, rich vs poor, criminal elements per se, and a lot of war, poverty and economic chaos mixed in for good measure. And it was here, not Poland or Hungary, that Churchill wanted the Allies to make their one stand east of Germany. The National Revolutionary Front was especially troublesome. The NRF had a military force called the ELAS which did much harm. Communism was involved. These Greek firefights went on until the war ended and beyond and had much to do with the end of the Victory euphoria. In 1944 Stalin had appeased Churchill by curbing Communist activities in Greece. But in 1945 as the war wound down, he broke his pledge made to Churchill at the Kremlin in October 1944 and let the Communists try to turn Greece into Spain in 1936. It’s hard to figure if Churchill had really bought into the pro-Soviet war alliance euphoria. Did WSC really think that the post-war world was going to work out fine now that Uncle Joe has decided to join the family of nations? His behavior and his writing around this time seem to indicate it. When he went to Moscow he said some disturbingly sycophantic things about Russia, praising even its governmental system a couple of times, and that just didn’t sound like something that really could have been going through his mind. Maybe he was playing it very shrewd. He figured that if he gets tough with Stalin at this late juncture, with the Reds already overrunning Hungary, Romania, Poland, and Bulgaria, then Stalin blows pipe smoke and tells Churchill to “pick up tomorrow’s paper.” The headlines read,
RED TROOPS SMASH INTO GREECE
The west then doesn’t even get one consolation prize nation. But here he is in Moscow; he knows that he will never ever get naive FDR to stand up to Stalin with him, so he might as well pretend to kiss up to U.J. and at least come back home with Greece. Churchill had a deep and abiding hatred for the “Bolos” as he loved to call the Soviets. This goes back to his anger towards them from the start of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, when a small violent band of pseudo-leftist roughnecks destroyed infant democracy in Russia after six months in swaddling clothes. The USA had joined the Entente only after Russia had converted to democracy from autocracy in March of 1917. The March Revolution installed a democracy, but leader Kerenski made the blunder of staying in WWI and all of Russia wanted out. Then the Bolsheviks staged a second 1917 revolution and took Russia out of the war. Churchill took that hard. He was involved in World War I. After WWII Churchill was the hawk who gave the Iron Curtain speech in Fulton Missouri in 1946. So how is it that somehow, in between the bookends of a lifetime of Bolo-bashing, in late 1944 he starts getting FDR’s naive fever about the Soviet Union? His attitude towards Stalin during the Moscow visit is as if Davies was there in a disguise. He hands Eastern Europe to Stalin on a platter (while claiming these arrangements were only temporary, a very poor concept,) he praises the Soviet system, and he evidently has no suspicions whatsoever that the USSR might behave in an obstructionist manner at the new United Nations. That doesn’t seem like the Churchill I have grown to know after 1,400 pages of his writing. I think he gave up on FDR and just tried to save at least Greece from Stalinist Communism. He sent FDR some cleverly worded telegrams fending off the Yank so he could do whatever he wanted in Moscow. Maybe if Churchill had left it up to FDR, the Free World wouldn’t even have come out of WWII with Greece. If all that was the case then three cheers for my favorite guy of all time, Winston Churchill! One historical footnote. The United States was probably going to enter the war in April of 1917, even if there had been no March Revolution overthrowing the Tsar. It was an interesting coincidence that the March Kerenski Revolution saved the United States from the anomaly of fighting for democracy while allying itself with the worst autocracy on earth, Tsarist Russia.
YUGOSLAV CIVIL WAR It was like three guys playing a game of one on one basketball. The Nazis, the Yugolaslav Communist coalition under Tito, and the royalist commandos, the Chetniks, under the leadership of Draja Mikhailovich were all at war with each other in a “three for all.” Draja was part of the old RYA, the Royal Yugoslav Army. His partisan military force was called the Chetniks. They had fought for Serbia in World War One and now they were supposedly fighting the Nazi invaders in WWII. The West chose to supply and support Mikahilovich and the Chetniks, but then the word reached London that the guns and ammo being shipped to the Chetniks was being used to fight other Yugoslavs in a civil war. Churchill sent a man named Fitzy Maclean to Belgrade to look around and report back. Fitzy confirmed the worst and told it all to Winston.. Mikhailovich was the head of a ruthless group of butchers who prided themselves on cruelty and were more out to kill Tito's Slavic followers than they were out to kill Nazis. It was fairly well known that the Royalists had even collaborated with the Nazis while publicly proclaiming that they were fightin them. One fact was certain. The Tito group was fighting the Nazis much more effectively and resolutely than the Royalists under Draja. The British and the Americans began supplying Tito and disowning any further affiliation with the Chetnicks and Raja. This was a familiar story in several theaters in WWII, especially China, but also in France where the Communists collaborated with Vichy less than any other party. Stalin disliked Tito from the start because Tito was a very independent Communist and never came close to submitting to the will of Moscow. Stalin asked Tito what he would do if the British invaded Yugoslavia without Tito's permission. Tito told Stalin he would fight the British.
THE SO CALLED NEUTRALS – SWEDEN AND SWITZERLAND The USA made a deal with Sweden in late 1939 to continue exporting vital food and other supplies to Sweden in exchange for Sweden keeping a brake on it's co-operation with Nazi Germany. Sweden pretended to co-operate but secretly kept supplying Germany with all the iron ore and other war materials that Hitler needed. By the middle of 1943 the State Department was very mad at Sweden, and the Allies looked like they were winning the war in Italy and Russia. Sweden changed its tune and promised serious cutbacks in helping Germany. Sweden promised it would soon stop allowing Nazi armies to freely travel across its territory. By the spring of 1944 however, prior to D-Day, the Allied offense seemed halted and Sweden flipped again. Those meatballs actually increased aid to Nazi Germany to levels not seen since the war began. A company called SKF was the scandalous Scandinavian offender. Britian was cleverly trying to buy so much of SKF's ball-bearings that there simply wouldn't be any left for German orders, and Germany was running out of money faster than Britian was (thanks to Uncle Shylock.) So SLF built another factory in order to keep up with German demands for ball-bearings. The United States protested, and public opinion got wind of it and there was a lot of anger towards Sweden in the United States in 44. The United States continued to send food to Sweden so Stockholm have more resources to give to Germany. It was a delicate balance because no one in Washington wanted to drive Sweden closer to Germany by getting too tough with them. Switzerland was just as cheesy about the whole thing. The Swiss were the famous neutrals of WWII sitting in the heart of the cauldron sucking on Ricola cough drops and watching the world burn around them. A lot of people know how the Swiss played banker to the Holocaust, and funded the rise of Hitler in many ways. The book, Trading With the Enemy covers that part well. What is less known is that Switzerland provided a great deal of arms and munitions to Germany throughout the war. Germany paid for it, of course, but this was no sly bank juggling to help hellboy Himmler's Holocaust indirectly. This was open arms supply-side trading with a Germany desperately short of war materials. Britain cut off food supplies to Switzerland before the USA got into the war in hope of restraining Swiss aid to Germany. Switzerland made a show of pretending to slow down supplies of coal to Germany, but the truth was hard to conceal. By the beginning of 1944 Switzerland was clearly sending far more supplies of war-helpful exports to the Nazis than it had at any point in the war previous. The Swiss were trying to hide and juggle the export statistics from the Allies but the Allies had some excellent Swiss watches and caught them playing with the books. Relations between the Allies and the Swiss reached a new low in 1944. It would be easier for my 78 year old mother-in-law to climb the North Face of the Eiger in her bathrobe drunk on rum than to get the Swiss to stand up to the Nazis. And thank God Ruth's back surgery was a success!
DAVID IRVING MIGHT BE A LITTLE BIASED I’m glad he did point out to me that it happened, but I suspect that David Irving might be exaggerating the stats just a little. Apparently some American combat pilots landed their planes in Switzerland and Sweden and sat out the war. I didn’t know about that. But how many? I’ve begun researching this with all my amateur skills and I see no evidence of this happening in great numbers. I also see it mentioned that sometimes this was because the planes were damaged and needed to land in Switzerland or Germany. Once down, the pilot and plane had to sit out the war there. Famous historian David Irving in his War Between the Generals never spares a chance to belittle the Americans. Even when DI is accurate he’s still an unfair polemicist in the way he chooses only select facts to fit his prejudice and sprinkles in one friendly tone for the British side and an accusatory tone for the American side. Irving almost never mentions British mistakes or cowardice or unruly behavior by its armed forces. For the Americans all mistakes are emphasized, all cowardice is spotlighted, all incidents with American soldiers misbehaving must be told, and all 3 must be sprinkled with cold tone. From page 316,
“During the summer of 1944 several hundred American pilots, their courage abraded by the horrific odds against their survival, had set down their aircraft in Switzerland or Sweden had been interned.”
Several hundred American pilots? And somehow this story remains buried? If 500 American landed their P-47’s and B-17’s intact in Switzerland in the summer of 1944 out of sheer cowardice I’ll eat the steering wheel of Irving’s Rolls Royce. What’s cowardly is deliberately misrepresenting the truth by taking things that are basically true and then stretching them and playing slick tricks with them. Two sentences later he piles on about “Yankee cowards” saying that
“Eisenhower was angry, visiting one field hospital to find most of the wounds were self-inflicted.”
American field hospital of course. But I don’t trust David Irving to tell me the truth. I appreciate that the phenomenon of self-inflicted wounds is one of the dirty little secrets of WWII, but it was hardly an exclusive American problem, and I doubt that it was more than half the cases in a big hospital. In this case there is probably one flimsy piece of evidence to suggest that Ike thought that “most” of the wounds were self-inflicted in an entire hospital, and there is probably plenty of evidence for an equally firm assertion that only “some” of them were. David the Goliath sees a pile of facts and picks the ones that fit his prejudice. I never do. I search for facts that go against my own beliefs and face up to them, cite them and give them respect. But not Davey. In other words, you could corner Irving on this or that sentence and he can dig up something to defend himself with. But is all about choices. Irving chose to say that “most” of them were, and that “several” hundred American pilots had their “courage” abraded. He could have mentioned British pilots who defected, but not one did, apparently. All the cowards were on the American side. And that’s the tone of the entire book anyway. Irving’s 2 motifs are; 1- The Americans were dummies, the British were brilliant. 2 - The Americans were cowards, the British were gallant. He writes a book about how divisive things were between the British and the Americans during the war, but what he’s doing is taking something that was sad and regrettable and turning the whole thing up a nasty notch for the next generation to inherit through his shifty eyes. So why do I read him? Unfortunately, David Irving is both a good writer and a highly respected WWII wizard and mentor. On the first count he could still be skipped, but combined with other historians still referring to his works in their bibliographies, I can’t say “don’t read him.” And you are apt to come up with a different interpretation of his work than mine, obviously. But for those you who trust me, trust me; the guy’s a clever and biased polemicist posing as an innocent story-teller. And he seems to have no hatred at all for the Germans. Only the Americans. And that’s not supposed bother me ...why? Update: David Irving went to jail for being a bad historian in 2011. Austria sent him to jail for hate crimes in distorting history with regard to the Holocaust. This case in 2011 had nothing to do with what I’m writing about here, but it is satisfying, nevertheless to learn that he got some deserved heat for his hate. On the other hand, if historians can be sent to jail for being inaccurate or politically incorrect I could end up someday in a world of trouble.
BULGE 44-45 The story of the Battle of the Bulge is left hanging at the end of 1944 so a brief summary of how it ends up. The Germans did some hard fighting at the end of 44, especially around Bastogne with one of Patton’s divisions, but after January 4 1945 it was all retreat. The Germans did not get Falaised, and most of the men and armour got out, although they actually blew up a handful of their own tanks and heavy guns because they could no longer move them. Then tanks and the strategic attack were out of gas. By January 28 1945 the land taken back by the Germans was all back in Allied hands. During the six weeks of the Bulge 19,000 Americans died. That’s an astounding figure, and indicates how both sides fought hard on the way west and then again on the way back east. The Germans fought well in retreating and every town had to be re-taken with a fight. St. Vith, Houfalaise and Cerf were all in good hands by the end of January.
NORWIND - MIDNIGHT MASS ATTACK Hitler rang in the new year with bang, a major attack out of the Vosges Mountains schedules for the height of party time. Most of the NORWIND story belongs in 1945, but it started at precisely one hour to midnight on December 31 1944, so I’ll give the short version. Hitler planned un-winnable counter-attacks all over the board. To the South of the Ardennes, near the Vosges Mountains, he planned an attack the the US 7th and French 1st Armies. He called it Operation NORWIND. But it was a lot of hot air. It was more like NORWINDBAG. Hitler made speeches about how he was not only going to recapture Alsace, he was going to destroy all enemy forces. His instrument for the mission was General Blaskowitz. The city of Strasbourg felt threatened as soon as the attack began. De Gaulle ordered Ike to send two divisions to secure and protect Strasbourg. Ike told him not to give him orders. They argued some more. De said he would order French divisions into Strasbourg regardless of what Eisenhower told him to do. Ike said that if that be the case, the French won’t get another gallon of gasoline or can of beans. They argued some more. Ike relented next day and ordered some American brigades and allowed French ones into Strasbourg. The Germans fought hard but every factor except the 88 was working against them. The Nazis inflicted as many casualties as they took, but they never got very far. For the first three weeks in January 1945, both the Bulge salient, and the smaller salient in the NORWIND direction of Strasbourg were falling back to where they had started from. Al Patch was the winning pitcher in NORWIND; General Blaskowitz took the loss.
