How was it that the Allies were so taken aback by the Bocage Country?

IIRC, the name means ‘Box Country’; presumably, some of the British had actually visited the place. There was lots of reconnaissance. Yet they all seemed utterly shocked that all of those rock walls were there.

How did they screw up that badly?

Good question. You would think that both the American & British military presence in France during WWI would have spared them the surprise.

Perhaps it was the combination of bocage terrain and the enemy not giving up after the successful beach landing and using that terrain advantageously?
Also, military plans are often overly optimistic and there’s a tradeoff between proceeding quickly to keep the initiative and being well prepared and coordinated.

FM Alan Brooke, who had fought there in 1940 and actually lived in the region as a child did in fact mention it, but was discounted by US Intelligence .

During WW1 they were a lot further East, not in the bocage country.

To put it bluntly, you can’t think of everything. When the planners were looking at the terrain, they were thinking in terms of hills and streams, not hedge rows. It’s the old adage of “no plan survives contact with the enemy.” That is, the enemy being able to use the terrain to such good effect. Once the real difficulty of the hedge rows really sank in at the higher levels, they came up with techniques to counter it. A lot has been made of the “rhino” shermans with the jury-rigged hedge row cutters. But they were only part of a wider effort made to tackle the problem. Some units used engineers to blow holes through the hedge rows so that several tanks could come through in multiple places at once. This mitigated the effect of a well-placed german AT-gun (and they were almost always well placed) destroying the first tank in the gap and blocking it. Other innovations were the use of external telephones on the tanks so that infantry could coordinate attacks with the tanks on the fly. The 29th infantry division created assault teams consisting of a single tank, an engineer team, and an infantry squad all supported by an additional light MG or 60mm mortar. They’d learned just how the Germans liked to position themselves to defend a bocage “box” so they would hit the likely MG positions with white phosphorous rounds while they hosed down the infantry positions with the tanks MGs and the mortar while the infantry advanced.

Here’s a link to an article at the Combined Arms Research Center all about it.

Just wanted to mention that Sgt Bud Culin who is credited with inventing the Rhino tank was in my old National Guard unit. We have a pretty rich lineage.

I also wonder if some of it was a fixation on planning the landings, beachheads, and initial breakouts. In theory, that’s the hard part. After that point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the planners just pencil-whipped the rest on the basis of conventional cross-country movement considerations, neglecting the unique features.

Outstanding link, there. I’ve read a good deal of military history of WWII but this is the sort of information that fills out the range between “big picture” and the nuts and bolts of individual action. Thanks.

Seconding this, that answers my question.

The British were by now very much the junior partners, even if they liked to think they deserved to be more, and little notice would have been taken of their opinions.

How do you explain putting Montgomery in charge of Operation Market Garden just a few months later?

Giving Montgomery his way was highly unpopular with the US generals (and they might have been right)

I wonder what convinced Ike to sign off on it?

I’ve read about the rivalry between Monty and other US generals before, but I’ve never read about why that decision was made, other than it had the potential of ending the conflict by December of 1944.

There was a recent long thread about Montgomery here http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=726578

There’s a handful of posts worth reading in it.

Actually UK/Commonwealth forces in WW1 were far to the north of Normandy, in Flanders, Artois, and Picardy, mainly. To the east of Normandy French forces held the line.

I remember reading (Carlo D’este perhaps?) that southern Britain at the time had similar agricultural patterns near to the channel, but the ‘hedges’ weren’t nearly as tall and tough. The planners assumed that the French version was similar, but in fact the French countryside was much taller and tougher than anticipated. In addition, aerial surveys did not tip them off as to the significant difference.

The south-western peninsula has some similarities.

Well, on the one hand there’s your geography, and on the other hand there’s mine and the map’s. The 1944 landings took place in Basse-Normandie to the north-west of Caen and the fighting slugged through the bocage country there, and while the Somme and so on may have a more northerly latitude, you’d still have to go east from the bocage to get there without getting your feet wet.

Which would be relevant if UK & Commonwealth forces got to their positions on the western front in WW1 by passing through Normandy. Since they didn’t, it ain’t. They travelled through Antwerp and Calais, which are both well to the the north of Normandy on anyone’s map.