We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

Brooke’s main achievement seems to have been in preventing Churchill from losing the war.

Patrick Crozier writes about Field Marshal Lord Alanbrooke’s War Diaries

9 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • steves

    Not bad for a man who nearly lost the BEF before Dunkirk, Lord Gorts plan was the withdrawal that led to Dunkirk. Alanbrooks plan (even after seeing German field despatches was to withdraw into the hook of hollad, into the path of the Germans).

  • Paul Marks

    His judgement on Patton (seeing the bluster, but not the fine general behind it) indicated to me that A.B. was not the super clever chap he presents himself as.

  • “His judgement on Patton (seeing the bluster, but not the fine general behind it) indicated to me that A.B. was not the super clever chap he presents himself as.”

    Ah, but what of his judgment of Eisenhower, Mountbatten and Auchinleck, to take just three examples at random?

    AB was certainly highly judgmental (which I approve of) and there appears to be room for doubt that the Africa, then Italy, then France strategy – which gave rise to Bryant’s depiction of him as the ‘Master of Strategy’ – was altogether his idea. Also, AB declined the Middle East command before 2nd Alamein so his skill as a general in the field against a successful commander (Rommel) were not really tested.

    But when all is said and done the job chief of staff resides at the interface between politics and generalship, which is always more difficult in a democracy.

    Among my impressions of the diaries, I have concluded that like Wellington he had a keen eye for first principles of military organisation and even if he was not the only author of the Africa-Italy-France strategy, a crucial understanding of what could and what could not be done as regards the likes of Norway.

    Perhaps most striking is what to modern eyes seems a degree of callousness at the fate of the Dieppe raid and the loss of Singapore.

    Are chiefs of staff ever great generals?

  • Paul Marks

    You may well have a point. General Marshall was supposed to be very good at organizing war supplies but I doubt he would have been very good in the field (he was also quite useless in a political role – Mao had no trouble pulling the wool over his eyes over China).

    As for A.B. at least he did not go around saying that X.Y.Z. generals were mentally unbalanced. Nice General Bradley who tried to be everyone’s friend (at least to their face) was the source of the stories that Patton was unbalanced and the stories that MacArthur was unbalanced.

    Basically anyone who crossed General Bradley got stories of their mental problems spread – whilst, of course, he remained their good friend.

  • Julian Taylor

    As for A.B. at least he did not go around saying that X.Y.Z. generals were mentally unbalanced.

    Alexander (the man who, quite rightly, should have led the invasion into Europe and who would certainly not have cavalierly sacrificed 8000 troops at Arnhem as Monty did) wrote briefly of Viscount Alanbrooke’s comment on that abomination Mark Clark – he who allowed Kesselring to evade a sure Allied victory at Anzio in order that he, in true Joseph Heller fashion, could enter Rome as the all conquering hero – certainly wrote of that individual in a highly deragotary manner. Mind you I would hazard that those comments pale into insignificance against Patton’s forthrightly known views of Clark, both before and after Rome.

    Sadly Alexander was white-anted by Monty during practically every stage of his command in WW2 and failed to realise the massive recognition he so justly deserves for El Alamein, Sicily and other victories.

  • veryretired

    I’m not going to get into a big p…ing contest about which general was better at this or that, but the mention of Marshall causes me to comment about something that few people seem to understand.

    Marshall was widely respected, and even feared, for his willingness to relieve ineffective or otherwise suspect commanders. FDR famously said he couldn’t sleep at night if Marshall left the country, in reference to the Overlord command.

    Then, in the middle of the endgame on both fronts, FDR dies. The position of C in C is supposed to pass to a little known, totally inexperienced ex-Senator from Missouri, Harry Truman. (Thank god it wasn’t Wallace.)

    I have often wondered what must have gone through the mind of Marshall and others at the top at this prospect.

    When you are the most powerful military commander in the world, fighting a world wide war, with many of your hand-picked colleagues in command of major forces on land, at sea, and in the air, and you are suddenly told that the top spot is going to an unknown quantity from nowhere, what do you do?

