Reading Update

My new local ‘walkabout’ book is Bennet’s “A Magnificent Disaster”, which is a short overview of the Market-Garden operation in September 1944.  There was some interesting discussion of the planning problems of the 1st Airborne (UK) division that dropped across the Rhine and had the objective of taking the Arnhem bridge for XXX Corps.

The fact that the plan for this division to be dropped with fewer men was issue number one.  Then the reinforcements were dropped even farther off, making the unit have to spread even wider to collect them, at a time where all effort should have been to reinforce the units at the bridge.  Somehow the division didn’t have the same idea we do now of what its objective was – they were more interested in holding a perimeter without the bridge than the bridge without a perimeter.

Also XXX Corps driving up the highway is already late, and also seems to lack the same sense of urgency to rescue the paras.  Of course, in the end this leads to the failure of the operation as the 1 AB is crushed on the far side of the Rhine.

I’ve continued to read Glantz’  “Barbarossa Derailed”.  Very detailed.  It’s about a month into the German invasion of Russia, and while the spearheads are deep into the country at Smolensk, all is not going well.  The infantry needed to hold the positions gained is too far in the rear dealing with earlier pockets and the armor needs to halt to hold the positions gained. This makes them vulnerable to the Russians’ growing ability to fight with skill.

Also made some progress on Bearss’ Vicksburg.  The first attempt, a two prong offensive on the city, has failed due to cavalry raids in Grant’s rear by Van Dorn and Forrest.  Sherman assaulted the hills and was repulsed in late December 1862.

General McClernand, his army stolen by Grant, comes downriver too late.  To avoid being idle, He, and Sherman, and Admiral Porter improvise an operation against Arkansas Post.  While 25000 plus gunboats might seem overkill against a 5000 man force, the result was the entire capture of the force. The trans-Mississippi only has so many times it can raise troops before it runs out of men.

Bearss does say that Grant’s “peevish” demand that the army return was warranted because McClernand did intend to move further inland.  So now Grant has taken command of the whole force.  Now starts the winter of little operations to try to get around the city.

The first operation was to dig a canal to divert the river from passing in front of Vicksburg. This was defeated by flooding.  Now he is starting to look for an alternate route using smaller rivers in Louisiana….

This is one of the classic works on the subject and it shows. Lots of detail, lots of references, but still very readable.  Bearss has published shorter works in recent years that are well worth getting, too.

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