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Patton vs Monty

Discussion in 'World History' started by Case, Jan 26, 2002.

  1. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    I'm surprised that this old historical arguament hasn't come up yet. In your opinion, which of these great generals was more talented?

    Patton
    Pros: Brilliant at open warfare, good at training and motivating his men
    Cons: Headstrong and reckless at times. This often resulted in unnessesary casualties and wasted resources.

    Montgomery
    Pros: The master of the 'set piece' battle, generally carefull to preserve his limited resources.
    Cons: Patchy record in open warfare, the Market-Garden and Antwerp fiasco
     
  2. Cybernut

    Cybernut Chieftain

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    I'm not giving a preference here. I'm not knowledgable enough. But I read a recent book about the "Market-Garden" mission. It claimed (due to new evidence) that eh mission came very close to being one of the most audacious plans in military history. It's failure, so the argument goes, was as a consequence of the failure of the chain of command from Montgomery down. Not as a direct consequence of Montgomery.

    After taking the penultimate river (due to the incredible bravery and sacrifice from an American division of infantrymen), Montgomery's lesser officers stalled (choked) on the approach to the final river (strictly against Montgomeries command ... he was absolutely furious when he found out). Unknown to them, they had practically a clear road to the final river which was still being defended by a small band of British paratroopers.

    If they had have pressed on, it would have probably been a successful mission ... and one of the most incredable successes in military history. The war would have been over 1 1/2 years sooner, and the face of Europe would have been radically different ... no Eastern Bloc, no Cold War.

    On such small margins is history defined.
     
  3. Thorgalaeg

    Thorgalaeg Chieftain

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    Limited resources? In the El Alamein battle Montgomery was having +600 tanks against 40 (only 15 MKIV heavy tanks) Germans which besides almost did not have fuel or ammunitions. Even in these enormously favorable conditions, Montgomery was so "careful" that had problems to win the battle and the Germans ultimately escaped.

    I vote therefore for Patton, though I do not believe that he was making something specially meritorious
     
  4. Richard III

    Richard III Duke of Gloucester

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    I'd say Patton.

    Ten years ago, I would have scorned both, with that youthful "othey were all fools" know-it-all iconoclasm. I think I've wisened up slightly, to believe:

    Patton (better) :king:

    Unlike Monty, Patton backed up his PR skills with clear direction on how his soldiers should work, behave, dress, perform, etc. He led in tactics as well as operational strategy, but did it without micromanaging. And I guess the thing with Patton is to appreciate him, you have to accept his limitations, and argue that he should only have been placed in command in situations that suited his talents. The advance across France and his performance at the Ardennes were obviously these cases, and his tactics in breakthrough and pursuit in open, tank/tactical air-friendly environments exactly the right situations. He took risks, which were seomtimes worth taking in certain conditions but not in others.

    Montgomery (worse) :queen:

    I appreciate the attempt at revisionism on Market-Garden. Healthy revisionist skepticism to attack conventional wisdom in strategic thinking should always be encouraged (see Niall Ferguson's "The Pity of War" for one fascinating example).

    But, let's pretend that Monty really was furious, and the push to Arnhem went ahead. To be honest, in this case, I can't buy the idea that it would have made all the difference it was designed to. Given the geography and the state of Allied supply lines at the time, even a successful assault on the Arnhem bridge by XXX corps would have been tough to exploit with any speed.

    First, if the Arnhem bridge had been held, the advance units of XXX corps would still have had to get through the city and the burgeoning defences beyond to be effective. Given that Arnhem was a shambles, and that large panzer forces with high morale were in the way, this is no small issue. And more importantly, German forces on the flanks of the Eindhoven-Arnhem highway were stronger than anticipated. There were several points throughout the campaign where German forces were able to pierce and distrupt the passage of supplies and reinforcements along the "airborne carpet," limiting the ability to sustain any advance beyond the Rhine however successful the advance was. To quote Michael Caine playing Vandeluer in A Bridge too Far," "It was the single road."

    It would be too much to describe Monty as a complete fool, or an idiot or an SOB. These were tough jobs. But "Saving Private Ryan" put it perfectly. Monty was "overratted." Winning a set piece battle isn't much use if all you've won is another opportunity to fight a set-piece battle ten miles down the road. Sad to see him get the laurels instead of other, more talented British thinkers who might have pulled off Caen, Alamein, Tunisia and the breakout with fewer casualties.

    So speaketh the more muted critic, Richard the Third.
     
  5. PinkyGen

    PinkyGen Paper copying intern

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    To echo what Richard III said, Monty was overrated. He wasn't horrible, just overrated.

    El Alemain: Won a setpiece battles. However, he let the Afrika Korps retreat, and he did not pursue that aggressively.

