Duncan_M wrote: ↑
01 Jul 2020 17:37
I'm not a statistician but am a veteran soldier myself, I judge units on their reputation and their performance. A unit can have a bad reputation and get things done, similarly a unit can have a good reputation and fail at a mission. But a unit that fails at its mission, and has a bad reputation, warrants a red flag.
I understand that.
For most of the Normandy campaign, the 90th ID was a bad division. It had a poor reputation, and its performance was rather bad. Its divisional and regimental leadership was noticeably lackluster. Based on what Depuy had written about them, their stateside training was poorly executed. The 90th needed a completely shakeup of leaders being relieved, over and over, until a good team took over. Additionally, the rank and file needed to learn their jobs in the harsh school of combat, of what actually worked and what didn't, because they didn't know it beforehand. Having to learn some lessons in combat is a reality, but having to learn not to conduct marching fire in EVERY attack isn't something that is supposed to be learned in the hedgerows.
Um, how do you know it was a "bad division", when its initial performance was essentially no better and not much worse than any other divisions of its cadre landed in Normandy? The 8th ID's introduction to combat as a division on 8 July was filled with high-expectations. Its training in the Z/I was highly rated, as was that of the 90th ID, and yet it achieved nothing except high casualties and no advance for four days, at which point the Division Commander, the Assistant Division Commander, and two regimental commanders were peremptorily relieved. One of the regimental commanders in the 9th ID was also swiftly relieved, and there were others and other divisions with the same problems.
However, they did not have a divisional commander who broke down almost immediately, a regimental commander who was ambushed and killed just before his regiment was committed, and at least two battalion commanders who broke down immediately and refused to go into combat. Or a regiment whose well-liked commander was replaced by one of the CG's toadies, an incompetent sycophant, just days before landing.
Those are signs of poor leadership at the most senior level in the division (and questionable decision-making by corps and army commanders as well).
BTW, it wasn't attempting to execute marching fire that was the tactical fault the 90th had to learn, it was the stereotyped linear tactics taught by rote to divisions in training, which continued to be taught well into winter 1944, despite the so-called "lessons learned" coming from the front lines. As late as 17 December 1944, when the 2d Bn, 423d Inf executed its counterattack to relieve the DIVARTY battalions, the orders by the Bn CO, who was standing in the middle of the road they had just detrucked at, was "Company A on my right, Company C on my left, Company B and Headquarters Co D follow in reserve. Advance to contact, guiding on the road..." (or at least as close as I recall from the interview with his S-3). The only other problem, the orders from Jones were garbled and so Puett began on the wrong road and went south instead of north until realizing his mistake.
BTW, are you refer to General William E. DePuy or Colonel Trevor N. Depuy? They are two different people. I suspect you mean Bill DePuy, later a battalion commander in the 90th and much later TRADOC commander. He had the perspective of a Battalion S-3 and saw the problems with the linear tactics employed versus the well-integrated German defense dependent on well-sited light automatic firepower and helped point the way - along with Barth and others - to the tactical solutions later so well-employed by the division.
However, the critical problem in trying to implement those solutions was the devastating losses incurred in the first few days. I have the nominal casualty lists for the 357th Infantry's (or is it the 358th?, should check) first engagements...c. 75% casualties in two battalions initially engaged in its first day.
BTW, the German assessment is about the same and sounds like Napoleon's assessment of the charge of the Union Brigade at Waterloo, "it's magnificent, but it isn't war". They observed that the American manpower was excellent, but ill-used by its leadership in poorly thought out attacks characterized by stereotypical tactics.
The 106th was on the line for four days. Their stateside training, whatever it was, should come with an asterisk because half the division was removed for replacement raiding after they finished and the new ones didn't receive unit training, which is a bit of a problem when we're talking about a massive portion of the division. The division CG wasn't terrible but he also didn't perform well in battle, making quite a few bad decisions with disastrous results. Unfortunately the division didn't really have the possibility to better itself before it was largely destroyed. They were definitely set up for failure, but even before the Ardenne Offensive hit them they did not have a good reputation, and the one time they were called upon to perform their duties in a legit battle, they did not perform well.
