I read some books (in the past) about the high battle performance of German soldiers against the Allied soldiers in the Normandy campaign.
The book, I think it was Keegan's, stated that the German troops were superior in ground combat but that edge was blunted due to Allied airpower and seapower (Tiger tanks couldn't outgun British warships )
Was the Allied weakness due to poor training or inexperience or something else?
This is another example of question so broad it is hard to give a satisfactory answer without going to excessive lengths. Still, here's my tuppence worth:
Trevor Dupuy's 'national characteristics' multipliers have been discussed at length in the past on sci.military.moderated; I shall content myself with saying that I am highly sceptical of them, and refer you to DejaNews for more.
Some people will argue that the German 'edge' in ground combat is
how much of the supposed superiority could be related to:
- a good defensive position - appropriate tactics - depth of combat experience?
These were factors in favour of the Germans and they expoited them.
I don't claim to be an expert but in the face of impressive odds the German infantrymen did fairly well until ground into the dirt by attrition and superior forces.
I have read similar accounts. IMHO, it's essentially a bunch of hokum. From Alemein and Stalingrad onward, the Nazis were essentially on the defensive (there were a few exceptions, of course). The writings of the tacticians all seem to emphasize that soldiers fighting onthe defensive have certain advantages over against attackers, such as fortifications. One dug-in soldier supposedly can neutralize three or more attacking soldiers. Nonetheless, the US forces at Omaha Beach, for example, overcame their initial severe disadvantages and got off the beaches and secured most of their-Day objectives. The Nazis were successful in resisting the many offensives launched by Montgomery near Caen because they were on the defensive, dug-in and well-served by machine guns, mortars and artillery. They were also able to mount an economical albeit ultimately unsuccessful defense against Bradley's forces in the bocage country behind the US beaches in Normandy. But in both instances, the Nazis were forced to give ground, although they did so grudgingly and inflicted hevy casualties in the process. IMHO, the Nazi generals disingenuously fail to mention thast they themselves were competent and planned well in defending. They also usually fail to mention the excellence of their army's weaponry and tend to obscure that they were fighting on the defensive, which serves to minimize own casualties while allowing opportunity for inflicting disproportionate casualties on the attacker. Good cases in point are Sicily and the entire Italian campaign. In both instances, the Nazis were fighting on the defensive from excellent defensive positions. They inflicted certain casualties on the alllies, but nonetheless had to give ground. In Italy, the Nazis almost always held the high ground, a great advantage in land warfare, but gave ground ultimately. And in Italy, their top general was Kesselring, who, all agree, was a very competent and clever defender. In France, the Nazis mounted two powerful attacks on the allies, both in the US sector of the frront
Decidedly so. I have not a deep knowledge of the actual performance of American artillery as regards flexibility and speed of response, but what I know is that on some occasions Italian commanders criticized, and with valid reasons, the German artillery management. The Germans tended to apply to their artillery the 'Kampfgruppe' concept. In other words, they often scattered their guns among the various Kampfgruppen, allotting *that* number of artillery pieces to *that* specific Gruppe and 'locking them up'.
This meant that if and when that specific Gruppe attacked or was attacked, artillery response usually was fast and precise, but if a neighboring formation was attacked, the former Gruppe's guns didn't effectively intervene in support of the attacked Gruppe because they were rigidly 'tied' to their own formation. This happened more than once in Africa, and when the attacked neighboring formation was Italian, and thusly in desperate need of solid defensive firepower, consequences might be heavy.
While in Libya/Egypt the Italians under Rommel had to comply with the German system, in Tunisia they managed to test their own 'fire hammer' concept - a centralized, yet flexible array of massed batteries - and the results, also taking into account the low quality of the obsolete Italian guns, were overall good. Of course this system also had its soft spot and that was the communication net. It only worked if the communications were decent at least, and an 8th Army drumfire barrage could disrupt and break the already brittle Italian communication system, as it happened in the Akarit Line battle. In the Mareth and Enfidaville battles, communication lines were better protected and the artillery was quite effective.
Some of it was due to the fact that the vast majority of Allied troops in Normandy were experiencing combat for the first time. Clearly, battle hardened German troops would handle combat more effectively and efficently than troops new to combat.
However, the huge majority of this was due to a variety of linked factors. First of all, the Germans enjoyed the tactical advantage of being on the defensive. Since the advent of the rifled barrel, which increased accuracy and range, the defensive has been more advantageous. One or two soldiers in a decent defensive position can stop two or three times their number on the offensive.
Even more important, however, is the lay of the land that the Germans were defending in Normandy. The Norman hedgerows created ideal defensive positions which the Germans exploited masterfully. To compund matters, Allied intelligence assumed that the hedgerows in Normandy were similar to those in England
Well, that's part of what superiority is.
Lots of divisions came into Normandy with no previous combat experience. Some of them performed well, some didn't. The Germans had a lot of battle-hardened formations, and were able to use them well due to the narrow front. In fact, there were more German tanks in France than in the East as of D-Day (although some of these were in battalions working up before going back East, replacement tanks for the next couple of months generally went East, and this is decidedly not true if you include self-propelled guns).
John Salt has already mentioned Bohm's book 'When the Odds were Even'. Bohm's thesis, and I haven't picked holes in it yet, is that the Vosges campaign was conducted on a logistical shoestring, without much air support, without great numerical superiority, in terrible weather, and through terrain that had never been attacked through in historical times; with all this noted, the U.S. Seventh Army advanced slowly (I don't want to say anything bad about the French army to the South, and the U.S. official history (Riviera to the Rhine) says some nice things about it, but it isn't Bohm's focus.)
Personally, I think it was image. Those uniforms looked very natty, and the unit names, geez, I mean Panzer sounds like something mean and a handful. Tank on the other hand, well, could be toilet, or something utilitarian. The Allies, more exactly the GI's won and not just in the air. They won on the ground, won at the Bulge, and everywhere else. That makes them stronger not weaker. The fact that the grunt was Vinny in his tank, does not make it any less effective than Count Kampfherr von und zu Sieg in his Panzer.
I read it and Keith Bonn yes indeed mentions all which you have here. However, I remember citing Bonn's book here about a year ago and, according to the responses, it was met with derision if not dismissed all together. I, at the time, asked for sources challenging Bonn, but have yet to receive a source of this countervailing opinion.
The book 'Fighting Power' by Martin van Creveld gives quite a good comparison (in qualitative terms) of the Armerican vs. German army. In respect to performance there are very detailed 'result' statistics that compare those armies throughout the whole of the war, and interestingly the German Armny performs only better in the first stages of the war. I am sorry that I can't gove you any more detailed data, but the book is absolutely an eye-opener on your topic.
German Panzer Divs. were usually larger and sometimes twice the size of US Armored Divs. in the ETO. The US Armored Divs. preferred a smaller formation for better flexibility.
On average in 1944, German Panzer Divisions had anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 troops. 1st SS and 12th SS Panzer Divisions each had more than 20,000 men. Most US Armored Divisions had in the neighborhood of 10,000 men, but usually had more tanks and SPs then the German Panzer Divs. There were a few German divs. which had more than the authorized allotment of armour.
British armour was usually organized into smaller Brigade- sized formations. Plus they had three specialized armoured divs. after D-Day, which fluctuated in size according to the task.