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Thread: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

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    strategist.com's Avatar Cornicularius
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    Default What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    USSR have the deep battle and the Germans used blitzkrieg. What about the Western Allies? I searched online but I couldn't get straight answers.
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    The Germans did not exclusively use Blitzkrieg. In reality, the operational doctrines of every nation were remarkably similar (Deep Battle is nothing more than "We have reserves" taken to a logical conclusion).
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    There is no clear answer to that question, mainly as there was no coherent work of "operational doctrine" for either the french, british or US forces.
    As RT mentioned, all nations had some similar ideas, though the implementation varied.
    - At the beginning of the war, both the UK and the french army basically stood where they had been in 1918, i.e. Infantry supported by heavy tanks and artillery enforcing a breakthrough, with fast "cavalry tanks" exploiting in the rear, although admittedly the exploitation part was rather hazy and not clearly formulated as in the case of the deep battle. Although after the german success in poland, the french had begun to form a cavalry corps and heavy armored divisions (the divisions blindée) but their defeat forestalled further developments into the direction of fully combined arms armies as in the case of the germans after 1940.
    - The soviets had their deep battle concept, but after the purges, that was broken up (many mechanized units were broken up into tank brigades and subordinated to rifle armies) and the soviets had to relearn mechanized warfare at a horrifying cost during 1941 and 1942.
    - the germans are a funny mix. The "blitzkrieg" term was neither official nor was there a manual as in the case of the soviet deep battle theory. Rather the concept, pushed forward by a small cadre of officers like guderian and Manstein, was vindicated in 1940 and later formed the adhoc basis, though even at the german peak in 1941, there were ongoing disputes about how far the panzer groups should and could exploit into the soviet rear.
    Later in the war, the anglo-american armies more or less settled down in most cases to an attrtional operational concept, i.e. grinding down the german forces down to the point where the entire line would collapse. Examples might be El Alamein or the battle in normandy, though a few commanders like Patton loved to push their armored spearheads as for forward as possible, leading to battles like falaise. But the large number of caulrdon battles in the east (for both sides) is not matched by an similar amount of envellopping battles in the western theatre. After all, Eisenhower took on a "broad front" approach, which necessarily precluded the daring assoults needed for a deep battle equivalant.
    While this certainly prolonged the war in the west, Eisenhower knew that all he had to do to win the war after the normandy breakout was to make no mistake, and an overxtended, logistically cut off pincer move was exactly the kind of mistake that could cost the allied armies dearly.
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Generally, the Western allies relied on a combined arms approach to defeat the enemy along the forward edge of the battlefield. I would not categorize Soviet operational art as "we have reserves" or nothing more than "weight of numbers under a clever-sounding name".

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakerchase View Post
    Generally, the Western allies relied on a combined arms approach to defeat the enemy along the forward edge of the battlefield. I would not categorize Soviet operational art as "we have reserves" or nothing more than "weight of numbers under a clever-sounding name".
    The concept itself does look like human-wave though, especially the "breakthrough" phase where the doctrine focuses on multiple fronts with similar strength assaulted in same time. That generally created an operation that composed a large front at same time and gave an impression that assault was big (which was exactly what Red Army wanted to show its enemies - distraction and terror). The downside of this type of operation is that it requires large amount of supplies - not something wasteful Allies and resourceless German could achieve. The large amount of supply requirement also means that logistic and supply deposts are very important, hence limits the distance operation can push.
    Last edited by hellheaven1987; May 06, 2012 at 08:59 PM.
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    But the large number of caulrdon battles in the east (for both sides) is not matched by an similar amount of envellopping battles in the western theatre. After all, Eisenhower took on a "broad front" approach, which necessarily precluded the daring assoults needed for a deep battle equivalant.
    Although to be fair the terrain and front size made that all less likely. You can't realy just envelope in North Africa because of logistics and the front in Western Europe did not allow so much space for units to get by passed and pull to gather in defense or withdrawal. Similarly I suppose you can argue the allies should have leap up Italy with amphibious jumps (which they lacked the logistics for against the need for the Invasion of France and the Pacific) but on land there is not much room for vast armored spearheads to run wild...
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Quote Originally Posted by strategist.com View Post
    USSR have the deep battle and the Germans used blitzkrieg. What about the Western Allies? I searched online but I couldn't get straight answers.
    Western allies have mostly used attrition push, however there was an example of encirclement (battle of the bulge), although it was much smaller in scale and poorer in execution than german and soviet operations.

