Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

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Richard Anderson
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Richard Anderson » 18 Feb 2020 23:05

Tom from Cornwall wrote:
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!


:thumbsup:
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Feb 2020 01:13

Sheldrake wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:05
... 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. ...
It is easy to forget the Hitler factor. I'm currently reading bits about the interactions between Hitler & the assorted Marshals & generals in the planning of the defense. Looking at the overall arc its easy to see Hitler favoring the proposals for improving the beach defenses and glomming onto Rommels idea about defeating the invasion on the beaches. It fit his reluctance to give up ground, which the proposals for a flexible inland campaign required.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Feb 2020 01:30

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.
He could claim to make the 90 day mark. A few days early perhaps.

Flipping through Ruppenthals 'Logistics in Overlord' theres some suggestion other staffers were taking assumptions behind those phase lines seriously. In the narrative for July & August theres references to logistics tasks in the Breton region being postponed then canceled as the enemy still occupied the sites, or too recently left them to use as expected.
Michael Kenny wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:19
... 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?
Meh, I've seen equally silly occurrences in the real world.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Richard Anderson » 19 Feb 2020 02:18

Richard Anderson wrote:
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.
I was at work and so could not give a more substantive answer. So here is the relevant passage, minus footnotes:

"Clearing Beach Obstacles

During 1943, as Allied planning for the invasion accelerated, photo-reconnaissance missions over the beaches still had not revealed any significant German attempts to emplace waterline obstacles. The continued lack of activity on the part of the Germans may have lulled the Allied planners into a false sense of security. As a result the early engineer planning for NEPTUNE continued to assume that there would be no obstacles underwater or blocking access to the beaches or, at worst, there would be a few hastily emplaced obstacles that could be easily dealt with by naval gunfire and aerial bombardment.

There was additional discussion regarding obstacle clearance at the initial First U.S. Army NEPTUNE conference on 21 December 1943. Various methods of clearing the German barbed wire entanglements were mentioned, including aerial bombing and explosive rockets, but without much detail or even seemingly much interest. Considerable attention was given to finding a way to get men and vehicles over the seawall at OMAHA and General Omar Bradley mentioned British plans for using explosives placed by a Churchill tank to blow a gap in such a wall. But it was Lt. Col. Thompson, commander of the Assault Training Center, who brought up what became the most serious concern for the NEPTUNE planners,

'I think the most dangerous possibility in the time remaining, General, would be to put under-water obstacles along the beach. That would consist of just a lot of 6x6 timber driven as piling and covering the whole beach around 12-foot centers, and they could completely block the beach just by driving those piles.'

The sudden and massive expansion of beach obstacle construction by the Germans, below the high water mark, that began in January 1944 presented a considerable headache to the planners. By early February General Eisenhower was sufficiently worried by the development that he sent two senior American engineers, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur H. Davidson, Jr., from the staff of the Chief Engineer European Theater of Operations, US Army (ETOUSA), and Lieutenant Colonel John T. O’Neill, commander of the 112th Engineer Combat Battalion of the US V Corps, to the Amphibious Training Base at Fort Pierce, Florida to attend an obstacle clearance demonstration. The Amphibious Training Base, a joint Army and Navy operation, had been experimenting with methods of clearing underwater obstacles since April 1943 when a specialized underwater obstacle course had been completed.

When Davidson and O’Neill returned to England two weeks later they found that the German obstacles were proliferating rapidly and by late March were present on all the projected beaches and in ever increasing densities. Worse came just six weeks before D-Day when on 23 April an errant Allied bomb, intended for one of the coastal batteries, landed on the beach setting off 14 secondary explosions, confirming that the obstacles were heavily mined as well.

The result was a hasty amendment to the NEPTUNE plan. In mid-March General Montgomery directed 1 and 30 Corps to prepare plans for clearing the obstacles on SWORD, JUNO, and GOLD, while General Bradley gave similar orders to US V and VII Corps, which were to submit clearing plans for OMAHA and UTAH by 1 April. By early April the preliminary plans were in place and the units had begun to assemble."

