ldb730 wrote: Not much seems to be written about Dempsey's abilities which led me to assume he was a rather mediocre commander. ... Gen. Dempsey probably had to ...
Lots of speculation, not a lot else. It's true that Dempsey is the original Grey Man(tm), and not having written his own memoirs he has certainly faded into the background, overshadowed - intentionally to a large degree - by his more famous boss. Still, have a look at Hart's "Colossal Cracks" which has a chapter devoted to Dempsey, plus other stuff acattered through the book.
We actually had a very good GOODWOOD (sorry
) thread that I initiated some years back at TankNet, based on the assumption that GOODWOOD was in fact successful. Unfortunately it apparently got lost in a server move and I have never been able to find an archive of it. Worse, the file I had on my posts got corrupted when I had a hard-drive crash and I've never recreated it. But here is what is left of it - the front and back part, the middle is missing. Hope it adds to the debate.
One of the recent mental excursions I have wandered into regarding Normandy is the generally accepted view of the results of Operation GOODWOOD. The general consensus regarding the battle is that - regardless of Montgomery's initial intent - it was an unmitigated disaster for British arms...right? But, when I began digging into the actual results of the battle - in terms of the relative numbers of casualties inflicted - I began to see a very different picture. The following is a summary of my research to date.
It is difficult to directly compare German and Commonwealth strengths and losses in GOODWOOD, mostly because there is a dearth of accurate and timely casualty reports for the German units involved. However, we do have extensive data for the UK forces and (thanks largely to the untiring work of Niklas Zetterling) a considerable body of data on the German forces.
To summarize, UK forces began with approximately 139,000 men, 1,369 tanks, and at least 732 artillery pieces. Losses were 4,120 men (2.97%) (844 KIA, 2,951 WIA, 325 MIA) and 493 tanks (35%). Only 361 of the tanks were knocked out - that is, they were either written off or were so damaged as to require long-term repair, 132 were damaged - that is, they required less than 24 hours for repair. At the end of the battle tank strength was 1,047.
German strength may be estimated with some accuracy as 79,750 men, 325 tanks, assault guns, and SP AT, and 291artillery pieces (not including infantry guns), 160 heavy Pak (including at least 51 8.8cm Pak 43/41), 56 8.8cm Flak (note that the generally accepted "144" 88's on Bourgebuis Ridge may include both the Pak 43/41 and an exaggeration), and about 230 Nebelwerfer. Our primary source for German casualties for the battle actually covers the period 11-20 July. However, it is likely that few of the casualties in that report were actually incurred prior to start of GOODWOOD on 18 July and none of them appear to be inconsistent with the minimums that would be expected. The exception is the losses of 16th LW FD (51 WIA and 8 MIA). Zetterling estimated that it lost a total of 2,500 men in Normandy, of which about 500 were lost in operations around Caen in early July. The casualties reported by the division for the month of July (in a 5 PzAOK report) were 368 KIA, 759 WIA, and 2,496 MIA, which is probably closer to the actual total casualties of the division in Normandy. Also, it is well documented that the division was broken up and used as replacements after GOODWOOD, being formally disbanded on 4 August 1944. Furthermore, all of the regimental commanders, most of their staff, and 36 company commanders were counted as losses in GOODWOOD, implying that 50+ officers alone were casualties in GOODWOOD. The report for 11-20 July gives the number of officer casualties as one, while the July report gives officer casualties of 92. Finally, the British PW reports indicate that the German MIA are undercounted by at least 1,495 (8 Corps alone reported 1,628 EPW while all 2 Army units involved reported 2,827 EPW for the battle) and it appears likely that most of these were incurred by 16th LW. From this, I conclude that the casualties of the 16th LW FD during GOODWOOD totaled about 3,100 men, over 1,500 of those being prisoner. Total German losses were about 6,500 men (8.15%), 86 tanks, assault guns, and SP AT (26.5%), and at least 72 Nebelwerfer, Pak, and artillery pieces (9.77%). Unlike the British losses, it appears that almost none of the German personnel losses were replaced before the Germans began their withdrawal from Normandy. And, it appears that the German AFV losses were more or less permanent as well, the majority of those recovered and repairable were abandoned when the German retreat began. The artillery losses were also irrecoverable (9th Werfer Brigade lost 47 Nebelwerfer during GOODWOOD, nearly one-half its operational strength).
