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In anticipation of the future of FI and reading the 2nd Atkinson book which covers Sicily, and Italy.

Salerno and Op. Avalanche really have captured my imagination. If Berlin had released the 2 Panzer divisions in reserve I think they could have thrown the Allies into the sea.

I generally don't dislike Montgomery intensely, but he isn't my favorite commander by any stretch, but reading about his glacial pace from further south and failing to quickly link up with the beachhead was vaguely shocking to me and I'm amazed he wasn't sacked, or at least reprimanded in private over it. I mean really - news reporters out ran 8th Army and encountered 5th Army patrols. And I dont mean by hours, I mean by days. 5th Army suffered about 7-8,000 casualties, in the same period 8th Army advancing from the south 67.

The animosity between Allies is shocking, and while I knew about it before reading in detail about the Italian surrender and hemming and hawing over it was interesting. It's also shocking how many times we let the Germans do unopposed ocean crossings in this campaign - thru Messina from Sicily, up the boot, away from Salerno, and from Sardinia (I believe, perhaps also or Corsica) where the Germans used a mix of commandeered small boats and ships, coupled with an ever shrinking air transport fleet. 30,000 soldiers made it to the mainland unopposed. Atkinson's book states even the US Naval history concedes that in hindsight it was an idiotic move not to even attempt to oppose these withdrawals. IIRC the excuse was there was fixation on Salerno..

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Although the airforces and navies could - and should - have done more, the Straits at Messina were rather well defended.

his glacial pace from further south and failing to quickly link up with the beachhead

If you read something like Farley Mowat's "And No Birds Sang ..." it's surprising the British and Canadians were able to advance as fast as they did. There is an old military saying "ground dictates," which means that whatever fancy plans you might have, in the end the terrain will decide what you can actually do. That part of Italy is very steep and infrastructure-poor. The Germans did an excellent job destroying what little transport infrastructure there was.

reprimanded in private

How do you know he wasn't :confused:

I mean really - news reporters out ran 8th Army and encountered 5th Army patrols.

Sorry, but that's absurd. All military formations have a lot of inertia, and the larger the formation the more inertia there is. I can get a section moving with a hand signal, a platoon moving with a shouted "follow me", but a company is going to take an O Group, a battalion will take several O Groups, plus some road space planning and logistics support. A brigade will take 6-12 hours to get moving, and so on up the food chain. Also, as you increase in size, you need a larger MSR to support any force and it's movements.

A press guy, on his own, in a jeep carrying all the food he needs for a week or more (he won't have any ammo, remember) can turn on a dime, go any where he wants, and has no need to maintain a rearwards umbilical link. Military units cannot do that.

By the by, Atkinson can write a wonderful sentence, his WWII books are ripping yarns, and he fully deserves his Pulitzer. It is also, however, terrible history. He emphasizes drama and conflict between the Allies to such a degree that you almost end up wondering who actually won the war. He is also unashamedly writing about the American Army more than he's writing a narrative about the campaign in Sicily and Italy. That's fair enough, but you need to keep it in mind. The contribution of the Allies gets written out unless it can be used to denigrate, or introduce conflict and tension.

Alan Dale Daniel's review here is worth reading and pondering.

On a personal note, I tried to use Atkinson's second book as source material for a couple of scenarios in Sicily. In the end I gave up in despair - there is plenty of flavour in his writing, but there's simply no meat, no substance, and no useful detail in any of his descriptions of battle. The contrast between his descriptions of battles, and those in the US OHs, or other excellent books on Sicily (like Gooderson's "A Hard Way To Make A War") is striking. In at least one case Atkinson had accidentally (I hope) combined actions on two separate days to create weird amalgam. It took me a while to tease out the correct chronology and figure out where he'd gone wrong, wasting a fair bit of time.

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Picking on Monty is a popular pastime, but Churchill kept him because he won battles, something which is not as easy as "armchair generals" like to imagine.

In may 42, Auchinleck had about the same superiority in men/material as Monty did in october, but 1 month later the Auk had lost 80,000 men, most of his equipment and retreated 500 miles while in 1 month, Monty detroyed a big chunk of the DAK and advanced 1,000 miles.

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eh I stick by my point. Though Atkinson isn't great for tactical level battles this isn't what I was referring to with accuracy. The advance on Calabria was glacial and it's not just Atkinson who thinks so - Alexander order Montgomery more than once to speed up his advance. Montgomery concurred - and then confided to his diary that he would 'Be as cautious as possible.' (In Montgomery terms meaning not listening to orders) The German rear guard was taking exceptionally low casualties. I mean like 12 a day. Against 8th Army. Thats ridiculous. 8th Army troops remembering the crossing called it 'a holiday atmosphere, like a regatta.'