    Sicily: Got held up, not entirely his fault I believe. However, Patton did go around the obstacle and beat him to Messina. :)

    Normandy: He did not quickly enough expand his beachead. Caen was supposed to be taken on the actual D-Day. While this could be considered over-ambitious, Monty's post D-Day offensives failed to take it any time to make a difference, and he failed to break out of Normandy. It took St. Lo and the 1st and 3rd armies (3rd was Patton's by the way :) ).

    Arnhem: Seems to me an overly complex operation, though I do not know that much about it.

    Ardennes Battle: Weaseled his way into taking command of the 9th and 1st US armies away from Bradely. Ordered withdraws from important locations (particulary St. Vith) in order to "tidy up the line." St. Vith was a road hub of near equal importance to Bastogne, and continued defense there would have held up German operations in the northern half of the bulge.

    Rhine: Was supposed to breach the Rhine, but Patton beat him to it. :)

    Now for Patton:
    North Africa: Re-trained what I think was II Corps after the disastrous battle of Kasserine Pass (not fought under his command). Beat up on the Germans from the east.

    Sicily: Took the long way to Messina, but got their first. However, the move was as much political (for his own glory) than it was military. He was actually disobeying orders.

    France: Generally good chasing and routing of the Germans after the breakout at St. Lo. Utilized tank formations combined with close air support. Sound familiar? The closest American armies came to the classic Blitzkrieg. Became bogged down, I think in Alsace-Lorraine, due to supplies and muddy conditions. He's great for Blitzkrieg, but not for slugging matches.

    Ardennes: Very well executed manuever of sending 3 divisions to cease attacking, turn 90 degrees to the north, and relieve Bastogne.

    Rhine: First across I believe.

    Govenor of Bavaria: Let's just say this was not a highlight of his career. ;)
     
  6. Case

    Case The horror, the horror

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    I was refereing to the situation after the Normandy landings. By this point of the war Britain was scraping the bottom of its manpower reserves, with the result that from late 1944 the British actaually had to break up trained units to provide reinforcements for thier front line divisions. As a result the British army actually shrank at the same time that the American army was building up in Europe.
    Naturally, this forced Monty to take more conservative measures then Patton, who knew that any losses he took could be made up within days from the constant stream of fresh American troops.
     
  7. opinons_R_US

    opinons_R_US Chieftain

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    I don't think that Monty was overrated per se, and I find that line from Private Ryan to be singularly annoying. If anything, Spielberg is a jingoistic, flag-waving and entirely overrated filmmaker.

    Comparing Monty with Patton is a debate over the record of two very different men, apart from the fact that both were prima donnas.

    Monty was a battalion commander at the Somme, and I don't doubt for a minute that this experience altered his approach to command. The US has never really had a 'somme', and for that reason its enthusiasm and penchant for the 'hell for leather' approach to military action is undiminished. In truth, the British have never recovered from the Somme.

    Market Garden as a plan was risky- and if you add the problems with weather, lack of attention to crucial details (1st Abn's radios, ignored Dutch resistance reports), the whole plan was doomed from the outset. Not exactly the habit of an 'overcautious' commander, that Monty is often criticized of being.

    Market Garden may have succeeded, however, if a 'Patton' was leading XXX Corps to follow up, though. The lack of Canadian troops in the spearhead probably had alot to do with it....oops. My bias.
     
  8. Richard III

    Richard III Duke of Gloucester

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    This deserves a reply on several levels:

    #1 - Just because it was in a Spielberg movie doesn't make it wrong; I quoted it because it was a succinct but modest statement of the truth. He could have had the guy say "Monty's a fool, he'll kill us all." But he didn't. And frankly, I'm tired of this kaka where my fellow Canadians get angry every time the US makes a war movie. It's not Spielberg's fault that the CBC rushed to produce "Dieppe" instead of "Juno Beach." While he had his successes, Monty never, once, did anything spectactular, or unusual. Churchill gave him assignments that suggested otherwise. Well, that sounds "overrated" to me.

    #2 - Speaking of which, you're right. The Market-Garden plan was very risky - which is the point I was trying to make: a man has to know his limitations. On the one hand, knowing limitations would have led Patton to be more restrained in Alsace instead of cutting his own troops to shreds. On the other hand, that would have led Monty to realize that a plan that relied on three airborne drops, 18 bridges and a single elevated highway was, well, beyond his capabilities.

    #3 - Gettysburg, Fredericksburg, Antietam Creek, Vicksburg, Shiloh, The Wilderness, Chateau-Thierry, the Meuse-Argonne, etc., etc., etc.. And before you start suggesting that Gettysburg is too far back, you should take a look at the cirriculum at West Point. You'll find the whole concept of avoiding Gettysburgs is right up there.