Armor losses to AT mines cannot be definitely excluded, however, it is interesting to note that no vehicles losses were recorded for the two specialized mine clearing units that participated in the battle (22nd Dragoons and 1st Lothians). Furthermore, the total personnel losses in the two were 2 KIA and 10 WIA, or 0.79 percent (0.26 percent per day) of the 1,513-man strength of the units. Engineer troops totaled 4,457, losses were 6 KIA and 48 WIA, or 1.21 percent (0.40 percent per day).
And now we can dig further into the British (or in this case, Commonwealth) casualties. The heaviest hit - in terms of whole percentages - was 2 Canadian Infantry Division. On 18 July 2 Canadian Division had a succesful day, partly clearing Louvigny, west of the Orne, and successfully bridging the Orne at two locations at Caen by 1200 on 19 July. The division suffered moderate losses of 21 KIA, 43 WIA, 3 MIA - mostly in 4 and 5 Brigade. There were an additional 43 KIA and 75 WIA suffered by the Royal Regiment of Canada in the two-day battle for Louvigny, which was not cleared until late in the morning of 19 July. Operations to cross the Orne at Caen and clear the western edge of Vaucelles cost the division an additional 39 KIA, 136 WIA, and 3 MIA on 19 July. In the first two days of the battle the inexperienced division, with minimal armor support, had achieved most of it's objectives for a loss of 363 casualties. Based on a divisional strength of roughly 17,000, which equates to about one percent per day, an unremarkable rate of attrition for a division. Even the hardest hit battalion, the Royal Regiment of Canada at Louvigny, only suffered a loss of 7.05 percent per day, less than the 9.50 percent per day norm found for battalions in World War II.
However, the picture changed on the last two days of the battle. On 20 July the reserve 6 Infantry Brigade was brought up to continue the attack south towards the tiny village of Verrieres, perched on a 88 meter height just west of the Falaise Road. The advance of 6 Brigade was up an open, gentle rise and was exposed to observation and flanking fire from Hill 112, west of the Orne, and to the German positions in Verrieres itself. To make matters worse, shortly after the attack kicked off in the afternoon, a torrential rain began. The fields were quickly reduced to quagmires, limiting vehicular movement to the hard-surfaced roads. As a result, when the Germans counterattacked from Verrieres with an estimated four tanks (which may have been Panthers since they retained some mobility off road) the leading battalion (South Saskatchewan Regiment) was unable to get AT or tank support forward and was quickly overwhelmed. The brigade reserve, the Essex Scottish was overrun in turn when it tried to recover the position. Significantly perhaps, it was only at this time that 2 Canadian Armoured Brigade was placed under command of 2 Canadian Division. The losses on 20 July were 98 KIA, 294 WIA, 50 MIA, exceeding the combined casualties of the previous two days. On the morning of 21 July, with the heavy rain still falling, the Germans continued their armored attack, inflicting heavy casualties again on the Essex Scottish and on the Camerons of Canada and the 27 Armoured Regiment at St. Andre. In the evening the division counterattacked, supported by 6 and 27 Armoured Regiments of 2 Canadian Armoured Brigade. Losses for the day were 78 KIA, 260 WIA, and 143 MIA, another very intense day of combat. These two days did tremendous damage to the infantry of the division. The Essex Scottish had only lost 11 men on 18 and 19 July. But, on 20 and 21 July, 318 men were lost or 19.09 percent per day. The South Saskatchewans, which had only lost one man earlier, lost 201 on 20 and 21 July or 12.06 percent per day. Overall, the division lost an average of 2.71 percent per day on 20 and 21 July, over two-and-one-half times the rate of 18 and 19 July.