    [QUOTE=Nik;11427388
    - The soviets had their deep battle concept, but after the purges, that was broken up (many mechanized units were broken up into tank brigades and subordinated to rifle armies) and the soviets had to relearn mechanized warfare at a horrifying cost during 1941 and 1942.
    [/QUOTE]
    Soviets indeed did break up the heavy tank corps after invasion of Poland for several reasons:
    - They were too heavy and unwieldy, thus they were not optimal in force structure as a mobile group, to exploit the penetration and act as an OMG.
    - War in Spain experience also was rather disappointing.

    However, after Zhukov actions against japanese and the France campaign new mechanized corps have started to form, to act as mobile groups.

    The purges, reform, shortages of new equipment and so on forced soviet to dissolve those mechanized corps in 1941, and form various brigades. They did not forget it, but rather were caught in the middle of the reform process, and thus they had to abandon (for a while) large mechanized attacks, as they had nothing to attack with (in a way this is parallel to Dunkirk operation) later on (as new equipment was produced and as the war stabilized) soviets created corps and then armies, which performed well in the 3rd period of war on the eastern front.

    Quote Originally Posted by hellheaven1987 View Post
    The concept itself does look like human-wave though, especially the "breakthrough" phase where the doctrine focuses on multiple fronts with similar strength assaulted in same time. That generally created an operation that composed a large front at same time and gave an impression that assault was big (which was exactly what Red Army wanted to show its enemies - distraction and terror). The downside of this type of operation is that it requires large amount of supplies - not something wasteful Allies and resourceless German could achieve. The large amount of supply requirement also means that logistic and supply deposts are very important, hence limits the distance operation can push.
    You would see that in majority of the later war operations (on the eastern front, or early war german operations) were mostly focused not on breaking the defense itself, but rather in exploitation phase of battle.
    This allowed to encircle (and thus neuter) enemy forces without actually destroying them, a much better (resources wise) method, than the ones used by allies (a simple minded push, through constant defense position of the enemy).
    The western allies approach in fact was much more wasteful, as in a lot of cases germans were capable of retreating and taking up reserve defense positions, situation that does not occur in correctly executed deep battle.

    You would also find that the soviet doctrine was against attacks on the broad front, but rather was focused on the specific breakthrough sectors, where effort would be focused and exploitation mobile group stationed.

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Quote Originally Posted by conon394 View Post
    Although to be fair the terrain and front size made that all less likely. You can't realy just envelope in North Africa because of logistics and the front in Western Europe did not allow so much space for units to get by passed and pull to gather in defense or withdrawal. Similarly I suppose you can argue the allies should have leap up Italy with amphibious jumps (which they lacked the logistics for against the need for the Invasion of France and the Pacific) but on land there is not much room for vast armored spearheads to run wild...
    Nothing happened in 1940 France? I mean sure, Market Garden was a horrible failure but for other, obvious reasons.
    p.s. my longpost went for premoderation

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Breakerchase View Post
    Generally, the Western allies relied on a combined arms approach to defeat the enemy along the forward edge of the battlefield. I would not categorize Soviet operational art as "we have reserves" or nothing more than "weight of numbers under a clever-sounding name".
    Then why bother calling what the Western Allies did as anything else than "Weight of numbers and material" too?

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Well the British for one saw the tank as a force multiplier, by 1944 they had reached the bottom of a demographic pool and were forced to fight smarter. Since then British vehicles have generally been designed with protection as the highest importance. This all stems from the experimental forces in the 20's and 30's, problem is that the British, unlike Germany had an empire to protect, so lacked focused, therefore their core Infantry/Cruiser doctrine emerges very late, and has the knock on effect (along with political short-sightedness) that decent tanks such as the Crusader were rushed or late into development which convinced and enabled the British to fully motorise and later mechanise their ground forces. Geniuses like Hobart of the 79th would save lives in their expert, precise use of specialist vehicles. Later in the war you also see the adoption of the Cruiser tank, and its later adaptions as standard in the British Army, hate to be a party pooper but Cruisers weren't that bad, and the Infantry tank doctrine not only worked, but was similarly used by other nations. The flaws in British armoured use lies in commanders and tactics, and little to do with the vehicles themselves (although some were god awful or hopelessly outdated). Later, in the NAfrican campaign, British tactics would develop, concentrating artillery and better use of better tanks in their operations and air support would help them be successful despite deficiencies, as there was now at last a way to defeat the German 88's.

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    Sphere's Avatar Centurio Primus Pilus
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Similarly I suppose you can argue the allies should have leap up Italy with amphibious jumps (which they lacked the logistics for against the need for the Invasion of France and the Pacific) but on land there is not much room for vast armored spearheads to run wild...
    The allies did try to leap up the coast (Anzio), but it did not work.