    I once was treated to a guest lecture at university by a German officer who'd been on Rommel's staff; he was captured in Tunisia. He had terrible things to say about fighting Americans, which he'd done at Kasserine - "they charged forward like cowboys, with their pistols out going bang, bang!, just like in the movies" but he had much worse things to say about Monty, who after all had taken days to breach the Alamein line - "his approach cost the British far more casualties, I'm certain of that. We'd fought better British generals before."

    R.III
     
  9. Cybernut

    Cybernut Chieftain

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    Personally I think that this is a redundant debate. Neither of these generals achieved anything that substantial. They basically only achieved anything when they had the "enemy on the run, when victory was "virtually" assured. It's not like they won an unexpected victory against the odds due to their magnificence. They're both more famous than they are great. They're PR men pure and simple. Of course the greatest PR man of WW2 was McArthur. But his re-invasion of the Phillipines (against all odds) stands above anything these two acheived ... even if, in McArthur's case it was preceded by failure ...
     
  10. DingBat

    DingBat Paranoid Android

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    I think any Patton vs Monty debate (and I've been involved in quite a few) is doomed through misinformation and contamination from movies and media.

    Some interesting points:

    1) Montgomery often gets criticized for "slowness", whatever that means. Yet, this same general spent extensive effort in his Alamein battle plan on the exploitation phase only to have his armored division commanders fritter about.

    Basically, even at that point, the British army was incapable of the kind of fast, coordinated movements of the Germans.

    2) Again, Montgomery gets criticized for slowness, yet commanded XXX corp which made the single fastest drive of any allied unit in Normandy. (XXX corps drive to Antwerp was something like 150 miles in 3 days. At any rate, it exceeded any advance by Patton's 3rd army).

    So, does Montgomery get blamed for the lack of initiative in the 8th army divisional commanders and credit for XXX corps advance. Or credit for neither? You decide.

    3) Montgomery actually did pay full attention to the Scheldt. In fact, prior to Market-Garden he submitted a plan to use the 1st Allied Airborne Army to clear parts of the estuary.

    He was vetoed in this by the commanders of 1AAB (Brereton and Browning) as they considered themselves a "strategic" unit and simply clearing an area was beneath them.

    4) Market-Garden was not quite an inevitable disaster, Cornelius Ryan or movies notwithstanding. Frost's presence on the bridge proves that.

    Market-Garden didn't fail for any single lane road, or any bridge, or any SS divisions. It failed because it was put on in 8 days. But to take any longer would have missed whatever opportunity there was. It was risky, but it had to be tried.

    A few myths about Market-Garden:
    a) The British were surprised to encounter the 9th and 10th SS panzer divisions. Hardly, as these 2 divisions had been retreating in front of 21st army group since the breakout.

    b) The SS panzer divisions turned the tide of the battle. 9th SS was an administrative shell only. All combat capable units had been transfered to 10th SS. 10th SS could barely muster a single regiment of men and at nowhere near regular quality. There were less than 20 tanks available to the entire panzer korps. None of the tanks destroyed at Arnhem by 1st AB belonged to these divisions.

    The main benefit of a large scale airborne operation was that, when used in the Low Countries, they could be supplied out of England and not tax the overextended supplies of 21st AG. That's 30,000 men that don't affect your logistics. You'd have to be stupid not to try to use them.

    It's all irrelevant since success at M-G wouldn't have amounted to much with the German buildup of forces for the Ardennes already under way. But this was unknown to the Allies at the time.

    There's more, but I think the point is made. Patton pulled a few boners too in his time. For example, he once insisted that a unit continue with a seaborne landing even though the beaches they were supposed to land on had been liberated by his forces days before.

    In the end, the argument is a little silly since neither performed anywhere near the standard set by commanders on the eastern front. Compared to Manstein, Montgomery is weak. Patton doesn't even rate comparison as he was only an army commander.

    /bruce
     
  11. adamsj

    adamsj Gaint Hobbit!

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    I think that Set-piece battles are more important than open ground battles.

    I also say that I think that Monty did more than Patton, as in Africa the 8th Army were the main power behind the Allies victory there.

    Also it was Monty who set up the Patton victory in South France and in North France, as it was Monty' s british army that occupied and fought the most German troops causing Pattons break out and the successes in Southern France.

    In the case of the Para drops in "Market-Garden", the disaster was because of the failure of the drops being near the bridges and lack of intellients about the German position, both can be worked on by Monty!
     
  12. Richard III

    Richard III Duke of Gloucester

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    I'm at a loss as to how Monty set up Patton's breakout. The original plan was for Monty's flank to break out, but it got bogged down, in part owing to Monty's set piece tactics. To outflank somebody, it helps to actually outflank them.

    R.III
     
  13. DingBat

    DingBat Paranoid Android

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    Set piece tactics? Well, that and several panzer divisions, eh? :)

    I don't really want to get into an argument if Monty was plodding or not, but you do have to admit the the left wing faced the brunt of German attacks and the bulk of their forces.

