November 1, 2005 at 12:59 am #46
I’ve long been convinced that WWII was Germany’s war to lose. That is, the only way they could lose given all of the natural advantages they had going in to the war was to really, really, screw it up; which, fortunately, they did.
My question is: what was the one mistake that doomed the whole enterprise to failure? What was the point of no return? Where should they have stopped/what should they have done differently (strategically/militarily) to ensure victory?November 1, 2005 at 3:57 am #4175
The Wehrmacht should have concentrated on finishing England off before it invaded the Soviet Union. Even though the Germans opted to fight a two front war, they still could have beaten the Soviet Union if they had utilized the Ukrainians and other Slavic peoples who wished to be liberated from Stalin. Hitler, however, considered the Slavs to be only one step above the Jews on their racial hierarchy. In the end, the racist policies of the Nazis did them in as the Slavs fought courageously against the Nazis side by side with their Russian masters. Had England been knocked out of the war, Hitler could have moved his Luftwaffe bombers to the Eastern Front to finish off the Soviets who were still reeling from the initial invasion.November 1, 2005 at 4:29 am #4176NomadParticipant
It would have been imposible for Germany to best the British navy at the time, so they would have had to have a pretty convincing air superiority over Britain. Now we know Georing messed up the Battle of Briitain because he had an oppertunity to beat the RAF, and failed to capitalize on it. Now, in my oppinion, even if the Germans had played their cards right, they still may have lost the Battle of Britian. If they won they could have finished off England first. If not, they could have stopped at Kiev, and fostered an allience with the Ukrainians. If they didn’t go arounf killing everyone and being a bunch of hard-core Nazis, the Ukrainians might have joined them. Then they could have finished the Russians a year or two later. Of course this is pretty out-there because of the psycho nature of the Nazi regime.November 1, 2005 at 4:36 am #4177
Maybe if Hitler had listened to his generals and waited to invade the Soviet Union in the Spring, they could have had the time to finish their drive for the Urals before the Russian Winter set in. Hitler forgot to study Napoleon’s mistakes and he paid dearly for it.November 1, 2005 at 4:41 am #4178
Donnie, I would have to agree that fighting a war on two fronts did it in for Germany. I’m still uncertain as to why Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union, other than perhaps a) he knew he’d have to fight them sooner or later, b) he thought the time was ripe for a surprise attack, and c) his maniacism was getting to him and convinced him his armies were invincible. Germany was advancing technologically at a pace that made for some close calls; fortunately, the V-2 was only available toward the end of the War, and I believe that better aircraft like the Heinkel He 162 wasn’t able to be produced fully because it was released just before Nazis were getting pounded. Had Hitler waited on attacking the Soviet Union, he may have had enough time for R&D and for the manufacturing of these advanced weapons.November 2, 2005 at 12:12 am #4179Phidippides wrote:Donnie, I would have to agree that fighting a war on two fronts did it in for Germany. I’m still uncertain as to why Hitler decided to attack the Soviet Union, other than perhaps a) he knew he’d have to fight them sooner or later, b) he thought the time was ripe for a surprise attack, and c) his maniacism was getting to him and convinced him his armies were invincible. Germany was advancing technologically at a pace that made for some close calls; fortunately, the V-2 was only available toward the end of the War, and I believe that better aircraft like the Heinkel He 162 wasn’t able to be produced fully because it was released just before Nazis were getting pounded. Had Hitler waited on attacking the Soviet Union, he may have had enough time for R&D and for the manufacturing of these advanced weapons.
I think it's fairly clear that Hitler invaded Russia not for any stragtegic reasons (Russia and Germany signed a non-aggression pact and carved up Poland and the Baltic states remember) but for his own personal reasons. he hated Russia, Russians, Communists and Jews, all of whom were in Russia in copious quantitites. He was driven to this act by his own psychosis and race-hatred. To Hitler, everything revolved around Race and his platform was clear: kill or enslave all "inferior" races, of which the Slavs were in his view. There may have been advantages in conquering Russia (huge raw material reserves, food, a substantial industrial base) but to Hitler, these were a distant second to his race agenda.November 2, 2005 at 6:53 am #4180
The Germans invaded Russia with four million soldiers and still could not get the job done. The Russians suffered anywhere from 20-30 million casualties (some have said 50!). Whether these counts are inflated or not is immaterial, the Germans pummeled the living bejesus out the Russians for two years on their soil and could not break the Russians of their spirit. Yet, you would have to think that if the Luftwaffe had not been tied down in the Battle of Britain, they could have sealed the deal. Instead, the Germans bled themeselves to death at Stalingrad and Kursk (where over 10,000 tanks squared off) thus ending their hope of winning the overall war. The logistics nightmare that the Germans faced was incredibly complex, but with Albert Speer’s genius, Hitler’s armies never ran out of bullets. They even had more fighters than pilots during the closing months of the war. Hitler had great timing in the beginning, but his logic became increasingly clouded and after the July Plot, he couldn’t trust anyone anymore. In the end, Hitler’s racism and his paranoia defeated what gains his generals had given him in the beginning.November 2, 2005 at 4:42 pm #4181
I think it’s fairly clear that Hitler invaded Russia not for any stragtegic reasons (Russia and Germany signed a non-aggression pact and carved up Poland and the Baltic states remember) but for his own personal reasons. he hated Russia, Russians, Communists and Jews, all of whom were in Russia in copious quantitites. He was driven to this act by his own psychosis and race-hatred.