ASIA 1944 THE CBI 1944 The China India Burma theatre was controversial because British and American goals were different. Arguments over strategy were inevitable. Even the Americans were divided internally. General Stilwell favored a ground offensive in Burma to open the road to China decisively and aid Chiang Kai Shek's Nationlist Army to throw Japan out of China. General Claire Chenault, of Flying Tiger's fame had Billy Mitchell Fever (a deadly disease.) CC thought that U.S. air power alone could drive the Japanese out of China. It's a ridiculous idea, in retrospect, but at the time it was a serious proposition and the war effort suffered for it in the CBA, just as it did in Europe and the Pacific. The idiotic exaggerated confidence in the ability of air power to win wars is a constant of modern history. LBJ and Nixon tried to win the Vietnam War with air power, and we know what happened there, too. Stillwell thought that China should be liberated by a serious ground campaign, with air support. That’s because he had a brain. Britian, unlike America, didn't care much what happened to China either during or after the war, so it didn't want to risk losing too much blood and material to help out there. Britian wanted US naval power to do whatever had to be done in China, thinking that securing Chinese coastal cities shouldn't be a big chore for big-Navy America. Britian wanted to secure Burma, but not in order to use Burma as a stepping stone to liberate China by land. Britain wanted Burma in order to protect India. Britain had already asked India to join in the Burma fighting. But India was in the middle of a severe famine (what a shocker) and could hardly be expected to go full throttle to help their English masters continue to dominate them by fighting in neighboring Burma for them. Besides, India had divisions fighting in Italy, and half of India hated Britian outright. Stilwell and Chenault each had a ‘my way or the highway’ approach to life and something had to give. They went to Washington to have it out in the presence of FDR. The Prez would arbitrate and make the call. After listening to both of them he decided in favor of Chenault. Stilwell was so bitter that he took on a whole new attitude when he went back to China, getting the nickname “Vinegar Joe,” and it wasn't a compliment. To this day, history sides with Chenault unfairly. Every night there is some new documentary with 90 year old men on my Tellie telling me how everyone loved Chenault and how tough he was. That whole Flying Tigers thing really distorts the record. The cartoon decal of the tigers teeth on Chennault's planes in 1940 gives him a free pass for his awful strategic decisions later in the war when it counted more. History is just as drunk with air power as the Allies were during the war. The planes are more fun to produce documentaries about. Planes are cool and look great on film. Stupid decision and the tough life on the ground of war get far less glory in documentaries. For example, I can find a documentary every night on some channel about how great the B-17 was. They drag out the one that still flies and interview 49 guys on their death bed, but they never tell us how disastrous that plane was for the overall war effort from day one to day 1,065. Claire Chenault is a charismatic hero and the Flying Tigers are the coolest. CC risked his life against superior odds when the chips were down. That is all true. But he advocated winning the war in China by sheer air power and for that, CC is a dunce who hurt the war effort.
CBI - DRACULA’S REVENGE IN BURMA The British and Stilwell’s Americans attacks in Burma in July 1944. The fighting was heavy for the rest of the year and was not finished until January of 45. The British attacked from the west and the Americans from the north. A Chinese army of two relatively effective divisions (relative to Chinese divisions) approached from the Northeast. Churchill of course had a master stroke of genius to win the war in Burma if only everyone took him as his infallible egomaniacal word. It was called operation Dracula, and the blood sucker was sure it could not fail. The idea was an amphibious assault across the Bengal Bay to take the key southern Burma port of Rangoon. Then the Japanese would be surrounded in Burma with no port of escape or supply. The fighting in Burma was a slow go. It was all jungle. It was hot. There were bugs and fevers and snakes and all kinds of danger. General Mepacrine did much of the hard fighting. Mepacrine was a new drug that the Allies were using to fight malaria and other diseases. Mepacrine proved an important military hero as the Japanese didn’t have any and were dying by the thousands. By the third week in December the British 14th Army under General Slim liked up with Stilwell’s Army on the east side of the Irrawaddy River near Indaw, one of my favorite towns. At about this time General Vinegar Stilwell was recalled to Washington and replaced by a triumvirate of US generals. Meanwhile General Wedemeyer and Chiang Kai Shek threw a monkey wrench into the Burma campaign just as good was about to win the game. The Japanese were mounting a late war drive due west on the Chinese capital of Chunking and the U.S. airfield at Kunming. The whole supply line from Burma was geared to end there. What was the point in fighting for the Burma road if the terminus was held by the Japanese? So Chiang and Wedemeyer asked Marshall to ask FDR if China could take back its two good divisions that were fighting in North Burma. FDR approved it but said, “I have to ask Winston First.” Churchill griped and moaned about being deprived of a breakthrough victory in Burma before Christmas, but he consulted with Smuts and concluded that Britian had to go along. In spite of the withdrawal of two Chinese divisions, the rainbow coalition of the UK and USA continued to drive south and east in Burma. Brit General Messervey’s divisions made it across the Irrawaddy just below the Chindwin. I’m sure you know exactly where that is without looking at a map. By the end of 1944 the famous “Burma Road” to China was open again. Masservey isn’t the coolest name for a general. But British generals Billy Slim and Samuel Sultan had cool names indeed. General Sultan was so good they said he “swatted Japanese aside like flies.” Yes, he was the Sultan of Swat. General Slim made for good times for headline writrs covering Burma stories back in the states. Slim chance I’d resort to thats sort of thing. The irony is that General Slim’s body type looked more like William Howard Taft than Anthony Eden.
Churchill was focused on Burma and Rangoon because he cared first and foremost abut the British Empire, not humanity. He wanted Rangoo more than the rest of Burma because Rangoon, unlike Mandalay in the interior, could have been used as a launch pad to regain the lost parts of the empire in South Asia, especially Singapore. Possession is nine tenths of the law and Britian would have a tough time re-booting the King’s imperial lands in Asia after the war if Britian did not have possession. While FDR was trying to win the war and only win the war (only FDR out of the two of them wanted Russian help in Asia,) Churchill was trying to win back the empire just as much as he was trying to win the war. So the PM fought WWII with a forked tongue mind-set. He was often operating with mixed messages. The Burma campaign is hard to follow without some good maps, and not easy to follow with them. It’s an understudied theater to say the least. For all the action there, the coverage of it in history is negligent.
BURMA STORIES One American unit set up a baseball game during a lull in the fighting. They carved out a clearing and set up a diamond and everything. A guy hit a home run into the jungle. When the outfielder went in to retrieve the ball he didn’t come back. The other players went to look for him and found pieces of his body. Tigers had chewed the left fielder to bits, and that is a true story I read in a baseball book, not a war book. Too bad Churchill hadn’t been there and gone in for that ball. He loved to visit the front lines and get in on the action, so you never know. It could have happened. The Detroit Tigers won that round. The most glamorous fighting was carried on near the Irrawady and Chindwit Rivers. It was here that the famous Merril’s Marauders did their thing. They made a movie about them in 1962 starring Jeff Chandler as Frank Merrill, the leader of 3,000 American volunteers. But I think Charlie Briggs steals the movie playing himself. Charlie Briggs was a real veteran of the fighting. Briggs was also a consultant on the set or historical accuracy, but Merril’s Marauders is not a particularly edifying film.
WWII IN THE PACIFIC IN 1944
KWAJALEIN AND TRUK The island hopping begun at Tarawa in the Gilberts next moved westward ho to the Marshalls. The Gilberts became unsinkable carriers projecting US air power into the Marshalls, while the real carriers (many of them fast giant and brand new) lay in wait for the final assault. For weeks the Japanese air defenses in the Marshalls suffered sustained air raids from the Gilberts until on January 29, 1944 amphibious forces of the USA assaulted the island of Kwajalein. This time the Navy bombardment lasted three days before the Marines came ashore, and this time the Marines arrived in new improved landing craft with 20 and 40 millimeter guns on them plus a battery of 4.5 inch rockets. There would be no repeat of Tarawa at Kwajalein. Japanese air power was almost non-existent by the time of the Kwajalein landing but the Emperor’s troops on the ground fought to the death and inflicted 2,000 casualties on the Americans before the last rifle was silenced. The Japanese suffered 8,000 killed or wounded. The US Navy lost an escort (light) aircraft carrier to a Japanese sub in the Marshalls campaign but little else. Optimism in the US camp ran high after Kwajalein but it would prove to be a false spring. Later island battles would be much tougher. Japan had semi-conceded Kwajalein, deciding that these outer island groups should be defended, but that the bulk of the Japanese fleet and troop power should not be risked to maintain them. The US strategy of luring the Japanese out to defend the outer islands wasn't going to work, but the plus side of that was that these outer islands would now surely fall and America could use them as stepping stones in the grand counter-offensive. With airbases now in both the Gilberts and the Marshalls, the US could strike at the Carolines. Truk was the premiere base in the Carolines. The Japanese had occupied Truck at the end of World War I and had guarded it so closely that no Caucasian had laid eyes on the place. Truk was a mysterious and threatening place to most American sailors soldiers and flyers. The Carolines were no longer a threat to our road to Japan with the capture of Tarawa and Kwajalein but were a threat to the ongoing New Guinea fight and Allied plan to retake the Philippines. The great Japanese military base at Truk was a problem. Truk was nicknamed “The Gibraltar of the East.” With island-hopping strategy, Truk did not have to be occupied. But Truk had to be neutralized. It was capable of supplying air attack against many Allied objectives, including the Marianas, a chain whose capture by the Americans would mark the doom of Japan’s cities. Admiral Spruance, in command of the Fifth Fleet was sent to attack Truk in early February. He had many new and fast carriers and had for escorts shiny new battlewagons galore. On February 17 1944 several US carriers launched a full scale attack on Truk. We hit it with everything our carriers had. It was the largest conventional all carrier attack in human history and it was a grand success. Truk took a beating and a half. So many Japanese transport and warships were sunk at Truk that it was the single highest transportation logistical loss by any side in the war in a single day. With Truk in ruins, Nimitz could take the Navy on a right hand turn towards the Japanese home islands.
ADMIRALTY ISLANDS CAMPAIGN - MARCH 1944 Admiral King chose the Admiralty Islands as the key to isolating the Japanese naval base at Rabaul. MacArthur was against this. He wanted a land attack against Rabaul just like it was a Guadalcanal, and this time his Army division would lead the way. King and others argued that even though US ship and air power had reduced Rabaul in terms of offense, it still had plenty of defense left. MacArthur dismissed this and insisted on the invasion of Rabaul. He said the Japanese defenses there were weak and “ready to crumble.” After the war the Allies reported a force of more than 100,000 Japanese Army troops still at Rabaul with the strongest defense fortifications anywhere in the Pacific. If the brass had listened to MacArthur, the attack on Rabaul would have cost more American lives than Iwo Jima and Okinawa combined. King told MacArthur that Rabaul must be bypassed and MacArthur argued that he needed it as a base for his own offensive operations. Bypassing it wasn’t good enough. Nimitz sided with MacArthur and King put Nimitz in his place with no room for misunderstanding. Even if taking Rabaul by force was feasible, the US had decided that the route across the Central Pacific was top priority over the advance up from New Guinea anyway, so too bad. You wouldn’t get the material for the invasion of Rabaul even if we thought here in Washington that you could succeed there. Take the Admiralties, forget Rabaul, and do as your told supporting the drive across the central islands. MacArthur blundered in the Admiralty Islands campaign. One of his intelligence officers reported that Japanese defenses in the Admiralty Islands were strong, especially at Los Negros where there was an air base. US reconnaissance showed pictures of weeds growing up over the airstrip and no signs of pillboxes or barracks. Macs intelligence officer suggested that this was just camouflage. Mac told the guy to “go get some sleep. This is not going to be another Betio.” MacArthur was wrong and his intelligence officer was right. The Japanese on Admiralty Islands were playing theater with the US reconnaissance planes, playing possum, there’s no one here but a couple of isolated soldiers. They had plenty of defense on Los Negros, the usual coconut logs, tar, and branches protecting accurate and powerful three-inch naval guns planted ashore. Luckily the mapped out locations for US landing just happened to be in the one place on LN where there were no Japanese. Once ashore in force, and with plenty of close air and naval support, the American gained the field. The four day fight for Los Negros ended in complete American victory. The two Admiralty islands of Manus and Los Negros were taken. The Japanese defenders were not top of the line units. They fought hard, but there was some change in the air too. The Allies too an astonishing 500 Japanese PW’s on Manus and Los Negros. The Japanese soldier did not always fight to the death in World War II. But the whole operation probably would not have been approved out of Pearl Harbor if Mac had reported favorably on the opinion of his intelligence officer. If he had waited a couple of more weeks he could have taken the Admiralties with such overwhelming force as to have taken almost no casualties. Post-war analysts said that Mac got very lucky on Los Negros because if the Japanese had simply guessed right on where the Americans would land and had hit them with full force on the first night, they might have won a total victory and massacred hundreds of Americans, flipping the morale situation quite a bit. It was a foolish gamble that paid off. In his false memory memoirs, MacArthur clearly implies that the whole idea of bypassing Rabaul and not actually taking it was his own. He mentions nothing of his insistence of attacking it. Douglas MacArthur was for the most part a heterosexual, but he was gay for one person and that person was Douglas MacArthur..
