1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Why US generals were more successful in World War II than in later wars.

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by abradley, Apr 23, 2019.

  1. abradley

    abradley Chieftain

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2015
    Messages:
    1,686
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Thailand

    I lived through all these wars, was in the service during the Korean War and Vietnam. Often thought 'Why can't we win?', concluded it was because of Red China just waiting across the border ready to pounce, we we're afraid of a flood of Chinese storming across the border.

    But could that be the whole reason, or was it something to do with our military philosophy? This man has some interesting thoughts on the subject using WW2 as a template.
     
  2. Glassfan

    Glassfan Mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Messages:
    3,925
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Kent
    A fine vid, thanks for that.

    In my opinion, Mr. Ricks tells only part of the story. The "Tool of Relief" is interesting, though arguably something of a two-edged sword. But in a modern, media driven democracy, the politicians and journalists also bear some responsibility. A modern risk-averse President, with one eye on the polls while preparing for the next election, would seem to have some influence on winning the war or going for the tie. Also, an increasingly hostile media, in an adversarial roll with relation to our own military leadership while faithfully reporting the enemies' propaganda, tend to shape negative public perceptions and further influence the White House to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

    I have always been dismayed at the level of ignorance of most recent war reporting. You seldom see militarily well informed "journalists" like Mr. Ricks (Rick Atkinson? Max Hastings? Anthony Cordesman?) covering the war. Mostly you see guys like Wolf Blitzer. The real experts are perhaps less telegenic and end up writing books and giving lectures such as above.

    This has all been pointed out before, and the usual response is, "Don't blame the President for the Generals' failures". "Don't blame media". The "Stab in the Back" defense by the German Army in WW I is often presented. Yet, in a real democracy, where the military is subordinate to the political authority, and the political to the Press, there does seem to be enough blame to go around.

    IMHO, a truer, more complete explanation would include all these factors - military, political, media.
     
    Tristan_C likes this.
  3. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Messages:
    8,210
    The wars were different to WW2. WW2 had a more defined objective, total surrender of Germany and Japan.

    Korea was a conventional war with limited objectives. We did not want to repeat the Japanese invasions of China in the 30s.

    Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq were colonial wars.
     
    inthesomeday, warpus, Dachs and 3 others like this.
  4. Naskra

    Naskra Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2006
    Messages:
    805
    The purpose of war is to remove the cause of the war (Fuller). When the cause is in Washington, what is a field officer supposed to do?
     
  5. civvver

    civvver Warlord

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2007
    Messages:
    4,923
    Didn't watch the vid, but WWII we were liberating occupied countries from an invading force. Subsequent wars we were the occupiers.
     
  6. uppi

    uppi Warlord

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Messages:
    4,208
    In WWII the US had the help of the Soviets.
     
    inthesomeday likes this.
  7. AdamCrock

    AdamCrock Chief Executive Officer

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2012
    Messages:
    2,930
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Hideout
    The answear is easy. They had Patton during the WW2 later they did not ;)

     
  8. Hrothbern

    Hrothbern Warlord

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2017
    Messages:
    4,265
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Amsterdam
    I did watch the vid.
    Considering the enormous surplus of conventional military power of the US, I think that when it is about a pure military battle, it would, for the post WW2 "wars", not matter that much how good or bad the actual generals are. "Good enough" bread and butter quality probably already good enough for normal wars. And I guess nothing wrong with the rank and file troops as well.
    How many military mistakes at all levels were made in WW2 ? How many in the other "wars" ? Did it really differ that much ?

    yes
    WW2: killing, removing, neutralising, disordering, hunting of occupying enemy forces, etc... the really military part... enough to "win the war"
    Everywhere in Europe, in the occupied and then freed countries, after the feasting welcome, national resistance units were prepared to take "law and order" over. In Germany I guess (IDK) simply the relieve that the war was over.

    My main critisism:
    He is in the vid mainly talking about internal processes in the US army.
    He does not say much about the external processes: the enemies, the battlefields (like the Vietnam jungle), the a-symmetries on the one hand,
    and the for the army external processes of the body-bag count, public US opinion, US newsmedia incl the TV, politicians on the other side.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2019
    Glassfan likes this.
  9. Naskra

    Naskra Chieftain

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2006
    Messages:
    805
    Ya. it's much like a business school talk, lots of predictable anecdotes, rambling, and short on analysis. Things changed, meh.
     
  10. uppi

    uppi Warlord

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Messages:
    4,208
    That was certainly a large factor. Also, the Germans would rather let themselves be occupied by the Americans than by the Russians. The looming threat of a Soviet invasion was a powerful incentive to encourage the US forces to stay.
     
    Silurian and Hrothbern like this.
  11. Berzerker

    Berzerker Warlord

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2000
    Messages:
    15,857
    Location:
    flyover country
    nukes made them obsolete
     
  12. ArchGhost

    ArchGhost Chieftain

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2016
    Messages:
    330
    I was about to type something exactly like this.

    WW2 we were helping the Allies return Axis captured territory; the history of the greatest empires have taught us it's much harder to occupy and pacify than to just conquer in the first place, especially when the subjugated parties have powerful friends/opportunists seeking to make gains!