But I wonder about the timing. I believe his hatred of the Communists long preceded the War, yet he made a pact with them nonetheless to keep his Eastern flank stable. I guess my question would be - why did Hitler attack in 1941? He must have seen some strategic opportunity in this; otherwise, he would not have signed a pact with the USSR to begin with.November 2, 2005 at 5:46 pm #4182
From all the evidence, it seems he attacked in 1941 because his quack doctor told him he might only have a few years to live (correct, bu not in the way he thought) and Hitler was a big believer in his destiny as Germany’s great leader. He seized the moment because he felt that to wait might endanger the whole project (when in fact it would have helped him) and because there had been on major campaign every year since 1939, and Hilter believed in momentum. Why wait another year and lose that momentum was part of his view.November 2, 2005 at 7:35 pm #4183kingjoeyParticipant
The rush to a two-front war over-extended the Third Reich. Germany lacked the sheer number of troops needed to address the European conflict plus attacking Stalin. Attacking at the onset of winter was a bad move as well.November 3, 2005 at 6:50 pm #4184AvatarParticipant
Hitler realy screwed it up.
Basically, if he hadn't been incredibly anti-semetic, he would have had more of a chance to create an atomic bomb (many of the major physicits were jews).
Also, Hitler wanted to control the war personally, instead of letting his generals develop their own tactics.
At the same time, he made the same great mistake as Napoleon by invading Russia.December 13, 2005 at 9:31 pm #4185SKYDIVER386Participant
Although the mistakes made by Germany during the war were legion, my studies of military history and tactics leads me to the following conclusions. Numbers 1 and 2 may be changed in their order depending on your opinion of whether they should be numbered according to importance or chronologically.
1. The invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarosa) and the brutalization of the slavs. Hitlers decision to attack Russia came partially because of his hatred for the slavs, but I believe he had a more important and tactical reason for the timing of Operation Barbarosa. During the 1930's, Stalin had purged the Soviet military of anyone he suspected of disloyalty. This included a large portion of the Army General staff as well as many officers down to the company commander level (Captain). Nearly 1/3 of all officers in the Soviet army were purged and in effect, this left the army in a leaderless state until it could be filled again with new officers chosen from the ranks, or from those of known loyalties as party members. Hitler saw Stalin's purges in 1939 as a great opportunity to catch the Russians in a weakened state. The initial stages of the invasion were an overwhelming success for Germany and many slavs hailed the Germans as liberators. I'm convinced that most if not all of the peoples of eastern Russia would have joined the Germans in fighting against the Soviets, but the Nazi's would have none of it. Soon after the invasion was underway, the SS units began the brutal slaughter of the slavs and things behind the lines turned from a warm welcome to deadly hostility. This tied down untold numbers of German units gaurding the supply trains a pipelines, not to mention robbing Germany of millions of potential soldiers.
To sum it up, if the Germans had not attacked Russia, but instead concentrated all of their military power against Britain and defeated them, they would have been the masters of western Europe.
2. The German failure to knock Britain out of the war before opening the second front. This can be summed up in one word: Radar. Herman Goering underestimated the new weapon that England had at it's disposal during the battle of Britain. Every assault from the air against Britain could be seen far enough ahead to launch co-ordinated groups of fighter aircraft to thwart it. Without radar, Britain would not have been able to patrol the channel and bring effective resistance against the German air forces. They would have simply been strung out trying to find where the Germans would attack next. Radar gave them the advantage and allowed them to mass forces against the German bomber groups. By the time Goering figured out how the Brit's knew where and when they were coming, and started to attack the coastal radar stations, Germany had suffered great losses in both men and aircraft, and Hitler no longer had any confidence in Goerings abilities.
3. The tactics used during the battles of Kursk and Stalingrad. The tactics that had been so successful in the west (speed, surprise, maneuver, flanking and bypass) were thrown away in favor of a frontal assault against prepared Soviet positions. The result was predictable. Any bright military thinker would have given orders to maneuver around the Kursk pocket and to move around to the rear and overtake the supply lines to the rear of the Soviet units. The Luftwaffe could have been turned loose to smoke any Russian units that remained in the pocket while the German armor moved around and penetrated deeper into Soviet territory. This would have made the massive expendature of men and materials by the Soviets at Kursk a waste.