DON’T FEAR THE BOUGEY-MEN - MARCH 8-14 1944 The Central Solomon Campaign had taken up virtually all of 1943. The USA had captured Guadalcanal, The Russells, New Georgia, and the key Solo-island of Bougainville. But there were still plenty of Nipponese on “Bogey” as the men liked to call it. The Americans had secured the air base and the land around Empress Augusta Bay on the west side of that island which is shaped like a stand-up bass. A man named Hyakutaka commanded the 15,000 Japanese troops still there and isolated in the highlands with little hope of being evacuated. The US Navy controlled the seas and the skies. The 15,000 thought that the US defense perimeter at EAB held about 20,000 troops and decided on an all-or nothing attack. They had nothing to lose except their lives. The USA actually had more than 60,000 troops on the west curve of the violin and they had better weapons, weren’t hungry, weren’t diseased, and still remembered Pearl harbor and Bataan. General Griswold heard reports of an impending Japanese attack and broke into a half smile while saying, “I’m not afraid of the Bougeymen.” The Sun-God worshippers gave it everything they had in series of suicidal attacks from March 8-14 1944. There were fierce fights for Hill 700, and Hill 260, but the Japanese attack in the end didn’t amount to a hill of beans. A hill of Japanese corpses, yes, more than 3,000 counted dead, but in the strategic situation, the Jap counter-attack on Bougainville in March 1944 mattered not, except to those who fought. One Marine swore after the war that several of the Japanese were marching to die while singing “Deep in the Heart of Texas,” thinking that would upset the Americans. That’s not a song to die for in my book on either side of the bal.
JUNE 15 - 1944 D-DAY FOR JAPAN Most Americans are familiar with the date of June 6,1944 as D-Day for Nazi Germany. Just as ominous for the Axis was the calendar date of June 15, 1944. Two events marked 6.15 as the hour of doom for Japan. They were OPERATION EIGER, and the invasion of Saipan, both of which began on 6/15.
CLIMBING UP NEW GUINEA’S BACK More now on the New Guinea Campaign. MacArthur decided to leapfrog (cartwheel) across Japanese positions on Wewak and instead land in force a Hollandia and Atiape. The Allies used deception to mislead the Japanese into thinking the next landings were going to take place at Hansa Bay and Hollandia. They attacked the places they were not going to attack with more air force than the places they were actually going to land-attack. The Japanese fell for it, and when the goodies landed on April 22 1944 at Hollandia and Atiape the Japanese garrisons fled into the jungle with their rice pots still boiling. That is a literal story. The Mac-Men landed still further the northwest coast of NG, wading ashore at Wade on May 17. There were almost 250,000 Japanese all-told on New Guinea at the beginning of 1944. By the end of the year 80% of these troops were dead. The American drove them deeper into the jungles of central NG and they proceeded to die in greater numbers there day-by-day than if they were fighting. The heat, disease, and starvation killed thousands upon thousands, with a few poisonous snakes pitching in for the worthy cause. Finally, a man named Adachi decided to attack the Allies at Aitape. He figured, logically I’d have to say, that if we are all going to die, we might as well die fighting the enemy snakes instead of the ones climbing into everyone’s made-in-Japan sleeping bag. On the night of July 11 some 40,000 Japanese troops attacked the Allied perimeter at Aitape. More than 10,000 Japanese died on that opening night. That’s more dead than in several of America’s wars all dying in one attack. Over the next few days another 20,000 or so Japanese were killed trying to die with dignity. The Japanese tried flanking attacks but the odds were worse for them to win it all than this year’s Milwaukee Bucks. On July 31, the Americans counter-flanked and enveloped the bulk of the fighting force of Japanese New Guinea. It wasn’t Japanese New Guinea anymore. This huge reptilian island was as far as Japan made it on it’s quest to conquer all-Asia. In May of 1942 it seemed as if New Guinea was about to fall completely and Australia might be next. But the Battle of the Coral Sea in 42 turned back the Japanese invasion fleet that was going to take Port Moresby and wrap up the reptile. Maybe they should have gone ahead with the invasion in spite of the losses at Coral Sea but we’ll never know. In any case the year 1944 was a long hard grind up the northern back of the big island and by the end of 1944 it was as American as apple pie and dishonest car salesmen.
BACK TO BURMA THEATER THE MATTERHORN SANCTION Curtis Lemay was in charge of the CBI air theatre. There is a show on TV today where the stars work at the California Bureau of Investigation. They flash their badges and yell, “CBI!.” In World War II it stood for the China Burma India war zone. LeMay did the best he could to train new B-29 crews and get the plane airworthy for the long haul to Japan. The plan to raid Japan with B-29's based in India and China, named OPERATION MATTERHORN. The mountain nickname for the mission had something to do with getting B-29's over the Himalayas to bases in China. From there they would raid targets in Japanese-held Manchuria or try to hit the cities and factories of Southern Japan. They could also reach the South Pacific if needed. The B-29 was so new that the crews were training by fighting. There were a lot of kinks to work out in the Superfortress. B-29 stood for 'Bout 29 malfunctions.' The cost of transporting B-29's around the world to India was large, and drained war money. The plane itself, for all the money spent on it, was slow in getting cost-efficient work done. Supply lines from China to Burma were always thin, and more than half the B-29 missions/sorties in the summer of 44 were transporting fuel to other B-29's. The forward US base in China was at Chengtu. On June 15 a flock of 29's reached Southern Japan from Chengtu and dropped their bombs. They hit Yawata in Kyushu, the southernmost Island of Japan. Only one bomb hit the real target, a factory that made Zero fighters. Damage to downtown Yawata from accidental fires was serious, but the accuracy score was a report card F. If not for one bomb, it would have been an F-. The US didn't let on that mission had sort of flopped. The press praised a glorious day. When word of the raid reached the halls of Congress a cheer erupted. In spite of the bad aim, the 29's were demonstrating a range of operation and a payload that was unprecedented in all of history. It was only a matter of time before the 29’s would begin to hit cities in the heart of central and eastern Japan. All it would take is a few closer airfields. Even one would do. But the route to Japan from India and China was deemed too costly, and by the end of 1944, all Superfort missions against Japan took off from the Marianas. The Japanese were threatening to capture the Chengtu airfield with a new offensive push in China. Matterhorn doesn't matter now. Time to pack it in. Mtterhorn was a failure. Much of 1944 Allied resources were spent on this Billy Mitchell fantasy about long-range four engine air power winning a war by itself. With the money that could have been spent on 2,000 desperately needed landing craft, they built these giants that could barely hit the side of the barn in perfect weather, and plenty of them crashed. It's not even a good-looking plane! American military historians claim that the Matterhorn was a success because of all the lessons learned that were applied later in 1945 by the 21st Air Force in the Marianas. That's a sorry rationalization. The Matter-mission accomplished little and was 20 million spent on a free agent that was injury prone and didn't put up good numbers when he did play.
BATTLE FOR SAIPAN IN THE MARIANAS On that same fateful June 15, the first Marines assault wave hit the beach in the attack on Saipan. The defense of Saipan was fierce and desperate. The Japanese knew the stakes. They knew that the Marianas were only 1,500 miles from Japan and that the defense of Saipan was tantamount to a defense of Japan itself. The Japanese Army defended Saipan with suicidal ferocity. The Japanese already had Aslito Airfield built near the south coast of Saipan. It was the primary objective for the USA, although the captured field would need Seabee expansion to handle the B-29, plus a new name. The AAF would send 29's from CBI to Saipan as soon as the field became available. From here the Superfortresses could threaten nearly all the major cities in Japan. The US Navy surrounded Saipan and shelled it for days. The carriers sent in hundreds of planes for close-up bombing raids. By the time D-Day arrived for Saipan, some Marine commanders predicted that by the time they hit the beach, “the Japs are going to run away!” Wrong. Two Marine and one Army division landed on June 15. The main force hit the southwest beach by the name of Chalan Kanoa (or Charan Kanoa, depending on the particular mapmaker.) Mount Fina Susa was the high ground facing this beach and the Japanese were well dug in and full of 75mm artillery. The landing was tougher than expected and US casualties were high. Saipan was a fry pan. More than 3,000 Americans would die there before the battle officially ended on July 9. As always, sources vary. One website says, 3,432 Americans died on Saipan. Robert Leckie, historian-Marine says it was 2,949. I say it was 3,089. In any case, Saipan was fours years worth of KIA's in today's war in Iraq/Afghanistan. By June 25 the battle was in full swing, probably the largest US land battle of the Pacific war. Commander Saito (no relation to the Red Sox 2009 pitcher Takahashi Saito) rallied the defense to a big do-or-die counterattack. There was some room on Saipan for a genuine tank battle. Saito sent more than 30 tanks after the Americans. Japanese infantry was behind and on these tanks, hitching a ride to death. The US Shermans gave out more than they got back and an off-shore destroyer busted one Japanese tank. The IJA broke through the Army and Marine lines, and got in their rear. In a wild free for all, the Americans got the best of it and the latter hours were just slaughtering Japanese troops. 4,350 Japanese got greased in Saito's Saipan Banzai, a thousand more than US KIA's in the entire Saipan campaign. There is a bizarre epilogue Banzai to mention. The Japanese men in hospitals did not want to be left out of the suicide attack. Just when the Marines thought it was all over, from out of the Saipan hills came 200 men from hospitals charging towards the American lines. Many were on crutches and all were sick or heavily bandaged. Some had weapons but only one arm to fire it with. Many had no weapons but charged with knives taped to the end of a bamboo pole. Some soldiers had to be helped along by others in order to charge. The Marines couldn't believe the rag-tag little battalion that was coming after them. It was a cartoon. They withheld their fire as long as they mercifully could before blasting every one of them off the face of the earth. My father-in-law Albert Quigley Wenzel flew 11 missions on Saipan in a P-47, strafing sniper grids that puffed smoke back at him until there were no more snipers. My grandfather Chuck Basil Donovan loaded shells into the USS Maryland 16 inch guns that bombed Saipan. Commander Saito killed himself on Saipan as the battle was being lost. Also drinking the Hari-Kool-aid on Fry Pan was Chuichi Nugamo, the mastermind of the Pearl Harbor attack. Of the 30,000 Japanese defenders on Saipan, only 1,000 got out of there alive. These suicides bring a warm smile to my face, but the ones at Marpi Point bring a sad frown. Most of the civilian population of Saipan went up to the cliff on Parpi Point and jumped to their deaths. It was mass suicide with mothers and fathers killing their children and then jumping off, or jumping off with children in their not-so-protecting arms. The Japanese had brainwashed them into believing that the Americans were going to rape and murder the women, and then torture and murder the men.
JIVE TURKEY SHOOT The Japanese Navy threw every plane it had against the American Marianas attack force. Land-based Japanese planes combined with three carriers of planes made the attack complete and formidable. 700 meatball planes went out to kill Uncle Sam. The Japanese commanders honestly felt there was a chance for a major victory against the US carrier task forces. But the US war machine had built up far too much of a lead in quantity, quality and concentrated deployment. The US also had a sound lead in trained pilots. At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor the Japanese had a substantial lead in pilots, both in numbers and in quality. That had all change quite a bit by now. A massive aerial dogfight took place over the Marianas for several days in June. When all the smoke had cleared the United States had lost 65 planes. The Japanese lost more than 600. In a hundred and seven hours Japanese air power in the Pacific was removed as an effective force. The procession of Rising Sun splashdowns earned a nickname for history. It was called ‘The Marianas Turkey Shoot.’ From now on it was kamikaze defense for Japanese air power. When Saipan was taken on July 9, 1944 after some of the toughest fighting anywhere in the war on either front, the USA had that closer airfield they had always wanted. Now the B-29’s could reach within effective combat radius, all but the northern cities of the four Islands. Tokyo was on the menu.
TALLY HO JUNE 19 1944 The Taiyo was the Titanic of Pacific aircraft carriers. It was the biggest and the unsinkable. Heh heh ... no it wasn't. The IJN sent all three of its fleet-carriers against US Task Force 58 and the birds had been annihilated by flak and American fighters in the Turkey Shoot. To make matters far worse for the IJN, two US Submarines then took down two of the three Japanese fleet carriers that had already lost their fighting force. Most of the Japanese planes that survived the MTS returned to find they didn't have a home carrier to go to. The USS Albacore sank the fleet carrier Taiyo on June 19 1944 with one torpedo. It was a great day for the submarine they nicknamed, “The Big Tuna.” Kawasaki Industries at Kobe had taken three years to build Taiyo. It was launched in March 1944 and was pronounced to be the world's first unsinkable aircraft carrier. The flood control and water-tight compartments were a step above anything else on the seas, and the armor plating protection was first-rate. Taiyo was the Yamato of aircraft carriers, a new 33,000 ton monster that set new standards. The “Japs” might have won the war with 15 of them in 1942, but with only one in 1944 it was a different story. When the Albacore tuna fish hit the carrier at the forward starboard area, fires started and gaseous fumes began spreading through the ship. The commander of the Taiyo gave the wrong order. The captain increased ship speed in the hope of blowing the fumes and fires out with sea-wind. This move only increased the spreading of the volatile gasses. Sure enough, the gasses lit up and the Taiyo began to snap crackle and pop like Kellogg's Rice Krispies. As the Taiyo went down the Albacore captain, Waldo Evans of Chicago watched through the periscope and sang, “Na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey, good-bye.” On June 19 the Sub USS Cavella found the 26,000 ton carrier Shokaku. Cavella shook up Shokaku with three torpedo hits. Captain Matsabura ordered abandon ship, but not in time to save 1,272 veterans of the Pearl Harbor attack. Destroyers picked up 571 survivors. The Marianas Turkey Shoot eliminated Japanese carrier air power, then two subs eliminated two big Japanese carriers.