    When that person is Marshall, he does as he always did—his duty.

    How many other men in that unique position, anywhere in history, could have stepped aside, could have saluted and awaited orders?

    Would he have been a great field commander? Who knows. That is another passion he sacrificed to the greater cause.

    But integrity? Devotion to duty? None finer, not in our history, not in anyone’s.

    He’s one of my heroes, in case anybody’s wondering.

    Cinncinatus in olive drab.

  • Ed Snack

    Alexander was a joke aqs a general, he was a “fine looking fellow with excellent connections” but he had nothing but cotton wool upstairs. No strategic or tactical sense whatever. His best tactic was to let Montgomery get on with the real work and prevent other people from interfering.

    Patton was OK, even good, as a general going forward, but really was unstable and would have been a disaster if he wasn’t fighting an essentially beaten enemy. His total ignorance about the value of reserves meant that if he ever suffered a significant reverse he was unable to cope.

    Brooke had his good and bad points, but as the head comment suggests, his finest years were in restraining Churchill’s more damaging fantasies.

  • Paul Marks

    The way and the speed that Patton used his army to come to the aid of those who faced the German offensive (“the battle of the bulge”) was a surprise to everyone from Ike down.

    The idea that Patton was just an offensive General who could not respond to an enemy attack is false. As are so many other attacks on Patton.

    President Truman was indeed a much better President than the (friend of the Soviets) Wallace would have been.

    Did General Marshall do the right thing to obey the new President? Errr yes, but was there any possibility he would not?

    I do not remember reading that Marshall wanted to use atomic bombs on the Soviets of the Communists in China.

    What differences in policy between Marshall and Truman were there?

    A man does not lauch a military coup just because there is a new President (a man who had been elected Vice President in 1944 anyway) there has to be a major difference in policy before even the most aggressive General will consider a military coup (or get people to follow his lead).

    Besides which it was F.D.R. (not Truman) who was unfit in 1945. I am not talking about President Roosevelt’s “Stalin is a Christian gentleman” delusion (or the reliance on reading stuff written by the people like C.C. – whose descendants still plague us), months before he died President Roosevelt was so ill he was unfit for any position of command.

    If there was going to be a coup on grounds of incapacity it would have been against Roosevelt.

    As for General Marshall. He may be a hero in many ways (although the modern definition of “hero” seems to include even people who surrender, so it is hard to know what the word is supposed to mean), but what he did to the Chinese is hard to forget.

    The Nationalist offensive into Manchuria was going well – and it was General Marshall who demanded that it be stopped, as he wanted to follow a policy of talks with the Communists.

    This led directly to the break down of the Chinese K.M.T. (apart from on what is now Taiwan) and the comming to power of Mao – the greatest mass murderer of human history.

    “But General Marshall did not want that to happen”.

    Of course not, no commander (military or political) wishes to mess things up – but they should take responsibility when they do mess things up.

  • Paul Marks

    The vile Cockburn (spelling) family still (as I said) plague us. Under F.D.R. it was Claude (feeding him all the British Empire is the centre of evil stuff) then it was Alex, now it is Patrick (not just of the “Independent” – I have seen the swine on the B.B.C. and Sky). Of course it is possible that they are not all related – by I think they are.

    On Mark Clark – yes he was useless. I wonder if Patton would have got the Italian command if it had not been for the slap in Silicy.

    If the media on your side you can shoot your own men (or burn them alive, or whatever) if the media are against you even giving an unwounded man (who was hanging about in a field hospital getting the way of the treatment of men who were in urgent need) a slap is unacceptable (as for shell shock [or whatever] a lot of men had that, possibly Patton himself – a soldier just has to carry on, or at least keep out of the way). And the media hated Patton.

    If it is true that Patton did not get the Italian command because of the slap, the media campaign (yet again) cost a lot of allied lives.