Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

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Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Cult Icon » 15 Feb 2020 02:54

What would happen to the Normandy campaign if divisions deployed with the US 1st Army received a special "Hedgerow obstacle course" and bulldozers for their tanks prior to their deployment in Europe?

This training course, established by a special training and intelligence group, would in-cooperate many of the realistic drills on wearing down the enemy in the bocage that historically cost heavy losses to learn, drill, and execute in the field. Divisions that were entering the hedgerows now have effective and well-trained set of tactics and equipment immediately available.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Feb 2020 04:11

Couple decades ago there was a interview with a veteran of the 29th ID & DDay. He told the NPR reporter the tragedy of 29th ID was they had spent two years training for the beach assault and nothing for the battle inland. This was a exaggeration to make the point, but it does illustrate the problem of limited time & the necessity to set priorities. If you attempt to accomplish everything you will succeed at nothing. It has been pointed out how districts in the south of England resemble the French bocage closely. Unfortunately the relatively green US 1st Army failed to see the optimal solutions for the problems of fighting there.

Reflecting on everything I've read about the Normandy battle I've gotten a sense the same problem affected the German forces. Maybe Marcks 84 Corps developed its training around the hedgerows, sunken roads, & stone villages. But the many reinforcements certainly did not. While the landser & company cadre were probably enchanted with the defense protection offered by the Bocage the units were trained by veterans of the Eastern Fronts praries and woodlands or marshes. They don't seem to have been any better prepared for attacking in the Bocage than the Amis. Beyond that the Germans had the Do It All syndrome worse than the US Army. The wrecked formations arriving from the East badly needed training time for the mass of replacements they were receiving. But the orders to focus on building beach obstacles & anti airborne obstacles, camouflage everything from air reconnaissance, and labor at building protected supply dumps cut training time.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Richard Anderson » 15 Feb 2020 16:25

Cult Icon wrote:
15 Feb 2020 02:54
What would happen to the Normandy campaign if divisions deployed with the US 1st Army received a special "Hedgerow obstacle course" and bulldozers for their tanks prior to their deployment in Europe?

This training course, established by a special training and intelligence group, would in-cooperate many of the realistic drills on wearing down the enemy in the bocage that historically cost heavy losses to learn, drill, and execute in the field. Divisions that were entering the hedgerows now have effective and well-trained set of tactics and equipment immediately available.
Why would they? There is a rather strange notion that has floated about for years, which assumes the Americaan and Commonwealth armies somehow were unaware of the bocage or its tactical significance. The problem with that is that they figure as a tactical obstacle, along with the many watercourses in Normandy that were also a problem, in the pre D-Day terrain studies.

The problem was actually that the British and American intelligence assessment was that they expected once the bridgehead was established that the Germans would fall back to the more defensible line of the Somme-Seine-Loire. That was apparently based on the German reactions to HUSKY and AVALANCHE, but oddly excluded assessing the reaction to SHINGLE.

Technically the problem was the "bulldozers for their tanks" were simply not available for training in such a course. The first 100 dozer kits did not arrive in England until very late...probably sometime in May, so their crews barely had time to practice with them before loading on the hardstands began. In the end, 70 sets were provided to the ETOUSA while 30 went to the British. The Americans allocated 48 to the three Tank Battalions assigned to the assault, the 70th, 741st, and 743d, with six each IIRC going to the other three follow-on Tank Battalions. Many of those were quickly lost and they became a highly desired item of equipment. They were in short supply until well into 1945.
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 15 Feb 2020 17:11

Richard Anderson wrote:
15 Feb 2020 16:25
... The problem was actually that the British and American intelligence assessment was that they expected once the bridgehead was established that the Germans would fall back to the more defensible line of the Somme-Seine-Loire. That was apparently based on the German reactions to HUSKY and AVALANCHE, but oddly excluded assessing the reaction to SHINGLE ....
The implications of Rommels forward beach defense strategy seems to have bee lost to the OVERLORD planners. Why that was might be a useful inquiry. They certainly were aware of the strategy and defense preparations and had prepared for it. But the possibility the 7th Army would not fall back outfight in place was dismissed?

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Cult Icon » 18 Feb 2020 16:41

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Feb 2020 04:11
Couple decades ago there was a interview with a veteran of the 29th ID & DDay. He told the NPR reporter the tragedy of 29th ID was they had spent two years training for the beach assault and nothing for the battle inland. This was a exaggeration to make the point, but it does illustrate the problem of limited time & the necessity to set priorities. If you attempt to accomplish everything you will succeed at nothing. It has been pointed out how districts in the south of England resemble the French bocage closely. Unfortunately the relatively green US 1st Army failed to see the optimal solutions for the problems of fighting there.