BATTLE FOR GUAM The Japanese had captured Guam back in December of 1941. Now comes payback time. D-Day for Guam was July 21 as thousands of Army and Marine men hit the beaches of the western shore, where all the main objectives were, especially the airfield on the Oronte Peninsula. The Battle for Guam was a tough one, with the same suicidal Banzai charges like the ones back on Saipan. My two favorite stories out of the Battle for Guam involve Japanese hare-kareoke near the end of the campaign. After fending off a futile Banzai charge the night before, the Marines woke at dawn to the sight of Japanese soldiers flying 20 feet into the air like little stuffed dolls being hurled up by a happy child. These guys were committing suicide by deliberately stepping on magnetic mines. On another day a squad of Japanese troops walked towards the American lines with their arms folded. Were they surrendering? No. They had each placed a live hand grenade on their head, placed their helmet on top, and walked towards the American lines with their arm folded.
BATTLE FOR TINIAN – JULY 24 TO AUGUST 1 General Mike Schmidt led the Marines on the invasion of Tinian on July 24. The US captured it after one tough week of battle with the crazed defenders. The coach of the losers in this one was a man named Ogata. US KIA's were 328. Japanese KIA's were 8,010. Tinian was important because it had a good airstrip. The bombs that wiped out Hiroshima and Nagasaki took off on time from tiny Tinian.
STUBBORN PELELIU - SEPTEMBER 15 TO OCTOBER 15 The idea was to take a Japanese island airbase in the Paulau Islands in order to keep the east flank secure for MacArthur when he attacked in the Philippines. The Paulaus were halfway between New Guinea and the Philippines, but well off to the northeast making it the point of a triangle with the larger island groups at the base. An American commander, who shall remain nameless (Admiral Frances Pace,) demanded the Paulau Island mission, even though most of the top brass thought it was completely unnecessary. Many felt that Japanese air power in the Palau Islands was so negligible as to not be worth risking material and men to negate. The US had enough carrier air power to handle any feeble threat out of the Paulaus. So the mission went forward and was a costly win. Nearly 1,500 American soldiers died in the Battle for Peleliu. Historians still argue over it (they'll argue about anything, and no one will ever win.) The target airfield was on the little Paulau Island of Peleliu. I believe the pronunciation accents the first syllable, but don't hold me to that. The Japanese fought to the last crazy man. Of the 8,122 Japanese casualties, not a single one was registered in the books under 'wounded.' The Japanese applied many lessons of other recent battles. Commander Toshiba Saganaku declined the desperate Banzai charge as soon as the enemy hit the beaches approach. Instead his defenders hid in the hills in nearly impregnable positions. They would have to be rooted out in small nips. D-Day at Peleliu hit the southwest beaches and seized the airport. The next few days grew the airport perimeter and isolated Japanese resistance in the Goombala Hills of Peleliu. Peleliu was the first place that napalm was used in battle. Corsair carrier planes strafed the Japanese mountain holdout in the center of the island. Bull Halsey was against the operation to take Peleliu (Operation Pell-Mell,) but others told him the whole campaign could be wrapped up in ten days. The last Japanese were not cleared from Pel until the end of November. Halsey handed out a few I-told-you-so's later on. 1,300 Marines died on Peleliu, the rest were GI's. Most of these 1,300 KIA's on Peleliu had survived six months of hard fighting on Guadalcanal. You want to find American heroes, try the white crosses on Peleliu (I'm presuming most of them were buried there.) More than one history book calls Peleliu, “The Forgotten Battle of the Pacific War,” which made me feel much better, since I'd known near zero about it until very recently.
PHILIPPINES DECISION There was a decision to be made about the Philippines. As far as grand strategy was concerned, some felt that the only thing really needed in the Philippines was a good air base from which to increase the threat to Taiwan and Japan proper. Others, especially Mac, thought that the final invasion of Japan had to be launched from some large land base, and that Formosa came up short on good ports. The Philippines might be the place to stage the grand war from. It's easy to forget now, since we know the war was won by the atom bomb, that a land invasion of Japan wasn't just a possible vision, it was a definite idea that was in deep planning already. There were political considerations. The Philippines were our little brown brothers under our administrative care. It would have seemed cold to let them suffer under Japanese rule another year while we concentrated on airfield checkerboard strategy alone. More importantly, the Big Mac ego had to be appeased. Doug MacArthur had promised that “He shall return” and winning one airbase on Luzon would not cover this grandiose promise. FDR decided that the Philippines would have to be rescued. The first landings took place in December of 1944. The Japanese defenses on Luzon withdrew inland to fortified mountainous positions, so the initial landings were lightly contested. MacArthur waded ashore with the cameras rolling the following January.
LIBERATION OF THE PHILIPPINES In the fall of 1944 the United States Armed Forces planned for the liberation of the Philippines. The initial assault was planned for the large southern island of Mindanao. But Admiral Halsey reported that there was so little resistance to his naval air strikes all over the region that the United States should bypass Mindanao. In fact Halsey thought the United States should just concentrate all energy towards a direct invasion of the primary northern island of Luzon, ignoring all the other lesser islands entirely. But Admirals King and Lashua both thought that the USA needed land based air support before any invasion of Luzon should be undertaken. That meant that Luzon should not be taken first. But the opinion of Halsey counted for good and plenty. Halsey's carriers has raided the islands of Leyte and Mindanao, and noted a remarkable lack of Japanese resistance. Maybe an invasion of Luzon did indeed require land-based air support, but Leyte was another story. Halsey felt that his flattops could cover an invasion of Leyte, and then an air base there could provide the land-based air power the brass demanded for an invasion of Luzon. In a compromise the USAF (meaning United States Armed Forces – the United States Air Force didn't exist) decided to take on the Philippines halfway up the ladder. The USAF would invade the Philippine island of Leyte. The naval Battle of Leyte Gulf is famous, but the land battle to take Leyte island was the whole reason the Battle of Leyte Gulf took place. The Japanese made up their mind that the US would not take Leyte Island and that the last of Japan's military resources would be expended towards that end. The Japanese threw everything they had at the USAF in order to stop them from taking Leyte and they failed.
LEYTE INVASION On October 20, right on schedule, the Marines hit the beach on the eastern shore of Leyte Island. Resistance was fierce but the Marines advanced at a slow but steady pace. Japan sent four fleets at Leyte from four directions. It was everything but the Emperor's kitchen sink.
BATTLES FOR LEYTE GULF The greatest naval battle in history was the Battle of Leyte Gulf. You add up the four major clashes plus submarine actions in a span of less than 72 hours and it's hard to argue with that statement. The Japanese lost three battleships, ten cruisers, 11 destroyers, 3 light carriers and one fleet carrier, plus 500 planes. The Americans lost one light carrier and two escort carriers plus two destroyers and 200 planes. Considering how far America was ahead in warships and industrial production, putting new ones on line every week, the Battle of Leyte was even more one-sided decisive than it seems on statistics. The Battle for Leyte, like Gettysburg, Waterloo, and Guilford Court House, is overstudied by armchair admirals. The gun boys are mad at Admiral Bill Halsey for the big mistake he made in going after a decoy force of four Japanese aircraft carriers to the North of Leyte. These were just bait to draw him away from the San Bernadino Straight. While Halsey was chasing Ozawa up north and sinking his four decoy carriers, Kurita's Center force of cruisers and battleships would come through the straight and shoot up the Leyte Island invasion force and sink its escort carriers. Things partly worked out that way and in the Battle of Samar, where the Japanese won a minor victory thanks to Halsey's going for the bait. The most amazing thing about this criticism is that it fails to appreciate how wonderful the war was going for the United States if sinking four enemy carriers was a tactical error because the Japanese were just throwing carriers away by then as bait. That's not saying a whole lot for the Japanese situation. They had only 65 planes left for the four carriers. Zuikaku, Chitose, Kobobo, and Hocraka should have flown more than 300 planes from their decks. The 65 were mostly carrying new untrained pilots, and by now the US Hellcat's, Corsair's and Mustangs were much better planes than anything they flew to meet them. Halsey sank four Japanese carriers and that act is considered a famous military blunder of WWII! Can you beat that? When Fletcher sank four carriers at Midway he became as famous and beloved as Babe Ruth overnight. Military historians write of Nimitz sinking four carriers at Leyte as one of the low-lights of the American war effort!
There are four major actions that make up the famous “Battle of Leyte Gulf.” Most histories get so caught up in all the complex details of the naval actions that they just about miss the main point, so here is the main point. Leyte Gulf was payback time for Pearl Harbor. The Japanese wanted a final showdown in the Pacific and they got it at Leyte Gulf. It was all they had left against a now far superior US Navy. The USN beat the IJN by a score of about 44-6. It was over at the end of the first period. After Leyte, the Japanese should have done the right thing and surrendered. Instead they fought on and brought ruin and tragedy to a million private citizens in 40 Japanese cities. History blames American for all the tragic deaths in Japan in 1945 when Japan could have ended the war any time after Leyte in 1944, and after Leyte, the war was over. Japan was the chess player who won’t resign when he’s down to a King and three pawns against two rooks, a bishop, and four pawns. You could easily argue that Leyte was six or seven battles, if you want to include the Battles of the Philippine Sea and the land campaign for Leyte. Four major naval conflicts were,
One – The Battle of the Subiyan Sea, which is the name someone gave to a pack of US submarines decimating a fleet of Japanese battleships and cruisers and turning that fleet around in terror.
Two – The Battle of Surigao Strait – This is where the American Navy “crossed the T” and beat up a fleet of cruisers and destroyers.
Three – The Battle of Cape Espano – This is where Halsey chased down and sank four Japanese carriers and this was a huge blunder as they were only “bait.”
Four - The Battle off Samar – Kirita's Center force came back after retreating from the sub attack. It came out into the Philippine Sea and shot up a weak American task force of escort carriers. It was too little too late to make much difference in the overall strategic tally sheet for the Leyte campaign. Halsey is supposedly to blame for many of the deaths at Samar because he was foolishly far away.
THE PRINCETON AND THE BIRMINGHAM Japanese land based bombers from Luzon attacked Kinkaid's task force and hit the Princeton, a light carrier if that oxymoron ever existed. Fires spread and killed several sailors. I heard that something happened to the Birmingham also.
CROSSING THE T AT SURIGAO The most famous episode in all the battle for the Libration of the Philippines was the clash at Surigao Straight, the centerpiece of the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Most historians count several naval clashes around Leyte as the Battle of Leyte Gulf, but a few of the guys claim that the Battle of Leyte Gulf and the Battle of Surigao Straight are one and the same thing. This was the last time in Naval history that anyone got the chance to cross the T. If a line of battleships is the top horizontal line of the “t,” and the enemy approaching is the vertical line of the “t” then the top horizontal has a decisive advantage. The top of the t can bring all its guns to bear on the enemy and they can in response only shoot the forward turrets of the forward ships. In any case, more than 75 Japanese aircraft carriers and 26 Japanese battleships were sunk at Surigao (that estimate might be high, I am getting my stats from A History of World War II, by Glenn Beck.)
1901 REVISITED – BATTLE OFF SAMAR The follow-up battle to Surigao Straight took place off the Island of Samar, an island that saw savage fighting in the Philippine Insurrection of 1899 between US and Philippino forces. In this naval battle of WWII, the US Navy lost a small carrier, the Gambier Bay. Two other American small carriers were severely damaged. The USAF inflicted some damage in return but overall, the Naval Battle off Samar was a defeat for the United States. But the Japanese took more serious losses in the Surigao theatre than they inflicted off Samar. Japanese losses in ships, men and planes meant the end of Japanese offensive strategic power in the Pacific.
ARISAN MARU - OCTOBER 24 1944 - SHARK ATTACK FROM HELL Quick quiz; what was the largest loss of American life on a ship in WWII? was it the Arizona? Nope. Was it the Indianapolis of Jaws fame? Nope. It was 1,787 American men on the Arisan Maru who died from a “shark attack” on October 24 1944. The submarine USS Shark fired three torpedoes into the Arisan Maru. The 6.800 ton freighter broke in two and sank. In the cargo hold were nearly 1,800 US Prisoners of War. The US sub had unknowingly sank a ship filled to the brim with Yankees! The poor PW’s were being transported from the Philippines to Japan. Once the Americans threatened the Philippines, Tokyo decided it was time to get all the prisoners out of there and on to Japan. This was not the only time late in the war that incidents like this took place. US subs sank at least four other prison ships, killing their own countrymen. The Arisan Maru was merely the worst example of something at happened a few times. As a brutal bonus, the Shark was depth charged and destroyed by Japanese destroyers on the same day it sank the Arisan Maru. 87 Americans died on the Shark. That’s almost 2,000 Americans killed in one encounter, the good guys taking it on the chin on both ends. These Japanese prison ships were something like the Middle Passage for these poor PW’s. The conditions on them were so bad that they became known as “Hell Ships.” The ones who drowned had a rough last few days of life on earth. They suffer through all the time in captivity, then get on a Hell Ship for a few days without food or water or medicine or sunlight while Japanese guards beat them for singing God Bless America. Then a great explosion and they drown. A handful of survivors on makeshift rafts the next day tried to get on board a Japanese ship but the charming Japanese physically beat them down and back into the water. Four Americans survived in another Japanese PW camp after floating for days. Five were lucky enough to get pulled aboard a Chinese junk. They eventually made it back through China and Burma to the USA. No one is to blame for this friendly fire disaster except Japan for starting WWII in Asia. All freighters look alike and the Japanese put no special markings on PW ships. After the war a lot of families of the Hell Ship dead asked Japan for an apology for how they treated these men. Instead Japan demanded a US apology for bombing Japanese cities.