    After all, Eisenhower took on a "broad front" approach, which necessarily precluded the daring assoults needed for a deep battle equivalant.
    While this certainly prolonged the war in the west, Eisenhower knew that all he had to do to win the war after the normandy breakout was to make no mistake, and an overxtended, logistically cut off pincer move was exactly the kind of mistake that could cost the allied armies dearly.
    Eisenhower did try a breakthrough on a narrow front (Market Garden), but it did not work.

    But to be fair, I have to agree that the Anglo-American command did settle into semi-attrition, broad front warfare rather than bold concentrated thrusts. My point is only that this was due to some notable Anglo-American failures (Anzio, Dieppe, Cain, Market Garden etc.) leaving the Supreme Allied command with little other choice.

    And this was not just due to limitations of the western allies. By 1943-44 the German command had become masterful at quickly shuffling around limited forces to contain crises, even if they could no longer make progress on strategic fronts as a whole. As such trying narrow thrusts was just playing into the German military's strong suit.
    Last edited by Sphere; May 07, 2012 at 11:56 AM.

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Eisenhower did try a breakthrough on a narrow front (Market Garden), but it did not work.
    I think Market-Garden is not a good example of the deep battle/blitzkrieg approach (no pincer movement, no deep exploitation to surround troops and C3/logistics hub) but rather a gigantic coup-de-main operation to secure an early rhine crossing.
    The probably best example was Operation Cobra, with Montgomery fixing the german reserves around Caen (although inintentionally) and Patton executing a sickle cut of his own to trap the german forces around falaise.
    But to be fair, I have to agree that the Anglo-American command did settle into semi-attrition, broad front warfare rather than bold concentrated thrusts. My point is only that this was due to some notable Anglo-American failures (Anzio, Dieppe, Cain, Market Garden etc.) leaving the Supreme Allied command with little other choice.
    One reason for this is certainly the logistical problems Eisenhower faced after the normandy breakout. He simply did not have the traffic network and port facilities to build up his forces and supply the front elements at the same time, as all the forces and supplies had to be offloaded in the normandy mullberries and trucked to the front.
    Logistical short commings is what doomed many soviet offensives in winter 1941/1942 and spring of 1943, where their exploitation elements outran their support and could be attacked by the german mechanized reserves after they had already suffered heavy mechanical attrition (the destruction of mobile group popov). The large scale mechanisation of soviet Tank Armies with lend-lease trucks and supplies enabled the stunning soviet victories in 1944 and in 1945.

    They were too heavy and unwieldy, thus they were not optimal in force structure as a mobile group, to exploit the penetration and act as an OMG.
    I'm not sure the operational maneuver group was already a fixed term in the deep battle concept, but a conservative committee chaired by Stalins political cronies formaly abolished the deep battle concept in 1939 as it had the problem of stemming from the officers around Tukhachevsky, leading to a beevy of reformations and counter reformations still not finished in 1941 when Operation Barbarossa started.
    as they had nothing to attack with
    actually, in 1941 the SU massively outnumbered the Wehrmacht both in term of overall number AFVs, modern AFV's and personell strength, but this strength was squandered away in the summer of 1941. It is astonishing to see the numbers of fresh units the red army could raise and equip.
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    You also forgot supporting action on other areas of the front, lack follow up forces, failure of deception an so on (on the matter of Market Garden failure).

    You would also notice the large amount of newer and reliable tanks (T34-85 for example), which allowed rapid and sustained tank movement.

    Yes, mechanized corps were still (mostly) in formation, but there were several cases of meeting engagements. Overall commitment of those forces early in the war (with all their deficiencies in radios, troop control and such) got some breathing time, that helped further mobilization efforts to bear fruit under Moscow.

    You would see that most of those AFV were outdated (ie not T34 or KV), corps (where they were) were still in formation, had shortages of long range radios and competent leadership (due to reorganization in progress and purges). Also about 60 percent of those were in maintenance at the time. In addition to this mechanized corps were committed in piecemeal fashion, without proper support and so on.
    This is why (after huge losses of mechanized corps) corps were dissolved into brigades. This also was caused by the industrial problems (factories that were just moved did not produce a lot of tanks), so overall USSR after the summer of 1941 could not have (realistically) supported larger (than brigade) formations.

    That said, there were some cases of very good tactical skill showed, for example that brigade, commanded by Katukov.

