Does luck explain German military successes up to end of 1941 ?

tomar

Ad Honoris
Jan 2011
14,312
Yes, the german army was an effective fighting machine.. Yes Adolf was a wily operator..... But how much was really down to luck ?

1. Adolf escaped unscathed literally dozens of attempts on his life, at least a couple of which were quite serious


members of the Polish Army attempt to detonate hidden explosives during Hitler's victory parade in Warsaw. 500 Kg of TNT are concealed in a ditch, ready to be detonated by Polish Sappers. However, at the last moment, the parade is diverted and the saboteurs miss their target.

German Carpenter Georg Elser places a time-bomb at the Bürgerbräukeller in Munich, where Hitler is due to give his annual speech in commemoration of the Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler leaves earlier than expected and the bomb detonates, killing eight and injuring sixty two others


2. The allies do nothing over the Anschluss... More importantly they do nothing over Czech

3. The allies are unable or unwilling to get the USSR on board

4. The allies do nothing serious to defend Poland

5. The Poles, then the French and the soviets all adopt forward defense , which is literrally the worst possible option against blitzkrieg (it is like choosing paper when your adversary has scissors)

6. The US decides not to get involved in Europe. A US involvement in early 1940 (or before) while France was still in the game, would have spelled disaster for Germany.

7. France surrenders in only 6 weeks. At the time it still had significant land, air and naval forces.... No one could have foreseen this

8. The soviets basically make a bet that Germany will not attack in 1941

It would be interesting to assess the probability of events being so much in favor of Germany for that time period.....
 
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Sep 2013
462
France
No, but luck favours the bold, and the german strategy in the west was very bold.

Point 5: Te defense strategy adopted by the french was quite realistic. UK and the US said in the 20's that they didn't want to commit troops in Europe. France was twice less populated than Germany, so the plan was to fight on a small front (Belgium, between the Ardennes and Antwerp), where the french army could contain the germans, and fortifications in the east, then wait the effects of the naval blockade. This plan relied on the fact that Germany and USSR would not be allied and so Germany could not easily replace the lost equipment.

Point 7 is totally wrong. After the main army had been cut off from its supply lines by the bold breaktrhu in the Ardennes, french army was not able to fight, apart from guerillas actions. Most of the best equipment was taken off. Naval forces would not help to have mainland occupied, and air force was mostly outclassed.
You do not fight alone against an alliance of Germany-Italy with USSR-Spain on the axis side, alone, surrounded, for the Danzig Corridor, with a reservist force and most of your heavy equipments out of the fight. You need an other army first, and a few allies...
 
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Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
5,015
Dispargum
Germany began rearming circa 1935. Britain and France didn't begin rearming until circa 1938 so Germany had a bit of a head start. It wasn't until 1941 or so that Britain and the other Allies caught up.

I agree with Elric about boldness. I would add the element of surprise (initially, no one really knew how to deal with Blitzkrieg, and the attack through the Ardennes came completely out of the blue).

Hitler also used divide and conquer - the first few years the Allies were terrible at cooperation. The US and USSR weren't even in the war yet, and the USSR actually helped Germany.

Unlike WW1 when Germany fought on multiple fronts simultaneously, in WW2 Germany initially fought only one enemy at a time - first Poland, then France, etc. It wasn't until about 1941 that Germany began fighting on multiple fronts.
 
Jul 2019
164
Pale Blue Dot - Moonshine Quadrant
I think the mechanization of German military activity played a significant role as well.

If it is true that generals are often fighting the last war, then as one of the losers in the previous war Germany had a greater incentive to approach the next war differently.

Without giving him all the credit, Heinz Guderian was a technological innovator. During World War I he took a flight over the Ardennes to get a better look at the enemy formations facing his troops – something that gained him a personal knowledge of the terrain that helped him considerably early in World War II when his tanks swept through the area and helped pin the Allies against the French seacoast.

He also saw the need to use radio communications to ensure the tight and coordinated movement of tanks across the battlefield.

Guderian had a command of English and French that he used in the interwar years to read the works of Charles DeGaulle, J.F.C. Fuller and B.H. Liddell Hart.

So even before Hitler set to preparing politically for war, the German military, hampered by the Treaty of Versailles and having limited options, pretty much had no choice but to innovate.

Thus, I think the Germans were more ready for the war in a variety of ways.
 
Sep 2013
462
France
I think the mechanization of German military activity played a significant role as well.