Reflecting on everything I've read about the Normandy battle I've gotten a sense the same problem affected the German forces. Maybe Marcks 84 Corps developed its training around the hedgerows, sunken roads, & stone villages. But the many reinforcements certainly did not. While the landser & company cadre were probably enchanted with the defense protection offered by the Bocage the units were trained by veterans of the Eastern Fronts praries and woodlands or marshes. They don't seem to have been any better prepared for attacking in the Bocage than the Amis. Beyond that the Germans had the Do It All syndrome worse than the US Army. The wrecked formations arriving from the East badly needed training time for the mass of replacements they were receiving. But the orders to focus on building beach obstacles & anti airborne obstacles, camouflage everything from air reconnaissance, and labor at building protected supply dumps cut training time.
Here is a study on improvised methods (US 29.ID, 83.ID, 3.AD). These methods, however, took many weeks for US 29.ID to develop and by then heavy losses were already incurred. :

https://play.google.com/books/reader?id ... g=GBS.PA58

According to "Hitler's Paratroopers in Normandy: The German II Parachute Corps in the Battle for France, 1944" the 3.FJD did extensive close-combat training and was uniquely suited for the Bocage. It was unique in that the other inf units were involved in building the Atlantic wall while 3.FJD didn't have to do manual labor and focused on training. This unit was the strongest German inf unit in Normandy and arguably in the whole German ground force. The rest of the German inf force was pretty indifferent.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Feb 2020 16:56

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Feb 2020 17:11
The implications of Rommels forward beach defense strategy seems to have bee lost to the OVERLORD planners. Why that was might be a useful inquiry. They certainly were aware of the strategy and defense preparations and had prepared for it. But the possibility the 7th Army would not fall back outfight in place was dismissed?
I doubt that. The evidence of Rommel's forward beach defense "strategy" was tactical, not strategic in nature. That evidence was the start of the beach obstacle program in March and the conformation that the obstacles were being mined in April, which led to the development of the ad hoc obstacle clearance parties by the Americans and British. However, that did not reveal an intent by the Germans to do anything more than defend the coastline to the best of their ability. Despite knowing that the assumption remained that the Germans would withdraw when the coastal crust was compromised, the beachhead was secured, and the German armored counterattack was defeated.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Feb 2020 17:05

Cult Icon wrote:
18 Feb 2020 16:41
Here is a study on improvised methods (US 29.ID, 83.ID, 3.AD). These methods, however, took many weeks for US 29.ID to develop and by then heavy losses were already incurred. :

https://play.google.com/books/reader?id ... g=GBS.PA58
Decent, but somewhat dated. IIRC he missed one of the significant "improvisations" begun by the 29th ID and later others, which was a divisional replacement training school. Unfortunately, the flow of replacements drying up later made it impossible to maintain the system.
According to "Hitler's Paratroopers in Normandy: The German II Parachute Corps in the Battle for France, 1944" the 3.FJD did extensive close-combat training and was uniquely suited for the Bocage. It was unique in that the other inf units were involved in building the Atlantic wall while 3.FJD didn't have to do manual labor and focused on training. This unit was the strongest German inf unit in Normandy and arguably in the whole German ground force. The rest of the German inf force was pretty indifferent.
3. FJD actually spent most of its time after completing organization and receiving equipment from February-April in anti-parachute landing exercise rather than tactical practice in the Calvados and Norman bocage they later fought over...which would have been difficult anyway since they were stationed in Brittany. :D Then in May they were busy completing jump training, so I doubt they did all that much training in bocage then either.

You could make a case that 352. ID had that opportunity.
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Michael Kenny » 18 Feb 2020 17:17

The best indicator of how the Allies thought the campaign would progress is the much misunderstood 'Phase Lines'.
Phase Lines Normandy . . .v . .jpg
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Feb 2020 18:14

The phase lines are open to misinterpretation & I've gone both ways on how seriously to take them.. I've not searched for related evidence, tho the proposed timing or schedule for operation CHASITY & it's eventual cancelation suggests at least some Army & Navy staff were planning along the 'phase line ' dates.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Michael Kenny » 18 Feb 2020 18:28

The 'D+20' line was reached c.D+60. Invade, clear the NW of France and then pause to build up US forces (landed directly from the USA) for the decisive battle/ advance into Germany.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 18 Feb 2020 18:34

Richard Anderson wrote:
18 Feb 2020 16:56
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Feb 2020 17:11
The implications of Rommels forward beach defense strategy seems to have bee lost to the OVERLORD planners. Why that was might be a useful inquiry. They certainly were aware of the strategy and defense preparations and had prepared for it. But the possibility the 7th Army would not fall back outfight in place was dismissed?
I doubt that. The evidence of Rommel's forward beach defense "strategy" was tactical, not strategic in nature. That evidence was the start of the beach obstacle program in March and the conformation that the obstacles were being mined in April, which led to the development of the ad hoc obstacle clearance parties by the Americans and British. However, that did not reveal an intent by the Germans to do anything more than defend the coastline to the best of their ability. Despite knowing that the assumption remained that the Germans would withdraw when the coastal crust was compromised, the beachhead was secured, and the German armored counterattack was defeated.
Not sure how the term tactical is meant here. My school room time left me with the impression changing the location of the focal point of a army or army group size campaign would be defined as stratigic.

March seems very late to 'start'. I recall a description of the USN testing demolition techniques on reproductions of the obstacles in January 1944. Torpedos during high tide did not work.