Not exactly. No, "half the division" was not removed for replacements. The 90th ID lost four months training time due to stripping of 20% to 50% of personnel for replacements and one month due to generalized personnel turbulence, mostly due to the late ingestion to the division of some 1,000 former ASTP personnel who were used to fill the basic private T/O prior to Preparation for Overseas Movement (POM). They actually suffered considerably less from training disruptions than many other divisions.
BTW, the problem with the replacement raiding was that it forced the division's so affected to repeat training to achieve the various individual, platoon, company, battalions, regiment, and division training milestones required prior by the training, mobilization, and POM schedules. One major issue from that was that for many personnel the repeated recycling through the same training program and maneuver tests left them jaded and stale.
As an interesting sidelight on the 90th ID's training problems, it was part of the abortive "motorized division" experiment in 1942-1943, which caused considerable organizational and training confusion...except for some unexplained reason it was earmarked for POM and shipped overseas before it completed retraining and reorganization, on top of which the divisional commander who went through all that was reassigned when they shipped overseas.
Anyway, the mobilization and training issues of Americaan divisions - and especially the 90th and 106th ID - in World War II is a highly complex subject, which cannot be easily bolied down to they were "bad divisions"...especially since much of that opinion was shaped postwar by Omar Bradley's carefull guidance.
I don't buy this at all. They did perform badly in combat in comparison to other divisions, even other green divisions. Your statement doesn't take into account the many other divisions who weren't clown shoes in combat the first time.
In Normandy, both the 4th ID and 9th ID both had initial issues upon landing. The 29th ID, once it recovered from the initial landings losses, had many problems initially. I already mentioned the 8th ID, which was thought to be superb until it actually entered combat. The 35th ID and 83d ID had major problems. About the only division that did not suffer truly severe problems initially that I can think of was the 79th ID.
They were all equally "green" BTW, with the exception of the 1st ID and elements of the 9th ID.
So what "clown shoes" were those?
Especially the 90th, they didn't just embarrass themselves their first time, but for the next month plus, until McClain took command and cleaned house.
Um, McLain, not McClain, did not "clean house" when assigned command on 30 July 1944. "Hanging" Sam Williams was replaced as ADC by Bill Weaver, which was simply replacing one good assistant for another (and it was Sam that held the division together during McKelvie's and Landrum's tenures as CG).
Depuy later claimed that all his stateside training emphasized that every infantry attack was to be done with marching fire. EVERY ONE
. According to Depuy, at least in his regiment, they knew no other way to conduct an attack. Fire and maneuver, despite being part of US Army infantry doctrine, and used quite well by other units the first time they were in combat, wasn't part of their SOP, they weren't even taught it. They didn't even know it existed. That was a horrific decision made by regimental/division leadership in the 90th, and was not one that affected other divisions. DIVARTY commander, CoS, G-1, G-2, G-3, G-4, and G-5 all remained unchanged, as did the artillery battalion commanders, two of the regimental commanders, and all of the battalion commanders IIRC?
So how did they "embarass themselves their first time"? By wearing "clown shoes"?
So were all divisions, infantry, armor, or airborne, that fought for the first time, and yet not all of them showed their ass like the 90th. Not all of them got smashed like the 106th did.
Really? And yet it seems that virtually every division I am aware of "showed their ass" - whatever that means - in their first engagements. Even the legendary Big Red One...which likely would have suffered the same fate as the 106th ID, as would have any other division, if put into that same circumstance. In similar, but not quite as dire circumstances, the 2d ID managed to get out by the skin of its teeth and by virtue of having one of the best divisional commanders at the helm.
AFAIK, the 90th was nearly removed from theater because it was so bad, and that wasn't after its first time in combat, it was after numerous times when it became clear there was something very wrong with it, that eventually required relieving most of the division and regimental commanders and senior staff. That is not a problem every other division experienced. They were a bad apple.