Meanwhile, 3 Canadian Division attacked on the right flank of 8 Corps, attempting to seize the Columbelles steel factory complex on the east bank of the Orne, and then drive south towards Vaucelles. The division paid heavily for it's success, losing 60 KIA, 234 WIA, 9 MIA on 18 July, a loss of about 1.8 percent, significantly higher than the divisional norm of 1.0 percent. However, once Columbelles was captured the advance went well. Vaucelles was seized against light resistance on 19 July and only 7 KIA, 35 WIA, and 7 MIA were lost. On 20 July the division was lightly engaged in mopping up and occupying the positions seized by 11 Armoured Division, and suffered only 6 KIA and 20 WIA. It was more heavily engaged on 21 July - mostly by intense German shelling - and suffered 17 KIA, 84 WIA, and 11 MIA.
On 19 and 20 July it appears (my source, The Victory Campaign, is hazy on the actions of 10 Armoured Regiment) that 2 Canadian Armoured Brigade supported the attack of 3 Canadian Division on Columbelles with the 6 Armoured Regiment (1 Hussars), holding the 10 Armoured Regiment (Fort Garry Horse) in reserve, while the attack by 2 Canadian Division on Louvigny was supported by 27 Armoured Regiment (Sherbrooke Fusiliers). The armor units lost 7 KIA and 32 WIA, 10 tanks knocked out and 1 damaged on 18 July. After Louvigny was secured on 19 July, it appears that 27 Armoured crossed to the east side of the Orne, supporting attacks on Fleury and St. Andre. The rest of 2 Brigade supported mopping up operations in Vaucelles and Ifs. The operations on 19 July cost 1 KIA and 3 WIA, only 2 tanks were knocked out, although 10 were damaged. On 20 July, when the German counterattack so roughly handled 2 Canadian Division, 27 Armoured remained defending St. Andre, while the rest of the brigade remained in the 3 Division sector east of the Falaise Road. The brigade suffered 3 KIA and 3 WIA to German shelling, while apparently losing no tanks. On 21 July the brigade, finally attached to 2 Division, counterattacked to stabilize the division front, losing 5 KIA and 12 WIA, 17 tanks knocked out and 7 damaged.
Overall, it does not appear that the Canadian losses can be attributed to a lack of armor support or to inadequate tanks. Rather, it appears that the heavy losses on 20 and 21 July were more attributable to poor decision-making. The 6 Brigade attack was executed without armor support, even though the supporting armor was close at hand, available, and unengaged. Failing to attach 2 Armoured Brigade to 2 Division on the morning of 20 July when the attack to Verrieres was ordered is inexplicable. The apparent failure of the division commander to request armored support for an advance up the open gentle slope of Verrieres Ridge is equally inexplicable. Also, the fact that the AT guns of the South Saskatchewan's were overrun while trying to move up can only partly be attributed to bad luck. Trying to move forward the vulnerable guns and prime movers in poor visibility, in the face of the enemy was simply asking for trouble. So, would the presence of Churchill tankss have made any difference? It's doubtful, since no tank has value in combat unless it's where it can actually participate in the combat.
8 Corps (64,448 men: 255 KIA, 922 WIA, 59 MIA = 1,236; frm 8 Corps rpts 1,357 cas)
11 AD (14,389 men: 159 KIA, 531 WIA, 55 MIA = 745; frm 8 Corps rpts 930 cas)
29 Arm Bde (Start 214, End 132, KO 140, DMG 30) (2,826 men; 67 KIA, 189 WIA, 33
2 N.Yeo. Recce Rgt (Start 72, End 46, KO 32, DMG 5) (662 men: 14 KIA, 26 WIA, 10
159 Inf Bde (2,599 men: 55 KIA, 261 WIA, 6 MIA)
Other (19 KIA, 50 WIA, 1 MIA)
Inns of Court AC Rgt (782 men: 1 KIA, 5 MIA)
22 Dgns (Sherman Crab) & 26 Asslt Sqn RE (att frm 79 AD) (705 men: 3 KIA, 5 WIA)
7 AD (15,183 men: 39 KIA, 154 WIA, 2 MIA = 195; frm 8 Corps rpts 154 cas)
22 Arm Bde (Start 216, End 199, KO 15, DMG 33) (22 KIA, 89 WIA, 2 MIA)
8 Huss. Recce Rgt (Start 72) (702 men: 1 WIA)
131 Inf Bde (2,689 men: 6 KIA, 31 WIA)
Other (3 KIA, 19 WIA)
Gds AD (
5 Gds Arm Bde (Start 235, End 166, KO 107, DMG 21) (26 KIA, 83 WIA, 1 MIA)
2 Welsh Gds Recce (Start 68, End 66, KO 11, DMG 4) (698 men: 4 KIA, 9 WIA)
32 Gds Bde (2,723 men: 20 KIA, 104 WIA)
2 Household Cav AC Rgt (771 men: 1 KIA)
Other (4 KIA, 35 WIA)
Well here is where my disk failed and corrupted the data.