Anyway I share your doubt there. The sole assumption seems to be for inland battle/s & not in 30 minutes drive from the Normandy coast.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Sheldrake » 18 Feb 2020 19:05

Richard Anderson wrote:
15 Feb 2020 16:25
Cult Icon wrote:
15 Feb 2020 02:54
What would happen to the Normandy campaign if divisions deployed with the US 1st Army received a special "Hedgerow obstacle course" and bulldozers for their tanks prior to their deployment in Europe?

This training course, established by a special training and intelligence group, would in-cooperate many of the realistic drills on wearing down the enemy in the bocage that historically cost heavy losses to learn, drill, and execute in the field. Divisions that were entering the hedgerows now have effective and well-trained set of tactics and equipment immediately available.
Why would they? There is a rather strange notion that has floated about for years, which assumes the Americaan and Commonwealth armies somehow were unaware of the bocage or its tactical significance. The problem with that is that they figure as a tactical obstacle, along with the many watercourses in Normandy that were also a problem, in the pre D-Day terrain studies.

The problem was actually that the British and American intelligence assessment was that they expected once the bridgehead was established that the Germans would fall back to the more defensible line of the Somme-Seine-Loire. That was apparently based on the German reactions to HUSKY and AVALANCHE, but oddly excluded assessing the reaction to SHINGLE.

Technically the problem was the "bulldozers for their tanks" were simply not available for training in such a course. The first 100 dozer kits did not arrive in England until very late...probably sometime in May, so their crews barely had time to practice with them before loading on the hardstands began. In the end, 70 sets were provided to the ETOUSA while 30 went to the British. The Americans allocated 48 to the three Tank Battalions assigned to the assault, the 70th, 741st, and 743d, with six each IIRC going to the other three follow-on Tank Battalions. Many of those were quickly lost and they became a highly desired item of equipment. They were in short supply until well into 1945.
Rich,

I don't disagree with your comments but am using your post as an excuse to add my 2p.

The reason the allies struggled

Opposing Husky and Avalanche the Germans fell back after initial counter attacks failed. The Germans did not intend to hold Sicily or Southern Italy. At Anzio and in Normandy they were massing forwards to counter attack. The German aim was to attack, not contain.

The reason for the long and bitter fighting in Normandy followed was because Hitler insisted on contesting ground as close to the beachhead as possible regardless of the casualties which ate up his army. This was then followed by the by the sudden collapse of the Germans in France, because Hitler had gambled on winning the battle in Normandy. It might have been a sensible German strategy to have given ground earlier, given the disparity in forces that the Allies built up. Indeed, given the problems experienced by the British at Villers Bocage, there is a case for considering the Geyr von Schweppenburg plan and encouraging the newly landed allies to over extend their beachhead - as happened at Anzio.

The phase lines were logistic planning guidelines. Montgomery was only interested in the D+90 line. According to Montgomery's biographer, one of the staff officers recalled being told to space the intermediate lines however he liked.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Michael Kenny » 18 Feb 2020 19:19

Sheldrake wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:05


The phase lines were logistic planning guidelines. Montgomery was only interested in the D+90 line. According to Montgomery's biographer, one of the staff officers recalled being told to space the intermediate lines however he liked.
All known but the person who drew the lines was part of the system and must have had some insight into the prevailing mindset or was the task delegated to a junior WREN typist in a remote Nissen Hut at Middle Wallop who let her 3 year-old draw them?
Which is more likely?

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Feb 2020 20:39

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
18 Feb 2020 18:34
Richard Anderson wrote:
18 Feb 2020 16:56
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
15 Feb 2020 17:11
The implications of Rommels forward beach defense strategy seems to have bee lost to the OVERLORD planners. Why that was might be a useful inquiry. They certainly were aware of the strategy and defense preparations and had prepared for it. But the possibility the 7th Army would not fall back outfight in place was dismissed?
I doubt that. The evidence of Rommel's forward beach defense "strategy" was tactical, not strategic in nature. That evidence was the start of the beach obstacle program in March and the conformation that the obstacles were being mined in April, which led to the development of the ad hoc obstacle clearance parties by the Americans and British. However, that did not reveal an intent by the Germans to do anything more than defend the coastline to the best of their ability. Despite knowing that the assumption remained that the Germans would withdraw when the coastal crust was compromised, the beachhead was secured, and the German armored counterattack was defeated.
Not sure how the term tactical is meant here. My school room time left me with the impression changing the location of the focal point of a army or army group size campaign would be defined as stratigic.

March seems very late to 'start'. I recall a description of the USN testing demolition techniques on reproductions of the obstacles in January 1944. Torpedos during high tide did not work.

Anyway I share your doubt there. The sole assumption seems to be for inland battle/s & not in 30 minutes drive from the Normandy coast.
Sorry, but no I established the time in Cracking.
"Is all this pretentious pseudo intellectual citing of sources REALLY necessary? It gets in the way of a good, spirited debate, destroys the cadence." POD, 6 October 2018

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Tom from Cornwall » 18 Feb 2020 21:43

It would seem overly critical to complain that the anti-obstacle programme didn't start until they had begun to be put in place!

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