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WW2 Mystery: A Bridge Too Far or We Didn't Go Far Enough? P3

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Published on Nov 21, 2007

Part 3 of a New Thought-Provoking Series on the Battle for Arnhem in 1944 asks the question, WHERE WERE THE FOLDING BIKES when the British Army needed them to reinforce LTC John Frost's 2nd Battalion of the 1st British Airborne Division holding the north end of Arnhem bridge over the Rhine river?

German Cavalry bicycle-troops (Radfarhtruppen) silently infiltrated over 20 miles behind enemy lines to seize the Mt. St. Pere bridge from the unsuspecting French in 1914, blowing it up and then withdrawing with hundreds of prisoners (Bicycles in War, pages 69-80). Montgomery was a WW1 veteran and certainly knew that bridges could be taken by coup de main using stealthy bicycle-troops:

http://www.combatreform.org/atb.htm
http://www.combatreform.org/militaryv...

Airborne forces are essentially an air-mobile CAVALRY as explained by LTG James M. Gavin in his influential 1954 Harper's magazine article; "Cavalry and I Don't Mean Horses"

http://www.combatreform.org/cavalryan...

Early Airborne forces once they left their aircraft going 100-300 mph lost the MOBILITY DIFFERENTIAL of Cavalry and became walking 1-4 mph infantry--a condition folding bikes for 10-25 mph speeds can solve. The time of the greatest opportunity to surprise the enemy and an Airborne force's greatest vulnerability is right after the drop--had the British who used folding bikes en masse on D-Day used them in quantity on the flat terrain west of Arnhem they could have swarmed upon Arnhem bridge before Germans on foot could have gotten into blocking positions or switched to Frost's open route if opposed. Mobility and time is of the essence in a coup de main.

British General Montgomery tried to cross several major rivers by 3D Airborne maneuver coup de mains, yet on the most vital bridge over the Rhine no such direct action was taken to ostensibly avoid anti-aircraft flak. If you are going to do an INDIRECT VERTICAL ASSAULT you must close the distance quickly with GROUND MOBILITY.

The British are great deep thinkers about war and their innovations like the tracked tank, the landing craft for amphibious warfare, light tanks in gliders are just a few of their thinking ahead and doing TANGIBLE THINGS to get ahead. What they lacked in WW2 was the flexibility to take what they had and improvise on the spot ruthlessly for decisive effects, no doubt very war-weary. Since the British were tired and the 1st Airborne not very competent, its clear now they should have "stacked the deck" in their favor with lots of folding bikes to speed to Arnhem bridge ASAP hopefully without a fight--to conserve their fighting ranks. Simple bike transportation doesn't cost a fortune nor demand all the maintenance that "mechanization" with powered tanks invokes cold sweats in the mind of the light infantry narcissist. So why wouldn't a light infantryman want to travel at 10-25 mph instead of 1 or at best 4 mph on foot? The British at times asked this question in WW2 and used bikes, at others they didn't and disasters followed. It has something to do with the flexibility of mind--those that can decentralize and delegate control to trusted subordinates can use mobile, dispersed bike troops like Yamashita did to take Malaya/Singapore; if one's mind is weak and inflexible, a slower walking pace is chosen and the alleged safety of caution turns into bloody head-long charges into enemy strength. The bike is a tool for maneuver warfare of a Cavalry force.
One of the sad truths of war is that even the pressures of survival in combat and as a nation-state are NOT A GUARANTEE that what's best is going to over-ride prejudice and malpractice of racketeers. The British people had to demand Winston Churchill be their leader and it was he who brought back Hobart to active-duty to save the day on D-Day. With the Germans on the run after the Normandy break-out, the British generals thought they could "pull a fast one" and not even have fast-moving detachments of bicycle troops to reinforce an Airborne unit if stranded on the far side of one of the rivers. German Paratroop General Kurt Student knew right away to attack landing paratroops and had his men converge by bicycles and STUG turretless assault guns on Arnhem--and we all know how that action resulted.

Just a few hundred bikes at Arnhem's drop and landing zones would have have ended WW2 sooner by 6-8 months with us reaching Berlin before the Soviets--and would have saved MILLIONS of lives and prevented there being a "Berlin Wall" and "Iron Curtain".

TechnoTactical Errors in our force structure and equipment can have STRATEGIC CONSEQUENCES. Let's hope we can realize this before its too late and its more than a bridge at stake.

Want to know more?

Our book, "Air-Mech-Strike: Asymmetric Maneuver Warfare for the 21st Century" is ONLINE for FREE skyjacked by Google!

http://books.google.com/books?id=RCWt...

  • Category

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    • James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer
  • Album

    • Molossus
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  • Song

  • Artist

    • James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer
  • Album

    • Antrozous
  • Licensed to YouTube by

    • WMG (on behalf of WaterTower Music); UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA - UBEM, UMPG Publishing, LatinAutor - UMPG, UMPI, LatinAutor, and 12 Music Rights Societies

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