Saturday, November 19, 2005

To Understand Bradley, One Must Understand Patton

To Understand Bradley, One Must Understand Patton
Review of: "A Soldier's Story"
Omar N. Bradley (1951)

This review of "A Soldier's Story" by General Omar E. Bradley is being written following a thorough reading of the Modern Libraries Edition, with an introduction by Caleb Carr, who is worth noting as he explains completely the motivations of readers of military history with, "they are often among the most committed and well read people one might hope to encounter." Self-servingly, I could not agree more! Furthermore, he establishes the logical link between military history and social or political history with, "those who know...cannot understand war without understanding its political and social underpinnings." and vice versa. Bully! This would explain my father's own rather complete library on the topic. And the reading? Look, we lived in the country, a free country, with long cold winters, books are a common companion in such places. Especially when it is too cold to go outside. Or in my case, too hot!

First of all, successful outcomes in war are determined solely by the wisdom of its leaders in the battlefield, the Generals themselves must in some way define the purpose of fighting, which in of itself is not a logical exercise, there is no logic in willingly putting oneself in the line of fire. Von Clausewitz emphasizes this. The purpose usually appears to be defined by a threat to home, country, and often is an attempt to protect the weak or oppressed. However, war begins in the causes of greed as my own prelude suggests, O.K. it looks like a brick bat but it is based on the facts. I do not take Caleb Carr lightly, I have attempted to diffuse some of my reading in relationship to General Bradley's story, which he claims is wholely opinion, by tracking through a few related texts, namely, "The Art of War" by Sun Tzu, an unofficial but highly acclaimed biography of General Patton by Carlo D'Este entitled, "A Genius for War", as well as readings from other translated Chinese military texts, and associated heavy-heavy readings in cross-cultural competencies courtesy of Charles Hampden-Turner and Fons Trompenaars, and birds like them, experts in the field of cross-cultural management issues. It is useful to attempt to gauge intrinsic competencies in a reading of General Bradley. Much of it was a real pleasure. Writing about it soldifies the learning experience and shares it.

Bradley was a second tier candidate for entry into West Point in 1911, contrasted to Eisenhower's first rung placement, and while they were writing exams in the same room, and graduated in the same class, Bradley was more clearly a soldier's general because of his middle class and religious upbringing. He was extemely temperate in all affairs, taking his first drink only in his early thirties, and trained as an infantryman. He found himself reassigned at the approval of Marshall out of a list of candidates submitted by Eisenhower.

He was entering the Operation TORCH Campaign in Tunisia in 1943 following Eisenhower to the front to become his eyes and ears in a battlefield that had suddenly caused SHAEF in the UK, (Supreme Headquarters -Combined Allied Military Management- American English Forces), and US Chiefs in Washington to question US battle readiness. US entry to the Second World War was delayed nearly three years into the event, Roosevelt, long sympathetic to UK efforts, had been providing Churchill and his armies with production, battleships, and weaponry through the lend-lease aggreement, but was finally given a mandate by the American public due to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. Churchill pushed for immediate attack, it was clear from the beginning that the US was by far the larger contributing force, but really, who was paying the bills? It took more than two years to ramp it all up.

When the attacks around Tunis began, all went well, but counterattacks into General Fredendall's sectors provided General Von Arnim with a strategic victory. Heading west into a line of north-south hills, German tiger tanks were able to pierce American infantry defenses loosely clumped in jebels throughout the area, high sandy mounds easily surrounded, surmounted and eliminated. Fredendall was cosily rolled up in a ball in a rearguard bunker.

It was known as the Battle for Kasserine Pass, and Bradley realised quickly that the losses could have been prevented. The issues of the defeat implicated a global image of US military effectiveness, horrible for morale and public reports mostly led by the BBC quickly concluded that the US Forces were immensely inferior to British ones, often and mostly led by General Sir Harold Rupert L.G. Alexander and fronted by General Sir Bernard Law Montgomery. This was an image extremely hard to shake, it can also cause the failure of product launches in business. This was a cross-cultural issue of supreme importance on the battlefield, as the US and UK forces shared wide fronts and flanks despite insurmountable differences in standard materiel and hierarchical leadership methods.

Bradley revealed causes for failure were mostly in a preponderant lack of US field trained officers. Hence easy explanation of the difficulties with which Bradley, Eisenhower, Montgomery, SHAEF in general, and perhaps most western, liberal-minded media writers and readers responded, often to their own detriment, to the methods and public outbursts of one of the Allies' only hardened field generals. Of course, his name was General George Smith Patton.

