Evaluation of the Performance of the U.S. Army

Discussions on WW2 in Western Europe & the Atlantic.
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kordts
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Post by kordts » 29 Jun 2005 14:12

Obdicut,
great post. I appreciate the analysis and cogent delivery :D

Peace out,

Kordts

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Imad
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Post by Imad » 06 Jul 2005 19:42

On the whole I would say that, in spite of a poor start, the Americans improved considerably over the years, and that goes for all branches of service. The elite units, and this goes without saying, fought magnificently on several occasions. I remember Hans von Luck writing that the Americans tended to be more resourceful than the British in many ways. Graham and Bidwell in their excellent "Tug of War" write that the Germans themselves rated British infantry above the American while they rated U.S armoured units higher than British. Artillery - I'd say it's a toss up between the two. As for comparing the Americans with the Wehrmacht or the Waffen SS, well, that's a little harder to answer. The only way we could get a fair assessment is if we compare the Germans of '41 vintage with the Americans of '44 and '45, and that would be highly hypothetical to say the least. We might as well be comparing Martians and Earthlings. I have read the Du Puy book by the way, and I think it is highly instructive.
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Post by poor_bloody_infantry » 16 Jul 2005 04:35

I'm always baffled as to why the German Army is always held up to be some form of gold standard when discussing military effectiveness? A discussion of German military effectiveness always boils down to an extolling of German small unit proficiency and training, as if that alone compensates for the mishandling of these units on the field of battle - it doesn't.
The German Army was an instrument that was engaged upon the field of battle and thoroughly thrashed by the Allies. The hoary argument that the German armed forces were crushed merely by superior numbers fails to account for the sheer stupidity of willfully taking on those superior numbers in the first place. It doesn't explain the monumental idiocy of attacking Russia in 1941 without adequate winterization, or the ludicrous decision making done when it became apparent that Germany could not defeat it enemies by force of arms.
Hitler built the German armed forces to be a weapon of conquest, and in that mission it failed totally - it conquered nothing, and was itself anihilated in the process. The American Army was built to destroy the German/Italian/Japanese military machines, and in that mission it was completely successful, nothing remained of its enemies except drying ink on various surrender documents.
From a purely military standpoint, it would be more profitable to study what the German military did wrong than what it did correctly. In the film "Patton"; George Scott's character muttered "What a waste of fine infantry!" while observing a German attack - the same can be said of the entire German war effort really. It was a staggering waste of a nation's blood and soul that in the end accomplished zilch.

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Post by Larry D. » 16 Jul 2005 12:48

p-b-i wrote:
Hitler built the German armed forces to be a weapon of conquest, and in that mission it failed totally - it conquered nothing, and was itself anihilated in the process.
First, let's change that to "....it conquered AND HELD nothing.....". Otherwise, your argument loses a lot of its credibility.

For those of us who have been reading the history of World War Two in all of its facets and in other languages besides English for 50+ years, your statement is a marvel of both affirmation and denial. From a macro viewpoint, what you said was largely true, but from a micro point of view it was not. Das deutsche Heer fought and won countless battles, both offensively and defensively, against enemy forces vastly superior in numbers and equipment, and that was the case until around the end of 1942. It was a superb fighting machine, and that is the consensus among most respected historians of the war. If you chose to dissent from that consensus, then you are certainly free to do so.

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Post by stcamp » 16 Jul 2005 13:56

Hello All,

I have read these post's and am impressed by the width and breadth of your collective knowledge. I am puzzled by the failure to mention perhaps one of the most important advantages the Allies held over the Axis. They were reading the German and Japanese codes.

Frederick the Great one said: "if we had exact information of our enemy's dispositions, we should beat him every time." This also brings to mind what an American officer said about about winning: "Whoever gets there first with the most wins".

Because the code breaking was classified for so long I do not think many historians were able to factor it in for their accounts of the success or failure of battles, campaigns, and strategy.