On black Monday while the Salerno beachhead with both Brit and US troops being slaughtered 8th Army was holding medal awards ceremonies.

I disagree with the national bias defense. This always comes out any time anyone says anything about Montgomery. It's bs - Atkinson's first book illustrates quite well how bad the US troops were. He mentions several AWFUL US commanders, Fredendall, Dowley, Clark ( unfortunately sharing my last name), etc.

Montgomery may have won battles, but that's not the only measure of a good general. The same arguments against Rommel apply to Montgomery, that a good deal of his initial success was perhaps luck. His command style played right to his side and the times. All he had to do was what he did, mass enormous advantages on his side for set piece battles before advancing. Of course if Montgomery had been Supreme Commander I think the war would have lasted another year or two, or the Russians would have overrun Germany.

Btw, I never said winning battles, or even merely being a soldier was easy. That's misconstruing my words - but if you.re going to compare him to his contemporaries, whether world-wide or amongst Allied generals I think he shows very poorly.

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Picking on Monty is a popular pastime, but Churchill kept him because he won battles, something which is not as easy as "armchair generals" like to imagine.

True. But at the time that Montgomery came into prominence winning battles was a bit easier than it had been a year or two earlier.

In may 42, Auchinleck had about the same superiority in men/material as Monty did in october, but 1 month later the Auk had lost 80,000 men, most of his equipment and retreated 500 miles while in 1 month, Monty detroyed a big chunk of the DAK and advanced 1,000 miles.

Since Auchinleck was the theater boss, it is natural that he should shoulder the responsibility. However, he was a very good general as he proved in July. His biggest mistakes were his appointments to command 8th. Army. The problem there was a certain shortage of men who combined the necessary seniority and talent to do so. Cunningham seemed very promising after his speedy victory in Ethiopia. It was only when he came up against the Germans that his personal weaknesses became apparent. Ritchie was an improvisation and a permanent replacement should have been found early in 1942 as he was simply out of his depth at that level of command.

Since Auchinleck's responsibilities were extensive and onerous, he couldn't do it himself. Dividing Middle East Command was clearly the right thing to do and it should have been done at least a year earlier, as that would have allowed him to concentrate on Africa without the distraction of worrying about his northern flank as well as administering Iran and Iraq.

Michael

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Auchinleck's mistake was more in leaving Ritchie in charge even though he and other generals had doubts about his ability. Going up against the Desert Fox is not the place for "on the job" training.

The biggest mistake the Brits did at Gazala was trying to fight a mobile battle, which was the German's speciality. This was, of course, poor planning. This was primarily Ritchie's responsibility, but the Auk must also share part of the blame.

The first thing Monty did when he took over was revamp the plans so the 8th would fight a 1918 style artillery-infantry battle. Not sexy, but it worked at Alam Halfa and Alamein.

Does anyone think that if Monty was in charge at Gazala that Rommel would have walked all over the 8th Army? I certainly don't.

On another point, Monty is often criticized as being too cautious, but he is the one who pushed for "Market Garden", so he could be bold when the situation demanded it.

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<snipped>

On another point, Monty is often criticized as being too cautious, but he is the one who pushed for "Market Garden", so he could be bold when the situation demanded it.

I think Monty was a true hero; one of the few whom the British had at the time. He was also easy to dislike from an American point of few (which, truth be told, I share). To my mind, Monty best personifies the great captain of WW2 most haunted by the horrors of WW1. The nightmares of Somme and Ypres surely made him exercise the caution he did.

The irony of Market Garden is that it was the wrong battle for the boldness shown. Pre-war Dutch Command Staff war games warned that Arnheim could likely not be taken by the approaches used; a lesson lost until after the tragedies.

Monty is a flawed fellow to me; still, a great man of his times and heroic nonetheless.

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8th Army.

Eh, 8th "Army" at the time consisted of a single corps. But that's not really relevant. It could have been an Army Group for all the difference it would have made - any more than about two brigades would have to sit around waiting for the lead troops to move forward over the few available routes, and they had to wait for the engineers to cross obstacle after obstacle after obstacle.

Yes, casualties were low. They were low because the Germans didn't want to fight in Calabria. Because of the terrain they could use demolitions to achieve their aim of imposing delay.

Thats ridiculous. 8th Army troops remembering the crossing called it 'a holiday atmosphere, like a regatta.'

No kidding. After fighting a bloody, month-long campaign in Siciliy an almost unopposed amphib crossing, on a nice sunny day in the med, is remembered as 'a regatta' and 'a holiday' by the front line troops? Colour me unsurprised. By the way - you do know that BAYTOWN was before AVALANCHE?