101st SS Pz Bn (~ 500 men: start 1 Tiger I? End 6 Tiger I, KO&DMG 0?)
272nd ID (~12,700 men: losses 11-20 July; 44 KIA, 131 WIA, 153 MIA, July; 242 KIA, 951
WIA, 982 MIA)
16th LW FD (Start 2? StGIII) (~ 9,300 men: losses 11-20 July; 51 WIA, 8 MIA, July; 368 KIA,
759 WIA, 2,496 MIA)
7th Werfer Bde (110 werfer on 1 July)
(~3,700 men: losses July; 58 KIA, 204 WIA, 25 MIA)
101st SS Art Bn (~500 men: 4 21cm, 6 17cm)
LXXXVI AK (-) (~24,750 men)
346th ID (Start 8 StGIII & 6 Marder? End 8 StGIII & 6 Marder? KO&DMG 0?) (~[1/2 7,500] =
3,750 men: losses 11-20 July; 121 KIA, 531 WIA, 219 MIA, July; 152 KIA, 627 WIA, 192 MIA)
21st PzD (Start 50 PzIV, end 22 PzIV, KO&DMG 28, 16 Pak40 SP, 24 10.5cmStG) (~12,900
men: losses 11-20 July; 162 KIA, 394 WIA, 832 MIA, July; 239 KIA, 714 WIA, 996 MIA)
503rd Pz Bn (~500 men: start 39 Tiger, End 20 Tiger, KO&DMG 17)
9th Werfer Bde (~120 werfer, 47 lost 18-21 July)
(~3,700 men: losses July; 46 KIA, 153 WIA, 163 MIA)
1039th PzJg Bn (~400 men: 27 Pak 43/41 8.8cm, 12 lost 18-21 July)
1053rd PzJg Bn (~300 men: 16 Pak 40, 13 lost 18-21 July)
Art Rgt Staff Autun (ARKO 118) (Losses July: 39 KIA, 96 WIA)
555th Art Bn (~400 men: 12 12.2cm how)
763rd Art Bn (~400 men: 9 17cm gun)
1151st Art Bn (-) (~300 men: 8 12.2cm how)
1193rd Art Bn (~400 men: 12 14.9cm how)
625th Art Bty (~200 men: 3 17cm gun)
III Flak Korps (~1,500 men)
11700th FlakKG (8-12 8.8cm)
12400th FlakKG (8-12 8.8cm)
13399th FlakKG (8-12 8.8cm)
Strength ~79,750 men
~325 tanks, assault guns, SP AT
Losses (personnel losses for 11-20 July)
~6,500 men (8.15%)
(Note: 8 Brit Corps rpt 1,628 EPW, all PW rpt 2,827 for period)
~86 tanks, assault guns, SP AT (26.5%)
1000 hrs 13 July Dempsey meets with O'Connor (8 Corps), Crocker (1 Corps), and Simonds (2 Cdn. Corps). At that time 59 ID withdrawn from 8 Corps and 7 AD substituted. Reason was Monty's instruction of 10 July to Dempsey and Bradley:
"Second Army will retain the ability to operate with a strong armoured force east of the River Orne in the general area between Caen and Falaise,
For this purpose a corps of three armoured divisions will be held in reserve, ready to be employed when ordered by me.
The opportunity for the employment of this corps may be sudden and fleeting. Therefore the study of the problems arising will begin at once."
Following was a second conference on the morning of 14 July at Creully. Then on the morning of 15 July Dempsey visited O'Connor and delivered to him a copy of Monty's:
"Notes on Second Army Operations
16th July-18th July
1. Object of this operation.
To engage the German armour in battle and 'write it down' to such an extent that it is of no further value to the Germans as a basis of the battle.