The Germans adding the seaward obstacles was not an indicator of Rommel's strategy; it was an indicator that the Germans would attempt to defeat the Allies on the beaches, which was considered sufficiently possible that Eisenhower wrote his famous press release in advance acknowledging a defeat that did not occur. In other words, the "focal point" of Ob.West to the outside observer remained an all-out cordon defense on the beaches with the intent of defeating the Allies on said beaches. Adding the obstacles simply confirmed that assessment. However, none of that spoke to what the Germans would do if their cordon defense was broken, which is what the Allied attack assumed would happen (while acknowledging the remote possibility of defeat), based upon long-accepted premises regarding cordon defenses and its faults.
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 19 Feb 2020 06:13

Thanks for the outtake from the book. It adds a bit of clarity. Essentially when you wrote this:
Richard Anderson wrote:
18 Feb 2020 16:56
... That evidence was the start of the beach obstacle program in March ...
you must have been referring to this?
The result was a hasty amendment to the NEPTUNE plan. In mid-March General Montgomery directed 1 and 30 Corps to prepare plans for clearing the obstacles on SWORD, JUNO, and GOLD, while General Bradley gave similar orders to US V and VII Corps, which were to submit clearing plans for OMAHA and UTAH by 1 April. By early April the preliminary plans were in place and the units had begun to assemble."
Your remarks make sense in that context. I was thinking & referring to when the Germans started emplacing obstacles shortly after Rommel gained command authority.

I was at work and so could not give a more substantive answer. So here is the relevant passage, minus footnotes:

"Clearing Beach Obstacles

During 1943, as Allied planning for the invasion accelerated, photo-reconnaissance missions over the beaches still had not revealed any significant German attempts to emplace waterline obstacles. The continued lack of activity on the part of the Germans may have lulled the Allied planners into a false sense of security. As a result the early engineer planning for NEPTUNE continued to assume that there would be no obstacles underwater or blocking access to the beaches or, at worst, there would be a few hastily emplaced obstacles that could be easily dealt with by naval gunfire and aerial bombardment.

There was additional discussion regarding obstacle clearance at the initial First U.S. Army NEPTUNE conference on 21 December 1943. Various methods of clearing the German barbed wire entanglements were mentioned, including aerial bombing and explosive rockets, but without much detail or even seemingly much interest. Considerable attention was given to finding a way to get men and vehicles over the seawall at OMAHA and General Omar Bradley mentioned British plans for using explosives placed by a Churchill tank to blow a gap in such a wall. But it was Lt. Col. Thompson, commander of the Assault Training Center, who brought up what became the most serious concern for the NEPTUNE planners,

'I think the most dangerous possibility in the time remaining, General, would be to put under-water obstacles along the beach. That would consist of just a lot of 6x6 timber driven as piling and covering the whole beach around 12-foot centers, and they could completely block the beach just by driving those piles.'
To digress into curiosity, I wonder what this was based on? Were there tests somewhere of different obstacles?
The sudden and massive expansion of beach obstacle construction by the Germans, below the high water mark, that began in January 1944 presented a considerable headache to the planners. By early February General Eisenhower was sufficiently worried by the development that he sent two senior American engineers, Lieutenant Colonel Arthur H. Davidson, Jr., from the staff of the Chief Engineer European Theater of Operations, US Army (ETOUSA), and Lieutenant Colonel John T. O’Neill, commander of the 112th Engineer Combat Battalion of the US V Corps, to the Amphibious Training Base at Fort Pierce, Florida to attend an obstacle clearance demonstration. The Amphibious Training Base, a joint Army and Navy operation, had been experimenting with methods of clearing underwater obstacles since April 1943 when a specialized underwater obstacle course had been completed.
Aside from the beach obstacles there was all that concrete pouring and trench digging & arrival of new formations ect... All piling up near the coast.
When Davidson and O’Neill returned to England two weeks later they found that the German obstacles were proliferating rapidly and by late March were present on all the projected beaches and in ever increasing densities. Worse came just six weeks before D-Day when on 23 April an errant Allied bomb, intended for one of the coastal batteries, landed on the beach setting off 14 secondary explosions, confirming that the obstacles were heavily mined as well.

The result was a hasty amendment to the NEPTUNE plan. In mid-March General Montgomery directed 1 and 30 Corps to prepare plans for clearing the obstacles on SWORD, JUNO, and GOLD, while General Bradley gave similar orders to US V and VII Corps, which were to submit clearing plans for OMAHA and UTAH by 1 April. By early April the preliminary plans were in place and the units had begun to assemble."

The Germans adding the seaward obstacles was not an indicator of Rommel's strategy; it was an indicator that the Germans would attempt to defeat the Allies on the beaches, which was considered sufficiently possible that Eisenhower wrote his famous press release in advance acknowledging a defeat that did not occur. In other words, the "focal point" of Ob.West to the outside observer remained an all-out cordon defense on the beaches with the intent of defeating the Allies on said beaches. Adding the obstacles simply confirmed that assessment. However, none of that spoke to what the Germans would do if their cordon defense was broken, which is what the Allied attack assumed would happen (while acknowledging the remote possibility of defeat), based upon long-accepted premises regarding cordon defenses and its faults.
That last paragraph is a bit convoluted. I might be able to claim it, or accuse you of emulating my muddled style. I'm not moved off the position that altering the focal point or method for a clash of two large armies is a change in strategy. Plan A. fluid mobile operations. Plan B Fixed defense/fortifications.