By even his official biographer's accounts, Patton was quite insane. He suffered from delusional spells supposed due to severe falls from horses over many decades, due to and impacting upon his audacity, and faith in the belief that he was a reincarated embodiment of many historical leaders. He also relied heavily upon divine providence. His was perhaps one of the last of a long line of aristocratic officer-class candidates to serve in the US military beginning his studies at VM1 and West Point in 1911. His methods were often perceived as brutal, but he was a cavalry officer who easily made a transition to expertly manage tanks and mechanized cavalry during the First World War and having served under Pershing, was early made famous for his exploits during the Mexican civil wars and in the hunt for the renegade Pancho Villa as early as 1916. He was a soldier motivator of the Joseph Juran School of Quality Management as fear, outrage, and insult were his prime people leadership motivators, especially in the eyes of his critics. Something which never comes out in this story is how completely Bradley detested his methods. But I think this just reveals humaneness.

Bradley had his reasons. He had served under Patton during the Sicily Campaign. If anything, their disputes were theoretical. Bradley believed that to spare his men, he must cautiously and closely manage their offensives, and take decidely defensive positions during offensive actions. Slow progress. Patton was the polar perspective, to spare men, he believed one must be as offensive, and as decisive, driven, and outright into the battle as possible. Blood-thirsty. His nickname was "Old Blood and Guts". Their powerful divergences on these two necessary motivations for fighting war and their relationship to the welfare of their soldiers were almost black and white, and cause for each to mostly succeed, but at times dismally fail. But their challenges to cooperate were also the result of other factors.

The pressures under which leading generals of the US Forces were dealing with were manifold. First, concentrations of field-blooded officers and leaders in the outset were terribly low when compared with bunker-couched theoretical experts, there were bevies of treacherous, over-political, over-supported overseers in non-combative departments such as communciations, intelligence, logistics, supply, public relations, all internally in various states of readiness or complacency to assist with the management of battle field necessities. The War-Machine experience to this date was built from and for stalemate trench warfare experiences. Thus as ever, a great deal of actual decision making was made far from the fronts, political, intellectual, and media-driven debates often protracted the chosen conflicts and micro-managment tactics often removed senior commanders from positions prior to being given opportunities to prove capable of quick adaptions. In contrast to British Forces, US Forces too quickly removed poorly performing, basically green senior commanders from the field, while the British were again polarly over-generous and left the wrong leaders in command far beyond the proofs of their field incompetence.

These types of contrasts wonderfully illustrate cross-cultural issues relating to theories of intercultural variations and merits and flaws in the areas of individualism and communitarism, or the ability to freely make independent decisions or question direct commands as British officers were more highly likely to do, versus universalism and particularism, where the US Forces often appeared more likely to accept questioning of orders and diversion from established plans when coming from Montgomery and his forces rather than from Third Army, or specifically, Patton. War highly defines these cultural divisions, seemingly, like no other exploit. Following the eventual defeat of Rommel's armies in North Africa in 1943, the issue of Bradley as a moderating middle ground leader among SHAEF's Allied choices became clear in Sicily.

The initial battles for Italy took place first in Sicily and amphibious landings and the competitive or cooperative forces which make or break generals. In this invasion by sea, Bradley was stuck between Patton and Montgomery and Alexander, the US Forces were in part forced to backtrack to the beaches of Gela and Scoglitti in costly times of delay, to permit the British to cross their right flanks along the west-east road of Vizzini in their attempt to surround Catania from the west rather than barrel straight north through Catania to their target of Messina. It was treacherous territory, well defended mountain ranges and passes, the Germans were given ample time to prepare for British attacks.

Meanwhile, Patton was assigned the less challenging western approaches to Palermo which he proved quick to capture. However, the British became bogged down, and Patton's desire to attack from the northern west to east routes was loaded on Bradley, with several less than satisfying leapfrogging amphibious landings along the coast in an attempt to catch German forces in their rear flanks. The tactic never really succeeded. But with Patton plowing along behind, eventually US and British Forces met in Messina. Their arrival might have been earlier had the British stuck to the eastern routes from the very early days of landing, and Bradley might have been better used carrying defensive offense along the middle, heavily defended mountains.

