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CSS Doctrine In Normandy "Only the simple succeeds."

The Allied logistical planners of Operation Overlord seem to have forgotten this maxim of war stated once by Hindenburg. For a year prior to D-Day, the logisticians meticulously planned, scheduled, and mathematized the Allied supply schedule for the Second Front. After studying beaches in Norway, the Mediterranean, and Spain, they finally settled on the French west coast. The Pas de Calais and Normandy were their two choices. Both of these areas were close to the ports and supply depots in England, and they were within Allied fighter cover range. Because the Pas de Calais was the most obvious area, and thus the most heavily defended area, the Normandy beaches were chosen.

The planners now began series of planning conferences and meetings in order to plan and schedule in meticulous detail the resupplying of the Allied armies. The planners worked out a timeline and detailed schedule of when combat divisions were to be landed, when and where POL was to be brought in, etc. They literally planned down to the smallest detail how the operation would be conducted. They planned on the Allied conquest of various ports at certain dates, and planned the rate at which the Allied troops were supposed to advance across France at. In words of many an S3, they crossed their Ts and dotted their Is.

It is easy to see these dedicated officers briefings their commanders, and assuring them that the combat units would receive their needed food, ammo and POL. On 6 June, 1944, these meticulous plans went to pieces. Units were landed on the wrong beaches, the Germans fought ferociously on Omaha, and the Allied time schedule fell behind dramatically. On D+1, all logistical plans were ordered to be ignored.

The problem was that the planners had devised a plan that was too rigid, too detailed, and allowed for no deviation. The planners forgot that they were fighting a war, and not just playing an exercise. The Allies had expected the Germans to fight a systematic defense, utilizing terrain to their defensive advantage. The Allies did not expect to have to fight the Germans for every inch of ground, which is precisely the manner in which Hitler had ordered. Ports and other objectives were taken weeks, and months after they had been scheduled to captured.

George S. Patton, once he arrived on the Continent, refused to be tied down by the logistician tables. It was through his aggressive leadership and command resolve that his army broke out of the beachhead during Operation Cobra. The success of Cobra allowed the rest of Allied army break out, and broke the back, temporarily, of the Wehrmacht. The Allied planners had expected to fight a war much like that of the Great War. They had not anticipated the new technology of the tank, the airplane, and better combat weapons. They had also not anticipated the leadership traits of men such as Patton, Bradley, Ernie Harmon, and Joe Collins. "Determination, common sense, and improvisation." The success of logistics in Normandy was achieved only because the plans were ignored.

REFERENCE: Van Creveld, Martin L.Supplying War: Logistics fromWallenstein to Patton. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

 

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