LAND BATTLE FOR LEYTE Okinawa, Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima are practically household names in America today, but the turning point in the Pacific War could arguably have been the land battle for Leyte Island. The naval battle of Leyte Gulf gets all the ink, but the land battle for Leyte spilled more American blood. General Yamashita was concentrating his forces on Luzon where his troops could use some excellent geographical features to the advantage of the defense. But General Terauchi, the 'Southern Area' commander ordered Yama san to move as many troops as possible to Leyte in the center of the archipelago. Yamashita, the “Tiger of Manila,” (hanged in 1948 for war crimes) protested that the soldiers and materials would best be used defending Luzon. Terauchi Suzuki told him, “It's not up to you. What part of direct orders from your superiors do you not understand?” Terauchi felt that it was all or nothing at Leyte and he had some logic besides his pride. If Japan allowed the USAF to set up air bases in the central Philippines, the fate of Luzon would be sealed anyway. Luzon might be able to put up a more stubborn defense than Leyte, true, but the only chance to actually prevent ultimate defeat in the Philippines would be to stop the Americans in the central islands. Once the United States took the Philippines, the war would be lost. The strategic value of these islands had motivated the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor in the first place. In 1941 Japan realize that the Philippines were a threat to the Japanese supply lines to its anticipated East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere (an empire by conquest) so the Philippines had to be conquered, and in order to do that, the Philippines had to be cut off from its Pacific Fleet by sinking it in Honolulu. Now the Japanese had to defend the Philippines by the same strategic thinking. It was all coming full circle. If the United States took back the Philippines, the Japanese would face the original situation that had it had worked so hard to prevent by pre-emptive attack on Pearl Harbor. The liberated Philippines would be the nightmare come true, the Japanese southern EACPS empire completely cut off from its supply lines to the home islands. The Japanese oil of Indonesia wouldn't be of much use if it could not be shipped home and the same went the other way for men, food and all sorts of other supplies. So Yamashita was tactically correct when he pleaded to keep his troops on Luzon, but Terauchi was strategically correct when he told Yamshita to shut up. Bad weather caused the American land forces almost as much trouble as Japanese fighting forces. The whole Leyte goal was to secure land based air power, yet every time the American constructed an airstrip on Leyte, rainstorms of Biblical proportions made it unserviceable. The Yanks had airports secured at Tacloban, Dulag, Burauen, and Paramus by the middle of November, but none of them could send up more than a couple of planes a week. American air power in the Philippines was stuck in the mud. The Japanese held the western part of Leyte Island stubbornly. Their defense was centered on the western port of Ormoc. The Japanese continued to rush reinforcements onto western Leyte Island at night. They weren't going to give up this island without a serious fight. It was a second Guadalcanal style effort, this time with the sides not equal, but the tactics were similar. The Americans were getting the better of the battle in the day but could not stop the Japanese from putting in more troops and supplies every night. The Americans didn't unfurl their “Mission Accomplished” banner on Leyte until December 15. It took the United States almost two full months to take Leyte Island, yet most Americans only know about the naval battle, which was really four.
MINDORO The plan to use Leyte airfields to backbone the invasion of Luzon was ruined by the Noah's Ark level rainstorms. So in December 1944 the Americans invaded and secured the island of Mindoro, just south of Luzon and northwest of Leyte. 1,211 Japanese slaves of the Emperor defended Mindoro Island but most of them fled inland when US war wagons and airplanes pounded the shore area just prior to the Army and Marines hitting the beach. Mindoro provided the airstrips that actually worked.
DIVINE WIND – COBRA 12 17 1944 The Japanese Kamikaze attacks began in late October 1944 and would increase in volume in 1945, especially during the battle for Okinawa. These suicide pilots were so named because of an historic typhoon that destroyed a Mongolian invasion fleet hundreds of years earlier, doing the Japanese defensive work for them from the heavenly sky. The legend of the divine wind became part of Japanese culture and it was adopted as symbolic of the Japanese suicide bomber missions. The first Kamikaze attacks didn’t do all that much damage to Sam’s ships, but a real ‘divine wind’ did. Typhoon Cobra hit the US Fleet in the far eastern Pacific on the night of December 17-18 1944 doing more damage than any Japanese air squad ever could. Cobra put forth sustained winds of more than 140 miles per hour with gusting of higher caliber. The typhoon sank three US destroyers, knocked off 146 American planes and killed 778 men. Cobra was the real kamikaze and did not fail in its mission. The large carriers handled the storm relatively well but the escort carriers were tossed around violently. It was on these smaller carriers that the planes were destroyed, many simply snapping off their moorings and spilling over into the sea. One carrier had a major fire from planes smashing up into each other and fuel lines rupturing. A second real Kamikaze, a storm, would strike the US fleet in 1945. It’s a good thing that the symbolic divine winds were not as effective as the real ones.
CHURCHILL PACIFIC CHAPTERS Churchill’s six volume history of the Second World War chooses to ignore all details on at least least a dozen successful US Pacific operations, and then goes into 11 pages on Leyte Gulf. The reason is clear. He stresses that the Japanese Fleet under Kurita could have taken the United States apart but turned back in one of the big blunders of the war - and then got beaten up anyway all the back back to the DEI (Dutch East Indies.) He emphasizes the fact that Halsey was the fool for going after the bait of the decoy carrier force to the north. What he is all about in the chapter on Leyte is that the United States won its big one in the Pacific by fool’s luck. Then, after ripping the commanders performance in the book in 1953 he quotes a telegram he sent to the same guy congratulating the Americans on a courageous and brilliant victory. Churchill consistently writes with a forked tongue, pretending to praise people while ripping their faces off between the lines. On several occasions Churchill mentions with pride that one or two British Commonwealth ships were attacked once or twice by Kamikaze’s. Yeah. That makes the BC and the USA equal partners in the hard fight in the Pacific now. He’s all exited about the creation of the new and powerful “British Pacific Fleet.” But it comes late in 1944 and it’s just in the way clogging up the logistical situation. So take HMS Howe and HMS Squid with the sparkling new 16 inch guns, and put them in mothballs now. No one needs them. Winston. It was bad enough that the USA has to deal with the USSR chomping at the bit to jump into the war when it was clearly won only in order to regain Tsarist imperial lands in Sakhalin, the Kuriles, and Manchuria. Uncle Sam also had to deal with its number one ally suddenly gung-ho to help out in the now won Asian war. John Bull was playing Vic Vulture. Britian wanted airfields in Japan after the war. Britian wanted continued access to the oil of the Dutch East Indies and Churchill definitely wanted Malaya and Singapore back. Part of the reason for DRACULA, the plan to seize Rangoon by amphibious assault, was that Churchill/DRACULA wanted to drink the life blood of the world’s economy, oil. He wanted to use Rangoon to stage a direct assault to regain the DEI oilfields that were lost in early 1942. The Asian war began over the oil of the DEA. How that oil would be handled after the war was a hot question and Churchill wanted (all of a sudden) as much British military involvement as he could funnel into the region in the name of peace ...oops .. I mean in the name of post war dividends.
USA POLITICS IN 1944
THE GREAT SEDITION TRIAL OF 1944 In August of 1944, the Roosevelt Administration put 30 Americans on trial for sedition. They were allegedly trying to overthrow the United States government. Their real crime was that they hated FDR and since he controlled the Justice Department like puppets, it wasn't difficult for him to get the Attorney General to arrest them and put them in jail (try to.) In 1942 Roosevelt kept on AG Biddle's back about stifling all criticism. He's mail an newspaper article that dared to criticize him to Biddle and include a clearly angry note, “what are you doing about this?” Biddle would try to say that these people had a constitutional right to criticize the President. Then FDR would treat Biddle like a bad dog. He would stop being cordial and would only give Biddle an angry stare when B was at a meting with FD and others. Biddle couldn't stand the hate coming from FDR any longer. On July 21, 1942 Biddle issued 28 indictments against Americans for sedition. They didn't go to trial until 1944. By that time two more had ben added to the dog house. The 30 bad Americans were a mixed bag. There was no united conspiracy to be sure, even if they were seditionists. My favorite character was Liz Dilling, because I have two of her 1930's books, (one of which is autographed by sportscaster Bob Costas, but that's another story.) Elizabeth's mid-1930's books claim that the FDR Administration is riddled with Reds. Her hardcovers are bright red to emphasize the point. Don't leave them on a pile of white shirts. They will bleed red into them, even after all these decades (trust me on that one.) LD's extremism is regrettable, because some of her evidence would have been admissible if she understood the value of a little temperance. She offers a thousand cases of Communist infiltration in the United States. The 600 that are absurd cancel out the 400 that needed to be told. Today, her books are a comic novelty, but I doubt that every page is off the mark. There are good legitimate books that make the same point, but they are written by apostate American Communists who were involved in the red. These can't be dismissed. A responsible scholar can find some real accurate gems amidst Dilling's hateful insanity. In any case, the Great Sedition Trial of 1944 ended in a mistrial. The presiding judge died, and the case was not resumed in a new trial. It never really appeared as if the prosecution was going to win anyway. The Great Sedition Trail was The Great Mistrial from the start.
MORE US POLITICS 1944 FDR and the New Deal were sinking in public affection as 1944 unfolded. Southern conservative Democrats (and what other kind were there?) were often uniting with Republicans to stop FDR war measures. Roosevelt proposed sending only federal ballots to the troops overseas, thus allowing them to vote only for President and Vice President. The Southern Dems and the Republicans overrode this idea and full ballots, including state candidates, were sent to the soldiers and sailors. The administration opposition came from a belief that while FDR had a major war advantage in the presidential vote, these servicemen and women might be more even-handed in looking at state and local candidates. FDR was trying to help the Democratic Party but even some Dems thought this was not right. FDR was always a political pig. Some financial issues created friction for Roosevelt. In the early spring of 1944 Congress forgave certain federal tax liabilities for the year 1942 for all taxpayers. The Capitol gang then had to dig down and create more money to make up the amnesty losses. The treasury department said we would need at least a new $10 billion to keep the war and the nation running smoothly. Congress came up with a new plan to raise less than 3 billion. The bill contained many pork-barrel exemptions for corporations in certain locales. Congressmen were playing log-roller in wartime and FDR was not going to play along. The corporate favors part of the bill made the pink in Roosevelt turn red with rage. He not only vetoed the bill he added a speech denouncing the bill and the principles behind it. He took a few swipes at those who would be exempted and those who sponsored the exemptions. The backlash against Franklin’s veto was pronounced. Senator Alben Barkley, citing the disrespectful language of the veto, offered to resign as majority leader of the Democratic Congressional delegation. He called Roosevelt’s veto language an, “assault upon the legislative integrity of every member of Congress.” The Congress at the urging of Barclay (a future Vice President) overrode FDR’s veto of the revenue bill. The prospects for the Democrats holding on to the White House in 1944 were shaky. Polls in early months indicated that if the war was still going on in November, Roosevelt would probably win against any Republican candidate, but it might be close. Republican Wilkie was running a steady 48 points against 52 for FDR. However if the war was over by then, the polls showed that FDR would lose big against almost anybody! What was much worse, polls showed that if anyone but Roosevelt ran for the Democrats, they would lose big to virtually any Republican, with or without the war going on! So much for the image of Roosevelt as the universally beloved national war leader. This was a bleak choice for the Democrat brains trust. We can either stick with this increasingly feeble and increasingly unpopular old guy who can’t win if the war ends too soon. Or we ask him not to run for a fourth term and face certain defeat. Roosevelt complicated the political dilemma for 1944 by being almost incredibly ill for a functioning elected official, let alone a candidate. He looked so old and haggard he could have hosted 60 Minutes if the show had existed then. He was 62 going on 90. His private secretary on four occasions in 1944 walked into a room at the White House and found FDR passed out on the floor. He had lost the flow of blood to the brain and fallen out of his wheelchair. Another secretary tells of him passing out while dictating an important state letter to her. Roosevelt told the press he had bronchitis, but that was like the captain of the Titanic saying there’s a leak in the boat. FDR had about eight major malfunctions ripping his body apart throughout 1944. He was in an advanced stage of heart disease. People at Yalta had been horrified by his gaunt appearance and inability to talk forcefully, and that was back in 1943. The President’s physical collapse was progressively getting worse as 1944 rolled on and the Democratic Party had to decide about him running again. FDR did what he could to fight his physical demons. He was always at Hyde park resting up, or at Jimmy Byrne’s upscale home in South Carolina. His favorite place to recover was at Warm Springs Georgia. He slept much of the day away at the White House so as not to inflame his many ailments with a work schedule. On the advice of one of his physicians, he cut down from forty to five cigarettes a day. It was wrong for the Democrats to let a man this sick run for office, but how can you blame them if he was the only guy with a chance of winning?