Regards,

Steve

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Post by Larry D. » 16 Jul 2005 14:55

stcamp said:
I am puzzled by the failure to mention perhaps one of the most important advantages the Allies held over the Axis.
A truly great advantage, that is certain. But it should be pointed out that ULTRA intercepts concerning the German Army were far less numerous and less illuminating than they were for the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. The German Army relied more heavily on "Drahtverbindungswesens" (cable and wire as a means of intermediate and long-range communications) than they did on "Funkverbindungswesens" (radio transmission) as was the case with the Luftwaffe and Kriegsmarine. ULTRA-derived intelligence on the German Army was good for North Africa and for the initial advance during all of the ground campaigns, but poor once the Heeres-Nachrichtentruppen (Army signal troops), who followed up close behind the line of advance, had layed their field cable and wire lines. During retreats (mid-1943 to the end of the war), the German Army was always falling back on existing cable and wire networks so they rarely had to resort to the use of radio. During the last two or two and half years of the war, the Army also made increasing use of Richtverbindungswesens (like microwave), which was a form of radio transmission but beam-directed between a transmitter and receiver dish. The Allies had great difficulty trying to intercept RV transmissions and were usually unsuccessful. They also had problems decrypting what little they did intercept because the German messages were encrypted in a non-Enigma system called Geheimeschreiber (on-line encrypted teletype manufactured by Lorenz). A good example of all this is the total failure of the ULTRA infrastructure to intercept any significant indications of the German Ardennes Offensive that commenced on 16 December 1944.

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stcamp
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Post by stcamp » 18 Jul 2005 14:00

Hello Larry,

I have read that once the German Army had withdrawn into Germany itself the intelligence intercepts dropped in quality and quanity as you mentioned for the reasons you stated. I would argue that the was not until after the Normandy invasion. Part of the success of the Normandy invasions was the knowledge during the landings that Hitler had not released the reserves yet. They also confirmed that Hitler still believed that Normandy was a feint and that the actual landings were still to come.

One of the advantages the Allies had until the end of the war was reading the Japanese evaluations of the German economy and verbatim transcripts of what Ribbentop and Hitler were telling the Japanese ambassador. The Japanese also were sending to Tokyo their evaluations of bombing damage.

The intercepts also let the allies know where the Germans were concentrating their troops on the Eastern front. Stalins attack on Army Group Middle days after the D-day invasion was not happenstance.

Regards,
Steve

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Post by Larry D. » 18 Jul 2005 14:44

I have read that once the German Army had withdrawn into Germany itself the intelligence intercepts dropped in quality and quanity as you mentioned for the reasons you stated. I would argue that the was not until after the Normandy invasion. Part of the success of the Normandy invasions was the knowledge during the landings that Hitler had not released the reserves yet. They also confirmed that Hitler still believed that Normandy was a feint and that the actual landings were still to come.
A month of so prior to 6 June 1944 the Allies and the French resistance began a massive effort to destroy the German means of communication throughout France (telephone lines, switching centers, relay centers, bridges, rail lines, road junctions, etc., etc.). This was done for several reasons, not the least of which was to force the Germans to starting using their radios so the Allies could intercept their traffic. You need to do some reading on this, Steve. The Allies were able to keep hour-to-hour track of 15th Army in the Pas de Calais area to ensure it wasn't moving toward Normandy by "Y" Service intercepts (lower grade tactical intercepts), visual observation (reconnaissance flights) and Humint (human intelligence - the thick network of French resistance agents in northeast France).
One of the advantages the Allies had until the end of the war was reading the Japanese evaluations of the German economy and verbatim transcripts of what Ribbentop and Hitler were telling the Japanese ambassador. The Japanese also were sending to Tokyo their evaluations of bombing damage.
True. Gen. Hiroshi OSHIMA was the Japanese military attaché to which you refer. See the book on this by Prof. Carl Boyd.
The intercepts also let the allies know where the Germans were concentrating their troops on the Eastern front. Stalins attack on Army Group Middle days after the D-day invasion was not happenstance.
The planning for Operation "Bagration" (the Belorussian offensive) began in February 1944 and commenced 22 June 1944. It was timed to coincide with both the D-Day landings in Normandy and the third anniversary of the German attack on the Soviet Union. The ULTRA intercepts had absolutely nothing to to with this offensive. Very little of the ULTRA material was shared with the Soviet Union because Stalin refused to share his Sigint material with the Brits and Americans. Soviet signals intelligence and other means of intelligence were fully capable of determining German locations and strengths without any help from the Western Allies.