This is another problem with Atkinson's take on things - he's using tactical level observations to comment on strategic level concerns. It'd be like dismissing 7th Panzer Div's swan through France in May 1940 as irrelevant because the schutzen remember it as being "like a Sunday drive through the country."

It's bs - Atkinson's first book illustrates quite well how bad the US troops were. He mentions several AWFUL US commanders, Fredendall, Dowley, Clark ( unfortunately sharing my last name), etc.

Chin up - in "Day Of Battle" Atkinson manages to gloss over Clark's many and serious failings in Italy.

The same arguments against Rommel apply to Montgomery, that a good deal of his initial success was perhaps luck.

His initial success? Well, ok. Let's put WWI down to luck then. But how do you explain his success in Palestine 1939, France 1940? England 1940-42? Egypt 1942 (twice)? Tunisia 1943? Sicily 1943? Italy 1943? France 1944? Holland and Belgium 1944 and 45? Germany 1945?

His command style played right to his side and the times.

Well, d'uh.

All he had to do was what he did, mass enormous advantages on his side for set piece battles before advancing.

"All" he had to do? Rofl. There are plenty of commanders who've been in Montgomery's position and lost spectacularly.

Btw, I never said winning battles, or even merely being a soldier was easy.

No, you just used words like "all he had to do", as if it's something any school child could do :rolleyes:

That's misconstruing my words - but if you.re going to compare him to his contemporaries, whether world-wide or amongst Allied generals I think he shows very poorly.

No doubt. Unfortunately that says more about you than it does about Montgomery.

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Yes, casualties were low. They were low because the Germans didn't want to fight in Calabria. Because of the terrain they could use demolitions to achieve their aim of imposing delay.

No they didn't want to fight. So why the glacial progress of 8th Army?

By the way - you do know that BAYTOWN was before AVALANCHE?

Yes Im quite aware. Im reading the same book you did.

This is another problem with Atkinson's take on things - he's using tactical level observations to comment on strategic level concerns. It'd be like dismissing 7th Panzer Div's swan through France in May 1940 as irrelevant because the schutzen remember it as being "like a Sunday drive through the country."

Show me one schutzen's account of Poland or France 1940 being a Sunday drive. There aren't any, the Germans took thousands of casualties.

Chin up - in "Day Of Battle" Atkinson manages to gloss over Clark's many and serious failings in Italy.

Really? Because he's been extremely harsh on Clark so far.

His initial success? Well, ok. Let's put WWI down to luck then. But how do you explain his success in Palestine 1939, France 1940? England 1940-42? Egypt 1942 (twice)? Tunisia 1943? Sicily 1943? Italy 1943? France 1944? Holland and Belgium 1944 and 45? Germany 1945?

Are you talking about Rommel or Montgomery at this point?

No, you just used words like "all he had to do", as if it's something any school child could do :rolleyes:

No doubt. Unfortunately that says more about you than it does about Montgomery.

Well if you want to take the discussion away from history and facts, and get personal then go fu*k yourself Jon

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So why the glacial progress of 8th Army?

Already answered. Twice. It's even repeated in the bit of my post you quoted, for pete's sake.

Yes I'm quite aware. I'm reading the same book you did.

Wait ... are we discussing Salerno/AVALANCHE here, or just how great Atkinson's book is? Because, you know, there's been more than just the one book written on the Italian campaign.

Show me one schutzen's account of Poland or France 1940 being a Sunday drive. There aren't any, the Germans took thousands of casualties.

Sure there are. But that's beside the point - do you know what 'like' means?

Do you really think I couldn't find a contemporary description of BAYTOWN that mentioned all the difficulties? Is it really a surprise that Atkinson selected and used the 'holiday' and 'regatta' quotes to try and prove a predetermined point?

Are you talking about Rommel or Montgomery at this point?

Do tell: What were Rommel's successes in Palestine 39, England 40-42, Sicily 43, Italy 43, Holland 44, Belgium 44, and Germany 45?

Well if you want to take the discussion away from history and facts

Actually, I was trying to take it away from fact-free opinions ("I think ..." ... "all he had to do ...") and towards history and facts. If you just want to shoot the breeze about how great Atkinson is; rock on. If you want to DISCUSS Salerno, then you need to understand that not everyone is going to agree with your seemingly limited perspective. (And if they did share it, it'd be a fairly boring discussion ... "I think [thing]" "So do I!" Me too!" "Yeah!" ... "umm, what shall we talk about now?" ... *crickets* ... :D )

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Yes, casualties were low. They were low because the Germans didn't want to fight in Calabria. Because of the terrain they could use demolitions to achieve their aim of imposing delay.