NATIONAL SERVICE ACT This didn’t happen, but in 1944 FDR was thinking about it and even recommending it. There was such a shortage of labor in American war industries that FDR wanted to institute a labor draft. By the end of 1944 the war had turned favorably enough that Franklin dropped it. But when 1944 opened, the USA was close to a labor draft. That would have been no simple or serene affair, to say the least.
A DEPRESSING SUBJECT Some historians now insist that President Roosevelt suffered from depression but I don’t put much stock in that. I think almost everyone does, at least now and then. After all, we are all on death row. There’s plenty to be unhappy about, it if anyone reflects long and hard enough. I just don’t think it’s a new insightful political fact that FDR suffered from ‘depression.’ And even if he did, so what? The poor man was in a wheelchair, received death threats every day, smoked 10 cigarettes an hour, was called a Communist every week in the press, was sending hundreds of people to their death every day, and his wife looked like the Pope’s grandmother. Sure he was probably a little down now and then. But it's not a significant historical fact in my book, and I feel the same way about Nixon. Let’s just evaluate the man’s job performance at face value and leave the psycho-babble out of it. Next we’ll have Doris Goodwin telling us that FDR was “probably very lonely.” ELECTION OF 1944 The initial Republican front runner for 1944 was General Douglas MacArthur. Dugout Doug most definitely wanted the job. But a minor scandal knocked his candidacy off balance. Letters he had exchanged with Congressman Al Miller of Nebraska damaged his pt-boat when they were leaked in the press. These letters showed MacArthur fearing that in the New Dealers, America faced an internal threat almost as scary as the external one. That was an extreme charge and didn’t sit well with the electorate. People still continued to talk about a MacArthur presidency, but less than before. MacArthur’s potential as a candidate didn't die, it just faded away. The Elephants settled instead on little Tommy Dewey of New York State. For the Dems. FDR decided he would run for a fourth term and that settled that. What Democrat fool would challenge god ? FDR had no business claiming he was healthy enough to run for president in 1944. The President looked and sounded terrible during his rambling acceptance speech at the convention. If he wasn't the sitting president of the country he would have walked half the room. The next morning one Republican editor demanded that FD take a full physical and share the results with the American public. A battle of newspaper and magazine editors ensued. The pro-Democrat newspapers and magazines tried to hide President Roosevelt’s failing body with shrewdly chosen photographs, while Republican rags went out of their way to show FDR looking at his most tired and haggard. In one photo he looked even worse than I did in the mirror this morning! With Roosevelt in obviously frail health D-Convention placed an intense focus on who would be the Vice Presidential nominee. Few insiders believed that FDR would live out another term. Roosevelt actually didn’t believe it either, and took the VP matter very seriously. The President was set on one thing. He did not want Henry Wallace to be the next president. Incumbent Henry Wallace and Carolinian crusader Jimmy Byrnes were the clear front-runners for Vice President. But Henry Wallace was too left for the conservative Democrats, and Byrnes, was too redneck for the liberal Democrats. A compromise candidate was needed, sought and found in the person of Senator Harry S. Truman from Missouri. Truman had no enemies and a fairly quiet record in the Senate, plus an heroic record of service in the United States Army in World War One. Pundits described Truman in 1944 as “The Missouri Compromise.” Roosevelt sat Truman down one day in the Rose Garden shortly after the Dem Convention and told him the real reason he had chosen him for VP. Franklin told Harry that his selection wasn’t just a compromise. FDR wanted someone ‘slightly to the right of center’ to take over if (when) he died. FDR knew that the New Deal had been pretty radical left and he wanted the country to digest what it had swallowed. It was almost a death-bed apology for the extremism of the New Deal. Another intimate of FDR backs this up. FDR told him the exact same story about why he picked Harry Truman. That’s why he could not let Henry Wallace stay on the ticket. Franklin liked Hank, and influential Eleanor believed in Wallace. But Wallace was to the left of Roosevelt. The country had changed already enough in that direction, even for FDR. The country wasn't ripe for a President Lefty in 1945. In April 1945, Less than one year after the convention nominated him for Vice President, Harry Truman became President. The Dewey Decimate System -1944
FDR clobbered TD in 1944. In 1948 Dewey defeated Harry Truman. At least that’s what a Chicago paper thought in that famous false headline. Dewey lost a very close one to Truman in 1948, making him a two time loser.
MONTY – STUBBORN TO A FAULT No, we don't mean General Montgomery, but rather a company about as powerful in its own right as general Montgomery was. The giant national mail order house of Montgomery Ward was supposed to cooperate with all the US government measures as decreed in the Smith Connally Act. But the President of Monty Ward was Sewell Avery, a man with all the warmth and charm of a cactus. Ward said that his company was complying with all war measures and that the Smith Connally Act did not apply in the case of the Montgomery Ward Corporation. Sewell didn't want to work with labor unions, while FDR was determined that the rights of labor were not going to take a step back because of the war emergency. The President in April of 1944 settled the argument by seizing Montgomery Ward and turning it over to the Department of Commerce. Now the Montgomery Company was forced to make a collective bargain with labor in keeping with the “wishes” of the War Labor Board, after which the company was return to its “rightful” owners. By the late fall of 1944 the WLB was again angry with MWC. The Labor Board determined that Montgomery Ward was paying wages that were below the ability of its workers to live on, and ordered Monty Ward to give out pay raises. Sewall Avery refused to pay up, and the WLB decided to end the problem forcefully. The US government took over the Montgomery Ward mail order company for the remainder of the war. Sewell didn't get his company back until six days after Nagasaki.
IN THE MOOD ... TO GET TORTURED TO DEATH 12 15 1944 Glenn Miller was the young hip superstar musician of his time. On December 15 1944 the USA was stunned to learn that Miller’s plane had disappeared over the English Channel. Glenn Miller took the Chattanooga Choo Choo to heaven. It was the day the music died in WWII. Glenn Miller was the Amelia Erhart of WWII. It became a mystery how his plane had vanished. In the 1980's a couple of RAF pilots claimed they knew what had happened. A bomber fleet had its mission cancelled, jettisoned their bombs over the Channel, and didn't know that a friendly plane was below them. Glenn Miller's plane took Lancaster bomb hits. But there's a guy who is all over the off-beat radio talk show circuit with a new book called the Glenn Miller Conspiracy. The book claims that Miller spoke fluent German and was working with US intelligence at the highest levels. Miller was on a mission to get into Germany and meet in secret with German Generals who were plotting to overthrow Hitler. Miller might be able to facilitate an armistice shortly after the Fuhrer fell. But Miller got caught by loyal Hitlerites and was tortured to death in a Berlin prison. If that's all true than Miller makes Moe Berg look like a piker (More Berg was a former major league catcher who also was an American spy during WWII. His book, Athlete, Scholar, Spy is compelling, but not compared to the Glenn Miller Story.) The movie The Glenn Miller Story with Jimmy Stewart had nothing on this wild extension of his story. The number one entertainer in America goes away to rescue millions from the contining war and dies in a Nazi prison, is tortured, and no one even knew about it? That's pretty amazing, even if it only might be true. Imagine Lady Ga Ga on a secret mission to bring peace with the Taliban and they kidnap and torture her and she dies and no one really knows what happened to her? That’s the Glenn Miller story.
USSBS - “UZZ-BUZZ” Late in 1944 it was decided that the best way to make the most of the impending Japanese bombing campaign was to have a team of objective brainiacs study the effects of the air campaign on Germany. So began the United States Strategic Bombing Survey. It took far longer to complete the bomb research mission because the war with Germany took far longer to complete than expected. Thanks to Monty's idiot Market Garden and the unexpected counter-attack at the Bulge, the Nazi war was not going to be over by Christmas 1944. “Uzz-buzz” was in full operation at the end of 1944, and had a large self-sustaining staff in England and France. At the end of 1944 it had reached no official conclusions, mostly because it as yet had no access to Germany. It was hard to assess damage to German cities until they could get into one or two of them and look around. The Allies also needed to interview important German leaders to know how the bombing had worked, but that too was impossible. When uzz-buzz completed its report on the air campaign against Germany in April of 1945 the conclusions would be startling. The targeting of specialized industry was a mistake. Air raids on ball-bearing plants were an utter failure. They did not slow down German production one bit. Raids on railway transport and oil facilities did much better than raids on factories.
ATTRITION RATE FOR PILOTS The attrition rate for American pilots was spooky. Was this World War I or II? A pilot had to fly 30 missions before he could go home to see the wife. Then he could retire if he wanted to. Such a man had run the gauntlet. The odds of any given pilot surviving a 30-mission run were one in three. On the other hand, once a pilot had survived about ten missions, it was more likely than not he would survive the next 20, for most of this horrible overall attrition stat comes from fatal mistakes made on the first two or three times out. It was the same with the infantry. Green soldiers were ten times more likely to die in combat than grizzled veterans.
Admiral Halsey's Story, by Bull Halsey His story-telling really hits the bulls-eye. This is the only book I’m listing here that I don’t own and have not read. I plan to. Soon.
Adolph Hitler, by John Toland - c) 1976 - Doubleday Toland isn’t terribly objective. For some reason he seems to hate the guy.
Aleutians, Gilberts and Marshalls, June 1942 - April 1944, by Samuel Eliot Morison (Volume VII of the History of United States Naval Operations in World War II) - c) 1951 - Little Brown Great stuff. Gilbert and Marshall sounds like a Broadway music team.
Allies: Pearl Harbor to D-Day, by John D. Eisenhower - c) 1982 - Doubleday This is a very well written account of the stressful alliance between UK and US. As the son of General Eisenhower, John S. has special insights and plenty of inside source materials. Square but lively at the same time, just like his dad.
The American Heritage Picture History of World War II, by Carl Sulzberger and the Editors of American Heritage There’s a lot more text in this giant coffee table book than the title would suugest. There is no copyright date, but I have an almost identical AHPH book about the Civil War and that was c)1960, so that’s a good guess.
The American Pageant, A History of the Republic, by Thomas A. Bailey of Stanford University -c) 1961 D.C. Heath Bailey can not only turn a phrase, he makes great points in the shortest space possible. He calls Ike a “master of organization and conciliation.”
American Military History 1607-1958, by the Department of the US Army - c) 1959 This isn’t exactly the Howard Zinn/Village Voice book of the month. But I like it.
A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941 - 1945), by Paul Dull - c) 1978 - Naval Institute Press - Military Book Club Edition I joined the Military Book Club in the early 1980’s and defaulted on my payments. Then I felt guilty about the books they had sent me and became reluctant to pick them up and read them. After more than 30 years of guilt, the statute of limitations is up and I’m reading them. The MBC hardcovers are a little smaller than the editions put out in the bookstores, which is not a good thing, especially when it comes to all the scrunched up maps.
Battle Report, The Atlantic War, Prepared From Official Sources by Commander Walter Karig, USNR, with Lieutenant Earl Burton, USNR, and Lieutenant Stephen L. Freeland, USNR - Farrar and Rinehart - c)1946 - “Published in Cooperation With the Council on Books in Wartime Sometimes this is very readable and moves well. Sometimes.
The Bitter Years, The Invasion of Denmark and Norway April 1940 - May 1945 - by Richard Petrow - c) 1974 - Morrow Quill It’s an important book, but the binding on my large paperback is breaking and it spoils my drive to pick this up and continue.
The Blast of War 1939-1945, by Harold MacMillan - c) 1967 - Harper & Row This is great reading. To start my day sitting and listening to him speaking (reading) makes the whole history thing worth it. It’s good brain food. These book friends swim in by brain all day and its part of why I limit my friendships and stay off the social networks. It frees my mind to swim with the one or two authors I read for hours that day.
The Bomber War, The Allied Air Offensive Against Nazi Germany, by Robin Nellands, - c) 2001 Barnes & Noble This is a valuable book, but too many first hand action stories of action drag down the larger themes of scholastic importance. I don’t need mini-biographies of every pilot who ever survived the war and lived long enough to talk to you.
The Brutal Friendship, Mussolini, Hitler, and the Fall of Italian Fascism, by F.W. Deakin - c) 1962 - Harper & Row Why did they write a book about Heraldo Rivera and Bill O’Reilly? Deacon is a very good writer.
Churchill Roosevelt Stalin, The War They Waged and the Peace They Sought, by Herbert Feis - c) 1957 - Princeton University Press Beautiful writing, combined with first-rate scholarship, lively opinion, and a great physical book. Other than that, I didn’t care much for the read.
Command Decisions, Prepared by the Office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army - c) 1959 - Harcourt and Brace What’s not to like about this collaborative effort by 16 of the top Army historians of the era? This was a well known work for a spell, but has fallen into a bit of obscurity outside the militorian field (yes, that is a word ... in my house.) General Lucas at Anzio is an interesting chapter for this one.
The Conquerers, Roosevelt, Truman and the Destruction of Germany, 1941-1945, by Michael Beschloss – c) 2002 - Simon & Schuster The ubiquitous Beschloss gives us his recent scholarship on the fall of Germany.