However, Bradley came out of Sicily, Patton did not. Patton had been pushing everyone's limits, that was his method to achieve victory, and incidentally slapped some shell-shocked soldiers in an army hospital. The media and his image went nuts. He was then left on the island, even though he was considered by the Germans to be their most fearsome adversary. Men like Patton simply do not usually succeed in western countries? However he was quite a pet of Marshall and Roosevelt. But furthermore, Bradley was found to be, conversely, a dutiful officer, one who routinely followed orders, the same could not be said for either Patton or Montgomery, whose excuse was often, in the case of orders he did not agree with, to simply ignore them. Incidentally such tactics always seemed to work for British Imperialists. Bradley demonstrates how authority appreciates subservience, and in the military, well, is there any other kind of service so highly based upon the following of and fulfillment, or rewards based thereon, of orders? It looks like Bradley may have realised he walked into his job because Geronimo went Humpty-Dumpty.

In the intervening months of 1943-1944, Italy was over-run and the complete scale preparation for the largest seaborne amphibious multi-force assault in history was underway. Bradley proves his even balanced assessment abilities in noting clearly the stake and possibility for defeat in D-Day. First, he credits the Allied misinformation tactics regarding most likely landing zones. Successfully, the Allies convinced German intelligence to believe that their attacks would take place upon the nearest shores, in the areas of the channel near Calais. As Patton was their most feared adversary, his location was cloaked, as he was believed the leader of the assault. On the day of the invasion itself, June 6, 1944, the landings in Normandy near Caen were believed to be diversionary, which proved German flaws in estimating a landing location and Allied strengths. One could possibly submit that the same fatal flaw, namely an Army micro-managed by an insane Hitler, could never hit strategic planning projections of any great value. There is even a slim possibility that German intelligence would have preferred easy Allied victories in the west to Russian advances in the east. In such strategic cases, Hitler's insanity and megalomania, strangely enough, appears an ally. Churchill made much of such pricks upon his hide anyway.

Bradley's observations illustrate the tenuous conditions implicating success or failure, where success may simply come less from personal credit other than firm will and decisiveness, as Sun Tzu posits, rather more out of the failures in deductions and assumptions made by one's enemy. For each adversary, this was the case and defining victory or defeat repeated over and over. A candid accounting of vulnerability, reveals the benefits of another man's lack of initiative. The absence of Goring's airforces on two occasions, one being D-Day, the absence of chemical attacks or bombings, either on continental D-Day bridgeheads, or their equally mystifying absence of offensives on the evacuation beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 also reveal.

Such events sealed significant early German defeats. One can extrapolate such failures in offensives to the business world, and current US strategies in exiting market segments which do not offer minimum rates of acceptable returns to international competitors who often accept rates of zero or negative returns simply to guarantee successful entry. There is a shadow of US industry in such an extrapolation and in particular the current bleeding GMC giant which Bradley easily foreshadows.

What follows is Bradley's opinions on the relentless, often slow push eastward into the rest of Europe which ground down and cost many lives, often ill-reflected and not well distributed, often the same rifle companies continuously exceeding 70 and 80% loss rates. What slowed progress was not always the fighting will of the enemy. Just as culpable were the agonizing delays in offensives caused by materiel supply, human replacement rates and redistributions, and supply inabilities to properly serve proportionally equitable allotments of ammunition and fuel.

Necessarily, the supply lines were vast undertakings, but Bradley felt the airforce and navy were often to fault for failing to quickly and carefully coordinate with ground forces in major offenses, no surprise coming from an infantryman. Issues of friendly fire early strained relationships with bomber command, and Patton rightfully complained that Montgomery's forays, such as the attempt to rout the Seigfreid Line via Arnhem and PROJECT MARKETGARDEN came at expenses in cavalry blitzkrieg territory gains. Effectively, Patton was to distinguish himself mostly by employing the same methods of attack and quick envelopment of the enemy's rear flanks as those the Germans employed against the Polish as early as 1939. Of all armies, The Third was most successful in the coordination of air support for fast striking attacks using mechanised cavalry.

So however effective Bradley was in analysis, he often failed himself to quickly adapt to events, as in the case of the Falaise Gap, through which he did not pressure SHAEF to encourage Montgomery to close the gap from the north, something a British General probably would have pushed harder for. This allowed fleeing Germans in the thousands to escape France across to Germany. His argument against is weak, considering the success of the Rhur Pocket Crab Claw. In some ways, his established commonness is also reflected in his wide, slow front perspectives, mirrored by his actual wide slow fronts, this commonness was supposedly endearing to the vast majority of his men, but Carlo D'Este quotes an informant that being in someway average, or perceived to be so, may have been merely an easy way for the "Soldier's General" to simply disappear from the minds of his subordinates.