--Larry
Last edited by Larry D. on 18 Jul 2005 22:59, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by Imad » 18 Jul 2005 15:31

poor_bloody_infantry wrote:I'm always baffled as to why the German Army is always held up to be some form of gold standard when discussing military effectiveness? A discussion of German military effectiveness always boils down to an extolling of German small unit proficiency and training, as if that alone compensates for the mishandling of these units on the field of battle - it doesn't.
The German Army was an instrument that was engaged upon the field of battle and thoroughly thrashed by the Allies. The hoary argument that the German armed forces were crushed merely by superior numbers fails to account for the sheer stupidity of willfully taking on those superior numbers in the first place. It doesn't explain the monumental idiocy of attacking Russia in 1941 without adequate winterization, or the ludicrous decision making done when it became apparent that Germany could not defeat it enemies by force of arms.
Hitler built the German armed forces to be a weapon of conquest, and in that mission it failed totally - it conquered nothing, and was itself anihilated in the process. The American Army was built to destroy the German/Italian/Japanese military machines, and in that mission it was completely successful, nothing remained of its enemies except drying ink on various surrender documents.
From a purely military standpoint, it would be more profitable to study what the German military did wrong than what it did correctly. In the film "Patton"; George Scott's character muttered "What a waste of fine infantry!" while observing a German attack - the same can be said of the entire German war effort really. It was a staggering waste of a nation's blood and soul that in the end accomplished zilch.
I think the examples of "idiocy" that you mention are actually strategic errors for which the Supreme Commander himself was ultimately responsible. They have nothing to do with the performance of the Wehrmacht on the battlefield, which, taken as a whole, was second to none and better than most. You are entitled to your opinion of course, but the orthodox opinion of most highly respected military historians is, not to put too fine a point on it, that the German Army under Hitler was one of the most superb fighting formations in the history of mankind, and it's ultimate defeat should not detract us from this fact.
I don't know if you're aware of this but Israel Tal, the "father" of the Israeli armoured forces and doctrine and winner of quite a few battles, used the campaigns of the Panzerwaffe as a model on which to base his own tactics and strategy. If that's not a compliment I don't know what is!
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Post by poor_bloody_infantry » 18 Jul 2005 22:48

[... the orthodox opinion of most highly respected military historians is, not to put too fine a point on it, that the German Army under Hitler was one of the most superb fighting formations in the history of mankind]

I know what the current concensus of opinion regarding the WW2 Germany Army is, I just don't agree with it. Orthodox opinion once held that the Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around it instead of vice versa, right? German military orthodoxy once regarded the Soviet Union as a rotten structure that would collapse upon itself if given a good swift kick, and we all know what became of that assumption too.
I'm not knocking Germany or it's military, I'm merely stating that it's WW2 performance was not as awe inspiring as it has been held up to be. Conversely, Allied military performance wasn't as dependant upon German error, as is often implied, for its victorious result. The German Army wasn't defeated on paper by codebreakers, it was beaten in the field by soldiers who became proficient in the military arts on their own accord. It seems as if any comparison to the German Army beggars the assumption that the WW2 German military is the standard for excellence, and I just don't think that is the case.

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Post by stcamp » 18 Jul 2005 23:45

A month of so prior to 6 June 1944 the Allies and the French resistance began a massive effort to destroy the German means of communication throughout France (telephone lines, switching centers, relay centers, bridges, rail lines, road junctions, etc., etc.). This was done for several reasons, not the least of which was to force the Germans to starting using their radios so the Allies could intercept their traffic. You need to do some reading on this, Steve. The Allies were able to keep hour-to-hour track of 15th Army in the Pas de Calais area to ensure it wasn't moving toward Normandy by "Y" Service intercepts (lower grade tactical intercepts), visual observation (reconnaissance flights) and Humint (human intelligence - the thick network of French resistance agents in northeast France).