To gain a good bridgehead over the River Orne through Caen, and thus improve our positions on the eastern flank.
Generally to destroy German equipment and personnel.
2. Affect of this operation on Allied policy.
We require the whole of the Cherbourg and Brittany peninsulas.
A victory on the eastern flank will help us to gain what we want on the western flank.
But the eastern flank is a bastion on which the whole future of the campaign in North West Europe depends; it must remain a firm bastion; if it became unstable the operations on the western flank would cease.
Therefore, while taking advantage of every opportunity to destroy the enemy, we must be very careful to maintain our own balance and ensure a firm base.
3. The enemy.
There are a lot of enemy divisions in the area south-east of Caen:
21 Panzer Division 16 GAF Field Division
1 SS Panzer Division 272 Infantry Division
12 SS Panzer Division
Another one [116 Panzer Division] is coming and will be here this week-end.
4. Operations of 12 Corps and Canadian Corps - 16th and 17th July.
Advantage must be taken of these to make the Germans think we are going to break out across the Orne between Caen and Amaye.
5. Initial Operations 8 Corps.
The three armoured divisions will be required to dominate the area Bourgebus-Vimont-Bretteville, and to fight and destroy the enemy.
But armoured cars should push far to the south towards Falaise, and spread alarm and dsepondency, and discover 'the form.'
6. 2 Canadian Corps.
While para 5 is going on, the Canadians must capture Vaucelles, get through communications and establish themselves in a very firm bridgehead on the general line Fleury-Cormelles-Mondeville.
7. Later Operations 8 Corps.
When 6 is done, then 8 Corps can 'crack about' as the situation demands.
But not before 6 is done.
8. To sum up for 8 Corps.
Para 6 is vital.
At 0300 hours 16 July the 8 Corps Operations instruction was issued. The intention laid down in the instruction was:
"On 18th July, 8 Corps will debouch from the existing bridgehead east of the River Orne with a view to:
(a) Dominating the area Bourgebus-Vimont-Bretteville-sur-Laize.
(b) Destroying any enemy armour or other forces encountered en route to this area.
(c) If conditions are favourable, subsequently exploiting to the south."
On 17 July Dempsey issued the following summary to all of his corps commanders:
"Second Army Operations
Commencing on 18th July
West of the Orne.
1. 12 Corps will hold the whole of the commanding ground on the general line Evrecy-Esquay-Eterville. They will establish a force on the spur south-east of Evrecy and develop a strong threat on the axis Evrecy-Amaye.
They will do all they can to lead the enemy to believe that Second Army intends to cross the River Orne on their front.
2. 30 Corps will improve their positions on the front Vendes-Noyers-Missy, and operate with light forces in the direction of Villers Bocage. Their operations will be designed to draw enemy reserves into the thick country on their front and to contain them there.
East of the Orne.
3. 1 Corps will establish 3 Division in the area Bivres-Traorn-St.Pair-Emieville-Touuffreville, and will hold this area against enemy attack from east and south-east.
1 Corps will also occupy and hold the villages of Cuverville and Demouville.
Patrolling and exploitation will be carried out to the east and north-east of 3 Division area, but main bodies will not be moved from this area without reference to me.
4. 8 Corps will establish armoured divisions in the areas:
The task of these three divisions will be to get their main bodies so established that there can be no enemy penetration through the ring, to destroy all enemy troop concentrations and installations in the area; to defeat enemy armour which may be brought against them.
Vigorous patrolling and exploitation will be carried out to the east and south-east to the line of the Dives-to the south in the direction of Falaise-to the south-west as far as the River Orne at Thury Harcourt.
Main bodies of the three divisions will not be moved from areas (a), (b) and (c) without reference to me.
5. 2 Canadian Corps will capture and hold Vaucelles and Gibreville with one division and build bridges over River Orne at Caen. This is a vital part of the whole Army operations.
They will be prepared, on instructions from me, to advance their front to the line Fleury-Cormelles and may start to employ another division for this task.
Their operation of expanding the Caen bridgehead will include a junction of their forces east and west of the River Orne on the line Eterville-Fleury.
Commander, Second Army
17th July, 44"