And IIRC, at that point in time Hitler was not intending to fight for Italy but to cut his losses and pull out as quickly as possible.

Chin up - in "Day Of Battle" Atkinson manages to gloss over Clark's many and serious failings in Italy.

I don't think so. Maybe you should re-read it. As I recall, he was very critical of Clark in a number of places and gives a fair amount of space to Clark's colleagues who were critical of him. He portrays Clark as a small-minded egotist more concerned with his image and place in history than with the welfare of his troops or the overall success of the campaign. Maybe you just wanted to see more of that?

Michael

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Oh, for crying out loud. Really? Does every thread about future modules have to degenerate into a CW vs. Yanks pi**ing contest or a neo-Nazis vs. Stalinists reunion?

Yeah, frankly I sometimes find it hard to understand why this is still going on. Then I read a magazine article or a book by a third-string historian that just repeats the same warmed over garbage that was published in the first two decades after the war and I realize that if that is where young readers are getting their information (and most tv is the same if not worse), then I understand. But readers, both young and old need to carefully consider their sources and know when they need to take them with a large grain of salt.

Michael

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He portrays Clark as ...

... perhaps the worst (but ultimately most senior, and "by far the youngest general to gain four stars") of the US generals, except for maybe Lucas, but still better than any of the other Allied generals.

... a book by a third-string historian that just repeats the same warmed over garbage ...

Which neatly describes A Day of Battle. Excellent writing, terrible history.

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And IIRC, at that point in time Hitler was not intending to fight for Italy but to cut his losses and pull out as quickly as possible.

Yes, certainly the southern half, and all the way up to the mountains north of Rome. Kesselring convinced him that he could mount a campaign south of Rome only in ... October or November 43?

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Which neatly describes A Day of Battle. Excellent writing, terrible history.

Your opinion, not to be confused with fact. My own opinion, if you are interested, is excellent writing, so-so history that is incomplete. The guy's a journalist, not a historian. There seem to be an awful lot of those around these days trying to pass off their writings as history. ISTR that Max Hastings got that particular ball rolling. Or we could go back further to Cornelius Ryan.

Michael

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Your 'so-so and incomplete' is my 'terrible'. We're not so very far apart. I prefer terrible because, although it's a pleasant read, I can't actually use it for anything.

ISTR that Max Hastings got that particular ball rolling. Or we could go back further to Cornelius Ryan. ...

... or Morehead, or Wilmot, or even Churchill. But being a journalist doesn't automatically make for a bad historian, although it does generally make for a good writer.

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Oh, for crying out loud. Really? Does every thread about future modules have to degenerate into a CW vs. Yanks pi**ing contest or a neo-Nazis vs. Stalinists reunion?

Not likely, when wargamers gather, the spitting matches begin over national prejudices. Part of the fun of it, no different I guess than sports team arguments. JonS and I have had our differences over Monty before, though I have conceded I think my sources are tainted. American histories have definitely characterized his behavior based on our national prejudices. Recognition of that means one has to re assess one's opinions to see if they actually have any basis in fact. I have not spent the time to look through other sources, but I recognize the need to and have become less critical of Monty simply because my sources of info are suspect.

As time goes by I think we are seeing a more even handed approach. Patton at bay being one example of an attempt to critically examine the behavior of a general we Americans consider to be our very own Rommel.

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Still I don't find Atkinson very biased IMO. He gives good account of many Brits, and he's very tough on Eisenhower in the first book. He's merciless with Fredendall as well. I think he gives Patton fair treatment, he mentions Martinet-esque scenes and instances where Patton shows his humanity; or thing's I'd never known like he learned to fly to better understand ground attacks from planes, etc.

Id like to add I think it's laughable that anyone thinks Im deriding Monty for being a Brit, I think there were plenty of brilliant British generals, just not him. And to say I think being a soldier in any war is easy, or 'no sweat' is also bull - I go out of my way to thank any veteran I come into contact with and there's a public record of that in this forum. This is all I really can do, besides buying veteran friends of mine a beer sometimes. I toyed with enlisting, and saw the recruiter several times, but I just never went through with it. And considering that was in 2002 when I was 17 I'm glad I didn't because I would have gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. Not to mention I was born to a career Air Force officer on a military installation in Germany. I know military life isn't easy.

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I read"day of battle" then went out and bought "an army at dawn"both excellent reads but I was curious about one omission in DoB and emailed Atkinson.

I asked him why he had not mentioned general Hube?

He emailed me back and said that he could'nt cover all the commanders in his book.

But was'ent he the overall german commander on sicily?

His name is not even mentioned in the book as far as I can see.

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