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    You also forgot supporting action on other areas of the front, lack follow up forces, failure of deception an so on (on the matter of Market Garden failure).
    please elaborate.
    You would also notice the large amount of newer and reliable tanks (T34-85 for example), which allowed rapid and sustained tank movement.
    The T34-85 had the same chassis, engine and transmission as the original T3-76, i.e. it's mobility was the same from a vehicle standpoint. What had changed is the logistical support structure that the Red Army enjoyed from 1943 onwards, i.e. fully motorised spearheads.
    You would see that most of those AFV were outdated (ie not T34 or KV), corps (where they were) were still in formation, had shortages of long range radios and competent leadership (due to reorganization in progress and purges). Also about 60 percent of those were in maintenance at the time. In addition to this mechanized corps were committed in piecemeal fashion, without proper support and so on.
    While both the t34 and kv1 had just entered service, and the backbone of the soviet mechanized troops were older models like the BT26, they still had more tanks (1800 of both models), both overall and in first rate tanks. The Wehrmacht was rather poorly equipped, i.e. their two first rate tanks, the Pz III and IV were few in numbers and critically underarmed and underarmored in comparison to their russian counterparts. Whats more, the backbone of the Panzer Divisions were still older Pz I, Pz II and Pz 38(t) that really had no place in frontline combat anymore. The T34 produced a veritable shock when it appeared in numbers, leading to crash programmes for upgrading existing vehicles and the development of the Panther.

    This is why (after huge losses of mechanized corps) corps were dissolved into brigades. This also was caused by the industrial problems (factories that were just moved did not produce a lot of tanks), so overall USSR after the summer of 1941 could not have (realistically) supported larger (than brigade) formations.
    Eh, I think we should sort out the timeline, I think you are messing up the dates a little bit or at least are unaware of some of the prewar developements. A lot fo the chaos the Red Army suffered was the product of 1938-1941, and not the initial shock of the german assalt

    To the details:
    1929:
    - Concept of the Deep battle (the actual breakthough and front line envelopment concept) is publisch in the Field Regulations of 1929.
    - The first soviet tanks are produced.
    1930
    - the first mechanised brigade as an experiment is formed.
    1932
    - decision to give each infantry and cavalry division a tank battalion and, each rifle corps and army a tank brigade and to formation of mechanized corps as combined arm formations
    1934
    - beginning of the stalinist purges, army as of yet untouched.
    1935
    - "Instructions on Deep Battle" is published.
    - Mechanized Corps are reduced in size as the initial formation has prooven to large.
    1936
    - Deep Operation Concept published in "Field Regulations of 1939".
    - start of spanish civil war
    1937
    - Red Army purges start with the execuction of Tukhachevsky and other leading deep battle advocates. In the years until 1940, around 75% of the higher officer cadre is eliminated.
    1938
    - mechanized crops rechristined as tank corps.
    - battle with japan over Lake Khasan in July/August.
    1939
    - Battle of Khalkin Ghol, May-August.
    - in July the Kulik commission officialy abolishes the mechanized corps by subtracting the motorised infantry from it. tank crops therefore become unable to conduct independent operations.
    - September: First World War start.
    - November: Finnish Winter War starts.
    1940
    - Tanks corps officially abolished in January, though 2 corps will not have been eliminated by june 1941.
    - March 13, Winter War ends.
    - Reforms after the winter war: Power of Commissars curtailed, 8 new mechanizde corps are planned to be formed, having two tank and one rifle division.
    - ongoing shuffling of commanders and concept, creating a lot of insecurity about the etat d'affaires.
    1941:
    - January: redesign of soviet defensive strategy, in effect creating more insecurity.
    - April: partial soviet mobilisation in the face of deterioating german-soviet relations
    - June 22: Start of operation barbarossa
    - June-July: Border battles se the destruction of the red army front line armies
    - Mid-July: Begin of STAVKA reorganisation, reducing the complexity of peace time structure to facilitate command and control. Rifle Armies reduced in size and brigade instead of divisions are formed during fall and early winter, both for infantry and tank units.
    - December: Counteroffensive before moscow, exploitation is performed by reinforced cavalry corps.
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    For a such operation to succeed you tend to need several factors covered.
    Those would be:

    - Use of deception, so enemy does not know the direction of the main strike.
    Here the operation Market Garden failed, enemy knew where and when it would happen.

    - Use of narrow sectors for penetration of enemy defense. At the same time you need proper width/depth, as to allow rapid movement.
    Here Operation Market Garden had a very narrow and deep sector, with only one road. Thus movement through that sector was restricting, slowing down the mobile group.