Larry -- I am currently reading: Marching Orders: The Untold Story of World War II by Bruce Lee. I read the reviews of Prof. Boyd's work on Amazon and it looks interesting. Bruce Lee gives a number of examples reinforcing my statements above.

I do not think I will ever be done reading or learning which is why I return here. Reading has changed and shaped my views of many things over the years.
Allied military performance wasn't as dependant upon German error, as is often implied, for its victorious result. The German Army wasn't defeated on paper by codebreakers, it was beaten in the field by soldiers who became proficient in the military arts on their own accord.
Poor_bloody_infantry

Yes, I agree. They learned and learned well. I have looked at US infantry divisions time on the line and WIA & KIA statistics and they are amazing.

By the way my Father fought through Normandy to the Bulge where he recieved his 3rd Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. My Uncle served with a division that was destroyed at the Bulge and he was taken prisoner. The German army was beaten by civilian soldiers and led by officers who had no desire to become part of a professional warrior caste.



[/quote]

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Post by col. klink » 19 Jul 2005 05:34

Just a note to also praise the Bruce Lee book. I read it a few years ago and found it fascinating. I wish there were a comprable book with the ULTRA/ENIGMA intercepts. I could imagine what it might have been like to be in Allied intelligence and first read the current ULTRA intercepts and getting the raw details of the status of German units for that day and then reading the MAGIC intercepts which might contain Oshima's reports of conversations with German leaders, his observations of what was going on in Germany and his analysis of Germany's ability to carry out what they said they were intending. It almost kind of makes the war at least in the west seem scripted. The Lee book is a very good read and gives good examples of how important good intelligence and proper analysis can be.

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Post by Larry D. » 19 Jul 2005 12:29

ULTRA and Normandy

Bennett, Ralph. ULTRA in the West: The Normandy Campaign 1944-45. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1979. ISBN: 0-684-16704-2. Hb. Dj. 336p. Maps. Footnotes. Bibliography. Index.

I have more than 30 books on ULTRA and MAGIC and I have read another 20 or so that I got from the library or through interlibrary loan. It's a subject that has always fascinated me because I worked in a signals intelligence environment back in the 1960's while in the service. The very best study on ULTRA in the ETO is the multi-volume HMSO work by Prof. Hinsley, British Intelligence During the Second World War (title paraphrased since it may be off by a word or two). As for ULTRA and Normandy, I strongly recommend the Ralph Bennett title noted above. Prof. Bennett worked in Bletchley Hut 3 and writes from an "I was there" perspective. I used to correspond with him back in the early 'eighties and found his insight into the impact of ULTRA on the D-Day landings to be brilliant.

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Post by Imad » 20 Jul 2005 22:30

I must admit my knowledge of intel ops in WW2 is very sketchy to put it mildly, but I remember reading something about the lads at Bletchley in a book called "A Man Called Intrepid", and that was in the late 70s. I wonder how accurate the information in that book is and also if any new previously secret files have been made available to the public since that work was published?
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Post by Larry D. » 20 Jul 2005 22:47

I wonder how accurate the information in that book is and also if any new previously secret files have been made available to the public since that work was published?
The very first book about this subject was written by British author Winterbotham (sp?), a retired RAF Wing Commander, and titled The ULTRA Secret. It was published in 1973, I believe, and the British government tried to take him to court for violating the Official Secrets Act. In the late 'seventies the flood gates opened and dozens of books began to appear about Bletchley Park and the inner workings of GC&CS (Government Code & Cipher School), that being the cover name for the entire British signals intelligence organization. By today, 2005, nearly all (c. 99%) of the top secret files concerning wartime code-breaking operations have been released and are available to researchers in the PRO (now called the U.K. National Archives) under entry HW.

http://www.catalogue.nationalarchives.g ... lt.asp?j=1

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