    The Allies, as a whole, completely misread the terrain of the invasion area. Just about the only battlefield that MORE suited the defender would be the Scheldt.

    As a Canadian, I've read a fair bit about their contribution to the drive on Caen. Monty may have been "plodding" but if you think that attitude was shared by the men in the trenches, you'd be dead wrong. I think the same can be said of the British.

    Look at Operation Goodwood. The British lost HUNDREDS of tanks in that battle. That's not the result you'd expect of a bunch of soldiers sitting on their ass.

    I sincerely doubt that the Americans could have done any better had they been landed on the left wing. In fact, it's quite possible they would have done worse, given that they were weaker in anti-tank weapons (no Sherman Firefly or equivalent to the 17pdr AT gun).

    Whether it was planned or not, the fact of the matter is that the pressure exerted by the British and Canadians at Caen drew off forces from the right wing facing the Americans. Again, I don't really care whether Monty planned it that way or not, but to argue that it didn't happen is unfair.

    /bruce
     
  14. Richard III

    Richard III Duke of Gloucester

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    I didn't argue that. I'm Canadian, you don't need to convince me. Every allied soldier from every country had a hard time in Normandy; I am in no way belittling anybody's contribution, even France's. Everybody faced strong and determined resistance, the Americans included. And as I'd said above, it's not like I'm saying Monty was a fool either; these were difficult jobs, and it's not like I can pretend I'd do any better.

    But the debate is, who was a better general? You've got a great point about misreading the terrain: choosing the terrain was partly Monty's responsibility. Patton, on the other hand, designed the breakout to fit the road network best designed for exactly what he did. The result was that Patton's exploitation was superb, rapid, and focused. It was that way because he took charge of things in a direct and innovative way, with flexibility and speed, and an appreciation for what was supposed to happen one step ahead. To speak to another issue, he pushed Third Army down a single-road supply route in good order and exploited the gap he had much more effectively than the leadership of XXX Corps and 1st Parachute - e.g. Monty - did later under difficult and different conditions. So all I'm saying is that Monty could have been more creative AND flexible when both were called for. He wasn't. And the pity is, the British Army - hell, even the Canadian army - was chock-full of more creative and flexible generals who had less PR behind them. That doesn't mean Monty should be honorably discharged or anything, just that we can wonder with hindsight whether there might have been a better way.

    R.III
     
  15. marshal zhukov

    marshal zhukov good economist wannabe

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    I personally don't like Monty, I think he was full of himself, fame seeker, while Patton was a complete comander,down to earth man.

    Monty was so full of himself that he wanted all resources to support him in a drive towards Berlin. A trully laughable idea.
    I don't know almost anything about him, but that is the idea that I have of him.

    He will probably be forgotten by history, Patton will not
     
  16. Alcibiaties of Athenae

    Alcibiaties of Athenae Imperator

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    One thing that is interesting, that is never mentioned, is that Eisenhower (the most UNDERATED officer in WWII) loathed Monty, but put up with him to acchive victory, yet kept his true feelings hidden till after Ike's death (It turns out that the US high command wanted Monty OUT as groundfroce commander in Normandy, and even some British officers wanted a courtmartial of Monty after the "Goodwood" fiasco).

    But let's not be unfair to Bernard, he led his forces with enormous skill in France in 1940, and even the CIGS in 1942 addmitted Mongomery had instilled a confidence in the 8th army that had not been seen since the O'Conner days.
    I feel he mismanged the "Supercharge" portion of El Alamein, but he was a product of the WWI trenches, one thing that could NEVER be said of Monty is that he would cause un-needed losses amoung his men, he had been sickened by the British armies' high command of WWI, and he had no intention of committing men unready for battle or to sacrifice them needlessly.

    As for Patton, the argument someone raised that he couldn't handle set piece battle is nonsense, he did this with the same consumate skill he used in rapid explotation.
    He was the US army's doctrone of "get there the fastest with the mostest" personified, and his army groups did more damage then any similar sized German formation EVER did, which is something in itself.
     
  17. dannyevilcat

    dannyevilcat DESTROYER OF FURNITURE

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    Well, I know it's not conclusive after only 57 years to say this, but neither of them will be forgotten by history.
     
  18. insurgent

    insurgent Exhausted

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    I would go for Patton too.
     
  19. Ozz

    Ozz Chieftain

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    I would vote for Monty

    All the above posts make valid points except.

    Patton was supplied with men & equipment
    from a continental power of 250 million people
    (way bigger than even USSR pop/Industrial wise).

    Monty was supplied with men & equipment
    from a Island power of 44 million people
    (smallest pop wise of any of allies/axis).

    Monty had to count his pennies and still
    play with the big boys.
     
  20. insurgent

    insurgent Exhausted

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    44 million people in WWII UK?
     

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