Considering the more wild antics of both Montgomery and Patton, on the people-management front, and on the actual fronts, Bradley is a considerable comfort. Of course he held such lines with the likes of General Hodges, who seemed quite divided, and actually became divided temporarily under Montgomery during the Ardennes Offensive which caused many ruffled feathers and an adamant warning from General Bradley that he would quit if ever placed under British Command again. More than common feathers were ruffled in the event. Patton was prepared for it while Bradley was not.

The Ardennes Offensive highlighted the differences between common sense and strategic sense among the Allied war leaders. Bradley realized in hindsight his flaw in allowing such a weakness to exist in the line under his command. It was all a result of poor organisational intelligence, in fact, the same point through which the Germans had routed the Maginot Line during their invasion of France. It was here located the greenest of US units, and a rest area for front-liners. At this time, Bradley made the same mistaken assumption the Germans had made on D-Day. He thought the Ardennes were a diversion from a possible counter-attack north of Aachen and the Roer Dams. However ignored was Patton, he had anticipated something similar which pointed to his genius.

Patton had assembled his staff, and entrusted with them, something the finest leaders rarely do, a selection of three possible battle plans, to be executed in his absence although to be engaged and completed within 48 hours following a telephone call from his meeting with Bradley, Montgomery and Eisenhower. Initially, Patton demonstrated the kind of flexibility and faith in his command most Generals rarely possess, and an actual trust in the command decisions of his subordinates, which translated, almost essentially, vertically straight down to his enlisted soldiers. It was logistically nearly an impossible event. Following a telephone call in the early morning, he had instructed his entire army, in excess of 133,000 tanks and trucks, guns and equipment on a trek 50 to 75 miles over an icy secondary road to relieve Bradley's right flank and rescue elements of encircled Twelfth Army Group in Bastogne.

In itself, Patton did not win the Battle in the Ardennes. But he demonstrated that split decisions are often based on quick assessments, and require nearly impossible efficency to be successful. But on the rarest of occasions, the results are absolute success. Patton ensured his unsurpassed place in military history for the event. This would exemplify the W. Edwards Deming School of People Management.

Bradley does not overly examine Patton's exploits in the Ardennes. However he appeared to appreciate Patton's talents a little more, especially as exemplified by his new-found negotiation skills regarding the bridging of the Rhine. As usual, Montgomery favoured a single offensive, led by Montgomery. Patton was eager to forge ahead of even his own supply lines, in many cases pilfering German stores even though the grades of gasoline differed and soon fouled his Shermans, and Bradley as always with Hodges, appeared to be carrying the middle.

Patton opted for a pincer or crab claw, particulary to prove useful in the Rhur Pocket. Montgomery finally caved and much credit comes to Bradley for insuring that Patton was not sidelined from efficient territorial gains south of pre-planned locations as in the Remagen Bridge crossing. Elements of both British and US command were displaying management by objectives myopia regarding the crab claw idea. Considering the German efficency in demolishing Rhine bridges, Patton was demonstrating again the benefits of fast attack. The bridge was fully wired and it is only an example of how fast Third Army could move that it was not blown up. Without Bradley's listening to Patton's ideas on what to do with the bridge, all of the supplies for the assault would have gone over to Montgomery. There would have been no claw, there would have been a cull, and thousands of more lives would probably have been lost. Bradley was beginning to acquire and snap with demonstrated flexibility.

It is here that I think the war was mostly won, mostly because Bradley had become more like his British competition for the ear of Eisenhower, and despite his misgivings, he became a closer ally to Patton. Synergy began to display itself when the claw was put into effect. It was the right choice and trapped several divisions of Germany's remaining battle hardened forces. The following chapters tie up the loose ends regarding divisional areas and linking up with the Russians in partioning of Germany, something Bradley notes almost looked like a continuation of war with the Russians.

For Bradley to be read singularly, one would miss the diverse views and opinions. But essentially his is an honest appraisal, and a worthy read of the opportunities and pitfalls in the waging of war. Bradley does not gloss over the horrors. But he polishes the insights and disciplines displayed by Allied Commanders which did the best they could from the perspectives each man came with. I believe Bradley in fact was able to critically examine and understand his role as a leader more humanely than Eisenhower. This book is a credit to history and what it teaches careful readers.

This is the smallest, simplest abbreviated little souveier I could make of it.

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