Actually, there is little or no evidence that was ever considered or the other usually accepted idea that it was proposed to "break up" the division was ever really contemplated. Those ideas stem from Bradley's postwar self-serving memoir. The best evidence is in Eisenhower's wartime papers, where the issue of the90th ID is treated in context with the others. Perhaps significantly, Ike did not even know who its original commander was or the circumstances of his relief. He did know Landrum and was disappointed in his performance. The only remark about the division was that they were surprised and thought it was "not brought up well", which should have been a surprise since it appears the division was specifically chosen for its early commitment because of its reputation in training. Throughout, it appears the Ike and others thought the problem was fundamentally the division commander and not the division, which was no worse than the others...I forgot that at the same time Ike was contemplating relieveing Macon due to the "poor" performance of the 83d ID too.
This is the weird part. If all Trevor's studies of the 88th occurred on the Rome campaign, when it was doing rather poorly when not chasing an enemy retreating due to the work of others, then exactly how is it rated as one of the best divisions? Its better performance came later.
In the context of its engagements it was not performing "poorly". In context, you could as well say that all the allied divisions performed poorly and just hung onto the coattails of the FEC.
While the overall unit replacement system was used in Iraq and Afghanistan, at least with the Army it also used individual replacements.
I know, because I was literally one of them, I showed up to my unit 3 months into a 15 month deployment. While I was an experienced sergeant (coming back in after a couple years of a break in service), I brought with me 13 privates that were all assigned with me to the same company, those kids were all straight out of OSUT (infantry basic/AIT) who had no clue what they were getting into, were set up for failure. And yet we were desperately needed to strengthen our unit and allow us to accomplish our mission (something that took many of years, and copious amounts of alcohol, for me to accept that it was the right decision, though it could have been executed quite a bit better than it did).
Yep. I should have probably said "unit relief and rotation" rather than unit replacement. In any case it doesn't really work, but most importantly, could not have worked for the US Army in World War II.
JSB made it a point to emphasize that the 88th was stable, and its why I was only referring to the 90th.
Sorry, I misunderstood then. However, the 90th ID was minimally affected by turmoil according to the AGF study, albeit they apparently did not consider the disruptions caused by the change from motorized division to infantry division.
Yeah, I didn't quite understand the nuke stuff as Brown described it, he didn't really describe that part well as to why he was including it.
Yeah, I've often thought he had a bee in his bonnet about Trevor, which a lot of people did, but not for reasons of Trevor's QJM/TNDM. He could be pretty abrasive and litigious...he liked to threaten to sue people and did sometimes.
But that aside, did Trevor not factor in defensive posture? Not take into account the difference between a hastily dug defensive position tossed up in a few hours vs something like the West Wall?
Of course he did. Defensive posture could be hasty, prepared, or fortified...albeit there was no factor for "prepared for nuclear strike".
The way Brown described it, it seems Trevor's formula didn't even take into account who was attacking and who was defending, let alone how protective the defenses were.
Brown was very confused. Yes, it did. Attacker and defender was always defined, even in the extremely rare case of a meeting engagement, because even then it is usually possible to determine which was which.
I'm not on JSB's side, as I don't agree with a lot of his conclusions in his book, as it seems like the 88th wasn't that good of a division (though not a bad one by far), and his opinion about the replacement system, US and German, seems way off the mark.
Sorry, that was a cri de coeur on my part, having suffered these slings and arrows of misinformed opinion on this subject for many years...and I don't mean from you BTW.
That said though, if Trevor's formula didn't factor in the defensive posture, the types of differences of divisions, or had too limited sampling of battles (like not following the 88th into its most successful time, the 1945 Spring Offensive campaign in Italy), then maybe there is a point to his beef. If the formula is to be used as proof that the Germans were actually better then it really should represent the above, as they are quite pertinent to the discussion.
Well, it does factor in different types of posture, time in combat (fatigue), experience, division "types" (since different divisions have different mixes of weapons and equipment, and so forth. However, as I've explained over and over again, the choices of engagements was partly directed by the client, but mostly was a consequence of the requirement for two-sided data. "Analysis" of an engagement that consists of data for one side and poorly informed opinion, due to lack of original sources, for the other is whimsical at best and uninformed opinion masquerading as scholarship at worst.
"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