Plan A. Shaping the battle over several days or weeks. Plan B. Deciding the battle in a day or maybe two, with all the 'shaping' weeks and months before the battle.

Plan A. The decisive battle/s of the campaign fought inland & allowing the enemy to expand their lodgment over some days. Plan B. The decisive battle fought on the coast or beach with the decisive point on the first day.

But let me reiterate & reword my core question here; Since January, the Germans have fought a close in battle to confine the Anzio beached & destroy it, vs their previous habit of fighting briefly on the coast & withdrawing inland. That there are numerous formations suitable for a relatively static battle or campaign reinforcing the coastal defense, more than doubling the strength in firepower & men. & a portion of the mechanized units have been moved much closer to the coast. Then there is all that concrete & steel on & overlooking the beaches. All this rather seems to created the condition where a battle could occur on the coastal districts. In intel work I was admonished to consider the enemy in two ways; Intent, & capability. What was their evil plan, and what could they do with the tools at hand. Two separate things that meld sometimes. I recall a lot of officers getting wrapped around the axel on one or the other, particularly wit intent/doctrine. Not understanding the point in the trope 'No plan survives the first shot'. So, leaving aside the intent of the Germans (who in any case were not unified in this) the conditions for a long attritional battle near the coast existed. So, did Ike, Monty, & their minions see that as a possibility? Was there a defined plan for such that became the basis for the 21 AG campaign in Normandy? Or were Monty Bradley et al just winging it? & if so what in the staff & planning for OVERLORD led to not considering the conditions for creating a extended static attritional battle on the coast?

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Kingfish » 19 Feb 2020 11:16

Sheldrake wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:05
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 Normandy front held for as long as it did only due to the commitment of the panzer divisions to static defensive positions.

If the front of some 100km can only be held by such stop-gap measures, how would they do it on a front twice as long, against an opponent far more mobile than they are, and who also happens to enjoy complete air superiority?
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Sheldrake » 19 Feb 2020 13:07

Kingfish wrote:
19 Feb 2020 11:16
Sheldrake wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:05
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 Normandy front held for as long as it did only due to the commitment of the panzer divisions to static defensive positions.

If the front of some 100km can only be held by such stop-gap measures, how would they do it on a front twice as long, against an opponent far more mobile than they are, and who also happens to enjoy complete air superiority?
This deserves exploring in a separate thread.

Operations in Normandy were a race to build up their forces. With the allies using sea and air to beat the Germans using road and rail. The Germans had a much stronger force in France in 1944 than expected when Op Overlord was authorised. The Allies tilted the balance by damaging the French railway system, and with an effective deception campaign to persuade the Germans that Normandy was a feint.

Even so, there was a time around D+6 when the forces were roughly balanced. The leading formations of 1st SS Panzer Corps and the IInd Parachute Corps had arrived. Fighting a battle somewhere south of the line Caen Caumont would have stretched the allies ability to defend a long beachhead out of range of naval artillery which battered the panzer formations between Caen and Bayeux.

The allies only had air superiority in clear weather. For much of June the weather prevented air operations over Normandy.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Sheldrake » 19 Feb 2020 13:52

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
19 Feb 2020 01:30
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.
He could claim to make the 90 day mark. A few days early perhaps.

Flipping through Ruppenthals 'Logistics in Overlord' theres some suggestion other staffers were taking assumptions behind those phase lines seriously. In the narrative for July & August theres references to logistics tasks in the Breton region being postponed then canceled as the enemy still occupied the sites, or too recently left them to use as expected.
Michael Kenny wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:19
... 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?
Meh, I've seen equally silly occurrences in the real world.
According to Hamilton, in an interview Lt Col Kit Dawney Montgomery's MA said on 28 August 1978.
I had the maps prepared and drew on them the D Day targets for the troops along the invasion front. And the droppin zones of the paratroopers. And then after consulting with Monty I drew the D plus 90 line - showing where he felt we should get to by D plus 90 - which included Paris and a line back along the loire.