The Germans had several weapons they refered to as the Lufpresbombs, or an early Fuel Air explosives. In effect it would have worked like our new MOAB, or Daisy cutters. Several dozen Luftwaffe bombers loaded with these would have turned the Kursk pocket into a Russian graveyard. Ditto for Stalingrad.
4. The German failure to capture the oil feilds in the Caucasus, Azerbaijan and Iran/Iraq. The decision to turn north and mass their forces around Moskow and Stalingrad instead of turning south and capturing the oilfeilds was a critical mistake. In the early years of the war, Germany had a strategic reserve of oil, gas and of course large coal reserves on it's own soil, but as the war dragged on, Germanys energy resources were cut off by the Allies. Factory production slowed and fuel supplies for the military became scarce. Many units ground to a halt near the end of the war and animal transport was used in an attempt to make up for the shortfall.December 13, 2005 at 11:07 pm #4186SKYDIVER386 wrote:The initial stages of the invasion were an overwhelming success for Germany and many slavs hailed the Germans as liberators. I’m convinced that most if not all of the peoples of eastern Russia would have joined the Germans in fighting against the Soviets, but the Nazi’s would have none of it. Soon after the invasion was underway, the SS units began the brutal slaughter of the slavs and things behind the lines turned from a warm welcome to deadly hostility.
Wow, great insightful WWII knowledge, Skydiver. Welcome to the forum!
Based on what you said (above), it's less surprising what happened to German civilians by the Soviets after the war ended. They brought it on themselves in a sense by their choice of political leaders or failure to stand up against Nazi domination in Germany.
That said, I wonder why Germany did not resort to chemical or biological weapons during the War when they were fighting on two fronts. Hitler didn't have a problem using it on the Jews, but why, from a strategic/madman standpoint, would he not use it on the Soviets?December 15, 2005 at 5:58 am #4187
Well articulated post Skydiver! The only thing that I might disagree with is the Kursk thesis. Kursk was the largest tank battle in the history of warfare with around 10,000 tanks engaged. Germany did not hold total air superiority over Russia by the time of the Battle of Kursk. The Russians had rebuilt their forces behind the Ural Mountains where they retreated from the initial onslaught of 4 million German troops. The Russians had tank and plane factories up and running and were beginning to effectively challenge the Germans on all fronts. Further eastward, the Soviets had many divisions of troops preparing for the great counter strike that occurred after Kursk. Hitler needed to destroy as much of the Soviet forces as he could, and so he gambled at Stalingrad and Kursk. He was hoping for a psychological blow that would end the will to resist. Of course he failed, and from that point forward, the Soviets had growing momentum all the way to Berlin. Was it a blunder or inevitablity that the Germans lost at Kursk? I think no matter what the Germans did, whether they won Kursk or not, the Soviets were going to overwhelm the Germans with superior numbers eventually.December 17, 2005 at 12:48 am #4188SKYDIVER386Participant
In a large measure, I agree with your theories on Hitler’s gamble at Kursk and Stalingrad. He was looking for a propaganda victory against the Soviets when a military victory should have been foremost in his mind. Allowing the Russians to rebuild tank and aircraft factories behind the Ural mountains was also a very big mistake.
My major point about the battles of Kursk and Stalingrad were simply that Germany could have destroyed larger portions of the Red Army if they stuck to the formulas that had worked in the past. Attacking a defense in depth like the one at Kursk was not something the Germans could afford because the advantage always lies with the defender. A more efficient use of German manpower and weaponry would have been to encircle the defensive lines at Kursk and cut them off from their source of supply while engaging other Soviet units in maneuver warfare. A deper penetration of the Russian homeland and the seizure of new airfeilds may also have brought the new tank factories you mentioned within reach of the Luftwaffe bomber force.
If we concentrate on the reasons for the German defeat in Russia, I tend to think these are the most important.
1. The brutal treatment of Russia's civilian population. If the Germans had given the Ukranians rifles and a train ride west instead of a bullet to the back of the head or a train ride east, things would have turned out differently.
2. Germany prepared for another "Lightning War' and were ill equipped for long campaign in Russia. The lack of winter uniforms and equipment became critical that first year.
3. Germany could not strike deep into the heart of Russia at the new factories because the entire Luftwaffe was composed of short and medium range bombers and fighters. While the U.S. and British Air Forces pounded German factories, rail yards and submarine pens, Germany could not do the same to it's enemies.
4. Germany never considered the logistical requirements of an army 2000 miles from home and was unable to meet it's army's needs. Fuel, ammunition, rations and spare parts were always in short supply.
5. Hitler allowed peacetime products and production rates at the German factories and waited far to long into the war to shift Germany to 100% wartime production. The Armies in the field used war materials as fast as they could be produced and Germany never had an available stockpile to draw from nearly the entire war.
6. In a long, protracted war of attrition, Germany was bound to lose against Russia simply because of the numbers. Germanys only hope was a rapid victory within 6 months of the initial invasion.
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