Decision at Normandy, by Carlo D’Este - c) 1983 - E.P. Dutton This is the source for the quotes from General Hargas on the lack of fight in the British throughout the Normandy campaign. And this book is all about the British side of things from British sources from a man who uses British slang in his writing, so I’m presuming he’s British. I like to wait until I am completely finished with a book before I look up an author’s personal life details on the internet. Let me catch the act act faece value first and then we’ll examine the author up closer. This is a very good book, and the only book on my shelf that is focused on the military fight in Normandy. Now I need another one about the US effort. Update: I just picked up Six Armies in Normandy, by John Keegan, so we’ll be growing in wisdom over the next few weeks (I hope.)
Delivered From Evil, by Robert Leckie – c) 1987 – 948 pg General history of WWII for chauvinist Americans who love war books. I couldn't put it down. Delivered pays extra detail to the battles for the Pacific Islands because Leckie was there in a Marine helmet that he used for a pillow. 948 pages of no-nonsense work without 120 pages of tiny font notes up the back, the bane of all the new snobby history books. American tough guy historian Leckie praised the Germans more than he praises the British, which a coincidence, since most British historians praise the Germans more than they praise the Americans.
The Divine Wind, by Rikihei Inoguchi and Tadashi Nakajima Roger Pineau c) 1957 - My Bantam paperback with the cover torn off is a later reprint This is the story of the men who jumped into obsolete planes and deliberately crashed them into US Navy ships. Pineau guides us through many first hand accounts, which makes no sense.
Eagle Against the Sun, The American War With Japan, by Ronald H. Spector - c) 1985 A lot of modern historians cite this as the best general history of the Pacific War. I hope he’s no relation to Arlen Spector. I hope they aren’t right. It isn’t a lot of fun. A lot of big words and notes upon notes. I’m so impressed.
Eisenhower’s Lieutenants, The Campaigns of France and Germany, by Russel F. Weigly - c) 1981- Indiana University Press Unlike General Eisenhower, this book takes no prisoners. This is the book that the other scholars look to for leadership. The best detailed account for the general reader, and many outstanding maps. The title is a nod to the famous military history book by Doug Freeman, Lee’s Lieutenants, which is a work of art. But so is this, but in a more all-business style.
The Enduring Vision, A History of the American People, by Paul S. Boyer, Clifford E. Clark Jr., Joseph F. Kett, Thomas L. Purvis, Harvard Sitkoff, and Nancy Woloch, - c) 1990 - D. C. Heath This is a great textbook in so many ways. I love to pull it off the shelf and browse it, even though I read the whole thing already ... all right, to be honest I still have 70 pages left in this 1,149 page visionary endeavor. Actually it is. The publishers must have had a great vision for this and the finished product surely must have made that vision come true. Kids who get this book in school don’t know how lucky they are, in spite of all the liberal bias in the text.
Exile and Return, The Struggle for a Jewish Homeland, by Martin Gilbert - c) 1978 - J. P. Lippincott He was already one of the great World War II historians before he started taking on this sensitive subject.
France Reborn, The History of the Liberation, June 1944 - May 1945 - c) 1964 - Charlie Scribner - Translated from the French by Humphrey Hare I bought this book in order to read it and root for France emotionally. Instead this Robert man is such a biased and viciously sneaky one-sided anti-American writer that he evokes my resentment towards France. He blames America for everything and exonerates France for everything. There was a great story to tell and he misses it. Aron just uses the items in the story as boats to sail his resentments on. This is sickening chauvinism. What a failed effort. Are you trying to persuade American readers to reconsider some historical facts, or do you want your tone to just insult them? Where is that going to get you? Aron is a good writer, and Humphrey the Hare obviously did a primo job with the translation. But Rob Aron is a mean-spirited thinker, and a most unpersuasive man.
The Great Crusade, by H. P. Willimotte - c) 1982 - MacMillan Free Press This guy makes brilliant points left and right, but I prefer a solid general account of things. HP is a top talent, but a little too smart for me. It's more an analysis of everything that happened in WWII than it is an account of it.
The Great Sea War, The Story of Naval Action in World War II, by E.B. Potter and Chester Nimitz c-) 1960 - Bramhall This covers everything, and does so with maps. Great writing. Potter and Nimitz lead the writing team but it also includes Navy men, J.R. Freidland, Henry H. Adams, James A. Arnold, William M. Belote, Edwin M. Hall, Klement C. Hopper, Ron Skelton, Winston B. Lewis, Phillip K. Lundenberg, and H. O. Werner
The Growth of the American Republic, Vol II 1865-1937, by Samuel Eliot Morison and Henry Steele Commager – c) 1940 Oxford Univ. Press. This is one of the most famous America History books of all time, although not one of the best. It's very good, but it's not what it's cranked up to be.
Hirohito: Behind the Myth, by Edward Behr - c) 1989 - Villard Books Hirohito spoke passable English and would have made a most interesting witness at the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal if the Allies had tried to prosecute him after the war. Which they easily could have if they had chosen to.
History of a Free People by Henry W. Bragdon of Phillips Exeter Academy (Exeter New Hampshire), and Samuel P. McCutchen of New York University (Walla Walla Washington) – c – 1954 Two strict disciplinarians write a history book at the height the right-wing hysteria in America.
A History of Presidential Elections, by Eugene H. Roseboom - c) 1957 - Macmillan If you’re going to an advocate for the Democrats, don’t be sneaky about it. Just come right out and admit it Gino. You are a lawyer promoting the rightness of the Democratic Party in all things under the guise of a history of Presidential Elections.
A History of Warfare, by Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery of Alamein - c) 1968 I love the pleasure of his company!
History of World War II, Armed Services Memorial Edition, by Frances Trevelyan Miller Litt.D. LLD - With a Board of Historical and Military Authorities c) 1945 A great book, but it’s sad how brutal it is. This was written while the hatreds of war were still inflamed. The authors have no pity for any of the enemy dead or wounded, not even civilian. None at all. And it’s paradox-published by the Universal Book and Bible House out of Philadelphia. No real Quaker spirit in here.
Illusion and Necessity, The Diplomacy of Global War 1939-1945, by John L. Snell, Tulane University - c) 1963 - Houghton Mifflin This packs an amazing punch for such a short package. It’s the Charlene Tilton of history books.
Inside the Third Reich, by Albert Speer Speer was tried and convicted at Nuremberg for his role as Hitler's architect, and Labor Minister near the end of the war. He served 20 years and then got out and reinvented himself through this book, which was a huge sensation when it was out. Everyone was reading it. This book actually passed the diner test. People in diners all over America were talking about it. The big issue was whether to believe all his excuses and explanations about his actions as a Nazi. Much of ITR is about building buildings and other things it's hard to be mad at him for. The best way to read this is to not even focus on the author and just note his remarkable and valuable portraits of all the other people in the Reich, especially Hitler. Al Speer was definitely one of the intimates, and Hitler had very few.
Japanese Destroyer Captain, by Captain Tameichi Hara, of the Imperial Japanese Navy, with Fred Saito and Roger Pineau - c) 1961 This is an excellent first hand source on WWII in Asia.
Japan's Imperial Conspiracy, by David Bergamini - c) 1973 Bergy thinks that Emperor Hirohito was a conspirator in the attack on Pearl Harbor and everything else bad the Japanese did. He's pretty rough on the guy. The writing bogs down in confusing detail of Japanese names from time to time, but JIC is a very important work, and one that has influenced my thinking a great deal.
The Liberation of the Philippines, by Stanley Falk c) 1970– Ballantine Book Excellent book that I read cover to cover. All right, it’s a small book, but the font is tiny and the material is military-intense and requires a lot of work to follow. The US took 38,000 casualties taking the Philippines.
The Life and Death of Adolph Hitler, by Robert Payne - c) 1973 - Praeger Eva Braun sometimes convinced her boyfriend to spare individual Jews she knew from the camps.
The Longest Day, by Cornelius Ryan It was Rommel who coined the phrase.
The Luftwaffe War Diaries, by Cajus Beckker Definitely one of the tope ten must reads on WWII. If there's a better history of the Luftwaffe in WWII from the German perspective, I'd like to know what it is. Very influential book in my perception of WWII. The title is misleading because it doesn't really rely heavily on diary entries of German pilots. There's a few, but mostly this is a solid general history of the German air force in WII.
Marching Orders, The Untold Story of World War II, by Bruce Lee - c) 1995 - Crown
ME-109, Willy Messerschmitt’s Peerless Fighter, by Martin Caiden - c) 1968 - Ballantine It wasn’t quite so “peerless” when the P-51’s started showing up in 1944, but it was still first-rate right to the end.
The Memoirs of Cordell Hull, Volume II c) 1948 - Macmillan The man from Tennessee wrote a classic of American history here. The book is not about him, but about the events he was dealing with. Hat’s off to that approach. I wish Madeline Albright and Bill Clinton’s memoirs had been written more in that spirit.
The Memoirs of Field-Marshall the Viscount Montgomery of Alamein K.G. - c) 1958 - World Publishing, Cleveland Why anyone would read books about Monty without reading Monty first is beyond me. This book is fine. I wish it was 900 pages long.
Memoirs of General Lord Ismay, by General Lord Ismay - c) 1960 - Viking I like this book. I’d love it if he were as good a writer as Harold Macmillan or Bill Shirer. Ismay is only okay.
The Mighty Endeavor, American Armed Force in the European Theater in WWII, by Charles B. MacDonald - c) 1969 - Oxford University Press I like his essays on sources at the end of the book.
Mussolini, by Christopher Hibbert - c) 1972 - Ballantine These old Ballantine war paperbacks have an almost hardcover quality to them, and I rarely say that about paperbacks. Hibbert is very smart yet very readable.
Mussolini, by Ivone Kirkpatrick c) 1964 - Hawthorne This was a great read. I wish I’d read it while I was writing my book instead of six years before I started (I wrote my first paragraphs of this history book on August 12 2004.)
The National Experience – Part Two A History of the United States Since 1865 by John M. Blum, Edmund S. Morgan, Willie Lee Rose, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., Kenneth M. Stampp, and C. Vann Woodward – c) 1981 Fifth Edition – Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich These are some of the big name historians of their time. I don't think HBJ did a great job with the layout and design. Not an uplifting pleasure to hold and look at. Three Yalees a CUNY, a UCBK, and one from Anthony’s Hopkins.
New Guinea, The Tide is Stemmed, by John Vadar - c) 1971 - Pan/Ballantine The brutal New Guinea fighting was still not finished when 1944 rolled around. It had been a long hot and cruel battle. Glad I missed it. I could never have handled the bugs. This is a really fine military book.
On Active Service in Peace and War, by Henry L. Stimson, Secretary of War 1911-1913, Secretary of State 1929-1933, and Secretary of War 1940 - 1945, and McGeorge Bundy, Junior Fellow, Harvard University. Interesting that Stimson did not of the actual writing, but since the book is about his life and work, Bundy has given his subject a co-author credit. I might write a book about Lenny Bruce and say it’s “by Lenny Bruce and Mike Donovan.”
On to Berlin, Battles of an Airborne Commander 1943-1946, by James M. Gavin -c) 1978 - Viking This book could use a few more maps, but compared to most war books, its very good in this department. Gavin seems like a good guy.
Omar Bradley: A Soldier’s Story, by Omar N. Bradley - c) 1951, - Henry Holt Bradley was the ground manager for the American Army offensive in Europe that won the war. Ike was the executive supreme commander. OB is one of the finest books I have ever read about any subject. Usually when I get near the end of a big book I look foreward to hitting the finish line, giving the book a 1-10 rating with a comment at the end, and then jumping into another book. In this case I was genuinely sad that it had to end. There's about 20 books I have ever read that are like that. Ike's Crusade in Europe is another one. These two books are twins. The physical design and the maps look so similar that some of the same producers might be involved in both. Both books are such a joy to read. I just disappear into that time and that world, and lose awareness of all around me. If my wife calls my name I jump out of my skin when I'm lost in a great book like Omar Bradley or Crusade in Europe. The best part of all is how important the Ike and Brad books are. It would be great to read a book this well done about some obscure and small war. But to read two books that great about something so huge and important helps to make life a stimulating treat. Bradley has to be the most famous WWII American general among the ones who aren't famous.
Out of Many; A History of the American People, by John Mack Faragher (Yale), Mari Jo Buhle (Brown), Daniel Czitrom (Mount Holyoke), and Susan H. Armitage (Washington State) - c) 1994 - Prentice Hall Physically a wonderful book, and well written, but it is very left slanted.
The Oxford History of the American People, by Samuel Eliot Morison – c) 1965 Oxford University Press, 1,128 pages Unlike most historians who need to 'bone-up' on the chapters they are working on, Sam had to dummy down his knowledge of WWII in order to write the short relevant chapter here. He was the official historian of World War II for the United States Navy, and he served courageously in the South Pacific.
The Path to Victory – A History of WW2 in the Mediterranean Superb! One of the best books ever! I haven't read 50 pages yet, but I love what I’m reading so far.
Petain: Hero or Traitor, The Untold Story, by Herbert R. Lottman - c) 1985 - William Morrow and Company
Present at the Creation, my Years in the State Department, by Dean Aecheson – c) 1969 Aecheson went on to become Secretary of State during the Korean War, but he was high up enough during the Second World War that the opening chapters of his infinitely snobby book provide a lot of valuable material, especially on US problems with the neutrals.