    - Supporting action in other areas of the front (ie so enemy would not simply reinforce a single tactical axis or withdraw to next defense line).
    None such action was performed on the western front at the time, to my best knowledge.

    - Large mobile group and follow up forces.
    Only one corps were used as a such force, which is insufficient (especially with the previous point present). Also it was not mobile enough to exploit the penetration (second point).

    Also there was lack of initiative on higher level (compared to the soviets and germans), for example armored division (that had a chance to penetrate into german rear) did not do so, as it was not in its sector of responsibility.


    T34-85 has suffered fewer mechanical breakdown, due to newer gearbox. Also it was slightly more mobile (due to a better gearbox). Thus tank formation was more mobile (as its tanks suffered fewer mechanical breakdowns on march). In fact, in early war in the eastern front a mechanized corps could have lost over half of its tanks during march due to said breakdowns (and not enemy action).


    You meant T26 T28 T35 and BT series? Those tanks have suffered from low vitality, low maintenance. Also b/c of reorganisation 60 percent of those tanks were in repairs, a lot of the units did not have competent leadership and radios. So while they were good on paper, in reality, due to USSR being unprepared for war, they did not perform to their full capability (unlike german tanks and crews, who had experience of large scale mechanized warfare).


    May I ask who you use as your source? Please do not mention Rezun. I use Glantz and several other, but russian ones.

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Not sure where my longpost went (I think it is on pre moderation like last time).

    But as notice on your timeline, in addition to obvious mistakes (like First World War instead of WW2), how does it contradict my point of mechanized corps being dissolved b/c of being to unwieldy and dead (ie lost in first months of war), as well as shortages of new equipment (due to factory displacement), this not to mention the officers issue?

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Having more weapons,tanks,trucks,artelery,men,logistics than the enemy.

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Nik View Post
    The probably best example was Operation Cobra, with Montgomery fixing the german reserves around Caen (although inintentionally) and Patton executing a sickle cut of his own to trap the german forces around falaise.
    It was not 'unintentionable'.
    The strategy was clearly laid out in pre-invasion documents and this is but one of them:



    Record of a meeting between Montgomery and his Army Commanders and their Chiefs of Staff on 7 Jan 44:

    Task of the American Army will be the clearing of the CHERBOURG peninsula and the capture of the port of CHERBOURG. They will subsequently develop their operations to the South and West.

    Task of the British Army will be to operate to the South to prevent any interference with the American Army from the East.

    It is hoped eventually to get a firm lodgement from CAEN to NANTES with the British Army being built up through CHERBOURG and the American Army through BRITTANY.

    signed by Lt.Col. H. Mainwaring, MA to C-in-C 21 Army Group




    From Hyperwar:


    criticisms appear to rest on a fundamental misunderstanding of Montgomery's intentions in Normandy. His plan, as interpreted by him, by his staff, and, more recently, by General Bradley, was to draw enemy forces on to the British front in the Caen area, while U.S. forces were making the main Allied drive on the right. General Bradley has appraised the situation in his statement:
    For another four weeks it fell to the British to pin down superior enemy forces in that sector [Caen] while we maneuvered into position for the U.S. breakout. With the Allied world crying for blitzkrieg the first week after we landed, the British endured their passive role with patience and forbearing. . . . In setting the stage for our breakout the British were forced to endure the barbs of critics who shamed them for failing to push out vigorously as the Americans did. The intense rivalry that afterward strained relations between the British and American commands might be said to have sunk its psychological roots into that passive mission of the British on the beachhead.( Bradley, A Soldier's Story, p. 326)
    Last edited by humble; May 08, 2012 at 12:17 AM.

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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Caen was originally a D-Day objective, the failure to capture it speedily wasn't intentional. And more importantly that the Germans decided to launch their own large attack around Caen at the same time as the British was pure coincidence. The holding operation was originally planned for after the capture of Caen, when the British could threaten a breakout into open country.

    But as you source correctly points out, the fighting for Caen quickly was turned into a holding operation in itself as the city could not be captured, and US forces were making good progress in their area's.

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    Cornicularius
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    Default Re: What was the military doctrine of Western Allies?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sphere View Post
    the fighting for Caen quickly was turned into a holding operation in itself as the city could not be captured, and US forces were making good progress in their area's.

    Robin Neillands observes:


    why is it that when Bradley's First Army took a month to cover the last five miles to St. Lô this is attributed (correctly) to the bocage and the enemy but when the British Second Army took as long to cover the six miles into Caen that is attributed to Monty's "timidity," "caution," and "slowness"?

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