If it is true that generals are often fighting the last war, then as one of the losers in the previous war Germany had a greater incentive to approach the next war differently.

Without giving him all the credit, Heinz Guderian was a technological innovator. During World War I he took a flight over the Ardennes to get a better look at the enemy formations facing his troops – something that gained him a personal knowledge of the terrain that helped him considerably early in World War II when his tanks swept through the area and helped pin the Allies against the French seacoast.

He also saw the need to use radio communications to ensure the tight and coordinated movement of tanks across the battlefield.

Guderian had a command of English and French that he used in the interwar years to read the works of Charles DeGaulle, J.F.C. Fuller and B.H. Liddell Hart.

So even before Hitler set to preparing politically for war, the German military, hampered by the Treaty of Versailles and having limited options, pretty much had no choice but to innovate.

Thus, I think the Germans were more ready for the war in a variety of ways.
German army was less mechanized than the french one, they have less trucks. Artillery was vastly horse-tracked. Most of their tanks were out-dated (still very manoevrables). Lot of infantry men ride bicycles.
Blitzkrieg was a propaganda tool.
There were, indeed, some panzer divisions very effective and well equiped, who could operate with lot of autonomy, far beyond their lines, like a small army on its own. This tool, very effective and inovative, won the war in the west thanks to bold officiers, their speed and their autonomy. They also manage to make huge breakthru on the eastern front in the begining of the war.
Aside the Ardennes, there were no miraculous blitzkrieg in 1940, nor in eastern France, nor in Belgium were both army fought equally, until the allies were surrounded.
 
Jan 2013
1,122
Toronto, Canada
Most of the things on your list weren't luck. They were political calculations.
 
Apr 2014
416
Istanbul Turkey
It is more about Nazi Germany , most industrialised and militarised country (even afterwards of Versailles Treaty in 1919 , German Army officer corps got hold core of a most professional army military organisation and kept means to create an air force) in Central Europe exploiting various fatal weaknesses of its neighbors (which were much smaller and had under developed militaries especially afterwards of World War I disarmament trend , pasifcism and after effects of Great Depression ) in one way or another and invading them mostly without bothering to declare war one by one. Poland did not have a mechanised army , had little time for mobilisation and misdeployed its existing armies before German attack , not to mention was also invaded by Red Army two weeks after German invasion and Poland had no coastal entry point a port which Allies could send help (Gdania is in Baltic Sea which was blocked by Germans) , Netherlands , Belgium , Luxemburg , Norway and Denmark were all small countries with smaller armies and air forces which were clinging to neutrality hoping for the best , not to provoke anyone till German armies crossed borders and caught them suprised , unawared , unprepared and unmobilised before being overwhelmed. Only on France , German Army got lucky due to terrible command of French General Staff and Land Forces , their faulty deployment that left all French and British reserves vulnerable to Ardennes breakout , slow reaction and communication , coordination between their various armies and their own allies plus a very invating and weak collaborationist French political leadership with vocal backing from a percentage of French society and war fatigue and confusion among French population due to horrible memories of World War I. Aside from that Germans only suceeded invading Greece and Yugoslavia (latter was ethnically fragmanted as we saw in 1990'ies and did not take much effort to dissolve and Greece was already tied in Albania militarily against Italian invasion attempt. Both countries were impoverished , had no industrial base or a strong air force or a mechanised army and could take little tor no help from Britain which was tied in other fronts.

Vaunted German super military was foiled eventually in every other front (well they invaded their former ally Italy and disarmed it in 1943 but even there under Allied pressure they were slowly pushed north) If German military couldn't conclude a campaign within one season victoriously then it entered a huge world of trouble because except a better operational method of warfare , German armed forces were out of advantages after 1942. They had no other Plan B strategically except a blind hope for Alliance against them to fall apart politically or Allied nations would be tired too much to continue the war.
 
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MG1962a

Ad Honorem
Mar 2019
2,400
Kansas
Vaunted German super military was foiled eventually in every other front (well they invaded their former ally Italy and disarmed it in 1943 but even there under Allied pressure they were slowly pushed north) If German military couldn't conclude a campaign within one season victoriously then it entered a huge world of trouble because except a better operational method of warfare , German armed forces were out of advantages after 1942. They had other Plan B strategically except a blind hope for Alliance against them to fall apart politically or Allied nations would be tired too much to continue the war.
Agreed, and their complete ignorance of logistical needs came back to haunt them as well.