Presidential Campaigns, by Paul F. Boller, Jr. of Texas Christian University - c) 1984 – Oxford University Press. Even though this book has nothing to do with it, Paul Boller served under Admiral Nimitz as a Naval intelligence officer in WWII.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, A History of Nazi Germany, by William L. Shirer - c ) 1960 - Simon & Schuster On a 1-100 this is a 99. The excessive footnotes cost it a perfect score.
The Rising Sun, Vol II by John Toland Toland is great but he has too much sympathy for the Japanese for my taste.
Rocket Fighter, The Fastest Warplane in World War II!, by Willie Green - c) 1971 For the record, the Me-262 could fly at a steady 300 mph, but not much more. Goering wanted to test fly one but he was too fat for the seat. Ha ha ha ha ha!
Roosevelt: The Soldier of Freedom, by James MacGregor Burns - c) 1970 - Harcourt Brace Jovanovich According to page 323 he told Hopkins that if he could find a cure for his polio the first thing he would so is “find Joe Kennedy and rearrange his glasses for him.”
Sex and Society in Nazi Germany, by Hans Peter Bleuel - c) 1972 - J. B. Lippincott Hitler had his problems and they tricked down into Nazi mixed messages about sex. Perverts pretending at times to be prudes, and at other times casually embracing nudism. I gave 2 question. Was Hitler a homosexual? And two: Will I be arrested shortly for using that term in America today, even in the historic context when that word was acceptable? Maybe, on both counts. To describe a person who prefers sex with the same sex as “homosexual” is now greatly offensive for some reason. “Gay” which describes nothing at all, is the required term. When did accuracy in words become subordinate to PC code words? Gay means joyous. Hitler was never gay, even if he was a homosexual, and I feel gay whenever I see a nice looking woman in a bikini at the beach. I use the language accurately. That’s my “choice.”
A Short History of the American Nation, by John A. Garraty of Brooklyn College and Columbia University – c) 1977 Garraty also taught history for 12 years at the University of Michigan. JAG definitely voted for FDR in 1944.
The Soviet History of World War II, by Matthew P. Gallagher - c) 1963 - Praeger At the height of the Cold War, an Yankee Doodle author rips the Russians for their dishonest historical account of WWII. The American side distorts and lies by omitting some facts and stressing others. But at least American lies try to be slick. The Soviet lies were blunt, transparent, shameless, automatic, and relentless.
Stilwell and the American Experience in China 1911-1945, by Barbara W. Tuchman - c) 1970 This was a very popular book when it was out. People who didn’t usually read WWII book were reading it. It’s still popular with both historians and general readers.
A Time for Trumpets, by Charles B. McDonald - c) 1985 - William Morrow I just bought this last week. Charles is a very patriotic writer.
Total War, The Causes and Courses of the Second World War, by Peter Calvocoressi, Guy Wint, and John Pritchard, - c) 1989 - Pantheon
Triumph and Tragedy, by Winston S. Churchill – c) 1953 - Houghton Mifflin/Riverside Press The Prime Minister wrote the most prolific history of WWII of all time. But not the most terrific. It's an 8 million page polemic about how he was right on everything and everyone else was wrong on everything, and here's thousands upon thousands of long tiny font telegrams from the time to prove it. Has anyone ever honestly survived this entire six volume read without vomiting? He always goes for the left handed compliment, the sneaky sleazy slick cheap shot at the United States. It’s relentless, while he feigns innocent storyteller and faithful freind. He made a jack-ass out of FDR by pretending to be his friend while using every situation to try and benefit the UK alone, not the Allies, not the world, not humanity, but the UK alone. was to benefit from every idea he had for running the war. He ran WWII like an imperialist British chauvinist, and only like an imperialist Brit chauvinist. His conceit is beyond reason and my tolerance. I hate him. I loved him 20 years ago. Now I hate him. I’d like to dig him up from the grave and slap his ugly fat face. Several times.
The Two-Ocean War, A Short History of the United States Navy in the Second World War, by Samuel Eliot Morison - c) 1963 - Little-Brown (Atlantic Monthly edition) A rare book in that the maps are sometimes more advanced than the text which the maps cover. That’s because he wrote a 14 volume history and now has to crunch it all up into one short volume and the maps that were drawn for the elaborate work still find their way into the short history.
The United States: The History of a Republic, by Richard Hofstadter of Columbia, William Miller co-author of The Age of Enterprise, and Daniel Aaron of Smith College - c) 1957 Prentice-Hall Dano Aaron is one of the founders of the Library of America which keeps the political classics in the rotation, even if they can't turn a profit for Random House. His memoir The Americanist was published in 2007. He wrote it when he was 94. Only the historian can have such dignity in old age.
The United States and World War II, Vol I, by A. Russell Buchanan - Harper & Row I am a slow reader and the second best review I can give of a book is that I finished it. The best review I can give is that I enjoyed it so much that I didn’t want it to end so I put it back into my shelf with about 20 pages to go and it stays there forever, pretending to be an “active” book. This is such a book. I still need volume II. This one covers some of the 1944 Pacific War, but most of 44 is in volume II. Harper and Row’s New American nation series made nice physical design too. USWWII is a fine balance of size, weight, illustrations, text and maps. WWII students who love books should scoop this one up if they see it. Who will give me their copy?
Utopia in Power, The History of the Soviet Union from 1917 to the Present, by Mikhail Heller and Aleksander M. Nekrich - c) 1982 They do not side with Stalin on very much.
The War Against the Jews 1933 - 1945, by Lucy Dawidowicz - c) 1975 - Hold Rinehart and Winston The big brave Aryans pick on old men, women and children, who belonged to a persecuted scared minority to begin with. How macho. If only the rest of the races can live up to this virile standard.
The War Between the Generals, Inside the Allied High Command, by David Irving, c) 1981 - Congdon Weed I have commented on this book within the text on several occasions, and usually in anger. But WBTG is nevertheless a very good book, and Irving is a great and deservedly famous historian. I don’t mean any disrespect. If I thought he was lame I wouldn’t get past page 50. I’m reading two of his books, and if I get my hands on any more, I’ll probably read them too.
War as I Knew It, by George S. Patton Jr. - c) 1947 - Houghton Mifflin It’s a shame. I tried so hard to like him. I really did. I know I’m supposed to. Patton killed people for a living and did it well, and he loved war and even admitted it. I’m supposed to admire that? I accept that war may be a necessary evil now and then, and I vote for whichever Congressional candidates will least cut defense spending. I’m no dove. But I don’t worship those who wage war at the Lieutenant General level. I respect a brave foot soldier more. Now I don’t begrudge the five star guys either. Don’t get me wrong. I respect their service. But as a religious person I can’t admire the wagers of war more than a teeny bit in rare cases. It takes a national mind set that likes war to make wars function. I’d take Anthony Lake’s autograph over General Shelton’s any day. If I’ve tried to memorize the US Civil War generals on both sides its not out of any fascination or hero worship. I just don’t want to get caught flatfooted in a history discussion knowing nothing about the Civil War generals.
The War That Hitler Won, The Most Infamous Propaganda campaign in History, by Robert Edward Herzstein - c) 1978 - G. P. Putnam I read 90 pages before it crossed my mind that Herzstein might be a Jewish name. Really fine writing. WTHW provided the story about all the walkouts at the German movie houses.
Warriors of the Rising Sun, A History of the Japanese Military, by Robert C. Edgarton - c) 1997 - W.W. Norton If you believe that the Japanese were the victims, not the aggressors in WWII and what they did at Nanking wasn’t really as bad as it seemed because these poor guys had been trained to be mean, then this is the book for you. To quote Michael Dukakis when he held up a George Bush campaign flyer before a crowd of supporters in 1988, “Friends, this is garbage.”
Washington Goes to War, by David Brinkley, c) 1988 - Knopf I do such a good impression of this guy, but with each passing year, less and less people get it. This is a top-shelf book.
Wedemeyer Reports!, by General Albert C. Wedemeyer - c) 1958 - Henry Holt & Co. Al’s book is so full of roundhouse rights at so many leading figures of WWII that my guess is that’s why there’s an exclamation mark in the title. A very stimulating read. Working With Roosevelt, by Samuel I. Roseman – c) 1952 - Harper & Brothers One of my favorite books of all time, the kind of reading that makes me wish someone could invent the 95 hour day so I can read all the great books out there like this.
The World at War, by Mark Arnold-Forster c) 1973 - Stein and Day Wow. I had no idea when I signed on to read this book that I was going to get my feelings hurt. This guy is viscerally anti-American. Maybe someone from Brooklyn stole his girl a long time ago. All the Americans are fools, bullies and boors. All the British are gallant and shrewd. His facts are all (needlessly) forced into that A-frame. This tone, there’s no need for it. You wouldn’t notice it by reading two pages. But then you pick up the pattern, the “inner dog” of the writer. He’s really got some issues to work out with his hatred for America. It’s sad because I don’t feel that way back about the Brits. Just about him.
A World in Flames, by Martha Byrd This is a solid short general history of the war by a scholar who could have written a long and fancy one if she wanted to. Her sister Caroline wrote a book about the Great Depression. Why she would write a book about my freshman year in high school I don’t know.
Years of Infamy, The Untold Story of America’s Concentration Camps, by Michi Nichiura Weglyn - Introduction by comedian Mike Moto - c) 1976 - Morrow Quill I worked with Mike Moto for many years. His parents were both interned in California during WWII and we have had many long talks about it. Along with many beers. He opened his act, by the way, with “Take my rice, please.” (a spoof of the famous Henny Yougman joke, “Now take my wife .... please.”)
Battle of the Bulge One of the most uninformative war movies ever made.
A Bridge Too Far This movie was about as disappointing to me as Market Garden was to Montgomery.
The Great Escape “Your arms......up!”
The Longest Day The story of D-Day, the day I finally got married. I’m supposed to love this movie about June 6 1944, but it wears me out. Robert Mitchum could use some caffeinated coffee. The Longest Movie. Based on the longest book, by .... actually I wrote the longest book. And I just extended the record by 12 words with this sentence.
Patton The great shame is the great job that George C. Scott did in playing him in a big movie. Now the USA gets its image and opinion from that movie instead of from the real man. Dig up some real footage of Patton giving a speech. You won’t be impressed. I was surprised to hear that Patton liked the way GSC played him. Most people aren’t happy when they are played in a movie because they rarely think the actor really “nailed it.” I thought Patton would hate it, no matter who tried to play him. But now I get it. Patton liked it because Scott didn’t nail it at all. He interpreted and flavored. Scott exaggerated Patton into a better Patton than Patton could be. Scott was the man Patton tried to be, but wasn’t. If only someone could make a movie about me and just take the positive traits and make all of them ten times better, and leave out the bad stuff. Patton was in the right place at the right time in WWII and his malleable image was there again in the 1970’s world of movies.
Valkerie Tom Cruise wants to kill Hitler. This is a very good movie. It’s too accurate to have a cohesive basic movie outline.
Victory at Sea Big famous documentary about the US Navy in WWII. I can’t get past the dreadful music, which was supposed to be what made it so great. Whatever.
The World at War Sir Lawrence Olivier narrates this WWII documentary series with excellence, but the infantile fake sound effects ruins this for me. As a kid I loved it, but when I was about 24 someone explained to me that these were fake and there were no sound microphones on cameras back then. Ever since then I have zero tolerance for all the fake battle noises. It’s grating and the antithesis of the relaxing mood one would hope to study in. I’m not singling this one out as any worse than the others. That’s all you get in documentaries, then and now, and it’s why I turned to the history books instead of the history channels.
Historyanimated.com I like going there
IMDB - Internet Movie Data Base The info on Steve McQueen comes from here. I was once banned from the IMDB for writing too many sarcastic film reviews, and that is a true story. My father was once a stand-in for Steve McQueen on a movie set, and that is also a true story. It was only for one day, and he was a Boston cop on the set doing an official detail. Many people noticed the similarity in their looks in both face and body and he was pretty outgoing and funny and soon was invited to come by as a stand in the next day out of uniform. I have the pictures to prove it. He didn’t actually get into a scene but he was a viable option for the director if they wanted to try and shorten up McQueen’s work day. Ed Donovan is legitimately in a scene in the Movie Monster, released in 2004 starring Academy Award Winner Cherlize Theron. He is now 80 years old and had played major roles in a lot of minor productions and a few minor roles in some major productions, and if that sounds like a left-handed compliment it isn’t. He didn’t even take up acting until he moved to Florida when he was in his med-60’s, and we in the family are always impressed with how much he has done in such a short window of opportunity.
The great shame is the great job that George C. Scott did in playing him in a big movie. Now the USA gets its image and opinion from that movie instead of from the real man. Dig up some real footage of Patton giving a speech. You won’t be impressed. Scott was great, but in a way, he didn’t nail it at all. He exaggerated Patton’s charisma big time. George Scott was ten times the boomer orator that George Patton could dream of being on his best day, and oratory is the only really effective image we have of most famous leaders, at least in that era.
WIKIPEDIA Yes, I check in with Wikipedia often, but I don’t take the basic text at their word on anything. Wiki is best for the links to more authentic web sites found at the bottom of the Wikiweb page.