Wednesday, May 23, 2007

It's All About Connery

So, I'm reading this account of the Allied move on Arnheim in WWII.

It's a period of history that I am quite interested in and the story presents an operation that was breathtaking in scope and in the lack of wherewithal in the planning stages. An object lesson in "always have a back-up plan" if ever there was one.

The plan involved a combined assault using British paratroopers to strike far behind enemy lines while allied infantry and armour made its way through Holland by conventional means. The objective was to secure the numerous bridges criss-crossing Holland before the pesky Germans could blow them all up and stall the allied advance towards Germany. If it had been successful it would have knocked months off the war's duration.

Unfortunately, Monty (the architect of the plan) had very much put all his eggs in one basket and the relief columns proved not up to the task for a variety of reasons including the usual incompetences: poor planning, communications infrastructure breakdown, intelligence shortfalls and the like. As things deteriorated the famous Red Berets were surrounded and huge numbers of them were wounded and had to be left to the tender mercies of the German forces when they reasserted their control of the areas invaded. It is a rip-roaring story of gallantry in the face of defeat.

Or should have been.

Successive editors had removed most of the backstory giving the reasoning behind the plan in the first place.

And the biographies of the leading players in the field.

And any discussion of the relative merits of the armour available to the two sides.

And the analisys of the intelligence shortfall that placed a panzer division directly in the path of the advancing allied infantry where there was supposed to be two guys with a badly-oiled machine gun.

I finally gave up on the book when I realized that all discussion of the actual objective had been excised from the book as politically incorrect. I hurled it away from me with a bleat of disgust at the editorial process that had taken a fairly straightforward story of brave men put in harm's way by their backroom generals and made of it a bland account of how some guys had stupidly parachuted into Holland and got themselves shot up.

The editors had abridged too far.

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