Sheldrake wrote: ↑
02 Jul 2020 14:40
By 1943-44 the British and Americans had well trained formations. They had years to see how the Germans operated and understand their doctrine. The units formed at least for the first waves had years to get to know each other and train as units and as formations. All arms training for the D Day assault itself was thorough and well practiced. Newly trained soldiers had a boldness and enthusiasm that would be lost after they had seen the elephant
, casualties among comrades and suffered near death experiences.
Agree completely. In some cases they may even have been over-trained...there were some complaints about "staleness" IIRC with some British Home Forces units and in the 29th ID after its long stay in Britain.
But there were some lessons that could only be learned in combat.
1) How to read the battlefield. At an individual level what was the difference between the noisy and the dangerous. Which incoming rounds were likely to be a threat to the individual or to someone else. For commanders : how to pick out the early signs of success or failure amid the chaos as plans fell apart at first contact with the enemy or the elements. The middle of Omaha Beach was perhaps not the best place to have to work these out. Those who had done it before were best able to react.
Absolutely. Having a few experienced officers and men like George Taylor, John Spalding, and Philip Streczyk was critical for the 16th Infantry.
2) Troops never practiced how close they really had to be to supporting fire to guarantee that the enemy would be neutralised and not ready to cut them down. Safety distances of 150 yards were 100 yards too long against the Germans.
3) No one knows how they will react under fire. It was useful to weed out men in key positions particularly commanders, who could not cope with the pressure of mortal danger, of having to making tactical and leadership decisions The most high profile of these was Fredendall, but at a lower level lots of officers were posted away quietly because they could not cope with the reality of command under fire.
Absolutely. Staying for a moment with the 90th ID, cases such as McKelvie's collapse, his replacement Landrum's incompetence despite his experience, and Ginder's deadly failures as a regimental commander are less well known, but demonstrate how common they were. Ginder is actually aa fascinating case, since most probably don't realize he was relieved without prejudice and given a second chance with the 2d ID. There, in a different environment, with no baggage with his troops as a replacement for a well-liked leader, he performed well and had a pivotal role in the events of 16-19 December at Krinkelt-Rocherath. It is one of the many reasons I dislike cookie-cutter assessments of units as "crack" or "good" or "bad"...it misses the complex nature of how those factors can interact and affect results on the battlefield.
4) Which commanders made the best team. A top sports team never pits a bunch of unknown players against the best in the world. If you want to win a serious competition you need practice matches. Normandy was the fourth campaign conducted by the Allied Senior Command team. It was the third for the big Red one who had some significant changes of command since Nov 1942.
Although only a minority of formations that were deployed to Normandy had services in North Africa and Italy, Individual officers and soldiers were cross posted to provide as leavening of expertise. While neither 2nd nor 5th Rangers had been battle before D Day, 5th Rangers was commanded by a veteran from 1st and 4th Rangers. Collins commanding the VIIth Corps (Utah Beach) had experience from the Pacific. The British cross posted an experienced an armoured regiment from the veteran 8th Armoured Brigade with the untested 27th
Not really sure how much effect that had in U.S. forces or overall? While Max Schneider was combat experienced, the 5th Rangers experience on OMAHA was probably more benefited by their landing as a unit in a sheltered spot. His experience could not effect the 2d Ranger TF at Pointe du Hoc or Company C, 2d Rangers at the "White House", which did just as well or better under more trying circumstances. Collins I suspect would have been Collins with or without his Pacific experience.
Corlett's similar and much ballyhooed experience in the Pacific did not seem to translate in a remarkably better performance of the XIX Corps.