And I asked Monty how I shoudl draw the lines in between. And he said. 'Well it doesn't matter Kit, draw them as you like.' So I said 'Shall I draw them equally, sir? And he said 'Yes that'll do'

In his opinion it did not matter where he would be between D plus 1 and D + 90, because he felt sure that he could capture the line D plus 90 in three months , and he was not going to capture ground, he was going to destroy enemy forces.
(Monty Vol II Master of the Battlefield) P548

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Kingfish » 20 Feb 2020 01:35

Sheldrake wrote:
19 Feb 2020 13:07
Even so, there was a time around D+6 when the forces were roughly balanced.
Perhaps in terms of raw numbers but in terms of capability that balance flies right out the window. All the allied divisions were fully equipped to conduct both offensive and defensive assignments. The same couldn't be said for a sizeable number of German formations.
Fighting a battle somewhere south of the line Caen Caumont would have stretched the allies ability to defend a long beachhead out of range of naval artillery which battered the panzer formations between Caen and Bayeux.


But defend against what?
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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Michael Kenny » 20 Feb 2020 02:29

Sheldrake wrote:
19 Feb 2020 13:52

And I asked Monty how I shoudl draw the lines in between. And he said. 'Well it doesn't matter Kit, draw them as you like.' So I said 'Shall I draw them equally, sir? And he said 'Yes that'll do'
But they are not 'equal'. From the Falaise Gap to Paris was expected to take 2 months, Clearly something was assumed to be delaying the Allies in that period. Again its not the actual position of the lines that matter but the fact that they never expected to be bogged down close to the beaches for 2 months. It did not effect the length (in days) of the advance to Paris but the Rhine was reached long before the phase-line date. Berlin/victory was expected in June/July 1945.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Aber » 21 Feb 2020 10:52

Michael Kenny wrote:
20 Feb 2020 02:29
Berlin/victory was expected in June/July 1945.
Eisenhower's Crusade in Europe puts the D+330 line on the Maas.

Re German plans - I've seen somewhere that a key difference was that Rommel considered the seaside bunkers as the main line of resistance, with the beach obstacles acting as the outpost line breaking up the attack, while others saw the bunkers as the outpost line.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Feb 2020 18:36

Kingfish wrote:
20 Feb 2020 01:35
Sheldrake wrote:
19 Feb 2020 13:07
...
Fighting a battle somewhere south of the line Caen Caumont would have stretched the allies ability to defend a long beachhead out of range of naval artillery which battered the panzer formations between Caen and Bayeux.


But defend against what?
Possibly the Uber panzer battle of 3_4 mechanized corps Geyer intended, planned, prepared, and rehearsed for. I can't say his vision was practical or possible, but the intent & preparation was there.

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Carl Schwamberger » 21 Feb 2020 18:43

Thanks this provides some clarification.
Sheldrake wrote:
19 Feb 2020 13:52
Carl Schwamberger wrote:
19 Feb 2020 01:30
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.
He could claim to make the 90 day mark. A few days early perhaps.

Flipping through Ruppenthals 'Logistics in Overlord' theres some suggestion other staffers were taking assumptions behind those phase lines seriously. In the narrative for July & August theres references to logistics tasks in the Breton region being postponed then canceled as the enemy still occupied the sites, or too recently left them to use as expected.
Michael Kenny wrote:
18 Feb 2020 19:19
... 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?
Meh, I've seen equally silly occurrences in the real world.
According to Hamilton, in an interview Lt Col Kit Dawney Montgomery's MA said on 28 August 1978.
I had the maps prepared and drew on them the D Day targets for the troops along the invasion front. And the droppin zones of the paratroopers. And then after consulting with Monty I drew the D plus 90 line - showing where he felt we should get to by D plus 90 - which included Paris and a line back along the loire.

And I asked Monty how I shoudl draw the lines in between. And he said. 'Well it doesn't matter Kit, draw them as you like.' So I said 'Shall I draw them equally, sir? And he said 'Yes that'll do'

In his opinion it did not matter where he would be between D plus 1 and D + 90, because he felt sure that he could capture the line D plus 90 in three months , and he was not going to capture ground, he was going to destroy enemy forces.
(Monty Vol II Master of the Battlefield) P548

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Cult Icon » 21 Feb 2020 19:02

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
21 Feb 2020 18:36

Possibly the Uber panzer battle of 3_4 mechanized corps Geyer intended, planned, prepared, and rehearsed for. I can't say his vision was practical or possible, but the intent & preparation was there.
sources for this? The details that is

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Re: Tactical innovation PRIOR to the Bocage

Post by Kingfish » 22 Feb 2020 00:51

Carl Schwamberger wrote:
21 Feb 2020 18:36
Possibly the Uber panzer battle of 3_4 mechanized corps Geyer intended, planned, prepared, and rehearsed for. I can't say his vision was practical or possible, but the intent & preparation was there.
Practical or possible it certainly wasn't. For the Germans to organize a multi-Corps offensive in Normandy two things would have had to happen: The required forces needed to arrive quickly, and the infantry divisions needed to maintain the front and allow the panzers to assemble - neither of which was possible.
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