    Vietnam is a great example of how taxing guerilla warfare can be on an aggressor, much more successful than like say the kind waged in Paraguay vs. the triple alliance (where it was self-destructive and overly desperate) given the sheer size of the superpower bearing down on them.

    It's what an invasion of the home islands of Japan could have been, though that was mercifully averted for all involved albeit in a horrific way.
     
  13. Glassfan

    Glassfan Mostly harmless

    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2006
    Messages:
    3,925
    Gender:
    Male
    Location:
    Kent
    I agree. He exclusively examined military management causes, and didn't tack into account the interrelated complexities of a modern, media driven democracy. Also, as you correctly point out, he ignores a major flaw we commonly see in peoples' thinking today; enemy, what enemy?
     
  14. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Messages:
    19,030
    Location:
    Sovereign State of the Have-Nots
    Patton was a disobedient incompetent and a fascist jackal who should have been court-martialed on a number of occasions.
    edit: incompetent not quite the right word, maybe hot dog? He got US soldiers killed for no purpose other than his own aggrandizement and ambition more than once. Most infamously when he sent Task Force Baum to liberate his son-in-law from a German POW camp which resulted in 32 men killed with only 35 returning to American lines out of ~300.

    I don't agree with the premise that US generals were "successful" in World War II. Had they been they would have crushed Germany and ended its crimes (and saved much more territory in Europe from Soviet domination) months before the spring of 1945.
     
  15. Dachs

    Dachs Emissary of Hell

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2005
    Messages:
    32,507
    Location:
    Earth-51778
    @abradley: it is unreasonable to expect people to watch an hourlong lecture to participate in a thread. Please provide a summary of discussion points rather than vaguely waving a hand in the direction of "interesting thoughts".
    How, exactly, would they have done that?

    Based on the tremendous difficulty of creating an army almost ex nihilo and shipping it across a submarine-infested ocean to fight on another continent, the Americans could not have entered the decisive theater of operations north of the Alps much earlier than they did: the spring/summer of 1944. This was not a failure of military leadership. They were constrained not only by their own difficulties of supply but also by the demands of other theaters. After they landed in northwest Europe, they seized one brilliant opportunity that shortened the war tremendously in July-August 1944, and narrowly missed another in September. After the fall, they progressed more or less as one would expect from a competently led army before final victory in May.

    Missing the opportunity to shorten the war in September 1944 was a problem, and it was due in some part to the actions of some American generals. (Also, to the actions of some British generals, the continued weakness of the Commonwealth armies, strained supply, infantry shortages, German combat power and reorganization, poor weather, etc.) But that opportunity was not exactly a golden one; the operational problem was a difficult one, made more difficult by the nature of coalition warfare, and the outcome would by no means have been certain. I myself have railed against the generals' mistakes in September 1944 and pointed out the cost in lives, but to say that that made the war as a whole an unsuccessful one is a bit much for me.

    It's very easy to point to mistakes committed by American commanders in the war. It's also very easy to do the same for literally every army.

    I think expecting any army, not just the American one, to meet your definition of "successful" would have been very unrealistic.
     
    hobbsyoyo and Tristan_C like this.
  16. Akka

    Akka Moody old mage.

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2001
    Messages:
    12,821
    Location:
    Facing my computer.
    Patton was a delusional, megalomaniac a-hole with a terrible temper but you can hardly call him incompetent. Montgomery at most might deserves the epiteth (and then mostly because we have hindsight, he was certainly vastly overblown to provide the British with a heroic figure but it's not like he was an idiot). Even the fabled Rommel was a glory hound, so it's not like Patton was alone in his less than savory mentality.
     
  17. Silurian

    Silurian Warlord

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2010
    Messages:
    8,210
    If we had gone much further east there would have been a high probability of fighting with the Soviets, we would have broken our commitments.

    I am not sure how well this would have gone down in the UK. It is likely we would have stopped in Germany. We had enough after six years and would not have wanted to stab the Soviets in the back.

    US supply lines in France could also become a problem when the resistance started to act. Would the French been willing to have a civil war to keep the US armies supply lines open. Would the US have been willing to fight the French to maintain their supply lines.
     
  18. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Messages:
    19,030
    Location:
    Sovereign State of the Have-Nots
    By being willing to take some casualties and mounting a real armored penetration of the virtually non-existent German line in fall '44 rather than advancing cautiously on a broad front. The Germans going the other way overthrew France in a matter of weeks when outnumbered and outgunned; in the fall of 1944 the Allies had literally thousands of tanks and planes while the Germans had something like 100 tanks on the entire Western front and probably even fewer planes. More aggressive operations could have ended the war faster.

    Patton was opposed to denazification and physically assaulted soldiers who were incapacitated by PTSD.
     
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2019
  19. Cutlass

    Cutlass The Man Who Wasn't There.

    Joined:
    Jan 13, 2008
    Messages:
    44,828
    Location:
    US of A

    Patton was a bad human being. That didn't make him an ineffective military leader.
     
  20. Lexicus

    Lexicus Warlord

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
    Messages:
    19,030
    Location:
    Sovereign State of the Have-Nots
    As I've already conceded, incompetent is not the right word.
     

Share This Page